GMO Soy and Breast Cancer

GMO Soy And Breast CancerBy: Dr. Michael Greger, Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States.

In response to concerns raised about the toxicity of Monsanto’s roundup pesticide, which ends up in GMO foods, Monsanto’s scientists countered that these in vitro experiments used physiological irrelevant concentrations, meaning dripping roundup on cells in a petri dish at levels far above what would be realistically found in the human body.

Sure, it’s probably not a good idea to mix up your alcohol with your roundup and chug the stuff, or try to commit suicide by drinking it, or injecting it into you. And the rare cases of Parkinson’s reported were after getting directly sprayed with the stuff, or working for years in a pesticide production plant, but that’s not your typical consumer exposure.

Some of the researchers responded to the accusation saying look, we used the kinds of concentrations that are used out in the fields. Therefore every little droplet you spray worldwide is above the threshold concentration we found caused adverse effects. Monsanto’s folks responded saying yes, that’s the concentration we spray, but that’s not the concentration that human cells are bathing in. Once it gets into drinking water or food, it’s highly diluted. And, they’re quick to point out, if you look at people with the greatest exposure—pesticide workers—the vast majority of studies show no link between the use of roundup and cancer or non-cancer diseases. There are a few suggestive findings suggesting a link with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. One study of pesticide applicators suggested an association with multiple myeloma, and one study of the children of pesticide applicators found a tentative association with ADHD, but again these are folks expected to a much greater exposure level the general population that may just get a few parts per million in their food. But there had never been any studies done on the tiny levels found circulating in people’s bodies, until now.

The maximum residue levels are set at parts per million. The concentrations found within human bodies is measured in parts per billion. This study found glyphosate can activate estrogen receptors at a few parts per trillion, increasing the growth of estrogen receptor positive human breast cancer cells in a petri dish. These results indicate that truly relevant concentrations of the pesticide found on GMO soybeans possesses estrogenic activity.

But consumption soy is associated with lower breast cancer risk, and improved breast cancer survival.

That may be because most GMO soy in the U.S. is fed to chickens, pigs, and cows—it’s used for livestock feed, whereas most of the major soy food manufacturers use non-GMO soy. Or it could be because the benefits of eating any kind of soy may far outweigh the risks, but why accept any risk at all when you can organic soy products, which by law exclude GMOs.

The bottomline is that there is no direct human data suggesting harm from eating GMOs, though in fairness such studies haven’t been done, which is exactly the point, critics counter. That’s why we need mandatory labeling on GMO products so that public health researchers can track whether GMOs are having any adverse effects.

It is important to put the GMO issue in perspective though. As I’ve shown, there are dietary and lifestyle changes we can make that could eliminate most heart disease, strokes, diabetes, and cancer. Millions of lives could be saved. A healthy enough diet can even reverse our #1 killer, heart disease. So I’m sympathetic to the biotech industry’s exasperation about GMO concerns when we still have people dropping dead from everything else they’re eating. As one review concluded “Consumption of genetically modified food entails risk of undesirable effects… similar to the consumption of traditional food. In other words, buying the non-GMO Twinkie isn’t doing our body much of a favor.

Michael Greger M.D.About Michael Greger M.D.
Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous “meat defamation” trial. Currently Dr. Greger proudly serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States.

Doctor’s Note

This is the final installment of a 4-part videos series on the latest science on the public health implications of genetically engineered crops in our food supply. Check out the first three here:

For more on soy and breast cancer, see Breast Cancer Survival and Soy and BRCA Breast Cancer Genes and Soy.

To put the GMO issue in perspective in terms of the death and disability resulting from the standard American diet, see Lifestyle Medicine: Treating the Causes of Disease and my live presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death and From Table to Able: Combating Disabling Diseases with Food.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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