by Jeffrey M. Smith RSS
executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology and author of "Seeds of Deception"
Are genetically modified (GM) foods making you sick – I mean really sick? Up until recently, all that we could say was thank goodness you’re not a lab rat; GM feed messes them up big time. GMOs (genetically modified organisms) appear to trigger the immune systems of both mice and rats as if they were under attack. In addition, the gastrointestinal system is adversely affected, animals age more quickly, and vital organs are damaged. When fed GM foods, lab animals can also become infertile, have smaller or sterile offspring, increased infant mortality, and even hair growing in their mouths. Have I got your attention?
Biotechnology corporations such as Monsanto try to distort or deny the evidence, sometimes pointing to their own studies that supposedly show no reactions. But when scientists such as French toxicologist G.E. Seralini re-analyzed Monsanto’s raw data, it actually showed that the rats fed GM corn suffered from clear signs of toxicity – evidence that industry scientists skillfully overlooked.
Doctors Prescribe Non-GMO Diets; Remarkable Recoveries Result
Although there have been no human clinical trials, experts conclude that there is sufficient evidence from animal feeding studies to remove GMOs altogether. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) called for a moratorium in 2009 based on their review of the research. According to their former president, Dr. Robin Bernhoft, the Academy “recommends that all physicians should prescribe non-genetically modified food for all patients, and that we should educate all of our patients on the potential health dangers, and known health dangers of GMO food.”
Today, thousands of physicians and nutritionists do just that, and they report that a wide variety of health conditions improve after people make the change. Here’s some recent examples:
1) Trial consultant LaDonna Carlton, had to take two pills, three times a day to suppress the painful cramps and constant diarrhea associated with her irritable bowel syndrome. “My doctor told me I would be on this forever,” says LaDonna. But then she met a new doctor, internist Emily Lindner, MD. “The first thing she did,” says LaDonna, “was take me off GMOs,” including soy, corn, canola oil, and sugar. “Within two months,” she says, “I didn’t need the medication any longer.”
Since LaDonna stopped preparing foods with GMOs, her husband Fred was swept along with the new diet. And he’s glad he was. “I feel 10 times better,” he says. At 73, Fred plays full court basketball, even with two artificial knees. The new diet, he says, “made me feel much younger... I feel like I’m 50.”
2) Interior designer, Carol Salb, also recovered from irritable bowel syndrome, as well as cold hands and feet, thinning hair, allergies, and daily congestion. “I felt better in two and half weeks [after going GMO-free],” she says. That was six years ago and she’s still going strong.
3) We interviewed former school teacher Theresa Haerle on her 25th day on a GMO-free diet, and she had already shed more than 10 pounds. Even more remarkable was her recovery from 30 years of colitis – by the third day of her diet. In addition, her skin problems started to clear, she had more energy than she’d had in years, and it no longer hurt to get out of bed in the morning.
4) Kids are also recovering. One middle schooler changed his diet and no longer suffers from incapacitating migraines and asthma. Another recovered from horrible pain in his gut.
Although these patient interviews had been set up by physicians, at the Institute for Responsible Technology we’ve heard similar stories for a long time. Laurie lost 35 pounds in one year. Paul’s restless leg syndrome is gone – unless he accidentally eats a GMO. Many say their symptoms go away when visiting Europe, where food companies removed GMOs long ago due to consumer rejection.
Dr. Lindner says, “I tell my patients to avoid genetically modified foods because in my experience, with those foods there is more allergies and asthma,” as well as digestive issues such as gas, bloating, irritable bowel, colitis, and leaky gut. “And what emanates from that,” she says, “is everything. Lots of arthritis problems, autoimmune diseases, anxiety... neurological problems; anything that comes from an inspired immune system response.”
The speed of recovery varies, usually depending on the symptom. “When I change people from a GMO diet to a GMO-free diet,” she says, “I see results instantaneously in people who have foggy thinking and people who have gut symptoms like bloating, gas, irritation. In terms of allergies, it might take two to five days. In terms of depression, it starts to lift almost instantaneously. It takes from a day, to certainly within two weeks.” Full results usually take about four to six weeks. Dr. Lindner doesn’t just eliminate GMOs in her dietary regimen, but that, she says, is the most critical component.
People who switch to non-GMO diets often do so by buying organic foods – which are not allowed to use GMOs. This raises a critical point in the analysis. Were the health recoveries stemming from eliminating GMOs or from other co-factors such as the reduction in chemicals and increased nutrition found in organics? Similarly, since most GMOs in our diet are found in processed foods, some people reduced GMOs by cooking from scratch. So they simultaneously eliminate additives that may contribute to disorders. And for others, they may also eliminate food categories, such as gluten or dairy, based on a diagnosis. So what’s really causing these dramatic recoveries?
Similar Livestock Stories – Without The Co-factors
Fortunately, the experience of numerous veterinarians and farmers around the world gives us insight. When they take livestock off GMO soy or corn and substitute the non-GMO equivalent, they don’t have these pesky co-factors. The animals are not eating organic, there’s no change in nutrients or additives, and yet the results are still impressive.
When a Danish pig farmer switched to non-GMO soy in April 2011 for his 450 sows and their offspring, within two days the animals’ serious diarrhea problems virtually disappeared. During the following year, death from ulcers and bloat, which had claimed 36 pigs over the previous two years, vanished. Conception rate was up, litter size was up, diseases were down, and birth defects were eliminated.
An Iowa farmer saw immediate changes in his 3,000 pig nursery after switching to non-GMO corn last December. Not only is there a lower rate of disease and medical bills, he says, “Our pigs are happier and more playful.”
