Ex Monsanto genetic engineer warns about potential health risks of GMO potatoes

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Caius Rommens was a director at Simplot Plant Sciences where he led the development of the company's genetically engineered Innate potato. He is also a former longtime Monsanto team leader. He is now blowing the whistle on GMOs.

  • Reflect On:

    Does it feel like the pendulum is swinging in favor of information that expresses the long-hidden truth? Is propaganda from big companies being exposed at an even faster rate?

According to many, there are multiple health concerns that arise from the genetic engineering of our food. On top of this are multiple massive marketing campaigns to convince the human population that genetically modified food is not only completely safe, but also very necessary to combat issues that threaten the global food supply. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to believe, as problems these days seem to be orchestrated, staged, completely fake, or created in order to be used by the same powers to impose more measures upon the populace.

When it comes to GMOs, academia, science, and all sorts of scientists around the world have been raising their concerns for years, suggesting that GMO products, especially ones that we eat, should not have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

If fact, in 1996, Steven M. Druker did something very few Americans were doing then — learn the facts about the massive venture to restructure the genetic core of the world’s food supply.  Druker, being a public interest attorney and the Executive Director of the Alliance For Bio-Integrity, initiated a lawsuit in 1998 that forced the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to divulge its files on genetically engineered foods. He’s recently published a book on the lawsuit (2015). In the book, Druker provides details of his experience, and he’s also released the documents on his website showing the significant hazards of genetically engineering foods and the flaws that the FDA made in its policy.

It’s called Altered Genes, Twisted Truth: How the Venture to Genetically Engineer Our Food Has Subverted Science, Corrupted Government, and Systematically Deceived the Public.

“As part of the process, they portrayed the various concerns as merely the ignorant opinions of misinformed individuals – and derided them as not only unscientific, but anti-science. They then set to work to convince the public and government officials, through the dissemination of false information, that there was an overwhelming expert consensus, based on solid evidence, that GMOs were safe.” – Jane Goodall (source)

GMO Potatoes

Ken Roseboro is editor and publisher of The Organic & Non-GMO Report, a monthly news magazine that focuses on threats posed by GM foods and the growing non-GMO food trend. He sat down with Caius Rommens, who was Director of Research at Simplot Plant Sciences from 2000 to 2013 where he led the development of the company’s genetically engineered Innate potato. Over time, Rommens started to have serious doubts about his work and worried about potential health risks from eating the GMO potatoes, which are now sold in 4,000 supermarkets in the United States. Prior to this he worked at Monsanto as a team leader.  At Simplot, he designed a genetically modified potato that he believed “was resistant to bruise and late blight, and that could be used to produce French fries that were less colored and less carcinogenic than normal fries.

The following came from this interview with Rommens:

Interviewer: The main genetic engineering of the Simplot GMO potatoes…was silencing genes called RNAi. What are some of the possible negative consequences of silencing genes?

Rommens: Silencing is not gene-specific. Any gene with a similar structure to the silencing construct may be silenced as well. It is even possible that the silencing that takes place inside the GM potatoes affects the genes of animals eating these GM potatoes. I am most concerned about bees that don’t eat GM potatoes but may use GM potato pollen to feed their larvae. Based on my assessment of the literature, it appears that the silencing constructs are active in pollen.

He is telling us that silencing the PRO (polyphenol oxidase, a gene responsible for browning in potatoes) gene increases toxins that accumulate within the GMO potatoes.

Interviewer: Why are these toxins are produced and what effects they could have on human health?

Rommens: Ex-colleagues of mine had shown that PPO-silencing increases the levels of alpha-aminoadipate by about six-fold. Alpha-aminoadipate is a neurotoxin, it can also react with sugars to produce advanced glycoxidation prouducts implicated in a variety of diseases.

This is obviously concerning, and makes one wonder how these ‘things’ were approved for human consumption. In 2009, an application for the approval of a Monsanto GM corn variety, LY038, was denied in Europe after regulators there found it to have high concentrations of alpha-aminoadipate.

