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At the Occupy Library- Biotech Expert Presents the Story of Genetically Modified Soy

Oct. 26, 2011 Britta Annanova worked as a biotechnology expert at a University in Tucson, Arizona. She held a workshop on understanding how genetically modified food works and how it affects us. Her goal is to give the general public a clear understanding of what is happening with these foods so they can effectively fight their use for human consumption. The workshop was held at 3:00pm today in the yurt behind Occupy Portland on-site library. This is a detailed recap of the presentation.
"When I worked in Tucson, I made modules for students to do tests on different foods to see if they contained genetically modified material. I was looking for a control substance that would reliably show up as negative. I figured organic soymilk would work but it kept coming up positive on the tests. I called the company and they told me that organic products are actually given some leeway in using genetically modified plants in their products." (Britta Annanova)

How Roundup Ready Plants Work

Roundup is an herbicide which disrupts the function of tyrosine, an essential amino acid in plants.
A bacteria was found in soil consistently exposed to Roundup that was resistant to the pesticide. The bacteria used a slightly different version of tyrosine.
Lab workers took this bacteria and put it into a virus. The virus is the Crown Gall Virus, evident as giant lumps in some trees.
The Virus infects the intended plant with the gene from the Roundup resistant bacteria.
Than, lab workers inject the Cauliflower Mosaic Virus into the plant cells. This has the effect of turning on the bacterial gene to produce this new version of resistant tyrosine.
Now, when the resulting plant is planted, it produces this new version of tyrosine and is able to survive even when Roundup is absorbed by the plant.

How This Applies to Us

Now that the plants are resistant to Roundup, much higher concentrations of Roundup can be used in the fields to keep weeds out. The unfortunate result is that this Roundup is absorbed into the food plant in far higher doses than ever before.

Monsanto, the maker of Roundup, filed its safety evaluation for Roundup in 1999. It claims that 2.3 micrograms or Roundup are present in each gram of Roundup ready soybeans. In animal testing, 30% of this Roundup was absorbed into the body. When absorbed into the body Roundup can be stored in the liver, kidney, spleen, and body fat. The report found that it did not cause cancer, endocrine defect, birth defects, nervous disorders or reproductive issues. This evidence is in no way conclusive, given that the product was only a few years old and there is no telling what would happen in say, 40 years of ingesting this product. More importantly, the study did find that test animals showed gastrointestinal irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, body weight change, and inflamation of the stomach lining as a result of ingesting Roundup. Though these results are troubling Monsanto concluded these products are safe. They could do this because they focused only on how Roundup effects field workers. They said that it was safe because these workers were not likely to ingest Roundup. The report skirts around the safety of eating these products which have now been in use over a decade.

Questions this study begs us to ask.
If it caused such gastrointestinal issues in test animals, could GMO products be responsible for the explosion of gastrointestinal issues in the last decade?
Is this report out of date? Does it accurately address that people are eating these products?

References:
Williams et al. Safety evaluation and risk assessment of the herbicide Roundup and its active ingredient, glyphosate, for humans.