Saturday, May 21, 2016

GMO Safety and GMO Chemical Safety Confounded


It is important to separate out two issues when it comes to GMOs:

1. Safety of genetic modified products
2. Safety of chemicals used widely on the majority of GMO products.

Most GMOs on the market are Round-Up ready. 

While there are considerable uncertainties associated with studying the safety of genetic modification techniques, there are fewer uncertainties in applying classical laboratory testing procedures to evaluate the safety of the chemicals that are widely and extensively used on the GMO crops that we consume in the US.


This week my son completed his first year of college at a very rigorous college. Under the careful supervision of his professor, his freshman biology class conducted experiments on the effects of Round-Up and glysophate on developing Xenopus laevis  (frog).

Their study had several experimental conditions:
1. A control condition where the embryos had no added chemical exposure

2. A glysophate condition (the active ingredient in Round-Up)

3. A Round-Up condition (using the off-the-shelf product)

The results were very significant. Development was very negative impacted most by the Round-Up condition (with shrunken bodies), although mutations were also found in the glysophate only condition.

My son's study replicates the findings of numerous other laboratory studies that have concluded that the "inert" ingredients in Round-Up, in combination with glyosophate, are detrimental to normal development in laboratory animals.

Hence, I find it perplexing that US National Academies "experts" would dismiss laboratory research and focus exclusively on health outcomes across entire populations to evaluate whether or not GMOs are safe, as described here in a gloating article at the Washington Post declaring that GMOs have been evaluated as 'SAFE'
Scientists refute the scaremongering about GMOs,

The National Academies experts reviewed the relevant studies and solicited huge amounts of feedback. The upshot? “No differences have been found that implicate a higher risk to human health safety from these GE foods than from their non-GE counterparts,” they concluded. They based their findings partially on a comparison of European countries, where genetically engineered crops generally are not used, and the United States, where they are plentiful. They could find no significant differences attributable to genetically engineered crops, across a range of diseases and disorders.

Moreover, the experts concluded, “the committee found no conclusive evidence of cause-and-effect relationships between GE crops and environmental problems.” Among other things, the scientists found concerns that the crops are degrading plant and animal biodiversity to be insubstantial. 
The report can be found here:

The report's conclusions do not appear consistent with the media representations:
CONCLUSIONS (p. 232-233)
  1. Profiling techniques are appropriate for establishing compositional differences between cloned and noncloned animals.
  2. Profiling methods and their interpretation are not sufficiently developed to allow direct assessment of potential health effects associated with most unintended compositional changes.
  3. There is no scientific basis to exclude animals deemed to be “no-takes” from entering the food chain.
  4. There is a need to improve our ability to detect and assess the health consequences of unintended changes in GM foods, such as better tools for toxicology assessment and a more robust knowledge base regarding which components impact health.
  5. Given the possibility that foods with unintended changes could enter the marketplace, there is a need to enhance our capacity for postmarket surveillance of exposure and effects.
The report expresses uncertainties and the need for more research on genetic modifications.

There are only a couple of references to Roundup in the entire report and no references that I could find to glysophate across the entire report. The REPORT DOES NOT APPEAR TO ADDRESS THE CHEMICALS USED ON GENETICALLY MODIFIED PRODUCTS.

The bio of the study's chair can be found here:

A 2004 report on genetically modified food expressed uncertainties in measuring impacts of GMO foods and identified the need to use multiple methods to study their safety:
 "6 Methods for Predicting and Assessing Unintended Effects on Human Health." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods: Approaches to Assessing Unintended Health Effects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2004. doi:10.17226/10977. Safety of Genetically Modified Foods Chapter Six:
The major challenges to predicting and assessing unintended adverse consequences—such as toxicity, nutritional deficiency, and allergenicity—stem from limitations in available data as well as in current scientific knowledge. For example, information about the range of normal compositional variability, especially in plant-derived food, is very limited. This significantly constrains the ability to distinguish true compositional differences of a “new” food from the normal variation found among its antecedents.

To the extent that it cannot be determined whether the composition of a food has changed, it also cannot be predicted whether such changes have either adverse or beneficial health consequences. Even in cases where food composition changes are known, current understanding of the potential biological activity in humans for most food constituents is very limited. This becomes most evident when considering mixtures or diets consumed by human populations and then attempting to predict adverse health consequences from chronic intake of specific foods.

Thus the present state of knowledge requires relying on a range of toxicological, metabolic, and epidemiological sciences to assess the significance of un-

intended health effects, using both targeted and profiling approaches (see Chapter 4). Employing a combination of these approaches builds on what is known and will increase the ability to detect or even prevent unsuspected consequences.
Page 128
Yet despite uncertainties and complexities in studying effects, the new report is being represented in the mainstream media as a definitive statement of GMO safety.

My review of news coverage finds that the report is hardly as definitive in clearing GMOs as widely represented, as illustrated by this commentary published at PLOS:
Is the new GMO report the last word?
More cuttingly, EcoWatch has released a counter-report criticizing the findings for being tainted by industry biases:
National Research Council GMO Study Compromised by Industry Ties.

One of my master's students focused her thesis on competing scientific representations of Round-Up safety:
Desiree Schluter. Contested Safety: Monsanto's "Roundup Ready" Agricultural Assemblage versus Counter Discourses of Roundup Risk
Based on her research, my own reading of the literature, and my son's experimental studies I find the results published by the National Academies to be suspect FOR (APPARENTLY) FAILING TO ADDRESS THE CHEMICALS THAT ARE UBIQUITOUS IN GMOS.

Round-Up ready crops constitute at least 80% of the GMO market. Round-Up ready GMO crops are saturated with Round-Up at higher and higher levels as weed resistance grows.

I'll stick with ORGANICS!


  1. See also Sharon Lerner's article in the The Intercept: New Evidence About the Dangers of Monsanto's Roundup

  2. The lethal diseases went away with the improved quality of food,water,air and sanitation/hygiene. This improvement occurred despite the negative effects of the vaccines. There is a real likelihood that these diseases will become more virulent again as a result of carelessness with the food supply. We may again find epidemics of the almost forgotten diseases like scarlet fever and diphtheria. And since the vaccines don't really work very well and are even dangerous, health in America will become precarious. Public science is like the public media -- lots of deceptions and lies. Thus we are now part of a vast experiment to determine if indeed the GMO's are okay or not. If not then it will be the next generation that finds out and the one after it! This in itself is a bad policy. I wonder why Russia has banned GMO food? And other EU nations wish to. They must know something. Like you I eat organic and watch labels. It is becoming very expensive to eat safely.

    1. Yes we are part of a vast experiment. ZeroHedge's timely article is relevant here:

  3. I was shocked a few years ago to see huge stacks of Round-up at Home Depot--especially in health sensitive Boulder County, CO. Doing a little research I found very few people had any idea what the stuff does. I never use herbicides or pesticides in my yard. I filter my water. But I am not particularly paranoid or obsessed with health. Mine has been very good. I guess I do privately campaign against vaccinations. And occasionally write the city council about fluoride. But generally it is in vain as people just roll on down what appear to be pre-programed groves.


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