Over at my favorite blog (besides this one of course!) Garden Rant, Amy Stewart posted about exploding watermelons — which Linda blogged about below — and about how Bt from genetically engineered food had found its way into our blood stream (and the bloodstream of unborn children). Sounds pretty scary doesn’t it? I’m not going to tell you it isn’t a little troubling, because it is, and I absolutely do not think this finding should be disregarded. But the truth is that I’m not too worried about Bt in the bloodstream for the following reasons:
1. The world’s ending on Saturday anyway, right?
2. It’s impossible to tell from this study where the Bt toxin came from — I do think it probably came from transformed crops — HOWEVER, as scientists we can’t make that assumption. We eat Bt all the time EVEN IF WE EAT NO TRANSGENIC CROPS because this bacteria is found all over the place. I would have liked to have seen testing between people who eat transgenic food and people who eat no transgenic food.
3. The Bt toxin is extremely specific in terms of what it affects in an insects gut. It’s unlikely (but not impossible) that it would react with anything in our bloodstream (or an unborn child’s bloodstream).
4. There are arguments over whether transgenic crops are sprayed more or less than than non-transgenic crops — but for insect control transgenic crops are generally sprayed less — and non-transgenic crops are sprayed with some seriously nasty stuff including nerve toxins. If I get to pick my poison I’ll go with Bt any day.
5. As a rule you should NEVER worry until a second study confirms the findings. This paper is important enough that you can be sure that within a year someone else will try something similar. If the findings hold my concerns will increase somewhat.
6. Finally, the dose makes the poison. Bt has been fed to various mammals for years to determine the effects that it has on them — and it generally has little effect, even over long periods of time. These animals, obviously, had the toxin in their blood (just because it wasn’t tested doesn’t mean it wasn’t there).
It should be no surprise that when we eat something with a toxin in it, that toxin gets into our blood. When you eat garlic — toxins from the garlic get into your blood. When you eat hot peppers — capsaicin (an insecticide) gets in your blood. When you drink alcohol — you get the picture. Is it bad for things to be in the blood? It depends entirely upon the thing and the concentration. This article talked about fetal issues so lets use a fetal example — Aspirin is considered a bad idea during pregnancy — it can get into the unborn child’s bloodstream. However, low doses of aspirin can reduce risks of pre-eclampsia. By the way, a chemical very similar to aspirin is also known as a fungicide….(actigard).
So, there are my reasons for not being too worried. Could I change my mind — YES. Could I be wrong — YES. BUT as a scientist who reads a lot of what I’ll call “reactionary/radical articles” I have my doubts when I read about the next thing that’s going to kill us all. If we responded to every troubling article we’d never leave our houses. BUT there’s always that one important article that warns us about something real — and we need to be on the lookout for it. My reaction to the Bt threat — this isn’t it — but time will tell whether I’m right or wrong.