Are GMOs Linked to Gluten Sensitivity?

While the World Health Organization claims that genetically modified (GM) foods on the international market are safe, 64 countries have either placed a ban on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or require mandatory labeling.

Research shows that GM corn increases the risk of tumor development, as well as liver and kidney toxicity.

The United States is not one of these countries.

In the US, GMO foods are sold unmarked and unlabeled. Indeed, the American Medical Association sees “no scientific justification for special labeling of bioengineered foods,” although the organization does favor stricter testing before GM foods make it to market shelves.

Still, consumers want to know what is in their food. At the Institute for Responsible Technology, Jeffery Smith recently published a paper about how genetically modified food contributes to the development of gluten sensitivity. Jeffery Smith is the author of the international bestsellers Seeds of Deception and Genetic Roulette, where he lays out the relationship between common health disorders and GM food.

In his paper Could Genetically Engineered Foods Explain the Exploding Gluten Sensitivity?, Smith refers to compelling research that links gluten sensitivity to GM foods. He argues that with a consistent rise in gastrointestinal disorders, allergies, and autoimmune disease—all of which are linked to gluten—we may soon discover that GMOs are the common culprit.

GMOs Make and Keep You Sick

Do you really know what’s in your food? Processed foods made with corn, soy, or canola oil may contain GMOs that have been linked with liver and kidney disease.

Currently, the United States government approves GMOs on a case-by-case basis. The U.S. Department of Agriculture restricts the use of GMO crops that might harm other plants. The Food and Drug Administration only requires labeling if a genetically altered food is different (for example, in taste) or if the GM food has been proven to cause allergies.

Food that comes from genetically altered plants is grown from seeds that have been engineered in a laboratory. Examples include corn, soybean, sugar beets, and most recently, alfalfa. These plants are genetically manipulated so that they can tolerate herbicides. Many are programmed to manufacture their own insecticide, such as Bt-toxin. GM corn is resistant to Roundup (also called Roundup Ready) and manufactures Bt-toxin, an insecticide that targets the intestinal tract of specific insects.

But the effects of GM corn don’t end in the field.

Research at the University of Caen, France, shows in a 2012 animal study that GM corn increases the risk of tumor development, as well as liver and kidney toxicity. (1) A previous review of 19 studies on GM corn confirms its relationship to liver and kidney disease. (2)

Other data shows that insects are not the only ones poisoned by Bt-toxin. More recently, Judy Carman at Flinders University in Bedford Park, Australia, showed that pigs fed a diet high in GM corn and GM soy were more likely to suffer from severe inflammation in the stomach. (3)

The problem with Bt-toxin is that it not only targets the intestinal tract of insects, it also targets the intestinal tracts of other mammals, including humans. In just 24 hours, high concentrations of Bt-toxin can disrupt the cell membrane, causing fluids to leak.

Gluten, GMOs, and a Leaky Gut

A gut wall that has been damaged by Bt-toxin is permeable, or “leaky.” Damaged tissue along the intestinal tract increases your risk for immune disorders, including gluten sensitivity.

Smith, executive director at the Institute for Responsible Technology, explains, “If leaky gut is a precursor and contributing factor to the many types of gluten sensitivity, then the introduction of Bt corn into the U.S. diet may be responsible for increasing the number of reactive eaters.”

A wide range of gastrointestinal and immune system disorders have become more prevalent since the introduction of GMOs in 1996.

Roughly 18 million Americans are clinically sensitive to gluten. While there are no standard tests to diagnose gluten sensitivity, those with gluten sensitivity will have a physical response to gluten, such as:

  • Digestive distress
  • Joint pain
  • Migraine headaches
  • Unexplained mood swings

The only way to find relief is to remove gluten from the diet.

While a number of factors may contribute to the rise of gluten sensitivity—including greater awareness of the disorder—GMOs and particularly Bt-toxin can literally make the gut leaky, priming the immune system to tag gluten as a “bad guy.”

But why gluten?

Gluten itself destroys the lining of the gut by breaking the bond between intestinal cells. (4) A handful of autoimmune diseases have been linked to gluten in the diet, including celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, and asthma. (5)

In order to heal the gastrointestinal tract of damage caused by gluten and GMOs, we recommend an organic gluten-free, sugar-free, and initially casein-free diet. Probiotic-rich foods will restore balance to your intestinal landscape, helping to repair the damage done by gluten and Bt-toxin.

How to Get GMOs Out of Your Diet

The combination of environmental toxins, an inflammatory diet, and GMOs all work in concert with each other. The effects are devastating. Distortions in the immune system that revolve around gluten—ranging from mood disorders to autoimmune disease—are triggered or made worse by GMOs, like Bt corn.

Farmers and food manufactures are not yet required to label their GMO products. Instead, head over to www.NonGMOShoppingGuide.com or download the free iPhone app. Over 10,000 products have been verified as meeting the high standards of the Non-GMO Project.

And buy organic. If you do not always have access to organic foods, avoid Hawaiian or Chinese papaya, as well as summer squash (zucchini or yellow squash).

Also, avoid processed foods that contain:

  • Corn
  • Soy
  • Cottonseed oil
  • Canola oil
  • Sugar from sugar beets

What To Remember Most About This Article:

The World Health Organization claims that genetically modified foods are safe, although they are currently banned or labeled in 64 countries. This isn’t the case for GMO foods in the United States.

GMOs created in a laboratory, like soybeans, corn, and sugar beets, may manufacture their own harmful insecticides. Research has already linked GM corn with a risk of tumor development and liver and kidney disease. Other studies showed that the Bt-toxin insecticide produced by GMOs caused severe stomach inflammation in pigs.

Once the gut is damaged by a harmful toxin, it can become leaky. This will increase the risk of immune disorders and gluten sensitivity. It should come as no surprise that a number of gastrointestinal and immune system disorders have become more common since GMOs were introduced in 1996. Since GMOs make the gut leaky, the body sees gluten as an even greater enemy; gluten can break down the gut lining and contribute to autoimmune disease.

Unfortunately, farmers and food manufacturers aren’t required to label GMOs yet in the US. You can consult www.NonGMOShoppingGuide.com for safe, GMO-free shopping tips. To steer clear of GMOs, it’s essential to buy organic whenever possible and avoid processed foods that may contain corn, soy, cottonseed oil, canola oil, and sugar from sugar beets.


  1. Séralini, G. E., Clair, E., Mesnage, R., Gress, S., Defarge, N., Malatesta, M., … & de Vendômois, J. S. (2012). Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. Food and chemical toxicology.
  2. Séralini, G. E., Mesnage, R., Clair, E., Gress, S., de Vendômois, J. S., & Cellier, D. (2011). Genetically modified crops safety assessments: present limits and possible improvements. Environmental Sciences Europe, 23(1), 1-10.
  3. Carman, J. A., Vlieger, H. R., Ver Steeg, L. J., Sneller, V. E., Robinson, G. W., Clinch-Jones, C. A., … & Edwards, J. W. (2013). A long-term toxicology study on pigs fed a combined genetically modified (GM) soy and GM maize diet. Journal of Organic Systems Volume 8 Number 1 June 2013, 38.
  4. Fasano, A. (2011). Zonulin and its regulation of intestinal barrier function: the biological door to inflammation, autoimmunity, and cancer. Physiological reviews, 91(1), 151-175.
  5. Fasano, A. (2012). Leaky gut and autoimmune diseases. Clinical reviews in allergy & immunology, 42(1), 71-78.
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