Introduction by SafBaby Founders Sandra Blum and Samantha Fox Olson
Are we experimenting with our babies and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)? The more we learn, the more SafBaby thinks the answer, sadly, is yes.
You will find yourself amazed at where GMOs hide. And after reading this article, you will understand why our babies and children are developing allergies, a resistance to antibiotics and what is negatively influencing their sexual development! You’ll never shop the same after reading this article!
GMOs are a threat to our babies’ health and future. In Part 1: The Truth About GMOs of this two-part series, we gave an overview of what GMOs are and why they are here. If you happened to miss Part 1, we suggest you read that first.
This continuation is more specifically about babies and children and gives parents safe measures to take. We encourage the appropriate action needed by parents to keep GMOs out of our foods, and this article will also answer any final questions you may have had.
Jeffrey Smith, a leading spokesperson on the dangers of GMOs and author of Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, continues our interview about why babies and children are most vulnerable to GMOs.
Children Are More Susceptible To Allergies
Children are three to four times more prone to allergies than adults and are at highest risk of death from a food allergy. Infants below two years old have the highest incidence of reactions, especially to new allergens encountered in the diet. Even tiny amounts of allergens can sometimes cause reactions.
One reason for this sensitivity, according to the EPA, is that an immature gut or permeable mucosal epithelium is more likely to allow a higher degree of macromolecular transport and access to the immune system than the intact barrier of a normal mature gut. The immune system must also be of sufficient maturity. Both systems appear to be functioning optimally by age three to five.
According to the Royal Society of Canada, “The potentially widespread use of GM food products as food additives and staple foods, including use in baby foods, may lead to earlier introduction of these novel proteins to susceptible infants either directly or via the presence of the maternally ingested proteins in breast milk.”
The UK Royal Society suggested that “post-marketing surveillance should be part of the overall safety strategy for allergies, especially of high-risk groups such as infants,” but acknowledged that it is not clear “whether such monitoring is feasible for GM food.”
“The FDA does not require any safety evaluations for GMOs. Instead, biotech companies, who have been found guilty of hiding toxic effects of their chemical products, are now in charge of determining whether their GM foods are safe.”
Children can react to much smaller doses of toxins than adults. Exposure to hormones or endocrine disruptors may also severely affect normal development. And children who are prone to infections may be severely impacted if antibiotics lose their effectiveness due to antibiotic-resistant genes in GM food and the overuse of antibiotics in rbGH treated cows.
Children Have A High Exposure To GMOs
Children consume a large amount of products that may be genetically engineered. They eat a higher percentage of corn in their diet compared to adults, and allergic children often rely on corn as a source of protein.
“FDA scientists warned that GMOs can create unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects, including allergies, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems. They urged long term safety studies, but were ignored.”
Mothers using cornstarch as a talc substitute on their children’s skin might also expose them via inhalation. Infants are sometimes reared on soy infant formula. The Royal Society wrote, “Infant formulas, in particular, are “consumed as a single food over extended periods of time by those who are especially vulnerable” and “should be investigated most rigorously.” Among the potential side effects are changes in soy’s natural estrogen mimickers, which may influence sexual development.
Children consume a disproportionately large amount of milk. In the United States and elsewhere, dairy products may come from cows treated with the genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rbGH). The milk contains increased amounts of hormones and antibiotics and an altered nutritional content.
According to a discussion paper on the public health implications of rbGH, published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, an “infant would be exposed to a dose of IGF-1, which was 12.5 times the recommended minimum. IGF-1 is an Insulin-like growth factor 1. It is a polypeptide protein hormone similar in molecular structure to insulin. It plays an important role in childhood growth and continues to have anabolic effects in adults.
Samuel Epstein, chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition and an expert on the health effects of rbGH, says that risks of high exposure to IGF-1 are “of particular concern to infants and children in view of their high susceptibility to cancer-causing products and chemicals.”
“Industry funded studies often use mature animals instead of the more sensitive young ones, in order to mask results.”
He also suggests that regular exposure might promote “premature growth stimulation in infants, gynecomastia
[development of abnormally large breasts on males] in young children.”
Safety Assessments Regarding GMOs Ignore Children
An FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) and WHO (World Health Organization) task force on GM food said that “Attention should be paid to the particular physiological characteristics and metabolic requirements of specific population subgroups, such as infants and children.”
In practice, GM safety assessments ignore them. In fact, industry funded studies often use mature animals instead of the more sensitive young ones, in order to mask results.
Biologist David Schubert warns, “Since children are the most likely to be adversely effected by toxins and other dietary problems, if the GM food is given to them without proper testing, they will be the experimental animals. If there are problems, we will probably never know because the cause will not be traceable and many diseases take a very long time to develop.”
How Are GM Foods Regulated?
In 1992, the Food and Drug Administration claimed that they had no information showing that GM foods were substantially different from conventionally grown foods and therefore were safe to eat. But internal memos made public by a lawsuit reveal that their position was staged by political appointees under orders from the White House to promote GMOs.
FDA scientists, on the other hand, warned that GMOs can create unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects, including allergies, toxins, new diseases and nutritional problems. They urged long term safety studies, but were ignored.
The FDA does not require any safety evaluations for GMOs. Instead, biotech companies, who have been found guilty of hiding toxic effects of their chemical products, are now in charge of determining whether their GM foods are safe. (The FDA official in charge of creating this policy was Michael Taylor, Monsanto’s former attorney and later their vice president. Monsanto is the second largest GMO producer in the world.)
Although these biotech companies participate in a voluntary consultation process with the FDA, it is a meaningless exercise. The summaries of the superficial research they submit cannot identify most of the health risks of GMOs.
