The anti-GMO campaign’s dangerous war on science

This November, Californians will vote on an initiative that would require any food containing ingredients derived from genetically modified crops to be labeled as such.

Backers of the “California Right To Know Genetically Engineered Food Act” are pitching it as a matter of providing information to consumers, who, they argue, “have a right to know what’s in the food we buy and eat and feed our children, just as we have the right to know how many calories are in our food, or whether food comes from other countries like Mexico or China.”

I have no concerns about the safety of GMOs. But I support the right of people to make choices about what they eat, and think we should provide them with the information they need to do so.

I understand where some of the nervousness about GMOs comes from. I worry about the uncontrolled chemical experiments our species is doing on our bodies, and am a big consumer of organic foods. I am also skeptical when industries assert that their products are safe, because so often these claims have turned out to be false.

But I also appreciate the challenges of feeding our growing population, and believe in the power of biotechnology to not just make agriculture more efficient, but to make it better for people and the planet. And as a molecular biologist very familiar with the technology of genetic modification and the research into its safety, I do not find it in the least bit frightening.

What I do find frightening, however, is the way backers of this initiative have turned a campaign for consumer choice into a crusade against GMOs. They don’t want the “genetically engineered” label to merely provide information. They want it to be a warning – the equivalent for GM food of the cancer warning on cigarette boxes.

The problem is there is no justification for a warning. There is no compelling evidence of any harm arising from eating GMOs, and a diverse and convincing body of research demonstrating that GMOs are safe. But rather than reckon with this reality, anti-GMO campaigners have joined their climate-change denying brethren, and launched an agressive war on science.

Opponents of GMOs  are so sure that GMOs are dangerous that any study suggesting they are safe must have been funded by Monsanto, and any scientist pointing out the holes in their arguments must be an industry shill. In the anti-GMO universe, it often seems that the best evidence that something must be true is the existence of multiple experiments showing it is false.

The language of the initiative itself contains clear misstatements of scientific consensus. For example, one of the “Findings and Declarations” states:

Government scientists have stated that the artificial insertion of DNA into plants, a technique unique to genetic engineering, can cause a variety of significant problems with plant foods. Such genetic engineering can increase the levels of known toxicants in foods and introduce new toxicants and health concerns.

While I’m sure they have a reference that justifies their making this assertion, the reality is that the US and EU government scientists have repeatedly and consistently demonstrated that GMOs are safe. For the backers of the initiative to claim otherwise as a finding of fact is an outright lie, and an outlandish attack on science.

If this initiative passes it will reify the war on science, and deal another body blow to the idea, already reeling from the climate change debate, that public policy should be based on good data and solid reasoning. It MUST be stopped.

The question of course is how. I am so infuriated with rhetoric from backers of the labeling campaign that I’m tempted to just sit here ridiculing the egregious misinformation, bad science, pseudoscience and non-science that they traffic in. This would make me less angry. But it wouldn’t be productive.

I suspect the most zealous opponents of GMOs are not open to being convinced. But, polls show, the bulk of the electorate doesn’t know a lot about this issue and probably come into the debate inclined both the support labeling and have vague fears about GMOs. So I am going to suppress my fury and be constructive and address these fears with the only tool at my disposal – science.

Following her article in the NYT on the labeling debate, Amy Harmon posted a series of “GMO FAQs” on Twitter, distilled from the ~500 comments posted following her story. These seem to capture a good chunk of the fears people have about genetic modification and GMO foods. And so, over the next several days, I am going to answer each of those questions, as well as a few of my own. Check back here (I’ll add the answers below as I get to them), or follow me on Twitter. And please participate in the discussion, and feel free to pose any more questions!

GMO FAQ (v2.0)

Question 1) Isn’t transferring genes from one species to another unnatural and intrinsically dangerous

The most striking thing about the GMO debate is the extent to which it contrasts “unnatural” GMOs against “natural” traditional agriculture, and the way that anti-GMO campaigners equate “natural” with “safe and good”. I’ll deal with these in turn.

The problem with the unnatural/natural contrast is not that it’s a mischaracterization of GMOs – they are unnatural in the strict sense of not occurring in Nature – rather that it is a frighteningly naive view of traditional agriculture.

Far from being natural, the transformation of wild plants and animals into the foods we eat today is – by far – the single most dramatic experiment in genetic engineering the human species has undertaken. Few of the species we eat today look anything like their wild counterparts, the result of thousands of years of largely willful selective breeding to optimize these organisms for agriculture and human consumption. And, in the past few years, as we have begun to characterize the genetic makeup of crops and farm animals, we are getting a clear picture of the extent to which traditional agricultural practices have transformed their DNA.

Let’s take a few examples. This is a Mexican grass known as teosinte and its seed.

Thousands of years of selection transformed this relatively nondescript plant into one of the mainstays of modern agriculture – corn. The picture below – which shows the seeds of teosinte on the left, and an ear of modern corn on the right – gives a pretty good sense of the scope of change involved in the domestication and improvement for agriculture of teosinte.

Thanks to the pioneering work of geneticist John Doebley, and more recently an international consortium who have sequenced the genome of maize and characterized genetic variation in teosinte and maize, we now have a good picture of just what happened to the DNA of teosinte to accomplish the changes in the structure of the plant and its seed: a recent paper that characterized the DNA of 75 teosinte and maize lines identified hundreds of variants that appear to have been selected during the process of domestication. And maize is not weird in this regard – virtually all agriculturally important plants have a similar story of transformation from wild ancestors as generations of farmers adapted them to be easier to grow, safer to eat, more nutritious, resistant to pests and other stresses, and tastier.

For most of history this crop domestication and improvement has been a largely blind process, with breeders selecting crossing individuals with desired traits and selecting the offspring who have inherited them until they breed true – unaware of the molecular changes underlying these traits and other changes to the plants that may have accompanied them.

Modern genetics has fundamentally altered this reality. It has increased the power breeders have to select for desirable traits using traditional methods, and makes it far easier ensure that undesirable have not come along for the ride. And it also gives us the ability to engineer these changes directly by transferring just the DNA that confers a trait from one individual in a species to another. There are many ways to accomplish this – the most common involves extracting the DNA you want to transfer from the donor, placing it into a bacterium whose natural life-cycle involves inserting its DNA into that of its host, and then infecting the target individual with this bacterium. But recently developed technologies make it possible to effectively edit the genome in a computer and then make the desired changes in the living organism.

When applied to transfer genetic information from one individual in a species to another, this is an intrinsically conservative form of  crop improvement around since is all but eliminates the random genetic events that accompany even the most controlled breeding experiment.

The only difference between this and the generation of GMOs is that the transfered DNA comes not from a member of the same species, but from somewhere else on the tree of life. I understand why some people see this is a big difference, but modern molecular biology has shown us that all living things share a remarkably similar molecular toolkit, with the distinct properties of each species coming more from how these pieces are wired together than which ones are where.

