One of the most overlooked aspects of the GMO debate is the safety of Monsanto and other companies’ genetically engineered crops, and the lack of long-term safety testing that has been done.
Most GMOs (the blanket term for genetically engineered foods, or organisms) are designed to do one of two things: either to withstand large amounts of toxic herbicides or to produce insecticidal proteins within the plant itself.
In the case of Monsanto’s MON810 Bt corn, the insecticidal protein is produced to cause harm to any insects that attempt to make a meal out of it. But the same “novel traits” that make it a danger to pests may also be a danger to mammalian health, according to one new study.
“Serious Damage to Surface Mucous Membranes”
Published in the international journal Experimental and Toxicologic Pathology, the 90-day feeding study on rats found that those given GM Bt corn MON810 suffered “serious damage to the surface mucous membranes of the jejunum (a part of the small intestine),” among other ill effects on the digestive system as noted in this article from the website GMWatch.org.
The corn given was a version of Ajeeb, a variety that is local to Egypt, by researchers Marwa A.A. Ibrahim, MD, and Ebtsam F. Okasha. The rats ate a diet containing 30% of MON810.
In those that consumed the GM feed, some areas of the villi were “distorted and flattened,” with some cells joined together, the report said. Villi are tiny appendages in the intestines that absorb nutrients from food.
Mucus glands were also reportedly disrupted and blood vessels congested, while signs of inflammation were also observed in these areas, and cells in the intestine reportedly became abnormal.
The “consumption of GM-corn profoundly alters the jejunal histological [microscopic] structure,” the researchers concluded, calling for more research as to how the GM corn might have caused these changes in the rats. Direct damage on the mucus glands from the GM corn or a disruption in gut bacteria are two theorized possibilities in this case.
While it is not known for certain that the GM corn and Bt toxin within the plant are responsible for the damage, it is “strongly suggested” that it may be the cause, the report said.
The study was the third Egyptian experiment done showing harm to GM-fed rats.
In this case, the researchers did note that there were “no obvious signs of ill health or altered behavior in the GM-fed rats.”
However upon closer inspection, the internal damage was discovered.
The 90-day duration of the feeding study (which many deem too short in nature to notice such effects; consequently there are no longer-term “official” studies on GM food as even what the pro-GMO site GMOAnswers.com acknowledges) may not have been capable of showing visceral harm after all, the researchers added.
They concluded that a study of two years or longer should be conducted to find out if the intestinal mucosa lesions would eventually lead to overt displays of ill health in the animals. Unfortunately, studies longer than 90 days are still extremely rare.
Another Canary in the Coal Mine on GM Corn?
While independent studies such as these are often not factored in by government safety authorities, they should not be ignored especially considering that the EU Commission in Europe is hoping to approve more MON810 corn for planting during the 2017 growing season.
With so much at stake, it’s fair to wonder whether GMOs (and associated chemicals) that have been proven to show evidence of harm in independent studies should be approved with such short-term safety testing, and whether the precautionary principle should be evoked before making such landmark decisions.