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GMOs – An Unbiased Analysis

Even if GMOs are safe, they are still a concern!

Posted by NutritionMax - June 26th, 2015

Many of us are well aware that GMO foods infiltrate an enormous amount of our food supply and make personal efforts to purchase foods with the “Non-GMO Project” label. The main crops grown in the U.S. that are genetically modified are soybeans (94%), canola (90%), cotton (90%), sugar beets (95%) and corn (88%). [1] Many people forget the fact that products derived from these crops including high fructose corn syrup, cornstarch, food additives, sweeteners like aspartame and any non-organic meat, eggs or dairy due to the animals feed of GMO grains still contain GMOs.


Unfortunately, due to no government regulation laws, food companies are not obligated to state if GMO crops are present in their product. Considering the fact that the FDA is in bed with Monsanto (the massive GMO producing biotech company), it’s likely to stay this away until the public’s voice is strong enough.
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What The Research Says

Much of the evidence that GMOs are safe comes from industry-funded studies. As research accumulates, it is only a matter of time where the picture becomes more clear about the risks of GMOs. There may not exactly be any safety issues reported on the market these days; but like many things in our food supply, it’s very challenging to discern if GMOs are contributing to our declining health or more precisely, what or if GMOs are altering our genome.

If we don’t know if GMOs are a real threat, we are best to use the principle of “guilty until proven innocent”. As it is right now, the food industry is using the opposite principle of GMOs being “innocent until proven guilty” as the consumers are the guinea pigs in this ongoing “trial.”


There is some merit associated with GMOs in terms of how it benefits us in fuelling our automobiles, vaccines and providing food for a rapidly increasing population on a global level.


Generally, we lack any clear, cogent evidence in human clinical trials to conclude if GMOs pose a real danger to our health as much of the studies are done in isolation on animals. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine, back in 2009, cited that major health risks including infertility, immune dysregulation, ageing and disturbances in the GI tract were noted in animal studies with subsequent recommendations by the AAEM to avoid GMOs.[3] While animal studies provide some level of insight, it’s not the ultimate method to dictate if they are a real issue to humans.


The Animal Studies

GMOs in animal studies do show liver decay, reproductive abnormalities and infant mortality in rats and mice. Bt crops (crops that produce their own insecticide) are associated with sterility and death in cattle.[2] GMO soy appears to be most problematic of all the crops according to animal studies because it contains more herbicide residues, there’s an increase of allergies when eaten and digestive enzyme suppression is found. Furthermore, there is indication of a potential new allergen created in addition to the RoundUp Ready protein being allergenic. In studies on rabbits, GMO soy changed gene expression and cell structure in multiple organs. In mice, GMO soy altered the structure of testicular cells and when soy was given to rats 2 weeks prior to conception, half of the offspring died. [4]


To date, there are no real human studies on GMO foods which is why it’s difficult to prove much danger. However, the only human GMO feeding study in the literature shows that part of the genetic material from GMO soy transfers into the DNA of the gut microflora. This shows that the genes in the GMO crops survive digestion and are not simply degraded as the FDA believed prior to the study. Surprisingly, in the study, 3 out of the 7 human subjects were found to have the RoundUp GMO gene in the gut bacteria’s DNA before they were fed the soy, alluding that the gut bacteria are infected long after we have stopped eating GMO foods.[2] Based on the study, the RoundUp Ready gene can transfer to the gut microbiota and likely does because it’s a selective advantage, allowing them to prosper and grow without being killed by RoundUp. Since we do not know the long-term effects this could have, it’s very concerning to believe that the microbiota we so deeply depend on to live is tarnished. Additionally, there is the possibility that the Bt gene, viral gene and antibiotic resistant markers in the GMO crop can transfer to the bacteria as well.


The Concerns, And The Bacteria, Keep Growing

There is also concern now also that if GMO crops contain antibiotic resistance genes, these genes can transfer to the gut bacteria of our gut and make us further resistant to antibiotic drugs. Obviously, that would be a major disservice to the pharmaceutical companies.


