Today we have another interesting article, with another set of interesting claims. This time, a scare piece about the corn used in the manufacture of children’s snacks, which allegedly contains corn impregnated with insecticide producing genes.
In this case, I do not really doubt that the snacks contain such corn (these companies always use the cheapest ingredients, for better or worse). What I am more curious about, is if the scare claims are true.
So, I will dive right into it.
Shocking GMO Ingredient Found In Baby Food
A shocking new report released Tuesday by the organization GMO Free USA found that Gerber’s food product known as “Graduates Lil’ Crunchies” contain RoundupReady corn—a type of genetically-modified corn that actually produces insecticides.
According to GMO Free USA:
“We sent a package of Gerber Graduates Lil’ Crunchies Veggie Dip Baked Whole Grain Corn Snack to a certified lab to test for the presence of GMO material. The quantitative PCR test verified, by DNA analysis, that 100 percent of the corn in the Lil’ Crunchies Veggie Dip was GMO. All of the corn has been genetically-engineered to be herbicide tolerant (Roundup Ready) and the corn contained DNA sequences known to be present in Bt insecticide-producing GMO corn.”
PCR is short for polymerase chain reaction, which is a method of analyzing genetic material.
The organization adds that Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) corn “produces insecticidal toxins from inside every cell of the plant.” In other words, these pesticides cannot be washed off the plant. Little testing has ever been done on Bt corn’s capacity to continue producing insecticides once eaten, but studies suggest that it might.
According to research published in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, scientists found that the genetically-modified corn was linked to liver and kidney damage in animals.
One thing that should be noted about the study above, is that it is not a GENERAL study of genetically modified corn, it is merely a study involving one type (Mon863). And it concludes that the corn can not be deemed as safe without more long term study to supplement this one.
Lack of evidence is NOT proof of a hypothesis. Though I am not surprised that this research is used in this way. Facts hardly matter when the message is “Corn = DEATH!!!”.
And speaking of the study listed above, it looks like it is garbage anyway (big surprise).
Claims made by Professor Gilles-Eric Séralini
Professor Gilles-Eric Séralini, of the University of Caen, and colleagues in France have published several journal articles claiming to have found evidence suggestive of adverse effects in rats fed on a diet containing MON863 corn, and other GM corn varieties. In one article, the authors claimed their analysis showed “new side effects linked with GM maize consumption, which were sex and often dose-dependent”, particularly associated with the kidneys and livers of the rats that consumed the GM diet. The authors also argued that there is a need for longer-term feeding experiments in at least three animal species, including multi-generation reproductive studies.
These claims have been dismissed by regulatory agencies including FSANZ and EFSA and have been criticised by independent scientists, because the authors have drawn conclusions based solely on their statistical re-analysis of the original feeding studies. Robust toxicological analysis does not rely solely on statistics to determine treatment-related effects. For each study re-analysed by Séralini and co-workers, there was a notable absence of corroborating evidence that would lead independently to the conclusion that there were real effects of toxicological significance.
Despite widespread criticism of their methods, Professor Séralini and co-workers have failed to acknowledge that biological context is an integral step in the process of interpreting toxicity studies. FSANZ remains confident that the apparent changes reported by the authors in each case represent nothing more than normal background variability. Given the authors’ failure to add scientific weight to their claims, FSANZ found no grounds on which to change the conclusion of safety assessments completed on several varieties of GM corn, including MON863 corn, and reaffirmed approval of these foods.
Some may question that, being that those whom question everything tend to assume every legal authority and government as corrupt. Indeed, its healthy be skeptics towards those in charge (power does corrupt).
However, an assumption of corruption on the part of the authorities, corporations and other players (including in politics) does not make an opposing hypothesis correct (And CERTAINLY not always credible!). Though the opposition accuses the establishment of underhanded tactics and tricks, they are often no better.
Read anything else in this category! I am not even an investigative journalist, and I can identify when these people are BLATANTLY pulling the wool over your eyes.
So given a choice between data from a government-sanctioned source and data from some pro-organic anti-GMO leaning source that has proven misrepresentative (or flat out dishonest) in the past, Ill take the authorities.
