Are GMOs Safe?

By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.

If you’ve swilled a soda, or eaten tacos, corn, breakfast cereal, soy foods, or margarine, odds are that you’ve eaten genetically modified food, commonly referred to as GMO (for “genetically modified organism”). While inadvertently consuming them is easy, the possible health risks of GMOs are much harder to swallow.

GMO Crops Dominate Our Food Supply

Genetically modified food is everywhere. The Grocery Manufacturer’s Association has estimated that approximately 70 to 80 percent of processed food in supermarkets – from soups to condiments to crackers – contains GMO ingredients. In the U.S., up to 94 percent of soybeans, and up to 92 percent of corn, grown are GMO. Upwards of 95 percent of sugar beets may now be GMO, and 88 percent of cotton is as well (food products often contain cottonseed oil). Even super-healthy foods such as Hawaiian-grown papayas and some varieties of zucchini and summer squash harbor GMOs. Canola is now a GMO crop. Additionally, many GMO crops are used as animal feed for agricultural animals raised for meat, which we then eat. The increasing presence of GMOs in crops and food has prompted the question, “are GMOs safe?”

What are GMOs? In genetic engineering, the genes and DNA-the building blocks of certain organisms are extracted and artificially inserted into the genes of another organism in hopes of increasing yield or resistance to disease or delaying ripening for a longer shelf life. Genes from bacteria, viruses, and animals been spliced into plants like soybeans, corn, canola, cotton and rice.

Are GMOs safe? Not in my opinion, and here’s why:

Health Risks of GMOs

1. GMOs may introduce food allergens into the food chain.

Let me give you an example: About 15 years ago, an American manufacturer created a genetically modified type of maize, a type of corn fed to farm animals. The maize was genetically altered to contain a pesticide that would repel insects. Well, somehow that maize found its way into the human food supply, mainly tacos, and there were widespread reports of food allergies in the form of headaches, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Over the years, this same scenario has continued to play out, again and again, in many other genetically modified foods.

2. GMOs may increase our intake of vicious toxins.

Let’s face it, we already live in a sea of chemicals, from the water we drink to the personal care products we smear on our bodies to heavy metal contamination to the polluted indoor and outdoor air we breathe. Now it turns out that when we consume GMO foods, there’s the risk that their gene-shuffled ingredients may get in our cells and tissues, increasing bodily toxicity that may promote cancer.

The best example of this has to do with milk from cows that have been injected with recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rGBH), a GMO product which increases milk production. As I mention in GMO (Genetically Modified) Foods, Milk from rGBH-treated cows contains high levels of a natural growth factor (IGF-1), which is linked to the development of breast, prostate and colon cancers.

Something else: One of the biggest concerns is that GMO crops are often engineered to withstand large doses of toxic herbicides. Not surprisingly, herbicide-resistant weeds have sprouted up like crazy and are found today on nearly 100 million acres in 36 states. To destroy these weeds, fields have to be sprayed with multiple herbicides, including one called 2 4-D, found in the highly poisonous Agent Orange used in the Viet Nam war. 2 4-D is now regarded as a “possible human carcinogen” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Also, GMO crops are generally altered to withstand much heavier-than-normal pesticide application; by consuming them, we also consume pesticide residues. Pesticides have been linked to numerous health problems including blood, kidney and liver toxicity, birth defects, and even cancer. Children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of pesticides.

3. GMOs may increase the risk of antibiotic resistance.

When genetic engineers artificially transfer a foreign protein into a food, they often link it to another gene, called an antibiotic-resistance marker gene. Why? The marker gene shows how well the plants are taking up other modified genes and whether the gene-splicing has been successful. While this might sound like cool science, public health officials and other experts are concerned that these marker genes may find their way into the gut bacteria of animals, making them, and those of us who eat them, resistant to treatment with antibiotics. This means we might not be able to cure serious and lethal infections such as E-coli or staph.

Are the Benefits of GMOs Worth the Risks?

Polish researchers exploring the benefits and risks associated with GMO foods tell us that, “genetic modification of plants are justified by the potential for improvement of the food situation worldwide, an increase in yield crops, an increase in the nutritional value of food, and the development of pharmaceutical preparations of proven clinical significance.” In the same review article, the researchers explain in scientific detail the risks I mention above, and note that “the relationships of [GMO] food effects on human body are being investigated by conducting numerous tests on animals.” Recognizing the lack of evidence demonstrating that GMO foods are safe for human consumption, the researchers concluded, “consumers themselves must decide whether to consume [GMO] food, which should be appropriately labeled and supplied with reliable information on the conducted modifications.”

