A Few Cubans Are Concerned about GMO Health Risks (I)

Isbel Diaz Torres

seralini-rats
Séralini. Rats

HAVANA TIMES — Those of us who first approach the subject of the benefits or disadvantages of Genetically Modified crops, normally ask a very obvious question, are GMOs dangerous to human health?

In a comment made on my last article about this subject, Professor Seralini’s study was mentioned and it is used as an example of the lies that exist in the anti-GM field, aiming to thereby discredit this struggle.

Dr Gilles-Eric Seralini is a professor of molecular biology at Caen University in France and president of the Committee of Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering.

The research I’m referring to is a study that was published over two years ago, with experiments to test the toxicity of Monsanto’s GM maize NK603, and the glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup. This maize was approved for consumption by the European Union over a decade ago, when a speedy investigation which only lasted 3 months was carried out by Monsanto itself.

In 2012, Seralini’s study found that there was severe liver and kidney damage and hormonal imbalances in rats fed GM maize and low levels of Roundup, levels which are below those permitted in drinking water in the EU. Further unexpected discoveries involved the high rates of large tumors and death.

Seralini was criticized for using a strain of rat (Sprague-Dawley) that is supposedly more prone to developing cancers, however it’s true that, just like rats, there are humans who are more prone to developing cancers too. Furthermore, this was the same strain of rat used by Monsanto in its own studies.

Critics of Seralini mistakingly assume that this was a badly designed study “about cancer”; but that wasn’t the case. It was a “chronic toxicity study”, and as such, it was designed and carried out in full order.

On the other hand, Seralini was also criticized for not revealing the raw data of his investigation; however, the fact of the matter is that he was willing to do so, on the condition that Monsanto did the same, but Monsanto wasn’t swayed and refused to reveal its own results.

Seralini’s study was originally published in Food and Chemical Toxicology. However, it was withdrawn in 2013 by the editor-in-chief after an orchestrated campaign of critique and defamation which was carried out by scientists who are committed to developing GMO patents.

What the critics haven’t told us is that this study was later reprinted by the Environmental Sciences Europe magazine, this time with an extra report which dealt with criticisms made about the original publication. Raw data which highlight the study’s findings are also published, while data from Monsanto’s studies still remain a mystery.

Reprinting this study reinstates it as peer-reviewed literature so that it can be consulted and developed by other scientists.

Seralini’s study is the only long-term study of its kind about GM maize NK603 and the Roundup herbicide. This study analyzed the same sample number of rats that industry tests do, but over a longer time period, it measured more effects, more regularly, and allowed us to distinguish between the effects of a GM crop to those of the herbicide used to cultivate it for the first time ever.

The study proved that the industry and regulatory authorities made a mistake when they underestimated the toxic effects which were seen in 3 month studies deeming these effects “not biologically significant.” Indications of toxicity detected in Monsanto’s studies later led to organ damage, cancer and premature death in Seralini’s research.

Nevertheless, if you believe that Seralini’s study did not prove the tested GM crop was dangerous, then you should also acknowledge the fact that the GM industry’s studies do not prove that these are safe.

However, if we are going to seriously question the validity of these studies, we can refer to one carried out by Monsanto on Roundup Ready GM soybeans, published by the Journal of Nutrition (Vol.126, No.3) in 1996. In 2003, this research was scientifically discredited by the Danish investigator Ian F.Pryme in a text he published in the English scientific magazine Nutrition and Health (Vol 17).

Monsanto used old-aged rats in its study, not young ones, which are normally used when looking to see if there are any biological changes to their anatomy. The original essay never gave us any absolute assurance, as it stated: “Studies on these animals’ food intake gives us partial assurance that there are no important biological changes.”

The truth of the matter is, however, that they didn’t examine inside the rats’ livers, only its external appearance. Pryme tried to offically get hold of the study’s original results, but after lots of bureaucratic hurdles, he received “no” for an answer.

And so we must ask, why is that, where we’re at today, we still don’t have any conclusive results about the impact of GM crops on our health? Well, there are several reasons why.

