Section 2: Gene insertion disrupts the DNA and can create unpredictable health problems
2.1 Foreign genes disrupt the DNA at the insertion site
1. When genes are inserted at random in the DNA, their location can influence their function, as well as the function of natural genes.
2. “Insertion mutations” can scramble, delete or relocate the genetic code near the insertion site.
3. Evaluation of insertion sites have shown relocations of up to 40,000 DNA base pairs, mixing together of foreign and host DNA, large scale deletions of more than a dozen genes and multiple random insertions of foreign DNA fragments.
2.2 Growing GM crops using tissue culture can create hundreds or thousands of DNA mutations
1. The process of growing plant cells into GM plants may create hundreds or thousands of mutations throughout the genome.
2. While a change in a single base pair may have serious consequences, widespread changes in the genome can have multiple, interacting effects.
3. Most scientists working in the field are unaware of the extent of these mutations, and no studies have examined genome-wide changes in commercialized GM plants.
2.3 Gene insertion creates genome-wide changes in gene expression
1. One study using a micro-array gene chip found that 5% of the host’s genes changed their levels of expression after a single gene was inserted.
2. The changes, which are in addition to the deletions and mutations already discussed, are not predictable and have not been fully investigated in the GM crops on the market.
3. These massive changes may have multiple health-related effects.
2.4 The promoter may accidentally switch on harmful genes
1. Promoters are switches that turn on genes.
2. The promoter used in nearly all GM crops is designed to permanently turn on the foreign gene at high output.
3. Although scientists had claimed that the promoter would only turn on the foreign gene, it can accidentally turn on other natural plant genes—permanently.
4. These genes may overproduce an allergen, toxin, carcinogen or antinutrient, or regulators that block other genes.
2.5 The promoter might switch on a dormant virus in plants
1. When certain viruses infect an organism, they splice themselves into the host’s DNA.
2. These embedded viral sequences can be passed on to future generations and even inherited by future species.
3. Most ancient embedded viral sequences become mutated over time, but some may be intact, just not switched on.
4. If the GM promoter is inserted in the vicinity of a dormant virus, it might switch it on, resulting in virus production and a potential catastrophe.
2.6 The promoter might create genetic instability and mutations
1. Evidence suggests that the CaMV promoter, used in most GM foods, containsa recombination hotspot.
2. If confirmed, this might result in breakup and recombination of the gene sequence.
3. This instability of the inserted gene material might create unpredicted effects.
2.7 Genetic engineering activates mobile DNA, called transposons, which generate mutations
1. In plant DNA, mobile elements called transposons move from place to place, and can lead to mutations.
2. The tissue culture process used in genetic engineering activates transposons, and is a major factor for the resulting genome-wide mutations.
3. Transgenes in commercial GM crops tend to be inserted near transposons.
4. This insertion might alter the transgene expression.
2.8 Novel RNA may be harmful to humans and their offspring
1. Small RNA sequences can regulate gene expression, most commonly by silencing genes.
2. RNA is stable, survives digestion and can impact gene expression in mammals that ingest it.
3. The impact can be passed on to future generations.
4. Genetic modification introduces new DNA combinations and mutations, which increase the likelihood that harmful regulatory RNA will be accidentally produced.
2.9 Roundup Ready soybeans produce unintentional RNA variations
1. A “stop signal” is placed after the transgene, telling the cell, “STOP TRANSCRIBING AT THIS POINT.”
2. The stop is ignored in GM soy, resulting in longer than intended RNA.
3. It is transcribed from a combination of the transgene, an adjacent transgene fragment and a mutated sequence of DNA.
4. The RNA is further rearranged into four variations, any of which may be harmful.
5. The faulty “stop” signal may have triggered the rearrangements.
6. The same “stop” signal is used in other crops, and might lead to similar “read-throughs” and RNA processing.
2.10 Changes in proteins can alter thousands of natural chemicals in plants, increasing toxins or reducing phytonutrients
1. Plants produce thousands of chemicals which, if ingested, may fight disease, influence behavior or be toxic.
2. The genome changes described in this section can alter the composition and
concentration of these chemicals.
3. GM soybeans, for example, produce less cancer-fighting isoflavones.
4. Most GM-induced changes in these natural products go undetected.
2.11 GM crops have altered levels of nutrients and toxins
1. Numerous studies on GMOs reveal unintended changes in nutrients, toxins, allergens and small molecule products of metabolism.
2. These demonstrate the risks associated with unintended changes that occur due to genetic engineering.
3. Safety assessments are not adequate to guard against potential health risks associated with these changes.
A summary of the 65 Health Risks
Presented in Genetic Roulette by Jeffrey Smith