The farmer grinned as he told the visitor, “Watch this!” He called his pigs, which ran frantically towards him to be fed. But when he scooped out corn and threw it on the ground, the pigs sniffed it and then looked up at the farmer with confused expectation. The farmer then scooped corn from another bin and flung it near the pigs, which ran over and quickly devoured it.
The farmer said, “The first corn is genetically engineered. They won’t touch it.”
It’s not just pigs that swear off genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In South Africa, Strilli Oppenheimer’s chickens won’t eat genetically modified (GM) corn. Most buffalo in Haryana, India, refuse cottonseed cakes if made from GM cotton plants. Geese migrating through Illinois only munched sections of the soybean field that was non-GMO. When given a choice, elk, deer, raccoons, and rats all avoided GMOs. And even during the coldest days of Iowa winter, squirrels, which regularly devour natural corn, refused to touch the GM variety.
One skeptical farmer who read about the squirrels wanted to see for himself if it was true. He bought a bag full of GM corn ears, and another of non-GM, and left them in his garage till winter. But by the time he fetched the bags, mice had done the experiment for him. They broke into the natural corn bag and finished it; the GM cobs were untouched.
No one knows why the animals refuse GMOs, but according to a 2009 statement by the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM), when lab animals do eat GM feed, it’s not pretty. “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food,” says the AAEM policy paper, which specifically cited infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system, among the impacts of eating GMOs. “There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects,” they wrote. “There is causation…”
Although we humans don’t have a natural sense to stay away from GM foods, AAEM’s position indicates that we should take a lesson from the animals. This renowned medical organization, which first recognized such dangers as food allergies, chemical sensitivity, and Gulf War Syndrome, called on all physicians to prescribe non-GMO diets to all patients.¹ They also called for a moratorium on GMOs, long-term independent studies, and labeling.
Former AAEM President Dr. Jennifer Armstrong says, “Physicians are probably seeing the effects in their patients, but need to know how to ask the right questions.” Renowned biologist Dr. Pushpa M. Bhargava and many others believe that GMOs may be a major contributor to the deteriorating health in America since GM foods were introduced in 1996.
There are eight GM food crops: soy, corn, cotton, canola, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, and a little bit of zucchini and yellow squash. The two primary reasons why plants are engineered are to allow them to either drink poison, or produce poison.
Poison drinkers are called herbicide tolerant. Their DNA is outfitted with bacterial genes that allow them to survive otherwise deadly doses of toxic herbicide. The first five crops on the list above have herbicide tolerant varieties. The poison producers are called Bt crops. Inserted genes from the soil bacterium Bacillus Thuringiensis produce an insect-killing pesticide called Bt-toxin in every cell of the plant. That is found in corn and cotton. The papaya and squashes have virus genes inserted, to fight off a plant virus. All GM crops are linked to dangerous side effects.
GM foods are particularly dangerous for pregnant women and children. After GM soy was fed to female rats, most of their babies died—compared to a 10% deaths among controls fed natural soy.² GM-fed babies were smaller, and possibly infertile.³
Testicles of rats fed GM soy changed from the normal pink to dark blue.3 Mice fed GM soy had altered young sperm.4 Embryos of GM soy-fed parent mice had changed DNA.5 And mice fed GM corn had fewer, and smaller, babies.7
In Haryana, India, most of those buffalo that did consume GM cottonseed ended up with reproductive complications such as premature deliveries, abortions, and infertility; many calves died. About two dozen US farmers said thousands of pigs became sterile from certain GM corn varieties. Some had false pregnancies; others gave birth to bags of water. Cows and bulls also became infertile.
When insects take a bite out of the corn and cotton plants engineered to produce Bt-toxin, their stomach splits open and they die. Because that same toxin is used in its natural bacterial state as a spray by farmers for insect control, biotech companies claim that it has a history of safe use and can be incorporated directly into every plant cell.
The Bt-toxin produced in GM plants, however, is thousands of times more concentrated than natural Bt spray, is designed to be more toxic, has properties of an allergen, and cannot be washed off the plant.