Its not a matter of absolute blind faith in those above. Its a matter of evaluating who has the most proof. Basically, which side has the laboratories and the equipment. And which side is essentially me (a laymen with a keyboard).
In an in vitro study on human cells published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology, scientists found that the corn may be toxic to human cells. In this study, the researchers found that Roundup killed cells or tissues or caused the cells to kill themselves from 50 parts per million, which the scientists indicate is “far below agricultural dilutions” used in the growing of the genetically-modified corn.
Further research in the Journal of American Science confirmed the liver and kidney damage found in other studies and also found that animals fed a partial diet of genetically-modified corn had male reproductive organ damage, spleen damage and damage to the intestines. The scientists added that “the risk of genetically modified crops cannot be ignored and deserves further investigation.”
First of all, the rat studies.
Patho-physiological profiles are unique for each GM crop/food, underlining the necessity for a case-by-case evaluation of their safety, as is largely admitted and agreed by regulators. It is not possible to make comments concerning any general, similar subchronic toxic effect for all GM foods. However, in the three GM maize varieties that formed the basis of this investigation, new side effects linked to the consumption of these cereals were revealed, which were sex- and often dose-dependent. Effects were mostly concentrated in kidney and liver function, the two major diet detoxification organs, but in detail differed with each GM type. In addition, some effects on heart, adrenal, spleen and blood cells were also frequently noted. As there normally exists sex differences in liver and kidney metabolism, the highly statistically significant disturbances in the function of these organs, seen between male and female rats, cannot be dismissed as biologically insignificant as has been proposed by others . We therefore conclude that our data strongly suggests that these GM maize varieties induce a state of hepatorenal toxicity. This can be due to the new pesticides (herbicide or insecticide) present specifically in each type of GM maize, although unintended metabolic effects due to the mutagenic properties of the GM transformation process cannot be excluded . All three GM maize varieties contain a distinctly different pesticide residue associated with their particular GM event (glyphosate and AMPA in NK 603, modified Cry1Ab in MON 810, modified Cry3Bb1 in MON 863). These substances have never before been an integral part of the human or animal diet and therefore their health consequences for those who consume them, especially over long time periods are currently unknown. Furthermore, any side effect linked to the GM event will be unique in each case as the site of transgene insertion and the spectrum of genome wide mutations will differ between the three modified maize types. In conclusion, our data presented here strongly recommend that additional long-term (up to 2 years) animal feeding studies be performed in at least three species, preferably also multi-generational, to provide true scientifically valid data on the acute and chronic toxic effects of GM crops, feed and foods. Our analysis highlights that the kidneys and liver as particularly important on which to focus such research as there was a clear negative impact on the function of these organs in rats consuming GM maize varieties for just 90 days.
Indeed, signs of issues have been identified, but again, more study is required. Not to mention that not all corn varieties seem to be equal, and there is variation between genders within these variations. The only conclusion that this study draws is, more study over prolonged periods of time are required.
As for the studies on embryonic tissues and cells, I found this piece in Scientific American covering the discovery.
Though a problem with the roundup formulation was indeed found, its not with the active ingredient itself (glyphosate). It was found in an ingredient called Polyethoxylated Tallowamine, a surfactant (detergent) derived from animal fat which is added to many herbicide formulations due to its property of penetrating plant surfaces (thus making the herbicidal ingredients more effective).
The NIH does not specify problems with human tissue, though they acknowledge potential issues with nearby exposed aquatic life.
Polyethoxylated tallowamine (POEA) is a non-ionic surfactant used in herbicide formulations to increase the efficacy of active ingredients. POEA promotes penetration of herbicide active ingredients into plant cuticles, and in animal species is known to cause alterations in respiratory surfaces. POEA use has increased recently with the advent of “Roundup-Ready” crops; however, its potential effects on aquatic invertebrates are relatively unknown. The aquatic macroinvertebrate Thamnocephalus platyurus (Crustacea, Anostraca) was used to assess the acute toxicity of POEA. Three formulations of POEA consisting of a 5:1, 10:1, and 15:1 average oxide:tallowamine were used in this study. All POEA formulations were found to be extremely toxic to T. platyurus with 48-h LC50 concentrations as low as 2.01 microg/L for 15:1. POEA toxicity increased as the tallowamine chain length was reduced, whereas the oxide chain length appeared to only slightly increase toxicity. Based on these results, POEA has the potential to adversely affect aquatic organisms in areas in which it is used.
