My Journey to GMO-Free Living and Why It’s So Important

I receive a lot of questions and emails about GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Why am I GMO-free? Why is it such a big issue? Do you believe the studies? Aren't GMOs good for the world? The GMO debate can be a pretty confusing one and I wanted to share why it’s such an important topic for me.

I’ve been eating a natural and organic diet for more than fifteen years. It all started back in 1998 when I was experiencing digestive issues and decided to go back to school to become a Nutritionist. Once I learned about the connection between the food we eat and the impact it has on our overall health, my life forever changed—for the better. I had been aware of GMOs, but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I realized the implications they had on our food supply and more specifically, on my family’s health.

Many of the organic companies in the Natural Health industry have been leaders in the anti-GMO movement and have done a fantastic job at bringing awareness to the general public. It wasn't until California Right To Know launched their campaign to support Prop 37 that we really started to make it a major focus on our website. Not long after Prop 37, I had the opportunity to hear Jeffrey Smith from the Institute for Responsible Technology speak, and his words resonated with me. Here are some take-aways from his talk:

Are GMOs harmful?
GMOs are one of the most serious health hazards in history. Symptoms due to co-factors in genetically modified foods may include: allergies, skin conditions, heartburn, gastrointestinal disorders, stomach pain, fatigue, brain fog, weight and metabolic issues, sleep interruptions, ADD/ADHD. The Bt toxin gene may transfer to our gut bacteria, reproducing itself and causing GI (gastrointestinal) problems. It damages the microvilli in the intestines and could be the reason behind gluten intolerance.

What is Bt corn?
Bt a soil bacteria (Bacillus thuringiensis) that produces its own insecticide (which, in farming, washes off and biodegrades). In GE corn, Bt is injected into the genes of the plant and is thousands of times more concentrated and toxic as it expresses itself through the plant. Government agencies like the FDA and Health Canada insist that it’s safe and that it passes through the intestinal tract and out of the body. The Bt toxin is, by itself, an allergen.

Read more:  Is Monsanto's GM Corn Causing Gluten Intolerance

What do some of the studies say?
Sherbrook University Hospital tested the blood of pregnant women and found that 93% had detectable levels of the Bt toxin and the same was true for 80% of their unborn fetuses. The Journal of Applied Toxicology cited a study that found Bt toxin poked holes in human cells causing leakage – similar to what it does to insects (and why it's used as an insecticide). And it isn’t destroyed during digestion as Monsanto suggests. This research suggests that Bt corn is a cause of leaky gut syndrome and may be a factor in autoimmune diseases.

What are some of the ways we are ingesting GMOs?
Even if you don’t eat corn or corn by-products, much of Bt toxin is delivered to humans from animal foods. A large part of an animals diet is corn (Bt corn). [Naturally Savvy Note: We encourage our readers to eat only organic meat if you are trying to avoid GMOs in your diet.]

Read more: [Infographic] The 8 Most Common GMO Foods

What is Glyphosate (AKA Roundup)?
Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum herbicide used to kill weeds. It was brought to the market by Monsanto in the 1970s. Glyphosate disables most of a plant’s trace minerals so that the plant becomes weak. We then eat the Glyphosate sprayed/Roundup Ready crops – which aren’t as nutrient-dense as they should have been – and as a result, suffer from mineral deficiencies. Roundup is also an antibiotic that kills beneficial bacteria – but it doesn’t harm e.coli or botulism bacteria (botulism is implicated as a cause of SIDS). Roundup alone can explain gut and immune problems because of the disruption of leaky gut bacteria. Glyphosate is also a strong endocrine disruptor, linked with fertility problems.

Non-GMO Fact: When a product is non-GMO verified, it enjoys a 15-30% increase in sales. [Naturally Savvy note: Products are verified Non-GMO by the Non-GMO Project.]

GMOs and Your Health
I do the best I can to avoid GMOs because they’ve been shown to cause severe health issues in animals including problems with reproduction, accelerated aging, gastrointestinal issues, organ damage, immune system problems, and issues with the regulation of cholesterol and insulin.

I learned even more about the sheer danger of GMOs while doing research for my free e-book Label Lessons: Your Guide to a Healthy Shopping Cart. I found out that they’re also linked to allergies and cancerous tumors in rats. With this knowledge, continuing to feed my family GMOs in our home just wasn’t an option.

A major source of our GMOs came from the meat we were eating. I have been buying hormone- and antibiotic-free meat for as long as I can remember, but I never even thought to ask them about what these animals were being fed. Once I learned that even if animals are antibiotic and hormone free, they can still be fed GMO corn, soy and alfalfa, eating that type of meat was no longer an option for me. So in 2014 I made a conscious decision to only eat organic meat.

Read more: Are Antibiotics in Our Meat Causing Superbugs

The Only way to Avoid GMOs in Meat is to Buy Organic
Organic meat can be expensive, so what I decided to do since cutting meat out of my family's diet entirely is not an option, I to cut back on the amount of meat we consume at home. My husband still loves his beef, and so do I, so now I look for organic and grass-fed (whenever possible) options. I am able to find organic meat at my local grocery store, natural products store, and even Farmer's Market (I prefer fresh over frozen).

It is definitely harder to avoid GMOs when eating out, especially for my husband and kids. However, I do my best to avoid the worst GMO offenders like soy, corn, and canola. I talk to my kids about GMOs on a regular basis, but since they are still young, it's hard for them to avoid them especially when they're at play dates at friends' houses and birthday parties. As much as I would like them to refuse the food and say: "Sorry, I can't eat any of the food you are offering because they can contain chemical-additives and/or GMOs and that's not good for me," I can't expect that from them at this point.

Read more:  What's So Bad About GMOs. Top 10 Reasons to Avoid Them

Phasing GMOs Out
Gradually, I started to phase GMOs out of my diet, first by buying organic meat instead of conventional to avoid GMOs in animal feed. This had the added bonus of vastly reducing the amount of meat my family ate on a daily basis. Then I started to understand that the majority of GMOs were sourced in corn, soy, cotton, canola and sugar beets. Avoiding GMOs is no easy feat because the majority of corn and soy is modified, which means that 70-80 percent of processed foods are also GMO. Currently, GMOs don’t have to be labeled (in the U.S. and Canada) on a national level yet. However, there are many changes being implemented because of Vermont's Bill to label GMOs in that state by July and companies like General Mills, Mars, Kellogg's and ConAgra have all announced voluntary labeling across the country. As consumers, we have to be vigilant and know which ingredients tend to be modified. If you’re not sure what to look for (and it can be so confusing!) check out this comprehensive list of possible GMO ingredients from the Institute for Responsible Technology.

Don’t Get Hoodwinked
Knowing potential GMO ingredients is difficult enough, but then there are the misleading marketers who try and capitalize on concerned shoppers like me. We call this marketing tactic: "Genewashing." You may remember how ticked off I was when my son was hoodwinked by misleading marketing at the health food store. We are in search of healthy snacks when he picked up a product thinking it was free of GMOs. After reading the label with an eagle eye, I realized that while the product had some GMO-free ingredients, it wasn’t anywhere close to GMO-free.

And then I was forced to break the harsh reality of misleading marketing to my then nine-year-old son. Reading ingredients is incredibly important, but to be 100 percent sure a product is in fact GMO-free, buy organic or look for the Non-GMO Verified label.

If you have any questions about seeking out GMO-free foods, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

By Andrea Donsky| March 23, 2016
Categories:  Eat

About the Author

Andrea Donsky

Andrea Donsky

Founder & Chief Passionista at See my full bio here.

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