The current problem most of the people have with genetically modification of plants and other organisms seems to be base on the level of safety they offer. It seems that more people are quite doubtful that what biotech companies have already developed in terms of GM plants and organisms remain safe and do not pose a threat to human life. This remains a gray area that biotech companies still need to address, if they actually neglect to do it with dire consequences to their established businesses. And while they remain silent, other discoveries come up that further strain whatever credibility the commercialism of GM plants may have.
The case in point this time is that there is a recent study reporting of the presence of Bt toxin in the human blood for the first time. Bt toxin is a widely used toxin to kill pests used in GM crops. It is composed of genes extracted from bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis and then inserting them in GM crops to make them resistant to attacks from pests by making the plants toxic. Biotech companies say that Bt toxin make the plants toxic only to pests and pose no threat to humans or the environment. They say that the toxin easily breaks down when it passes through the human gut in case absorbed. But its recent detection in human blood may signify that this does not actually happen.
Recent studies made by researchers from the University of Sherbrooke in Canada have detected an insecticidal protein called Cry1Ab that is circulating in the blood of pregnant as well as non-pregnant women. The researchers also have discovered the toxin in fetal blood, signifying that it may be passed off to the next generation. The research paper has undergone peer review and have been published in the journal Reproductive Toxicology.
The said study involved 30 pregnant women and 39 non-pregnant women who came to the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Sherbrooke (CHUS) in Quebec for a tubectomy. It is also worth noting that none of the subjects worked or lived with a spouse who was working in direct contact with pesticides. All of them were considered to follow a typical Canadian diet which included eating GM foods such as corn, potatoes and soybeans. Blood samples from the women were taken before delivery for pregnant women and during tubal ligation for the non-pregnant ones. Umbilical blood sampling was also done after birth.
During analysis of the blood samples, the Cry1Ab toxin was detected in 93 percent of the pregnant women and 80 percent from the fetal blood samples. And also, 69 percent of the blood samples of non-pregnant women were found to have the said toxin. There were earlier studies showing that trace amounts of the Cry1Ab toxin was found in the gastrointestinal contents of livestock that has been given GM corn as feed. This have given initial fears that the said toxin may not be always broken down effectively in the gut as what most biotech companies and GM Food proponents imply.
“Generated data will help regulatory agencies responsible for the protection of human health to make better decisions”, say Aziz Aris and Samuel Leblanc, who were the researchers for the said study. Further study might be needed in order to determine the potential toxicity and harm that this discovery may entail on human life in general with regards to consuming GM food.