8.2—Mold-free food better for babies

GM Foods are safe for children

See Genetic Roulette’s False Claims at Bottom of Page

Analysis of Peer-Reviewed Research:

Genetic Roulette reminds the reader that children suffer more allergies than adults and that their smaller rapidly developing bodies may be more sensitive to nutritional imbalances, hormones and toxins.  What is missing from all of the discussion is any evidence that transgenic crops have a negative impact on children or that they contain anything that might cause an adverse impact in children.

Insect protected Bt corn is in fact safer for the unborn child, safer for children and safer for adults in terms of birth defects and cancer risks posed by moldy corn. Smith makes no mention of this well established health benefit to the fetus and children from genetic modification.

Contrary to Smith’s unsubstantiated claims, the safety assessment that is conducted prior to the approval of transgenic crops focuses carefully on the impact of these crops on rapidly growing animals, and other at-risk groups such as pregnant females, in order to ensure that they will have no negative effects.  Paradoxically, similar safety studies are not conducted on conventional crops that pose a greater risk of unintended adverse effects.  Genetic Roulette makes claim after claim that we have shown are based on faulty evidence and logic and which ignore published studies that discredit the claims.  In this section, Smith reasserts the same discredited claims he made in earlier sections and adds that these non-existent maladies would be worse in children than they would be in adults.  Of course they would if they occurred, but they do not occur and are not real risks.

1. Insect-protected corn protects the fetus against exposure to fungal toxins which are linked to birth defects. The Bt protein protects corn against insect damage, and this means Bt corn cobs are less affected by mold damage from Fusarium fungus (Bakan B and others 2002, Hammond and others 2003, Munkvold and Hellmich 1999). Fusarium fungus can produce a dangerous cancer-causing chemical called fumonisin in corn. Fumonisin intake from moldy corn by pregnant women is linked to spina bifida in newborn infacts (Hendricks 1999, Marasas and others 2004, Wild and Gong, 2010). Fortunately GM corn protected by Bt protein has lower levels of fumonisin than non-GM corn (Bakan and others 2002, Hammond and others 2003, Munkvold and Hellmich 1999, Wu 2006). Mothers making decisions about food safety based on Genetic Roulette are being tragically misled by Smith’s omission of this safety information.

“Food from GM Maize is more healthy than from conventionally grown maize… samples with the highest fumonisin concentrations are found in products labeled “organic.””
—Commission on Green Biotechnology, Union of the German Academies of  Science & Humanities, at www.abic2004.org/download/reportongmohazards.pdf

2. It is true that in some respects children are more susceptible than adults but there is no reason to believe that transgenic crops would have any adverse effect on fetal health. Children do suffer more allergies than adults (about 8 percent versus 2 percent respectively) but there is no evidence that proteins in GM crops are allergenic, but there is excellent evidence and strong data showing that proteins in GM crops are NOT allergenic. Unlike conventional foods that cause allergies (ie. milk, tree nuts, ground nuts, soy, wheat, eggs, fish, shellfish, crustaceans, sesame), transgenic crops are carefully analyzed to ensure that they do not contain proteins similar to those that are known to cause allergy in other crops (see sections 1.15, 1.18, 3.1, 3.2, 3.5).  Genetic Roulette also claims that antibiotics might not work in children because of antibiotic resistance genes in GM crops, however, it is well established that antibiotic resistance genes in transgenic plants do not transfer to gut bacteria to make antibiotic resistant organisms (see Section 5.2, 5.3).  Overuse and misuse of antibiotics are the major factors that contribute to the spread of antibiotic resistance, since—as we noted several times in other sections—antibiotic resistant organisms are already common in our guts.  Not satisfied with inaccurate representation of the risks from antibiotic resistance genes in transgenic crops, Smith repeats a false claim that more antibiotics are used on rBST-treated cows than are used on conventional cows (see Section 7.1).  This is simply not true; however, even if it were true, it is against the law for milk from cows that have been treated with antibiotics to be sold into the milk supply.  Farmers are required to withhold cows from production until their milk is free of antibiotics, thus the claim of increased exposure if false.

