GM Free Cymru

That Pig Study:  an interview with Judy Carman

Date Added to website 21st May 2014

Scientific Proof of GMO Harm in Pig Study:
A Special Interview with Dr. Judy Carman

By Dr. Joseph Mercola

[Comment from GM-Free Cymru:  This is a fascinating full-length interview which gives a lot of the background to the study which has caused such a stir in GMO scientific circles.  Judy explains the despicable tactics of those who support the GM industry, and sha also explains many of the details and protocols of the study, over and above the info contained in the published scientific paper.  Please read it!]

DM: Dr. Joseph Mercola
JC: Dr. Judy Carman

DM: You’ve probably been asked by many of your friends and relatives why you believe GMO foods are unsafe. Hi, this is Dr. Mercola, helping you take control of your health. Today we are joined by Dr. Judy Carman, who is one of the few researchers in the world who has actually carefully and objectively evaluated this question, to provide us with some interesting information and documentation on the damage that eating GMO foods can have on your body. Welcome and thank you for joining us today, Dr. Carman, from Australia.
JC: Thank you very much. Thank you for having me on your program, and hello to everyone who’s listening.
DM: Maybe you can review with us your formal training before we get into the details of the study that you conducted. I believe you’re an epidemiologist and a biochemist.
JC: Yes, I have two degrees. I’ve got a Bachelor of Science degree, which was in chemistry and biochemistry. I did an honors degree, which is an extra degree you can do in Australia. That was in organic chemistry. I did a PhD in medicine in the field of nutritional biochemistry in metabolic regulation in relation to cancer. I then went and did a Master of Public Health and became an epidemiologist and biochemist.
In addition to that, I’ve not only worked in the fields of cancer research, but I was also the senior epidemiologist in my state government, investigating outbreaks of disease. I’ve worked in medical research really for quite some period of time. I’m currently an adjunct associate professor at Flinders University in South Australia, as well as the director of the Institute of Health and Environmental Research (IHER), which is also based in South Australia.
DM: You’ve got some fairly valid academic credentials to do this type of research. Before we go into the specifics of your study, I’d like to discuss some of the challenges that doing genetically modified food research encounters, primarily because of the patenting issue and the really clever and sophisticated control of this whole process that these technology companies have put together to restrict research to really only those studies being done that supports the use of their product.
JC: Yes, there are a number of problems for anyone doing research. They usually center around getting the money to be able to do the research. If you’re doing research on animals, you need to get the Animal Ethics Committee approval to be able to do the research. Those sorts of things. But in addition, in this field, what you also need to do, of course, is to get the materials to test. In this case, it’s the seeds from the plants, from genetically modified plants, and also you need seeds from an equivalent plant that’s not genetically engineered, so that you can feed them to animals and see what the difference might be in the animals’ health.
But it’s very difficult to get GM seeds to test. You see, if a farmer goes and wants to buy seeds to plant in the field, the farmer has to sign a technology user agreement, which means (it says in there) that the farmer or a person who buys the seeds is not allowed to do any research on those seeds and is not allowed to give them to anyone else to do research on either.
You basically have to find somewhere around that that’s legal – and we did, but it took us quite some time to be able to do it. Otherwise, you need to go to the industry to ask, “Pretty please, can we have some seeds?” We did that as well. The conditions placed upon us getting those seeds were such that we couldn’t legitimately try and get the seeds from most companies. It took us quite some time to try to find a way around it and to legitimately get some samples to test.
DM: What was your workaround? How were you able to obtain the seeds?
JC: Well, I quite prefer not to say.
DM: Oh, okay. That’s okay. It was a challenge.
JC: It was a challenge. It took us actually years to try and solve this challenge. But the other thing that you have to be able to do if you are in this area as a researcher is survive the abuse that you get for working in the area. If you do successfully get the money, get the materials to test and so forth, and you actually do the research, you get horribly abused once you write it up and publish it in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Of course, that happened to me. But in addition to that…
DM: And others, many others who have done this, too.
JC: Absolutely. But if the industry understands that you’re wanting to do a test, you also come under abuse. Over the last few years, I’ve actually survived I think six attempts (which I know of) to have me removed from whatever university position I’ve had.
DM: There’s another barrier, too, to completing this research, and that is the funding. Because most of the agricultural universities, the ones that would conduct these studies, their primary source of funding are these technology initiatives, the companies that are actually making the seeds. If they even think about funding a study that’s going to potentially have adverse consequences to the sale of those seeds, then those grants aren’t given. Is that correct?
JC: I believe that’s the case. Certainly, that situation seems to be more acute in the United States than it is here in Australia. But it’s also true that in Australia, the GM industry, the various people at the companies associated with that, are certainly providing funds to universities to be able to do research in those universities. Therefore, universities tend to be… You would expect that they would be a little bit more reluctant to allow the kind of research that would go against people who give them significant amounts of money for funding.
And then, of course, that’s in addition to just trying to get money to do research in an area where very little research has been done before. You see, if you’re doing, for example, cancer research, it’s an extension of work that quite a few people have done, then it’s much easier to be able to get funding for that because you can quote other people’s work. You can show them that you are extending existing work.
But when I got or obtained funding for this research, the opposite was the case. There was very little published research on animals, where you feed animals GM crops and you look for human health endpoints at the end of it. Very little of that had been published. When you are in a new area of research, it’s very difficult to get funding for that. We’re very grateful to the government of Western Australia that actually funded us directly to be able to do this work.
DM: That’s really terrific that you were able to have the funding to do this study. I’m wondering next if we can perhaps go into some of the details of the study that you did on the pigs, I believe. You were working with seven other investigators, but I believe you’re the lead author in this study. Is that correct?
