Archive | May, 2011

Genetically Modified Food and Autism – Is There A Connection?

30 May

A diagnosis of Autism can be one of the most devastating diagnoses a parent can hear.  At best, children with high functioning autism are able to lead, with limited social skills, somewhat normal lives.  At worst, children diagnosed with Autism will never be able to function in society.  The toll placed on the families and society is staggering.  Statistics in the United States report that 1 in 110 children have Autism today and this rate is expected to rise.

There are several factors researchers have looked at in attempting to uncover the cause of Autism, such as genetics and infections.  Many researchers believe that the cause of Autism stems from environmental factors such as vaccines and mercury.  One environmental factor that does not get a lot of attention is the ingestion of genetically modified (GM) crops.   Jeffrey Smith’s recent article entitled Dangerous Toxins from Genetically Modified Plants found in Women and Fetuses brings to light the idea that a possible cause of Autism is the Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) toxin found in patented, transgenic corn and cottonseed crops.  Smith, Director of The Institute for Responsible Technology and bestselling author, connects the dots between the evidence of toxicity of Bt and the severe immune, neurological, digestive, dermatological, and cognitive problems found to be associated with it.

Bt plants are created through the manipulation of corn or cottonseed DNA by adding a gene from the micro-organism Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).  A research study in 2009 concluded that Bt had a deleterious effect on the kidney, liver, detoxifying organs, heart, adrenal glands, and spleen in rats who were fed GM corn.  The authors also suggested that other unintended consequences of the genetic modification cannot be ruled out.1 The recent study done in Canada, which Smith has brought to the forefront, found Bt toxin in the blood of non-pregnant women, pregnant women and fetuses.2  He explains that Bt plants continuously produce a pesticide which causes death to insects by breaking open their stomachs.   The only human study ever conducted found the undigested DNA from GM Roundup herbicide resistant soy inside the intestines of study participants.   Smith speculates that the DNA of Bt toxin found in the bloodstream of women and fetuses may indicate that it may also remain in our guts upon consumption.  This in turn may be producing a “human pesticide factory” in our guts leading to leaky gut syndrome.  He suggests that leaky gut syndrome from the Bt toxin and the lack of a blood/brain barrier in fetuses may be causing deleterious cognitive and immune dysfunction in our young.  In other words, this toxin might be causing the increase in Autism.

What are some of the other clues that GM food might be causing the increase in Autism?  For one thing, the increase in Autism began only after the introduction of GM organisms into our food supply. Autism rates increased dramatically in the mid to late 1990’s.3  Thus, increased Autism rates coincide perfectly with the introduction of GM food.  There are also other disorders which have been on the rise since the introduction of GM food that may be induced from a “leaky gut syndrome” including a huge increase and severity in allergic reactions to food substances, asthma, gastrointestinal disorders, and debilitating syndromes such as chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.   The rate of chronic health conditions among children in the United States increased from 12.8% in 1994 to 26.6% in 2006, particularly for asthma, obesity, and behavior and learning problems, according to results of a study published in the 2010 paper in Journal of the American Medical Association.4  An increase in pet allergies has also been noted since the introduction of GM foods into their food supply.

Another clue might come from comparing Autism rates in countries that do not consume, ban or label GM food and those that consume them freely.  Finding statistics on the prevalence of Autism in other countries is difficult.  But, it’s no secret that the United States has the highest rate of Autism in the world and is also the leading producer and consumer of GM crops.   It is also one of the only industrialized countries that does not label the GM ingredients in food so that consumers unsuspectingly eat them.  Ronnie Cummin’s from the Organic Consumer Association wrote “there are almost no GMOs in Europe, because under EU law, as demanded by consumers, all foods containing GMOs or GMO ingredients must be labeled. Consumers have the freedom to choose or not to consume GMOs, while farmers, food processors, and retailers have (at least legally) the right to lace foods with GMOs, as long as they are labeled.”5  A 2009 comparison of the prevalence of Autism in other countries showed Autism in France was 4 times lower than the US, Iceland rates were found to be 7 times lower, and Denmark, another country with mandatory labeling requirements, had 14 times lower Autism rates than the US.6  Overall, it appears that the countries that label, limit or ban GMO’s have lower rates of Autism.

Whether the ingestion of Bt toxin creates the potential for a child to acquire Autism or whether this toxin, combined with the adjuvants from vaccines or other environmental factors, push an infants cognitive functioning beyond it’s capacity should be researched further.

How much longer must we sit idly by while our food supply is poisoned?  How many more children will end up having Autism before we say we’ve had enough?  Get involved!  For more information contact The Institute for Responsible Technology and join the Tipping Point Action Network .  The Organic Consumer association / Millions Against Monsanto and their Truth in Labeling Campaign is also a great way to get involved.  If you live in California join the effort to label GMOs by getting an initiative on the 2012 ballot at labelgmos.org.  If you live in Southern California get involved in our activism group GMO Free Southern California on Facebook.

The future of our world is at stake.

1. Biolsci.org http://www.biolsci.org/v05p0706.htm

2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21338670

3. Wing L, Potter D. The epidemiology of autistic spectrum disorders: is the prevalence rising? Ment Retard Dev Disabil Res Rev. 2002;8(3):151–61. doi:10.1002/mrdd.10029. PMID 12216059.

4.  Van Cleave J, Gortmaker SL, Perrin JM Dynamics of obesity and chronic health conditions among children and youth. JAMA. 2010;303:623-30.

5.  http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_22240.cfm

6. http://www.rescuepost.com/files/gr-autism_and_vaccines_world_special_report1.pdf