Thursday, February 18, 2016 - According to a report recently published in the journal Frontiers in Environmental Science, new strains of GM crops that produce pesticides in their own tissues are being approved without rigorous safety testing, even though they may carry “serious health and environmental risks.”
The study found that these new "stacked-trait" crops – containing numerous different strains of Bt toxin - are being approved for planting and sale, based on several false assertions made by the genetically modified (GM) crop industry.
One such assertion is that each individual Bt toxin affects only a small number of insect pests, and has no effects on other species such as beneficial insect predators ("non-target" species). But the researchers found numerous studies showing the opposite to be true.
GM companies hide the truth by defining non-target effects in a highly narrow fashion: a "quick kill” necessary to save a sick crop. Bt toxins are not fast-acting toxins. Residues linger in soil and aquatic systems, exposing non-target organisms – including beneficial insects, mammals and humans – to long-term and sub-lethal effects. These effects are not currently being considered by regulatory agencies.
Regarding reduced pesticide use, the review found that the total pesticide load in stacked-trait Bt crops often exceeded the typical amount of pesticide used in a non-GM field. For example, SmartStax GM corn contains six different Bt toxins and two herbicide tolerant traits. The total Bt toxin load in this crop is 19 times the average 2010 pesticide application rate.
Perhaps the most glaring regulatory failing uncovered by the review, is the acceptance of industry claims that stacked-trait crops should be approved on the basis of tests conducted on single-trait crops. Yet the review uncovered numerous studies showing that stacked-trait crops caused biological effects not produced by any of the individual toxins alone.
The review also found that companies seeking stacked-trait approval consistently failed to mention the studies that contradicted their false assumptions. Regulators did not require any further safety testing of stacked-trait crops, beyond a few short-term insect feeding trials. The researchers called for long-term mammal feeding trials, as a minimum.
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