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Scientific Background Concerning Genetically Engineered (GE) Crops

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The following findings highlight some of the concerns about genetically engineered (GE) crops revealed in recent scientific studies:

Possible Health Concerns
Organ failure (rats): A study published in the International Journal of Biological Sciences (http://www.biolsci.org/v05p0706.pdf) analyzing the effects of GE foods on mammalian health linked three GE corn varieties to organ failure in rats. The researchers led by Gilles-Eric Séralini of CRIIGEN and the University of Caen in France found new side effects linked with GE corn consumption that were sex- and often dose-dependent. These effects mostly occurred with the kidney and liver, while other effects noticed in the heart, adrenal glands, spleen and hematopoietic system. The researchers concluded that these data highlight signs of hepatorenal toxicity, possibly due to the new pesticides specific to each GE corn.

Glyphosate and birth defects: Research published Aug. 9, 2010, in Chemical Research in Toxicology (http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/tx1001749) confirms that glyphosate-based herbicides cause malformations in frog and chicken embryos at doses far lower than those used in agricultural spraying and well below maximum residue levels in products currently approved in the European Union. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup. Publishing the research were researchers led by Professor Andrés Carrasco, director of the Laboratory of Molecular Embryology at the University of Buenos Aires Medical School and member of Argentina’s National Council of Scientific and Technical Research. “The findings in the lab are compatible with malformations observed in humans exposed to glyphosate during pregnancy,” Carrasco reported at a press conference during the 6th European Conference of GMO Free Regions. He explained that most of the safety data on glyphosate herbicides and GE soy were provided by industry and are not independent. Carrasco began researching the embryonic effects of glyphosate after reports of high rates of birth defects in rural areas of Argentina where GE Roundup Ready soybeans are grown in large monocultures sprayed regularly from airplanes.

Impairs fertility in mice. A study published by the Austrian government found that the fertility of mice fed genetically engineered (GE) corn was severely impaired.

Impacts on animal health. Researchers from Greece reported that animal toxicology studies of GE foods indicate they can have toxic hepatic, pancreatic, renal and reproductive effects
(Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, February 2009).

Stance for labeling: The Indiana State Medical Association has passed a resolution asking its American Medical Association (AMA) delegation to take the issue of mandated labeling of GE ingredients to the national organization. It also seeks further study of the impact of these ingredients have on human health, both short- and long-term.

Serious human health risks. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine in May 2009 called for a moratorium on GE foods and warned that “GM foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health.”

Environmental Concerns
GMOs persist in streams: A study by University of Notre Dame ecologist Jennifer Tank and colleagues has found that streams throughout the Midwest receive transgenic materials from corn crop byproducts even six months after harvest. In a 2007 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Tank and other researchers had shown transgenic materials from corn pollen, leaves and cobs do, in fact, enter streams in the agricultural Midwest and can be subsequently transported to downstream water bodies. This latest study, published in the Sept. 28, 2010, edition of PNAS, investigated the fate and persistence of the material and its associated Cry1Ab insecticidal protein in a survey of 217 stream sites in northwestern Indiana six months after crop harvest. “Our study demonstrates the persistence and dispersal of crop byproducts and associated transgenic material in streams throughout the Corn Belt landscape even long after crop harvest,” the researchers concluded.

GE in the wild: Researchers at the University of Arkansas have found evidence that GE crop plants can survive and thrive in the wild. Reporting the findings at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America, scientists reported that they had found that more than 80 percent of canola plants sampled from more than 1,000 miles of roadsides around North Dakota were genetically engineered to tolerate herbicides, either glyphosate or glufonisate. In addition, two of the plants analyzed contained two transgenes, indicating that they had crosspollinated.

Resistance of insect pests: As reported in Science Magazine in 2010, Monsanto has revealed that pink bollworms, a common insect pest that feeds on cotton, have developed resistance to GE cotton in India. The GE crop contains the Cry1Ac gene from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).

Weed resistance: “The Impact of Genetically Engineered Crops on Farm Sustainability in the United States”—a 2010 report issued by The National Academies’ National Research Council—warns that GE crops could lose their effectiveness and develop more weed problems as weeds evolve their own resistance to glyphosate, unless farmers use other proven weed and insect management practices. To date, at least nine species of weeds in the United States have evolved resistance to glyphosate since GE crops were introduced. The report is available at http://www.nap.edu.

Round-up resistant weeds: A New York Times article by William Newman and Andrew Pollack (May 4, 2010) reported on the increase of superweeds that are resistant to Round-up (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/04/business/energy-environment/04weed.html?hp).

Reduction in crop diversity: Researchers attending the September 2009 World Seed Conference in Rome pointed out that seed companies using genetic engineering are reducing crop diversity, which could have serious consequences for the world’s food supplies.

Herbicide resistance: A survey by researchers at the Department of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois in Urbana, has found that Amaranthus tuberculatus, a major weed in crop fields in the Midwestern United States has developed multiple herbicide resistance, including to glyphosate (Roundup). In their research article published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, they noted, “Herbicide resistance in A. tuberculatus appears to be on the threshold of becoming an unmanageable problem in soybean.” They added, “On the basis of A. tuberculatus’s history, there is no reason to expect it will not evolve resistance to glufosinate if this herbicide is widely used. If this happens, and no new soybean post-emergence herbicides are commercialized, soybean production may not be practical in many Midwest U.S. fields.”