Agriculture / Organic Farming, EDITORIAL
Does GMO Food Cause Stomach Inflammation?
By Shannara Johnson - May 01, 2015

GMO opponents have claimed for years that ubiquitous GMO produce such as corn and soy may have detrimental effects on our health. And in 2013, a group of researchers set out to prove it.

The peer-reviewed study, which was published in the Journal of Organic Systems, Volume 8, No. 1, showed remarkable and statistically significant results.

According to the briefing by Dr. Judy Carman, the researchers "took 168 just-weaned pigs and fed them a typical diet for the piggery, containing soy and corn, for 22.7 weeks (over five months) until the pigs were slaughtered at their usual slaughter age."

Half the pigs were fed GM soy and corn; the other half were fed non-GM soy and corn.

"We chose pigs because they have a similar digestive system to humans," wrote Carman, "and because some of the investigators had been observing reproductive and digestive problems in pigs fed GM crops."

A few days before the pigs were slaughtered, the scientists performed blood tests, and after slaughter had qualified vets do autopsies on the carcasses.

They found severe stomach inflammation in 22.2% of male pigs and 41.7% of female pigs fed the GM diet – compared to 5.6% and 18.9%, respectively, in pigs fed the non-GM diet.

Image source:

"Pigs on the GM diet," writes Carman, "were 2.6 times more likely to suffer severe stomach inflammation than control pigs. … [Male] pigs were actually more strongly affected. While female pigs were 2.2 times more likely to have severe stomach inflammation when on the GM diet, males were 4 times more likely. These findings are both biologically significant and statistically significant."

On top of that, the average weight of the uterus of female pigs fed the GM diet was 25% higher than in the control pigs.

But how much merit does this research have?

Calling the GMO study "junk science," a 2013 BIOtechNOW article sneered,

This study was authored by two veteran anti-biotech campaigners, Judy Carman and Howard Vlieger, and was published in an obscure online journal financed by the organic industry. It reaches conclusions that are diametrically opposed to the great preponderance of the scientific evidence gathered from hundreds of independent food and feed safety studies that found no difference between animals fed GMO or non-GMO diets.

The article cites comments from several experts on the GMO study. One of them is agronomist Andrew Kniss, Ph.D., of the University of Wyoming, who summarized his analysis saying: "If I were to have analyzed these data, using the statistical techniques that I was taught were appropriate for the type of data, I would have concluded there was no statistical difference in stomach inflammation between the pigs fed the two different diets. To analyze these data the way the authors did makes it seem like they're trying to find a difference where none really exist."

To which Dr. Judy Carman replied in a debunking blog post, "Andrew, you just failed kindergarten-level statistics," chiding Kniss for getting the science all wrong.

Another of the cited experts is Dr. Mark Hoofnagle, M.D/Ph.D. who, according to his Wikipedia page, is "an American surgery resident and blogger" – which makes me wonder what exactly qualifies him to analyze the GMO pig study on his Denialism blog:

Looking at the data there were no differences in any of the major variables evaluated by the study, such as weights, veterinary costs, illnesses, or mortality. No significant differences in blood biochemistry were found. At autopsy most organ weights were similar between groups. There was a statistically significant (but likely clinically-meaningless) increase (0.1kg vs 0.12kg) in uterus weights in the GM group. At pathology there were nonsignificant decreases in cardiac and liver abnormalities in the GM group (half as many), in stomach pathology there was one significant finding of more "severe inflammation" (on a 4-point scale from no inflammation to severe) in the GM group. This is the finding that has been amplified as variably "damning or "concerning" depending on which source is reporting.

So what is the truth here?

Frankly, I don't know. It's a shouting match between two warring factions, each purportedly refuting the claims of the other, but not really. Never really.

I encourage you to form your own opinion – simply because it would be a full-time job to undo the Gordian knot that is the GMO debate. Who's in bed with whom? Who is a truly independent researcher, and who is getting paid off by Monsanto's lobbyists or follows a preconceived anti-GMO agenda? Who is using shoddy science to make his case? Who is willing to twist the truth just enough to score another point for the "cause"?

It's a mess, no doubt. One thing is clear, though: Unless you start making everything you eat from scratch, there really is no escape from GMO corn and soy.

According to the Center for Food Safety, up to 93% of US corn and 94% of US soybeans are genetically engineered at this point.

