Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
12 Aug

Is Conventional Wisdom About GMO Safety Correct?

Conventional wisdom demands skepticism. Whether it’s the official stance on high-fat diets (“they’ll give you heart disease, don’t work, or do work but not for long!”), exercise (“you must jog at a moderate pace for an hour a day, four days a week!”), organic food (“it’s nutritionally identical to conventionally-grown food!”), or sun exposure (“you must always wear sunblock!”), I always question conventional wisdom. And when it’s lacking (as is often the case), I rightly skewer it.

I’m going to do something a little different today. I’m going to look critically at conventional wisdom, but of a different sort: the kind espoused by the alternative health crowd.

Now, I’m usually sympathetic to them. We align in many ways, perhaps more often than not. We both prefer organic food, wild seafood, and sustainably-raised livestock. We both understand the benefits of smart sun exposure, spending time in nature, and getting ample amounts of sleep. But when it comes to conventional alternative wisdom regarding genetic modification of food — that it makes food unsafe and unhealthy — I have to put on my skeptic’s hat and take a closer look. This is what I do. And don’t worry; in doing so, I’ll also explore the flip side — that GMOs are absolutely, perfectly safe.

I’ve talked GMO before, but the subject hasn’t gone away. If anything, it’s even more prominent a topic of discussion, with articulate salvos fired from both sides of the argument in recent weeks. Today, I’m going to wade in. I can’t promise a final word on all GMOs for all time. I can promise a balanced, level-headed approach to a very testy topic.

So let’s examine some of the arguments commonly provided by people worried about the health effects of GMO foods.

“They’re not safe.”

Well, which ones aren’t safe? GMO is a broad category.

“Bt corn isn’t safe.”

Bt corn is a GMO with a gene insertion coding for production of a bacterial toxin that targets insects. However, this isn’t a novel toxin. The bacteria that produces it — Bacillus thuringiensis — wasn’t created in a lab, and it’s even used by organic farmers as an effective insecticide.

Okay, but Bt toxin applied in powder or spray form can theoretically be removed with washing or processing. If GMO Bt corn has it baked into the DNA, we can’t avoid it. Isn’t that bad for us? After all, Bt toxin is designed to rupture the guts of the insects it targets, and we’re always emphasizing the importance of a healthy, intact gut lining.

Bt toxin is only activated in alkaline digestive systems. Human and other mammalian guts are acidic and thus resistant, while insect guts are alkaline and thus susceptible. And not even every insect seems to be susceptible; bee foraging behavior appears to be unaffected by Bt corn pollen (PDF) and bees with no exposure to Bt corn still show up with Bt toxins in their guts because the bacteria producing the toxin is so common in nature. Bacteria also appear to be unaffected by Bt toxin, indicating a lack of danger to our gut bacteria.

The specificity of action and lack of effect on mammals or non-target microorganisms (soil/gut bacteria) that made Bt toxin so attractive to organic farmers as an external insecticide makes it non-problematic for me as a genetic modification.

“But a Canadian study found Bt toxins in the blood of pregnant and non-pregnant women.”

Here’s the paper. There are serious doubts about the validity of the levels and the tests used to measure them. Plus, since organic farming uses Bt toxin and given the lack of food intake data, we don’t know the actual source of the Bt in the serum. It could have been organic produce. It could have indeed been Bt corn. Even then, there’s still no evidence that Bt toxin is harmful to mammals with acidic guts, so I’m not sure it’s all that relevant.

However, that study did make an important finding: there were also elevated levels of two herbicides associated with GMO foods (glyphosate/Roundup and glufosinate) and their metabolites in the serum. Suspiciously, the article I linked right above skewering the Bt toxin data are silent on the glyphosate and glufosinate (another herbicide) data. They mention it but don’t elaborate. Another similar article from a pro-GMO site also fails to address the herbicide data, claiming the “post is long enough.”

“They increase the use of pesticides.”

The pro-GMO side says GMOs allow reduced use of pesticides, while the anti-GMO side says GMOs allow increased use. Who’s right?

It depends on how you define “pesticides.” If you’re talking insecticides, GMOs generally reduce the use. Bt corn is one example of a GMO crop engineered to express intrinsic insecticidal toxins, thus reducing the amount of external insecticides applied. If you’re talking herbicides, GMOs increase the use.

Overall, GMOs have led to a net increase in pesticide usage (herbicides and insecticides combined), primarily thanks to Roundup-Ready crops. Whether it’s Roundup-Ready beets, corn, soybeans, canola, or even cotton, many GMOs are engineered to thrive despite heavy and frequent application of the herbicide Roundup.

In non-resistant conventional crops, Roundup is applied very carefully:

  • At planting before the crop has emerged.
  • After emergence, avoiding direct contact with the crop.
  • Right before harvest, when the plants are hardy and mature enough to resist it.
  • After harvest, to clear the fields.

When a crop is Roundup-Ready, the herbicide can be applied continuously and indiscriminately without harming the crop. The result is often persistent accumulation of the herbicide in treated foods, as with GMO soybeans.

“Roundup isn’t safe.”

Proponents of GM technology will offhandedly mention the benignity of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. Even Charles Benbrook, a GMO critic who authored the study showing that GMOs increase pesticide usage and a letter showing the benefits to organic farming, considers it one of the safest herbicides available.

But there’s a small problem with extolling the safety of glyphosate: Roundup isn’t just glyphosate. The herbicide formula contains surfactants and other “inert” ingredients that make glyphosate better at killing weeds and, maybe, causing collateral damage. In one piece of in vitro research, scientists showed that Roundup could be up to 125 times more toxic than glyphosate to human mitochondria. Detractors will cry that the author of that paper, Seralini, is a known anti-GMO activist with serious methodological problems in his other papers (poor controls, small sample sizes, tumor-prone mouse strains). That’s probably fair. He’s not the only one, though. Earlier papers have found similar discrepancies between the effects of glyphosate and Roundup:

Those studies aren’t evidence that Roundup is harming us, but they do show that studies using isolated glyphosate don’t give the whole picture.

“Roundup damages gut bacteria.”

Roundup kills weeds by disrupting the shikimate pathway (PDF), a pathway involved in the biosynthesis of several crucial amino acids. Human cells are relatively unaffected by the herbicide because our cells don’t use the shikimate pathway. There’s nothing to disrupt. All good?

Bacteria also employ the shikimate pathway, and we’ve got an awful lot of them living inside our bodies and handling some very important tasks, including immune function, digestion, production of neurotransmitters, mood regulation, and many more. This means our gut bacteria may be susceptible to Roundup residue on the foods we eat (and the air we breathe, the water we drink, and so on). This isn’t a big issue for people eating primally because the biggest offenders are Roundup-Ready soybeans and corn (and all the related food products) – two foods you likely aren’t eating regularly, if at all. That said, your exposure may be elevated if the food you eat eats a lot of Roundup-laden soy and corn (PDF), like CAFO livestock, dairy, and battery-farmed poultry, all of which may show traces of glyphosate.

