GM Foods & Reproductive Health
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Genetically Modified Foods Already Linked to Reduced Fertility
Genetically engineered (GE) corn and soy have already been shown to reduce fertility in animals, and glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s weed killer Roundup, which is heavily used on GE crops, has also been shown to alter fertility.
For example, female rats fed GE (Roundup Ready) soy for 15 months showed significant changes in their uterus and reproductive cycle, compared to rats fed organic soy or those raised without soy. According to researchers, if women experience similar changes in the uterus lining and altered hormonal levels, it might increase the risk of retrograde menstruation, in which menstrual discharge travels backwards into your body rather than through your uterus. This can cause a disease known as endometriosis, which may lead to infertility.
The disorder can also produce pelvic and leg pain, gastrointestinal problems, chronic fatigue, and a wide variety of other symptoms. Genetically modified soybeans are called Roundup Ready.
They contain a bacterial gene that allows the plants to survive a normally deadly dose of Roundup herbicide. Although the spray doesn’t kill the plant, its active ingredient, glyphosate, actually accumulates in the beans themselves, which are then consumed by livestock and humans. There is actually so much glyphosate in GE soybeans that when they were introduced, Europe had to increase their allowable residue levels 200-fold!
Glyphosate Poses Risk to Female Reproductive Health
Although there are only a handful of studies on the safety of GE soybeans, there is considerable evidence that glyphosate—especially in conjunction with the other ingredients in Roundup—wreaks havoc with the endocrine and reproductive systems.
Glyphosate throws off the delicate hormonal balance that governs the whole reproductive cycle. It interferes with aromatase, which produces estrogen, and it’s also highly toxic to the placenta in pregnant women. In a 2009 French study, scientists discovered that glyphosate can kill the cells in the outer layer of the human placenta (the trophoblast membrane), which in turn can kill the placenta. A mere 1/500th the amount needed to kill weeds was able to kill these cells! The amount is so small, according to the study’s authors, that the “residual levels to be expected, especially in food and feed derived from Roundup formulation-treated crops” could be enough to “cause cell damage and even [cell] death.”
If the endocrine function of the placenta is destroyed, then ovarian and endometrial function may also suffer, and the end result could be a miscarriage.
It’s important to remember that glyphosate can accumulate in your body, allowing its toxic effects to grow worse with repeated consumption of foods containing these Roundup Ready crops. Clearly, this may become a serious concern for the next generation, as most young children—girls and boys alike—growing up today are fed processed foods containing GE ingredients on a daily basis, year after year…
Glyphosate Affects Testosterone and Harms Male Reproductive Health Too
Last month, an animal study published in the journal Toxicology in Vitro, found that glyphosate induces necrosis and apoptosis (cell death) in rat testicular cells in vitro, and decreases testosterone production even at low exposure levels. The authors write:
“Roundup is being used increasingly in particular on genetically modified plants grown for food and feed that contain its residues. Here we tested glyphosate and its formulations on mature rat fresh testicular cells from 1 to 10,000 ppm, thus from the range in some human urine and in environment to agricultural levels.
We show that from 1 to 48 hours of Roundup exposure Leydig cells are damages. Within 24-48 hours this formulation is also toxic on the other cells, mainly by necrosis, by contrast to glyphosate alone, which is essentially toxic on Sertoli cells. Later it also induces apoptosis at higher doses in germ cells and in Sertoli/germ cells co-cultures.
At lower non toxic concentrations of Roundup and glyphosate (1ppm), the main endocrine disruption is a testosterone decrease by 35 percent. The pesticide has thus an endocrine impact at very low environmental doses, but only a high contamination appears to provoke an acute rat testicular toxicity. This does not anticipate the chronic toxicity which is insufficiently tested, and only with glyphosate in regulatory tests.”
GMOs Have Never Been Proven Safe, Nor Beneficial…
Last year, I interviewed Dr. Philip Bereano on the topic of genetic engineering. Dr. Bereano has spent the last 30 years investigating genetic engineering of crops, animals, and humans. His work led him to participate in the negotiation of two international treaties under the United Nations that dealt with issues relating to genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In that interview, he shares his perspective on the complete lack of safety of GE foods, stating:
“First of all, we need to understand what we mean by the word safe. Actually, in terms of the academic literature, “safe” refers to “an acceptable level of risk.” It doesn’t refer to situations where there is no risk. Most of us drive in cars all the time and consider it to be safe even though we know that people are killed and injured in automobiles frequently. We have to understand that safe equals acceptable risk.