Transferring a gene from a fish into a plant does not make the plant swim any more than stealing the radio from someone’s Maserati and putting it into my Honda Civic would turn it into a high-performance sports car. Indeed, scientists routinely use genes from mice, fungi, plants and even bacteria to substitute for their human counterparts, and vice-versa – which they often do perfectly.

And this doesn’t just happen in the lab. There are countless examples of genes moving naturally between species. Microorganisms swap DNA all the time – this is how antibiotic resistance spreads so quickly between species. Our own genome contains genes that got their start in bacteria and were subsequently taken up by one of our ancestors.

The relatively low rate of such “horizontal gene transfer” in multicellular organisms like plants and animals compared to bacteria is more a reflection of reproductive barriers and the defenses they have evolved to prevent viruses from hitchhiking in their DNA, than from a fundamental molecular incompatibility between species.

This is why I do not find the process of making GMOs unnatural or dangerous – certainly no more so than traditional breeding. And why I find the obsession with, and fearmongering about, GMOs to be so bizarre and irrational.

Of course the fact that making GMOs is not inherently dangerous does not mean that every GMO is automatically safe. I can think of dozens of ways that inserting a single gene into, say, soybeans could make them lethal to eat. But it would be because of what was inserted into them, not how it was done.

For what its worth, it would also be relatively easy to make crops plant dangerous to eat by strictly non-GM techniques. Essentially all plants make molecules that help them fight off insects and other pests. In the foods we eat regularly, these molecules are present at sufficiently low levels that they no longer constitute a threat to humans eating them. But it is likely that the production of these molecules could be ramped up when crossing crop varieties with wild stocks, or by introducing new mutations, and selecting for toxicity, much as one would do for any other trait. Indeed, there have been reports of potatoes that produce toxic levels of solanines and celery that produce unhealthy amounts of psoralens, both chemicals present at low levels in the crops. Which segways nicely into the next topic.

Last week I wrote about the anti-science campaign being waged by opponents of the use of genetically modified organisms in agriculture. In that post, I promised to address a series of questions/fears about GMOs that seem to underly peoples’ objections to the technology. I’m not going to try to make this a comprehensive reference site about GMOs and the literature on their use and safety. I’m compiling some general resources here, and a list of all FAQs here.

Question 2) Maybe GMOs aren’t automatically bad, but isn’t it obvious that it’s dangerous to consume crops that produce their own pesticides and can tolerate high doses of herbicides?

Approximately 90% of soybeans, maize, cotton and sugar beets grown in the US are have been genetically modified to produce a protein that kills common insect pests or to make them highly tolerant of an herbicide used to control weeds, or in some cases both. To make a rational judgment about whether these specific GMOs are good or bad, it’s important to understand exactly what they are and how they work.

Bt soy and corn

The pesticide resistant plants have been engineered to produce a protein isolated from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (known generally Bt). Each strain of Bt produces a different version of the protein, known as Cry, each highly specific to a limited number of related species. Bt has evolved these proteins as a key part of a reproductive strategy in which they kill insects that ingest them and then eat nutrients released by the dying host. The Cry protein found in Bt spores must be activated by a protein-cleaving enzyme found in the host gut and then bind to a specific protein on the surface of cells in the digestive system, which Cry then destroys. Insects, who are not huge fans of this strategy, eventually evolve resistance by modifying one or both of these proteins. Bt stains that rely on this insect adapt in turn, creating highly-specific strain-insect relationships.

The irony of Cry becoming a major bugaboo of the anti-GMO movement is that, until the gene that produces it was inserted into corn, it was the poster-child of a “natural” insecticide, preferred over chemical pesticides because of the potential for extreme host specificity and complete biodegradability.  Bt spores were sprayed on crops for decades, and are still widely used to control pests by organic farmers. But the effectiveness of Bt as an insecticide is limited because it degrades in the matter of days – more rapidly when it rains. This led agricultural biotechnology companies to try and insert Cry genes directly into the plants, and there are now many varieties on the market, each targeting pests that are a particular problem for a given crop (some varieties of Bt corn, for example, targets the European corn borer).

Given what we know about  Cry proteins, there is very little reason to be concerned about the safety of eating it. These are proteins that have evolved to kill insects – and not just insects in general, but very specific subsets of insects. And humans are not insects. Regulatory agencies in the US and Europe have consistently rejected claims that plants that produce their own Cry cause problems in either humans or farm animals.

Nonetheless, anti-GMO activists continually raise the spectre of “plants that make their own pesticide” as if this alone was sufficient reason to not only avoid them, but to ban them. Here is a banner running on the website of one of the organizations pushing the CA GMO-labeling initiative:

If you don’t know a lot about plants, I can see how this would seem threatening. But this picture and the anti-GMO campaign it accompanies are based on the flawed premise that “normal” plants are pesticide free. This could not be farther from the truth. Almost since they first appeared on Earth, plants have had to reckon with a diverse array of animals determined to eat them. And this is a battle that continues today, as anyone who has tried to garden, or wandered through a forest, can attest. To fight off these pests, plants have evolved a dizzying array of defense mechanisms, including the production of a diverse arsenal of chemicals targeted at the insects and other pests that afflict them.

As far as I know, natural pesticides have been found in every plant in which they have been sought, including all conventionally grown crops. Wheat makes a family of proteins lethal to hessian flies, peas contain the insecticidal protein PA1b, tomatoes tomatine, and so on. And even if the corn in that picture was not genetically modified, that cute little girl is about to get a mouthful of the insecticide maysin. Indeed almost any mouthful of unprocessed plants from any source will likely contain some kind of natural pesticide that is inert in humans. There is nothing at all unusual, or particularly worrisome, about eating plants that contain the Bt Cry protein as we’ve been eating insecticides for eons.

I’m sure some people will say that we may have been eating insecticides all along, but we haven’t been eating Bt Cry protein and, under the “you never know” principle, should just avoid it. This would all be fine and good if there weren’t strong evidence supporting the value of Bt corn and soy in reducing pesticide use on farms and limiting collateral damage to insects that are in the vicinity of, but not eating, the relevant crop. As a panel of the US National Academies of Science reported in a 2010 study of GMOs:

The evidence shows that the planting of GE crops has largely resulted in less adverse or equivalent effects on the farm environment compared with the conventional non-GE systems that GE crops replaced. A key  improvement has been the change to pesticide regimens that apply less pesticide or that use pesticides with lower toxicity to the environment but that have more consistent efficacy than conventional pesticide regimens used on non-GE versions of the crops.

To me, the demonization of Bt in anti-GMO rhetoric is a emblematic of everything that is wrong with the GMO debates. The producers of Bt crops have done a horrible job of explaining why plants expressing a single insecticidal protein should not – and do not – harm humans. And the anti-GMO advocates either have not bothered to understand the science behind their activity, or (worse) are cynically exploiting peoples’ fears of pesticides to promote their cause.