Interestingly, a recent paper showed that those very same bacterial species that are reduced in celiac disease – lactobacillus, enterococcus, and bifidobacterium – are the ones most susceptible to glyphosate, while the pathogenic bacteria like salmonella and clostridium botulinium (responsible for botulism) are highly resistant to glyphosate (PDF). Furthermore, glyphosate also inhibits the anti-pathogenic activity of enterococcus bacteria. One of the reasons why “beneficial bacteria” are so beneficial is that they tend to keep the pathogens at bay, and glyphosate directly interferes with it.

“Genetic engineering is different from traditional breeding.”

Yes and no.

In nature, mutations to genes begin at the local level. Genes mutate, creating new alleles, and if those mutations confer survival benefits, the organism possessing them may pass the mutated alleles on to its offspring and, eventually, the species. Traditional cross-breeding co-opts this process, speeds it up, and isolates it, but at the core it’s essentially the same thing. If cross-breeding or natural evolution creates a trait dangerous to humans, we’ll often adapt to it, develop ways to mitigate its harm, or discontinue its use. Either way, the damage is contained to the area of adoption — which for thousands of years of agriculture was relatively small in scope.

Genetic modification in the lab allows instant adoption of new mutations. Once the seeds have been approved for commercial use, they are dispersed to any farm that can afford them. Within a few years, people all over the world are consuming foods that include the new mutation. If that mutation poses a threat to human health or the environment, it becomes a global threat because the scale and speed of laboratory genetic modification is many times larger than that of a naturally-occurring mutation. Traditional forms of genetic engineering (selective breeding of plants to amplify desired traits) begin locally and develop over many generations, giving the environment and its inhabitants plenty of time to adapt to the new mutation or stamp it out. Natural evolution proceeds over an even-longer timescale on the order of hundreds and thousands of years. In the case of GMOs, once the seeds have been approved for commercial use, mutations are global and instantaneous.

I haven’t seen any strong evidence that existing GMO foods introduce traits that are directly dangerous to humans, but the potential exists. If a GMO is going to be problematic over the long term, and these problems aren’t acute enough to show up in safety studies, there might not be enough time for us to adapt.

“Inserting one gene can affect multiple traits, not just the target trait.”

The common misconception about genes is that a single gene affects a single trait. In reality, multiple genes can determine single traits, and single genes can affect multiple traits. Pleiotropy is when a single gene affects more than one seemingly unrelated trait.

Of course, this also holds true for traditional selective breeding. Breeding tomatoes to be sweeter might alter other traits dependent on the “sweetness gene.” And theoretically, genetic engineering should allow greater control over unwanted pleiotropic effects, while selective breeding is more of a shotgun approach with more chances for unwanted pleiotropic effects.

“We need long-term human studies.”

I agree. Unfortunately, we can’t have human studies the way we can with mice. We can’t (and wouldn’t want to, of course) wean babies onto 35% GM soybean diets, track them for several decades, “sacrifice” them, and dissect their internal organs for evidence of pathology.

“I went GMO-free and feel better than ever!”

Say your average relatively uninformed consumer hears about GMO dangers, decides to go on a GMO-free diet, and Googles “gmo free diet.” What does the first result tell them to do?

1. Go organic.

2. Load up on fruits and veggies.

There you have it: going on a GMO-free diet works, for the vast majority of people, because it promotes consumption of organic food, including meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables (which we know are higher in phytonutrients and lower in pesticide residues). It’s not an even exchange for GMO-free versions of common GMO-replete foods. A GMO-free diet almost always works out to be an overall healthier and vastly different pattern of eating that ends up looking a lot like the Primal Blueprint.

“So you’re saying GMOs are safe?”

Not exactly.

I worry about the world’s food supply being controlled by a single company, or an oligarchy of companies.

I worry about the Roundup-Ready gene allows farmers to spray willy nilly. I worry about it ending up in my food and, ultimately, my body. More than anything, I worry about the effect it might have on my gut bacteria.

I worry about the scale and speed at which genetic modifications can be adopted across the globe and hope current testing protocols are sufficient to catch any dangerous ones.

But I don’t see any major issues with the process of genetic engineering in and of itself.

Don’t get me wrong: I avoid GMO foods when I can. But not because I fear genetic engineering. Genetic engineering has the potential to do some really cool things, provided we get it right, like the folks who made low-PUFA, high-MUFA soybean oil.  I avoid GMOs because I don’t want to consume Roundup, which as far as I can tell likely causes most of the problems linked to GMO foods. Because I don’t eat very much corn, soy (except for natto, and the only natto I’ve found without junk in the ingredients uses organic soybeans), sugar beet (I much prefer organic beets from the farmer’s market with the greens still attached; if you’ve never had beet greens, sauté them up in olive oil with some garlic and serrano chiles for an arguably superior alternative to spinach and kale), canola oil, or cotton (tastes terrible).

Oppose specific GMO foods. Explain why you don’t want Roundup-Ready beets and soybeans in your diet — because the Roundup it allows farmers to apply in ever-increasing amounts isn’t benign. Don’t rail against all GMOs because of something you don’t like in one. Don’t be like the skeptics who deride all organic foods because a study they like found identical levels of vitamin C in conventional and organic strawberries.

Genetic engineering isn’t inherently harmful to human health. It’s weird. It’s new. And putting a bacterial gene in your carrot or whatever sounds crazy, but it’s not necessarily bad.

What do you think, everyone?

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Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. It is way too early in the morning for my brain to process this. Thanks for doing the heavy lifting on this topic, I’ll be back to digest it later!

    Erica wrote on August 12th, 2015
    • I respectfully disagree, I knew something fundamental here was bugging me but I had to go think about other stuff before it came clear.

      “Conventional wisdom demands skepticism.”

      The conventional wisdom Mark’s referring to there is the science-led notions of the last hundred years or so (but especially post-WW2) – that saturated animal fat is bad, that hydrogenated veg fat and novel vegetable oils are good, that grains should be the foundation of every meal, and so on.

      People in the past knew you mostly don’t eat between meals – this got overturned for a while by the idea we need to “keep our blood sugar stable” and never enter a fasting state. They also knew whole food was mostly good, that fats like butter and lard had their place as additions to a diet, and that eating too much sweet stuff wasn’t desirable for anyone.

      Grains as a base were only eaten by the very poor, everyone else moved to proteins and fats as much as possible – a direct reversal of the recent grain-based food-pyramid.

      So, the actual “conventional wisdom” Mark usually debunks on MDA stems from half-understood recent scientific attempts to improve on our diets by modifying foods, creating new types of fats and novel manufactured foods, heavily led by commercial forces that cherry-pick research to get their own products promoted by government and health providers.

      This means that the pro-GMO argument fits completely into that definition of the “conventional wisdom that proved to be wrong” – CW that was also driven by a desire to sell product, through skewed science, and often (hello, John Harvey Kellogg) obnoxious ideologies.

      I don’t think this article was particularly well thought-out, since the ideologies that support GMO are identical to the ones that put soy-fortified wheatbreads smothered in hydrogentated veg fats (as the “healthy” alternative to butter) on our tables for several decades, while demonising meat and animal fats.

      Mrs Rathbone wrote on August 12th, 2015
      • Spot on, Mrs Rathbone!

        Helle wrote on August 12th, 2015
      • The small intestine is alkaline alkaline.
        a lot of bicarbonate is secreted there to inactivate clhoridic ac7d from the stomach so the pzncreatic enzymes can be activated and be able to work, they need an alkaline ph to be active.
        maybe mark needs more knowledge about the digestive system.

        mmm wrote on August 13th, 2015
      • Well said Mr. Rathbone. We would all do well to remember that Monsanto also brought us the harmless Agent Orange.

