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Do Pesticides Change Our DNA?

...making us more likely to get cancer? - Researchers have discovered that the seeds of some genetically modified crops can stay alive in soil for at least 10 years, meaning they could take over a field that has been planted in another crop. This shows why we need to open seed banks. And the pesticides sprayed on these fields, which GM crops are engineered to withstand, may be dangerous. Conventional pesticides are suspected of causing DNA changes that lead to cancer, so maybe the special pesticie used on GM crops does too.

New research in India shows that exposure to pesticides could have damaged the DNA of people on farms, leading to higher rates of cancer. A study of farmers in the Punjab area of India, where cancer rates have increased, reveals that there DNA has been altered, making them more susceptible to cancer. While it's doubtful that the Roundup pesticide used on GM crops was used there, since India has few GM crops, it does point out the potential danger in spraying pesticides. In BBC News, David Loyn quotes researcher Satbir Kaur as saying, "We found significant change in the DNA, so the cancer risk is greatly increased when the extent of DNA damage is very high."

It's hard to get rid of GM crops: when researchers in Sweden examined a field planted in GM canola a decade ago and found that the plants were still growing there, despite efforts to remove them, including spraying them repeatedly with conventional pesticides.

In BBC News, Richard Black quotes Clare Oxborrow of Friends of the Earth as saying, "Despite the best efforts by the researchers to eliminate GM [canola], it appears that once it is planted, it is virtually impossible to prevent GM contamination of future crops."

Black quotes plant ecologist Mark Westoby as saying, "This study confirms that GM crops are difficult to confine. We should assume that GM organisms cannot be confined, and ask instead what will become of them when they escape."

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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