JC: Yes, I was. The second author was Howard Vlieger. He’s really the reason why we did this particular study. He and his colleagues in the US (Howard Vlieger is based in Iowa) were seeing a number of things happening in livestock, particularly in pigs. They were seeing a higher rate of intestinal problems in pigs fed a GM diet. Most pigs in the United States are now fed a GM diet. They’re usually fed a mixture of GM soy and GM corn.
He knew of farmers who are not feeding animals GM feed, and he was seeing differences in pigs that were fed a GM diet and pigs that were fed non-GM diets. He wanted to know if he could prove these things, if they were real, if you could do a scientific study and prove them.
The two main things that he was seeing was an increase in intestinal problems in pigs fed GM feed, particularly an increase in stomach inflammation. He was also seeing things such as a thinning of intestinal walls and I think with hemorrhagic bowel disease, where a pig can go down basically in a scream in heat, as we have in a saying here (but that’s real in this case), bleed out from its bowel within 15 or so minutes, and die basically from a very thin intestinal wall that bleeds out.
The other thing that he was seeing was a reduced ability to conceive in the sows (female pigs) and higher rates of miscarriage in female pigs fed GM crops. In males, usually these days, in the United States and in other countries, for a sow to become pregnant, she’s artificially inseminated. The artificial insemination score contains unknown amount of sperm and unknown amount of viable sperm.
But there are some communities in the United States that still use boars to inseminate their sows. In those communities, he was also seeing a reduction in the number of piglets born. Once you take the artificial insemination out, which can couple over a lot of the problems that you might be seeing in male reproductive health, they were seeing outcomes in reproductive health as a result of boars being fed GM feed.
We decided that we needed to go and have a proper look at this. Therefore, I decided that we weren’t going to be using the sort of protocols that the industry uses, because I have been a great critic of the protocols that the industry uses to do their safety assessments. [----- 10:00 -----]
Generally, the safety systems the industry does fall into two main camps. The first one is what they call a safety assessment but which I call an animal production study. They’ll get some significant numbers of animals. They’ll feed some with the GM crop, and they’ll feed some the non-GM crop. But the outcomes that they go looking for are things such as milk production, breast meat yield in chickens, and things like that. These are not things that are relevant to human health, because otherwise… I’m sorry if we’re talking about milk production and breast meat yield. Women are much healthier than men apparently in the human population.
They’re using outcomes that are not relevant to human health. Otherwise, you couldn’t be looking at male health at all in the human population by looking at outcomes like that. Generally in the studies, they do not do things such as opening up the animal, looking inside, looking at the organs inside to see if they’re diseased, opening up the organ to have a look inside of the organs to see if they’re diseased, taking blood and having a look at the biochemistry and so forth within the blood to see if the animal’s healthy.
They’re animal production studies. They’re the vast majority of studies that the industry does. They’re basically done to reassure primary producers that if you feed this GM feed to your animals on your farm,
the animal will live long enough to get to market and produce a good enough yield for the farmer at the market.
The other sorts of studies are animal studies to determine if it’s going to harm your health. They’re much more rarely done by the GM industry, and they’re quite more poorly done, in my view, by the GM industry. For those sorts of studies, they’ll take very small numbers of generally rats, and they’ll feed them GM feed.
Sometimes they don’t even feed them yet with GM feed. They might say, okay, this plant that we’ve produced is designed to produce this particular protein in the plant, which will be either to make the plant resistant to herbicides or to make an insecticide within the plant. We’ll just take that protein, and we’ll feed it to some rats as one dose. We’ll see those rats. We’ll watch them for maybe seven to 14 days afterwards and see if the rats die. If the rat doesn’t die, well, then it’s fine. It must be fine for people to eat not just the protein, but the actual food itself and for people to eat that for the rest of their lives.
That’s often the main safety assessment that the industry does. Obviously, it’s just not good enough. Often, the protein that they use doesn’t even come from the plant, but comes from the bacteria that they genetically engineered to produce what they hope is the same protein. And of course, only feeding for that period of time is not going to give you long-term outcomes off the rats. You’re not feeding it to rats for long enough for cancers to develop. You’re not looking for allergies. You’re not looking for toxicological endpoints other than death, you know, things like that. Sometimes the industry goes further, and they feed animals for longer periods of time. But these are relatively rare.
And then they use very small numbers of rats. It’s very difficult to determine if you have a statistically significant increase in adverse health outcomes in the rats, because there are not just enough rats to be able to work that out.
We decided to do this properly by using pigs. The adverse effects have been seen in pigs. Pigs are very similar in their digestive organs to humans. We’re going to feed them for long enough for adverse effects to be found. We got pigs as soon as they were weaned. The first solid food they came across was either the GM feed or the non-GM feed. We fed it to them for the entire commercial lifespan of the pigs. This was a commercial piggery study – it was done under commercial piggery conditions. The animals, once they reached about… They were fed for about five months. At the end of that, they were taken to an abattoir, and they were slaughtered according to industry standards.
DM: How long does it take to grow a typical pig before they’re harvested for commercial uses?
JC: About five months.
DM: They were mature pigs?
JC: Oh, they were mature pigs. These were very large pigs. Some of them were over…
DM: Okay, a few hundred pounds?
JC: Oh, yes. In kilos, which we use here in Australia, some of them were over a hundred kilos in weight. That would be 220 pounds, I think. I think that would be the same in pounds.
DM: Sure.
JC: They were very large pigs by the time they were slaughtered. They were fed the GM feed for the entire commercial lifespan – from the time they were weaned all the way through. They had long-term exposure.
