Genetically engineered ( corn and cotton expressing ) toxins for insect control came on the market in 1996. The most contentious public policy and regulatory issue prior to approval was whether and how the biotech-seed companies should prevent the emergence and spread of insects newly resistant to toxins.
For more on the debate over resistance management in the 1990-1996 period, see this just-published paper in Current Environmental Health Reports.
Within just a few years,- corn and cotton gained substantial market share. Mandatory, resistant-management provisions imposed by the , and agreed to by industry, seemed to be working. By the mid-2000s, the industry began arguing to that the resistance-management requirements were overkill and unjustifiably costly, because the latest corn and cotton varieties expressed two different toxins (to help prevent resistance and boost efficacy), and usually were also Roundup Ready.
These new varieties ushered in the current era of “stacked,” multiple-corn and cotton varieties, and rested on logic memorably set forth in the famous Tennessee Ernie Ford song, “16 Tons.”
“You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter, don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store”
“If you see me comin’, better step aside
A lotta men didn’t, a lotta men died
One fist of iron, the other of steel
If the right one don’t get you, then the left one will”
Full lyrics here.
Since 2010, a majority of newcorn and cotton varieties have expressed three or more different toxins, and SmartStax, a - corn event developed by Monsanto, expresses six.
Prior to approval, the industry claimed, and regulators concurred, that the human health risks, mostly because the toxins break down quickly in the acidic conditions in mammalian stomachs and GI tracts.toxins in - crops posed no
Once this notion was generally accepted, there seemed no need or reason to conduct further food safety studies, so the industry marched on in developing dozens of different corn and cotton crops engineered to express varying combinations oftoxins.
There was just a little, generally shallow and short-term food safety research done on each newevent as a stand alone , prior to government approval.
And then in what will likely emerge as one of the greatest leaps of faith in thecrop era, the industry convinced regulators that if each toxin is safe by itself, there is no reason to worry about a crop expressing two of them, or three, or six. Ever read the contraindications on a drug bottle?
If a Little is Good, More is Better, Right?
The quantity oftoxins produced per acre by - crops doubled in the first few years of adoption, and then doubled again between 2005 and 2015. On average, the quantity of toxins expressed per acre has kept on rising as multi- , stacked varieties became the norm, with no end in sight.
Today, on average, each acre ofcorn expresses around 2 pounds of toxins. The residues in the harvested corn are obviously substantial as a result, especially when compared to conventional residue levels.
But heck, if they just break down and disappear, who cares?
Fortunately, a few scientists in other countries have been able to cobble together funds to apply state-of-the-art science to contemporary paper reporting worrisome damage to the stomach lining of rats fed a triple-stack corn, expressing two toxins and a Roundup Ready gene.crop food safety issues. E.g., the Australian team that just published a
The paper raises alarm and more questions. Too bad there is little chance any of the badly needed, followup studies will be done in the U.S., including a repeat of the Australian rat study with more animals in each treatment and the control group, additional- , additional dose levels, and a fuller suite of advanced histopathological methods.
Charles Benbrook, “Why Regulators Lost Track and Control of Pesticide Risks: Lessons From the Case of Glyphosate-Based Herbicides and Genetically Engineered-Crop Technology,” Current Environmental Health Report, 2018.