The problem with calling genetically engineered organisms safe is that there are no valid risk assessments being done on them. There is no research, really, being done into the health or environmental effects of a genetically engineered organism. Certainly no work that is published in the open peer-reviewed literature, or that isn’t proprietary. Corporations promoting these things claim that they have done research, but you can’t get any information on it because it’s all claimed to be proprietary.
Under what is known now as the precautionary principle—which is what your grandparents used to teach you about “looking before you leap”—the only prudent course of action is to NOT proceed with something which has potential risks and only potential benefits until you know a little bit more about it.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that international treaties enshrine the precautionary principle; most notably the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol, which about 175 countries have signed, the United States appears to have no such intentions. The US has repeatedly shunned the idea of ‘safety first,’ and continues to approve new GE foods despite vigorous objections from the public and various consumer advocate groups, while simultaneously refusing to label such foods…
Another way to ensure safety (or acceptable level of risk), is to conduct the necessary research to evaluate the potential environmental and human health risks involved prior to condoning the use of GE crops and animals—but that’s not being done either!
He also brought up another important point in that interview, which is that for all the benefits touted, they’re primarily potential benefits. And again, the reality is that in addition to a lack of proof of safety, there’s also a glaring lack of proof of actual benefit According to Dr. Bereano:
“There is quite a bit of research that has indicated that there may be health risks, but no funds are available to test this research by replication, for extension, for further studies, and so forth. And very often the scientists who have performed that [independent] research… have become ostracized instead of recognized for opening up an important area of inquiry.”
GE Crops are Failing Miserably
Virtually all the claims of benefit of genetically engineered (GE) crops – increased yields, more food production, controlled pests and weeds, reductions in chemical use in agriculture, drought-tolerant seeds, and so on – have failed to materialize. The Global Citizens’ 2011 Report, aptly named: The GMO Emperor Has No Clothes, states:
- Contrary to the claim of feeding the world, genetic engineering has not increased the yield of a single crop.
- Herbicide tolerant (Roundup Ready) crops were supposed to control weeds and Bt crops were intended to control pests. Instead of controlling weeds and pests, GE crops have led to the emergence of super weeds and super pests … Herbicide resistant crops such as Roundup Ready cotton can create the risk of herbicide resistant “superweeds” by transferring the herbicide resistance to weeds.
- Despite claims that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) will lower the levels of chemicals (pesticides and herbicides) used, this has not been the case. This is of great concern both because of the negative impacts of these chemicals on ecosystems and humans, and because there is the danger that increased chemical use will cause pests and weeds to develop resistance, requiring even more chemicals in order to manage them.
- Monsanto has been claiming that through genetic engineering it can breed crops for drought tolerance and other climate-resilient traits. This is a false promise.
- Among the false claims made by Monsanto and the Biotechnology industry is that GE foods are safe. However, there are enough independent studies to show that GE foods can cause health damage.
Mounting Evidence Links GE Foods with Harm to Animal and Human Health
Monsanto insists that genetically modified (GM) foods, whether plant or animal, are no different from conventionally grown varieties, but the research simply does NOT support this claim. Here is just a sampling of the unsavory findings associated with GM foods:
- GM pea protein caused lung damage in mice
- GM potatoes may cause cancer in rats
- Bacteria in your gut can take up DNA from GM food
- GM foods lead to significant organ disruptions in rats and mice, specifically the kidney, liver, heart and spleen
- Bt corn caused a wide variety of immune responses in mice, commonly associated with diseases such as arthritis, Lou Gehrig’s disease, osteoporosis, and inflammatory bowel disease
- Offspring of rats fed GM soy showed a five-fold increase in mortality, lower birth weights, and the inability to reproduce
- Male mice fed GM soy had damaged young sperm cells
- The embryo offspring of GM soy-fed mice had altered DNA functioning
- Several US farmers reported sterility or fertility problems among pigs and cows fed on GM corn varieties
- Investigators in India have documented fertility problems, abortions, premature births, and other serious health issues, including deaths, among buffaloes fed GM cottonseed products
Even more disturbing is the discovery of a brand new micro-fungal organism associated with something called Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS) in GE soy. This is something brand new to science, courtesy of GE crops. The mysterious organism is also found in a large variety of livestock given GE feed. These animals experience both infertility and high rates of spontaneous abortions. Last month I interviewed Dr. Don Huber on this issue. If you missed it, please do take the time to listen to it now by clicking on this link, as this may be one of the most important issues everyone needs to be aware of. Dr. Huber makes it very clear that we simply cannot continue in the direction we’re currently headed.
