MD Concerned about Lack of GMO Research/Education
As a practicing physician I have been intrigued by this blog. While I pride myself in having practiced mainstream medicine for over a decade, until recently I had no idea about the potential health hazards of GMO-laden food products. Surprisingly, I got to learn more about genetic engineering from an activist and not from my years spent in medical school, where nothing was taught about GMOs, extensive antibiotic usage in animal husbandry, or the health effects of pesticides.
Concerned by what I have learned recently, I started looking into various aspects of genetic engineering and I am astonished – shocked, really – that there is hardly any medical research performed on this subject. More shocking is that physicians like me are uneducated on this public health concern. There seem to be more studies on beauty products than GMOs.
As a physician I place my faith in the state and federal government to make sure food products are safe for human consumption. Yet, through a preliminary search I came across only one longitudinal study, conducted in Europe spanning ten years. There were no comparable studies in the States. It seems to me ensuring the safety of the food and products people consume everyday should be a research priority. This country has been so progressive in banning smoking in public places, even in Central Park. Yet who is independently testing the safety of the genetically modified foods that apparently populate the vast majority of our grocery store shelves? Is this simple omission or…..?
In my practice I have noticed a very sizable increase of patients suffering from obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and kidney disease, but most troubling is the rise of antibiotic resistant infections. This antibiotic resistance used to be seen only in hospital patients or patients who had received an aggressive antibiotics regimen. That is, in fact, what most medical books will state. But in reality I have patients walking into my office with these resistant strains. How are they getting it? Is it due to all the antibiotics the industry is lacing into our food supply?
I have patients who present with Clostridium infections (C-dif) that are resistant and they do not exhibit the common symptomology. We generally blame it on overuse of antibiotics by patients. Yet, compared to what an adult consumes in antibiotic-laden food products, this is negligible at best. Effectiveness of antibiotics significantly decreases with resistance patterns. Is this antibiotic resistance building up to a superbug?
The European study I mentioned earlier, which tested 4 generations of rats, very clearly shows that genetic material (DNA) from genetically modified organisms did in fact horizontally transfer to gut bacteria. Although the authors theoretically proposed this would not be clinically significant, I suggest it would have been more prudent to check the waste products of these rats for increased antibiotic resistance. It would have been fascinating to see whether there was any subsequent antibiotic resistance and if it was it incremental in nature. Makes one wonder why this was not done. These are very intelligent people and they would know the implications of this study. It would be quite intriguing to know if these same scientists then became organic vegetarians after the study. This is obviously pure conjecture.
Other studies done on rats indicated those that got 1/3 of their food from GM corn had increased infertility rates, smaller litters, and higher infant mortality. Another report described cows that are being genetically modified to produce human milk. This is something out of horror sci-fi. Though the milk was only 80% comparable, the regulatory track record indicates it will likely get approval and marketing companies will bombard us with how good and safe it is for human consumption. Proponents of genetic modification do not even pause at the sanctity of the mother-child relationship.
Though I am not a researcher, from my perspective the design of a human study would be relatively simple, using samples from two groups of people. One group eats whatever they want and the other only consumes organic food. In one year simple blood tests and body weight evaluation would be a great place to begin to understand the ways in which GM foods impact our health. We test chemicals in humans but the Powers That Be obviously think testing mere grocery food is an unmentionable sin. One wonders why.
I will rightfully admit my knowledge on GMOs is an ongoing project and is still amateurish at best. But learn and teach, I will.