YouTube VideoGenetically Modified Food: Is it safe to Eat Genetically Modified Crops?
by Rich Deem

Is GMO food Safe?

Techniques learned through research in molecular biology have been used to insert foreign genes into food crops. Are these genetically modified crops safe to eat?

Rich Deem

Introduction

The safety of genetically modified (GM) foods has been decried by many from the nutritional health community. One article, entitled, "Genetically Modified Foods Pose Huge Health Risk" claims that thousands of animals fed genetically-modified organisms (GMO) have died and that "post mortems showed severe irritation and black patches in both intestines and liver."1 This same article claims "that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are a major contributor to the sharply deteriorating health of Americans."1 The controversy came to a head in November, 2012 in California with a vote on a proposition, which would have required labeling of GMO food. The proposition was sponsored by the members of the organic food industry and trial lawyers, who would have benefited by suing small businesses who failed to comply with the extensive labeling requirements. Although the proposition failed, the so-called dangers posed by genetically modified food were placed before the voters during the extensive advertising campaigns. It is estimated that 50-70% of all food consumed in the United States contains at least some components that come from genetically modified crops. This page represents an unbiased analysis of the risks and benefits of producing and consuming genetically modified organisms.

What are GMO?

Although human beings have been modifying the genetics of plants and animals for thousands of years through selective breeding, genetic modification, as now applied, refers to the introduction of specific foreign genes into an organism's genome through the techniques of molecular biology. Genetic engineering of organisms began in earnest in the 1970s with the ability of scientists to clone genes and insert them in bacteria. Such "transgenic" organisms could be made to produce the gene products of the inserted gene, allowing scientists to produce drugs such as human insulin and other biochemical products with ease. Soon after, scientists were inserting genes into mouse embryos to produce transgenic animals for research. Other molecular biology techniques allowed scientists to "knockout" genes of interest to see what effect their removal had upon specific disease processes. In our laboratory, we use cloning and genetic engineering to produce both transgenic and knockout mouse models to study inflammatory bowel diseases. Obviously, not all genetic modification of organisms is bad, since these GMOs have led to breakthroughs in medical research.

Genetically modified crops

Food crops have been genetically modified for several reasons—most of which produce a financial benefit to farmers and the chemical companies that produce the GMOs. In nearly all cases, these benefits are achieved indirectly by increasing crop yields through resistance to diseases and pests or by allowing reduced use of herbicides to control weeds and unwanted plant growth. Monsanto has produced "Roundup Ready" seeds whose plants are resistant to the herbicide Roundup. Roundup consists of glyphosate, which kills plants by interfering with the shikimate pathway (which produces aromatic amino acids) in plants. Since animals don't posses the shikimate pathway, but get aromatic amino acids from their diet, Roundup is not toxic to human beings. A favorite gene to incorporate into plants to confer pest resistance is the bacterial toxin from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). This toxin binds to a specific receptor on the surface of midgut epithelial cells of certain orders of insects, disrupting digestion and killing the pest. Since this receptor is not found in vertebrates, such as humans, it is non-toxic, so it produces no harm. The advantage of incorporating Bt toxin into the plant is that only pests who eat the crops are killed. Since the 1930s, Bt toxin has been used as an insecticide, being sprayed on plants, killing pests along with beneficial insects that accidentally ingest the toxin.

In addition to pest and herbicide resistance, scientists have altered plant-produced oils to produce healthier products, added vitamin A to rice ("golden rice"), and conferred resistance to viral attack. Genetic engineering of papaya saved the Hawaiian papaya industry from extinction due to infection with Ringspot virus in 1998.2

To date, several crops have been genetically modified, a few of which now account for the vast majority of those crops now cultivated in the United States. In the United States, nearly all corn, soybean and cotton crops are now genetically modified. In Canada, nearly all rapeseed (canola) is genetically modified. Other genetically modified crops include:

