THE BLOG

Eating This Could Turn Your Gut Into a Living Pesticide Factory

01/29/2013 11:36 am ET | Updated Mar 31, 2013

A new generation of insect larvae is eating the roots of genetically-engineered corn intended to be resistant to such pests. The failure of Monsanto's genetically-modified Bt corn could be the most serious threat ever to a genetically-modified crop in the U.S.

And the economic impact could be huge. Billions of dollars are at stake, as Bt corn accounts for 65 percent of all corn grown in the U.S.

The strain of corn, engineered to kill the larvae of beetles, such as the corn rootworm, contains a gene copied from an insect-killing bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt. But even though a scientific advisory panel warned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the threat of insects developing resistance was high, Monsanto argued that the steps necessary to prevent such an occurrence -- which would have entailed less of the corn being planted -- were an unnecessary precaution, and the EPA naively agreed.

According to a recent NPR report:

The scientists who called for caution now are saying "I told you so," because there are signs that a new strain of resistant rootworms is emerging ... [A] committee of experts at the EPA is now recommending that biotech companies put into action, for the first time, a "remedial action plan" aimed at stopping the spread of such resistant insects ...

The EPA's experts also are suggesting that the agency reconsider its approval of a new kind of rootworm-killing corn, which Monsanto calls SmartStax. This new version of Bt corn includes two different Bt genes that are supposed to kill the rootworm in different ways. This should help prevent resistance from emerging, and the EPA is allowing farmers to plant it on up to 95 percent of their corn acres. But if one of those genes is already compromised ... such a high percentage of Bt corn could rapidly produce insects that are resistant to the second one, too.

There can be little doubt that genetically-engineered crops are the most dangerous aspect of modern agriculture. Not only are we seeing rapid emergence of super-weeds resistant to glyphosate, courtesy of Roundup Ready crops, we now also have evidence of emerging Bt-resistant insects. Add to that the emergence of a brand new organism capable of producing disease and infertility in both plants and animals and a wide variety of evidence showing harm to human health, and the only reasonable expectation one can glean is that humanity as a whole is being seriously threatened by this foolhardy technology.

Bt Corn: A Most Dangerous Failure

Monsanto's genetically-modified "Bt corn" has been equipped with a gene from soil bacteria called Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), which produces the Bt toxin. It's a pesticide that breaks open the stomach of certain insects and kills them. This pesticide-producing corn entered the food supply in the late 1990s, and over the past decade, the horror stories have started piling up. And the problem with Bt crops go far beyond the creation of Bt-resistant insects.

Monsanto and the EPA swore that the genetically-engineered corn would only harm insects. The Bt toxin produced inside the plant would be completely destroyed in the human digestive system and would not have any impact at all on consumers, they claimed. Alas, they've been proven wrong on that account as well, because not only is Bt corn producing resistant "super-pests," researchers have also found that the Bt toxin can indeed wreak havoc on human health.

Bt Toxin Now Found in Many People's Blood!

Last year, doctors at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec found Bt toxin in the blood of:

• 93 percent of pregnant women tested
• 80 percent of umbilical blood in their babies
• 67 percent of non-pregnant women

The study authors speculate that the Bt toxin was likely consumed in the normal diet of the Canadian middle class -- which makes sense when you consider that genetically-engineered corn is present in the vast majority of all processed foods and drinks in the form of high fructose corn syrup. They also suggest that the toxin may have come from eating meat from animals fed Bt corn, which most livestock raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFO, or so-called "factory farms") are.

These shocking results raise the frightening possibility that eating Bt corn might actually turn your intestinal flora into a sort of "living pesticide factory," essentially manufacturing Bt toxin from within your digestive system on a continuing basis.

If this hypothesis is correct, is it then also possible that the Bt toxin might damage the integrity of your digestive tract in the same way it damages insects? Remember, the toxin actually ruptures the stomach of insects, causing them to die. The biotech industry has insisted that the Bt toxin doesn't bind or interact with the intestinal walls of mammals (which would include humans). But again, there are peer-reviewed published research showing that Bt toxin does bind with mouse small intestines and with intestinal tissue from rhesus monkeys.

