RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Are pesticides proliferating in your body? They could be, if you’re eating genetically modified foods. According to new research from Canadian scientists, the pesticides used on genetically modified (GM) crops and, in some cases, the genes used to create GM crops are able to survive in our digestive tracts, move into our bloodstreams, and, in the case of pregnant women, show up into their developing infants. The study, in press in the journal Reproductive Toxicology, contradicts that biotech companies are either misleading or inaccurate when they repeatedly reassure the government and public health organizations that genes and bacteria inserted into GM crops cannot survive the digestive tract. “Monsanto and the Environmental Protection Agency swore up and down that it was only insects that would be hurt” by GM crops, says Jeffrey Smith, founder of the Institute for Responsible Technology, a nonprofit devoted to educating the public about the risks of genetically modified crops. “They were wrong.”
THE DETAILS: For the study, blood samples were drawn from a group of 30 healthy pregnant women and from 39 healthy nonpregnant women living in Quebec, Canada. The authors also took samples of umbilical cord blood from the 30 pregnant women. Each sample was tested for residues of two pesticides commonly used on GM crops, glyphosate (sold as Roundup) and gluphosinate ammonium (sold as Liberty and used on “Liberty Link” genetically modified soy, corn, and canola). The researchers also tested for Cry1Ab toxin, which is produced by a gene derived from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt); the gene is injected into genetically modified Bt corn and cotton.
Glyphosate was detected in just 5 percent of the nonpregnant women and not at all in the pregnant women or their babies’ cord blood. Gluphosinate was detected in 18 percent of nonpregnant women and not at all in pregnant women or infants, but a metabolite, or breakdown product, of the chemical was found in 100 percent of pregnant women’s and fetal blood samples and in 67 percent of nonpregnant women’s blood. The metabolite, 3-MPPA, has been shown to exhibit the same toxicological effects as its parent compound, namely that it can affect central nervous system development and is suspected of stunting growth.
Cry1Ab, the Bt toxin, was detected in 93 and 80 percent of maternal and fetal blood samples, respectively, and in 69 percent of nonpregnant women. Studies have shown that Bt toxins raise levels of certain antibodies associated with allergies and infections as well as cytokines, chemicals in the body that trigger inflammatory responses; people with chronic inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis have elevated levels of cytokines. Studies from Monsanto, the company that makes Bt corn and cotton, have even shown liver and kidney problems in rats fed its Bt crops.