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A GMO Perspective

Inner Circle Member Forum >> Food and Diet >> A GMO Perspective

Bob Niland

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Posted: 12/11/2015 10:18:28 AM
Edited: 12/2/2017 6:09:49 PM (12)
A GMO Perspective

A GMO Perspective

Edition: 2017-12-02


Wheat Belly (WB) advises avoiding GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) foods. Wheat Belly Total Health (WBTH) has a discussion of it on (print edition) pages 33 to 35. Undoctored Inner Circle members can reference this video (with transcript):
Why We Avoid GMOs in Undoctored

The WBTH discussion hits on the points:

  • "Non-GMO" fails to avoid adverse frankengenes
  • direct hazards of the modified genes
  • indirect hazards: field practices
  • lack of meaningful safety testing

I’ll expand on those, add some more.

Table of Contents

  1. GMO is not inherently harmful, theoretically
  2. A Disclosure Battle
  3. A Battle for Your Dictionary
  4. The Genes Themselves
  5. The Field Practices Enabled
  6. Safety Last

1. GMO is not inherently harmful, theoretically

GMO, as popularly understood, is not an inherently adverse technology whose products must always be avoided. Every one of them is different, and must be considered on its own merits.

I was prompted to expand these remarks into a Cureality forum article by recently learning of Simplot’s Innate potatoes, which were the subject of RNA interference to reduce expression of asparagine. If RNAi health risks can be settled, these potatoes might well be safer to eat for those who insist on fried potatoes (which WB discourages, and this GMO crop is of course an instance of a needless solution to a trivially avoidable problem).

Explicit gene modification is just a technology, like chemistry. It is not inherently a hazard generator. It’s a matter of:
• what genes are selected (and equally important: why),
• adequate safety testing and
• monitoring for unintended consequences.
We may actually need GMO at some point.

Subtopic bottom line:
Most GMOs today are seriously troubling, and any are, by default, worth actively avoiding until all their consequences are understood and found acceptable. Food gene problems, however, are much wider than just “GMO”. Return to TOC ]

2. A Disclosure Battle

Too many players in Big Food want to not have to tell you what is in your food, how much of it there is, where it came from and what quality standards it meets. They lost much of that battle in the US, with the Nutrition Facts panels, but the NF does not presently require any GMO disclosure, and Big Food would like to keep it that way.

So today, the absence of a “non-GMO” or similar disclaimer is a warning flag. You need to discover if any of the ingredients are things that might be GMOs, and then assume that if they might be, they are.

Aside: “organic”, including USDA Organic, is helpful, but is not today 100% assurance of “non-GMO”. Google “Dark Act” for why any future USDA “Non-GMO” label may be equally sub-informative.

Since Big Food knows they might lose the GMO label battle, they would like to be able to dissemble on what the terms mean, which leads to the next topic.

Subtopic bottom line:
Look for both “Non-GMO” and “100% USDA Organic” today. Return to TOC ]

3. A Battle for Your Dictionary

Big Food is not merely resisting efforts to get GMO labeling on food packaging. They also want to control, and very narrowly define, what GMO means. They want the public to think that it refers only to insertion, alteration or deletion of specific targeted genes in an organism’s DNA - what I call explicit gene modification.

The FDA, when addressing GMO issues, as it did recently with salmon, is aware of this definition problem, and avoids the use of the abbreviations GM and GMO, preferring instead GE. See this Draft Guidance for details.

Big Food would like everyone to think that anything which isn’t GE (GMO, GM) is therefore “traditional” methods. They specifically want you assume that anything “non-GMO” must mean generational selective breeding based on naturally occurring mutations of the organisms in their native or production environments. Assuming that would be a mistake. I’m therefore going to render the narrow industry definition of GMO as GMO™ for the balance of this article, when I need to be specific.

There is, for example, no GMO™ wheat (on the market, yet), but as Dr. Davis points out in that linked article, what the industry wants us to assume is “traditional” actually includes:

  • radio-mutagenesis - recklessly random gene modification by radiation
  • chemo-mutagenesis - recklessly random gene modification by DNA-altering chemicals
  • embryo rescue - putting otherwise non-viable mutants on artificial life support so they can be used in further generations
  • crossing with adverse or non-food life forms
  • accelerated seasons - growing developmental crops in labs or in more favorable (non-native) locales, so that more generational cycles per year are possible.

Those things may not be GMO™, but I’ll bet some of them meet your personal definition of “gmo” (lowercase).

These “non-GMO” techniques aren’t creating gene lines that “might have existed eventually”. They are creating gene lines that might never come into existence before the heat death of the universe. Both GMO™ and gmo technologies are often creating results that are adverse to the organism - not uncommonly creating organisms that cannot survive without specific human intervention in field practices.

Semi-dwarf hybrid wheat, not [yet] a GMO™, might more accurately be called mutant runt goat grass. Goat grass is what it was crossed with to gain much of its robust stature. Goat grass is even less a human food than prehistoric einkorn. Even without mutation-inducing technologies, agri-tech is evolving food genetics at least twice as fast as nature.

Clearfield® wheat, in addition to being semi-dwarf hybrid, was also mutated in 2001, via chemo-mutagenesis, to have resistance to the herbicide imidazolinone. It was mutated again in 2014 to express two copies of the gene involved. The whole point of this non-GMO™ genetic engineering is to allow imidazolinone (typically as BASF’s Beyond®) to be applied to the growing crop (more on that below). What else was mutated in the wheat genome?

