GMO’s: The Science and The Controversey
First: The Controversy
There is still so much heated debate about GM (genetically modified) foods or GMO’s (genetically modified organisms). In this article, we will strictly cover the reputable science that has been recorded in peer-reviewed journals, and we will also talk about where a lot of the controversy and hype came from.
The major debate on GMO’s began with the Pusztai Affair in 1998 when most of the public was still neutral on the issue of GMO’s. The study was orchestrated by Hungarian-born Arpad Pusztai at the Rowett Institute.
At the time, Pusztai was a world-renowned expert on lectins which are a sort of defense mechanism used by plants. These molecules simply bind to carbohydrates or sugars.
Some Lectins are Toxic While Others are Not Toxic to Humans
For example, red kidney beans contain lectins that are toxic to humans unless the beans are fully cooked. Pusztai had regular potatoes and potatoes that were genetically modified to produce a lectin called GNA.
GNA is found in snowdrop peas, and it binds to the mannose sugar. Mannose is not too biologically prevalent in mammals, but it is very prominent in insects so this lectin acts a deterrent to insects who would otherwise try to eat the snowdrop peas.
Pusztai fed these different potatoes to two groups of rats, and we would expect that the potatoes with the GNA lectin would have no effect on the rats because GNA does not affect mammals. What he found was that strange things happened in particular to their intestinal lining shown below:
Pusztai claims that the rats fed the GM potatoes had immune problems including inflammation of their stomach lining. Here is where things get messy.
He mentioned the preliminary results of this to the press which created a media frenzy around GMO’s which lead to misprints in the media (1), and Pusztai being gagged and fired.
This is quite strange as Pusztai had published over 300 studies some of which were featured in prestigious journals. Many anti-GM campaigners believe that this was due to threats from biotech companies wanting to sue the Rowett Institute, but there is little evidence to prove this.
The Fear of Scientific Favoritism
The results of Ewen and Pusztai’s study were published in 1999 in the Lancet, and they required three times as many reviewers to get approved for publication because of how much of an uproar had been raised around this preliminary study.
The Royal Society denounced this study because they claimed that non-GM potatoes were not an adequate control diet even after Ewen and Pusztai received a £1.6 million research grant wherein the Scottish Office praised the methods used in their study.
To be fair, this experiment was done on a GM potato that Pusztai created, not one that is sold by companies like Monsanto.
It could definitely be said that this study does not prove that all GM foods are toxic, but it does show that there is a lot of media hype and political strings surrounding this issue on both sides.
The Biggest GMO Concerns Today
What this has created is a climate of highly charged debate on both sides of the issue where many scientists claim that Pusztai is a charlatan while anti-GMO campaigners believe him to be a heroic whistleblower standing up against these titans of industry.
The ferocity of the debate continues to this day as California attempts to add Monsanto’s herbicide RoundUp (AKA glyphosate) to their list of possible human carcinogens after a huge class-action lawsuit there in regards to it possibly being associated with an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
The IARC’s Controversial Ruling
At the same time, you have reputable news sources like Reuters crying out in defense of Monsanto saying that crucial data was left out of the report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (a subsidiary of the World Health Organization) when they stated that glyphosate is a “possible human carcinogen” (Full Pro-GMO Article from Reuters Here).
The video below is from an online report from RT America that is demonizing glyphosate and saying that it is found in many of the everyday foods in our grocery stores. Also, its hard to know what’s “fake news”, and not nowadays so we don’t know what to believe.
Where Do We Search For The Truth?
The point of all of this introduction is show you that there is a lot of confusing information on the internet about GMO’s from hardliners on both sides. We are going to look at the dangers of the most common GMO’s that are covered in Round UP.
There are experts who say that glyphosate and GMO’s do not cause cancer or any harm whatsoever, while other experts say that the “real studies” that prove that they are harmful are being covered up by the devilish biotechnology companies.
Second: The Science
From here on out, we are going to focus on what we definitely know about glyphosate from peer-reviewed studies. Glyphosate is a nonselective herbicide produced by Monsanto.
It will be the primary topic because it has been around for over 30 years and because we have all been told that it is completely safe when that may not be the case. We know for a fact that glyphosate interrupts the shikimate-pathway (2).
The shikimate pathway is a metabolic process used by many plants and other creatures to synthesize crucial nutrients like antioxidants. Humans do not utilize this metabolic pathway so it was thought that this interruption would have no effect on human biology.