Glyphosate tolerant crops

The second major class of GMOs (mostly soy) have been engineered to be tolerant of the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup). Glyphosate is a small molecule that inhibits an enzyme, 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthase (EPSPS), which catalyzes an essential step in the biosynthesis of the amino acids  phenylalanine, tyrosine and tryptophan. By denying rapidly growing plants these amino acids, it is able to rapidly inhibit grown of plants onto which it has been sprayed. Glyphosate is generally considered to be inert in humans, who get these amino acids from their food, and do not have an EPSPS.

The obvious problem with using glyphosate to control weeds is that it will, under normal circumstances, also kill crop plants. However, plants that have been engineered to express an alternative form of EPSPS that functions normally even in the presence of glyphosate. These plants are thus “Roundup Ready“, and will survive doses of glyphosate used to kill weeds in the field.

Although the EPSPS gene used in Roundup Ready plants comes from a bacterium, the necessary changes could now easily be made to the plant’s own copy of EPSPS. Thus Roundup Ready crops, which produce no new proteins not found prior to genetic manipulation,  shouldn’t really be places in the same class of GMOs as Bt expressing plants, which are expressing a new protein. And there is absolutely no reason to expect that there are any health risks associated with eating the altered form of EPSPS found in glyphosate resistant transgenic plants.

Concern about Roundup Ready plants focuses instead on the adverse effect of glyphosate on people and the environment. There are some suggestions that high doses of glyphosate are bad for humans, though these studies are hotly contested (note this was a Monsanto-funded study and must be assessed with that in mind). But the more important question is whether the use of glyphosate in conjunction with Roundup Ready crops is better for humans and the environment than the alternatives. Here, the aforementioned NRC report concluded that:

GE soybeans, corn, and cotton are designed to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, which has fewer adverse environmental effects compared with most other herbicides used to control weeds.

This does not argue that glyphosate is safe. However, it suggests that the net effect of the GMO – Roundup Ready- has been positive. There is a bigger discussion to be had about the role of herbicides in farming – but this is really orthogonal to issues of genetic modification.

3) Why should I believe GM food is safe? Why should I trust the big companies that develop these crops? Didn’t it take years to realize PCBs, DDT, ‘good’ cholesterol, etc. were bad for us?

4) What about studies that show GM foods cause allergies, destroy organs and make mice sterile? 

5) Why won’t GM crops will escape and contaminate non-GMO crops (and maybe the planet)

6) GM crops initially reduced spraying. But now we have resistant weeds&insects. Aren’t we on a ‘pesticide treadmill’? 

7) Don’t GMOs destroy biodiversity?

8) Don’t GMOs undermine local agriculture in the developing world?

9) Aren’t Monsanto’s business practices enough to want to boycott GMOs?

About me

I am a molecular biologist with a background in infectious diseases, cancer genomics, developmental biology, classical genetics, evolution and ecology. I am not a plant biologist, but I understand the underlying technology and relevant areas of biology. I would put myself firmly in the “pro GMO” camp, but I have absolutely nothing material to gain from this position. My lab is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. I am not currently, have never been in the past, and do not plan in the future, to receive any personal or laboratory support from any company that makes or otherwise has a vested interest in GMOs. My vested interest here is science, and what I write here, I write to defend it.


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  1. theoldman
    Posted September 11, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    Don’t forget Greenpeace’s, “Make More Blind Kids for Nature”, campaign to destroy golden rice.

    I hear they have a representative in India personally thanking every kid that’s gone blind from the lack of vitamin A:

    “Thank you for going blind for nature. NEXT!”
    “Thank you for going blind for nature. NEXT!”
    “Thank you for going blind for nature. NEXT!”

    “Hey, i said NEXT! Can’t you kids see where the line is? Oh, that’s right. My mistake !”

    “Thank you for going blind for nature. NEXT!”
    “Thank you for going blind for nature. NEXT!”
    “Thank you for going blind for nature. NEXT!”… 50K times a year !

    “NEXT !”

  2. theoldman
    Posted September 12, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    David W.

    From 1850 to 2004, looking down the 10 year old column, to elliminate most childhood deaths, 18.3 years and a whopping 24.2 years of life have been added to white men and women respectively. The increases for other racial backgrounds are similiar.

    I don’t know about you, but i don’t see much pill popping going on until one gets into their 60’s and 70’s. True, they weren’t popping those pills back in 1850. But it’s really hard to pop anything when you’re already dead.

    You blame all our medical woes on our diet without one mention of the effects of (lack of) exercise and smoking. You blame our cereal crops for killing us while simultaneously crediting them with allowing us to be alive in the first place. Have you really listened to yourself ?

    P.S. We aren’t designed to eat anything. We evolved to take advantage of certain forms of life. These forms, in turn, evolve or may evolve defenses against us or evolve symbiotic relations. Take wheat, for instance. Who’s really in charge? The humans or the wheat? An alien may conclude that wheat evolved to sacrifice a portion of their seeds to guarantee the planting of the rest by having us humans care for it.

  3. Cindy
    Posted September 12, 2012 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    The stuff is not just junk. It is garbage! Sufficient studies have not been done on the long term effects of GMOs in human beings. Sharing of genetic material from one species to another is inviting catastrophe, more resitant weeds and insect pests. Big industries like Monsanto are NOT feeding the world. That is a big excuse to make more money by destroying our health. Yes, we’ll get it labeled and THEN we’ll get it banned!

  4. theoldman
    Posted September 13, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    Back before about 1800, all food was what we would call organic, minimally processed and most was local. Yet, after having to work from dawn to dusk since childhood, most could only expect to live to about 50 years old.

    These days, a lot of our food is global, fairly processed and most is certainly not organic. Most only toil now from 8 to 12 hours a day and most don’t start their careers until their late teens or even later. Yet, now, we can expect to live from 75 to 80 and most of us can expect not to have serious medical issues until well past 50,60 or even later, let only be dead by then.

    In the 1960’s 1/3 of the world was in hunger with only 3 billion people. Today, with at 7 billion, only 1/7 of the world is in hunger. This could not have been possible without the Green revolution, with all its emphasis on new strain developments, fartilizers and, yes, even pesticides.

  5. jytdog
    Posted September 16, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Hi. First up, I think GM foods are fine. I am mostly vegetarian. I work in business development in the medical biotech industry.

    1) Mike, it is kind of bizarre that you state that you mostly eat organic but you rip on people who are afraid of GM food. You cannot resolve this paradox by tossing off a joke that you are paranoid … this goes right to the heart to the heart of the matter. People are scared of GM food. They are scared of chemical residues in food. I guess you are too. Would be great to see a post where you bridge the gap.

    2) To almost all the scientists who wrote here. YOU ARE YOUR OWN WORST ENEMY. GM crops have been on the market for almost twenty years. During that time, companies and scientists in the field have just plain failed to communicate well to the public about the safety of GM food for their bodies and the environment. The public is worried. All the “tone” in the comments – the mocking, etc… that maybe feels great, but what it communicates to worried people is that you don’t care about real people. I reckon you all do care a lot – hence blog — but you don’t tell somebody who is scared and confused that they are stupid. And even if you didn’t come out and say it, you did communicate that.

