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Carbonated Drinks

What are Carbonated Drinks?

Beverages that contain dissolved carbon dioxide. The dissolution of CO2 in a liquid, gives rise to fizz or effervescence. The process usually involves carbon dioxide under high pressure. When the pressure is removed, the carbon dioxide is released from the solution as small bubbles, which causes the solution to become effervescent, or fizzy.

These are also known as soft drinks, sparkling water, seltzer, cool drink, cold drink, fizzy drink, fizzy juice, lolly water, tonic, coke, soda, soda water, pop, or soda pop.


Carbonated water or soda water is water containing dissolved carbon dioxide gas, either artificially injected under pressure or occurring due to natural geological processes. Carbonation causes small bubbles to form, giving the water an effervescent quality. Common forms include sparkling natural mineral water, club soda, and commercially produced sparkling water (also known as ‘seltzer water’ in the U.S.).

Carbonation in carbonated drinks is Carbon Dioxide (CO2)!

Carbon dioxide is a colorless gas. In its solid form, it is used as dry ice. It can be found in spring water and is released when volcanoes erupt, trees are cut down, or fossil fuels and products made from them such as oil, gasoline, and natural gas are burned. It is used in refrigeration, carbonation of beverages, and production of fertilizers. Known as a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

Where does Carbon Dioxide hide?

Consumer products – dry ice, gasoline, and carbonated beverages such as soda and beer

Air – indoor and outdoor air, emitted by burning coal, oil, gasoline, and natural gas


Natural environment – when volcanoes erupt, or trees are cut down

Waste product made by the body – when you eat, move, and breathe you create carbon dioxide from internal cellular respiration

Why would you want to add more?

What happens to me when I get too much Carbon Dioxide?

This is what happens to the body when it is exposed to excessive amounts Carbon Dioxide in any form. Exposure occurs by consumption, inhalation, improper respiration, and absorption; the body is unable to remove the excess and toxicity occurs. Everyone is at risk for over exposure (toxicity).

Short-term Exposure to high carbon dioxide levels can cause –

  • Suffocation by displacement of air
  • Incapacitation and unconsciousness
  • Headaches/Migraines
  • Vertigo and double vision
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Tinnitus – ringing in ears
  • Seizures – uncontrolled muscle movements
  • Nerve disorders
  • Joint instability and/or pain
  • Depressed mood

Touching liquid carbon dioxide (dry ice) can cause: Frostbite or blisters

A common concern with carbonated beverages is the acidity levels and the risk of calcium and magnesium loss from bones due to a change in the body’s pH levels.  A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found no significant link between short-term consumption of carbonated beverages and urinary excretion of calcium, which is an indicator for calcium depletion. They say nothing about long-term consumption.


Long-term Exposure: Prolonged/continued exposure to carbon dioxide may cause –

  • Changes in bone calcium
  • Changes in body metabolism
  • Changes in body chemistry
  • Changes in joint stability
  • Changes in skin integrity
  • Changes in mental function

While plain carbonated water is a better choice than sugary beverages like soda, juice, or sweet tea, a small 2017 study revealed that plain carbonated water increased a hunger hormone called ghrelin in men. Essentially, when your ghrelin levels are high, you’ll feel hungrier and are likely to eat more, which can lead to weight gain.

Benefits of Sparkling Water – Dr. Axe

It’s also important to note that not all carbonated water is created equal. While carbonated water is just water plus air, some bottled seltzers and flavor enhancers contain sodium, natural and artificial acids, flavors, sweeteners, and other additives. Mineral and Soda water both provide:

  • Rich in Health-Promoting Minerals
  • Blood Sugar Management
  • Healthier Alternative to Soda
  • Help for Dyspepsia and Constipation
  • Calms Motion Sickness
  • Safer option than Tap Water

Dangers of Sparkling Water – Dr. Axe

Too much of anything is bad, Carbon Dioxide and Carbonic Acid included. Carbonated drinks in moderation won’t hurt anyone. Yet if you make this a daily, or multiple times a day, practice you will be consuming too much Carbon Dioxide, and many other chemicals if your drinking flavored carbonated drinks.

Researchers have found that the sensation we experience when we drink a carbonated beverage like sparkling water is due to a reaction that occurs inside our mouths that changes carbon dioxide bubbles into irritating carbonic acid. So that exhilarating “bite” of carbonation is actually chemical rather than physical.


Carbonic acid can begin to deteriorate joints, bones and teeth with continued consumption or exposure.

Carbonated water may increase irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) symptoms of bloating and gas, burning and excess acid due to the release of carbon dioxide in the digestive tract. Carbonated drinks can also be a trigger for constipation and/or diarrhea for some people with digestive health issues like IBS.

