What happens in your gut when you eat unsafe GM maize

October 2012
Amid the furore of concern, counter-attack, and orchestrated disdain over the French experiment which found evidence of harm from the long-term consumption of NK603 GM maize and Roundup herbicide, one aspect has not been investigated nor discussed.

The NK603 and Roundup eaten by an animal pass through its gut. In the gut, they encounter a huge diversity of microbes with which they must interact: the bugs alter the food, and the food alters the bugs.

As Dr Mercola explains:
“... the composition of (the gut) microflora has a profound impact on your health. For example, we now know that your intestinal bacteria influence your genetic expression, immune system, brain development, mental health and memory, weight, and risk of numerous chronic and acute diseases, from diabetes to cancer”.
Animals which eat NK603 are eating artificial proteins and possibly a host of other abnormal substances arising as side-effects of the genetic transformation process. They will also be eating Roundup, which is known to be toxic to bacteria at very low levels. The net result can only be a change in gut microbe composition: some will be killed by the Roundup, others may thrive on elements in the transgenic maize, others might not like the NK603 at all, some will disappear because their vital companions are no longer there, and many will multiply due to the absence of the bugs which kept them in check. Now, look again at the list of things your gut microbial composition has been found to influence.

Research on the effects of NK603 and Roundup on intestinal microbial flora has not been done. However there are some clues out there.

Investigations in Holland have shown that raising pigs in higher welfare conditions reduces the level of antibiotic use and the prevalence of MRSA superbugs. In other words, the pigs are healthier and don't harbour dangerous pathogens so easily. The study also found that while only 3% of organically-reared pigs carry MRSA, 38% of conventionally-fed pigs carry this dangerous bacterium. Modern conventional pig feed, of course, contains significant amounts of GM. Is there a connection there we've missed?

And then there's the taboo phrase not to be mentioned GM circles: horizontal gene transfer. (for more on HGT see HORIZONTAL GENE TRANSFER)

Lab-made DNA is designed to invade genomes, in many ways like a virus. Once that GM maize is being digested, there's a wealth of opportunity for the microbes there to be invaded by stretches of artificial DNA. Once inside the bugs, the DNA may continue to direct the production of its artificial protein, or disrupt the function of other parts of the bacterial genome, with health-damaging consequences.

Recent research has identified evidence that bacteria have “social structures similar to plants and animals”: these are evidenced by cooperation within the group, and antagonism between groups. If the bacteria in your gut form “socially cohesive units”, would the microbes with man-made DNA in common form themselves into one big pathogenic population?

The fact that there was little evidence of a dose-response to the apparent disease-causing factors in NK603 or Roundup in the French experiment, has been used as an excuse to claim the whole study scientifically invalid. However, if the problem is coming from something which has emerged and multiplied itself inside the gut, the disease need bear no relation to the dose of toxic food eaten.


Isolated reports of livestock seemingly becoming sick or infertile, or dying after eating various GM crops keep surfacing (see, for example, DANISH PIG FARMERWHISTLE-BLOWER - May 2012, or DEAD COWS UNDER THE CARPET - August 2012).

There's never been enough consistency in these incidents to force the biotech industry or regulators to reconsider the safety of GM feed. However, if the problem is coming from something which has emerged and multiplied itself inside the gut, the effects would be expected to be very variable. Any such sign of harm, no matter how sporadic, must be fully investigated. Ask your MP and MEP, as a matter of urgency, to press for research into disease linked to the digestive system and GM.

  • New antibiotic evidence, Living Earth, Autumn 2012
  • Dr. Don M. Huber, The woes of GMOs - Glyphosate and GMOs impact on crops, soils, animals and man, GM Watch, 3.09.12
  • Dr. Mercola, Gut Bacteria can Affect Fat Absorption, and Act in Accordance to “Social Structures”,, 1.10.12

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