What should you take from this? Unless you want to be a guinea pig with a potentially bleak future health status, I would avoid eating GMO foods as much as possible.

How to Avoid GMO Foods

Sadly, the cultivation of GMO crops is expanding globally, and ingredients derived from GMOs are now almost everywhere in our food supply. On the upside though, you can protect yourself from the potential health risks of GMOs. The quickest, easiest way to do so is to buy organic foods. They have not been sprayed with pesticides or treated with herbicides. Nor have they been tinkered with genetically. And organic livestock aren’t allowed to be fed genetically modified grains, nor can they be given GMO growth hormones.

For you label-readers out there (this should be all of us!): Although there is no government-mandated labeling of GMO foods yet, you can still look for foods with the following USDA Organic and Non- GMO Project Verified seals.


Also, when you pluck fruit or vegetables from the produce bin, check the PLU label stuck to the produce. Avoid any five-digit PLUs that begins with the number 8, which indicates that the item is a GMO food. Organic, non-GMO produce will have a five-digit number beginning with a 9.

Buying fruits and veggies at a farmer’s market is a good idea too. But ask the farmers if they plant GMO seeds, to be on the safe side.

Finally, if you want to steer clear of GMOs, tell your lawmakers that you want to know if there’s GMOs in the food you’re buying!

Other Organizations:


© 2016 HeartMD Institute. All rights reserved.

Leave a Reply


  1. Charles L. Foxx

    on January 14, 2016 at 6:30 pm

    Dr. Sinatra,
    I have great respect for your efforts to help each of us maintain and improve our levels of health. If people want to avoid eating GMOs because they believe that doing so might lead to their personal harm, they should do so. There is risk in every human choice as seen in the fact that we all die eventually. If I get out of bed in the morning, there is a chance that I could die of a heart-attack. If I stay in the bed in the morning there is a chance that I could die of a heart-attack. That said, this write-up on GMOs is very unscientific. You failed to mention that there have been hundreds of reported studies looking for evidence of medically harmful effects in humans from the consumption of GMOs. All results to date are negative.

  2. HMDI Editor

    on January 14, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    Hi Charles, Thank you for your comment above. We always welcome more information, and embrace a forum of ideas & evidence to support those ideas. We encourage you to leave additional comment(s) with the specific references you cite above. Be well!

  3. Mildred Case

    on January 14, 2016 at 6:47 pm

    Man thinks he is so great that he can improve on what Jehovah created !! Yes, juicy apples are bigger and better than wild apples — but they are still apples. When man goes on combining things that are not intended — who knows what can happen !!! — or how it will effect us in the future !!!!

  4. L D

    on January 14, 2016 at 6:58 pm

    Dr. Sinatra, There are several reasons for gmo use in grains. One is you do not use as much pesticide, and in some cases not at all. Could be healthier?

  5. Linda

    on January 14, 2016 at 7:27 pm

    I have recently become concerned not only about GMO foods such as Bt corn, but now I learn that glyphosate/Roundup may be used on nonGMO crops in the harvesting process to control ripening. I always look for the NonGMO project label and feel reassured when I can choose a product which bares the label. There seems to be a loophole for farmers/producers to slip through re: nonGMO crops may be treated with glyphosate. Does the USDA organic label in addition to the NonGMO Project label close the loophole?

  6. Jeff Drobman

    on January 14, 2016 at 8:26 pm

    this is really informative, thank you. this helps me debate the GMO issue on Facebook. I will post a link to they article on Facebook. this is scarier than I feared. just the thought of eating GMO produce with embedded pesticide (though genetic, still a “pesticide”) is repugnant.

  7. Geneva

    on January 14, 2016 at 9:05 pm

    then explain why all of a sudden so many people are now allergic to wheats of all kinds also now there are more children born with allergies! More and more people are getting sicker and sicker, mostly from the food they eat! I gave my children my own grown food most of the time, they were very healthy until they grew up and started eating all of the crap that was sold in stores. I even got milk from a farmer. Now can you explain this.

  8. Stephen

    on January 14, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    I am a small acreage farmer who raises non GMO grains. The truth is that most corn, peas, and some grains are genetically modified so they can be directly sprayed with roundup. This saves the farmer the need to cultivate for weeds, and cuts down on competition from weeds, thus increasing yields. No matter what you hear, genetic modification is all about money increase through yield increase. As a farmer, I have concluded that most if not all of the GMO is driven by money concerns not concern for world hunger etc. My yields are less per Acre, because I do not spray for weeds, and I do not use artificial fertilizer. That’s an economic fact. Most farms in America are farming huge tracts of land, and it is a business operation just like any other.

