Friday, January 25, 2013

GMO basics

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
Genetic modification of organisms (GMOs) involves the insertion of foreign genes into a native plants DNA.  The company that patented and owns over 90% of all GMO seeds worldwide today is Monsanto. Although Monsanto tries to claim that cross pollination (the process of transferring pollen from one plant to another of the same species) and genetic modification are the same and that farmers have been genetically modifying foods since the beginning of time, the definition of genetic modification requires an insertion of foreign genes or a deletion of genes in a DNA strand which cross pollination does neither. This means that GMOs were for the first time in history commercialized in 1996.

The one gene one protein theory that founded GMOs
The theory that founded GMOs was created in the 20th century when scientists believed that one gene can only produce one protein. When a foreign synthetic gene was inserted into a DNA strand, the gene would start producing one specific protein and get the desired trait they wanted out of the plant. Chemical corporations like Monsanto were interested in this technology because they could increase the sales of their chemicals by making plants create a protein that makes them resistant to their pesticides such as Roundup Ready. That way when people spray Roundup Ready over a plant, the GMO plant would not die verses a normal plant would. Although the science behind GMOs sounded safe in the 20th century, the Human Genome Project revealed a major flaw in the theory behind GMOs when they discovered genes produce more than one protein and can even produce thousands. Each GMO was found to have thousands of extra changes that were unplanned and this concerned scientists because the genes used in GMOs are synthetic (made in a laboratory) that are different than the bacteria genes they try to mimic.

What happens when we add introns to bacterial genes?
When scientists first tried putting bacterial synthetic genes in a foreign DNA strand, the production of the protein was low because most bacterial genes do not have introns so their solution was to add introns to these synthetic genes. We learned in the 21st century that introns also signal spliceosomes to cut up the RNA, rearrange it, and reassemble it. This means that the synthetic bacterial genes with added introns are now producing new additional unplanned proteins which can often times create toxic proteins, protein allergens and prions (chaperones of a native plant have never seen these foreign GMO proteins before which are a different shape and size than the native proteins. When chaperones try to fold them, they screw up and create prions.) If people are constantly exposed to these proteins, then the chances of developing serious diseases dramatically increases such as cancer, auto-immune diseases, food allergies, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (Mad Cows Disease), and many more.

Insertion of the foreign gene with a 5% disruption of overall gene expression
Scientists attach an Antibiotic Resistant Marker (ARM) to their genes and coat them with gold or tungsen. They then use a 22-caliber gene gun and shotgun fire thousands of these shards into a foreign DNA strand aimed at the noncoding DNA, or "junk DNA." 20th century theories stated that junk DNA was left over debris from the evolutionary process that had no purpose. Since 97% of human DNA is considered Junk DNA, 20th century scientists believed that only 3% of DNA strands of humans had a purpose so they believed that creating unplanned mutations in the Junk DNA would cause no consequences. We eventually learned that Junk DNA does have important purposes (such as transcription and translation regulation) that are vital for the function of the DNA strand.

After the genes are fired, only a small percentage of these blasted genes survive. Antibiotics are then given to the DNA strand and those genes that survive this process are now part of the plants DNA. This causes a 5 percent disruption of overall gene expression and DNA chip technology shows that the DNA strands after genetic modification is unstable. A single foreign gene inserted also changes one out of every 20 genes that produces proteins to either increase or decrease their output. [1] Human studies have also proven that both the ARM and the GMO gene survive the digestive tract in humans which makes Horizontal Gene Transfer possible between GMOs and humans, as well as all other life forms [2].  If bacteria then are exposed to the ARM in this manner, they become completely antibiotic resistant. If a deadly bacteria is affected by the ARM and become immune to all antibiotics, and it infect humans and hospitalizes them, no existing antibiotic would be effective against their bacterial infections.  This is why the British Medical Association declared that the ARM is one of the biggest medical threats of the twenty first century and recommended banning the ARM. [3] Outbreaks of antibiotic resistant bacterias are on the rise across the United States and many of these super bugs are killing. These bacterias are linked directly to modern factory farming practices and a possible suspect of this outbreak is the ARM  [4], as well as the over usage of antibiotics on farms. Antibiotics are constantly being fed to animals because the animals would otherwise die due to the poor living standards they have, and because animals are fed GMOs which weaken their immune systems. 80% of all antibiotics sold in the United States are for animal feed [5] which is the other reason why new deadly super bugs have been spreading across the United States including the family Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) which has a 40% death rate and has already reached epidemic proportions in several major U.S. population centers [6].   

