GMO, bioengineered foods, cancer, kidney disease, liver disease, premature death, GM foods, Monsanto, Bt toxin, Roundup, toxicity

GMO Foods: The Doomsday Diet?

GMO Foods: The Doomsday Diet?

© 2012 Dr. Dale Peterson &

I graduated from medical school in 1972. That means that my medical career is entering its fifth decade. It has spanned a time that has seen more changes in medical care than in all of prior human history.

The past forty years have been times of incredible technological advancement. In 1972 it wasn’t possible to obtain detailed pictures of the body’s internal structures with the CT scans or MRIs that are commonplace today. There were no PET scans to look at the inner workings of the body.

Surgical procedures were always performed through full incisions; there were no arthroscopes through which to repair joints and no laproscopes for performing abdominal procedures. It wasn’t possible to open a blocked artery with a balloon inserted through the groin.

When I graduated from medical school fiberoptic scopes didn’t exist. It wasn’t possible to look inside the intestinal tract with an endoscope or colonoscope or to inspect the bronchial tubes with a bronchoscope.

Given what was on the horizon it’s not surprising that physicians and non-physicians alike viewed the future with an optimistic attitude believing that we were on the verge of conquering most of the diseases that had plagued humankind down through the centuries. It seemed all but certain that longevity would increase greatly and that people would remain vibrant and active into advanced ages.

The optimism of that era can be seen in the Second Humanist Manifesto, which was published in 1973. Its introductory paragraph states:

“The next century can be and should be the humanistic century. Dramatic scientific, technological, and ever-accelerating social and political changes crowd our awareness. We have virtually conquered the planet, explored the moon, overcome the natural limits of travel and communication; we stand at the dawn of a new age, ready to move farther into space and perhaps inhabit other planets. Using technology wisely, we can control our environment, conquer poverty, markedly reduce disease, extend our life-span, significantly modify our behavior, alter the course of human evolution and cultural development, unlock vast new powers, and provide humankind with unparalleled opportunity for achieving an abundant and meaningful life.”

Admitting that challenges would appear, the signatories expressed confidence in the ability of human ingenuity to conquer them:

“But we can discover no divine purpose or providence for the human species. While there is much that we do not know, humans are responsible for what we are or will become. No deity will save us; we must save ourselves.”

The future has not proven to be as bright as was hoped. Despite a widespread war on cholesterol and advances in the surgical management of narrowed arteries heart disease remains a major cause of death. Cancer rates have soared and show no signs of declining. New viral entities such as hepatitis C and AIDS have appeared. Conditions that were unknown in the early 1970s such as fibromyalgia and attention deficit disorder are now commonly seen. Autism rates have soared and the incidence of disabling conditions like Alzheimer’s disease continue to rise. It is clear that health challenges have increased in frequency and severity over the past four decades, a trend that shows no signs of slowing.

The environment in which we find ourselves is infinitely more hostile to life than that of the mid-twentieth century. We are constantly being bombarded by an infinite number of electromagnetic frequencies that disrupt the intricate balance of the body’s own electrical and magnetic systems. I have written about the adverse effects of radiofrequency-microwave (RF/MW) radiation on the body. Despite clear evidence that exposure to RF/MW disrupts cellular communication leading to an increase in cancer and diseases of the nervous system RF/MW devices continue to proliferate.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 prohibited local governments from considering environmental or health concerns when considering permits for cell phone towers. That act is still in effect. Likewise, people expressing similar concerns about the installation of smart meters in their homes have been silenced or ignored.

Not only has the electromagnetic environment of the earth changed drastically in recent years, the quality and safety of the world’s food supply has been dramatically altered, perhaps irreversibly. Companies have been allowed to genetically modify (GM) and patent seeds for food crops without having to demonstrate that those foods are safe for consumption.

GM foods began to enter the marketplace in the mid-1990s. It is widely believed that the first commercial GM crop released was the FLAVR SAVRTM tomato, which appeared in the United States in 1994. Some large scale plantings of GM tobacco had been made in China in 1992, however. While GM foods have been present in the food supply for nearly two decades, information regarding their safety has been nearly non-existent. This is because the United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decreed in 1992 that genetically engineered foods are no different than conventional foods and are therefore to be “generally regarded as safe” (GRAS). There was no scientific basis for making this declaration, but because GM foods were deemed "GRAS," they were not required to undergo independent safety testing. Biotech companies were allowed to do their own safety tests and were not required to publish the results.

In 2009 a group of French researchers published an analysis of data from three genetically modified organism (GMO) studies done by or for Monsanto, a major GMO producer. The data had been acquired by European governments through court orders and made available to the public. The studies had been of short duration, lasting only three months. Nevertheless, what the researchers discovered was very disturbing.