        Kelly wrote on August 13th, 2015
        • Not to mention heavily involved in the Trans Atlantic slave trade.

          chrisN wrote on August 16th, 2015
      • nailed it

        Eric wrote on August 13th, 2015
    • If the manufactures of GMO`s had nothing to fear why are they fighting so hard not to label food products as made from GMO foods ?

      This will be our future asbestos and smoking issue in 30 years with no one to clean up the mess .This is a self regulated industry which always leads to disaster

      Phil wrote on August 13th, 2015
      • Self regulated industry is not the problem. A population of followers who put too much trust with the authorities is the problem. People are living blindly because they think the authority is looking out for them. Sorry folks… BIG BROTHER DOES NOT CARE ABOUT YOU! That’s the truth.

        Josh wrote on August 14th, 2015
  2. In a world less monetarily corrupt it might be beneficial but I’m afraid the greed driven nature of our world means they will throw all caution to the wind and we will pretty much be eating !@#$.

    Groktimus Primal wrote on August 12th, 2015
    • I tend to agree with you. So many times we can see where the best of intentions have been turned sour by greed.
      I think I will choose my GMOs carefully and watch as the long term study is done on the majority of our society while they are not looking.

      Carol wrote on August 12th, 2015
    • It isn’t run by greed, it’s run by service and cooperation. You exchange because you have a double coincidence of wants. You don’t exchange if you don’t want what the other guy has. The greed hypothesis assumes the seller has all the clout. The seller has none of the clout. He can only sell what buyers choose. Pepsi only uses aspartame until enough people decide they don’t want it. Is that greed? Who cares? I get my pepsi without aspartame.

      Joshua Crosby wrote on August 12th, 2015
      • People never asked for aspartame, they asked for reduced calories. Greed leads the company to ignore/distort safety concerns and use the cheapest ingredient only after enormous effort by others outside of the producer convinces the consumer to avoid aspatame dose a producer change to a new ingredient.
        There are thousands of examples of greed driving companies from cigarette manufacturers to indigenous land grabs around the world. Greed is a major problem.

        davek wrote on August 12th, 2015
        • ^ This.

          I don’t trust the people monitoring the results not to skew, mislead, lobby, and use other methods to cover over data contrary to their financial best interests, meaning that there’s no opportunity for the kind of informed choice that levels up the playing field.

          This goes double since any admission of a dangerous flaw doesn’t just mean lost sales, but crippling lawsuits and potential personal liabil’ity for their executives.

          If GMO research was being handled only by people outside the commercial world with no vested interests, I’d have more faith, but that’s not going to happen. Look at the cover-ups on dangerous drugs that turn out to do far more harm than good – the link is first denied, then blame shunted round, and still victims seldom if ever get their claims that it harmed them officially and publicly recognised, let alone any compensation.

          Drug scandals, awful though they are, affect a minority – this is the food chain for our entire species.

          Mrs Rathbone wrote on August 12th, 2015
        • I have to agree. Joshua is referring to the “perfect” or “ideal” market, in which all players have complete information. When science is thrown out that shows negatives to a manufacturers’ food products, marketing persuades consumers that a certain product is what the need in thir loves for happiness, and government intervention manipulates the market in order for powerful companies to artificially reduce the price of their goods, it is difficult to argue that the buyer has the power.

          Zach wrote on August 12th, 2015
        • Consumers asked for aspartame every single time they bought a can of diet pepsi.

          Joshua Crosby wrote on August 13th, 2015
        • I think you are missing something here. The people wanted low calorie and never questioned the process. It’s cheap and easy. That’s just meeting consumer demand. The consumer has been misled into believing low calorie soda is fine by the very organization they look to to protect them. You can’t trust the authority. Unless you don’t mind being oppressed that is.

          Josh wrote on August 14th, 2015
      • Well written Joshua!

        Vanessa wrote on August 12th, 2015
      • except in this case they are trying to sell stuff most people don’t want without properly labeling products so people don’t know what they buy and can’t make a choice.
        apart from that, i have a problem with GMO companies trying to monopolize the food supply. paying licence fees for seeds to plant – which you have to buy from the GMO companies every year. you can’t keep some of the harvest for planting next year, no sir. if you do that they sue you. hundreds of farmers went bankrupt due to lawsuits. buy the way third generation pigs eating GMO corn stopped reproducing, became infertile. should that happen tu us humans, the population explosion problem would be fixed pronto! might be a good side effect of GMOs after all?
        i say no need to fight the GMO companies (us in europe do, fortunately).
        It is sufficient to pass a law similar to the one they passed in Argentina. Saying living organisms can not be copyrighted and nobody can collect any royalty on a living organism, never mind who created it, God or M…..o.
        That is the only way to keep these guys at bay.

        einstein wrote on August 13th, 2015
        • and i almost forgot. it never happened in the past that somebody cross bread a bacteria with a plant. cross breeding is NOT genetic engineering and the two should not be confused. as far as i am concerned, GMO is a no-no and the GMO companies can shove the stuff up their A. of course anyone who wants it is welcome to get what they ask for. just label it properly so that we all can make a choice.

          einstein wrote on August 13th, 2015
      • In this country the seller does have much of the clout as manufacturers limit more and more choice from the grocery stores. What left is there to buy? I can not find ham without tons of sugar in it…I can in Italy. I can’t find bread without malt flour (whatever that is) not that I eat a lot of bread…so I don’t buy it. Soon I will be forced to buy the junk because there is no choice. That is what will happen with just a few companies supplying food….

        Jess wrote on August 13th, 2015
      • Thanks for the voice of reason Joshua, it seems most people here contribute to much power to the Monsanto’s and Coca Cola’s of this world. I used to as well. Until I started reading blogs such as Mark’s and realized there is an alternative to everything I was/am sceptical about.

        As to GMO, as a biochemist I can say confidently no one had the truth. So little is known about the human body and how it works that it will be years and big changes needed before we will know THE truth.
        And that is why I am thankful for this article, because, as always, Mark takes a balanced stand based on the little evidence that is available to give us today’s truth. And if new evidence comes out tomorrow he will adapt.

        To come back to Joshua, I buy my vegetables and fruits locally without caring to much. If the evidence against Round-up becomes stronger, then I will make sure I find a source that doesn’t use it or very little of it. And by doing so I slowly move the market away from that pesticide. I will also inform friends and family about it through Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.If we all do, we will change the world. And we will win against Monsanto.

        Kurt wrote on August 14th, 2015
      • That only applies to a truly free market we don’t have one

        Alex wrote on August 18th, 2015
  3. the whole process of genetic engineering involves a naive interloper called human being – it reminds me of letting young children play with handgrenades! Mother Nature knows best so leave it to her as to which genes belong to a species of plant or animal.

    Marie wrote on August 12th, 2015
    • Yes, I agree with Marie. It completely undermines NATURAL selection.

      April wrote on August 12th, 2015
      • No it doesn’t. Because recently a new type of transfer of genetic material called Exosomes have been getting a lot of attention when initial results showed that mRNA from one specie was found in another. And that it would potentially be taken up by the latter. So even Mother Nature seems to be doing this. Our understanding of her workings are just still very limited.

