A truly fascinating real life story on GMO side effects no one could ever even begin imagining to foresee. It began with a Tasmanian oyster farm having a sudden onset of oyster sickness from an unknown cocktail of toxins. The problem is, the toxins had all been present in the area for as long as tests had been run, both natural and wastewater pollutants, and there had never been a problem until around 2001. The only real change in the geography was a rise in pine wood plantation acreage. The pines had been GM'd for disease resistance and yield - however, none of the toxins could even remotely be associated with either the pines or the farming methods.
The cause ? Natural pines shed needles and bark that are high in oil. The oil itself contains a natural surfactant (detergent) component. The GM'd pines surfactant had slightly better qualities than the regularly occurring one - resulting in a more stable, effective and longer lasting surfactant action. It was this surfactant that was accumulating the various toxins in the area and carrying them further downstream until ultimately, it was reaching the oyster beds. It took 8 years of detective work...
There are many reasons to be wary of GM'd crops - unfortunately, the ones that the hysterics keep harping on about aren't the ones that can cause problems.
Yes - I think this is the true conundrum of unintended consequences. Obviously, unless you're a terrorist, most negative consequences are unintended. But, in that case, unintended implies unforeseen and, given any diligence, probably means difficult if not impossible to foresee.
So, overreacting to unlikely, easily foreseen, or safely solved consequences could, very well, make it more difficult to identify or mitigate actual unintended consequences in light of the fact that continued starvation may well be a completely foreseeable consequence of doing nothing.
The other important point is that the altered pines did not, in fact, introduce the toxins, but merely assisted in their transport. The actual issue of the toxins needs remediation. Perhaps by genetically engineering oysters that break down toxins.
I think a sub-text that wasn't mentioned or theorised is that the actual discovery that the pines had anything to do with it was due to local (non-loon, real science type) activists who pushed the issue and funded much of the research themselves. Thanks to anti-GMO hysterics, initial thoughts that it may possibly have been somehow related to the pine plantations were dismissed as nuttery.
Firstly, I'd like to say that the nomenclature "GMO" is unfortunate at best to describe the modern science of transgenics. We have been messing with plants trough hybridisation for millenia. But then came the Green Revolution, where we played with the genes of plant life in a more 'scientific' way, that's when true GMOs started. Then came the life-patenting legislations of the late 80s, which changed the game entirely. Now we have more aptly named transgenics, genetic modifications which can not occur without genetic poking. The oddity about food produced by transgenics is that agribiz convinced, WITHOUT EVIDENCE, government that no studies (or labelling) were even necessary, as these new plants were in no way different from the previous ones. That's when the government peons were hoodwinked.
For the sake of commonality, I will continue to use the term GMO, even tho I dislike it entirely.
Here's one of the better referenced articles I've come across against GMOs: Doctors Are Warning: Avoid Genetically Modified Food
Extract: The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) has called on all physicians to prescribe diets without genetically modified (GM) foods to all patients. They called for a moratorium on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), long-term independent studies, and labelling, stating,
"Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food, including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system.
...There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation..."
[1.] American Academy of Environmental Medicine
[2.] Irina Ermakova, "Genetically modified soy leads to the decrease of weight and high mortality of rat pups of the first generation. Preliminary studies," Ecosinform 1 (2006): 4 - 9.
[3.] Irina Ermakova, "Experimental Evidence of GMO Hazards," Presentation at Scientists for a GM Free Europe, EU Parliament, Brussels, June 12, 2007
[4.] Irina Ermakova, "Experimental Evidence of GMO Hazards," Presentation at Scientists for a GM Free Europe, EU Parliament, Brussels, June 12, 2007
[5.] L. Vecchio et al, "Ultrastructural Analysis of Testes from Mice Fed on Genetically Modified Soybean," European Journal of Histochemistry 48, no. 4 (Oct - Dec 2004):449 - 454.
[6.] Oliveri et al., "Temporary Depression of Transcription in Mouse Pre-implantion Embryos from Mice Fed on Genetically Modified Soybean," 48th Symposium of the Society for Histochemistry, Lake Maggiore (Italy), September 7 - 10, 2006.
[7.] Alberta Velimirov and Claudia Binter, "Biological effects of transgenic maize NK603xMON810 fed in long term reproduction studies in mice," Forschungsberichte der Sektion IV, Band 3/2008
[8.] erry Rosman, personal communication, 2006
[9.] See for example, A. Dutton, H. Klein, J. Romeis, and F. Bigler, "Uptake of Bt-toxin by herbivores feeding on transgenic maize and consequences for the predator Chrysoperia carnea," Ecological Entomology 27 (2002): 441 - 7; and J. Romeis, A. Dutton, and F. Bigler, "Bacillus thuringiensis toxin (Cry1Ab) has no direct effect on larvae of the green lacewing Chrysoperla carnea (Stephens) (Neuroptera: Chrysopidae)," Journal of Insect Physiology 50, no. 2 - 3 (2004): 175 - 183.
