GMO’s and their effects on our microbiome and planet:
Genetically Engineered or Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) are names to describe food, plants or animals that have had the genetic material altered in a way that does not occur naturally. These are patented products therefore, by definition, are not equivalent to what is found in nature (if they were equivalent no patent would be awarded). This alteration is done to obtain certain genetic traits. GMO’s are created with the intent to provide protection from extreme weather, pests or diseases, improve the quality of the crop, create unified color, size and texture, or to resist harsh herbicides.
Commercialization of GM crops in the United States became popular in the late 1990’s and we are now the largest grower of GM crops in the world. In Europe only 5% of the food is genetically modified, in the US it’s 80%. Genetically altered soy, corn, canola, sugar beets, squash, papaya and cotton are the most common crops but we now are producing GM altered alfalfa as well. Plants aren’t the only GMO’s. Chinese and Argentinian researchers have created GM cows by incorporating two human genes into the animal in an attempt to produce milk more similar to human breast milk. There are pigs that have been created with roundworm genes to increase the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in the meat. AquaBounty recently introduced GM Salmon who grow to maturity at twice the rate as non GM fish.
Genetically modified plants are created via two methods. One, plants that absorb herbicides/pesticides but aren’t damaged by them and two, plants that create their own pesticides.
For the first method, you get “round-up” ready crops – crops that can absob “round-up” or other herbicides and pesticides with no ill effects like Roundup Ready Soy, Corn, Cotton, Canola, Sugar Beets, Hawaiian Papaya, Squash, Rice, Tomatoes, Peas. Geneticists found a bacteria that could live in Roundup and inserted it into the plant DNA. This allows the entire field to be sprayed and the spray only effects the weeds. The effect of this method is that weeds are becoming resistant, so more pesticides are required over time; 200 Million pounds of Glyphosate are currently being spread on our crops. Less than 2% of glyphosate is metabolized in the human body (to aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA) )and the rest circulates in your body until your liver and kidneys (where it does destruction and damage) until you can process it out into the urine.
For the second method, where plants create their own pesticide like BT cotton and BT corn we also see risks and ill effects. To make these plants, the DNA from BT soil bacterium, which creates its own natural insecticide, is inserted into plant DNA. This allows every plant cell to produce insecticide that destroys the digestive tract of the insects eating the plant. Insects die immediately so don’t eat all of the crops. These plants produce their own insecticide which is then eaten by us when we eat these plants.
There is widespread concern over these GM plants and animals. Proponents say that they are equivalent to conventional food or animals (but they patently can’t be) and that they pose no threat to the environment (which we already know is false). One large oppositional concern is over the amount of testing these organisms have undergone. There is a significant lack of long term studies on both humans and the environment. Other concerns stem from the correlation of skyrocketing rates of allergies, autism, endocrine disruption and other diseases since the introduction of these crops. There are studies that show increased infertility and mortality in animals that eat GM feed. There are now also concerns with microRNA, Bt-toxin, glyphosate and other toxins from the GMO being detected in the blood of those who eat GM foods: meaning these chemicals are being absorbed through the digestive system as intact molecules or proteins.
- Disturbs bacteria on and within us (100 Trillion cohabitate our bodies) allowing overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria – we kill our biome by eating food sprayed with pesticides or eating food that creates its own pesticide
- Disrupts cytochrome P450 enzymes important to our detoxing system, hindering liver function
- Disruption of sulfate transport process
- Both sulfate and glyphosate are kosmotropes (substances that cause water to gel)
- Too much gelling turns out blood into sludge, so it cannot circulate and bring nutrients and oxygen to cells or remove waste.
- Binds to phenolic compounds that should have sulfate bound instead. Sulfate-free phenols are destructive to phospholipids and DNA in the liver and digestive system.
- Methionine deficiencies causing an increase in cardiovascular and thyroid disease risks
- Disruption of the shikimate pathway in gut biota. This process is used to manufacture aromatic amino acids including phenylalanine, tyrosine, and tryptophan.
- Disrupts the biochemistry of the plant and the plant dies
- Deficiencies in phenylalanine, tyrosine, and tryptophan
- Causes IBS, Crohns, dysbiosis, leaky gut and allergies
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) has called on all physicians to prescribe diets without genetically modified (GM) foods to all patients. They state that several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food, including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system.
Currently, the US government does not require labeling of GM foods and FDA considers them Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS). The FDA also does not require any safety studies by the companies that produce GMO’s. Monsanto’s website states, “There is no need for, or value in testing the safety of GM foods in humans.” The oppositional concerns with this is that there are no causation studies on humans as they are too hard to prove, but there are a multitude of correlational findings with humans as well as causational findings with animals; Glyphosate from herbicides has been found to destroy the immune system, reproductive system, sulfate transport process and cytochrome P450 enzymes (hindering liver function) in numerous animal studies.
I would love to say that there is a way to know the truth about these foods and if it’s safe to eat them. There are many websites you can learn more from including The Institute for Responsible Technology (http://responsibletechnology.org/). it is absolutely true, like the recent article on MSN states (MSN: GMO Crops Don’t Harm Human Health, Report Says http://a.msn.com/05/en-us/BBtahIp?ocid=se), that there is no proof that GMO crops cause harm, but again, causation is very hard, if not impossible, to prove. There is an alarming amount of correlation information, but that doesn’t stop the marketing department from stating that there is not cause proven. I am skeptical of any company which regulates itself and contributes such vast amounts of money to keep information out of the hands of consumers.
I went organic in 1999 and have never regretted the decision – every year we learn more about the gut microbiome and its contribution to our digestion, immune system, nervous system, and hormonal balance (the microbiome makes our serotonin, dopamine, GABA and more!). I do not want to eat foods that directly or indirectly kill my healthy bacteria.