I just came across this pro GMO article which I found offensive enough that I needed to immediately write a rebuttal:
Would Rachel Carson Embrace ‘Frankenfoods’? – This Scientist Believes ‘Yes’
Here’s my rebuttal:
I find it very irksome when articles like this suggest that scientists are “ok” with transgenics while those on the other side are just fear mongering. Instead of spewing propaganda, let’s look at scientific facts.
Many scientists have raised concern over resistance to Bt toxin. Given that Bt transgenic crops express this toxin over the entire plant, throughout the plant’s life, there is very real concern that constant, chronic exposure to Bt toxin will lead to resistant pests. This pest resistance has already been found to be happening. As pests become resistant to Bt toxin, pesticide applications will increase. As such, it is a concern that any currently observed reductions in pesticide use will be short lived. Following are a few peer reviewed studies:
1. Agi, A., J. Mahaffey, J. Bradley, and J. van Dunn, ‘‘Efficacy of Seed Mixes of Transgenic Bt and Non Transgenic Cotton Against Bollworm,’’ Helicoverpa zea Boddie. Journal of Cotton Science 5 (2001), 74–80.
2. Alyokhin, A. V. and D. N. Ferro, ‘‘Relative Fitness of Colorado Potato Beetle (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) Resistant and Susceptible to the Bacillus thuringiensis Cry3A Toxin,’’ Journal of Economic Entomology 92 (1999), 510–515.
3. Cannon, R. J. C., ‘‘Bt transgenic Crops: Risks and Benefits,’’ Integrated Pest Management Reviews 5 (2000), 151–173.
4. Cao, J., J. D. Tang, N. Strizhov, A. M. Shelton, and E. D. Earle, ‘‘Transgenic Broccoli with High Levels of Bacillus thuringiensis Cry1C Protein Control Diamondback Moth Larvae Resistant to Cry1A or Cry1C,’’ Molecular Breeding 5 (1999), 131–141.
5. Carriere, Y., T. J. Dennehy, B. Pedersen, S. Haller, C. Ellers-Kirk, L. Antilla, L. Yong-Biao, E. Willott, and B. E. Tasbashnik, ‘‘Large- Scale Management of Insect Resistance to Transgenic Cotton in Arizona: Can Transgenic Insecticidal Crops be Sustained?,’’ Journal of Economic Entomology 94 (2001), 315–325.
6. Chaufaux, J., M. Seguin, J. J. Swanson, D. Bourguet, and B. D. Seigfried, ‘‘Chronic Exposure of the European Corn Borer (Lepidoptera: Cambidae) to Cry1Ab Bacillus thuringiensis
Scientists have also raised concerns about the impact of Bt from transgenics on non-target species with the Monarch butterfly being a common topic. Remember, in the case of transgenic Bt crops, the toxin is being excreted all the time as opposed to discreet applications in conventional farming. Here are some peer reviewed studies:
1. Hansen, L. C. and J. J. Obrycki, ‘‘Field Deposition of Bt Transgenic Corn Pollen: Lethal Effects on theMonarch Butterfly,’’ Oecologica 125 (2000), 241–248.
2. Sears, M. K., R. L Hellmich, D. E. Stanley-Horn, K. S. Berhauser, J. M. Pleasants, H. R. Mattila, B. D. Siegfried, and G. P. Dively, ‘‘Impact of Bt Corn Pollen on Monarch Butterfly Populations: A Risk Assessment,’’ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 98 (2001), 11937–11942.
3. Zangerl, A. R., D. Mckenna, C. L. Wraight, M. Carroll, P. Ficarello, R. Warner, and M. R. Berenbaum, ‘‘Effects of Exposure to Event 176 Bacillus thuringiensis Corn Pollen on Monarch and Black Swallowtail Caterpillars under Field Conditions,’’ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 98 (2001), 11908–11912.
Because Bt toxin in transgenic plants are excreted from every part of the plant, including the roots, scientists have raised concerns regarding potential negative impact on beneficial insects that as a part of the natural ecosystem help reduce pests and maintain healthy soil. Following are some peer reviewed studies:
1. Crecchio, C. and G. Stotzky, ‘‘Insecticidal Activity and Biodegradation of the Toxin from Bacillus thuringiensis ssp. kurstaki Bound to Humic Acids from Soil,’’ Soil Biology and Biochemistry 30 (1998), 463– 470.
2. Cui, J. and J. Xia, ‘‘Effects of Transgenic Bt Cotton on the Population Dynamics of Natural Enemies,’’ Acta Gossypii Sinica 11 (1999), 84–91.
3 . Dutton, A., H. Klein, J. Romeis, and F. Bigler, ‘‘Uptake of Bt-Toxin by Herbivores Feeding on Transgenic Maize and Consequences for the Predator Chrysoperla carnea,’’ Ecological Entomology 27 (2002), 441– 447.
4. Dinel, H., M. Schnitzer, M. Saharinen, F. Meloche, T. Pare, S. Dumontet, L. Lemee, and A. Ambles, ‘‘Extractable Soil Lipids and Microbial Activity as Affected by Bt and Non Bt Maize Grown on a Silty Clay Loam Soil,’’ Journal of Environmental Science and Health 38 (2003), 211–219.