        Kurt wrote on August 14th, 2015
    • a) Human’s have been practicing selective breeding in plants and animals for millennia. Are organic carrots good for you? Surely you only eat purple ones…
      The orange “carrot coloured” ones are artificial

      b) mother nature “knows nothing” but experiments a lot… evolution keeps the results with “successful” traits.

      I’m not saying I trust the big companies either (because of motivation or ethics) – I think Mark has expressed it well

      John wrote on August 12th, 2015
      • Purple carrots have some very valuable antioxidant nutrients that the orange ones lack. Purple is better, but both are full of nutrients. But that is a natural variation, tho the form that survived better in the wild was purple.

        Neither purple nor orange carrots have cancer promoters at the beginning or the gene structure to jam the gene “ON.” “Promoter” is a technical term here. Before the gene itself begins, there is a special DNA sequence that determines whether this gone is ON right now and being made. That beginning part is called the promoter.

        Cancers and infectious viruses have to have a special promoter to make sure the hijacked cell makes their proteins. Genetic engineers have found these sequences very useful to make sure their own added gene is extravagantly produced. That is NOT a natural variation at all.

        Esther Cook wrote on August 12th, 2015
    • “Mother Nature” is not some perfectionist deity. The natural world is loaded with “mistakes,” that we can only accept and live with. A worthless appendix that can still painfully kill us. Difficult childbirth due to our bipedal evolution. Knees and other joints way too easily ruined. The list is long.

      Also, just because a give “thing” never appeared in nature doesn’t mean it’s bad. Maybe evolution would have done it eventually, maybe not.

      Don’t overly generalize, which is indirectly a point of what Mark is saying. We need to look at the specifics.

      OnTheBayou wrote on August 12th, 2015
      • The difference is that human GMO interventions spread quickly and affect the entire food system.

        What is novel is not the ability genetics in food but:

        1) Ability to introduce genetic material from completely different biological domains
        2) The speed at which we can do this (months in a lab vs. generational evolution)
        3) The scale at which we can do this (industrial distribution vs. localized ecosystems)

        We do not know and cannot predict the consequences. On a limited/localized scale, this is fine.

        No one understand the disastrous health consequences of rapidly introducing huge amounts of sugar and processed carbohydrate into the diet via industrialized food–it was ‘probably safe’ until it wasn’t.

        Now imagine that problem, but self-replicating and on a global scale. The burden of proof of total safety lies with those proposing to introduce GMO foods. It is impossible to provide.

        The issue is probabilistic, not nutritional. Yes of course these foods COULD be safe (though again, it seems there is more and more ‘anecdotal’ evidence of negative health outcomes) but do you want to bet the entire world food supply that they are?

        Eric wrote on August 12th, 2015
        • Awesome post Eric.. I agree Its about complex systems not one guy eating a carrot.. The human mind cant fathom the burden on the ecological system and neither can computers. So untill they can they shouldnt gamble with a system that has spent billions of years fine tuning…

          Torsh wrote on August 12th, 2015
        • The problem is not that we do not know and can’t predict the consequences (small problem). It is that we don’t care. CEOs are psychopaths and only care for themselves. There terms are short term and so are there outlooks. Any one who has studied commerce would have been shocked by the Ford Motor Company case where they made a (good) financial decision to not recall and repair cars that were killing customers because it was cheaper to pay the dead drivers families. This is how corporatism works. This is the problem not genetic modification (perhaps gm is the solution human gm). If people lived longer it would help those who think short term to think longer term and allow those who think longer term to prosper, aswell as giving those not born into power a better chance of getting there. Like the atomic theory Gm is not the problem but how we use is

          Alex wrote on August 18th, 2015
      • The appendix is NOT worthless – it acts as a reservoir for gut bacteria when the main intestines and colon are infected with hostile and aggressive strains, which the body gets rid of through diarrhea, and it acts in a similar role when someone needs antibiotics. It seems to act as a stash – a reservoir of gut bacteria, waiting to repopulate – outside the everyday function of the colon, which is to transport food and absorb stuff.

        This kind of thinking (with respect) – that we know ahead of time what’s worthless, and what’s not – is incredibly dangerous since the very existence of the sciences proves that we do NOT know it all.

        Mrs Rathbone wrote on August 12th, 2015
    • +1

      Teri wrote on August 12th, 2015
    • So if Mother Nature knows best we should just leave polio, measles, plague and small pox alone and let them run their “natural” course. Nature does not always know best. Man has become the top of the food chain because of brains. It’s up to man to best use all tools at our disposal and be smart about what we do and how we do it.

      Mark wrote on August 12th, 2015
      • Thank you! Natural is not a magic bullet. I think Mark expressed the pros/cons very well, and was quite reasonable. I can’t say the same for this comment section. haha.

        Chris wrote on August 12th, 2015
      • Then what keeps man in check? When people survived measles,
        pox, or what ever, they pass those stronger jeans forward. You die,
        then weaker jeans are discarded. Sound crude but that is nature.

        keith wrote on August 15th, 2015
        • Plenty of species become extinct. I believe it is nearly all historically speaking

          Alex wrote on August 18th, 2015
    • “the whole process of genetic engineering involves a naive interloper called human being”

      The exact same statement could be made about any conventionally bred plant, which is basically everything you eat and that we have eaten for hundreds or even thousands of years. That’s not “mother nature” doing the work, it is humans — and in an even more blind and uninformed way. If you’ve ever eaten a banana, apple, ear of corn (non-GMO), or virtually any other crop, you’re eating a HUMAN-made product. It was NOT made by “nature”.

      “Mother Nature knows best so leave it to her as to which genes belong to a species of plant or animal”

      “Mother Nature” is not a real singular entity with a brain and a will. You do know that, right? Nature is result of the blind confluence of, and balance between, millions of species trying to survive and reproduce. Nature doesn’t “know” anything; it isn’t acting in our best interst. Nature’s behavior is a result of a very complex web of cause and effect. No more, no less.

      Jason wrote on August 12th, 2015
      • What, there is no Mother Nature? You’ve dashed all my illusions! Blast! Next you’ll tell me President Trump signed a bill turning over the FDA agency to Monsato.

        Marti wrote on August 16th, 2015
  4. You put very eloquently into words how I think most in the community personally feel about GMO crops. It’s not that GMO is bad per say, it’s what they do to grow them because they are GMO, namely, more roundup, less micronutrients.

    Corbeaux wrote on August 12th, 2015
  5. I have two questions here.

    The first concerns the alkaline digestive tract. Ruminants have an enormous alkaline fermentation vat – the rumen – that is packed with bacteria capable of digesting cellulose. Do Bt feeds have the potential to damage these bacteria?

    My second concern is allergies. I have been able to find no studies at all on the potential for transferring allergens from one food to another. I want to know whether it is likely that inserting, say, peanut genes, into say, corn, with the worthy intention of making a corn with complete protein, might create allergic potential for consumers of the new corn. I went to with this question and got a cheery but dismissive answer to the effect that as this had happened with Brazil nuts, GE companies no longer use Brazil nuts.