  • Most of the time, studies which are accepted are carried out by none other than GMO producing companies, which implies an obvious conflict of interests (which is happening in Cuba right now).
  • Studies carried out by independent bodies are victim to media, legal and all kinds of campaigns trying to discredit them. Leading scientists have lost their jobs and have been threatened if they publish data that could damage these multinational corporations interests.
  • An example of bad science, GM producing companies offer very little data from their experiments for use in scientific articles and they hide their original test data, so they can’t be tested by independent studies.
  • Corruption and economic interests are a decisive obstacle. Unclassified FDA documents in the US reveal that this same body has ignored reports from its own scientists warning against the fact that GMOs are NOT safe for human consumption.
  • A conflict of interests: CEOs of companies involved in agribusiness form part of State-run regulatory bodies; and vice versa.

Nevertheless, there a large number of studies that prove that GM crops do in fact have toxic effects on farm and lab animals, but we’ll leave that for my next article.

Isbel Diaz

Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.


33 thoughts on “A Few Cubans Are Concerned about GMO Health Risks (I)

  • September 2, 2016 at 6:18 am
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    I got informed about Monsanto after what happen to my Non-GMO. soybean crop.( by the way soybeans are self pollinating) so I would not have believed it or the other people that seen the standing bean plants or tested the beans harvested or saw it for themselves. That is when an organic group from Maine got interested. A U of G researcher told this had happened in field trials years before, He was going to come to my court case but was told if he did ,his job and the dept. funding would be slashed. The answer is to reduce amount of corn and other crops used for fuel and make sure that nobody is in the extreme poverty of that one and many more mothers. Child nutrition is very important . I have seen people come to Canada and see people born in Canada able to out work them (people from India, Mexico) because their bone are weaker and are not as healthy. This was because of poor diet before 8 years of age in most cases.

  • August 15, 2016 at 11:06 pm
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    Do you know anything about Cuba, or are you merely using this blog to expatiate about your obvious hobby horse?

  • August 15, 2016 at 11:03 pm
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    As you well know, there is insufficient nutrition available to provide for the current world population.

  • August 13, 2016 at 4:56 am
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    The world population can only grow as long as there is enough food so why do we need to produce more and more food is there a shortage of people?

  • August 12, 2016 at 12:59 pm
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    The Seralini study was a toxicology study and it was not looking for cancer or tumors. Serallini just reported what they found.

    The GMO pesticide industry like to focus of the tumors because it diverts attention from the serious and troubling toxacollogy results in the study.

    The study was peer reviewed three time and remains in the published literature today.

  • August 11, 2016 at 11:57 am
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    It doesn’t change anything to deflect on this issue……….these crops still are the same and don’t have anything to do with feeding anyone whether you live in a city or not. Making assumptions about how anyone is qualified for whatever is again not based on information……….but simply just an assumption. Big deal. Cubans are human like the rest of us. GMO’s do not feed the world.

  • August 10, 2016 at 4:36 pm
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    Methinks that writing to blogs about GMO and the evils of farmers, store keepers and Monsanto is your main interest. But this blog is about Cuba, a country about which you obviously have little knowledge.
    As for giving people “the power to grow their own food” when many living in multi-unit accommodation or in towns and cities have no access to even a garden, your view becomes as you would put it “ridiculous”.
    I note that as you are unable and no doubt unqualified to respond to my asking whether you have expertise in animal studies, i take it that you just chucked reference to them in the hope that others would assume that you do have such expertise.
    You are on the wrong blog for the wrong purpose!

  • August 10, 2016 at 10:31 am
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    Obviously it isn’t working is it? People can grow food locally……these crops do not ease hunger. It has nothing to do with it……and even these crops do not need to be genetically engineered if you choose to eat canola as your main source of sustenance. How ridiculous. What exactly do you want me to retract? That people are hungry? Yes they are! Give them the power to grow their own food……….no one can be well existing on these four crops alone.

  • August 9, 2016 at 12:20 pm
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    I spend the majority of my time at home with my wife in Cuba. For that reason my contributions to Havana Times are intermittent.

