Introduction to Genetically Modified Foods
Author: Jean Handwerk
Publish date:
Summary: The agriculture industry is fast becoming reliant on genetically modified foods. Learn the facts about GMOs and the effects this trend is having on health worldwide.

Genetic modification may well be the greatest health and environmental threat humanity has ever faced.

Source: Lemonjenny on Flickr.

Since genetically modified or engineered foods (GM, GE, GMOs) are pervasive in our food supply, it is wise to ask, what are they? Are they essentially the same as non-GM foods? And since humanity faces a global economic and food-supply crisis, do genetically modified crops live up to claims of safety, productivity, and profitability?

Natural, or traditional, breeding processes allow modifications within a species. A horse, for example, bred with a donkey, makes a mule. In genetic modification, though, a gene with desired characteristics from a different species (i.e., a transgene) is physically inserted into the genetic sequence of plant or animal DNA. Perhaps the best-known example is that of specific genetic material from a soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) inserted into corn or cotton, resulting in Bt corn or Bt cotton, each of which manufactures its own pesticide.

Unfortunately, after GM insertion, up to 5% of other genes in the same DNA genetic sequence mutate in ways that can’t be predicted, prevented, controlled, or reversed. In appearance and flavor, GM foods may resemble non-GM equivalents, but scientists and watchdog organizations worldwide report GM’s harmful effects on human and animal health and reproduction. They fear side effects such as new toxins, new diseases, and health-compromising digestive problems.

Christ never planted the seeds of death in the system. Satan planted these seeds when he tempted Adam to eat of the tree of knowledge which meant disobedience to God. Not one noxious plant was placed in the Lord's great garden, but after Adam and Eve sinned, poisonous herbs sprang up. In the parable of the sower the question was asked the master, "Didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?" The master answered, "An enemy hath done this" (Matthew 13:27,28). All tares are sown by the evil one. Every noxious herb is of his sowing, and by his ingenious methods of amalgamation he has corrupted the earth with tares (2 Selected Messages, 288).

The Evidence

Studies reveal higher death rates, organ damage, reproductive failures, sterility, damaged immune systems, abnormal cell growth in digestive tracts, lower infant birth weight, and higher infant mortality in animals fed GM crops. Farmers report thousands of sick, sterile, and dead livestock.

Toxic and allergic properties of GM foods have been widely documented. In one experiment, rats refused to eat a GM tomato; some of the force-fed rats developed stomach lesions or died within 2 weeks. The tomato was approved for market.

Bt toxin survived digestion in mice and caused damage to the small intestines. GM-impaired digestion may increase allergies or digestive maladies. GM peas producing life-threatening inflammatory responses weren’t marketed only because a mice study happened to be used for the first time. Soy allergies in the UK increased 50% soon after GM soy was introduced. Rats, similar to humans in reactivity, developed problems similar to humans’ multiple chemical sensitivity.

In one UK study done in 1995 by highly respected gene researcher Dr. Arpad Pusztai, rats fed GM potatoes had marked changes in their development. The most alarming was offspring with smaller livers and heart sizes, weaker immune systems, and, worst of all, smaller brain sizes. Pusztai reported some of these findings in a TV interview (omitting the findings about smaller brains, for fear of panicking the public), and said, “I find it very, very unfair to use our fellow citizens as guinea pigs.”

Despite initial commendation, he was shortly fired from his job at the government-supported lab, his research confiscated and discredited, his team dispersed, and a gag order imposed on him. Protests from the international scientific community were unavailing.i

One scientist serving on an international Independent Science Panel on GM plants in 2003, stated, “The [GM] process is not at all precise. It is uncontrollable and unreliable, and typically ends up damaging and scrambling the host genome, with entirely unpredictable consequences.”ii At least two studies of rats fed GM potatoes revealed an unusual increase in cell growth in the small and large intestines. Several scientists have said the situation may lead to cancer.iii

Additionally, in one small human study, researchers found GM soy transgenes released during digestion had transferred from the food into human gut bacteria and continued to function there, with unknown consequences. One of many concerns is that because many GM crops are engineered to be antibiotic resistant (as an identifying tag in the development process), it is feared the antibiotic resistance will be transferred to the human or animal. In fact, antibiotic-resistant infections are reportedly on the rise in children, the most vulnerable group.iv

Consider, too, the supplement L-tryptophan imported back in the 1980s. Of six brands, one was GM. About 100 Americans died and thousands were sickened or disabled after ingesting it. If symptoms hadn’t been new, unique, and acute—arising so quickly that medical help was sought—the connection to GM L-tryptophan might never have been made. However, if symptoms develop more slowly or with less unique symptoms, how can the cause be reliably determined?

