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    GM, Conventional, And Organic Food Safety
    By Gerhard Adam | October 2nd 2012 08:00 AM | 51 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    It seems that as this discussion continues, more and more concepts become conflated producing all manner of irrelevant comparisons that create more and more confusion.

    In the first place, we have the problem of defining what we even mean by food safety.  Truth be told, we don't have any idea what constitutes "safe" food beyond the fact that we may have a history of consuming it without obvious incidence.  Even here, we have a basic problem because many people may have allergies or sensitivites that have always existed, or are now being recognized.

    So, the notion of food "safety" is a relative concept suggesting that we have some general states of reaction an individual may experience.  In the first, there is no apparent effect from consuming the food and the individual thrives as well from this source as any other.  In the second instance people may suffer extreme reactions, such as allergies that render such foods toxic.  Again, the difference here is not in the food but in the individual's reaction to it.  In the third instance there is no overt toxic effect, but the individual may simply fail to thrive on the food.  This situation might be considered a kind of low-level toxicity where no overt symptoms are presented, beyond the food not agreeing particularly well with the individual.  One could also consider negative effects that might occur because of long-term exposure to a particular food in this category.

    From this it should be clear that any pronouncement of "safety" is a qualified assessment and subject to being wrong depending on the individual exposed.  As a result, we should be cognizant of the fact that whenever food is modified in any form, we may well change the profile of the "risk" for certain individuals.  Food that was formerly "safe" may become problematic, just as food that may have posed a risk previously, may also change.  We simply don't know and, more importantly, we don't actually know how to test for these things beyond a rough approach regarding allergies or overt toxicity.

    As has also been stated repeatedly, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with modifying a plant through direct genetic manipulation.  Regardless of the method employed, ALL modifications incur the risk of producing undesired results in some individuals.  There's simply no circumventing that, since it is intrinsic in the nature of food and people's reactions to it.

    From this we can see how the concept of "substantial equivalence" arises, since it provides a baseline indicating that if we have a certain level of acceptance [i.e. produces no obvious harm] by people, recognizing that it may cause adverse reactions in others, then any modification [regardless of source] will be no worse than the conventional food.  However, let's also remember that we are specifically talking about the food itself.  This has nothing to do with whether there are pesticide residues, or any other source of contamination to the food item itself.  As a result, we can argue that GM foods, conventional foods, and organic foods all satisfy this baseline requirement of being substantially equivalent to each other regarding their nutritional value and their ability to be tolerated by the average person.  This doesn't preclude adverse reactions from some people with sensitivities or allergies, but we would expect to see no differences in such reactions regardless of whether it was GM, conventional, or organic food.

    As a result, food can never be proven to be safe any more than any tests can be conducted from which a claim of safety can be assured.  All that can ever be stated is that there is no evidence to suggest that any food is less safe than its former conventional equivalent.
    ==============================

    The second aspect of food production is post-production handling.  This would involve all manner of activities ranging from pesticide residues on the plants, to the presence of antibiotics, steroids, etc. in animals.  In short, all the elements associated with the product over and above the food itself would be considered in this context.  If conventional foods have pesticide residue that incurs an adverse reaction in individuals, it is important to recognize that this is a processing issue and not something intrinsic in the food itself.  As an example, an E. Coli outbreak from beef doesn't suggest that beef is a problem food for humans, it merely indicates that better post-production processes need to be in place to avoid such contamination.  Similarly when outbreaks of salmonella occur, then they are the result of contamination during food handling and not the food itself.

    In not making this distinction it simply confuses the issue around food safety.  Similarly incidences can occur in kitchens when the proper precautions aren't taken with respect to storing meats and vegetables, or cross-contaminating foods during the cooking process.  Each carries a certain risk which can have dramatic consequences, but should not be conflated with the safety of the food source itself.

    ==============================

    From this we can begin to see where some of the controversy surrounding conventional and organic foods comes from.  Clearly a tomato is a tomato is a tomato, and yet when someone wants to allege that one method of growing is superior to another, they are arguing that there is some post-production element that is different.  Invariably this involves issues regarding the use of pesticides or some other "artificial" method of enhancing or producing the final crop.  

    The argument that one form of production is "healthier" than another is also based on the idea that there is some artifact present [i.e. pesticide residues] that makes one form of the product more "dangerous" than another.  Of course, if one could ensure that all such residues were removed, then it would be impossible to distinguish between conventional and organic foods.

    When GM foods are considered, the problem changes slightly because the modification involves the manipulation of a plant's genes directly.  In the case of Bt toxin, the bacterial gene, normally present in soil bacteria, is placed in the plant so that the toxin can be produced protecting the plant from a particular insect pest.  Bt toxin is not toxic to humans, so by the assumption of "substantial equivalence", there is no fundamental change in the plants nutritional qualities, and no apparent risk increase because of the presence of the toxin.  Certainly many people object simply because of the word "toxin" which invariably conveys the idea that some poison is being introduced into their food supply, but in fairness, there are many toxins routinely produced by bacteria, in and around us, which simply have no effect on humans.  As a result, there is no indication that Bt toxin present in a plant should carry any higher risk than its normal occurrence in the soil and our routine exposure to it.

    While it is always possible that the presence of Bt toxin could induce an allergic reaction in some individuals, the 90-day animal studies have demonstrated that there appears to be no toxic effect in the animals, and no indication that any allergic-type reactions are present.  Since Bt toxin is not associated with any allergies, the principle of "substantial equivalence" suggests that there is no compelling reason to presume that it has allergenic properties in humans.

    ===============================

    So what is the problem or controversy surrounding GM foods?

    The simple fact is that when we examine all the data and consider all the studies, we simply don't know whether such modifications may produce unexpected effects later or not.  Regardless of how unlikely such events are, we simply don't know.  In the absence of any actual human studies we are simply extrapolating the results of animal studies.  Is this a reasonable approach?  Again, we simply don't know since there is no real precedent for this in our food supply. 