    And you know what? It is true that nobody has funded an actual study of longterm exposure to GM food in people. I doubt it would find anything…. but as scientists you know that the experiment has not been done, so all we can say is, “The risk of longterm harm is very low.” We need to educate, not mock. I know the blog started out that way… let’s keep it that way!

    • Posted September 16, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

      My point in saying I eat organic foods is that I understand the inclination to be cautious about what we eat, and yet, I do not find GMOs worrisome. In my ideal world we use genetic modification to make organic farming less expensive.

      I am not afraid of most of the things that conventional farmers use that organic farmers do. But there are a few classes of pesticides that I don’t like, and thus I use “organic” as an easy way to avoid them. This is actually why I am completely in favor of real food labeling – that tells us, to the maximal extent possible, everything there is to know about the food we’re eating – variety, place of origin, additives used in cultivation, post-harvest storage and processing, etc… It’s something technology makes far more feasible. But this is the exact opposite of slapping an otherwise uninformative “GMO” label on things.

  6. jytdog
    Posted September 17, 2012 at 4:16 am | Permalink

    Thanks for responding Michael!

    2 quick responses:
    1) As we both know, the EPA is not supposed to allow pesticides to be used, the food residues of which are not safe. So… one might conclude that you don’t trust the EPA to keep us safe, nor the companies that submit the data saying these pesticides are safe. And concluding that, one could say that you have this in common with non-scientist members of anti-GMO faction who really need to rely on the EPA, FDA, and DoA, to keep them safe. This is the heart of the matter.

    2) Do you believe that your labeling wish is commercially reasonable, the way that our food production and processing system works? The main GM crops are commodities and crops from local fields are immediately mixed at the elevator and undergo aggregation with other batches of crop all the way the way through processing until they reach their final product packaging. Seems to me that segregating crops to the extent that we could label what agrochemicals farmer X used, or what variety of seed he bought, on the final product package would be a dramatic disruption and loss of efficiency – a huge burden on companies’ bottom lines in a business where margins are small already. Gets even more difficult and burdensome if this requirement were applied to food derived from animals (meat/dairy/eggs/fish), especially if the label included what feed those animals were given….

  7. mark
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    This article was good until you lumped anti-GMO paranoiacs with Climate Change deniers as “waging a war on science”. Unfortunately you have it backwards as many do. There is no compelling data that indicates climate change is anything but normal variation caused by the sun and like GMOs, nothing to be afraid of. All you have to do is go to the beach and you’ll notice it’s still there; there’s no catastrophic sea level rise destroying civilization. That’s real data, not just conjecture or computer models. Most climatologists from reputable universities have consistently shown the poor methodology used by climate alarmists including, Dr. Lindzen (MIT), Dr Micheals (U of V), Cal Tech, Several researchers at Stanford, University of Stockholm solar research just to name a tiny few. You need to get your head on straight there Mr. Climate Apocolypse…did you not notice that Florida isn’t underwater despite Al Gore saying it was going to be so 20 years ago? Did you fail to register the climategate scandal…people fudging the data to fit their model for their political agenda? If that’s not a war on the scientific method I don’t know what is. You need to get out of the lab and notice the sea levels haven’t destroyed civilization after 25 years of Al Gore’s cult-like apocolyptic prophecies. Give up the Flood Cult tomfoolery already.

    • inspoken
      Posted March 13, 2014 at 4:25 am | Permalink

      Mark, I have a bridge in New York I would like to sell you.

  8. Hank Roberts
    Posted October 7, 2012 at 3:29 am | Permalink

    > compelling data … climate change

    On GMOs, how precisely are the DNA sequences defined that are being transferred? How much extra (“silent” or “junk”) is included? could we be transferring timing codes that could interact? A few years ago that was considered not likely, I recall a 2004 assessment saying since the other stuff was silent nothing could pick it up and incorporate it.

    Has that thinking changed at all? How would it be looked for?

    • Posted September 21, 2013 at 8:20 am | Permalink

      This is directly along the same lines that I was thinking. But also is there some inherent issue with mixing DNA and RNA strands. How do mixed sequence act differently in organisms than whole DNA or RNA strands? I remember reading an article on junk DNA, and cell hacking, and the conclusion was that junk DNA may contain both timing and triggering mechanisms. Exogenetic impact was also not considered. Junk DNA may have secondary impacts, producing exogenetic information which is then read by the cell. We’ve hardly touched the surface of exogenetics.

      I often wonder at the fact that so much science is approached with 100% certainty, when the theories behind them are not even 90% accurate in all cases. Deep and intricate details need studied before anything is approached at full force. It almost seems as if this thing skipped the market testing cycle. Are we really that sure?

  9. wen chang
    Posted October 23, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    Thank you and PLEASE keep up the good work esp during this voting season.

    The amount and kind of misinformation out there is astounding, was science not taught in high schools?

  10. brenda marlena
    Posted October 25, 2012 at 1:57 am | Permalink

    Cold Logic and Miki Wright, thank you for your excellent posts here.
    You both make excellent, logical, historical facts. Monsanto has lied to the public on many occassions.
    -The citizens of Anniston, Alabama who had misfortune of being neighbors of Monsanto who decided to dump their Pcbs into Snow River. Hundreds died of subsequent cancers and pcb levels found in blood to be hundreds and even thousands of times higher than acceptable limits of 2 ppb.
    -two courts suing Monsanto to stop saying RounUp was BIODEGRADABLE
    -Monsanto claiming that GMOs are “PRESUMED SAFE” and “NO NEED TO TEST”
    -Michael Taylor (Ex counsel /lobbyist and VP for Monsant0) now as
    US Senior Food and Safety Advisor of Obama Admin??? C’MON!!
    -Monsanto bullying scientists (even FDA’s scientists) who findings that may indicate GMOs could be harmful to humans.

    Wen Chang: you wrote, “Thank you and PLEASE keep up the good work esp during this voting season.The amount and kind of misinformation out there is astounding, was science not taught in high schools?”
    Can you be any more condescending?? All the scientists, MDs, D.O.s and PhDs who are writing about the dangers of GMOS, studied science far beyond high school.
    Furthermore, I don’t see any MD after your name, Chang, so back up!!

    • margie
      Posted May 31, 2013 at 7:34 am | Permalink

      Brenda, You’re so right. I am appalled at the smug, condescending attitudes of the pro-GMOers. They keep stating that, of course, they’re scientists and as such they know about these things….I think they are at the very least, short-sighted. And I suspect many are employed by big corporations. As for myself, my instincts tell me to stay away from GMO’s if I can…which I always can’t do on a daily basis, and to try to buy organic when I can. I noticed that these people are “infuriated” at the ignorance of anyone who does not think like them on this subject. I want to know if I’m eating GMO’s….what’s wrong with that? I wouldn’t worry about a warning…just label the food….they also don’t seem to have a problem with ingesting chemicals….methinks they must be uninformed….

