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.

If You Eat or Drink Alfalfa YOU Need To Read This!

GMO Alfalfa & Breast CancerBy Ellen Kamhi PhD RN

Alfalfa an “endocrinological balancer” What makes Alfalfa so special for good health or for healing? Or not! GMOs can change the the plant.

What is it?  The genus is Medicago sativa and species name of the plant that is commonly known as Alfalfa. The plant resembles clover with its blue, pea like flowers and trifoliate leaves and in fact is a cousin to clover, being a member of the Leguminacea (now Fabaceae) family. The entire herb is harvested for medicine when the plant is in bloom. Alfalfa is grown for several purposes. It is used as a healthy forage crop for livestock, and is one of the main plants that are harvested for hay.  Farmers will often plant alfalfa in fields in between growing other food crops, since alfalfa is able to capture nitrogen and increase its level in the soil, which helps other crops grow. Alfalfa is grown in higher quantities than any other plant in the pea family. The United States leads in growing alfalfa, although it is also harvested in Argentina, Australia, South Africa, the Middle East and southern India.

Unfortunately, like many other crops in the U.S. genetically modified varieties of alfalfa have been developed. From 2005-2007 Monsanto released Roundup Ready Alfalfa, which allows growers to spray the pesticide glyphosate on alfalfa crops. This will kill all weeds, but allow the genetically modified alfalfa to grow. However, in May 2007, the California Northern District Court sent out an order prohibiting farmers from using Roundup Ready Alfalfa due to concern about the possibility of the genetic contamination of other plants. Monsanto claims that glyphosate is non toxic, but a study in Chemical Research in Toxicology (December 23, 2008) found that  “Glyphosate Formulations Induce Apoptosis and Necrosis in Human Umbilical, Embryonic, and Placental Cells.”

Most of the research on Alfalfa comes from the annals of agriculture, as farmers noted that if Alfalfa is the predominant hay crop consumed by their animals, it can disrupt their estrus cycle.  This prompted scientist to investigate its chemical constituents. It was soon discovered that Medicago contains an impressive array of isoflavones and coumestans, bioflavonoid compounds which are estrogenic in activity. These include diadzein, formononetin, genistein, lignans, and biochannin A. Also isolated were coumarins, which have a blood thinning effect.

Bill Mitchell, ND,  mentions in his book, PLANT MEDICINE IN PRACTICE, using the teachings of John Bastyr, that Dr. Bastyr considered Alfalfa an “endocrinological balancer”. Many studies on phytoestrogenic plants show a balancing effect on diseases of hyperestogenism (too much estrogen) and hypoestrogenism ( too little estrogen).

Because most of these plants do not contain real estrogens but instead contain isoflavones and related compounds, they do not directly affect blood estrogen levels. They work by binding to estrogen cell receptors, creating an effective intracellular signal as if the estrogen was present. They are considered much weaker signaling agents than the body’s “real’ estrogens, and are generally accepted to occupy receptors and shield the body from the much stronger estrogens through competitive antagonism. However, one research study by the USDA done in “test tubes” on a breast cancer cell line showed that phytoestrogens found in legumes, such as Kudzu root, red clover blossom and sprout, mung bean sprout, and alfalfa sprout extracts displayed increased cell proliferation effects above levels observed with estradiol. This idea that phytoestrogens are STRONGER than our native estradiol is a new one, and may put into question the role phytoestrogens would have in shielding the body against the negative effects of estradiol, in women with breast cancer . More study in human subjects is clearly needed.

Italian researchers in the journal Minerva Ginecologica used alfalfa along with the leaves of Salvia officinalis (sage) in the treatment of hot flushes in 30 menopausal women with these symptoms. Hot flushes and night sweating completely disappeared in 20 women: four women showed good improvement and the other six showed a reduction in symptoms based on affecting the pituitary and increasing prolactin levels, but not directly affecting estrogen levels. Another point about alfala; a few studies have shown that it contains L-Canavanine, an amino acid which can worsen symptoms in people suffering with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) Avoid alfalfa  in lupus.

For peri or post menopausal women who do not have lupus or any other auto-immune illness, alfalfa may help to balance estrogenic hormones at dose of about 12 grams(1200 mg) per day. Alfalfa may also lower cholesterol, especially when taken simultaneously with a high cholesterol meal, probably working through competition with cholesterol for uptake.

Alfalfa is commonly added to many ‘green food’ supplements, along with other greens such as spirulina and chlorella. It is also available as an easy to use liquid herbal extract.

Ellen KamhiEllen Kamhi PhD RN, The Natural Nurse®, can be heard on radio daily.  She is the author of several books, including The Natural Medicine Chest.  Dr. Kamhi has been involved in natural health care for over 4 decades. She answers consumer questions at  and has a private practice for individual consultation about the use of natural therapies.   800-829-0918

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