Health risks of GMO foods
What is GMO?
What exactly is GMO? Short form of genetically modified organism, GMO is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. This is unnatural and is a cause of great concern for many people all over the world.
Genetically modified foods are foods that are produced from genetically modified organisms. They are also known as biotech foods and GM foods. Commercial organizations began selling GMO foods in 1994.
Today many GMO foods are fed to human beings and livestock all over the world. The highest grown GMO food is soy. Around 93 percent of soybeans produced in 2010 were genetically modified.
Corn, potatoes, salmon, canola oil, high fructose corn syrup, diary and processed foods available in the market may be genetically modified. Unfortunately if you are in the US, there is no way to know if what you are buying is GMO food or not; because there is no labeling. More of that later.
GMO foods health risks
GMO foods would not have caused controversies if not for their harmful effects. Many health risks of GMO food have been recorded. Here is a brief overview of some of them.
According to AmericanAcademy of Environmental medicine (AAEM), GMOs provoke immune reactions. Many animal studies associate significant immune dysregulation with GMO foods.
Increase in cytokines in the US is associated with GMO foods. Cytokines are signaling molecules that are used for cell signaling. These molecules contribute to the induction of allergy and asthma. They are also associated with inflammation.
GMO foods are known to cause infertility. According to dozens of research studies conducted at different parts of the globe, GMO foods inhibit a woman’s chances of getting pregnant.
GMO foods may cause reduction in sperm count. According to experts in the field at AAEM, there is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. People who regularly consume GMO foods are more likely to become ill.
During an animal testing, the testicles of some animals changed from healthy pink color to blue color after being fed GMO foods. The sperm and DNA were also altered. This resulted in lesser number of pregnancies.
GMO foods are associated with premature births, low birth weight babies and infant mortality. In a study conducted in the EU, rats that fed with GMO foods gave birth to babies that died within few weeks of their birth. This is indeed alarming.
In one long-term study, mice fed with GMO corn over a period of 20 weeks had greater impaired fertility than those that were fed with non-GMO corn. The offspring of the mice fed with GMO corn also suffered from lower fertility rates.
The pig farmers in the Midwest region of the United States of America reported that more than 1000 pigs in their farms became sterile after being fed with GMO foods regularly for months.
GMO foods are designed to protect the crop. They are designed to include a built-in pesticide that kills insects when they eat the crop. Will this crop be safe for human consumption? Obviously not.
GMO foods contain Bacillus thuringiensis (known as Bt) that keeps insects away from plants. This no doubt makes agriculture a profitable business; but what about the health of people who use these products?
People in India who handled Bt cotton reported allergy or flu-like symptoms. They complained of itching. Significant changes in immune system were noticed in rats that were fed with Bt corn. This study was sponsored by the Italian government.
GM corn and GM soy contain two new proteins. Both of them are known to cause allergies in human beings. GM soy has around seven times more trypsin inhibitor; a well known soy allergen.
When GM soy was introduced in the United Kingdom, soy allergies increased by 50 percent. Many skin prick tests have proved that people react to GM soy and not to non-GM soy.
Shepherds in India allow their sheep to graze on cotton plants after harvest. Thousands of sheep died after grazing on Bt cotton plants. Post mortem reports indicated black patches in the liver and intestines. Bile ducts were enlarged.
Deccan Development Society conducted a study. Some sheep were fed with Bt cotton plants and some non-Bt cotton plants. Sheep that consumed Bt cotton plants died within 30 days. Sheep that consumed non-Bt cotton plants did not die.
A study reveals that the gene inserted into GM soy transfers into the DNA of bacteria inside human intestine. This gene continues to function. This means that even after we stop eating GMO food, we are likely to have harmful GM proteins produced inside our body. The intestinal bacteria may function as a pesticide factory. You can imagine the harm it can cause to the human body.
In a small village in Andhra Pradesh in India, 13 buffaloes grazed on cotton plants for eight years. In the year 2008, these healthy buffaloes grazed in Bt cotton. All of them fell ill instantly, and died within three days.
Harmful effects of Bt corn on animals were noticed in Germany. Many cows died in Germany after consuming Bt corn. Chickens, horses and water buffaloes have died in Philippines after consuming Bt corn.
In a study, seven out of 20 rats that consumed GM tomato developed bleeding in the stomach. Some died within two weeks. According to French toxicologist, G E Seralini, rats fed with Bt corn experienced damaged to major internal organs.
Rats that were fed with GM potatoes had partially atrophied livers. Livers of rats that consumed GM canola were 12-16 times heavier than those of rats that did not consume GM canola.
Experts are associating rise of cancer, obesity, reproductive problems, autism, diabetes, asthma, heart problems and allergies with GMO foods. They warn that if some concrete action is not taken, the situation may worsen.
The AAEM has called on doctors to educate their patients to avoid GMO food. People should be given an option to choose whether to buy GMO foods or not. Many countries all over the world are labeling GMO foods. In fact around 50 countries with more than 40 percent of the world population label GMOs.
Unfortunately USA is one of the only industrialized nations with no GMO labeling. FDA has yet to requite food manufacturers to label their products. People of this great nation are denied this basic right.
They buy food products thinking that they are natural, when it may be a GMO food product. Americans have been consuming GMO foods from 1996. This is indeed shocking and surprising.
It is advisable to make all efforts to avoid GMO foods. One effective way of doing so is to buy organic. If you are in the USA, check for a number on a little sticker on the package.
If it is a 4-digit number, the food is conventionally produced. If it is a 5-digit number beginning with 8, it is a GMO food. If it is a 5-digit number beginning with 9, it is organic. It definitely makes sense to avoid processed foods because most of them use GMO.
GMO foods are harmful. There is enough proof for this. They have to be banned. Governments all over the world have to act. Unfortunately some governments are reluctant to do so. We need to take good care of ourselves, by avoiding GM foods.
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