Transgenic materials from genetically modified (GM) corn crop byproducts are present in streams throughout the Midwest, even long after harvest, reports ecologist Jennifer Tank and her colleagues at the University of Notre Dame. Beyond the damage such transgenic materials may cause to aquatic life in the waterways, other findings of their study are especially alarming because transgenic material has been shown to transfer from species to species.
In a previous paper published in 2007 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), Tank and other researchers showed that transgenic materials from corn do, in fact, enter streams and can be subsequently transported to downstream water bodies. In the new paper also published in PNAS, Tank and colleagues investigated the fate and persistence of the material and its associated Cry1Ab insecticidal protein. They used a synoptic field survey of 217 stream sites in northwestern Indiana six months after crop harvest.
Much of the transgenic material found in the study was transgenic maize (corn) which has been genetically engineered to produce its own insecticide, an endotoxin from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). The new study found that 86 percent of the sites surveyed contained corn leaves, corn husks and/or stalks in the stream channel. In addition to the corn found in the streams, Cry1Ab protein was found dissolved in stream water at 23 percent of the sites surveyed, even six months after harvest.
Tank pointed out that a majority of streams in the Midwestern corn belt are located in close proximity to corn fields. Furthermore, the research found that GM corn byproducts reduced growth and increased mortality of stream insects. Stream insects are important prey for aquatic and riparian predators, and widespread planting of these GM crops has unexpected ecosystem-scale consequences.
Tank reported that “Our GIS analyses found that 91 percent of the more than 200,000 kilometers of streams and rivers in Indiana, Iowa and Illinois are located within 500 meters of a corn field, suggesting that corn crop byproducts and any associated insecticidal proteins may enter streams across the corn belt states,” Tank said
“Our study demonstrates the persistence and dispersal of crop byproducts and associated transgenic material in streams throughout a corn belt landscape even long after crop harvest,” she concluded.
Earlier this year it was reported that, although gentically modified organisms (GMOs) have infiltrated our food supply, the results of human feeding trials have only been published only once. Those published results found disturbing evidence that the genetic code of GM soy infiltrates and changes the genetic makeup of the healthy bacteria in our guts, and then the changed bacteria continue to replicate themselves
No one knows how mutant bacteria will function inside us or affect us, but it will not likely be beneficial. Healthy bacteria are our first line of immune defense and they keep us well by crowding out many harmful bacteria and other pathogens which are responsible for a great many diseases. When the genetic code of beneficial bacteria is changed, they may not be able to do their job effectively and may in fact become harmful instead of beneficial. Since GM corn produces its own insecticide, it is possible that the transfer of GM corn genetic material may result in the nightmare scenario of creating insecticide factories in our guts.
Ironically, when GMO corn was introduced it was promoted as a way to reduce pesticide use and exposure. Now, we are finding that it is doing just the opposite. As one blogger at the Care2 community aptly observed:
“As usual, science goes off half cocked, profit over sensibility and moral responsibility, and we’re the ones who reap the whirlwind.”