Careful: That french fry or apple pie may alter your genetic makeup (not!)

Careful: That french fry or apple pie may alter your genetic makeup (not!)

Jon Stewart, whose equal opportunity skewering of politicians, entertainers, and others of the inflated ego ilk has won a huge audience for his cable TV show, recently did a segment he prefaced thusly: “If you look at food packaging, you might think the three most terrifying letters in the English language are GMO.”

It featured Daily Show “Correspondent” Aasif Mandvi interviewing Jeffrey Smith, founder of the Institute for Responsible Technology, who is described as “one of the leading anti-GMO voices in the world,” wherein Smith said, in all seriousness, “We believe that genetically engineered crops may be one of the most dangerous introductions of an additive in our food supply in our history.”

Oh, but it gets better. Later, talking about genetically modified potatoes, he declared: “The process itself is dangerous. They create a little piece of RNA and put it into the potato, so it silences some genes. If we eat the potato, it might regulate our own gene expression, causing serious problems, possibly death. But the technology itself is inherently unsafe.”

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EVEN WHEN CONFRONTED with scientific information to the contrary, 43 percent of survey participants wouldn't change their minds about GMOs; in fact, some became even more adamant in their contention that GMO food ingredients are unsafe. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

In an April 21 blog on his website, Smith wrote: “The question that serious scientists are asking is, if we (or bees, or birds, or deer) consume the RNA in the apple or potato, can it influence how our genes work? Will these genetically modified organisms (GMOs), eaten as apple pies, french fries, or whatever, change our development, physiology, and behavior?”

In a film, Genetic Roulette — The Gamble of Our Lives, for which Smith is listed as director, a promo blurb says: “Never-before-seen evidence points to genetically engineered foods as a major contributor to rising disease rates in the U.S. population, especially among children. Gastrointestinal disorders, allergies, inflammatory diseases, and infertility are just some of the problems implicated in humans, pets, livestock, and lab animals that eat genetically modified soybeans and corn.”

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In a Dec. 20, 2013 post, he says that “before the FDA decided to allow GMOs into food without labeling, FDA scientists had repeatedly warned that GM foods can create unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects, including allergies, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems. They urged long-term safety studies, but were ignored.’

Since then, he says, findings include “thousands of sheep, buffalo, and goats in India died after grazing on Bt cotton plants, mice eating GM corn for the long term had fewer, and smaller, babies, more than half the babies of mother rats fed GM soy died within three weeks, and were smaller, testicle cells of mice and rats on GM soy change significantly, by the third generation, most GM soy-fed hamsters lost the ability to have babies…”

Cooked GM soy, he says, “contains as much as 7-times the amount of a known soy allergen, soy allergies skyrocketed by 50% in the UK, soon after GM soy was introduced, the stomach lining of rats fed GM potatoes showed excessive cell growth, a condition that may lead to cancer (and) studies showed organ lesions, altered liver and pancreas cells, changed enzyme levels, etc.”

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Unlike safety evaluations for drugs, Smith writes, “there are no human clinical trials of GM foods. The only published human feeding experiment revealed that the genetic material inserted into GM soy transfers into bacteria living inside our intestines and continues to function. This means that long after we stop eating GM foods, we may still have their GM proteins produced continuously inside us. This could mean: If the antibiotic gene inserted into most GM crops were to transfer, it could create super diseases, resistant to antibiotics, (and) if the gene that creates Bt-toxin in GM corn were to transfer, it might turn our intestinal bacteria into living pesticide factories.”

The sad thing about this kind of unsubstantiated scaremongering is that the Internet has so acclimated people to accepting as gospel everything from woman-giving-birth-to-alien-baby to cat-playing-the-piano, etc., etc., that nobody bothers to expend any effort to determine what’s factual and what’s hokum.

A recent University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study about public perception of GMOs found that people tend to go with first impressions, and that even when confronted with scientific information to the contrary, 43 percent wouldn’t change their minds. In fact, said Brandon McFadden, assistant professor of food and resource economics, some became even more adamant in their contention that GMO food ingredients are unsafe.

Confronted with this ongoing barrage of unfounded propaganda, major food companies are kowtowing to the antis and proclaiming their tacos, ketchup, whatever as GMO-free.

The eventual impact on U.S. farming is anybody’s guess.

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