Fact Check

Doctors Confirm First Human Death Officially Caused by GMOs

Rumor: Doctors have confirmed that consumption of genetically modified tomatoes killed a man.

Published Mar 13, 2015


Claim:   Doctors have confirmed that consumption of genetically modified tomatoes killed a man.


Example:   [Collected via Twitter, March 2015]

Shocking; 1st human anaphylaxis death caused by GMO tomatoes found containing fish genes

THAT IS WHY WE MUST LABEL #GMO:Doctors Confirm First Human Death Officially Caused by #GMOs


Origins:   On 18 January 2015, the web site World News Daily Report published an article titled "Doctors Confirm First Human Death Officially Caused by GMOs." The site claimed a man named Juan Pedro Ramos had died due to an allergic reaction to genetically modified tomatoes that had been altered with genes from fish:

Juan Pedro Ramos died from anaphylaxis after eating some recently developed tomatoes containing fish genes, which provoked a violent and lethal allergic reaction.

The medical examiners and forensic experts at the Carlos III hospital had to execute a lot of tests and analysis before they could precisely determine what caused Mr. Ramos to die of an allergic reaction to seafood, since all he had eaten before his death was a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich with a diet cola. They were astonished when they discovered that the tomato he had ingested, not only contained some fish-related allergens, but also some antibiotic resistant genes which had prevented Mr. Ramos' white blood cell from saving his life.

The article claimed that Ramos' cause of death was confirmed through testing of the tomatoes he'd purportedly consumed before falling ill:

"At first we thought that there had been some form of contamination of his food, from contact with fish or seafood during the preparation" explained Dr. Rafael Perez-Santamarina. "It was only when we tested the tomato itself that we noticed that it contained some allergens usually found in seafood. We did many different analysis and they all confirmed that the tomato was indeed the source of the allergens that killed Mr. Ramos."

However, World News Daily Report is one of a number of fake news outlets known for spreading marginally plausible but completely fabricated claims to be shared via Facebook and Twitter, including the story linked above. The site's disclaimer page states:

World News Daily Report is a news and political satire web publication, which may or may not use real names, often in semi-real or mostly fictitious ways. All news articles contained within worldnewsdailyreport.com are fiction, and presumably fake news. Any resemblance to the truth is purely coincidental, except for all references to politicians and/or celebrities, in which case they are based on real people, but still based almost entirely in fiction.

Previous fake news stories from the same site include a claim about chariot wheels found at the bottom of the Red Sea, a story about loggers chopping down the world's oldest tree, a yarn about a giant shark, and a fabricated eyewitness account of a miracle performed by Jesus.

A reverse image searched revealed that the photograph of the man depicted in the "GMO death" article (one purportedly taken just before he was sickened) was actually a picture of a person with a completely different name that was snapped in 2006 and posted to Flickr back in 2013.

Last updated:   13 March 2015

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.