The Threats From Genetically Modified Foods

Genetically modified foods and crops pose serious threats to human and animal health, but Big Ag doesn’t want you to know that.

| April/May 2012


Glyphosate, Roundup's active ingredient, has been linked to birth defects in birds and amphibians, as well as to cancer, endocrine disruption, damage to DNA, and reproductive and developmental damage in mammals. Roundup-Ready crops are genetically modified to withstand drenching with this weedkiller.


Eighteen years after the first genetically modified food, the Flavr Savr tomato, came to market, the controversy about genetically modified foods rages. The call to label GM foods continues to build, yet the federal government has not responded. GM foods now illegal in many developed countries have been part of the American diet for nearly two decades. As GMOs have come to dominate major agribusiness sectors, a handful of chemical/biotech companies now control not only genetically modified seeds but virtually our entire seed supply (see the Seed Industry Structure chart).

(You may see genetically modified plants and animals referred to as GMOs, for “genetically modified organisms,” or GE, for “genetically engineered.” The terms are essentially interchangeable. We use GMO as a noun and GM as an adjective. — MOTHER EARTH NEWS)  

“Genetic modification” refers to the manipulation of DNA by humans to change the essential makeup of plants and animals. The technology inserts genetic material from one species into another to give a crop or animal a new quality, such as the ability to produce a pesticide. These DNA transfers could never occur in nature and are not as precise as proponents make them sound. 

Some genetically modified crops have been engineered to include genetic material from BT (Bacillus thuringiensis), a natural bacterium found in soil. Inserting the Bt genes makes the plant itself produce bacterial toxins, thereby killing the insects that could destroy it. The first GM crop carrying Bt genes, potatoes, were approved in the United States in 1995. Today there are Bt versions of corn, potatoes and cotton.

Roundup-Ready crops — soybeans, corn, canola, sugar beets, cotton, alfalfa and Kentucky bluegrass — have been manipulated to be resistant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s broadleaf weedkiller Roundup.

These two GM traits — herbicide resistance and pesticide production — are now pervasive in American agriculture. The Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service says that, in 2010, as much as 86 percent of corn, up to 90 percent of all soybeans and nearly 93 percent of cotton were GM varieties.

8/5/2015 11:50:00 PM

Brawndo It's got electrolytes!

7/9/2015 3:38:29 AM

I honestly think that we dupes are being manipulated by the big banks and corporations. For example Monsanto has it over the FDA as Michael Marks works for both. We have the Bilderberg Group, Bohemian Group, and all the rich nobes wating a one world order which they control. I used to think that was all bunk but not anymore. Monsanto is a corrupt company who has it over the FDA. Bill Gates and all the big wigs wnat a one world order and need to decrease the massive population which I think is actually a good thing. There is a gene called the Epicyte gene which if inserted into any food product renderes a person sterile. Get it into food for the sake of humanity! I think humanity is on the easy road called extinction!!!

7/20/2014 5:49:58 PM

FarmMom, please, please, please learn the correct definition of "pesticide!" A pest can be plant or animal, and a pesticide can be a substance that kills either or both. Here is an official definition of "pesticide" from Concise Encyclopedia, Webster-Merriam: Any toxic substance used to kill animals or plants that damage crops or ornamental plants or that are hazardous to the health of domestic animals or humans. All pesticides act by interfering with the target species' normal metabolism. They are often classified by the type of organism they are intended to control (e.g., insecticide, herbicide, fungicide). Some inadvertently affect other organisms in the environment, either directly by their toxic effects or via elimination of the target organism.

8/16/2013 7:19:02 PM

People, please understand the difference between pesticides (chemicals that kill insects) and herbicides (chemicals that kill weeds) and use those terms properly. Crops do not become resistant to pesticides, bugs do that. I do not buy into the hype that GMO foods are poison to us and should not be consumed ~ research has shown the nutrition to be the same. I do, however, think we need to address the chemicals used in agriculture. The fact that a crop is modified to be resistant to Roundup herbicide is not the problem, it's the herbicide usage and it's affects on the people and land that is our real problem. Same with pesticide chemicals ~ Insects ruin crops, chemicals kill the bugs, chemical residue is bad for people :o( What to do? Invent safer weed killers? Use criminal chain gangs to go out and hand pull them? That would be great!

Jonathan Berkowitz
12/14/2012 6:46:07 PM

Bullseye! Please read my post as of today.

Jonathan Berkowitz
12/14/2012 6:43:21 PM

Right on, right on and right on!