Subtopic bottom line:
Dangerous genetics don’t require GMO™, and anyone who is disciplined about avoiding GMOs, but isn’t also on top of the “non-GMO” forms of manipulation, has a much too narrow view. Return to TOC ]

4. The Genes Themselves

Here’s a list of approved genes, circa 2005.

When considering a GMO™ or gmo food-like substance, the obvious first question is the hazards of the genes inserted, modified, suppressed or deleted, plus any side effects of that local alteration on the genome at large. With the gmo techniques, due to the almost complete lack of control over specific genes, this can be hard to assess. The wheat genome has nearly doubled in size since 1960. What hazards do all those extra bits present? Other than what we see in catastrophic personal health and in healthcare expense trends, it’s an untested mystery.

So focus on what the point of the modification was (the “why”). If the tinkering was to enhance yield, or to improve the resistance to wind, drought or poor soil conditions, it might not be a problem — but notice that this list excludes nutrition and food safety

If the objective was to enhance, or flat out add, resistance to certain pests (or diseases), that implies that the organism is itself now a pesticide (or more of a pesticide, if not a frank antibiotic). Given the inept safety testing performed (if any), this is a big problem, discussed later.

If the point of the modification was to allow the organism to thrive in poor conditions (unfavorable climate; confined living for animals, such as farmed fish), then that raises various concerns that need investigation, including but not limited to:
• What is the new nutritional profile of this organism?
• What is being fed to the organism, and does it end up on your plate?

“Bt” GMO™ plants, for example, express the insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis (throughout the plant). If you eat corn products, you are probably consuming Bt. What is it doing to your gut biome?

Are you wearing any clothes made of cotton? Odds are high that it’s Bt Cotton. What are the consequences for your skin biome? Is any absorbed? Interesting questions. In other “now who would have guessed that” news, insects are rapidly evolving resistance to Bt - are you?

tpj: Diversification of the celiac disease a-gliadin complex in wheat: a 33-mer peptide with six overlapping epitopes, evolved following polyploidization The rate at which novel genetics are introduced to the food chain promises to get dramatically more rapid and serious with the advent of CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing.

Subtopic bottom line:
Some genes are clearly troubling, others less so, but don’t put a GMO on the shopping list without looking into what and why. Return to TOC ]

5. The Field Practices Enabled

The "why" of any genetic modification is critical. If the point of the GMO™ or gmo development was resistance to an external treatment, you can be quite confident that such treatment was applied, to the growing organism - as there would otherwise be no reason to pay the premium for what are usually pricey patented crops and critters.

When the resistance is to an applied pesticide, expect that pesticide to end up on your plate, and in your microbiome.

Glyphosate resistance (aka Roundup Ready®*) is the most prominent example. This pesticide is now considered a Group 2A probable carcinogen by IARC. Gilles-Eric Séralini has researched direct physiological damage by it. But the biggest risk may be to your gut biome. Glyphosate is a broad antimicrobial agent. What are the consequences of this? Big AgChem is working overtime to make sure that you don’t find out until it’s too late.

Imidazolinone resistance, found in theoretically non-GMO™ crops, almost certainly results in that herbicide being applied to the crop. How much ends up on your plate, and what are the long-term consequences? The Safety Data Sheet for it provides no clues, but does suggest that the LD50 for a mammal the size of a human would be about 400 milligrams.

Aside: avoiding glyphosate-resistant GMOs is insufficient to avoid glyphosate, by the way. It is also applied to a wide variety of non-resistant crops, both on- and off-label, to terminate crop growth for harvesting convenience. The ag euphemism is “desiccation” or “staging”. Glyphosate (and whatever else is in the formulation) clearly gets into the crop, because it kills it.

Subtopic bottom line:
Even if the genes themselves are safe, what they enable may not be. Return to TOC ]

6. Safety Last

Are GMO™s and gmos subject to food safety testing?
Basically, no.

Any testing done by industry is of course done in the context of consensus diets, which are inherently so high in adverse elements, that any GM-related effects might be lost in the noise. There is no chance that they would test against a grain-free LCHF diet with known healthy starting endocrine and gut biome status. What such test results would reveal (with or without the gmo under test) would be far too dangerous to publish.

In the interest of getting product to market, any industry testing may be expected to be short-term. More than crude testing of microbiome effects is frankly impossible at this moment in history. The spectrum is already known to include bacteria, eukaryotic parasites, fungi/yeasts, protozoans, viruses, and a recent paper is strongly suggestive that there might also be as-yet unknown Domains of life. Scientific knowledge about what is pathological, nominal or optimal is still in the dark ages. Plus, the wider standard [i.e. control] diets would be awash in known microbiome antagonists.

Independent safety testing is obstructed by industry and fraught with professional risk.

Nonetheless, there is long-term safety testing underway. Unfortunately, you are the lab rat for that, subjected to novel foods faster than ever. Most of what is in the average food market (including in the produce section) flat out didn’t exist even 100 years ago. How fast are you personally evolving to keep up with this? And no, Big Food isn’t particularly curious about your results, although they are deeply concerned that you might stop consuming their product, especially if you know what’s in it. Return to TOC ]

Bob Niland [disclosures] [topics]

* Roundup® is, by the way, not just glyphosate. According to this paper
BMRI: Major Pesticides Are More Toxic to Human Cells Than Their Declared Active Principles,
the other components in it make it dramatically more toxic. When reading studies on glyphosate, check what they are testing - just isolated glyphosate, or formulations as actually used afield. [ Return to Field Practices ]

Tags: Clearfield,GMO


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Posted: 12/12/2015 2:18:40 AM
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Posted: 12/12/2015 2:00:12 PM
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