Manual Genetic Modification: 208 (Issues)

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GM crops are promising to mitigate current and future problems in commercial agriculture, with proven case Genetic modification (GM) is the area of biotechnology which concerns itself with the .. ; 8(4): –
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This article in AJ Vol. Joanne E. Abstract Genetic modification GM of crops provides new crop management options production traits and crops with industrial, pharmaceutical, and neutraceutical applications are likely to follow. Search Publications Advanced Search.

The epidemiological data for some specific health problems are generally robust over time for example, cancers but are less reliable for others. The committee presents the available data knowing that they include a number of sources of bias, including changes over time in survey methods and in the tools for detection of specific chronic diseases. As imperfect as the data may be, they are in some cases the only information available beyond animal experiments for formulating or testing hypotheses about possible connections between a GE food and a specific disease.

The committee points out that the lack of rigorous data on incidence of disease is not only a problem for assessing effects of GE foods on health. More rigorous data on time, location, and sociocultural trends in disease would enable better assessment of potential health problems caused by environmental factors and other products from new technologies. A review of the American Cancer Society's database indicates that mortality from cancers in the United States and Canada has continued to decrease or stabilized in all categories except cancers of the lung and bronchus attributable to smoking.

The decreases in mortality are due in part to early detection and improved treatment, so mortality data can mask the rate at which cancers occur. For that reason, the committee sought data on cancer incidence rather than cancer mortality. Figures and show changes in cancer incidence in U. If GE foods were causing a substantial number of specific cancers, the incidence of those cancers would be expected to show a change in slope in the time source after , when GE traits were first available in commercial varieties of soybean and maize.

The figures show that some cancers have increased and others decreased, but there is no obvious change in the patterns since GE crops were introduced into the U.

What is genetic modification?

Figures and show cancer incidence in women and men in the United Kingdom, where GE foods are not generally being consumed. For the specific types of cancers that are reported in both the United States and the United Kingdom, there is no obvious difference in the patterns that could be attributed to the increase in consumption of GE foods in the United States.

The absolute numbers cannot be compared because of differences in methodology.

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As can be seen in Figure , the global incidence of those two cancers has increased. An examination of the plots for North America high income Canada and the United States , where GE foods are eaten, compared with the plots for western Europe, where GE foods generally are not eaten, shows similar increases in incidence of breast cancer and no increase in cervical cancer.

The data do not support the hypothesis that GE-food consumption has substantially increased breast and cervical cancer. The data for North America [high income] and western Europe are different from those in the studies above on the incidence of cancer in the United States and the United Kingdom. Global incidence of breast A and cervical B cancer. Taken together, Figure 5 through Figure 8 do not support the hypothesis that GE foods have resulted in a substantial increase in the incidence of cancer. However, they do not establish that there is no relationship between cancer and GE foods because there can be a delay in the onset of cancer that would obscure a trend, and one could hypothesize that something else has occurred with GE foods in the United States that has lowered cancer incidence and thus obscured a relationship.

The committee had limited evidence on which to make its judgments, but the evidence does not support claims that the incidence of cancers has increased because of consumption of GE foods.


There is ongoing debate about potential carcinogenicity of glyphosate in humans. Assessment of glyphosate is relevant to the committee's report because it is the principal herbicide used on HR crops Livingston, et al. The committee found that this study was not conclusive and used incorrect statistical analysis. In , EPA classified glyphosate as Group C possibly carcinogenic to humans on the basis of tumor formation in mice. A summary and reasons for the classification were published in Lancet Oncology Guyton et al.

Furthermore, IARC noted that there is mechanistic support in that glyphosate induces oxidative stress, which could cause DNA damage, and some epidemiological data that support the classification. EFSA evaluated glyphosate after the IARC report was released and concluded that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans.

The Canadian agency found that current food and dermal exposure to glyphosate even by those who work directly with glyphosate is not a health concern as long as it is used as directed on product labels Health Canada, EPA found that glyphosate does not interact with estrogen, androgen, or thyroid systems. A comment to the committee expressed concern that glyphosate breaks down to formaldehyde, which was classified as a known human carcinogen by IARC However, this hypothesis was not supported; Franz et al.

Furthermore, patterns of change in cancer incidence in the United States are generally similar to those in the United Kingdom and Europe, where diets contain much lower amounts of food derived from GE crops.

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The data do not support the assertion that cancer rates have increased because of consumption of products of GE crops. FINDING: There is significant disagreement among expert committees on the potential harm that could be caused by the use of glyphosate on GE crops and in other applications. In determining the risk from glyphosate and formulations that include glyphosate, analyses must take into account both marginal exposure and potential harm. It has been hypothesized that kidney disease may have increased because GE proteins reached the kidney.

The committee examined epidemiological data to determine whether there was a correlation between the consumption of GE foods and the prevalence of chronic kidney disease CKD.