Genetically Modified Crops (as of December, 2012)3
Crop GM Trait
alfalfa Roundup Ready (glyphosate herbicide resistance)
Argentine canola Roundup Ready, phytase-phosphorus availability, "Ignite" herbicide resistance, oxynil herbicide resistance, modified oil/fatty acid
bean viral disease resistance
Cantaloupe neomycin and kanamycin antibiotic resistance, S-adenosylmethionine hydrolase enzyme (delayed ripening),
carnation new colors
chicory glufosinate herbicide tolerance, self-fertilizing hybrid
cotton Bt, glufosinate herbicide tolerance, sulfonylurea herbicide tolerance, Roundup Ready, neomycin and kanamycin antibiotic resistance, oxynil herbicide resistance, resistance to the antibiotic hygromycin B
creeping bentgrass Roundup Ready
flax Sulfonylurea herbicide tolerance, neomycin, kanamycin, ampicillin, spectinomycin/streptomycin antibiotic resistance
maize Roundup Ready, Bt, self-fertilizing hybrid, male sterility, bioethanol enhancer, glufosinate herbicide tolerance, glyphosate-ammonium based herbicide resistant, Sulfonylurea herbicide tolerance, 2,4-D herbicide resistance, increased production of amino acid lysine,
papaya resistance to papaya ringspot virus, neomycin and kanamycin antibiotic resistance
petunia Modified color
plum resistance to plum pox virus, neomycin and kanamycin antibiotic resistance
Polish canola glufosinate herbicide resistance, Roundup Ready
poplar Bt, arrowhead protease inhibitor protein A or B (insect resistance), neomycin and kanamycin antibiotic resistance
potato Bt, neomycin and kanamycin antibiotic resistance, increased production of amylopectin in starch granules, resistance to potato virus Y, resistance to spectinomycin and streptomycin
rice trigger of mucosal immune tolerance to cedar pollen allergens, resistance to the antibiotic hygromycin B, Bt, glufosinate herbicide tolerance
rose blue-coloured anthocyanin pigment
soybean accumulation of more monounsaturated oleic acid, ampicillin antibiotic resistance, glufosinate herbicide tolerance, tolerance to imidazolinone herbicides, tolerance to 2,4-D herbicide, tolerance to sulfonylurea herbicides, Roundup Ready, Bt, lower levels of saturated fatty acids palmitic and stearic acids, tolerance to the herbicide dicamba
squash resistance to cucumber mosaic cucumovirus, resistance to zucchini yellow mosaic potyvirus, resistance to watermelon mosaic potyvirus 2, resistance to neomycin and kanamycin antibiotics
sugar beet Roundup Ready, glufosinate herbicide resistance, resistance to neomycin and kanamycin antibiotics
sweet pepper resistance to cucumber mosaic cucumovirus
tobacco resistance to oxynil herbicides, reduction of production of nicotinic acid, resistance to neomycin and kanamycin antibiotics
tomato reduced ethylene production and delayed fruit ripening, resistance to neomycin and kanamycin antibiotics, Bt, delayed softening of the fruit, resistance to cucumber mosaic cucumovirus
wheat Roundup Ready

Genetically modified animals

Enviropig is a genetically modified pig that produces the enzyme phytase, which allows the pig to digest phytic acid, which contains a form of phosphorus that is normally indigestible.4 This results in reduced phosphorus being released into the environment, reducing pollution of waterways. Another novel idea in genetic engineering was the cloning of pigs that were rich in omega-3 fatty acids.5 With this GM pig, you could get healthy omega-3 fatty acids by eating bacon, instead of smelly fish. Genetic engineering has been used to alter cows so that they produce milk that is free of β-lactoglobulin (which many people are allergic to) and high in casein protein.6 Other cows have been genetically modified to produce milk that is nearly identical with human milk,7 which would allow mothers who cannot nurse the opportunity to give their infants milk that is more "natural" than standard baby formula. As of this writing, none of these innovations have been approved for human consumption.

Frankenfish!

Genetically modified crops have produced not nearly the amount of controversy as the first animal genetically modified for human consumption. Affectionately referred to as "Frankenfish," this genetically modified AquAdvantage salmon was so controversial that the FDA failed to take action on its approval for market in 2010, requiring more study.8 What did AquaBounty do that was so controversial? They took an Atlantic salmon (which are already extensively grown in farms) and added a growth hormone regulating gene from a Pacific Chinook salmon and a promoter gene from an ocean pout. So, instead of growing only during warmer months, the AquAdvantage salmon will grow all year long, achieving maturity in about half the time as wild Atlantic salmon. Although these genetically modified salmon could probably out-compete wild salmon because of their high growth rate, they are provided by AquaBounty as sterile females, to prevent breeding, should they be inadvertently released into the wild. Despite these precautions, activist groups, along with the Alaska salmon fishing lobby, convinced the FDA not to approve AquaBounty's application. From a scientific perspective, the genes inserted into the genetically modified salmon are naturally-occurring, and have been eaten in their respective host species without incident. The FDA finally released the environmental report for AquAdvantage salmon immediately before Christmas, 2012, although the report itself was dated May, 2012.

