I first saw a story on this study a few days ago and my gut reaction was to immediately post the info for you all. But then the journalist in me insisted on some indepth research before doing so. As much as I am staunchly against GM crops, I realized the article I read was severely slanted. Understandable, yes, when you consider what an emotional subject this can be if you understand what GMOs are and the history behind them. However, if I’m going to help inform people of their dangers I need to be as impartial as possible.
So I did my research. I read the actual study. Unless you really enjoy sorting through lengthy strings of data, written in bioscience research speak, I don’t recommend actually reading the study. Seriously, it’ll give you a headache. But in doing so I was able to get a few questions answered, some clarified and, unfortunately, some left a mystery.
First, let’s clarify what a genetically modified organism, or GMO, actually is. It is a variety of crop that has been changed at it’s cellular (genetic) level to develop different traits. In most instances, as in the case of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crops, it’s been changed (modified) to withstand increased levels of Roundup herbicide without hurting the crop plant itself. Roundup is a brand name of herbicide derived from glyphosate. It’s been around since the 70’s and is used as a broad-spectrum herbicide to kill a variety of weeds and grasses that may invade a crop field. The active ingredient of Roundup is the isopropylamine salt of glyphosate. Another important ingredient in some formulations of Roundup is the surfactant POEA (polyethoxylated tallow amine), which has been found to be highly toxic to animals and to humans. Monsanto isn’t the only company to produce this type of herbicide, nor are they the only ones with GM crops.
What’s the difference between a GMO and a hybrid? Hybrids are simply varieties created by crossing two or more varieties with each other to form a new one. For example, take one variety of tomato that has a certain size and shape to it but tends to crack. Take another variety that resists cracking. Cross-pollinate them together and the resulting seed will have traits of both. Plant that seed and get a tomato that is the size and shape you want but no longer cracks. That’s a hybrid. You can’t plant the seeds produced by a hybrid and expect to get the same result because it will usually revert back to one of the parent varieties. That’s why heirlooms (seeds that produce true to their parent seed and have been around for generations) are important for protecting our food supply. But that’s a whole other story.
GM seeds are also modified to do more than allow for herbicides. They’re also designed to allow closer planting of crops to enable farmers to get more food out of less land. Sounds promising when you think of what that could mean for world hunger. But it’s not about world hunger, it’s about profits. Mainly GMOs are modified to allow herbicides to be sprayed liberally on the crops with no damage to the crop. I won’t even go into the damage from the run-off of the herbicide (i.e., Monsanto was convicted in France of false advertising of Roundup for presenting it as biodegradable, and claiming it left the soil clean after use) or the effect ingesting the herbicide can have on the human body. Let’s just focus on the crops themselves.
Okay, so what?
As of 2010, 70% of all the corn that was planted was herbicide-resistant; 78% of cotton, and 93% of all soybeans. This means if you’re buying a commercially processed product in the store that contains corn or soy and is not listed as organic, you’re ingesting this stuff. Period. We’re talking cereals, corn chips, anything that has a soy or corn ingredient in it – think corn syrup or soy lecithin. Look at the labels of the food in your pantry or your freezer. You’d be surprised how much of this we’re ingesting. Now, what does that mean for you and your family?
Here’s the short version. The original story I read was on the FoodMatters.tv website entitled GMO Corn Linked to Cancer Tumors. It’s scary and it’s meant to be. The opening sentence states, “Eating genetically modified corn (GMO corn) has caused rats to develop horrifying tumors, widespread organ damage, and premature death.” Yep, scary. And after reading the actual study that sentence is, indeed, true. So is all this:
- *Up to 50% of males and 70% of females suffered premature death.
- *Rats that drank trace amounts of Roundup (at levels legally allowed in the water supply) had a 200% to 300% increase in large tumors.
- *Rats fed GMO corn and traces of Roundup suffered severe organ damage including liver damage and kidney damage.
The study fed these rats NK603, the Monsanto variety of GMO corn that’s grown across North America and widely fed to animals and humans. This is the same corn that’s in your corn-based breakfast cereal, corn tortillas and corn snack chips. Statistics are great, but how about a visual?
The question I had when reading this article and the study itself was whether the scientists were feeding the seed corn to the rats or the crop that was grown from the seed corn. I would think it would be obvious that if you fed the seed corn (which is often coated with another chemical to prevent pests from eating it before it grows) then it would be dangerous. But nowhere in the study does it clarify that for me.
Either way, it’s disgusting and scary. Even if these rats were eating the seed corn, you should be scared. I can go into my seed stash right now and eat whatever seeds I want to without worrying about any damaging effects. Some are heirloom seeds, some are hybrids. Not all of them were grown completely organically. But none of them contain any pre-emergent pesticide or herbicide and non of them have been changed at the genetic level to allow for anything. I could eat them for breakfast everyday for the rest of my life with no ill effects (except maybe a severe lack of flavor).
And that’s what it comes down to. Why would we eat this stuff? Because the FDA, USDA and EPA all seem to think it’s safe for us to do so. They’ve never done these studies – this one was done in France. They’ve tossed out similar studies done here in the U.S. In fact, this one was disregarded by the European Food Safety Authority (their version of our FDA) because of “inadequacies in its design, reporting and analysis.” I don’t care. I read the report and it’s true their methodologies, when compared to what is considered standard and practical in scientific studies, are a bit skewed. But you can’t deny the facts of what happened to those rats. It’s scary, it happened quickly and could have a profound effect on our own health.
I encourage you to take this and other reports into consideration when you’re making decisions for your family. I have sometimes tolerated having some products in my home that contain corn or soy of unknown origin because my family enjoys certain “goodies.” I told my husband tonight – no more. I refuse to buy these things when it’s unknown how they can damage my families’ health. I will buy organic or, at a minimum, items certified non-GMO. There are enough contaminants in our air, water, etc. that can effect my family; I don’t need it in their food, too.