What if human symptoms are related to something the animal ate—like GM corn? No pre-market release safety studies were done on the effects of consuming GM-fed animals, yet independent studies indicate some GM DNA appears in meat, eggs, and dairy. 

Farming Issues

CC WayTru on Flickr

So far, GM food safety claims have proven false. Economic and environmental issues have also emerged. Promises of increased crop yields to alleviate world hunger and poverty haven’t materialized. Wind spreads GM pollen onto non-GM fields, making them also GM. GM-free honey cannot be guaranteed, as bees gather nectar from GM and non-GM flowers.

After picking Bt cotton, Indian shepherds grazed their flocks on the plants. Within a week, one-fourth of the sheep died. Filipino villagers near Bt cornfields developed serious health problems during pollination. Some animals died after eating the corn.

Weeds growing amid GM herbicide-resistant crops become herbicide-tolerant, so farmers must spray more often or use more toxic herbicides. This increases farmers’ expenses, because not only are GM farmers forbidden to save seeds to use the next year, but must purchase more seeds each year, these plants are designed to be herbicide-resistant to only one particular herbicide, which farmers must, of course, purchase. Not only that, GM soy has higher herbicide residues, which may trigger allergies. All these effects are compounded, permanent, and global.

Farmers have other concerns, too. Despite FDA claims of “substantial equivalence,” nutritional equivalency studies are lacking. Back in 1992, one FDA official warned, “[GM] field corn supplies 50 to 75% of the diet of most domestic animals, so small changes in nutrient levels from genetic engineering can have large effects on animal health.” The same applies to humans, because the health consequences of eating GM-fed animals and fish are not known.

Fears for the Future

Presently, clinical trials are underway for GM-based vaccines and drugs, and for a food-based spermicide (corn with human transgenes) for possible use against overpopulation. A Greenpeace spokesperson was concerned that the spermicide gene would get into non-GM corn and “end up in someone’s corn flakes.” The GM company claims almost no chance for accidental cross-pollination. However, there’s simply no way to prevent genetic material from being spread by wind, pollen, insects, seed matter, animal feces, or birds. Contamination by GM crops has already occurred rather extensively, which jeopardizes the integrity of our entire biosystem.

Independent observers report that years of GMO results indicate no overall increased yields but, instead, increased pesticide use, harmful effects on wildlife from honeybees to aquatic creatures to mammals, herbicide-resistant superweeds and pesticide-resistant bugs, a suicide epidemic in India as GM cotton farmers face financial ruin, and animals and humans falling ill or dying after GM exposure. Genetic modification may well be the greatest health and environmental threat humanity has ever faced.

What Can We Do?

The official FDA policy from the beginning is that GM foods have “substantial equivalence” to non-GM foods. Therefore, no safety testing or labeling for consumers is required. What follows, then, are some guidelines to protect health.

First, read labels. Conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables have a 4-digit code on their stickers. Organically grown produce has five digits starting with 9.

Second, memorize the risky ingredients. Most US corn (including oil, syrup, flour), canola (canola oil), cotton (cottonseed oil), soy, and sugar beets (as opposed to sugar cane) are GM (3 c’s, 2 s’s). Hawaiian papaya is usually GM as well. Without labeling laws, there’s no way to know the source of sugar in a bag of sugar off the grocery shelf. Fast or snack foods are usually fried in canola or cottonseed oil—sometimes corn oil. High fructose corn syrup is found in thousands of canned, boxed, frozen, and baked products, as are corn and sugar. Soy appears as dried or fresh beans, tofu, soy flour, soy protein concentrates, soy oil, and soy milk; it often is the source of lecithin. The oil in gel capsules may be soy, canola, or corn. Read our article: Soy Safety Summarized

Third, buy organic. If packaging labels read “100% organic,” “organic,” or “made with organic,” then by law no GM products can be in the product. However, if “organic” is only in the list of ingredients and nowhere else on the packaging, then only that particular ingredient is organic and the rest may be GMOs.

