Genetically Modified Organisms

A frightening change in our food supply was the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) which are made in a laboratory by inserting genes from a totally unrelated organism. GMO plants are usually engineered to be resistant to the herbicide RoundupTM (glyphosate) which is used to kill weeds. Thus high amounts of glyphosate can be used on crops without killing the crop. In addition to the pesticides that remain on these foods, GMOs may be recognized by the body as different. The timeline of events of the last 20 years suggests consuming GMOs results in more food allergies.

Although the FDA did no testing before approving GMOs and insists that they are safe, the timeline associated with the epidemic of peanut anaphylaxis in children casts grave doubt on the safety of GMOs. In 1996, GMO soy, the first GMO food the FDA approved, came into widespread use. Soy and peanuts are both in the legume family, and it is not unusual for a person allergic to one member of a food family to react to other members as well. In 1997, the incidence of peanut anaphylaxis rose by 20%. [1] This trend in the United State has continued every year so at the time of this writing one in thirteen children have peanut anaphylaxis. Their lives are at risk if they are exposed to peanuts.

In 1998, GMO soy was introduced in the United Kingdom, and the rate of soy allergies rose 50% in 1999. [2] These examples may not constitute proof that consuming GMOs is unsafe, but since I personally do not want to develop more food allergies, I avoid GMO foods.

Over ten years ago I received a phone call from a mother about her recently diagnosed allergic daughter. She was most concerned with why her daughter was severely allergic. She spent much time and effort discovering the reason. Her research led her disagree with the FDA about the safety of GMOs. She has sought and was granted the opportunity to discuss this on television programs such Oprah and CBN TV. She has also written books such as The Unhealthy Truth: How Our Food Is Making Us Sick and What We Can Do About It.

Until 2006, Robyn O'Brien was an ordinary mother of four children. Then her one-year old daughter had her first small taste of eggs for breakfast and had a severe allergic reaction. How could she be so allergic? Her pediatrician told Robyn that this was not her daughter's first exposure to eggs because she had been immunized against flu a few months previously. A pediatric allergist said she was at risk for more food allergies and more severe reactions. In response to her questions, he told Robyn not to worry about the "whys" but to concentrate on her job of keeping her daughter safe. [3] Desperate to protect her daughter and other allergic children, Robyn thoroughly researched the "whys" and started a crusade to help "allergy kids" by providing much needed information for parents of allergic children. The most important health-changing information she learned was that consuming a diet of processed foods can dysregulate the immune system, leading to allergies. [4] Changing her family's diet to all organic non-GMO foods has kept her daughter safe.

Several states have tried to pass or have passed initiatives to require labeling of GMO foods, but they have been struck down by the expenditure of millions of dollars from Monsanto to thwart allowing shoppers knowledge of whether a food contains GMOs. [5] Yet, although there has been no testing done, the FDA insists that GMO foods are safe. The "safety" of glyphosate is also being protected as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has acted to stall a toxicology review of the herbicide by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). [6] However, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer declared glyphosate a probable human carcinogen. [7]

Another feat of genetic engineering is Monsanto's drug PosilacTM, a man-made version of bovine growth hormone (BGH). The non-trade name of this drug was recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) but very recently has it has begun going by the name recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST). [8] Giving cattle this drug to increase milk production changes milk, making it contain many times more insulin-like growth factor, which increases the incidence of breast cancer in women who drink this unnatural milk and decreases the age at which it strikes. Click here and here to read more about rBGH including references to scientific journal articles.

At this time, the list of GMO foods in the United States includes soy, corn, sugar beets (beet sugar), canola (oil), cottonseed (oil), papaya, zucchini, yellow summer squash, some tomatoes, some apples (including non-browning apples), some potatoes (but not sweet potatoes or yams), and alfalfa. When you shop for these foods, if you want to avoid GMOs, you must buy organic produce. For packaged foods, look for a logo that says the food is certified GMO free. So far the government has not prohibited producers of healthy foods from putting this non-GMO logo on their products.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed a protocol for determining whether GMOs might cause the development of allergies to those foods, but unfortunately none of the GMO foods developed in the United States has been tested using the protocol. [8] Some European countries take the "better safe rather than sorry" approach and do not allow GMOs to be used in their food. The powers that be in the United States have not followed the example of the Europeans. However, nothing keeps us from personally avoiding GMO foods and instead supporting organic food production with our dollars. There are also opportunities for activism with the Organic Consumers Association. If you are interested in news about GMOs and possible activism, subscribe to their weekly e-newsletter. This can be done in the upper right part of this article about GMOs on their website.


Footnotes

[1] O'Brien, Robyn. The Unhealthy Truth: How Our Food Is Making Us Sick and What We Can Do About It. (New York, Broadway Books, Random House, 2009), 65.
[2] O'Brien., 66, 89-90.
[3] O'Brien., 9-11.
[4] O'Brien., 45-57.
[5] Chow, Lorraine. 8 Battleground States in the GMO Food Labeling Fight. http://www.ecowatch.com/8-battleground-states-in-the-gmo-food-labeling-fight-1882162099.html .
[6] Gilliam, Carey. Collusion or Coincidence? Records Show EPA Efforts to Slow Herbicide Review Came in Coordination With Monsanto. Huffington Post, August 17, 2017, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/5994dad4e4b056a2b0ef02f1
[7] International Agency for Research on Cancer, World Health Organizaion. Evaluation of Five Organophosphates Insecticides and Herbicides. IARC Monographs Volume 112, March 20, 2015. http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre
/iarcnews/pdf/MonographVolume112.pdf
[8] In my opinion, this could be an attempt to keep us from recognizing information about rBGH on milk labels and avoiding milk from treated cows.
[9] O'Brien., 138.