Health and Environmental Illness

Resources about environmental illness and non-drug treatments

Genetically Engineered Food

If you buy your food at supermarkets or restaurants, you eat genetically engineered food; most processed food sold in the United States contains genetically modified ingredients. In the U.S., 95% of sugar beets, 94% of soy and 88% of corn is genetically modified. Beet sugar, soy, and corn are found in the majority of processed foods.

Soy appears in your food as soy flour, oil, protein, and dozens of additives; corn as cornmeal, oil, corn syrup (used almost universally in place of sugar, such as in soda pop), and dozens of additives. U.S. genetically modified (GM) crops currently sold are: soy, cotton, canola, corn, sugar beets, papaya, zucchini, and yellow squash. The GM foods are unlabeled; the only way to avoid them is to buy organic food.

In no case were the crops engineered for better nutrition, taste, or yield. Most varieties were created to tolerate herbicide--to survive a lethal dose of the seed manufacturer's proprietary herbicide, which the farmer is required to buy along with the seed--and/or to manufacture its own pesticide. (Less than 1% of GM crops--zucchini, squash, and papaya--are modified for virus resistance.)

Health Risks
Institute for Responsible Technology

Book: Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods
by Jeffrey M. Smith

GMOs in Food
Institute for Responsible Technology

Non-GMO Shopping Guide
Institute for Responsible Technology

Animal Studies

According to Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods , by Jeffrey M. Smith, "By the beginning of 2007, there were just over 20 peer-reviewed animal feeding safety studies on GM crops. Only a single human feeding trial has been published."

GM Potato

In 1995, the British government sponsored a project to develop protocols for evaluating GM foods. The project engineered a GM potato, modified to produce a natural insecticide, that it planned to commercialize. However, one study, directed by Arpad Pusztai, fed the GM potatoes to rats. When the rats, as part of a balanced diet, ate the GM potatoes, they had stunting, atrophy, and enlargement of various internal organs; immune damage; and excessive cell growth, similar to precancerous changes, throughout their digestive system. The natural insecticide, even when fed to rats in huge amounts, didn't cause this damage; only the GM potatoes did, even when cooked.

Pusztai was fired and prevented from discussing his work. In February 1999, Pusztai testified before the British parliament. Consumer reaction forced food manufacturers to permanently remove GM ingredients from food sold in Europe.

Interview with Dr. Pusztai
GM-FREE, 1999

Effect of Diets Containing Genetically Modfied Potatoes Expressing Galanthus nivalis Lectin on Rat Small Intestine (abstract)
by Stanley W. B. Ewen and Arpad Pusztai, The Lancet, 1999

GM Pea

A study by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Australia fed GM peas, engineered to produce a different natural insecticide, to mice, along with a commercial diet. The GM peas, even when cooked, caused an inflammatory asthma-like immune response in the mice.

GM Pea Causes Allergic Damage in Mice
by Emma Young,

Genetically Modified Peas Caused Dangerous Immune Response in Mice
by Jeffrey M. Smith, Spilling the Beans, November/December 2005

GM Soy

A peer-reviewed study in Russia fed Monsanto's Roundup Ready soy--an herbicide tolerant (HT) crop widely used in the United States--to rats, in the form of soy flour. The offspring of the rats fed Roundup Ready soy had 55% mortality, compared to 10% mortality in those whose parents were fed non-GM soy. The surviving offspring were often stunted and were infertile when mated to each other.

Most Offspring Died When Mother Rats Ate Genetically Engineered Soy
by Jeffrey M. Smith, Spilling the Beans, October 2005

Contamination of Human Gut Bacteria

Perhaps the most frightening aspect of GM food is the potential to spread unwanted genetic material, through genetic exchange, into the human body. Genetic exchange is common in bacteria. (The phenomenon may account in part for the mutations of disease-causing pathogens.) In humans, beneficial, symbiotic gut bacteria help digest food and produce nutrients, and exist naturally in the trillions in the digestive system. Irreversible contamination of human gut bacteria, through genetic exchange or other mechanisms, could have severe consequences, from poisoning and allergic reactions to antibiotic-resistant epidemics.