History of Carbonated Drinks

Another early type of soft drink was lemonade, made of water and lemon juice sweetened with honey, but without carbonated water. The Compagnie des Limonadiers of Paris was granted a monopoly for the sale of lemonade soft drinks in 1676. Vendors carried tanks of carbonated lemonade on their backs and dispensed cups of the soft drink to Parisians.

In the late 18th century, scientists made important progress in replicating naturally carbonated mineral waters. In 1767, Englishman Joseph Priestley first discovered a method of infusing water with carbon dioxide to make carbonated water when he suspended a bowl of distilled water above a beer vat at a local brewery in Leeds, England. His invention of carbonated water (also known as soda water) is the major and defining component of most soft drinks.

Thomas Henry, an apothecary from Manchester, was the first to sell artificial mineral water to the general public for medicinal purposes, beginning in the 1770s. His recipe for ‘Bewley’s Mephitic Julep’ consisted of 3 drachms of fossil alkali to a quart of water, and the manufacture had to ‘throw in streams of fixed air until all the alkaline taste is destroyed’.

It was not long before flavoring was combined with carbonated water. The earliest reference to carbonated ginger beer is in a Practical Treatise on Brewing. published in 1809. The drinking of either natural or artificial mineral water was considered at the time to be a healthy practice and was promoted by advocates of temperance. Pharmacists selling mineral waters began to add herbs and chemicals to unflavored mineral water. They used birch bark (see birch beer), dandelion, sarsaparilla, fruit extracts, and other substances. Flavorings were also added to improve the taste.


In America, soda fountains were initially more popular, and many Americans would frequent the soda fountain daily. Beginning in 1806, Yale University chemistry professor Benjamin Silliman sold soda waters in New Haven, Connecticut. He used a Nooth apparatus to produce his waters.

Businessmen in Philadelphia and New York City also began selling soda water in the early 19th century. In the 1830s, John Matthews of New York City and John Lippincott of Philadelphia began manufacturing soda fountains. Both men were successful and built large factories for fabricating fountains. Due to problems in the U.S. glass industry, bottled drinks remained a small portion of the market throughout much of the 19th century.

In the early 20th century, sales of bottled soda increased exponentially, and in the second half of the 20th century, canned soft drinks became an important share of the market.

During the 1920s, “Home-Paks” were invented. “Home-Paks” are the familiar six-pack cartons made from cardboard. Vending machines also began to appear in the 1920s. Since then, soft drink vending machines have become increasingly popular. Both hot and cold drinks are sold in these self-service machines throughout the world.

Per capita consumption of soda varies considerably around the world. As of 2014, the top consuming countries per capita were Argentina, the United States, Chile, and Mexico. Developed countries in Europe and elsewhere in the Americas had considerably lower consumption. Annual average consumption in the United States, at 153.5 liters, was about twice that in the United Kingdom (77.7) or Canada (85.3). From 2009 to 2014 consumption dropped over 4% per year in Greece, Romania, Portugal, and Croatia (putting these countries at betwen 34.7 and 51.0 liters per year). Over the same period, consumption grew over 20% per year in three countries, resulting in per-capita consumption of 19.1 liters in Cameroon, 43.9 liters in Georgia, and 10.0 liters in Vietnam.


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbonated_drink
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soft_drink
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbonated_water
  4. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/carbonated-water-good-or-bad
  5. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-carbonated-water-bad-for-you/
  6. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318602.php
  7. https://draxe.com/sparkling-water/
  8. https://toxtown.nlm.nih.gov/chemicals-and-contaminants/carbon-dioxide
  9. https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/carbon-dioxide-co2-in-blood/
  10. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/carbon-dioxide
  11. http://www.oocities.org/scientistconrad/Colgate_Erosion/Manuscripts/The_erosive_potential_of_flavoured_sparkling_water_drinks.pdf
  12. https://draxe.com/gerd-symptoms-causes-treatments/
  13. https://www.livestrong.com/article/367788-side-effects-of-carbonated-drinks/
  14. https://www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/health-and-nutrition-quackery/carbonated-water-bad-your-teeth
  15. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/science/science-says-seltzer
  16. https://www.prevention.com/food-nutrition/healthy-eating/a25574736/is-sparkling-water-bad-for-you/
  17. https://foodfacts.mercola.com/sparkling-water.html
  18. https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2017/is-carbonated-water-bad-for-health-fd.html
  19. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1365-2036.2010.04232.x
  20. https://www.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/japplphysiol.00653.2015
  21. https://www.researchgate.net/post/What_is_the_effect_of_consumption_of_carbonated_water_in_diabetic_patients2
  22. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130917093918.htm
  23. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/article-abstract/190291
  24. http://www.imedpub.com/proceedings/ghrelin-release-by-carbonated-beverages-the-detrimental-effects-of-soft-drinks-revisited-1187.html
  25. https://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/8k71nk41b
  26. https://www.stat.tamu.edu/~suhasini/CO2beverage.pdf
  27. https://www.livestrong.com/article/429453-the-effects-of-carbonated-drinks-on-a-persons-body/
  28. https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/is-carbonated-water-bad-for-you

