As a Justmeans staff writer for the Sustainable Foods editorial department, I explore the disparity between consumerism and independence through the topic of sustainability. As a self-described 'urban homesteader' I look to find the balance between a sustainable lifestyle and use of corporate convenience. I don't necessarily want to live without electricity, but I want to be comfortable if eve...
Bt Corn: Fail.
The International Journal of Biological Sciences claims that three varieties of GMO corn have now been linked with organ failure in a study performed on rats.
Specifically, the study notes,"Our analysis clearly reveals for the 3 GMOs new side effects linked with GM maize consumption, which were sex- and often dose-dependent. Effects were mostly associated with the kidney and liver, the dietary detoxifying organs, although different between the 3 GMOs. Other effects were also noticed in the heart, adrenal glands, spleen and haematopoietic system. We conclude that these data highlight signs of hepatorenal toxicity, possibly due to the new pesticides specific to each GM corn. In addition, unintended direct or indirect metabolic consequences of the genetic modification cannot be excluded."
The gist of the study is that when using RoundUp Ready crops, some of the herbicide is left-over on the food itself and inadvertently consumed. In Bt crops, the crop itself is a pesticide. Since the three crops that were studied are all corn, one has to recognize that the crops can seriously affect a large amount of people who continue to consume products made with corn, which is almost everything that comes by box or butcher.
Reports of respiratory health problems in farm workers have occurred due to breathing Bt corn pollen. Bt corn pollen is also blamed for allergic reactions in neighboring communities: In 2003, approximately 100 people living next to a Bt cornfield in the Philippines developed skin, respiratory, intestinal reactions and other symptoms while the corn was shedding pollen.
And there are a number of problems with the use of GMO corn outside of the alleged health effects. First, corn is wind-pollinated, which means the wind carries pollen from one stalk to the next. For many corn fields it's actually a requirement to have a "buffer zone" of non-GMO corn to catch the pollen spray, but what happens when THAT corn gets overwhelmed and it leaks out into the rest of the world.
BioAg companies seek to absolve themselves of responsibility for the misuse of their products,; however, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, with each year farmers continue to use Bt Corn, their compliance in its usage has declined considerably. If what BigAg wants us to believe to be true actually is true, then it can only be proven when farmers use the technology correctly - and even then, it's not perfect.
With the continuing disappearance of beneficial insects, the allergic reactions, the possible organ failure from consumption, the cross pollination, the inability to save seed (though this is also the case with other hybrids, but not for legal reasons), it raises serious question about what benefits growing GMOs can provide: It doesn't really seem like there are any at all.
Photo credit: Alton N. Sparks, Jr.