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Pesticides cause diabetes? What new study says

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One of the early selling points of genetically modified food was that crops engineered to be resistant to pests would require less pesticide. That's true for certain varieties. But most GM crops are designed to be resistant to the chemicals that kill weeds and bugs. That means farmers can use the herbicides more liberally without killing their plants. That's good news for Monsanto, the company that makes most of the world's GM seeds as well as the herbicide used to spray the crops. istockphoto

(CBS) Something in our diets may be contributing to type 2 diabetes, and no, it's not sugar. A new study points the finger at pesticide residues.

This isn't the first time "persistent organic pollutants" have been linked to diabetes. In fact, many of these pesticides have been banned for decades after discovering an association for other health risks like cancer. But some of these "persistent" chemicals have remained in the soil for a long time, and have made their way into animals and humans.

For the study - published in the August 4 issue of Diabetes Care - Finnish researchers analyzed blood samples of 2,000 adults and found the highest exposure to the pesticide, oxychlordane, was associated with a two-times higher risk for type 2 diabetes.

Some experts think this may be more than just an association.

"I fear that the association of chlorinated persistent organic pollutants with diabetes is causal," Dr. David R. Jacobs, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota, told Reuters. Some research has suggested pesticides can disrupt endocrine function, which in turn disrupts the body's ability to regulate blood sugar.

According to the CDC, chlordane remains in soil near factories where they were manufactured, which can make their ways into our diets through fatty foods, dairy products, and fish. Despite being banned in the U.S. in 1988, chlordane remains in soil but concentrations have decreased over time.

Jacobs said even though modern pesticides are safer and less persistent, they still come with risks.

"We need much better and more thorough safety testing for substances that we use in industry and for pest control."

Experts say limiting animal fat in your diet can prevent pesticide exposure.

The CDC has more on pesticide safety.