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GMO Food, Antibiotic Laced Meat and High Fructose Corn Syrup Have Made the U.S. the Fattest Nation in History!

September 5, 2012
Organic Consumers Association
by Will Allen, Cedar Circle Farm, Vermont

As I was looking over the U.S. obesity maps from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, I was struck by how rapidly our obesity levels rose since 1995. In 1985, forty U.S. states had no record of obesity, twelve other states recorded obesity levels below the 10% range, and only eight states had an obesity index in the 10 to 14% range, with the highest being 12%.

By 2011, only eleven states had obesity levels as low as the 20 to 24% range, thirty-seven states ranged above 25%, and twelve states had obesity indices above 30%. In 26 years the U.S. went from thin nation to the fattest nation in history. 1 Sixty-eight percent of the population is overweight and 34% are obese. Medical bills related to obesity problems have soared to more than 200 billion dollars per year and are expected to rise dramatically unless obesity rates decline. 

Everyone agrees that genetic differences are a factor in weight gain, but such extraordinary increases in body fat in twenty-six years obviously has involved more than our genetic make up. In the U.S., more important factors in our national accumulation of fat are the totally unique foods we have been fed in the last two decades and our lack of exercise.

In public and private schools around the country, we have gutted our exercise programs and our mandatory gym classes. This has led to more and more students becoming sedentary and spending their time on computers and gameboards. And, as more and more industrial jobs have gone overseas, our work force has become more sedentary, focusing on service jobs, paper shuffling, and computer skills behind a desk. With the escalation of computer use in the 1990s and our continuing addiction to TV, people became much more sedentary, and many began such habits as children.

The second, but equally important assault on our waistlines has been a dramatic change in our diets. Since the early 1990s, several foods and food additives have been forced on to our dining room tables that we have never experienced previously. Those include: 1. genetically modified corn, cotton seed (80% is fed to dairy cows, 15% is low grade oil), soy, sugar beets, canola, and alfalfa; 2. milk and meat products with residues of genetically modified bovine growth hormone; 3. meat, milk, and eggs with residual amounts of antibiotics; and 4. high fructose corn syrup.  

Genetically Modified Crops

The four most important genetically modified crops are corn, soy, cotton and canola. These four crops are ingredients in most of the processed foods sold in the U.S. Estimates are that 75% of processed foods have genetically modified ingredients. And, 80% of the food eaten in the U.S. is processed food. Recent research has shown that rats, dogs and pigs fed GMO grains have gained significantly more weight than animals fed non-GMO feed. 2 The Center for Disease Control and Prevention weight gain data illustrates that our obesity-overweight epidemic accelerated dramatically after GMO foods were introduced in the early 1990s. The new finding that GMO foods caused weight gains in test animals is especially alarming, and indicates that increased consumption of such foods is probably a significant factor in our recent dramatic increase in obesity. Since there are no labeling requirements to inform customers that products have genetically manipulated additives, consumers have no ability to choose whether to buy them or not.

Bovine Growth Hormone

In the 1970s, scientists began testing bovine growth hormones (rBGH), as a means for increasing milk production. By 1994, genetically modified bovine growth hormones began to be administered to dairy cows, with the approval of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Bovine growth hormones are just what their name implies, hormones that stimulate growth in cows. Dairy cows that have been injected with rBGH, produce 10 to 15% more milk, but they also burn out rapidly, because rBGH is like methamphetamines for cows. When a cow suddenly stops giving milk, many farmers inject them with bovine growth hormone, to try to get them to release their milk so the cow will start milking again. If they don't release their milk, many cows have ballooned from 1400 pounds to more than 2000 pounds.  

From 1995 until 2009, the U.S. public consumed billions of gallons of genetically modified growth hormone milk. After that date, public pressure forced many dairies to stop using rBGH.  If bovine growth hormone makes non-lactating cows obese, it seems reasonable to conclude that consuming billions of gallons of rBGH milk has contributed to our obesity epidemic.


Antibiotics were introduced to agriculture in the 1950s to deal with the increasing confinement of animals, and the importance of heading off diseases in increasingly confined spaces where many animals would be housed in close proximity to each other. Early use led to the discovery that when applied in sub-therapeutic doses, the antibiotics also produced significant weight gains. Because farmers wanted to shorten the time of fattening the animal before slaughter, many willingly adopted the sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics.

In 1995, 75% of U.S. pigs were raised on pasture or in large pens. Now 95% of our pigs are raised in close proximity, in confinement hog facilities. In such close quarters, antibiotics are constantly used as both a prophylactic against illness and to promote weight gain. And it is the same for turkeys, chickens, cows, and any other similarly confined farm animal. Turkeys are the worst. They are fed more antibiotics than any other confined animal because breeders have created dysfunctional birds that are prone to illness and disease and can barely walk to the slaughter house. They are so highly bred for production that they cannot reproduce, because their large breasts prohibit them from copulating. They are all artificially inseminated.

