GMO Studies Show Harm

A three-part article entitled, “Survey Shows Improved Health After Avoiding Genetically Modified Foods” by Jeffrey M. Smith was peer-reviewed and published in the International Journal of Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine on November 7th, 2017.

Part 1 exposes the dangerous lack of safety studies of GMOs and introduces three major reasons why they might cause health problems.

Part 2 gives the results of the survey.

Part 3 focuses on digestive problems.

PART 1 Summary: Dangerous Lack of Research

Following are three major reasons, which have not been sufficiently studied, why GMOs might cause serious health risks:

1. The process of creating a GMO creates unpredictable side effects, including increased allergens and compounds linked to cancer.

2. The Bt-toxin produced in GM corn may cause immune system problems, tissue damage, and leaky gut.

3. Roundup® is sprayed on most GMOs and its residues in food may lead to numerous diseases. Roundup (including its active ingredient glyphosate) is

  • a class 2A carcinogen
  • blocks absorption of essential minerals
  • interferes with important metabolic pathways
  • kills beneficial bacteria and may throw off the health of our microbiome
  • is toxic to the energy centers of the cell (mitochondria)
  • disrupts hormones, and
  • can lead to birth defects.Part 1 also contains a bulleted list, which came from the excellent book GMO Myths and Truths, that summarizes the negative health impacts from more than 20 animal feeding studies. This list, and in fact the whole first part of the paper with its 106 references, can be used to counter anyone who tries to argue that GMOs are just as safe as non-GMO food.

PART 2 Summary: Improvements in 28 conditions from non-GMO diets.

Part 2 gives the results of the survey. The following table includes the 28 conditions asked about and the percentage of respondents who reported seeing improvement after switching to non-GMO diets.

Health Condition Improved – % Reported

Digestive problems – 85.2%
Fatigue 60.4%
Overweight or obesity – 54.6%
Clouding of consciousness (brain fog)  – 51.7%
Mood problems/anxiety/depression – 51.1%
Food allergies or sensitivities – 50.2%
Memory and concentration – 48.1%
Joint pain – 47.5%
Seasonal allergies – 46.6%
Gluten sensitivities – 42.2%
Insomnia – 33.2%
Other skin conditions – 30.9%
Hormonal problems – 30.4%
Musculoskeletal pain – 25.2%
Autoimmune disease – 21.4%
Eczema – 20.8%
Cardiovascular problems and high blood pressure – 19.8%
Asthma – 14.8%
Menstrual problems – 13.1%
Diabetes – 10.6%
Other mental disorders – 7.9%
Underweight – 6.5%
Cancer – 4.8%
Kidney disease – 4.5%
Infertility – 3.8%
Autism spectrum – 2.6%
Alzheimer’s disease – 2.4%
Parkinson’s disease – 1.4%

PART 3 Summary: Improved digestive health is top result.

Part 3 focuses on digestive problems. With a remarkable 85.2% of respondents saying their digestive health improved, this was by far the number one self-reported benefit. Moreover, the changes were significant. When we break down the 85%, only 5.9% reported “Some Mild improvement” and 11.3%“Moderate Improvement.”  A full 29.1% reported “Significant Improvement,” 22.2% said “Nearly Gone,” and 16.6% had a “Complete Recovery.”

The means that more than two-thirds of everyone who answered the survey reported at least a significant improvement—up to complete recovery—from digestive problems. This is an astonishing statistic.

There are numerous ways that GMOs can damage digestive health. Lab animals fed GMOs showed potentially precancerous cell growth in the intestines and stomach, increased intestinal weight, and stomach lesions. Pigs had severe stomach inflammation. Other studies show diminished digestive enzymes and organ damage. Part 3 reviews this evidence along with the modes of action from GMO side-effects, Bt-toxin, and Roundup, to help explain the findings.

When the evidence is looked at all together, the link between GMO consumption and digestive problems is quite compelling. This link might explain why the rise in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and deaths fromintestinal infections in the US highly correlate with the increased use of glyphosate herbicides sprayed on GMO soy and corn. The expansion of acreage of Bt corn also correlates with a rise in IBD and functional bowel disorders.

Although “digestive problems” is the only condition that is closely examined in this article, plenty of other conditions in the survey correspond with evidence in animal studies and their growth rates are also highly correlated with the increased use of GMOs and Roundup in the US. Furthermore, the characteristics of GMOs, Bt toxin, and Roundup may explain why these health issues are linked to exposure.

The survey results on their own should not be overstated. When looking at the survey percentages, it’s important not to misinterpret their meaning. Bear in mind that the survey was not intended to identify what percentage of the population would improve on a non-GMO diet. Rather, it was looking for the relative frequency of conditions that improve, and the extent of that improvement.

For example, the 55% of those who showed reduction in weight or the 60% who had relief from fatigue does not mean that 55-60% of the population, or even 55-60% of those who are tired or overweight, will show improvement. Rather, it means that of those who do report health improvements after switching to non-GMO diets, 55% say they lost weight and 60% say they increased energy.

The survey results on their own are limited. As I make clear in the article, the respondents were not representative of the general population. They were subscribers to newsletter updates by the Institute for Responsible Technology. As such, they were far more aware of the link between GMOs and health issues and would therefore more likely look for such changes.  And expectations might also bias answers. Furthermore, it’s difficult to isolate the elimination of GMOs as the cause for improved health, especially if some people increased their organic consumption, reduced processed foods, or made other dietary changes at the same time.

The strength of the results is that they are part of consistent patterns and can be explained by the known characteristics of GMOs and their associated toxins.

Reframing how we speak about GMOs

Thousands of people and numerous healthcare practitioners in the US report significant health improvements in a range of conditions when they remove GMOs from their own or their patients’ diets. When livestock and pets are taken off GMOs, vets and animal owners report similar improvements. And lab animals fed GMOs or Roundup suffer from myriad related negative health conditions.

What we know about the side effects of GMOs and the toxins they contain (Bt-toxin and Roundup) provides a plausible explanation for why these particular conditions may be caused or exacerbated by eating GMOs. The average American consumes more than his or her own weight in GMOs every year. It is therefore no surprise that the types of conditions linked to GMO consumption are rising in the US population—closely correlated with the increased use of GMOs and Roundup. The same thing can be expected in the UK if you open the gates to GMOs.