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What are You Feeding Your Baby? The Truth Behind GMOs in Formula

Gloved hands in a laboratory with test tubes and beakers. GMOs in formula

Have you given thought to baby formula and GMOs? Probably not. But, have you ever chuckled at the sight of a parent buying organic formula? You have to admit that the idea is worth a laugh. It may seem that the parent is in denial, assuming that standard formula. Or maybe it seems that the organic label has prettied up the repulsive formula, so that the parent doesn’t have to feel guilty about not breastfeeding. What do regular formula and GMOs have to do with one another? Plenty.

What’s in non-organic formula?

You and I probably agree that nothing is equivalent to breastfeeding. But if you’re laughing about a parent’s selection of organic formula, I encourage you to read Dr. Michelle Perro’s guest post on GMOInside. Dr. Perro, a pediatrician, gives a strong recommendation for breastfeeding, but notes that she “insists upon” organic formula for babies who are not being breastfed. Why?

As Dr. Perro explains, non-organic formula contains herbicides, products that are toxic to plants. One frequently-used herbicide, glyphosate (GLI-fo-sate), has toxic effects and is detrimental to infant development in two ways:

  1. Exposure to glyphosate impairs the baby’s immature liver function, changing important enzymes and immune function. Hence the amount of “friendly” bacteria in the baby’s gut decreases, which leaves the baby’s gut to be occupied with “enemy” bacteria.
  2. A baby’s liver does not mature until about 2 years old. Although she does not for a moment imply cause and effect, she does note that the pesticides in formula may be in some way related to an alarming increase in childhood disorders, including allergies, autoimmunity, and neurological disorders, including autism and ADHD.

Should we wait for logic and studies to “prove” such a relationship? Or should we just look right now at the labels for GMOs in formula and, feeling disgusted at the known contaminants, choose the best we can?

Check the labels

In my Comprehensive Lactation Course, I show real labels from real formula cans. In her article, Dr. Perro does the same. You should look at some for yourself.

The first two ingredients you’ll probably see in this staple of “baby nutrition” are corn syrup and sugar. Are you horrified? Did you think that in today’s world we would have moved beyond corn syrup and sugar as a source of “nutrition” for our babies? Are you outraged? Do you feel like the baby is being fed pecan pie filling without the pecans? That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Corn syrup and sugar are worse than you think. Both have a high degree of genetic modification. Allow me to explain what that means. The NonGMO Project defines genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) as “plants or animals that have been genetically engineered with DNA from bacteria, viruses or other plants and animals.” Eewwwww! Are you as repulsed as I am by the idea of genetically-engineered DNA from bacteria, viruses, or other plants and animals going into a newborn’s body? Of course you are. But GMOs in formula are exactly that.

Bans on GMOs around the world

As the NonGMO Project explains, “[m]ost developed nations do not consider GMOs to be safe. In more than 60 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production and sale of GMOs.”

Let’s think about this. We are allowing the youngest members of our society to be exposed to GMOs in formula from the day they are born. At the same time, we worry that we should not make mothers “feel guilty” for feeding their babies with formula.

Maybe we should feel guilty for ever letting this pesticide-laden stuff go into what is, for all too many babies, their sole source of nutrition. And I, for one, should stop laughing at the idea of organic formula.

Have you thought about the differences between non-organic and organic formulas? Were you aware about the GMOs in formula?

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  1. diana

    The posts you have here are incredibly incomplete, and biased towards breastfeeding. Why are you not talking about pesticides that are stored in adipose tissue which are then transferred into breastmilk while breastfeeding?

    The fact that you are only focusing on the negatives with formula, and not teaching people how to eat and what products to avoid in order to ensure their breastmilk is safe is aggravating. It shows a bias towards breastfeeding as though there is no way to harm a baby with it. DDT is passed through breastmilk- why are you only talking about the pesticides in formula? I’m disappointed.

    • Marie Biancuzzo

      Diana, thank you for some good insights there. You’re totally right. Many substances can be stored in adipose tissue. No doubt. But in answer to your questions/observation:
      (1) On being biased towards breastfeeding, I am guilty as charged! I’ve spent more than 40 years promoting breastfeeding. Yes, there are certainly some risks, but the recent and past science shows that the risks of formula outweigh the benefits of breastfeeding.
      (2) On being incomplete? I try hard to deliver what the title of my post promises. The title spoke to the GMOs in formula. Generally, I try to write a 700-word post that the average American can read in more or less 3 minutes. Hence, I’m intentionally “on point” with content being consistent with the title. You may see that as incomplete, but I see it as simply delivering what I promised to talk about, nothing more or different.

  2. Gwen

    the fear of GMOs is overexagerated to me. Not that I’m out here recommending formula, just a comment on this in general. I think it’s good for parents to be aware of the “organic” claims being not wholly true in both formula and everyday foods.

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