GM pets/flowers

Fluorescent proteins have been used for years in molecular biology research to report expression of genes to which it is attached. When the gene of interest is transcribed, the fluorescent protein is also expressed, which shows up as a fluorescent glow that can be measured. Most of these fluorescent proteins have been isolated from species of jellyfish. Entrepreneurs have incorporated different fluorescent protein into zebrafish and tetras to create transgenic pets. These "Glofish" have been marketed as unique tropical fish, notable for their stunning fluorescent colors.9 In addition to the stunning colors of zebrafish, scientists have genetically engineered colors in flowers that aren't found in nature. Examples include the Blue Rose Applause and Moonshade Carnation.

Can GMO foods harm people?

For a number of GM crops, the genes/gene products never enter the food supply, since those parts of the plants are removed during processing. For example, sugar from GM sugar beets is chemically identical to non-GM sugar. Likewise, oils purified from GM canola, soybean, cottonseed, and corn is identical to non-GM oils. Much of the corn crop is dedicated to generating ethanol, which, of course, is identical to non-GM ethanol. It has not been noted that ethanol from GM corn adversely affect automobile performance compared to non-GM ethanol. Genetically modified Bt cotton is worn, rather than ingested, and there have been no reports of adverse effects of wearing GM clothing. For GM crops in which whole plant cells are ingested, the genes and gene products are usually destroyed through digestion in the stomach and small intestine.10 So, it is unlikely, even in theory, that eating GM crops can harm human beings.

GMO concerns and studies

Concerns over the safety of genetically modified organisms extends across much more than just food safety. Supporters of the environmental movement are concerned that GMO might escape into the wild and alter ecosystems. Another concern is that genetically modified genes might experience horizontal gene transfer through bacterial or viral vectors and end up in organisms for which they were never intended. These issues are dealt with below.

Food safety

In the United States all applications for the approval of GMO released for public consumption are handled by the FDA. Development and testing of a new GM crop typically requires 8 to 12 years, including more than 4 years of safety and environmental testing, before regulatory approval and commercial release.11

No particular food is safe to eat for all human beings, since about 6% of the human population has allergies to one or more food groups. FDA testing for food allergies to GM foods is identical to similar testing for non-GM foods. Any gene products found in GM food that is not found in non-GM food must have its structure analyzed to determine if it matches any known allergen (containing a sequence greater than 35% identical to any 80-amino-acid segment of known allergens, where an average protein contains hundreds of amino acids). In nearly all instances, commonly inserted genes would never be expected to be similar to food allergens. However, if a match were found, the protein would have to be tested with sera from allergy sufferers to establish allergenicity. A GM product that exhibits "substantial equivalence" to the non-GM variety is declared to be safe. There is no published evidence of allergic reactions to any GM protein or any adverse human health reactions associated with consumption of foods from GM crops since the introduction of GM products into the food supply.11 A test of the allergenicity of GM vs. non-GM soybeans was done in 2006, and scientists found no differences in the reactions of sera from allergy sufferers.12

