Just Say No to GMOs

Texas RiceSpeaking of FUGMO (the anti-GMO mascot), genetically-modified organisms seem to be grabbing the headlines more often than usual this year.

For one, GMOs don’t have to be labeled in the United States. That’s right, your nice fresh produce just might have been invented in a lab, rather than grown in someone’s lush, neighborhood garden. But who cares? See no evil, speak no evil, right?

The Atlantic is on the case! In an article ominously entitled “The Very Real Danger of Genetically Modified Foods,” author Ari LeVaux exposes what’s lurking in our veggies. Dun dun dunnnn. Here are some very major points to take away from the article, though many implications are yet to come.

1. Ack, are we transforming? It all started when Chinese researchers found small pieces of RNA (don’t make me get out my science textbook) from rice inside organs and blood of humans. The specific type of RNA is called microRNA (MiRNAs). That’s right. “Our bodies are absorbing information, or microRNA.”

2. The case of disease causing MiRNAs. No, not your grandma Myrna, MiRNAs “have been implicated as players in several human diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes.” How do they work? They typically turn down or shut off genes.

3. Don’t forget the GMOs. The researchers were not particularly aiming at GMOs in this study, but the concerns are obvious, according to the author: “The work shows a pathway by which new food products, such as GM foods, could influence human health in previously unanticipated ways.” (The Chinese aren’t exactly opposed to GMOs like the EU or other countries.)

4. Likely story. Right on cue, Monsanto disagrees, stating on its website “There is no need for, or value in testing the safety of GM foods in humans.” Monsanto’s main point is that as long as the method of getting to this new protein (RNA makes protein) is safe, what does it matter how we got there?  Their website also says, “So long as the introduced protein is determined to be safe, food from GM crops determined to be substantially equivalent is not expected to pose any health risks.” The end justifies the means. And they have long purported their end is to “feed the world.” It’s totally not just to make massive global profits and have a monopoly on the food system at whatever cost. Nope.

5. It’s tricky. Basically, Monsanto’s refusal to have new plants tested – that’s what GMOs are, new plants – is ignoring the complicated world of genetics. The article says:

All of the non-GM breeds and hybrid species that we eat have been shaped by the genetic variability offered by parents whose genes were similar enough that they could mate, graft, or test tube baby their way to an offspring that resembled them. A tomato with fish genes? Not so much. That, to me, is a new plant and it should be tested. We shouldn’t have to figure out if it’s poisonous or allergenic the old fashioned way, especially in light of how new-fangled the science is.

Let’s keep our eyes peeled on how this unfolds. And read the whole article for the in-depth scientific info.

Image credit: Creative Commons photo by Alexis Breaux

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5 thoughts on “Just Say No to GMOs”

      1. I mean the part where it says ‘Thanks to science and biology bloggers, Christie Wilcox and Emily Willingham at the Scientific American blog network and The Biology Files, respectively, we’ve learned of the scientific inconsistencies made in Ari LeVaux’s most recent Flash in the Pan column, which is syndicated by a number of newspapers and magazine websites.’ Seems pretty important to point out how the author was pretty much wrong and all the criticism he’s gotten over that piece seems fairly important. Almost sounds like he never even heard of miRNA before he wrote that to me. If I’m not mistaken, miRNA is produced mostly by non-coding regions, which would tend to rule out transgenic gene sequences which are typically reconstructed from cDNA (DNA made from the messenger RNA so that any introns are already removed and you have just the protein coding segments, though then again, most GE traits come from prokaryotes which don’t have introns anyway), and is seems pretty strange to hear of that study and automatically point to GE when, if true, there would be so much more that a few transgenes, even if they were somehow producing unknown miRNA, would be no different than, and a drop in the bucket compared to, the rest the genetic material you consume. It’s just a very strange conclusion.

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