Saturday, January 29, 2011

USDA Deregulates GM Alfalfa

The USDA is considering only two options:

1) fully deregulate GM alfalfa OR
2) conditionally deregulate it by placing certain rules and restrictions on growing GM alfalfa that would minimize or limit contamination of non-GM crops (including organic).

Far as I can tell from what available online, the only advantage of growing the GM alfalfa is that one can eliminate all non-GM plant life on the field by spraying the herbicide Roundup.  According to Gurain-Sherman* using Roundup does not increase yields significantly, even over the short term. In the long run, weeds will become resistant to Roundup, either through naturally occurring mutations or through borrowing the Roundup Ready gene from GM crops. Herbicide resistance has already become a large problem in some locations (

*Gurain-Sherman,D. 2009. Failure to yield: evaluating the performance of genetically engineered crops. Cambridge (MA): Union of Concerned Scientists.

Dangers of Consuming Genetically Modified Organisms

American Academy of Environmental Medicine:


There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation as defined by Hill's Criteria in the areas of strength of association, consistency, specificity, biological gradient, and biological plausibility.The strength of association and consistency between GM foods and disease is confirmed in several animal studies.2,6,7,8,9,10,11 
Specificity of the association of GM foods and specific disease processes is also supported. Multiple animal studies show significant immune dysregulation, including upregulation of cytokines associated with asthma, allergy, and inflammation. 6,11 Animal studies also show altered structure and function of the liver, including altered lipid and carbohydrate metabolism as well as cellular changes that could lead to accelerated aging and possibly lead to the accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). 7,8,10 Changes in the kidney, pancreas and spleen have also been documented. 6,8,10 A recent 2008 study links GM corn with infertility, showing a significant decrease in offspring over time and significantly lower litter weight in mice fed GM corn.8 This study also found that over 400 genes were found to be expressed differently in the mice fed GM corn. These are genes known to control protein synthesis and modification, cell signaling, cholesterol synthesis, and insulin regulation. Studies also show intestinal damage in animals fed GM foods, including proliferative cell growth9 and disruption of the intestinal immune system.
Regarding biological gradient, one study, done by Kroghsbo, et al., has shown that rats fed transgenic Bt rice trended to a dose related response for Bt specific IgA. 11 
Also, because of the mounting data, it is biologically plausible for Genetically Modified Foods to cause adverse health effects in humans. 
In spite of this risk, the biotechnology industry claims that GM foods can feed the world through production of higher crop yields. However, a recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists reviewed 12 academic studies and indicates otherwise: "The several thousand field trials over the last 20 years for genes aimed at increasing operational or intrinsic yield (of crops) indicate a significant undertaking. Yet none of these field trials have resulted in increased yield in commercialized major food/feed crops, with the exception of Bt corn."12However, it was further stated that this increase is largely due to traditional breeding improvements. 
Therefore, because GM foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health and are without benefit, the AAEM believes that it is imperative to adopt the precautionary principle, which is one of the main regulatory tools of the European Union environmental and health policy and serves as a foundation for several international agreements.13 The most commonly used definition is from the 1992 Rio Declaration that states: "In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation."13