Here in Oregon we've got a vote coming up on labeling GMO foods. I think most people don't have a grasp on which foods these are and how they may effect our health or planet. So I spent some time today digging deep into the topic.
I was also curious about the battle over GMO labeling. This initiative already lost in California, and I was shocked to hear it. Now that the vote is approaching in Oregon, I can see why. There is a lot of money being invested into this legislation not passing by companies with deep pockets like Monsanto and Pepsico.
As 93% of pregnant women tested had a GMO by-product in their fetal cord blood, it behooves us to understand how these foods could be effecting ourselves and our future generations.
Part 1: What are GMO Foods?
According to Jeffrey Smith of the Institute of Responsible Technology, there are two categories of GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) foods currently approved in the US.
Both categores fit his definition of "the gene of one species is forced into the genes of another species."
1. Crops designed to withstand being sprayed with the herbicide Round Up
2. Crops that have been altered to release BT toxin, an insecticide derived from a bacterium
These are the current US GMO crops that qualify:
- sugar beets
- Hawaiian papaya
- zucchini and yellow squash
Seems like a short list, but one of these ingredients is in over 75% of foods on the shelves in the US! Also keep in mind that many animals are being feed on GMO corn or soy feed, and then those animals are fed to us. There are more GMO foods awaiting approval, or already available elsewhere such as potato, tomato, rice, wheat and salmon.
Part 2: How Do GMO Foods Effect Health?
The effect of GMO foods on health is still not fully understand. There is not a large body of research on the subject, and it's effect over time / generations is not fully grasped.
However, a lot more information is coming to our understanding.
There are four areas where we can see an effect:
1. Hormones / Fertility
Animal studies showed that GMO foods caused an increase of testosterone in women and an increase of estrogen in men. It's also linked to sterility, abnormal and lower sperm counts, miscarriages, placental cell death, birth defects, and cancer.
2. Gut Health and Digestion
This is the big one. Let's review that there are two categories of current GMOs in the US. The first is 'Round Up Ready' crops.
Round Up's chief ingredient is glyphosate. Glyphosate works by decreasing healthy organisms in the soil and increasing soil pathogens. Simultaneously it is weakening a plant's immunity.
This same action is basically taking place in our bodies when we ingest Round Up Ready foods. Our good bacteria are being attacked, while pathogenic bacteria can abound. When we lose our good bacteria, we have a decreased level of butyrate, a fatty acid that lowers inflammation and build cells in the gut. Butyrate also increases insulin sensitivity.
Round-up also binds to vitamins and minerals in crops, especially to trace minerals. It does the same in your body. Even as you may swallow down a whole food supplement, if you are eating it with a GMO soy-based power bar or a GMO corn chip, the glyphosate will bind with the nutrients.
Translation: Eating GMO foods will result in gut bacteria imbalance, which can in turn cause inflammation and weakness in the gut, which can result in high blood sugar, overeating and colon cancer. Plus it's stealing your nutrition.
The second category of GMO foods is those injected with Bt toxin. Bt toxin is meant to 'poke holes' in insects; it's in insecticide. Although Monsanto pushed the safety of these Bt toxin crops to the FDA, they are now known to actually poke whole in human cells as well. This can cause leaky cells / leaky gut. And it's suspected these toxins can even be absorbed into our own cells and released again.
Lastly GMO foods are connected with a sharp increase in trypsin inhibitor. Trypsin is a enzyme that helps us break down protein. When it's inhibited, our protein digestion is slower / incomplete, resulting in a feeling of indigestion, possible malnutrition, and possible autoimmunity as these under-digested proteins enter the bloodstream through what is now a leaky gut, thanks to consumption of GMO foods.
If over 70% of immune activity happens in the gut, you can imagine that an imbalanced gut will effect immunity.
Farm workers exposed to Bt toxin frequently report skin rashes. Villagers exposed to glypohosate report illness, sometimes even death.
It makes you wonder what happens as we eat it bit by bit, day by day.
The increase in food allergies worldwide is suspected to be related to the introduction of GMO foods into our diets in the last 10-20 years.
4. Brain health
If inflammation is running wild in the gut, it will 'travel' to other parts of the body, including the brain. Plus the lack of nutrients being bound with GMO foods or being mal-absorbed in an inflamed gut could effect the brain.
The rise is ADHD and autism in children has a suspected link to GMO foods.
Part 3: How to Avoid GMO Foods and Heal Your Body
In part 1 you read the list of GMO foods in the US. However they are often in foods you don't quite suspect:
- A can of soup you buy has a little canola oil in it (90% chance of being GMO.)
- You eat a delicious meal of beans and tortillas at your neighborhood Mexican food cart. (Those corn tortillas have an 88% chance of being GMO.)
- You buy some granola bars for your kid's lunch and don't notice the soy flour in the ingredients. (The soy has a 94% chance of being GMO.)
- A food may not be GMO, but it's sprayed with Round Up before harvesting.
So what can you do?
- Read labels. Don't assume a food is GMO free, even if it's from the health food store. You can look for the Non-GMO Verified label, show to the right.
- Buy organic. Certified organic food cannot contain GMOs or be sprayed with Round Up.
- Cook for yourself. It's a lot easier to know your ingredients when you make it yourself. Never cook with canola oil (it's bad for a lot of reasons), and always choose organic soy and corn products.
- Be careful when you eat out. Most meat will be grain fed, most oils will be canola; it's sad but true. And ask questions! It only raises awareness.
- Get involved. Hopefully you are now more aware of the seriousness of this issue. Here in Oregon you can vote yes on measure 92, or donate to the cause. You can applaud stores like Whole Foods who have voluntarily chosen to label GMO foods (by 2018 in their case.) You can even become a certified GMO speaker through the Institute for Responsible Technology.
Thanks so much for reading and I truly hope it can have a positive impact on your family's health and on our planet's health as well.
Feel free to share this article at the links below to help others understand the impact of GMO on health.
Bridgit Danner, LAc