8.1—GM foods safe for mothers-to-be

Expectant mothers can safely eat GM foods

See Genetic Roulette’s False Claims at Bottom of Page

Analysis of Peer-Reviewed Research:

Smith correctly notes that fetuses are sensitive to the maternal diet and may be even more sensitive to certain toxicants than are adults.  He then speculates that minute changes in GM crops that might introduce extremely low levels of toxic compounds could adversely affect fetal growth and development.  The gaping hole in Smith’s logic is that there is neither evidence nor any sound scientific reason to believe that transgenics would harbor such compounds—indeed there is reason to believe that it is far more likely that conventional crops would harbor undetected and potentially deleterious compounds.  Genetic Roulette mentions that changes could span generations thought epigenetic modification but this possibility is not tested.  Setting aside the fact that there have been a few well-conducted generational animal studies that have revealed no adverse effects, we once again find Smith speculating against all odds in the total absence of evidence.  Smith offers his earlier assertions as evidence but these are the same assertions that we have found lacking in both evidence and logic and which have consistently failed to advise the reader of numerous pertinent scientific publications—often perhaps because they directly contradict Smith’s claims.

1. Fetal development is sensitive to diet but there is no reason to believe that transgenic crops would have any effect on fetal health. Genetic Roulette correctly notes the sensitivity of the developing fetus.  Without presenting an evidence or logical reasoning for the assertion, Smith contends that transgenic crops could be dangerous to the fetus.  He laments the lack of intergenerational testing, without noting that intergenerational tests of transgenic crops have found no ill effects associated with them (Brake and Evenson 2004, Kılıç and Akay 2008, see also in EFSA 2008).

2.  It’s true that epigenetic changes can span generations but Smith presents no evidence that transgenic crops cause epigenetic changes. Genetic Roulette notes that epigenetic changes may be associated with disease states, obesity, diabetes, and cancer.  It then goes on to assert that the transformation process used to make transgenic crops is associated with mutations that might cause epigenetic changes.  Smith presents no evidence of an epigenetic change caused by transformation.  He also seems unaware that conventional breeding causes more and great random mutations in DNA than does transgenic breeding (Parrott 2006, Rutgers 2006; Baudo and others 2006; Batista and others 2008).  One might expect, therefore, that epigenetic changes would be more closely associated with conventional breeding than with genetic engineering but no such association has been made.

3.  The other factors that Smith uses to support his claims are the same discredited arguments he advanced in previous sections—they weren’t valid then, and they aren’t valid here either. Smith groups together under a heading he calls other factors, a series of assertions about the effects of GM crops on animals that he offered in earlier sections.  Our earlier analysis has found these claims are totally without merit—GM crops do not adversely affect animals.  Sensing perhaps the weakness of his argument, Smith wanders off topic to criticize the EPA testing of pesticides as inadequate.   He claims—we believe quite out of context—that EPA scientists cannot say that risk assessments cannot guarantee that pesticides will not hurt neurological development in infants and children.  He then asserts on the basic of a total lack of evidence or reason that this is even truer with GM crops.  Smith is not only equating transgenic crops to pesticides, he is saying that they are worse.  Clever, but wrong. No reasonable person would equate the toxicity of a food with that of a pesticide but that’s what Smith does.  We hasten to add parenthetically that if one is concerned about pesticides in foods, organic foods aren’t the answer since organic farmers are allowed to use pesticides but transgenic crops may be the answer.  After all, no pesticides need be used on insect-protected transgenic crops. (See sections 1.3, 1.10, 2.11, 3.1 and 4.1)


van Haver EG, Alink S, Barlow A, Cockburn G, Flachowsky I, Knudsen H, Kuiper DP, Massin G, Pascal A, Peijnenburg R, Phipps A, Poting M, Poulsen W, Seinen H, Spielmann H, van Loveren JM and Williams A (2008) Safety and nutritional assessment of GM plants and derived food and feed: The role of animal feeding trials. Food and Chemical Toxicology 46:S2-S70.

Brake DG and Evenson DP (2004) A generational study of glyphosate-tolerant soybeans on mouse fetal, postnatal, pubertal and adult testicular development. Food Chem. Tox, 42: 29-36.

Kılıç A and Akay MT (2008) A three generation study with genetically modified Bt corn in rats: Biochemical and histopathological investigation. Food and Chemical Toxicology 46:1164–1170.

Parrott W (2006) The nature of change: Towards sensible regulation of transgenic crops based on lessons from plant breeding, biotechnology and genomics. Proc. 17th National Agricultural Biotechnology Council. Nashville, TN June 27-29, pp. 209-220. NABC, Ithaca, NY.

Rutgers University Press Release (4th Oct 2006). Genome archaeology illuminates the genetic engineering debate. www.eurekalert.org/pub_releses/2006-10/rtsu-gai100306.php accessed Dec 11 2008. Summarising Bruggmann and others Genome Research 16:1241-1251. The maize genome is “replete with reconfiguration and reshuffling, reminiscent of working with Lego blocks’.

Batista R, Saibo N, Lourenço T, Oliveira MM (2008). Microarray analyses reveal that plant mutagenesis may induce more transcriptomic changes than transgene insertion.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 105(9): 3640–3645. Radiation treatment causes more genetic change than does insertion of a transgene.

Baudo MM, Lyons R, Powers S, Pastori GM, Edwards KJ, Holdsworth MJ, Shewry PR. (2006) Transgenesis has less impact on the transcriptome of wheat grain than conventional breeding. Plant Biotechnol J. 2006 Jul;4(4):369-80

Genetic Roulette Falsely Claims:

Pregnant mothers eating GM foods may endanger offspring

1. Embryo development can be adversely affected by tiny amounts of substances in the mother’s diet.

2. A pregnant mother’s diet may alter gene expression in children and be passed on to future generations.

3. GM crops may contain substances that impact normal fetal development, but have never been adequately tested for these effects.

GM crops may contain untested substances that could affect fetuses