    While Bt toxin may not be harmful, can the same be said of glyphosate [Roundup]?  Even if not harmful to humans, might they be harmful or affect the ecology of the human microbiota?  How about in infants, or pregnant women?  Might some of these genes be transferred by Horizontal Gene Transfer (HGT) to other microbes that would increase their persistence in the environment?  After all, antibiotic resistance in pathogens is often provided by our own gut bacteria that have the antibiotic resistant trait.  These questions aren't intended to provide fodder for the precautionary principle, but rather to illustrate that there are no "free lunches" in nature, and that for every action we take, there will be a dozen we didn't anticipate.  So when we elect to take a risk, let's not do it naively and presume that we've already planned for all the possibilities.

    Certainly arguments have been made that genetic modification is more precise than plant hybridization and other methods that have been used over the centuries.   Since humans have typically fared well, it is often presumed that past results will be reliable indicators of future results.  It may be true, but it isn't scientific.  Similarly we are discovering that perhaps some of our plant hybridization methods have already produced unintended consequences in some people, particularly as is being observed with respect to the presence of gluten in wheat.  

    Changes of any sort have the potential to create problems.  Consequently regardless of how confident we are that something won't cause a problem, we should have learned by now that there are far more subtleties in biology that we may be unaware of.  

    Does this mean that we should just invoke the precautionary principle and avoid all technological changes?  Of course not, but I think that we do need to be clear on what specific problems we are going to solve.  Making changes simply to be making changes is not an option.  The practice of science is not the practice of public policy and regardless of what science demonstrates, that is no basis for making arbitrary public policy changes that aren't warranted.  Unfortunately, the implementation of scientific policies is often economic, and economics invariably lacks the nuances that are often presented in scientific theories.

    As an analogy, we can certainly recognize that insects are an excellent source of protein in a diet.  There's no scientific dispute on the matter, so one could easily make the argument that insect protein would potentially be healthier for us than many of the animals we currently consume.  Yet, I can't imagine anyone being in favor of the government or corporations arbitrarily introducing insects into our diet and not tell us about it.  There are many aspects of our food that have nothing to do with science, but rather are based on our cultural beliefs.  Regardless of the science, individuals have the right to pursue their personal beliefs regarding food.  It doesn't matter what science says about nutritional equivalence, since such a food choice isn't about nutrition alone.

    When we examine the overall controversy about GM, conventional, and organic foods, we should recognize that one aspect of it involves personal beliefs for which no science will ever change minds.  The other aspect of it involves businesses striving to gain market share and control the markets.  Whether one is fully satisfied with the studies involving the safety of consuming GM foods, I expect that these products are substantially equivalent and don't present a clear risk at this point.  I also don't believe this is a condition that will persist, but there are for more significant problems that need to be addressed which appear to be ignored because of this distraction regarding food safety.  It is these issues that I will address in my next post and outline my own opposition to GM foods.

    Comments

    Very well said and clearly articulated arguments.

    I reject them all.

    Gerhard Adam
    Very well said and clearly articulated arguments.
    Thank you
    I reject them all.
    Of course
    Mundus vult decipi
    Sorry, just some Sheldon Cooper humor.

    Gerhard Adam
    Sorry ... I missed the connection
    Mundus vult decipi
    Thor Russell
    Well done, this is more balanced than most articles on this site recently, which seemed a bit like cheerleading. You make a good point about equivalence with eating insects. 
    Seriously though maybe insects should be given more thought, according to this (seems to exaggerate stuff however) 10 units of vegetable feed makes 9 units of insect, vs 1 unit of cow. 
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IW9bjKC9Y6g

    Thor Russell
    Gerhard Adam
    Thank you.  I certainly don't have a problem with the idea of incorporating insects into our diet as a healthier source of protein.  My objection stems from the idea that simply because science demonstrates that something is beneficial, they don't have an obligation to tell the consumer what they've done.

    I personally find it interesting that when the accusation is that fast food is unhealthy [which is supported by science], we invariably hear how people have the right to purchase whatever foods they like and that attempts to legislate healthier diets is government interference.  Yet, when the same argument of choice is made regarding GMO foods, then suddenly those that want the information are "anti-science". 

    I can smell politics a mile away.
    Mundus vult decipi
    UvaE
    I personally find it interesting that when the accusation is that fast food is unhealthy [which is supported by science], we invariably hear how people have the right to purchase whatever foods they like and that attempts to legislate healthier diets is government interference.  Yet, when the same argument of choice is made regarding GMO foods, then suddenly those that want the information are "anti-science". 
    Seeking more knowledge about GMO foods should not branded "anti science" , but the way large numbers make up their minds based on emotional arguments is not exactly rational either. 


    How frequently people purchase fast food is a major factor in its link to health. Also, not all fast foods are equal. For both those reasons, the consumer does have a right in choosing, and the government should avoid bans.* With regard to choice and GMO foods, it's not any different as with other traditionally modified foods(artificial selection); once a food enters mass production, it is difficult to get hold of the original food. Where, for example, can I get some wild tomatoes as grown in South America, 400 years ago? The closest I could get to those is if I know somebody from a research seed bank.

    * industry is also very clever in finding substitutes for banned substances--think of how modified palm oil replaced trans fats, so the whole process was a colossal waste of time and money.
    Gerhard Adam
    ...but the way large numbers make up their minds based on emotional arguments is not exactly rational either.
    I fully agree, but it isn't rational to simply be a cheer-leader either.  Yet, it will be both of these groups that actually use and implement the GM foods.  It won't be scientists. 

    Don't think of the technology as existing in some vacuum.  Think of how it will be, in practice, when people make decisions based on their own beliefs, their own motivations, profit, etc. etc. etc. 

    The benefit touted for GM foods does not have to wait on legislation in California.  I'll believe that aspect of it, when I see it being implemented in those countries that need it.  Until then, I'm going to presume that past behavior is indicative of future behavior ... we lack the political will and social infrastructure to solve the hunger problem.  Many of these seed producers have already created organizations intended to address food production problems in Africa and other difficult places.  It sounds like it could be a good thing.  However, they don't need my permission to proceed.

    In other words, they can readily demonstrate the benefits they're touting.  Win over the people.  I have no quarrel with that.  As has already been repeatedly stated, many of these products have been on the market for decades .... so where are the steps to alleviate hunger?

