- Research conducted on a new type of GM wheat showed with “no doubt” that molecules created in the wheat, which are intended to silence wheat genes to change its carbohydrate content, may match human genes and potentially silence them.
- Experts warned that eating the wheat could lead to significant changes in the way glucose and carbohydrates are stored in the human body, which could be potentially deadly for children and lead to serious illness in adults.
- Long-term studies are needed before the wheat is released into the environment and the human food chain – but a new review states that the risks are still not being adequately assessed.
By Dr. Mercola
Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) has developed a type of genetically modified (GM) wheat that may silence human genes, leading to disastrous health consequences.
Last year, University of Canterbury Professor Jack Heinemann released results from genetic research he conducted on the wheat, which showed with “no doubt” that molecules created in the wheat, which are intended to silence wheat genes to change its carbohydrate content, may match human genes and potentially silence them.
University Professor Judy Carman agreed with Heinemann’s analysis, stating in Digital Journal:1
“If this silences the same gene in us that it silences in the wheat — well, children who are born with this enzyme not working tend to die by the age of about five.”
Over 770 Pages of Potential Genetic Matches
Heinemann reported that his research revealed over 770 pages of potential matches between two GM genes in the wheat and the human genome. Over a dozen matches were “extensive and identical and sufficient to cause silencing in experimental systems,” he said.
Experts warned that eating the wheat could lead to significant changes in the way glucose and carbohydrates are stored in the human body, which could be potentially deadly for children and lead to serious illness in adults.
Since this adverse effect is extremely plausible, long-term studies are needed before the wheat is released into the environment and the human food chain – but a new review states that the risks are still not being adequately assessed.
A New ‘Breed’ of GM Crops
RNA is one of three major macromolecules, like DNA. Double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) is responsible for regulating well over one-third of human genes.
In a new risk assessment, Heinemann and colleagues explained that while all commercial GM plants are currently created through in vitro DNA modification typically to create a new protein, a “growing minority” are designed to change their RNA content in order to regulate gene expression.2
The technique, known as RNA interference or RNA knockdown, essentially turns off or “knocks down” certain genes. It was first used commercially in 1994 for the development of the Flavor Savr tomato, which was later withdrawn from the market, and has been applied in various GM crops since. As reported in The Atlantic:3
“Researchers have been using this phenomena to their advantage in the form of small, engineered RNA strands that are virtually identical to miRNA. In a technique called RNA interference, or RNA knockdown, these small bits of RNA are used to turn off, or ‘knock down,’ certain genes.
RNA knockdown was first used commercially in 1994 to create the Flavor Savr, a tomato with increased shelf life. In 2007, several research teams began reporting success at engineering plant RNA to kill insect predators, by knocking down certain genes. As reported in MIT’s Technology Review on November 5, 2007, researchers in China used RNA knockdown to make:
‘…cotton plants that silence a gene that allows cotton bollworms to process the toxin gossypol, which occurs naturally in cotton. Bollworms that eat the genetically engineered cotton can’t make their toxin-processing proteins, and they die.’
And: ‘Researchers at Monsanto and Devgen, a Belgian company, made corn plants that silence a gene essential for energy production in corn rootworms; ingestion wipes out the worms within 12 days.’ Humans and insects have a lot in common, genetically. If miRNA can in fact survive the gut then it’s entirely possible that miRNA intended to influence insect gene regulation could also affect humans.”
The Risks of GM Crops Containing dsRNA
According to Heinemann’s analysis, dsRNA-mediated silencing is becoming the basis of novel traits in GM plants, including biopesticides and altered nutritional characteristics. “Changing the nature, kind and quantity of particular regulatory-RNA molecules through genetic engineering can create biosafety risks,” the review reported,4 noting that, “we find evidence that the risks are not considered by some regulators.” They continue:
“While some GMOs have been designed to make new dsRNA molecules, in other GMOs such molecules may occur as a side-effect of the genetic engineering process. Still others may make naturally-occurring dsRNA molecules in higher or lower quantities than before.
Some dsRNA molecules can have profound physiological effects on the organism that makes them. Physiological effects are the intended outcomes of exposure to dsRNA incorporated into food sources for invertebrates; biopesticides and other topically applied products, and could be the cause of off-target effects and adverse effects in non-target organisms.
A daunting outcome is raised, that each [dsRNA] formulation might have its own risks.…Production of intended dsRNA molecules may also have off-target effects due to silencing genes other than those intended. Unanticipated off-target adverse effects can be difficult to detect and they are not possible to reliably predict using bioinformatics techniques. Regulatory bodies are not adequately assessing the risks of dsRNA-producing GM products. As a result, we recommend a process to properly assess the safety of dsRNA-producing GM organisms before they are released or commercialized.”
