Can Genetically Modified Corn Stop The Spread Of HIV In Africa?

A recent article at reuters.com has me puzzled. Essentially we have a stack of data from a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and researchers with a lot of speculations that could have disastrous effects.

Again we have a correlation study, this one finds a relationship between rising corn consumption and rising HIV transmission rates in Sub-Saharan Africa based on World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization.

The corn in question is tainted with a particular type of fungus that can grow on corn and produces toxins called fumonisins when the plant is damaged by pests. These fumonisins may be harmful and some studies have found it causes cancer of the esophagus.

These researchers also found Muslims with high per-capita corn consumption had higher HIV infection rates than those with low corn consumption even though being Muslim is a factor linked to lower HIV rates.

I’m exhausted are you?

And what does this have to do with HIV? The researchers find it biologically plausible that the high fumonisin could leave certain tissues more vulnerable to infection.

These studies kill me and so much further research needs to be done to back up any of these findings but we do have a direction to go in. It seemed like the direction was to find out the factors leading to high HIV rates so they can be slowed and stopped. By the end of the article, however, I was dismayed to find a potential solution to the possible link between corn and HIV was genetically modified corn that is resistant to pests. Enter Monsanto.

With an imperative like this any followup study could be funded specifically to find just cause for pushing genetically modified crops:


Based on their statistical model, Williams and his colleagues estimate that if the “maize (corn) factor” were eliminated in sub-Saharan Africa, HIV transmissions could be cut by as much as 58%…

In a region where an estimated 1.7 million people become infected with HIV annually, that would mean more than 1 million infections averted each year, the researchers note.” ~reuters.com

Other natural alternatives were listed like “certain milling technologies or by soaking the grain in water; fumonisin is water-soluble, so “steeping” the grain or meal, then discarding the liquid may remove the toxin.”

Those sound like cheaper, more logical and responsible solutions so it seems best to go with that. Sub-Saharan African countries just need to know to beware of “free” option like Monsanto donations of genetically modified seeds leading to “green slavery” as they tried to do in Haiti.

Src: reuters.com

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