The genetically modified crop soybean grown on 91 percent of US soybean fields is repeatedly attributed to devastating reproductive and birth defects in animal studies. Nevertheless, the powers that be—in both the private and public spheres—continue to allow Americans to shovel GMO soy onto their dinner tables.
Rats Fed GMO Soy Experience Reproductive Difficulties, Hairy Mouths
Russian biologist Alexey V. Surov and his team fed three generations of hamsters varying diets (one without soy, one with non-GM soy, one with GMO soy, and the final with higher amounts of GMO soy). By the third generation, the pups from the fourth group suffered a high mortality rate and most of the adults were infertile or sterile.
Earlier in 2010, Surov co-authored a paper in Doklady Biological Sciences, recording the incidence of hair growing in recessed pouches in the mouths of hamsters, most prominently in those of third-generation hamsters fed GM soy. “This pathology may be exacerbated by elements of the food that are absent in natural food, such as genetically modified (GM) ingredients (GM soybean or maize meal) or contaminants (pesticides, mycotoxins, heavy metals, etc.).”
Just five years earlier, Irina Ermakova (also with the Russian National Academy of Sciences) noted in her study that within three weeks, over half of the babies from mother rats fed GM soy died—over five times the mortality rate in the non-GMO soy control group. The pups from the GM group were also smaller. Later, Ermakova fed all the rats in her laboratory a GM soy diet. Two months later, the infant mortality rate reached 55 percent. The testicles of male rats fed a GM diet, where once pink, turned blue.
Both Farmers and the Environment Suffering
GMO studies with troubling results are cropping up worldwide. The Austrian government released a study in 2008 that found that mice fed GM corn produced fewer and smaller babies than those fed a non-GM diet. Everyday farmers—like Jerry Rosman—are even beginning to notice that US pigs and cows fed GM diets are becoming sterile. Even corncob bedding could be partly to blame for strange reproductive habits (or rather, the lack of such habits) in rats, as discovered by Baylor College of Medicine researchers. They also found that the GM corn material contained compounds that curtailed male sexual behavior, stopped the sexual cycle in females, and contributed to breast and prostate cancer call growth in cultures.
What Skeptics are Saying
Like the other studies listed here, Surov’s met a storm of criticism—sometimes even rightfully so.
In reference to another GM study, Mark Tester, a research professor at the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics at the University of Adelaide asks, “If the effects are as big as purported, and if the work really is relevant to humans, why aren’t the North Americans dropping like flies? GM has been in the food chain for over a decade over there—and longevity continues to increase inexorably.”
Sadly, North Americans are dropping like flies. Well, sort of. Genetically modified foods and related technology, like Monsanto’s Roundup, are quite often linked to significant organ disruption, sterility, impotence, and even obesity, one of the American public’s weightiest topics. While the contributors to those conditions, even in animal studies, can hardly be attributed to GMOs alone, they should not so eagerly be cast out of consideration.
In fact, Surov himself warns against jumping to conclusions. “It is quite possible that the GMO does not cause these effects by itself,” but may also be influenced by the herbicide Roundup (found in greater levels in Roundup Ready GM crops).
To be fair, many critics of these studies have reasonable points. There are factors in Surov’s and others’ studies worth scrutinizing, such as the breed and strain of animal used. King’s College London’s head of nutritional sciences research division, Tom Sanders, notes that Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen—in a French study that found rats fed Roundup-doused GMOs or given water contaminated with Roundup died earlier than those on other diets—didn’t provide data on how much the rats were fed. “This strain of rat is very prone to mammary tumors particularly when food intake is not restricted.” Moreover, David Spiegelalter of the University of Cambridge criticized Seralini’s control arm of the study, in which most subjects also developed tumors.
But even with the criticism, it doesn’t change the fact that GMOs are simply not proven safe by any means, and are being approved for human consumption prematurely.
Both Parties Guilty of Bad Science
Statistics can be turned and science performed badly, but this sword has two edges. The very scholars, researchers, and scientists accusing Seralini, Surov, and Ermakova of bad science are often guilty of advocating the widespread cultivation and consumption of genetically modified material after nodding at or performing themselves 90-day trials, assuming that the absence of side effects in what isn’t even a generation for a rat is evidence of safety in lifetime consumption by humans. Many, no doubt, are patted on the back for speaking against anti-GM movements by Big Agriculture and even the US government, repeated found deep in bed with industry.
It’s not like Big Ag and the government are making it easy to believe them when they say GMOs are safe to eat. Here are just a few examples of their sketchy past.
- Monsanto bought out a research firm that pointed its finger at herbicides in colony collapse.
- Processed food manufacturers and GMO firms contributed millions of dollars against GMO food labeling in Proposition 37, and were helped out by the Food and Drug Administration…
- Which makes sense because, once-VP and lawyer of Monsanto is the chief commissioner of foods at the FDA. He was also a US Department of Agriculture commissioner.
In Ermakova’s case, mysterious hands burned paper on her desk and stole samples from her laboratory; her boss, under pressure from his superior, told her to stop researching GMOs. Patents on GMOs and contracts forced upon farmers make it even more difficult to perform studies unless paid for by Big Ag itself.
“We have no right to use GMOs until we understand the possible adverse effects, not only to ourselves but to future generations as well,” says Surov. “We definitely need fully detailed studies to clarify this. Any type of contamination has to be tested before we consume it, and GMO is just one of them.”