Goat’s Rue

Goat’s Rue root (Galega officinalis)

Galega officinalis, commonly known as galega, goat’s-rue, French lilac, Italian fitch, or professor-weed, is an herbaceous plant in the Faboideae subfamily. It is native to the Middle East but has been naturalized in Europe and western Asia. The plant has been extensively cultivated as a forage crop, an ornamental, a bee plant, and as green manure.

OTHER NAMES: Faux-Indigo, French Honeysuckle, French Lilac, Galega, Galéga, Galéga Officinal, Galega bicolor, Galega officinalis, Galega patula, Galegae Officinalis Herba, Geissrautenkraut, Goat’s Rue Herb, Italian Fitch, Lavanegravese, Lilas d’Espagne, Lilas Français, Rue-de-Chegravevre, Rue des Chegravevres, Sainfoin d’Espagne.


By Epibase – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5396096

Chemical Composition

Although not thoroughly studied with 21st century methods, G. officinalis has been analyzed for its constituents, which include galegine, hydroxygalegine, several guanidine derivatives, such as 4-hydroxygalegine flavones, flavone glycosides, kaempferol, and quercetin. In addition to its purported effect to lower blood glucose levels and induce diuresis, goat’s rue was used as an herbal tonic in folk medicine practices of medieval Europe to treat bubonic plague, worms, and snake bites.


Goat’s rue is originally from the Middle East, but nowadays it grows all over Europe and Asia. This useful and diverse herb has been eagerly spread by humans, who have cultivated it as a fodder, green manure, honey plant, medicinal and ornamental. It was believed to increase the milk yield of domesticated animals, which is the origin of its scientific name: gale, ‘milk’ and ega ‘to bring, cause’ – so it is the milk-bringer. Since the Middle Ages goat’s rue has been used to treat diabetes as the guanidine it contains lowers blood sugar levels. Species have also been used in fishing: crushed stems are simply thrown into the water and the fish rendered unconscious by the poison are collected from the surface. In North America there has been a fear that goat’s rue will cross-breed and become a problematic alien, in much the same way that we in Finland have the same fears about garden lupine (Lupinus polyphyllos). Goat’s rue can mainly be found in Finland as a garden ornamental and only occasionally does it spread to the wild.

CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64087

Benefits of Galega

Goat’s rue has been employed as a vermifuge, to treat snakebites, and to aid in treating the plague. It was believed to have been used as a diuretic and tonic in typhoid conditions and also as a nervous system stimulant.

Culpepper suggested goat’s rue as a soak for tired feet and for cheese making. Hill’s Universal Herbal (1832) mentions the dried flowers of goat’s rue being added to boiling water as an infusion and then taken to induce sweating and aid in fevers. The plant is widely cultivated as cattle feed.


Goat’s rue is used along with conventional treatment for diabetes and as a diuretic. In combination with other herbs, it is used to stimulate the adrenal gland and pancreas; to protect the liver; for digestion problems; and to start the flow of breast milk. Some people use herbal combinations that include goat’s rue as a tonic and for “blood purification.”

Galactagogue: increases milk supply in mammals. Developing mammary tissue. Goat’s Rue stimulates the development of mammary tissue. It has even been used to increase breast size in non-lactating woman. It can even induce the growth of breast tissue in women who have had breast surgery, or plan on nursing an adopted child. Promote tissue growth in women whose breasts didn’t increase during pregnancy. Promotes rapid natural breast milk production as Goat’s Rue has galactagogue properties (promote milk flow). Facilitates breast let down, so that your body can release the milk. Helps to maintain breast health during nursing and lactation.

Antidiabetic: Lowers insulin and blood sugar levels, insulin-sensitizing. It has been used in diabetic patients to lower their blood sugar levels since the early 1900’s.

Diuretic: it promotes the production of urine.

Antibacterial: bactericidal properties.

Diaphoretic: inducing perspiration.

Anti-obesity. Protects the liver. Blood purification. Digestive problems.


Vermifuge: destroy or expel intestinal worms.


The appropriate dose of goat’s rue depends on several factors such as the user’s age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for goat’s rue. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

Goats Rue can be taken in a tablet form or as a tea. It is said that the fresh plant may be toxic, thus use only the dried form of the plant.

Goats Rue Tea. To make Goat’s Rue tea, use 1 teaspoon dried leaves in 1 cup of water. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Dosage: You can drink one cup of Goat Rue tea up to three times a day. Add other herbs such as alfalfa, fennel or fenugreek to your tea to further support milk production.

