Infectious Diabetes and Obesity – A New Genetically Engineered Plague?

by Sydney Ross Singer

October 24, 2007

The following vital information is, frankly, frightening, as it means that we have entered into a new world of disease never before imagined. This is not a conspiracy theory. When you read what follows, you will understand why this issue may already be known by a select few, but kept from the public domain.

The issue has to deal with obesity and type 2 diabetes. Over the last several decades, obesity and diabetes have become epidemic. Children, adults, poor people, wealthy people, Americans, Africans – all over the world people are becoming obese and developing diabetes. We are concerned that the current epidemic of obesity and diabetes may be caused by a new problem, never before considered because it never before existed.

Of course, when you think of the cultural/lifestyle causes of obesity and diabetes, the answer quickly comes that these people need to eat less and exercise more. Our lifestyles have become sedentary, and people have become more spectators, and less doers. And catering to this “market” is a large supply of dietary products, weight loss methods, and pharmaceuticals, like insulin.

It is this insulin that plays a key role in the new crisis.

Insulin, of course, is a hormone. It is active in very minute concentrations. All hormones are chemical messengers and facilitators that allow our body’s organs to keep integrated and modulated as they perform their vital functions. Insulin is a very important hormone, responsible for getting sugar (glucose) from the bloodstream absorbed by the cells, which need the sugar for energy. The cells have receptors for insulin on their cell membranes, which act as “locks” for which the insulin is the “key”, turning on the cell to take up the life-supporting sugar.

Without the effect of insulin, the cells would not be able to drink up the sugar from the bloodstream, and would starve. The blood “spills” the sugar out in the kidneys, and into the urine. This condition of reduced insulin activity and sugar in the urine is called diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is a rarer form of the disease, in which the pancreas, the organ that manufacturers and releases insulin into the bloodstream, reduces or stops its insulin production. These people can die without insulin being provided in drug form. Type 2 diabetes constitutes 90% of diabetes cases, and is typically associated with overeating and obesity. It is often cured by dietary and other lifestyle changes.

However, not all people recover. There are also other conditions that can lead to obesity and diabetes. One is having too much insulin. If you have too much insulin in your bloodstream, it will cause your cells to take up so much sugar that it lowers your blood sugar level, a condition called hypoglycemia. This makes you hungry, so you would eat more to raise you sugar level back up. But the high insulin quickly sends that new sugar into the cells for storage as well, along with water to help keep the sugar in solution. This makes the cells swell, as well as make fat cells convert the sugar into more fat, ultimately leading to obesity. Since the cells also become less sensitive to insulin because of the high levels, it also causes diabetes.

Hyperinsulinemia, then, causes obesity and diabetes. This condition is also epidemic, and parallels the current diabetes and obesity trends. More and more people are developing these problems every day, at an alarming rate. It is as though diabetes and obesity were contagious, spreading from person to person, like some germ plague.

Actually, this is what we are afraid may be happening!

It has to do with genetic engineering, and the production of human insulin in certain species of bacteria and yeast. There was a time when diabetics needing insulin would receive insulin from a pig’s pancreas. As you can imagine, taking injections of pig insulin could lead to allergic reactions. Far better, some thought, to have human insulin to give to humans. But there was simply no source of human insulin. Until genetic engineers found a way!

Insulin is a protein, even though it is a hormone. Some hormones are steroids, like estrogen and testosterone. These are produced in the cells by a metabolic process that starts with cholesterol and, through a series of enzymatic reactions, produces the final steroid hormone. Other hormones are proteins, directly coded for in the DNA of the cell’s genes. Other protein hormones are growth hormone, and glucagon.

We all have genes that code for these protein hormones. Genetic engineers have been able to find these genes, and cleanly cut them out of the section of DNA in which they are normally located. They took the human gene for insulin and placed it into the DNA chain of a bacterium. This makes the bacterium “part human”, so to speak, in that the bacterium now makes human insulin. All you have to do is extract the insulin from the bacterium, and you have a relatively inexpensive source of human insulin.