Scientific Studies on the Food Safety of Genetically Modified Crops
Study GM crop GM trait Study measurements Species Conclusion
MacKenzie et al. (2007)13 Corn Bt toxin Clinical and neurobehavioral signs, ophthalmology, clinical pathology (hematology, clinical chemistry, coagulation, and urinalysis), organ weights, and gross and microscopic pathology rats No differences
Malley et al. (2007)14 Corn Bt toxin Body weight/gain, food consumption/efficiency, clinical signs of toxicity, mortality, ophthalmology, neurobehavioral (FOB and motor activity) assessments, clinical pathology (hematology, clinical chemistry, coagulation, and urinalysis), and pathology (organ weights and gross and microscopic pathology) rats No differences
Séralini et al. (2007)15 Corn Bt body weight, blood and urine chemistry rats Slight differences in growth (males down, female up), some chemistry differences
Healy et al. (2008)16 Corn Bt/Roundup   rats No differences
(He et al. (2008)17 Corn Bt toxin Body weights, feed consumption/utilization, clinical chemistry, hematology, and absolute and relative organ weights rats Minor differences due to flour diet differences
(He et al. (2009)18 Corn lysine-rich Body weights, feed consumption/utilization, clinical chemistry, hematology, and absolute and relative organ weights rats No differences
Tutel'ian et al. (2008,19 2009);20 Tyshko et al. (2008,21 2009)22 Corn Bt/Roundup morphological, hematological and biochemical parameters and system-sensitive biomarkers, DNA damage and structural chromosome aberrations and assessment of the allergenic potential and immunoreactive properties related to genotoxic, allergenic and immunotoxic effects rats No differences
de Vendômois et al. (2009)23 Corn Bt, Roundup Ready Blood and organ system data rats Some sex- and dose-dependent side effects mostly associated with hepatorenal toxicity
Appenzeller et al. (2009)24 Corn Bt, glufosinate-ammonium herbicide Nutritional performance variables, clinical and neurobehavioral signs, ophtalmology and clinical pathology, organ weights and gross and microscopic pathology rats No differences
Appenzeller et al. (2009)25 Corn Roundup Ready and ALS-inhibiting herbicide resistance Nutritional performance variables and toxicological response variables rats No differences
Juberg et al. (2009)26 Corn Bt toxin Used 1000 times the maximum human dose of Bt toxin and found no toxic effects mice No differences
Séralini et al. (2012)27 Corn Bt/Roundup Tumoragenicity rats More tumors in GM group
Buzoianu et al. (2012)28 Corn Bt Allergenic and immunological responses pigs No differences
(Schrøder et al., 2007)29 Rice Bt Animal behavior, weight gain, hematological and biochemical parameters from blood samples, organ weights, and macroscopic and histopathological examinations rats No differences
Domon et al. (2009)30 Rice Japanese cedar
pollen allergens
general behavior, body weight, and blood hematological or biochemical values macaque No differences
(McNaughton et al. (2007)31 Soybean Bt toxin Mortality, growth performance variables, or carcass and organ yields chickens No differences
Appenzeller et al. (2008)32 Soybean Roundup Ready and sulfonylurea herbicide body weight/gain, food consumption/efficiency, clinical signs, mortality, ophthalmology, neurobehavioral assessments (sensory response, grip strength and motor activity), clinical pathology (hematology, coagulation, serum chemistry and urinalysis), organ weights, and gross and microscopic pathology rats No differences
McNaughton et al. (2008)33 Soybean Roundup Ready and sulfonylurea herbicide Mortality, growth performance variables, or carcass and organ yields chickens No differences
Delaney et al. (2008)34 Soybean herbicide, monounsaturated oleic acid body weight/gain, food consumption/efficiency, mortality, clinical signs of toxicity, or ophthalmologic observations, neurobehavioral assessment, organ weights, or clinical or anatomic pathology rats No differences
Battistelli et al. (2010)35 Soybean Roundup Ready structure of duodenal and colonic epithelium and coliform bacterial populations mice No differences in structure or flora, some mucin differences

Although there appear to be conflicting data about the safety of GM food, all the negative studies have come from one laboratory headed by Dr. Gilles-Eric Séralini at the University of Caen, France. The conclusions of those studies have been refuted by numerous scientists who have noted flaws in study designs and statistical evaluations.36 In addition, Séralini is funded by the Committee for Research and Independent Information on Genetic Engineering, in Paris, France, which opposes genetic engineering of crops.

Environmental concerns

Realistic environmental concerns over GM crops fall into two categories; (1) the development of resistance in Bt crop target organisms and (2) tolerance in weeds to complementary herbicides used in HT crops.37 Although concerns have been raised over the use of large-scale mono-crops, these concerns are not specific to GM modified crops, but apply to corporate farming in general. None of the crops in question are hardy enough to escape into the environment and compete with indigenous flora.

The development of resistance to Bt toxin by pests was anticipated prior to commercialization of those crops. For this reason, Many crops include multiple variations of the Bt toxin in their products. In addition, all farms using GM Bt crops must plant a small percentage of corresponding non-GM crop in the vicinity. In theory, these non-GM crops would attract pests, which would reproduce abundantly, overwhelming the gene pool of any potential Bt-resistant mutants.

Another question is whether GM crops containing Bt toxin affect insect predators who feed on pests that eat GM crops. For most studies, ingestion of pests that eat GM crops does not negatively impact predator insect species.38 However, some predator species have been negatively impacted, although those impacts were probably less than they would have been with conventional crops in which pesticides were used indiscriminately.

Gene flow and gene transfer

Concern has been raised about genetic mixing of GM crop genes with wild, related species. For most crops, no sufficiently-related natural species still exist. However, crops related to the Brassica and Beta species (rapeseed, aka canola, and sugar beets) do have wild relatives. In 1999 scientists showed in the lab that pollen from rapeseed could fertilize wild turnip to produce viable seeds.39 However, the transfer of GM genes into wild populations has never been demonstrated to have occurred in nature.

