Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill prohibiting states from passing laws that call for mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Although surveys show a public demand for identification of GMOs, experts within the scientific and medical communities disagree about whether they are dangerous.
We asked four DOs to weigh in on the debate: Laura M. Rosch, DO, an internist with a background in nutrition; Andrew C. Buelt, DO, and Joseph Weatherly, DO, hosts of the Questioning Medicine podcast; and Gerald D. Natzke, DO, who serves as director of the Allergy and Environmental Medicine Center in Flint, Michigan.
More research needed on GMOs
By Laura M. Rosch, DO
There is not enough research about the effect of GMOs on humans to back public concern that genetically modified foods are unsafe. Currently, no reputable medical journals have published or reported disease in humans due to the ingestion of GMO products.
We do know that much of the corn and soybeans grown in the U.S. are genetically modified and that these GM crops are being fed to livestock. If we don’t eat animal-based foods and make the switch to a more plant-based diet, exposure to GMO products can be reduced. As a pro-vegan, I support any step toward a reduction of animal products and an increase of plant-based foods in one’s diet.
GMO foods should be labeled, even in restaurants, to better educate the public about what they are really eating so they can make informed choices. It is really important to know what you are putting into your body or feeding your children every day.
The jury is still out on GMOs. We need the development of more research to really ask the hard questions about how GMOs affect our health. I hope researchers can provide evidence-based, nonbiased studies which show physicians that diet is a really important component to anyone’s health.
Dr. Rosch, an internist, received undergraduate and graduate degrees in nutrition from the University of Illinois in Champaign.
With GMOs, there is nothing to fear but fear itself
By Andrew C. Buelt, DO, and Joseph Weatherly, DO
Long-term data about GMOs doesn’t exist. The best available evidence suggests GMOs are safe; we have no human research that states the contrary. We should not give weight to Petri dish experiments with transgenic mice or rat model studies.
GMOs have become a point of emotional discussion with American fringe groups and competing financial interests intensifying the fear associated with GMOs. Their trendy platforms do not belong in the clinic of a physician.
Patient wellness can easily be achieved using foods that are readily available to the patient. Both genetically modified and organic foods, when used in excess, will contribute to the real worries in primary care: Obesity, poorly controlled diabetes and disability. Even drinking too much water can contribute to poor health outcomes. Rather than counseling patients to avoid water, we simply recommend appropriate use and moderation.
If we spend our time on out-of-place, emotional discussions, we lose purpose. We risk shifting our focus—and our patients’ attention—from the real problems, which include a more than 35% adult obesity rate.
We should focus our efforts on topics and interventions that are more likely to contribute to positive outcomes rather than directing the average patient toward or away from a single diet or food source.
Dr. Buelt and Dr. Weatherly produce the Questioning Medicine podcast.
GMO dangers: Too much to lose
By Gerald D. Natzke, DO
Science has never concluded GMOs are safe. In fact, there is substantial evidence in scientific literature from multiple animal studies that demonstrate significant immune dysregulation, lipid irregularities, infertility, and cell signaling abnormalities creating accelerated aging. Pesticides also are used in greater amounts on GMO crops. As a result, 64 nations have allowed or required GMO labeling.
There are no studies performed on humans showing ingestion of GMO products are safe. I tell my patients GMO foods like soy and corn should be avoided, particularly by children, the chronically ill and the immunocompromised. As often as possible, eat organic and reduce the potential risk.
GMO supporters often mention how these farming practices help to feed the world as they increase crop yields. The Union of Concerned Scientists, however, report several thousand field trials over the last 20 years that dispute this point.
We should have confirmed the safety of genetically modified foods before they were approved for human consumption. Let’s stop guessing and start studying GMOs’ effects on humans as there is potentially too much to lose.
Dr. Natzke is the director of the Allergy and Environmental Medicine Center in Flint, Michigan.