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Composting GMOs

What happens when genetically engineered foods (GMOs) are composted?

GMO Kitchen WasteYour friendly and equally inquisitive Planet Natural Blogger gets questions. Sometimes they’re real stumpers. Here’s one:

If you are composting GMOs without knowing it does it mean you are growing them by using the compost?

We had to think about this awhile. We know that the composting process is capable of great things. We know that it can help “repair” contaminated soils and prevent toxic runoff into our watercourses; that it can reduce to some degree the toxicity of soils contaminated with chemical substances such as creosote; that it can even reduce the toxicity of explosive residues of the sort found in dumps on military reservations (but that it leaves behind another problem: mutagenicity).

Purchase a kitchen compost pail from Planet Natural and there’’s no need to run out to the pile after each meal – just lift the lid and toss-in table scraps. They’re fitted with activated carbon filters to eliminate odors and look great too!

But what happens when genetic plants are composted? Will the genetically-mutated materials break down? And will any of the components that the mutation generates — say the Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) that acts as a pesticide in GMO corn — will those be broken down as well?

The answer is: we don’t know. In the search for answers, your Planet Natural Blogger contacted a handful of experts who study compost at major universities and those that replied said pretty much the same thing. They couldn’t comment because they’re just wasn’t enough, or any, research. One of the more distinguished professors we asked hazarded a guess: that the act of composting would probably take care of any genetically manufactured plant material and would probably compost any by product it produced. But he couldn’t say for sure.

Here’s one study we found that suggests composting will take care of GMOs. But again, more study is needed.

These are important questions. One of the major fears held by those who oppose GMOs is that they will cross-pollinate with non-GMO plants and destroy the diversity of our natural plants. We already know that this is possible through cross pollination though the manufacturers of GMOS deny it. Could it be that genetically engineered material might cause plant mutations, or some other type of contamination, just by being in the soil?

We can only draw one conclusion… that more study — much more study — is needed when it comes to GMOs. Information on the negative effects GMOs have on human health continues to trickle out despite the best efforts of the corporations that have an interest in them. Maybe if some of the money that these corporations pour into developing new genetically modified seed and the other products used with them (see Roundup) was directed towards discovering the effects GMOs have on health and well being (not to mention their environmental and economic impacts), well, maybe we could get a clearer picture of the harm they might be doing. (To quote my grandpa: Ain’t gonna happen.)

And we also need more research on composting. Your Planet Natural Blogger has often said that composting can save the world. Let’s find out that it really can. Here’s a small suggestion. If just a fraction of the money spent on farm subsidies could be redirected to research on the possible uses and benefits of composting and organic farming practices, the world would end up a better place. Grandpa agrees.

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Eric Vinje founded Planet Natural with his father Wayne in 1991, originally running it as a grasshopper bait mail-order business out of a garage.

Eric is now retired, but is still a renowned gardener known for his expertise in composting, organic gardening and pest control, utilizing pesticide-free options, such as beneficial insects.

Eric believes when you do something good for the environment, the effects will benefit generations to come.

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25 Responses to “Composting GMOs”

  1. Dwayne on July 20th, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

    I agree much more research should be done but I have to disagree with researching the compostablity of them first. I think we need to research if we can truly consume GMOs without consequences (and not rely on the GMO companies to do the “testing”). Then we should find out if they can be composted. If GMOs end up killing us all there will be no-one to compost anyway…

    • Christine Baker on August 12th, 2013 at 11:02 am #

      Dwayne, based on the available research I decided to not knowingly eat ANY GMOs, essentially no processed food and of course no store bought zucchini.

      A few times I had some suspect zucchini and I decided NOT to compost them. So I would really like to know what happens, especially now that we know that lots of wheat has been cross contaminated.

      ” If GMOs end up killing us all there will be no-one to compost anyway…”

      It’s very unlikely that it’ll kill you any time soon, but chances are that you’ll get chronic and rather painful diseases and you’ll be taking a gazillion pills (Big Pharma will love you) that won’t cure you, but mitigate symptoms. You might even become disabled. Get a government check, sit on the sofa all day watching TV while popping pills — many people might think that’s not so bad.