They were also properly randomized. The people who are actually feeding these pigs, they were also blinded. They didn’t know which pigs were fed GM feed and which weren’t. We split them into groups. There was a food that was labeled with a different sort of label, but it wasn’t GM or non-GM; it was just labeled [like] “These pigs they get fed Diet A and those pigs they get fed Diet B.” So, there was no intrusion that the pig handlers could use to influence what we were seeing in the pigs. No one knew. The veterinarians who did the autopsies at the end of the study, they didn’t know which pigs were fed GM and which were fed non-GM either. Everything was unbiased in what we were able to find.
DM: Well, that’s terrific. It’s one of the few studies that have been done correctly to show this type of damage that’s being done by consuming these types of foods. Now, one of the other rare studies that showed also the damage and effects to the animals that were consuming the foods was done in rats by Séralini. He basically replicated the studies that the industry used to prove the safety of the GM foods. But rather than terminating the study at three months, I think he took it to two years, which is the typical life expectancy of a rat, I believe, and then he found some significant differences. I’m sure you’re familiar with the study. If you could describe that to our listeners, that would be great.
JC: Yes, that’s the sort of thing that he did and they do. He did feed them for a long period of time. He wrote that if the industry does a study and they actually looked at the health effects in rats, they usually only feed them for three months, they terminate the study, and they look at the results. They usually have only 20 rats in a group. Half of those will be male and half will be female. If you try and find a difference in gender, it’s very difficult to do it. If you’re going down to the level of difference between male and female rats that you’re trying to find, you’re really not going to be able to find it in those small numbers of rats.
For example, if you’ve got 20 rats in a group, and your outcome is going to worsen the lifespan of the animals (is it going to kill the rats or not, is the GM feed going to kill the rats or not), a quarter of the rats in one group have got to die and none in the other group before you reach statistical significance because of the small number of rats. You can imagine if that transpired in the human population, it’s obviously clinically significant. It’s biologically significant to get a 10 percent death rate in the GM-feed group and none in the non-GM-feed group.
DM: Sure.
JC: But that wouldn’t weigh in statistical significance, you see.
DM: No.
JC: The industry could turn it around and say, “See, look at that. That means it’s safe.” Here we go with a 10 percent death rate, but it doesn’t matter because it’s not statistically significant. It’s important to have a significant number of rats.
Gilles-Eric Séralini – Professor Séralini – used basically the standard measure, the industry standards for the number of rats in a group. It’s my belief that if he’d used large numbers of rats, he probably would have found more significance than he did. There certainly were lots of indications there that there were problems in the rats fed the GM feed. But I’m sure he would have reached more statistical significance if he had more rats.
DM: His study, I believe, was breast tumors?
JC: Yes.
DM: Or abdominal tumors.
JC: Yes. He was getting breast tumors in rats. There were pictures of those on a website and in the paper as well, yeah.
The issue with genetically modified crops is that they are usually designed to be resistant to an herbicide. Most of them are designed to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate in the form of the herbicide called Roundup, labeled as Roundup. Therefore, when you eat a GM crop, you really can’t divorce the fact that you’re also eating glyphosate, that it’s been designed to be sprayed with glyphosate, and you will have glyphosate residues on the crop when you eat it. For example, in the corn, soil, and so forth, you’ll have residues of glyphosate in it. [----- 20:00 -----]
What Gilles-Eric tried to do was he tried to split those two issues apart. He had some rats that were fed the GM crop without the crop being sprayed with glyphosate, and others where the rats were fed the crop sprayed with glyphosate. He also had another group of rats where all they got was a bit of glyphosate. He was finding that there were problems with animals being fed the glyphosate and problems with rats being fed the GM crop. But when you put the two of them together, the two of them came together to make things worse.
In my view, he needed to have more animals to be able to find statistical significance. That’s what we did in the pig study. We made sure that we had large numbers of pigs, so that if there was anything biologically significant happening, we would pick it up in the statistics. We had 168 just-weaned pigs. We split them into two groups: one fed GM feed and the other fed non-GM feed. Therefore, we had 84 pigs per group. That made quite a lot of difference. We were able to do some more elaborate statistics and actually hunt down some hypotheses within the statistics that we used.
We know that pigs are not just fed a GM crop at a time; they’re fed combinations of GM crops. They’re fed GM soy and GM corn at the same time. Also, the main variety of GM soy that we have is Roundup-ready soy – this is designed to be resistant in being sprayed with Roundup and still survive while the weeds around it die. That’s the main one within the soy. It’s basically just Roundup-ready soy.
But within corn, there are so many varieties of corn. Some of them are designed to be resistant to not just glyphosate but other herbicides individually. There are lots of different insecticidal proteins that are put into the plant as genetically engineered to be able to produce. There are a whole variety of genetically engineered corn plant varieties out there. Therefore, if you’re a person and you’re eating genetically engineered corn, you’re eating probably different GM corn varieties at the same time. If you’re eating a diet in the United States, in a meal, you are probably eating GM soy and GM corn at the same time and different varieties of GM corn all at the same time.
There is no regulation in the world that requires the GM industry to do feeding studies on animals, where you’re feeding more than one variety of plant, GM plant, at the same time to the animal. We know that with the pharmaceutical drugs, there’s a thing called polypharmacy. If you feed somebody an aspirin, for example, there might be some certain side effects. But in addition, if you feed that person some other pharmaceutical drug, the two drugs can interact to produce outcomes that you can’t see by feeding just one drug or the other at one time. And so I was interested also in the effects of the equivalent of polypharmacy, if you like, and when you eat more than one crop.
