Genetically Modified Organisms And Your Health
This editorial piece is the fourth in a series of educational papers facilitated by the concerned citizens group:
Belizeans Against GMOs (BAGMO).
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GMO in Belize
Are Genetically Modified foods safe?
The GMO debate covers a whole range of issues, from effects on the environment, legal complications, food security and more. But the big question on many people¡¦s minds, especially those with families is: are GMO products safe to eat?

One of the first scientists to look into this question was Dr Arpad Pusztai, a researcher at Scotland Rowett Research Institute, who was commissioned to conduct the first ever independent study on Genetically Modified (GM) foods. He began his study believing that GM foods held great promise for the future. After rigorous research involving feeding lab rats GM potatoes, he had this to say about GMO based food:
"If I had the choice, I would certainly not eat it... I find it's very unfair to use our fellow citizens as guinea pigs."

As most studies into GM food have been financed by the producers of GMOs or Genetically Modified Organisms, wheels were set in motion to discredit Dr Pusztai, even though twenty one European and American scientists released a statement supporting him and his work.

What did Dr Pusztai find that disturbed him so much?

Vulnerability to disease

Rats fed GM potatoes had smaller livers, hearts, testicles and brains, damaged immune systems, and showed structural changes to their white blood cells, making them more vulnerable to infection and disease compared to other rats fed non GM potatoes.

The GM potatoes tested by Dr. Pusztai were withdrawn from the market. Currently corn, soy, canola, sugar beets, alfalfa and rice are the staples of our diet that are now genetically modified.

Today, an increasing number of new concerns are being raised. Many people don't realise that the foreign genes that are inserted into GM foodstuffs stay active in our own bodies after we eat them. 

Doctors at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec studying the effect of GMO corn found the corn's Bt-toxin in the blood of pregnant women and their unborn babies, as well as in non-pregnant women. Since this is new, barely tested technology, no one has any idea what the long term effects or consequences may be.

Infertility and Morbidity
A Russian scientific study found that more than half of the offspring from rats fed GM soy died within three weeks, compared to the 10% death rate of babies from rats fed non-GMO soy. A later Russian study found that hamsters on the maximum GM soy diet became infertile within three generations.

"Today, we’re all lab rats in an uncontrolled, unregulated mass human experiment the results of which are unknown."

— William F. Engdahl, author, Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation.

More recently, the International Journal of Biological Sciences released a report linking Monsanto's GM corn to organ damage in rats.

Gene Transfer

Part of the issue with GMO foods is that the genetically modified proteins we ingest don’t go away. There is only one published human feeding experiment and that showed that the genetic material inserted into GMOs transfers into the bacteria living inside our guts and continues to function. 

While we don’t know yet what that actually means, the implications of it are dangerous. For instance:

The fact is that there has been very little research into the health considerations of eating Genetically Modified food, and what research has been conducted has overwhelmingly been paid for by the same people making and selling Genetically Modified Organisms.

There is now a growing number of credible people and organisations offering new information and raising the possibility of health risks that hadn’t been considered earlier.


French scientists (Séralini) recently conducted the first, long-term (2 year) study on GMOs. Rats were fed GM corn, Roundup herbicide, or both. Results showed significant cancerous abdominal tumor growth (as seen in photos above). Serious kidney and liver damage caused the rats to die earlier than the rats not fed GM corn or Roundup herbicide.
Increased Allergens

It has also been found that characteristics other than the ones the scientists aim for in their genetic engineering are also transferred. In one example, when soy beans were modified by injecting genes from Brazil nuts, researchers were surprised to find that people allergic to Brazil nuts now had the same reaction to the GM soy. Soy allergens skyrocketed up to 50% after GM soy was introduced into the UK, and five years after GM soy was in the US, peanut allergies doubled. GM soy also contains a new unexpected allergen not found in wild natural soy. There isn’t enough research done to explain the exact cause of this rise of allergies, but the facts are compelling.