Goats Rue Capsules. The normal dose for Goat’s Rue capsules is 1 capsule 3 or 4 times per day. Goats Rue Capsules are available online (Amazon.com). Make sure to purchase your capsules from a trustworthy company. Most capsules come with directions and dosing on them, so follow instructions or consult your healthcare professional in case of doubt. Goats Rue is also found in some readymade teas and capsules made specifically for breastfeeding mothers.


Goats Rue Tincture. A tincture is a very strong herbal extract. It’s mostly made with alcohol, food grade glycerin, apple cider vinegar or honey. It’s said that making it with alcohol is the best option, as the ethanol in the alcohol helps to release the properties of the herb. Not to worry though, the amount of alcohol you will be getting in is not harmful to you or your baby. Dosage: Take half a teaspoon (20 to 40 drops) of Goat’s Rue tincture 2 to 3 times a day. It can be taken in water, juice or directly under your tongue.

By Buendia22 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=72027189

Relation to Metformin

G. officinalis is rich in guanidine, a substance with blood glucose-lowering activity at the foundation for discovering metformin, a treatment for managing symptoms of diabetes mellitus. In ancient herbalism, goat’s-rue was used as a diuretic. It can be poisonous to mammals but is a food for various insects.

Once used in traditional medicine over centuries, G. officinalis is at the foundation of the biguanide class of antidiabetic drugs, which also included phenformin and buformin (both discontinued).

G. officinalis contains the phytochemicals, galegine and guanidine, both of which decrease blood sugar, but were discovered to cause adverse effects in human studies. The study of galegine and related molecules in the first half of the 20th century led to development of oral antidiabetic drugs. Research on other compounds related to guanidine, including biguanide, led ultimately to the discovery of metformin (trade name, Glucophage), used in the 21st century for management of diabetes by decreasing liver glucose production and increasing insulin sensitivity of body tissues.

Side Effects & Precautions

Do not use the fresh Goat’s Rue plant as it is considered toxic. Always use dried materials when preparing tinctures or teas.

There isn’t enough information to know whether goat’s rue is safe. No harmful effects have been reported in humans, but fatal poisoning has occurred in grazing animals that ate large quantities of goat’s rue.


Goat’s-rue may interfere with prescribed diabetes drugs, iron absorption, and anticoagulants. It may cause headache or muscular weakness, and its safety during pregnancy or breastfeeding is unknown.

Allergies: If you are allergic to peanuts, soybean, alfalfa or fenugreek allergic reactions may occur as Goat’s Rue is a member of the same family of plants.

Bleeding conditions: Goat’s rue might slow blood clotting and increase the risk of bleeding. In theory, goat’s rue might make bleeding disorders worse.

Diabetes: Goat’s rue might lower blood sugar levels in some people. Watch for signs of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and monitor your blood sugar carefully if you have diabetes and use goat’s rue.

Surgery: Goat’s rue might affect blood sugar levels. There is concern that it might interfere with blood sugar control during and after surgery. Stop using goat’s rue at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs) interacts with GOAT’S RUE

Goat’s rue might decrease blood sugar. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking goat’s rue along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.<br /> Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.


Goats Rue Tincture. Goats Rue tincture can be used to increase milk supply and make your milk richer and creamier as well as more nutritious.

Ingredients: Goat’s Rue, Red Raspberry leaf, Blessed Thistle, Fenugreek, Marshmallow Root, Fennel, Vodka or Everclear.

Method: Put half a cup of each of the herbs in a glass jar. Add only ¼ cup fennel and a small amount of water (enough to wet the herbs). Add vodka. 50% herb 50% alcohol ratio. Shake well and store in a cool, dry place for 2 to 6 weeks. Make sure to shake the mixture every few days.

The Goat’s Rue Tincture can be used from week 2, but the longer it sits, the more concentrated the tincture will get, as the vodka needs to let the herb release all its valuable properties.

When you want to use the tincture, separate or strain the herbs from the liquid and pour into dropper bottles.

Dosage: Take half a teaspoon (20 to 40 drops) of Goat’s Rue tincture 2 to 3 times a day. It can be taken in water, juice or directly under your tongue.


