GM Free Cymru

The Health Risks of GM Foods

This is a handy check-list of the identified dangers associated with the consumption of GM human food and animal feed. On the web site for Jeffrey Smith's "Genetic Roulette" there are links to all the items in the list, providing essential references and back-up data.

Contents at a Glance:

Part 1: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods

Section 1: Evidence of reactions in animals and humans.

1.1 GM Potatoes Damages Rats

1.2 Rats Fed GMO Tomatoes got bleeding stomachs, several died

1.3 Rats Fed Bt Corn had multiple health problems

1.4 Mice Fed GM Bt Potatoes had intestinal damage

1.5 Workers exposed to Bt cotton developed allergies

1.6 Sheep died after grazing in Bt cotton fields

1.7 Inhaled Bt corn pollen may have triggered disease in humans

1.8 Farmers report pigs and cows became sterile from GM corn

1.9 Twelve cows in Germany died mysteriously when fed Bt corn

1.10 Mice fed Roundup Ready soy had liver cell problems

1.11 Mice fed Roundup Ready soy had problems with the pancreas

1.12 Mice fed Roundup Ready soy had unexplained changes in testicular cells

1.13 Roundup Ready Soy Changed Cell Metabolism in Rabbit Organs

1.14 Most offspring of rats fed Roundup Ready soy died within three weeks

1.15 Soy allergies skyrocketed in the UK, soon after GM soy was introduced

1.16 Rats fed Roundup Ready canola had heavier livers

1.17 Twice the number of chickens died when fed Liberty Link corn

1.18 GM peas generated an allergic-type inflammatory response in mice

1.19 Eyewitness reports: Animals avoid GMOs

1.20 A GM food supplement killed about 100 people

Section 2: Gene insertion disrupts the DNA and can create unpredictable health problems.

2.1 Foreign genes disrupt the DNA at the insertion site.

2.2 Growing GM crops using tissue culture can create hundreds or thousands of DNA mutations.

2.3 Gene insertion creates genome-wide changes in gene expression.

2.4 The promoter may accidentally switch on harmful genes.

2.5 The promoter might switch on a dormant virus in plants.

2.6 The promoter might create genetic instability and mutations.

2.7 Genetic engineering activates mobile DNA, called transposons, which generate mutations.

2.8 Novel RNA may be harmful to humans and their offspring.

2.9 Roundup Ready soybeans produce unintentional RNA variations.

2.10 Changes in proteins can alter thousands of natural chemicals in plants, increasing toxins or reducing phytonutrients

2.11 GM crops have altered levels of nutrients and toxins.

Section 3: The protein produced by the inserted gene may create problems.

3.1 A gene from a Brazil nut carried allergies into soybeans.

3.2 GM proteins in soy, corn and papaya may be allergens.

3.3 Bt crops may create allergies and illness.

3.4 The Bt in crops is more toxic than the Bt spray.

3.5 StarLink corn’s built-in pesticide has a “medium likelihood” of being an allergen.

3.6 Pollen-sterilizing barnase in GM crops may cause kidney damage.

3.7 High lysine corn contains increased toxins and may retard growth.

3.8 Cooking high lysine corn may create disease-promoting toxins.

3.9 Disease-resistant crops may promote human viruses and other diseases.

Section 4: The foreign protein may be different than what is intended.

4.1 GM proteins may be misfolded or have added molecules.

4.2 Transgenes may be altered during insertion.

4.3 Transgenes may be unstable, and rearrange over time.

4.4 Transgenes may create more than one protein.

4.5 Weather, environmental stress and genetic disposition can significantly change gene expression.

4.6 Genetic engineering can disrupt the complex relationships governing gene expression.

Section 5: Transfer of genes to gut bacteria, internal organs, or viruses.