Jonathan Berkowitz
12/14/2012 6:41:35 PM

I'm with you on the notion that the older an organic farm is, the better it is. What a concept and for the reasons you gave it makes a lot of sense.

Jonathan Berkowitz
12/14/2012 6:35:29 PM

The following in no way diminishes my admiration for the whole foods movement, my support of organic gardening and living in a manner that evidences wise stewardship of this beautiful earth. The furor over GMO foods is an utter fraud and does not stand the test of basic biochemical principles or even logical analysis. Modification of a plant at the germline level involves engineering the DNA of the species in question to promote the selective expression of particular gene(s) which code(s) for a desirable phenotype (for example, cloning of the beta-carotene gene into rice to counter Vitamin A deficiency in certain areas of the Orient). When GMO foods are consumed they are digested into their constituent amino acids, sugars and lipids just as any other food. It is impossible for these elemental digestion products to affect the germline genome in the consuming organism because they are identical in structure and biological activity to those of non-GMO foods. In proteins, the peptide bond which links amino acids together to create proteins is indistinguishable in GMO vs Conventional foods. The same is true for the chemical bonds which link simple sugars to make starches and dextrans as well as the chemical bond which links fatty acids to glycerol to make triglycerides. There is no scientific or logical basis to the fear of GMO foods. If the constituent components of proteins, carbohydrates and lipids from digestion of GMO foods were truly different from those of non-engineered foods, it would be impossible to form proteins with the requisite three-dimensional structure required to have that molecule possess the biological activity it was made for. Likewise with carbohydrates and dietary lipids. the very fact that these elements are digested, assimilated and used in both catabolic and anabolic reactions in the body is testament to the assertion that digestion products of GMO foods are the same as those for non-GMO foods for the simple reason that the enzymes in our body are exquisitly substrate-specific and are not able to act upon reactants whose native configuration cannot complement the active site of the enzyme designated to act upon it. For example, for the digestive protease called trypsin acts only on the peptide bond between lysine and arginine amino acid residues. This enzyme is specific for this substrate. If there were something "different" in the amino acids coming from GMO foods, this bond could not be broken by the enzyme and assimilation would be hampered if not attenuated which, sooner or later, would show up as a deficiency disorder. But this has never been demonstrated. The "problem" that GMO foods present is all smoke and mirrors. Whoever makes a claim that GMO foods are in any way detrimental to the consuming organism needs to do some basic coursework in biochemistry and genetics. What's the problem here? Has the Emperor got no clothes?

t brandt
10/9/2012 11:01:45 PM

Because I'm so naive, perhaps you would be so kind as to explain the biochemical mechanism by which GMO confers its ill effects on our health?..Or, you could go to a professional med site like and search "GMO food & health effects." You'll find a plethora of research papers gleaned from the world-wide med literature confirming that there are no ill effects to be found. Wikipedia summarzes this nicely. .. Even the TreeHuggers at the WHO say they're safe....And I suppose you're familiar with the recently published meta-analysis of the extant literature showing no health benefits from organic food....Homesteaders & hobbyists should grow organically because it's cheaper and they don't need extra yield to increase profit margins like the pros do....That's why we need the industrial ag methods: to feed those unfortunate city dwellers who can't grow thier own. How will they feed themselves when the chaos breaks out?

Marta Nielson
10/7/2012 7:38:22 AM

You are completely wrong misinformed and naive - I suggest you take your own advice and do research other than studies put out by Monsanto, Dow or Bayer. Or perhaps you work for Monsanto?

Marta Nielson
10/7/2012 7:35:37 AM

The truth of the matter is that the older a truly organic farm is the better it is - the less fertilier and the fewer natural pests there are. Trying to boil this issue down to $$ only is exactly the reasoning that Monsanto and the other GMO corporate creators use. Wise up! This food is DEADLY - there is more than enough info out there - starting with really reading Robin Mather's excellent article. After that view "Genetic Roulette" by Jeffrey Smith -on line and you'll be convinced! These crops do NOT produce as "advertised" grow weaker and need more herbicides and pesticides every year.....they are a deadly corporate money making scheme to control the world's food supply and individual health and animal health be damned!

5/3/2012 9:09:22 PM

The input costs of producing an acre of corn is ~$700-- about $5 of that is the cost of herbicide which increases yield 15-20%. That means the farmer will sell an acre of corn for ~$900 usig herbicide vs ~ $720 per acre without. Why should he take the risks and hard work of farming for a lousy $20 per acre profit? If he decides not to farm, then most of us would starve....One should really do the arithmetic first before forming an opinion.

