Genetically modified foods have been widely touted as the foods of the future, or foods that will feed the world. As my last blog post reveals, Genetically Modified Organism (GMO or GM) foods have many potential health risks that you may not be aware of. Notably, GMO foods are linked to altering gut flora and disrupting the G.I. tract. The G.I. tract is the foundation for preventing and recovering from infections such as Staph, MRSA, or C. difficile.
There are enough studies and scientific evidence to raise major red flags about the safety and environmental effect of GMO foods. Unfortunately, there is also heavy resistance to evidence supporting the dangers of GMOs in both government and industry circles. Fortunately, you can reduce your exposure to these foods with a little knowledge and a few simple tips.
Science versus politics and profits
GMOs are big business. And where the money flows, politics and the media usually follow. As with many things backed by a lot of money and political pressure, studies and other scientific information that call GMO safety into question faces an uphill battle to be taken seriously by the media, the public and ultimately by policy makers.
While there are many studies showing the negative consequences of GMOs, you can also find studies that back the safety and nutritional benefits of GMOs, usually funded by groups with a vested interest in GMOs.
One of the challenges with pinning down GMO health risks is how long term the risks can be. Unlike poisons that cause harm immediately, any health risks from GMOs would likely accumulate over many years and not be noticeable right away. This makes real-time human studies to gauge these health risks very challenging to design and perform. And unfortunately, one of the biggest gaps in the Food and Drug Administrations’ approval process is long term chronic side effects.
Potential GM food risks
Below is a list of concerning facts and potential risks of GM foods and farming practices.
- GMO’s can be less nutritious than natural varieties of the same food.
- Despite claims to the contrary, GMO’s actually promote the use of more harmful pesticides rather than reduce their use.
- According to many GMO opponents, GMO’s are not properly tested or regulated to ensure they are safe for people or the environment, especially over many years of exposure.
- GMO’s and their growing practices contribute to “superweeds” that are resistant to herbicides.
- Common growing practices used with GM crops contribute to reduced biodiversity, lower soil nutrient quality and food contamination with herbicides and insecticides.
- The common herbicidal ingredient glyphosate sprayed on GM foods disrupts intestinal flora and promotes the growth of disease-causing bacteria in the gut (see my previous blog post for details).
How you can avoid GMOs
Because of the widespread use of Roundup® and similar herbicides, glyphosate can be found in vegetables, in meat products (most animals eat GM feeds) and even in the water supply1. Unfortunately, you can’t remove glyphosate by simply washing your food because the chemical is absorbed inside the plant’s tissues. Likewise, you cannot wash away or remove the GMO component from GMO foods because it’s part of the food’s inherent chemical structure.
A better approach to minimize glyphosate and GMO exposure is to avoid glyphosate containing products and GMO foods. Below are several steps you can take to minimize your glyphosate and GMO intake and exposure:
- Avoid using Roundup or other herbicides containing glyphosate. Either pull weeds or use non-toxic alternatives.
- Eat organic foods. GMOs, Roundup and other chemical fertilizers are banned for use in or around organic agriculture.
- Look for the Non GMO Project Verified label for foods that are free from GMOs. More details here.
- Avoid cooking with GMO oils like canola, corn and soy.
- Demand GMO labeling in your state and at your local stores. If food products are labeled, it will help you make educated and informed choices about what you eat.
- Eat more whole foods and less processed foods. Most GMO foods are processed foods that use corn, soy, sugar, canola oil and wheat. These ingredients make up about 80% of processed foods (foods that are packaged or boxed). Eat more whole foods and organic foods to help reduce your exposure to GMOs.
- According to the EPA, activated carbon used in water filters can help remove glyphosate from water supplies and according to the ASCE, both chlorine and ozone treatments will destroy glyphosate2.
- Speth, T. (1993). “Glyphosate Removal from Drinking Water.” J. Environ. Eng., 10.1061/(ASCE)0733-9372(1993)119:6(1139), 1139-1157