What You Need to Know About GMOs

June 28th, 2014

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What You Need to Know About GMOs

“Genetically modified organisms,” or GMOs, are plants and animals that have been created by combining DNA of different species in a way that could not occur in nature or by traditional cross-breeding. GMOs are on the rise in the United States, with 80-90% of commercial crops such as corn and soy being genetically engineered.

The health impact of eating GMOs is not well understood, and some statistics point to their potential harm. GMOs were introduced in the United States in 1996, and the following nine years saw a nearly 100% increase in the incidence of people with three or more chronic diseases. Because there are not laws in place requiring GMOs to be labeled, you probably don’t even know when you’re eating them. Luckily, there are some ways to avoid these potentially problematic foods.

 

Why you should avoid GMOs

1. GMOs have increased the use of herbicides.

One of the main selling points of genetic engineering is the creation of more pest-resistant crops. This is a double-edged sword however as chemical- and pest-resistant weeds infest farmers’ fields. In an effort to control the “superweeds” that have sprung up, farmers use more and more herbicides to kill them, but the resistant weeds are still growing–the rate at which they are spreading increased by 25% in 2011, and 51% in 2012. These dangerous chemicals are used in higher and higher amounts as an answer to increased resistance, eventually making their way into your body via the food you eat.

 

2. The impact of GMOs is poorly understood, and they have the potential to cause disease.

There is no requirement that the safety of GMOs be guaranteed, or even researched. The research is left up to the manufacturer, and why would a company like Monsanto (one of the world’s leading producers of genetically engineered seed) acknowledge the danger of the products they sell?

There is significant evidence beginning to surface that GMO foods promote disease. A study published in 2012 showed that rats on a diet of GMO corn suffered increased tumor growth and early mortality when compared to a control group. Similar studies on GMO animal feed prompted the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) to publicly denounce GMOs in the food supply, warning that “it is biologically plausible for Genetically Modified Foods to cause adverse health effects in humans.” GMOs have been correlated with a long list of health problems, including thyroid cancer, kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and infertility.

Crops are genetically altered to make them weather- and pest-resistant. Corn has been engineered to produce a natural insecticide, called Bt-toxin, which kills insects by destroying the cell walls of their digestive tract. This potent chemical can’t be washed off–it’s part of the genetic makeup of GMO corn. Bt-toxin is not specific to insects and has been shown to poke holes in human cells, damaging the intestines and causing leaky gut.

 

3. GMOs cross-contaminate non-GMO crops.

Perhaps the biggest reason to avoid GMOs is that if we continue to grow them, it’s possible we won’t be left with any crops that haven’t been genetically engineered. Farmers can’t protect against cross-pollination by wind and insects, and the resulting seed will be a hybrid of their non-GMO crop with the GMO crop. Corn is one of the most commonly genetically engineered foods, with about 90% of it being GMO, and due to cross-pollination, that remaining 10% is not guaranteed to be GMO-free. Because we don’t understand the impact of consuming GMOs, it’s clear that we need to understand the gravity of this situation before we are left without other options.

 

The most commonly GMO crops:

1. Soy

2. Corn (including high fructose corn syrup, corn oil, corn syrup)

3. Sugar Beets (most sugar is made from this)

4. Canola (as in canola oil)

5. Cotton (including cottonseed oil)

6. Alfalfa

7. Zucchini and yellow squash

8. Papaya

 

5 practical ways to avoid GMOs

1. Buy organic.

Foods labeled 100% USDA organic cannot lawfully contain GMOs. Buying 100% organic ensures not only that your food is non-GMO, but that is free from dangerous pesticides, hormones, and other chemicals. Look for labels that say “100% Organic” or “USDA Organic.” Assume that anything labeled “Made With Organic” contains some organic ingredients, and the rest may be GMO.

 

2. Buy grassfed meat and dairy.

Pay attention to what your food eats. This is extremely important because the diet of the animals you eat affects you as well, and if they ate a diet of GMO feed, it will end up in your body regardless of whether or not the animal was itself genetically engineered.

GMO crops are cheaper and more abundant, and therefore they are the first choice for animal feed in the United States. Unless certified grassfed and organic, animals were almost certainly fed a diet of GMO grains. The same applies to food you buy at a farmers’ market or Whole Foods. Stick with pasture-raised, organic meats, and always ask if the animal was fed GMO. To learn more about how to decode food labels, check out my article here.

 

3. Buy Non-GMO Project verified.

The Non-GMO Project  is an independent organization that verifies foods that do not contain any genetically engineered ingredients. They are the only such organization in the US and Canada.

Food manufacturers are adept at using food labeling to their advantage. A pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for example prominently states on the label that they “source non-GMO ingredients,” but in fact their dairy cows eat GMO feed.  The Non-GMO Project cannot verify Ben & Jerry’s because of that fact.

 

4. Use the EWG shopper’s guide to avoid the most common GMO foods.

Organic food can be expensive, and if you’re on a budget there are ways to shop smart in order to avoid GMOs. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) puts out a yearly guide outlining which foods are most commonly GMO, and which foods are a safer bet. Buy them all organic if you can, but if that’s not feasible, at the very least buy organic when it comes to the most commonly GMO foods.

 

5. Support the Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT)

Few states have laws in place requiring that GMO ingredients be clearly labeled, but the non-GMO movement is gaining momentum, thanks in large part to organizations like the Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT).  They have made it their mission to research the effects of GMOs and educate the public and the government. I support them by donating a percentage of my online store sales. One of the biggest things you can do is fight with your money and boycott GMO products.

