What is GMO?
The acronym GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. Any plant or animal who’s DNA has been unnaturally altered is considered to be a GMO. GMO entered our food supply in the mid 1990s as an effort to increase crop yields. This is done by increasing a plant’s resistance to disease or its tolerance for herbicides by altering its genetic makeup. Through a process referred to as genetic engineering, select genes are removed from one organism such as a bacteria, virus, insect, or animal and added to the DNA of the plant being altered. Through this process the arrangement of the plant’s cells and expression of its DNA are altered to include the cross-species traits. For example, the bacterium known as Bt (for Bacillus thuringiensis) expresses a protein that is toxic to insects. When Bt genes are transferred into the DNA of corn, the corn produces its own pesticide. When insects bite into Bt corn the pesticide destroys the tissues of the stomach, killing them and theoretically allowing the corn to survive. There is much debate around the world over the effectiveness of this approach and its effect on humans and animals that eat GMO foods. Today emerging long term independent studies have identified numerous health risks and organ damage in animals which eat GMO foods.
Scientific Data on GMO effects
To date there have been no long studies on human exposure to GMO products. There have been numerous trials using lab animals, with startling results. In the late 1990s a study on GMO potatoes conducted by Scotland’s Rowett Research Institute found that the potatoes damaged rats’ guts, vital organs, and immune systems. In 2006 the Russian National Academy of Science found that over 50% of the babies from mother rats fed GMO soy died within three weeks. A 2011 study published in Reproductive Toxicology found Bt toxin circulating in the blood of pregnant and non-pregnant women who had eaten a diet including GMO soybeans and corn. Bt toxin was also found in 80% of the fetuses involved in this study.
GMOs and Food Allergies
GMO presents a unique challenge to human physiology by entering the body as an unrecognized protein, and foreign proteins are the immune system’s number one target. The extreme allergic response in some individuals indicates the human system does not know how to handle these new organisms. Today food allergies and intolerances are becoming more and more common and the links to GMO foods are becoming difficult to ignore. In March 2001 the Center for Disease Control reported that food-related illnesses had doubled since 1994 – about the time Americans began eating GMO food. Allergies to soy increased 50% in the UK soon after GM (Genetically Modified) soy was introduced. A 2005 Allergy and Asthma Proceedings study comparing GMO and wild soy found through skin prick allergy tests that some people reacted to GMO soy, but had no allergic response to wild soy.
Many Common Foods use GMO ingredients
GMO foods have been on the market over fifteen years and include many common crops and food ingredients. According to the Institute for Responsible Technology, 91% of soy products are GMO as well as 71% of cotton, 88% of canola, 85% of corn, and 90% of sugar beets. Foods like vegetable oils, corn products, tofu, and soy protein supplements all use some of these ingredients. Corn, soy and sugar beet products are very common in processed foods. Dairy from cows treated with the genetically- modified growth hormone rbGH also contain GMO.
Avoiding GMO Foods
- GMO food has become a large part of the average American’s diet. Because the FDA does not require manufacturers to label GMO products it can be rather difficult to find out what exactly you’re eating. However, thanks to independent GMO awareness groups, the average consumer does have a few tools to determine what is a GMO and what isn’t.
- Avoid processed foods containing ingredients from corn, soy, sugar beets and cotton.
- Look for Non-GMO project verified products.
- Eat organic but be aware that GMO foods can also be grown organically. Food that stays fresh for weeks at a time without signs of decay are likely GMO.
- Grow your own vegetables using heirloom or other non-GMO seeds.
Common Symptoms of GMO Exposure
- Belly fat often referred to as muffin-top
- Lesions over digestive organs and on the extremities (often appearing as red marks)
- Foul smelling stool or a change in stool odor
- Nausea or indigestion, often following meals
- Changes in body odor and chemistry
- New food allergies, for example an allergy to milk where there was none before
- Bloating, flatulence, and digestive discomfort