Unintended genetic changes

Although the genes being introduced into plants are highly characterized and defined, the process of gene insertion and tissue culture can result in unintended genetic changes. Plants are transformed by culturing individual cells in tissue culture and inserting the desired trait into the DNA by one of several methods. The most common is through infection with genetically transformed Agrobacterium tumefaciens, a bacterium that infects plants. Through the infection process, the desired trait is incorporated into the host DNA. A second mechanism is through particle acceleration, which physically pushes small particles into the plant cell nucleus where the gene is incorporated. The desired genes are usually linked to specific antibiotic resistance genes so that transformed plant cells can be selected through resistance to antibiotics that are included in the tissue culture medium. The mechanism by which the foreign genes are incorporated into the host genome are not well understood. However, since much of the eukaryotic genomes consist of non-critical DNA segments, random incorporation does not usually lead to adverse effects on the host. Cells in which the foreign genes are incorporated into critical genes will tend to produce a lethal mutation that prevents the cell from growing. However, it is theoretically possible that random incorporation of a GM gene could lead to disregulation of a particular gene, which could have unintended consequences. However, such events would be expected to be very rare. With the advances in gene array technology, scientists can now explicitly examine gene expression from all the genes in GM vs. non-GM crop species. The results of numerous studies show that virtually all gene expression is identical between GM and non-GM plants.40 In fact, studies found greater differences in gene and protein expression as a result of crop differences between farms than differences between GM and non-GM crops.40 However, the act of cloning individual plant cells in tissue culture probably results in more changes to the genome than the actual genetic transformation itself.41 In order to minimize these differences, once the desired trait is selected, the new variety is conventionally back-crossed with normal plants to produce a GM variety as similar as possible to the non-GM original. An extensive review of GM-crop risks concluded, "there is no indication from the molecular characterization of GM plants that the insertion of GM DNA as such poses a long-term risk due to new mechanisms of genetic instability or re-arrangements."37

In the last year, a newly invented technology allows scientists to accurate choose where genes are inserted into the host species. The TagMo process involves exact chromosome breakage and insertion of genes into the target DNA.42 Once this technique is broadly adapted, unintended genetics changes will be reduced to virtually zero.

Economic benefits of GMO

The main benefit of GM crops is economics, since the nutritional component has largely gone unexploited. The political/social climate surrounding GMO must improve before companies would be willing to invest money into genetic engineering for enhanced food nutrition. The economics of GM crops was analyzed in a study of 196 publications containing 721 entries for the statistical analysis in 2011.43 The meta analysis found that crop yields for GM Bt cotton were up to 50% higher than conventional cotton (in India). However, yields in developed countries were only 1-28% higher, since pest management was aggressive before the introduction of GM cotton. However, reductions in pesticide costs range from 16% in the USA to about 70% in China. Yield levels of Bt corn are higher (5%-25%) compared to conventional maize, and along with lower pesticide costs, results in higher gross margins of 10%-17% for farmers. For GM soybeans, marginally increased yields and reduced pesticide costs did not make up for the higher cost of GM seed. In general, benefits of GM farming are higher in developing countries compared with developed countries. Overall, it was estimated that GM crops benefit farmers by $7 billion per year, worldwide.43

Food labeling requirements

Countries of the European Union, along with several others (for a total of 42, as of 2012) require labeling of products containing GM components.44 No such requirement exists in the United States or Canada. The requirement for GM labeling of food has resulted in the almost complete absence of GM food in those countries, mostly due to a perception by grocery store owners that such foods would not be purchased. However, in Australia, only 27% of consumers examine food labels to determine if products contain genetically modified ingredients.45 So, even though consumers don't have a strong preference against GM food, required labeling laws have resulted in the virtual elimination of GM products from countries with such labeling requirements.

 

Politics of GMO

In general, opponents of GMO are part of the environmental movement, which largely consist of liberals and members of the left. Frustrated with the irrationality of GMO opponents, Keith Kloor of Slate recently wrote an article entitled, "GMO Opponents Are the Climate Skeptics of the Left." Environmental organizations that have come out against GM food include Greenpeace, and the Sierra Club. GMO are also opposed by members of the organic food industry, which stand to gain financially from GMO labeling requirements.

