It’s a question many of us will have asked on our journey towards a paleo way of eating: should I avoid genetically modified foods? Like me, you probably feel the instinctive answer is “yes” – but may wonder exactly why. The question appeared during some recent internet browsing I was doing, on the ShareCare website.
The answer given amounts to “we don’t know the effects of GMO foods on our bodies, and until we do, it’s best to avoid them”. Sound advice, albeit speculative. It set me rifling through my bookshelves, because I was pretty sure I’d read something a bit more direct. I was right. It’s in the book The Perfect Health Diet, by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet. Here’s an extract which is interesting to consider in the light of the question should I avoid genetically modified foods? :
The Uncertain Safety of Genetically Modified Foods
One strategy in genetic modification efforts has been to protect crop plants from insects by incorporating pesticides from other plant species into crop plant genomes.
Such is the complexity of biology that innocuous genetic alterations can have far-reaching efects. A good example of this is provided by the ‘Pusztai affair’.
In the 1990s, an English biotechnology company developed a GM potato by adding the gene for a lectin from the snowdrop plant – which is highly toxic to insects but, by itself, safe for mammals.
Arpad Pustzai, a leading expert on plant lectins, tested the new GM potatotes. Rats fed ordinary potatoes mixed with snowdrop lectin remained healthy, but rats fed the GM potatoes developed damage to their intestines and immune systems. The damage was not due to snowdrop lectins, but to derangement of potato biology from alterations to gene expression. The modification had triggered much higher expression of native potato toxins.
No biologist would be shocked at this result: gene networks are intricately connected, and seemingly minor changes to regulatory sequences can have far-reaching effects.
Reading that, perhaps you have your answer to the question: should I avoid genetically modified foods?
You may also be interested to know that – as the Jaminets go on to explain – Mr. Pustzai’s work was rubbished by government scientists, and the results suppressed. Pustzai and his colleagues found their career progress blocked subsequently. In 2005, Pustzai was given a whistleblower award from the Federation of German Scientists.
You can read about that whole debacle here – it’s a sobering reminder that a government’s focus on the benefits of GM foods is likely to be motivated by profit, not the health of the population.
Should I avoid genetically modified foods? I know what my answer is – do you?
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Brian Cormack Carr is a freelance writer and coach whose mission in life is to help YOU do what you were designed for.
His home on the web is YourPrimalLife.com where you will find more articles, freebies, and information about his online career-creation programme VitalVocation.com – 12 sessions of virtual coaching from Brian for just $20!