Devona Bell is a holistic health coach with over two decades of professional experience in building regenerative local and regional food and farming systems, with a focus on the nexus of food/health/nutrition, and sustainable natural resource management in the U.S. and internationally. She has worked in, lived in, and visited 40 countries and speaks English, French, and some Russian. Devona and her two girls left the DC suburbs and live on their beyond organic farm in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia, raising their own food and meat without toxic inputs.
Spending two days curled up on the bathroom floor violently ill was not what I expected from eating a pork chop from a pig fed genetically modified (GM) feed.
If I were the only one, this blog wouldn’t be necessary.
I am one of the lucky canaries in the coalmine, very sensitive to toxicity, who react quickly and severely. Many others also react from GM-food and GM-fed animal products (dairy, eggs, and meat), often with delayed health issues, which makes it very challenging to figure out what to attribute it to. So many people react that it is a common practice today for functional medicine doctors to prescribe a non-GMO diet to their patients. There are many stories of healing and reversal of diseases from those eating foods that are organic, non-GMO, and pasture-raised animal products.
The question is why?
Why are many people reacting from GM-fed animal products?
In the fall of 2014 I moved from the DC-suburbs to a farm in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia. The plan was to raise my own meat, but in the meantime, I needed food. I have Celiac and am extremely sensitive to toxicity. I had been on an autoimmune protocol (AIP) for a couple of years at that time and was doing great. As a regenerative agriculture professional, I heartily embrace AIP’s stance on eating healthy pasture-raised meats fed a non-GM diet. The community I moved to has a large population of holistic people, and I was excited to find a lot of beyond organic food straight from farms. Being very busy with the move, I hadn’t yet done much research and bought some pork from a farmer who I had thought said he fed a non-GM diet to his pigs. I cooked up the pork chops for my family and was loving mine. I was half way through it when I had stabbing pains in my stomach. Then came the nausea; I was violently ill for two days.
I used to mourn that I am one of the canaries in the coal mine, reacting so strongly to GMOs and toxicity. Now I realize it is a blessing. My family had no outward immediate reactions from the pork as I did, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t do damage. I did go back to the farmer and found out that yes, indeed, he fed his pigs GM-feed. My previous pig farmer up in Northern Virginia feeds his pasture-raised pigs non-GM feed and I have no trouble with his pork, chickens, or turkeys. For my livestock, I decided to use a non-soy organic feed as I believe it is a cleaner healthier source of nourishment for them and ultimately me and my girls.
I looked for research to help explain why many get ill from GM-fed animal products, and here is what I found. Back in the 1990s the Director for the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) at the US Department of Health and Human Services, Gerald B. Guest, questioned the safety of GM crops with regards to livestock and said the following: “…CVM believes that animal feeds derived from genetically modified plants present unique animal and food safety concerns. … Residues of plant constituents or toxicants in meat and milk products may pose human food safety problems.”
Dr. Jack Heinemann, professor in genetics and molecular biology at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, states in his report on animals exposed to GM ingredients in animal feed: “There is substantial and credible literature that reports the detection of DNA and protein unique to GM in plants within animals and animal products.” In his summary, after reviewing extensive research, Heinemann says there is “… no reasonable uncertainty that GM plant material can transfer to animals exposed to GM feed in their diets or environment, and that there can be a residual difference in animals or animal-products as a result of exposure to GM feed”. What the difference is was not stated and is likely unknown at this time.
A Danish pig farmer, Ib Pedersen, found deformity, sickness, deaths, and poor productivity with GM feed. He observed symptoms of bloat, stomach ulcers, and high rates of diarrhea go away within days of switching his pigs to a non-GM diet. Dr. Monika Kruger of the Institute of Bacteriology and Mycology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Leipzig University in Germany tested some of Pedersen’s deformed piglets and found “Glyphosate residues in different organs and tissues as lungs, liver, kidney, brain, gut wall and heart of malformed euthanized one-day-old Danish piglets….”
Why worry about glyphosate? Glyphosate is the main ingredient in Roundup which is the world’s most used herbicide sprayed liberally on GM crops, also called Roundup Ready crops. Roundup is also commonly used as a desiccant to dry out conventionally grown crops before harvest. This is a common practice in wheat. A report by Earth Open Source states, “Far from being benign, Roundup has been linked in laboratory and epidemiological studies and clinical reports to serious health effects, including endocrine disruption, DNA damage, birth defects, cancer, and neurological disorders. Some toxic effects have been found at low doses comparable to those found in food and feed crops and drinking water.” In 2015, the World Health Organization classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen.
Dr. Judy Carman, in Australia, did a study with pigs feeding GM feed to one group and non-GM feed to another and found statistically significant, 2.6 times, moderate and severe stomach inflammation in the GM-fed pigs. The conclusion of the Carman study was “Pigs fed a GMO diet exhibited heavier uteri and a higher rate of severe stomach inflammation than pigs fed a comparable non-GMO diet. Given the widespread use of GMO feed for livestock as well as humans this is a cause for concern. … Humans have a similar gastrointestinal tract to pigs, and these GM crops are widely consumed by people, particularly in the USA, so it would be prudent to determine if the findings of this study are applicable to humans.”
Glyphosate or GM proteins?
Is it the glyphosate in the animal products causing many to be sick, or is it toxic GM proteins causing damage to our digestive systems, or both? I am not sure, and the many scientists, veterinarians, functional medicine providers, and farmers I’ve asked also aren’t sure. So, yes, I agree whole heartedly with Dr. Judy Carman that at a minimum it is prudent to do long-term studies; and while we await the findings, avoid GM foods including GM-fed animal products: meat, eggs, and dairy.
There are so many reasons not to eat GM-foods, including the broken promises of GMOs; and your health is at the top. We all have great power with our purchasing choices. For health reasons, I raise my own livestock and what I don’t raise myself I buy from other farmers who raise pasture-raised non-GM or organically fed livestock. It is all about the ingredients! What the animals eat creates the level of nutrition (or toxicity) that we will get in their meat, eggs, and dairy. Just as healthy soil creates more nutrient-dense produce, a healthy non-GM and organic diet for livestock gives us healthy animal products.
Where to find healthy, organic or non-GM, pasture-raised, or wild animal products: