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Category: Nutrition

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The Real Reason GMO Matters

When I lecture to the general public, as well as to healthcare professionals, I often ask the question, “How do you feel about GMO foods?” The results are almost universally negative. Generally, the audiences come to the conclusion that, for whatever reason, GMO foods are “bad.”

My next question probes a bit further: why? It’s at that point that very few hands are raised. People generally have the sense that there’s something threatening and sinister about GMO foods, but, for the most part, they don’t know why.

So let’s take a step back. I’d like to explore why it is that we should indeed do everything possible to avoid GMO foods.

First, let’s take a look at the scope of the issue. At least 90% of the canola, cotton, corn, soy, and sugar beets sold in United States come from seeds that have been genetically engineered. The main reason that these crops are genetically engineered is to make them resistant to herbicides. That means farmers can spray these crops to kill weeds, and because of genetic engineering, the crops themselves are not affected by the poison. Nonetheless, residues of the poison remain in the food, which is then consumed across our country. My point is that most of the agricultural products consumed by Americans come from genetically engineered seeds and have residues of herbicides.

The most commonly used herbicide, both in America and globally, is glyphosate. That is the chemical name of the active ingredient in the more familiar herbicide, Roundup®. In fact, these genetically modified seeds are typically called “Roundup®-resistant” seeds, playing upon this much more familiar name.

The connection I am making, and that I want you to make, is that when you see agricultural products that do not carry the “non-GMO” designation, the reason they are likely problematic is because of the residual herbicide glyphosate.

Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a highly regarded M.I.T. researcher, has published extensively regarding the dangers of glyphosate. She has made it clear that this dangerous herbicide threatens the human microbiome. More recently she has called our attention to how readily glyphosate leads to the formation of cancer cells. Beyond her work, it’s very important to remember that the World Health Organization recently labeled glyphosate as being “probably carcinogenic” in humans.

Dr. Seneff, who was recently a guest on The Empowering Neurologist, has found that glyphosate produces a number of dangerous effects on biological systems that may strongly relate to its ability to form cancerous tumors. These include direct damage to DNA, interruption of amino acid balance, removal of trace minerals, as well as impairment in detoxification. As she recently stated:

Epidemiological evidence supports strong temporal correlations between glyphosate usage on crops and a multitude of cancers that are reaching epidemic proportions, including breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, kidney cancer, thyroid cancer, liver cancer, bladder cancer and myeloid leukaemia.

It’s been estimated that approximately 92% of Americans are in favor of GMO labeling. This makes sense. We absolutely should know whether or not we are buying and consuming foods that are potentially laced with a cancer-causing agent, glyphosate. Beyond that, there sure are a lot of foods and other consumable products that are now labeled non-GMO, so we can vote with our wallets and support those producers and manufacturers that are dialed into the importance of this issue.

  • deanna

    I believe we have a right to know what we are eating.

    What is really unfortunate is that most of the GMO corn and soybeans grown are fed to farm production animals. These animals living on GMO feed make up 95% of the animal foods in grocery stores and restaurants, and many Americans are unaware of this.

    Animals store herbicides, pesticides and other toxins in fat, which means because the animals accumulate these toxins in their fat, we are eating a dense, concentrated serving of these herbicides and pesticides when eating conventional animal products.

    • Pup Mom

      You’ve perfectly made the case for vegan, plant based consumption.

      • Mary

        The poison is used by your neighbors on their yards contaminating organic produce. Think you are safe. Think again.

      • Allison

        No. This makes the case for consuming Pasture / grass fed & wild caught animals, fish, eggs, butter… Of course, plenty of organic, preferably lower carb veggies. (sustainable & affordable by shopping sales…) It is called Paleo aka the Ancestral diet. There is a Reason cave paintings depict animals rather than vegan fare.

        • heliotrope

          Allison, you need read more. Our ancestors had far fewer energy and nutrient dense food options than we moderns do. Animals were painted for this but for a variety of other reasons, as well. Because it’s so difficult to know exactly what is being stored in the fat of even a supposedly grass fed/wild animal, the safest choice for most of us is to limit, or eliminate, the consumption of animal fat, or animal products altogether. Regarding Paleo, there currently exists innumerable reputable info sources which describe why this diet is far from perfect.

  • TechnoTriticale

    It’s not that simple or narrow.

    Glyphosate-enabling is not the only conjectured problem with GMOs (more below).

