Are GMOs Safe?
Genetically modified foods (GMOs) have been popular in the news lately ever since California failed to pass Prop 37, which would have required the labeling of GMO ingredients on all products sold within the state. While California may be setting the stage for the discussion of future labeling of GMO foods in our country, currently there is no regulation anywhere in the United States requiring the disclosure of GMO ingredients to consumers. This is in contrast to countries such as those in Europe and South America, who highly regulate the cultivation and sale of genetically modified crops and often require the labeling of foods that contain GMO ingredients (1, 2). In America, unless you buy certified non-GMO food, there is no way to know if your food contains GMOs or not.
So why does it matter if our food contains GMOs? You may have heard from various media sources that genetically modified foods are perfectly safe and there is no evidence to suggest any long term risk from their consumption. On the contrary, there has been some evidence suggesting potential health risks caused by these foods; even scientists within the FDA itself have repeatedly warned that GM foods can create unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects, including allergies, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems. (3, 4) With so much conflicting information, it’s hard to tell fact from fiction. Are GMOs safe for human consumption, or not?
The potential dangers of GMOs
The gut is most susceptible to the potential dangers of GMO consumption. Bt toxin produced by GMO corn has been shown to significantly alter immune function in mice, and may cause disrupted immune function in the gut. (8, 9, 10) One study suggested that Bt toxin has toxic effects on human cells in vitro, causing them to die prematurely. (11) This could cause damage to gut endothelial cells if the toxicity is found to occur in vivo. The potential intestinal effects of GMO consumption go beyond Bt toxin. Some argue that gut bacteria are capable of acquiring DNA sequences from GM plants, which could lead to the development of antibiotic resistance in those microbes. (12) It’s not yet fully understood what proportion of the GM genes are able to be transferred to gut microbiota.
There have been effects of GM corn found on organs outside of the intestinal system as well. Analysis of Monsanto’s own research and independent research by a lab in France determined that mice and rats eating Bt-toxin producing corn sustained liver and kidney damage. (13, 14) Other harmful effects were also noticed in the heart, adrenal glands, spleen and hematopoietic system of these GM corn-fed rats. Bt toxin has also been demonstrated to reduce fertility in mice, with fewer offspring being produced than by mice fed on natural crops. (15) While these are small, preliminary studies, it’s worth investigating the effects GMOs can have on other organs besides the intestines.
Since the research is in its infancy, GMOs may have associated health risks that we do not fully understand. The organization known as The Institute for Responsible Technology has developed a list of potential hazards of GMO consumption, providing a list of references for each health risk discussed. They have amassed a great deal of support for their position that GMOs are dangerous, and much of their information comes from research studies, clinical experience from doctors, and anecdotal evidence from farmers and parents of children who thrived on a GMO-free diet. (Unfortunately, the website’s statements exaggerate the findings of several studies, so it’s best to be a critical thinker and take the information with a grain of salt.)
Full article at: http://chriskresser.com/are-gmos-safe