The idea is simple to state, but it took science decades to develop this technology of splicing genetic information from one organism and putting it into another organism – of another species! The possibilities are endless. But like all technology, there is also a cost. Every new invention that changes the world has its advantages and disadvantages, its rewards and its risks, its successes and its failures.

The bacterium chosen to be the recipient of this human gene is the commonly found, and well studied, E. coli. Our intestines team with trillions of E. coli bacteria. Some E. coli strains cause disease, and are the leading cause of food poisoning. Most are benign, and are our constant intestinal companions. Why use this particular bacterium for genetic engineering? It has to do with its genetic make-up, and the ease with which E. coli DNA can be manipulated, even with foreign DNA.

The company that developed genetically engineered E. coli that makes human insulin was Genentech. They did this in 1978. Eli Lilly, another drug company, purchased the license for this process, and is now the producer of human insulin from E. coli.

Besides E. coli, scientists have also done a great deal of genetic research and manipulation with another micro-organism – Saccharomyces cerevisiae, also known as Baker’s yeast. That’s right, the same yeast used to make bread, wine, beer, and other foods. It wasn’t long after Genentech’s E. coli success that another company, Novonordisk, developed a Baker’s yeast engineered to produce human insulin. Both these GMO’s – the E. coli and Baker’s yeast that both produce human insulin – are now virtually the only sources of insulin for diabetics. Animal insulin manufacturers can not compete with this cheap, genetically engineered human insulin supply.

It may sound like a good idea to have all this genetically engineered insulin cheaply available, given the epidemic of obesity and diabetes. But what is the price of having these GMO’s making human insulin?

The price, we believe, is that these GMO’s are causing the obesity and diabetes epidemics!
Just as with all new technology, there are accidents. Novonordisk reports several accidental spills of genetically modified, human-insulin producing Baker’s yeast! For example, in one case in 2004, according to Novonordisk, “During the cleaning process, 10 litres of media containing GMO were discharged directly into the sewage system. Normally the media would be discharged into a tank. When the operator saw the accidental release, the discharge of the media was stopped and the sewage system was disinfected.”

There have been other such incidents over the years. Eli Lilly admits to many dozens of “serious environmental events”, in fact, 29 such events between 2003 and 2005. These events include,
The effect of these organisms on the environment is an experiment in the making. While these companies say their E. coli and Baker’s yeast are too weak from laboratory conditions to survive and compete in the wild, the fact is that they don’t really know what will happen until it actually does happen. It’s all so new, that the impacts of a spill are still considered a mystery.

Obviously, the “Precautionary Principle” is not in effect here.

But if these GMO’s did get out, the manufacturers assert, they are harmless to humans. Of course, since there are no published scientific studies of what happens when a human is infected with these GMO’s, this is another optimistic assumption by these manufacturers. What would happen? One can make some educated guesses based on known medical knowledge. What would happen if you had bacteria and/or yeast in your intestines that were producing insulin?

Your intestinal fluid would be high in insulin, produced by the genetically modified microbes. Some of that insulin would be absorbed into the bloodstream. This would make your blood high in insulin, causing hyperinsulinemia. Over time, this would make you obese and diabetic, a known outcome of hyperinsulemia!

Since GMO’s would be producing insulin in your intestines, your pancreas would reduce its insulin production, since more is not needed. This would eventually create dependence on the GMO insulin absorbed from your intestines. The level of GMO’s in your intestines will rise and fall depending on your diet and intestinal health. Some times, if the level is high, the insulinemia would be higher. Other times, the GMO’s can virtually disappear, causing a shortage of insulin, catching the pancreas by surprise, before it has time to reactivate its insulin production. It would be as though you were taking varying doses of insulin medication at erratic times. Your blood sugar and metabolism would be a mess. You would be obese, diagnosed as a diabetic, and ironically prescribed more insulin!

Are these GMO’s as harmless as their manufacturers claim? We may just be starting to see just how harmful they can be.

It is not only insulin that is produced in E. coli and Baker’s yeast. Human Growth Hormone is also manufactured this way. What would happen if GMO’s making growth hormone colonized your intestines? Excessive growth hormone would be absorbed into your bloodstream, and over time this can lead to in excessive body growth, arthritis, carpel tunnel syndrome, excessive snoring from enlarged throat, impaired vision, headaches, fatigue, menstrual disorders, high blood pressure, and – diabetes!

