Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Inside The Bees' Intestines

Genetically Engineered Crops May Produce Herbicide Inside Our Intestines By Jeffrey M. Smith

Pioneer Hi-Bred's website boasts that their genetically modified (GM) Liberty Link corn survives doses of Liberty herbicide, which would normally kill corn. The reason, they say, is that the herbicide becomes "inactive in the corn plant." They fail to reveal, however, that after you eat the GM corn, some inactive herbicide may become reactivated inside your gut and cause a toxic reaction. In addition, a gene that was inserted into the corn might transfer into the DNA of your gut bacteria, producing long-term effects. These are just a couple of the many potential side-effects of GM crops that critics say put the public at risk.

Toxicity of the herbicide
Glufosinate ammonium is structurally similar to a natural amino acid called glutamic acid, which can stimulate the central nervous system and, in excess levels, cause the death of nerve cells in the brain. The common reactions to glufosinate poisoning in humans include unconsciousness, respiratory distress and convulsions. One study also linked the herbicide with a kidney disorder. These reactions typically involve large amounts of the herbicide. It is unclear if the amount converted from GM crops would accumulate to promote such responses or if there are low dose chronic effects.

Disturbing gut bacteria
If the herbicide is regenerated inside our gut, since it is an antibiotic, it will likely kill gut bacteria. Gut microorganisms are crucial for health. They not only provide essential metabolites like certain vitamins and short fatty acids, but also help the break down and absorption of food and protect against pathogens. Disrupting the balance of gut bacteria can cause a wide range of problems.

One study on the pat gene raises all sorts of red flags. German scientist Hans-Heinrich Kaatz demonstrated that the pat gene can transfer into the DNA of gut bacteria. He found his evidence in young bees that had been fed pollen from glufosinate-tolerant canola plants. The pat gene transferred into the bacteria and yeast inside the bees' intestines. Kaatz said, "This happened rarely, but it did happen." Although no studies have looked at whether pat genes end up in human gut bacteria, the only human GM-feeding study ever conducted did show that genetic material can transfer to our gut bacteria. Non-GM Farmers

Killing The Bees