With these pigs, we fed them what pigs usually eat in the United States: genetically modified soy, Roundup-ready soy. We also had a couple of different GM corn varieties being fed to the animal at the same time. We were in effect feeding three GM genes and their protein products to these pigs at the same time. These pigs were eating the Roundup-ready gene, its protein product, two Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) proteins, and the proteins from the two Bt genes, which are designed to produce insecticidal proteins. I
suspect that the reason why we got such strong stomach inflammation was the interaction between the proteins that the animals were eating.
DM: What is the clinical significance of that inflammation that you observed in the pigs to humans? I mean, what would that translate out to, this type of inflammation? Would it be some type of inflammatory bowel disease or peptic ulcers?
JC: Well, it could be.
DM: Gastric cancers?
JC: Well, it could be over a period of time. Remember, we had two sort of main questions going into the pigs. What we observed in the pigs at the end of the study was a significant increase in stomach inflammation in the pigs.
Now, we wanted to go further into the intestinal structure of the pigs. We want to really look at the small intestines and the large intestines, and have a really good look around it, too. But we couldn’t do that unfortunately because these pigs, you know. If you’ve seen the intestines of a pig, they’re huge. I mean, they’re just gigantic. This is an over 200-pound or a 100-kilo animal. Their intestines are huge. They were full of digester. We couldn’t actually clean them out – all 168 pigs. We couldn’t clean out all their intestines and have a really good look around. We were limited unfortunately into just looking at the stomachs. We don’t know if what we saw in the stomachs were also occurring further along the intestinal tract.
But what we saw in the stomach was you do get a little bit of stomach inflammation in pigs if they’re fed the sort of standard diet that they’d get fed in a piggery in the United States. They use finely grounded feed to help increase the absorption of the food into the pig, and that irritates the stomach of the pig a bit. You do get a little bit of inflammation in the stomachs.
But what we found in the pigs that were fed the GM feed was it took that level of inflammation, and it boosted it up way up to the severe range of inflammation. When I say “severe,” I’m talking about a stomach that is swollen and cherry red in color over almost the entire surface of the stomach. This is not the sort of stomach that you or I would want to have at all.
What we were seeing was in pigs fed the GM diet: overall, the severe level of inflammation was 2.6 times higher if the pig was fed GM feed. We did a gender difference as well. If you’re a female pig, you are 2.2 times more likely to get that severe stomach inflammation if you were fed the GM feed. If you’re a male pig, you got worse. You are now four times more likely to get that severe stomach inflammation. We had this, and it was an obvious difference. It was highly biologically significant and highly statistically significant.
What would this mean to a human being? Well, it could mean that you might have more stomach inflammation obviously. But because we couldn’t look any further in the intestines, it might also mean that there was actually inflammation occurring further along the digestive system that we just couldn’t see because we couldn’t get to it to see it.
DM: Interesting. There was a study published in December of last year that was done totally in the cells of male rats. It showed significant damage to the sperm cells. Are you familiar with that study?
JC: Yes.
DM: They exposed them I think to Roundup or glyphosate at 36 parts per million.
JC: Yeah. The other thing that we did, of course, was we also looked at the reproductive aspect of these pigs. But there’s a problem in commercial piggeries. You can’t actually look at the male reproductive aspects of pigs, because at three days of age the male pigs are neutered, otherwise you get what’s called boar taint through the meat. We couldn’t look at the male reproductive health. We couldn’t look at testes, for example, in the pigs because they had been removed at three days of age.
But what we could do is we could look at the female reproductive health in these pigs, and so we did. We were able to measure it. We took a lot of organs off. At once these animals had gone into the abattoir and had been killed, we got all of the intestines, we put them on a bench, and we inspected everything that we could – all the organs. We weighed the organs, we cut opened the organs, we looked inside the organs, and we had a really good look around. We also took blood for biochemistry. If you go on the website, which is, it will let you see some pictures of these autopsy tables, what we were doing, and what we were trying to do.
One of the things we did was we removed the uteri of the female pigs, and we weighed them. We found that there was a significant difference in the weight of the uterus of the pigs fed GM feed. It serves as the womb of the animal. The uterus was 25 percent heavier in pigs fed GM feed. That was not only biologically significant, but it’s also statistically significant. In the paper that we wrote, we talked about all of the disease states that this could represent. But of course, in future studies, what needs to be done is that the uteri should probably be removed, sliced, and looked at under a microscope in what’s called histology.
The two main things that we were looking at here and the two main things that Howard Vlieger flagged as a problem, as things that he was seeing in livestock, particularly in pigs, were both things we found statistical significance for: (1) digestive health problems, particularly inflammation in the stomach, and also (2) reproductive issues. In this case, we’ve found this increased uterus weight. [----- 30:00 -----]
DM: Interesting. Basically, there are not too many investigators out there that are producing this evidence. When the bulk of the media and the reputable scientists in the accepted community are saying that there’s just no evidence of any damage from GM foods and all the studies that have been done show that it’s safe, we run into challenges because of the issues that we mentioned at the beginning of this interview, the barriers to doing these studies – the challenges with funding, the criticism, and this massive discrediting that occurs for any investigator who has the courage to initiate these studies.
As a result, there are not many studies being done, and all of these studies that are being done – yours and Séralini’s – they were only animal studies. No one’s doing human studies other than the massive experiment that’s going on in the entire population from consuming these foods. We won’t know the results of that for another decade or two.
JC: Exactly. What the pharmaceutical industry is basically required to do these days is a result of some massive problems that they’ve had in the past with things going wrong. This gold standard of how you test these sorts of things is this: you do animal studies first, and then if it’s proven to be safe in the animal studies, you then go into human trials – the four phases of the human-animal trials.
