Health Risks of GM Foods – Section 5

Section 5: Transfer of genes to gut bacteria, internal organs, or viruses

5.1 In spite of industry claims, transgenes survive the digestive system and can wander
1. Industry advocates claimed that genes were destroyed during the digestion of food and therefore gene transfer to gut bacteria or organs was extremely unlikely.
2. Studies now verify that genes can survive digestion, both in humans and animals.
3. Animal studies on non-GM DNA also verify that it can pass through the placenta into the fetus, from the digestive channels into the blood and organs, and even penetrate the blood brain barrier.

5.2 Transgene design facilitates transfer into gut bacteria
1. Genes can naturally transfer between species and even kingdoms, but it is uncommon.
2. GM crops may be especially suited to overcome the natural barriers of this transfer.
3. Short bacterial sequences and higher herbicide residues, for example, may significantly increase the transfer rate.
4. Transgenes may therefore readily travel from GM food into the DNA of gut bacteria.

5.3 Transgenes may proliferate in gut bacteria over the long-term
1. Once transferred into gut bacteria, transgenes may confer survival advantages, allowing them to endure and spread.
2. These advantages may be due to antibiotic or herbicide resistance, promoters that function in bacteria and genetic mechanisms that promote uncontrolled replication.
3. Having “infected” our gut bacteria, the foreign genes and the proteins they create may be harmful.

5.4 Transgene transfer to human gut bacteria is confirmed
1. The only human feeding trial ever published confirmed that genetic material from Roundup Ready soy transferred into the gut bacteria in three of seven human volunteers.
2. The transferred portion of the transgene was stable inside the bacteria and appeared to produce herbicide tolerant protein.
3. There is no known way to treat such a condition, which may be long-term.

5.5 GM foods might create antibiotic-resistant diseases
1. Antibiotic resistant marker (ARM) genes have been inserted into most GM foods on the market.
2. If ARM genes were to transfer to pathogenic bacteria inside the gut or mouth, they might create super diseases, untreatable with one or more types of antibiotics.
3. GM crops may therefore accelerate the rise of antibiotic-resistant illnesses, which
are already responsible for death and disease.

5.6 The promoter can also transfer and may switch on random genes or viruses
1. Contrary to prior assumptions, the CaMV promoter does function in human, animal and bacteria DNA.
2. This promoter does transfer into the DNA of human gut bacteria and might also transfer into human DNA.
3. Once transferred, it may switch on genes that produce toxins, allergens or carcinogens,
create genetic instability, and in higher organisms, switch on dormant viruses.

5.7 If Bt genes transfer, they could turn our gut bacteria into living pesticide factories
1. Transfer of the Bt transgene could cause our intestinal flora to produce Bt-toxin.
2. With increased exposure to Bt crops and through selective pressure, the number of gut bacteria producing Bt may increase over time.
3. Since Bt-toxin has been associated with immune responses and damaged cells in animal intestines, long-term exposure may cause significant health problems.

5.8 Genes may transfer to bacteria in the mouth or throat
1. Bacteria in the mouth have been shown to take up free DNA.
2. GM DNA might similarly transfer.
3. Not only might this impact human health, it might also be readily passed from person to person.
4. Breathing dust or pollen from GM crops might cause genes to transfer to microorganisms in the respiratory tract.

5.9 Transfer of viral genes into gut microorganisms may create toxins and weaken peoples’ viral defenses
1. As discussed earlier, proteins produced from viruses can be toxic and disable viral defenses.
2. If viral genes inserted into GM crops transferred into gut microorganisms, they
might produce large quantities of potentially harmful proteins.
3. Characteristics of viral transgenes make transfer to gut microorganisms much
more likely.

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