Glyphosate’s Effects on Our Microbiome
This was before we understood the significance of the microbiome in our gut. You have probably heard of probiotics or “good bacteria”.
Our microbiome is simply the collection of these probiotics that live in our gut, and they do use the shikimate metabolic pathway to survive. The most interesting bit about glyphosate and the microbiome is that it seems to cause selective harm the “good bacteria” while it allows the toxic microbes like Salmonella and Clostridium botulinum (which causes botulism) to thrive (3).
Another huge problem with this is that the animals that are not pasture-raised or grass-fed are most often fed GMO grains doused with, you guessed it, glyphosate.
Which means the meat that you are eating could be at worst more contaminated with more bad bacteria like Salmonella or at best highly nutritionally compromised.
Luckily, we have found that humic acid from fulvic mineral supplements like shilajit (which means “rock impervious” or “ the destroyer of weakness” in Sanskrit) can stop this anti-microbial activity in the gut if you suspect you have been consuming glyphosate (4).
The List Goes On…
However, there are many more proven dangers associated with glyphosate. We already discussed how it can have a negative effect on our gut microbiome, and it can also make our intestinal tract more permeable (5).
Gut health is the first step to achieve brain health so anything that causes intestinal permeability will cause more inflammation and toxicity in our brains and bodies.
Many researchers are starting to suspect that glyphosate is the primary cause for the epidemiological rise in the incidence of Celiac disease, and it’s related multi-factorial effects on our health.
The effects are so numerous and serious that I feel that I must quote the study from the National Institute of Health directly:
“Celiac disease is associated with imbalances in gut bacteria that can be fully explained by the known effects of glyphosate on gut bacteria. Characteristics of celiac disease point to impairment in many cytochrome P450 enzymes, which are involved with detoxifying environmental toxins, activating vitamin D3, catabolizing vitamin A, and maintaining bile acid production and sulfate supplies to the gut. Glyphosate is known to inhibit cytochrome P450 enzymes. Deficiencies in iron, cobalt, molybdenum, copper and other rare metals associated with celiac disease can be attributed to glyphosate’s strong ability to chelate these elements. Deficiencies in tryptophan, tyrosine, methionine and selenomethionine associated with celiac disease match glyphosate’s known depletion of these amino acids. Celiac disease patients have an increased risk to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which has also been implicated in glyphosate exposure. Reproductive issues associated with celiac disease, such as infertility, miscarriages, and birth defects, can also be explained by glyphosate. Glyphosate residues in wheat and other crops are likely increasing recently due to the growing practice of crop desiccation just prior to the harvest. We argue that the practice of “ripening” sugar cane with glyphosate may explain the recent surge in kidney failure among agricultural workers in Central America. We conclude with a plea to governments to reconsider policies regarding the safety of glyphosate residues in foods.” (6)
So Let’s Review:
To simplify the language a little bit, glyphosate has been shown to deplete our bodies of key minerals, amino acids, and nutrients that affect our mood, neurotransmitters, hormones, and fertility among other things.
Glyphosate also impedes our body’s abilities to remove toxins through the liver (cytochrome P450 enzymes mentioned above are a class of liver enzymes). This is just what they can directly trace back to glyphosate toxicity and the depletion of nutrients that it causes.
We do not yet know the long-term effects of depleting these nutrients from our own bodies, the effects that glyphosate will have on the environment long-term, or the synergistic toxic effects that glyphosate could have with other toxins in our environment.
Bear in mind that Monsanto is the same company that created the toxic Agent Orange used in Vietnam that poisoned so many American soldiers. Their historical track record is not so great.
Guilty Until Proven Innocent When it Comes to Chemicals
I recommend a “guilty until proven innocent” mentality when it comes to pesticides and herbicides as well. Many of these compounds have been shown to be potent endocrine disruptors and xenoestrogens (foreign compounds that mimic estrogen) after years of heavy usage (7).
Below, I will include a link a great article by Time magazine about what GMO’s are being produced in the United States and abroad, and which have been approved by the FDA.
I believe that all of these foods should undergo the same strict process of testing like a pharmaceutical drug and that it must be “proven innocent” by a long-term study of the effects on human physiology before we recommend consuming it.
Below is a TIME Magazine Article about where GMO’s are showing up, and for what purposes.
Time Magazine Article on GMO’s