What Are the Health Risks Linked to GMOs? Here’s What You Need to Know.
By Dr. Chad Walding, DPT
June 14th, 2019
We’re told that genetically modified foods are healthy for us, good for the environment, and help us feed the world. That sounds promising. But are these claims true? With so much conflicting information about genetically modified organisms (GMOs), it’s hard to separate fact from fiction.
These days we’re demanding information and transparency about what’s in our food and where it’s coming from. Even though the GMO industry says they’re perfectly safe, skepticism remains. With such a huge amount of our food supply coming from GMOs, we deserve to know what we’re putting in our bodies.
But many of us don’t really understand exactly what GMOs are or the health risks that come with genetically modified food. How did they go from the novel Flavr Savr tomato in 1994 to lining every shelf in our grocery stores today?
Here you’ll discover what GMOs really are, the health risks that come from them, and how you and your family can avoid genetically modified food.
What Are GMOs?
GMOs are living organisms that are artificially altered with genetic material from another organism. These genes don’t occur naturally. They’re created through genetic engineering.1
Creating organisms with more favorable characteristics isn’t new science. It's been done for thousands of years through crossbreeding. What’s new is how fast this once decades-long process is happening, and how it’s done. 2
For one thing, genetic engineering is a lot more specific and targeted than traditional crossbreeding. Only a very small number of genes that have a desired function are introduced to a crop. And those genes often come from a different species. 3
Genetic engineering today creates crops that are: 4
- Shelf stable longer
- More nutrient dense
- Resistant to abiotic stress—negative impacts from things like cold, heat, and drought
So how exactly did GMOs become so prevalent in our food system?
A Brief History of GMOs
Let’s go back in time and take a brief look at the history of GMOs. It’ll help you see how quickly GMO foods became so embedded in our food system.
First, there was a major breakthrough in genetic engineering technology in 1973. The first antibiotic-resistant plant was created using genetic engineering. 5,6 But, like with any new technology, there were a lot of questions about its safety. So experts got together at the Asilomar Conference of 1975 to talk about how safe this new genetic engineering technology really was and its consequences. 7
Because this conference was so transparent, the move toward even more genetic engineering research was widely supported. And this acceptance is what launched what we now know as genetic modification.
Fast forward a couple of decades to 1994. The first genetically modified crop was approved for production by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)—the Flavr Savr tomato. It was engineered to stay fresher longer. 8
Next up was the first insecticide-resistant potatoes in 1995. Quickly followed by the first herbicide-resistant crop a year later—Bt corn.
And that brings us to modern day with 29 GMO crops approved for production. 9,10
Here’s a list of the most common GMO crops:
- Sugar beets
- Yellow summer squash
So what’s the problem with GMOs? And why are these “Frankenfoods,” as some have dubbed them, under so much scrutiny? Supporters of GMOs claim that GMO foods are “perfectly safe.” But mounting evidence of very real health risks linked to GMOs tells a different story.
GMOs and Health Risks—Is There a Link?
The list of health risks of GMOs continues to grow. It’s still debated whether GMO foods cause these health issues or if they’re from ingesting poisonous pesticides like glyphosate sprayed on GMOs. I believe it’s both. Either way, your health is at risk when you eat genetically modified foods.
Not only are GMOs and pesticide residue linked to many health issues on the rise today, but they’re destroying our gut microbiomes.
More and more, we’re learning about the connection between our gut microbiome and the rest of our body. When your gut health is compromised, it can have cascading effects on your overall health from poor digestion to leaky gut to autoimmunity.
Here’s a list of 10 health risks studies show may be linked to GMOs:
- Gut imbalance 11, 12
- Celiac disease 13
- Cancer 14,15
- Alzheimer’s disease 16
- Fertility issues 17,18
- Birth defects 19
- Liver and kidney toxicity 20, 21, 22
- Autism 23
- Neurodevelopment impairment 24
- Histamine sensitivity—triggering allergic reactions 25,26
It’s alarming to me that the connection between our health and GMOs is still debated today—even with the significant increase in many diseases and disorders. Numerous studies talk about various health issues that “could” be related to GMOs. Yet they still say they can’t find enough evidence of health risks related to genetically engineered foods.
Is There Evidence Linking GMOs to Your Health?
New studies are on the rise showing direct evidence that GMOs and pesticide residue have very real health risks.
For example, David Bellinger, a professor at Harvard, is very concerned about the effects that insecticides have on the neurodevelopment of children. In his study, he shows lower IQ scores in children who are exposed to insecticides. 27 He says, “We do natural experiments on a population and wait until it shows up as bad.” 28
Unfortunately, he’s right. This is exactly what’s happening right now with GMOs.
