Genetically modified foods unquestionably dangerous

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Fatal exposure tests of rats to GMO foods don’t bode well for us

By Kai Yang Shiao
Photos by Ben Buckley

Time and time again, the ongoing debate regarding the application of genetic engineering of food supplies has largely failed to bring many key facts into the spotlight. Nov. 12’s point/counter-point was no different. The subsequent examination of these facts will provide strong support for the idea that that the current genetic engineering does not employ the precautionary principles it should.

GMOs are often touted as resistant to various pests and acts of god, such as droughts, and therefore must be the new norm in human societies across the world. Those in favour of GMOs often fail to consider the implications of their large-scale introduction into the mainstream agribusiness industry. It is commonly known that the wide application of pesticides has subsequently resulted in the development of future immunity by agricultural pests.

It’s Darwinism at its finest: initially, GMO plants may possess implanted genes that produce poisons to ward off potential predators and kill the vast majority of pests. Over time, however, the surviving pests reproduce and therefore pass on their resistant genes to their offspring. In accordance with the principle of natural selection, these favourable traits will eventually proliferate throughout other members of the entire species until they develop complete resistance to these plant-produced pesticides.[pullquote]Rats fed NK603 genetically modified, Roundup-resistant corn developed massive mammary tumours, with 70 per cent of females dying unusually early.[/pullquote]

To make matters worse, their massive introduction would promote genetic uniformity as opposed to genetic diversity, and therefore make them vulnerable to the new generation of pests that, unlike their ancestors, will now be resistant to the effects of pesticides and put strains on the global food supply. Therefore, the idea that GMOs can somehow solve the recurring problem in agriculture of plant destruction once and for all is fallacious. Pests are constantly adapting to their environment in order to ensure their future survival.

Another issue of crucial importance is lab work with respect to GMOs. In the scientific world, rats are often used as surrogates in place of humans for testing various pharmaceutical, agricultural, and household substances. Because humans and rats are descended from a common ancestor, it is no surprise that rats are widely known for certain genetic and therefore biological similarities to humans. Therefore, the effects of such experiments, positive and negative, will likely also be experienced by humans.

With this principle in mind, scientists conducted an independent study in which a group of laboratory rats were fed NK603 Roundup-resistant genetically modified corn developed by Monsanto. The other group of laboratory rats served as a control group, given conventionally cultivated corn by the researchers. Scientists were astonished by the wide variety of detrimental health impacts that immediately appeared in the former group of laboratory rats. They ranged from massive tumours to organ damage, and even premature death in 70 per cent of the females. While experiments such as the aforementioned one regarding genetically modified organisms (GMOs) continue to be relatively scant, the alarming results of the experiment casts doubt on the wisdom of large-scale efforts to introduce GMOs into our diets.

The findings dispute the claim that opposition to the use of such technology is simply based on scare-mongering and has no substantial basis. There is already substantial evidence suggest that a sober second look before incorporating GMOs into the mainstream food supply across the world.