[10.] Washington State Department of Health, "Report of health surveillance activities: Asian gypsy moth control program," (Olympia, WA: Washington State Dept. of Health, 1993).
[11.] M. Green, et al., "Public health implications of the microbial pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis: An epidemiological study, Oregon, 1985-86," Amer. J. Public Health 80, no. 7(1990): 848 - 852.
[12.] Ashish Gupta et. al., "Impact of Bt Cotton on Farmers' Health (in Barwani and Dhar District of Madhya Pradesh)," Investigation Report, Oct - Dec 2005.
[13.] October 24, 2005 correspondence between Arpad Pusztai and Brian John
[14.] John M. Burns, "13-Week Dietary Subchronic Comparison Study with MON 863 Corn in Rats Preceded by a 1-Week Baseline Food Consumption Determination with PMI Certified Rodent Diet #5002." December 17, 2002
[15.] Alberto Finamore, et al, "Intestinal and Peripheral Immune Response to MON810 Maize Ingestion in Weaning and Old Mice," J. Agric. Food Chem., 2008, 56 (23), pp 11533 - 11539, November 14, 2008
[16.] See L Zolla, et al, "Proteomics as a complementary tool for identifying unintended side effects occurring in transgenic maize seeds as a result of genetic modifications," J Proteome Res. 2008 May;7(5):1850-61; Hye-Yung Yum, Soo-Young Lee, Kyung-Eun Lee, Myung-Hyun Sohn, Kyu-Earn Kim, "Genetically Modified and Wild Soybeans: An immunologic comparison," Allergy and Asthma Proceedings 26, no. 3 (May - June 2005): 210-216(7); and Gendel, "The use of amino acid sequence alignments to assess potential allergenicity of proteins used in genetically modified foods," Advances in Food and Nutrition Research 42 (1998), 45 - 62.
[17.] A. Pusztai and S. Bardocz, "GMO in animal nutrition: potential benefits and risks," Chapter 17, Biology of Nutrition in Growing Animals, R. Mosenthin, J. Zentek and T. Zebrowska (Eds.) Elsevier, October 2005
[18.] "Mortality in Sheep Flocks after Grazing on Bt Cotton Fields - Warangal District, Andhra Pradesh" Report of the Preliminary Assessment, April 2006
[19.] Personal communication and visit, January 2009.
[20.] Jeffrey M. Smith, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, Yes! Books, Fairfield, IA USA 2007
[21.] Arpad Pusztai, "Can Science Give Us the Tools for Recognizing Possible Health Risks for GM Food?" Nutrition and Health 16 (2002): 73 - 84.
[22.] Netherwood et al, "Assessing the survival of transgenic plant DNA in the human gastrointestinal tract," Nature Biotechnology 22 (2004): 2.
[23.] See memos at Biointegrity.org
[24.] Kathryn Anne Paez, et al, "Rising Out-Of-Pocket Spending For Chronic Conditions: A Ten-Year Trend," Health Affairs, 28, no. 1 (2009): 15-25
...The Cavendish is still a cloned cultivar propagated through taking offshoots. This is an extreme example of a more general problem with agriculture – the lack of genetic diversity. Everyone picking the best crops to produce tends to limit diversity, which makes a crop more susceptible to infection and other problems. Genetic diversity is a hedge against extinction – a hedge our agriculture increasingly lacks. But bananas are and extreme example as there is practically no genetic diversity...
Attempts to control these infections with traditional means – by fighting the infections themselves – are failing. Attempts to use traditional breeding and cultivation techniques to develop a resistant cultivar have been sporadic and have failed to yield any results. The situation is actually quite dire.
But there is potential good news for East African banana farmers – researchers have managed to insert genes from the green pepper that convey resistance to BXW into a banana cultivar. Field testing still needs to be done, and if all goes well it will likely be years before local farmers benefit from the new GM varieties of banana, but this is good news for banana growers everywhere, and the millions who depend upon bananas for food.
Genetic engineering appears to be the only technology that will work quickly enough to develop resistant cultivars of banana before they are wiped out by infection. Dan Koeppel, author of Banana, believes it is our only hope of saving this important crop...
The issue of mono-culture and decreased diversity is a serious one. The expansion of seed banks is a necessary hedge against mono-culture failure. I believe the existing banks carry the full genetic complement of the worlds food crops.
I think that the seed bank concept should be expanded to actual cropping of all major varieties to build a reserve stock of seeds that could be used in case a of major disease in the hybridized or GM crops.