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Spilling the Beans, Sept. 1, 2004
Newsletter on GM Foods, September issue Spilling the Beans
Another Reason for Schools to Ban Genetically Engineered Foods
By Jeffrey M. Smith, author of Seeds of Deception
Before the Appleton Wisconsin high school replaced their cafeteria's
processed foods with wholesome, nutritious food, the school was described as
out-of-control. There were weapons violations, student disruptions, and a
cop on duty full-time. After the change in school meals, the students were
calm, focused, and orderly. There were no more weapons violations, and no
suicides, expulsions, dropouts, or drug violations. The new diet and
improved behavior has lasted for seven years, and now other schools are
changing their meal programs with similar results.
Years ago, a science class at Appleton found support for their new diet by
conducting a cruel and unusual experiment with three mice. They fed them the
junk food that kids in other high schools eat everyday. The mice freaked
out. Their behavior was totally different than the three mice in the
neighboring cage. The neighboring mice had good karma; they were fed
nutritious whole foods and behaved like mice. They slept during the day
inside their cardboard tube, played with each other, and acted very
mouse-like. The junk food mice, on the other hand, destroyed their cardboard
tube, were no longer nocturnal, stopped playing with each other, fought
often, and two mice eventually killed the third and ate it. After the three
month experiment, the students rehabilitated the two surviving junk food
mice with a diet of whole foods. After about three weeks, the mice came
Sister Luigi Frigo repeats this experiment every year in her second grade
class in Cudahy, Wisconsin, but mercifully, for only four days. Even on the
first day of junk food, the mice's behavior "changes drastically." They
become lazy, antisocial, and nervous. And it still takes the mice about two
to three weeks on unprocessed foods to return to normal. One year, the
second graders tried to do the experiment again a few months later with the
same mice, but this time the animals refused to eat the junk food.
Across the ocean in Holland, a student fed one group of mice genetically
modified (GM) corn and soy, and another group the non-GM variety. The GM
mice stopped playing with each other and withdrew into their own parts of
the cage. When the student tried to pick them up, unlike their well-behaved
neighbors, the GM mice scampered around in apparent fear and tried to climb
the walls. One mouse in the GM group was found dead at the end of the
It's interesting to note that the junk food fed to the mice in the Wisconsin
experiments also contained genetically modified ingredients. And although
the Appleton school lunch program did not specifically attempt to remove GM
foods, it happened anyway. That's because GM foods such as soy and corn and
their derivatives are largely found in processed foods. So when the school
switched to unprocessed alternatives, almost all ingredients derived from GM
crops were taken out automatically.
Does this mean that GM foods negatively affect the behavior of humans or
animals? It would certainly be irresponsible to say so on the basis of a
single student mice experiment and the results at Appleton. On the other
hand, it is equally irresponsible to say that it doesn't.
We are just beginning to understand the influence of food on behavior. A
study in Science in December 2002 concluded that "food molecules act like
hormones, regulating body functioning and triggering cell division. The
molecules can cause mental imbalances ranging from attention-deficit and
hyperactivity disorder to serious mental illness." The problem is we do not
know which food molecules have what effect. The bigger problem is that the
composition of GM foods can change radically without our knowledge.
Genetically modified foods have genes inserted into their DNA. But genes are
not Legos; they don't just snap into place. Gene insertion creates
unpredicted, irreversible changes. In one study, for example, a gene chip
monitored the DNA before and after a single foreign gene was inserted. As
much as 5 percent of the DNA's genes changed the amount of protein they were
producing. Not only is that huge in itself, but these changes can multiply
through complex interactions down the line.
In spite of the potential for dramatic changes in the composition of GM
foods, they are typically measured for only a small number of known nutrient
levels. But even if we could identify all the changed compounds, at this
point we wouldn't know which might be responsible for the antisocial nature
of mice or humans. Likewise, we are only beginning to identify the medicinal
compounds in food. We now know, for example, that the pigment in blueberries
may revive the brain's neural communication system, and the antioxidant
found in grape skins may fight cancer and reduce heart disease. But what
about other valuable compounds we don't know about that might change or
disappear in GM varieties?