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galega_officinalis
  2. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-160/goats-rue
  3. https://www.drugs.com/npp/goat-s-rue.html
  4. https://www.breastfeeding-problems.com/goats-rue-and-breastfeeding.html
  5. https://doi.org/10.1172%2FJCI14178
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2606813
  7. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/pdi.606/full
  8. http://www.invasive.org/eastern/other/Galega.html
  9. https://www.nps.org.au/australian-prescriber/articles/metformin-myths-misunderstandings-and-lessons-from-history
  10. https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxonomydetail.aspx?id=70971
  11. https://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/r/ruegoa21.html
  12. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/galega-officinalis
  13. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-642-74448-8_16
  14. http://www.luontoportti.com/suomi/en/kukkakasvit/goat-s-rue
  15. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/222239853_Anti-bacterial_activity_of_Galega_officinalis_L_Goat’s_Rue
  16. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00288233.2004.9513591
  17. https://www.unboundmedicine.com/medline/citation/13909257/[Isolation_of_peganine_from_goat’s_rue_Galega_officinalis_L]_
  18. https://www.reddit.com/r/Herblore/comments/36629j/goats_rue_galega_officinalis_medicinal/
  19. http://jb.asm.org/content/171/10/5561.full.pdf
  20. https://www.jstor.org/stable/42952629?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
  21. https://nzpps.org/nzpp_abstract.php?paper=651920
  22. https://www.womenfitness.net/herbal-management-diabetes/
  23. https://graz.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/alleviation-of-salt-stress-of-symbiotic-galega-officinalis-l-goat
  24. https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Alleviation-of-salt-stress-of-symbiotic-Galega-L.-Egamberdieva-Berg/9d15a5320da81b4d919d303c7f1d4c82f25d53a4

CBD for Pets


These easy to administer sprays and drops will promote daily health and wellness in your pets. These products can be used as a dietary supplement and do not interact with medications.


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GENERAL HELP: Helps to manage mood and anxiety.

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Support for dogs stable mood

“Our fur babies: Hooka and Sheesha can be very hyperactive dogs, yet when we leave the house they can become moody, agitated and distressed. We found by giving them each a few drops of CBD before we leave the house, they maintain a normal mood, and overall sense of well-being. Upon arriving home, they are more calm, and we don’t have too many messes and torn up toys to clean up. CBD has given us a sense of ease for leaving our fur babies at home. CBD for pets, because they have feelings too!” – Lesly Preiser


Avoiding GMOs


Why We Can’t Avoid Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

Whether we like it or not, we cannot avoid genetically modified foods. We have been eating them for centuries. From the first selectively bred herbs for medicines thousands of years ago or the corn crops we have enhanced since Egyptian times. Genetically modified foods are unavoidable. Look at ‘organic’ food crops. Where did those big and juicy apples or oranges come from? Apples were the size of cherries when nature evolved them. We turned them into the Washington giants we see today.

What about animal foods? Well consider what cows used to look like, about 10,000 years ago. We know that the ancient aurochs common in Asia and Europe are the original ancestors of all cattle today. We captured them like we did wolves (15,000 years ago) and started artificial selective breeding. Don’t forget oxen, asses, water buffalo, horses, goats, llamas, sheep, pigs, chicken, camels, cats, silk moths, rabbits, pigeons, pheasant, elephants, turkey, honey bees, trout and salmon. All have been selectively bred for better food quality, faster growth rates, specific colorations, desirable physical attributes (ex – long tail/short ears) and/or more docility or controllability in the last 10,000 years.


Comparing Classical Breeding and Crop Breeding Through Genetic Engineering

Crops produced through genetic engineering are sometimes referred to as genetically modified organisms. The term genetic modification, and so-called genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is frequently misused. All types (organic, conventional) of agriculture modify the genes of plants so that they will have desirable traits. The difference is that traditional forms of breeding change the plant’s genetics indirectly by selecting plants with specific traits, while genetic engineering changes the traits by making changes directly to the DNA. In traditional breeding, crosses are made in a relatively uncontrolled manner. The breeder chooses the parents to cross, but at the genetic level, the results are unpredictable. DNA from the parents recombines randomly. In contrast, genetic engineering permits highly targeted transfer of genes, quick and efficient tracking of genes in new varieties, and ultimately increased efficiency in developing new crop varieties with new and desirable traits.

GMOs Are Not New

To date, scientists have engineered bacteria that produce medication-grade drugs, crops with built-in pesticides, and beagles that glow in the dark. While these are all relatively recent advances in scientific technology, humans have been altering the genetics of organisms for over 30,000 years. How did the original practice of selective breeding evolve into the concept of genetically modified organisms, as we know it today? Innovators, motivated by some of the world’s most critical problems, have paved the way for GMOs — a path that leads to an unimaginable array of benefits, but also raises extremely important questions.

While our ancestors had no concept of genetics, they were still able to influence the DNA of other organisms by a process called “selective breeding” or “artificial selection.” These terms, coined by Charles Darwin, describe the process of choosing the organisms with the most desired traits and mating them with the intention of combining and propagating these traits through their offspring. Repeated use of this practice over many generations can result in dramatic genetic changes to a species. While artificial selection is not what we typically consider GMO technology today, it is still the precursor to the modern processes and the earliest example of our species influencing genetics.

