Last week this was breaking news and it was trending on top Nigerian news sites like Vanguard, Premium times and NAN. This was very disturbing because I saw lots of problems with this.
My first pain and concern about this is that Nigeria has been ranked by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) as one of the largest producers of Banana and Plantain in Africa, every year Nigeria produces more than 2.5 million tonnes of banana, so why are we then importing Bananas? This will affect the sales and profit of local farmers and traders of the local species and can discourage them out of business. My second concern was the health implication of these genetically modified bananas.
According to NAN, when buyers and sellers of these bananas were asked the reason behind the high patronage, they said that the bananas are cheaper, they are sweeter, their appearance is fresh, their skin smooth and bigger size; they also said the packaging was attractive and that it had longer shelf life than the local specie.
According to Vanguard, A fruit distributor, Malam Angulu Dangazuwa, said that it was better for him to sell the imported banana than the local banana variety. “Hardly can you incur losses on it (imported banana) because it does not get spoilt easily; it sells faster and it is sweeter and readily available, if compared to the local variety,’’ he said. Dangazuwa said that a box of imported banana with over 40 fingers cost about N2, 500, adding that a similar quantity of the local banana variety, which had a shorter shelf-life, cost about N3, 500.
In this article, I want to talk about the health risk of this genetically modified banana, not just banana only but all other genetically modified imported fruits like Apples, Plums, Grapes and other exotic fruits in the Nigeria markets.
Genetically Modified Organisms commonly known as GMOs are plants, animals or bacteria that have been engineered to meet a particular criterion or serve a particular purpose like medical experiments. The type genetic manipulation that I’m talking about here is the type that viruses or bacteria (which have never been in the human food supply before) are used to artificially insert an entirely foreign DNA into a plant or animal’s genes to produce a desired characteristics; example is insertion of human genes into rice to produce a protein that ruptures pests’ stomach when they eat the rice.
Health Dangers/risks of GMOS
In the 1990s when GMOs was made public, many argued that it was not safe and that the long term side effects have not been known but due to power and influence, Monsanto (the largest biotech company in the world) prevailed and claimed that it was safe; but even then the American Food and Drug Association warned the public repeatedly that GM foods can cause unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects, allergies, toxins, nutritional problems, new diseases but they were ignored.
Right now there are several animal studies that have proved that GMOs have serious negative health implications like accelerated aging, infertility, sterility, immune problems, organ failure and gastrointestinal problems and many other problems that we will be looking at here.
Studies have proved GMOs to be unhealthy: Many animal studies done with GMO crops showed organ damage, immune system disorders, gastrointestinal problems, infertility, accelerated aging and other health problems; this has made the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) to urge doctors to prescribe non-GMO diets for all their patients.
Studies revealed that GM soy reduced digestive enzymes drastically in mice, impaired their digestive functions and made them to start having immune reaction to formerly harmless foods. Rats that were also fed GM potatoes had smaller and partially atrophied livers; those fed GM canola had heavier liver. The stomach lining of rats fed GM Potatoes had excessive cell growth and this condition can lead to cancer; these rats also had damaged organs and damaged immune systems.
Another study noticed that half of the babies of mother rats that were fed GM soy died within three weeks and male rats fed GM soy had changed testicles and altered young sperm cells; the DNA of mouse embryo functioned differently when their parents ate GM soy and the longer these mice were fed GM corn, the less babies they had and their babies were smaller and more than half died within three weeks; female rats who were fed GM corn had changes in their ovaries and uterus and most hamsters that were fed GM soy were unable to have babies by the third generation.
In India, thousands of sheep, Buffalo and goats died after grazing on BT Cotton plant after harvest and others suffered reproductive problems and poor health; Asian farmers also noted that their farm animals died after eating BT Corn varieties. About two dozens of US farmers reported that BT Corn varieties caused sterility in their pigs and cows and Filipinos in at least five villages fell sick when a nearby BT Corn variety was pollinating.
Decreased nutritional value: GMOs have decreased nutritional value when compared to their traditional counterpart; they either have less nutritional value or their nutrients are indigestible. Phytate is a compound in seeds and grains that bind to nutrients and make them unavailable in the body, an inserted gene can make a plant to produce more phytate thereby decreasing the mineral nutritional value of the plant. Another study proved that genetically modified soybeans produced lower levels of phytoestrogen, a powerful phytochemical that guards against heart disease, stroke and cancer.
It leaves foreign genes functioning inside you: The genetic material injected into these foreign foods travels to the intestines and enters the living bacteria there and they continue to function, so long after you have stopped eating GM foods, their proteins will still be inside of you and producing continuously. This will create diseases, resistance to anti-biotics, transfer to fetus and turn your intestinal bacteria into a living pesticide factory. Some studies have linked the growth hormone in these crops that makes them triple in size than their traditional counterpart to early maturity in women. Doctors are being alarmed by early menstruation in girls (aged 6 and 7) and early menopause in women (35 years).
