We admit to being quite astounded by this statement, which appears to indicate that GM crops are being used far and wide without a clear understanding of their effects on the environment!
COMMENT from GM-free Ireland: The study reported large concentrations of DNA from GM crops in the guts of earthworms and other soil organisms. Although it did not state that this transgenic DNA had already become incorporated into their own DNA, to quote from the abstract - "This movement poses a THREAT of horizontal gene transfer and possible proliferation of genetically modified DNA into the general environment... It remains to be tested whether this DNA was still within the plant residues, present as free, extracellular DNA or had already undergone genetic transformation into competent bacterial cells. These results are the first to demonstrate the persistence of transgenic crop DNA residues within a food web.”
If the follow-up research finds that these soil organisms have become genetically modified, this will effectively close the global debate on GM food and farming.
--- Transgene from GM Corn Found in Soil-Dwelling Animals
Ecological Farming Association [USA], 4 December 2009
Despite evidence that transgenes (from species other than the "engineered" species) in genetically modified (GM) plants can persist in the soil, little research has been done to determine the extent of such contamination.
This is an important issue because environmental contamination by transgenes "has serious implications for environmental health, including human safety," according to Canadian scientists who recently tested various soil-dwelling animals for the transgene (responsible for resistance to the herbicide glyphosate) present in GM Roundup Ready® corn.
They collected the animals in May, August, and October (macroarthropods and nematodes) or in May and August (microarthropods and earthworms) from a field of Roundup Ready® corn.
The transgene was present in all types of animals on all collection dates, with the exception of nematodes collected in August. About 81% of nematodes collected in October tested positive for the transgene. More than one-third of microarthropods (thrips, collembolans, and mites) tested positive. And slightly more than 10% of macroarthropods (mostly various insects) and earthworms tested positive.
Concentrations of the transgene tended to decrease in nematodes and earth-worms and to increase in arthropods during the growing season. Levels of the transgene in the soil (free of plant tissues) were usually considerably lower than levels in the animals.
The scientists who conducted this experiment rather matter-of-factly note: "Whether the presence of transgenes in the soil food web presents a risk for soil animals is not known."
We admit to being quite astounded by this statement, which appears to indicate that GM crops are being used far and wide without a clear understanding of their effects on the environment! The bottom line is that (for the first time after years of commercial cropping of GM plants) there is "evidence for large concentrations of transgenic DNA in animals from the food web associated with RoundUp Ready® corn. This indicates that the trans- gene does not significantly degrade within the food web. Further, the guts of these animals may provide opportunity for genetic transformation into native soil bacteria." And that last "opportunity" might lead to movement of transgenes into non-GM plants and ultimately pose risks to human health.
It could very well be the case that the commercialization of GM crops will produce animals containing genes that could do great harm to humanity. A perhaps enormously problematic can of worms (and bugs), indeed!
Miranda M. Hart (Dept. of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, CANADA N1G 2W1), et al., "Detection of Transgenic cp4 epspsGenes in the Soil Food Web," Agronomy for Sustainable Development 29(4), October/ December 2009, 497-501. (EDPSciences, 875 Massachusetts Ave., 7th Floor, Cambridge, MA 02139.)
EXTRACT: The scientists who conducted this experiment rather matter-of-factly note: "Whether the presence of transgenes in the soil food web presents a risk for soil animals is not known."