Buying organic produce is not enough. Derivatives of corn are everywhere: corn syrup, dextrin, dextrose, citric acid, starch, MSG, sorbitol, malt, caramel, cellulose, and many more. Even distilled white vinegar, pudding, French fries, hamburger patties, vanilla extract, soup, mayonnaise, milk and vitamins may be made with corn.

So I guess it's eat up and shut up… but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

Shannara Johnson is a freelance writer and copy editor working for several renowned investment research firms. On the side, she writes novels and short stories for children and young adults. Read more personal and often politically incorrect musings on her blog, Grumpy German Writer.

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Posted in Agriculture / Organic Farming, EDITORIAL
  • Bruce C.
  • john cummins

    this, “It’s a mess, no doubt. One thing is clear, though: Unless you start making everything you eat from scratch, there really is no escape from GMO corn and soy.”, is the best quote and what I try to remind the anti-gmoers, its all in it already! What would work better, IMHO, is to drop any and all farm subsidies and return to the free market. The fact is the soy and corn people get huge subsidies, period and this is wrong. We end up with loads of product that the market would not allow for if it were not warped by government intervention.

    • Bob Coffey

      Ridiculous. I take only a modicum of pain to avoid GMO, and for that matter any nonorganic food. With the latter, it’s a little bit difficult when I eat out. With the former, I am 99% successful, out or in. And it will only get easier as more and more farmers, businesses, and citizens wake up. If I hadn’t started this pattern ages ago, the chances are in the reverse of those figures that I would be dead already. The alternatives are clear for future generations: organic or death.

  • Elizabeth Martin

    Just to note, you have the first stated results above REVERSED, with the male pigs affected at 22.2% and females at 41.7%, while then stating MALES are 4 times more affected, females 2.6 times more likely to be affected. Probably just a careless typist. The important point being that MANY studies have shown devastating effects on animals eating GMO diet, and many such studies being suppressed and/or rubbished in the media. ( I have noticed, personally, many people suffering stomach and intestinal pain after eating GMO products, including bacon. I personally experienced this from a York Peppermint Patty – I always eat organic, clean foods, but was tempted one day, bought the one of these though I knew, with the corn syrup, it was probably GMO. I ate a single bite, put the rest away, had no symptoms. The next day I ate the rest of it at one go, and within a few hours had stomach and intestinal pain. Fortunately it did not last too long, but I learned my lesson.) This is just the tip of the iceberg – GMOs ARE wreaking devastation on human, animal, plant and soil health. In India, GMOs are destroying the economic health of hundreds of thousands of farmers as well. ( ( I haven’t yet read the research on insects and birds………..) Cheers

  • dave jr

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this were the type of controversy that GM producers aren’t afraid of. Now, what caused the inflammation in the GM fed group? Was it the GM foodstuff or the chemicals the plant was designed to take up or be immune to? For the purpose of rebutting tests, the GM food could be grown in clean soil. Would that alter the test result?
    In what other industry is it OK to spray millions of gallons of poisonous chemicals, some of them neurotoxins, on the ground? On the very ground producing our food supply! Small organisms like insects die or are repelled. Large organisms like humans recover…for the most part. But then there is repeated exposure. Why doesn’t anyone talk about this?

    • Joelg

      Very good points. Might even be that the grains were processed differently and treated differently in the supply chain. Perhaps the GMO grains were in silos fumigated with pesticides; and those effects are being attributed to GMO in these studies. Whereas, logically non-GMO grains might be grown and stored with more organic measures. Indeed, non-GMO farmers and GMO farmers may be using different soil additives (fertilizers, etc.), which might be the real differences.

      At the very least, the researchers need to grow their own GMO and non-GMO grains themselves under conditions where everything else is identical. Then you could say that there was a difference between the grain varieties (GMO, non-GMO). Even among winter wheats or red spring wheats, not all varieties have the same composition. So you cannot have just generic grains pulled out of the supply chain and trumpet GMO vs non-GMO.

      Until someone can explain why, all these broad brush studies are just debating fodder. These disagreements about statistical rigor are par for the course in science. What usually happens is that the researchers get more funding, and repeat their studies with better statistical methods. If the results are real, then the critics get satisfied.

