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Biotech Science

Organ Damage In Rats From Monsanto GMO Corn 766

jenningsthecat writes "A study published in December 2009 in the International Journal of Biological Sciences found that three varieties of Monsanto genetically-modified corn caused damage to the liver, kidneys, and other organs of rats. One of the corn varieties was designed to tolerate broad-spectrum herbicides, (so-called 'Roundup-ready' corn), while the other two contain bacteria-derived proteins that have insecticide properties. The study made use of Monsanto's own raw data. Quoting from the study's 'Conclusions' section: 'Our analysis highlights that the kidneys and liver as particularly important on which to focus such research as there was a clear negative impact on the function of these organs in rats consuming GM maize varieties for just 90 days.' Given the very high prevalence of corn in processed foods, this could be a real ticking time bomb. And with food manufacturers not being required by law to declare GMO content, I think I'll do my best to avoid corn altogether. Pass the puffed rice and pour me a glass of fizzy water!"
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Organ Damage In Rats From Monsanto GMO Corn

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  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @09:48AM (#30749702) Homepage Journal

    what's most disturbing about this is ferengi magazine just named monsanto company of the year.

    Why would a Ferengi care about your liver? Monsanto has always been evil. Before the Clean Air Act you couldn't drive through Sauget, IL with your windows down; you couldn't breathe and the air burned your lungs. Very toxic. These sociopaths don't give a rat's ass (or liver) about your health, your well being, anything at all about you except how much money they can extract from your wallet and how best to exploit you.

    This is why we need regulations. Now, to you "free marketers" out there, how am I supposed to make an informed decision when there are no data showing what products have GM corn and what products have normal, non GM corn? Your god of commerce fails here, and we need "socialist" regulations badly.

    GM anything should be required to be clearly marked on the container.

    This bothers me; I eat a lot of corn, and a lot of stuff that has corn in it (anything sweetened these days uses corn syrup). I like to drink a bit, which is one reason I stay away from Tylenol. Now I guess I'll have to stop drinking soda and stop eating corn, or stop drinking.

  • Re:Riddle me this (Score:5, Informative)

    by Wonko the Sane ( 25252 ) * on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @09:50AM (#30749718) Journal

    How would the unencumbered "free market" handle a problem like this? Especially since none of us who eat corn are actually direct customers of Monsanto's GM corn?

    People would stop eating corn products.

    Those who were damaged by the defective product would seek damages in a civil court.

    If the courts declined to provide relief then the injured parties would all get together, storm the Monsanto headquarters and lynch all the executives.

  • Perhaps not (Score:5, Informative)

    by BigSlowTarget ( 325940 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @09:51AM (#30749726) Journal

    It doesn't look like the 'impact factor' relates to anything. Its in the header whether you're looking at an article or their contact information. No explanation there.

    This note on the front page: This Journal is ranked among the top 2.1% of journals (29/1380) according to SCImago in the area of Agricultural and Biological Sciences ...details
    Indexed/covered by MEDLINE, PubMed, Science Citation Index (SCI) Expanded, Current Contents®/Life Sciences, EMBASE, CAS, CABI, Scopus

    Plus there isn't much anti-GM crapvertising elsewhere on the website. I'm normally among the first to call bs, but this could very well be the ideal journal for the paper as it seems specifically dedicated to issues in the biological/agricultural sciences.

    Anyone familiar with the journal or practices in submitting in the field?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @09:56AM (#30749762)

    Also at the bottom of the page we see this. Not saying they are biased, but sometimes you find what you're looking for.

    Greenpeace contributed to the start of the investigations by funding first statistical analyses in 2006, the results were then processed further and evaluated independently by the authors.

  • by jdevivre ( 923797 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @09:58AM (#30749776)
    Good luck avoiding corn-derived products.

    Try reading "The Omnivore's Dilemma" [wikipedia.org] to get a sense of how much of our food products come from subsidized corn (sugar? CITRIC ACID???!).
  • by Narpak ( 961733 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @09:58AM (#30749782)

    Unfortunately, your scotch and bourbon is likely fortified with a corn product.

    Bourbon is primarily made from maize corn [wikipedia.org], while scotch is primarily barley [wikipedia.org]. This is why it is important to ensure that your scotch is pure single malt!

  • by Pedrito ( 94783 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @10:00AM (#30749804)
    It sounds to me like the issue isn't the GM itself, but the over-use of novel pesticides that it permits.

