Guest Blogger Series “GMOs Revealed” – Part Three

As you may remember, my youngest sister, Maggie, is guest blogging in a four-part series, providing us all with information around the controversial subject of genetically modified organisms.  Throughout Part Two of her series, Maggie provided a list of products that are made using ingredients that have been genetically modified.  In addition, she explained the differences in GMO labeling depending upon a consumer’s geographic location.  This week, Maggie’s post details the detriments of genetically modified organisms to human health and well-being.  After you read this guest blog post, please use the comments section to share your opinions about the human health concerns surrounding the consumption of genetically modified organisms.

Guest Blogger Series “GMOs Revealed” – Part Three

There are many studies that prove that GMOs are potentially harmful to human health (GMO Education). Although the FDA ruled in 1992 that “genetically engineered foods present no different risks than traditional foods,” the organization’s own scientists have said, “There is a profound difference between the types of unexpected effects from traditional breeding and genetic engineering. This difference should be and is not addressed” (GE Food). Five main health concerns about GMOs include: toxicity, allergic reactions, antibiotic resistance, immunosuppression, and loss of nutrition (GE Food).

When the gene of one organism is inserted into another, there is no way of knowing where the gene is being inserted (GE Food). Scientists do not know the genetic makeup of the organism receiving the genes either, and therefore cannot come up with a safe place to insert the gene (GE Food). The insertions are very random (GE Food). Because of this, a nontoxic element in a food could potentially become toxic (GE Food). FDA scientists warned that there was definitely a possibility of dangerous toxins appearing in food due to genetic modification and health risks that come with them (GE Food).

There are two main concerns with regard to allergic reactions and GMOs (GE Food). One is the fact that genetic modification can take an allergen from one food and put it into another (GE Food). The New England Journal of Medicine put out a study that showed people who ate soybeans that had been inserted with Brazil nut genes having serious allergic reactions (GE Food). Without labels on GM products, consumers with allergies cannot avoid food with their allergen (GE Food). The second concern is that GMOs could be creating new food allergies because of the new proteins that are a result of genetic modification (GE Food). These proteins have not been in human diets before and could cause allergic reactions (GE Food). Also, GM soy, corn, and papaya fail allergy tests (GMO Education). This is because the proteins in the GMO contain known allergens (GMO Education).   

GMOs could also make some antibiotics useless to humans and animals (GE Food). Most all GMOs contain something that is called “antibiotic resistance markers” that are used for the producers of the GMO to find out if the gene actually made it into the host (GE Food). These “antibiotic resistance markers” could make antibiotics useless (GE Food). For example, the Novartis company inserted a corn plant with an ampicillin resistant gene (GE Food). Ampicillin is an antibiotic that is used to treat many human and animal infections (GE Food). Concerns lie in the gene from the corn moving into bacteria and therefore making the antibiotic far less effective (GE Food).

A study conducted by Drs. Arpad Pusztai and Stanley W.B. Ewen showed lab rats fed genetically modified potatoes resulted in poor effects on their organ development, body metabolism, and immune function (GE Food). The potatoes had been modified to contain Bacillus Thuringiensis, a biopesticide (GE Food).

There are also concerns that genetically modification could lower the nutritional value of different foods (GE Food). FDA scientists have stated that the genetic modification could result in “undesirable alteration in the level of nutrients” in that particular food (GE Food). In addition, in the 1980s, L-tryptophan, a food supplement, caused serious health issues (GMO Education). One hundred Americans died (GMO Education). It also caused disability and sickness in five to ten thousand other people (GMO Education). These sicknesses and death were most likely caused by the genetically modified organism in the product (GMO Education).

The Institute for Responsible Technology reported that over 50% of the babies of a mother rat that was fed GMO soy died within three weeks (GMO Education). This in comparison with the babies of the mothers fed non-GMO soy in which only 10% died in three weeks (GMO Education). In addition, the stomach lining of rats fed GM potatoes showed excessive cell growth which is a condition that could cause cancer (GMO Education). Those same rats also showed damage to their organs and immune system (GMO Education).

Works Cited

GE Food and Your Health.  n.d.  Center for Food Safety,  n.d.  Web.  19 Mar. 2016.

GMO Education.   n.d.  Institute For Responsible Technology,  n.d.  Web.  20 Mar. 2016.

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One thought on “Guest Blogger Series “GMOs Revealed” – Part Three

  1. Hi Maggie! In case Katie didn’t warn you, GMOs are something that I really like to argue about, because a lot of the sources out there on the internet are not really familiar with the science behind them. So here’s some thoughts I have on this blog post:

    Ampicillin resistance is widely found among organisms already, which has led to the creation of antibiotics that are very capable of killing purely ampicillin resistant organisms (source: the pharmacist notes for Amoxicillin, an antibiotic closely related to ampicillin). Amp-R genes, those genes that are used to confer ampicillin resistance, are so common that I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve used them in labs. Long story short, they’re nothing to worry about. The real issue with antibiotic resistance is in conventional chicken farming, which is far more likely to cause problems than GMOs ever could (source: a woman from Consumer Reports who was presenting a poster at Boston Bacterial Meeting last summer. Her research was horrifying, as even organic, antibiotic-free chicken tested for some really scary resistant bacteria).

    That being said, it makes sense that some GMOs should be labeled if allergen-inducing genes were added to them. This makes total scientific sense, and is actually a risk, as the proteins that cause allergies are definitely transferable. Although the creation of “new” allergies is a bit harder to use to argue against GMOs: allergies have nothing to do with the “foreignness” of foods, and the exact mechanism behind them are poorly understood. Yes, it might be possible to be allergic to a GMO, but encountering that protein “naturally” would have the same effect. There is literally no difference between genes inserted in genetic modification and those that exist in the wild. Trust me, I’ve made GMOs myself and tested their proteins, at least in bacteria, and it’s highly unlikely that there’s a difference between those proteins and the “natural” ones.

    Finally, in regards to the “genetic makeup” issues, biologists can easily see where new genes are inserted because of very efficient modern sequencing methods.To say that scientists don’t know the genetic makeup of the organisms receiving the genes is utterly ridiculous, to put it mildly. To prove this, here is a link to a page to search a whole bunch of different genomes: http://blast.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Blast.cgi This site is free to anyone who wants it, and also contains many of the genes used in genetic modification. If you sequence the genome of a modified organism, and type the DNA bases you get into the search bar, it will actually find the genes you inserted and where they are. For fun, here’s the page for the genome of Bacillus thuringiensis, whose genes are used in genetic modification: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/genome/486 I actually worked with Bt pretty extensively this semester, which was interesting

    Sorry for the rant, but I’d like to set some of the record straight here. We have far, far bigger worries when it comes to food than genetic modification, so long as it is used responsibly (if someone wanted to do bad things with genetic modification, though, that’s a different story). That chicken I mentioned is decently likely to kill a lot of people; so far, no credible research on the agricultural use of GMOs has come close to saying that.

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