Former Biotech Engineer Speaks About Dangers of GMO

Thierry Vrain, a former advocate of chemical-based agriculture and genetic engineering, has evolved into a supporter of organic farming and anti-GMO proponent. When asked what led to the change from pro-GMO to anti-GMO, Vrain explained:

thierry vrain

Photo: Thierry Vrain/Facebook.

Research scientists from the US Food & Drug Administration made it clear in the early 1990s that there could be indirect effects from eating GM crops, such as toxins, allergens, and nutritional deficiencies. Those warnings were ignored. Now a good number of publications are confirming the predictions of the FDA scientists.

Unintended Consequences of Genetic Engineering

In an interview for The Organic & NON-GMO Report, writer Ken Roseboro asks Vrain to elaborate on his statement that the science behind genetic engineering is based on a misunderstanding.

When we started with genetic engineering in the 1980s, the science was based on the theory that one gene produces one protein. But we now know, since the human genome project, that a gene can create more than one protein. The insertion of genes in the genome through genetic engineering interrupts the coding sequence of the DNA, creating truncated, rogue proteins, which can cause unintended effects. It’s an invasive technology.

Biotech companies ignore these rogue proteins; they say they are background noise. But we should pay attention to them. It must be verified that they produce no negative effects.

A key point is that the concern about genetic engineering should be about the proteins. Many plants and animals are not edible because their proteins are toxic or poisonous. To test for the safety of Bt crops, scientists have mostly fed the pure protein to rats, and there may be no problem. But it’s different if you feed rats the whole GM plant because they are getting these rogue proteins that could cause harm.

How do you explain published papers describing how rats and mice suffer organ damage from eating GM corn or soy? It’s too easy to dismiss those as pseudoscience. Rats and mice are the canary in the mine, and we should be paying attention to what happens to them.

Roseboro also asked him to talk about how he came to favor organic farming over conventional agriculture.

I used to be a soil biologist and focused on fertilizers and pesticides. When I retired I started to look around and, quite frankly, the organic side of soil biology made more sense than what I had taught.

Industrial agriculture relies on inputs that are good for the chemical industry. Unfortunately, we have evidence that inputs are degrading soil biodiversity. Industrial agriculture completely ignores the ecology of the soil.

When I was a soil biologist I would look at the biodiversity of the soil. I would see a big difference between industrial farms and organic farms, which had far more species of soil microfauna, microscopic “animals” and nematodes, what I call biodiversity.

Read more of this fascinating article here.

The biggest take-away for us from Vrain’s comments is that if you feel like you can’t trust these large, profit-driven corporations when they tell you something is safe, you’d be right. The idea that something that’s not well understood nor properly studied (rogue proteins) is inconsequential is not something I want to leave up to them to decide. Especially when it’s meant for our grocery store shelves.

About Laura

Laura is passionate about food from real farmers and artisans. She lives with her husband in Grand Rapids on the river. Sometimes it flows over, but mostly she is greeted by the ducks, geese and her neighbor's chickens. They like to hop up on her windowsill and eat the spiders. Yay! She's the co-founder of Two Sister Organics, a natural and organic skin care company.

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