Artificial selection has also been utilized with a variety of plants. The earliest evidence of artificial selection of plants dates back to 7800 BCE in archaeological sites found in southwest Asia, where scientists have found domestic varieties of wheat. However, one of the most dramatic and prevalent alterations in plant genetics has occurred through artificial selection of corn. Corn, or maize, began as a wild grass called teosinte that had tiny ears with very few kernels. Over the hundreds of years, teosinte was selectively bred to have larger and larger ears with more and more kernels, resulting in what we now know as corn.  A similar process has given us large heads of broccoli, bananas with nearly unnoticeable seeds, and apples that are sweet and juicy.


Why are GM foods produced?

GM foods are developed – and marketed – because there is some perceived advantage either to the producer or consumer of these foods. This is meant to translate into a product with a lower price, greater benefit (in terms of durability or nutritional value) or both. Initially GM seed developers wanted their products to be accepted by producers and have concentrated on innovations that bring direct benefit to farmers (and the food industry generally).

One of the objectives for developing plants based on GM organisms is to improve crop protection. The GM crops currently on the market are mainly aimed at an increased level of crop protection through the introduction of resistance against plant diseases caused by insects or viruses or through increased tolerance towards herbicides.

Resistance against insects is achieved by incorporating into the food plant the gene for toxin production from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). This toxin is currently used as a conventional insecticide in agriculture and is safe for human consumption. GM crops that inherently produce this toxin have been shown to require lower quantities of insecticides in specific situations, e.g. where pest pressure is high. Virus resistance is achieved through the introduction of a gene from certain viruses which cause disease in plants. Virus resistance makes plants less susceptible to diseases caused by such viruses, resulting in higher crop yields.

Herbicide tolerance is achieved through the introduction of a gene from a bacterium conveying resistance to some herbicides. In situations where weed pressure is high, the use of such crops has resulted in a reduction in the quantity of the herbicides used.

What Are Genetically Modified Foods?

Genetically modified foods, GM foods or genetically engineered foods, are foods produced from organisms that have had changes introduced into their DNA using the methods of genetic engineering as opposed to traditional cross breeding. In the U.S., the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) favor the use of “genetic engineering” over “genetic modification” as the more precise term; the USDA defines genetic modification to include “genetic engineering or other more traditional methods.”

According to the World Health Organization, “Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be defined as organisms (i.e. plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination. The technology is often called ‘modern biotechnology’ or ‘gene technology’, sometimes also ‘recombinant DNA technology’ or ‘genetic engineering’. … Foods produced from or using GM organisms are often referred to as GM foods.”

The first genetically modified plant was produced in 1983, using an antibiotic-resistant tobacco plant. Genetically modified microbial enzymes were the first application of genetically modified organisms in food production and were approved in 1988 by the US Food and Drug Administration. In the early 1990s, recombinant chymosin was approved for use in several countries. Cheese had typically been made using the enzyme complex rennet that had been extracted from cows’ stomach lining. Scientists modified bacteria to produce chymosin, which was also able to clot milk, resulting in cheese curds.


Corn used for food and ethanol has been genetically modified to tolerate various herbicides and to express a protein from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that kills certain insects. About 90% of the corn grown in the US was genetically modified in 2010. In the US in 2015, 81% of corn acreage contained the Bt trait and 89% of corn acreage contained the glyphosate-tolerant trait. Corn can be processed into grits, meal and flour as an ingredient in pancakes, muffins, doughnuts, breadings and batters, as well as baby foods, meat products, cereals and some fermented products. Corn-based masa flour and masa dough are used in the production of taco shells, corn chips and tortillas.

Genetically modified soybean has been modified to tolerate herbicides and produce healthier oils. In 2015, 94% of soybean acreage in the U.S. was genetically modified to be glyphosate-tolerant.

As of December 2017, genetically modified wheat has been evaluated in field trials, but has not been released commercially.

The US imports 10% of its sugar, while the remaining 90% is extracted from sugar beet and sugarcane. After deregulation in 2005, glyphosate-resistant sugar beet was extensively adopted in the United States. 95% of beet acres in the US were planted with glyphosate-resistant seed in 2011. GM sugar beets are approved for cultivation in the US, Canada and Japan; the vast majority are grown in the US. GM beets are approved for import and consumption in Australia, Canada, Colombia, EU, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, the Russian Federation and Singapore. Pulp from the refining process is used as animal feed. The sugar produced from GM sugar beets contains no DNA or protein – it is just sucrose that is chemically indistinguishable from sugar produced from non-GM sugar beets. Independent analyses conducted by internationally recognized laboratories found that sugar from Roundup Ready sugar beets is identical to the sugar from comparably grown conventional (non-Roundup Ready) sugar beets.

