Sunday, March 17, 2013

GMOs and Autism

     When I first found out that my favorite blog, TMR was going to allow guest bloggers, I was beside myself with excitement! Not only because I am also a fellow Thinking Mom and a writer with three books under my belt, but because I had the pleasure of meeting some of the TMR moms at Autism One in May, 2012. I loved these kindred spirits and fully supported their mission. I had the perfect topic in mind for the guest blog I wanted to write based on a documentary I am blessed to be featured in. The topic is GMOs and autism, and the documentary is called Genetic Roulette: The Gamble of Our Lives by Jeffrey Smith, international bestselling author of Seeds of Deception and worldwide GMO expert. See it here.

     Unfortunately, TMR’s Savage beat me to the punch and did a blog about GMOs in October, 2012. She did a fantastic job explaining some of the basics and the history of GMO, but I’ve realized that there is a bigger story to tell here, specifically how GMOs can contribute to autism. So, I’m going to share my experience and knowledge on the subject as well. GMOs are another piece of the puzzle.
     My son with regressive autism is now 15. Like most of you, I have done endless research over the years trying to figure out what caused and how to fix the damage done to my child who was born healthy. He has made huge improvements along the way after countless interventions. Removing GMOs from his diet was certainly one of the contributing factors to those gains. For those of you who don’t know what a GMO is, let’s start with a little background.
     GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism, also known interchangeably as GM (Genetically Modified) or GE (Genetically Engineered). Genetically Modified or “transgenic” crops are created in a laboratory, not by hybridization or cross-breeding techniques. There is nothing natural about it, hence the nickname “Frankenfood.” Genes are moved into a plant from other species (often bacteria and viruses) to obtain a desired trait. The majority of GE crops contain one of two genetically modified traits: an insecticidal toxin from the Bt bacterium/toxin (Bacillus thuringiensis), or resistance to an herbicide (Glyphosate, commonly known as Round-up), owned by Monsatano, I mean Monsanto. In plants modified with the Bt toxin, the plant produces its own pesticide, killing insects that eat it. Bt pesticide is meant to puncture holes into the guts of the bugs that eat it. In “Roundup Ready” plants, the GE plants can be sprayed with the herbicide Glyphosate, killing all the weeds around it, but not the GE plants.    
     GE crops are banned in 80 countries or require labeling; the U.S. and Canada are not among them. Prop 37, which was on the California ballot in November to label GMOs was mysteriously defeated, even though 90 percent of people want to know what’s in their food. That is another story. According to the Institute for Responsible Technology, the current breakdown of GE foods in the U.S. is: Soy (94%), Corn (88%), Sugar beets (95%), Canola (93%), Cottonseed (93%), Hawaiian papaya (more than 50%), Alfalfa (recently approved), Zucchini and Yellow Squash (small amount) and Tobacco (Quest brand). Basically, these crops and everything made from these crops (corn oil, soy lecithin, high fructose corn syrup, sugar that isn’t labeled “cane sugar”, tofu, etc.) that is not certified organic (can’t have genetically engineered ingredients) probably contains GMOs. Roughly 75% of all packaged foods contain GMO ingredients. Unless you eat at organic restaurants, most items at fast food and other restaurants contain GMO ingredients. 
     Other sources of GMOs include dairy products from cows injected with GE hormone, food additives, enzymes, flavorings, and processing agents, including the sweetener aspartame (NutraSweet®), and rennet used to make hard cheeses, meat, eggs, and dairy products from animals that have eaten GE feed, honey and bee pollen that may have GE sources of pollen. As you can see, they are everywhere. Until GMO labeling laws are passed, The Non-GMO project is an independent labeling organization that verifies and labels non-GMO products. You can find the verified list here

     So, what’s the big deal about GMO’s anyway? Why are they so bad? First of all, they were never tested for safety in animal or human feeding studies before they were snuck into the food supply. Only now, after being human guinea pigs for over a decade, are we seeing the effects in livestock and humans. Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food including infertility (the seeds are engineered to not reproduce, so new seeds have to be purchased every year, and mice fed GE soy all become infertile a few generations later), immune problems, changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, allergies, auto-immune disease, and most recently, tumors.