3. It is not at all clear that children will be exposed to high amounts of GMOs as Smith claims– but experience shows that this would be a good thing if it were true. Genetic Roulette claims that children as a group will be exposed to high amounts of GMOs. No quantitative evidence for this claim is advanced and the reader is left with tenuous claims about routes of exposure such as starch from GM corn maybe placed on infants.  Starch is one of the purest substances in the pantry; it contains negligible amounts of protein, DNA and other impurities.  Moreover, starch isolated from GM corn has been demonstrated to be chemically identical to conventional starch.  Genetic Roulette continues by repeating claims about exposure to milk treated with rBST that were discussed in Sec. 7.1.  According to leading experts in the field, Smith’s assertions about rBST are without merit.

4.  Safety studies on GM crops always consider at-risk groups such as pregnant mothers, children and the elderly. Smith argues that safety assessment often use mature animals and ignore the risks to the young.  This claim is simply factually incorrect.  Safety assessments place particular emphasis on studying the effects of transgenic feeds and foods on developing animals (EFSA 2008).  More importantly, because there is no scientific reason to believe that GM crops are any less safe than conventional crops, there is no reason to believe that children are at risk.


Bakan B, Melcion D, Richard-Molard D and Cahagnier B (2002) Fungal growth and Fusarium mycotoxin content in isogenic traditional maize and genetically modified maize grown in France and Spain. J Agric Food Chem 50(4): 728–731.

Hammond B, Campbell K, Pilcher C, Robinson A, Melcion D, Cahagnier B, Richard J, Sequeira J, Cea J, Tatli F, Grogna R, Pietri A, Piva G and Rice L (2003) Reduction of fumonisin mycotoxins in Bt corn. Toxicologist 72(S-1): 1217.

Hendricks K (1999) Fumonisins and neural tube defects in south Texas. Epidemiology 10: 198–200.

Marasas WFO, Riley RL, Hendricks KA, Stevens VL, Sadler TW, Gelineau-van Waes J, Missmer SA, Cabrera J, Torres O, Gelderblom WCA, Allegood J, Martinez C, Maddox J, Miller JD, Starr L, Sullards MC, Roman AV, Voss KA, Wang E. and Merrill AH Jr (2004). Fumonisins disrupt sphingolipid metabolism, folate transport, and neural tube development in embryo culture and in vivo: a potential risk factor for human neural tube defects among populations consuming fumonis in contaminated maize. J Nutr 134: 711–716.).  Fumonisin consumption has been associated with high human esophageal cancer incidence in various parts of Africa, Central America, and Asia.

Munkvold GP, Hellmich RL (1999). Comparison of fumonisin concentrations in kernels of transgenic Bt maize hybrids and nontransgenic hybrids. Plant Disease 83 ( 2) :130-138

Wild CP and Gong YY (2010) Mycotoxins and human disease: a largely ignored global health issue.  Carcinogenesis 31 (1):71–82.

Wu F (2006). Mycotoxin reduction in Bt corn: potential economic, health, and regulatory impacts.Transgenic Research (2006) 15:277–289

Genetic Roulette Falsely Claims:

GM foods are more dangerous for children than adults

1. Children are generally more susceptible to toxins, allergens, and nutritional problems.

2. They consume more milk, which may be from cows treated with rbGH.

3. The emergence of antibiotic-resistant diseases may also significantly impact those children who are prone to recurring infections.

Children are more sensitive so dangers of eating GM foods will be magnified in children.

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  1. [...] outcomes from GM technology—such as decreased risk of cancer from mycotoxins in moldy corm (see this link for Chassy and Tribe’s efforts on this important topic at Academics Review). On the topics that I was most familiar such as antibiotic resistance in bacteria, [...]

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