The Time is Ripe to Fight Back
Many still don’t realize just how much of our food supply has been genetically engineered (GE). As of this year, 93 percent of soybeans grown in the US are genetically engineered, as are:
- 86 percent of all corn
- 93 percent of canola
- 93 percent of cottonseed oil
Between 2008 and 2009, a full 95 percent of all sugar beets planted were also Roundup Ready. This means that virtually every processed food you encounter at your local supermarket that does not bear the “100% USDA Organic” label is likely to contain at least one GE component!
All is not lost, however, as we now have a practical plan to end this disaster. By educating the public about the risks of GM foods through a massive education campaign, and launching a ballot initiative in California for 2012, which will require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods and food ingredients, our plan is to generate a tipping point of consumer rejection to make GM foods thing of the past.
Several organizations, including Mercola.com, the Organic Consumers Association, the Institute for Responsible Technology, and even the Environmental Working Group are getting actively involved. But we do need your help. Here’s how you can get involved:
- If you live in California and are willing to attend a short training session and then start collecting petition signatures (you will be part of a team of 2-4 people) in early November for the California Ballot Initiative, sign up here. (For more information see: The California Ballot Initiative: Taking Down Monsanto.) Also remember to share this information with family and friends in California!
- Whether you live in California or not, please donate money to this historic effort
- Sign the petitions: Demand Clear Labels on Genetically Engineered Food and Label Genetically Engineered Foods
- Talk to organic producers and stores and ask them to actively support the California Ballot. It may be the only chance we have to have to label genetically engineered foods.
- Distribute WIDELY the Non-GMO Shopping Guide to help you identify and avoid foods with GMOs. Look for products (including organic products) that feature the Non-GMO Project Verified Seal to be sure that at-risk ingredients have been tested for GMO content. You can also download the free iPhone application that is available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications.
- For timely updates, please join the Organic Consumers Association on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.
- You can also join the Non-GMO Project on Facebook, or Twitter
In the meantime, the simplest way to avoid GM foods is to buy whole, certified organic foods. By definition, foods that are certified organic must never intentionally use GM organisms, produced without artificial pesticides and fertilizers and from an animal reared without the routine use of antibiotics, growth promoters or other drugs. Additionally, grass-fed beef will not have been fed GM corn feed.
You can also look for foods that are “non-GMO verified” by the Non-GMO Project.
Important Action Item: Support California’s Ballot Initiative to Label GMO’s!
In 2007, then-Presidential candidate Obama promised to “immediately” require GM labeling if elected. So far, nothing of the sort has transpired.
Fortunately, 24 US states have (as part of their state governance) something called the Initiative Process, where residents can bring to ballot any law they want enacted, as long as it has sufficient support. California has been busy organizing just such a ballot initiative to get mandatory labeling for genetically engineered foods sold in their state. The proposed law will be on the ballot for 2012.
Michigan and Washington are also starting similar campaigns.
Since California is the 8th largest economy in the world, a win for the California Initiative would be a huge step forward, and would affect ingredients and labeling nation-wide. Last month, a coalition of consumer, public health and environmental organizations, food companies, and individuals submitted the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act to the State Attorney General. Now, they need 800,000 signatures to get the Act on next year’s ballot.
I urge you to get involved and help in any way you can.
If you live in California, volunteer to gather petition signatures. If you live outside of California, please donate to help support this Initiative and spread the word to everyone you know in California. Be assured that what happens in California will affect the remainder of the US states, so please support this important state initiative, even if you do not live there!