    No, you're misunderstanding. They don't allow the use of pesticides, the pesticides have been inserted into their genome. The pesticides are derived from bacterial DNA that is naturally herbicidal. Unfortunately, it's also a rodenticide, which means it's probably pretty poisonous to us as well..
  • by jonbryce ( 703250 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @10:04AM (#30749860) Homepage

    A free market requires full information about the product to be available. So what you need is free market regulations, like in the EU. Here, products containing genetically modified material are required to be labelled as such, and that guarantees that nobody will buy it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @10:05AM (#30749870)

    > the study says these are "signs of toxicity and not proof of toxicity"

    Thirdly, the statistical power of the tests conducted is low (30%) because the experimental design of Monsanto (see Materials and Methods). However, it is important to note that these short-term (3-month) rat feeding trials are the only tests conducted on the basis of which regulators determine whether these GM crop/food varieties are as safe to eat as conventional types.

    > Although I agree that multiple year teasts should be performed, and organ damage checked for. Though it would be extremely surprising if this has not already been done by anyone

    Given that these GM crops are potentially eaten by billions of people and animals world-wide, it is important to discuss whether the experimental design, the statistical analyses and interpretations originally undertaken are appropriate and sufficient ...

  • Re:we need GMO foods (Score:3, Informative)

    by o'reor ( 581921 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @10:13AM (#30749954) Journal

    GM crops are already doing more harm than good. Just ask the Indian cotton farmers [dailymail.co.uk], for instance...

    It has been proved that they also have lower yields and require more pesticides [i-sis.org.uk] in the long run than conventional crops.

    I'm not saying that GM plants and research should be discarded, or that they can't be used to actually get better yields and use less pesticides. I'm just saying that for now, a few corporations are focused on making piles of money by making farmers entirely depend on their seeds and their pesticides, no matter what it takes. And that particular use of GM crops (and of patents lawsuits over crops) should be outlawed.

  • by ArcherB ( 796902 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @10:14AM (#30749974) Journal

    This distinction will be lost on millions of reactionaries.

    And the distinction is unnecessary if you just make sure the food is safe for long term use.

    No. It won't matter. There are safe GM foods that have been feeding people for hundreds of years, but it only takes one to go wrong that will cause even the safe GM foods to banned. There was a case where an African country turned down free GM food and allowed their people to starve because some hippie-eco-group convinced the government that GM [worldpress.org] food was poison.

    Also, note that the "pesticide" in question is Bt toxin. Bt stands for bacillus thuringiensis. Bt is used in mosquito dunks, pesticide sprays and several other applications. It is not just considered safe for humans, animals and beneficial insects, but is even considered to be ORGANIC! You can spray your crops all day and night with millions of gallons of Bt and not lose your organic certification.

  • Re:Riddle me this (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @10:17AM (#30749998)

    How would the unencumbered "free market" handle a problem like this?

    This was covered in my Microeconomics class, and is generally ignored everywhere I see people invoke free market principles:

    In a properly functioning free market, information is perfect and freely available to all parties. So, if the market were truly free, you could inspect the products you could purchase and you would know exactly where they came from. I.e. you would know, from labeling, an Internet lookup of lot numbers, or other means, exactly how much GM material and which varieties were in the product you are buying. And you would have a means of verifying that this information is accurate and not simply fabricated. From this, you could research the studies on the effects of these GM products. This, of course, assumes that you're smart enough to understand this information when you get it.

    The problem is not that the free market is failing. The problem is that the market is not actually free, since you have no means to make an informed decision. The solution is to have a consumer-accessible, independently-verifiable audit trail of the history of any food product you can buy. How you can do that without government intervention is a separate issue needing further development.

    There is also the fact that such a system will increase the cost of food you buy. So then it becomes a question of whether you like your food cheap or verified. History suggests that cheap will win every time.

  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @10:31AM (#30750148)

    I think the majority of "high prevalence of corn in processed foods" is HFCS - does this contain significant fractions of the proteins involved.

    Ideally it would contain approximately none, as the proteins would mess with the taste, odor, and color. HFCS is a very highly refined product... I would vaguely guess that there is about as much protein from random contaminants like rodent hair as protein from the corn.