The first one of those is you get a small number of volunteers. You feed it to a small number, and you see if it makes them sick. That’s the first phase of clinical trial. The second phase if you’re talking about a pharmaceutical drug is to see if it has the benefit that they’re saying that they’re hoping that it will have. There are now GM crops that they’re touting as having benefits of something that’s going to actually improve your health. They should also go through all these sorts of studies where you actually work out if they’ve got the benefit. But not until we’ve actually done the previous studies to see if it has any harm.
DM: I don’t know about the benefits at the best of my knowledge. Certainly, you can correct me if I’m misunderstanding. But most of the benefits or almost all of the benefits, well over 95 or maybe over 99 percent, is really related to the increase in efficiency, the supposed increase in efficiency, of farming the crops. That results in being able to spray the weed killer, the glyphosate, and not having to spray other toxins with the Bt toxins. There’s no benefit to humans; it’s just an agricultural benefit. But really, most all of that benefit goes back to Monsanto because the costs remain the same and the extra expenses are just paid out to Monsanto or the other companies.
JC: Yes. There are two main types of GM crops. Most of them are designed to contain pesticides in one way or another. You’ve got the type that’s designed to be sprayed with herbicide and still live. That crop doesn’t break down the herbicides. The herbicide can be retained within the crop, therefore you would expect that if you were eating the GM crop, you would be taking in high levels of the herbicide. The other one, of course, is the Bt crops. They’re designed to produce their own insecticides. Now, you don’t need to spray the crop with so much insecticide.
But the difference there is that if you spray a crop with insecticide, there’s usually a withholding period afterwards, so that you allow the insecticide to reduce itself in quantity, the amount in the crop yield. If you’re a consumer, you can wash some of it off. There’s still some cleaning to the outside. You can take your vegetables home and wash them over the tap.
DM: It’s traditional thought. The thought is when you buy your produce, you wash it off at home – but that’s not what occurs here. It won’t work.
JC: With the Bt crops, you can’t wash out the Bt because it’s in every cell of the plant. When it’s harvested from the farmer’s field, that crop contains an insecticide within every cell of the plant, and you can’t wash it off. It is in what you eat. For this reason, I would think that the safety assessments should be pretty rigorous and pretty thorough, and they know when they’re thorough or rigorous enough.
DM: Isn’t that also the same with glyphosate? That’s in every cell of the plant once it’s applied. Obviously, that genetic modification to resistance is there, but that may not be as significant as the fact that the plant has been saturated with glyphosate.
JC: Yes. Some people think that the genetically engineered plant is actually designed to break down the herbicide. But that’s not the case. The plant maintains the herbicide. Basically, you can spray the plant with herbicide that would normally kill the plant, and therefore the plant wouldn’t come into sort of the human food supply. I think it’s dead.
DM: Right.
JC: You can even spray it with the herbicide, and it will survive. Therefore, there is the great possibility, shall we say (I’ll be conservative), that you’re likely to be eating more glyphosate now as a result of GM crops than you were [before].
DM: I think you can go more out on a limb on that, because I think there are a number of studies that show that it’s actually quite high and progressively increasing in the population when they do the analyses in the placenta of pregnant women in Canada. There was a study last year, and I think there are other studies in the urine. I just don’t remember the specifics, but it’s there. You’re eating this food. It’s there. It goes right into your system.
JC: But just to get back for a moment to the crops, they are… There are some organizations such as the CSIRO here in Australia. They are actually trying to develop crops that are supposed to have a benefit to the health of people. They’re actually trying to knock off a gene in wheat, so that the wheat produces a different type of starch and so that the starch then takes longer to digest in the large bowel, and therefore
they’re presuming that this will have some benefit to people. They are intending to do some animal studies and some human studies on this particular wheat plant.
However, it’s important to understand that the animal studies and the human studies that they’re doing are not designed to look for adverse effects. They’re designed to look to see if it has this beneficial effect that they hope the plant will have on bowel health. They’re not going to look for the cancers. They’re not going to look for allergies. They’re not going to look to see if it has any toxic effects on the animals or on the people.
DM: Yes, indeed. Most likely, these crops will have the added benefit of being glyphosate-resistant or to even more dangerous pesticides or herbicides that they have available. You’ve got that compounded synergy of challenging health effects.
JC: Yes. Indeed in the United States, at present, over 37 percent of GM crops are actually stacked gene. The GM corn and things like that have got what they call stacked genes in them. The plant has not just resistance to Roundup, for example, but has a Bt gene in it or has two Bt genes in it also. This is the standard in the United States diet: to be eating crops that have got two or more GM genes in them at the same time.
DM: Yes, indeed. First of all, I just want to comment that these ones that you mentioned that may have some beneficial effects for humans, none of those are commercially available. That’s all in the research phase at this point. As far as I know, none are commercially available.
JC: That’s correct, yes.
DM: It could be years. When they do come out with these fake, flawed studies, they’re not going to be looking at the toxicities; they’re just going to perform these studies to prove that as a benefit. But one of the other arguments that is being used is that food is important to the survival of the population. There’s an impression that we have a challenge with that, supplying enough food to the people of the world. One of the purported benefits is that that is useful to thwart starvation and it’s going to increase crop yields, when actually, when one carefully looks at this, from my understanding, the exact opposite is found. In fact, you can get far higher yields using traditional farming methods.
JC: Yes. This whole argument that the industry keeps on relying upon, which is, “We need this to feed everyone. We’re going to have billions of people in the world. We need to advance in our agriculture. We need to get GM crops there,” because they have a thing to feed the world. The assumption behind all of that is the view that… What they’re trying to say is GM crops have a high yield. Now, that’s been debated. In fact, there have been some papers that have come out that have refuted that, that you don’t actually have a high yield. In some plants, there seems to be a yield drag. In other words, it seems to reduce the yield of the plant.
