GMO foods have been on the market for 20 years now and we still don’t know what impact they have on our health and the environment. Behind their creation lie many unanswered questions.
The human health question
Most of today’s genetically engineered GMO foods were approved over 15 years ago during a period when the government was aggressively promoting biotechnology. The belief was that GMO foods were substantially equivalent to conventional foods. We have since learned that even small differences in the genetic makeup of food can lead to unexpected human health risks.
GMO manufacturers have clamed that the proteins found in GMO’s are effectively broken down and eliminated during digestion. However, researchers in Quebec found that 100% of pregnant women and their unborn babies tested positive for GMO toxins in their blood.(1)(2) These GMO proteins survive human digestion and enter the blood stream, which then crosses the placenta into the fetus. (3)
Dr. Stephanie Seneff from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is studying the link between autism and GMOs to determine why the rates of autism are do high. Dr. Seneff predicts that the rate of autism will be 1 in 2 by 2025. Her data shows the symptoms of glyphosate toxicity are closely match those of autism. (4) While this is only one and cannot be confirmed as conclusive, it has opened the door for many more researchers to review if there is indeed a link between autism and GMOs.
What does this mean for our health when consuming GMO’s? Unfortunately this questions only leads to more questions and no answers.
The Environmental Impact question
It has been reported that during the twenty years that GM crops have been grown, herbicide sales in Canada have more than doubled, with an increase of 130% (4).
Glyphosate is an herbicide used to kill weeds. The use of glyphosate-based herbicides in Canada tripled between 2005 and 2011, and is associated with the cultivation of GMO glyphosate-tolerant corn, canola, soy and sugar beet. Glyphosate is now the highest-volume pesticide active ingredient sold in Canada, followed by 2,4-D and glufosinate ammonium.
In March 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer determined that glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans”.
Worldwide, 32 weeds have developed resistance to glyphosate in the past
20 years. Most are found in just a few countries: 14 in the US, 10 in Australia, 7 in Argentina, 5 in Canada, and 6 in Brazil.
Canada now has five species of glyphosate-resistant weeds: giant ragweed, Canada fleabane, common ragweed, kochia, and tall waterhemp. These weeds are estimated to be on more than one million acres of Canadian farmland.
Canada has approved a GMO “non-browning” apple grown in B.C. GMO herbicide- tolerant and low-lignin alfalfa could be sold in 2016 for the first time. The Minister of the Environment has approved the production of a GMO fast-growing salmon in Canada, though it is not yet approved for eating and is therefore not yet being grown. Canada also continues to allow field tests of GMO poplar trees. These GMO crops, trees and animals all pose new, unique risks that are hard to predict.
- Insects that have developed resistance to GMO insect-resistant (Bt) crops are spreading across the world and could soon be found in Canada.
- North America has lost 90% of its Monarch butterfly population due to habitat destroyed by glyphosate use on GMO glyphosate-tolerant corn in the US.
- GMO contamination in Canada prevents organic farmers from growing canola, and may have reduced genetic diversity in both canola and flax seed.
- GMO organisms are difficult to control or recall once they are released.
WHAT TO KNOW…
- What is a GMO? GMOs (genetically modified organisms, also known as genetically engineered-GE) are altered at the molecular level through laboratory processes that take genes from one species and insert them into another to obtain desired traits.
- Environmental concerns. GMOs may migrate and damage other farms and ecosystems. They have been known to cross-pollinate and contaminate non-GMO crops; once they get into the wild they cannot be recalled. Additionally, studies have shown GMO crops often use more pesticides than non-GMO crops.
- Safety. The safety of GMOs for human consumption has not been assured. Several studies have affirmed that GMO crops have the potential to introduce new toxins or allergens into our food and environment. There are no mandatory human clinical trials for GMO crops, no requirement for long-term testing on animals, and limited testing requirements on allergenicity.
- Presence. As much as 60-70% of processed foods available in our grocery stores likely contain some GMOs. If you eat something with high fructose corn syrup, there is a 90% likelihood that you are consuming GMOs.
- Labeling. Most developed countries, including the 15 nations of the European Union, Japan, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia, and China, have mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods. Canada and the USA do not
- Tracey J. Woodruff, Ami R. Zota, Jackie M. Schwartz. Environmental Chemicals in Pregnant Women in the US: NHANES 2003-2004. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2011; DOI: 10.1289/ehp.1002727
- Reproductive Toxicology – Reprod Toxicol. 2011 May;31(4):528-33. doi: 10.1016/j.reprotox.2011.02.004. Epub 2011 Feb 18.
- Are GM Crops better for the environment? – Report 2; Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN); May 2015