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By Dr. Justin Marchegiani
GMO stands for genetically modified organism. Essentially combining different genes whether it be a jellyfish and a tomato or any other type of plant and animal combination. Many people think GMO’s are natural and the process is commonly compared to hybridization.
I will compare and contrast the difference between the two and you can come up with your own opinion regarding what’s natural and what’s not.
Hybridization is crossing different species of plants via a natural interaction ranging from the wind, bees and forced interaction via a laboratory or greenhouse setting. Cross pollinating specific species of plants is used to produce a plant that are stronger and or more palatable. We see this through many crops over the centuries such as producing fruits that are sweeter as well certain crops that are potentially more resistant to drought. Hybridization can occur naturally and when it’s not it could be akin to an arranged marriage.
Regarding the creation of genetically modified organisms, a gene gun is used to fire DNA coated particles into plant tissue. The DNA is marked using a resistant gene to the antibiotic “vancomycin” which allows for confirmation that the DNA made its way into the plant. The plant is then exposed to the antibiotic vancomycin, where it is assumed that the plants that survive, possess the resistant gene to the antibiotic as well as the genetically modified material. Does this sound natural? This is also raises questions regarding antibiotic resistant bacteria because of our increased exposure to these compounds.
There are two different types of genetically modified organisms.
1. The pesticide drinkers: Certain crops are made resistant to a pesticide known as Roundup. Roundup is the trade name of a specific pesticide named glyophosate. Glyophosate essentially hugs or binds up minerals away from plants including weeds to essentially kill them. This pesticide is usually sprayed from planes making weeding easier for farmers. This type of farming is usually done on an industrial scale not locally. Instead of Roundup being used specifically, it is sprayed on the entire field. So as long as the crops are resistant to Roundup there doesn’t have to be any specificity regarding where the Roundup is sprayed. The problem that is created is that more pesticides are now used while the research regarding Roundup shows more destruction to the topsoil as well as well as decreased soil mineral levels because of it.
Our body has this process known as apoptosis which essentially programs cells to die. This is an important process that prevents cells from growing out of control. When enough cells grow out of control they become cancerous and produce a tumor. There is research showing that glyophosate can affect our bodies mechanism to activate apoptosis in certain cells.
According to the integrative Journal of applied toxicology: “The Roundup tested alone from 1:20,000 ppm is necrotic and apoptotic from 50 ppm, far below agricultural dilutions. This could delay the activation of apoptosis.”
Glyophosate or Roundup does this through stealing specific nutrients and minerals away from the plants. There is research showing that nutrient deficiencies occur in these Roundup resistant plants as a side effect to the Roundup. The Journal “Plant and soil” in an article in November 2008 showed that glyophosate induced micro-nutrient deficiencies in Roundup resistant soybeans. Showing a decrease in manganese and zinc nutrient levels in soybeans that were Roundup ready (2).
2. The pesticide producers: certain crops are genetically engineered to produce pesticides, one of these pesticides is known as BT toxin (Bacillus thuringiensis) toxin. So essentially these plants can produce their own pesticides, on first glance this sounds great. When you dig a little bit deeper one may want to know what happens to the pesticides in these plants when they are consumed by humans. As there are studies out there showing that genetically modified foods that produce BT toxin can irritate and inflame of the gastrointestinal tract. It’s important to note that this BT toxin kills insects by punching holes in their gastrointestinal tract as well. The next question to ask is can this happen to humans?
Originally BT toxin was thought to be inert to human beings. But with new research coming out in the Journal of applied toxicology showing that BT toxin can exert toxicity in higher concentration. With these toxins being more prolific in our food supply is very difficult to control the average person’s dose. The majority of junk foods out there are full of genetically modified foods whether they are in the form of soy or corn that is used to produce the high fructose corn syrup which is the most common sweetener used today.
Below is a picture of the cells of the stomach lining of rats who works were fed experimental GMO potatoes for just 10 days from a 1999 article in the scientific journal “The Lancet” (1). You can see the cells of the stomach lining and intestines were significantly altered. When you look from slide A to slide B, you can see a significant increase in the amount of cells in the gastrointestinal tract. This raises concerns regarding specific conditions such as cancer which thrive off of uncontrolled cell growth.
There’s a great deal of research in the scientific literature that autoimmune conditions are primarily induced by a leaky gut or gastrointestinal permeability through the tight junctions of the small intestines. The mechanism has been researched and shows that undigested food particles can slip through these tight junctions and create inflammation by the immune system attacking the undigested food particles that typically don’t show up in the bloodstream. The surface proteins of some of these foods such as gluten and dairy are similar to other tissues in the body. As someone gets more inflamed their immune system can easily confuse the surface proteins of the undigested food with the surface proteins of various tissues in the body. This confusion can cause the immune system to to start destroying organ tissues such as the pancreas, the brain the thyroid and many other tissues.
With autoimmune disease on the rise many doctors such as myself are seeing excellent results clinically pulling patients off of GMO’s as well as other gut irritating foods and noticing a significant reduction in inflammation. I personally see antibody levels of my patients dropping when these changes are made.
Monsanto and DuPont are two of the main companies that own this GMO technology and they stand to make lots of money off the pesticides as well as the patented seeds. It’s important to note that DNA in the seeds have been altered so they have what’s called a “Terminator technology.” Essentially the seeds cannot be saved from one harvest in the next, which is vastly different than organic variety’s of heirloom seeds which can be saved and used for future seasons. This essentially creates a dependency on Monsanto for the seeds and will inherently make food cost more expensive. What a great business plan!
There have also been certain myths propagated that genetically modified foods are the answer to starvation and nutritional deficiencies like vitamin-A in many third world countries. A specific breed of rice was created known as “golden rice.” This rice was used in India to help with vitamin A deficiency which was causing blindness throughout the land. The rice was programmed to be drought resistance so in poor weather it would grow and provide the natives with enough vitamin A. What they found was the rice was a failure and did not provide adequate nutrition like it promised.
This happens over and over again with GMO foods, if you just google Indian farmer suicide, you will see that over 100,000 farmers over the last decade in India have committed suicide due to their debts in investing in GMO foods followed by the technologies lack luster results. The sad thing was the farmers typically committed suicide using the same pesticides they purchased from Monsanto “Round Up” (3).
The reality is if the seeds were so productive why are so many farmers resorting to suicide? Farmers in the United States are also being sued by Monsanto for patented seeds that blow into their fields causing them most to have to give up their farms just to pay their legal bills.
Genetically modified foods are not the answer to solve starvation in third world countries; this is the straw man in which GMO food are typically justified and promoted under. Getting back to sustainable local organic agriculture is the solution. All the money being thrown into vaccinations and genetically modified foods for the third world would be better spent on water filtration as well as sanitation measures. Farming with pesticides, chemicals and genetically modified seeds is a relatively new phenomenon. We need to help the third world get back to the basics, and if you read the book “Farmers of 40 Centuries” you will see organic farming at a local level is sustainable, inexpensive, and can feed more people than you think.
1. The Lancet: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(05)76708-8/fulltext
2. Plan soil: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11104-008-9760-8
3. The BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21077458