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“GMO” Foods (Once Again) Proven Safe

food-fight

GMO, I shudder every time I hear someone talk about the “dangers”. It’s one of the new buzzwords that doesn’t actually mean anything, but still manages to scare people. Well a new scientific review reports that the performance and health of food-producing animals consuming genetically engineered feed, first introduced 18 years ago, has been comparable to that of animals consuming non-GE feed. Not that this will stop people from spreading fear, but it’s a start.

The review study also found that scientific studies have detected no differences in the nutritional makeup of the meat, milk or other food products derived from animals that ate genetically engineered feed.

The review examined nearly 30 years of livestock-feeding studies. To give it a number that represents more than 100 billion animals.

Genetically engineered crops, specifically ones that were modified in a lab using genetic manipulation techniques were first introduced in 1996.  Today, 19 genetically engineered plant species are approved for use in the United States, including the major crops used extensively in animal feed: alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, soybean and sugar beet.

Food-producing animals such as cows, pigs, goats, chickens and other poultry species now consume 70 to 90 percent of all genetically engineered crops, according to the new UC Davis review. In the United States, alone, 9 billion food-producing animals are produced annually, with 95 percent of them consuming feed that contains genetically engineered ingredients.

“Studies have continually shown that the milk, meat and eggs derived from animals that have consumed GE feed are indistinguishable from the products derived from animals fed a non-GE diet,” Van Eenennaam said.  “Therefore, proposed labeling of animal products from livestock and poultry that have eaten GE feed would require supply-chain segregation and traceability, as the products themselves would not differ in any way that could be detected.”

Now that a second generation of genetically engineered crops that have been optimized for livestock feed is on the horizon, there is a pressing need to internationally harmonize the regulatory framework for these products.

“To avoid international trade disruptions, it is critical that the regulatory approval process for genetically engineered products be established in countries importing these feeds at the same time that regulatory approvals are passed in the countries that are major exporters of animal feed,” Van Eenennaam said.

Let’s be crystal clear about this, we have genetically modified food since we started farming. It is common practice to crossbreed different plants (or even animals) to further develop a particular set of traits and qualities. The prize winning dogs and cats you see on television, that is genetic modification too.

Doing it in a lab is no different than what farmers are doing and have been doing for hundreds of years. It’s all the same lego set so to speak, but when we do it in a lab we can insure that we get exactly what we want without the things we would rather not have. This gives us the option to create food that is drought resistant, has more of a particular vitamin, or has a pesticide resistance.  GMO golden rice

A good example of this is bias is golden rice — or rice that has much higher vitamin A. About 250 million children in developing countries whose primary source of food is rice suffer from vitamin A deficiency, the side effects of which include loss of vision and in extreme cases irreversible blindness; impaired epithelial integrity, exposing the affected individuals to infections; reduced immune response; impaired hematopoiesis (and hence reduced capacity to transport oxygen in the blood) and skeletal growth; among other debilitating afflictions.

However, because golden rice is “GMO” it has been fought by greenpeace for no other reason than sheer fear of a new technology, causing a countless number of children to suffer in the process. Someone should probably explain to them that not long ago electricity (well AC to be specific) was to be “feared” and look where we are now.

The truth of the matter is that people fear new technologies and that is fine, but when those fears hurt people that is not okay. Why are GMO foods that farmers create safer to eat than GMO food created in a lab? When you are working with DNA base pairs, isn’t it all the same stuff? There is no proof that GMO food is “evil” or even remotely “bad” compared to “non-GMO” food (which again is a misnomer since all food we eat today is technically GMO food). There will most likely never be any proof to suggest otherwise, but unfortunately there will always be people fighting that idea.

Now a quick note, this isn’t to say that the corporations that sell the GMO seed aren’t shady, look at monsanto, they are about as unethical as a corporation can be. However, that doesn’t change or negate in anyway the proven safety of lab modified food. So please don’t fear the “GMO” fear trend that is going around, it’s not worth it.

Oh and fun fact, all those GMO laws going around that suggest labeling of “GMO” food, that doesn’t include another fun way to modify the genes — irradiation, which we’ve done for a very long time and will continue to do so. But hey that is much safer, right?

