GMOs in Breast Milk – WHO Reporting Increases

stockvault-woman-breastfeeding-baby132389The World Health Organization (WHO) has been receiving a rash of notices from breastfeeding mothers the past two years. In prior years there were 3-4 requests for testing annually.

March 20, 2015, WHO announced[1]IARC Monograph Vol 112: Evaluation of Five Organophosphate Insecticides and Herbicides, March 20, 2015 International Agency for Research On Cancer — “The herbicide glyphosate and the insecticides malathion and diazinon were classified as probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A). The insecticides tetrachlorvinphos and parathion were classified as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B).” that glyphosate is classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans”. Now people are aware and multiple requests for action arrive weekly.

For clarity the chemical glyphosate is the main ingredient in the RoundUp® line of products from Monsanto. It was initially discovered in 1950, it wasn’t until the 1970s that Monsanto found that it had herbicidal properties. The company then pursued patenting it in 1974, and was granted approval for industrial non-crop use.[2]History of Gyphosate

USDA GE Corn in Michigan
USDA GE Corn in Michigan

When chemical agriculture blankets millions of acres of genetically engineered corn and soybean fields with hundreds of millions of pounds of glyphosate, it’s not a surprise babies are now consuming Monsanto’s signature chemical with breast milk and infant formula,” said Ken Cook, president and co-founder of Environmental Working Group.

USDA GE Soybean in Michigan
USDA GE Soybean in Michigan

“The primary reason millions of Americans, including infants, are now exposed to this probable carcinogen is due to the explosion of genetically engineered crops that now dominate farmland across the U.S.”

“Through their purchasing power, the American consumer is fueling this surge in GMO crops and the glyphosate exposure that comes with it,” added Cook. “It’s time the federal FDA require foods made with GMOs be labeled as such so the public can decide for themselves if they want to send their dollars to the biotech industry that cares more about profits than public health.”[3]Toxic Weed Killer Glyphosate Found in Breast Milk, Infant Formula, EcoWatch, April 10, 2015

US EPA originally classified glyphosate as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group C) in 1985. After a re-evaluation of that mouse study, the US EPA changed its classification to evidence of non-carcinogenicity in humans (Group E) in 1991.

The position by WHO IARC is in contrast to a long standing classification by the US EPA that glyphosate is non-carcinogenic to humans. Interestingly that classification was a reversal of one which WHO is now bringing forward.


While we’ve got your attention regarding breastfeeding, let’s discuss antibiotics.

It’s not just those we consume – those that are in our food system. While this creates problems for adults, breastfed babies may be exposed to greater concentrations in digestive systems in development.


An astonishing 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used on livestock. Let that sink in. This rampant use is creating antibiotic-resistant “super bacteria.” According to the Environmental Working Group, 87 percent of tested meat samples (turkey, pork, beef, and chicken) were contaminated by at least one species of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.[4]Keep Hormones and Antibiotics Off the Menu, Healthy Child, October 1, 2013

Researchers and activists have tried for decades to get the FDA to rein in farm overuse of antibiotics, mostly without success. The agency attempted in the 1970s to control agricultural use by revoking authorization for penicillin and tetracycline to be used as “growth promoters,” but that effort never moved forward. Agriculture and the veterinary pharmaceutical industry pushed back, alleging that agricultural antibiotics have no demonstrable effect on human health.[5]Imagining the Post-Antibiotics Future, Medium via FERNnews, November 20, 2013

Breastfeeding Research at Henry Ford Hospital

Research into the benefits and effects of breastfeeding at Henry Ford Hospital been going on since 2003 through the Wayne County Health, Environment, Allergy and Asthma Longitudinal Study (WHEALS). WHEALS is funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and is exploring the role of environmental factors and measuring biological markers to understand how allergies and asthma develop early in life. [6]Breastfeeding, Other Factors Help Shape Immune System Early in Life, Henry Ford Hospital, February 21, 2015[7]Breastfeeding Benefits Babies’ Immune Systems Within First Month; Provides Natural Protection Against Allergies, Asthma, Medical Daily, February 22, 2015:

In six separate studies, researchers sought to evaluate whether breastfeeding and maternal and birth factors had any effect on a baby’s gut microbiome and allergic and asthma outcomes. Using data collected from the WHEALS birth cohort, researchers analyzed stool samples from infants taken at one month and six months after birth. They also looked at whether the gut microbiome impacted the development of regulatory T-cells, or Treg, which are known to regulate the immune system.

Highlights from the study:

  • Breastfed babies at one month and six months had distinct microbiome compositions compared to non-breastfed babies. These distinct compositions may influence immune system development.
  • Breastfed babies at one month were at decreased risk of developing allergies to pets.
  • Asthmatic children who had nighttime coughing or flare-ups had a distinct microbiome composition during the first year of life.
  • For the first time, gut microbiome composition was shown to be associated with increasing Treg cells.