  • August 9, 2016 at 10:41 am
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    Do you live in Cuba,Carlyle?

  • August 8, 2016 at 11:57 pm
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    I suspect that over the years we who contribute to Havana Times have been subjected to some paid Castro regime “spokesmen”. one recalls one who claimed expertise in anal cleansing and wrote that Cubans don’t use toilet paper (Fidel?) and another who had friends with servants and cars in Cuba.
    But if as you claim (prove it) RobertWager is a paid Monsanto spokesman, he probably knows what he is talking about, whereas obviously many of those who deprecate the farming community and Monsanto, don’t. They seek a ’cause’.

  • August 8, 2016 at 9:46 pm
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    Well, go ahead and eat less.
    To suggest that “growing vast fields of canola, sugar beet, soy and corn (I think you mean maize as ‘corn’ covers many grain crops) has “NOTHING” to do with combating starvation is utter nonsense.
    As this is the Havana Times and is about Cuba and Cubans, I ask you to reflect upon how Cubans who are already subjected to rationing would get food without importation. One only has to enter any of the food stores operated by the GAESA subsidiaries in Cuba to see the imported food products based upon canola, soy, maize and imported barley plus imported frozen chicken from Brazil (lots of maize), Canada (lots of maize and canola), Mexico (lots of maize and canola) and the US (even more maize, canola and soy) to comprehend that Cubans and other hungry countries need those food supplies from those “vast fields”.
    Have you observed the UN food distribution in African countries – for example, Namibia and Botswana and the main products? When you have seen it with your own eyes and when you have seen a mother cooking the one meal a day for her children in her only pot over a wood fire, then you might even retract your statement. I want food supplies to those people to continue – do you? To answer your question, yes I am describing what I have seen.
    To answer your second question, my home is in Cuba.
    You refer to animal studies, is that expertise within your compass or is it just a baseless opinion?

  • August 8, 2016 at 9:23 pm
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    IZ every person born inevitably dies. The expectancy of life in the western capitalist world has risen over the years. As people grow older they suffer various medical conditions. Improved nutrition and pharmaceuticals have enabled them to survive longer.
    To suggest as you appear to be doing that if living a healthy life style heart attacks, cancers, kidney, liver, bowel and stomach conditions would not occur and there would be no need for the various drugs which combat those conditions is put bluntly, farcical.
    Are you suggesting that people would live forever? If not, what conditions would result in their deaths and should they be refused medications?
    Your inclination to agree with Jessica who believes “we GMO food consumers are dying only in a slowly manner because those chemicals are entering our bodies as well.” demonstrates little logic with no basis. The fact is that we are living longer.

  • August 8, 2016 at 2:33 pm
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    Your comment Jessica illustrates lack of knowledge of Cuba. How do Cubans commence working those hundreds of thousands of fertile acres reverting to bush, when they require the permission of the regime to farm?
    Secondly, by far the majority of Cubans do not have any land upon which to grow their own food.
    Thirdly, how do you support your claim that “There is enough food to feed the whole planet”?
    Fourthly how do you explain the fact that the countries which currently consume genetically modified foods have a longer expectancy of life. (You may be unaware that recently in these pages I listed the top forty in order which doesn’t include Cuba).
    Fifthly, on what authority do you base your claim that Fidel “does not eat GMO foods”.? I can understand that with the difficulties caused by his colostomy he must eat a controlled diet, but you obviously must have some ‘insider’ knowledge to make your claim – do you know the cook?
    Sixthly, does your Cuban farmer family eat the rice ration of Vietnamese origin the other half of the year when not living on cassava, sweet potatoes and pumpkin?
    Obviously you have an objection to the “grocery store owners and farmers” who “get their cut.” You then extend your criticism to having to go to hospital where following medical attention one then dies. Apparently you object to an economy in which folks earn their living through providing goods and services to society. What is your alternative?
    Methinks you are disappointed in life and have but a surface knowledge of Cuba.

