Genetically modified foods slowly began to seep into the North American food supply in 1996. Shortly before this time, the American government – or more specifically the Food and Drug Administration – approved these foods as “safe” for consumption by the public. Shockingly, this approval was not based on any long-term safety studies proving these altered foods were appropriate for human consumption. In fact, no long-term human studies were ever conducted before these foods were approved for sale. 1
It is precisely due to this fact that many health conscious parents feel concerned about the inclusion of these foods in a child’s diet. What are the effects of these foods? Are they dangerous? Can they negatively affect growth or development? The truth is nobody knows the real answers.
Many experts on the subject, including Jeffrey Smith of the Institute for Responsible Technology, believe that these foods pose health risks because we don’t know the consequences of altering the proteins in the genetic material of food. There are many animal studies that demonstrate health problems from eating genetically modified foods such as increased allergies, reduced fertility, antibiotic resistance, stomach and intestinal bleeding, and even cancer. 2
Why Children are more at risk?
Aside from the above health problems that have been detected in animals, children are more susceptible to the dangers of genetically modified (GM) foods for several reasons. Firstly, they are still developing and these altered foods may interfere with the developmental process. Secondly, because children are smaller in size and body weight, genetically modified foods may impact them more substantially than they do adults. Thirdly, children may not gain the nutrient levels they would obtain in conventional foods because genetic modification impacts the nutrient status of foods. Lastly, because children are still building their immune systems, they may be in more danger from antibiotic resistance bacterial infections. 3
How to Protect your Children:
- Avoid genetically modified soy, corn, and canola. Only buy these foods if they are organic or labeled non-GMO.
- Be aware that genetically modified sugar from beets is now being grown and introduced into our food supply.
- Avoid eating papaya from the United States (Hawaii) as it is genetically modified
- Try and consume organic dairy, eggs, and meat as animals are regularly fed genetically modified feed.
- Avoid non-organic milk and milk products as they may also contain Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH).
- Visit local organic farmers markets and buy directly from farmers.
Parents should also be aware that by-products of corn (corn syrup, corn oil, corn starch, etc…), and soy (soybean oil, soy flour, soy lecithin, etc…) are found in many of the processed foods that fill up supermarkets. Restaurants are another place parents should be careful. When eating out, it is wise to ask the server for details related to food ingredients and cooking oils to determine whether the foods are GM free or not. Restaurants tend to use corn, canola, or soy oils either individually or in a blended vegetable oil.
Since GM foods are not labeled as such, it is best to assume that all the soy, corn, canola, cotton, and papaya you encounter are genetically modified. To be a conscious shopper, you may choose to avoid these foods or buy organic.
- Smith, Jeffrey M. Genetic Roulette. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2007.