Study finds significant new evidence that GMOs can cause harm

GMO-pig-intestines-300A new study published in the Journal of Organic Systems provides compelling evidence that GMO foods cause physical damage.   If you haven’t been concerned until now about eating GM foods or meat from animals fed GM foods, you need to read about this study.  The concerns with GM foods are quite real and can be scientifically demonstrated.

The study

This long-term study included 168 weaned pigs which were fed a typical diet of soy and corn for 22.7 weeks (over 5 months).  Pigs were chosen for the study because their digestive systems are similar to humans.  Half of the pigs were fed GM soy and GM corn, and the remaining half were fed non-GM soy and corn.  The GM foods included one that was herbicide resistant and two that contained insecticides. [source]

[Photo description:  Different levels of stomach inflammation found (clockwise from top left): nil (from a
non-GM-fed pig, number B41), mild (from a non-GM-fed pig, number B15), moderate (from a
GM-fed pig, number C34) and severe (from a GM-fed pig, number D22)]

The results of the study

The pigs were slaughtered at the normal age for processing and autopsied by veterinarians who did not know which ones had been fed the GM food.  Here are the most significant findings from the autopsies:

The GM diet was associated with gastric and uterine differences in pigs. GM-fed pigs had uteri that were 25% heavier than non-GM fed pigs (p=0.025). GM-fed pigs had a higher rate of severe stomach inflammation with a rate of 32% of GM-fed pigs compared to 12% of non-GM-fed pigs (p=0.004). The severe stomach inflammation was worse in GM-fed males compared to non-GM fed males by a factor of 4.0 (p=0.041), and GM-fed females compared to non-GM fed females by a factor of 2.2 (p=0.034). [source]

The severe stomach inflammation was 4 times more likely in the male GM-fed pigs and 2.2 times more likely in the female GM-fed pigs.  A 25% higher weight of the uterus and the extent of the severe stomach inflammation are biologically and statistically significant.

Why this study is important

The lead researcher, Dr. Judy Carman, says the study results are significant for several important reasons:

First, we found these results in real on-farm conditions, not in a laboratory, but with the added benefit of strict scientific controls that are not normally present on farms.

Second, we used pigs. Pigs with these health problems end up in our food supply. We eat them.

Third, pigs have a similar digestive system to people, so we need to investigate if people are also getting digestive problems from eating GM crops.

Fourth, we found these adverse effects when we fed the animals a mixture of crops containing three GM genes and the GM proteins that these genes produce. Yet no food regulator anywhere in the world requires a safety assessment for the possible toxic effects of mixtures. Regulators simply assume that they can’t happen.

Our results provide clear evidence that regulators need to safety assess GM crops containing mixtures of GM genes, regardless of whether those genes occur in the one GM plant or in a mixture of GM plants eaten in the same meal, even if regulators have already assessed GM plants containing single GM genes in the mixture. [source]

Howard Vlieger, an Iowa-based farmer and a coordinator of the study, said “For as long as GM crops have been in the feed supply, we have seen increasing digestive and reproductive problems in animals. Now it is scientifically documented.”  [source]  [Real Food Houston interview with Howard Vlieger]

The safety of GMO foods

Dr. Nathan Daley has evaluated the science behind the studies which supposedly demonstrate the safety of GMO crops and foods and has found them seriously flawed for a multitude of reasons:

(1)  For each of three approved GMO corn varieties “a single study was done.  However, a central tenet of sound science is that the results are reproducible and replicated by other studies, preferably those done by different researchers.”

(2)  The studies only used the rat as a test subject, maybe valid for human detoxification systems but less so for human reproductive systems.

(3)  The studies only lasted three months and were done on only young adult rats.  Problems that could have occurred later in the normal 24 month life of the rat were not evaluated.

(4)  No reproductive or developmental studies were done; however, there are no warning labels on GMO foods for pregnant women or young children.

(5)  Problems were not considered if they occurred in only female or only male rats even though there are significant differences between their systems.