    Generally speaking HFCS syrups are sold with nutritional information for 100g of the stuff, and the nutritional info always lists 0g of protein. Now that doesn't mean 0, it means rounded to 0. So, if scientists write the nutritional data, that means less than 500 mg protein per 100 grams, or if marketing wrote it, it means 999.99999999 mg or less per 100 grams. However marketing doesn't care about protein content of HFCS at this time, so I'd feel confident that its well under 0.5% by weight.

    I'd worry more about, say, frozen creamed corn, corn chips, or corn tortillas.

  • by flitty ( 981864 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @10:46AM (#30750346)
    Nice Link, which explained that they turned down the Free GM food because they would lose 50% of the market they export to by having GM food (European Union) and feared the so called "terminator" seeds that give no seeds for replanting.

    I'm not a GM food reactionary, I just think that as a policy, the only thing we can do to fix these sort of safety problems is regulate the safety of GM foods, regardless of what genes are modified.
  • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @10:49AM (#30750404)

    Meta studies are scientific, though, depending on the circumstances, they may not be as good evidence as a primary study.

    Studies where you reanalyze someone else's data are quite common, and are the reason there have been efforts to create large, generally available datasets including cancer registries, pharmaceutical trials and astronomical surveys.

  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @10:54AM (#30750484) Homepage Journal

    There are safe GM foods that have been feeding people for hundreds of years

    Genetic engineering is in its infancy. Genetic engineering is NOT the same as crossbreeding or selective breeding; with genetic engineering you directly insert parts of one DNA strand into another. They've only been able to do this for a decade or two.

    You can't make one strain of corn toxic by breeding it with another strain of corn. You can make a strain of corn toxic by inserting DNA from a toxic species that corn couldn't mate with. They've inserted human DNA into pigs; that's genetic engineering. You couldn't mate with a pig, though. If you could it would be crossbreeding. Again, nothing similar at all.

  • by Hurricane78 ( 562437 ) <deleted AT slashdot DOT org> on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @10:57AM (#30750526)

    If you want to see a documentary, looking at the actual details, and without being as annoying as Michael Moore ;), this one is really nice:

    IMO, Haliburton, Microsoft, RIAA/MPAA, and the weapons industry are all freakin’ jokes compared to these guys... :/ (Only Eli Lily might come close.)

  • by Slashdolt ( 166321 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @10:57AM (#30750528)

    Currently, GMO corn is only in animal feed. But the problem is that you cannot simply go to the elevator and request "GMO Free" corn. Feed corn is feed corn, whether it's GMO or not. That was the big coup that Monsanto pulled off a few years back. It took a lot of lobbying, I'm sure.

    I raise "all natural" free-range chickens and sell them to friends and neighbors. I wish that I could get corn that was GMO-free, but the only way is to purchase "organic" (TM) corn, at about 10 times the price. At that point, I'd have to sell the chickens for $5/lb and no one in their right mind would pay for it.

    Monsanto knew that if their corn had to be silo'd separately from other varieties, that it would be worth a lot less, so they had to get it commoditized with the rest, or all of that R&D would have been wasted. Good for them. Bad for us.

  • by IndustrialComplex ( 975015 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @11:02AM (#30750594)

    Scotch has to be made in Scotland, otherwise it can't be called "Scotch". See here [wikipedia.org]

    In the UK.

  • by chomsky68 ( 1719996 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @11:08AM (#30750706)

    Also, note that the "pesticide" in question is Bt toxin. Bt stands for bacillus thuringiensis. Bt is used in mosquito dunks, pesticide sprays and several other applications. It is not just considered safe for humans, animals and beneficial insects, but is even considered to be ORGANIC! You can spray your crops all day and night with millions of gallons of Bt and not lose your organic certification.

    I disagree with you. When Bt is sprayed it breaks down and that is why there is a 2 weeks 'cool down' period before it is allowed for human consumption. In this case Bt is delivered to your system as is therefore it is not the same as spraying your crops with it.

  • Re:Wary (Score:4, Informative)

    by vlm ( 69642 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @11:09AM (#30750720)

    Somehow the Bt toxin makes its way through the bug's digestive system to kill it. Why is it so unbelievable that some of the toxin makes it through a human's digestive system?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bacillus_thuringiensis [wikipedia.org]

    "When insects ingest toxin crystals the alkaline pH of their digestive tract causes the toxin to become activated."

    Most (all?) higher animals use a strongly ACIDIC digestive tract. Not a serious concern.

    No idea why it would directly affect rodents. Maybe it doesn't directly affect them at all.