Consider GM soy. In July 1999, years after it was on the market, independent
researchers published a study showing that it contains 12-14 percent less
cancer-fighting phytoestrogens. What else has changed that we don't know
about? [Monsanto responded with its own study, which concluded that soy's
phytoestrogen levels vary too much to even carry out a statistical analysis.
They failed to disclose, however, that the laboratory that conducted
Monsanto's experiment had been instructed to use an obsolete method to
detect phytoestrogens results.]
In 1996, Monsanto published a paper in the Journal of Nutrition that
concluded in the title, "The composition of glyphosate-tolerant soybean
seeds is equivalent to that of conventional soybeans." The study only
compared a small number of nutrients and a close look at their charts
revealed significant differences in the fat, ash, and carbohydrate content.
In addition, GM soy meal contained 27 percent more trypsin inhibitor, a
well-known soy allergen. The study also used questionable methods. Nutrient
comparisons are routinely conducted on plants grown in identical conditions
so that variables such as weather and soil can be ruled out. Otherwise,
differences in plant composition could be easily missed. In Monsanto's
study, soybeans were planted in widely varying climates and geography.
Although one of their trials was a side-by-side comparison between GM and
non-GM soy, for some reason the results were left out of the paper
altogether. Years later, a medical writer found the missing data in the
archives of the Journal of Nutrition and made them public. No wonder the
scientists left them out. The GM soy showed significantly lower levels of
protein, a fatty acid, and phenylalanine, an essential amino acid. Also,
toasted GM soy meal contained nearly twice the amount of a lectin that may
block the body's ability to assimilate other nutrients. Furthermore, the
toasted GM soy contained as much as seven times the amount of trypsin
inhibitor, indicating that the allergen may survive cooking more in the GM
variety. (This might explain the 50 percent jump in soy allergies in the UK,
just after GM soy was introduced.)
We don't know all the changes that occur with genetic engineering, but
certainly GM crops are not the same. Ask the animals. Eyewitness reports
from all over North America describe how several types of animals, when
given a choice, avoided eating GM food. These included cows, pigs, elk,
deer, raccoons, squirrels, rats, and mice. In fact, the Dutch student
mentioned above first determined that his mice had a two-to-one preference
for non-GM before forcing half of them to eat only the engineered variety.
Differences in GM food will likely have a much larger impact on children.
They are three to four times more susceptible to allergies. Also, they
convert more of the food into body-building material. Altered nutrients or
added toxins can result in developmental problems. For this reason, animal
nutrition studies are typically conducted on young, developing animals.
After the feeding trial, organs are weighed and often studied under
magnification. If scientists used mature animals instead of young ones, even
severe nutritional problems might not be detected. The Monsanto study used
mature animals instead of young ones.
They also diluted their GM soy with non-GM protein 10- or 12-fold before
feeding the animals. And they never weighed the organs or examined them
under a microscope. The study, which is the only major animal feeding study
on GM soy ever published, is dismissed by critics as rigged to avoid finding
Unfortunately, there is a much bigger experiment going on one which we are
all a part of. We're being fed GM foods daily, without knowing the impact of
these foods on our health, our behavior, or our
children. Thousands of schools around the world, particularly in Europe,
have decided not to let their kids be used as guinea pigs. They have banned
The impact of changes in the composition of GM foods is only one of several
reasons why these foods may be dangerous. Other reasons may be far worse
(see http://www.seedsofdeception.com ).
With the epidemic of obesity and diabetes and with the results in Appleton,
parents and schools are waking up to the critical role that diet plays. When
making changes in what kids eat, removing GM foods should be a priority.
A videotape on changing school meals, including footage from Appleton, will
be available in the fall, 2004 at http://www.seedsofdeception.com . The website also describes how to avoid
eating GM foods.
The above article may be used as a stand-alone opinion piece, or as part of
a monthly series about genetically modified foods by Jeffrey Smith.
Publishers and webmasters may offer the series to your readers at no charge,
by emailing a request to firstname.lastname@example.org. Individuals may read
the column each month, by subscribing to a free newsletter at