All genetically modified organisms contain patented DNA technology. The licensing terms require that users of the patent (i.e., farmers) not save any seed from any harvests, but buy licensed seed every year it is planted. Without such licensing restrictions, patents on genetically engineered sees would be useless to protect a company's investment in creating the patent. However, to insure patent protection, GM seed companies are now producing seed that does not produce viable embryos, preventing the replanting of harvested seed. Some interesting cases of patent infringement have resulted from farmers planting unlicensed GM seed.

Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Schmeiser

Percy Schmeiser was a canola farmer in Saskatchewan, Canada. In 1997, Schmeiser sprayed the herbicide RoundUp around telephone poles at the edge of his farm and discovered that the canola plants survived, indicating that they were GM canola plants. According to his account, he sprayed an additional 4 acres of the same field and found that 60% of the plants survived the spraying. At harvest, Schmeiser saved the Roundup-resistant seed separately and the following year intentionally planted an additional 1,000 acres of land with the saved seed. Even though Schmeiser did not use the herbicide Roundup on this crop, three courts (including the Canadian Supreme Court) found him guilty of patent infringement,46 although he never purchased seed from Monsanto or signed their license agreement. A biased documentary, entitled David vs. Monsanto, based upon the case, went viral. However, the documentary never stated clearly that Schmeiser intentionally planted 1,000 acres of what he knew to be GM canola seed, but suggested that the seed came from wind-borne "contamination." I am no farmer, but it would seem extremely unlikely that a field could become 60% contaminated with seed blown in from an adjacent farm. If this were true, then a farmer would never have to plant seed at all, but just wait for the wind to blow it into your field to get a crop. Not!!! Primarily as a result of David vs. Monsanto, Monsanto became an evil corporation in the eyes of GMO opponents.

Monsanto Company and Monsanto Technology LLC, Plaintiffs-Appellees, V. Vernon Hugh Bowman

Monsanto's Technology Agreement allows farmers to sell their genetically-modified crops to commodity markets, which are allowed to sell those seeds as a commodity, for anything but planting. So, Vernon Bowman, after planting Roundup Ready soybean seed from Monsanto, decided to obtain second season crop seed from the commodity market, saving money on seed costs and avoiding the licensing fee. Since 94% of the soybean market in the U.S. uses Roundup Ready soybeans, the seed from the commodity market was probably nearly pure GM seed. Bowman planted the seed from the commodity market and harvested the seed from that crop and saved it for next season's planting. Then, amazingly, Bowman wrote Monsanto, telling them exactly what he had done! Monsanto, of course, sued Bowman, since he had violated the terms of the license agreement, which prevented the planting of patented seed from previous harvests. Monsanto alleged that Bowman, in planting the seed from the commodity market violated the terms of the license agreement. A judge agreed with Monsanto, along with the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.47 The case was ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of Monsanto.

About the author

Rich Deem is the founder and main contributor of Evidence for God from Science, and is employed full-time as a scientist in molecular biology research at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Mr. Deem has no ties to either the organic food industry or companies that produce GMOs, although he does practice organic vegetable gardening as a hobby.

 

Christianity and GMO

Since this is a Christian website, we usually give the Christian perspective on issues, even if the issue does not primarily have spiritual implications. Christianity does not impose dietary restrictions on its adherents, so there is no directive against eating any particular kind of food, although gluttony is unacceptable.48 Since Christianity came from Judaism, there was some controversy in the early church about those who practiced the Judaic food laws and those who didn't. The apostle Paul said that as long as a person gave thanks to God, it didn't matter what he ate (Romans 14:5-6).49 Therefore the Christian is not restricted in regard to food he consumes.

Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17)

Some Christians say that by creating GMOs, scientists are "playing God."50 However, human beings have been breeding plants for thousands of years, so that the crops we now grow are quite different from those that God originally created. Some Christians oppose GM foods not on the basis of morality, but on a faulty understanding of the science behind it.51

Since Judaism does adhere to a strict dietary code, genetic modification of food is a potential issue. However, Orthodox Rabbis have ruled that genetic modification of food was irrelevant to the Jewish dietary laws.