    In short, I don't believe that starvation is a scientific problem to be solved.  Starvation is largely the product of man [as it applies to humans].  So, any proposed solutions won't likely work, because they won't be used.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hi Gerhard

    Might some of these genes be transferred by Horizontal Gene Transfer (HGT) to other microbes that would increase their persistence in the environment? After all, antibiotic resistance in pathogens is often provided by our own gut bacteria that have the antibiotic resistant trait. These questions aren't intended to provide fodder for the precautionary principle (why not?), but rather to illustrate that there are no "free lunches" in nature, and that for every action we take, there will be a dozen we didn't anticipate. So when we elect to take a risk, let's not do it naively and presume that we've already planned for all the possibilities.

    1. The Agrobacterium tumefaciens vector used to transform genetically modified plants by insertion of its Tumor inducing-plasmid-DNA is related to several bacterial pathogens with serious and often difficult to diagnose diseases affecting people, like Bartonella.

    Agrobacterium isn't a nice bug.

    If one imagines this vector meeting up with one of a number of human pathogens and participating in lateral gene transfer...not such nice diseases could be imagined to happen.

    Based on phylogenetic analysis of the 16S rRNA sequences, the relatedness of Bartonella spp. to other alpha-2 Proteobacteria including Brucella spp., Afipia spp., Agrobacterium tumefaciens, Bradyrhizobium spp. and Bosea spp. has been demonstrated http://jb.asm.org/content/182/17/4849.full

    Brucella spp. belong, like Agrobacterium spp.,Rhizobium spp., and Rickettsia spp., to the alpha-2 subgroup of the Proteobacteria (14). Most genera of this group are characterized by their ability to interact pericellularly or intracellularly with eukaryotic cells either as pathogens or as endosymbionts.
    http://jb.asm.org/content/182/17/4849.full

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11514518

    Lancet. 1995 Nov 25;346(8987):1433.
    Is Hodgkin's disease a human counterpart of bacterially induced crown-gall tumours?
    Sauter C.

    Genetic transformation of HeLa cells by Agrobacterium
    Talya Kunik,*†‡ Tzvi Tzfira,* Yoram Kapulnik,† Yedidya Gafni,† Colin Dingwall,‡§ and Vitaly Citovsky*¶
    Author information ► Article notes ► Copyright and License information ►
    This article has been cited by other articles in PMC.
    Go to:
    ABSTRACT
    Agrobacterium tumefaciens is a soil phytopathogen that elicits neoplastic growths on the host plant species. In nature, however, Agrobacterium also may encounter organisms belonging to other kingdoms such as insects and animals that feed on the infected plants. Can Agrobacterium, then, also infect animal cells? Here, we report that Agrobacterium attaches to and genetically transforms several types of human cells. In stably transformed HeLa cells, the integration event occurred at the right border of the tumor-inducing plasmid's transferred-DNA (T-DNA), suggesting bona fide T-DNA transfer and lending support to the notion that Agrobacterium transforms human cells by a mechanism similar to that which it uses for transformation of plants cells. Collectively, our results suggest that Agrobacterium can transport its T-DNA to human cells and integrate it into their genome....

    That Agrobacterium carrying a neomycin resistance gene within its T-DNA generated stable antibiotic-resistant lines of human cells expands its potential host range from plants, yeast, and filamentous fungi to mammalian cells. Here, transformation of human cells has been observed in laboratory conditions; whether it may be relevant biologically in nature remains unknown. Interestingly, Agrobacterium or Agrobacterium-related species have been suggested to be involved in several human diseases (55, 56).

    Since nongenetically engineered food by definition can't carry this vector, I don't see how the concept of substantial equivalence can hold be held up, scientifically.

    I think you're confusing two different concepts.

    Horizontal gene transfer of the transgenes in the plants is not a likely scenario. Even if it were who cares if yoru e. coli is round up ready. There won't be any environmental pressure to select for it. Big difference with antibiotic resistances. Antibiotics can selectively kill bacteria. Glyphosate is not an antibiotic. Bt is even less scary, unless you're super concerned with the insecticidal properties of bacteria. And again, no selective pressure, so transfer all you want, no benefit no proliferation.

    The agrobacterium thing seems to be direct gene transfer. However the assumption that GE plants CAN or DO carry this is a big one. You use it as a vector, and that doesn't mean that it can or will be present in the resultant mature plant. If it was you would most certainly have physiological problems with the plants themesleves. They woudl have galls and worse problems. So wouldn't it be self-screening? This is a big stretchy to uncertainty. Kind of like saying insulin carrying transgenic bacteria cultures will have a lot of bactariophages in them since this is used as a vector. In reality if that were true it would pose a big and clear problem of phages killing the culture.

    sorry, I posted the wrong link for Bartonella above.
    It is thought to be an under-diagnosed disease because of the vague symptoms and the fact that there are only a couple of MDs and DVMs researching it and familiar with it.

    Bartonella: new explanations for old diseases
    GILBERT GREUB and DIDIER RAOULT

    Based on phylogenetic analysis of the 16S rRNA sequences, the relatedness of Bartonella spp. to other alpha-2 Proteobacteria including Brucella spp., Afipia spp., Agrobacterium tumefaciens,

    http://jmm.sgmjournals.org/content/51/11/915.full

    Bordetella pertussis.

    Promiscuous DNA transfer system of Agrobacterium tumefaciens: role of the virB operon in sex pilus assembly and synthesis.
    Similar amino acid sequences of the conjugative transfer genes of F, R388 as well as plasmid RP4 and the genes of the ptI operon of Bortedella pertussis suggest the existence of a superfamily of transmembrane proteins adapted to the promiscuous transfer of DNA-protein complexes.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7914664

    Gerhard Adam
    Thanks for your comments.  The reason I made the comment about "fodder for the precautionary principle" is that I really hope that there is more serious scientific dialogue and not simply people circling the wagons and bringing up all manner of conspiracies and "Monsanto is the anti-christ" type comments.

    What I would hope to encourage is less hubris and more seriousness as to the experiments we are conducting.  Given that we can't even identify 99% of the microbes we live with [since they can't even be cultured in the lab] and the wide range of genetic material available to these microbes, I think that a little prudence is in order.