In the SA article, Monsanto denounces the methodologies of Gilles-Eric Seralini’s study (name sound familiar? It is. Its his study that is referenced above) , claiming the safety of the product when used as directed. A comment under the article (left by a Monsanto representative) seems to say the same thing.
Actually, while I consider myself more of a nerd than a dork, the people who register Roundup formulations have a variety of data packges on the “inert” ingredients as well.
The bottom line on Seralini is very simple- his two previous publications in the same area have been reviewed by the Europeans already, and have been found wanting. This is scientific junk at its politically motivated worst.
Roundup products contain an active ingredient (glyphosate) which has extremely low mammalian toxicity as well as a surfactant (detergent) to help penetrate the waxy plant cuticle. It thus comes as no surprise that other components are more toxic to animals than glyphosate- so are table salt, aspirin, and caffeine. All soaps and detergents dissolve fats- that is what makes them work. Naked cells in the bottom of a petri dish are protected only by the cell membrane- made of fats- and guess what- if you put detergent on them, they don’t do so well. Monsanto has replicated Seralini’s work with a bit more care and variety of materials. While Seralini measures a variety of outcomes (like hormone production) in cell lines chosesn more for political value than scientific merit, the bottow line is that detergents disrupt cellular energy production by destroying membrane integrity.
The reality check here is that we all use soaps and detergents all the time- hair shampoo, liquid soaps, laundry detergents, diswashing soaps, etc. Exposure estimates indicate that LESS THAN 1% OF SURFACTANT EXPOSURE COMES FROM PESTICIDE RESIDUES- all the rest of it you are pouring on your dishes, in your washing machine, and over the top of your babies.
Not a problem?? Not a surprise- last I looked you were probably NOT a collection of naked cells living at the bottom of a petri dish and waiting for Dr. Seralini to puor on the Roundup. All those soaps, detergents, and sanitizers are, among other uses, INTENDED to kill those nasty, unprotected lower organisms that thrive on household surfaces!!
Daniel A. Goldstein, M.D.
Director, Medical Sciences and Outreach
The Monsanto Company
Yes, it is a biased source. But none the less, the information provided is, obvious.
We all accidently replicate this experiment on a daily basis. We have been, since man realized the importance of personal hygiene many years ago.
And like Mr Goldstein remarks, we are not petri-dishes onto which we dump round-up (or dish soap, or hand soap, or body wash , or shampoo etc) onto. The study as illustrated would (in the real world) likely entail directly exposing fetal tissue (or other tissue) to the product. As in, a literal glyphosate douche.
I do not concern myself with the regular hygiene habits of women. And who knows, maybe some yeast infections would justify such drastic measures.
But I think its safe enough to put that hypothesis in the highly improbable pile.
As stated before, glyphosate is not a sports drink (bleach is considered by most to be harmless, but that does not mean you can drink it like water). Like bleach, its exposure to fetal tissue would likely cause damage. But its hardly something worth worrying about.
Unless your diet involves a gyphosate and bleach cleanse.
While scientists continue to recommend further testing, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have all allowed Bt corn to be commercialized without any human safety tests. The same is true of the respective Canadian agencies Health Canada, Environment Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
Industry continues to cite the genetically-modified corn as safe, claiming that it is broken down before or during consumption. Yet, Canadian research by scientists at the University of Sherbrooke, Quebec, published a study in the medical journalReproductive Toxicology that found GMO proteins circulating in the bodies of non-pregnant women, pregnant women and the blood supply to fetuses.
I credit the genetic literacy project for helping to put this tractor load of bullshit to rest.
1) Multiple Toxins From GMOs Detected In Maternal and Fetal Blood.
The blog post sites a 2010 study that alleges to show this danger. The authors identified the Bt protein Cry1Ab in maternal and fetal blood, a protein found in some GMOs, but also commonly used as a pesticide in organic farming. The paper is flawed. The researchers’ measurements were based on an experiment/assay designed to detect Bt’s Cry1Ab in plants, not in humans. As this post in Biofortified.org explains, the pregnant women in the study would have had to eat several kilos of corn in order to get the Bt measurements that were detected in their blood.