Activating the synthetic genes
The synthetic genes inserted into the foreign gene strand needs to be forced on and set to produce as many proteins as possible by a promoter. A common promoter is the modified Cauliflower Mosaic Virus (CaMV). Scientists genetically modified the CaMV and removed its protein coating which made the virus unstable. Since the original CaMV is found in plants and humans have been eating this virus throughout our history without having the CaMV affect any human cells, it was assumed that eating this newly created modified CaMV would not affect human cells either. Further research revealed that the modified CaMV is not only different than the original virus, it is also active in human DNA and cells, and it can also activate bad genes in DNA strands and can turns them on in overdrive which leads to cancer due to the over expression of genes. This is why the UK Government's Joint Food Safety and Standard Group has written to the FDA about the dangers of inhaling GMO pollen warning that the CaMV can be transferred to human cells through GMO pollen which has been proven highly active in GMO pollen [7], can increase the risk of serious diseases such as cancer, and [8]  is a pararetrovirus which is similar to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) which depresses the immune system of the host it infects [9] which can infect humans [10]. To make matters worse, the CaMV can add foreign genes to foreign DNA strands all by itself which was confirmed in 2003 when the Norwegian Institute for Gene Ecology announced that 39 people living next to a GMO corn field in the Philippines developed respiratory, intestinal and skin diseases after breathing in GMO pollen. The GMO was found to have been gene stacked by the CaMV. Every time a new gene is introduced into a plant with the CaMV, thousands of changes occur in the plant which many changes can interact with each other and create dangerous toxins.

Further research on the CaMV revealed an additional hidden danger. An independent study done by the staff of the European Food Safety Authority, Nancy Podevin and Patrick du Jardin discovered a new virus gene named "Gene VI" which is similar to, and overlaps the CaMV. It is present in 54 out of 86 GM plants approved including the corn and soy GMOs in the United States. Gene VI can make plants, animals and humans vulnerable to pathogens such as viruses, interfere with messenger RNA and create novel proteins with unknown effects on plants, can switch on multiple genes downstream along the genome, as well as silences important genes that are normally on which could turn off the immune system that it infects. Depending on where Gene VI is inserted (it is randomly inserted) into the DNA, it could produce protein allergens, toxins, carcinogens, and even anti-nutrients [11].

GMOs increased pesticide usage by 404 million pounds:
There are two main GMOs worldwide. The first is a GMO that is Roundup Ready resistant and the second GMO produces a pesticide called Bt. The Roundup Ready GMOs have increased pesticide usage by 404 million pounds [12] and now high levels of Roundup Ready can be found in our air and water [13]. Roundup Ready has also been proven to be highly carcinogenic by preventing apoptosis in cells [14] which means anyone that drinks or breathes Roundup Ready and eats Roundup Ready GMOs is also increasing their chances of preventing apoptosis in their cells causing cancer

The GMO Bt pesticide works by breaking open the stomachs of insects which kills them. When humans eat this GMO, the production of the Bt pesticide may not stop once the GMO passes through the stomach and the Bt pesticide may continue to be produced in the gut. This explains why a majority of both Americans and Canadians have detectable levels of this pesticide throughout their body. 80% of Canadian babies have detectable levels of this pesticide in their blood as well as their mothers [15] and 93% of blood samples taken from pregnant women tested positive for this pesticide in their bloodstream. [16]