Some companies put “non-GMO” or “made without GMOs” on their products. Some limit the “non-GM” status to one common GM ingredient. Consumers should be relatively safe if the other four main GM crops aren’t listed.

Field corn is used for grain products like chips, tortillas, polenta, corn meal, and oil. Unless otherwise labeled, it is likely to be genetically modified, although blue and white corn varieties are usually non-GM. GM sweet corn is gaining popularity; the most common varieties are the Attribute varieties by Syngenta.

If organic is not financially feasible, conventional fruits and veggies must do. However, remember that buying the organic variety of the 12 heaviest-sprayed fruits and vegetables will reduce the pesticide load by almost 90%. Consider growing your own vegetables and small fruits; turn part of your yards into productive gardens. Build a greenhouse. Even in colder climes, you can grow seasonal produce most of the year.

Meat and Dairy Affected


Meats, dairy products, farmed fish, and eggs are usually from GM-fed animals. One can buy organic, wild-caught, or 100% grass-fed and compensate the greater cost with smaller portions, or learn to do without, as vegetarians and vegans do. Plant sources of calcium are actually assimilated better than cow’s milk. Furthermore, casein, a protein found in cow’s milk, has been indisputably linked to tumor growth.v

Many food additives, enzymes, flavorings, and processing agents are GM. Again, buy organic or stick to unprocessed foods. The sweetener aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal), found in many thousands of products, is also GM. Anything “sugar-free” should be suspect; read the labels.

Ideal Diet

You will likely find your favorite foods will not withstand GM scrutiny. The biotech industry has necessitated some significant lifestyle changes for health-conscious individuals, but prevention is obviously better when no cure is possible, and much can be said for a simpler diet, anyway. The more unprocessed or minimally-processed and fresh foods we eat, the more likely we will see significant improvement in our health, concentration, sleep, and energy. Better diets improve children’s behavior, sleep, and learning.

Additionally, by following a simpler, whole-foods diet, not only will we reduce our excitotoxin exposure but our food expenses may actually decrease. A diet based on fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and nuts/seeds is truly the healthiest for all ages.

Protect Your Family

Success of the GM food industry is tied to consumer ignorance. Just a small percentage of people switching to non-GMO brands and/or writing to food companies demanding they discontinue usage of GM ingredients will force food companies to replace GM ingredients with non-GM ingredients. In Europe in 1999, that tipping point was reached within ten weeks after Dr. Pusztai’s research was finally publicly revealed. Over 750 articles written on genetic modification pushed the issue front-and-center. Within a single week, almost all major food companies committed publicly to remove GMOs from their product lines.

A GM moratorium was then imposed in Europe, but the US, Canada, and Argentina blamed lack of scientific basis for the unfair trade barriers hurting their farmers. The World Trade Organization ruled the EU must open its markets to GM foods. Thankfully, labeling is still required there. EU countries still may ban GM crops, but the ruling EU Commission strongly supports biotechnology. Asia and Africa are biotech’s newest markets; expect expanding uses for GM technology worldwide, too. The FDA now plans to release unlabeled genetically engineered animals into America’s food supply.

If there was one sin above another which called for the destruction of the race by the flood, it was the base crime of amalgamation of man and beast which defaced the image of God, and caused confusion everywhere (Spirit of Prophecy, volume 1, 69).

What does God’s Word say? “And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants…and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:18).

Our safest course is to read labels, eat simply, grow our own food, heed inspired health counsel, and insist on GMO labeling!

Read about the similar food manipulation occurring in the meat and poultry farming industry


i. F. William Engdahl, Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation (Global Research, 2007): 21–29. Pusztai’s findings were eventually published in Stanley Ewen and Arad Pusztai, “Effects of Diets Containing Genetically Modified Potatoes Expressing Galanthus Nivalis Lectin on Rat Small Intestine,” The Lancet (October 16, 1999).

ii. Ibid, 30.

iii. Jeffrey Smith, Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies about the Safety of the Genetically Modified Foods You’re Eating (Yes! Books, 2003): 37. See Smith is founder and director of the Institute for Responsible Technology (

iv. Archives of Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery, January 2009.

v. T. Colin Campbell, The China Study (Benbella Books, 2005).

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