      • Posted May 31, 2013 at 8:20 am | Permalink

        Nobody is infuriated about people making their own decisions about what they do and don’t want to buy/eat. What is infuriating is that the campaign to promote labeling has chosen to systematically distort the science of GMOs and to express not concerns but invented harms that have no basis in reality. If this had been presented as purely a consumer information issue, I – and I believe many of the people who have expressed frustration with the labeling campaign – would have been OK with it (although I think a “GMO” label without any information about how a product was modified is not particularly useful).

  11. Tom
    Posted November 4, 2012 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    This documentary demonstrates that fully qualified scientists and in-depth studies are showing that GMO is very ill-advised and premature as food:

    Personally, I am outraged that GMO’s have been introduced, without adequate testing, into our foods with bio-engineering company people in charge at FDA. Or should I say, the 44,000 pages of documents which showed that FDA scientists were gravely concerned demonstrate that the research was done, the results were negative, and the FDA gave carte blanche to Monsanto, Syngenta, etc. GMO’s must be put on a moratorium until comprehensive, objective, long-term studies have proved them safe. If they do not pass the test, they must be permanently banned, and all GMO seed stocks destroyed.

  12. John Gifford
    Posted November 6, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    I have no problem with “genetic modification” when it is like for like. After all splicing a cutting from one apple tree onto a sapling of another variety to give rise to a third variety…no problem. It is the genetic modification where, for example, the gene from an arctic cod is spliced into a strawberry so that the strawberry will resist frost, that I consider unnatural. You quote the case of maize and corn in your article this was achieved by selective breeding, but there has never been a case where a farmer thought “my crop could be wiped out by the cold this winter so I’ll get a cod to selectively breed with it…” Crops that develop their own insecticide so they don’t have to be sprayed…fine, but what’s to prevent that insecticide from getting into the food? The plant defends itself with the insecticide against an attack, what does the plant then think about being harvested? won’t it consider itself under attack and flood it’s system with poison?

    The reasoning behind the big companies (Monsanto et al) backing the no campaign is not because they consider GM safe. Their own staff know it’s not! When Monsanto wanted to put GM crops in the Monsanto canteen the staff threatened a walkout, and they know what goes into it!
    No, the reason behind the no campaign is because tbey know that if a label is applied stating “may contain GM content” that it will probably be put back on the shelf. They aren’t interested in safety they only hold one thing sacred PROFIT above all else! They have a report showing that a simple label stating will effectively kill off any market they have ending their profit.
    If they were interested in safety then dioxin, the tuskegee syphallis trials, agent orange and aspartame wouldn’t be in existence; (all Monsanto products BTW) If Aspartame is so safe why was the licence to use it denied on 3 separate occasions and ONLY got cleared because GD Searle’s Donald Rumsfeld got elected put in charge of the FDA and forced it through?

    GM has been going on for thousands if not millions of years, most food varieties we have wouldn’t exist without it True! But the combinations currently being created have NEVER been done in history and it is the arrogant attitude of the science that is doing it that is dangerous. Science and the big money behind it considers itself infallible, it cannot admit that it might be dangerous because they will then have to admit they might be wrong.
    “If I have ssen further it is because I have stood upon the shoulders of giants!” well standing on giants shoulders doesn’t give you the rigour and ethics that working from first principles provides.

  13. Ian
    Posted November 10, 2012 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    The danger of GMO’s

    Below are just some of the food products popularly identified to be genetically modified:

    1. Corn – Corn has been modified to create its own insecticide. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has declared that tons of genetically modified corn has been introduced for human consumption. Monsanto has revealed that half of the US’s sweet corn farms are planted with genetically modified seed. Mice fed with GM corn were discovered to have smaller offspring and fertility problems.

    2. Soy – Soy has also been genetically modified to resist herbicides. Soy products include soy flour, tofu, soy beverages, soybean oil and other products that may include pastries, baked products and edible oil. Hamsters fed with GM soy were unable to have offspring and suffered a high mortality rate.

    3. Cotton – Like corn and soy, cotton has been designed to resist pesticides. It is considered food because its oil can be consumed. Its introduction in Chinese agriculture has produced a chemical that kills cotton bollworm, reducing the incidences of pests not only in cotton crops but also in neighboring fields of soybeans and corn. Incidentally, thousands of Indian farmers suffered severe rashes upon exposure to BT cotton.

    4. Papaya – The virus-resistant variety of papaya was commercially introduced in Hawaii in 1999. Transgenic papayas comprised three-fourths of the total Hawaiian papaya crop. Monsanto bestowed upon Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in Coimbatore technology for developing papaya resistant to the ringspot virus in India.

    5. Rice – This staple food from South East Asia has now been genetically modified to contain a high amount of vitamin A. Allegedly, there are reports of rice varieties containing human genes to be grown in the US. The rice will create human proteins useful for dealing with infant diarrhea in the 3rd world. China Daily, an online journal, reported potential serious public health and environment problems with genetically modified rice considering its tendency to cause allergic reactions with the concurrent possibility of gene transfers.

    6. Tomatoes – Tomatoes have now been genetically engineered for longer shelf life, preventing them from easily rotting and degrading. In a test conducted to determine the safety of GM tomatoes, some animal subjects died within a few weeks after consuming GM tomatoes.

    7. Rapeseed – In Canada, this crop was renamed canola to differentiate it from non-edible rapeseed. Food stuff produced from rapeseed includes rapeseed oi (canola oil) l used to process cooking oil and margarine. Honey can also be produced from GM rapeseed. German food surveillance authorities discovered as much as a third of the total pollen present in Canadian honey may be from GM pollen. In fact, some honey products from Canada were also discovered to have pollen from GM rapeseed.

    8. Dairy products – It has been discovered that 22 percent of cows in the U.S. were injected with recombinant (genetically modified) bovine growth hormone (rbGH). This Monsanto created hormone artificially forces cows to increase their milk production by 15 percent. Milk from cows treated with this milk inducing hormone contains increased levels of IGF-1 (insulin growth factors-1). Humans also have IGF-1 in their system. Scientists have expressed concerns that increased levels of IGF-1 in humans have been associated with colon and breast cancer.

    9. Potatoes – Mice fed with potatoes engineered with Bacillus thuringiensis var. Kurstaki Cry 1 were found to have toxins in their system. Despite claims to the contrary, this shows that Cry1 toxin was stable in the mouse gut. When the health risks were revealed, it sparked a debate.

    10. Peas – Peas that have been genetically modified have been found to cause immune responses in mice and possibly even in humans. A gene from kidney beans was inserted into the peas creating a protein that functions as a pesticide.

    • Curious
      Posted May 27, 2014 at 5:35 am | Permalink

      I would be interested in seeing a least one peer-reviewed reference for each of your claims. Newspaper articles don’t count.
      Thank you.

