Why Not Label GMOs in food?

03/03/2014

Nutrition is a key determinant of our health and longevity. With education and labeling of processed foods, we make decisions about our dietary intake. We already consider the proportions of fat, sugar and salt to determine the healthiness of a food product. Gluten free products are labeled so the consumer can make an informed choice to avoid negative health outcomes for them. If people want to increase their intake of organic foods, labeling enables that choice. However, an estimated 75-80% of processed foods and increasing amounts of produce contain GMOs without being labeled.

Why would our food even contain GMOs? The vast majority of GMO crops produced for human consumption since the mid 1990s are soy and canola, designed to withstand the application of weed fighting herbicide (mainly Glyphosate in Round Up), and corn and cotton that produce an insecticide, a genetically engineered Bacillus thuringienses, or “Bt”, against borers and weevils.

As a physician in clinical practice for over 33 years, I have observed the steady increase in allergies and autoimmune, digestive and behavioral disorders in the general population over the last few decades. Coincidentally, GMOs were introduced into the food supply in 1996. Although temporal association does not prove causation, a closer look at how GMOs are created, and how they can affect the bodies of animals and humans who consume them, may inform our decision whether to be concerned and try to avoid them in our diets.

A GMO is produced by bombarding the DNA sequence of the desired plant, animal or microbe with genes for the desired trait (e.g. resistance to Round Up), along with a plant virus “carrier” and a bacterial antibiotic resistance gene (to mark which cells were successfully modified). These genes are not inserted in any specific part of the genome, but rather randomly wherever the process is successful. Since gene sequences determine protein synthesis, there is no way to predict what novel (not produced in nature) proteins are created, or what their effects on the GM plant or animal, or the animal or human consuming them, will be.

Secondly, if resistant GM crops can be doused with herbicides, we are ingesting far larger amounts of these chemicals than if farmers had to spray selectively. Glyphosate, previously touted as safe, has been found to have significant negative affects on soil, animals and humans. It binds essential trace minerals and kills many beneficial soil and gut flora bacteria, allowing more pathogenic strains to flourish, a significant cause of “dysbiosis” and digestive tract inflammation. The genetic Bt that we mostly eat in fresh and processed corn (chips, tortillas, etc) kills insect larva by creating holes in their intestines. When we ingest this insecticide, how can we know it doesn’t damage our own intestinal lining? Even more worrisome, do the genes transfer to our own gut bacteria to chronically produce the toxin? A “leaky gut” from such damage allows larger proteins from our food, including the GMO novel proteins, to enter our blood stream and confront our immune system, with increased potential for allergies and autoimmune disease.

According to U.C. Davis professor Martina Newell-Mcloughlin, there has not been “one single documented incident of any adverse effect” from consuming GMOs (Press Democrat, Friday February 21 “Evans proposes labeling GMO food in state”). But after “2 trillion meals” consumed, with various amounts and mixes of GMOs, across the spectrum of age, gender, nutritional status, co-existing health conditions, and other environmental degradations, how could any adverse effect be tied definitively to GMO consumption?

There have been no peer reviewed, independent, duplicated scientific studies showing GMOs are safe. There have, however, been disturbing reports of significant harm to lab animals and farm animals eating GMO feeds. Why open research on GMOs has not been able to be carried out and published is a whole other discussion. The question here is: Why are the biotech and food conglomerates so strongly against GMO food labeling laws that would enable us concerned consumers to make informed choices?

To learn more: centerforfoodsafety.org and responsibletechnology.org