    Glyphosate is not the only troubling ingredient in specific branded herbicide formulations.

    Even if we get actually informative GMO information on product labels, it’s far from sufficient. Another response here, for example, implicitly raises the question of whether second-hand GMOs would be declared. But we also have:

    Glyphosate is also used on “non GMO” crops, such as wheat (which readers here are unlikely to be consuming). It’s used for staging/dessication to kill some crops for harvest timing.

    Herbicide resistance can also be bred in by “non-GMO” means, including radio-mutagenesis, chemo-mutagenesis, or just accelerated breeding. Clearfield® wheat got imidazolinone resistance by such non-GMO means.

    It doesn’t require GMO (gene-splicing) to foul up a genome. Semi-dwarf hybrid wheat acquired much of its current morphology by crossing with goatgrass, both naturally and intentionally. A Spanish team reported in 2015 on the specific recent cross (with Aegilops tauschii, aka Tauschii’s goatgrass) that materially aggravated the gliadin.

    A number of GMO crops express Bt (bacillus thuringiensis). What do they do to your microbiome when eaten? Might Bt cotton even be a problem for clothing?

    Anyone not raising their own food needs to insist on pastured organic non-GMO when they can.

  • SSE

    I can avoid GMO & glyphosate foods for myself, but my horses eat sugar beet pulp. I compost the manure. This year I have used the manure on the pastures only, but it still too close for comfort! I cannot eat wheat or much of any other grain, but many people do and are risking their health unaware of the dangers.

  • Amar

    Organic foods are also sprayed with pesticides

    • Marley

      Amar,
      Try reading about the definition of ‘organic’ is in terms of the certification standards
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_certification

      • Amar

        Many are sprayed with organic pesticides, not synthetic, which can be equally as dangerous. Overall though, organic seems to have some benefits.

        • Cori

          The difference, Amar, is that the majority of organic farmers spray only as a last resort, whereas conventional farmers usually have spraying programs all year long. A lot of organic produce is never sprayed at all.

          That said, a lot of organic produce is also contaminated by spraying by nearby conventional farms, which is sometimes accidental, but sometimes seems clearly to be intentional.

          And, far too often, those farms doing the contaminating have Monsanto, or another agrichemical company of their ilk, step up to pay their legal fees, effectively rewarding them for destroying the organic crops.

          Our government needs to get a clue, and grow some frigging ethics, which I’m not holding my breath for.

          • Amar

            Do you have any proof of organic farms only spraying as a last resort and intentional spraying of organic produce by conventional farms? I’ve never heard of this before.

    • Barbara

      Yes, there could be some residue BUT at a much lower rate and what choice do we have. We need to use our $$$ and buy organic, non-gmo and vote for people who have the courage to push for stricter rules and regulation. I personally think that all growers who use pesticides should be taxed and inspected for proper use of those chemicals

  • Symin

    Agreed. Labeling is not nearly enough. Glyphosate production needs to be banned completely as its continued existence threatens our very survival.

  • Marley

    It also gets into the water supply as well along with all the other chemical runoff from industrial agriculture.

  • andrew

    I’ll declare myself as a bushcare worker. In Australia, if it weren’t for all the recently [evolutionary] introduced weeds, periodic fires would suffice. Now every fire favours weeds & grass weeds are the hardest to manage. After initial mechanical depletion, minimal glyphosate by low pressure spot spraying usage is a useful tool. Problem is it’s so called safety for us is not safe for bacteria or fungi, thereby us as well with direct contact. The other ‘safe’ aspect is it’s short 1/2 life. Destruction of soil biomass results in poor outcome for crop soils & subsequent crop nutrient deficiency. These are valid concerns.
    Considering that on a molecular level we can trace our bodies molecules back to the beginning of time can we justify trace elements as a causative effect when, modified wheat, nutrient deficiency & grains themselves are are so high on the probable list?

  • Janet

    I read that Putin will not allow GMO’s to be used in Russia. What is WRONG with our government ???? We cannot remain a strong country if we are all sick — and we are becoming more so with each generation.