    Our ignorance becomes magnified by several orders of magnitude when we begin to examine the microbiota of other animals and all the possible interactions for which we don't even have preliminary information, let alone predictive data.

    More importantly, we're only now beginning to discover how crucial a role our microbes play in our own development.  The possible effects on infants, pregnant women, and developing children is completely outside our ability to predict at this time.  Some people will take this to be alarmist, but I'm not arguing that this technology should be banned.  Instead, I'm suggesting that we be prudent in our application of it.

    If the argument is that this will help starving people, then the risk/benefit of that is completely different than that of the family shopping at Whole Foods.  Let's not be naive. 

    However, it does create a completely different scenario that can be even worse.  We've recently seen the introduction of non-typhoidal salmonella in Sub-Saharan Africa.  So, basically we don't actually know how any of these modifications are going to fare, or their possible impacts in the various environments in which we expect to introduce them.

    I personally think the technology has great potential.  However, like nuclear energy, it is a technology that has great promise for benefit and abuse.  This isn't an new iPhone being introduced.  So, I would rather that people be concerned and ask the hard questions, rather than engaging in name-calling as if people have no right to their concerns.  Let's convince people that the technology is good and capable of being handled properly, instead of just trying to jam it down people's throat with the added insult of claiming they're too stupid to make such decisions for themselves.
    Mundus vult decipi
    The comparison of biotechnology to nuclear energy is very appropriate; one I've thought of as well. Properly designed nuclear reactors can power our cities, while nuclear weapons and radiation cause cancer, harmful mutations and death. Proper deployment of biotech gave us life saving drugs-- insulin, interferon, erythropoietin, c-GSF.
    Rushed, pure-profit -motivated deployment has the potential to seriously damage our DNA.
    I think you stated it very well- I really have nothing else to add.

    UvaE
    It is these issues that I will address in my next post and outline my own opposition to GM foods.
    Interesting. A short while ago you were standing on the fence, so I'll surely read your next post to see what caused you to jump to one side. Almost a decade ago, James Watson and Andrew Berry co-wrote a book entitled DNA, and one of its chapters--Tempest in a Cereal Box--made me realize how much beneficial potential GM foods have even though the science is associated with unforeseen side effects, some of which have been nipped in the bud(the introduction of the Brazil nut protein into other plants).
    Gerhard Adam
    There's absolutely no question about the potential for benefit, just as there's no question about the potential for abuse.  I'm certainly not seeking bans, but this is a technology we're being entirely too casual about [and it doesn't really have anything to do with food safety].
    Mundus vult decipi
    I guess my thinking is that we play the uncertainty card forever, and never be sure of anything.

    Or we make calculated risks based on our best science. I think we've dilluted the facts by focussing on rat feeding rather than sophisticated biochemical analysis. We seem to overlook proteomics and the work that is done on modified food to screen for allergens, etc.

    I think we have to take the REAL risk of horizontal gene transfer serously. But being real means not letting activists blow it out of proportion. I mean, come on, is a round up ready or bt-toxin containing pathogen remotely scarey? I mean infections are nasty and all, but I dont' know of any doctors using glyphosate to treat staph, nor have i heard of the super scary bt toxin producing E.coli. These things just don't matter that much. In the absence of the selection tool they won't proliferate. With antibiotics, we select for the resistant gene carriers by overusing them in. If the same bugs get round up, they won't ever have a natural-selction based advantage.

    Similarly the idea that we can't know long term effects is technically true. But it is true with many things. So rather than doing long term human studies, why don't we accept biochemical analysis of composition and use it with the rather sophisticated science and toxicology screening tools we already are using? We shouldn't have to feed something to an animal for years to know if there is a compound of mixture of compounds that hold any carcinogenic or chronic illness potential. The substantial equivalancy philosophy is a good one if we're doing comparitive analysis of gm and isogenic crops.

    The reality is this stuff is being done, but we somehow let the very same uncertainties that exist in, say an apple, paralyze us on trusting bt corn. Are the uncertainties bigger? Probably not when you actually analyze the composition. Truth is GMO anything has probably had exponentially more analysis than any conventional food.

    I say we look at the real risks. Stop letting activists introduce uncertainties as if they are trump cards, and do what we've always done - examine risk and mitigate it because nothing is certain.

    Also, I don't think we should let terminology frutrate us too much. I'm okay with saying something is safe, and understanding that all that really means is that the risks are believed to be very minimal. That's okay, and I don't think we need to change advertising to reflect the technical truth. I don't want anybody to be barred from calling any product "safe."

    Gerhard Adam
    Mike

    The primary problem with your argument is that it won't be scientists that control the technology, nor will they be the ones that formulate public policy or implement decisions.  That's always the problem with such technologies, is that the people that can make the best decisions won't even be asked.

    As a result, it isn't about what science says, it's about what some political leader decides, or what some farmer in the field actually does, or what some corporate executive determines.  Those are the players.  I fully agree that arbitrary scare tactics aren't helpful and are not going to help us manage this technology any better.  It's like trying to "unwish" nuclear weapons.  That genie's never going back in the bottle.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    So rather than doing long term human studies, why don't we accept biochemical analysis of composition and use it with the rather sophisticated science and toxicology screening tools we already are using? We shouldn't have to feed something to an animal for years to know if there is a compound of mixture of compounds that hold any carcinogenic or chronic illness potential. The substantial equivalancy philosophy is a good one if we're doing comparitive analysis of gm and isogenic crops.
    I would suggest that part of the issue here extends outside the science.  Certainly over the past few years people have become increasingly aware of products [i.e. pharmaceuticals] being introduced into the marketplace and then within a year or so, recalled with all manner of health issues.  When one considers that the amount of time/money, etc. that goes into supporting the federal agencies that are supposed to be ensuring that safe products come to market, this raises a red flag about their effectiveness.  Moreover, it creates the impression that the rigor necessary to claim "safety' simply isn't being followed.  From here, of course, people will assign blame based on their own bias and beliefs, but the point remains, that someone introduced a product that wasn't safe.

    This is then often coupled with the fact that there doesn't appear to be any justice in such a system, so people [depending on the degree of harm] are forced to engage in lawsuits, since there are no other mechanisms or remedies for solution.

