Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Understanding GMOs: Part 5

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Hello again and welcome to part 5 of our 6 part series on GMOs! Last week we reviewed the nightmare that is insect resistent Bt toxin plants. This week, we meet our herbicide resistant foes.

Let's get to it, shall we?

I’m almost afraid to ask... What should I know about herbicide resistant GMO crops, and the herbicide called Roundupä they’ve been designed to be resistant to?
Before I go any further, let me clarify what "herbicide resistant" means. In this case, it means you douse a plant in herbicide (chemicals designed to kill plants). But before you do that, you engineer certain plants to be resistant to the active ingredients in the herbicide. So the plant you are trying to protect lives when the herbicide is applied, while anything else growing in the vicinity dies (ie. weeds, natural flora, etc.). But get this... herbicide resistant GMOs are only resistant to their own brand of herbicide! Seriously!!? How convenient... creating a line of herbicide resistant crops that are ONLY resistant to YOUR herbicide. Talk about a moneymaker!!  Roundupä is the most commercially available brand of herbicide available, meaning not only is it in your food, it's probably on your lawn too (or your neighbor's!).

But back to the really bad news...

In the case of herbicide resistant GM crops, here's how it works - bacteria resistant to the active ingredients in the herbicide are isolated, then genes for the enzymes (proteins) responsible for this tolerance (or protection) from those particular active ingredients are identified. Then, by design, those genes are introduced into the genome of the plant (food crop) to make it able to survive the effects of the herbicide as it is applied. Easy peasy...

Glyphosate (the active ingredient we will be focusing on today) has recently made headlines for its association with most, if not all, chronic diseases in the United States. Not only has its use increased by over 6000% since 1996, but it has been shown worldwide to be an endocrine disruptor, which has a serious impact on fertility and infant mortality rates. Studies have also revealed its carcinogenic affects.

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OK I’m listening. Give me the heavy on Glyphosate.
You asked for it! Here are a few points for you to mull over…

1. Mother nature ALWAYS wins. Glyphosate resistant weeds are becoming more and more prevalent, meaning more and more RoundUpä is being used. So much for keeping chemicals out of our environment! An original selling point for GM crops was that less pesticides were needed to grow these crops, but this is clearly not the case. Now our food crops are being saturated in these chemicals (again, either directly or through the food supply via their use in animal feed). Not to mention, these chemicals are being absorbed into the plant at high levels (and don’t get me started on the environmental findings of glyphosate in air, rain and groundwater!). 

Quick experiment to prove my point: Grab a daisy or carnation and put it in water with blue food coloring. Watch the petals turn a pretty shade of blue. Can you wash off the color? Nope! It’s incorporated within the plant - much like the chemicals that the GM crops are bathing in. So much for washing your produce to get rid of chemicals... there's no way to reach the buggers that are inside!

2. Glyphosate is a known endocrine disruptor. Endocrine disruptors can lead to failures in all systems of the body controlled by hormones. Wait, which body systems aren’t regulated by hormones? Just name a disease, and you can bet your favorite sports team that an imbalance or malfunction in the endocrine system plays a role in it, if not causes it. 

3. Glyphosate affects the balance within our gut, which in turn affects everything else! Monsanto, the creator of Roundupä, has claimed glyphosate is harmless to humans because it plays a role in blocking only the shikimate pathway in plants. They claim humans don't have the same pathway. However, our gut bacteria DO!!!! Those of you who know me know how much I love the gut-mind-body relationship. The connections between the gut and mental and physical health are astounding! In fact, there is more microbial DNA in our gut than "our DNA" throughout our entire body ("our DNA" meaning the DNA we inherited from our parents at conception, which determines our physical characteristics, predispositions, etc.). There is about a 10:1 fold difference. We aren't born with gut flora; our gut lining is a sterile environment until birth, when we then start to ingest microbes from our mother and our environment, and they start to take up residence. This is a symbiotic relationship, meaning we need them for optimal health and digestion, and they need us. In fact, about 70-75% of our immune system resides in the gut so this disruption in our gut bacteria makes the dangers of glyphosate shockingly apparent. When our gut flora is out of balance, so are we.

