New Trillion-Meal Study
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
Visit almost any anti-GMO website and you will find
alarming headlines about the alleged dangers of GMO
foods. They kill pigs, cows and sheep on farms and in
lab studies! Humans are next!
GMO Feed Creates Horrific Physical Ailments in
Animals,” screams a
typical article, in AlterNet, a popular anti-GMO site.
It touts “new research” but as is typical of such
articles and such sites, it neither quotes a study nor
links to any independent research.
Although there have been more than
2,000 studies documenting that biotechnology does
not pose an unusual threat to human health and
genetically modified foods are as safe or safer than
conventional or organic foods, questions remain in the
minds of many consumers.
What does the research say?
Animal feeding studies are the basis for evaluating
the safety of GMO crops. One-off studies of lab animals
have occasionally shown some problems. Gilles-Eric
Séralini, in his retracted GM corn study (later republished in
non-peer-reviewed anti-GMO journal), claimed
rats fed genetically engineered corn developed grotesque
cancerous tumors—the kind no farmer would miss among his
animals if this cause-effect was genuinely in place.
Anti-GMO crusader Jeffrey Smith, on his personal
website, the Institute for Responsible Technology, lists more
than a dozen cases in which he claims animals fed GMOs
exhibited abnormal conditions, including cancer and
early death. He also references his own self-published
book, and anecdotal evidence that pigs fed GM feed
turned sterile or had false pregnancies and sheep that
grazed on BT cotton plants often died.
“Nearly every independent animal feeding safety study
on GM foods shows adverse or unexplained effects,” he
writes. “But we were not supposed to know about these
problems…the biotech industry works overtime to try to
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine—an alternative
medicine group that rejects GMOs and believes that vaccines are
“Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated
with GM food,” including infertility, immune problems, accelerated
aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and
the gastrointestinal system.
Is there any basis to these allegations? After all, globally,
food-producing animals consume 70% to 90% of genetically engineered
crop biomass, mostly corn and soybean. In the United States alone,
animal agriculture produces over 9 billion food-producing animals
annually, and more than 95% of these animals consume feed containing
GE ingredients. The numbers are similar in large GMO producing
countries with a large agricultural sector, such as Brazil and
Estimates of the numbers of meals consumed by feed animals since
the introduction of GM crops 18 years ago would number well into the
trillions. By common sense alone, if GE feed were causing unusual
problems among livestock, farmers would have noticed. Dead and sick
animals would literally litter farms around the world. Yet there are
no anecdotal reports of such mass health problems.
But we don’t need to depend on anecdotes to address these
concerns. Writing in the Journal
of Animal Science, in the most comprehensive study of
GMOs and food ever conducted, University of California-Davis
Department of Animal Science geneticist
Alison Van Eenennaam
and research assistant Amy E. Young reviewed 29 years of livestock
productivity and health data from both before and after the
introduction of genetically engineered animal feed. [NOTE:
article is behind a paywall until October 1.]
The field data represented more than 100 billion animals covering
a period before 1996 when animal feed was 100% non-GMO, and after
its introduction when it jumped to 90% and more. The documentation
included the records of animals examined pre and post mortem, as ill
cattle cannot be approved for meat.
What did they find? That GM feed is safe and nutritionally
equivalent to non-GMO feed. There was no indication of any unusual
trends in the health of animals since 1996 when GMO crops were first
harvested. Considering the size of the dataset, it can reasonably be
said that the debate over the impact of GE feed on animal health is
closed: there is zero extraordinary impact.
The Van Eenennaam study corresponds to other reviews of animal
feeding data, some multi-generational and as long two years.
Several recent comprehensive reviews from various authors
summarize the results of food-producing animal feeding studies
with the current generation of GE crops (Deb et al., 2013;
Flachowsky, 2013; Flachowsky et al., 2012; Tufarelli and
Laudadio, 2013; Van Eenennaam, 2013). Studies have been
conducted with a variety of food-producing animals including
sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, quail, cattle, water buffalo,
rabbits and fish fed different GE crop varieties. The results
have consistently revealed that the performance and health of
GE-fed animals were comparable with those fed near isogenic
non-GE lines and commercial varieties.
Here is a comprehensive
list of animal feeding studies. Many of these studies are
independent. The list included systematic reviews, all of which
conclude that GMO feed is safe.
As Dr. Steven Novella
notes on his blog Neurologica:
[T]his data is observational, meaning the authors are looking
at data collected out there in the world and not part of any
controlled prospective experiment. Observational data is always
subject to unanticipated confounding factors. However, robust
observational data is still highly useful, and has the potential
to detect any clear signals.
The findings also comport with long-term GMO feeding laboratory
studies. The GENERA
database, found at Biology Fortified online, lists more than
three-dozen examples of multi-year studies. A
recent review of 24 of these studies by Snell et. al found:
“Results…do not suggest any health hazards and, in general, there
were no statistically significant differences within parameters
observed.” There have been a few outlier studies, such as the
retracted GMO corn research. But if Séralini’s data were real and
80% of food was poison, animals and people would be dropping like
The authors also found no evidence to suggest any health affect
on humans who eat those animals. No study has revealed any
differences in the nutritional profile of animal products derived
from GE-fed animals. Because DNA and protein are normal components
of the diet that are digested, there are no detectable or reliably
quantifiable traces of GE components in milk, meat, and eggs
following consumption of GE feed.
In other words, the debate over the risks associated with GMO
food is effectively over. As Novella writes:
We now have a large set of data, both experimental and
observational, showing that genetically modified feed is safe
and nutritionally equivalent to non-GMO feed. There does not
appear to be any health risk to the animals, and it is even less
likely that there could be any health effect on humans who eat
In order to maintain the position that GMOs are not
adequately tested, or that they are harmful or risky, you have
to either highly selectively cherry pick a few outliers of low
scientific quality, or you have to simply deny the science
This was copied from
http://www.forbes.com/. Permission to copy this information was
requested via email.
Link to page is