5.1 In spite of industry claims, transgenes survive the digestion system and can wander.

5.2 Transgene design facilitates transfer into gut bacteria.

5.3 Transgenes may proliferate in gut bacteria over the long- term.

5.4 Transgene transfer to human gut bacteria is confirmed.

5.5 GM foods might create antibiotic-resistant diseases.

5.6 The promoter can also transfer, and may switch on random genes or viruses.

5.7 If Bt genes transfer, they could turn our gut bacteria into living pesticide factories.

5.8 Genes may transfer to bacteria in the mouth or throat.

5.9 Transfer of viral genes into gut microorganisms may create toxins and weaken peoples’ viral defenses.

Section 6: GM crops may increase environmental toxins and bioaccumulate toxins in the food chain.

6.1 Glufosinate-tolerant crops may produce herbicide “inside” our intestines.

6.2 Herbicide-tolerant crops increase herbicide use and residues in food.

6.3 Tiny amounts of herbicide may act as endocrine disruptors.

6.4 GM crops may accumulate environmental toxins or concentrate toxins in milk and meat of GM-fed animals.

6.5 Disease-resistant crops may promote new plant viruses, which carry risks for humans.

Section 7: Other types of GM foods carry risks.

7.1 Milk from rbGH treated cows may increase risk of cancer and other diseases.

7.2 Milk from rbGH-treated cows likely increases the rate of twin births.

7.3 Food additives created from GM microorganisms pose health risks.

Section 8: Risks are greater for children and newborns.

8.1 Pregnant mothers eating GM foods may endanger offspring.

8.2 GM foods are more dangerous for children than adults.


BOOK REVIEW: Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, by Jeffrey M. Smith ReviewofGeneticRoulette/index.cfm

EXTRACT: Smith has to be the best science communicator alive today, and this book stands as the final word on GM health risks. It's the definitive answer to those who don't know, those who don't want to know, and those who know but don't want anyone else to know.

Reviewer: Claire Robinson, GM Watch Publisher: Yes! Books,; hardcover; 336 pages; $27.95

What's your response when someone comes out with a fatuous statement they've picked up from somewhere to the effect that "There's no evidence that GM food is harmful"?

If you have time and energy enough, perhaps you manage to scrabble together some bits and pieces from your memory, the web, a book or an article. But considering the number of calls that the business of living places on your time and energy, maybe you just shrug your shoulders and muse that the world is going to hell in a handbasket of Bush, Blair, and Monsanto's making and there's nothing you can do about it.

Well, now there is. Just point them in the direction of the latest book from Jeffrey Smith, Genetic Roulette: The documented health risks of genetically modified foods.

A must-read for every policy-maker, educator, and journalist, it's also invaluable for anyone who wants to sharpen up their weaponry in the battle against the imposition of GM foods. And judging by the steady stream of emails I've received over the years from students in schools, colleges, and universities asking me to explain the risks of GM food, every educational institution and public library needs to buy a copy.

Of course, those who enjoyed Smith's previous book, Seeds of Deception, should be warned that this isn't the same sort of read. 'Seeds' laid out the fraud of GM through its stories: the honest scientists who were gagged, threatened, and persecuted; the revolving door between industry and regulators that led to untested GMOs being unleashed into the food supply; the consumers who got sick and died from eating a supplement produced with GM bacteria, only to have their suffering covered up by a government that cared only to protect the interests of the industry.

While Smith's last book uncompromisingly presented the science challenging the claimed safety of GMOs, the focus was on the human. The salesmen-scientists and the whistle-blowers of the GM world were shown doing what they have to do - in the case of the first, to protect their careers, and in the case of the second, to protect public health, the planet, and their ability to sleep at night. Genetic Roulette is not a book of stories, but rather an easy-to-use reference book of scientific fact and documented findings on the risks of GM foods.

It will come as no surprise to GM Watch subscribers that contrary to what the industry would have us believe, there are a considerable number of findings that show GM causes harm. Smith uses much previously unavailable material obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and has trawled through piles of industry submissions and government documents. He extracts the scientific meat and methodically lays it out for our examination, with one finding per chapter section. One section, for example, is headed, "Mice fed Roundup Ready soy had liver cell problems". The finding is described in full, followed by possible interpretations and comments, either by the researchers themselves or other experts.