They seem to be relying upon the argument that because it’s easier to apply herbicide to the plant, you will therefore have a high yield at the end because you will have less damage to the plant from bugs and insects eating it and things like that. That seems to be what they’re saying. Although they’re not actually saying it, that’s the only logical conclusion that you can make from what they are saying. Because they do not put a gene in there to increase yield; they put a gene in there to make the plant resistant to an herbicide. They put a gene in there to make the plant resistant to a bug coming along and eating it. [----- 40:00 -----]
DM: But that’s not the impression they give people.
JC: Of course not.
DM: They lead them to believe, which is exactly what you said, that there’s a gene to increase yield.
JC: That’s right. But I can assure people that there is no gene that they put in there that says, “I increase yield.”
DM: Well, there may be a gene that increase financial yield of the sellers.
JC: I mean, if you’re going to feed the world, you need to be able to provide food or the plants to poor farmers on small plots of land that they can use. It’s difficult for them already to be able to afford to buy herbicides. But if you’re giving them plants that need herbicides really to be able to function as they’re designed to be produced, they’re not going to have the high yield. More than that, the seeds are more expensive. Therefore it’s going to be harder for a poor farmer in a poor country to be able to buy the seeds and plant them.
They’re really not designed for Third World countries; they’re designed for monocultures in Western developed countries. That’s not what you tend to be seeing in the developing world. But there’s this other view as well that I would like to say. Look, GM crops have been around for at least decades, therefore if they’re going to be saving the world from starvation, we should already have seen that in some form in the world, the way they’ve saved the world from starvation.
DM: Sure. It’s actually large. They first started about 20 years ago. Maybe in large-scale, it’s been 10 years.
JC: Let’s have a look to see what’s happened in developing countries in that time. This is the problem when you try and find and give a technological fix to something that is a social problem in a country – it doesn’t work. In developing countries, there are a number of developing countries. They’re marching ahead, importing food, growing more food, and people are eating more. But because of the social inequality that you’re getting in those countries, you now have a huge obesity problem.
The number of people in a lot of developing countries who are finding it hard to get enough to eat and people who are kind of semi-starved, that number of people are now counterbalanced by the same number of people who are obese and who are suffering from diabetes, cancers due to obesity, heart disease, and all the problems of obesity, because you haven’t solved the underlying problem, which is you’ve got some wealthy people and you’ve got some people who just cannot afford to buy food. If you can’t afford to buy food, you can’t afford to buy GM food or non-GM food, you can’t afford to buy food.
DM: That is a challenge. The sad reality is that there’s an increase in the reliance on the technology. I’m a big fan of technology. But unfortunately, when it comes to the sustainability of this farming practice, the food value, and the nutrient density of the crops that are being produced, applying technology seems to be going in the absolute wrong direction. It’s devastating the quality and the health of the soils. In many communities and areas, they don’t have that long of a lifespan before the soil is going to give out. It’s not going to support this type of agricultural practice anymore.
The big issue is that many people… Well, first of all, many people in the United States aren’t even aware of what a GMO is. That’s one of the reasons why we were really firmly committed to passing these GMO labeling initiatives, obviously to decrease the prevalence of these products in the States, but more importantly to increase the consciousness of this issue, to spread that awareness to the dangers of these. The challenge has been that there have been a limited number of true scientifically validated studies documenting the toxicity of chronic exposure to these. Yours and Séralini’s are the two primary ones at this point. There are a lot of other suggestive ones. But we’re really short on data at this point for the reasons that we discussed earlier.
But the challenge remains that not enough people are aware now that you can make choices, that you can choose organic foods, and that you can avoid these foods and processed foods because it’s really pervasive. If you’re eating a processed food, which is majority of the food that we eat in the United States at least, and I suspect Australia, too, it’s going to have GM foods in it. That’s the way it is.
Avoiding these foods is going to be healthy not only for yourself but your progeny, because it could pass along. That’s one of the most frightening components of this, the infertility issue. The results of these studies are pretty clear. It definitely impairs fertility a few generations down. In some of these rat studies, it was like the third generation, and they weren’t able to get pregnant at all.
JC: Yes, I think even besides all of that, in my view, it’s a basic democratic right in the United States to have labeling laws, so that you can choose to eat GM foods or not. Being here in Australia, we’ve got labeling laws. New Zealand and every country in the European Union have labeling laws for GMOs, and yet the United States does not.
DM: Yeah, because we’re the freest country.
JC: But you know, the United States lectures other countries on democratic rights.
DM: Yes.
JC: It’s just curious to me as an outsider to your country. I’m going, “Okay, how come you don’t give this basic democratic right to your citizens, so that they can avoid GMOs if they want to?”
DM: It has actually resulted in the perversion of the democratic process and the progressive destruction of the whole process of government. After a few hundred years, it just starts to break apart. It gets turned into a fascist system, where these major corporations essentially control large parts of the government.
It’s especially true with Monsanto. They have this massive revolving door, which I think has to be oiled on a regular basis because of people going in and out, [from] their employee to the government, and agencies of the government that actually are responsible for controlling the regulation of the GMO in the US. They’ve so successfully mastered that concept that it’s virtually impossible to get any type of federal legislation that would address this. The only hope you have is to go through the state route.
JC: Now, how is it going with the various state votes that are occurring over there? Because of course, I am distant from you. I know some states have passed legislation for labeling, but where does that take them?
DM: The challenge with that is most of the major states, they have not passed because of these… Typically, the industry is able to fund 300 or 400 percent more than those who oppose it. In the US, it’s perfectly legal, perfectly legal – there’s no consequence about lying on your television commercial. They’ll spend 10, 20, 30, to 50 million dollars to buy every bit of airtime on TV and radio to lie, essentially lie. There’s no consequence for it. If you hear these lies on a regular basis and the majority of people don’t know what a GMO food is anyway, of course, you’re not going to pass the legislation.