 
Genetic Roulette: The Gamble of Our Lives is one film I recommend about the problems with GMO, food manufacturers, and the laws that are being put in place. Stay informed and ask questions when it comes to your food. You have a right to know exactly what you’re putting in your body! Check out my video on GMO for more information.

 

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  • Karl H.

    Will there ever be more podcasts?

    • Right now I’m finishing up my book, The Autoimmune Solution! Until that’s published, my podcasts will be less frequent.

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  • Cairenn Day

    Amy, you need to do more research, your knowledge of GMOs is very limited and biased.
    1) The overall use of herbicides has went down and gyphosate, which is safer than many older ones has replaced them.
    2)There have been thousands of tests that show NO health issues in humans or animals from GMOs

    Here is one
    http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2014/09/19-year-study-of-trillions-of-meals-shows-ge-crops-do-not-harm-food-producing-animals-humans/

    3)There is no major problem with cross contamination. Farmers do not keep and replant any hybrid seed.

    Do you tell patients with insulin dependent diabetes to avoid insulin, because it is GMO?

    Please go the the geneticliteracyproject and learn more.

    IRT is not a credible group, they support a lot of nonsense that no doctor should be promoting

    • I am familiar with that study you referenced, and it’s specifically talking about livestock (weight, milk yield, etc). I don’t subscribe to the belief that because something hasn’t been shown to be harmful (in what is honestly a pretty short time period), it should be assumed safe. Plus there are plenty of moral objections to the entire idea of patenting plants.

      I don’t tell patients with insulin-dependent diabetes to avoid insulin–obviously benefit can outweigh risk. But I would recommend that they avoid GMO corn.

      • Cairenn Day

        What types of corn are telling them to avoid? Most GMO corn is dent corn and it is used for ethanol, animal feed for processed items like HFCS and corn starch.

        Why do tell them to avoid a safe food? Limit corn, yes, because it is high starch/sugar.

        Have you looked at the studies? Here are some more. NO credible study has found any evidence of any health issues from GMOs.

        A Decade of EU-funded GMO Research

        https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B7hhP5QasNtsX1AwV2YzNnlrZTA/edit?pli=1

        BioFortified’s Independent Studies

        http://www.biofortified.org/genera/studies-for-genera/independent-funding/

        GMOPundits 600 Studies

        http://gmopundit.blogspot.com/2007/06/150-published-safety-assessments-on-gm.html#!/2007/06/150-published-safety-assessments-on-gm.html

        A Survery of Long Term GM Food Studies

        http://www.skepticink.com/smilodonsretreat/2012/10/24/a-survey-of-long-term-gm-food-studies/

        Almost 1800 studies

        http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Nicolia-20131.pdf

        • Andrew Kramer

          I don’t believe you have read anything you just referenced.

          The first document you referenced does not appear to look at consumption of any GE foods currently on the market and it is quite clear from the references that most of the authors admit they were not able to determine safety.

          For example, “In conclusion, the design of the present animal study did not enable us to conclude on the safety of the GM food.”http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17052828

          “Nevertheless the experiences from this study lead to the overall conclusion that safety assessment for unintended effects of a GM crop cannot be done without additional test group(s).”http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17050059

          In fact, your own reference agrees with Dr. Myers. It states, “Currently, there is little known about predictability of adverse effects following market release of GM foods.”

          This statement is practically identical to Dr. Myers stating, “The impact of GMOs is poorly understood”

          While you claim your second reference is “BioFortified’s Independent Studies” The second reference on the list titled “Bt176 corn in poultry nutrition: physiological characteristics and fate of recombinant plant DNA in chickens” specifically states, “Funding source Syngenta”

          So that is not a list of independent studies like you claim.

          Your next reference “GMOPundits 600 Studies” is yet another fake claim. to begin with the list provided does not even contain 600 studies which I will get to in a moment, but let’s start at the top where they include fake claims.

          For example, ADA(now AND) : the American Dietetic Association(which changed their name to Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) put out a press release in response to the false claims made by websites such as GMOPundit, stating that they do not have an opinion on genetically engineed food. Ethan A. Bergman, the president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at the time even said, “In addition to being untruthful, the statement attributed to the Academy may give voters a false impression of registered dietitians and the Academy.” http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/academy-of-nutrition-and-dietetics-and-proposition-37-the-facts-173146771.html

          In fact, a more recent AND report says, “Biotechnology in the form of genetic engineering, commonly referred to as genetically modified organisms, has produced some crops that are biofortified, chemically resistant, and/or pest resistant. There is no consensus on the benefit or harm of this approach and more research is needed to determine the impact on human and environmental health.” http://www.andjrnl.org/article/S2212-2672(13)00128-7/fulltext

          So once again the AND agrees with Dr. Myers when she stated, “”The impact of GMOs is poorly understood”.

  • kim

    Dr. Meyer’s I was wondering if I should keep taking the caprilic acid tablets because when I do my stomach instantly burns and today my stomach continues to feel very uncomfortable even with taking my enzymes. I have rheumatoid and was taking this caprilic acid with the GI microbe in the morning and at night. This was to make sure my SIBO and yeast goes away. I guess im not sure how long to take the supplements, I have taken one bottle of each so fat but I am on my second. Can you help explain more about what it does, when to take it, and when to stop. My stomach really feels uncomfortable even after only taking one caprilic tablet this morning before I ate anything. Thanks Kim

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