  14. Posted November 16, 2012 at 1:56 am | Permalink

    I think the anti-GMO campaign is for a legit reason because how much they cautious about the food safety, still it may be harmful.

  15. Mitch W
    Posted December 11, 2012 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    I simply don’t understand how a GM organism could suddenly be transfering genes to us or our gut bacteria when no one seems to be talking about non GM organisms transfering their genes. But, perhaps, they have been transfering genes all along. This would help explain why everytime i eat beef, my ass moos !

  16. Joe H.
    Posted December 16, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the blog Michael; you alleviated many of my fears about GMOs. My major concern is that research can be denied publication by the seed companies. While the Academic Research Licence of Monsanto allows for less restrictions on research, it doesn’t guarantee that material will be published. Monsanto’s website stated that papers have been published that they don’t necessarily agree with. Which papers, and what was the content they disagree with? The sheer amount of peer-reviewed research in favor of GMOs is quite compelling, but how many papers have they denied publication? Just wondering.

  17. Takeshi
    Posted January 5, 2013 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    I live in Japan and GM food is not trusted here. The Japanese government is very strict about its import. We don’t care what Americans consume, but please don’t export your poison here (or elsewhere). Keep your skyrocketing mystery illnesses in your own country.

    I don’t see what the problem is, just label your food and let consumers choose.

  18. Chris Wiley
    Posted January 6, 2013 at 2:56 am | Permalink

    As a young biochemist pursuing a PhD in molecular biology, I am very discouraged by the comments from people like Miki, Tom, and Brenda. It is very sad when a google search on GMO’s yields pages of garbage, many of the claims with little to no real science behind them. This article is encouraging, however it was not as easy to find. The average american is afraid because they are ignorant to what exactly a GMO is. (So as not to be attacked for insulting people; the definition of ignorant should not be offensive, it simply means that one does not know, or has not been educated on the matter)
    It seems it would be a daunting task to educate people about the cloning process without first teaching them some basic biochemistry. When the fear-mongers assert that we are putting all sorts of unnatural chemicals in their food, I cannot explain that inserting a small segment of DNA into a host genome doesn’t really require an incredible amount of chemistry. We simply take advantage of the natural process, and basically move natural “machinery” (enzymes) into our test tubes. People can’t understand what genetic modification does, without understanding how transcription and translation work. It is hard enough to explain that “protein” is not just a single substance, but that there are an incredible number of different proteins that actually perform specific tasks and cause cellular processes to cease or continue.
    Once people can understand what a protein really is, and how DNA leads to protein synthesis, then there is the task of educating the people about nucleic acids and amino acids that build protein and DNA respectively, and how these building blocks are exactly the same in all organisms (exceptions in few extreme cases).
    Then there is metabolism and the digestive process. If people can understand what happens when we consume DNA and protein, and they understand the molecular structure and function of these macromolecules, then maybe they will realize that changing one of the many thousand proteins consumed in a food product and the order of a few bases in DNA will NOT affect their health. If it did, I think the scientific community would have a much larger problem in that we would have to re-think some of the basic principles of macromolecular structure and function, as well as human metabolic processes.
    How can we educate the masses? I am afraid that my research is for naught with all of the mis-information. The average person is much more likely to find and believe an anti-GMO article or documentary than real scientific works. Our publications are much too complicated for the average person to take much information from.

    • Shadow
      Posted November 21, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

      Regarding false information, this worries me too. My background is in physics but the same thing happens there : people who are misguided and have no education at all in the subject flat out refuse to listen when we explain or debunk things. Often adding that we are arrogant or part of a conspiracy. Personally, claiming to be better than someone trained in whatever field actually seems more arrogant to me.

      And especially with the internet, spreading wrong ideas is very easy and a simple article playing on fears will be much more popular than a technical one detailing facts of course.
      Actually, biology and physics seem to be the ones that get attacked most of all these days from what I can see.

      Now for this case, I have no expertise when it comes to GMO but do recognize the signs of bad science and am willing to accept what the majority of professionals in the field tell me after trying to get an overview of the issue (as best as I can). I arrived here for example after reading on some site that GMO was “obviously dangerous as everyone knows” which struck me as hyperbole. But this is the problem : most people go by the first source that confirms their bias. Education should maybe have more focus on teaching children to check sources, question things etc. to avoid unnecessary panic/problems in the future.

  19. Marie
    Posted January 18, 2013 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Could somebody answer this, that has been asked on here please:

    ” If they were interested in safety then dioxin, the tuskegee syphallis trials, agent orange and aspartame wouldn’t be in existence; (all Monsanto products BTW) If Aspartame is so safe why was the licence to use it denied on 3 separate occasions and ONLY got cleared because GD Searle’s Donald Rumsfeld got elected put in charge of the FDA and forced it through? ”

    Also who makes these decisions?

    “GM has been going on for thousands if not millions of years, most food varieties we have wouldn’t exist without it True! But the combinations currently being created have NEVER been done in history and it is the arrogant attitude of the science that is doing it that is dangerous. Science and the big money behind it considers itself infallible, it cannot admit that it might be dangerous because they will then have to admit they might be wrong.”

  20. Marie
    Posted January 18, 2013 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Chris you say you are discouraged by Brenda’s comment?

    Do you mean this part, she says:

    ” -Michael Taylor (Ex counsel /lobbyist and VP for Monsant0) now as
    US Senior Food and Safety Advisor of Obama Admin??? C’MON!!

    -Monsanto bullying scientists (even FDA’s scientists) who findings that may indicate GMOs could be harmful to humans. ”

    What !! ??

  21. Marie
    Posted January 18, 2013 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Label them, there’s nothing to be afraid of.

    Products labelled Added vitamins! Makes a product sell better, not everything labelled is bad is it.

    • jytdog
      Posted March 15, 2013 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

      In countries that have introduced mandatory labeling, retailers have refused to stock GM-labelled food to avoid being targeted by activists (the last thing any retailer wants – especially a grocery retailer that wants families to be happy). With mandatory labelling, consumers do not get choice. And, frankly, it is bad for the GM industry – it is not harmless. Some advocates of labelling are honest about this and I respect that honesty.

  22. Mitch W
    Posted February 12, 2013 at 12:31 am | Permalink

    “GM has been going on for thousands if not millions of years, most food varieties we have wouldn’t exist without it True! But the combinations currently being created have NEVER been done in history and it is the arrogant attitude of the science that is doing it that is dangerous. Science and the big money behind it considers itself infallible, it cannot admit that it might be dangerous because they will then have to admit they might be wrong.”

    “NEVER been done in history” – that’s the very definition of new. This advocates nothing new should wver be done. Scientists have never claimed that GM cannot be dangerous, only that it is no more and probably less dangerous than previous methods of developing new strains. No increase in risk.

