Friday, June 02, 2006

Too Much to Digest

Have you had a funny feeling in your stomach lately?  And are you thinking that it's the result of frustration with the Bush fiasco du jour.  Maybe it's not.

No, this particular feeling may involve the ingestion of GMO crops.  Huh?

(A prior posting directly below addressed the potential problems of GMO trees.)

GMO crops that are engineered for herbicide tolerance have special enzymes that render certain herbicides non-toxic.  The surrounding plants suffer the result of herbicide application while the GMO crops remain.  But the non-toxic version of the herbicide may again become toxic after ingestion.      

OCA Link

Pioneer Hi-Bred's website boasts that their genetically modified (GM) Liberty Link corn survives doses of Liberty herbicide, which would normally kill corn. The reason, they say, is that the herbicide becomes "inactive in the corn plant." They fail to reveal, however, that after you eat the GM corn, some inactive herbicide may become reactivated inside your gut and cause a toxic reaction. In addition, a gene that was inserted into the corn might transfer into the DNA of your gut bacteria, producing long-term effects. These are just a couple of the many potential side-effects of GM crops that critics say put the public at risk.

Liberty herbicide, glufosinate ammonium, is produced by Pioneer.  Used on corn, the non-toxic version is called N-acetyl-L-glufosinate or NAG.

The problem is that the NAG, which is not naturally present in plants, remains there and accumulates with every subsequent spray. Thus, when we eat these GM crops, we consume NAG. Once the NAG is inside our digestive system, some of it may be re-transformed back into the toxic herbicide. ...

Testing of NAG has shown that it does become reactivated but not in a uniform fashion.

...In rats fed NAG, for example, 10% of it was converted back to glufosinate by the time it was excreted in the feces. Another rat study found a 1% conversion. And with goats, more than one-third of what was excreted had turned into glufosinate.

Naturally, our own federal government has left a great void in this area.  Testing protocols have yet to be established.

Perhaps a more critical question may be whether infants or fetuses are impacted with smaller doses. A January 2006 report issued by the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Inspector General said that studies demonstrate that certain pesticides easily enter the brain of young children and fetuses, and can destroy cells. That same report, however, stated that the EPA lacks standard evaluation protocols for measuring the toxicity of pesticides on developing nervous systems. Scientists at the agency also charged that "risk assessments cannot state with confidence the degree to which any exposure of a fetus, infant or child to a pesticide will or will not adversely affect their neurological development."...

And then there's the usual question of industry involvement.

Furthermore, three trade unions representing 9,000 EPA workers claimed that the evaluation techniques used at the agency were highly politicized. According to a May 24, 2006 letter to the EPA's administrator, the unions cited "political pressure exerted by Agency officials perceived to be too closely aligned with the pesticide industry and former EPA officials now representing the pesticide and agricultural community."

The bottom line:

...Herbicide tolerant (HT) crops are a particularly big money-maker for biotech companies, because when farmers buy HT seeds, they are required to purchase the companies' brand of herbicide as well. In addition, HT crops dramatically increase the use of herbicide, which further contributes to the companies' bottom line.

Money talks.


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