7 Reasons GMO’s probably shouldn’t be on your grocery list
Perhaps you’ve heard of ‘GMO’s’, an acronym for ‘genetically modified organisms’. If not, then you’ve likely heard of Monsanto, a major American agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology company who’s name has become synonymous with GMO’s. Not only has Monsanto become incredibly famous for its association with GMO’s, the company has also become hated in our modern society because of this link.
Clearly, the American culture has a huge problem with GMO’s, which undergo a laboratory process whereby the genes from one type of plant or animal are extracted and artificially inserted into the DNA of an unrelated species.
That description alone doesn’t sound very safe or healthy at all, but there are more specific reasons why you might want to cross off anything that’s considered a “GMO’ off your grocery list.
1. We don’t yet know all the long-term effects of GMO’s.
GMO’s have come into existence only over the recent past, so we really don’t have any long-term studies on how it affects humans, animals, plants, and the even the environment. The problem is that the chemical industry isn’t taking the necessary precautions needed to ensure the safety of GMO’s and is instead leaving it in the hands of corporations that are involved with them to prove whether or not they’re unsafe.
In its 1992 Statement of Food Policy, the FDA stated that it’s ultimately the food producer who’s responsible for making sure the food produced is safe for consumption. All genetically modified foods might be “approved” by the government and considered safe, but they are generally unregulated. How can we be certain that foods that are classified as GMO’s are safe if the FDA isn’t even regulating them? There are a number of types of possible negative health effects that could result from inserting of a gene into another unrelated organism.
But how can we trust that a major producer of pesticides is creating products that won’t end up being harmful to humans and the environment? If neither the government nor the major food producers in the country hold any responsibility for the safety of genetically modified foods, then who does?
2. GMO’s can cause food allergies.
Food allergies affect about 5% of children and 2% of adults in the U.S., which has become a real threat to overall public health. Allergic reactions in humans happen when a generally harmless protein enters the body and instigates an immune response. If that protein is coming from a genetically modified food source that’s been known to cause allergies that have never before been consumed as food for humans, there is an increased concern that this particular protein could stimulate an immune response.
This is precisely what happened in the mid-1990’s when a gene from a Brazil nut was inserted into soybeans. Instead of coming up with a healthier soybean, scientists winded up with a potentially harmful one as blood tests showed that people who were allergic to Brazil nuts experienced allergic reactions to the genetically modified soybeans.
3. GMO’s may increase toxicity.
The majority of plants produce specific substances that are toxic for human consumption. However, most of the plants that people eat produce toxins at very low levels of toxins so as to not produce any harmful health effects.
Having said that, there is a growing concern that inserting a foreign gene into a plant could cause those harmful toxins to increase in level, which could, in turn, be dangerous for humans. Other genes in the plant can get damaged when the gene is being inserted, which could cause the plant to increase its toxin production.
It doesn’t end there. The new gene can even mess around with the plant’s metabolic pathway that can result in a confused plant that produces more toxins. These effects still haven’t been seen in genetically modified plants, but they’ve been noticed by scientists through traditional plant breeding methods.
For instance, a study showed that potatoes that were bred to be able to resist disease were shown to produce more glycoalkaloids, many of which are potentially toxic. It’s for this reason that genetically modified plants can be cause for great concern when it comes to toxicity levels among humans who consume these food products.
4. GMO’s may lead to antibiotic resistance.
Over the recent past, we’ve been increasingly bombarded with “super bugs” that are resistant to antibiotics. An increase in microbial resistance to antibiotics is becoming a huge threat to human health and is becoming a real epidemic. But why is this happening? Bacteria is increasingly being able to develop a resistance to antibiotics, making antibiotics unable to kill them off.
A British study carried out by researchers at the University of Newcastle showed that participants who consumed one meal with genetically modified soya had modified DNA in bacteria in their small intestines. Bacteria in the gut can take up genes that make them resistant to antibiotics.
Another study conducted by the Institute for Bee Research at the University of Jena discovered that genes used to modify canola oil were transferred to bacteria in the guts of bees. The canola oil had been modified to resist a certain type of herbicide, and had been fed genetically-modified pollen to young bees. It was discovered that the intestines of the young bees carried some of the gene that resisted the herbicide.
Studies on antibiotic resistance in humans as a result of eating GMO’s obviously have a long way to go, but the possibilities seem very real.
5. GMO’s may cause decreased nutritional value.
Everyone knows that including vegetables in the diet is essential in order to reap all the nutritional benefits that they provide. But it’s been theorized that plants that have been genetically modified by having a foreign gene inserted into them could actually become nutritionally inferior compared to plants that have not been modified at all. That’s because this genetic modification can make all those vital nutrients either unavailable or indigestible to humans.
For instance, phytate — a compound that’s found in seeds and grains — binds with minerals like iron, zinc and calcium, and impairs their absorption in the human body. Too much phytate can actually promote mineral deficiencies. A new gene that’s inserted into a plant can cause it to produce higher levels of phytate. In turn, the plant would therefore be deficient in any real mineral nutritional for human consumption.
One study actually showed that genetically modified organisms resulted in decreased levels of phytoestrogen compounds, which have been thought to protect against cancer and heart disease compared to traditional soybeans. Another study showed that a bean in the same family as soy showed an increase in estrogen levels when inserted with a new gene, which raises serious health issues.
6. GMO’s can harm agriculture.
Not only can GMO’s harm humans, they can have detrimental effects on agriculture as well by contaminating food systems. It’s been reported that approximately half of non-GMO corn, canola and soybean seeds have already been contaminated with foreign GMO genes.
According to the World Health Organization, ‘outcrossing’ — the term used to refer to migrating genes from genetically modified plants into crops — could have a harmful impact on the safety and security of food. There have already been reports that genetically modified crops that had been approved for animal or industrial use were detected at low levels in food products to be used for human consumption.
7. GMO’s can harm the environment.
It’s not a secret that the use of pesticides is bad for the environment and can contaminate soil. Toxicity has become a major issue surrounding the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides, which are commonly used with GMO’s.
The increased use of pesticides caused by genetically modified seeds can contaminate soil and make it potentially dangerous for farming. Farms can actually become addicted to pesticides and become dependent on a steady increase in the amount of these harmful chemicals. Once these pesticides are able to reach nearby water sources, they can also contaminate any soil found downstream. Indirectly, they negatively affect plants, animals, and humans who depend on this contaminated soil.
GMOs may also be toxic to bees, which are essential in the pollination of several food crops, but they have become very vulnerable to endangerment as a result of these modern agricultural techniques.
Genetically modified crops may also be a culprit behind climate change because of the increased dependence on synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, which make up about 60% of total emissions of nitrous oxide.
Studies and research on the effects of GMO’s on human and environmental health are still in their infancy. Further research is certainly needed to solidify the link between GMO’s and adverse health. But in the meantime, millions of Americans are suffering from symptoms and are yet unable to determine what is causing them. Could it be the foods we are eating? More specifically, could some of the adverse health conditions we’re suffering from be directly caused by GMO’s? Luckily, resources like Harvey provide specialized naturopathic consultations, lab testing, and therapies that can help determine the root of various health conditions and symptoms rather than taking a “bandaid” approach.