    While I have no life-threatening allergies, there are many people who do. I have chronic migraine, so I very carefully watch what I eat. Legumes and nuts are major triggers for me, as are bananas and a host of other things. I can avoid most triggers by simply preparing my meals from scratch, and reading labels with great care on the odd occasion that I use packaged foods. I would be really annoyed if I bought fresh produce that triggered migraine attacks, and discovered that gene-splicing was to blame! I want labelling – nobody can make informed decisions when the information required is deliberately withheld.

    SuzU wrote on August 12th, 2015
    • Thank you for bringing up the food allergy issue! I do have severe food allergies, including corn. Even if Roundup went away tomorrow, I still wouldn’t feel safe eating GMOs until they put a label on my apples telling just what genes they added!

      Jillian wrote on August 12th, 2015
      • Other patented products, or which comtain patented components, have labels which assert the patent number, and this is required to protect the invention. Why not GMO foods?

        This would help me, because I don’t really believe that all GMO foods are categorically bad, but I suspect that some probably are. I would prefer to have the information to be able to figure out which are which. Patent numbers would be a good start. From there it is public information that someone could build a database of to facilitate lookups and link to studies.

        PhilmontScott wrote on August 13th, 2015
  6. Just like many people who are metabolically damaged NEED an LCHF version of Paleo or Primal to heal and get hormones, gut bacteria, mitochondria, etc. to optimal then they likely can be more flexible on the carbs, the planet and humanity is not able to tolerate GMOs right now.

    I think the evidence is much clearer that they do significant damage to humans. Get a Monsanto executive to eat GMO crops and feed their family them.

    The Earth, people, societies, ecosystems need to heal now. GMOs do massive damage at many different scales: individual, fields, ecosystems, globally. We know way too little and the more that comes out the worse they seem to be for every living thing, not just people.

    The only way forward is working with Nature. Going back to GMO free, MIXED farming. Transitioning to local agriculture. We are at all time low or thereabout oil prices.

    We need SELF-CONTAINED agriculture. Cows peeing on grass and popping on it. Of course this does not serve MNCs.

    Maybe with another 100 years of testing not controlled by any monetary interest, GMO technology might possibly be a net benefit. But not now. Not by a LONG shot. More damage, more input use, more destruction. They have so far, arguably, been the worse technology every used in agriculture for multiple reasons, at multiple scales, to many different species.

    Larry wrote on August 12th, 2015
    • Monetary interest is the only one that will do it long-term. Nobody acts unless they think the means will achieve their ends. Without the prospect of receiving the medium of exchange with which they will trade their means for someone else’s ends, it won’t happen.

      Joshua Crosby wrote on August 12th, 2015
  7. Hi Mark,
    Which brand of organic natto do you buy?

    Megan wrote on August 12th, 2015
    • I make my own using Natto Spores or you can go to your local Asian market. They sell it in the frozen food section. I believe Japan doesn’t allow GMO soybeans so it should be fine. If you want to make your own it’s fairy simple. Here is where I get my natto spores It comes with the instructions on how to make natto or if you’re like me and like a visual demo you can check out

      john wrote on August 12th, 2015
  8. Very balanced view on a complex subject and I very much agree. I say that I avoid all GMOs as much as practical but I include all modern agricultural products in that classification, even if they were modified by “conventional” breeding. The purpose of those improvements were aimed at productivity, increased sweetness, etc, and not really health. In the process these products are less healthy for us. I posted a similar article awhile ago with a very similar viewpoint.

    Lyle Haylett wrote on August 12th, 2015
  9. Thank you for explaining the subject in a way that I can understand. Knowledge is power.

    Granny Gibson wrote on August 12th, 2015
  10. Here’s the main concern… Just like with everything else (drugs, plastics, preservatives, etc, etc) WE are the guinea pigs as those items are basically “innocent until proven guilty”. Which means they get to basically put whatever they want on the market for our consumption and it’s considered safe until it starts making people sick – sometimes many many years later (BPA, anyone??). No thanks, I’m not willing to be the guinea pig.

    Not to mention, what’s going to happen when these GMO crops take over all of the other crops and there’s nothing left but GMO -and THEN we find out it’s not safe? What then? I hear the word “sustainability” thrown around like it’s the next best thing since sliced bread, but no one seems to understand what that TRULY means.

    Trbobitch wrote on August 12th, 2015
    • Hear, hear!

      Marcia wrote on August 12th, 2015
    • The other thing is, the human body can tolerate just so much. GMO’s in addition to all the other types of pollution we must deal with might be too much cumulative damage for many people.

      Shary wrote on August 12th, 2015
      • I think this may be the most important point of all……….we have been increasingly piling on stresses and toxins over recent decades…..there are too many distorted toxic sources and behaviors to say which are having more or less effect………The straw that broke the camels back has already been laid upon our culture in much of our population nutritionally – especially the young. I eat “clean” because I don’t want to carry around a bail of straw on my back……Gmo’s may be just a hand full of straw…..but there are so many different handfuls out there…I want to be as free from this toxic load as possible – in all areas of my life.

        john wrote on August 13th, 2015
    • Once it all becomes GMO and they find out it is dangerous as you say, they’ll just reverse genetically engineer it back to the way it was. LOL, what a mess, right? They are truly playing God.

      Rob (Modern Life Survivalist) wrote on August 12th, 2015
    • That’s a great point. I had the opportunity to happen onto an Anti-GMO demonstration in Kauai. Apparently Monsanto has engineered a fungus resistant papaya. One of the farmers had a natural papaya and Monsanto papaya side by side. To the eye they looked the same. However, the GMO papaya had poor texture and was flavorless compared to sample of the real papaya. The seeds from the real papaya had a peppery almost wasabi-like flavor. The seeds from the GMO tasted different, more industrial? The demonstrators illuded towards accusation of Monsanto for spreading the fungus. If industrial agriculture wins, it may wipe out the existence of the primal papaya and alter the enzymatic benefits of the fruit. This will be a tough battle because aparrently, Monsanto is the biggest donor to the University of Hawaii department of Agriculture. Even if the GMO papaya is harmless, the flavor itself will decrease demand. The organic farmer will suffer while industry has profited from the sale of the gmo trees and cares less about those who sell the fruit for a living. We’re these demonstrators wackos or was this true? The problem with GMO is the truth will surmount long after the damage is done.

      Jack Lea Mason wrote on August 12th, 2015
      • If the GMO papaya lacks flavor compared to the organic one, that would benefit the organic farmer. Unless there are people who like flavorless papaya in which case they wouldn’t be buying the flavorful one anyway.

        Joshua Crosby wrote on August 12th, 2015
        • I think where Jack may have been going is that with aggressive seed modification, it’s going to be extremely difficult to keep those seeds from spreading and modifying organic seed. Eventually, organic seed can get altered, similar to the idea of “pesticide drift.”

          Chris wrote on August 12th, 2015
        • Without labels how can you tell you just stop buying the fruit and it’s price drops eliminating the poor non gm farmer first and you are just left with gm fruit which eventually no one buys but there is never any evidence as to why and besides CEO of mega Corp is retired or working somewhere else or most likely dead as he was already old nearly all CEOs are. The problem is not gm but how it is used.

          Alex wrote on August 18th, 2015
  11. Lately I’ve really come to appreciate your writing Mark – it’s always objective, pragmatic and … dare I say it… evidence based. More so than anything else I find on the Internet.

