Non-GMO Project Verified Labels are popping up everywhere in grocery store aisles (and on our own website!). The call to Just Label foods that contain genetically modified organisms is increasingly gaining traction, and more and more people are making an effort to cut these “Frankenfoods” out of their diet. While there are many reasons for GMOs to go on your do-not-disturb list (their harmful environmental impacts, a threat to organic farmers, and dubious economic benefits to name a few), often what’s less clear is how these foods impact human health.
Long-Term GMO Studies Are Limited
The reason for this, quite simply, is because we’re not entirely sure what GMOs are doing to our bodies. It’s nearly impossible to find long-term studies that examine the impacts of GMOs on human health. This alone is enough for many GMO watchdogs to ring the alarm. There have been, however, numerous studies that look at the impacts of these foods on animals. Unfortunately, those results aren’t comforting. Here’s what we know.
Allergies Related to GMOs
Perhaps the biggest health concern related to GMO foods is the possibility of the creation of new allergens. Most allergens are the result of proteins. When foods are genetically modified, proteins from one organism are transferred to another – like a brazil nut into an ear of corn – resulting in a novel protein. This novel protein can result in a novel allergy. Consider, “In the US, 1 in every 13 children has a food allergy, and the prevalence of childhood allergies has increased by more than 50% in the last 20 years,” according to Harvard University. This increase in allergies coincides with when GMOs first entered the market. Coincidence? Some scientists don’t think so.
The list of GM food products intersect with the eight most common food allergens: eggs, milk, fish, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts, and wheat. Most of the foreign proteins being gene-spliced into foods have never been eaten by humans before or tested for their safety.
Consumption of GMOs is also associated with lower fertility. In one Austrian study, mice fed GM corn had lower birth rates and fewer offspring than their control-group peers.
According to the Daily Mail:
The Austrian scientists performed several long-term feeding trials with laboratory mice over a course of 20 weeks. One of the studies was a so-called reproductive assessment by continuous breeding (RACB) trial, in which the same parent generation gave birth to several litters of baby mice. The parents were fed either with a diet containing 33 percent of GM maize, a hybrid of Monsanto’s MON 810 and another variety, and a normal feed mix. The team found changes that were ‘statistically significant’ in the third and fourth litters produced by the mice given a GM diet. There were fewer offspring, while the young mice were smaller. Prof Zentek said there was a direct link between the changes seen and the GM diet.
Could GMOs Affect Gluten Disorders?
Could consuming GMOs be increasing our sensitivity to gluten? One scientist seems to think so. According to a 2013 report released by the Institute for Responsible Technology, internist Emily Linder MD states, “Based on my clinical experience, when I remove genetically modified foods as part of the treatment for gluten sensitivity, recovery is faster and more complete. I believe that GMOs in our diet contribute to the rise in gluten sensitivity in the U.S. population.”
Toxicity Related To GMOs
Research shows that consuming genetically modified foods may actually be toxic. In a study released by the International Journal of Biological Sciences, researchers found that GM corn is linked to organ damage in rats.
In the conclusion of the IJBS study, the researchers report:
Effects were mostly concentrated in kidney and liver function, the two major diet detoxification organs, but in detail differed with each GM type. In addition, some effects on heart, adrenal, spleen and blood cells were also frequently noted. As there normally exists sex differences in liver and kidney metabolism, the highly statistically significant disturbances in the function of these organs, seen between male and female rats, cannot be dismissed as biologically insignificant as has been proposed by others. We, therefore, conclude that our data strongly suggests that these GM maize varieties induce a state of hepatorenal toxicity….These substances have never before been an integral part of the human or animal diet and therefore their health consequences for those who consume them, especially over long time periods are currently unknown.