Here’s another example. A study from 2016 shows that Bt corn, which produces Bt toxin is “not substantially equivalent to its non-GMO counterpart.” 29 Bt corn was originally engineered with Bt toxin to reduce the need to spray them with pesticides. 30
Do GMOs Have Toxins That Are a Risk to Your Health?
One health risk of engineering GMOs with Bt toxin is that it replicates in almost every cell of the plant—including the grains. So now, when we eat corn, we’re also eating Bt toxin. And this is creating toxicity in our guts.
When researchers looked at certain types of proteins made by Bt corn, they found that Bt corn produced more putrescine and cadaverine—two toxic substances known as biogenic amines. These amines make you more sensitive to histamines and trigger allergic reactions. 31,32
Not surprisingly, there are studies that are in direct contrast to this. One from 2002 shows no significant evidence that genetically modified crops are any different from those that aren’t. 33
Are GMOs Worth the Risk?
I want to point out that the two studies above are only separated by 14 years. Which, in the world of science, isn’t that long. This shows us that we truly don’t know all of the consequences of GMO foods on our bodies or our environments.
There was a time when cigarettes were allowed in hospitals and airplanes. 34 And then, decades later, we knew better and changed our attitudes toward the health risks of smoking.
My hope is that with more studies the same thing will happen with GMOs. And that we’ll realize GMOs aren’t worth the risk to our health. Until then, it’s up to you to know what’s in your food. To help you do that, here are some tips to avoid GMOs in your food.
4 Ways You Can Avoid GMOs in Your Food
Thankfully, there are now resources out there to help you know exactly what’s in your food.
First, the USDA has extensive requirements for products labeled as “verified organic.” Your products will say if they’re organic. 35 If you don’t see an organic label on your food, chances are it’s not organic.
Another excellent, consumer-driven resource, is the Non-GMO Project. It’s a nonprofit company created because of the high demand to know exactly what’s in our food.
The Non-GMO Project verifies products as non-GMO through a third-party process. Then they label them as “Non-GMO Project Verified” if products pass their Non-GMO Project Standard. Their Standard is created by industry experts. It’s updated on an ongoing basis with the latest information about GMOs. 36
When you see the Non-GMO Project Verified label, you know that it’s important to the brand to be transparent about all of the ingredients they use in their products.
Here are 4 ways you can avoid GMOs:
1. Say No to Processed Food
Did you know that GMOs are in 80% of processed foods?
You might be surprised to learn that processed foods also have tons of additives in them, which are often processed forms of GMOs. 37
So avoiding all processed food is the first way you can effectively remove many GMO foods from your diet. Not only do most of them contain GMOs, but they often have residue from pesticides like glyphosate in them.
Keep an eye out for these common additive ingredients: 38
- Citric acid
- Xanthan gum
- Oleic acid
- Lactic acid
- Some sugar—from GMO sugar beets
2. Eat Organic Food
Organic food has gone from nice-to-have to must-have. And for good reason.
Buying organic takes the guesswork out of knowing if a food contains harmful GMOs. The USDA prohibits products that are certified organic from having GMOs in them. 39
So when you shop for your groceries, buy certified organic foods. Or foods that have the Non-GMO Project Verified label. These products are easy to spot. Just look for their symbol—the monarch butterfly.
3.Buy Non-GMO Meat, Dairy, and Eggs
Besides genetically modified crops, GMOs are also found in meat, dairy, and eggs. 40
Animals are often fed non-organic grain diets contaminated with GMOs and pesticide residue. That means you have to know what to look for so you can avoid them. Opt for 100% grass-fed meat, organic eggs from pastured chickens, and organic dairy products.
4. Shop Locally at Farmers’ Markets
Shopping locally at Farmers’ Markets isn’t only good for you, but it also supports your local farmers. A win-win.
Keep in mind that local farmers aren’t always “verified organic.” It’s expensive to become verified and sometimes not worth the expense for small farmers. 41
But their products are often organic even without the verified label. I encourage you to get to know your local farmers and find out how their products are sourced and grown.
Are you surprised to know how prevalent GMOs are in our food system and how risky they are to your health?
When our diets are filled with GMOs, our health struggles. That’s one reason why we created the Native Body Reset—our premier 30-day transformation program that blends ancient wisdom with modern science.
If you’re serious about taking control of your health, the Native Body Reset is for you.