Researchers are also finding that when a transgene (the inserted, foreign gene) begins functioning in a new cell, it may produce different proteins than the ones intended. As the gene is now in a completely different environment, it may react to that environment in ways we simply can’t predict.

This is one of the main concerns about GMOs – these products are being fast-tracked onto the marketplace and our tables... unlabelled, and without enough long term research to identify potential risks and safeguards.

The money spent by biotech firms promoting GMOs far outweighs the budgets of independent researchers studying the safety of GM food, but new findings and concerns continue to surface.

- If the antibiotic gene inserted into most GM crops were to transfer, it could create super diseases, resistant to all known antibiotics.
 - If the gene that creates Bt-toxin in GM corn were to transfer, it might turn our intestinal bacteria into living pesti-cide factories.
 - Animal studies show that DNA in food can travel into organs throughout the body, and even into the foetus.

“GM plants, such as soybean, corn, cottonseed, and canola, have had foreign genes forced into their DNA. The inserted genes come from species, such as bacteria and viruses, which have never been in the human food supply.”

“With nutritionally-depleted foods, chemical additives and our tendency to rely upon pharmaceutical drugs to treat what’s wrong with our malnourished bodies, it’s no wonder that modern society is getting sicker.”


The longest industry-funded animal feeding study was 90 days, which recent research has confirmed is FAR too short. In the world’s first independently funded lifetime feeding study, massive health problems set in during and after the 13th month, including organ damage and cancer.

Dr Pusztai was one of the first and perhaps most well-known of researchers who was shocked to see immediate negative results from lab rats eating GM food. But what about well into the future, when GMOs have literally entered the food chain and our bodies forever?

If any one of the concerns outlined above comes true, the results could be disastrous.

We are responsible for our own health and the health of our families. 

Corporations are responsible for generating the biggest profits for their shareholders. This is neither good nor bad, it is just a fact of modern life. Bringing GM corn into Belize to be grown is not a win-win situation for the health of our country... for our soil... or for our pristine environment. The only winners are the seed and chemical companies.

The stakes are high. The decision whether or not to eat foods that contain GMOs is each of ours. We should also be advocating for healthier food to be grown and processed in Belize for better choices for all of us

Kaiser Permanente, the largest Health Insurance provider in the United States, recommends people limit their exposure to GMOs
This editorial piece is the third in a
series of educational papers facilitated by the concerned citizens group:
Belizeans Against GMOs (BAGMO).
To learn more, go to the
BAGMO's Facebook page
Also visit our new GMO library at:


GMOs: Legal, Ethical and Trade Issues
Letter to the editor accompanying the above full page info-ad
Week #3 - GMOs and Your Health
Dear Editor,

Thank you for providing a forum for Belizeans to discuss the growing controversy over the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into our country. 

Some of your readers will recall that I was very fortunate to have been an apprentice for 13 years to Don Elijio Panti, Belize’s most celebrated Maya healer. Don Elijio was recognised worldwide, made a Member of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II and received numerous awards, such as "Distinguished Contribution to Science" (The New York Botanical Garden) for his work. 

Since 1977 I have been working to preserve, use and further the knowledge of Belize’s vast cornucopia of medicinal plants as developed by the Maya over thousands of years and still used successfully throughout Belize.

I only mention this to explain my rather unique perspective and why I am so opposed to the introduction of GMOs into Belize’s wonderfully rich yet fragile ecology.

 Don Elijio passed on to me a deep respect for how the Maya, over thousands of years,  thrived using Belize’s countless species of plants for food, shelter, clothing and healing. It is a beautiful relationship that involves a profound reverence for nature and her plants, and especially with maize, or corn.

This has been one of humankind’s  longest and most successful symbiotic relationships – corn spurred Maya culture and trade and the Maya in turn spread corn, bringing this life-giving grain to the four corners of the Maya Empire, and then throughout the world. From these humble beginnings corn now feeds innumerable people on the planet as well as being used for everything from biofuels to packaging.