5. Donegan, K. K., R. J. Seidler, V. J. Fieland, D. L. Schaller, C. J. Palm, L. M. Ganio, D. M. Cardwell, and Y. Steinberger, ‘‘Decomposition of Genetically Engineered Tobacco Under Field Conditions: Persistence of the Proteinase Inhibitor I Product and Effects on Soil Microbial Respiration and Protozoa, Nematode and Microarthropod Populations,’’ Journal of Applied Ecology 34 (1997), 767–777.
Scientists have also raised concerns that herbicide resistant GM crops could lead to reductions in biodiversity which in the long run could impact productivity. Two peer reviewed studies are here:
1. Andow, D. A., ‘‘UK Farm-Scale Evaluations of Transgenic Herbicide- Tolerant Crops,’’ Nature Biotechnology 21 (2003), 1453–1454.
2. Brooks, D. R. (and 32 others), ‘‘Invertebrate Responses to the Management of Genetically Modified Herbicide-Tolerant and Conventional Spring Crops. I. Soil-Surface-Active Invertebrates,’’ Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (London) 358 (2003), 1847–1862.
Many scientists have raised concerns about the potential for transgenes to jump from one plant to another or even across species. Many normal pathways for DNA movement exist namely sexual reproduction and dispersal (eg. pollen, fruit, gametes, embryos, offspring), non-sexual gene transfer such as between bacteria or between bacteria and higher organisms (horizontal transfer). In the case of horizontal transfer, the genetic material does not have to be in the living organism. It could be in decayed tissue, in feces, in the gut, etc. Given that transgenes are naturally unstable and are also armed with all the “tools” to jump into a genome, they are at significant risk of jumping out of their host genome and into other non-target genomes through the pathways described above. Here are a few peer reviewed studies on this subject:
1. Doerfler, W. and R. Schubbert, ‘‘Uptake of Foreign DNA from the Environment: The Gastrointestinal Tract and the Placenta as Portals of Entry,’’ Wein Klin. Wochenschr 110(2) (1998), 40–44
2. Duggan, P. S., P. A. Chambers, J. Heritage, and J. M. Forbes, ‘‘Survival of Free DNA Encoding Antibiotic Resistance from Transgenic Maize and the Transformation Activity of DNA in Ovine Saliva, Ovine Rumen Fluid and Silage Effluent,’’ FEMS Microbiology Letters 191 (2000), 71–77.
3. Einspanier, R. L., A. Klotz, J. Kraft, K. Aulrich, R. Poser, F. Schwagele, G. Jahreis, and G. Flachowsky, ‘‘The fate of Forage Plant DNA in Farm Animals: A Collaborative Case-Study Investigating Cattle and Chicken Fed Recombinant Plant Material,’’ European Food Research and Technology 212 (2001), 129–134.
This study is the first recorded confirmation that transgenic DNA can in fact be transferred to gut bacteria in the human gut:
Netherwood, T., S. Martin-Orue, A. G. O’Donnell, S. Gockling, J. Graham, J. C.Mathers, and H. J. Gilbert, ‘‘Assessing the Survival of Transgenic Plant DNA in the Human Gastrointestinal Tract,’’ Nature Biotechnology 22 (2004), 204–209.
Movement of transgenic material into non-target species is a big deal. For example, antibiotic resistance is a common marker used in the transformation process. If antibiotic resistance started jumping into the environment, it would create a whole slew of human and environmental health issues. The fact that it has been shown that transgenic material can be taken up by gut bacteria in the human gut also opens up the potential for movement of transgenic DNA into the human genome which could have serious health implications.
There is serious concern from the scientific community that transgenes could also spread into wild relatives with risk being transfer of herbicide resistance to “weedy” relatives. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest this is already happening. Here are some peer reviewed studies:
1. Halfhill, M. D., R. J. Millwood, P. L. Raymer, and C. N. Stewart, Jr. ‘‘Bt-Transgenic Oilseed Rape Hybridization with its Weedy Relative, Brassica rapa,’’ Environmental Biosafety Research 1 (2002), 19–28.
2. Haygood, R., A. Ives, and D. A. Andow, ‘‘Consequences of Recurrent Gene Flow from Crops to Wild Relatives,’’ Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 270 (2003), 1879–1886.
3. Lefol, E., A. Fleury, and H. Darmency, ‘‘Gene Dispersal from Transgenic Crops: Hybridization Between Oilseed Rape and the Wild Hoary Mustard,’’ Sexual Plant Reproduction 9 (1996), 189–196.
So please refrain from making statements like “It’s a wholly uncontroversial comment—at least among scientists.” That type of statement is untrue and highly misleading. As you can see from the large number of peer reviewed studies I just produced, there are many scientists across a variety of disciplines who are very concerned about the impact of GMOs on our health and the environment.
As many of you know, this debate is heating up with the impending vote to occur in California where people from that state will be able to cast their ballot for or against labeling of genetically modified foods. What happens in California has huge implications across the US. What happens there will set the precedent for what happens nationally.
I hope I have shown you that there are a lot of concerns regarding GMOs in their current state. If you agree and wish to do your part to allow concerned citizens to at least have a choice, then support the Right To Now campaign. Go here to learn more about it: http://www.carighttoknow.org/.
We’ve got one shot at this. Let’s not waste it.