Obviously the admonition to ‘never look a gift horse in the mouth’ was around in the time of the Greek–Trojan war. The Trojans were not aware of the dangers of accepting things at face value or they would not have been conquered. Today, consumers are being presented with food products that are not as portrayed by their proponents and also with potentially dire consequences.
I refer to genetically engineered (GE) crops, in particular to Roundup Ready (glyphosate-resistant) and Bt crops (engineered with the bacteriumBacillus thuringiensis). These crops are designated ‘safe’ for human and animal consumption by New Zealand’s regulatory authorities: Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and the Ministry of Primary Industry (MPI), despite the transgenic crops not having undergone even adequate safety tests independent of the companies developing and marketing them, e.g. Monsanto, Dow and Syngenta.
GBH: grievous bodily harm, or glyphosate-based herbicides?
There are many reports of glyphosate-based herbicides (GBHs) being toxic even at very low levels.1 These crops with ‘built-in’ GBHs, and the increased use of GBHs to prepare land for crops and to desiccate crops prior to harvest, are the hidden dangers in this Trojan horse.
Why are we accepting this ‘gift’? It is because the companies say, and our regulatory authorities agree and accept their word, that transgenic crops are ‘substantially equivalent’ to conventional crops and therefore safe. However, normal crops are not resistant to being sprayed with GBHs, the most widely used of these being Roundup, which is touted to be safe and benign.
Unsafe and illegal
Not only are GBHs not safe, but Mae-wan Hostates that every commercially approved transgenic line (read: GE crop) has undergone rearrangement, i.e. it is not the same as the crop that was approved, making it illegal according to European directive 2001/18/EC.2 Yet these transgenic food crops have been approved by food safety authorities like the US Food and Drug Administration, European Food Safety Authority and our own FSANZ.
In the US, most prepared foods contain transgenes in some form, unlabelled, and in New Zealand many processed foods contain GE ingredients. The evidence to contradict this assurance of safety is huge and growing every week. Several papers point to transgenic foods and GBHs being linked to most modern diseases like diabetes type I and type II, autism and other auto-immune diseases, dementia and Parkinson’s – see for example the paper by Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff.3
Every one of the trillions of microorganisms in our body (and there are ten times more of those than our body’s own cells) is affected or destroyed by GE foods or GBHs. In fact, we are kept alive by microorganisms, so their demise is serious indeed. The effects on our gut microbes are brought about by:
- mineral depletion (due to chelation, of cations mainly),
- disruption of enzyme and endocrine systems, and
- dysbiosis of the gut environment, the subject of this article; subsequent articles will deal with the other two aspects.
Dysbiosis: imbalance of microbes
Dysbiosis is animbalance within a normal microbial population, be it soil, plant or animal.2 It can be caused by immune suppression, dietary changes, the use of antibiotics like penicillin, monensin and glyphosate (yes it is an antibiotic), the different proteins and increased levels of ‘normal’ proteins in GE feeds and GBHs.
Not all organisms are affected in the same way. In soil, nitrogen fixers, both free-living and those in root nodules, are very sensitive, as are Mycorrhiza, whereas pathogens like Clostridia,Fusarium, Pithium and Aspergillum spp. are enhanced, causing plant death and the increased production of fungal toxins like aflatoxins which contaminate animal and human food. Fumonisins and aflatoxins (very dangerous carcinogens) are shown to be increased.4 In animals and humans, dysbiosis increases the incidence of bowel disease and bloating.
There are nervous signs in Europe, the US and Australia about GBHs in transgenic foods, because bacteria like Clostridium perfringens, C. botulinum and Salmonella spp. are very resistant to GBHs, and dysbiosis is the source of C. botulinum toxins in cows, attendant humans and dust mites.5
Dysbiosis and human disease
Dysbiosis increases short-chain fatty acids and ammonia in the gut of children with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) due to an overgrowth of Clostridia, Bacteriodetes and Desulfovibrio spp.6 A study by Williams et al states ‘It is now well established that ASD is associated with dysbiosis in the gut’.7
Dr Campbell-McBride showed a close connection between abnormal gut flora and abnormal brain development, called gut and psychology syndrome (GAPS).8 Researchers have found high levels of Sutterella species in autistic children but not in non-autistic children.9
Samsel and Seneff showed a strong correlation between the GBHs used in GE cropping and many human diseases in the US,3where statistics show one in six children are learning-disabled, one in nine have asthma, one in 50 have ASD, one in 400 become diabetic. Millions of US citizens show food allergies, irritable bowel syndrome and other chronic illnesses. About 50% of US adults are living with at least one chronic illness.10
The health statistics in New Zealand are not as comprehensive for comparison, but why should we potentially put ourselves at risk by eating transgenic foods? Our labelling laws are inadequate, making avoidance difficult. We should have mandatory labelling for any food or food ingredient that originates from a transgenic crop, or has been treated with GBHs in preparation or for desiccation.