The EPA regulates a portion of the plants that produce their own pesticides, but their superficial requirements do not protect the public. The USDA looks after agronomic qualities and field trials.
Were They Tested For Safety?
In my recent book Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, we identify 65 risks of GM foods. The current safety assessments are not competent to even identify most of the potential problems, and the industry-funded studies are meticulously designed to avoid finding them.
Which foods do our babies and toddlers eat that are mostly genetically modified? Do you have a full list of foods?
Soy and corn, and their derivatives, as well as milk from cows treated with a genetically engineered bovine growth hormone.
Can you give parents shopping and eating-out tips to avoid GMO foods?
TIP #1: BUY ORGANIC
TIP #2: LOOK FOR “NON-GMO” LABEL
TIP #3: AVOID AT-RISK INGREDIENTS
The four major GM crops are:
- cottonseed; and
Three minor crops are:
- Hawaiian papaya;
- a small amount of zucchini; and
- yellow crook neck squash.
TIP #4: USE SHOPPING GUIDES
The “Non-GMO Shopping Guide” is a 16-page MUST HAVE for every trip to the supermarket! No more confusion about which brands to buy or what ingredients you need to cross off your list. This guide is a joint project brought to you by the Institute for Responsible Technology and the Center for Food Safety. Tell your friends! You may find yourself amazed that many of the brands you have in your pantry RIGHT NOW, contain GMOs!
Avoiding Genetically Modified Organisms in Restaurants
Jeffrey Smith shares some great tips on avoiding GMOs when eating out at restaurants. For these additional tips, see here.
What can contain Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
- Soy flour, lecithin, protein, isolate, and isoflavone – used in millions of processed foods
- Avoid GM beet sugar. Look for organic and non-GM sweeteners, candy and chocolate products made with 100% cane sugar, evaporated cane juice or organic sugar.
- Half of Hawaii’s papayas are GM!
- Novel products such as SEEDLESS WATER MELONS are NOT genetically modified.
- Baby foods and infant formula often have soy or milk from cows injected with rbGH. Also, many brands add GM-derived corn syrup, corn syrup solids or soy lecithin.
- Cereals and breakfast bars are very likely to include GM ingredients because the are often made with corn and soy products.
- Many frozen and snack foods, canned soups, sauces and dressings are highly processed and often contain GM ingredients.
- Many candy, chocolate and sweeteners can come from GMO sources. Watch out for soy lecithin chocolate and corn syrup in candies!
- The sweetener aspartame is derived from GM microorganisms found in over 6,00 products (including soft drinks, gum, candy, yogurt, vitamins etc.)
- Luckily, there is no GM Popcorn on the market at this time!
-Excerpt from the Non-GMO Shopping Guide
What Action Can Parents Take?
The Institute for Responsible Technology is organizing a major campaign to push GMOs out of the food supply nationally. The Natural Food Industry, food manufacturers, distributors, health care professionals, religious groups and schools are all coming together for the first time in history to eliminate GMOs.
We believe that an industry-wide rejection of GMOs can be achieved by a “tipping point” when a sufficient number of shoppers in the US avoiding GM ingredients force the major food companies to stop using them. Europe reached the tipping point in April 1999 and within a single week, virtually all major manufacturers publicly committed to stop using GM ingredients in their European brands.
The widespread consumer rejection of genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rbGH or rbST) came about by educating customers about the health dangers associated with rbGH and making rbGH-free brands readily available. Within the last two years, Wal-Mart, Starbucks, Kroger and about 40 of the 100 top dairies removed rbGH products as consumer concerns reached a tipping point on this issue. It is only a matter of time before rbGH disappears altogether.
When consumers across the board make more informed choices, the food industry responds. The next big consumer tidal wave will be the complete rejection of remaining GMO in food products in the US. Since GMOs offer no consumer benefits, even a small percentage of US consumers conscientiously rejecting GM brands can inspire major food companies to replace them.
We believe that as little as 5% of shoppers – 15 million Americans – would be more than enough. As millions begin to make brand choices based on GM content, it is just a matter of time before the entire food industry responds.
Parents Can Play A Pivotal Role In Driving The Tipping Point
Step 1: Familiarize yourself with the health risks of GMOs so you will stay motivated to avoid them. Visit the Institute for Responsible Technology and watch videos, listen to audios, get a free E newsletter and read.
Step 2: Use the Non-GMO Shopping Guide to change your brands to healthier non-GMO foods.
Step 3: Share information with other parents. Use our Hidden Dangers in Kids’ Meals DVD and the new DVD The World According to Monsanto. Have home showings for your friends and encourage parent groups to sponsor showings. We offer showing guides with handouts on our site.
Step 4: Contact us about starting a GM-Free School Campaign. We have a 50 page manual and all you will need.
Step 5: For healthcare practitioners, religious leaders, food store and restaurant owners and institutional food buyers, contact us for a customized approach for your area.
About Jeffrey Smith
Mr. Jeffrey Smith has counseled world leaders from every continent, influenced the first state laws regulating GMOs, and has united leaders to support The Campaign for Healthier Eating in America, a revolutionary industry and consumer movement to remove GMOs from the natural food industry.
A popular keynote speaker, he has lectured in 25 countries and has been quoted by government leaders and hundreds of media outlets across the globe including, The New York Times, Washington Post, BBC World Service, Nature, The Independent, Daily Telegraph, New Scientist, The Times (London), Associated Press, Reuters News Service, LA Times, Time Magazine and Genetic Engineering News.
The Institute for Responsible Technology serves as the premier meeting ground for the leaders of America’s non-GMO community. Since its founding in 2003, it has sponsored groundbreaking research, fought for public policies that support GMO eradication, safety and testing, and created unparalleled resources so staff, boards, and consumers of every age can improve their health management.