It causes allergies: Allergic reactions are caused by proteins, when genetic materials are transferred from one host to a new host, novel proteins are created and they can cause immune responses and allergies. Numerous studies have linked Gluten disorders and allergies to GMOs.
It can cause a deadly epidemic: In 1980s, there was a contaminated brand of a food supplement called L-tryptophan that killed about 100 Americans and caused sicknesses and disability in 5,000 to 10,000 people. It was revealed later that the cause of the contamination was the genetic engineering process used in its production. There are lots of unknown GM foods that are causing many health problems today.
It causes anti-biotic resistance: Anti-biotics are used to genetically modify organisms; they are used to know which cells survive and which cells picked up the foreign DNA; overuse of anti-biotics makes one resistant to them and make drugs/anti-biotics less effective in treating illnesses. These have alarmed health professionals because a number of bacteria strains are now resistant to anti-biotics, making bacterial infection difficult to treat.
It increases toxicity: Inserting foreign genes into a plant can cause toxicity at higher levels that can be dangerous to the human body; also the new gene inserted can interfere with a metabolic pathway in the plant, this can cause stress and make the plant to produce more toxins in immune response. When this plant is consumed, it leads to toxicity in the human body.
These are just a few side effects of GMOs, recently they have been increased public concern about this, whether they are safe or not; but with the emergence of new studies every day, GMOs are now being questioned.
Some countries have even gone far with this by banning GMOs, 39 countries have ban GMOS and some of the countries are Japan, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Germany, France, India, Madeira, Switzerland, Russia, Thailand, California ( a state in the US) and many more.
Finally, let me leave you with an insider story and his stand on GMO despite being a Biologist and Geneticist; Jonathan R. Latham a co-founder and Executive director of the Bioscience Research Project has this to say.
Do your personal research, take your health personally; don’t wait for people or the government to tell you what is safe or not because they might not tell you the truth because of selfish interest and purposes.
- Latham et al, “The Mutational Consequences of Plant Transformation, Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology 2006:1-7, article ID 25376,
- Alberto Finamore, et al, “Intestinal and Peripheral Immune Response to MON810 Maize Ingestion in Weaning and Old Mice,” J. Agric. Food Chem., 2008, 56 (23), pp 11533–11539, November 14, 2008
- Malatesta, C. Tiberi, B. Baldelli, S. Battistelli, E. Manuali, M. Biggiogera, “Reversibility of Hepatocyte Nuclear Modifications in Mice Fed on Genetically Modified Soybean,” Eur J Histochem, 49 (2005): 237-242.
I.V. Ermakova, “Diet with the Soya Modified by Gene EPSPS CP4 Leads to Anxiety and Aggression in Rats,” 14th European Congress of Psychiatry. Nice, France, March 4-8, 2006;
- “Genetically modified soy affects posterity: Results of Russian scientists’ studies,” REGNUM, October 12, 2005; http://www.regnum.ru/english/526651.html; Irina Ermakova, “Genetically modified soy leads to the decrease of weight and high mortality of rat pups of the first generation. Preliminary studies,” Ecosinform 1 (2006): 4–9
- Irina Ermakova, “Experimental Evidence of GMO Hazards,” Presentation at Scientists for a GM Free Europe, EU Parliament, Brussels, June 12, 2007
- Oliveri et al., “Temporary Depression of Transcription in Mouse Pre-implantion Embryos from Mice Fed on Genetically Modified Soybean,” 48th Symposium of the Society for Histochemistry, Lake Maggiore (Italy), September 7–10, 2006.
- Alberta Velimirov and Claudia Binter, “Biological effects of transgenic maize NK603xMON810 fed in long term reproduction studies in mice,” Forschungsberichte der Sektion IV, Band 3/2008
“Mortality in Sheep Flocks after Grazing on Bt Cotton Fields—Warangal District, Andhra Pradesh” Report of the Preliminary Assessment, April 2006, http://gmwatch.org/latest-listing/1-news-items/6416-mortality-in-sheep-flocks-after-grazing-on-bt-cotton-fields-warangal-district-andhra-pradesh-2942006
Mae-Wan Ho, “GM Ban Long Overdue, Dozens Ill & Five Deaths in the Philippines,” ISIS Press Release, June 2, 2006; and Mae-Wan Ho and Sam Burcher, “Cows Ate GM Maize & Died,” ISIS Press Release, January 13, 2004, http://www.isis.org.uk/CAGMMAD.php
- Netherwood et al, “Assessing the survival of transgenic plant DNA in the human gastrointestinal tract,” Nature Biotechnology 22 (2004): 2.