A good example of dysbiosis is found in the situation with humans and Clostridium difficile which can cause bloating, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and death. This organism lives in the normal gut, kept in check by other bacteria, but if antibiotics are used or GE/GBH foods are eaten, the controlling bacteria are destroyed. C. difficile takes over and it is very resistant to antibiotics, hence its association with hospital deaths. However, scientists have found six bacteria species that will eradicateC. difficile, three known and three new species.11
Risks to animal health – and exports
The same occurs in animals with Salmonella spp. and Clostridium botulinum, the latter causing those same symptoms in pigs and cattle.12 Yet we annually import nearly 200,000 tonnes of feed with transgenic content and unknown levels of GBHs, thus increasing the risks to animals and to food, including milk powder, and other contamination. How will that look to importers of any New Zealand agricultural product?
Frank Rowson, B.Vet.Med., is a retired veterinary surgeonand a farm performance consultant for soil herbage, animals and humans.
1. Chaufan et al, ‘Glyphosate commercial formulation causes cytotoxicity, oxidative effects, and apoptosis on human cells: differences with its active ingredient’,Int J Toxicol, 33(1), 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24434723; Koller et al., ‘Cytotoxic and DNA-damaging properties of glyphosate and Roundup in human-derived buccal epithelial cells’, Arch Toxicol, May 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22331240; and Thongprakaisang et al, ‘Glyphosate induces human breast cancer cells growth via estrogen receptors’, Food Chem Toxicol, Sept 2013 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23756170
2. Mae-wan Ho, ‘The New Genetics and Naturalversus Artificial Genetic Modification’, Entropy, 2013, 15(11),www.mdpi.com/1099-4300/15/11/4748
3. Samsel, A and Seneff, S, ‘Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases’, Entropy2013, 15(4), www.mdpi.com/1099-4300/15/4/1416; see also Jeffrey Smith’s YouTube interview with Stephanie Seneff: www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_AHLDXF5aw
4. Barberis, CL et al., ‘Influence of herbicide glyphosate on growth and aflatoxin B1 production by Aspergillus section Flavi strains isolated from soil on in vitro assay’, J Environ Sci Health, 2013, 48(12), www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24007484
5. Krüger, M et al, ‘Glyphosate suppresses the antagonistic effect of Enterococcus spp. on Clostridium botulinum’, Anaerobe, 2013, 20, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23396248
6. Wang et al, ‘Elevated fecal short chain fatty acid and ammonia concentrations in children with autism spectrum disorder’,Dig.Dis.Sci. 2012, 57, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22535281; MacFabe DF, ‘Short-chain fatty acid fermentation products of the gut microbiome: Implications in autism spectrum disorders’, Microb. Ecol. Health Dis., 2012, 23,www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3747729
7. Williams, BL et al., ‘Impaired carbohydrate digestion and transport and mucosal dysbiosis in the intestines of children with autism and gastrointestinal disturbances’, PLoS One 2011, 6,www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0024585
8. Natasha Campbell-McBride, Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment for Autism, Dyspraxia, ADD, Dyslexia, ADHD, Depression, Schizophrenia, Medinform Publishing, 2010
9. Williams et al, ‘Application of novel PCR-based methods for detection, quantitation, and phylogenetic characterization ofSutterellaspecies in intestinal biopsy samples from children with autism and gastrointestinal disturbances’, mBio 10 January 2012, mbio.asm.org/content/3/1/e00261-11.full
11. Lawley, TD et al, ‘Targeted restoration of the intestinal microbiota with a simple, defined bacteriotherapy resolves relapsing Clostridium difficile disease in mice’, PLoS One Pathog., 2012, 8(10), www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23133377
12. Carman, J et al., A long-term toxicology study on pigs fed a combined genetically modified (GM) soy and GM maize diet, J Organic Systems, 2013, 8(1), www.organic-systems.org/journal/81/8106.pdf