      So I sure would like to see some studies on composting because INFORMED people already know not to eat GMOs.

      I highly recommend you watch Genetic Roulette at http://geneticroulettemovie.com/

  2. Ace on July 30th, 2013 at 11:54 am #

    I’m concerned about accumulation of heavy metals and pesticides in compost. Is there any research on composting plant material treated with copper sulfate or pesticides such as rotenone? Will these impact the qulaity of my compost?

  3. Lemon Cove on August 5th, 2013 at 10:29 am #

    I don’t think you can use the “Monsanto approach” to genetic engineering to stereotype GMOs.

    Using genetic engineering to breed resistance to huanlongbing (HLB) in citrus may be the only way to save an entire genus. This isn’t a lack of biodiversity issue . . . . researchers have not found natural resistance to HLB in any citrus specie. Bio control using parasitic species to control the vector (psyllid) is useful way to slow the spread of the disease, but it only takes a single insect to transmit the disease to a tree. The alternative? heavy uses of conventional pesticides to attempt control of the asian citrus psyllid or potentially the disappearance of oranges, lemons, limes, mandarins, etc from our diets.

    • Moirraine on August 6th, 2013 at 9:55 am #

      Here’s a thought – don’t GROW fruit where it has a natural enemy…

      Some are going out of their way to grow foods or save a genus that is doomed by natural selection and yet others are trying to completely destroy our organic foods by making sure they “infiltrated” by their seeds – which most know can’t be used year to year (patent infringement) and takes one HECK of a lot of “Roundup” to keep the plants alive and pest free.

      MONSANTO, DuPont and the others should never have been allowed to create what they didn’t understand and THEN release it to an UNSUSPECTING POPULACE.

      Without REAL research into the RESIDUAL CHEMICALS left in foods that are DRENCHED in poison how in the WORLD can they say that GMO isn’t dangerous?

      GMO, manipulating genetics IS probably a bad thing but nature does it too; the difference is that NATURE doesn’t have to use a TON on poison on a SINGLE GROW to bring it to harvest.

  4. Alice S on August 5th, 2013 at 1:46 pm #

    Interesting question. Certainly seeds would have to be destroyed through sufficient temperature. I have read some discussion of GMOs reprogramming aspects of intestinal flora. Any research on other effects on microbes?

  5. kay on August 5th, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

    What evil lurks? In the mind(s) of the biggest scrounge to EVER hit the animal kingdom it is best NOT to 2nd guess. We all possess a vibration, everything on this planet gives off a vibration that attracts and repels other vibrations. Monsanto has disrupted and destroyed that vibration. Like a pebble in a pond the effects of GMOs continue to ripple, continue to grow and destroy and denigrate life force vibrations. Don’t buy their crap, surely don’t eat their crap and do your best to spread the word about WHAT GMOs truly are. Our future (questionable as it is) depends on STOPPING the bastards. Demand to know what is in the 2 new secret trade agreements our gubmint is now negotiating. Draw you line in the sand NO MAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Christina O on August 5th, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

    I know all the cool kids are hating on GM technology and it’s pretty much the cool thing to do, but as a scientist, I’m sick and tired of all the propaganda and myth that is publicized on this issue and this article is no different. Virtually all the sources you have linked are connected to other sites that simply perpetuate these inaccuracies. To imply there are human health risks to GMOs and link that to a “pamphlet” put out by an anti-GM organization as a scare-tactic is not compelling. Just the way you talk about GM crops tells me you know nothing about genetics, how plants reproduce, how GM crops are developed or what GM crops even are. By the way, Bt is used as an insecticide spray by organic farmers every day, so the idea that it might “contaminate” anything in compost is ridiculous. GMOs are literally the most studied food on the planet and have been shown time and time again to be safe, with positive environmental benefits, and the ability to lift poor farmers out of poverty. Moreover, they are an essential piece of the puzzle when it comes to the task of feeding the 9.5 BILLION people that will be around in 2050. I know it’s hard not being popular, but I implore you to please stick to the peer-reviewed literature on this.

    • Mondoman on August 6th, 2013 at 10:27 am #

      Finally, a voice of reason! Thanks for trying to bring some sense to this silliness.

