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GMOs and Your Health

Yesterday I attended a symposium presented by the Nutrition Therapy Institute entitled Saving the Nature of Nature. The program included keynote speeches by Jeffrey Smith, producer of the film Genetic Roulette, and Joel Salatin, the farmer featured in the documentary Food Inc and the book Omnivore’s Dilemma, as well as author of many of his own books including The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic.

Smith’s speech focused on the health implications of genetically modified (GM) crops, specifically those from seeds injected with the Bt toxin (Bacillus thuringiensis toxin—one of nature's most valuable pesticides that kills insects by essentially poking holes in their cells), and those known as Roundup Ready. Roundup Ready plants are resistant to the Monsanto herbicide Roundup, so farmers who plant these seeds must use Roundup to keep other weeds from growing in their fields.

Because BT is used in it’s natural form on plants where it eventually washes off and biodegrades, it was assumed to be “safe” for consumption and not tested. However, when it is part of the crop, it is ingested which is a completely different ball game. According to Smith’s research, if you take corn grown from these GM seeds, there are 43 proteins that are impacted (some are increased, some are decreased, while others appear or disappear completely). One of those that appears is a known allergen, which could explain why so many people who remove GMOs from their diet see allergies go away within 3-7 days. Some other examples include: there is seven times the amount of trypsin inhibitor, two times as much of a protein that blocks nutrient absorption, and an increase in another that is linked to Parkinson’s disease. Monsanto conveniently left these findings out of their public report. Independent studies are hard to come by because researchers need to ask Monsanto for their seeds to perform the study, and in the rare case that Monsanto agrees to this they require that they review the report before it can be published.

Some findings in non-biased research show that the Bt toxin is linked to auto-immune disease, autism, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, gastro-intestinal issues such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), mental clarity issues such as memory loss and attention disorders, skin conditions (rash, eczema, acne), weight gain, fertility issues, diabetes, and food allergies. Gastro-intestinal and food allergies are the number two issues linked to this toxin. Bacteria and undigested food leak into the system (leaky gut) thanks to the micro-pores created in the cells of the stomach and intestines.

Smith pointed out that when you cut GMOs from your diet, you are also cutting out most processed foods, which means you are removing preservatives, chemicals, etc., so how can you directly link the issues to the GMO? There are no co-factors when farmers switch their livestock from eating GMO to non-GMO feed. In reported cases, farmers saw diarrhea and ulcers disappear when they switch their animals to non-GMO feed. They also reported behavior changes, such as more energy. And most importantly to the farmer, the animals were healthier so the use of antibiotics plummeted.

The active ingredient in Roundup is glyphosate, which causes herbicide tolerance in crops and weeds, resulting in the need for even more Roundup. While this is good news for Monsanto, it is detrimental to the farmer and the environment. The glyphosate denies the plant access to nutrients and promotes pathogens in the soil to kill the weeds. Farmed animals eat Roundup Ready plants and crops, and then we eat the animals, leading to issues in the body such as interference with hormones (causing reproductive disorders), promotion of cancer cell growth, killing the good bacteria in the gut, preventing the production of tryptophan, an essential amino acid that is a precursor for serotonin leading to problems with sleep and mood.

Due to consumer outcry, companies such as Unilever, Nestle and McDonalds have said no to GMOs in Europe. What will be the tipping point for the U.S.A.? The nonprofit group Non-GMO Project is the only third party verification organization in North America to certify food and products as non-GMO for labeling purposes. You can visit their website to search for non-GMO products, download the shopping guide, or use the iPhone app ShopNoGMO. The four tips provided for avoiding GMOs are: “buy organic certified products, look for Non-GMO Project verified seals, avoid at-risk ingredients including soybeans, canola, cottonseed, corn, and sugar from sugarbeets, and buy products listed in the shopping guide.”

In addition to the health impact of GM Roundup Ready crops, there are many environmental factors as well, such as pollution of the gene pool, resistance to herbicides, creation of new viruses, etc. There is simply too much information to share in one blog. For more information about the impact of GMOs and for links to various research, visit the MIT website.

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