  • August 8, 2016 at 1:30 pm
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    Unfortunately, for many, drugs are essential. However, I would much more prefer to see that people are healthier, and have no need in those drugs. This is the biggest question: why do we have increased health risk? Aren’t we supposed to be smarter than decades ago and know the answers to live healthy? We have the wealth.
    As far as a product on the shelves at the store: do we know all those ingredients that are listed on the labels? And what about those that aren’t listed? Is it normal for bread to stay “fresh” for weeks in the plastic bag?
    According to StatsCan in 2014, 61.8% of men and 46.2% of women classified as obese and overweight. This is self-reported data. I don’t think it is crucial to determine exact numbers, all what we need is just to look around.
    I don’t believe that diabetes, be that in Canada or in USA, is a consequence of greed. It is a direct result of “garbage” food available for our consumption and the environment we live in.
    Doctors couldn’t really explain the “phenomena” why is my husband, who is diabetic type 2, after few months being out of Canada, had his blood sugar back to normal and was able to maintain it without taking any medication. In Canada, even with elimination of all junk food (chips, soft drinks and etc) he couldn’t achieve that and medications are essential for him.
    We are entitled to our own beliefs and opinions. And based on my personal observation, after living for 13 years in “developed country”, I am inclined to agree with Jessica.

  • August 8, 2016 at 11:42 am
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    What does GE have to do with drugs and denying people their meds? NOTHING. The fact is that people certainly are sicker and the illnesses we see increasing in dramatic proportions are very similar to what we are seeing in animal studies. This reminds me of the tobacco industry. Starvation has NOTHING to do with growing vast fields of canola, sugar beet, soy and corn which are the main GE crops…….in fact these are the very foods that we could eat a lot less of.

  • August 8, 2016 at 11:25 am
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    Citation? Of course not.

  • August 8, 2016 at 11:25 am
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    For those who do not know Wager is a paid Monsnato “spokesman”

  • August 8, 2016 at 10:15 am
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    So only Monsanto is manipulating media but showing us the 3 pictures of rats without control is different?

  • August 8, 2016 at 8:36 am
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    You can look up the cancer rates by country in 10 seconds, instead of making up statistics out of fantasy.

    http://www.wcrf.org/int/cancer-facts-figures/data-cancer-frequency-country

    #1 is Denmark. US is 6th, while Canada is #12.

    Lower cancer rates in some countries does not mean the people are healthier, it may mean the people are dying earlier of other diseases and causes.

  • August 8, 2016 at 2:45 am
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    “… Somebody wonders why the US and Canada have the highest rates on cancer in the whole world?…”

    For crying out loud, where in the world did you come up with that stat?

  • August 7, 2016 at 11:50 pm
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    For many, drugs are essential. For those who have heart problems, blood thinners, statins and for some, other drugs are essential. For those who have thyroid deficiency, synthroid is the pill with which the day commences. Would you deny people these essential medications and prefer that they not be allowed to continue their lives? For them, the pharmaceutical companies you are busy deprecating provide a longer and better quality of life.

    So what is wrong with having food and agricultural industries? Would you prefer that people should be denied their products and starve?

    It is total balderdash to suggest that “80% of product available at the store contains MSG.” Not even in the USA!

    What is the relevance of saying that:: “no one can dispute the fact that 50% of (the) population is obese (not just overweight)”. I dispute it and challenge you to provide the figures for Canada and Mexico which as you may know are parts of North America.There is considerable dietary difference between the different countries.

    Yes, because US citizens and others are gorging themselves there is an increase in diabetes. But that is a consequence of greed, not of genetically modified foods.

  • August 7, 2016 at 10:45 pm
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    The insecticides use to keep the GMO crops in perfect shape kill insects within seconds… What tells me that we GMO food consumers are dying only in a slowly manner because those chemicals are entering our body as well.
    My proposal:
    Cuban people stop being lazy. Don’t wait for Fidel to do or give you anything, he does not eat GMO foods. Don’t go to the USA bc you won’t live passed 40 from eating to much junk food.
    Start working all of that fertile land that soround you and make it productive without having American companies polluting your agricultural industry…
    There is enough food to feed the whole planet but how things work its so twisted. First we eat the bad food making the grocery store owners and farmers get their cut,
    2- get sick and drive to the hospital in this case buy gas …
    , go to the hospital and see a doctor…
    and then die , the funeral home people are happy. We are creating jobs and making other wealthy.
    I don’t know about that Vietnamese rice but half of the year my cuban farmer family eats cassava, sweet potatoes, pumpkin… Instead of rice.