A feedlot operator with 5,000 head of cattle also switched to non-GMO corn and reported, “We’ve had a lot less pneumonia and health issues since that time.” Like the pig farmer, the behaviour changed noticeably. His “cattle have been a lot calmer.” Many farmers who were struggling with high rates of infertility and miscarriages in their livestock say they turned the situation around after switching to non-GMO feed.
Renowned veterinarian and author Michael W. Fox, whose syndicated column has reached tens of millions, says that when GMOs were introduced to the marketplace, cats and dogs started suffering from much higher rates of allergies, itching, and gastrointestinal problems. He now has a file drawer full of letters from happy pet owners confirming that his advice to switch the pets to non-GMO and organic feed cleared up the problem.
Repeating Symptoms: From Lab Rats to Consumers
What is striking about all these reports is the similarity of experiences. Many of the same categories of disorders identified in animal feeding studies by the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, (e.g. gastrointestinal, immune, and reproductive), also clear up in humans and livestock when they switch to a non-GMO diet. Moreover, these same problems are on the rise in the U.S. population since GMOs were introduced in 1996. Inflammatory bowel disease is up 40 percent. Multiple chronic illnesses nearly doubled in nine years. Food allergies, infertility, asthma, autoimmune diseases, etc., have accelerated among U.S. consumers, nearly all of whom eat GMOs without even knowing it.
Even autism rates may be impacted. When an autism specialist heard a scientist lecture about the behavioural, neurological, and physiological changes in mice, rats, and livestock fed GMOs, he told the speaker afterwards: “That’s exactly what we are finding in our autistic children.” Many parents report significant improvements in behaviour and gastrointestinal disorders in their autistic children, after they remove GMOs from the diet. (See resource list.)
How Could GMOs Be So Bad?
To understand how genetically engineered crops might contribute to so many serious disorders, it is helpful to understand a few details of the technology. GM crops have foreign genes inserted into their DNA, which is followed by cloning of those cells into plants.
1) Irrespective of which foreign gene is used, the very process of insertion and cloning causes massive collateral damage to the plants’ natural DNA. This has resulted, for example, in a new allergen in Monsanto’s GM corn and a huge allergen increase in their GM soy. Most of these types of unexpected side effects, which can add toxins or carcinogens to our meals, are never even screened for.
2) The GM crops on the market contain added genetic material from bacteria and viruses. These pieces of DNA, as well as the RNA and proteins they produce, have never before been part of the human diet; that can be a problem for the immune system. According to Martha Grout, MD, “Genetically modified foods create inflammation in the system.” Inflammation, in turn, can lead to a wide variety of diseases, including allergies, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, and heart disease. Dr. Emily Lindner likewise interprets the impact of GMOs as “an immune or inflammatory response” and treats it accordingly.
3) The gene inserted into certain GM corn and cotton varieties is designed to provoke a response – in insects that is. The gene produces a poison called Bt-toxin that kills certain bugs by breaking holes in their digestive tracts. In spite of assurances by the biotech industry to the contrary, a study published this year confirmed that the toxin also breaks holes in human cells. A Canadian study in 2011 found Bt-toxin from Monsanto’s corn circulating in the blood of 93 percent of the pregnant women tested, as well as in 80 percent of their unborn fetuses. Bt corn might therefore not only provoke an inflamed, leaky digestive tract, it might wreak havoc in our bloodstream, and in the delicate brains of infants whose blood brain barriers are not developed.
4) Three minor GM crops, papaya (grown in Hawaii and China exclusively), zucchini, and yellow crookneck squash, contain inserted virus genes designed to fend off disease. Eating these, however, may have the exact opposite effect on us. Viral genes can produce viral proteins, which as a class are well-known to suppress the body’s defences against viral infection. They can also be toxic.
5) The most widely used GMOs are called “herbicide tolerant,” including soy, corn, cotton, canola, sugar beets, and alfalfa. This trait allows farmers to spray Monsanto’s weed killer Roundup, for example, on their Roundup Ready crops without killing them. The genes inserted into these plants produce proteins with allergenic properties. Perhaps of greater concern is that the sprayed toxins are concentrated into the food portion of the plant and end up in our diet. Roundup is linked to cancer, Parkinson’s, birth defects, and endocrine disruption.
6) And now the bad news. The only human feeding study confirmed that part of the gene inserted into Roundup Ready soybeans can transfer into DNA of bacteria living inside our intestines. If the transferred genes continue to produce proteins (and there is evidence suggesting it does), then we may have allergens, viral proteins, or even Bt-toxin continuously manufactured within our own digestive tracts.
OK, The Good News
Fortunately, as people learn about the health dangers of GMOs, feel better from non-GMO diets, and tell others, the non-GMO movement grows. There are now millions who seek healthier non-GMO foods. Since GMOs offer no consumer benefits; and since the major food companies in North America have already removed GMOs from their European brands due to consumer rejection, any measurable drop in sales that is linked with growing anti-GMO sentiment here will likely trigger a rapid race to non-GMO status.
The tipping point threshold is likely to require only about five percent of consumers.
A critical vote in California this November may accelerate the non-GMO revolution. A measure requiring mandatory labeling of GMOs is on the ballot. If passed, we think food companies would rather avoid GMOs than admit they use them. Especially since 53 percent of Americans say they would choose the non-GMO brands once labels give them a clear choice.
I’ll bet that after learning about the evidence of health dangers, that percentage is likely to grow.