     The first long term feeding study done on rats that ate the same GM corn that we eat in the U.S. produced startling results. Up to 50% of males and 70% of females suffered premature death, rats fed GM corn and traces of Roundup suffered severe organ damage, including liver and kidney damage, and rats that drank trace amounts of Roundup (at levels legally found in the water supply) had a 200% to 300% increase in large tumors. These are the rats from the study. See the details here.

     I first found out about a possible link between autism and GMO in Dec. 2010, while putting together my third book, The Other Side of Autism, and immediately changed our eating habits (again), and threw out everything potentially containing GMO from our kitchen in one fell swoop. This did not leave much behind. I was a total food Nazi. It was out of love and concern, but it drastically changes the foods you can eat, even for those on restricted diets. I noticed improvements in both boys as well as myself. I noticed improvements in digestion, behavior, attention, moods, and headaches by removing GMOs.
     Fast forward to May 2012. I was going to the Autism One conference in Chicago, and found out that Jeffrey Smith was going to be giving a presentation called “Do Genetically Engineered Foods Promote Autism” and I couldn’t wait to hear what he had to say! I arrived a bit early to make sure I had the right room, and to my surprise, Mr. Smith himself was in the hallway, preparing his camera to record the presentation. I knew who he was because I had watched many of the talks he had done online about GMO and considered him a true pioneer and held him in very high regard. I summoned up the courage and introduced myself, thanked him for what he’s done and for making the connection to autism. I proceeded to tell him our GMO story and about my son with autism, and when I finished babbling, he asked me if I’d be willing to give my testimonial on video for an upcoming documentary he was finishing up. I told him that I would be honored, and after his fantastic presentation, I did my interview. It was the day after the TMR karaoke night, so I wasn’t really prepared to be in a documentary, but I’m the mom featured in the autism segment and in a few others as well. My red hair (at the time) is hard to miss. There is a picture of my son drinking his “Frankenformula” and a few other pictures of him as well. See Jeffrey Smith’s Autism One presentation here.
     What is the connection between GMOs and autism, you ask? There are many. The autism epidemic (regressive autism) exploded in the 1990’s. In 1994, rBGH (Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone), a Genetically Engineered growth hormone, began to be injected into cows to make them produce more milk. GE corn and soy were introduced in 1996. Have you read a label of infant formula? It not only contains milk derivatives which are genetically engineered, but also soy and corn derivatives. Regressive autism is 12 times more common in formula fed infants than breastfed infants. What happens when an infant ingests Bt toxin that is meant to create holes in the digestive tracts of insects? Leaky gut anyone? The cows are also fed GE corn and alfalfa.
     My son was formula fed, was colicky and wouldn’t tolerate it, so he was put on soy formula (soy is genetically engineered), then switched back to cow’s milk at age one (with GE bovine growth hormones). During later testing, he was allergic to milk, soy and corn. Nice. Then comes the Franken-finger foods: Cheerios, Goldfish crackers, etc., and all the juice boxes made with GMO ingredients (mostly high fructose corn syrup). It was everywhere, and we were blissfully unaware! Even if you breastfed, you were eating GMO, and as you’ll see from the study below, you weren’t safe either.   
     A recent study from the University of Sherbrooke, Canada has shown the presence of Bt toxin in the blood of 93 percent of pregnant women and in 80 percent of their unborn babies blood. The study has been accepted for publication in the peer reviewed journal Reproductive Toxicology. Promoters of GE crops have maintained that Bt toxin poses no danger to human health as the protein breaks down in the human gut. The presence of Bt toxin in maternal and fetal blood proves that this is untrue. The fact that Bt toxin flows through our blood supply, and that it passes through the placenta into fetuses, may help explain the rise in many disorders in the US since Bt crop varieties were first introduced, coincidentally around the same time the autism epidemic began.
     Additionally, because Bt toxin is transgenic, it can potentially transfer to the bacteria in our gut, thus creating Bt pesticide producing bacteria within the body. Your body now produces its own pesticide! If the rat pictures weren’t enough, that fact alone should make you clear out your kitchen cabinets as I did. GM corn is meant to produce its own pesticide. Corn is in everything, including body care and supplements. Many supplements which our kids take use soy and corn derivatives and some use GM microorganisms to produce their products. The Non-GMO project has a verified list of vitamins and supplements here.
     Glyphosate (Roundup) has its own dangers. It is patented as a microbiocide, meant to kill intestinal microorganisms. Cows are now dying of botulism because their beneficial gut bacteria have been altered by glyphosate. Is it possible that human gut flora is also being destroyed by GMOs and glyphosate? Gut dysbiosis anyone? Glyphosate is linked to a newly discovered fungal pathogen causing Sudden Death Syndrome in plants, as well as glyphosate resistant superweeds and superbugs, destroyed soil quality, and an 80-90% reduction of micronutrients in GE plants. It is carried by the wind and is in our air and water.     

