Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Understanding GMOs: Part 4

Image via

Welcome to Part 4 of our "Understanding GMOs" Series. So far we've discussed what GMOs are, how they are created, why they were created in the first place, where they are in our food supply, and how they are related to disease (so nothing all that much, really... wink, wink). The next few weeks are going to blow your mind so buckle up, baby! You are in for a ride!

Ok, these past few weeks have been a bit unsettling, and now I'm getting a little disturbed by this whole GMO story. Tell me about Insect Resistant (IR) GMOs.
Crops that are engineered to be insect resistant have sections of DNA from a bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) inserted into the DNA of plant cells. This line of bacteria (which has thousands of strains) produces proteins that are toxic to insect pests; therefore, different strains of Bt can be selected depending on the insect pest being targeted. Each cell in the GM plant produces Bt toxins, meaning quite literally that your crop is now an “insecticide plant” too! Get it? If it’s a tomato plant producing Bt toxin then it’s now an industrial plant at the same time! 

Ok….maybe it’s not that funny...

Anyway, back to the point…. When the plant is eaten by the target insect pest, the toxins bind to receptors in its gut, causing the gut wall to break down and allowing spores and bacteria to infiltrate the blood stream. As the spores and bacteria multiply in the body, the insect dies. Voila! Don’t come back now, you hear!?!

Image via
But wait….if we eat the plants that are now making the toxin (either directly or indirectly from the foods we eat), AND we have a variety of receptors in our gut too, then what? Oh wait – there are no long term studies from the biotech companies telling us what happens! Oh boy! You can see what that might lead to, right?

Hmmmm, I’m confused. How safe is Bt toxin for humans?
Bt proteins contain a segment which tests positive when undergoing the type of allergen testing recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). Studies show the Bt toxins (aka. Bt proteins) survive digestion in humans, which allows them to destroy the lining of our stomachs. 

Hmmm…don’t we need the lining of our stomach to, oh, I don’t know... function properly??

In animal studies of mice eating Bt corn, there was an increase in infertility, a decrease in birthweight, and prevalent/evident liver and kidney toxicity. Also present were indicators for blood pressure problems, anemia, and infection based on circulating components within the immune system! Oh, and these were all findings of a Monsanto study that only became public after a lawsuit! WHAT?! You’ve got to be kidding me, right!!??!?!??!?

Image via
It gets worse, my friends…

In farmworkers, it is critical to note the significance of itchy wounds experienced by Bt corn field workers! Not only that, but farmworkers started expressing an immune response to the Bt toxin. Having an allergic reaction to bacteria is very rare - it’s only seen in a few lines. Bt is apparently one of them. Not only are itchy rashes prevalent, but so are respiratory, eye and skin reactions. Skin prick tests done even 4 months after exposure showed elevated IgG and IgE levels.

In fact, in 2001 The EPA’s own Scientific Advisory Panel suggested that Bt-toxins may be allergenic:

Mouse and farm worker studies…“Suggest that Bt proteins could act as 
antigenic and allergenic sources. … Only surveillance and clinical assessment of 
exposed individuals will confirm the allergenicity of Bt products.”

But the EPA has not yet changed their regulations or assumptions on how they regulate pesticide-producing crops.

Several other animal studies (sheep, cow, goat, buffalo, etc.) show a litany of horrible symptoms and conditions before “sudden death” after consuming Bt corn and Bt cotton, specifically. It’s shameful! There are even indicators that the Bt toxin kills rumen bacteria (uh oh... we are back to gut health issues with this one!).

One last important study to note for today: In a study of rats fed GMO-potatoes vs. non-GMO potatoes laced with insecticide (the same insecticide the GMO-potatoes were engineered to produce), it was found that the rats fed the non-GMO potatoes had no symptoms. However, rats fed the GMO-potatoes were discovered to have developed potentially precancerous cell growth in the digestive tract, smaller brains, livers and testicles, partial atrophy of the liver and damaged immune systems. This demonstrates that if the insecticide itself didn't damage the rats, then the damage was most likely linked to the process of genetically engineering the insecticide to be produced in the plants.

Image from via Pangea Organics
What are some of the environmental concerns of the Bt toxin GMOs? Are there impacts on the soil?
Here's a quick peek at the environmentally-relevant insecticide issue from a 2010 European Study:

“Although the use of Bt crops reduced the amount of chemical insecticide sprayed 
by 124 million pounds over the first 16 years, the Bt plants themselves produce far more insecticides 
per acre than they have displaced. For treatment of the European corn borer, the GM crops produce up to 5 times the amount of toxin in each field. For treatment of root worm, the GM varieties 
produce up to 13 times the amount of toxin per field.“

IF we designed insect resistant crops to eliminate the need to use environment-damaging insecticides on our crops, BUT THEN the crops themselves produce MORE insecticides than we previously used, WELL THEN that kind of defeats the purpose, right?

Here's a quick summary of the pro's and con's of Insect Resistant GMOs:
Pro’s:  I’ll need to get back to you on this one…
Con’s: There's a plethora of evidence linking insect resistant GMOs to a variety of illnesses, infections, allergies, disease states, deaths and significant environmental pollution.

So, who wants to eat Insect Resistant GMOs? Not me!! You?

Next week we will dive into the mind-boggling world of herbicide resistant GMOs! If today didn’t phase you, Part 5 will surely do the job!

References for this series:
2   "Genetically Modified Organisms and the deterioration of health in the United States” N.L. Swanson, 4/24/2013, Seattle
3   A Samsel and S. Senef Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases.
7   V. E. Prescott, et al, “Transgenic Expression of Bean r-Amylase Inhibitor in Peas Results in Altered Structure and Immunogenicity,” Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry (2005): 53

Shanna Wahlquist is a Certified Holistic Health Coach specializing in empowering women to adopt a sustainable and healthy lifestyle without dieting or feeling deprived, and supporting them in balancing their gut-mind-body relationship, which she believes is the foundation of every chronic disease and ailment.  She is the mother of two toddlers, ages 4 and 2.5 years old; her happy place is in the ocean surf, and her guilty pleasure is red wine – especially if it involves a limo with a group of friends! Shanna found her path to holistic healing after discovering the benefits of vegetable juicing in February 2012, a journey inspired by her desperation to discover the cause of the sudden onset of recurrent chronic respiratory illnesses suffered by her children. She used that experience as a launchpad for a career change and ended up discovering her true authentic self and life’s purpose. She’s always had a passion for science, food, healing and stewardship, and has created a business where she can enjoy them all simultaneously while making a difference in the lives of her family, friends, clients and community. You can find her on facebook at “NourishingMySoul”,  her blog at or her website,

No comments:

Post a Comment