Moreover, studies confirm that even the less toxic natural spray can be harmful. When dispersed by plane to kill gypsy moths in Washington and Vancouver, about 500 people reported allergy or flu-like symptoms.¹, ¹¹ The same symptoms are now reported by thousands of farm workers from handling Bt cotton throughout India.¹²
GMO safety expert Dr. Arpad Pusztai says changes in immune status are “a consistent feature of all the [animal] studies.”¹³ From Monsanto’s own research to government funded trials, rodents fed Bt corn had significant immune reactions.¹, ¹
Soon after GM soy was introduced to the UK, soy allergies skyrocketed by 50%. Ohio allergist Dr. John Boyles says “I used to test for soy allergies all the time, but now that soy is genetically engineered, it is so dangerous that I tell people never to eat it.”
GM soy, corn, and papaya contain new proteins with allergenic properties.¹ In addition, GM soy has up to seven times more of a known soy allergen.¹ Perhaps the US epidemic of food allergies and asthma is a casualty of genetic manipulation.
In India, animals graze on cotton plants after harvest. But when shepherds let sheep graze on Bt cotton plants, thousands died. Investigators said preliminary evidence “strongly suggests that the sheep mortality was due to a toxin…most probably Bt-toxin.”¹ In one small study, all sheep fed Bt cotton plants died; those fed natural plants remained healthy.
In an Andhra Pradesh village, buffalo grazed on cotton plants for eight years without incident. On January 3rd, 2008, 13 buffalo grazed on Bt cotton plants for the first time. All died within three days.¹ Bt corn is also implicated in the deaths of cows in Germany, and horses, water buffaloes, and chickens in The Philippines.²
In lab studies, twice the number of chickens fed Liberty Link corn died; 7 of 40 rats fed a GM tomato died within two weeks.²¹ Those rats had refused to eat the tomato and had to be force fed.
The only published human feeding study revealed that even after we stop eating GMOs, harmful GM proteins may be produced continuously inside of us; genes inserted into GM soy transfer into bacteria inside our intestines and continue to function.²² If Bt genes also transfer, eating GM corn chips might transform our intestinal bacteria into living pesticide factories.
According to documents released from a lawsuit, in 1991–92 scientists at the FDA repeatedly warned that GM foods might create allergies, poisons, new diseases, and nutritional problems.²³ But the White House ordered the agency to promote biotechnology, and Michael Taylor, Monsanto’s former attorney, headed up the FDA’s GMO policy. That 1992 policy—still in effect today—declares that no safety studies on GMOs are required. Monsanto and other producers determine if their foods are safe. Taylor later became Monsanto’s vice president, and was reinstalled at the FDA in 2009 by the Obama administration as the US Food Safety Czar.
Biologist Dr. David Schubert of the Salk Institute says, “If there are problems [with GMOs], we will probably never know because the cause will not be traceable and many diseases take a very long time to develop.” In the 9 years after GM crops were introduced in 1996, Americans with three or more chronic diseases jumped from 7% to 13%.² Allergies doubled in less time. And the incidence of low birth weight babies, infertility, and infant mortality are all escalating. But without any human clinical trials or post marketing surveillance, we may never know if these or other disorders like autism, obesity, and diabetes, are triggered or made worse by GMOs.
We don’t need to wait for more research to learn our lesson from the animals and the doctors. Consult the Non-GMO Shopping Guide (www.NonGMOShoppingGuide.com) to learn how to avoid GMOs. Even a small percentage of people choosing non-GMO brands could force the food industry to remove all GM ingredients. By doing so, you are not only being careful about your own health, you are being compassionate to the environment and future generations—since GMOs wreak long-term havoc in our ecosystem as well.
2 Irina Ermakova, “Genetically modified soy leads to the decrease of weight and high mortality of rat pups of the first generation. Preliminary studies,” Ecosinform 1 (2006): 4–9.
3 Irina Ermakova, “Experimental Evidence of GMO Hazards,” Presentation at Scientists for a GM Free Europe, EU Parliament, Brussels, June 12, 2007
4 Irina Ermakova, “Experimental Evidence of GMO Hazards,” Presentation at Scientists for a GM Free Europe, EU Parliament, Brussels, June 12, 2007
5 L. Vecchio et al, “Ultrastructural Analysis of Testes from Mice Fed on Genetically Modified Soybean,” European Journal of Histochemistry 48, no. 4 (Oct–Dec 2004):449–454.