  • August 7, 2016 at 3:33 pm
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    Cuba’s agricultural production has a a history of steady decline. The Castro regime’s pretentious concern for the environment has led to an ever increasing acreage of good agricultural land reverting to bush. This in a world with an increasing population of people and an increasing number of those being undernourished can only merit contempt for the regimes lack of concern about feeding its own people.
    It is all too easy to criticize the use of genetic modification – but think of the benefits of the ‘green revolution’ in India. Cuba is currently dependent upon rice from Vietnam (lower grade) for the basis of the food rations. Many of the imported foods in the various GAESA subsidiaries include GM products.
    Much of the ever increasing production of ‘farmed’ fish has also been achieved by genetic modification.

    The question for the critics of genetic modification is:

    What alternative proposals do you have to enable the necessary increase in agricultural production to enable sufficient food production to feed that increasing population?

    I await the response with interest.

  • August 7, 2016 at 2:37 pm
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    Funny the control rats had the exact same tumors but Seralini chose to not publish that data. in fact the control male rats died at three times the rate as those who ate the highest level of GE feed.

  • August 7, 2016 at 12:21 pm
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    In North America 80% of product available at the store (you can hardly call that as food anymore) contains MSG. It’s almost impossible to find seeds of corn or canola which would be GMO free. And we can make a statement that there are no reliable studies out there that would link those elements to a human health issues, but no one can dispute the fact that 50 % of population is obese (not just overweight), diabetes is a national problem, multiple sclerosis is affecting kids not just adults after 40 anymore, majority of population in some kind of medication. Can you call that quality of life? When every morning people have to start their day with a routine of taking medication to make it through the day? The only ones who is getting benefits in this are the pharmaceutical companies and those magnates in so called food and agricultural industries. Settling for the convenience and “more” at the cost of our own health is not the way to a happy, vibrant and fulfilling life.

  • August 7, 2016 at 11:46 am
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    The Cuban people deserve so much better. Come on Mr Castro and please do something about these food shortages for your own people, you can manage to provide for the tourists so why not your own people?

  • August 7, 2016 at 9:04 am
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    Seralini has been completely debunked. Here is the opinion of the European Science community

    “There is abundant and accumulating evidence from extensive worldwide experience for benefit, and lack of evidence for environmental or human health risk associated with GM crop technology.” EASAC Planting the Future 2013

  • August 6, 2016 at 10:18 pm
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    I forgot to say that now it is available GMO Salmon in our grocery stores, so it is not only veggies…

  • August 6, 2016 at 10:15 pm
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    Somebody wonders why the US and Canada have the highest rates on cancer in the whole world? Because they are the largest consumers of GMO foods. This foods are not even classified as what they are so we are exposed to consuming GMO foods without knowing. Monsantos is the most corrupt and low and everything negative regarding values that exist in earth. However,They are very powerful and have ruined farmers crops in North America and whatever part of the world they run their business. At first they said that GMO food would be healthier, more durable,… let me tell you something whoever read this. Let’s say no to GMO. It is not ecofriendly , sustainable. It will brake the little bit of health left on the Cuban population. Also will ruined our soil and will just affect that very unique and endemic flora and fauna in the entire Caribbean.I hope we Cubans embrace agriculture, life and food in a smarter way

  • August 6, 2016 at 3:06 pm
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    For Cubans discussion about the merits or demerits of genetically modified food products is irrelevant. Two reasons:
    1) They do not know whether or which of the foods they consume are from GM crops or livestock.
    2) Their problems are how to obtain sufficient to eat.
    Regurgitation of a multitude of individual studies by a wide variety of authors of various levels of qualification and knowledge is of little value unless the author has recognized authority – being a self defined “activist” just doesn’t qualify.

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