GMO: Friend or Foe?

I haven’t written about GMO foods before because, frankly, I came a bit late to the party. For a long time I wasn’t paying strict attention, concerned as I have been for most of my career with weight loss, diabetes and heart disease. And—full disclosure—I bought into a lot of the arguments put forth by industry, particularly the companies that make this stuff.

The pro-GMO crowd likes to argue that GMO increases yields, reduces pesticide use, benefits farmers, brings economic benefits, benefits the environment, reduces energy use, and will help feed the world.

Undoubtedly, some of that may be true, though most of those arguments fall apart under close examination. Right now, though, I’m concerned with the effect of GMOs on individual health. So let’s talk about what GMOs mean to you and me.

First, some definitions. Genetic modification means splicing the genes from one species onto the genes of another. This is fundamentally different from breeding. We all know you can make a mule by breeding a horse with a donkey, or a Labradoodle by crossing a Labrador retriever with a poodle. This is different. This is splicing the genes from a fish onto a tomato. Or a cow’s gene onto a pig.

And it’s fraught with uncertainty.

This kind of gene splicing has a huge potential for disaster. Why? Because we’re taking something that does not exist in nature and putting it in food.

Now think about it. What does the body do with foreign compounds? It mounts an attack. Which always—not sometimes—involves inflammation. And what do we know about inflammation, class? Only that it’s a cause, a multiplier, a promoter or a contributor of just about every degenerative disease we know of.

Also, remember that the gut is the first interface between food and the body. Inflammation in the gut almost always translates to something called leaky gut syndrome where the tight junctures in the gut—think of them as a kind of cheesecloth—start loosening up. The protective fence becomes less protective—now there are holes in that cheesecloth allowing all sorts of compounds to get into the bloodstream where they don’t belong.

It gets worse. Much worse.

Let’s just look at a little compound called glyphosate—which you may know by it’s more common commercial name, “Roundup”, the herbicide made by Monsanto. GMO crops are frequently “Roundup ready” which means you can spray them with Roundup without killing them. Even GMO crops that are not “Roundup ready” are frequently sprayed with Roundup since it’s a very effective dessicant (it dries crops out before harvesting).

Want to see what the research studies on glycphosate show?

  • Glyphosate (Roundup) is an antibiotic—but it kills some of the best bacteria in the microbiome, including bifidobacteria and lactobacillis.
  • Stephanie Seneff, a senior researcher at MIT, published a paper suggesting that glyphosate may explain the link between a damaged microbiome and gluten intolerance.
  • Glycphosate suppresses cytochrome CYP enzymes in the liver, meaning it compromises detoxification in the body
  • Glyphosate’s been shown to be an endocrine disrupter in human cells. (Translated: it screws around with your hormones.)
  • Glyphosate changes human cell permeability
  • Glyphsoate amplifies toxicity
  • Glyphsoate induces human breast cancer cell growth via estrogen receptors.
  • Glyphosate accelerates cell proliferation (i.e. cancer) at tiny concentrations (measured in parts per billion to parts per trillion!)
  • Rats fed Roundup-ready corn have damaged liver and kidneys.

 

(Full disclosure: after a ton of pressure, that journal printing that last rat study retracted it for “inconclusive results”, but taken with the rest of the published evidence, it’s still pretty damning.)

Oh, and by the way. I have the references for every one of the studies listed above. They were all presented at a recent conference put on by the American College of Nutrition. If you want the references, shoot me an email.

Now. And are you ready for the amounts of glyphosate “legally” permitted in food?

I hope you’re sitting down.

The amount of glycphosate that’s “legal” for breakfast cereals is 30 ppm. For soybeans, it’s 120 ppm.

Umm, did I mention the study that showed that ONE ppm causes a 35% reduction in testosterone in rats?

(I thought that might get your attention.)

The nine crops that are always GMO in this country (unless they are labeled organic) are soy, corn (not popcorn), cottonseed (oil), canola (oil), sugar beets, papaya, zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, and alfalfa.

And don’t count on transparency from the GMO folks. Nineteen—count ‘em, nineteen—states floated bills requiring GMO products to be labeled truthfully so that consumers could actually know what they’re buying and make their own informed choice.

Not one bill passed, not even in health-conscious California. Remember, we’re dealing with the lobbying and advertising budget of a company (Monsanto) that’s literally twice the size of Major League Baseball. In California, the ads convinced my fellow voters that labeling food as GMO would make it more expensive.

The bill was defeated.

Remember, despite efforts to convince you that organic food is “no better” nutritionally than conventionally grown food, the truth is we don’t buy organic food for what’s in it.

We buy it for what’s not in it. WF

 

 

Jonny Bowden, “the Nutrition Myth Buster”™ is a board-certified nutritionist and the best-selling author of The Great Cholesterol Myth and 13 other books. Visit him at www.jonnybowden.com.

 

NOTE: The statements presented in this column should not be considered medical advice or a way to diagnose or treat any disease or illness. Dietary supplements do not treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of a medical professional before altering your daily dietary regimen. The opinions presented here are those of the writer. WholeFoods Magazine does not endorse any specific company, brand or product.

Posted 11/3/14