It is truly amazing how one tiny little grain so profoundly affected the way of life and health for so many millions.

But where the Maya continue to treat corn with deep reverence, modern man is trying to get even more out of it by tampering with its very genetic makeup, and we are already seeing some frightening results. I won’t belabour the facts presented in recent articles and letters here in Belize except to stress, once again, just how untested this technology is (and with us and our children being used as guinea pigs) and how dangerous this “get it to market and sell as much as quickly as possible” mentality is.

This is not to say that modern technology hasn’t produced miracles – far from it. Science has made incredible advances and improved the quality of life for millions of people, and in my work I emphasise Don Elijio’s belief that a balance between the natural and the manmade is essential to achieve the best health outcomes. 

HOWEVER – when we sever our ties with nature, we do so at our peril.

The Maya developed their crops, jungle pharmacopeia and vast knowledge over thousands of years. GM technology is, relatively speaking, a few years old, and in some cases GM foodstuffs are being approved after a mere three months testing. It seems like lunacy to genetically manipulate corn seed that has been developed in balance with humankind over millennia with something so freshly out of a test tube, and then put it on our plates without thorough testing. 

We also need to keep in mind that, because nature is so efficient at distributing seeds and pollen, once GM corn and other plants are put into our soil, there is no turning back – ever. If it turns out to be the Pandora’s Box many people fear it is, we will never be able to close the lid.

Why succumb to a profit-driven rush when we don’t need to? Why not more carefully examine what we are about to unleash upon the world and put inside our bodies? If we don’t respect and revere our bodies and nature as the ancients did, how can we expect to have a long and healthy life?

I am not suggesting that we go backwards, only that we go forwards carefully, with respect, and remembering that we are the custodians of something very precious and irreplaceable.

For if we mess up this time, we may not have a second chance.

Dr Rosita Arvigo,  DN
San Ignacio, Cayo

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Article accompanying editorial and info-ad (Week 3)
GMO’s & Your HEALTH – Article of Interest
Are GMOs Safe?
By Chris Kresser 
Genetically modified foods (GMOs) have been popular in the news lately ever since California failed to pass Prop 37, which would have required the labeling of GMO ingredients on all products sold within the state. While California may be setting the stage for the discussion of future labeling of GMO foods in our country, currently there is no regulation anywhere in the United States requiring the disclosure of GMO ingredients to consumers. This is in contrast to countries such as those in Europe and South America, who highly regulate the cultivation and sale of genetically modified crops and often require the labeling of foods that contain GMO ingredients. In America, unless you buy certified non-GMO food, there is no way to know if your food contains GMOs or not.

So why does it matter if our food contains GMOs? You may have heard from various media sources that genetically modified foods are perfectly safe and there is no evidence to suggest any long term risk from their consumption. On the contrary, there has been some evidence suggesting potential health risks caused by these foods; even scientists within the FDA itself have repeatedly warned that GM foods can create unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects, including allergies, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems. With so much conflicting information, it’s hard to tell fact from fiction. Are GMOs safe for human consumption, or not?

Do GMOs really affect our health as negatively as some believe? 

What is Genetic Modification?

Genetic modification involves the transfer of genes from one species of plant or animal to another, using techniques that can cause mutations in the genome that may have unintended consequences for the crop’s safety.  The imprecise rearrangement of genes can create new proteins in these plants that may trigger allergies or promote disease. Our immune systems often do not recognize these new proteins and may mount an immune attack against them if they enter our bloodstream intact. These unintended gene transfers, along with those that are intended, can lead to significant changes in gut and immune function, and may have long-term consequences that are not yet known to the scientific and medical communities.

In genetically modified corn and cotton, a gene from a bacteria called Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is inserted, which causes a pesticidal toxin to be produced in every cell of the plant. This Bt-toxin kills insects that eat the plant by breaking down its gut lining and killing the insect from septicemia caused by the ensuing blood infection. While this toxin has not been proven to be toxic in this way for humans and other mammals, several recent studies have suggested this toxin could have effects on immune health, gut health, liver and kidney function, and fertility.