    One more good example of good GMO -> Papaya in Hawaii.

    Mike wrote on August 12th, 2015
  12. Hey Mark
    One thing about natto ingredients: most of the natto with bad ingredients are because of the included flavoring packet, which usually has all kinds of nasty stuff. I’m not sure if that in and of itself is enough information to rule any particular brand in or out. Here in NYC there are a few packages labeled Non-GMO. I’ll try to dig up some photos I have lying around.

    PeterC wrote on August 12th, 2015
  13. GMO=Go More Organic

    Nocona wrote on August 12th, 2015
    • You do know that Organic Farmers also use pesticides, right? The Organic Farming Associates get you to believe otherwise.

      Rose wrote on August 12th, 2015
      • Yes I do know, but let’s say you have to smoke cigarettes to survive. Would you choose the ones with less tar and nicotine? or go for the Camels? Your choice!

        Nocona wrote on August 12th, 2015
  14. “Conventional Alternative” sounds like an oxymoron. It makes sense in context, just sounds funny. Not criticizing, just pointing out something that amused me.

    Emmett wrote on August 12th, 2015
    • Especially when ‘Conventional’ means the industrial agricultural practices developed well within the last hundred years. As opposed to methods used for millenia.

      Conventional agriculture pollutes our air, waterways, oceans, depletes soil, kills pollinators & other wildlife, etc. It’s responsible for 1/3 of greenhouse gas emissions, and that’s before the shipping. Avoid anything from Big Food as much as possible.

      Betterways wrote on August 12th, 2015
    • It IS an oxymoron. By definition, alternative health is against mainstream. I don’t know why, but this article seems to be flipping the script to confuse people. It DOES have a ton of great information and thought put into it. I think it’s genuine. However, I think the phrase you mentioned is worthy of actual criticism, not just musing. There is no such thing as conventional wisdom in alternative health. It has to be one or the other… unless he’s trying to get us to not think like CW people in our alternative health circles. But he should just point it out, not state it as if it’s already given that we’re CW zombies.

      Rob (Modern Life Survivalist) wrote on August 12th, 2015
      • “There’s no such thing as conventional wisdom in alternative health. It has to be one or the other”.

        That statement about says it all in regards to the current paleo movement mindset and it’s followers.

        Bill wrote on August 13th, 2015
        • Oh whatever. You’re just trying to flip the script and muddle the discussion. With health, you have CW, and you have alternative health. CW took years and years to solidify into the sorry and fanatical religion it has become, pushing vaccines, pharmaceuticals, grains, and low-fat.

          You can have bad tendencies and uninformed trends in a new movement of course, but you can’t claim to be radical by staying aligned with CW then applying the term to the ones who are actually INTERESTED in learning the truth and scrutinizing the research, just because more people and more people have been convinced of the more accurate info and are starting to approach being the majority. This is some political game you’re playing. You don’t become the skeptic if you start to defend Big Pharma just because suddenly those skeptical of it have made headway and started to sway the majority.

          Rob wrote on August 13th, 2015
        • Alternative health embraces everything from raw veganism, fruitarianism, calorie-restriction for optimum nutrition, to high-fat (and intentionally high calorie) diets, or hardcore paleo diets that are focused on meat and little else, whereas current CW sings from the same hymnsheet – lots of smaller carby meals, sugar as a harmless nutrient (“a calorie is a calorie”), sweeteners get the green light, and veg oils are the only permissible fats.

          Mrs Rathbone wrote on August 14th, 2015
  15. I would agree with you completely, I do not think GMO is inherently dangerous in and of itself, but the Roundup is absolutely a bad thing. Just like you I try to avoid it where and when I can. However I’m also a strong believer in mandatory labeling for GMO’s because ultimately it does not matter if it is or is not a bad thing, people should be able to choose if they want to consume them.

    David Birney wrote on August 12th, 2015
  16. Current testing protocols for GMOs are far from adequate. Biotech companies do their own research, decide how long the study will be, don’t publish the data, and can fail to reveal any research with adverse effects. The report GMO Myths and Truths, by 2 genetic engineers and a science writer, gives a lot of detail on the poor regulation of GM crops, the pressure on scientists to produce the results industry wants, and the difficulties for whistleblowing scientists. Also info about how studies which claim to show safety actually do nothing of the kind.

    Liz wrote on August 12th, 2015
  17. For a more holistic discussion, see risk analytics scholar Nassim Taleb:

    Rudi wrote on August 12th, 2015
  18. The main concern I have with GMO labeling is that it will give people a false sense of security. As Mark points out glyphosate is used on many nonGMO crops so buying nonGMO doesn’t mean you aren’t consuming it. Almost all nonorganic meat, chicken and milk probably contains glyphoste since just about everything is fed GMO feed.

    Plus I think the lack of labeling may drive growth in the organic sector which is a good thing And labeling products as GMO Free is consistent with organic labeling. Farmers don’t label what pesticides are in their products, but the labeling requirement is for the pesticide-free products. Organic Consumers is offering a test for glyphosate so you can test whether it is in your body. Might be a good thing to check out.

    sara warriner wrote on August 12th, 2015
  19. At this point, for me, my main concerns on GMO are ownership of the food-chain by big agribusiness and increased use of pesticides. We have been manipulating genes in other life forms for some time but now our tools are more sophisticated and allow us to do so more and more quickly.

    Evan wrote on August 12th, 2015
    • I think the farmers in India would agree with you. The ones that are still alive, that is.

      Janet wrote on August 12th, 2015
  20. GMO can mean a heck of a lot!

    GMO is one way that humans have been mucking about with the layout of genes in organisms… hybridization is another. If you think that Hybridization is completely benign then you are seriously misinformed.

    If you created the exact same plant via GMO that you did via hybridization it would be as benign or dangerous as the hybridized variety… no more… no less. This can be intentional or unintentional. Africanized honey bees, comes to mind.

    You can have JUST AS REASONABLE an end result via GMO or just as unreasonable an end result.

    We now have the unenviable position of having to feed 7 Billion people on this planet. GMOs are here to stay! If we don’t use them then the poorest of the population are who get the shortest end of the stick!

    It isn’t GMOs, per se, that have to go… It is the 1-2% of the population who controls everything and are willing to hide PARTICULARLY dangerous GMOs AND hybrids in order to make the biggest pile of money… THEY are the danger!

    If you can’t yet tell… I get incensed by stupid, short-sighted and shallow-thinking people who just don’t have a clue and like to hop on any ol’ bandwagon!

    Christopher Grove wrote on August 12th, 2015
    • “GMO can mean a heck of a lot!”

      No, the term didn’t emerge until human’s began splicing transgenic genes. Attempting to expand the definition to cover traditional breeding practices (hybridization) is disingenuous.

      As for needing GMO’s to feed the planet. There is already enough food being produced to feed everyone on the planet, and would be even without GMO’s. And GMO yields are not rising, as I wrote below, there is an initial boost in yields but no sustained growth, for that you need to look to organic. From the USDA (hardly a bastion of anti-GMO activity):

      “farmers indicate that they adopted GE corn, cotton, and soybeans primarily to increase yields”

      “Over the first 15 years of commercial use, GE seeds have not been shown to increase yield potentials of the varieties.”