     Additionally, a recent study published in April 2013 by Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff document the effects of glyphosate as a pathway to modern disease, including autism. Specifically, glyphosate inhibits the CYP enzymes, which detoxify xenobiotics. Glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of other food borne chemical residues and environmental toxins. There is a great video with Dr, Seneff and Jeffrey Smith including the new information regarding glyphosate and autism which can be seen here. There is also a two-part video with Dr. Samsel interviewed by the incredible Zen Honeycutt of Moms Across America that can be viewed here. The GMO/glyphosate link to "autism" is undeniable.
     It is imperative that our immune-compromised children eat a non-GMO diet. This is the biggest food issue to not only our children, but to life on this planet. How can they get well if they keep eating it? So, how do you avoid GMOs?
  • Buy organic. Certified organic products cannot intentionally include any GMO ingredients.
  • Look for the Non-GMO Project Seals. Visit: for more information on their third-party verification program. They independently verify per individual product, not for an entire brand.
  • Avoid risky ingredients: Avoid products made with ingredients that might be derived from GMOs. A complete list of Non-GMO products available can be found by visiting There are also apps available for the iPhone, free at the iTunes store.

Please, check out the award winning, PBS broadcast documentary Genetic Roulette for the whole story on GMO's. See the trailer here. You can also read more about my fascinating journey on how I first learned of the link between autism and GMO's (and other causes of autism) in my most recent book The Other Side of Autism by visiting
--XO, Laura Hirsch


  1. I now wonder if GMOs can also be linked to the rise of Clostridium difficile in the hospitals? C diff usually presents in elderly patients after massive antibiotic use, and makes a bad situation even worse. But, if the gut bacteria had been healthy to begin with, would C diff still be able to set itself up like this? I don't recall C diff being a problem in the 80s and early 90s.

    1. I wouldn't doubt it! My son had C diff. Not sure if it was from GMOs or antibiotics. Lots of kiddos with "autism" have or had C diff.

  2. Great article! You really explained GMOs so well. I am appalled at the state of our children's health but I am inspired by the Mom sand supporters who are courageously sharing and connecting with people around the world. THANK YOU for spreading the news!

    1. Hi Zen! I'm so embarrassed that I did not see that you responded. I did a different version of this blog for TMR and mentioned you in it. It was shared on the MAA FB page. I'm right there with you girl!

  3. Thank you for this. I took GMOs out of our diet a long time ago (along with gluten and processed foods), and am so sad that the GMO labeling measure on the ballot was recently (barely) defeated by Monsanto and their billions, but I am hopeful that the US will soon follow suit from other countries and ban these nasty things. If I worked at Monsanto, I would certainly be working day and night to find a way to grow things without GM ingredients as it seems to be that the world is figuring out how dangerous they are. Keep spreading the word!