Monocultures and subsidies
All GMOs are monocultures which means that there can only be 1 specie of GMOs made at a time. Although there are different species of GMOs such as corn, soy and cotton, their only line of defense are the pesticides Bt and Roundup Ready. Farmers have always focused on making polycultures (cross pollination creates polycultures, meaning it creates multiple different species) which means they planted different species of crops on their land so that plant diseases nor insects can develop resistance to their crops and destroy them all. Now diseases, beetles, super weeds and insects only need to develop resistance to 2 different pesticides in order to be resistant to the majority of the American food supply. The corn rootworm alone became resistant to 90% of all corn (which is GMO) in the United States and destroys $1 billion dollars worth of corn each year [17] which infected 30 million acres of corn out of 80. The damages of the root worm will continue to increase because it has an unlimited supply of food which it is resistant to. Although the damages to GMO crops by nature should bankrupt farmers alone, the U.S. tax payers pay an average of $20 billion dollars each year in subsidies mostly going to GMO crops so that many farmers do not feel the failed policies of the GMOs. The top 3 subsidies are ethanol GMO corn (5.5 to 7.3 billion each year), GMO soy, and GMO cotton, each at risk of being destroyed by resistant weeds, beetles, insects, and diseases.

Monsanto cannot tell a lie?

For over a decade Monsanto had been telling everyone that their GMOs were safe according to their own studies without having to reveal any data they collected on their GMOs to the outside world. When Monsanto tried approving 3 GMOs in Europe that were already approved in other countries (NK 603, Mon 863, and Mon 810), Green Peace and the Swedish Board of Agriculture wanted Monsanto to prove to them scientifically that these GMOs were safe, so they sued Monsanto to release their data and won the case. By 2009 the International Journal of Biological Sciences (IJBS) reviewed Monsanto's studies on their GMOs and discovered that Monsanto was lying about their data which indicated that these GMOs cause serious organ damage to the kidney and liver, and causes damage to the heart, adrenal, spleen, blood cells, and induces a state of hepatorenal toxicity. The IJBS also concluded that the 90 day study was too short to sufficiently determine the long term effects of GMOs and that Monsanto cut corners in their study [18]. Another peer reviewed study was published in the The Environmental Sciences Europe in 2011 which reexamined 19 GMO studies and indicated that the studies also proved GMOs cause liver and kidney damage. The study also explained that these GMO studies were not done thoroughly enough and that the 90 day GMO feed studies are too short to determine what  kind of long term effects there are that GMOs have on life. [19] By 2012, an independent group of French scientists at the University of Caen published the first 2 year animal GMO feed study in the Journal Food and Chemical Toxicology which was the first study to study GMOs past 90 days. This study almost mimicked Monsanto's 90 day study on NK 603, Mon 863, and Mon 810 by using the same exact rats Monsanto used for their study and similar processes that Monsanto also uses for all of their studies. The French study found the same conclusion as Monsanto's 90 day studies which stated that GMOs cause organ damage, but when the French study continued their study after 90 days, they discovered that most rats that ate a 100% GMO diet developed massive tumors and did not die of natural causes.

Soon after this study was released, every organization that Monsanto funds worldwide began trying to debunk the study using their channels to try to claim that the French study was not valid and used their media support to try to convince people to their side. The organization that backed the French study was the Committee for Research and Independent Information on Genetic Engineering (CRIIGEN) and explains that "most of the critics against the French study are not specialists in the area of pesticide toxicology or GMO risk assessment and do not publish papers on these topics." [20] They also stated that more than 300 scientists from over 33 countries across five continents sent statements to CRIIGEN in support of the French study. The propaganda against the French study did not add up either, but that is probably because the propagandists are not scientific experts on either GMOs or pesticides. The first criticism was that the rat the French study used was prone to tumors and so these rats according to them always will grow giant tumors regardless of what you feed them.

Ironically, the French study used the same exact species of rats that Monsanto uses in their studies which means that the critics of the French study are clearly uneducated on how all studies on GMOs are done. Other criticisms included that the French study only used 200 rats in their study which critics believed they needed more rats in order to get better accurate results. Monsanto's study on these 3 GMOs only examined 80 rats on a 90 day GMO diet, and only tested 10 per group for blood and urine parameters which means the French study had a larger test group. The IJBS also points out that in Monsanto's study, they have 320 rats that ate a non-GMO diet and statistically compare them with 80 GMO fed rats which is extremely unproportional. Monsanto also only examined the differences between rats using the method of eye balling. If the GMO diet rats look like the other non-GMO fed rats after 10 days to 90 days of GMO feed studies (never exceeding 90 days), then that is enough science according to Monsanto to prove there is no difference between GMOs and food crops. People who understand how GMO studies are conducted will clearly understand that the French study is by far the most scientific, valid, long term, peer reviewed study on GMOs ever conducted, but because the general population does not know much about GMOs nor the studies behind them, they are easily persuaded by the propaganda in the mass media.