Additionally, there’s the “so what” factor. Humans lack the receptors for the protein, so it has no impact on us. Did you know that chocolate is toxic to dogs? Are you concerned that it might be toxic to you? Probably not (if youare concerned, then you’ve missed out on the greatest source of joy known to human taste buds…). Some chemical compounds behave differently among species, and both Bt‘s Cry1Ab and chocolate are examples of this.
And then there is my favorite BS debunking website Snopes, with this explanation (along with a larger explanation going into each of the studies in detail, bringing up (unsurprisingly) a familiar name).
Origins: The Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) protein referred to in the above graphic is a naturally occurring one which has been used in agriculture for decades, often by organic growers and more recently in genetically modified (GM) plants. The Bt protein is employed as a repellant that targets a specific species of insect but has no impact on non-target insects, animals or humans. When field insects like European corn borer or corn rootworm larvae feed on the corn plant, the Bt protein causes them to stop feeding on the plants within a few short hours, and then they die within a few days.
Bt crops, the sibling to the herbicide resistant crops often maligned by anti-GMO activists, have not only reduced insecticide use in the U.S. but also have a food safety benefit: Reduction of mycotoxin contamination of crops, which can harm both humans and animals.
Bt seeds are engineered to express the cry genes from bacillus thuringiensis, which produces insecticidal toxins so crops are resistant to certain pests. Farmers, most especially organic farmers, have been spraying the natural form of the bacterium for almost a century to great effect and with no measurable environmental hazards, as the toxin only interacts with targeted insects but not humans.
“The benefit of Bt corn’s reduction of mycotoxin damage has been virtually ignored in policy debates anywhere in the world,” Felicia Wu, a Michigan State University food and nutrition professor, has noted.
There are over 300 known mycotoxins that have different effects on health. Mycotoxins can be produced by fungi, which absorb best into crops that have been damaged from pests. Contamination can occur either in field or in storage. In short, since Bt maize wards off the corn borer, reduced feeding damage allows less fungus to penetrate.
Two of the most prevalent mycotoxins in agriculture are fumonisins and aflatoxins. Fumonisins are found almost exclusively in corn, while aflatoxins can be found on corn as well as cotton, peanuts, pistachios, almonds and walnuts.
Fumonisins have been connected to high human esophagel cancer rates and neural tube defects in human babies, according to the University of Kentucky Agriculture Extension Service. They can also affect a number of animal species. Animals consume the toxins in animal feed, which can lead to fertility problems or diseases—leukoencephalomalacia in horses and porcine pulmonary edema in pigs.
Increased exposure to aflatoxin can increase risk of liver cancer in humans, modulate human immunity and may contribute to childhood stunting, according to a 2014 paper by Wu.
Bt crops also stand to have greater health impacts in developing nations, where higher rates of malnourishment and high exposure to mycotoxin due to little diet diversity can have more devastating effects, Wu said. But genetically modified crops also face political opposition in some of the countries worst afflicted with aflatoxin exposure. In Africa, only South Africa has adopted Bt corn on a wide scale.
Use of Bt crops could also play a role in reducing contamination and economic and environmental losses. In 2011, 180 bags of maize were destroyed in front of starving farmers in Kenya because the maize had been contaminated with aflatoxin.
Long story short . . . relax.
Giving your baby a snack of this BT corn laced product is not likely to “KILL YOUR BABY!!” (to paraphrase one of the many alarmist pieces I came across in generating this piece). This seems more like a bullying campaign to force a corporation to cave to consumer demands, or risk being lambasted in the GMO ignorant publics opinion. An issue of particular concern to Gerber, being that they are in the baby food business.
Or it could even be Big Organic flexing its muscles, and generating scare profits in the meantime. Indeed, that is conspiracy theory at its best. But my last piece on this subject proved that neither side was beyond this kind of thing. And frankly, my conspiracy is not a whole lot differing from what is often coming out of the anti-GMO side against Big Biotech.
Either way, another article, another crock of shit exposed.