By Emmanuel González-Ortega
Although this study confirms something that was already known or can be deduced without much effort (that genetically modified crops are NOT equivalent to conventional crops), it does so with data that is incontrovertible. In this investigation, detailed analyzes of the protein presence profiles (proteomics) and the expression of biochemical molecules (metobolomics) were carried out, which revealed significant differences between a variety of transgenic corn (NK603), genetically modified to tolerate the herbicide glyphosate; and a conventional corn (non-transgenic). To avoid alterations in the results on the composition of both types of plants due to external factors (environmental), the two types of corn were sown under similar conditions, in the same location and in the same season, throughout two cycles of sowing. Additionally, a portion of the transgenic corn planted was sprayed with glyphosate herbicide on one occasion. The analysis showed a significant difference in the expression of 117 proteins and 91 biochemical molecules (metabolites) in the transgenic NK603 corn, compared to the conventional corn. The study authors concluded that such differences are due exclusively to the technical procedure of genetic modification of corn plants.
The transgenic corn NK603 was originally generated by Monsanto (see here), through the DNA transfer technique known as microparticle bombardment, which consists, as the name implies, in bombarding microscopic metallic particles coated with DNA that want to introduce plant cells (see here). The biotechnological methods with which practically all transgenic plants that are currently marketed have been generated do not allow knowing the location in the genome in which the genetic material of biotechnological interest was forcibly introduced, nor how many copies of the transgene have been introduced, which is why that it makes sense that molecular techniques cause molecular and metabolic disorders in transgenic plants. The study found that some of the metabolites that were markedly altered in transgenic plants are compounds known as putrescine and cadaverine; the presence of these molecules in the body have been related to inflammatory processes and as precursors of carcinogenic compounds. Dead and rotting animals produce these compounds.
It is very relevant to comment that the transgenic corn variety NK603 was used to feed rats for two years and to determine if there was damage to the health of these animals due to the consumption of transgenic corn and glyphosate. This study was severely attacked by seed companies and by scientists with conflicts of interest.
Said variety of transgenic corn NK603 tolerant to the herbicide glyphosate was approved in Mexico for human and animal consumption by SAGARPA and COFEPRIS since 2002 without any laboratory analysis being performed, but as the study showed, transgenic corn NK603 is not substantially equivalent to conventional corn. Is this corn in the food we eat? Are there also residues of herbicides such as glyphosate in food? Do authorities evaluate the presence of transgenes and herbicides in food?
What is substantial equivalence?
In the context of genetically modified organisms, the criterion of substantial equivalence is based on a superfluous comparison of characteristics between a GMO and its conventional counterpart. Anticipating the development and commercialization of transgenic crops, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development -OECD- (OECD) introduced substantial equivalence, and this concept was later taken up by the world health organization ( WHO) and by FAO. Although previously scientific studies have been carried out and published - not as exhaustive as the most recent one - that show molecular and metabolic alterations in transgenic crops (for example, corn, soybeans, tobacco). However, to this day the vast majority of transgenic crops are classified as substantially equivalent. Substantial equivalence absolves transnational seed companies from conducting toxicological and nutritional tests on animals necessary to establish whether the biological effect of transgenic crops is equivalent to that of their conventional counterparts.
Considering that glyphosate-tolerant transgenic corn NK603 was approved in Mexico since 2002, and that there is no certainty that Mexican biosafety protocols work to prevent the dispersal of transgenic corn in the Mexican countryside; Nor that the health risk prevention agency has issued information on the presence of this or other varieties of transgenic corn in food, we can assume that we are eating transgenic corn that produces toxic compounds: cadaverine, putrescine; in addition to the herbicide glyphosate, classified as probably carcinogenic.
Biodiversity in Latin America and the Caribbean