Most vegetable oil used in the US is produced from GM crops canola, corn, cotton and soybeans. Vegetable oil is sold directly to consumers as cooking oil, shortening and margarine and is used in prepared foods. There is a vanishingly small amount of protein or DNA from the original crop in vegetable oil. Vegetable oil is made of triglycerides extracted from plants or seeds and then refined and may be further processed via hydrogenation to turn liquid oils into solids. The refining process removes all, or nearly all non-triglyceride ingredients. Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) offer an alternative to conventional fats and oils. The length of a fatty acid influences its fat absorption during the digestive process. Fatty acids in the middle position on the glycerol molecules appear to be absorbed more easily and influence metabolism more than fatty acids on the end positions. Unlike ordinary fats, MCTs are metabolized like carbohydrates. They have exceptional oxidative stability, and prevent foods from turning rancid readily.


Livestock and poultry are raised on animal feed, much of which is composed of the leftovers from processing crops, including GM crops. For example, approximately 43% of a canola seed is oil. What remains after oil extraction is a meal that becomes an ingredient in animal feed and contains canola protein. Likewise, the bulk of the soybean crop is grown for oil and meal. The high-protein defatted and toasted soy meal becomes livestock feed and dog food. 98% of the US soybean crop goes for livestock feed. In 2011, 49% of the US maize harvest was used for livestock feed (including the percentage of waste from distillers grains). “Despite methods that are becoming more and more sensitive, tests have not yet been able to establish a difference in the meat, milk, or eggs of animals depending on the type of feed they are fed. It is impossible to tell if an animal was fed GM soy just by looking at the resulting meat, dairy, or egg products. The only way to verify the presence of GMOs in animal feed is to analyze the origin of the feed itself.”

Genetically modified livestock are organisms from the group of cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, birds, horses and fish kept for human consumption, whose genetic material (DNA) has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. In some cases, the aim is to introduce a new trait to the animals which does not occur naturally in the species, i.e. transgenesis.

A 2003 review published on behalf of Food Standards Australia New Zealand examined transgenic experimentation on terrestrial livestock species as well as aquatic species such as fish and shellfish. The review examined the molecular techniques used for experimentation as well as techniques for tracing the transgenes in animals and products as well as issues regarding transgene stability.

What are the main issues of concern for human health?

While theoretical discussions have covered a broad range of aspects, the three main issues debated are the potentials to provoke allergic reaction (allergenicity), gene transfer and outcrossing.

Allergenicity: As a matter of principle, the transfer of genes from commonly allergenic organisms to non-allergic organisms is discouraged unless it can be demonstrated that the protein product of the transferred gene is not allergenic. While foods developed using traditional breeding methods are not generally tested for allergenicity, protocols for the testing of GM foods have been evaluated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and WHO. No allergic effects have been found relative to GM foods currently on the market.

Gene transfer: Gene transfer from GM foods to cells of the body or to bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract would cause concern if the transferred genetic material adversely affects human health. This would be particularly relevant if antibiotic resistance genes, used as markers when creating GMOs, were to be transferred. Although the probability of transfer is low, the use of gene transfer technology that does not involve antibiotic resistance genes is encouraged.


Outcrossing: The migration of genes from GM plants into conventional crops or related species in the wild (referred to as “outcrossing”), as well as the mixing of crops derived from conventional seeds with GM crops, may have an indirect effect on food safety and food security. Cases have been reported where GM crops approved for animal feed or industrial use were detected at low levels in the products intended for human consumption. Several countries have adopted strategies to reduce mixing, including a clear separation of the fields within which GM crops and conventional crops are grown.

Are They Safe for Consumption?

The genetically modified foods controversy consists of a set of disputes over the use of food made from genetically modified crops. The disputes involve consumers, farmers, biotechnology companies, governmental regulators, non-governmental organizations, environmental and political activists and scientists. The major disagreements include whether GM foods can be safely consumed, harm the environment and/or are adequately tested and regulated. The objectivity of scientific research and publications has been challenged. Farming-related disputes include the use and impact of pesticides, seed production and use, side effects on non-GMO crops/farms, and potential control of the GM food supply by seed companies.

There is a scientific consensus that currently available food derived from GM crops poses no greater risk to human health than conventional food, but that each GM food needs to be tested on a case-by-case basis before introduction. Nonetheless, members of the public are much less likely than scientists to perceive GM foods as safe. The legal and regulatory status of GM foods varies by country, with some nations banning or restricting them, and others permitting them with widely differing degrees of regulation.

GM foods currently available on the international market have passed safety assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health. In addition, no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved. Continuous application of safety assessments based on the Codex Alimentarius principles and, where appropriate, adequate post market monitoring, should form the basis for ensuring the safety of GM foods.