      Farmers can charge more for organic without suffering the consequence of superpests, so the free market will take care of the US GMO “controversy”.

      Jesse wrote on August 12th, 2015
    • You cannot create the same exact plant with GMO as you can with hybridization, because the GE (genetically engineered) plant has the insertion of an ENTIRE gene, and more importantly, it has its control sequence jammed into a make-this-continuously mode, using genes from cancers and infectious diseases. I am sure some natural variations happen because of changes in the control sequences, but it cannot happen in nature the way it happens in the lab.

      Esther Cook wrote on August 12th, 2015
  21. GMOs may be safer then we realize but until there is a better base line track record and more data to learn about long term effects I will continue to avoid GMO foods in favor of non GMO and continue to grow most of my own foods and hunt my own meats. I realize that hunting is not even a 100% fix as the deer and elk I hunt can be feeding on crops that are of a GMO base but I feel there would likely be less GMOs present in wild game then domestic raised meat sources.

    Rick Lesquier wrote on August 12th, 2015
  22. I agree with GMO mandatory labeling, no matter which side of the fence you sit on, you have the right to know what is in your food and to choose whether you are going to buy it or not. It’s estimated that 90% of Americans want labels to list GMO products on foods, amazingly, this bill was voted down in congress; too many politicians re-election campaigns are funded by these big biotech companies. Follow the money people…….

    Jacqui Day wrote on August 12th, 2015
    • Why make it mandatory? I think we can treat it like “organic” products. Everyone assumes it is not organic unless the product is labeled organic.This is not mandatory.

      Mark S wrote on August 14th, 2015
  23. Here is a compelling article about the global benefits of researching and developing drought-resistant and heat-resistant beans.

    30 Heat-Tolerant Beans Identified, Poised to Endure Warming World

    Sarah wrote on August 12th, 2015
  24. “WWGD” What Would Grok Do?

    Ryan wrote on August 12th, 2015
  25. What nature makes is incredibly complex, and we understand only a miniscule amount about how biological organisms function. Genetic engineering technology is random in its effects, with no precision about how the ‘desirable’ gene segments get inserted into the host organism’s DNA. There can be a wide range of impacts on the final organism, but all the company cares about is the presence of the supposedly desirable trait.
    As a person who cares about nutrient dense whole foods, I don’t want scientists messing with Mother Nature. Add or increase a micronutrient with science? Sure. But you screw up nature’s time tested proportions. Including potentially turning some things off and dramatically increasing production of other naturally produced substances.
    Plus you potentially produce a plant that will generate entirely new and toxic proteins. All of the plant’s natural regulatory mechanisms are messed up. The ‘desirable’ new proteins are made by the plant 24/7, producing very high concentrations.
    The process of genetically engineering an organism creates massive collateral damage to the host’s DNA. Thousands of mutations can occur.
    When we consider the impacts of SNPs, SINGLE nucleotide polymorphisms on human health, how can we believe that creating thousands of mutations in the genome of a plant or animal can possibly be safe?? Would you let a scientist shoot a DNA segment into your cells, knowing that thousands of mutations might occur? Not for me, thanks.
    Very little safety testing is done. There have been instances in which safety tests were performed which were Not required for crop approval, and extremely harmful effects were discovered. Leading to the crop (peas) not being made available, when it would have been approved without that test.
    Those sorts of long term damages may be occurring in humans and in livestock animals, yet not being attributed to GMO consumption.
    How do we know that increases in cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and autism aren’t being contributed to by the proliferation of GMOs in the food supply? There are many who believe that they are related. But it is oh so hard to prove the causal relationship ‘scientifically’ when GMOs are so prevalent. Even simple causal relationships are famously hard to prove when human physiology is so complex.
    The promised benefits of decreased pesticide usage, increased yields, and increased hardiness have not proven to be reliable. In fact, the plants are frequently unhealthy and under perform. As you already said, Mark, pesticide/herbicide usage has dramatically increased with GMOs.
    Plus contamination of non-GMO crops is very real. In my opinion, it is not possible to have a 100% guaranteed GMO-free source of soy, corn, or canola. If we were to stop planting GMOs, the process of getting back to truly GMO-free would be very laborious, if possible at all. But at least we could stop planting have GMO prevalence gradually decrease naturally.
    In my opinion, any small potential benefits are just not worth the risks and damages.

    Sandra wrote on August 12th, 2015
  26. Mark, ask the wrong question get the wrong answer. The question is not merely are GMOs safe (answer: we don’t know for sure). The question is are they good for the planet, including all its species, not just humans, in the long term, not just in the next year or two. Answer: we don’t know, but there sure could be problems. Why rush in? The European precautionary principle is wise. Here in the USA, we’ll get the answer that well funded corporations want, until Citizens United is overturned.

    PDB wrote on August 12th, 2015
    • +1

      Geranium wrote on August 15th, 2015
  27. One of my main concerns is that as you said, each genetic alteration has the potential to drastically and suddenly alter other aspects of the plant besides the intended one. We don’t know that much about how parts of the genome interact and how these changes exactly alter the final plant. Novel amino acids and other components can be created and we just aren’t looking for that. Researchers are checking mostly for things like hardiness and crop yield, which is their bottom line.

    If we could actually trust companies like Monsanto to do good quality good faith research on their products in the interest of our health, it would be different, but as it is, we have to assume Monsanto is only interesting and doing and advertising research that benefits their income. ‘Critics’ of other research are typically hired by Monsanto and the like and are not often true scientists. They are trained and paid by Monsanto and do not know or care about the full picture.

    I have heard data that as many as 1 in 3 scientists in related fields are paid by Monsanto and other similar companies to speak often and as loudly as possible in favor of GMOs with threats like that the world will soon starve to death if GMOs are not allowed to go forward quickly. They say it under guise of scientific fact when it’s actually just Monsanto propaganda. It’s hard to get to the truth in the face of such a propaganda onslaught and with Monsanto holding control of most of the actual data and only letting out that which fits with its propaganda schemes.

    Eva wrote on August 12th, 2015
  28. re: Right before harvest, when the plants are hardy and mature enough to resist it.

    What practice is that?

    There is the practice of “dessication”, often used on wheat (none which is GMO yet). The wheat does not resist it, as the whole point of the application is to terminate growth for convenience of harvest. This raises the question of how much glyphosate or RoundUp® gets into the wheat.

    (That would be only a rhetorical question, because anyone concerned about that specific issue probably is not eating runt mutant goat grass anyway {sold to you as “wheat”} for a long list of reasons.)

    Bob Niland wrote on August 12th, 2015
  29. “Gmo” are rhe most studied food source ever. Glycosophate is extensively studies and the benifits far outweight the risks especially in contrast to “organic” farming which uses much more damaging pesticides in much larger quantities. Lab based breeding is safer, traditional breeding has no controls to prevent the accidental traits like potentially harmful lectins. Gmo crops use less water again in contrast to organic which use much more water and resources in General. Organic food us produced largely by the same companies that already produce most of the food supply so eatibg organic dies literally nothing to de centralise food production. Mono culture is the result of demand….period.