6 Oliveri et al., “Temporary Depression of Transcription in Mouse Pre-implantion Embryos from Mice Fed on Genetically Modified Soybean,” 48th Symposium of the Society for Histochemistry, Lake Maggiore (Italy), September 7–10, 2006.
7 Alberta Velimirov and Claudia Binter, “Biological effects of transgenic maize NK603xMON810 fed in long term reproduction studies in mice,” Forschungsberichte der Sektion IV, Band 3/2008
8 Jerry Rosman, personal communication, 2006
9 See for example, A. Dutton, H. Klein, J. Romeis, and F. Bigler, “Uptake of Bt-toxin by herbivores feeding on transgenic maize and consequences for the predator Chrysoperia carnea,” Ecological Entomology 27 (2002): 441–7; and J. Romeis, A. Dutton, and F. Bigler, “Bacillus thuringiensis toxin (Cry1Ab) has no direct effect on larvae of the green lacewing Chrysoperla carnea (Stephens) (Neuroptera: Chrysopidae),” Journal of Insect Physiology 50, no. 2–3 (2004): 175–183.
10 Washington State Department of Health, “Report of health surveillance activities: Asian gypsy moth control program,” (Olympia, WA: Washington State Dept. of Health, 1993).
11 M. Green, et al., “Public health implications of the microbial pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis: An epidemiological study, Oregon, 1985–86,” Amer. J. Public Health 80, no. 7(1990): 848–852.
12 Ashish Gupta et. al., “Impact of Bt Cotton on Farmers’ Health (in Barwani and Dhar District of Madhya Pradesh),” Investigation Report, Oct–Dec 2005.
13 October 24, 2005 correspondence between Arpad Pusztai and Brian John
14 John M. Burns, “13-Week Dietary Subchronic Comparison Study with MON 863 Corn in Rats Preceded by a 1-Week Baseline Food Consumption Determination with PMI Certified Rodent Diet #5002,” December 17, 2002
15 Alberto Finamore, et al, “Intestinal and Peripheral Immune Response to MON810 Maize Ingestion in Weaning and Old Mice,” J. Agric. Food Chem., 2008, 56 (23), pp 11533–11539, November 14, 2008
16 See L Zolla, et al, “Proteomics as a complementary tool for identifying unintended side effects occurring in transgenic maize seeds as a result of genetic modifications,” J Proteome Res. 2008 May;7(5):1850–61; Hye-Yung Yum, Soo-Young Lee, Kyung-Eun Lee, Myung-Hyun Sohn, Kyu-Earn Kim, “Genetically Modified and Wild Soybeans: An immunologic comparison,” Allergy and Asthma Proceedings 26, no. 3 (May–June 2005): 210-216(7); and Gendel, “The use of amino acid sequence alignments to assess potential allergenicity of proteins used in genetically modified foods,” Advances in Food and Nutrition Research 42 (1998), 45–62.
17 A. Pusztai and S. Bardocz, “GMO in animal nutrition: potential benefits and risks,” Chapter 17, Biology of Nutrition in Growing Animals, R. Mosenthin, J. Zentek and T. Zebrowska (Eds.) Elsevier, October 2005
18 “Mortality in Sheep Flocks after Grazing on Bt Cotton Fields—Warangal District, Andhra Pradesh” Report of the Preliminary Assessment, April 2006, http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp
19 Personal communication and visit, January 2009.
20 Jeffrey M. Smith, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, Yes! Books, Fairfield, IA USA 2007
21 Arpad Pusztai, “Can Science Give Us the Tools for Recognizing Possible Health Risks for GM Food?” Nutrition and Health 16 (2002): 73–84.
22 Netherwood et al, “Assessing the survival of transgenic plant DNA in the human gastrointestinal tract,” Nature Biotechnology 22 (2004): 2.
23 See memos at www.biointegrity.org
24 Kathryn Anne Paez, et al, “Rising Out-Of-Pocket Spending For Chronic Conditions: A Ten-Year Trend,” Health Affairs, 28, no. 1 (2009): 15-25to be force fed