Bt Toxin Linked to Allergies, Auto-Immune Disease, and More

If Bt genes are indeed capable of colonizing the bacteria living in the human digestive tract, scientists believe it could reasonably result in:

• Gastrointestinal problems
• Autoimmune diseases
• Food allergies
• Childhood learning disorders

And lo and behold, all of these health problems are indeed on the rise. The discovery of Bt toxin in human blood is not proof positive of this link, but it certainly raises a warning flag. And there's plenty of other evidence showing that the Bt toxin produced in GM corn and cotton plants is toxic to humans and mammals and triggers immune system responses. For example, in government-sponsored research in Italy, mice fed Monsanto's Bt corn showed a wide range of immune responses, such as:

• Elevated IgE and IgG antibodies, which are typically associated with allergies and infections.
• An increase in cytokines, which are associated with allergic and inflammatory responses. The specific cytokines (interleukins) that were found to be elevated are also higher in humans who suffer from a wide range of disorders, from arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, to MS and cancer.
• Elevated T cells (gamma delta), which are increased in people with asthma, and in children with food allergies, juvenile arthritis, and connective tissue diseases.

Rats fed another of Monsanto's Bt corn varieties, called MON 863, also experienced an activation of their immune systems, showing higher numbers of basophils, lymphocytes, and white blood cells. These can indicate possible allergies, infections, toxins, and various disease states including cancer. There were also signs of liver and kidney toxicity.

Topical vs. Internal Toxins

Farmers have used Bt toxin from soil bacteria as a natural pesticide for years, and biotech companies have therefore claimed that Bt toxin has a "history of safe use in agriculture." But there's a huge difference between spraying it on plants, where it biodegrades in sunlight and can be carefully washed off, and genetically altering the plant to produce it internally.

Bt crops have the Bt toxin gene built in, so the toxin cannot be washed off. You simply cannot avoid consuming it. Furthermore, the plant-produced version of the poison is thousands of times more concentrated than the spray.

There are also peer-reviewed studies showing that natural Bt toxin from soil bacteria is not a safe pesticide either:

• In one study, when natural Bt toxin was fed to mice, they had tissue damage, immune responses as powerful as cholera toxin, and even started reacting to other foods that were formerly harmless.
• In another study, farm workers exposed to Bt also showed immune responses.
The EPA's Bt Plant-Pesticides Risk and Benefits Assessment, created by their expert Scientific Advisory Panel, states that "Bt proteins could act as antigenic and allergenic sources."

Do You Know what You're Eating?

Did you know that two years ago, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) called on all physicians to prescribe diets without genetically modified (GM) foods to all patients? They sure did, although few doctors seem to have gotten the memo. They also called for a moratorium on genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), long-term independent studies, and labeling, stating:

Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food, including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system ... There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation ...

I couldn't agree more. Avoiding genetically-engineered foods should be at the top of everyone's list -- at least if you want a decent shot at optimal health.

The simplest way to avoid genetically-engineered (GE) foods is to buy whole, certified organic foods. By definition, foods that are certified organic must never intentionally use GE ingredients, and must be produced without artificial pesticides or fertilizers. Animals must also be reared without the routine use of antibiotics, growth promoters or other drugs. Additionally, grass-fed beef will not have been fed GE corn feed.

You can also avoid genetically-modified (GM) ingredients in processed foods, if you know what to look for. There are currently eight genetically-modified food crops on the market:

• Soy
• Sugar from sugar beets
• Corn
• Hawaiian papaya
• Cottonseed (used in vegetable cooking oils)
• Some varieties of zucchini
• Canola (canola oil)
• Crookneck squash

This means you should avoid products with corn, soy, canola, and any of their derivatives listed as an ingredient, unless it's labeled USDA 100 percent Organic. As of late last year, this also includes sweet corn, as Monsanto introduced a brand new genetically-engineered sweet corn called Seminis, which contains not just one but two types of Bt toxin, plus the Roundup Ready gene for weed control! So besides containing the insecticide, their toxic Roundup herbicide will also accumulate in the kernels.

For a helpful, straightforward guide to shopping non-GMO, see the Non-GMO Shopping Guide created by the Institute for Responsible Technology.

Why We Must Insist on Mandatory Labeling of GM Foods

Mandatory labeling may be the only way to stop the proliferation of GM foods in the U.S. Monsanto and other biotech companies spend huge amounts of money lobbying the U.S. government each year to ensure favorable legislation. In the first quarter of 2011 alone, Monsanto spent $1.4 million on lobbying the federal government -- a drop from a year earlier, when they spent $2.5 million during the same quarter.

Their efforts of persuasion are also made infinitely easier by the fact that an ever-growing list of former Monsanto employees are now in positions of power within the federal government.

Educational Sources

To learn more about GM foods, I highly recommend the following films and lectures:

For more by Dr. Joseph Mercola, click here.