Conclusion Top of page

If one does an Internet search for the safety of genetically modified food, he will find that the vast majority of articles oppose such food, claiming it is unsafe to eat. As an extension of liberal environmentalism and the health food industry, GMO opposition has taken on a life of its own, complete with its own form of junk science and scare tactics. Real science has shown that genetic modification of crops increases productivity, reduces the use of pesticides and herbicides, reducing fuel use and the carbon footprint of farming. Besides helping the farmer, genetic engineering has the potential to help the environment and make food more healthy to eat. However, most of these innovations have not been adopted because of widespread, irrational opposition. Numerous scientific studies have shown that food containing ingredients from genetically modified organisms is as safe to eat as conventional food. Ultimately, over 70% of food in the average grocery store in the USA contains ingredients from GMO. Since the longevity of Americans has increased during the last 16 years following the introduction of GMO into the American diet, one would have to conclude that GM food has no negative impact on the health of the average American.

YouTube Video (38:34)


Related Pages Top of page


Dan Story, author of the book, Should Christians be Environmentalists?, is a former agnostic, turned Christian. Soon after becoming a Christian, Story felt compelled to write Christian apologetics materials. Some thirty years later Story has written his first work on environmentalism from a Christian perspective. It is probably good Story took so much time to get back to his environmentalist past, since he is now firmly grounded in biblical theology, so that he handles the topic with the skill of a seasoned apologist. The book is not so much a to-do list of things Christians can do to care for God's creation as it is an apologetic to the Church to become leaders in the field of creation care. Story's target audience is Bible-believing Christians, since there is a biblical emphasis throughout the book. More...