  9. Stephen

    on January 14, 2016 at 9:15 pm


  10. Stephen

    on January 14, 2016 at 9:21 pm

    The other point I would like to make, it that most Alfalfa being raised today, which is the feed of choice for milk cows, is also GMO to withstand Roundup. So the feed going to our milk cows in America is usually sprayed with roundup at least once in every season. So not only is it GMO, but it’s liberally laced with roundup.
    Just saying.

  11. Deane

    on January 14, 2016 at 9:36 pm

    Yes, USDA organic means that glyphosate or any other herbicide was not used in growing that food.
    (If the farmer is not lying.)

  12. nancy wagner

    on January 14, 2016 at 9:45 pm

    HDMI editor
    Look up site. You must mean cite.

  13. HMDI Editor

    on January 14, 2016 at 9:49 pm

    I do! Thank you!

  14. Ruth

    on January 15, 2016 at 6:53 am

    I agree that GMO’s are not safe. I had a terrible reaction to soy. For two years I had severe burning in my mouth, tongue, nasal passages and throat. Doctors were convinced it was heartburn but I knew it wasn’t so I asked my dr. if she would run some allergy tests and sure enough it was the soy that caused it. Got off soy and burning went away. Also went down four dress sizes after being off of it for a few months. Thought I would submit this experience in case anyone else is going thgough it.

  15. maryanne

    on January 15, 2016 at 11:51 am

    So appreciate your informing about GMO foods. As a leader in the new healthcare consciousness, which I believe is doctors returning to the idea of ‘healer’, when you address these issues, people listen. My greatest thanks that you commit yourself to our health! Sadly, not all organic foods are GMO verified. I called on a box of crackers I purchased that had an ‘organic’ label, but not a non GMO label and was told when they add ingredients and not all are available to them non GMO, they can’t claim that. At least they are headed in the right direction. We fight “the big guys” when producing organics. these are companies with a soul. I honor all who hold the vision of true health for us all. Namaste all my friends!

  16. Robert

    on January 15, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    In regards to MR. Foxx, I m sure those negative studies you speak of were the best money could buy. Studies can be altered by the people doing the study. Perhaps Mr. Fox gets a paycheck from Monsanto for all we know. Common sense needs to be used and when you mess with mother nature it is not likely a good outcome.

  17. Javed Petafi

    on January 17, 2016 at 6:38 am

    Agree !! GM crops are bad, but some one has to produce some scientific evidence, other wise we are just speculating !!!

  18. Angela H.

    on January 30, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    Dear Charles,
    Please read “Altered Genes, Twisted Truth” by Steven Druker. It “tells the fascinating and frequently astounding story of how the massive enterprise to restructure the genetic core of the world’s food supply came into being, how it advanced by consistently violating the protocols of science, and how for more than three decades, hundreds of eminent biologists and esteemed institutions have systematically contorted the truth in order to conceal the unique risks of its products–and get them onto our dinner plates.”

  19. mrqfarm

    on January 30, 2016 at 11:34 pm

    Sounds like you work for Monsanto

  20. Donna

    on February 7, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    Very informative

  21. TP Stephens

    on February 21, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    Surprised that the question of “why are GMOs being used” was not mentioned. Big picture: we suddenly have some of the top *chemical* companies (Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow etc) creating, owning patents on and genetically altering seeds-the basis of plant life.

    Their motive? Certainly *not* to sell more seeds, NOR TO CONQUER STARVING PEOPLE AS THEY PROMOTE, but TO SELL MORE CHEMICAL PESTICIDES.

    In order to douse the crops, they must be resistant to — mainly glyphosate (which needs its own google research by itself) — accomplished at the genetic level. This is a big selling point to the farmer and key to perpetuate the subscription-like relationship since annual license payments are contracted to obtain and plant the seeds required.

  22. JS

    on July 21, 2016 at 10:27 pm

    Séralini’s findings were alarming: both GM maize NK603 and Roundup caused serious kidney and liver damage and an increased and earlier development of tumours, leading to an increased rate of mortality.4

    These serious effects had not shown up in Monsanto’s 90-day test because it was too short. Serious diseases like organ damage and tumours take time to develop and become obvious.

    An objective analysis of Séralini’s study would conclude that long-term chronic toxicity and carcinogenicity studies are needed on all GM foods before they are commercialized.

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