      • dave jr

        I’m glad you get what I’m trying to point out. And you add the variant of the additives being introduced further down the processing line, namely preservatives. Very good point. What good is organically and/or non-GMO food if it gets contaminated in the supply chain? Am I/You right? I have no idea. It just seems to me that man made (requires energy input) chemicals (typically not stable in nature) introduced into the food chain could be many orders of magnitude more dangerous than gene alterations that are accepted by nature (actually grows in soil)…the GMO. I am mind boggled by the seemingly false, distracted or off point arguments.

        • Joelg

          I think you are absolutely right. Non-GMO crops sprayed repeatedly with pesticides and grown on badly treated soils and then sprayed again with harsh chemicals in transit and storage do not sound appetizing. A GMO crop grown using organic methods with good soils and no additives or preservatives in the supply chain might then be the healthier choice. Would be an interesting experiment to conduct.

          My guess is non-GMO in these experiments is really just a proxy for growing conditions more closely approximating organic. Until researchers have supplies of GMO and non-GMO varieties grown under identical conditions (and not processed via the food supply chain) for experiments, we will never know what effects are due to GMO versus non-GMO.

          I think the whole point of Demonizing GMO is the same as climate change (really the stalking horse for a global carbon tax) and QE (Central Bank money printing). All further the case for Totalitarian Government and Ruling Politburos; supposedly without their benevolent regulation there will be Global Catastrophe and the human race cannot survive. The Save the Planet mantra.

          I doubt that Al Gore, whose family farm grew tobacco, or many of the other propagandists flying the Environmentalist banner really care that much about your stomach lining or lungs being irritated. Their Agenda is More Power for Themselves. Real Science is a process of discovering truth. But for the preachers of environmental propaganda: Science is just a Slogan for peddling Dogmas and implementing what the Power Elite wants. The USA favors a Global Totalitarian State, and climate change and GMO debates, like Central Banking and Color Revolutions around the world, are part of the Global Hegemony Toolbox. Which is not to say that there might not be GMO effects to avoid; but the debate has a toxic underlying agenda. It is like a Giant Trojan Horse full of arguments for More Government Bureaucracy, Higher Taxes (including a Central Bank inflation agenda to pay for it), and Regulations whose Totality is Absolute Strangulation Power over the economy and everyday life.

  • Patrick Perry

    What about the idea that Monsanto owns the patent on essentially the entire food chain? Anyone worried about that? Ask the farmers that can’t retain seeds for future planting but rather must buy new each year. Farmers in India comitting suicide from the despair over not being able to buy the seed to feed their families.

  • Impending Sky

    To answer the question posed in the title, it probably depends on the specific GMO product rather than a blanket problem with GMO foods. However, it does not mean that consumers should be forced to adopt any GMO product.

    Non-GMO products work just fine for me, so where is my incentive to try frankenfoods? I suspect most consumers will feel the same way. The incentives for GMO foods exist because of state favored monopolies. When we consider this, the issue has nothing to do with the results of the study. The issue is mega-corporations like Monsanto bypassing the market’s price discovery mechanism. All things being equal, if GMO foodstuffs provide a benefit to consumers, we will favor them.

  • PaulFrancis

    This is a very simple thing to do to maintain a healthy gastrointestinal tract. Drink one ounce of cold pressed aloe vera juice daily. This is a super healer and since our food supply is crap, this is a very potent way to fight back. If you can tolerate more than one ounce then go for it but larger amounts tend to be cathartic.

  • Me Again

    I have never understood why people think that something which has been genetically modified BUT still contains lysine, cytosine, guanine and adenine allbeit in a different sequence, could in any way harm a digestive system which had been purpose built over many millennia to digest those exact same nucleic acids in no particular sequence.
    It is simply not logical.

    • Pedestrian

      Disrupting the genome with foreign-species genes can lead to complex and unintended changes in the production of novel, toxic proteins, which are never looked for or tested for in industry research. Also, GMO crops are contaminated with their companion pesticides (e.g. glyphosate in RoundUp) which cause serious problems of their own. Please google work by Dr. Don Huber and Dr. Stephanie Seneff.

