It’s not earth-shattering news: genetically modified foods carry huge risks for humans. The newest information, however, shows that there are larger risks than ever before seen. These risks affect us on a much deeper level than previously thought.
Researchers at the Nanjing University in China have shown that small pieces of ribonucleic acid (RNA) of rice can be seen in the organs and blood of the humans that eat the rice. The RNA is actually microRNA (miRNA). It is incredibly small, but plays a role in such diseases as Alzheimer’s, Cancer and Diabetes. MiRNA usually works to turn off or down the effects of certain genes. The Chinese researchers found the rice miRNA binding to receptors in the liver. The miRNA then affect how the body takes cholesterol from the blood.
A tiny change may not seem all that important, but it can greatly change things for the owner of that RNA. Before you think it’s too small to make an impact, remember the African warning, “If you think it is too small to make a difference, spend the night with a mosquito.” Genetically altered miRNA may be that buzzing mosquito.
Imagine yourself watching a high school football game. Suddenly a professional football player is substituted onto the field. The professional player is the miRNA. He’s only a small part of the game. He might only be on the defensive line, but that game will be forever changed by his presence. Certainly the outcome will be different than if he wasn’t there.
The Chinese study didn’t focus on GM foods, but it’s not hard to imagine the implication there. Monsanto, a leading proponent of GMO foods, finds no need for alarm. In fact, they state the following on their site, “There is no need for, or value in testing the safety of GM foods in humans.”
Monsanto took that point of view from the understanding of genetics in 1960. It doesn’t address miRNA. This is because Monsanto is following the “Central Dogma” of genetics, which states that there is a one way chain of command between the DNA and the cells controlled by that DNA.
MiRNA don’t make code for anything. They interfere or turn off certain genes. If we go back to our football game and put the pro ball player in, he will certainly interfere with the other team’s ability to complete the play. He doesn’t make up the other team’s plays. He just makes them not work.
RNA was first used in commercial operations to make the Flavor Savr tomato that has a longer shelf life. Then researches began to modify crops by using RNA to kill the bugs that were affecting the various plants. Researchers were successful at silencing the gene that allows bollworms to process gossypol, a toxin that cotton produces. When those bollworms eat the GM cotton, they can’t make the protein that allows them to process that toxin, so they die.
Then researchers at Monsanto and Devgen altered corn plants. They used the RNA to silence the gene that allowed rootworms to make energy from their food. Within twelve days the rootworms were gone.
So how are you and I different from root and boll worms? Our genetics share many similarities. It’s a little eerie. The miRNA meant to regulate insects could end up regulating us.