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How Genetically Modified Foods Could Affect Our Health in Unexpected Ways

Yet another reason to test GMOs for safety.

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It's time to re-write the rules to acknowledge how much more complicated genetic systems are than the legal regulations -- and the corporations that have written them -- give credit.

Monsanto isn't doing itself any PR favors by claiming "no need for, or value in testing the safety of GM foods in humans." Admittedly, such testing can be difficult to construct -- who really wants to volunteer to eat a bunch of GM corn just to see what happens? At the same time, if companies like Monsanto want to use processes like RNA interference to make plants that can kill insects via genetic pathways that might resemble our own, some kind of testing has to happen.

A good place to start would be the testing of introduced DNA for other effects -- miRNA-mediated or otherwise -- beyond the specific proteins they code for. But the status quo, according to Monsanto's web page, is,

There is no need to test the safety of DNA introduced into GM crops. DNA (and resulting RNA) is present in almost all foods. DNA is non-toxic and the presence of DNA, in and of itself, presents no hazard.

Given what we know, that stance is arrogant. Time will tell if it's reckless.

There are computational methods of investigating whether unintended RNAs are likely to be knocking down any human genes. But thanks to this position, the best we can do is hope they're using them. Given it's opposition to the labeling of GM foods as well, it seems clear that Monsanto wants you to close your eyes, open your mouth, and swallow.

It's time for Monsanto to acknowledge that there's more to DNA than the proteins it codes for -- even if it's for no other reason than the fact that RNA alone is a lot more complicated that Watson and Crick could ever have imagined.

 

Ari LeVaux writes a syndicated weekly food column, Flash in the Pan.

 
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