The only GM feeding study on humans examined the contents of ileostomy bags in seven volunteers. Genes from Monsanto's Roundup Ready soy--an herbicide tolerant (HT) crop widely grown in the United States--were found, by PCR (used for DNA testing), to have transferred into the genes of human gut bacteria in three of the subjects. The genetic material--three different genetic sequences from Roundup Ready soy--that was found in the gut bacteria included the gene for herbicide tolerance (along with a petunia gene and the cauliflower mosaic virus "promoter," which is used in genetic engineering to "switch on genes"). When cultured, the bacteria survived Roundup herbicide. But the researchers were not even able to identify the species of the affected gut bacteria.

In Bayer's Liberty Link crops, also herbicide tolerant, the plant produces an enzyme that converts Liberty herbicide (glufosinate ammonium) into a form called N-acetyl-L-glufosinate (NAG). NAG accumulates within the plant and is eaten when the crops are eaten as food. Yet studies showed that when rats and goats were fed NAG, their gut bacteria converted some of the NAG back into herbicide. The animals displayed the effects of herbicide poisoning, excreted some of the herbicide, and stored the rest of the herbicide in fat, milk, and internal organs.

Genetically Engineered Crops May Produce Herbicide Inside Our Intestines
by Jeffrey M. Smith, Spilling the Beans, April/May 2006

Genetically modified Bt corn, corn that in every cell produces the highly allergenic natural pesticide Bt-toxin, is also grown in the United States.

Genetically Engineered Foods May Cause Rising Food Allergies: Part 2: Genetically Engineered Corn
by Jeffrey M. Smith, Spilling the Beans, June 2007

Genetically Modified Corn Study Reveals Health Damage and Cover-Up
by Jeffrey M. Smith, Spilling the Beans, June 2005

It is possible that Bt-producing genes could transfer into gut bacteria and produce Bt-toxin in the human intestine.

Furthermore, most GM foods, in every cell, contain genes that confer antibiotic resistance--a byproduct of the genetic engineering process. It is known that antibiotic resistance genes can transfer to oral bacteria and to soil microorganisms. It is perhaps only a matter of time for antibiotic resistance genes to spread to gut bacteria or pathogenic bacteria.

US Government and Biotech Firm Deceive Public on GM Corn Mix-Up
by Jeffrey M. Smith, Spilling the Beans, April 2005

Contamination of Non-GM Crops

Meanwhile, GM crops distribute their genes to non-GM crops at an unknown rate through pollination.

In 2000, Aventis's StarLink, a variety of Bt corn unapproved for human consumption, was detected in brand-name supermarket foods and, despite being grown on less than 1% of corn acreage, in 22% of the corn samples tested.

In 2006, separate strains of unapproved Liberty Link rice were found to contaminate commercial rice in five rice-growing states, U.S. rice exports (refused by Europe and Japan), two major seed stocks (now banned), and supermarket foods (eaten by you).

Attack of the Mutant Rice
by Marc Gunther, Fortune, July 9, 2007

In 2007, the USDA approved field trials of rice genetically engineered to produce pharmaceuticals.

About Pharmaceutical Crops
The Center for Food Safety

Drug-producing lettuce:

Be Wary of Biotech Lettuce Experiments
by Charles Margulis, The Salinas Californian, January 11, 2008

Lack of Economic Benefit of GM Crops

Who Benefits From GM Crops?
Friends of the Earth International, February 2015

Failure to Yield: Evaluating the Performance of Genetically Engineered Crops
Union of Concerned Scientists

How Genes Are Engineered

A Challenge to Gene Theory, a Tougher Look at Biotech
by Denise Caruso, The New York Times, July 1, 2007

Genome Scrambling--Myth or Realty: Transformation-Induced Mutations in Transgenic Crop Plants
EcoNexus, October, 2004


Institute for Responsible Technology

Seeds of Deception

The Center for Food Safety

GM Watch


Friends of the Earth

Friends of the Earth International

The Organic Center

Organic Consumers Association: Genetic Engineering: What You Need to Know

Updated 3/21/2015