By Jeremy Bloom
How safe are Monsanto’s genetically-modified (GMO) food crops?
Not so much. A new study shows that both of Monsanto’s major products (which the company claims are harmless to people) in fact can cause damage to human kidney cells.
Bugkiller + weedkiller
On the one hand, the study by Gilles-Eric Séralini at the University of Caen, France, found that despite Monsanto’s protestations to the contrary, the Bt toxin can distrupt the cell membranes of human cells, leading to their death. The toxin is only supposed to do that in the guts of the bugs it targets.
Bt has been used for years as a naturally-derived pesticide; the big difference here is that Monsanto’s gene-splicing wizards made corn and other food-bearing plants grow the Bt internally. When it’s used in organic agriculture you can just wash the Bt off with water; you can’t do that when it’s inside ever cell of the corn you’re eating.
These studies, along with the observation that Bt protein is present in the blood of pregnant women and their babies makes it an urgent matter for the health impacts of Bt proteins in GMO crops to be thoroughly investigated along with the known effects on the environment and non-target species [that is, in us].
The study also tested interactions with glyphosphate, the weedkiller Monsanto sells as the other half of its chemical romance. Monsanto’s plants are immune, so farmers douse their fields with the stuff (under the trade name “Roundup”), killing every weed plant but leaving the corn, cotton, or soybeans… which leaves a residue on the crop that also get ingested by you, the end customer.
Unsurprisingly, (to some of us, at least), the glyphosphate also caused serious problems.
This comes as France is trying to get the European Union to ban GMO crops completely. (See: France pushes to ban Monsanto’s GMO corn across the entire EU.) As Dr Sirinathsinghji noted,
The EU commission approved this crop in 2009, concluding that it “is as safe as its conventional counterpart with respect to potential effects on human and animal health”. In response to their publication the research team raised questions about the safety assessment procedure stating that their findings were a “surprising outcome and this risk was somehow overlooked” in past assessments of such crops.
Overlooked, indeed. As we noted earlier, Monsanto has been systematically blocking research into the toxic affects of their pet chemicals, as well as attacking scientists who dare to speak out against them. (See: Monsanto blocks research on GMO safety.)
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