We were talking on a thread in the forums about testosterone, and that lead to a brief discussion on genetically modified foods/organisms (GMOs).
What Are GMOs?
Genetically modified organisms (this includes plants & animals used for both food or other livestock production, like sheep for wool), are created by the genes of one species are combined with the genes of an unrelated plant or animal. Think Island of Dr. Moreau, and you’re not too far off!
The genes combined with our plants and animals sometimes come from other animals or plants, but also can come from insects, bacteria, viruses, even human DNA. The purpose is typically to create a hardier species or one that gives a greater production yield. The debate continues to be how these genetic changes affect us when we consume the plants and/or meat.
Of particular interest is wheat, since it is in so much of what we consume on a daily basis.
How Wheat Has Changed Over the Last 70 Years
Wheat has changed. The modern wheat we eat today is not the wheat our great-grandparents ate, in the 1950’s. As the author of Wheat Belly, cardiologist Dr. William Davis, noted we never heard about our great-grandma strapping on a pair of running shoes and going out for a run every day. Yet, despite the fact that our generation exercises more frequently, on average, we are, on average, more obese.
- Calorie consumption, especially in larger portion sizes, has a significant impact.
- The almost criminally misguided “Food Pyramid”, published in 1992, with it’s recommendation that we eat 2 to 4 servings of carbohydrates at EVERY meal, and the “low-fat” diet craze that fell on its heels, had an impact.
- Exacerbating these 2 factors has been what we’ve done to wheat.
In the 1970’s wheat underwent hybridization, and later in the 1980’s genetic modifications reduced it’s size, and increased yield. Farmers loved this hardier, more productive wheat. But, the changes to characteristics of wheat changed the way our body reacts to its consumption.
Most significantly, this new wheat was found to be an appetite stimulant.
As far back as 2009 the American Academy of Environmental Medicine was sounding the alarm about Genetically Modified Foods. Two physicians: Dean and Armstrong presented a statement paper in which they said:
It has been the practice that “safety assessment of GM foods has been based on the idea of “substantial equivalence” such that “if a new food is found to be substantially equivalent in composition and nutritional characteristics to an existing food, it can be regarded as safe as the conventional food. However, several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food consumption including infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signaling, and protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system.
Money Makes the World Go Round and the GM Wheat Popular
Despite concerns, genetic modification became mainstream, thanks to the money that was to be had.
For the farmers, it was a boon. They had a hardier crop, that produced more wheat per acre than ever before. Costs were down and production was up.
For the manufacturers, it was also a boon. The appetite stimulant of the new wheat meant demand increased.
For the seed producers, like Monsanto, it was a boon.
For the pharmaceutical industry, it was also a boon. Increased insulin resistance and diabetes was on the rise due to the higher glycemic index of this new wheat. The pancreas has a harder time producing enough insulin to meet this higher level of blood sugar. Over time, this higher load wears on the body and can lead to not just insulin resistance, but Type 2 diabetes. The treatment of diabetes, as well as obesity, is a business worth trillions of dollars annually. In fact, according to diabetes.org, 1 in 11 Americans has pre-diabetes and are in danger of developing Type 2 diabetes.
With so much money being made across multiple, politically powerful industries, GM wheat took over the market. And, it’s in nearly everything. It’s not just in breads, pastries and pastas, it’s in food we don’t necessarily think of as having “wheat.”
- Most processed food
- Salad dressing
- Most packaged foods that have “natural flavorings” as an ingredient
- French fries
- Soy sauce
- And, SO much more!
If it’s a food that comes in a box, bag, bottle, or can, unless it specifically says that it is “gluten-free” it likely has some form of wheat in it.
Why Not Simply Avoid GM Wheat?
I wish it were as easy as avoiding GM wheat. There are some bakeries producing non-GMO bread, for instance. However, genetically modified wheat continues to be found in fields not approved to produce GM wheat. This, obviously, leads to a concern.
However, even with non-GMO verified products, conditions such as leaky gut syndrome can occur.
GM Wheat: A Conclusion
For some people, wheat – even genetically modified wheat – isn’t an issue. Count yourself lucky if this is the case! However, for many, it’s a significant health concern.
If your weight is an issue, if your blood sugar numbers are high, talk to your doctor about the possibility of going gluten-free. Reducing carb intake is likely a dietary choice they’ll support, in general. And, if you’re jonesing for a sandwich or a cookie, there are lots of gluten-free options on the market (although I recommend still making your own, to avoid preservatives and other unhealthy additives that may be in these pre-packaged foods).