Rats fed GM corn varieties showed signs of lowered kidney and liver function. The liver and kidneys are the body’s primary organs of detoxification. There were also changes in the heart, adrenal glands, spleen, and white blood cells. These suggested that consumption of GM corn varieties has toxic effects that are likely to adversely affect organ function and impair the immune system.

The researchers correctly noted that cancer, nervous and immune system diseases, and reproductive disorders will generally not become evident within three months. They recommended that longer-term studies lasting at least two years be conducted to see if GM foods increase the risk of those diseases.

In addition to analyzing the data, the researchers detailed mechanisms by which GM foods could cause damage to animals or humans consuming them. To recognize the dangers inherent in GM foods it is necessary to understand what genetic modifications are designed to accomplish.

Sixty percent of GMOs have been modified to make them tolerant to herbicides, primarily Monsanto’s Roundup™. Twenty percent have been genetically programmed to produce an insecticide that will kill pests such as the corn rootworm. This is accomplished by inserting a gene from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Twenty percent of GMOs have been programmed to do both, to tolerate herbicides and produce insecticides.

The GMO crops engineered to tolerate herbicides inevitably carry residues of the herbicides used (primarily Roundup™). These can have direct toxic effects when consumed. The crops containing the Bt toxin gene produce Bt toxin. Contrary to the assertions by Monsanto and the EPA that the Bt toxin would be completely destroyed in the digestive system and therefore pose no risk to humans, in 2011 doctors at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec found Bt-toxin in the blood of 93 percent of pregnant women tested, 80 percent of umbilical blood in their babies, and in 67 percent of non-pregnant women.
It is feared that consuming Bt corn may turn normal intestinal flora (microorganisms) into living pesticide factories that are continually manufacturing Bt toxin. This could result not only in gastrointestinal problems, but in autoimmune diseases, food allergies, and childhood learning disorders – all of which are on the rise. An Italian study of mice fed Bt corn did, in fact, find changes in the immune system that are typically associated with allergies, infections, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, and asthma.

The French researchers suggested that long-term exposure to GMO foods could trigger hormonal disorders, infertility, cancer, autoimmune illnesses, nervous system diseases, and genetic or metabolic defects. In September, nearly two decades after GMO food first appeared in the marketplace, the first long-term independent study on the effects of GM food consumption was published. The results were not encouraging, as they confirmed many of the fears set forth in the 2010 French article.

100 male and 100 female rats were involved in the study. They were divided into ten groups containing ten of each sex. All were fed standard balanced diets. One group was fed a diet of 33 percent non-GMO corn that had been grown under similar conditions in the same location as the GMO corn (Roundup™ tolerant NK603 from Monsanto), although far enough apart to prevent cross-pollination. Other groups were fed diets consisting of 11, 22, or 33 percent GMO corn that had been grown with the use of Roundup™ herbicide or 11, 22, or 33 percent GMO corn that had been cultivated without the use of Roundup™. Three groups were fed non-GMO corn, but were given water with varying levels of Roundup™ contamination. The study was continued for two years.

Over the course of the study 30 % of the males and 20 % of the females fed non-GMO corn died prematurely compared to up to 50 % of males and 70 % of females fed GMO corn. Interestingly, animals in the lowest (11 %) and intermediate (22 %) GMO corn groups were just as likely to die as those in the highest (33 %) GMO group. Deaths also occurred whether or not the crop had been sprayed with Roundup™, meaning that factors beyond herbicide toxicity were responsible. (Hormonal effects, including tumors, were present to a similar degree in the rats given water laced with Roundup™ at levels sometimes found in tap water.)

The first deaths in the GMO groups occurred a year earlier than the first deaths in the control groups. The first male rats to die had to be euthanized due to the presence of kidney tumors that had grown to more than 25 % of their body weight. The first female death was due to a mammary (breast) tumor. The greatest difference in mortality rate for the males was a fivefold increase in the 11 % GMO group. The greatest difference if female mortality was a sixfold increase in the 22 % GMO group.

While 10 – 30 % of animals in the treatment groups had developed tumors within 14 months, no animals in the control group had done so. By the end of the study 50 – 80 % of females in all treatment groups had developed tumors compared to only 30 % of those in the control group. The groups drinking water laced with Roundup™ had the greatest tumor incidence with up to three tumors occurring in a single animal.

