Friday, January 13, 2012

Why We Should Be Testing Genetically Engineered Foods On Humans

How did this article slip into a publication like The Atlantic?

The Very Real Danger of Genetically Modified Foods, Ari LeVaux, The Atlantic, 9 January 2012

The thrust of the article hinges on a recent study:

Exogenous plant MIR168a specifically targets mammalian LDLRAP1: evidence of cross-kingdom regulation by microRNA, Nature: Cell Research, September 2011
"Here, we report the surprising finding that exogenous plant miRNAs are present in the sera and tissues of various animals and that these exogenous plant miRNAs are primarily acquired orally, through food intake. ... These findings demonstrate that exogenous plant miRNAs in food can regulate the expression of target genes in mammals."
Of this study, LeVaux says:
"Chinese researchers have found small pieces of rice ribonucleic acid (RNA) in the blood and organs of humans who eat rice. The Nanjing University-based team showed that this genetic material will bind to receptors in human liver cells and influence the uptake of cholesterol from the blood."
So, our food contains carbohydrates, fat, protein, vitamins, other nutrients like fiber and water, and now, as I understand this, tiny messengers that can change how our cells operate. Check. That. Out.

What does this have to do with genetically engineered (GE) foods? Well, back to the Atlantic article:
"Monsanto's website states, "There is no need for, or value in testing the safety of GM foods in humans."
"So long as the introduced protein is determined to be safe, food from GM crops determined to be substantially equivalent is not expected to pose any health risks," reads Monsanto's website."
So long as the introduced protein is determined to be safe ... But these little bits of RNA we're eating don't make proteins. Yet, they're very powerful. They can regulate how much cholesterol we take in from food, they can cause worms that eat cotton or corn (genetically engineered to contain microRNAs) to die. They "have been implicated as players in several human diseases including cancer, Alzheimer's, and diabetes."

Biotechnology companies such as Monsanto know this. But testing GE foods for the presence of, and effects of, these new substances is expensive and probably not good for the bottom line.

Mr. LeVaux says Monsanto's stance is arrogant. What say you? I say it's shrewd.

Related post: "There Are, In Fact, No Data Comparing The Food Safety Profiles Of GM Versus Conventional Breeding"

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Anonymous said...

What do you mean "should be testing"? I though this stuff was ALREADY tested!

Bix said...

It doesn't look like genetically engineered food has had much safety testing. I'll post what I found.