I recently had the chance to present on the impact of GMO food products on the food and health industries, and what I found was that people generally didn’t even know what a GMO was. Nor did they realize that they are in almost everything they were eating. So, in a follow-up to the presentation I gave this weekend, I’ll be going over what a GMO is, the different kinds, the major issues and some of the health concerns researchers are beginning to see.
GMO? What is it?!
The definition, as explained by the almighty Wikipedia, is: “A genetically modified organism (GMO) is a bacterium, yeast, insect, plant, fish, or mammal whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques.” So, basically it is something that has had it’s genetic code altered in a certain way to serve a specific purpose. For this article, all the GMO’s we will be commenting on will be those that have been engineered for consumption by the general population (mainly corn and soybeans).
The Two Types
When it comes to GMO crops, there are two basic types: herbicide resistant and pesticide producing. As for the pesticide producing crops, these GMO’s have had their genetic material modified to produce a powerful pesticide known as BT Toxin. There has been some recent research showing that BT Toxin has negative effects on human cells (including human embryo cells), but there is far less research as of yet and we will not be focusing on this type of GMO crop. The other type, that has far more research available, is the herbicide resistant crop. This type has had a cellular pathway altered in its genetic material that makes it resistant to the negative effects of the powerful herbicide glyphosphate (Round-Up). These GMO crops are known as “Round-Up ready” as they are able to be sprayed with the herbicide, killing all the surrounding weeds, leaving the crop unaffected.
So What’s the Issue?
There are multiple issues associated with GMO crops, with the first being the fact that there were zero long-term research studies performed before the products were put on the mass market. The longest study performed was 3 months long (on rats) and there was no follow-up on these populations, so we essentially don’t know what effect these crops will have over the long-term in humans.
More importantly though, there is no labeling requirement on products containing GMO foods, which basically turns the American population into one giant GMO experiment. If GMO foods are going to be allowed in our food supply, then we should at the very least be made aware of it so that we can make a more educated decision.
Lastly, the main health concern comes down to what the crop is sprayed with: Round-Up. Research has shown that crops sprayed with these herbicides can actually absorb some of these chemicals. This then means that when we go to process the foods, the herbicide remains and makes its way into the final product. The main proponents of GMO crops have stated that Round-Up is not harmful to humans because we lack the pathway it works on (the Shikimate Pathway). While this is true, it is present in our gastrointestinal bacteria, which are negatively affected and essentially killed off by the Round-Up. Disruption of the gastrointestinal bacteria has been linked to Celiac Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Ulcerative Colitis, Eczema, GERD, bloating, nausea, gas production, neurological diseases and even depression.
When it comes to GMO food, I believe the food industry is falling short in providing transparency in what is actually in the foods we are consuming. With nearly 90% of all U.S. corn and soybeans being this GMO variety, it is almost impossible to avoid GMO unless you’re actively looking for it. Not only this, but the frivolous use of herbicides on crops has led to many common health disorders that can easily be corrected with a little education and desire to live a more healthy life.