Then there is the hormone glucagon, which has the opposite action as insulin. That is, this hormone raises blood sugar by making the cells give up their sugar stores. This hormone is also manufactured in genetically engineered E. coli and Baker’s yeast. Having these GMO’s in your intestines would also cause havoc to your blood sugar level and metabolism.

So here is the crisis. There are drug companies making human hormones in the most common bacterium that humans live with – E. coli – and in the yeast commonly used for our food supply – Baker’s yeast. Both of these genetically modified microbes have entered the environment. These GMO’s constitute a new threat to human health, as our intimate contact with them may lead to their colonization of the human intestinal flora.

Besides accidental releases of these GMO’s there is the deliberate selling of old GE yeast to pig farmers. Once the yeast is used to make insulin, the yeast is heated to inactivate it, and the resulting slurry is sold for animal feed. However, yeast (and E. coli) are known to make very heat stable spores, which can theoretically survive the heating process. A few surviving spores out of trillions of yeast cells is statistically insignificant. But those spores can enter the environment and reproduce, and possibly enter the food chain and human (or animal) intestines.

Of course, before everyone gets alarmed that a new plague has come, there needs to be more research. If these GMOs have contaminated our environment and are causing diabetes and obesity, then it should be possible to take intestinal samples from some obese, diabetic people and find the offending, rogue microbes. Ideally, this is something that the manufacturers of these GMOs should be paying for. However, these manufacturers should not be doing the research themselves. It is not wise to trust research into a GMO leak with the company that makes the GMO. If insulin, growth hormone, glucagon, and other hormones are being produced in human intestines, causing a pandemic of obesity and diabetes and who knows what else, then the results would be too important and damaging to the manufacturer to trust it to anyone but a third party.

But who would that third party be? Government regulation of the genetic engineering industry is minimal. Lobbying by GE companies is extensive, and effective. The attitude of the government has been that, since the GE industry could be harmed by safety regulations based on the precautionary principle, we must all accept the technology now to let the nascent industry get established, and wait for an obvious disaster before making any impositions. As a result, the industry is policing itself, which is as big a mistake as letting these corporations tinker with these microbes in the first place.

The big question is, if the results showed that this nightmare of infectious obesity and diabetes, spread by GE bacteria and yeast, is, indeed, a reality, then will the public be told? You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to see that the truth may be untold. Of course, perhaps not surprisingly, the result of an insulin-producing GMO spill would be increased cases of diabetes, and this would translate into higher sales of insulin. Those responsible for the problem would be the first to benefit from it.

Perhaps these organisms could be called GERMs, or Genetically Engineered Rogue Microbes. We believe there needs to be a broad discussion of this threat posed by GERMs to human health. Endocrinologists will have to work with gastroenterologists, nutritionists, and epidemiologists as they explore this new form of disease – contagious hormonal disease. Public health experts will have to advise the public and institutions on ways to minimize the spread of these GERMs. There should be a department at the Centers for Disease Control that is dedicated to GERM Surveillance and epidemic control.

How do you personally take precautions against a coming GERM plague, especially when it will probably be emphatically denied by these companies and their government accomplices? How will medicine meet the challenge of diagnosing and treating diseases caused by GERMs? Is there any way to put this genie back into its bottle?

Whether or not it is too late remains to be seen. Research is desperately needed, along with continuous monitoring of commercial Baker’s yeast supplies for food production, and peoples’ intestinal contents for signs of GERMs. Our food and our homes may be contaminated with GERMs. Some E. coli and Baker’s yeast have been modified to produce, not hormones, but drugs and enzymes. Obesity and diabetes may only be the beginning of a series of health problems that confuse doctors, disable and kill patients, and are spread from person to person in a handshake or in a piece of bread or a glass of beer.

We have been sold the advantages of Genetic Engineering. The creation of new GERMs, and the havoc they cause, may be the high price we are forced to all pay for this awesome, terrifying technology.

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