If the Bt toxin (a gene from a strain of bacteria inserted into GMO crops to produce their own insecticide) finds its way into the microbiota, the millions of bacteria could then become a Bt production factory. With 3 million microbial genes in the gut, that’s a lot of potential. Moreover, in vitro studies show that Bt pokes holes in the GI tract of bugs, which might indicate a potential case for leaky gut. About 20% of GMO crops are inoculated with the Bt toxin. Mice studies show immune reactions to it and damaged GI tract. There are reports of allergic reactions of wounds, discoloration, itching, etc. when people involved in Bt cotton farming. Monsanto even has their own study that revealed that when rats at Bt corn, there was evidence for immune responses, liver and kidney toxicity, allergies and infections.[4] There are also virus resistant GMO crops like papaya, zucchini, and crookneck squash. They produce virus resistance proteins that have been shown in animal trials to suppress defence mechanism against viral infections.[4]


Is GMO Really All Bad?

Even if for some chance, GMO crops are innocent, there is still the issue with insecticides like Monsanto’s RoundUp because of its main ingredient, glyphosate. There is accumulating evidence on how detrimental glyphosate is to our health. RoundUp gets absorbed into the crops with 20% roughly leaving through the root and the remainder is stored in the plant.


Glyphosate has been tied to reproductive issues, inhibition of cytochrome detoxification enzymes, initiating the progression of increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut), suppressing the ability of gut bacteria to produce amino acids, create gut bacteria imbalances and pathogenic bacteria overgrowth and binding to nutrients like selenium, zinc, calcium and cobalt so the crop is deficient in minerals.
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It’s been seen in multiple animal studies as an endocrine disruptor. In rat models, females in all treated groups died 3x more than controls (non-fed RoundUp) and developed mammary tumors along with dysfunction of the pituitary gland. Liver death was evident in male rats and kidney abnormalities in both sexes.[5] Glyphosate is seen as a toxicant in human placental cells at 100x lower concentrations than what’s used in agriculture. The ingredient has shown to cause cytochrome P450 aromatase enzyme interference in placenta cells, which is responsible for estrogen synthesis. However, there is strong postulation of a synergistic effect with glyphosate and the rest of the RoundUp ingredients on inducing the dysfunction and thus reproduction, rather than glyphosate alone. [6]


GMO Isn't Just Bad For People

Indeed, there are adverse implications GMO crops might have on the environment. Cross-contamination is a noted possibility as pollen from GMO canola and cotton can inappropriately spread to nearby plants. There is bigger worry about the ability for RoundUp, pesticides and the bt toxin to seep into the soil, water streams and our water system.[7]


The bt toxin has even been found in the blood of pregnant mothers and fetus as a result of some interaction with GMOs .[8]


Despite what your preconceived biased opinion of GMO foods are, the data presented here strongly implies caution with GMO food consumption, but is far from unequivocally confirming the dangers with it.


Conclusion

Evidence showing any long-term effects will take several years and may pass our lifetime. Multiple in vivo animal studies proving GMO as a health hazard that warrants attention. Nonetheless, the notion of herbicide resistant genes transferring to human gut bacteria is something that cannot be overlooked because of the dramatic effect the microbiota has on our health as we are increasingly discovering. The evidence up to date points us in a direction to conduct more research, however due to ethics and humanity, human trials will be more challenging to perform. In the meantime, we should live by the philosophy of “guilty until proven innocent”. Avoiding GMO foods 100% of the time is unlikely as it is incredibly prevalent and hidden in the food supply, but taking extra measures to monitor what you eat would be a sensible approach. Simply, if you want to avoid GMOs, buy organic foods and foods labeled as non-GMO.


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References

  1. http://www.responsibletechnology.org/gmo-basics/gmos-in-food
  2. http://www.responsibletechnology.org/health-risks#39
  3. http://www.aaemonline.org/gmopost.html
  4. http://www.responsibletechnology.org/gmo-dangers/Everything-You-Have-To-Know-about-Dangerous-Genetically-Modified-Foods-September-2009
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22999595
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1257596/
  7. http://www.responsibletechnology.org/gmo-dangers/dangers-to-the-environment
  8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21338670

Related Articles:

Our Food Supply & Corporate America

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posted by NutritionMax
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NASM CPT, Master's in Human Nutrition
Precision Nutrition Sports & Exercise Nutritionist


Justin Janoska is a professional fitness coach and a clinical nutritionist who specializes in helping people with challenging diseases. He runs an online coaching platform where he helps people like you reach build muscle or lose weight.


For an intimate coaching experience, visit www.nutritionmax.fit


Twitter: NutritionMax
Instagram: nutrition_max

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