While U.S. consumers had experienced antibiotic laced meat since the late 1950s, most of the animals were not being fed antibiotics until the mid 1990s, because most of the animals were still being raised on non-confinement farms. By 2005, the confinement of meat, milk, and egg laying animals had become almost complete. And as a result, the use of antibiotics greatly escalated. We currently apply 80% of all the antibiotics used in the U.S. on confined animals. Most of these animal antibiotics are the same ones that humans use. 3

This has led to two serious problems. One is antibiotic resistance. Pigs, cows, chickens, and turkeys are developing a resistance to the intended effect of antibiotics, and so are farmers and many thousands of consumers. 4 The second problem is weight. Remember, antibiotics stimulated a weight gain in confined animals. Again, it seems reasonable to conclude that meats laced with antibiotic residues will stimulate a weight gain in humans that have adopted a sedentary lifestyle.

High Fructose Corn Syrup

Until 1957, no one believed corn could be sweet. And the idea of a high fructose corn syrup seemed to be a fantasy. Corn sugars are glucose not fructose. But in 1957, researchers created an enzyme called glucose isomerase. It rearranged the composition of glucose in corn syrup and made it into fructose. It converted a mildly sweet corn syrup into the highly sweet high fructose corn syrup. It began being produced on an industrial scale in the 1970s. When beet and cane sugar prices spiked in the late 1970s, food processors began to take a keen interest in high fructose corn syrup as a replacement for the natural sugars. In the 1980s, soft drink manufacturers began to switch from natural sugars to the cheaper, sweeter, high fructose corn syrup.

By the early 1990s, high fructose corn syrup was the cheap sweetener of choice for the big food processors, and especially the soft drink corporations. Each 12 ounce cola has 13 teaspoons of high fructose corn syrup. Each 32 ounce "Big Gulp" soda has 35 teaspoons of high fructose corn syrup. And since the 1990s, it has been added to almost everything that either needed to be sweetened or preserved. Currently, U.S. consumers eat about 62.5 pounds of high fructose corn syrup per year. That is about 217,500 calories per year, half of which is consumed as soft drinks.

That is a lot of calories. But, why is high fructose corn syrup an especially fattening and dangerous sweetener? Many scientists allege that high fructose corn syrup does not get assimilated in the body in the same way other sugars do. Researchers have found that our normal diet of high fructose corn syrup causes weight gains and damages the liver in a very short period of time.  In a St. Louis study on rats - fed the same diet that U.S. consumers eat - researchers reported that "we had a feeling we'd see evidence of fatty liver disease by the end of the study, but we were surprised to find how severe the damage was and how quickly it occurred. It took only four weeks for liver enzymes to increase and for glucose intolerance - the beginning of type II diabetes - to begin" 5 Scientists have concluded that this new sweetener - that humans had never ingested previously in human history - is a significant factor in our overweight/obesity/diabetic epidemic.

Many studies have been done that illustrate the dangers of ingesting antibiotic laced meat, high fructose corn syrup, genetically modified milk, and genetically altered grains. However, the USDA, industrial agriculture, The Farm Bureau, and the U.S. FDA have created a wall of protection around these products, and insist that they are safe and that genetically manipulated crops are identical to non-GMO products. Our obesity and diabetic epidemics coevolved with the increased use of these food products.

We must force the USDA, EPA, and the FDA to take another look at the literature that has prompted countries around the world to ban foods which contain these ingredients. And, these same agencies should begin to look at the relationship between these new foods and the almost exponential rise in obesity in the U.S.

But you shouldn't wait for the agencies to act on your behalf. While these foods may seem cheap, their real costs are largely hidden, as this short essay illustrates.  Avoid these untested, unscientific, experimental products. Avoid factory-farmed foods and buy as much chemical free, antibiotic free, and non-GMO produced food as you can.

After 9-11 the U.S. banded together under the slogan "These Colors Don't Run". Now because of our fat pandemic, two-thirds of the people who wear these colors can't run, and one-third of the people wearing these colors can hardly walk.


1. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Obesity statistics: 1985-2011. Especially impactive are their obesity maps of the U.S. from 1985 to 2011.

2. Foss, Arlid S. 2012. Growing Fatter on a GM Diet: Rats being fed Genetically Modified Food Eat More and Grow Fatter than those on a non-GM Diet. ScienceNordic.  

3. McKenna, Maryn. Dec. 24, 2010, "Update: Farm Animals Get 80 Percent of Antibiotics Sold in U.S."

4. Weiss, Rick. March 2007, "New Cattle Antibiotic Nears OK: Groups Warn of Danger to People." Washington Post. Allen, Will. 2008 The War on Bugs, pp. 162-69, Chelsea Green, White River Junction, Vermont

5. Dixon, Rachel. July 24 2009 ""Supersize Me" Mice Research Offers Grim Warning for America's Fast Food Consumers." 27 May 2007. Saint Louis University.