The Food Threat That Worries Your Doctor

An untested and unnatural food process prompts the nation's leading medical organization to take a stand.

By Leah Zerbe

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GMOs are linked to allergies, digestive disorders, and other health effects. Genetically modified foods have saturated supermarket shelves. About 80 percent of processed foods in stores today contain ingredients created through complex laboratory methods, resulting in foods that would never be found in nature. While it might seem that such a widespread shift in the food system would have been properly tested for safety, here's the shocking truth: Although a cornerstone of the American food supply for only about 15 years, genetically modified foods, also called GMOs, have never undergone vigorous independent testing to assess their potential impact on human health.

In fact, some early data suggests they are making us sick: GMOs have been linked to skyrocketing allergy rates, accelerated aging, digestive diseases, and organ damage. Pesticides used in conjunction with GMO seeds are systemic and used in such high amounts that the harmful chemicals actually wind up inside of the food.

Considering the potential health effects of GMOs in the food supply, the American Medical Association (AMA)—the nation's leading physicians' group—last week called for mandatory GMO safety assessments before GMO-containing foods are put in grocery stores. The AMA passed the resolution at its annual meeting in Chicago, pushing for an expedited look into the potential allergens in GMO food.

The physicians also took on another hot GMO topic—mandatory labeling on food packaging. Currently, food manufacturers don't have to disclose GMO ingredients, making it hard for many consumers to avoid them. (GMOs are, however, banned in organic foods.) More than 90 percent of Americans and numerous health organizations, including the American Public Health Association, American Nurses Association, American Academy of Environmental Medicine, and the British Medical Association, support mandatory labeling. While the AMA did not pass a labeling resolution, 19 physicians signed a statement supporting labeling. "In the face of scientific uncertainty, labeling is a common risk management tool and one that could help track any potential adverse health effects," the signed statement said. “Our support of labeling also takes into consideration the fact that consumers want to know whether there are genetically engineered ingredients in their food, and they have a right to know. We stand with the 90 percent of Americans who want mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods."

This November, a historic vote in California could set the tone for labeling genetically engineered foods. If the Right to Know Ballot initiative passes, all foods containing GMO ingredients that are sold in the Golden Gate State would be required to disclose GMOs on the label.

If you want to avoid GMOs before labeling and safety testing goes into effect, check the labels for organic certification or buy foods verified by the Non-GMO Project. If you can't find organic options and want to keep GMOs out of your diet, avoid processed foods. Many contain corn- and soy-derived ingredients, and in America, more than 90 percent of those crops are grown using genetically engineered seeds.

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