Risks of RNAs of Plant Origin Already Uncovered
One type of dsRNA is microRNA (miRNA). MicroRNA are basically small pieces of RNA that interact with your genes, essentially stopping certain genes from being expressed. MiRNA exists in human body fluid naturally; however, microRNA also exists in plants, and research has shown that eating the wrong plants may transfer this plant miRNA to humans — with potentially devastating implications.
The study, published in 2011, determined that microRNA from cooked plant foods like rice, wheat and potatoes can in fact collect in your blood and tissue, leading to a number of potential health problems.5 The study further revealed that microRNA remains completely stable after not only cooking, but through the digestion process as well. Most importantly, the researchers found a significant quantity of microRNA in the human body, concluding that:
“… plant miRNAs are primarily acquired orally, through food intake.”
MicroRNA has been widely shown to alter many critical biological processes, including apoptosis – the process of programmed cell death and DNA fragmentation. As a result, the dysregulation of microRNAs has been linked to cancer and various other diseases. And, as noted, plant miRNA has been shown to interfere with human microRNA by mimicking it and binding to the receptors, and also potentially through alterations in gene expression.
Most Consumers Unaware of GMO Risks
The biotech industry, led by Monsanto, is increasing their propaganda efforts to reshape their public image, and sway your opinion against the need to label GM foods. As The Atlantic reported:6
“Given its opposition to the labeling of GM foods… it seems clear that Monsanto wants you to close your eyes, open your mouth, and swallow.”
Indeed, many consumers are still in the dark about the very real risks that GM crops pose. The Canadian news station CBC News recently reported that despite warnings that GM foods could destroy the environment and pose risks to agricultural diversity, most Canadians have “no strong views on the matter.” Andreas Boecker, an associate professor at the University of Guelph who has researched consumer acceptance of GM foods, told CBC News:7
“These concerns among farmers and informed groups of consumers does not translate to the average consumer. They are too far removed from the concerns of the farming community… And if you go by shopping behavior most foods that they buy have some share of GMOs.”
This is precisely what the biotech industry wants, even as increasing research demonstrates GM crop dangers. One recent study found that rats fed a type of genetically engineered corn that is prevalent in the US food supply for two years developed massive mammary tumors, kidney and liver damage, and other serious health problems. This was at dietary amounts of about 10 percent. Does 10 percent or more of your diet consist of GM ingredients?
At present, you can’t know for sure, since GM foods are not labeled in the US. But chances are, if you eat processed foods, your diet is chock full of GM ingredients you didn’t even know about – causing equally unknown consequences to your health.
Keep Fighting for Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods
While California Prop. 37 failed to pass last November, by a very narrow margin, the fight for GMO labeling is far from over. The field-of-play has now moved to the state of Washington, where the people’s initiative 522, “The People’s Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act,” will require food sold in retail outlets to be labeled if it contains genetically engineered ingredients. As stated on LabelitWA.org:
“Calorie and nutritional information were not always required on food labels. But since 1990 it has been required and most consumers use this information every day. Country-of-origin labeling wasn’t required until 2002. The trans fat content of foods didn’t have to be labeled until 2006. Now, all of these labeling requirements are accepted as important for consumers. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also says we must know with labeling if our orange juice is from fresh oranges or frozen concentrate.
Doesn’t it make sense that genetically engineered foods containing experimental viral, bacterial, insect, plant or animal genes should be labeled, too? Genetically engineered foods do not have to be tested for safety before entering the market. No long-term human feeding studies have been done. The research we have is raising serious questions about the impact to human health and the environment.
I-522 provides the transparency people deserve. I-522 will not raise costs to consumers or food producers. It simply would add more information to food labels, which manufacturers change routinely anyway, all the time. I-522 does not impose any significant cost on our state. It does not require the state to conduct label surveillance, or to initiate or pursue enforcement. The state may choose to do so, as a policy choice, but I-522 was written to avoid raising costs to the state or consumers.”
Remember, as with CA Prop. 37, they need support of people like YOU to succeed. Prop. 37 failed with a very narrow margin simply because we didn’t have the funds to counter the massive ad campaigns created by the No on 37 camp, led by Monsanto and other major food companies. Let’s not allow Monsanto and its allies to confuse and mislead the people of Washington and Vermont as they did in California. So please, I urge you to get involved and help in any way you can, regardless of what state you live in.
- No matter where you live in the United States, please donate money to these labeling efforts through the Organic Consumers Fund.
- If you live in Washington State, please sign the I-522 petition. You can also volunteer to help gather signatures across the state.
- For timely updates on issues relating to these and other labeling initiatives, please join the Organic Consumers Association on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.
- Talk to organic producers and stores and ask them to actively support the Washington initiative.