A 2015 study has shown that children exposed to pesticides used to grow GM soy suffer serious genetic damage. Does this mean that our children will suffer the same fate as those unfortunate enough to live near GM soy fields in Argentina?
Researchers from the National University of Río Cuarto, Cordoba (UNRC) compared children who lived close to a GM-soy growing area in Argentina to children who lived in another city in Cordoba that was not adjacent to GM soy fields.
Genetic damage in the group of exposed children was 44% higher than in the unexposed children.
Children living less than 500m from crops routinely sprayed with glyphosate, cypermethrin, and chlorpyrifos were seriously damaged.
The researchers found that of the exposed children, 40% had varying persistent symptoms, such as repetitive sneezing, respiratory distress, cough, bronchospasm, skin itching or stains, nose itching or bleeding, lacrimation, and eye and ear burning or itching. None of the children who had not been exposed described any persistent symptoms.
The level of genetic damage detected in this experiment is reversible, so the authors suggested that the children should be followed up to establish whether biological markers of cell damage continue to be present.
The lead researcher, Delia Aiassa, wanted to study children because their genes are still developing, and genetic damage at their young age could determine future health (epigenetics). Damage observed in the exposed children included:
- Cytogenetic damage (damage to the structure and function of the cell, especially chromosomes)
- Increased frequency of DNA damage to chromosomes in childhood that is predictive of the development of cancer in adults.
The study abstract concludes:
“Results. A significant difference was observed between exposed children living less than 500 m from areas subjected to spraying and those who were not exposed. Forty percent of exposed children suffer some type of persistent condition, which may be associated with chronic exposure to pesticides.
Conclusions. Results indicate that genotoxicity is present in a group of children compared to the other one, and highlight the importance of the micronucleus assay in buccal mucosa cells for genetic biomonitoring and public health surveillance. This assay is capable of detecting a level of damage that can be reversible”
Approximately 94% of soy grown in the US is genetically modified, according to some estimates.