5/3/2012 4:46:39 PM

I'd be happy if companies that didn't use GMO products could actually put that on their labels. They want to, so let them!

5/3/2012 2:54:12 PM

We are doomed! The quest for profit and power has led us into blindly accepting deception and dishonesty in those things that should require the most honesty and concern. Unfortunately, most of the population has become lazy and indifferent to those things that most likely will damage or destroy us in the name of profit. Genetic modification has given us tasteless products with lowered nutrition and possible harmful ingredients solely in the name of making more money, no matter what Monsanto and others of their ilk might say.

4/29/2012 12:41:16 PM

To both Max & Craig: You don't get fat because you ate food with GMO tech. You get fat because you eat too much food. You don't get sick from eating food made with GMO or with various chemicals. ZERO evidence of illness from these things.. ..Fertility is not diminished because chemicals kill the microbes in the soil. It's diminished when the nutrients from the soil enter the crops & are carried away in the produce. Use of chemicals & GMO increases yield, therefore, takes away more nutrients. Building more cars means using more steel. Same thing...Cost of adding info to the label may be insignificant to large corporations, but may be a big deal to small producers. (Aren;t we supposed to be on their side?) Anyways, as I said before, if it's produced in the US, it surely contains GMO. Will saying it on the lable change your buying habits? Then why aren't you seeking out only organic food now? This concept of lableing is one of those useless distractions by the Nannycrats that won't provide any real benefit when enacted....Increased yield means decreased prices- Law of Supply & Demand. That's why we need GMO & hi tech ag.

Craig Thorne
4/26/2012 2:13:31 AM

Im worried about the GMO crops getting loose in the environment and contaminating non GMO crops. I've read about companies, like Monsanto, suing farmers for the crops that were contaminated by Monsanto's GMO crops growing their fields. I don't see how labeling produce as GMO would increase the price by an appreciable amount and would allow me, as a consumer to make a better decision of what i purchase. It's also known fact that the use of pesticides have produced plants that are highly resistant to pesticide that compete with desirable plants. This sets up a condition that increases the cost to the farmer and consumer because they must use much higher doses of pesticides. The producers suffers as does the consumer, the pesticide manufacture is the only one to benefit thru siphoning money out of my pocket, thru taxes and direct cost increase, used to subsidize a farming practice that needs to be modified. This is common sense, it's not that hard to put together.

Max Kennedy
4/25/2012 10:49:13 PM

GMO's result in superweeds in short order and the need for ever higher concentrations or more virulent pesticides to be used. It concentrates food ownership in the hands of giant, sole-less conglomerates. The loss of genetic diversity through the loss of locally adapted varieties is asking for future problems. It cheapens crappy food resulting in an epidemic of obesity straining health resources. Pesticides are poisons that have proven effect on many people, especially the most vulnerable the old and the young and not at extreme concentrations either but from chronic long term low dose exposure. Bio-concentration in mothers milk is proven. The human effect pales in comparison to the environmental damage of decreasing soil fertility by killing off 60-90% of the normal soil biota. As for labeling costs,BAH, ridiculous! Packaging already has a lot of info printed on it and that printing changes regularly for no better reason than marketing. Adding something like "GMO corn fructose fortified" won't cost a bloody red cent more. And why should it be labelled? To inform the consumer. The same way that food content labeling, place and date of manufacture labeling etc is required. I have a right to know, NOT GUESS OR ASS-UME what is there! The only people that don't want this transparency in labeling are those with something to hide or that fear it's effect on their bottom line. GMO's should be simply banned unless the companies involved will underwrite 100% of all costs, predicted or unforseen, both short and long term, health, environmental and economic! They want the profits but everybody else gets to pay for the costs.

4/21/2012 11:43:58 AM

Robin, why don't you collect information, analyze it, and then form an opinion, instead of forming an opinion, then collecting summaries & unsubstantiiatred opinion pieces to support your POV? All of the pesticides you seem to think are so dangerous have only been shown to cause biological damage in non-human species when exposed to unussually high doses in vitro and then those conclusions are extrapolated unjustifialbly to human exposure in vivo. The only damage caused in Nature are from accidental, high exposures in exceptionally sensitive species...The value of GMO crops is that they allow the use of the least dangerous pesticides....You continue to complain about seed saving: actually a poorly productive practice. The money saved by saving hybrid seeds is lost in lower yield...American consumers should just asume any commercially produced foods contain GMO technology. If someone wants to avoid that, then they should seek out organically produced food and pay the extra price. Why insist on a law for labelling that will add cost to food for the rest of us without changing its content?

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