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article imageMonsanto's Bt corn — breeding superbugs & harming human health

By Anne Sewell     Jun 7, 2012 in Environment
Monsanto's genetically modified Bt corn is having its roots munched by super-rootworms and other superbugs, putting corn crops at risk, and yet more evidence is found of the dangers to human health.
Digital Journal reported in March 2012 that scientists were warning the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) about Monsanto's "rootworm resistant" corn.
Reuters reported at the time that Monsanto's rootworm-protected products were losing their effectiveness.
Western corn rootworm
Western corn rootworm
Tom Hlavaty
The strain of corn, engineered to kill the larvae of beetles, such as the corn rootworm, contains a gene copied from an insect-killing bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt.
Despite the warnings to the EPA, Monsanto insisted that the steps necessary to prevent such an occurrence - which would have entailed less of the corn being planted - were an unnecessary precaution, and the EPA apparently naively agreed.
And now, according to a recent NPR report:
“The scientists who called for caution now are saying ‘I told you so,’ because there are signs that a new strain of resistant rootworms is emerging…[A] committee of experts at the EPA is now recommending that biotech companies put into action, for the first time, a ‘remedial action plan’ aimed at stopping the spread of such resistant insects …
"The EPA’s experts also are suggesting that the agency reconsider its approval of a new kind of rootworm-killing corn, which Monsanto calls SmartStax. This new version of Bt corn includes two different Bt genes that are supposed to kill the rootworm in different ways. This should help prevent resistance from emerging, and the EPA is allowing farmers to plant it on up to 95 percent of their corn acres. But if one of those genes is already compromised… such a high percentage of Bt corn could rapidly produce insects that are resistant to the second one, too.”
It is becoming more and more clear that genetically engineered crops are the most dangerous aspect of modern agriculture today.
There is a rapid emergence of super-weeds, resistant to glyphosate in Roundup Ready crops, and now there is an emergence of Bt-resistant insects.
Add to that the emergence of a new organism which is capable of producing disease and infertility in both animals and plants, there is a wide variety of evidence pointing to harm to human health.
About Bt corn
Monsanto's GM Bt corn is equipped with a gene from soil bacteria called Bt or Bacillus thuringiensis. This produces the Bt-toxin in the corn. The pesticide breaks open the stomach of certain insects and kills them.
This Bt corn was introduced into the food supply in the late 1990's and problems have been occurring ever since.
Monsanto and the EPA swore that the genetically engineered corn would only harm insects. They stated that the Bt-toxin produced inside the plant would be completely destroyed in the human digestive system. They said it would not have any impact on the health of consumers.
Unfortunately they have been proven wrong, because not only is Bt corn producing resistant "superpests", researchers have also found that the Bt-toxin can badly affect human health.
In 2011, doctors at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec found Bt-toxin in the blood of:
- 93 percent of pregnant women tested
- 80 percent of umbilical blood in their babies, and
- 67 percent of non-pregnant women
Authors of the study speculate that the Bt-toxin is likely consumed in the normal diet of the Canadian middle class, as genetically engineered corn is present in the vast majority of all processed foods and drinks in the form of high fructose corn syrup. Scientists also suggest that the toxin may have come from eating meat from animals fed on Bt corn. Apparently most livestock raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFO) or so-called factory farms, are fed on this corn.
This raises the scary possibility that eating Bt corn might, in fact, turn your intestinal flora into a kind of "living pesticide factory", which essentially manufactures Bt-toxin from within your digestive system on a continual basis.
If this is the case, scientists believe that this could reasonably result in:
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Autoimmune diseases
- Food allergies
- Childhood learning disorders
And apparently all these health problems are in fact on the rise. While the discovery of Bt-toxin in human blood is not positive proof of the link, it certainly does raise questions.
There is also evidence showing that Bt-toxin in GM corn and cotton plants is toxic to mammals and humans and that it triggers immune system responses.
In a government-sponsored research in Italy, mice were fed Monsanto's Bt corn and they showed a wide range of immune system responses, including:
- Elevated IgE and IgG antibodies, which are typically associated with allergies and infections.
- An increase in cytokines, which are associated with allergic and inflammatory responses. The specific cytokines (interleukins) that were found to be elevated are also higher in humans who suffer from a wide range of disorders, from arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, to MS and cancer.
- Elevated T cells (gamma delta), which are increased in people with asthma, and in children with food allergies, juvenile arthritis, and connective tissue diseases.
In other research, rats were fed another of Monsanto's Bt corn varieties, MON 863. The rats experienced an activation of their immune systems, showing higher numbers of basophils, lymphocytes, and white blood cells. These can indicate possible allergies, infections, toxins, and various disease states including cancer. There were also signs of liver- and kidney toxicity.
Bt-toxin from soil bacteria has been used by farmers for years, and because of this biotech companies claimed that Bt-toxin has a "history of safe use in agriculture". However there is a major difference between spraying it on plants, as farmers did in the past, where it biodegrades in sunlight and can be washed off, and genetically altering the plant to produce it internally.
Bt crops have the Bt-toxin gene built-in, so there is no way to wash it off. It cannot biodegrade in sunlight. You cannot avoid consuming it.
Scientists also say that the plant-produced version of the toxin is thousands of times more concentrated than the spray used by farmers in the past.
Two years ago, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) actually called on all physicians to prescribe diets without genetically modified (GM) foods to all patients.
They also called for a moratorium on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), long-term independent studies, and labeling, stating:
“Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food, including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. …There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation…”
Yet more evidence to support the avoidance, if possible, of all genetically modified foods.
More about Monsanto, Gmo, Gm, Corn, root worm
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