Genetically modified foods are with us, probably to stay. And why wouldn’t we want plants that naturally fend off insects instead of spraying dangerous pesticides on them? Perhaps because the bug-killing toxins that those plants produce are starting to infiltrate the human blood stream, and we have no idea what they do.
Quick background: Some genetically modified plants have been engineered to produce the Bt toxin, derived from a bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis. The Bt toxin is a natural pesticide, but it doesn’t hurt other plants or insects that are good for the plants. When humans eat a Bt-modified plant, the toxin simply dissolves in our gut. No harm, no foul.
But now a new study (PDF) has found that–whoops–the bacteria doesn’t totally get killed by our stomach acid. They’ve found it in the blood steam, which means it has access to the entire body. And, even more worrisome, they’ve found it in the blood of fetuses whose pregnant mothers were exposed.
What does exposure to the toxin do? No one knows, because everyone was so sure that we would be protected from it, no one bothered finding out before putting it in our plants. The study notes that “given the potential toxicity of these environmental pollutants and the fragility of the fetus, more studies are needed.” Indeed they are.