GMO crops not without danger


The Hidden Risks of Genetic Engineering

Genetically modified organisms or GMOs for short are the future, we are told. By altering a piece of information in the crop’s genetic code (DNA), it is thought that higher resistance to pests and diseases and, in some cases, better nutritional quality can be achieved. In the face of an exploding global population, these are important issues, according to the message sent by biotech giants such as Bayer (which acquired Monsanto in 2018), BASF, Corteva Agriscience (formerly Dow AgroSciences), Syngenta (acquired by ChemChina), and Dupont Pioneer into the world and get them into newspapers and (reputable) magazines through PR and media agencies.

By C.F. van der Horst

Augustus 25, 2015, updated October 13, 2022

Do You Know the Five Biggest Lies About GMOs?

If the industry’s narrative is to be believed, GMOs are safe and indispensable. You can read what is true about this in the following five lies about these engineered crops.

Leading GMO companies worldwide 2022@2x

The largest companies producing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Lie #1: We Need Gmos to Feed the World’s Constantly Growing Population

GMOs would have higher yields and therefore be needed to feed the continually growing world population. Is this datum correct? There is a great contrast. On one hand, there are Third World countries where there is hunger, while on the other hand, in affluent countries, many more people are obese. The latter ingest up to six times too much food daily—well over and above what is needed. According to Emelie Peine, professor of international politics and economics at the University of Puget Sound in the US, there is no food shortage but rather a distribution and income problem. “People don’t get the food and even if they got it, they don’t have enough money to buy it,” she explained to CNBC, the international business and financial news network. In other words, the necessity for greater yield is not actually present.

Moreover, the yield of genetically modified (GM) crops is not necessarily greater: a study at the University of Wisconsin found that some GM crops had greater yields, but others had greater yields from conventional cultivation. Increasing yields can also be done without the manipulation of DNA: research at the University of Michigan found that organic agriculture can produce up to three times more food than conventional agriculture.

According to Dr. Charles Benbrook, GMOs increase pesticide use

According to Dr. Charles Benbrook, GMOs increase pesticide use

Dr. Charles Benbrook, researcher and professor at Washington State University, warned that GMOs, especially those that are “glyphosate-resistant,” increase pesticide use many times over, literally poisoning fields. In the long run, this can have far-reaching implications for both yield and usability.

Lie #2: GMOs Are Proven Safe

It is sad that there is no solid evidence for the safety of GMOs. The European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) risk assessment is based on a pseudoscientific standard: that of substantial equivalence. This questionable standard assumes that if a number of key ingredients (such as proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, fiber, isoflavones, and lecithins) are equivalent to those of the original plant, the modified variety is safe.

Erik Millstone, professor of science policy at the University of Sussex, had no kind word to say about this guideline: “Substantial equivalence is a pseudoscientific concept because it is a commercial and political judgment masquerading as if it were scientific. It is, moreover, inherently antiscientific because it was created primarily to provide an excuse for not requiring biochemical or toxicological tests. It therefore serves to discourage and inhibit potentially informative scientific research.” For the industry, it is very advantageous that no exhaustive research needs to be done. According to Millstone, it will save at least five years per crop and $25 million that would have to be put into research and development (R&D), if required.

A major flaw in current risk assessment is a failure to conduct long-term studies. Possibly the reason for that is that so far the only long-term study on GMOs (that of French professor Gilles-Eric Séralini), showed that rats fed GM corn developed massive tumors.

Gilles-Eric Seralini's research showed that rats get cancer from eating GMOs.

Gilles-Eric Seralini’s research showed that rats get cancer from eating GMOs. As you can see in this photo, they got huge tumors after eating genetically modified corn.

Several scientists such as the now late Dr. Árpad Pusztai of England, the Australian Dr. Judy A. Carman, Dr. Bélin Mezzomo of Brazil and Angelika Hilbeck and Jörg Schmidt of Switzerland independently established that there were health risks associated with GMOs and that more and especially long-term research was urgently needed.

In 2014, Dr. Carman and her colleagues found that there is very little solid basis for approval: “Our search found 21 studies for the nine (19%) out of 47 crops approved for human and/or animal consumption. We could find no studies on the other 38 (81%) approved crops. Fourteen out of the 21 studies (67%) were general health assessments of the GM crop on rat health. Most of these studies (76%) were performed after the crop had been approved for human and/or animal consumption, [Nadruk toegevoegd]. with half of these being published at least nine years after approval. Our review also discovered an inconsistency in methodology and a lack of defined criteria for outcomes that would be considered toxicologically or pathologically significant. In addition, there was a lack of transparency in the methods and results, which made comparisons between the studies difficult. The evidence reviewed here demonstrates an incomplete picture regarding the toxicity (and safety) of GM products consumed by humans and animals.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) website claims that current GMOs on the market have undergone safety testing by national governments. However, as you can read in the story above, nothing could be further from the truth.

A British study published in November 2016 compared the original corn plant (the ‘isogenic control’) with its genetically modified daughter (NK603). The results definitely shot the standard of substantial equivalence out of the water, as measurements showed that the daughter was substantially different in several areas. The researchers concluded: “Our molecular profiling results show that NK603 and the isogenic control are not substantially equivalent.”

This means that the basis on which genetically modified plants are approved (even in Europe!) is flawed and says absolutely nothing about safety and risks.

An analysis published in 2022 by the University in Graz, Austria, showed that the end of the debate on the dangers of GMOs is not yet in sight and that the scientific debate between proponents and opponents is extremely difficult, if at all. “The lack of formal recognition of the limitations of nascent scientific fields, as well as the different research approaches between regulatory and academic research, contribute to the continuation of controversies in the public domain, as the public cannot easily assess the information presented,” the Austrian researchers said.