    Then let's throw into this mix, that the medical community is often slow to consider more novel causes for disease or health problems [as well as all the conflicting information presented through the media], and you have a public that doesn't trust its doctors to recognize if something were to be wrong because of GM foods, etc.  There's a sense that they will all simply tow the "party line", instead of actually investigating.  There is much anecdotal evidence to suggest that many people are often improperly diagnosed with conditions that often take considerable effort on their part to finally be resolved.  While anecdotes are not evidence, they become part of the folklore that governs public perception about how reliable the medical community will be to safeguard their interests against new and novel products.

    I could go on and on, but the net result is that people simply don't trust the internal societal structures that are supposed to be looking out for them.  For years, the attitude seems to be that people need to take more "personal responsibility" and to stop believing in "entitlements", as if somehow being a member of society didn't grant one any rights or expectations.

    So, now the chickens are coming home to roost.  There is a public backlash, and it may not necessarily be rational, but it is something that illustrates that these people are not helpless.  The idea that they should somehow just "shut up, do what they're told, and spend their money", is something that isn't being passively accepted any more. 

    Right or wrong, every time one of these people is labeled "anti-science", you will cause them to become more "anti-science".  Every time they are told that they don't understand, or that they're stupid, or that they're whatever ... you create more enemies. 

    The primary reason, is that people recognize that those peddling "solutions" are in no position to actually implement them.  If something goes wrong, those same people will shrug their shoulders and claim that no one could've known, or that science is changing when new evidence is found.  In short, people are tired of being taken advantage of, for every new profit-making scheme that comes down the road.

    In truth, I suspect that when people consider GM foods, they view it in the same category as "pet rocks".  It's a technology that most feel they don't need, being foisted on a public for no better reason than to manipulate market share and control of food.  They're not buying it.


    Mundus vult decipi
    Interesting article Gerhard.
    You mentioned " Bt toxin is not toxic to humans, so by the assumption of "substantial equivalence", there is no fundamental change in the plants nutritional qualities, and no apparent risk increase because of the presence of the toxin".
    I am willing to admit I'm not a scientist, but I am an avid reader and well educated.
    How can you be sure the BT toxiin is not toxic to humans? Have there ever been any studies on this?
    Trace

    Gerhard Adam
    Well, actually Bt toxin has been used for years as an organic farming pesticide.  But like anything else, obviously quantities, amount of exposure, etc. can all have influences on the type of effects they might produce. 

    At present, even though some studies have claimed that Bt toxin has a more dangerous aspect to it, such claims don't really hold up very well.  In particular, the far-ranging claims of toxicity are too non-specific to be of much value.  Assertions that it affects the liver or kidneys, or causes tumors just sound like wild claims.  In addition, even some of the claims that it produces undesirable effects in human cells is unconvincing.

    After all, it is important to remember that sitting too close to your television will also expose you to x-rays that will have an effect on your cells, so it's all in the telling.

    Since the general outcome of these studies, both with respect to GM usage, and simply as an external pesticide seem to confirm that there is no obvious toxicity from Bt toxin, I elected to not engage in that fight in this article.   In addition, there have been a large number of years in which these foods have been present in the human diet, and there is nothing specifically that indicates such toxicity linkages exist. 

    Might there be long-term effects or unintended effects?  Possibly, but frankly I don't think anyone's willing to crawl out on that limb to make predictions.  Of far more concern would be the Roundup ready, since that is a toxin that is also present.

    However, again, I don't believe there's sufficient data to warrant creating the alarm of toxicity, when the likely effects are going to be confined to allergic or sensitive individuals.  This isn't to minimize the effect it may have on them, but that truly is no more substantial that the risks already present from hybridized plants.  I don't think the claim can be made that they are safe, but then the claim that they are dangerous is equally without merit.

    Now you might well criticize that there are an inadequate number of studies, or that they should be more rigorous, or that they should be more specific, etc.  I have no quarrel with collecting more data.  My only point is that given the data that we have, then there is no indication [strong or weak] that GM foods engineered with Bt toxin are any more dangerous that conventional or organic foods and the exposure people would have from toxins in those products.

    EDIT NOTE:  I found the paper I was looking for.

    "No complaints were made after eighteen humans ate one gram (g) of commercial B.t. preparation daily for five days, on alternate days. Some inhaled 100 milligrams (mg) of the powder daily, in addition to the dietary dosage (6). Humans who ate one g/day of B.t.k. for three consecutive days were not poisoned or infected (12)."
    http://pmep.cce.cornell.edu/profiles/extoxnet/24d-captan/bt-ext.html
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    "No complaints were made after eighteen humans ate one gram (g) of commercial B.t. preparation daily for five days, on alternate days. Some inhaled 100 milligrams (mg) of the powder daily, in addition to the dietary dosage (6). Humans who ate one g/day of B.t.k. for three consecutive days were not poisoned or infected (12)."
    http://pmep.cce.cornell.edu/profiles/extoxnet/24d-captan/bt-ext.html

    Gerhard, this paper you linked to was written in 1994 and it was testing the effects of Bt crystals, not BT GM food, on humans by giving it to them every other day for 5 days, that is just 3 doses, not even a short term 30 day study! You then went on to say :-
    Now you might well criticize that there are an inadequate number of studies, or that they should be more rigorous, or that they should be more specific, etc.  I have no quarrel with collecting more data.  My only point is that given the data that we have, then there is no indication [strong or weak] that GM foods engineered with Bt toxin are any more dangerous that conventional or organic foods and the exposure people would have from toxins in those products.
    Well yes, there are an inadequate number of studies for something as important as this. The paper you quoted mentions that normal routes of exposure to Bt are not toxic however they did not test the BT in every cell of a genetically modified (GM) plant new oral route. Interestingly they did say that :-
    B.t. crystals have caused deaths in test animals when they were injected directly into the abdominal cavity. This suggests that B.t. can be toxic to mammals, but that when exposure is through normal routes of exposure (oral, dermal or inhalation), metabolism or elimination of the toxin prevents poisoning in mammals (19).
    As you know nearly every one of the short term studies of animals being fed Bt GM food has shown 'significant effects' upon the animal's internal organs whenever the organs were measured and nearly all of them recommend further studies. One study also showed rats and other animals getting fatter on Bt GM food than controls fed the same amount of non Bt GM food.

