Genetics, Genetically Engineered Food and Human Health 101
Exciting developments in genetics have led to all kinds of amazing, promising and dramatic potential in the future. Unfortunately the opposite can also happen. It is up to us to determine the ethics and regulation of this new industry.
What is GMO?
Genetically engineered (GE) foods, sometimes referred to as genetically modified foods (GMO foods), are foods that are derived from scientific methods used to introduce new traits or characteristics to an organism. They have become very controversial. The labeling of GE foods has been the subject of debate among members of the general public and federal and state governments since the introduction of GE foods to the food supply in the 1990s.
Bt (Bacillus thuringensis) is a bacterium used as a biological pesticide. Monsanto uses this in its GE seeds. It is called Cry1Ab and Cry1AC and injected into the DNA of genetically engineered seeds. The idea is that insects eat it and explode from the inside out. The Bt toxin dissolve in the high pH insect gut and become active. The toxins then attack the gut cells of the insect, punching holes in the lining. The Bt spores spill out of the gut and germinate in the insect causing death within a couple days. Of course when it filed its application to do this with the FDA Monsanto claimed this is completely safe for humans. And by the way most of the studies they submitted to prove this were funded by them.
Now just stop for a second and ask yourself something. If you eat just a tiny bit of something numerous times a day every day for your entire life that makes an insect explode from the inside out, does it make any sense to you that it is completely safe for you? Science or no science. OK but if you must have the science check the end of this article for the clinical studies. Not only do these cry-toxins target the kidney cells of developing human fetuses, but when Cry1Ab and Cry1Ac are combined with RoundUp, they can delay the body’s ability to eliminate human cancer cells. (Called apoptosis.) Some independent sources claim the FDA gave Monsanto an indefinite hall pass to cause mayhem on the food supply.
The UK has done clinical studies on pregnant mothers and found BT toxin and glyphosate in their microbiome (gut) and BT toxin and glyphosate in the newborn’s microbiome, essentially turning the human gut into a pesticide factory.
New research from Canada shows it can kill a human embryo. What’s worse, glyphosate, the main ingredient in RoundUp, also causes necrosis – i.e. the death of human tissue.
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup®, is a Monsanto product and used worldwide. It is the most popular herbicide and technically patented as an antibiotic. (That is another discussion because of its possible contribution to antibiotic resistance.) About 100 million pounds are applied to U.S. farms and lawns every year, according to the EPA.
GE companies have argued for decades that GE foods will reduce the use of pesticides and herbicides.
However, the science is showing the exact opposite. In a 2014 study titled “Compositional Differences in Soybeans on the Market: Glyphosate Accumulates in Roundup Ready GM Soybeans.” The authors specifically conclude that nutritional and elemental variables “without exception” demonstrate “substantial non-equivalence” between GM soy and non-GM varieties. With the advent of Roundup Ready crops, use of glyphosate has significantly risen, with about 1 billion pounds sprayed on crops every year.
The industry asserts it is minimally toxic to humans. However, residues are found in the main foods of the Western diet, comprised primarily of sugar, corn, soy and wheat.
A 2009 study found that Roundup’s inert ingredients amplified the toxic effect on human cells—even at concentrations much more diluted than those used on farms and lawns.
One specific inert ingredient, polyethoxylated tallow amine, or POEA, was more deadly to human embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells than the herbicide itself – a finding the researchers call “astonishing.”
Glyphosate’s toxicity is well established, with adverse health effects ranging from birth defects to endocrine dysfunction to cancer. Unbelievably, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) admits foods are not tested for glyphosate residues due to the high cost of doing so.
However, GE crops are much more heavily contaminated with glyphosate than conventional crops by nature of their very design, and this fact alone blows a massive hole in the safety claim.
Glyphosate was recently classified as a Class 2A “probable human carcinogen” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a division of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Roundup has also been found to interfere with ATP production by affecting your mitochondrial membranes. In this case, it’s actually the so-called “inert” solvents in Roundup that pose the greatest threat.
However, when you add the solvents and glyphosate together, the solvent makes the membrane more permeable, allowing the glyphosate to enter. Without the solvent, the damage might not be as great.
The chemical also wasn’t supposed to accumulate in the human body, but this too has been shown to be a false assumption.
Glyphosate chelates manganese (plus many other minerals), which makes the plants deficient. In turn the animals or humans who eat the plants do not get enough either.
It’s worth explaining the chelation process a bit further. As Smith notes, glyphosate binds very strongly to micro minerals, and doesn’t let them go.
So even if there’s manganese in the plant you eat, your body cannot access and use it, because the glyphosate molecule holds it trapped within itself. Likewise the plant is prevented from taking up the mineral, even if it’s in the soil.
Your mitochondria require manganese to break down superoxide dismutase (SOD) and turn it into hydrogen peroxide, which is far less toxic, and eventually water. This is a very important process, as it protects your mitochondria from oxidative damage. Without manganese, this protection is lost. (And if you have a polymorphism in the gene that makes the enzymes , like SOD2, there will be more side effects.)
Even in the midst of mounting questions about glyphosate’s safety, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) raised the allowable limits of glyphosate in our food and feed crops back in July 2013. Allowable levels in oilseed crops such as soy were doubled, from 20 ppm to 40 ppm. Permissible glyphosate levels in many other foods were raised to 15 to 25 times previous levels.
Root and tuber vegetables, with the exception of sugar, got one of the largest boosts, with allowable residue limits being raised from 0.2 ppm to 6.0 ppm. The level for sweet potatoes was raised to 3 ppm.