They essentially have been able to prevent any of the legislation from being passed. The ones that have passed have sort of handcuffs on them. They’re restricted unless other states passed, because of the fear and the threat of the industry suing them and the state having to defend that lawsuit. It’s really the big multinational, multibillion-dollar corporations who are really controlling the show – and pretty effectively.
JC: How many states would need to pass the legislation before there are enough states to go, “Okay, we’re going to bring…”
DM: Well, we’ve got the next big state. There’s a few that have it on the table. The challenge is that there is a limited number of people who understand how to run these initiatives, to corral the local people and to do the proper marketing and media campaigns to give the education. The people who do know can only concentrate on a state or two.
There’s a lot of number of more states who would like to do it, but they just can’t because of the lack of professional expertise in running these campaigns. There’s really a professional… It needs to be done professionally, otherwise you just won’t win. I mean, you just can’t go in there blindly and think you’re going to win. You’re going to need significant resources behind you, and most of the campaigns don’t. There’s a limited number of funders for it. They can only concentrate on a state or two.
The next one in the United States is going to be Oregon. That’s going to be in November. That’s six months away. There’s a good chance that it will pass. Washington and California were the two biggest initiatives, and they both failed.
JC: It was interesting when I was in Iowa and watching, you know… I went over there for the end of the pig study and worked with Howard. Howard and I worked together on the end of the pig study. It was interesting when I was there watching adverts on television – they would talk about the latest genes, the latest sort of strains and varieties, that you could put as a farmer in your field. You could plant the seeds. But they tended to avoid quite strenuously any mention of it being genetically modified. [----- 50:00 -----]
It’s interesting how the debate in the United States used what’s occurring on television, the advertisements, and so forth. Because obviously, it’s also raising awareness in the United States that people are in fact eating genetically modified food.
DM: Absolutely. I liken it pretty similar to the tobacco challenge that we’ve had. For many years, the tobacco industry, which is really a fraction, I believe, of the size industry that’s making these seeds and the junk food companies… The truth did come to light, but they were able to fool people for many decades. Finally, now everyone knows that smoking causes cancer. But 34 years ago, that wasn’t the case; people didn’t believe it. The same process is going to happen with these genetically modified foods.
If you give the population an exposure to these toxins for a long enough time, we’re going to see disease. We’re going to see these diseases in large numbers. What we’re trying to do is prevent that. Hopefully, prevent it before the genie is out of the bottle. You’ve got these crops that are growing and spreading. It’s going to make it really challenging to have heirloom varieties and the ones that aren’t contaminated with these genes. It can continue to cause problem. It’s an issue that we’re committed to because it’s so near and dear to the health of the population.
JC: As I’ve always said to the GM industry, “I’m not anti-GM.” What I’ve always said to the industry is, “For crying out loud, before you feed this stuff to a big…”
DM: You got to test it.
JC: Make sure it’s safe to eat.
DM: Yeah.
JC: As I said to them repeatedly, “The safety system that you do are not good enough.” They’re just not good enough to be able to determine if a GM crop is safe to eat or not. Unfortunately now, billions of people have been exposed. If there is a health outcome in people from eating these foods, it may take years for it to develop. By then, there might be a lot of people affected. If only a very small proportion of
people are affected by a particular outcome, by the time you multiply that small proportion by large populations such as the population of the United States, you could have thousands of people sick.
DM: No, I think it’s going to be probably millions, if not tens of millions.
JC: Yeah, and that’s just within the United States. You’re right, they’re around the world. There are many people who are exposed.
Of course, when people talk about feeding the world these GM crops, when you then feed people in a developing country, people who may have all sorts of underlying health disease – they might have HIV, they might have tuberculosis, they might have worms in their intestines, and they might have all sorts or likely to have a number of confronting health problems, then you feed that person with genetically modified crops, you may get an effect in those people that you do not get in a Western society, where you don’t have the intestinal worms, you don’t have people with tuberculosis, and you don’t have people with all of these other issues.
I would have thought that if you’re going to try and feed the world the GM crops, it would be best to make absolutely sure that it was safe to eat …
DM: Sure.
JC: Before you put it to a vulnerable population.
DM: Now, I’m curious as to why you engage in this type of research, because obviously it’s a threat to your academic career. It’s not putting feathers in your cap – that’s for sure. Is it typical of the people in Australia, where there’s an increased consciousness about this issue? Did you come to it by some circuitous route? Or you just became aware of it and realized it was your responsibility to do something? I mean, how did you engage in it?
JC: I always have been a member of the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) for many years. I was on a group called the Food Legislation and Regulation Advisory Group to the PHAA. I found out in one of our meetings that our food regulator in Australia had just approved its first genetically modified crop to eat. My initial reaction was, “Oh, my goodness! I hope they’ve got some good evidence that it’s safe to eat.”
I asked for the description of what the regulator had done to show that it was safe to eat. I can still remember – I read this at home. I can remember pacing up and down my study at home afterwards, going, “You can’t say it’s safe based on this. It’s rubbish. You cannot say that this stuff is safe based on this safety assessment. It is so woefully inadequate.” I then wrote my reply and put my thoughts down on paper about all of the problems that I saw in the safety assessment. They’re much the same as the ones that I’ve already described – not enough animals in a group, not feeding it in the correct way, and not doing so many things.
Somebody somehow rather that it got put up on a website somewhere. The next thing I found was that my food regulator was on the phone, the chief scientist of the food regulator, was on the phone, setting up an interview with me. They wanted to talk to me. She said she wanted to talk to me. I said, “Okay, fine. We’ll meet by phone at this particular time.”