    So why is the recent 2012 Seralini et al 'Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize' cancerous rat study the only scientific, publicized, peer reviewed long term study that has ever been done in the world, testing the long term health effects of feeding Bt GM or roundup resistant GM food to rats or any other animal?

    I definitely want more long term studies to be done before I eat Bt or roundup resistant GM food. Nearly half of my female friends who are in their fifties or over have already had breast, cervical or colon cancer and over half of them are fatter than they would like to be, me included! This is serious, the GM companies and independent scientists have a social and moral responsibility to put our minds at rest that GM foods are not causing early cancer or weight gain! If the women's magazines ever get a hold of the fat rat study there could be a riots in the streets!
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    Yes, the paper is older precisely because that's when Bt toxin was first being tested.  The point was to demonstrate that there are no obvious toxicity effects from eating Bt toxin directly.  As I've said before, the point of these studies is to establish immediate kinds of toxicity concerns that would lead to further investigation.

    You may disagree with that approach, but it does illustrate that there are no immediate effects or dangers raised by Bt toxin.  As a result, there may well be more subtle effects in the young or in the elderly or in those that are immune-compromised, etc. 

    Whatever scenario you're envisioning, you're right in that it could produce undesirable results and may even prove to be harmful.  However, unless you're looking for such an exceptional case, it seems probable that Bt toxin behaves exactly as expected in mammals and doesn't cause any direct harm.

    As I also mentioned, there are obvious differences/limits based on dosage and duration of exposure, so the science certainly isn't settled, but it is a much lower probability event than something that clearly makes someone sick immediately.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Also, all these Bt GM and roundup resistant GM studies have been done on young healthy animals, what are the effects on very young, old, immune suppressed, sick animals? After all, there are plenty of very young, old, immune suppressed and sick American people eating Bt GM and roundup resistant food right now.

    This study shows that Americans are much sicker than the English and no one knows why! Many of these sick Americans are also eating Bt GMO and roundup resistant food and don't even have GM labeling to protect them from this unproven but potential, additional health risk.
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Thor Russell
    No-one knows why USA citizens are sicker then the English? Well it sure seemed obvious why that may be when I visited. I found the food in places like Buffalo harder to live with than anywhere else in the world I have been. It was all soaked in fat/sugar, and portions were massive. It was almost impossible to eat the way I am used to and wanted to. Across the border like 1 mile to Canada, and it was much more back to what I know as normal. It felt easier to eat healthily in any of Europe, Russia, Taiwan, etc compared to that part of the USA. 
    Thor Russell
    MikeCrow
    But Buffalo wings are so good!
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    I'm not sure I understand.  What's wrong with having a 3 lb. burger, a gallon jug of Pepsi, and a bushel of french fries?

    I understand that people may not have a lot of time for lunch, but how else are you going to "fuel" the afternoon?  :)
    Mundus vult decipi
    Thor Russell
    Perhaps not so much if you are going to work it off in the afternoon, however it sure would make a software engineer put on weight!
    Thor Russell
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Every time I visit America I'm amazed by the huge restaurant and take away portion sizes and I have always put on some weight when I'm there for more than a month at a time. Lately there is a similar trend in Australia but that's not such a problem, as here I have 3 dogs who thoroughly enjoy the 'doggy bags' I now always ask for but who are also recently putting on weight! Still, better them than me :) 

    The better, more gourmet restaurants here are the opposite, they serve tiny, high quality portions which are often beautifully decorated and much more expensive. So the rich get slimmer and the poor get fatter, the opposite to what was the case probably for centuries? Or do you think the poor have always had to fight obesity from eating lower quality but higher quantities of food over the ages? Did the poor Irish who were living on eating primarily potato and its many forms get fat even though they were undernourished I wonder?

    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    Did the poor Irish who were living on eating primarily potato and its many forms get fat even though they were undernourished I wonder?
    Since they acquired the potato from the Native American Indians, and Columbus didn't exactly get greeted by a set of waddling natives, I assume that eating too much was a European trait. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Since they acquired the potato from the Native American Indians, and Columbus didn't exactly get greeted by a set of waddling natives, I assume that eating too much was a European trait.  
    Yes but the native Americans probably had a good varied diet and stayed fit hunting the buffalo, they didn't just eat potato. The poor Irish primarily existed on a staple diet of potato, just as other nationalities in hard times have had to survive on staple diets of mainly rice, mainly cabbage, mainly cous cous etc.

    Actually, eating too much of just one thing is probably not a trait at all, its an economic and social problem that indigenous native Americans didn't have to face. Many of you native Americans are waddling now though, how do you explain that?
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    Many of you native Americans are waddling now though, how do you explain that?
    Potato chips
    Mundus vult decipi
    Allergenicity
    7.09.2 Assessment of allergenicity of the whole GM plant or crop
    Scientific studies, also very recent ones, have shown that the Cry1Ac protein is a potent
    systemic and mucosal adjuvant, which is an enhancer of immune responses. The GMO Panel
    of the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety finds it difficult, based on the
    available data, to assess whether kernels from maize Bt11 x MIR604 x GA21 may cause more
    allergenic reactions than food and feed from unmodified kernels. As the different Cry proteins
    are closely related, and in view of the experimental studies in mice, the GMO Panel finds that
    the likelihood of an increase in allergenic activity due to Cry1Ab and mCry3A proteins in
    food and feed from maize Bt11 x MIR604 x GA21 cannot be excluded. Thus, the Panel's view
    is that as long as the putative adjuvant effect of Cry1Ab and mCry3A with reasonable
    certainty cannot be excluded, the applicant must comment upon the mouse studies showing
    humoral antibody response of Cry1A proteins and relate this to a possible adjuvant effect of
    the Cry1Ab and mCry3A proteins expressed. Furthermore, although Cry1Ab and mCry3A
    proteins are rapidly degraded in gastric fluid after oral uptake, there is also the possibility that
    the protein can enter the respiratory tract after exposure to e.g. mill dust. Finally, rapid
    degradation is no absolute guarantee against allergenicity or adjuvanticity.
    http://www.vkm.no/dav/0dea17091d.pdf