  • by VShael ( 62735 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @11:20AM (#30750860) Journal

    This distinction will be lost on millions of reactionaries.

    Maybe, but it's not lost on me or the people in my social circle who protested the so-called Frankenfoods.
    Basically, it's not GM manipulation of a crop that I have a problem with. It's Monsanto.

    In 1997, it was alleged a local FOX affiliate cooperated with Monsanto in suppressing an investigative report on the health risks associated with Monsanto's bovine growth hormone product, Posilac. Posilac, a synthetic hormone used to increase milk production in cows, while banned in many first-world countries, is used in the United States.

    Steve Wilson and Jane Akre disagreed with the inclusion of material in the story they felt was slanted or misleading. Both reporters were eventually fired for not being pro-Monsanto in their reporting. Wilson and Akre sued. The court held that Fox News had no obligation to report truthfully, and the First Amendment protects their right to lie. Therefore, the court held that firing a reporter for refusing to lie is not actionable under the whistleblower statute. The story can be seen in the feature length documentary film The Corporation.

    You show me a corporation that makes GM foods, ethically, and I'll support them to hell and back. But Monsanto? Not a chance.

  • by jabuzz ( 182671 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @11:20AM (#30750864) Homepage

    Actually in the European Union and associated trading partners.

  • by JBdH ( 613927 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @11:29AM (#30750988)
    No, it's not. With selective breeding you can never go outside of the scope of the accumulation of genetical variety available in the species your breeding with. You cannot breed dogs that produce poisonous bites by just interbreeding different type of dogs, the genetical material needed to be able to allow for a poisonous bite just isn't there. Theoretically dogs could in the long run, through spontaneous genetical mutation acquire such features, but that's outside the scope of breeding of dogs.
    If you would start genetically modifying dogs with genetical material alien to dogs, say poisonous snakes, you actually could produce such poisonous dogs, given enough perseverence and research. Genetically modifying creatures is in essence engineering, working from the specfications of features of the creature up to a design. Selective Breeding is bricolage, using whatever is at hand to meet a goal that's changing along with the process.
  • Re:distinction (Score:3, Informative)

    by Glothar ( 53068 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @11:42AM (#30751196)

    You don't have much background in genetics, do you?

    I don't mean to insult you. I don't expect most people to understand genetics. However, I would hope they understand how much they don't don't know about genetics.

    Sequencing an organism is a long, complicated process even with modern sequencing technology. Sequencers don't give you answers, they give you decent guesses. For eukaryotic organisms like the castor bean, its very difficult to even sort out which copy of which chromosome you're looking at. Then you need to find the genes that produce ricin. There's almost certainly more than one coding region, and you do know that they're not labeled, right?

    If after a few years you managed to complete your sequencing of the castor bean and if you managed to isolate the collection of genes responsible for producing ricin, you still wouldn't have reached the really hard part of the process: Integrating it into the corn plant. If you were really lucky, you'd be able to get a hold of a corn specimen that had already been sequenced for you, then it might only take millions of dollars and years of research to find a way to integrate those genes into the correct part of the corn genome.

    To think that you'd be able to do this with a sequencer off of ebay and some spare test tubes is humorously naive. Jurassic Park wasn't real. We don't do gene splicing with VR displays.

    There is a reason why huge corporations do this work. Hundreds of trained geneticists spend years working on getting things like this done, and even they fail repeatedly.

    Are spot checks advisable? Sure, why not? Are they advisable because someone might have created an apple that releases sarin gas? No. Sorry, we don't live in fantasy land. The chances of someone pulling that off are miniscule compared to the chance that you're struck by a meteor within the next year.

  • by locallyunscene ( 1000523 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @12:04PM (#30751546)
    Because 8 years ago when this was approved both the congressional majority and the president were Democrat...

    We'll see how they handle this situation. And while I agree it's not likely to be much better than the original Republican oversight, give "credit" where it's due.
  • Citation Needed (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @12:06PM (#30751574)

    Not like corn provides all its nutritional value unless its treated with a relatively strong-ish base anyways... lime is what's mostly used to break up the proteins on the kernel to produce vitamin B12...

    Corn can't produce vitamin B12. The components to do so exist, to modern scientific knowledge, in certain bacterial species (I am a nutritional biochemist). B12 is only used by bacteria and animals (no known usage or presence in plants, only bacterial contamination of said plants), and requires cobalt. To my knowledge, corn does not use, absorb or store cobalt under normal conditions.