When we did that, I found out that the regulator was just using the time to tell me that they had put a rebuttal of my argument on the website, and this was just a courtesy call basically to say that this has been put on the website. But I also found that instead of just one person I was talking to, there were in fact three or four people on her side of the line compared to only me on my side of the line. I had no idea that that was going to happen. They were basically trying to tell me that I was an idiot.
Now, I had an awful lot to do without food regulator over many years, both in the nutritional side and also in the infectious disease part of it. This was the salmonella in food, campylobacter in food, and things like that – food-borne disease. I’ve known of opinions of a lot of people in nutrition and public health infectious disease. They all had a very low opinion of our food regulator. I’ve known some of them go and say adverse things about our food regulation, but I had not known of any one of them having this done to them. I could see, as other people put it not quite so kindly, “Yes, it looks like you’ve been singled out for particular attention in this area.”
I ask myself, “Why?” Why? What was it about GM foods that they were that touchy about? What was it that they felt the need to go down this extra mile to try and refute what I was saying when people have been talking about additives in food, insecticides in food, nutritional aspects of labeling, and infectious disease? People have been kind of saying things about the regulator for a long time. But not one case had the regulator come out and said anything adverse against those people until I came along and I talked about GM crops.
I decided to start immediately the sort of study that you should do to be able to see if a GM crop was causing harm to an animal. It just took a few years before I could do it on pigs legally in Iowa.
DM: This is the study that resulted after you were initially criticized and realized that someone needed to do the right study?
JC: Yes. I thought that these are the sort of studies that the industry had done. That bad study that I saw, that was actually pretty good compared to some I saw later on. They got worse, yeah. It’s unfortunate, but they got worse after that.
In fact, I saw one particular GM corn variety that is widely grown and is widely eaten in the United States, where our food regulator over here said that it was safe to eat based on no animal feeding studies at all. They just did this brief toxicology study in rats, where they fed the actual protein down the throats of rats on one occasion to see if the rats lived or died over the next seven to 14 days. That was the extent of the safety assessments and our food regulator said, “Yeah, that’s okay. It’s safe to eat. We’ll let it come into Australia now.”
DM: Well, I’m glad you had the courage to persist, because not many people are able to navigate those channels and really persist with all the adverse reactions they’re getting from the powers that be. I really appreciate all your efforts and likely future continuing efforts that you’re going to do. Do you have any plans in the future or any future collaboration with other investigators to do additional studies?
JC: I’ve long learned not to talk about...
DM: Okay, all right.
JC: Any work that I may or may not be doing. I’m completely tight-lipped on that. I apologize.
DM: I suspect you’ll be doing something in the future. One of the challenges, of course, another challenge, is funding the studies. But then also part of the funding of the study as a result is paying the actual investigators and the researchers, because when you apply for grant, that’s part of the process. That not only supplies the funding for the actual materials of the study, but the investigator. I understand that you were passionate about this work and realized that what traditionally happens to people in this field is that they’re removed from their position, so you took some proactive steps to circumvent that from discontinuing your work in this area. Can you tell us what you did? [----- 1:00:00 -----]
JC: Yes. Early on, it became obvious that there was really no money. You couldn’t go to a funding organization and ask for money to be able to do research in this area. I was concerned about the possibility of bad health effects occurring in people. I decided that I need to go looking. I needed to do some proper animal studies to be able to see if there were any adverse effects occurring in animals that might translate into people. You do experiments in animals that have human health endpoints to see whether there could be a possibility there.
I worked out that I needed to leave paid employment to be able to do it. I’m actually unfunded in this work. At the age of 45, I had enough investment income to be able to do work on this area basically for free and on very little money. I’ve been poor now for quite a few years. It became imperative for me to look. I had a burning question about whether it was safe for people to eat or not. I decided I needed to go looking, and I need to go looking in properly conducted studies.
That had also got the benefit, if you like. The fact that when people do try and get me removed from university positions (because I’m an affiliate associate professor at Findlers University, but I’m not paid by the university to be there either), it does have a benefit that when I do get attacked through my university, they can’t actually threaten me. I don’t feel under threat for losing my income as a result. I know of other people who I won’t name and who certainly have been threatened to losing their paid university job. If you’ve got a mortgage, you’ve got children in school, and the rest of it…
DM: Sure.
JC: That can be really…
DM: You have to make a choice.
JC: Yes. Most people would probably choose to look after their families [rather] than to continue on with the research. Not only is it very hard to get money to be able to do the research, but you have to be able to survive the abuse you get afterwards and the threats to your livelihood afterwards. In fact, a lot of people who work in this area are people who are retired from paid employment, because once again, they can’t be threatened with losing their livelihood.
DM: You’re the exact opposite of these tech companies that are seeking to sell this stuff. I mean, they’re doing it for enormous financial gain, implementing these very clever and sophisticated strategies to prevent anyone from interfering with their operation. And here you are, doing it for the exact opposite. You’re losing finances. You’re basically volunteering your efforts and very little income, just your retirement income. That’s a very noble gesture. You probably should be eligible for sainthood for that.
JC: Thank you for that.
DM: I mean, really. There are not many people willing to go to that extent. I don’t know your personal circumstances, but it’s a challenge. It really is a massive barrier for many researchers participating in this process, because they have obligations. I can’t fault them for that. You can’t. I mean, how can you? They’ve got to take care of their family. That’s a really high priority before you can take care of the culture, the larger culture. Thank you for having the courage to do that, and the commitment and dedication, because it certainly takes that to pursue what you’re doing. There are not many people doing it. Thanks a lot.
JC: Thank you very much indeed.