Found this news item in NewsTarget.com, “Monsanto’s GM corn MON863 shows kidney, liver toxicity in animal studies.”
Here are the info’s we need to know:
A variety of genetically modified corn that was approved for human consumption in 2006 caused signs of liver and kidney toxicity as well as hormonal changes in rats in a study performed by researchers from the independent Committee for Independent Research and Genetic Engineering at the University of Caen in France.
- The corn in question, MON863, is made by the Monsanto Company and approved for use in Australia, Canada, China, the European Union, Japan, Mexico, the Philippines, and the United States. It has had a gene inserted from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which causes the plant’s cells to produce a pesticide.
- Researchers fed rats either unmodified corn or diets containing 11 or 30 percent MON863 for 90 days. The rats who ate modified corn were found to exhibit signs of liver and kidney toxicity, as well as signs of hormonal changes.
- Male rats lost an average of 3.3 percent of their body weight, and their excretion of phosphorus and sodium decreased. Female rats gained an average of 3.7 percent of their body weight, while their triglyceride levels increased by 24 to 40 percent.
- The mechanism that causes the toxicity is not yet known, but the researchers say there is evidence that the Bt toxin may cause the perforation of blood cells. They expressed concern that the methods used by Monsanto in initial tests of the corn were statistically flawed and called their own tests “the best mammalian toxicity tests available.”
What is Bt corn?
Bt corn is a variant of maize, genetically altered to express the bacterial Bt toxin, which is poisonous to insect pests. In the case of corn, the pest is the European Corn Borer.
Expressing the toxin was achieved by inserting a gene from the soil-dwelling microorganism Bacillus thuringiensis into the corn genome. This gene codes for a toxin that will crystallize in the digestive tract of insect larvae, leading to its starvation. – source Wikipedia
Here in the Philippines, the use of Bt corn was approved five years ago on December 2002 by the Department of Agriculture. It was harped and marketed to farmers to be the solution to their problems with growing non-genetically-modified corn. In a primer (propaganda rather) released by the government to (mis)educate farmers and consumers about Bt corn, the following “potential benefits” are said to be offered by this bastardized corn:
9. What are the potential benefits of Bt corn?
- Higher crop yields. Result of the field trials in the Philippines shows that Bt corn can significantly increase yield to an average of 40%.
- Reduced farm costs. A study by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that farmers who planted Bt crops in 1998 eliminated 8.2 million pounds of pesticide active ingredients.
- Increased farm profit. Increased yield and decrease pesticide cost contribute to a higher net return for Bt corn farmers.
- Improvement in the environment. Bt corn requires less pesticide use. It can play an important role in making agriculture, particularly corn, more sustainable and more productive.
- Reduced labor inputs. Since Bt corn no longer requires insecticide application for corn borer, farmers will have more time for other farm management duties.
- Less dependency on importation. Philippine imports an average of 300,000 to 500,000 metric tons of corn annually. Increase production of yellow corn can reduce dependency on corn importation.
Research has also said that Bt corn is safe for human consumption. Until now that is. Lab rats have shown adverse signs and symptoms after being fed by a Bt corn variant. If those things could happen to rats, what could happen to us humans?
The issue of using Bt corn is just one topic in the bigger issue of using genetically-modified organisms for human consumption. This bigger issue has a been a subject of great debate and discussion between capitalist who ventured into biotechnology and those who are rooting for the preservation and conservation of the natural order.
Is this an ethical issue? Or a moral one? Sounds a lot like global warming isn’t it? Staying on focus, I’ve been asked several times in classroom discussions and out whether I support GMOs or not. All I can say is, genetic engineering is wonderful, it could be our key to emancipation or our total destruction. Technology is not good, it’s neither bad. It’s how it is used that is open for human judgment.
If it can benefit the Pilipino farmer then why not? But let’s not forget that it’s not just about our poor farmers and peasants. Let’s not forget about our selves, the consumers. The sons, daughters, neighbors and friends of farmers. We’re the ones who eat the corn and other corn-based products. Since up to now, we still have to pay for those products we have a right to know what’s in those products. Labeling. It’s as simple as that.
There should be stringent regulation and legislation about labeling of GMO-based products. This way, the capitalists who tapped biotechnology for more profit (greed I tell you) retains the right to produce and market these products. At the same time, our rights as consumers to know and choose what to buy with our hard-earned money is protected as well. If tagging content has helped us bloggers, I’m sure labeling GMO-based products as genetically-bastardized, i mean modified products will help us in making the right decisions.