      • Joelg

        Found two quite interesting papers:

        Link1 []
        Herbicides do kill plants, and weeds being plants, is why they are used as a substitute for tillage, etc. Apparently, manganese, a vital trace element in enzymes, is disrupted to kill the plants/weeds without the gene for glyphosate herbicide resistance. That apparently has a bunch of other effects. An interesting report. What the report does not mention is that the weeds are acquiring the gene for herbicide resistance; so there will be new generations of GMOs that are different (better or worse, who knows?). But a thought-provoking report on a Huber talk to UK Parliament,

        Link 2 []
        A more technical article on trace metals such as magnesium and plant growth. Huber is co-author. This article makes the case that soil levels of magnesium are important. Does not mention GMOs, but the implication seems to be that changing the soil fertility via trace elements might negate glyphosate effects and produce healthier plants. Of course that means going to back tillage for weed control, as well paying attention to soil trace element used in enzymes. In other words, more organic growing methods instead of GMOs and herbicides.

        Seems that soil fertility may trump other factors (e.g. GMOs, herbicides) in creating healthier plants for consumption. Acres USA people are no doubt familiar with the Albrecht Papers, which make the case for soil health. It is really more about farming with nature (tillage & fertility) than the almost factory floor approach to farming with GMOs and herbicides.

        • Pedestrian

          Soil health is exactly the most important factor. So it’s back to the future for the most healthy, sustainable, and productive farming. Farmer Joel Salatin runs a 500 acre integrated organic farm and claims a productivity of $3,000 per acre vs the $1,000 of a conventional farm. To find out more, can google Salatin or his Polyface farm. The industrial approach is exactly the wrong way for agriculture. It may seem easier and more productive in the beginning, but the crops and land are poisoned by various chemicals, and the input being only N, P, K (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium), the soil will be drained of other critical trace elements required for life and health. Eventually the plants are only a “shadow of their former selves.” A conventionally grown apple today in the US contains only 1/10th the minerals and vitamins it did 50 years ago. We’d all be fooling ourselves that we ate already.

      • Me Again

        ‘Toxic proteins’ Care to be more specific?

        • Pedestrian

          Genes code for proteins. Not all proteins are harmless to humans. An example is snake venom, from Wikipedia: “Venoms contain more than 20 different compounds, mostly proteins and polypeptides.[3] A complex mixture of proteins, enzymes, and various other substances with toxic and lethal properties[2] serves to immobilize the prey animal … “.

    • or perhaps you don’t fully understand human biology, and are missing some knowledge of the situation that explains why it might be dangerous, and the rest of us don’t wan’t to be some mad scientist’s guinea pigs.

      • Me Again

        Or perhaps I have a better understanding than you.

        • this is not a pissing contest. I can fully acknowledge that you have more expertise then I do. However, can you acknowledge that you don’t fully understand human biology, and you might be missing something? Hmm?

  • FreeYourMindinSC

    Most scientific “studies” these days are bankrolled by someone with a vested interest in the outcome, usually a corporate leviathan such as a food or pharmaceutical corp. I wonder if we can trust any of them. It’s a new “knowledge problem,” I sometimes say. Of this we can be sure: there is a fact of the matter whether GMO foods carry with them long term harmful health effects. We can also be sure that GMOs will continue to spread since they are profitable. If we find out they do harm, it will be too late & there will be massive, well-financed denial.

    • Pedestrian

      If GMO crops are truly profitable there wouldn’t be tens of thousands of farmer suicides in India for the last decade or so. These poor folks were tricked/coerced into mortgaging their land to buy the GM seeds and companion pesticides, and when crops failed (due to different climate conditions such as less rainfall than GM crops require; they need more water) well, they drink the poison they bought for the crops. The tide is turning in the fight against this evil plot to plunder, control and murder mankind. People the world over are waking up. Join the annual March Against Monsanto, on May 23, 2015. Vermont’s law to label GMO in foods has just been found constitutional by a Federal court. With labeling, consumers can more easily reject GMO, and it is predicted that when a tipping point of 5% rejection is reached, the battle can be won. Go to Institute for Responsible Technology and see the strategy outlined by Jeffery Smith.

  • Pedestrian

    There is already a significant body of research and evidence that GMO crops are dangerous to health on the personal level, and dangerous to human survival on the population level. Please go to sites such as Dr. Mercola, or Natural News and search on the topic.

  • Alan Drobnak

    This article only serves the pro-GMO agenda. Less informed readers will close their mind to further investigative information and happily eat their GMO’s to an early demise. But, it is our free will to make wise choices for ourselves.