    • John on September 23rd, 2013 at 8:52 pm #

      If GMO is so safe and the liquid death they spray on the crops is so safe as well then tell me something why are corporations fighting so hard to keep it from being labeled?

    • Karen on January 17th, 2014 at 11:36 am #

      Are you a real clueless scientist or did you just fake it to post that bunch of nonsense. When I got to your understanding of Bt, I lol and got a cramp. Too much schooling can addle the brains of perfectly good humans when they are never taught sense of a common kind 🙂

    • Alison on May 19th, 2017 at 9:20 am #

      No, you are wrong! Look up rope worms! There was a steady done by Baylor College of Medicine on parasites in the human body. They discovered a worm that looks like a rope and when dissected they found it consisted of GMO’s and human DNA! Are they real. Yes they are because I have them. They are lining my intestines, eating my nutrition, and eating me!!! Not enough studies have been on GMO’s. Keep in mind cancer and other diseases are armpit and it is not how we eat but what is in our food!

      • BG on June 2nd, 2017 at 8:38 am #

        I have them too, and it’s a part-time job doing all the things needed to get rid of them, or at least reduce them. They feel like an alien invader. I do believe they are from eating GMO food (in my case unwittingly). The chemicals and biologicals being sprayed in the sky may also be a contributing factor. I suspect many people are infected with the rope parasite and don’t know it. Rope parasites are found mostly during cleansing protocols. GMO foods are, IMO, inhumane. GMOs are a tool for the NWO to control our food supply, and to control humanity. Glowing words about feeding the world are just a front.

  7. Spuds on August 5th, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    Christina –

    The difference between the Bt used by organic gardeners and that genetically inserted into Monsanto’s corn is dramatic. Naturally occurring Bt is contained within the bacterium. The Bt gene inserted into GMO corn contains only the final toxin without its containment. Bt has a short half life when exposed to sunlight and the elements. By the time the insects that have consumed it are gone, so is the Bt. Its genetic counterpoint persists within the corn.

    I also do not believe that RoundUp ready crops are helping to feed the masses. Seems to me that they are helping to sell more RoundUp.

    • Karen on January 17th, 2014 at 11:41 am #

      You are patient and kinder to the likes of these fools than I am. After three+ years of study – I have lost all patience for their jibberish 🙂

  8. Mondoman on August 6th, 2013 at 10:33 am #

    Spuds, as you point out, the Bt protein is a wimp and gets broken down really easily. Since we don’t find ears of corn or stalks intact in the composted material, the Bt is also long gone, as Christina O points out above.
    Thanks for hosting this forum!

  9. Sprout on August 6th, 2013 at 11:44 am #

    I have to agree with Christina. While I am the grateful recipient of PlanetNatural products and info, this article was…naive. It really did not contain any useful facts to help a person weigh the problem out in their mind.
    I want to ask a question, and forgive me if I’m ignorant, but surely other people have wondered this too. Since agriculture has been around even longer than recorded history, and since several ancient cultures were excellent at crops and orchards and herbs, is it not safe to say that just about every crop or food plant we have today is genetically modified from whatever the original strains of corn or tomatoes etc were? I mean, have people not been cross-pollinating and even hybridizing at least by accident from the beginning? I believe in God but even God uses the laws of evolution. In fact, come to think of it, maybe even human beings are genetically different than we were originally? I think we should relax a little about GMO’s and focus on real biological threats, like pathogens that could wipe out our species, or the extinction of the Amazon rainforest. Just food for thought.

    • E. Vinje on August 7th, 2013 at 6:30 am #

      Sprout – This article points out the difference between hybrids and GMOs:

      Hybrids, GMOs: Not the Same

      Hope it helps!

  10. Dan on October 15th, 2013 at 10:32 pm #

    GMO/GE is not limited to Bt in corn, canola, cotton, soybean, sugar beet, wheat, (the list seems to grow daily).

    Included is combining fish and tomatoes, spiders and goats, and more.
    See what the scientists who didn’t go along with the “scientific consensus” found in their research. It’s not popular or fashionable to be a whistle-blower. But appearently what they discovered was worth risking (or sacrificing) their careers and reputations.

