So much of the information about genetically modified crops is wrong—on both sides of the debate. What does the best available evidence have to say about the …
"Are GMOs Safe? The Case of BT Corn"
Recently the prominent science journal,
Nature, editorialized that we are now
swimming in information about
genetically modified crops,
but that much of that information is
wrong — on both sides of the debate.
But a lot of this incorrect
information is sophisticated,
backed by legitimate-sounding research
and written with certitude,
quipping that with GMOs a good
gauge of a statement’s fallacy
is the conviction with
which it is delivered.
To many in the scientific community,
GMO concerns are dismissed
as one big conspiracy theory.
In fact one item in a psychological
test of belief in conspiracy theories
asked people if they believed food
companies would have the audacity
of being dishonest about
genetically modified food.
The study concluded that many people were cynical
and skeptical with regard to advertising tricks,
as well as the tactics of organizations like
banks and alcohol, drug and tobacco companies.
That doesn’t sound like conspiracy theory;
that sounds like doing business.
Minorities are blamed for conspiracist
ideation for crackpot theories about AIDS,
but we must remember there is a
long legacy of scientific misconduct.
Throw in a multi-billion dollar
industry and one can imagine
how hard it is to get to the truth
of the matter about GMOs.
There are social, environmental,
economic, food security,
biodiversity arguments
pro and con about GMOs,
but those are outside
my area of expertise.
So I’m going to stick to food
safety, and as a physician
I’m a rather limited veterinarian in that
I only know one species, human beings,
so will skip the lab animal data, which
may inform what to feed one’s pet rat,
but not necessarily what
to feed one’s family.
What human data do we
have about GMO safety?
This study was purported to confirm DNA
from genetically modified crops
can be transferred into
humans who eat them,
but that’s not what the study found,
just that plant DNA in general may be found
in the human bloodstream
with no stipulations of harm.
This study, however, did find
a GMO crop protein in people,
detected in 93% of blood samples of pregnant
women, 80% of umbilical cord blood,
and 69% of samples from nonpregnant women.
The toxin they’re talking about is an
insecticidal protein produced by BT bacteria
whose gene was inserted into the
corn’s DNA to create so-called BT-corn,
which has been incorporated
into animal feed.
If it’s mainly in animal feed,
how did it get into the women?
They suggested it may be through
exposure to contaminated meat.
Of course, why get GMO’s second-hand
when you can get them directly?
The next great frontier
is transgenic farm animals.
A genetically modified salmon was first
to vie for a spot at the dinner table.
And then in 2010, transgenic cows,
sheep, goats and pigs were created,
genetically modified for
increased muscle mass.
Frankenfurters, one might say, based
off the so-called mighty mouse model.
But back to children of
the corn and their mothers,
when they say it’s a toxin, it’s a toxin
to corn worms, not necessarily to people.
In fact I couldn’t find any data
linking BT toxin to human harm,
which is a good thing since it’s
considered one of the few pesticides
considered so nontoxic it is sprayed
on organic fruits and vegetables.

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