May 17th, 2021

Disclaimer: This is an opinion piece on a controversial topic as the science is too muddy for a clear picture. There is no clear answer to this debate! I have no dog in this fight other than human health and disease avoidance. The question has to be asked and answered. However, the individuals behind the science are often full of corporate bias making the determination of truth very troublesome.

 

I have long worried about the transition from all natural food to the modern pesticide laden genetically modified variety. Parsing through the research on safety is immensely difficult as the variables that need to be accounted for are numerous and most of the troubling research is only translational from animal models. Most of the negative (i.e. safe) data is industry funded causing major bias points to exist. Thus, we remain in the dark as to true risk and safety.

"The prevalence of allergic diseases has been increasing continuously and, accordingly, there is a great desire to evaluate the allergenic potential of components in our daily environment (e.g., food). Although there is almost no scientific evidence that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) exhibit increased allergenicity compared with the corresponding wild type significant concerns have been raised regarding this matter. In principle, it is possible that the allergenic potential of GMOs may be increased due to the introduction of potential foreign allergens, to potentially upregulated expression of allergenic components caused by the modification of the wild type organism or to different means of exposure. According to the current practice, the proteins to be introduced into a GMO are evaluated for their physiochemical properties, sequence homology with known allergens and occasionally regarding their allergenic activity." ( Spok et. al. 2005)

More questions raised here than answered.

Let us at least begin the process of looking at some questions as raised by another author .

1) Mechanical and chemical processing, prior to entering digestive system, compromises DNA integrity.
2) DNA fragments up to a few hundred base pairs can survive and reach in blood and tissues of human and animal consumers.
3) There is limited evidence that dietary DNA can integrate into the genome of somatic cells or gut bacteria.
4) There is no evidence that dietary DNA integrated into somatic cells of consumers and gut bacteria has gene expression.
5) Food miRNAs can survive digestion, enter the consumer’s body and may affect their gene expression in different organs. (Nawaz et. al. 2019)

What this says is this: the immune system can and will be challenged by processed food protein fragments as these fragments reach tissues and blood. The immune system will have to discern whether these new proteins are friend or foe. This process is insanely complex but it is highly regulated by genetics and early life events. If the system is primed for tolerance than one should be ok, however, if the immune antigen presentation system is dysfunctional then all bets are off. They also properly note that there is no evidence yet that these fragments, when incorporated into our DNA, can express proteins or trigger cellular function change. That is not to say that it will not be proven or is not happening now.

Scientific American, a periodical that I love and respect, says that debate should be over and that GMO's are safe and necessary to feed a growing planet. (Garland S. 2020) As an observer of human disease, that is out of control in incidence and severity, I find it hard to swallow that the human derived alterations of plant and animal proteins, mRNA and other small molecules, are without risk if the ingesting individual has a skewed immune antigen presentation system. I find it even harder to swallow that spraying an entire field with glyphosate, round up, is good for us or the water/soil ecosystem based on the chemical structure, time to degrade the chemical and volume being used. The GMO changes in some plants are specifically made to tolerate glyphosate spray leading to large volumes of use in our food production.

From Dr. Peillex and colleagues: "In mammals, including humans, glyphosate mainly has cytotoxic and genotoxic effects, causes inflammation, and affects lymphocyte functions and the interactions between microorganisms and the immune system. Importantly, even as many outcomes are still being debated, evidence points to a need for more studies to better decipher the risks from glyphosate and better regulation of its global utilization." (Peillex et. al. 2020)

Many food scientists and industry profiteers will scoff at these statements as baseless and yet unproven and they are correct. However, as medicine as shown time and again, the absence of a biomarker does not mean that a disease is absent. The absence of current proof is not the absence of possibility. Celiac disease, certain autoimmune diseases, and many genetic conditions are now true disease entities, as science has proven, where they were once in our mind. This is classic black swan stuff. Our immune systems are under constant assault by neoantigens of the synthetic type and I am not convinced yet that we are not triggering disease by the chemical/GMO pathway. I am not yet interested in taking it on blind faith that safety exists when we know that there are safe alternatives available, i.e. organic old school natural foods.

I will leave you with this thought. We are very clearly changing our environment faster than our genes can handle. We see this occurring at the epigenetic level in countless studies whether it is related to chemicals, processed foods, stress or other etiology. We ARE, as a society, getting sicker year over year while the antecedent variables change rapidly. The federal and state governments are not looking to control known toxins like air pollution, pesticides, endocrine disrupting chemicals and water pollution to a safe level as we have thousands of untested chemicals in our ecosystem and many pollution events going on all over the country every year. We are also not looking to improve our children's school nourishment which in my mind is a primary driver of the obesity/chronic disease epidemic. This reality goes on and on to our detriment.

I for one, will try to avoid GMO and pesticide laden food where I can to minimize future risk if it turns out to be there. If they are proven truly safe, I have lost nothing but time.

I wish that I had a scientific crystal ball with truth about these topics,

Dr. M

PS - I found it sad to see the comments on Peter Attia's website following an interview with Mark Hyman about these and other topics. It always amazes me that people are so dogmatic and close minded to the possibility of something against which they believe.

My reply to the naysayers was: It is a sad day where well educated adults spend so much time bashing an elite podcaster just to try and shame him into not having diverse opinions that they disagree with. I applaud Peter for expanding the input to many diverse voices. Dr. Hyman is neither stupid nor a charlatan as many are suggesting. You can disagree with the premise of his argument without the vitriol. That being said, the variables around food and chemical exposure in general are so difficult to tease out to answer these questions irrefutably. Yet, that does not prove them false so much as unanswered. It is so obvious, to me, that the Tsimane Indians and other developing cultures are without our chronic diseases of aging and that modern societal choices regarding food, chemical exposure and stress are likely the main causes driving root dysfunctions of the immune metabolic nature.

It is useful to disagree and have quality discourse however, please stop trying to cancel opinions and change discourse. Not useful in the long run.

Spok Int Arch Allergy Immunol
Nawaz Food and Chemical Toxicology
Garland Scientific American
Freedman Scientific American
Peter Attia podcast
Kogevinas BMJ
Hiar Science Mag
Peillex J Immunotox