Genetically modified foods (GMOs) were first introduced to the food supply in 1995. Since that time, there seems to be more questions than answers surrounding the impacts and risks to our health, not to mention the environment.
What exactly does genetic modification (GM) do to our food?
What are the potential side effects when we consume them?
What is the potential impact to the natural order of things in our ecosystems?
To answer all of these questions in one blog post would be impossible.
Luckily, the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) conducted an investigation in 2015 in an attempt to answer these and six other key questions regarding the use of GMOs:
1) Where in the world are GMO crops and foods?
2) Are GM crops better for the environment?
3) Are GM foods better for consumers?
4) Are GM crops better for farmers?
5) Are GM crops and foods well regulated?
6) Do we need GM crops to feed the world?
You can read and/or download the full report here.
I’m going to focus on questions three and five for the remainder of this post.
Are GM foods better for consumers and are they well regulated?
CBAN’s report says, “Although launched with many promises of benefits to consumers, two decades later GM foods on the market are not cheaper, tastier, fresher, more nutritious, or more environmentally-friendly.”
Our government approved GM foods without public consultation or independent testing, and has been refusing to establish mandatory labelling of GM foods. However, there are 64 countries around the world that currently require mandatory labelling of GM foods. You can find the full list here.
Several large food manufacturing companies even have different ingredients in products that are destined for their European markets than they do for those in North America.
Fortunately, we can look for two labels on packages to help us identify non-GMO foods. These are the Canadian Organic label and the Non-GMO Project Verified label.
“Instead of labelling, the government and industry have spent millions to reassure consumers that GM foods are safe” (CBAN). In 2015, US Congress actually introduced - and passed - a bill that would make it illegal for individual states to require mandatory labelling of GMO foods…legislation that was drafted by food companies in response to Vermont passing a mandatory GMO labelling law. This bill has been given a nickname: The DARK Act (Deny Americans the Right to Know).
An overwhelming majority of Canadians (88%) and Americans (90%) want GMO foods to be labelled.
The most harmful risk may not be from the genetic engineering itself, but rather on why they were genetically engineered to begin with.
The main reason crops have been genetically modified is to allow them to withstand chemical pesticides (herbicides and insecticides), not to make them grow faster or more drought resistant.
The main herbicide used on GM crops contains an ingredient called glyphosate. Numerous studies have shown that glyphosate disrupts our key biological processes (mainly reproduction, digestion and hormone regulation). It has also been linked to many health conditions such as:
· Heart Disease
· Multiple sclerosis
· GI disorders/auto immune diseases (including Celiac Disease)
· Kidney dysfunction
· Mental/mood disorders (depression, anxiety, aggression)
While correlation does not equal causation, research indicates that the increased use of this toxic chemical is a major contributing factor to the increase of these conditions over the past 20 years.
Last November, the Chief Medical Officer of New Brunswick, Dr. Eilish Cleary, was placed on leave when she started studying the effects of glyphosate. Then, after she went public and announced that she had not requested the leave, her employment was terminated.
Was she terminated because they were afraid of what she would find?
My intent with this post is not to convince you that GMOs are dangerous, but to raise awareness that there are potential long-term side-effects from consuming them on a regular basis (and in the volume that most people consume them) that have not been properly addressed by the industry and government.
At the time of this writing, and as far as I can tell, there has been no conclusive, independent study that guarantees they are safe or proves that they are harmful.
The regulatory and approval processes currently in place are insufficient as they favour the few companies that stand to make huge profits over the distribution and use of their products.
We need to tell these companies and our elected officials to put #PeopleBeforeProfit!
A few years ago, I was having severe digestive problems. I started researching and learned that we have beneficial bacteria in our guts that are essential to proper digestion. These bacteria along with about a trillion other organisms form an ecosystem in and on our bodies known as the microbiome.
I also learned that GMO foods have properties that can interfere with our microbiome, damage the lining of our digestive systems and cause a wide range of unpleasant (and uncomfortable) symptoms.
I started eating more whole, natural foods and drastically reduced my exposure to processed and GMO foods as much as possible. I have noticed a huge improvement in not only my physical health, but my mental health as well.
At a minimum, we need mandatory labelling of all GMO foods.
Only mandatory labelling of GMO foods will allow us to be sure that we can avoid them if that is what we choose to do. Then, people who are GMO free can be tested in a few years to see if their health is better than those who do consume GMO foods.
Perhaps then we will get the answers we need to finally know the truth.
To learn more about the microbiome and the role it plays in our health, register for the upcoming Microbiome Medicine Summit, free and online from February 29 to March 7, 2016 by clicking here.