GMOs Toxins and unborn babies… a deeper examination of the study.

May 20, 2011

“GM food toxins found in the blood of 93% of unborn babies” (see:

These headlines (or a version of it) are making their rounds in the media these days.  They refer to a study done in Quebec. Aziz Aris and Samuel Leblanc claim to have detected herbicides and/or the insecticidal protein Cry1Ab in the blood of Canadian women, pregnant or not pregnant, and in umbilical cords.  Their study / results were recently  published in the journal Reproductive Toxicology (TITLE: “Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to Genetically Modified Foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada”).

In April, I received an anonymous email from someone who challenged me on the results of this study (amongst other things…)

“While I can see the potential benefits of GMOs, I am uncomfortable with how readily pro-GMO scientists dismiss the gathering evidence of potential harmful impacts (such as the very recent study finding the BT toxin in mother’s breast milk).”

My response was as follows – and points to problems with the methodological approach…

“I think that you are referring to the article by Aris etal and their study on the sera (blood) (as opposed to breast milk) that was published in a recent issue of Reproductive Technology (2011).  I read the article and, quite frankly, have some questions regarding the methodology.  First, there seems to be a lack of controls in the experimental approach.  What are the serum levels of female organic farmers who spray Bt vs those conventional female farmers who plant Bt soy, corn and cotton? Bt is one of the most effective pesticides used in the organic industry and, generally, the number of applications is even higher in organic crops than in conventional/GE.   What are serum levels of women who eat no corn or soy products and do not buy organic (having no exposure)?  The lack of controls in this study is alarming and can account for false positives in results (I refer you to the paper in the J. Agric. Food Chem. 2005, 53, 1453-1456:  “To avoid misinterpretation, samples tested positive for Cry1Ab protein by ELISA should be reassessed by another technique”).  In my opinion, the Aris etal study is only moderately interesting and very, very incomplete.” 

As far as I can tell, there is a real problem with ‘credibility’ here.  I question the peer review process. This is echoed in another response to this publication…

So, how do we accomplish a balance between “expedited publication” (which, after the long-term, laborious research process, the researcher desires – it’s the “reward”) and “thorough, competent review”? (I cover this a bit further in my blog entry “Peer Review, Peer Rejected”)

Peer review, improperly executed, leads to devastating results.  Take for example, the fallout from an article published in The Lancet in 1998 (later retracted) that claimed a connection between the MMR vaccine and Autism.  These claims (based on a study that was improperly reviewed) rippled through media causing an uproar (fuelled by the celeb-fluence of Jenny McCarthy, I might add) which, ultimately, led to the reduction in numbers of childhood vaccinations (bringing with it a whole other set of problems).

Science is a good thing.  But key to good science is a set of checks and balances that monitors and challenges results and ensures accountability in the process.

The peer review process…  Maybe it needs to be ‘peer reviewed’?

4 thoughts on “GMOs Toxins and unborn babies… a deeper examination of the study.

  1. The Aris and Leblanc study is the first to look at pesticides associated with GM crops. The questions it raises cannot be dismissed. Certainly do further work but ponder why the GM industry or regulators have not had these studies done before. Also on your comment about bt. When it is used by organic farmers it is done in response to a pest outbreak. The bt quickly degrades. Therefore use is not routine and it doesn’t linger. In contrast bt in GM crops is produced within the plant cells and cannot be washed off. Your article implies that the testing of GM crops is thorough. MADGE looked at the raw data on which RR canola was approved in Australia. It cennot be considered scientific. For example Monsanto supplied the GM RR canola to be tested. It was heterozygous (half strength). It was grown next to and surrounded by the non-GM parent plant Westar. It was not bagged and so cross-contamination would have occured. It was not sprayed with Roundup which is the whole point of RR canola ie it was not treated in a way that commercial crops would be. Another canola (GT200) was planted nearby and would also have cross contaminated the RR canola (GT73) being grown for testing. This is just the start of what was wrong with the tests done. A MADGE report on part of the RR canola material is here: am very concerned about GM crops and food. One of the reasons for that concern is that the science has been junked in favour of pushing a technology for corporate profit. Science and the general public are the losers from this.

  2. The food agency in Australia has just commented on this paper by Aris and Leblanc.I post a few details and a link.Go to FSANZ for the full commentary.FSANZnews FoodStandardsAusNZ by gmopunditProof GM foods are not safe for human consumption? FSANZ debunks media claims of new scientific evidence #GMOFSANZ response to study linking Cry1Ab protein in blood to GM foodsThere has been some media speculation about a recent paper published by Aziz Aris and Samuel Leblanc titled ‘ Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada’ [Reproductive Toxicology, in press, 2011].What is the paper about?The paper deals with two herbicides, glyphosate and glufosinate ammonium that are sprayed on both genetically modified (GM) and non-GM crops, and an insecticidal protein Cry1Ab that is produced by the naturally occurring soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensissub sp.kurstaki (Btk). The gene encoding this protein has been used to genetically modify some crops so that they contain the protein and are thus protected against certain insect pests. The protein is also extensively used in organic and conventional farming as a direct application pesticide.The authors of the study claim to have detected the Cry1Ab protein in the blood of pregnant and non-pregnant Canadian women, and in umbilical cord blood of foetuses.

  3. Pingback: Science versus fear mongering at Hofstra GMO debate « Biology Fortified, Inc.

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