    G wrote on August 12th, 2015
    • Gmos are almost totally NOT studied in actual fact. Some highly respected publication claimed that these things have been extensively tested for 20 years longer than they have even existed. Scientists searching for the truth find that statement and others like it and think they are informed. In reality, there are few tests even by the industry. Industry tests are so shallow that when real scientists see them, they are shocked. Only a few independent test have been done. Monsanto says they all showed GMOs safe but the real results found enormous harm. It turns out to be very, very easy to spin propaganda so that scientists think the real research was badly done and the industry spin is the careful research. Unfortunately, the whole thing is going to crush the reputation of ” science” when the public finally finds out how easy it is to lie with it.

      Esther Cook wrote on August 12th, 2015
  30. I agree totally with Mark and what others have said. I think we need to tread lightly and be very careful about consuming GMO’s and do our own research. FAR too many our willing to just accept GMO’s out of hand because “They were designed by very smart genetic engineers so they must be fine.” People really need to wise up! Yes the engineers are smart and yes the crops work BUT that does NOT mean everything is ok! Everything was OK with Vioxx too, really OK – Then they found it causes heart attacks unequivocally and it was pulled from the market. Those scientists who designed Vioxx are just as smart as the genetic engineers but everyone, and i do mean everyone makes mistakes. Think about this just for a moment — What if the GMO scientists are wrong? How big does that make their mistake? Answer – It’s a global and profound mistake.

    pkjody wrote on August 12th, 2015
  31. my take,
    we don’t know all about GMOs but we do know much more about organic foods..
    the safer alternative is organic
    I would rather buy organic than GMO and will continue to do so

    in the end, GMO and pharma corps use humans as guinea pigs..
    we are the test subjects
    that’s why there are lawsuits against companies, they actuarize their obligations and their responsibility.
    lawsuits are cheaper than not having the product on the market..

    John wrote on August 12th, 2015
  32. For those that haven’t heard of this book, there’s some interesting information contained within:

    Altered Genes, Twisted Truth

    Sylvia wrote on August 12th, 2015
  33. Hi Mark, My personal decision is to avoid GMO’s as much as possible. Your article did not mention the high correlation between the introduction of GMO’s in the 90’s and a large increase in our population of many autoimmune diseases, cancer, allergies, autism, etc. Another 90’s event that correlates is the fluoridation of water. Our health statistics should cause alarm and a response from the government and from traditional medicine, but there has not been any meaningful response. One response would be to have well funded solid scientific studies of the correlation. Now it’s a battle between well-funded “Monsanto” scientists and under-funded independents.

    A question I have about GMO’s is the source of the inserted gene. I have heard of bacteria, fish, mice, and even human sources. What is the situation for someone who wants to be vegan eating a vegetable with animal genes inserted? How about someone who does not want to be a cannibal eating a vegetable with human genes inserted?

    Shirley Goff wrote on August 12th, 2015
  34. thanks for the great article as usual. I also strongly object to the idea of making it illegal for farmers to save seeds. and to fine & legally harrass farmers whose crops are contaminated by GMO pollen blown across the road. My major concerns for GMOs currently are less about health and more about botanical contamination with unknown consequences and corporate control.

    Marty wrote on August 12th, 2015
  35. Mark, I appreciate you addressing this volatile topic. I’ve generally preferred local food, organic food, and other food in that order. I haven’t gone out of my way to avoid GMOs but was withholding judgment, I guess. There are increasing numbers of people to feed on this planet, and I think we need to explore ways to get more yield out of crops.

    In addition to your informative article, I read an article in July on titled Unhealthy Fixation (I don’t know if it’s cool to link, so I didn’t). It lists many of the same points you do here along with some of the misinformation that is being spread by GMO opponents. Long, but well worth a read.

    Each side seems to have a vested interest in discrediting the other for their own gain. We, the consumers, are left wondering what the truth is. I am committed, as you seem to be, to being informed about both sides of this changing topic in order to make my own informed choice.

    Love the site!

    Ray wrote on August 12th, 2015
    • I don’t think we should be exploring ways to get more yields out of crops. I think we should be exploring ways to stop having so many humans born around the globe. Read ‘Collapse’, There have been several societies in our past that have used up everything around them until they disappeared. I think we are on the verge of another one.

      Nocona wrote on August 12th, 2015
  36. Anyone consuming GMO foods and thinking it’s perfectly OK should have their head examined.
    Anyone thinking that Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer CropScience, and Dow are not evil giants who are trying to destroy our food should really read the book Genetic Roulette by Jeffrey M. Smith.
    And anyone who is not familiar with H.R. 1599, the controversial bill about GMO labeling, which its opponents have nicknamed the “Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) act, should at least get familiar with it and oppose it. That’s my take and I’m sticking to it.

    DJ wrote on August 12th, 2015
  37. Interesting that you’d put out an article like this, knowing it will be misconstrued to say “Mark endorses GMO’s”… when in fact you say that you avoid them and eat organics.

    I completely agree that glyphosate (RoundUp) is THE biggest concern. But, GMO’s are what enable the rampant use of glyphosate.

    Truth of the matter is that GMO’s have NOT been proven safe. Neurological diseases have SPIKED since the release of GMO’s in the late 1990’s. Is there a proven link? No. But, it’s not been proven.

    Mari Ann Lisenbe wrote on August 12th, 2015
    • Unfortunately, non-GMO-wheat around the globe gets harvested in a concerted and synchronized manner by spraying and killing the plants with excess glyphosate.
      So, when it comes to wheat, we must all go organic, no matter what genome has been engineered into the seeds.
      Also, genetic engineering makes use of antibiotic resistance genes. These aid in the trait selection process.
      Such genes can recombine or be incorporated into the genomes of our commensal gut bacteria, thus making us non-responsive to the antibiotics.

      IrisD wrote on August 21st, 2015
  38. I don’t see GMO plants, in and of themselve, to be a problem. However, their intended purpose is to resist pesticide sprays, and it’s these sprays that are my concern.

    I am also not keen on a company patenting whole foods. If they want to go this route, they need to make their plants STERILE! Bees and other insects can, and will, cross pollinate GMO plants with “wild” varieties. Today, patent holders have a problem with this, and go after the bees (and the bee keepers). That’s wrong. There are some bee colonies that have become resistant to Roundup, and they have been seized or destroyed whenever identified. ( You can bet policy this will spread to the rest of the world eventually.

    In order to protect their patents, GMO seeds are NOT to be stored for next years planting. This has been a tradition of farmers for centuries. Again, if the GMO plants were sterile, this issue would be mute.

    STERILE SEED! That’s and oxymoron, you say. Yes it is. There are two biological systems I can think of that produce sterile progeny. Bananas are rendered sterile by preventing the pollinator species from “doing their thing”. Chicken eggs are also rendered sterile by not allowing roosters to fertilize them.. GMO seed companies need to find a way to render their plants sterile if they want a legitimate lock on “Mother Nature”. Who knows, maybe Roundup killing bee colonies IS that strategy?

    Mark Lopiccola wrote on August 12th, 2015
  39. Let’s look at Europe and their resistance to allowing GMOs..
    are there not scientists there that find GMOs unsuitable..
    I’m pretty sure there are..

    John wrote on August 12th, 2015
  40. This article is entirely misinformed on genetically engineered Bt toxins in GM crops. In fact, none in these commercial crops are identical to those found in nature:

    Madeleine Love wrote on August 12th, 2015

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