GM pesticides inside you

April 2011

Crop Dusting
Crop dusting in Mississippi by
Roger Smith on Flickr
GM plants are designed to generate or sequester pesticides. Where do all these pesticides go when you eat the plants?

Fifteen years after staple GM crops began to spread through our food chain, a scientific study has been completed into the question of whether the GM-linked pesticides (present in all these crops) actually end up inside the body of the consumer.

The short answer to this question is yes: four out of the five commonest GM-linked pesticides tested were found to be circulating in the blood.

Glyphosate and glufosinate herbicides, which are accumulated by crops genetically transformed to tolerate them, end up inside us. Glufosinate's major metabolite (3-methylphosphinicopropionic acid, '3-MPPA') ends up inside us. At least one common 'Bt' toxin generated by crops genetically transformed to generate their own insecticide ends up inside us. (Glyphosate's major metabolite, AMPA, was not detected in any subject).

The glufosinate metabolite (3-MPPA) and Bt toxin were detected not only in healthy pregnant and non-pregnant women, but in the babies of the pregnant women just after birth.

Dietary levels of GM were not ascertainable, but the subjects lived in Quebec where the food on sale comes from primarily from Quebec itself plus elsewhere in Canada and from America, all of which are areas of widespread GM crop production.

Both glyphosate and glufosinate have been associated with foetal developmental abnormalities in experiments on rat- and non-mammalian models (see, for example, GM Time Bomb - Roundup causes birth defects in humans)

The single Bt protein tested was 'Cry1Ab' which is a humanly-engineered variant of a natural bacterial toxin. Artificial Bt toxins can be chemically altered at will by genetic engineers and their genes can be stacked to produce an infinite variety of pesticidal crop plants. Bt proteins have a recognised allergenic potential and a known ability to react with mammalian cells.


Pesticide levels circulating in the blood at a single time-point were measured: actual chronic exposure to pesticides during a lifetime of a normal, GM-laced, diet has very different implications for our health. Toxins in blood may or may not be cleared by the kidneys or liver, or by the placenta in pregnant women, or may end up anywhere else in the body.

Herbicide-tolerant GM crops are delivering unprecedented levels of weed-killers in our food.

The assumption that Bt toxin is a protein and that it will therefore be digested into harmless, nutritional, amino acids is clearly wrong. In other words, the common excuse for minimal safety testing of artificial Bt proteins has been well and truly blown apart.

Artificial Bt toxins produced by human manipulation of DNA have never existed before and we have never been exposed to them before. Neither have we been exposed to significant levels of any Bt toxin, natural or artificial in our diet before. Any notion that Bt toxin can be 'generally recognised as safe' is absurd.

This experiment leaves some very urgent and worrying questions to be answered.

All the subjects were healthy: a comparison with pesticide levels in unhealthy individuals, especially foetuses and babies, is needed.

Blood pesticide levels at birth need to be correlated with later health of the subjects, including signs of sensitisation induced by early exposure to Bt.
Due to the potential variety of Bt toxins which will circulate inside us, measurements of the whole spectrum of GM-linked material flowing through our bodies needs to be assessed.

Over three million Americans have been eating GM foods plus multiple GM-linked toxins for over a decade. Will anyone ever be brave enough to measure the levels of these toxins inside them? Or, correlate the levels of these toxins inside them with their health? Or, correlate the levels of these toxins with the health of their children?

So far, Europeans have been had minimal exposure to GM-linked pesticides. Let's keep it that way.

  • Aziz Aris and Samuel Leblanc, 2011, Maternal and fetzl exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada, Reproductive Toxicology online
  • Eliane Dallegrave et al., 2007, Pre- and post-natal toxicity of the commercial glyphosate formulation in Wistar rats, Archives of Toxicology, September 81(9)
  • Eliane Dallegrave, et al., 2003, The teratogenic potential of the herbicide glyphosate-Roundup in Wistar rats, Toxicology Letters 142

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