How Genetically Engineered Foods Are Affecting Our Hormones, Fertility, and Offspring

(These are the speech notes that Mothership’s founder, Jaclyn Downs, gave at the March Against Monsanto. Scientific references are included at the bottom of the page)

For those of you that are about thirty or older, I invite you to think back to when you were an elementary school kid and it was your birthday. You were able to bring in any sort of snack you wanted, and the whole class was able to eat it.

There was also probably only one kid in the class that was really overweight and there was always one in the class that couldn’t sit still. I’m sure you vividly remember those kids. I do – I even remember where they sat in the classroom.

Things have changed. These days, certain foods may not even be allowed in the classroom due to severe allergies. I have been in classrooms where there is a list of all the children that have food allergies, and that list is posted on the cabinet with the basket filled with epipens.

It seems that, these days, half the classroom consists of children with some sort of attention or learning disorder and the overweight kids are just as prevalent as ones that aren’t.

What happened in the past 25-30 years? Why are kids today less healthy than before?

It’s not just one factor. There are many factors, and they all are of significance, but the quality of our food and environment play an enormous part.

I am passionate about how nutrition relates to reproductive wellness because our nutritional state doesn’t only affect our own bodies, but studies show that it can affect our offspring, and even their offspring.  If we don’t have optimal levels of nutrients in our own bodies, what will our fetuses have to pull from? If our bodies are laden with toxins, they will pass on to our babies, increasing likelihood for a whole host of problems.

In study after study, scientific medical, environmental and agricultural journals, have concluded without doubt that pesticides, including the ones associated with genetically engineered crops, are linked to hormonal and reproductive problems in both men and women. Infertility is only one of the conditions in a long list of others, which I’ll address in a moment.

What are symptoms of hormonal imbalance/endocrine disruption? Hormonal imbalance – PMS, period problems, night sweats, insomnia, cyclical headaches, PCOS, endometriosis, fibroids, miscarriage and infertility. For men, it’s low libido, man boobs, increased body fat and poor sperm count and quality.

What causes hormonal imbalance and infertility?

Because reproduction is not essential to life, our endocrine systems (which make our sex hormones) are the first things to take a stress or toxin hit. Our body knows what is first priority, and when it encounters a stressor, whether it be emotional, physical or stress from toxic chemicals, it essentially robs Peter to pay Paul.  From an evolutionary perspective, the stressor would have been something that wanted to eat us for dinner. When you are running from a bear, your body isn’t thinking “hmmm, now would be a good time to get pregnant.” These days, it’s a chronic state of low grade stress (again, not just emotional stress), that now takes the place of the bear.

Glyphosate, one of the active ingredients in Roundup and other herbicides, is a known endocrine disruptor, meaning it interferes with hormone balance in the body, able to introduce health issues with even a small amount of exposure. Aside from infertility, endocrine disruptors can affect mood and metabolism and have been linked to some cancers as well.

But what if our bodies can’t ever out-run the bear or get rid of the stressors? We have seen proof that glyphosate DOES bioaccumulate in the body, despite what Monsanto has stated. Found in 93% of blood samples of pregnant women and 80% of umbilical cords tested. It has been found to be toxic to human umbilical, embryonic, and placental cells and has also been found in the breast milk of mothers.

We can see that exposure to glyphosate and other toxins can accumulate in the body and cause problems – serious problems that affect not only our own health, but the health of future generations. This is why saying “Oh, a little bit won’t hurt” isn’t true. It is this repeated exposure of low levels (and a lot of times exposures that we aren’t even aware of) that leads to accumulation in the body. They add up, working slowly and insidiously, sneaking up on us until one day we have a diagnosis and say “How did this happen?” By the way, many of the foods we ate as children still look the same, but the levels of chemicals in and on the foods are unprecedented. Just because we can’t see them doesn’t mean the danger is not there.

Studies showing links between GMO’s and reproductive problems (references on my website and some at table):

  • Low birth weight and preterm labor and birth – check visual at table
  • Birth defects – even small levels of exposure, but also have been found to be quadrupled for some farming communities that use glyphosate.
    • Malformations of reproductive organs, neural tube defects and major portions of brain, skull and scalp unformed.
  • Miscarriage and stillbirth rates rising
  • Infertility and third generation sterility
  • High infant mortality – Rats given GMO feed had babies that regularly died within weeks of their birth (sometimes as many as 99%), compared to only a 10% mortality rate for those fed regular feed.
  • Decrease in sperm production, quality, morphology, and motility. Overall decrease in testosterone.

And it’s affecting our DNA, which we pass on to our children! Did you know that by four months gestation, a female fetus has made all the eggs she will ever have? That means I’m carrying the egg for my future grandchild right now (currently 7 months pregnant). Compromising egg quality can happen at any point, even in utero, so it’s important to keep them healthy.

DNA alterations have been shown after ingesting even the smallest amount of GMO foods. –

  • It’s not just a matter of “Oh, I know GMO’s aren’t good for us.” They are wreaking havoc on a cellular level- bad things happen when our DNA goes haywire. DNA is our blueprint for life.

Hormonal imbalances and fertility problems create a growing demand for ART (which is much more expensive than buying organic).

