GMO Foods

Trust nature to make your food.
GMO foods warrant caution.

Quietly, without much fanfare, GMO foods have made enormous inroads into the world’s food supply. Supporters tout advantages such as increased disease resistance, decreasing demand on scarce water supplies, and higher yields for crops. Critics warn of the unknown health and environmental effects of this rapid global change in plant genetics. What can you believe? Is there reason for caution when it comes to buying and eating genetically modified food? I’ll try here to shed a little light on that question.

What are GMO foods anyway and how are they made? A GMO crop is a plant produced by allowing a gene to be inserted artificially into the DNA sequence of the plant, in order to give that plant traits that would be impossible through normal seed breeding and pollination. The usual traits that are conferred to plants in this manner are either


• resistance to herbicides

• or the ability of plants to make their own pesticides from within.

The trait of herbicide resistance of these food crops allows very large agribusiness farms to blanket the fields with chemical herbicides, killing all plants except the herbicide resistant GMO crop. In the process of course, the resistant plant (being grown for food) soaks up large amounts of that herbicide which then has the potential of showing up in the food supply.

What are the problems with GMO foods? The science of gene splicing is actually not a very precise process, and in addition to the DNA change created on purpose, there can be potentially unintended changes in the DNA of the plant. Changes in DNA naturally lead to changes in RNA expression and the proteins made by the plant. As a result, the crop may have more or less allergens or toxins, more or less nutrient value; and because these are completely novel products, we simply don’t know their consequences for animal or human health.

Have there been scientific studies showing that genetically modified food may be dangerous? Yes. This has been thoroughly summarized by the Institute for Responsible Technology in a 28 page state of the science report with over 100 scientific citations. A few highlights include lab rats which developed stomach lesions and abnormal cells lining the intestine, increased allergic reactions, animal reproductive problems, changes in the liver, decreased digestive enzymes in the pancreas, and much more.

While the mainstream medical and scientific literature mostly has published studies which conclude that genetically modified food is safe, it is worth pointing out that a number of those studies were supported financially by the companies which manufacture the GMO technology. It is also worth pointing out that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a long history of high level administrators who either before or after their government work had high level positions in the GMO food industry. Even other governments have been critical of the FDA on this, feeling that it has led to lax oversight of the process.


I believe this is a classic example where a precautionary principle must be the rule. While final conclusions may be premature, there is sufficient concern to suggest that we avoid consuming GMO foods until proved safe. And they have not yet been proved safe, despite industry and government claims. 

How do you avoid GMO foods? Three simple tips.


1. Buy organic whenever possible.


2. avoid “at risk” ingredients (85% of corn, 91% of soybeans, 88% of canola, 88% of cotton/cottonseed, if not organically grown).


3. look for the “non-GMO Project” seal in stores. You can find all the latest information at the web page of the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, and even download an i-phone app which will keep you up to date in the market. And stay tuned for more updates, we have not yet heard the end of this story.


To your health and wellness,

Robert Pendergrast, MD 

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