How GMOs Are Created
- Artificially inserting genes into the DNA of an organism, usually food crops or animals.
- Genetic Modification (GM) can be engineered using recombinant DNA technology, which combines DNA molecules from bacteria, viruses, insects, plants, animals, or even humans into one molecule to create a new set of genes.
- This DNA is then transferred into an organism. Transgenic organisms, in particular, have DNA inserted that originated in a different species (called horizontal gene transfer).
- Elimination or alteration of genes.
The Three Main Current Uses of GMOs in Crops
1. Herbicide tolerance (~63%)
Herbicide resistant GM plants – most crops have been altered to tolerate direct application of glyphosate, commonly known by the trade name ROUNDUP. Monsanto’s Roundup is the most widely used herbicide in the world, and contrary to the popular belief propagated by industry, glyphosate use has significantly increased with the use of GM crops. While exact figures are a closely guarded secret because of the USDA’s refusal to update its pesticide use database after 2007, Data show that glyphosate use in the U.S. more than doubled from 2005 to 2010 (E.g. 57 million pounds of glyphosate applied to corn fields in 2010 compared to 23 million pounds in 2005 and 4.4 million in 2000) USDA. 2010. Agricultural Chemical Use Program. National Agricultural Statistics Service
This is a serious problem for more reasons than one:
GM food crops saturated with more herbicides than ever before – which ends up in your body when you eat them; Glyphosate may be killing the soil itself -This startling conclusion comes straight from one of the USDA’s own scientists, Dr. Kremer. However, his employer has opted to more or less ignore his findings, which, according to this article in Grist, include evidence that glyphosate causes:
- Damage to beneficial microbes in the soil – increasing the likliehood of infection of a crop by soil pathogens
- Interference with nutrient uptake by the plant – e.g. iron, manganese and zinc can be reduced by as much as 80 – 90% in GM plants. any herbicide or pesticide is a metal chelator, it grabs onto and immobilises micro-nutrients, and according to Dr. Huber, an expert on GM toxicity in foods, who has taught plant pathology, soil microbiology, and micro-ecological interactions as they relate to plant disease as a Profess on staff at Purdue University for 35 years.
- “Glycophosate is very unique and was first patented as a chelator by Stauffer Chemical Co. in 1964, because it could bind with any positively charged ion. If you look at the essential minerals for plants, you see calciu, magnesium, potassium, copper, iron, manganese, zinc and all of those other crucial transition elements… they all have an ion associated with them. It’s the micronutrient that is an ion – that is really critical for a particular enzyme function AND
- “You have to realise that this mode of action immobilises a critical essential nutrient. Those nutrients aren’t just required by the weed, but they are required by micro-organisms. They are required by us for our own physiologic functions. So, if it is immobilised, it may be present if we do a regular test, but it’s not necessarily physiologically available in the same efficiency that it would have been if it wasn’t chelated with glycophosate…”
- Reduced efficiency of symbiotic nitrogen fixation
- Overall lower-than-expected plant productivity
Weeds becoming “Super Weeds” – reports of glyphosate-resistant weeds, or “super weeds,” have been on the rise since GM crops started gaining momentum, and these weeds now total 15 species—up from 2 species in the 1990s. Society, the US has fared the worst, now combating 13 different glyphosate-resistant weed species in 73 different locations. E.g. Thousands of acres in the South have been abandoned to resistant strains of giant pigweed.
2. Insect Resistance (~18%)
Insect resistant GM Plants produce their own Bt-toxins to kill bugs – GM corn and cotton are engineered to produce built-in pesticide Bt-toxin. This chemical is produced by Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) bacteria in soil. When bugs bite the plant and consume the Bt-toxin, it kills them by splitting open their stomachs.
Pests have become more resistant – in the U.S., GM crop production actually increased pesticide use by more than 4% between 1996 and 2004, despite early signs that GM use might be tied to an overall decline.
Engineered GM Bt-toxin, touted as safe by biotech companies, is not safe:
- 1000’s of times more concentrated than spray-on form – although used by organic farmers as a bacterial spray against insects, the Bt-toxin produced in GM plants is thousands of times more concentrated and cannot be washed off the plant.
- Designed to be ore toxic – has properties of an allergen.
- Even the less toxic “natural” spray can be harmful – according to studies, when dispersed by planes to kill gypsy moths in Washington and Vancouver, about 500 people reported allergy or flu-like symptoms. The same symptoms are now reported by farm workers from handling Bt cotton throughout India.
- Washington State Department of Health, “Report of health surveillance activities: Asian gypsy moth control program,” (Olympai, WA: Washington State Dept. of Health, 1993
- Ashish Gupta et. al., “Impact of Bt Cotton on Farmers’ Health (in Barwani and Dhar District of Madhya Pradesh),”Ivnetigation Report, Oct-Dec 2005.
3. “Stacked” (The rest %)
A combination of both herbicide tolerance and insect resistance.
Read the full interview with Dr. Ron Huber – GMOs, Glyphosate and Tomorrow