When it comes to the study of human health and the effects our environment has on us, there are very few truly unbiased, independent sources in the world.
I recently shared with our Afternoon Readers some thoughts on how to read with a critical eye. One of the publications that often passes my "sniff test" is the New England Journal of Medicine.
And this top medical journal just sent out a warning about one of the most controversial topics in the health industry today: Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).
In an NEJM article, Phillip J. Landrigan, M.D. and Charles Benbrook, Ph.D. discussed in depth the present usage and future impact of GMOs.
Here are a few key points that I took away from it …
Early studies: GM crops pose ‘no unique hazards to human health’
The National Academy of Sciences reviewed the safety of genetically modified (GM) crops twice (2000 and 2004). After looking almost exclusively at the genetic aspects of biotechnology, it concluded that GM crops pose no unique hazards to human health.
However, both reports recommended the development of new risk-assessment tools and ongoing surveillance. Yet, those recommendations have not been addressed for the most part.
Corn, soybean crops engineered to tolerate weed-killers
Corn and soybeans genetically engineered with tolerance to glyphosate ("Roundup") were first introduced in the mid-1990s. These "Roundup-ready" crops now account for more than 90% of the corn and soybeans planted in the U.S.
Now, Roundup-resistant weeds have emerged. They can be found today on nearly 100 million acres in 36 states. Fields must be now be treated with multiple herbicides, including 2,4-D.
2,4-D was one of the components in the "Agent Orange" chemical herbicide that the U.S. used to deprive the enemy of cover in Vietnam’s thick jungles. (Back on Veterans Day, I told you how my dad was exposed to it as a U.S. army intelligence officer.)
And its use is on the rise …
EPA: Three- to sevenfold increase in 2,4-D use is in store …
Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency approved a new combination herbicide with glyphosate and 2,4-D. The product, called Enlist Duo, was formulated to combat herbicide resistance.
It will be marketed in tandem with newly approved seeds that have been genetically engineered to resist glyphosate, 2,4-D and multiple other herbicides. The EPA expects to see a three- to sevenfold increase in 2,4-D use as a result.
Studies predated current knowledge of the negative health effects GM crops can have on the endocrine systems and our DNA.
There’s a lot more to take away from the article, not the least of which that the NEJM writers say that "the science and the risk assessment supporting the Enlist Duo decision are flawed."
They wrote that the science consisted solely of studies funded by the herbicide manufacturers in the 1980s and 1990s and were never published — not an uncommon practice in U.S. pesticide regulation.
These studies gave little consideration to potential health effects in infants and children. They also failed to consider ecologic impact, such as effects on the monarch butterfly and other pollinators.
The second new development is the determination by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2015 that glyphosate is a "probable human carcinogen" and 2,4-D a "possible human carcinogen."
These classifications were based on assessments of the toxicologic and epidemiologic literature that linked both herbicides to dose-related increases in malignant tumors at multiple anatomical sites in animals.
They also linked glyphosate to an increased incidence of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in humans.
NEJM: It’s time to take action …
These developments suggest that GM foods and the herbicides applied to them may pose hazards to human health that were not examined in previous assessments.
The New England Journal of Medicine says, "We believe the EPA should delay implementation of its decision to permit use of Enlist Duo. This decision was made in haste. It was based on poorly designed and outdated studies and on an incomplete assessment of human exposure and environmental effects."
They added, "We believe the time has come to revisit the United States’ reluctance to label GM foods. Labeling will deliver multiple benefits. It is essential for tracking emergence of novel food allergies and assessing effects of chemical herbicides applied to GM crops. It would respect the wishes of a growing number of consumers who insist they have a right to know what foods they are buying and how they were produced."
On a final note: "And the argument that there is nothing new about genetic rearrangement misses the point that GM crops are now the agricultural products most heavily treated with herbicides and that two of these herbicides may pose risks of cancer."
The New England Journal of Medicine hopes the FDA will reconsider labeling of GM foods and couple it with adequately funded, long-term postmarketing surveillance.
No matter what stance you take on GMO crops, I think we can all agree more studies need to be done on the long-term health effects of these new foods we are putting in our bodies.
As GM crops continue to be produced, I believe it is our right to know if the foods we buy do in fact come from GM crops. That way, we can make the choice for our families at the grocery store.
Would you and your family support GMO labeling? Would it change the way you shop for your food.
Happy and healthy investing,
Uncommon Wisdom Daily