A 2011 analysis by Diels et al., reviewed 94 peer-reviewed studies pertaining to GMO safety to assess whether conflicts of interest correlated with outcomes that cast GMOs in a favorable light. They found that financial conflict of interest was not associated with study outcome (p = 0.631) while author affiliation to industry (i.e., a professional conflict of interest) was strongly associated with study outcome (p < 0.001). Of the 94 studies that were analyzed, 52% did not declare funding. 10% of the studies were categorized as “undetermined” with regard to professional conflict of interest. Of the 43 studies with financial or professional conflicts of interest, 28 studies were compositional studies. According to Marc Brazeau, an association between professional conflict of interest and positive study outcomes can be skewed because companies typically contract with independent researchers to perform follow-up studies only after in-house research uncovers favorable results. In-house research that uncovers negative or unfavorable results for a novel GMO is generally not further pursued.

A 2013 review, of 1,783 papers on genetically modified crops and food published between 2002 and 2012 found no plausible evidence of dangers from the use of then marketed GM crops. Biofortified, an independent nonprofit organization devoted to providing factual information and fostering discussion about agriculture, especially plant genetics and genetic engineering, planned to add the studies found by the Italian group to its database of studies about GM crops, GENERA.

In a 2014 review, Zdziarski et al. examined 21 published studies of the histopathology of GI tracts of rats that were fed diets derived from GM crops and identified some systemic flaws in this area of the scientific literature. Most studies were performed years after the approval of the crop for human consumption. Papers were often imprecise in their descriptions of the histological results and the selection of study endpoints and lacked necessary details about methods and results. The authors called for the development of better study guidelines for determining the long-term safety of eating GM foods.

A 2016 study by the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concluded that GM foods are safe for human consumption and they could find no conclusive evidence that they harm the environment nor wildlife. They analyzed over 1.000 studies over the previous 30 years that GM crops have been available, reviewed 700 written presentations submitted by interested bodies and heard 80 witnesses. They concluded that GM crops had given farmers economic advantages but found no evidence that GM crops had increased yields. They also noted that weed resistance to GM crops could cause major agricultural problems but this could be addressed by better farming procedures.

Substantially Equivalent?

Regulators check that GM foods are “substantially equivalent” to their conventional counterparts, to detect any negative unintended consequences. New protein(s) that differ from conventional food proteins or anomalies that arise in the substantial equivalence comparison require further toxicological analysis.

In 1999, Andrew Chesson of the Rowett Research Institute warned that substantial equivalence testing “could be flawed in some cases” and that current safety tests could allow harmful substances to enter the human food supply. The same year Millstone, Brunner and Mayer argued that the standard was a pseudo-scientific product of politics and lobbying that was created to reassure consumers and aid biotechnology companies to reduce the time and cost of safety testing. They suggested that GM foods have extensive biological, toxicological and immunological tests and that substantial equivalence should be abandoned.

Kuiper examined this process further in 2002, finding that substantial equivalence does not measure absolute risks, but instead identifies differences between new and existing products. He claimed that characterizing differences is properly a starting point for a safety assessment and “the concept of substantial equivalence is an adequate tool in order to identify safety issues related to genetically modified products that have a traditional counterpart”. Kuiper noted practical difficulties in applying this standard, including the fact that traditional foods contain many toxic or carcinogenic chemicals and that existing diets were never proven to be safe. This lack of knowledge on conventional food means that modified foods may differ in anti-nutrients and natural toxins that have never been identified in the original plant, possibly allowing harmful changes to be missed. In turn, positive modifications may also be missed. For example, corn damaged by insects often contains high levels of fumonisins, carcinogenic toxins made by fungi that travel on insects’ backs and that grow in the wounds of damaged corn. Studies show that most Bt corn has lower levels of fumonisins than conventional insect-damaged corn.

Human Studies

While some groups and individuals have called for more human testing of GM food, multiple obstacles complicate such studies. The General Accounting Office (in a review of FDA procedures requested by Congress) and a working group of the Food and Agricultural and World Health organizations both said that long-term human studies of the effect of GM food are not feasible. The reasons included lack of a plausible hypothesis to test, lack of knowledge about the potential long-term effects of conventional foods, variability in the ways humans react to foods and that epidemiological studies were unlikely to differentiate modified from conventional foods, which come with their own suite of unhealthy characteristics.

Additionally, ethical concerns guide human subject research. These mandate that each tested intervention must have a potential benefit for the human subjects, such as treatment for a disease or nutritional benefit (ruling out, e.g., human toxicity testing). Kimber claimed that the “ethical and technical constraints of conducting human trials, and the necessity of doing so, is a subject that requires considerable attention.” Food with nutritional benefits may escape this objection. E.g., GM rice has been tested for nutritional benefits, namely, increased levels of Vitamin A.


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