A delicate balance

GMOs represent a higher risk to children than to adults simply because children’s bodies develop at a fast pace and are more likely to be influenced by, and show the effects of genetically modified foods. They are also more susceptible to allergies, more likely to have problems with milk, have nutritional problems, and are more in danger from antibiotic resistant diseases.

Scientists testing GMOs tend to use young adolescent animals such as rats in their GM feeding studies. Studies with young adolescent rats have shown significant health damage after only 10 days, including damaged immune systems and digestive function, smaller brains, livers, and testicles, partial atrophy of the liver, and potentially pre-cancerous cell growth in the intestines.

Children are three to four times more likely to suffer allergies than are adults. Those at greatest risk are infants under two years of age, to new allergens encountered in the diet – even in the mother’s breast milk. Any baby food that contains GE ingredients could lead to a dramatic rise in allergies.

Dairy products from cows treated with commonly used GE growth hormone contain an increased amount of the hormone IGF-1. This is one of the highest risk factors associated with breast and prostate cancer. The hormones in cows could also promote the production of steroids and adrenaline-type stressor chemicals which are likely to contaminate milk and may be harmful, particularly to infants and young children.

The UK’s Royal Society’s report in 2002, stated that genetic modification could lead to unpredicted harmful changes in the nutritional state of foods. They recommended that potential health effects of GM foods be rigorously researched before being fed to pregnant or breast-feeding women, elderly people, those suffering from chronic disease, and babies.

Antibiotic resistant genes in GM food, poses a greater risk to children than the adult population as a whole.

Infants formulas may contain genetically engineered ingredients. This applies whether the formulas are based on soy or cows’ milk. The only way we can be sure of GMO-free formula is if the formula has an organic certification or other recognised certification for GMO-free.

Baby and toddler foods may also contain genetically modified ingredients.

Children are prime consumers of heavily processed and aggressively advertised junk food. As a result, they are at a greater risk of possible side effects of genetically engineered ingredients – usually corn syrup or lecithin.

What can we do to protect our babies and children?

The best way to limit our children’s consumption of food containing GMOs is to:

  • buy certified organic products;
  • check labels for soy, corn, and cottonseed-based additives – these are most likely to be genetically engineered;
  • buy a wide variety of fresh, wholefoods instead of highly processed foods.
  • buy from locally grown markets and community food systems where you can talk to the farmer;
  • prepare your family’s meals yourself so you know what they are eating.