GMOs and Your Health: What is the Connection?
I’m not going to lie. Genetically modified food scares the pants of me. Why? Probably mostly because the truth is unknown. I don’t believe there are any long-term studies, conducted by neutral, unbiased scientists that have successfully proven they are safe or harmful to our bodies or the environment. But, there are a lot of scary stories out there and until I know otherwise, I’m going to be cautious and avoid them like the plague. It’s not hard to live a mostly GMO free lifestyle – why don’t you give it a try?
GMOs and Your Health: What is the Connection?
By Chef Alain Braux (bio below)
Did you know that you and your family are unknowingly eating genetically engineered food that affects your health? How is that possible, you might ask? Most likely because very few people are aware of GMOs (genetically modified organisms), also called GM (genetically modified) or GE (genetically engineered) in our food supply.
How are GMOs created?
In labs, scientists use genetic engineering to insert genes from a type of bacteria, viruses, and animals genes into plants as well as animals (salmon for example) from another species to create hybrids that would never occur in nature. Despite warnings of potential health dangers from its own scientists, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration decided to allow genetically modified (GM) foods on the market without letting the public know. The commercial introduction of GMOs into our food supply started in 1996.
Why were GMOs created?
For many reasons, some of them made sense at the time and later were proven wrong, but here is a general list: to increase crops yield (later proven to be false); to resist hard weather conditions like drought (it turns out it does not work as well as advertised); to increase the amount of vitamin in food – like golden rice and vitamin A (a child in an undeveloped country would have to eat 27 to 54 bowls of rice a day to get the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A); to resist bugs (pesticides); or to survive their own toxic pesticides.
Every new GM seed is patented by large corporations – in the US the big players are Monsanto, DuPont, and even Land O’Lakes! Since GM seeds are not fertile and farmers are not allowed to save them to replant next year’s crop, they have to continue to buy from these GM seeds merchants and generate more and more business. The more GE seeds are created, the more control these companies have on our food supply. Voila! For more details about this aspect of the GM business, please watch “Seeds of Destruction.” All of this also means that farmers have less selection of non-GM seed, which also means the prices are much higher to buy a traditional seed that has not been genetically modified.
GM food crops are created in a lab for two main purposes
- To survive the spraying of glyphosate-laden pesticides like RoundUp by Monsanto and other chemical companies (Dow, Sygenta, Bayer, etc.). RoundUp is used by farmers to eliminate unwanted weeds during growth season. Unfortunately, nature found a way around it and created super weeds that resist pesticides. The result is that farmers are forced to use more and more glyphosate to keep up with nature and they are not winning the war. Bad for the farmers and bad for us.
- To contain its own pesticides Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), a bacteria used to kill insects. When we consume GM food containing this pesticide, it remains fully functional when we digest it. So now we have these toxic bacteria invading our gut and killing our friendly bacteria, the frontline for our immune system. It is thought that seventy percent of our immune system originates in our gut, and an unhealthy gut creates an unhealthy human.
Why should it matter to us and our children?
Because when we ingest GM foods, they can slowly weaken our immune system and make it less susceptible to fight off allergens bugging us, as well as other health issues and immune disorders. Moms Across America is even linking the growth of use of glyphosate with the accelerated growth of autism in this country for the past decade.
Some scientists even suggest the GM bacteria are so content residing in our guts that they reproduce and continue to grow, therefore creating our own Bt toxin factory. They are also allowing other unfriendly bacteria (candida yeast for example) to thrive and poke tiny holes through our intestinal walls, creating what is called leaky gut syndrome. This, in turn, allows allergenic proteins from some foods to get right through to our blood stream. Your immune system recognizes these proteins as foreign and attacks them, creating an allergic reaction or possibly even auto immune disease.
Why the controversy?
Of course, proponents of GMOs claim that GM crop toxicity has never been proven. Their studies are often sponsored by the very corporations that own the GMO patents and are conducted during short time periods to observe any adverse reactions in test animals. Longer studies are required to determine the true effect these bacteria and pesticides have on our bodies long term – over the course of years or life times, perhaps even multi-generational. Proponents also claim that no one has been able to prove a link between GM foods and allergies. There have been no controlled long-term studies to date, so we are in the dark at this time. But a study by the US Center for Disease Control shows that food-related diseases increased from 2 to 10 times from 1994 (2 years before GMOs were officially released in our food system) and 1999. Do you think there is a link?
The fact is that because these large food and chemical corporations have managed to block multiple attempts to require products containing GMOs to be labeled as such in US States (although it looks like Vermont may be the first to break through and succeed!), we are, as consumers, still in the dark. Meanwhile, we and our children are still unknowingly consuming GMOs on a daily basis.
Recently, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) urged physicians to advise all their patients to avoid genetically modified food. I would listen to them.
