GMOs or genetically modified organisms: We’ve all heard of them but do we understand what they mean for overall health? I was shocked to learn the truth about them and wanted to share. GMOs are living organisms whose genetics have been artificially manipulated in a lab. Genetic manipulation of certain crops is done so that they are able to withstand the application of herbicides and/or so the crop produces an insecticide of its own. The intention is to make the crop more profitable by ensuring that it’s unaffected by traditional threats such as pesticides and or invasive species. The most common GMO crops in North America are corn, soy, canola, and sugar beets- all of which are ingredients in most, if not all of the packaged foods for sale on this continent. As you can imagine, it’s difficult to avoid GMOs and after learning some of the negative impacts that GMO foods are having on lab animals; gastrointestinal problems, immune system disorders, reproductive disorders, accelerated aging, organ damage, insulin resistance, asthma, allergies, skin conditions, diabetes, etc., you want to avoid ingesting GMOs if at all possible.
First off, the process of inserting and cloning foreign genes from one living organism into another is going to cause a percentage of collateral damage to the DNA (aka mutation) but that's another blog post on its own - probably better suited to a scientist. But I do want to look into the nature of the traits found in GMOs that are responsible for the above mentioned list of problems. Two of the main culprits are BT Toxin and Roundup. BT Toxin is a bacteria-producing gene that scientists have cloned into corn and cotton GMO crops to give them an inherent insecticide quality. The other more prevalent GMO trait is herbicide tolerance in Roundup ready crops, which includes: sugar beets, canola soybeans, corn and alfalfa. These crops can be sprayed with Roundup pesticide without being harmed or destroyed thanks to the science of GMOs. It’s easy to see why food producers would be excited about it; it’s a win in terms of production quantities, but sadly we lose when it comes to quality.
So here’s a few shocking facts about the two most common GMO traits I’ve just mentioned. BT Toxin is an insecticide that was developed to kill insects by poking holes in their stomachs. Have you noticed how common leaky gut in humans has become? It’s everywhere! Coincidence? Nope. A study in the Journal of Applied Toxicology showed that BT Toxin indeed pokes holes in human cells the same way it does in insects (it just doesn’t kill us like it does bugs). If you haven't heard of leaky gut, it’s a condition where the gut lining becomes permeable (or gets holes in it). A permeable gut lining results in food particles and other toxins escaping into your bloodstream, which elicits an immune response from your immune system, attempting to fight off the foreign invaders that shouldn't be in your bloodstream. This immune response is normal but if the leak continues and the immune system is consistently firing, it can lead to chronic inflammation- the root cause of all preventative inflammatory disease.
And guess what? Roundup’s main ingredient glyphosate has already been tied to inflammatory consequences: heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, autoimmune disease and depression, by its ability to kill good gut flora like Bifidus and lactobacillus, while bad bacteria are completely resistant to it. It’s also an endocrine disruptor which means is has been shown to lead to reproductive problems in lab animals and livestock, such as increased infant mortality, damage to testicles, ovaries, uterus, birth defects and smaller and fewer babies. Lastly, glyphosate disrupts the production of amino acid L tryptophan, which is integral to the proper release of serotonin and melatonin in humans and thus, can be tied to the many mood and sleep disorders we see today as well. Lovely!
So I’ve probably convinced you this crap is no good and you want to start trying to avoid GMOs, right? The tricky part is there are currently no laws or legislation in North America that require companies to label foods that contain GMOs so we need to be resourceful in order to avoid them. A few tips and tricks that can help:
Shop organic whenever possible
Buy grass-fed beef and dairy (note: dairy from Switzerland, Greece or France is safer due to stronger legislation)
Look for the non-GMO verified sticker (below)
Reference the non-GMO Shopping Guide.
Also helpful, is this full list of ingredients that GMOs hide in.
An easy safeguard if you’re too lazy to do any more research (I get that this isn’t as exciting for everyone as it is for me) - buy organic only of GMO heavy crops: corn, soy, sugar beets, canola and cottonseed and avoid any non-organic or non GMO verified products that have derivatives of these crops in them (E.g. corn syrup, corn starch, soy protein, soy lecithin (THIS IS IN SO MANY PROCESSED HEALTH FOODS TOO), canola oil, vegetable oil, etc.)
GMOs are clearly not good for us. Yet there is no government legislation around the sale of them in the US or Canada, while many European countries have full or partial bans in place. So what can we do to help drive change here in North America? You can certainly reach out to your favourite brands and government to publicly voice your rejection of GMOs. But more effective, we can all refuse to buy products that contain GMOs so corporations that use them see a drop in market share. THIS is the ultimate power we hold as consumers, one that can’t be ignored when it hits a corporation’s bottom line. Lastly, you can share this blog post with a friend encouraging them to do the same. The shift in Europe happened because people rejected GMOs and corporations were forced to listen or continue to lose market share. A collective voice is our strongest asset and we should be using it to protect ourselves from garbage like this!
- Lisa xx