Two research teams in England and Venezuela have discovered something alarming about the new genetically modified crops filled with insecticide. The insects not only eat them, they seem to thrive on them.
Scientists at Imperial College in London and the Universidad Simon Rodrigues in Caracas found that the insects that the chemical additive was supposed to kill were not only feeding on the poison, but the stuff seems to help them thrive.
That the biotech companies added genes from a naturally occurring poison, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which is widely used as a pesticide by organic farmers, means that the mutation by insects to survive the poison is a potential threat to the organic farming industry.
Environmentalists believe the resistance developed quickly because the insects are constantly exposed to the chemical in the plants, instead of being subjected to occasional spraying.
This is bad news for not only the struggling agricultural industry but for over 6 billion world food consumers as well. With the world population exploding and the instability of weather because of global warming, world agriculture is in danger of falling short of producing enough food for everybody.
The GMO experimentation with Bt fell under fierce criticism by growers world-wide who warned that the excessive use of the chemical would eventually generate stronger chemical-resistant pests. Not even the strongest critics dreamed that the insects would be feeding and thriving on the plants engineered with Bts.
But there is more bad news about those modified crops. Lots of it.
Prominent scientists from seven countries recently produced an Independent Report on GM agricultural practices during a public conference in London. The report, titled The Case for a GM-free Sustainable World, called for a ban on GM crops.
–GM crops failed to deliver the promised benefits. There have been shown no increase in yields or a significant reduction in herbicide and pesticide use. In fact the United States lost an estimated $12 billion over GM crops because of worldwide rejection of them.
–The GM crops are posing escalating problems on the farm. The group found that transgenic lines are unstable. Triple herbicide-tolerant volunteers and weeds have now emerged in North America, creating severe problems for farmers who suddenly have no inexpensive solution to weed and pest control. The fear is that superweeds and bt-resistant pests have been created.
–Further extensive transgenic contamination, especially for corn, seems to be unavoidable. It has been found in maize even in the remote regions of Mexico. Tests showed that 32 out of 33 commercial seed stocks in Canada, where GM corn is prohibited, were contaminated anyway. Corn pollen remains airborne for hours and can be carried by the winds for miles. Thus there can be no co-existence of GM and non-GM crops.
–GM crops are not proven safe. In fact, its regulation was fatally flawed from the start. The principle of “substantial equivalence,” a vague and ill-defined rule, gave companies like Monsanto complete license in claiming GM products equal and as safe as non-GM.
–Dangerous gene products are incorporated into the food crops. For example, Bt proteins, added to 25 percent of all GM crops, are harmful to many non-target insects, and some are potent allergens for humans and other mammals.
–GM foods are increasingly used to produce pharmaceuticals and drugs. These include cytokines, known to suppress the immune system and are linked to dementia, neurotoxicity and mood swings; vaccines and viral sequences like as the ‘spike’ protein gene of the pig coronavirus, in the same family as the SARS virus; and glycoprotein gene gp120 of the AIDS virus that could interfere with the immune system. The fear is that this last gene could recombine with viruses and bacteria to generate new and unpredictable pathogens.
–Crops engineered with suicide genes for male sterility, promoted as a means of preventing the spread of transgenes, actually spread both male sterility and herbicide tolerance traits via pollen.
–Broad-spectrum herbicides are found to be highly toxic to humans and other species of animals. Glufosinate ammonium and glyphosate, used with herbicide tolerant GM crops that currently account for 75% of all GM crops worldwide, are both systemic metabolic poisons. Glufosinate ammonium is linked to neurological, respiratory, gastrointestinal and haematological toxicities, and birth defects in humans and mammals; also toxic to butterflies and a number of beneficial insects. Glyphosate is the most frequent cause of complaints and poisoning in the UK. Its exposure nearly doubled the risk of late spontaneous abortion. Children born to users of glyphosate had elevated neurobehavioral defects. It caused cell division dysfunction that may be linked to human cancers.
The report warns that genetic tampering with foods may be inadvertently creating super-viruses and bacteria that could spark unstoppable world-wide plagues. “Newer techniques, such as DNA shuffling, allow geneticists to create in a matter of minutes in the laboratory millions of recombinant viruses that have never existed in billions of years of evolution,” the report warns.
The report concludes: “sufficient evidence has emerged to raise serious safety concerns, that if ignored could result in irreversible damage to health and the environment.”