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Natural Awakenings Greater Boston - Rhode Island

Genetically Modified Foods Grow in Number and Harm

Feb 26, 2013 12:23PM ● By Kristine Bahr

Foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have become a topic of great concern in the last decade. The process involves splicing certain plant and animal gene traits into other plants and animals using viruses and bacteria. Examples include inserting bacterial DNA into plants to affect such traits as pest or herbicide resistance. Collateral damage to other genes and additional side effects can occur in this sometimes unstable process, and compounds and substances may be formed that didn’t exist before. The prevalence of these practices means that the food most people are consuming these days is quite different from the food they consumed as children. As the number of GMO food products increases, so do the associated health risks.

Corn, much of which is genetically modified today, is prevalent in breakfast cereals, corn flour products such as chips and tortillas, high-fructose corn syrup, soups and condiments. In trials with mice, GMO corn containing the herbicide Roundup was linked to mammary tumors and disabled pituitary function in females, and liver and kidney damage in males. Pesticides act on brain chemicals and have been associated with attention deficit disorders and toxic overload. Such overload causes inflammation in the body, and health sensitive individuals may also experience allergies to pesticides.

New to the growing number of GMO foods is salmon, which is pending approval as a New Animal Drug Application. If approved, it’s likely to eventually end up in supermarkets as well. Genetically modified salmon is designed to grow faster, and the FDA considers it similar enough to other salmon to forego a safety review. In research studies, GMO salmon has been found to have more carcinogens and allergens, and it’s been linked to skeletal malformations.

Other less visible genetically modified ingredients include Aspartame, NutraSweet, canola oil, monosodium glutamate (MSG), sorbitol, whey and whey powder. As more and more food becomes modified and engineered, it’s up to consumers to educate themselves. The Institute for Responsible Technology has a non-GMO shopping guide, found at, and consumers can also visit company websites and Facebook pages. Ben and Jerry’s ice cream lists products and flavors that are GMO-free, for example.

People can also get involved in food labeling initiatives currently underway in Connecticut and Vermont, and do web searches before they shop. Buying organic is another way to avoid GMOs, as organic producers cannot intentionally use them. For more information, visit,, or

Kristine Bahr, MS, is a nutritionist and the founder of Cutting-Edge Wellness in Brookline. To learn more and schedule a free 15-minute consultation, visit or call 617-360-1929.

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