    If their research doesn’t affect your current perception regarding the benefits and safety of GMO’s, grab a handful each of GMO & organic corn, and find your nearest corn-eating animal.

    Related topics you may want to research:
    – high Brix mineral dense foods
    – Jeffery M. Smith, GMO’s
    – Dr. Walter Veith, Total Onslaught

  11. Robert Pavlis on January 18th, 2014 at 7:45 am #

    That is a dumb question and poor answer. There is no difference between DNA from a non-GMO and DNA from a GMO plant. In compost both will be broken down into simple molecules like nitrates.

    It is silly to suggest that more research is needed in this area. We have limited research resources and they should be spent on something important.

  12. Robert Erickson on March 14th, 2015 at 3:00 pm #

    I wrote OMRI (the organic gurus) about this and also the use of manures from animals fed GMO feed. They said that they believed that the digestive process would destroy the GMO content of feeds and that manure was acceptable for organic use. At the time I wrote, they had not decided about compost feedstock. It sounds like that hasn’t changed.

  13. Kyle on October 9th, 2015 at 9:25 am #

    I’m curious about the Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis). This is the same main ingredient in Mosquito Dunks & granules that is billed as completely harmless. The label say it can be used in fish ponds, animal water troughs etc. My understanding is this is a bacteria, not unlike the Lactobacillus Acidophilus that infests our own gut & we could not survive without, but that is selectively toxic to only the larvae of specific flying insects. Now, I’m not in any way advocating it be part of plant DNA & I understand it’s potential harm to humans in that capacity but now I’m wondering if the Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) on it’s owns is really as innocuous as they claim?

    • E. Vinje on October 9th, 2015 at 9:43 am #

      Kyle there are many kinds of Bacillus thuringiensis products. However, The difference between the Bt used by organic farmers around the world and that genetically inserted into Monsanto’s corn is dramatic. Naturally occurring Bt is contained within the bacterium. The Bt gene inserted into genetically-modified corn contains only the final toxin without its containment. Bt has a short half life when exposed to sunlight and the elements. By the time the insects that have consumed it are gone, so is the Bt. Its genetic counterpoint persists within the corn. Insects have developed immunity to the genetically-modified Bt–containing corn when the GMO corn has, against best agricultural practice, been planted in the same plot year after year. Targeted use of Bt insect control products used on appropriately managed plots have not resulted in insect resistance. Depending on which strain is used, Bt continues to be effective on cabbage worms, tent caterpillars, potato beetles, mosquitoes, black fly, and a variety of other insect pests.

  14. Max P. on March 15th, 2017 at 2:43 pm #

    Whoever here is whining about resources for studies and “more important” world issues better not be eating the dead flesh or bi-products of animals and contributing to almost ALL of the world’s major health and environmental issues. If you are not against GMO’s, you are against mother nature and the planet that gives you life. Until some of these sleeping sheep we call people wake up, and stand for what’s right, we are all done. Nature will wipe us out, or we will do it to ourselves sooner. The only real “organic” compost that can be trusted for your plants, is your own; certified organic fruits and vegetable scraps (still not 100%). No animal products, no waste, no donated foods from massive GMO selling and supporting kitchens or companies. I am not a scientist, but I know most of them are definitely afraid of losing their career or life if they were to actually come out proving composted gmo foods for use in “organic” compost contains harmful contaminants and traces of toxins. Destroying all the big name organic “certifying” companies, which are for sure not using clean, pure compost material. Believe what you want to believe, but if you have any sort of common sense, you will know the right answer is to stick with nature, and use what was here before us, not the BS we created. Work with nature, learn from it, it was fine without us, all we have done is destroy and pollute. Watch food choices on netflix, cowspiracy, earthlings on youtube, research glyphosate and the harm it does to the body. Get yourself 3-5 grams of psilocybin, something that was here untouched by man for millions of years. Eat them or make a tea. Find your answers, learn our purpose, fix your inner issues. Then try eating a bloody steak, or some GMO bs from your kitchen.

  15. Hiking Viking on November 4th, 2019 at 3:04 pm #

    Here is some research on composting GMO material:

    Biodegradation of genetically modified seeds and plant tissues during composting. – PubMed – NCBI