    While the rest of your post may have merit, the final paragraph is not scientifically accurate.

    It is true, however, that genetic modification can make a plant toxic to humans, and should be thoroughly tested before use, though we could say the same thing about novel cross-breeds of plants as well.

  • by blackchiney ( 556583 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @12:08PM (#30751608)
    You would think so but you'd be incorrect. The reason of why the US uses HFCS and other countries don't is because of the sugar lobby and the corn lobby. Sugar is cheap to produce so the sugar lobby had the Gov't slap a tariff on it for sugar imports. Great for US sugar producers, not so great for everyone else including you, me, and Coca-Cola. Corn produces got the government to subsidize the price of corn. So the price you pay for corn is cheaper than it costs to grow. Now farmers are producing lots of corn because they know they'll be getting paid by the government no matter what it costs them. They've been getting more inventive with it too. Alternative fuel, alternative polymers, and alternative sugars like HFCS. Unfortunately these subsidies only work in the US. So while the UK pays the real price for corn, they also pay the real (inexpensive) price of sugar. Hence, this is why Coca-Cola in the UK won't be turning to HFCS anytime soon.
  • by jfengel ( 409917 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @12:09PM (#30751628) Homepage Journal

    Well, off the top of my head, there's the Credit CARD Act of 2009:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Credit_CARD_Act_of_2009 [wikipedia.org]

    And the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lilly_Ledbetter_Fair_Pay_Act [wikipedia.org]

    And a big act for managing public lands:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omnibus_Public_Land_Management_Act [wikipedia.org]

    Plus a bunch of other legislation that didn't make it past the filibuster, a rather high bar that has now become de rigeur. And a lot of regulatory redesign that doesn't require the Congress, like the EPA deciding to regulate CO2 as a pollutant.

    So yeah, I'd say there is a difference in the two parties. Maybe not as big as you'd like, but if you don't see any difference, you're not looking.

  • by da5idnetlimit.com ( 410908 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @12:43PM (#30752110) Journal

    Hmm did you hear the rest of the story on that one ?

    They refused "free" gm crops seed and food, worked hand in hand with ONU to alleviate the food crisis and started sowing "normal" traditionnal seeds that were acclimated to their country.

    And now they have almost reached food production independence.

    Can you remind me what happened to the neighboring countries that accepted ?
    They actually sowed some of the grains and now pay the "Monsanto Tax"...and even if short term they solved the problem, they now are in a problematic situation for years (possibly decades) to come.

    Have a look at a documentary called "the world according to Monsanto" and what happened to some south american countries that are now paying millions, if not billions to Monsanto each year. Also have a look at Indian (like in India) cotton farmers and their suicide rates since they switched to GM cotton. One of the worst human tragedy of the decade, because they had to buy fertiliser and RoundUp, got more heavilly in debt and commited suicide when they couldn't repay it all.

    And I'm not even a green activist. I just despise the bastards from Monsanto...

  • Re:Science (Score:2, Informative)

    by takowl ( 905807 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @01:08PM (#30752526)

    Yeah, I know, actually reading the article before posting your critical analysis is pretty hard to avoid.

    On /.? More seriously, if I'd taken the time to read it in detail, my comment would have been much later, and nobody would ever have read it. Considering the apparent credulity of /. readers on this issue, I wanted to get an oar in.

    It does have some credible scientists on its editorial board. And I don't believe it's a bogus journal. But I do know a bit about how science works (being in it), and we consider the reputation of the journal, not just its editorial board. IJBS hardly has any reputation (acidfast7, posting above and below, agrees with me on this).

    To back up my point, a bit of searching shows that this group of scientists has tried the same stunt before, and their methodology was and still is suspect (this is from Food Standards Australia/NZ, not Monsanto): FSANZ response [foodstandards.gov.au]

  • Re:Say wha? (Score:3, Informative)

    by snowgirl ( 978879 ) * on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @08:15PM (#30758782) Journal

    > lime is what's mostly used to break up the proteins on the kernel to produce vitamin B12.

    Only bacteria have the biochemical apparatus to produce B12 [wikipedia.org]. I call bullshit.

    It's not even anything which would be produced by the reaction of a base with protein [wikipedia.org]. You'd just get amino acids...

    It's not B12, it's B3 as stated by others. And if you looked up "Hominy" you'd see that it's true.

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