Where are GMOs hidden?
The most prevalent sources of direct genetically engineered (GE) or genetically modified (GM) food are those most used in every day processed and fast foods. Over the past 10 year, evidence has been collected to suggest that they are contributing to higher allergy rates.
The following foods MAY contain GM:
– Alfalfa used as feed for meat and dairy cattle;
– Beets (sugar, assorted sweeteners and animal feed);
– Canola (rapeseed oil);
– Corn (food, starch, oil, sweeteners, animal feed and many more);
– Cotton (cottonseed oil and cattle feed);
– Soy (food, oil, animal feed). Because of their national health system, England is one of the few countries conducting a yearly evaluation of food allergies. GM soy was introduced to the food world in 1996. In March 1999, scientists at the York Laboratory were shocked to discover that allergic reactions to soy had increased by 50% from the previous year. The soy used in the study was largely GM. The spokesman for the lab, John Graham, declared, “We believe this raises serious new questions about the safety of GM foods.”
– Minor crops such as small amounts of papaya, plums, and crookneck squashes;
More hidden GMO sources
– Meat from beef, pork (fed GM alfalfa, corn, cottonseed, soybean pellets, etc. plus GE growth hormones and antibiotics));
– Fish (fed corn and soybean pellets and colored with artificial colorings from petroleum);
– Poultry and eggs (fed GM grains);
– Dairy products from cattle (fed GM grains, GE growth hormones and GE antibiotics);
– Vitamins, supplements and even some medications. A lot of their ingredients are derived from GM foods like corn (ascorbic acid) and soy. For example: Vitamin C as ascorbic acid is derived from corn, a GM crop. Commercial vitamin B12 is partly based on growing B12 on the surface of glucose (corn) or molasses (beet sugar) by microbial fermentation using Pseudomonas denitrificans and Propionibacterium shermanii. Cellulose (as Carboxymethyl Cellulose, Croscarmellose Sodium, Ethylcellulose, Hydroxypropyl Cellulose, Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose, Hydroxymethyl Cellulose and Methylcellulose, Microcrystalline Cellulose, and Croscarmellose Sodium) is used as filler or in capsules can come from corn silk, or leftover cotton fibers – both GM crops. And a final example: Did you know that a lot of commercial cough syrups contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), another GM crop? And there are many, many more examples as explained in my upcoming book: GMO 101.
– Alcohol (ethanol, ethyl alcohol, methyl alcohol, denatured alcohol or grain alcohol) used in cough syrups is made by fermenting sugar and starches from corn or beet sugar (both GM crops). It is used in beverages, medicines or pharmaceutical drugs like cough medicine, lotions, tonics, cologne, supplements, cleaning solutions, explosives, and intoxicating beverages; can also be used as a solvent, rubbing compounds, automobile radiator antifreeze, and rocket fuel.
– Skin products and cosmetics. In my research for my upcoming book, I was shocked to discover how many GM ingredients were hidden in cosmetics under obscure names like Alcohol Ethoxylate from canola or corn or Alkyl polyglucoside from corn or soy oils. Please keep in mind that our skin is highly porous and absorbs all of these questionable ingredients directly into your blood. Biosaccharide Gum-1 is a skin conditioning gum made from sorbitol fermentation, itself a genetically engineered sweetener from GM corn or beet – both GM crops. It is used in a wide variety of cosmetics and personal care products including bath products, makeup, skin and hair care products, and toothpaste.
OMG?!? What should I eat? What do I do to avoid GMOs?
It’s pretty simple really:
1. Eat local. Try to buy only fresh food from your trusted local farmers. Ask them questions about whether they use GM seeds or not. You may even ask to visit their farm to make sure. If they are proud of the quality of their food, they should not mind.
2. Buy certified organic food. If you have not direct or easy access to a farmers’ market, try to buy USDA Certified food.
3. Non-GMO Verified. Finally, in case of processed food products, make sure to look for the Non-GMO Project on the product’s package.
Using these three simple techniques, you should be able to avoid 90% plus of genetically engineered food. Your digestive system and skin will thank you.
A Votre Santé – To Your Health
Bio: Chef Alain Braux is an award-winning executive chef and multiple award-winning food and health author at www.alainbraux.com . Chef Braux is the executive chef and nutrition therapist at Peoples Pharmacy in Austin, TX, as well as running his health food consulting private practice at A Votre Santé – To Your Health. You can also find him on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
Chef Braux is an expert in food allergies diets and the author of multiple award-winning food and health books. “How to Lower your Cholesterol with French Gourmet Food”, “Living Gluten and Dairy-Free with French Gourmet Food”, “Healthy French Cuisine for Less Than $10/Day” and most recently “Paleo French Cuisine”. Chef Braux upcoming book is titled: GMO 101.