What’s making our children sick?

GM protest in Montpellier, 2015

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Is modern industrial food making our children sick? Quite possibly, says paediatrician MICHELLE PERRO and medical anthropologist VINCANNE ADAMS. In their new book, What’s Making Our Children Sick? they claim there's a strong link between GMO food and failing health

Of course, the causes of children’s disorders are many but food plays an enormous role. Consider the possibility that some of the food we are feeding our children is loaded with chemical ingredients that are impairing our kid’s guts. 

There is increasing concern about the health of our children among some parents, and our new book book explores the perfect storm we have created that may be the culprit. 

This storm is formed by a toxic mix of; 1) outdated medical models that struggle with chronic diseases and often overlook food; 2) an embattled scientific community, some of whom have obscured questions about the safety of GM foods and their associated pesticides; and 3) frustrated parents and children who are finding solutions by doing something so simple as changing their diet.  

Of course, the causes of children’s disorders are many. But food plays an enormous role.  Consider the possibility that some of the food we are feeding our children is loaded with chemical ingredients that are impairing our kid’s guts. 

Gut feeling

We’ve always known that guts - the intestines - play a huge role in maintaining health and causing disease.  They allow food to become nutrition and nutrition, we all know, provides the external source of the building blocks for life. More recently, we’ve learned that the collection of microbes that inhabit our gut, called the microbiome, have a lot to do with this process.  The microbiome may just be the evidentiary glue that connects the dots between GM foods and poor health.  

Rather than rehashing old and worn out debates about how GM foods create unknown proteins that may be harmful, or about how GM foods are not ‘natural', or even about harms to agriculture from weed and insect resistance, this book takes us in a new direction. 

We focus on the fact that GM foods, because they are designed to be resistant to the potent weed killer Roundup or to kill insect pests with Bt, come loaded with ingredients that were once thought to be harmless to humans but now may understood as being harmful to the microbes in our guts. 

Consider the fact that increases in use of one of these ingredients, the active ingredient in Roundup called glyphosate, has escalated over 300-fold from 1974 to 2014.  Keep in mind, there are non-agricultural uses for glyphosate including playgrounds, parks, schools and backyards where Roundup is used profusely.  

How GM foods affect human health

Now we start to get a sense of the crisis we are facing and the central claims of this book.  These are not the only GM foods to worry about, but they are the lion’s share of them, being ubiquitous in corn, canola, soy, sugar beets and other foods as well.  

What has often been missing in the stories about GM foods is how to find a clear pathway through the controversial sciences to answer questions about how these foods affect human health.  Those familiar with the world of GM food debates know that we have never actually tested these foods on humans and that they have slipped through most of the safety regulatory processes, especially in the USA. 

However, we do have a vast number of studies from animals that should raise alarm. Still, it is hard not to be confused. Anyone taking even a short journey to the science library on GM foods will be met with naysaying, with the notion that the scientific consensus has deemed these foods safe. 

Our book offers a balanced and careful introduction to the arguments on both sides, ultimately however weighing in on the side of the nonGMO advocates and nonGMO science.  

Another piece of the puzzle that we are able to bring to the story comes from the clinical world. Using an integrative approach to chronic disorders, and telling us about these by way of vivid patient cases, this book explains what is likely going on inside the body when it is overloaded with agrochemicals. 

A symbiotic approach

They introduce the notion of leaky gut - a state of increased intestinal permeability that can trigger abnormal immune system responses. The result: chronic inflammation often associated with many chronic disorders whether the symptoms show up on the skin, in the lungs, the digestive tract, or in the brain. 

Dysbiosis, the state of having an imbalance of healthy to unhealthy gut bacteria can also contribute to problems of leaky gut. Using scientific publications, this book helps readers make sense of how the agrochemicals used in GM foods may be triggering long-term, sub-acute assaults on the gut, and - as our title says - sick kids.  

In the final chapters, we call for a rethink of our medical and scientific consensus by suggesting a more symbiotic approach to human, plant and animal health. Ecomedicine  is a concept we could use to reorient our medicine toward the connections between healthy soil, healthy food, healthy guts and healthy kids. 

Organic is the way forward even if there remain many hurdles on the path to getting there - like making sure organic foods are actually healthy, making sure people have access to them and labels that distinguish between GM and nonGM foods and, finally, making sure that the scientists who work on producing the evidence base we need for this shift are both heard and supported.  

These Authors

Vincanne Adams and Michelle Perro are the authors of What's Making Our Children Sick?. You can join Michelle and Vincanne in London at an exclusive event on the evening of Thursday 24th May between 6.30-8.30pm. Tickets are free, but advance booking is essential. Click here for full details and to reserve your place. Beyond GM has put together a-page A4 pdf  Kids in the UK – A Picture of Health? which provides a UK perspective & stats on the issues the book raises. References and suggested reading for the leaflet can be found here.