Common denominator in GMO corn and ‘natural’ quinoa: Both produce pesticides


I feel that one of the most highly misunderstood things about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is the insect-resistant trait that certain varieties of GMO corn and GMO cotton have: the Bt trait. Bt stands for Bacillus thuringiensis and it is a naturally occurring bacteria that is found in the soil. Bt produces a protein to kill very specific types of insects (corn borers and rootworms) but do not harm other insects or humans.

So plant scientists found a way to allow corn to protect itself from these specific insects that damage the crop using a very precise method with biotechnology by placing a gene from Bt into corn (GMOs). But you know what? Plants have been doing this for thousands of years! They naturally produce pesticides to protect themselves from damage from pests. In fact, it’s been calculated that 99.99 percent of the pesticides in the American diet are chemicals that plants produce to defend themselves, and it is estimated that humans ingest roughly 5,000 to 10,000 different natural pesticides and their breakdown products.

So why the comparison to GMO corn? Well, quinoa produces chemicals called saponins, which are simply defined as “a class of chemical compounds found in particular abundance in various plant species”.

Should we fear quinoa as it is coated in a “toxic pesticide”? No. It has been determined a safe substance to ingest by the same regulatory bodies that determine the use for Bt in GMO corn crops.

Read full, original article: What Do GMO Corn and Quinoa Have In Common?

  • Saponins are chemical compounds produced naturally by plants, these are structurally similar to soap and easily washed. Actually, saponins produced by quinoa act as a natural pesticide which protects them from
    insects, especially during the post-harvest, when the quinoa grains are stored. However, saponins are not 100% effective in controlling plagues that may attack the quinoa plants, especially during the growing period. Although different biotechnology methods such as the use of bacillus Thuringensis or Bacillus subtilis are a very effective way of controlling plagues in organic fields, GMOs are also an alternative to reduce application of chemical pesticides in cultivation grounds.

  • slgnunez

    Wow… This is completely unscientific. Quinoa Saponins are a pest deterrent. Saponins do not kill bugs. A pesticide is by definition a pest killer. Quinoa saponins are a coating that deters some (not all) pests from eating the quinoa. It is not a man-made chemical. It is also not genetically engineered.

    • Discosoma1232

      “Man-made” is really a false category. Chemicals are chemicals, regardless of what makes them, and their toxicity is not determined by whether or not the chemical is “man-made” or not. And besides, BT PROTEINS ARE NATURALLY OCCURRING!!! It doesn’t matter what organism is producing them either, same chemical, same effect, same safety.

    • I see nothing unscientific about using the term “pesticide”, actually different scientific studies suggest quinoa saponin as a natural pesticide due to its differential toxicity in different organisms including its antibiotic and anti-fungal properties. Actually the FAO has tested its potential as a pesticide and an
      alternative for an integrated pest management program. This is the reason why it acts indirectly as a “deterrant” and why we need to wash quinoa before consuming it… Of course saponin is not genetically engineered. Anyway, thanks for your comments.

  • FedUp

    Oh boy, here we go. Please tell us next how genetically modifying plants is the same as cross breeding. This site is looking desperate

    • Discosoma1232

      Thats not the main point being made here… and i see no way in which “This site is looking desperate”, if you mean desperate for science/evidence.