Given the worrying lack of substantial published research, Smith also draws upon unpublished studies, case studies, medical reports, media reports, and eyewitness accounts. Unlike the notorious pronouncements of supporters of the biotech industry, interpretations and statements of opinion are never misrepresented as scientific fact. Readers will always know the status of what they are reading and the basis for it. The author has gone to great lengths to maintain accuracy of reporting, having each section of the book checked by at least three scientists.

Other sections of the book highlight serious flaws and gaps in the industry's case for GM food safety. Again, each chapter section is devoted to a particular topic, such as the ability of GM disease- resistant crops to promote dangerous new viruses. Scientific evidence for this is laid out with explanations. All points are referenced in unobtrusive footnotes.

Even those who know quite a bit about the GM issue will learn lots from this book. Perhaps this is partly due to Smith's status as a non- scientist: he does not assume specialist knowledge on the part of the reader, and explains things that many of us have become used to skimming over because of our lack of such knowledge.

For example, ever wondered why a certain batch of GM crops is called an "event"? Smith explains that each batch is produced by inserting the transgene into the host plant cells either by the gene gun method or by infection with a bacterium. So random and disruptive is this process to the host cells that the results are different with each insertion. The process is neither repeatable nor reproducible. Scientists tell me, however, that repeatability and reproducibility are generally viewed as prerequisites to any process that claims to be scientific. In this light, the GM process as it is currently practiced is not scientific. Nor does it even qualify as engineering, as the engineering equivalent would be to try to build the Forth Bridge by tossing an assortment of girders, nuts and bolts in the general region of the Firth of Forth and letting a bunch of monkeys fiddle with them: an intelligence of a sort is at work, but the result is utterly unpredictable. Thus, even if government regulators had a road-to-Damascus conversion and actually started policing GM technology as they are supposed to, any safety tests performed on one "event" of a GM crop would have to be repeated on all other events before the crop could be pronounced safe. Cheap GM crops for the third world, anyone?

Another interesting snippet concerns allergies to GM Roundup Ready soy. The one comforting factor when dealing with allergies to conventional foods is that once you know your poison, you can generally avoid it, and your allergic reaction ceases. But not with Roundup Ready soy. Research has shown that a portion of the transgene from the GM soy is transferred into human gut bacteria. In addition, the gut bacteria survive doses of Roundup's active ingredient, glyphosate. This indicates that the transgene continues to produce its Roundup Ready protein from within the gut bacteria. If this is so, then long after you stop eating GM soy, you may be constantly exposed to the potentially allergenic protein. The medical consequences of ongoing allergic reactions to an ingredient widely used in processed foods have not been addressed.

Conspicuous by their absence are follow-up studies to those that show harm from GM foods. The book details the tactics that industry uses to shut down or bury inconvenient research, including ignoring it, attempting to discredit the research or its authors, and funding competing studies so poorly designed that no meaningful findings can possibly be extracted. If all else fails, industry-aligned researchers discount deaths of experimental animals or claim that statistically significant results have, magically, no significance at all.

The layout of the book is an exemplar of clarity and should serve as the model for any reference book (authors of science books, please note: fewer people would give up on science if it were this easy to digest). It is designed to make the material accessible to three levels of reader: the scanner, the casual reader, and the reader who wants all the detail. Each double-page spread is devoted to a particular problem with GM foods, with the left-hand page having the topic heading, a featured quote by a scientist or expert, and a few short bullet points, and the right-hand page giving the technical detail. Scanners can take in the left-hand page at a glance; casual readers can read the main narrative on the right-hand page; and for those who need detail, there are paragraphs of indented text giving figures and examples. You don't need a science background to understand it. While the book is not bedtime reading, all terms are defined and the boggle factor is kept low. The excellent table of contents gives a one-sentence summary of each of the risks of GM foods and enables the reader quickly to access the evidence.

Smith has to be the best science communicator alive today, and this book stands as the final word on GM health risks. It's the definitive answer to those who don't know, those who don't want to know, and those who know but don't want anyone else to know.