The hype leading up to this soon-to-be released documentary goes back months and months all the way to my anti-GMO days, before I saw the light last April. One in the final set of anti-GMO posts I made was, in fact, a blurb about this documentary followed by the trailer. See post here.
Thankfully I’ve done a complete one-eighty when it comes to GMOs since then. My blog tells the story .
This excellent review by Jabr should be mandatory reading for anyone planning to set foot in theaters come Friday when the film releases to a nation-wide audience. In reality, I fear that the type of people who will be most influenced by the histrionics of the film are not the kind who would consult Scientific American or any other reliable source of science. But, alas, perhaps a few can be reached.
Here is a brief excerpt from Jabr’s review that focuses on Bt corn and the way it is portrayed in the film.
In one of the most disingenuous scenes in Seifert’s film, he takes his two young sons Finn and Scout to a cornfield. Back in the day, he explains, children could scamper through such fields carefree. But now farmers grow so-called Bt corn, which has been genetically engineered to produce a pest-killing toxin. So, Seifert reasons, the plants themselves are toxic and before he and his sons can enter the cornfield, they need to take some precautions. The Seifert boys pull on white biohazard suits and gas masks and dash off, filming all the while. Seifert loses his sons amid the stalks at one point, but once he relocates them they leave the field and fall exasperated on the ground. Visibly upset, one of his sons begs for water.
Instead of using his children like marionettes for ludicrous theatrics, Seifert could have, I don’t know, done some actual research. If he had, he would have learned that the toxins Bt corn plants make are extremely specific, killing only certain pests; that Bt corn is not toxic to people; that Bt corn is generally coated in far fewer chemical insecticides—which can poison people—than non-GM corn; and that Bt crops were invented precisely to avoid the application of those noxious chemical insecticides.
When I first began considering that as an anti-GMO “activist” and blogger I perhaps didn’t know what I was talking about, Bt corn was first on my list as the GMO I wanted to know more about. I had read all the scary, anti-GMO literature about the exploding and rupturing stomachs of insects that bite into the corn (read Mercola article here). When I consulted an actual expert on the subject, plant geneticist Kevin Folta, I asked him about Bt corn specifically. Below is our email exchange on the topic.
S4H: How is Bt active in insects but not in humans? What if the ‘dose’ in humans were extrapolated to mimic the same ratio the corn borers get when they bite Bt corn?
Folta: This is the absolute miracle of Bt. It is a small peptide, a little chain of amino acids. In order to be active it has to be cleaved by an enzyme (which only certain insects have). Once active, it binds to specific receptors in the larval gut. The receptors bind like a lock and key. It is remarkably specific. Once bound, the receptors cluster and form a pore. The pore allows contents of the gut to mix with the body cavity and the insect larvae dies.
Humans do not have the receptors at all. Even if they did, the mechanism is so specific that the Bt peptide that affects moth larvae does not work on beetles, and vice versa. It is amazingly specific.
In the guts of humans or other animals the Bt peptide is just another peptide. It is digested in the stomach and broken down into amino acids. Even if the dose were increased to straight Bt, nothing would be expected to happen, at least in terms of how it affects the larvae.
Bt has been used in organic cultivation for a long time and has been studied in depth for over 60 years. No evidence of harm on animals. Reports that claim this are usually just in tissue culture cells, which are not a suitable proxy for an animal system.
This answer  by Folta was extremely powerful for me and when I sat with it, when I truly digested it, when I found that it was corroborated in multiple mainstream science sources, I realized I had quite foolishly jumped to conclusions about GMOs and was riding a wave of uninformed or at least under informed conspiracy theorist activism.
It was a bandwagon from which I quickly disembarked. Though it is still going strong, thankfully I’m not on it!
This article was updated at 11:50 PT
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