And then, in addition to all the reproductive problems, if you do get lucky enough to have a baby, it’s underdeveloped immune, digestive and neurological systems are certainly not equipped to handle the toxins in today’s world. By improving the factors we have control over (the food we choose to buy), we can lessen the incidences.

  • The EPA and National Academy of Sciences reports that children are more susceptible to chemicals than adults because
    • They encounter the same amount of pesticides as grown ups but whose bodies are much smaller.
    • Also, the rapidly developing organ systems of fetuses and children are more vulnerable and less able to detoxify chemicals.
    • The journal Toxicology and applied pharmacologystated Reproductive toxicity begins with parental exposure to toxicants. Preconception, conception, prenatal, and postnatal periods are all windows of opportunity for adverse reproductive outcomes.

Also higher incidences of learning disorders, behavior problems, attention disorders and skin allergies, food allergies, autoimmune diseases and chronic infections undeniably plague our children more than ever before. It is not just “luck of the draw” that your young child has allergies or learning disorders.

Our gut health affects every aspect of our health, from digestion to immunity to mental and emotional functioning. It’s known as our second brain.

Glyphosate affects our gut health by wreaking havoc on our trillions of good gut bacteria. Along with a decline in gut health comes compromised immune systems, characterized by colds and sicknesses we just can’t shake, catching every bug we encounter, allergies, autoimmune diseases. All on the rise. Other well-known factors that affect the integrity of the gut are oral contraceptives, antibiotics and stress.

Our bodies were designed to get rid of toxins and pathogens, but not anywhere near the level of toxins and pathogens we are exposed to in today’s world.

What are the outcomes of hormonal imbalance and toxins? The most blatant proof of our toxic world is what we are seeing happening in our kids. Sure, babies can be born with 10 fingers and 10 toes, but what about neurological development that affects learning and behavior (of which there is a ton of research on pesticides and brain development)?

So after hearing all this doom and gloom, (I just wanted to share with you the severity of the situation) what can we do?

  • Buy organic products or ones that have the non-GMO project label. 
  • Instead of stressing out trying to buy all organic, buy organic for the foods that you eat most often. By the way, we shouldn’t ask why organic food is so expensive, we should ask why GMO foods are so cheap. 
  • Spreading the word – Raising awareness creates change – many countries in the world have partially or completely banned and rejected GMO’s, and many others require labeling.
  • Show your support for GMO labeling – if we can’t stop Monsonato, we can at least ask that they be held accountable for transparency and require labeling. Since we don’t know the long term effects, we are just asking for our right to know what is in our food. If these foods are supposedly not harmful, why is Monsanto spending over 100 million dollars to fight labeling?
  • Consult with a natural health practitioner for recipes, meal plans and ways to upgrade your diet.

When you choose non-GMO items, you are supporting your health and the health of your future generations.  It creates more of a demand for local farming, organic farming, and small farmers, all while driving the cost of organic down.

I know it’s so easy to say “I ate it am I turned out okay” but DO WE REALLY WANT OUR CHILDREN TO JUST BE OKAY OR DO WE WANT THEM TO MEET THEIR FULL POTENTIAL? In the way that “Oh, it’s just a little bit” can accumulate and eventually cause a negative impact on our health, if we each make the personal decision to vote with our forks, we’ll begin to drive business away from Monsanto.


References:

  • American Academy of Environmental Medicine: http://www.aaemonline.org/gmopost.html.
  • Arbuckle, T. E., Lin, Z. et al. 2001. An exploratory analysis of the effect of pesticide exposure on the risk of spontaneous abortion in an Ontario farm population. Environmental Health Perspectives 109: 851–857.
  • Arbuckle, Tye E., Zhiqiu Lin, and Leslie S. Mery. “An exploratory analysis of the effect of pesticide exposure on the risk of spontaneous abortion in an Ontario farm population.”Environmental health perspectives 8 (2001): 851.
  • Aris, Aziz, and Samuel Leblanc. “Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada.”Reproductive Toxicology 4 (2011): 528-533.
  • Benachour, N., Sipahutar, H., Moslemi, S., Gasnier, C., Travert, C., Séralini, G-E. 2007. Time- and dose-dependent effects of roundup on human embryonic and placental cells. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 53: 126–33.
  • Benachour, Nora, and Gilles-Eric Séralini. “Glyphosate formulations induce apoptosis and necrosis in human umbilical, embryonic, and placental cells.”Chemical research in toxicology1 (2008): 97-105.
  • Benitez-Leite, S., M. L. Macchi, and M. Acosta. “Congenital Malformations Associated with Toxic Agricultural Chemicals.”Pediatría (Asunción) 2 (2007): 111-121.
  • Brasil, Flávia Bittencourt, et al. “The impact of dietary organic and transgenic soy on the reproductive system of female adult rat.”The Anatomical Record4 (2009): 587-594.
  • Cox C. 2004. Journal Of Pesticide Reform. Vol. 24 (4) citing: Garry, V.F. et al. 2002. “Birth defects, season of conception, and sex of children born to pesticide applicators living in the Red River Valley of Minnesota.” Environ. Health Persp. 110 (Suppl. 3):441-449.
  • CRIIGENhttp://www.criigen.org/SiteEn/
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