...And sometimes with very serious results.

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Just a few simple facts...

  • Over 60% of our neurotransmitters are formed in the gut.
  • In the "now compromised" shikimate pathway, the amino acids Tryptophan and Tyrosine cannot be synthesized. Tryptophan is necessary for the production of serotonin and melatonin, while tyrosine is needed for the production of dopamine, adrenaline and melanin.
  • Serotonin deficiency is linked to obesity, autism, Alzheimers, depression and violent behavior. Violent behavior stands out to me – just look at the increasingly irrational events going on in our society!
  • Dopamine deficiency is linked to Parkinsons disease.
  • Glyphosate depletes Methionine, an essential sulfur-containing amino-acid that when deficient, has been linked to Autism.
  • Glyphosate has been shown to preferentially attack our good gut flora, allowing for the proliferation of bad flora. This imbalance increases the amount of toxins and inflammation in our body, resulting in a leaky gut. When we have an imbalance in gut flora, our digestive and immune health are impaired.
  • Glyphosate has been shown to block sulfur metabolism – it’s transport and synthesis. Cells deficient in sulfur shrink. The shrinking of cells in our gut lining leads to leaky gut, a condition where toxins and undigested food are allowed to enter the bloodstream, resulting in chronic inflammation, cellular breakdown and auto-immune responses. Sulfate deficiency is also associated with Crohn's disease and Colitis. Wow, this just about covers every disease known to Western Civilization!
  • Glyphosate suppresses cytochrome P450 enzymes in the liver, which are necessary for detoxification of environmental toxins. (Wait, didn't I just finish saying that toxins are entering our system through a leaky gut? And now, to make matters worse, our defense system is compromised, keeping us from kicking them out!!?? This is getting ugly!). CyP450 enzymes also play a critical role in the activation of Vitamin D, cholesterol homeostasis, bile acid production and sex hormones, so if they're suppressed, where does that leave us? This just keeps getting worse!!
  • Glyphosate is also linked to a depletion of key micronutrients, specifically the cations (Calcium, Magnesium, Cobalt, Zinc, Iron, etc.) necessary for normal cellular function and homeostasis.

I could go on and on about Glyphosate! Its disruption of these key pathways leads to inflammation and toxicity in our bodies, forming the foundation of pretty much any disease you can think of!

But don't worry, there's good news too!

Next week, I’ll outline some simple steps you can take to avoid GMO food products and also show you how to heal your gut and support your liver. After all, if GMOs have been in our food supply for the last 17 years, there's a lot of damage that needs to be undone! 

But seriously, how amazing is the human body? In the midst of the incredible toxic assault it faces daily, it continues to fight to keep us in balance. If you are ever having a bad day, just stop and think about what a miracle you really are!

Until next week, my friends! J

References for this series:
2   "Genetically Modified Organisms and the deterioration of health in the United States” N.L. Swanson, 4/24/2013, Seattle
3   A Samsel and S. Senef Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases.
7   V. E. Prescott, et al, “Transgenic Expression of Bean r-Amylase Inhibitor in Peas Results in Altered Structure and Immunogenicity,” Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry (2005): 53

Shanna Wahlquist is a Certified Holistic Health Coach specializing in empowering women to adopt a sustainable and healthy lifestyle without dieting or feeling deprived, and supporting them in balancing their gut-mind-body relationship, which she believes is the foundation of every chronic disease and ailment.  She is the mother of two toddlers, ages 4 and 2.5 years old; her happy place is in the ocean surf, and her guilty pleasure is red wine – especially if it involves a limo with a group of friends! Shanna found her path to holistic healing after discovering the benefits of vegetable juicing in February 2012, a journey inspired by her desperation to discover the cause of the sudden onset of recurrent chronic respiratory illnesses suffered by her children. She used that experience as a launchpad for a career change and ended up discovering her true authentic self and life’s purpose. She’s always had a passion for science, food, healing and stewardship, and has created a business where she can enjoy them all simultaneously while making a difference in the lives of her family, friends, clients and community. You can find her on facebook at “NourishingMySoul”,  her blog at or her website,

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