GMO Potato Creator Now Fears Its Impact on Human Health

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GMO Potato Creator Now Fears Its Impact on Human Health
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Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) were once hailed as the human-made solution to world hunger. But according to recent findings, foodstuff created from genetic engineering might have unforeseen problems.

There are emerging concerns that GMO foods are short-sighted and potentially dangerous to both humans and the environment. In particular, a former Director of Research at Simplot Plant Sciences and Monsanto decided to come out clean on the possible repercussion of a potato he designed back in the early 2000s.

In an interesting interview with Eco Watch [1], Caius Rommens sought to ‘clear his conscience’ regarding some GMO varieties he created. According to the scientist, the primary aim of his GMO potatoes was to reduce food-carcinogenicity, reduce tuber discoloration for processors, and overcome late blight and bruises. His main products included the White Russet, Hibernate, and Innate GMO potato varieties that are currently in thousands of stores across the United States. So what exactly is the source of concern?

Potential Dangers of GMO Potatoes

According to a self-report appearing in Independent Science News [2], Rommens states clearly that he had made a “strange assumption” about a lack of long-term health effects based on short-term research. He then indicated that this is a fairly standard flaw in the scientific model, stating that it was “The same assumption that chemists had used when they commercialized DDT, Agent Orange, PCBs, rGBH, and so on.” These are chemicals which were assumed safe at the time but which were later shown to be extremely dangerous; though sadly this only came to light after widespread use and the tragic consequences had become undeniable.

The ’short-term experiments’ that Rommens mentions include the use of silencing genes, which are not gene-specific and can be transferrable to organisms that consume GMO potatoes as food. This is a potentially significant risk factor. In the Eco Watch interview, he tells Ken Roseboro that silencing genes such as the one responsible for browning leads to a higher accumulation of toxins such as neurotoxin alpha-aminoadipate, chaconine-malonyl, and tyramine.

Additionally, Rommens says that it was naive of him to assume that silencing one gene would not affect another. This is due to the fact that gene functions are often interconnected, and one modification could have a ripple effect. For example, he claims that “silencing the ‘melanin gene’ PPO would have numerous effects, including an impairment of potatoes’ natural stress-tolerance response.”

The impact of these toxins on human health is questionable, with some being associated with several diseases. Of course, these concerns are not exclusive to GMO potatoes. In his book, Pandora’s Potatoes: The Worst GMOs, Rommens cites that there are also GMO varieties aside from potatoes that have been shown to be allergenic [3]. In hindsight, he calls for increased awareness and action against potentially harmful GMO products that are increasingly finding their way into our shelves.

Despite the concerns over GMO food, the GMO varieties are often left unlabeled – despite being indistinguishable from non-GMO varieties to the casual observer. With a former lead scientist for one of the largest GMO-producing companies airing his regret over the role he played in mainstreaming GMO potatoes, we are left with a lot of questions. Additional scientific research studies to determine the safety and long-term effects of GMO products are more important than ever; however it probably won’t be done unless harmful effects are noted in the population – meaning that the real consequences are still unknown and the public is to some extent participating in an experiment.

References:

[1] Roseboro, K. (2018). GMO Potato Creator Now Fears Its Impact on Human Health. Retrieved 18 October 2019, from https://www.ecowatch.com/gmo-potato-simplot-health-fears-2618087647.html

[2] Rommens, C. (2018). Hidden Health Dangers: A Former Agbiotech Insider Wants His GMO Crops Pulled. Retrieved 18 October 2019, from https://www.independentsciencenews.org/health/hidden-health-dangers-former-agbiotech-insider-gmo-crops/

[3] Gao, A. G., Hakimi, S. M., Mittanck, C. A., Wu, Y., Woerner, B. M., Stark, D. M., … & Rommens, C. M. (2000). Fungal pathogen protection in potato by expression of a plant defensin peptide. Nature biotechnology, 18(12), 1307. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11101813/

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