A ground-breaking study, published today, June 12, 2013 (1), shows that animals are harmed by the consumption of feed containing genetically modified (GM) crops.
The research results were striking, showing that the weight of the uterus in GM-fed pigs was on average 25% higher than in the control group of pigs. The finding was biologically and statistically significant. Also, the level of severe inflammation in stomachs was markedly higher in pigs fed on the GM diet. These animals were 2.6 times more likely to get severe stomach inflammation than control pigs. While 22% of male pigs and 42% of female pigs on the GM diet had this condition, when these pigs were compared to pigs on the control diet, it was found that male pigs were actually more strongly affected. While female pigs were 2.2 times more likely to get severe stomach inflammation when on the GM diet, males were 4 times more likely. These findings are both biologically significant and statistically significant.
The research was conducted by collaborating investigators from two continents and published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Organic Systems. The feeding study lasted more than five months and was conducted in the US. 168 newly-weaned pigs in a commercial piggery were fed either a typical diet incorporating GM soy and corn (2), or else (in the control group) an equivalent non-GM diet. The pigs were reared under identical housing and feeding conditions. They were slaughtered over 5 months later, at their usual slaughter age, after eating the diets for their entire commercial lifespan. They were then autopsied by qualified veterinarians who worked “blind” – they were not informed which pigs were fed on the GM diet and which were from the control group.
The research was undertaken because farmers have for some years been reporting reproductive and digestive problems in pigs fed on a diet containing GM soy and corn (3). Farmers have seen a reduced ability to conceive and higher rates of miscarriage in piggeries where sows have been fed on a GM diet, and a reduction in the number of piglets born if boars were used for conception rather than artificial insemination. There is also evidence of a higher rates of intestinal problems in pigs fed a GM diet, including inflammation of the stomach and small intestine, stomach ulcers, a thinning of intestinal walls and an increase in haemorrhagic bowel disease, where a pig can rapidly “bleed-out” from its bowel and die.
Much of the previously anecdotal evidence from within the pig-farming industry is now confirmed by this new study, linking the symptoms observed by farmers and veterinarians with obvious and statistically significant physiological damage in pigs at the age of slaughter.
Farmer and livestock advisor Howard Vlieger, one of the initiators and coordinators of the study, was not surprised by the results documented by the veterinarians. He said: “For as long as GM crops have been in the feed supply, we have seen increasing digestive and reproductive problems in animals. Now it is scientifically documented. In my experience, farmers have experienced increased production costs and have seen escalating antibiotic use when feeding GM crops. In some operations, the livestock death loss is high, and there are unexplained problems including spontaneous abortions, deformities of newborn animals, and an overall listlessness and lack of contentment in the animals. In some cases, animals eating GM crops are very aggressive. This is not surprising, given the scale of stomach irritation and inflammation now documented. In short, I have seen no financial benefit to farmers who feed GM crops to their animals.”
Lead researcher Dr Judy Carman (4) said: “Our findings are of huge significance for several reasons. First, we have found these results using real-world conditions that don’t occur in a laboratory. Second, we have used pigs. Pigs with these health problems end up in our food supply. We eat them. Also, pigs have a very similar digestive system to people, so we need to investigate if people are getting similar digestive problems from eating GM crops. Third, we found these adverse effects when we fed the animals a mixture of crops containing three GM genes and the GM proteins that these genes produce. That is, we observed the combined effects of these GM proteins on health. These proteins may be acting synergistically to cause these effects. Yet no food regulator requires a safety assessment for synergistic effects. Regulators simply assume that they can’t happen. Our results provide clear evidence that regulators need to safety assess GM crops containing mixtures of GM genes, regardless of whether those genes occur in the one GM plant or in a mixture of GM plants eaten in the same meal, even if regulators have already assessed GM plants containing single GM genes in the mixture.”
Dr Judy Carman, Adelaide, Australia
Mr Howard Vlieger, Maurice, Iowa
1. The paper: “A long-term toxicology study on pigs fed a combined genetically modified (GM) soy and GM corn maize diet” by Dr Judy Carman, Howard Vlieger, Dr Larry Ver Steeg, Veryln Sneller,
Dr Garth Robinson, Dr Kate Clinch-Jones, Dr Julie Haynes and Dr John Edwards has been published by the Journal of Organic Systems, Vol 8. No 1 (2013) and is available for free download from http://www.organic-systems.org/journal/
2. The GMO feed mix was a normal one. The GM and non-GM diets contained the same amount of soy and corn as each other, except that the GM diet contained a mixture of three GM genes and their protein products, while the control (non-GM) diet had equivalent non-GM ingredients. Of the three GM proteins in the GM diet, one made a crop resistant to being sprayed with the herbicide Roundup, while two were insecticides.