USDA ERS - Genetically Modified Alfalfa Production in the United States

The total prevalence of all stages of CKD in the United States increased 2 percent from about 12 percent in — to 14 percent in —, but the total prevalence has not increased significantly since then. The greatest percent increase is seen in Stage 3, and based on the study USRDS, , a large amount of the increase occurred in people with comorbidity of cardiovascular disease. Prevalence of CKD increases substantially with age Coresh et al. Census Bureau, , as does the increase in diabetes and hypertension Coresh et al.

FINDING: The available data on prevalence of chronic kidney disease in the United States show a 2 percent increase from to , but the increase does not appear to be attributable to consumption of GE foods. Obesity in humans is a complex condition associated with several genetic and environmental factors—including geography, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, lack of exercise, availability of fresh fruits and vegetables, and less nutritional meals Thayer et al.

Studies of various species examined body-weight gain when animals were fed a GE crop, a non-GE isogenic comparator, or a non-GE, nonisogenic control. The authors concluded that there were no biologically relevant differences in body-weight gain regardless of the length of the studies Rhee et al.

Human population studies have shown that obesity has become more prevalent in the United States for example, Fryar et al. An provided a graphic of the change in U. As can be seen in the figure, the percentage of obese U.

Genetic Modification: 208 (Issues)

Because there is no increase in the slope after commercialization of GE crops, these data do not support the hypothesis that GE crops have increased obesity. These time-series data do not prove that there is no association, but if one is present, it is not strong. Annual trend for adjusted prevalence of obesity in U. NOTE: Prevalence of obesity was adjusted to account for gender, age group, and race or ethnicity. Dashed line at indicates year more Those statistics on obesity coincide with those on the incidence of type II diabetes in the United States Abraham et al.

Although the gastrointestinal tract has evolved to digest dietary proteins in the stomach and small intestine effectively for absorption and use of amino acids, it is normal for some full proteins or their fragments to cross the gut barrier through a paracellular route between cells or damaged mucosa and for the immune system, which has a high presence at the interface of the gut wall and the internal circulation, to respond accordingly.

It is also not unusual, given the high sensitivity of today's analytical equipment, for proteins or fragments to be detected in minute amounts in different body fluids. Detection methods are not specific to transgene-produced proteins but can find any dietary protein or fragment that is able to pass from the gastrointestinal tract into the bloodstream and tissues. The presence of a dietary protein or its fragment in the bloodstream or in tissues is not unusual or a cause for health concerns. About 60—70 percent of the body's immune system is in the gastrointestinal tract's gut-associated lymphoid tissue, which has an interface with the gut luminal contents, including toxins, allergens, and the associated microbiota.

For GE crops, a public concern has been that the immune system is compromised through ingested transgenic proteins. It was suggested to the committee in presentations and public comments that fragments of transgenes may have some special properties that would result in human diseases if they were absorbed into the body through the digestive tract.

The mechanism by which such genes or proteins would affect the body is not clear, although Smith hypothesized that consuming GE foods increased gut permeability. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects about 1 percent of the population of western countries. It is triggered in susceptible people by consumption of gluten-containing cereal grains Fasano et al.

Symptoms of celiac disease are the result of an immune reaction that causes marked gastrointestinal inflammation in persons susceptible to gliadin, a component of gluten protein found in wheat, rye Secale cereale , and barley Hordeum vulgare Green and Cellier, In addition to exposure to gluten, the etiology of celiac disease is multifactorial and includes genetic predisposition, microbial infection of the gastrointestinal tract, antibiotic exposure, and gastrointestinal erosion Riddle et al.

Diagnosis is based on detection of serum concentrations serotypes of IgA tissue transglutaminase and endomysial antibody IgA, the relief of symptoms upon gluten avoidance, and tissue biopsy. The genetic changes related to the serotyped IgAs are found in about 30 percent of the Caucasian population, but susceptibility to celiac disease is found in only 1 percent of this population Riddle et al.

The committee was able to find data on the incidence of celiac disease in the United Kingdom West et al.

In the Minnesota and UK studies, there is a clear pattern of increase in celiac-disease incidence or at least its detection or the extent of self-reports that started before Catassi et al. The increases are similar in magnitude to that found in U. The authors cautioned that most cases of celiac disease are undiagnosed. Some of the observed increase may be related to improvements in diagnostic criteria, greater awareness of the disease in physicians and patients, better blood tests, and increases in the number of biopsies.

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However, recent observations point to an increase in incidence beyond those factors J. Murray, Mayo Clinic, personal communication, February 1, Three-year rolling average incidence of celiac disease in —, by age group, in the United Kingdom. NOTE: Dashed line at indicates year genetically engineered soybean and maize were first grown in the United more It should be noted that there has not been any commercial production of GE wheat, rye, or barley in the world.

The committee found no evidence that the introduction of GE foods affected the incidence or prevalence of celiac disease worldwide. It appears to have increased similarly in the United Kingdom, where GE foods are not typically consumed and glyphosate use did not increase.

Genetically Modified Alfalfa Production in the United States

The data are not robust, but they do not show a major difference in the rate of increase in incidence of celiac disease between the two countries. Speakers and some members of the public suggested that the prevalence of food allergies has increased because of GE crops. The committee examined records on the prevalence of food allergies in the United States over time.