Genetically Modified corn has been engineered in a laboratory to produce pesticides in its own tissue. GMO corn is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency as a pesticide, but is sold unlabeled. Walmart is now selling Monsanto’s sweet corn that has been genetically engineered to contain an insecticide, but consumers don’t know because it’s not labeled.
Monsanto has released their first direct-to-consumer product, a genetically-modified (GM) sweet corn containing Bt toxin, designed to protect the plant by rupturing the stomach of any insect that feeds on it. Monsanto claims the toxin will break down before the corn makes it to your dinner table, but rats fed with the GM corn showed organ failure, and the toxin has been detected in the bodies of pregnant women.
The messages claim that GMO Corn, i.e genetically modified Corn in America is engineered in a laboratory so as to produce harmful pesticide in its own tissue, and so is dangerous to health. The message also claims that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the GMO corn as a pesticide, but is sold unlabeled to the customers; even the Walmart sells Monsanto’s GMO sweet corn without labeling.
The Origin of Issue
The issue of harmful insecticides in GMO Corn arised in 2010, when researchers at the University of Notre Dame and Loyola University conducted a study on occurrence of maize detritus in 217 stream sites of Indiana agricultural landscape. The study found that 63% of the US maize crop in 2009 was modified genetically so as to express the insecticidal Cry proteins that were derived from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). It was also found that Cry1Ab proteins persist in maize leaves and can be measured in the water column even 6 months after harvest. The Cry1Ab protein was found in stream-channel maize in 13% of sites, and in the water column at 23% of sites. The study concluded that maize detritus and its associated Cry1Ab proteins are widely distributed and persistent in the headwater streams of a Corn Belt landscape.
Concerns over GMO Insecticide
The concern over the GMO corn is that the built-in pesticides developed naturally to kill insects are toxic to humans. The GMO companies claim that built-in pesticides are naturally derived proteins meant to resist pests. When pests, insects or bugs take a bite of the GM plant, the in-built insecticide (Bt-toxin) from the plant splits open their stomach and kills them. The biotech companies claim that these GMO techniques are safe and only used to kill insects, to increase the productivity and cater to the increasing demands. However, studies show otherwise.
The controversial Bt-toxin is actually produced from Bacillus thuringiensis bacteria, as a natural method of insect control. But even the organic farmers, who have used these solutions containing the natural form of Bt as sprays to fight gypsy moths have reported allergic reactions or flu-like symptoms. This happened in areas around Vancouver and Washington where few people even had to go to the emergency room. Also in India, thousands of agricultural workers exposed to the GM Bt cotton varieties have been reporting the same symptoms; they do not react to the natural cotton.
Agricultural scientists therefore believe that the Bt-toxin produced in the GM plants can be more dangerous than its natural spray form. They claim that the GM Bt toxin is designed to be more toxic, about 3,000-5,000 times more concentrated than the spray, and it does not wash off the plants like the spray does.
Laboratory studies on animals have shown that several GM crops engineered with built-in pesticides provoke immune responses. A Monsanto rat study on Bt corn has shown a significant increase in blood cells relating to the immune system. A 2009 study published in International Journal of Biological Sciences has shown that GM Corn caused organ failure in rats. Another press article in Reproductive Toxicology has shown that the Bt toxin has been detected in bodies of pregnant women.
GMO Issues in other Countries
In later part of 2012, because of these Cancer fears, Russia suspended the American Genetically Modified Corn. You can find the complete details and cancer studies in rats here.
Even in India, farmers are facing problems using these GM seeds. There are many reported instances where the farmers have used these high cost GM seeds, lost their yield and ended up committing suicide. In fact according to an article published in Daily Mail, India is used as a testing ground for these genetically modified crops. The Indian government has agreed to allow international bio-tech giants like Monsanto, to sell their new seed creations, considering them as ‘magic seeds’ for high agricultural yields.
But there is lot of controversy in India as well. The GM pest-proof breeds of cotton are being devastated by bollworms, a voracious parasite. There are similar reports in US as well, the GM Corn is creating Super Worms and failing to control the worms and protect the yield. Moreover these GM seeds cost up to 1,000 times more than the traditional Indian seeds, and also require double the amount of water. There are many farmers in India who ended up in loss and distress after using these GM seeds.
The Indian farmers have in fact started fighting against these GM seeds, one of the state governments is also up for a legal action against Monsanto for the excessive costs of GM seeds. Instead of these GM crops, they are trying to promote the Organic Indian crops.
Response of Bio-tech and GMO companies
The Genetic engineers do not agree with these claims. They say that they remove the gene that produces the Bt toxin in bacteria and insert it into the DNA of corn and cotton plants. They claim that Bt-toxin is destroyed in our stomach quickly; and even if it survives, it will not cause reactions in humans or mammals. Even Monsanto responded to these claims saying that the studies are not appropriate. They explained the quality of their GM corn here.
EPA Regulation of GMOs
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deals with GMO pesticides, making some efforts to deal with their environmental impacts. EPA regulates GMO pesticides, especially the Bt crops under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act. But as of now, EPA operates under the assumption that Bt is safe, although few studies have shown otherwise. You can read EPA statement on Bt10 here.
Monsanto GMO Sweet Corn Labeling Issue
Monsanto is the world’s largest seed company, known for developing engineered crops, i.e. corn and soybeans. These GM crops were only available in processed foods, in small quantities. But in 2012, Monsanto moved into the consumer market with its GM sweet corn, which is the fresh GM produce straight from the fields to the consumers, without any kind of GMO labeling. Considering the debate over its health effects, many food stores did not want to sell it. However, in August 2012, Walmart stores came up with a decision to sell Monsanto GMO sweet corn unlabeled. Walmart supported its decision saying:
“After closely looking at both sides of the debate and collaborating with a number of respected food safety experts, we see no scientifically validated safety reasons to implement restrictions on this product.”
Labeling GMO Food
In USA, existing laws allow voluntary labeling as long as the information is accurate, truthful and avoids misleading consumers about the food. The FDA only requires food labeling if there is any meaningful difference in the safety, composition or nutrition of the food crop.
Therefore, there is no way for people to identify the GMO foods. Proposition 37, a mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food initiative, was proposed by people in California. It was on the November 6, 2012 ballot in California, as an initiative of state, but was defeated. Proponents of this California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act say that it was defeated by corporate dollars and deception. They believe that it is just the beginning of Labeling GMOs.
It is a fact that GMO corn is sold unlabeled, it is also a fact that there are concerns over human health and the possibilities of ‘magical yield’ while using these GMOs. Although the bio-tech companies deny it, the cancer formation in rats is one probable negative sign of GMO corn. Further studies should give us more clarity on this.
Hoax or Fact:
Occurrence of maize detritus and a transgenic insecticidal protein
Study Found Toxin from GM Crops is Showing up in Human Blood
The GM genocide: Thousands of Indian farmers are committing suicide
Walmart Going To Sell Monsanto Genetically Modified Sweet Corn
Effects of GM Corn on Mammalian Health
Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to GMO foods
California Proposition 37