Lie #3: The Government Doesn’t Just Let Unsafe Food on the Market—They Do Look Into That, Right?

On August 12, 2015, Dutch member of parliament Bart de Liefde suggested in a consultation of the House of Representatives: “GMOs that have been found safe by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) can be safely eaten by humans and animals and pose no danger to Dutch or European nature. That is what we have agreed with each other.” De Liefde appeared ill-informed and very trusting of EFSA’s judgment. After all, who set the rules for EFSA?

As you will read in the book Deadly Lies: How Doctors and Patients Are Deceived, you can read, the interest-conflicted Dr. Harry Kuiper laid the groundwork for EFSA’s guidelines when he, along with Dr. Gijs Kleter and Dr. Esther Kok, wrote a report for the industrial lobbying group ILSI with guidelines for low-threshold approval of GMOs.

Dr. H.A. (Harry) Kuiper, interest-conflicted chairman of EFSA's GMO panel

Dr. H.A. (Harry) Kuiper, interest-conflicted chairman of EFSA’s GMO panel

After his job for ILSI, Kuiper became chairman of EFSA’s new GMO panel. Since Kleter and other pro-GMO scientists were on that panel in addition to Kuiper, it was not surprising that the recommendations of the ILSI report came almost verbatim in the final report of EFSA’s GMO panel and were adopted by EFSA. The quick and inexpensive standard of substantial equivalence to get a new GM crop approved became the European standard under Kuiper’s leadership.

With the new 2013 Dutch Genetically Modified Organisms Environmental Management Decree, Kuiper’s lobbying work bore fruit in that country as well.

Lie #4: The Nutritional Value of GMOs is Superior

One purported advantage is the superior nutritional value of GMOs. Golden rice is a case in point. According to industry propaganda, this GM rice would provide extra vitamin A to children who desperately need the vitamin and could prevent blindness in them. Further investigation revealed that this beneficial effect could only be achieved if the children ate a few kilograms of it per day, which, of course, is practically impossible. Greenpeace says of this GM product, “‘Golden’ rice has been in development for nearly 20 years and still hasn’t made an impact on the prevalence of vitamin A deficiency.” Again, there is an excellent alternative with organically grown crops that have more nutritional value than their conventional counterparts. Those unsprayed crops carry the not insignificant added benefit of not only keeping your food free of pesticides but also keeping our fields from being contaminated.

Deadly Lies: How Doctors and Patients Are Deceived highlights the story of genetically modified organisms in detail so that you not only understand the background to these lies about GMOs, but also know the better alternatives.

“Deadly Lies. How Doctors and Patients Are Deceived” gives you the whole story about genetically modified organisms, their risks, and the misleading marketing from the agricultural industry

Lie #5: Studies Demonstrating Health Risks Were Poorly Conducted

It is interesting to note that only the studies indicating the danger of GMOs would be poorly conducted. The alleged shortcomings of the studies and in some cases the integrity of the scientist(s) involved were widely reported in the press. In contrast, studies with a positive outcome for the biotech industry do not suffer the same fate. This difference in treatment is too striking to be coincidental. If positive studies were subjected to the same test that negative studies are subjected to, one could probably lay the same blame on the researchers involved. Perhaps even more so, since the researchers who pointed out the risks posed by GMOs, such as Pusztai and Séralini, were accomplished scientists. They were widely respected and lauded—before they exposed the risks of GMOs. And suddenly they would practice bad science?

Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini uncovered the dangers of genetic engineering and GMOs.

Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini Exposed the Dangers of GMOs.

Double standards are being applied. One example is the reaction of the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) to Séralini’s shocking results. In response to the concerns raised, this organization referred to the doctoral research of Chelsea Snell of the University of Reading. This British researcher was not unbiased toward GMOs. For example, she participated in the Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (YES), an innovation competition developed to raise awareness of the commercialization of life science ideas. Snell concluded in her review of several biotech studies that there was no risk associated with GMOs. That conclusion, however, proved too short-sighted. An analysis of the studies included in Snell’s review showed that none met the same scientific standards applied by the NWVA and EFSA to criticize the Frenchman. But even if Séralini’s study were not perfect—which one is?—the pictures of GM corn-fed rats above speak (very thick) volumes.

Precautionary Principle Also Applies to GMOs: Prevention ls Better Than Cure

The saying ‘prevention is better than cure’ certainly applies to the risks associated with GMOs. The World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST) even devoted a report to it in which it wrote that the ‘prevention is better than cure’ model was characterized by the idea that science can reliably assess and quantify risks, and the Prevention Principle could be used to eliminate or diminish further damage. The emergence of increasingly unpredictable, uncertain, and unquantifiable but possibly catastrophic risks such as those associated with Genetically Modified Organisms, climate change etc., has confronted societies with the need to develop a third, anticipatory model to protect humans and the environment against uncertain risks of human action: the Precautionary Principle (PP). The emergence of the PP has marked a shift from postdamage control (civil liability as a curative tool) to the level of a pre-damage control (anticipatory measures) of risks.

Until their safety to humans and animals is conclusively proven in long-term studies, GMOs should not appear on the market or be grown in open fields.

Want to Know More?

Could consuming meat from animals fed genetically modified feed affect our health? How stable is modified DNA? Do test fields with GM crops affect adjacent fields? How does the biotechnology industry affect government?

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Copyright © 2015, 2022 C.F. van der Horst, Per Veritatem Vis. All rights reserved.

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