Vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in our foods, we expect. But information?
According to recent research from China’s Nanjing University, when people eat rice, tiny sequences of microRNA from the plant-based food can survive the body’s digestive process and end up absorbed in human tissue where — and here’s the reason why we need to know about this study — plant microRNA may actually affect how our cells behave and function. In the study, Exogenous plant MIR168a specifically targets mammalian LDLRAP1: evidence of cross-kingdom regulation by microRNA, published in the Journal Cell Research, the genetic material from rice showed up in human liver cells where it appeared to influence cells’ uptake of cholesterol from the blood.
First discovered only a decade ago, microRNA is a short, single-stranded RNA molecule that plays a pivotal role in how genes express themselves. For example, as Maverick of Medicine Ray Kurzweil explains, short RNA fragments produced by the human body do things like, “tell the heart cells that only the certain genes which should be expressed in a heart cell are expressed.” The Chinese study is ground breaking because it shows that plant microRNA introduced through diet may have a similar influence over human DNA.
The good news? Some experts speculate that the ability of plant microRNA to affect human cellular behavior might be a way to partially explain the effectiveness of herbal medicine. Beyond vitamin, minerals, and other components of herbs, might it be possible that genetic information in the plant comes preprogrammed to tell certain cells how to initiate healing? In the Nanjing University study, for example, researchers noted that rice microRNA consistently ended up in human liver cells where it interacted with cell DNA to change how cells used cholesterol.
Dr. Garry Gordon, another pioneer interviewed in Mavericks of Medicine, thinks discoveries about microRNA may someday lead to diets and food choices that can target risk for specific diseases. “We can make foods that will actually lower your risk of ever getting Alzheimer's — even if both your mother and father’s side had the disease...Knowledge is the gene testing, and we can modulate genes by getting appropriate natural products — like RNA foods.”
But the not good news? According to the article in The Atlantic entitled, "The Very Real Danger of Genetically Modified Foods", the study may inadvertently reveal a pathway by which genetically modified (GM or GMO) foods influence human health. In other words, if we eat corn that has genetic information telling it to act as its own pesticide, how will this plant’s microRNA behave in the human body? What about other examples of “frankenfoods”: vegetables with scorpion genes; tomatoes with flounder genes; and potatoes with jellyfish genes that glow when they need to be watered? What kind of microRNA do these GMO foods contain — and how will these affect our genes? At Smart Publications, we have always been concerned about what you are ingesting when you eat genetically engineered foods and brought this up in our article, Do You Know What You are Eating? A Look at Genetically Modified Foods, from years ago.
Don’t expect the GMO food industry itself to begin looking for answers to these questions anytime soon. As food writer Ari LeVaux observes, the Monsanto website currently states that, "There is no need to test the safety of DNA introduced into GM crops. DNA (and resulting RNA) is present in almost all foods. DNA is non-toxic and the presence of DNA, in and of itself, presents no hazard.” They have no more incentive to look for bad news about GMO foods than the cigarette companies had to look for negative health effects of smoking cigarettes.
But where is the FDA in all this? Aren't they watching out for our safety with respect to GMO foods? Well, in a word: no. They aren't working for you or any of the other 99% of Americans. The FDA is working for … Monsanto itself along with a collection of the other most wealthy corporations in the world. This is why I gave one of my recent blogs the title: Occupy FDA: Smart Publications Alternative Heath Solutions Threatened. I make the modest proposal that the FDA should be working for us – the 99% – or it should be immediately de-funded.
If more studies like this one come to light, it’s likely that perception about GMO food safety will also change. In the meantime, as we begin to understand just how complex the relationship between food and our health really is, keeping GMO foods out of our kitchens and gardens is more important than ever.