Before I get to the substance of this post, let me state that I’m not a big fan of genetically modified food crops (GMO crops). And there are few bloggers who have spent more time blogging about antibiotic resistance (never mind spending part of his professional career addressing the problem). But this claim that GMOs have led to multi-drug resistant tuberculosis is absurd:
Instead of blaming multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis on patients and their alleged non-adherence to the prescribed drug regime, it would be prudent to investigate and eradicate the underlying cause for multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis and other drug and antibiotic resistant infectious diseases first–namely commercial gene technology…
Contrary to what the corporate yarn spinners of biotech companies want the public to believe, not one single human safety study has ever been conducted. One does not need a Ph.D. in genetics to see the correlation between GMOs and the sharp rise in HIV infections and multi-drug resistant tuberculosis and other diseases. The decision-makers who keep violating our human right to bodily integrity by unleashing these toxins into our environment and food chain without our knowledge and consent must be held accountable.
While one might not need a “Ph.D. in genetics”, in this case, it would have helped. I’m not going to fisk all of the ‘scary associations’, since there is a much more simple argument. None of the genetic mechanisms implicated in drug resistance in TB are found in GMOs. Resistance in TB is a result of point mutations and chromosomal alterations, none of which are transferred from GMOs. How do we know this? We’ve sequenced drug resistant TB genomes, and the transferrable mechanisms of resistance simply are not there (homeopathic genetic elements, anyone?).
Despite the authors’ claim that incomplete therapy isn’t to blame, erm, it is. Because TB grows slowly and lives for very long periods in the human body (months or years), we can actually isolate TB through time, and, lo and behold, drug resistant TB evolves in cases of incomplete therapy. We also have correlative studies. Those who fail to complete treatment are more likely to develop drug resistant TB.
The ultimate cause of drug resistant TB isn’t GMOs or personal failings, but poverty. Too many people can’t afford to take a full course of drugs, so why not stop once the symptoms go away?
That is the root cause of drug resistant TB. If we want to solve the problem, we have to correctly identify the medical and social causes of the problem.