References Top of page

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  21. Tyshko NV, Aksyuk IN, Tutel'ian VA. Safety assessment of genetically modified organisms of plant origin in the Russian Federation. Biotechnol J 2007;2:826–32.
  22. Tyshko NV, Britsina MV, Gmoshinsky IV, Zhanataev AK, Zakharova NS, Zorin SN, et al. Medical and biological safety assessment of genetically modified maize event MON 88017. Report 2. Genotoxicologic, immunologic and allergologic examinations. Vopr Pitan 2008;77:13–7.
  23. de Vendômois JS, Roullier F, Cellier D, Séralini G. A comparison of the effects of three GM corn varieties on mammalian health. Int J Biol Sci 2009;5:706–26.
  24. Appenzeller LM, Malley L, MacKenzie SA, Hoban D, Delaney B. Subchronic feeding study with genetically modified stacked trait lepidopteran and coleopteran resistant (DAS-Ø15Ø7-1×DAS-59122-7) maize grain in Sprague–Dawley rats. Food Chem Toxicol 2009;47:1512–20.
  25. Appenzeller LM, Munley SM, Hoban D, Sykes GP, Malley LA, Delaney B. Subchronic feeding study of grain from herbicide-tolerant maize DP-Ø9814Ø-6 in Sprague– Dawley rats. Food Chem Toxicol 2009;47:2269–80.
  26. Juberg DR, Herman RA, Thomas J, Brooks KJ, Delaney B. Acute and repeated dose (28 day) mouse oral toxicology studies with Cry34Ab1 and Cry35Ab1 Bt proteins used in coleopteran resistant DAS-59122-7 corn. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol 2009;54: 154–63.
  27. Séralini, Gilles-Eric, Emilie Clair, Robin Mesnage, Steeve Gress, Nicolas Defarge, Manuela Malatesta, Didier Hennequin, Joël Spiroux de Vendômois. 2012. Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. Food and Chemical Toxicology 50 4221–4231.
  28. Buzoianu, Stefan G., Maria C. Walsh, Mary C. Rea, Orla O'Donovan, Eva Gelencsér, Gabriella Ujhelyi, Erika Szabó, Andras Nagy, R. Paul Ross, Gillian E. Gardiner, Peadar G. Lawlor. Effects of Feeding Bt Maize to Sows during Gestation and Lactation on Maternal and Offspring Immunity and Fate of Transgenic Material. PLoS One. 2012; 7(10): e47851.
  29. Schrøder M, Poulsen M, Wilcks A, Kroghsbo S, Miller A, Frenzel T, et al. A 90-day safety study of genetically modified rice expressing Cry1Ab protein (Bacillus thuringiensis toxin) in Wistar rats. Food Chem Toxicol 2007;45:339–49.
  30. Domon E, Takagi H, Hirose S, Sugita K, Kasahara S, Ebinuma H, et al. 26-Week oral safety study in macaques for transgenic rice containing major human T-cell epitope peptides from Japanese cedar pollen allergens. J Agric Food Chem 2009;57:5633–8.
  31. McNaughton J, Roberts M, Smith B, Rice D, Hinds M, Schmidt J, et al. Comparison of broiler performance when fed diets containing event DP-356Ø43-5 (optimum GAT), nontransgenic near-isoline control, or commercial reference soybean meal, hulls, and oil. Poult Sci 2007;86:2569–81.
  32. Appenzeller LM, Munley SM, Hoban D, Sykes GP, Malley LA, Delaney B. Subchronic feeding study of herbicide-tolerant soybean DP-356Ø43-5 in Sprague–Dawley rats. Food Chem Toxicol 2008;46:2201–13.
  33. McNaughton J, Roberts M, Smith B, Rice D, Hinds M, Sanders C, et al. Comparison of broiler performance when fed diets containing event DP-3Ø5423-1, nontransgenic near-isoline control, or commercial reference soybean meal, hulls, and oil. Poult Sci 2008;87:2549–61.
  34. Delaney B, Appenzeller LM, Munley SM, Hoban D, Sykes GP, Malley LA, et al. Subchronic feeding study of high oleic acid soybeans (event DP-3Ø5423-1) in Sprague–Dawley rats. Food Chem Toxicol 2008;46:3808–17.
  35. Battistelli S, Citterio B, Baldelli B, Parlani C, Malatesta M. 2010. Histochemical and morpho-metrical study of mouse intestine epithelium after a long term diet containing genetically modified soybean. Eur J Histochem. 54: e36.
  36. A study of the University of Caen neither constitutes a reason for a re-evaluation of genetically modified NK603 maize nor does it affect the renewal of the glyphosate approval. German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment.
    Debora MacKenzie. Study linking GM crops and cancer questioned. New Scientist. 19 September 2012.
  37. Biological and Ecological Evaluation Towards Long-term Effects (BEETLE) Study, The European Commission, Federal Office of Consumer Protection of Food Safety, Berlin. Germany, 2007.
  38. Agnès E. Ricroch, Jean B. Bergé, Marcel Kuntz. 2011. Evaluation of Genetically Engineered Crops Using Transcriptomic, Proteomic, and Metabolomic Profiling Techniques  Plant Physiol. 2011 April; 155(4): 1752–1761.
  39. Oilseed gene leak 'unsurprising'. BBC News. 20 April 1999.
  40. Agnès E. Ricroch, Jean B. Bergé, Marcel Kuntz. 2011. Evaluation of Genetically Engineered Crops Using Transcriptomic, Proteomic, and Metabolomic Profiling Techniques Plant Physiol. 155: 1752–1761.
  41. Latham, J.R., Wilson, A.K., Steinbrecher, R.A. (2006) The mutational consequences of plant transformation. J. Biomed. Biotech.25376: 1-7.
  42. Jennifer Kuzma, Adam Kokotovich. 2011. Renegotiating GM crop regulation: Targeted gene-modification technology raises new issues for the oversight of genetically modified crops. EMBO Rep. 12: 883–888.
  43. Timo Kaphengst, Nadja El Benni, Clive Evans, Robert Finger, Sophie Herbert, Stephen Morse, Nataliya Stupak. 2011. Assessment of the economic performance of GM crops worldwide. Ecologic Institute, Berlin.
  44. Countries that require labeling of GMO food products include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, China, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Brazil, Venezuela, Taiwan, Russia, India, Chile, and South Africa.
  45. Consumer Attitudes Survey 2007, A benchmark survey of consumers' attitudes to food issues. Food Standards Australia New Zealand, January 2008.
  46. Monsanto v Schmeiser: A Landmark Decision concerning Farmer Liability and Transgenic Contamination. 2005. Journal of Environmental Law 17: 83-108.
  47. MONSANTO COMPANY AND MONSANTO TECHNOLOGY LLC, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. VERNON HUGH BOWMAN.
  48. "They shall say to the elders of his city, 'This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.' (Deuteronomy 21:20)
    Do not be with heavy drinkers of wine, Or with gluttonous eaters of meat; (Proverbs 23:20)
    For the heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty, And drowsiness will clothe one with rags. (Proverbs 23:21)
    He who keeps the law is a discerning son, But he who is a companion of gluttons humiliates his father. (Proverbs 28:7)
    "The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds." (Matthew 11:19)
    "The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, 'Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' (Luke 7:34)
    One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons." (Titus 1:12)
  49. One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. (Romans 14:5-6)
  50. Greg Ciola. 2005. Beware of the Coming Food Apocalypse! GMOs: They're Playing God and Shoving It Down Your Throat!
  51. Frankenstein foods? Genetically modified foods and the Bible by Don Batten.

http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/genetically_modified_food.html
Last Modified October 15, 2013

 

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