Potentially one of the biggest health concerns in the modern world are genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). Despite recent attention on the question of their safety, the House of Representatives recently voted to block attempts at requiring GMO labeling which has caused this issue to receive less media coverage than it deserves.
It is estimated that 94% of soy and 92% of corn that is grown in the United States are GMOs. This is in light of the fact that there is little to no research that has been done on the possible long-term effects of eating these genetically-modified plants. Most of the easily-available research done on this subject is clearly biased as it has been conducted and published by the same companies who produce the GM seeds and who stand to gain from them being considered safe.
Other studies that have been done by organizations who have consumers in mind like the Environmental Working Group and the Institute for Responsible Technology have found terrifying connections between eating GMOs and several serious health problems including increased disease rates, inflammation, intestinal damage, and death.
Because of the research that has been done by these trusted organization as well as other independent research studies, experts urge that consumers avoid GMOs. This is particularly important for individuals who have autoimmune diseases or inflammatory conditions, for the reasons discussed below.
1. GMOs Contain High Levels of Herbicides
One of the primary reasons for the development of GMO crops was to let farmers use herbicides to kill weeds that would not kill their actual crops. This means that farmers who grow GMO crops can freely coat their crops in herbicides. Medical studies done on autoimmune diseases reveal that one of the triggers is an exposure to toxins, which herbicides are filled with.
Monsanto developed their GMO seeds as “Roundup ready.” This means that they are resistant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. This has caused the use of Roundup to increase 16 times what it was before these crops were created. Since the World Health Organization has recently reported that glyphosate is very likely to cause cancer, this should be a huge cause for concern for everyone.
As the amount of glyphosate use has increased, so have the number of glyphosate-resistant weeds. Because these resistant weeds require an even larger amount of herbicide to be killed, farmers have to turn to even more dangerous chemical herbicides like 2, 4-D. Experts have found connections with this chemical and health problems such as Parkinson’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, reproduction problems, and endocrine disruption.
2. GMO Foods Lead to a Leaky Gut
By mixing plant DNA with bacteria DNA, Monsanto was able to create a plant that produces its own pesticide known as Bt-toxin. A number of GM crops include this feature, including corn. The way this pesticide works is by destroying the digestive tracts of the insects that eat it. This pesticide does the same thing in humans that eat these GM foods, which leads to leaky gut syndrome.
Leaky gut is considered to be a precondition to the development of autoimmune diseases. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) was recently prompted by their growing concern for the effects that GMOs have on the American people to make a public statement to say that “it is biologically plausible for genetically-modified foods to cause adverse health effects in humans.”
In addition to Bt-toxin, many GM crops are also designed to improve on the natural “plant protectors” present in the plants. That includes chemicals such as saponins, digestive enzyme inhibitors, agglutinins, and prolamins. All of these have been found to contribute to inflammation, leaky gut, and gut dysbiosis, which have a negative impact on people with autoimmune diseases.
3. GMOs Disrupt Your Gut Balance
Having a good amount of good gut bacteria is especially important for individuals who have autoimmune diseases because your good gut bacteria fight off the bad bacteria like botulism and salmonella. However, glyphosate is a strong antibiotic which wreaks havoc on your good gut bacteria. Many of the bad bacteria, on the other hand, are resistant to glyphosate which puts your health at a serious risk for developing inflammation, Candida overgrowth, and leaky gut as bad bacteria go unchecked.
How to Avoid GMOs
It might seem that genetically modified foods are ubiquitous in our modern food system, but if you arm yourself with the right knowledge, then you can make smart shopping decisions to avoid GMOs.
Choose organic whenever possible
Organic foods are by definition non-GMO, so buying organic fruits, veggies, and packaged foods will ensure that you avoid GMOs. Plus, organic foods are free of dangerous pesticides, herbicides, and other toxins used on conventionally farmed foods. Look for labels that say “100% Organic” or “USDA Organic.” Assume that anything labeled “Made With Organic” contains some organic ingredients, and the rest may be GMO.
For organic, GMO-free pantry items I like to order from Thrive Market, an online marketplace that offers wholesome products at wholesale prices. Their membership-based model lets you buy healthy products at 25 – 50% below retail prices. You can shop by “values” including certified organic, GMO-free, gluten-free, paleo, etc. Use this link and you’ll get your first month free!
Switch to grass-fed meat
Unless marked otherwise, most livestock is fed genetically modified, pesticide-laden corn, soy, and alfalfa, instead of traditional grass. This is extremely important because the diet of the animals you eat affects you as well, and if they ate a diet of GMO feed, it will end up in your body. Also, because livestock are now given growth hormones and antibiotics to get them as fat as possible as quickly as possible, they’re ingesting high quantities of genetically modified feed over their short lifespans.
For this reason, I recommend buying only grass-fed (not just grass-finished), pasture-raised, organic meats. I like to order my meat from U.S. Wellness meats. It’s all organic, grass-fed, and free-range, and they have a wide variety of beef, bison, lamb, chicken, pork, and more.
Use The EWG’s Guide to Avoiding GMOs
The EWG has created a very helpful resource outlining which foods are most commonly GM, and which foods are a safer bet. Buy them all organic if you can, but if that’s not feasible, at the very least buy organic when it comes to the most commonly GM foods.
Support the mandatory labeling of GMOs
Currently, GM foods are not required to be labeled. Several states have passed legislation that would mandate labeling of GM food, but the federal Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act would prohibit any state regulation on GMO labeling, effectively nullifying any progress made thus far at the state and local level.
The DARK act passed the House of Representatives this summer, and it will be up for a voteany day now in the Senate. The EWG and many other organizations are working very hard to ensure that this bill is not passed in the senate. Help support this effort by signing the EWG’s petition.