Are kids at greater risk?
If GE foods are harmful to people, they’d only be more so to kids, says Jeffrey Smith, author of Genetic Roulette. “Their smaller bodies and rapid development rates could make babies and kids even more susceptible to the health problems associated with GMOs,” he says. “And since kids tend to consume more processed foods containing ingredients that are likely to be genetically modified (like GE soy in infant formula, or GE corn in crackers or cereal), the dangers are compounded.”
There are other kid-specific issues experts are concerned about, too: the possible connection between GMOs and food allergies, and even attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism. “There’s this cluster of new health problems related to the autoimmune system in U.S. children where science has shown there may be a common trigger,” Benbrook says. “Children’s exposure to some of the novel proteins in GE foods may have played a role in making them more susceptible to allergies, and in addition, this suite of related autoimmune disorders.”
GMOs were introduced in the mid 1990s, and in the last ten years, Carine, the Columbus, Ohio, pediatrician, has seen a marked upshot in the number of babies who have difficulty tolerating breast milk due to the foods moms are eating. “I see the extreme colic or rashes more today in breastfed babies than formula-fed ones, and I suspect it may be that moms are unknowingly passing along harmful food molecules in their breast milk,” she says. Usually, moms see an improvement after cutting out cow’s milk (most dairy cows eat GM feed), corn, and soy. “I don’t know whether it’s the GMOs that are causing this, but I do know I’ve watched this trend grow at a disturbing rate.”
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and World Health Organization have jointly developed a series of protocol used by countries all over the world for evaluating the allergenic nature of GMO foods—but since the U.S. government maintains a stance that GE foods are safe, it has not used the guidelines or developed its own set.