What is a GMO? A GMO is a genetically modified/engineered organism that has been modified with different DNA or injected with genes for a specific purpose or trait. The purpose could be to make the product more resistant to drought, weeds, or pests, ultimately increasing the farmer’s yield.
Since 2008, genetically engineered crops have accounted for more than 80% of corn and soybean crops planted in the U.S. Corn seeds are modified with two genes: the first gene kills insects that threaten the seed, and the second gene allows the seed to tolerate glyphosate, a poison found in the herbicide Roundup (by Bayer).
GMOs and the use of herbicides, pesticides, and insecticides go hand in hand, and are severely impacting our health and our planet.
Once applied to the crop, chemicals stay in the soil or join runoff to rivers and oceans, killing life in those ecosystems. More recently, however, the invention of neonicotinoids has made it possible to put the poison inside the plants. Neonicotinoids, referred to as “the new DDT” by The Guardian, are seeds treated with chemicals so that when the plant grows, the pesticides are on the leaves of the plant. The pesticides kill any bugs or small animals that consume the plant. The poison spreads easily and stays in the soil, affecting it for generations. Drifting into waterways, the poison also can kill important biodiversity. The use of neonicotinoids is not monitored by the European Union, so there is not a clear idea of their concentration in water or how they are affecting other species.
Farmers are incredibly reliant on these herbicides to clear weeds from their farmland and grow their glyphosate-resistant crops. Roundup, however, is not a match for every weed.
GMOs are responsible for creating superweeds - weeds that are resistant to glyphosate. After developing this chemical resistance, the weeds become even harder for farmers to deal with. Farmers are forced to turn to even more toxic chemicals to kill the superweeds. 2,4-D, for example, is a chemical that is used to target superweeds, and a major ingredient in Agent Orange. Read that last sentence again. They are using chemical warfare on the earth that feeds us.
As neonicotinoids are increasingly developed, more resistant plants and “pests” develop, and farmers need to use more and more poison to get rid of them.
Since 1974, over 1.6 billion kg of glyphosate have been applied in the U.S, and glyphosate is likely to remain one of the most widely applied pesticides in the world for years to come.
Very little research has been done on the safety of GMOs, but the U.S. National Library of Medicine and Health has still claimed GMO foods to be safe for consumption even though the long term side effects of eating GMOs is unknown. Studies have shown, however, that GMOs have a strong effect on not only plant health but also human health.
Glyphosate is deadly to the mitochondria, and those who consume genetically modified foods are statistically more likely to have cancer, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, which notes a positive correlation between exposure to pesticides and development of cancer, especially in children. Agrochemical company Monsanto's corn has higher levels of putrescine and cadaverine, which are reported to smell like rotting flesh and are toxic in large doses.
BT-toxin, present in many GMOs, breaks down cell walls and makes the spread of cancer and contraction of allergies easier and more likely.
Roundup is a class 2A carcinogen, which means that the chemicals found in the poison break down and mutilate cells, ultimately causing cancerous mutations. A community in Argentina near the Roundup ready soybean fields owned by Monsanto has seen cancer rate, birth defects, thyroid conditions, lupus, and respiratory problems skyrocket.
In regions where GBHs are heavily used glyphosate is often present in drinking water and food. The presence of glyphosate can trigger cellular disruption and abnormalities in many vertebrates. Monsanto claims that glyphosate and GBHs “disrupt plant enzymes [such as EPSP synthase] that are essential to plant growth. [EPSP] is not present in humans or animals, [therefore it] is a low risk to human health.” According to the organization GMO Science, evidence links exposure to GBHs to cancer, kidney disease, and disease and mutation to DNA cells. Some of these effects have been reported even with the exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides well below regulatory limits.
Furthermore, glyphosate alters the microbiome in the gut of animals and humans. This happens because of the phenomenon called horizontal gene transfer. Horizontal gene transfer frequently happens among bacteria, but it should not be genetically possible among plants and humans. However, because of the destruction of the natural cell barriers caused by the introduction of glyphosate, GM food is able to experience horizontal gene transfer. The horizontal gene transfer affects our bodies because the genetically modified food we eat (which has been modified in a way that makes HGT possible) and our gut bacteria (which is already capable of HGT) can trade chemicals with each other, specifically altering the DNA of the bacteria in our gut, which is extremely dangerous to our stomach and gut health.
Dr. Andrés Carrasco, an embryologist at the University of Buenos Aires, demonstrated with lab experiences how glyphosate causes birth defects. Carrasco discovered that glyphosate overstimulates vitamin A in the form of retinoid acid, causing errors in gene sequencing during early fetal development. Glyphosate also inhibits key enzymes that are necessary for standard normal human biochemistry. Glyphosate works as an antibiotic even in humans, and can inhibit the health of the human GI tract when consumed. The genes from GMOs can transfer to the DNA of bacteria living inside of us, and toxic insecticide has been found inside the blood of unborn fetuses.
Since the introduction of GMOs in 1996, food allergies have increased in children by 18% (Johns Hopkins Medicine). For example, celiac disease is related to an imbalance in gut bacteria, which can be caused by the presence of glyphosate and GBHs in food. Many individuals who consume pesticides have an allergic reaction to the pesticides, ultimately making their bodies weaker and more susceptible to becoming sick or developing allergies.
The only way to discover that you are allergic to a certain food is to consume it or to be tested, so many individuals are unprepared for the allergic reaction they may have once they consume the GM product. The potential adverse reaction that individuals may have to GM food makes it unethical to market GM food products to individuals if they have not been allergy tested, and to test the poisonous chemicals without consent.
The United Kingdom, one of the few countries that conducts annual allergy testing, discovered that after the introduction of GMOs, specifically GM soy, soy allergies rose 50% from the previous year. The introduction of GM soy can be easily linked to the increase in soy allergies.
GMOs cause allergies because the introduction of a chemical creates a new, never-before-seen protein inside GM soy that is different from the natural soy that we are used to consuming. Because this is a new protein, it is a shock to our systems and can cause a negative reaction.
Furthermore, this protein is able to stabilize itself and reproduce, so after GMOs are off the market, individuals are still affected by this dangerous and allergenic protein because it is producing itself inside of their intestines.
In the genetic modification process, native genes can be mutated, dampened, or intensified, which changes the protein expressions in different ways. This way, new allergens can emerge or previously existing allergens can be strengthened. The dangers of GMOs may continue to haunt us years after we do away with them.
Is this the future we want for ourselves?