    • Opine2u

      I’m not attempting to be political just before an election, but can’t help wondering if a number of our representatives might get handsome campaign donations in return for consideration on particular bills. When I called to see how my Congressman had voted on the Dark Act (voted in favor of it), the aide who’d worked on that bill was so certain that the GMO/glyphosate cocktail is harmless that he proudly told me the Congressman eats the stuff himself, and feeds it to his kids. The aide was immensely proud of the fact that the subject of health ramifications of this chemical combo didn’t even come up for discussion on the House floor while the bill was being considered.
      I think it might be helpful for the 92% of us who want to know what’s in our food to begin to speak up. Hopefully at least some of you have contacted Washington to let them know we’re out here. They do keep track of calls, emails and letters, and what opinions were expressed. Voter contact has actually changed votes on things in the past.

      • Barbara

        Opine2u I agree with you about contacting you government officials about your concerns. I have written mine prior to the bill (dark act) and because of the passing of the Dark Act I will no longer vote for that person and we should all do the same. Many of our representatives are controlled by Big Pharma and Big Agri so we need to use our $$ and try to buy organic, non-gmo, and grass fed as much as possible and vote for environmentally responsible people and vote OUT the long term reps who are supported by the lobbyist whom are creating the destruction of our food, water, air and land….Most countries will not allow gmo’s BUT we do???????

  • Mike Tessieri

    Does vigorous washing of Glyphosate-contaminated veggies reduce any risks?

    • Cori

      No, because the genetic engineering is in the cells of the plant, and glyphosate also accumulates in the plant itself.

      Washing does nothing.

  • Joyfilled Jenny

    Involving our four kids in organic gardening has produced a wealth of great results, which include not only our own fresh-picked produce (3 of 4 kids fight over who gets the most broccoli), but also, combined with chiropractic care, terrific health. I personally avoid all grains and sugars as much as possible, though this is certainly challenging. Supporting our local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture, also organic) has been beneficial as well.

    Dr. Perlmutter’s information has been incredibly helpful for our family of six. Thank you!

  • Cris Paltenghe

    Dr Dave, Although I agree with you that current GMO projects have centered around herbicide resistance, and that makes higher concentration of herbicide in food. That is no doubt bad. However, your statement “we should indeed do everything possible to avoid GMO foods.” Is far too general. We should not avoid good uses of the technology, only unenlightened or unethical use of the technology where testing and safety have not been assured. Golden Rice was a good use of this technology, but because of public fear and ignorance, the children going blind due to lack of carotene, were not feed this amazing food that could have addressed the issue. We have interfered with natural selection on this planet, not only in the species that supply us, but in our own. It is incumbent upon us to understand genetics and get really good at optimizing genetics around us while assuring safety. The GMO issues of today have not been due to the technology, but extremely unethical practices of those that used it to profit from it. Let us not generate fear of the technology, because we need it. Let us engender caution about the products of the technology, and strict scrutiny on those that produce the products.

    • Jodi S.

      Cris-how do you know that Golden Rice was a good use of technology? How many decades of studies can you produce to show that this technology will not harm the children? Truly, I would like to see a peer reviewed study.

      • Cris Paltenghe

        Point taken, it needs to be studied and reviewed, but not avoided. We need to become very good at genetic manipulation. We can’t sustain a growing global population in the face of shrinking arable land and extreme climate changes. We need this technology, but you are right, it has to come with much more rigorous research and oversight.

        • Cris Paltenghe

          Also, although I believe in capitalism, profit motive has steered the use and deployment of the technology in unethical directions. Herbicidal resistance was motivated by selling more herbicides. All that research could have been directed in making the plants more nutritious, or prolific.

        • Mary

          Gmo corn is KNOWN to cause sterility. Gmo companies push the seeds to black and brown countries. It was created by eugenics people Monsanto etc rocker feller foundation to “control” the population of black n brown n Asian ppl. Whites are genetically recessive. If a white and a non white have a child, the child is not white. Whites are also a global minority. Hence their fear of people of color “populations.”They have been searching for a genetic “solution ” to this reality. For years. Gmo and genetics are part of their quest.

          • Mary

            It is this reason they do not care about your lobbying and will never give up. People of color should Never eat Gmo food.

  • Rochelle

    There are two big problems in consuming GMOs, one is what you pointed out – many chemicals used as glyphosate, atrazine, and so on, and the other is the genetic engineering process itself – when you put in the environment one organism that was genetic modified all the enviroment around it necessarily begins to change, everything is conected which means the soil begins to change, as well the plants, the insects, the animals and we too… There’s no way to predict exactly which will be the outcomes in the long term. My opinion is that we are in the middle of a dreadful experimentation…

  • Great information, thank you.

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