Roundup™ has been show to disrupt the activity of an enzyme, aromatase, which is involved in estrogen synthesis. It also appears to adversely affect sex hormones in males as well as females. Hormonal effects were found in animals fed GMO corn containing residual herbicide levels that are deemed acceptable by regulatory agencies.

Because tumor incidence and mortality rates were similar in the groups fed GMO corn that had not been given applications of Roundup™, mechanisms specific to the genetic modification must have been responsible. Researchers found low levels of phenolic acids, substances believed to protect against tumor growth, in GMO corn. They could not definitively identify the mechanisms involved in GMO tumor promotion, however.

While male rats in the treated groups had four times as many tumors as those in the control group, the primary causes of death in treated male rats were liver and kidney failure. Severe kidney disease was up to 2.3 times higher in treated groups than in the control group, and liver congestion and cell death was up to 5.5 times greater. These effects can be caused by Roundup™, but since they were also seen in the groups eating GMO corn that did not contain Roundup™ residue a different mechanism must also be active. This is believed to be directly related to the metabolic changes brought about by the modified gene (transgene).

Predictably, a Monsanto spokesman stated, "Numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies performed on biotech crops to date, including more than a hundred feeding studies, have continuously confirmed their safety, as reflected in the respective safety assessments by regulatory authorities around the world." Other experts criticized the study’s design and reporting as “substandard” and non-applicable to humans.

One of the most disturbing characteristics of late twentieth and twenty-first century scientists is their lack of curiosity. Rather than seeking to understand and clarify legitimate concerns about emerging technologies, most prefer to attack the credibility of those who raise them. Their refusal to seriously consider the possibility that adverse consequences may arise from the use of new technologies has led to a situation in which those technologies are in such widespread use that it is too late to turn back.

This is true of childhood immunizations, wireless technologies, as well as GMO plants, which now dominate some agricultural crops. GM soybeans expanded from 17 percent of U.S. soybean acreage in 1997 to 68 percent in 2001 and 93 percent in 2012. The extent of bioengineered U.S. corn acreage reached 88 percent in 2012. GM cotton makes up 94 % of the total U.S. crop. Approximately 95% of sugar beets are now GM, as are 93 % of canola plants. 80 % of Hawaiian papaya is GM. It has been estimated that over 70 percent of processed foods on supermarket shelves–from soda to soup, crackers to condiments–contain genetically engineered ingredients.

Genetically modified animals are also coming online. A company called Aquabounty is nearing approval to market GM salmon, even though corporate studies show that the fish may contain increased levels of IGF-1, a hormone that not only helps accelerate the growth of the transgenic fish, but which also has been linked to breast, colon, prostate, and lung cancer. They are also working on GM trout and tilapia. A New Zealand group has produced a GM cow that produces an altered form of milk, intended to prevent the development of milk allergies.

A major difficulty in managing personal health risk is the refusal of agencies that are theoretically responsible for monitoring food safety to require disclosure that a food has been genetically modified. Consumers therefore have no way of knowing whether the foods they are buying contain GM constituents.

How, then, should someone who wants to protect their health while questions of GM food safety remain undecided proceed? One strategy is to purchase foods that are labeled “100 % organic.” Foods that simply carry an “organic” designation are allowed to contain up to 30 % GM components. The same is true of beef products. Only “100 % grass-fed” indicates purity, as most cattle are grass-fed prior to being transferred to feed lots where they are fed GM corn.

Avoid oils that contain corn, cottonseed, or canola. Choose alternatives such as olive oil, coconut oil or grape seed oil.

More products are carrying a “GMO-free” or “Non-GMO” label. Another clue to the safety of fresh produce is the price look-up (PLU) code affixed to the fruit or vegetable. PLU codes are universal identification numbers used to make check-out and inventory control easier, faster, and more accurate. The July 2012 PLU codes user guide specifies three categories. A five digit code beginning with “9” indicates that the produce has been grown organically. A five digit code beginning with “8” identifies genetically modified produce. A four digit code or a five digit code starting with “0” tells nothing about the item’s origin. Following PLU codes is not completely accurate, as the labeling is voluntary.

Produce grown locally is more likely to be non-GMO than crops grown on large corporate farms. Likewise, whole foods are safer than processed or packaged foods. Growing as many of your own foods as possible is helpful, as you should know for certain that the seeds you are planting have not been genetically modified.

We should continue to pressure our elected leaders to require consideration of health, environmental, and ethical concerns in expansion of new technologies, and we must be willing to hold corporations accountable by refusing to willing purchase products of unproven safety. It appears to be too late to stem the tide, however. Contrary to the assertion of the Second Humanist Manifesto, “Our Deity must save us; we cannot and will not save ourselves.”

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