    What makes GM less dangerous than trying to cause mutations via radiation or chemically? It’s results are much more precise. With previous methods the desired mutation or trait invariably came with unknown mutations and traits. It was impossible to cause just the desired trait to be included and in the correct location of the genome. With GM you can limit changes to just the desired trait. You may argue that GM cannot place the desired gene(s) in the correct locations. Well, while that’s true, GM can insert the disired gene(s) in as many cells as necessary to come up with the ones that do have the exactly the correct sequencing. This is because GM techniques can exactly read back what was done. The cells that don’t have the corrrect sequencing are simply destroyed.

    As far as gene transfers to gut bacteria, et al, this would be just as likely from any natural organism or combination of organisms that you ingest, including any wild bacteria riding on the food you are swallowing, like those Bt producing species that some people seem so worried about.

  23. Mitch W
    Posted February 12, 2013 at 12:37 am | Permalink

    Since some people are claiming that everything that Monsanto has done is evil, it should be noted that Monsanto was the first company to successfully mass produce LED’s.

    Should we now go out and smash all our LED lighting ?

    • Jen
      Posted June 12, 2013 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

      I would having tried LED lights in my house – the bulbs are expensive, I know the cost is balanced over years’ worth of use – but the light is horrid and causes me eye strain and headaches. It took me a while to figure out what the cause was and then I immediately changed out the bulbs and got rid olf them. Same with CFL lights. I will not be forced to use LED or CFL in my home. This same thinking goes for my food. I will not buy or consume anything GM. That is my choice, and is easier if a label is there for ME to decide. My other objection to Monsanto is it’s aggressive legal action against farmers whose crops were unwittingly tainted by the pollen of the GM crops. Furthermore, forcing farmers to buy seed year after year instead of being able to save their own is a financial boon to the Monsanto and the companies that sell the seed.

  24. Eric N
    Posted February 23, 2013 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    There is a facet to this debate which has largely gone unmentioned. It is that the anti-GMO contingent has characterized their efforts to tear down Monsanto as a David vs. Goliath scenario. They would have the world believe that Monsanto is this huge, money grubbing corporation (true) and that the producers of non-GMO, organic foods are all a bunch of small, mom and pop family farms (false). One only needs to walk into a Whole Foods Market anywhere in the US to realize that organic and non-GMO agriculture is a multi-billion dollar industry that has as much of a financial stake in this issue as Monsanto does. The CEO’s of the companies producing foods labeled as organic and non-GMO are driving the same luxury cars and golfing at the same exclusive country clubs as the CEO’s of Monsanto or any other ag-business corporation. This is not a bunch of altruistic tree-huggers out to save the world one family farm at a time. They, like their Monsanto counterparts, want a bigger share of the pie, to gain advantage in the market and SELL MORE of their products. One would be foolish to assume that they are not above seeding doubt in the products sold by their competitors, creating bias in scientific studies to support their claims, etc. I am sure if you combine the financial might of all of the companies that produce and sell non-GMO agricultural products, you would have an entity that challenges Monsanto in lobbying power and market presence. Make no mistake, it is big-business on each side. The scrutiny with which any scientific study sponsored by Monsanto is picked apart to find bias must be used on any study sponsored by the other side, because their motivations are the same.
    As for the issue of labeling GMO foods, I wonder why the model adopted by the dairy industry is not sufficient. We have all read the “our cows are not treated with rBST” labels on dairy products, followed by the disclaimer that their is no difference in milk from rBST and non rBST cows. How about non-GMO companies label their food as non-GMO, with the disclaimer that their is no demonstrable difference between GMO and non-GMO foods. Any food not labeled as non-GMO is, by default, a product containing ingredients derived from GMO’s It could not be more clear than that.

  25. Hugh
    Posted March 31, 2013 at 4:20 am | Permalink

    Great editorial! Any plans on finishing it off?

  26. Alex
    Posted June 1, 2013 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    You write that “Glyphosate is generally considered to be inert in humans.”

    And yet

    Stephanie Seneff, PhD, a Senior Research Scientist at MIT explains why gut bacteria are affected by glycophosphate and how that affects a series of medical conditions..


    • Matthew
      Posted August 5, 2013 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

      Here are some key thoughts:

      The two scientists involved aren’t biologists (one is an electrical engineer), the paper isn’t peer reviewed (no other scientists have decided whether it makes any sense), it includes no research of any kind, it makes many false conclusions, many of the references are from completely discredited (and even withdrawn) studies, and the actual paper itself is chock full of weasel words that don’t even make any solid claims.

      I’m not saying that glyphosate is or is not harmful to humans, just that the paper in question is complete BS.

  27. Sean
    Posted June 3, 2013 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Great post on an issue that definitely deserves more exposure. I didn’t realize how polarized I was on the topic until this past weekend, watching my friends pass around this article “Putin Warns Obama: Monsanto.” Aside from the poor quality of writing and sketchy webhosts, a quick search shows that this was likely written by well-known nutjob and conspiracy theorist, and completely made up (see Snopes, too). And yet here are these otherwise intelligent friends of mine, eating the stuff up, and forwarding this on as true!!

    My biggest qualm is – why are we so quick to group and typify GMOs?

    Try two simple Google searches: 1) “genetically modified organisms,” and 2) “genetically modified bacteria.” What are the results, and the general tone of the articles, that you get for “organisms” versus “bacteria?” From what I can see, GMOs are the bane of society and the products of evil corporations, whereas GMBs are going to save the world. Are bacteria not organisms?!! So why are we so afraid of consuming GMO plants and animals when we’ve been injecting ourselves with GMO human insulin for over 30 years now? Why do you support biofuels? Why do you drink from biodegradable plastic cups?

    It’s not that there’s a fundamental difference between plants or animals or ingesting GMOs, it’s that folks have been duped by the same misinformation and fearmongering that they denounce from folks on the far-right of the political spectrum. This is not to say that every GMO is safe and worry free (my
    This anti-science, knee-jerk reaction is exactly the same as that of the anti-vaccine folks, or the climate skeptics. If you are against Monsanto, campaign against Monsanto. If you are against pesticides, campaign against pesticides. If you are against genetically modified ferrets, then take to the streets! But don’t be against a particular method, or a practice, or a technology – much like “alternative energy” – that encompasses a whole slough of different things and has already been saving your ass and improving the world for many, many years.

    Seriously, Michael, Op-Ed in the NY Times? I’ll help; I am fired up about this issue.

    • Sean
      Posted June 3, 2013 at 8:54 am | Permalink

      Oops; enthusiastic typing leads to typos. I meant to say that my biggest GMO worries are on the environmental side of things.

  28. Tom
    Posted June 8, 2013 at 5:07 am | Permalink

    I do not like to accuse groups of people–but I have to say that I find those who are in favor of GMO’s to have a high degree of arrogance. Anyone not agreeing is contemptuously dismissed as arrogant of science. May I say that I have been trained in science, at Reed College? The more we study the cell, the more we realize how complex it is. Dyneins, kinesins, mitochondrial DNA–and on it goes. We are playing around with something we actually know very little about. So when it comes to the food people are eating, we have to be very, very careful.