How do animal studies relate to humans?
Although Americans have been eating GMOs since 1996, our diet is not yet even close to a 100% GMO diet. Rats are also different than humans, but we can conclude that GMOs will have a negative effect on our health. The lifetime of rats is also much shorter than humans which means that the effects that rats have after 2 years of being on a 100% GMO diet may take a few decades for humans. Animals studies also suggest that the damage GMOs cause is worsened in second and third generations of animals causing serious side effects including infertility which means that we still do not know the long term dangers associated with GMOs, although we can already see in observational studies that many diseases have skyrocketed since the introduction of GMOs in the American food supply. We know that correlation does not equal causation. The correlation between GMOs and diseases warrants a real in-depth "non-tobacco science" study on the effects that GMOs may or may not have on human health.

Currently 80% of all processed food in the United States contain some GMO ingredients in it, and it is unlabelled. California tried passing a law that would label GMOs that mimicked the European label laws which was supported by 90% of the population until Monsanto and others spent $46 million dollars on propaganda to convince people otherwise that they do not need to know what exactly is in their food. [21]
People who wish to avoid GMOs can visit the non-GMO project and learn how to avoid GMOs. They also have apps for tablets and for the iphone that can help educate people on how to avoid GMOs. They also have a non GMO shopping guide that people can download.

According to the non-GMO project, crops that are at high risk for being GMOs in the United States are:
  • Alfalfa (first planting 2011)
  • Canola (approx. 90% of U.S. crop)
  • Corn (approx. 88% of U.S. crop in 2011)
  • Cotton (approx. 90% of U.S. crop in 2011)
  • Papaya (most of Hawaiian crop; approximately 988 acres)
  • Soy (approx. 94% of U.S. crop in 2011)
  • Sugar Beets (approx. 95% of U.S. crop in 2010)
  • Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash (approx. 25,000 acres)
If people wish to still eat these foods without eating GMOs, they can buy organic which has to be non-GMO, although because pollination can be spread by the wind, even organic of these species are at some risk for including GMOs. There are also other hidden GMO ingredients in many processed foods that one would need to learn more about to fully accomplish a free GMO diet in the United States. The vast majority of countries throughout the world have already either labelled GMOs or banned GMOs completely which is why Americans who wish to follow suit with the rest of the world will have to study on how to avoid GMOs themselves and take an active participation in protecting their health.

[1] Smith, Jeffrey. Seeds of Deception. Fairfield: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2003, book, p58

[2] GM genes found in human gut, The Guardian

[3] Smith, Jeffrey p. 59

[4] Antibiotic Resistance Genes in GM foods

[5] superbugs

[5] Antibiotics, livestock

[6]Deadly bacterial infections

[7] The CaMV 35S promoter is highly active on floral organs and pollen of transgenic strawberry plants.

[8] Smith, Jeffrey. Seeds of Deception. Fairfield: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2003, book, p66

[9] CaMV 35s and HIV

[10]The 35S CaMV plant virus promoter is active in human enterocyte-like cells;jsessionid=6GFClX7nPfyem1HpZmTf.0

[11] Viral Gene in Genetically Modified Foods might Promote Diseases

[12] Pesticide use ramping up as GMO crop technology backfires: study

[13] U.S. researchers find Roundup chemical in water, air

[14] Cytotoxicity on human cells of Cry1Ab and Cry1Ac Bt insecticidal toxins alone or with a glyphosate-based herbicide

[15] GM regulators chose ignorance over science  

[16]  Babies 93% found with GMO toxin

[17]  EPA confirms rootworm resistance in corn

[18] International Journal of Biological sciences, A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health

[19]  Genetically modified crops safety assessments

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