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By Claire Robinson
A new clinical report issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) — the largest professional association of pediatricians in the U.S. — to provide guidance to clinicians in providing pediatric care addresses concerns raised by families about genetically modified (GM) foods.
It focuses on the risks of the herbicides sprayed on GM food and feed crops — especially glyphosate.
The AAP report authors, three eminent pediatricians, note that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen and may be an endocrine (hormone) disruptor in humans. They also point out the link between high urinary levels of glyphosate in pregnant women with an increased risk of premature births.
They add that other herbicides used on GM crops — dicamba and 2,4-D — are “possible” carcinogens, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
The authors mention the 2016 report from the National Academy of Sciences, which concluded that there was a lack of evidence of a difference in risk to human health between non-GM and GM crops.
However, the authors caution that “the report emphasized that there were no long-term, published epidemiologic studies directly assessing the potential health impact of genetically engineered food and associated herbicide exposure, so conclusions about health were largely made in the absence of available data.”
Given all these facts, the authors consider what advice pediatricians can give to families in a climate of public mistrust of GMO foods. They note that contrary to many people’s beliefs, the prevalence of GMOs in the food supply is restricted.
Even though GMO-containing food products are widely found in the food supply in the U.S., they originate from a relatively narrow list of 10 genetically engineered crops. Most U.S. products derived from these GMO crops are to be found in ultra-processed foods and animal feed.
Because of this, “The AAP urges transparency of information about food products to help families make informed decisions,” Dr. Jaclyn Lewis Albin, one of the report’s authors said in an AAP news release.
The authors state that exposure to GMOs can be greatly reduced by avoiding ingredients derived from corn and soybeans — in particular, those in processed food products, including those made with cornstarch, soybean-based oils and high-fructose corn syrup. They recommend a diet of primarily whole, plant-based foods while minimizing ultra-processed foods.
The AAP report also says:
“Schools and hospitals dedicated to the care of children can consider avoiding serving GMO foods to minimize glyphosate exposure when alternatives are available and affordable.”
According to the AAP report, going organic is a good approach where families can afford it:
“A major benefit of organic food is that it substantially reduces dietary exposure to pesticides. Studies show that consuming a primarily organic diet reduces the body’s pesticide burden by about 90%.”
GMWatch would add that families who are unable to go all or mostly organic could prioritize buying organic grains and grain-based products, such as wheat, oats, bread, breakfast cereals and biscuits.
This is because these grains are often “dried down” or desiccated shortly before harvest with glyphosate or other herbicide sprays, leading to especially high levels of herbicide residues in those crops.
Originally published by GMWatch.
Claire Robinson is an editor at GMWatch.