    What made the Genetic Roulette documentary compelling was, in fact, the steady stream of HIGHLY-qualified scientists who are expressing grave concerns. Here is but one summary of fully-qualified scientists writing in peer-reviewed journals, whose studies show cause for concern:

    You may not agree with all the studies, such as their statistical methods, choice of mouse strain, thoroughness of physical and biochemical assessment, or validity of control group comparisons–but that is going both ways in this debate. It is unfair to accuse people concerned about GMO’s as ignorant and evenly relying on “junk science”.

    The fact is that selective breeding and genetic recombination are TOTALLY different, and should not be compared. Selective breeding only uses pre-existing genetic material. Basically, you are eliminating heterozygosity for the qualities you are seeking to express. In contrast, recombinant genetic modification is un-natural in that a completely foreign genetic sequence is spliced into the host DNA. We may say, “Oh, its just a little sequence from a bacteria, a fungus, a pig, or whatever.” But we have created a new combination of chemicals, and are now feeding it to people.

    Moreover, with the dazzling complexity of the cell, and the fact that we are discovering new processes and structures at high rate of speed, with no end in sight , it is highly unlikely that we really know the full implications of any novel arrangement of the DNA. Has anyone at Monsanto, Syngenta, et al., thoroughly sequenced the TOTAL modification to the genetic code, then searched the cells of the corn, soy (or whatever) for new substances that will be ingested by the people?

    As Syngenta so well describes BT Corn’s mode of operation: “When eaten by a corn borer, Bt protein is broken down by digestive enzymes in the larva’s alkaline (basic pH) intestine, generating a shorter protein that binds to specific receptor proteins in the wall of the intestine of the target insect pest. This damages the cell membrane, making it leaky, and stopping the larva in its tracks.”

    Do we really know this is not happening to humans after 20 years of ingesting countless products made with BT corn in its various forms, from corn cereal to tortillas, corn chips, things made with corn syrup, etc? The arguments over allergens seems to miss this possibility. They keep focussing on a straight allergy to a new protein sequence–not to the possibility of compromising the human intestinal tract, with resulting allergic reactions to food. That would indeed explain the bizarre proliferation of food allergies to all kinds of food. I mean, why are kids in this generations allergic to things like peas, etc, etc?

    People have a right to know what they are being fed. GMO labeling should not only be done, it should be specific. “This product contains genetically modified organisms that produce an internal pesticide of the Cry1AB type, which cannot be removed from the food.” “Contains RoundUp-Ready (c) corn, soybeans, and sugar beets”. It is grossly unfair to force people to eat artificial (and I mean that) ingredients without notice. Especially when we are talking about the MAIN ingredient of the food such as corn or soy, not just a trace ingredient like food coloring, flavoring, or emulsification promoter! You may think its safe–most of us don’t. You want to eat it, and feed it to your infants as their bodies and brains are developing, go ahead–but do us the courtesy of labeling your experimental food so we can avoid it.

    Further, there is no human study that I know of, on the effects of these various recombinant DNA sequences and their resulting un-natural combinations of chemicals upon the human as it develops in the womb and in early childhood. HOWEVER, the skyrocketing of food allergies and autism is in sync with the proportion of GMO’s in the food supply. When I was a kid, NOBODY I knew had either. Now, its epidemic! It cannot be proved yet, as far as I know, that GMO’s are the cause. Vaccines? The proliferation of electromagnetic activity from cell phones/TV/Internet/ microwaves? GMO’s? Artificial ingredients? TV watching? A combo of them all? Hard to tell. But the statistical correlation is there: we should be very, very cautious, when it comes to feeding people un-natural combinations of genetically recombined ingredients. We should be aggressively pursuing research in this matter–by objective researchers.

    One the main problems with the whole GMO issue is the heavy conflict of interest at FDA, which has clouded the whole issue. Paul Taylor should never have been the one to oversee the GM issue at FDA, and should not be a “food safety officer” today. Nor should anyone with a vested interest. It would be like allowing an employee of Northrup or Boeing to oversee defense contract awards.

    Bottom line: I salute Jeffrey Smith as I would salute Ralph Nader. Not a trained scientist–but someone who is at least getting out the picture of genetic modification in a way people can understand. And as I would salute Rachel Carson–who by the way, battled the same corporation. You don’t remember the cute ads for DDT, do you? “DDT is good for meeeee!” sang the cute housewife, the cow, the chicken, the dog, the apple, and the peanut.

    And note the copy on the ad for the now-infamous DDT: “The great expectations held for DDT have been realized. During 1916, exhaustive scientific tests have shown that, when properly used, DDT kills a host of destructive insect pests, and is a benefactor of all humanity.”

    How like today: let’s substitute: “The great expectations held for GMO’s have been realized. During 2013, exhaustive scientific tests have shown that, when properly used, GMO’s kill a host of destructive insect pests, and is a benefactor of all humanity.”

    They didn’t really do the kind of testing needed to find out how destructive DDT was, not only to humans, but to the entire ecosystem–did they?

    It is chilling how the toxicology of DDT echoes back to the GMO question. In the short term, appears OK, but long-term, uh-oh.

    We are playing with fire. I say, an immediate ban on all GMO’s for human consumption until all conflict of interest is removed from the FDA; the initial evidence is re-examined (FDA scientists had concerns that were not properly aired, from what I have read), and THOROUGH study done on EVERY GMO proposed for release. If it passes the test and is released, then CLOSE MONITORING, not just “oh we trust you guys to keep things in good order ’cause its just ‘natural’ ingredients.” Any food with GMO content to be labelled, at least with “Contains Genetically Modified ingredients”. If the GM is more than, say, 1% of the product then more detail is required: “Contains Genetically Modified Corn, Soy, Canola, and Sugar Beets”.

  29. Jen
    Posted June 12, 2013 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

    The arrogance of those who had the privilege to study their chosen field, having the chance to continue to thrive with that privilege is palable. Not everyone can be a genetic biologist, cardiologist, artist or musician. That specialized knowledge is useful of course, but no reason to fling others to the ground. My view is this: every couple of years we learn from the “experts”, those of specialized education and knowledge, that what they thought was good for us is now not so good, in some cases, we should avoid said substance! I understand the basics behind GM, I am not wholly ignorant of it, but I AM wary when experts insist something is just fine given the history of changes in understanding through scientific study and experiments…in 10 years you guys will change your minds…

  30. Posted July 4, 2013 at 5:06 am | Permalink

    Thanks for discussing useful information abou GMO’s..Government scientists have stated that the artificial insertion of DNA into plants, a technique unique to genetic engineering, can cause a variety of significant problems with plant foods. Such genetic engineering can increase the levels of known toxicants in foods and introduce new toxicants and health concerns.

  31. Roel Zylstra
    Posted April 10, 2014 at 1:36 am | Permalink

    Micheal! Where are the answers to the other seven questions!

  32. Pia
    Posted August 15, 2014 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Ah you sound like just another monsanto crony.

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