Genetic Trespass! GE toxin reaches umbilical cordblood

Is the lid on bad health effects of genetically engineered foods about to be blown off? A Canadian study has found BT toxin in the blood of pregnant women, exposing the fetus. This story is from the Pesticide Action Network blog Ground Truth

Genetic Trespass! GE toxin reaches umbilical cordblood
Tue, 2011-05-24 18:24
Marcia Ishii-Eiteman

My mom hackles are up. GE toxins are turning up in umbilical cordblood and the blood of pregnant women, according to a study by independent Canadian doctors. And what might be the effect of these toxins on developing fetuses? No one really knows. Let me tell you why this is big news.

All this time, Monsanto has based its assertion that crops engineered to contain the bacterial toxin, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), are harmless on an assumption that the toxin breaks down in the digestive system and so never enters the rest of the body. Regulators have been repeating this to us for over a generation. Now it turns out that the Bt toxin is not only surviving in our guts, but is making its way on into our bloodstreams — and if we’re pregnant, into the soon-to-be-babies in our bellies.

The Canadian team of doctors, based at University of Sherbrooke’s Hospital Centre, explained their concerns:

This is the first study to highlight the presence of pesticides associated with genetically modified foods in maternal, foetal and non-pregnant women’s blood. [The Bt toxin was] clearly detectable and appears to cross the placenta to the foetus.

Their key finding: 93% of blood samples from pregnant women and 80% from umbilical cords tested positive for traces of the GE toxins.

Doctors believe the women ingested the toxins simply by eating a typical Canadian diet of products containing GE soy, corn and potatoes (think chips and just about any non-organic processed food), as well as meat, milk and eggs from animals fed GE grain.

Don’t worry, says Monsanto, Bt is harmless. But upon inspection, their evidence shows only that the naturally occurring soil bacterium Bt has no known harmful health effects on humans. There have been no comparable studies on the effects of the engineered Bt toxin in plant tissue, which is inserted along with promoters that keep it expressing itself in plant cells — unlike the naturally occurring kind which degrades quickly in sunlight. It’s the engineered toxin that’s turning up in pregnant women and their babies.

What we do have is evidence to suggest that there could be auto-immune, allergenicity, kidney and liver effects, and changes in the permeability of the gut membrane. UK newspapers (the Daily Mail, the Telegraph) have the story.
Precaution — now more than ever

“Given the potential toxicity of these environmental pollutants and the fragility of the foetus,” warn the Canadian doctors, action should be taken.

7,000 miles away in India, alarm bells are ringing. There, the public has been waging a vociferous and so-far successful campaign blocking the introduction of Bt eggplant, developed by the Indian seed company Mahyco, in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Agricultural Biotechnology Support Programme. But as Dinesh Sharma points out in India Today, “Cottonseed oil is made from seeds of genetically modified cotton, and thus Bt toxin may have already entered the food chain in India.”

The implications for other parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America where Bt food crops are directly consumed are also huge. As Dr. Michael Hansen, scientist at Consumers Union wrote to me in an email,

If meat eating can lead to the level seen in Canada, what level would be seen in people that are directly consuming Bt corn in relatively unprocessed form? The potential impact of this study in the South is far greater than in the North. Once again, the heavily exposed people in the South could bear the brunt of the problem while the biotech companies and regulators delay action.

This study is important on the merits of its science alone. In terms of public health and policy implications? Here we have the textbook case for precautionary action: too much at stake, too many variables and not enough time to let the chips fall where they may.


Let’s pretend we’re sane. What should we do?

Place a moratorium on the sale of food grown with GE crops or derived from animals fed GE grain until we actually know that they’re safe.
Develop strong enforceable mechanisms to hold corporate manufacturers of GE crops liable for genetic trespass.
Implement mandatory labeling of GE foods: we have a right to know what’s in our food and a right to make an informed choice as to whether or not we want GE toxins in our bodies.

I always wonder about these qualifications. It is already known that GE crops are not safe, not by a long shot. Independent research has been all but squelched. Critics risk more than their scientific reputations; some have been physically assaulted. The US government is busily pushing GE crops, and seeking ways to retaliate against nations which reject them. The manufacturers should not just be held liable for endangering human health and biodiversity, they should be put out of business. That would make labeling unnecessary. Labeling seems appealing to many opponents of biotechnology, because the effect of labeling would be to give otherwise uninformed consumers a choice, and since GE foods are incredibly unpopular, most would choose not to consume them, which would put the manufacturers out of business rather quickly.

My point is that the purveyors of genetic engineering have no right to endanger public health or biodiversity. It may be legal, but that is only because there is no recognized right not to be attacked by poisons. If there was such a right, most pesticides would also be out of business; only those which break down into harmless compounds would be allowed. The studies on animals fed GE crops are appalling, but the corporate media has kept the public in the dark. People in USA are slowly but surely becoming aware of how the wool has been pulled over their eyes, no thanks to mainstream media. The claims of safety by the genetic engineers and their enablers in the regulatory agencies are just smokescreens; the safety of this technology has been disproven by many studies. The science is just another hugely profitable fraud perpetrated on a gullible population, but the vast majority of both Democratic and Republican politicians support genetic engineering to the hilt. The new Green Revolution, it is called. This one may be even more disastrous than the first Green Revolution. The only progress either Green Revolution has brought is to line the pockets of big agribusiness, ruining the livelihoods of countless small farmers, destroying biodiversity and soil quality, and making people sick. They are revolutions in greenwashing; there is nothing green about them, and they do nothing to help feed the hungry of the world.

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