Expert response: Bt, GMO and HFCS
In response to our latest post, Study: Bt protein in your blood. Consumer beware?, we received a few tweets from @Jambutter. He had some questions that we thought deserved to be addressed, since these are on the minds of consumers everywhere. To do so, we asked one of the experts who we interviewed for the original post - Dr. Bruce Chassy, from the University of Illinois-Urbana.
- "What about #HFCS and the many corn-derived ingredients coming from field corn (vast majority of which is Bt-corn)?"
- "The 'fact' that Bt-corn is not directly sold to or consumed by consumers is irrelevant. Bt corn is everywhere in our foods."
- "Actually, Bt corn is NOT everywhere in our foods. As I stated in the original post, around 1% of it ends up in food. Starch, HFCS and corn isolated from corn (much of which is GM) DO end up in our foods and are, in fact, listed in the ingredients statements of quite a few products. All of these are highly purified products that are identical to the same product isolated from conventional corn; they also do not contain more than infinitesimal, often undetectable, amounts of Bt protein or any DNA from the GM DNA insertion.
- Bt is a highly specific biopesticide that has been safely used in agriculture and forestry for more than 60 years. It is one of the leading natural insecticides used in organic agriculture. The Bt protein kills only a few specific insects and has no biological activity on other species -- including no activity in mammals. There are decades of scientific literature and practical experience that attest to Bt safety. In fact, one could eat it by the spoonful with no adverse effect.
@Jambutter: "Make sure to also ask if cooking destroys genetic modifications, since that is primary consumer concern re: #GMO corn."
- "Not sure if @Jambutter means to ask if the cooking destroys the Bt or, if by genetic modifications, she/he means the DNA. Both are destroyed by heating, protein more so than DNA, but it depends on how much heat you apply. Both are thoroughly digested by stomach acid and proteins. In any case, both are completely safe to eat. Also, in case it is not known, these components are not present in the oil, starch and HFCS that are used in food products.
One additional thought from Dr. Chassy:
- There is an issue with calling a product that contains cornstarch or oil from GM corn, a GM product. Many countries define it this way, but it makes little scientific sense, since it is identical to starch or oil and has no protein or DNA.
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