    Intragastric and intraperitoneal administration of Cry1Ac protoxin from Bacillus thuringiensis induces systemic and mucosal antibody responses in mice.
    Vázquez-Padrón RI, Moreno-Fierros L, Neri-Bazán L, de la Riva GA, López-Revilla R.
    Source
    Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB), Havana, Cuba. griva@cigb.edu.cu
    Abstract
    The spore-forming soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis produces parasporal inclusion bodies composed by delta-endotoxins also known as Cry proteins, whose resistance to proteolysis, stability in highly alkaline pH and innocuity to vertebrates make them an interesting candidate to carrier of relevant epitopes in vaccines. The purpose of this study was to determine the mucosal and systemic immunogenicity in mice of Cry1Ac protoxin from B. thuringiensis HD73. Crystalline and soluble forms of the protoxin were administered by intraperitoneal or intragastric route and anti-Cry1Ac antibodies of the major isotypes were determined in serum and intestinal fluids. The two forms of Cry1Ac protoxin administered by intraperitoneal route induced a high systemic antibody response, however, only soluble Cry1Ac induced a mucosal response via intragastric. Serum antibody levels were higher than those induced by cholera toxin. Systemic immune responses were attained with doses of soluble Cry1Ac ranging from 0.1 to 100 microg by both routes, and the maximal effect was obtained with the highest doses. High anti-Cry1Ac IgG antibody levels were detected in the large and small intestine fluids from mice receiving the antigen via i.p. These data indicate that Cry1Ac is a potent systemic and mucosal immunogen.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10353588
    PMID: 10353588 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

    Characterization of the mucosal and systemic immune response induced by Cry1Ac protein from Bacillus thuringiensis HD 73 in mice

    R.I. Vázquez-Padrón1, L. Moreno-Fierros2, L. Neri-Bazán3, A.F. Martínez-Gil1, G.A. de-la-Riva1 and R. López-Revilla3

    1Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Havana, Cuba
    2Unidad de Morfología y Función Iztacala, Universidad Autónoma de México, Tlalnepantla, Edo Mexico, Mexico
    3Department of Cell Biology, Cinvestav-IPN, Mexico, DF

    Abstract
    Introduction
    Material and Methods
    Results
    Discussion
    References
    Correspondence and Footnotes

    Abstract

    The present paper describes important features of the immune response induced by the Cry1Ac protein from Bacillus thuringiensis in mice. The kinetics of induction of serum and mucosal antibodies showed an immediate production of anti-Cry1Ac IgM and IgG antibodies in serum after the first immunization with the protoxin by either the intraperitoneal or intragastric route. The antibody fraction in serum and intestinal fluids consisted mainly of IgG1. In addition, plasma cells producing anti-Cry1Ac IgG antibodies in Peyer's patches were observed using the solid-phase enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT). Cry1Ac toxin administration induced a strong immune response in serum but in the small intestinal fluids only anti-Cry1Ac IgA antibodies were detected. The data obtained in the present study confirm that the Cry1Ac protoxin is a potent immunogen able to induce a specific immune response in the mucosal tissue, which has not been observed in response to most other proteins.
    http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0100-879X2000000...
    Key words: Cry proteins, Bacillus thuringiensis, mucosal immunology

    Bacillus thuringiensis Cry1Ac protoxin is a potent systemic and mucosal adjuvant.
    Vázquez RI, Moreno-Fierros L, Neri-Bazán L, De La Riva GA, López-Revilla R.
    Source
    Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Havana, Cuba.
    Abstract
    Recently we demonstrated that recombinant Cry1Ac protoxin from Bacillus thuringiensis is a potent systemic and mucosal immunogen. In this study we compared the adjuvant effects of Cry1Ac and cholera toxin (CT) for the hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and bovine serum albumin (BSA). The antibody responses of intestinal secretions and serum were determined by ELISA in Balb/c mice immunized through the intragastric (IG) or intraperitoneal (IP) routes. When HBsAg was administered via IG, the anti-HBsAg intestinal response was not enhanced by either Cry1Ac or CT, whereas via IP Cry1Ac increased the anti-HBsAg intestinal immunoglobulin (Ig)G response and CT increased the intestinal IgA and IgM responses. Serum anti-BSA antibodies increased when BSA was co-administered with CT or Cry1Ac by both routes. Cholera toxin and Cry1Ac co-administered via IP increased the IgG anti-BSA response in fluid of the large intestine and CT also increased the IgA and IgM responses slightly. When co-administered via IP, CT and Cry1Ac did not affect the IgG anti-BSA response of the small intestine significantly. We conclude that Cry1Ac is a mucosal and systemic adjuvant as potent as CT which enhances mostly serum and intestinal IgG antibody responses, especially at the large intestine, and its effects depend on the route and antigen used. These features make Cry1Ac of potential use as carrier and/or adjuvant in mucosal and parenteral vaccines.
    PMID: 10354369 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10354369

    Gerhard Adam
    Actually the Cry3A protein was not approved for human consumption [because of its close relationship to known allergens] and is the issue that gave rise to the Starlink corn problem.

    Since no one really knows why a particular protein configuration should or should not be allergenic, the position has been that if it resembles a known allergen, then it would be presumed to also cause allergic reactions.  I think this is a quite reasonable position, although obviously there could be many proteins one encounters downstream that may cause allergies for which no prediction was made.
    Mundus vult decipi
    The trouble with ethics, Gerhard. All I have to do to have clients, return over and over and over...is to skip the conversation on nutrition.
    Great for my bottom line... they keep vomiting, having diarrhea, ear infections, skin problems....
    Damn those ethics :)

    Gerhard Adam
    I expect it goes beyond ethics.  After all, ethics is an abstraction until you encounter a patient.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Yep. Out here in the trenches, where the food allergy tests are expensive and meaningless, what we actually do are food elimination trials. You can guess what I eliminate First from diets after 22 years of clinical practice
    -
    -
    -
    -
    -
    -
    -
    -
    -

    corn and soy

    Then collect data and publish. You may get some money or notariety or a prize.

