The Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT) released a report proposing a link between genetically modified (GM) foods and gluten-related disorders. In the report, a team of experts suggests that GM foods may be an important environmental trigger for gluten sensitivity, which is estimated to affect as many as 18 million Americans.
Citing U.S. Dept. of Agriculture data, Environmental Protection Act records, medical journal reviews, and international research, the authors relate genetically modified foods to five conditions that may either trigger or exacerbate gluten-related disorders, including the serious autoimmune disorder, Celiac disease:
- Intestinal permeability
- Imbalanced gut bacteria
- Immune activation and allergic response
- Impaired digestion
- Damage to the intestinal wall
Although wheat has been hybridized over the years, it is not a genetically modified organism (GMO), which can only be created by a laboratory process that inserts genetic material into plant DNA. There are nine GMO food crops currently being grown for commercial use: soy, corn, cotton (oil), canola (oil), sugar from sugar beets, zucchini, yellow squash, Hawaiian papaya, and alfalfa.
Most GMOs are engineered to tolerate a weed killer called glyphosate (Roundup®). They contain high levels of this toxin at harvest. Corn and cotton varieties are also engineered to produce an insecticide called Bt-toxin. The report focuses primarily on the effects of these two toxins.
Jeffrey Smith, executive director of the institute for responsible technology, explains, "The Bt-toxin in corn is designed to puncture holes in insect cells, but studies show it does the same in human cells. Bt-toxin may be linked to leaky gut, which physicians consistently see in gluten-sensitive patients."
Stephanie Seneff, senior research scientist at MIT, expresses concern about Roundup: "Glyphosate is a patented antibiotic that destroys beneficial gut bacteria. An imbalance of gut flora commonly accompanies Celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders."
Mary Waldner, founder of Mary's Gone Crackers®, a Non-GMO Project verified and gluten-free certified food manufacturer, says, "I'm excited by the research that offers an explanation for the dramatic increase in gluten-related disorders. I encourage everyone to avoid GMOs in their diets. I have always been concerned about the effects of GMOs and Mary's Gone Crackers has never used GMO ingredients in our products."
Dr. Tom O'Bryan, internationally recognized expert on gluten sensitivity and Celiac disease, says, "The introduction of GMOs is highly suspect as a candidate to explain the rapid rise in gluten-related disorders over the last 17 years."
Internist Emily Linder MD, says, "Based on my clinical experience, when I remove genetically modified foods as part of the treatment for gluten sensitivity, recovery is faster and more complete. I believe that GMOs in our diet contribute to the rise in gluten sensitivity in the U.S. population."
The best way to avoid GMOs is to purchase certified organic or Non-GMO Project verified products. Download a shopping guide at NonGMOShoppingGuide.com or a free iPhone app, ShopNoGMO.
The markets for both gluten-free products and non-GMO products are expanding. Gluten-free sales are expected to exceed $5 billion by 2015 and Non-GMO Project Verified sales went from $0 to over $3.5 billion in the last three years. Just as Mary's Gone Crackers did in 2011, the conclusions in this report may inspire more gluten-free food manufacturers to pursue Non-GMO Project Verified status.