A unique new study published in the scientific journal Nature has used molecular profiles to reveal major differences in composition between a GMO corn and its non-GMO parent. These findings question industry and regulatory position of “substantial equivalence” and have serious safety implications.
The new peer-reviewed study led by Dr Michael Antoniou at King’s College London describes the effects of the process of genetic engineering on the composition of a genetically modified Roundup-resistant GMO corn variety, NK603.
“Our study clearly shows that the GM transformation process results in profound compositional differences in NK603, demonstrating that this GMO corn is not substantially equivalent to its non-GMO counterpart. The marked increase in putrescine and especially cadaverine is a concern since these substances are potentially toxic, being reported as enhancers of the effects of histamine, thus heightening allergic reactions, and both have been implicated in the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines with nitrite in meat products. Our results call for a more thorough evaluation of the safety of NK603 corn consumption on a long-term basis.” Dr. Antoniou stated.
In-depth analysis of types of proteins (“proteomics”) and small biochemical molecules (“metabolomics”) revealed major compositional differences between NK603 and its non-GMO parent. The results obtained show not only disturbances in energy utilisation and oxidative stress (damage to cells and tissues by reactive oxygen), but worryingly large increases in certain substances (polyamines).
Polyamines found to be present in increased amounts in GMO NK603 corn include putrescine and cadaverine, which can produce various toxic effects. For example, they enhance the effects of histamine, thus heightening allergic reactions, and both have been implicated in the formation of carcinogenic substances called nitrosamines.
Overall, the findings of this study disprove industry and regulatory agency claims that NK603 is ‘substantially equivalent’ to its non-GMO counterpart and suggest that a more thorough evaluation of the safety of consuming products derived from this GMO corn on a long term basis should be undertaken.
Background to study
Analytical methods collectively known as “omics” technologies can be used to obtain an in-depth, molecular composition profile of a biological system/substance. These technologies include transcriptomics (gene function profile), proteomics(protein type profile) and metabolomics (small biochemical metabolite profile). Unlike gross nutrient analysis, omics technologies provide highly detailed molecular composition and biological functional information with a very high degree of predictability of health or disease status.
In this study Dr Antoniou and colleagues have undertaken proteomics (protein profiling) and metabolomics (small biochemical profiling) analyses, comparing NK603 with its non-GMO counterpart in order to deepen the understanding of the effects of the GM transformation process used to generate this variety of GMO corn. In addition, NK603 cultivated either with or without being sprayed with Roundup was also investigated in order to determine the effects, if any, of this weedkiller on the biochemistry and hence composition of this GMO corn.
This broad range of analysis is designed to ascertain more deeply and precisely whether NK603 is truly ‘substantially equivalent’ to its corresponding non-GMO variety and whether this raises any health concerns.
The GM transformation process causes a general disturbance in the GMO plant. Whether the increased levels of cadaverine and putrescine found in the NK603 corn samples can account for the signs of potential negative health effects in rats fed on this corn needs to be further analysed in long-term feeding studies on laboratory animals, using methods that specifically and more accurately quantify the amounts of these polyamines and their effects.
State-of-the-art molecular profiling ‘omics’ methods could be used to deepen our understanding of the differences between GM plants and their non-GMO counterparts. This would enable scientists to improve the pre-commercial safety testing of GM plants by highlighting the presence of increased levels of known toxins (for example, certain polyamines found at increased levels in this study) or novel toxins and potentially allergenic substances.
See the FULL PAPER here.