(6)  Adverse outcomes that are considered “normal” in older rats were omitted even though all the subjects were young adults.  For example, kidney disease common in older rats was not thought to be a problem even though it was occurring in the younger rats fed GMOs.  [source]

Why the dangers of GMO foods are different from other food dangers

The situation with agricultural GMOs is unique compared to other technologies. While genetic engineering of food crops has been ongoing for 15 years, it is currently experiencing a major boom with the potential for widespread worldwide application. Yet, few people understand how a GMO food could really be so much different than a non-GMO food in regard to health and disease effects. GMO foods look like non-GMO foods and so we don’t experience the same hesitation and aversion to consuming them like we would, say, a clearly labeled bottle of virus and pesticide in tomato juice. [source]

I have been reading about GMO foods for several years and have heard experienced researchers give talks about the very real health problems that are being covered up.  My concern is ever increasing as the GMO crops are gradually overtaking agriculture around the world.  As detailed above, there have not been adequate studies that demonstrate GMO foods are truly safe, and there have been important studies showing the potential harm.  Respected researchers that find problems can be slandered, demeaned, and sometimes even fired.  Two of these are Dr. Árpád Pusztai and Professor Gilles-Eric Séralini.

What can we do?

Here’s what I do:  to avoid GMOs in my diet, I buy most of my food locally–meat from pastured animals, local yard eggs, and farmers market produce.  When I don’t buy local foods, I buy organic, especially those that are highly likely to be GMO, such as corn and corn derivatives, soy, and sugar.  You should also know the source of your foods.  Try to avoid eating GMO foods as much as possible.

However, probably the most important action we can take is to tell everyone we know about the dangers of eating GMO foods.  The risks and dangers have, at least until now, been largely covered up by the companies that make huge profits from selling these unproven foods.  Many people don’t know much about GMOs.  I’ve already written several posts on GMOs–a few of them are linked below.  If you are active on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media, you can post or repost information about GMOs.  Even if you don’t use social media, you can forward emails and talk to family, friends, and co-workers.  All of us can do our part to educate others about the dangers of GMOs.

Update June 27, 2013: As expected, the biotech industry has claimed this study to be invalid.  Among the reasons cited was that the results were due to “poor animal husbandry.”  Dr. Judy Carman, the principle researcher, has responded to this criticism by providing details about how the pigs were selected and cared for.  Both the gmo fed and non-gmo fed pigs received the same care.  The study results were not caused by poor treatment of the gmo fed pigs.

Update August 23, 2013:  Another scientific review has found that biotech industry studies on the safety of GMOs are flawed. Read more: GMOs and Health: The Scientific Basis for Serious Concern and Immediate Action

Other Real Food Houston posts you might want to read:

It’s Not Pretty Behind the Biotech Veil, an Interview with Howard Vlieger
What Does Genetically Engineered (or GMO) Mean?
Study finds that GE toxins damage human cells
Glyphosate is already in our food, air, and water: What is it and why should we care?

Sources:

Study: A long-term toxicology study on pigs fed a combined genetically modified (GM) soy and GM maize diet
A long-term toxicology study on pigs fed a mixed GM diet. Adverse effects of GM crops found. by Dr. Judy Carman
Evidence of GMO Harm in Pig Study [Sustainable Pulse]
New study finds GM grains harm reproductive and digestive health [Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance]
Evidence of GMO harm in pig study [GM Watch]
GMOs and Health: The Scientific Basis for Serious Concern and Immediate Action [GreenMedInfo]

Photo credit: Study: A long-term toxicology study on pigs fed a combined genetically modified (GM) soy and GM maize diet

This post is shared on Fat Tuesday at Real Food Forager and Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

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6 Responses to Study finds significant new evidence that GMOs can cause harm

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  2. This is junk science. It comes Howard Vlieger, an outspoken opponent of GMO. The conclusion expressed in the paper, and in this article, is statistically insignificant. By the same logic, GMO-fed pigs were protected from liver/heart abnormalities and pericarditis by a factor of 2. Fewer of the GMO-fed pigs had signs of stomach inflammation than did pigs in the control group!

    • Carolyn says:

      You do not support your claim that Dr. Judy Carman’s research is “junk science.” Also, the fact that Howard Vlieger is an opponent of GMOs should not disqualify the results of this study, unless being pro-GMO would also disqualify the results from studies funded by the biotech industry.

      There were two statistically significant findings from this study–the 25% increased weight of the uterus and the 22% to 42% increase in incidence of severe stomach inflammation in the GMO-fed pigs.

      You must not have read the section in my post above on the safety of GMO foods. That section lists six important shortcomings of biotech funded research. Those shortcomings are sufficient reason to be skeptical of the “science” that declares GMOs are safe.

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