GMO Update

For the last decade genetically modified organisms or GMOs have been making news. Recently an article in the New England Journal of Medicine has suggested that maybe we should reconsider our thoughts about GMOs. The article suggests that GMOs may possibly contain new allergens. The article also suggests an increased use of pesticides on GMO foods. This increase could be as high as 250 times over previous use. There are still some individuals that are not concerned about the use of GMO foods, however pesticides are a concern. The Journal article states that chemical herbicides applied to GMO crops have had the largest increase in a generation. There has been a 10 fold increase in use from .4 million KG in 1973, to 113 million kg in 2014. Worse yet the use of glyphsoate (Roundup) the number one herbicide used to reduce weeds is leading the way. This is being used before and during growth seasons. Weeds are developing a resistance to glyphsoate and a new generation of herbicides is being developed. The new emerging duo is Enlist Duo, a new combination of herbicides combining glyphsoate with 2, 4-D, a component of Agent Orange. Agent Orange as you may remember was used to defoliate the jungles of Vietnam. Many argue that the science behind the pesticide Duo is not solid for human safety.

The National Academy of Sciences in 2000 and 2004 noted that GMO foods could produce new allergen possibilities. GMO foods might also alter the nutritional status of foods. However, the main focus of GMO food companies has been to use pesticides, while developing a seed or plant to resist pesticides. In 2016 the National Academy of Sciences will convene with a new committee to reassess the social, economical, environmental and human health effects of GMO crops.

DUO was approved in 2014 by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). The EPA are the same guys who regulate pollution from manufacturing. With the approval of DUO they may see a three to four times increase in the use of 2, 4-D in the next few years.

Finally, the IARC labeled glyphosate is a possible carcinogen. IRAC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) has linked both of these herbicides to increases in malignant tumors in multiple anatomical sites in animals. Additionally glyphosate use has been linked incidences of non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas in humans. Some developments suggest that GMO foods and the herbicides applied to them may pose hazards to human health that were not examined in previous assessments.

The use of GMO foods and pesticides are not allowed by rules governing Organic Farming practices established by the USDA. Non-organic farmers trying to display a non-GMO flag have been battling with the USDA about local and state levels of labeling. The USDA has had a seal called USDA PROCESS VERIFIED. This seal allows for foods to be verified as non-GMO. Third party individuals suggest that the procedure is cumbersome and not being used because by many if any at this point This USDA seal is based on paper trails or manufacturing. USDA organic is still the best way to prevent GMO foods getting into your pantry.

Currently there is a ‘dark’ bill that has been voted in by the house, eliminating the states right to have separate labeling on foods, i.e. the Vermont NON-GMO bill. This bill called the ‘dark’ (Deny Americans the Right to Know) bill has passed the house and is expected to pass in the Senate. If passed this will strengthen the USDA for defining what can and cannot be done on food label for GMO and non-GMO foods. The bill would require GMO on the label if it 1) causes nutritional differences, 2) if it presents a health detriment. The word NATURAL will be allowed on GMO foods as well, a voluntary GMO free/ non GMO program will allow labeling but no health claims that non-GMO FOODS HAVE BETTER BENEFITS WILL BE ALLOWED.

More changes are typical in events like these so we will keep you informed. And remember some chain fast foods are going non-GMO.

Starkie Sowers


  1. Health & ScienceUSDA develops new government label for GMO-free products
  2. Organic 101: Can GMOs Be Used in Organic Products?
  5. Philip J. Landrigan, M.D., GMO’s, Herbicides, and Public Health. New England Journal of Medicine 373:8 August 29 2015, pg 693-5.
  7. Heurther, Understanding Pathophysiology 5th ed, Elsevier St. Louis, MI. Pg 278.