The potential dangers of GMOs

The gut is most susceptible to the potential dangers of GMO consumption. Bt toxin produced by GMO corn has been shown to significantly alter immune function in mice, and may cause disrupted immune function in the gut. One study suggested that Bt toxin has toxic effects on human cells in vitro, causing them to die prematurely. This could cause damage to gut endothelial cells if the toxicity is found to occur in vivo. The potential intestinal effects of GMO consumption go beyond Bt toxin. Some argue that gut bacteria are capable of acquiring DNA sequences from GM plants, which could lead to the development of antibiotic resistance in those microbes. It’s not yet fully understood what proportion of the GM genes are able to be transferred to gut microbiota.

There have been effects of GM corn found on organs outside of the intestinal system as well. Analysis of Monsanto’s own research and independent research by a lab in France determined that mice and rats eating Bt-toxin producing corn sustained liver and kidney damage. Other harmful effects were also noticed in the heart, adrenal glands, spleen and hematopoietic system of these GM corn-fed rats. Bt toxin has also been demonstrated to reduce fertility in mice, with fewer offspring being produced than by mice fed on natural crops. While these are small, preliminary studies, it’s worth investigating the effects GMOs can have on other organs besides the intestines.

Since the research is in its infancy, GMOs may have associated health risks that we do not fully understand. The organization known as The Institute for Responsible Technology has developed a list of potential hazards of GMO consumption, providing a list of references for each health risk discussed. They have amassed a great deal of support for their position that GMOs are dangerous, and much of their information comes from research studies, clinical experience from doctors, and anecdotal evidence from farmers and parents of children who thrived on a GMO-free diet. (Unfortunately, the website’s statements exaggerate the findings of several studies, so it’s best to be a critical thinker and take the information with a grain of salt.)
Why is there still controversy?

Recent reviews have proposed a different story when it comes to GMO safety, arguing that the bulk of the evidence demonstrates no health risks associated with GMO consumption. These reviews found GMOs to be generally safe with no multigenerational effects, but also recommended that more research continue to be performed on the health effects of GMO consumption in mammals. It’s interesting to note, however, that the majority of the studies considered by these reviews had been conducted by biotechnology companies responsible for commercializing these GM plants; this conflict of interest could have an effect on the reporting of certain data. That said, there’s no denying the fact that independent critical reviews have so far found GMOs to be safe in food.

Unfortunately, credible research demonstrating the potential dangers of GMOs is not only sparse, it is also inconsistent. While many scientists argue that GMOs are unsafe for human consumption, there are many more scientists who suggest that the evidence to date has not found any significant health risks from ingesting GMOs. It’s impossible to tell at this point who has the right answer, and it’s unnerving that there is so much controversy over the safety of a food product that is present in 60 to 70 percent of processed foods found in grocery stores. 

A verdict on GMOs?

There hasn’t been nearly enough research performed on GMOs to make an informed decision on their safety. However, lack of proof is not proof against. While the available evidence is still mixed, it seems likely that genetically modified foods could have an effect on the immune response as well as the permeability of the gut. Whether or not this leads to an increase in disease is yet to be determined. However, if regular consumption of GMOs is able to cause leaky gut, it could play a role  in the recent dramatic rise in obesity, diabetes, allergies, autoimmune disease, and infertility in our country.

I’m no conspiracy theorist, but I think there is enough inconsistency in the available evidence to support the removal of GMOs from your diet. Fortunately, purchasing certified non-GMO or organic foods and eating a whole-foods or Paleo diet will allow you to steer clear of most GMO foods on the market. Until more legitimate research is conducted, I believe it’s better to be safe than sorry and avoid genetically modified foods as much as possible.

Found at: (The Healthy Skeptic)
November 30, 2012

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