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  • Dr. Allissa Gaul

What you should know about GMO's

The other day I had a brief conversation with a fellow who looked abjectly terrified when I asked him if his commitment to vegetarianism extended to not eating genetically modified vegetables and fruits. He was quick to tell me that he just wasn’t sure about the whole issue and that he really couldn’t commit to a view.

And I thought: huh. That is very interesting.

And then I realized that he is probably not the only person confused about what a GMO food is and what it means to have them in our environment.

Originally, genetically modified foods were created to make plants more pesticide and herbicide resistant. What this means is that farmers could spray crops intensely and not kill the crop plant by doing it. The problem is that the company that produces the chemicals and the company that is producing the seed for the genetically modified crop is one and the same. And those chemicals that are being sprayed more intensely are poisons to water, air and soil and by extension, humans. It is the intentional production of a monopoly which has often been protected in court systems in North America.

What is interesting to me is that I lived in England 20 years ago. And in that year, there was such an outcry against these foods that the major grocery chains voluntarily eliminated genetically modified ingredients out of the foods that they were mass producing. Safeway, Tesco and Sainsbury’s got rid of all of it. And what did I hear about it in Canada? Nothing. Not a peep. There were literally diplomatic conflicts between the USA and France about farming GMOs on French soil (the US was threatening France with “repercussions” because the French, often considered the ultimate “foodie” culture, were absolutely insistent on no GMOs). And here? Not a whisper.

At this point, there is not enough evidence to suggest that eating GMOs creates specific effects in humans conclusively. And what I mean by conclusively is that there would be enough evidence where they would be banned based on human research. Part of the reason for this is that GMOs were introduced in the late 90’s and so we can’t see the effect on a population yet since humans live an average of 70+ years. But there is starting to be evidence that various mammals may be affected that have shorter life spans. For example, anyone in our practice have an inflamed stomach or a bulky uterus? In a study published in 2013, pigs fed a GMO soy and corn diet showed significantly more inflamed stomach linings and bigger bulkier uteruses. There was no other explanation for the difference. Note that in this study, the pigs were only allowed to live approximately 23 weeks, which is the age they are raised to before they are slaughtered and fed to humans. In rats, the predominant effect of eating GMO corn cultivated with the matched pesticide shown in a study in 2012 was breast and general tumors, reduction of life span by 2-3 x, marked kidney toxicity and increased liver toxicity.

GMO soy and corn are common ingredients in prepared foods. If this information freaks you out (as I think it should, IMHO), then check out the Non-GMO Project website for more information about the foods you eat and if they are GMO. (They even have an app to check.) Never assume that this work has been done for you! Even at the health food store they sell items that are GMOs.

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