Rommens: Similarly, ex-colleagues had shown that the damaged and bruised tissues of potatoes may accumulate high levels of tyramine, another toxin. Such damaged tissues are normally identified and trimmed, but they are concealed, or partially concealed, and much of it is not trimmed in GM potatoes. Therefore, it seems important that Simplot should determine the full spectrum of possible tyramine levels in their GM potatoes. Another potential toxin is chaconine-malonyl. There is little known about this compound, but ex-colleagues had shown that it is increased by almost 200 percent upon PPO-silencing. This should probably be investigated.

They key factor here is the impact of GMO technology on the proliferation of a variety of diseases.

Rommens Retracts His Own Paper

A paper published by Rommens and colleague J.R. Simplot, also a former Monsanto employee, entitled Crop Improvement through Modification of the Plant’s Own Genome, was later retracted by the authors themselves after they admitted to fraud. According to the abstract,

Plant genetic engineering has, until now, relied on the incorporation of foreign DNA into plant genomes. Public concern about the extent to which transgenic crops differ from their traditionally bred counterparts has resulted in molecular strategies and gene choices that limit, but do not eliminate, the introduction of foreign DNA. Here, we demonstrate that a plant-derived P-DNA fragment can be used to replace the universally employed Agrobacterium transfer T-DNA. Marker-free P-DNAs are transferred to plant cell nuclei together with conventional T-DNAs carrying a selectable marker gene. By subsequently linking a positive selection for temporary marker gene expression to a negative selection against marker gene integration, 29% of derived regeneration events contain P-DNA insertions but lack any copies of the T-DNA. Further refinements are accomplished by employing Ω-mutated virD2 and isopentenyl transferase cytokinin genes to impair T-DNA integration and select against backbone integration, respectively. The presented methods are used to produce hundreds of marker-free and backbone-free potato (Solanum tuberosum) plants displaying reduced expression of a tuber-specific polyphenol oxidase gene in potato. The modified plants represent the first example of genetically engineered plants that only contain native DNA.

Except, that wasn’t true. As the retraction notice suggests, Rommens appears to be an expert in the properties of ring fries, but in fact he just made stuff up:

This article has been retracted at the request of the authors. Retraction is based on three inaccurate statements of facts that are associated with a plant-derived transfer DNA. Two of the inaccuracies were described on p. 422 (first paragraph of the “Results” section): the plant-derived transfer DNA was not isolated from pooled wild potato (Solanum tuberosum) DNA but, instead, from DNA of the commercial potato var Ranger Russet, and its sequence was not confirmed by inverse PCR. Furthermore, the sequences of the left and right border-like regions shown in Figure 1B reflect transfer DNA-like primer sequences and are not present in the Ranger Russet genome. The corresponding author, Caius M. Rommens, takes responsibility for the inaccuracies and sincerely apologizes to the readers, reviewers, and editors of Plant Physiology.

The GMO-Cancer rat study is also another example of great interest with regards to concerns.

There are also WikiLeaks documents pertaining to GMOs showing just how politicized these matters are; the US even threatened to cause ‘economic war’ to countries who refused their product.

“The US Department of State is selling seeds instead of democracy. This report provides a chilling snapshot of how a handful of giant biotechnology companies are unduly influencing US foreign policy and undermining our diplomatic efforts to promote security, international development and transparency worldwide. This report is a call to action for Americans because public policy should not be for sale to the highest bidder.” – Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch Executive (source)

One Massive Genetic Experiment

The manipulation of science by GMO proponents in order to get them approved, and become filthy rich at the expense of the environment and human health is clearly a dangerous problem. Biologist and author David Suzuki were right when he said that humanity has become one massive genetic experiment. The genetic modification which has and does occur in nature is far different from what these biotechnology companies are doing. I go into much more detail about that in a previous article. Thankfully, we have courageous scientists with integrity like Caius Rommens who are willing to abandon their lucrative careers in favor of human safety and the truth.

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By Arjun Walia / Collective Evolution Reporter

I joined the CE team in 2010 shortly after finishing university and have been grateful for the fact that I have been able to do this ever since :) There are many things happening on the planet that don't resonate with me, and I wanted to do what I could to play a role in creating change. It's been great making changes in my own life and creating awareness and I look forward to more projects that move beyond awareness and into action and implementation.

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(Source: collective-evolution.com; June 11, 2020; https://tinyurl.com/ycwag5lx)
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