    Just one quick question, if it were that easy to show anecdotally, then why hasn't anybody gotten the clue and done super simple study and shifted the paradigm?

    I just can't buy the "it's so obvious to us" argument because if it was just that simple it would be easy to establish as scientific fact.

    I remembery my grandmother who was a nurse talking about how it was so clear to all the nurses that Advil caused stomach ulcers. Not ibuprofen, specifically advil. I don't know why they didn't realize that what really was hapenning was that people use the trade names for the generics and it was ibuprofen that can cause ulcers. Nothing about advil in particular. The point is you have to question your own way of seeing things if it should be just so simple to prove yet nobody has.

    Gerhard Adam
    Just one quick question, if it were that easy to show anecdotally, then why hasn't anybody gotten the clue and done super simple study and shifted the paradigm?
    Sorry, Mike but that's where you will run into problems.  This is precisely the same trajectory we saw with the issues of gluten sensitivity in humans, where it was simply presumed that there was some other issue, until now, with better data we are recognizing that it is a much more pervasive problem than anyone ever thought.

    Now imagine trying to convince people there's a problem when dogs/cats are involved.  In the absence of pets dying, almost no one would be interested in pursuing such a study.

    However, I do have a simpler question.  Why haven't such studies been done on these animals if it was known that these foods were going to be introduced into their diets?  So, my question, is where is a single dog or cat study?  Because if the answer is that no one has conducted one, then we already know where the real "anti-science" conclusions were drawn.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Well, if it's feed to millions of them each day without any consequence then I'd question the question. If you believe no pet food suppliers evaluated it as an ingredient for their food then I guess they're just bumbling idiots that aren't concerned if they end up getting huge lawsuits.

    I'm just not so convinced by this kind of "evidence." I've seen it where regular doctors "perscribe" non-GMO diets and the results are miraculous too. Again, go get your reward if you can prove it. I do not believe that such low-hanging fruit would be ignored by researchers. Of all the silly things that are studied with funding that never bear any fruit, why wouldn't an intrepid nutritionist, allergist, toxicologist etc, not want to grab the easy one and make a real name for themself?

    Why is this unlike the farmer reported GMO deaths of cattle, or spontaneous abortions that GMO fed pigs had? This type of rumor or at best unproven (likely unprovable) anecdote shouldn't be given a place at the table. It just doesn't carry any weight because it's equally as likely to be completely fabricated as it is to be true to any degree.

    Gerhard Adam
    If you believe no pet food suppliers evaluated it as an ingredient for their food then I guess they're just bumbling idiots that aren't concerned if they end up getting huge lawsuits.
    Yes, Alex ... I'll take "bumbling idiots" for $1000
    http://www.fda.gov/animalveterinary/safetyhealth/recallswithdrawals/ucm129575.htm

    We saw how well that went.  However, I'm certainly willing to look at any published studies that indicates or even suggests that such an evaluation took place.

    You also don't appear to understand the liability laws when it comes to pets.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Not saying that mistakes are never made, but what are all of those nasty animal testing labs in the business of ? They're researching food and nutrition as well as toxic and allergy effects on dogs. Just google Iams undercover. Not saying I like the cruelty, but they're clearly studying something.

    Gerhard Adam
    ...they're clearly studying something...
    ???

    Mike, you usually argue pretty well in support of your views and position, but that makes no sense.  No matter what the context, that is simply a poor excuse.  If studies are occurring, you know as well as I that for there to be any scientific credence, results must be published.  What some company does in a backroom doesn't count for anything.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Dear Gerhard.

    The answer is very simple:

    How many veterinarians have a background in biochemistry or molecular biology, an interest in research/ involved in research, are unencumbered by trying to stay afloat paying off their student debts--which are over 250K with starting salaries in the 60K range, their payrolls if they own their business, paying their mortgages & taxes, staying on top of all the insurance policies, all the various licenses, putting their kids through college, etc etc?

    Sorry, but this is Reality, my dear.

    Gerhard Adam
    Sorry, but I'm not sure why this is directed to me ...
    Mundus vult decipi
    So there are no veterenary researchers interested in a slam dunk. Okay.

    {Why haven't such studies been done on these animals if it was known that these foods were going to be introduced into their diets? So, my question, is where is a single dog or cat study? }

    Round about answer to your question. Most vets don't know that pet food is genetically modified. Do you think that Proctor and Gamble or Mars are going to announce it, when they buy corn for a few dollars a bushel and turn it into "value-added" product worth $3-8/lb, threatening their fantastic business model? And who controls veterinary nutrition research at our universities--do you think.....?

    Mike:

    Seralini's study on 100 rats cost $3M.

    Do you think I, as a sole practitioner and a small business owner, have $3M to run a statistically valid study on cats or dogs, while running a small business and doctoring my existing patients?

    Thanks for the article. The insect protein analogy was excellent, as was the comparison with fast food, in the comments.

    I'm not too concerned with human health, when it comes to GM foods. There is always at least some testing (folks might argue whether it's adequate), and the purveyors have strong incentives not to poison millions of people. And if a GM food does eventually turn out to be unhealthful, oh well, it can be withdrawn from the market. It may sound awful, but the fact is, sickening or killing even a few million people with bad GM foods wouldn't be the end of the world, and if that's the worst thing that happens, then we'll all agree (some day) it was worth it. We took bigger risks with learning to preserve foods, and no doubt people died in piles - but it was worth it.

    Still, I'm no Luddite, and I am in favor of GM in principle, but I think you're too quick to NOT invoke the precautionary principle. Human health isn't the only issue, or even the most vital. This technology is new, and we've already replaced MOST of our corn and soy, and others, with GM variants. It seems reckless. Even if it's not reckless - what right does Monsanto have to change what we eat, or more importantly, what life forms live on the planet, without active, informed consent? And in the end, what will consent matter if it turns out to be a disaster? We should oughta be real, real careful with genetic engineering. This isn't going to stop at corn. In 20 years, will there be a thousand GM crops? Is everyone really comfy with that?

    Gerhard Adam
    Thanks for the good words on this.  As you can undoubtedly tell, I'm trying to avoid getting too extreme in this article, so that anyone reading it can hopefully get a reasonably "balanced" view of the issue.
    Mundus vult decipi