Why would the EPA raise the allowable levels with all this evidence of danger to human health? At the risk of tons of spam, the answer is Capitalism. As much as people hate to hear the word Socialism in the U.S. the downside of Capitalism is that corporations using highly paid lobbyists are determining the health of U.S. citizens and creating all kinds of misinformation in the world. Their job is to obfuscate. Countries like Denmark have the highest health and well-being in the world because their primary objective is an enlightened, healthy society, instead of the primary objective being making money.
One of the exciting, positive developments in genetics is lifestyle genetics. Ordinary people can now test their own DNA to determine how they will react to things like drugs, toxins and GE foods.
Here are my results. Each of the SNPs in this test have been clinically tested and proven three times that I can change the expression of my DNA by changing my lifestyle.
That is so amazing isn’t it? Changing my environment in my home is not that difficult but outside my door in the U.S. not so much.
What is Cytochrome P450?
If you want to understand how different people vary in their response to drugs and toxins that have entered their body, you have to know something about cytochrome P450. It is possible that doctors in the USA alone may kill about one hundred thousand people per year through drug interactions. We have no indication that in other western countries this figure is lower.
CYP is a host of enzymes that use iron to oxidize things, often as part of the body’s strategy to dispose of potentially harmful substances by making them more water-soluble. Researchers found back in 1997 that 56% of 315 drugs were primarily cleared by CYP!
Families are numbered – for example CYP2, CYP21. Subfamilies are identified by a letter, CYP3A, CYP2D. Individual genes are identified by a number, for example CYP1A21F and CYP1A1.
CYP1A1 alters susceptibility to oxidative brain damage.
There are over a thousand different CYPs, although the number in humans is only about fifty. The liver contains an enzymatic pathway called Cytochrome P450 1A2 (CYP1A2) that detoxifies many compounds including caffeine.
CYP1A2 codes for a Cytochrome P450 enzyme that is involved in Phase I (activation) of removing toxins, such as carcinogens from food and smoke, it also metabolizes caffeine. Interactions have also been reported for the vitamin D receptor (VDR) which may affect the influence of caffeine on bone mineral density.
There is an association between coffee consumption, CYP1A2*1F genotype, and breast cancer characteristics.
The rapid version (AA) activates more rapidly potentially toxic substances present in meat cooked at high temperatures. I have this rapid version.
Taking Birth Control or Hormone Replacement? It’s a problem if you have a SNP in cytochrome P450 enzyme system. In particular, CYP1B1 or CYP1A2, which slows down the breakdown of toxins (xenobiotics like fake estrogens) causing them to build up in your system and increasing risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
I couldn’t take birth control pills for very long because they caused me to have blood clots.
(Avoid fluoroquinolone drugs and other prescriptions if you have a SNP in CYP1A2 (like me) because these drugs are strong inhibitors of the gene and the drug will build up quickly. You don’t want to get yourself “floxed” trust me! So unless you have a life-threatening infection, I’d avoid ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin and the rest of the clan in that drug category. A side note: The FDA banned fluorquinolones from poulty feed in 2005 but in 2012 they were still found in tested poultry. )
CYP1A2 is responsible for detoxifying “xenobiotics”, which are drugs, chemicals, and environmental toxins foreign to the human body. Drugs detoxified in this pathway include both pharmaceuticals drugs like birth control pills or antidepressants, and naturally-occurring ones like caffeine.
The goal of the liver cleanse in a detox diet is to lighten the load on the detoxification pathway to help the liver efficiently clear and release stored toxins. (This can be a problem if people have a snp in the gene MTHFR.)
Some people have a genetic polymorphism in the CYP1A2 gene so its enzyme activity is likely impacted. (That’s me).
What is a Genetic Polymorphism or SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism)?
All of us have small differences in the information that our DNA contains, and it’s these differences that make each of us unique. Gene polymorphisms are slight changes in the genetic code that are present in at least one percent of the population or as much as 50% or more.
For example – one genetic “letter” (A, T, C, or G) may be replaced by another. These polymorphisms can lead to different processes in the body, just as altering one letter in a word can completely change its meaning, like MAP or MOP. Those are very different meanings. When the change affects only one genetic letter, it is called a “single nucleotide polymorphism” (or SNP, pronounced “snip”).
Glyphosate and Cytochrome P450
CYP enzymes play crucial roles in biology, one of which is to detoxify xenobiotics. Thus, glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of other food borne chemical residues and environmental toxins. Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body.
Interference with CYP enzymes acts synergistically with disruption of the biosynthesis of aromatic amino acids by gut bacteria, as well as impairment in serum sulfate transport. The consequences of this are most of the diseases and conditions associated with a Western diet, which include gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. This study explains the documented effects of glyphosate and its ability to induce disease, and shows that glyphosate is the “textbook example” of exogenous semiotic entropy: the disruption of homeostasis by environmental toxins.
So when people say I can’t eat organic, it is too expensive, I say it costs more in human disease and healthcare to eat non-organic. It costs ordinary people money to miss work, it costs companies and tax payers in the U.S. billions.
So why the resistance to keeping everyone healthy? I think I already answered that above.
The sad fact is just 10 corporations control almost every product on grocery store shelves. Organic food companies are being bought by companies like Coca-Cola and Hershey.
How many of your products are owned by these ten mega-corporations?
Several bills have been introduced in the 114th Congress that address labeling of GE foods including the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act (H.R. 913, S. 511) and the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 (H.R. 1599). Generally these bills would amend the FFDCA to impose specific labeling requirements disclosing information about GE techniques used in the production of a particular food product.
That’s the first step for us in the U.S.
Bertz and Granneman (Clin Pharmacokinet 1997 32 210-58)