Sources
Van Eenennaam AL, & Young AE (2014). Prevalence and impacts of genetically engineered feedstuffs on livestock populations. Journal of animal science PMID: 25184846

Hirschberg, J. (2001). Carotenoid biosynthesis in flowering plants Current Opinion in Plant Biology, 4 (3), 210-218 DOI: 10.1016/S1369-5266(00)00163-1

Paine JA, Shipton CA, Chaggar S, Howells RM, Kennedy MJ, Vernon G, Wright SY, Hinchliffe E, Adams JL, Silverstone AL, & Drake R (2005). Improving the nutritional value of Golden Rice through increased pro-vitamin A content. Nature biotechnology, 23 (4), 482-7 PMID: 15793573

Ahloowalia, B., Maluszynski, M., & Nichterlein, K. (2004). Global impact of mutation-derived varieties Euphytica, 135 (2), 187-204 DOI: 10.1023/B:EUPH.0000014914.85465.4f

Brian P. Forster et al. (2001). Mutation genetics of salt tolerance in barley: An assessment of Golden Promise and other semi-dwarf mutants Euphytica DOI: 10.1007/978-94-015-9996-2_1

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5 responses

  1. George Gourley

    Trivializing and conflating transgenic gene swapping with selecting [breeding] from the pre-existing, time tested, genome within a species is absurd.
    Transgenic gene swapping does happen in nature, but only in microbes, not in more complex, multicellular animals.
    Altering the very core of an organism’s form, the DNA in BT corn simply to get a couple of years of protection before the boreworm [with very short generations cycling] becomes resistant, is quite mad. People on the other hand, have a 20 year reproduction cycle and will be eating the ulcerating [what it does in the bore worm] GMO corn, will not be able to adapt to it so neatly.
    “Future transgenic lines may possess much stronger toxicity to the corn earworm.”
    That ulceration problem, alongside over crowding on factory farms is why livestock now must be immersed & swimming in antibiotics, which is the most likely source of MRSA.
    I guess the law of unintended consequences has been rescinded while i wasn’t looking, hmm?
    Concurrent with GMOs is the epidemic of diabetes & obesity. While it may or may not be the cause, we do need the information to be able to include or eliminate GMOs from the source(s).
    Thank goodness moneyed interests haven’t distorted things like how safe leaded gasoline and cigarette smoking are for decades in history, eh? Or ‘science’ about how dangerous relatively non-toxic marijuana is while plainly toxic industry produced alcohol isn’t so bad?

    September 27, 2014 at 8:13 am

    • Why is it that everyone who is “Anti GMO” jumps to conspiracy theory? The dangers of smoking were well known by science, same with leaded gasoline. There was just a lot of money involved and really good PR involved, besides leaded gas was quickly changed around (relatively speaking). Yet the dangers were well documented and known.

      So tell me what is the difference between my DNA and say corn. It’s the same building blocks, people are getting hung up on the terminology like it is supposed to mean something. Gene X does something we want plant Y to do, so it makes sense to move gene X to plant Y.

      You COULD move gene X to plant Y by years and years of selective cross breeding and possibly by radiation or other chemical methods, but why when you can do it possibly hundreds of years sooner? Without the other changes that plant Y would most likely have happen in the process.

      Yes maybe there are unintended consequences, but that is why you study the genes to determine how they affect crops and their function. It’s not some Frankenstein scenario with scientists locked away doing crazy things, this is very deliberate and exact science.

      So really the only absurd thing here is the idea that there is a conspiracy to suppress some unseen truth, or that nature doing something is safer or inherently better than some guy in a lab. (Keep in mind, selective breeding practices aren’t all that natural either)

      Unless we are introducing new legos to our 4 base lego set, one way or another we could have the same end result without the “GMO” lab techniques, it would just take a much longer time.

      September 27, 2014 at 10:48 am

  2. Spencer

    It just seems to me the impervious nature of Monsanto and the lack of rights we have if one of their seeds fly’s on to my garden and alters my original crop is a step towards a monopoly of the global food picture, whose to say what the end goal is if its just more capital or something even more nefarious.

    September 27, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    • That’s a fair concern, I’m not a Monsanto fan as I mentioned in the post. But that could be said about a lot of technologies in all fairness. I would prefer to see the good it could do over the bad. Honestly though, in any case the safety of the technology is proven and that was my only real point. Between me and you, I hope Monsanto goes under and quick, but if we fight the technology and make it harder for start up companies to be competitive then we are only helping Monsanto’s bottom line. If I were a conspiracy theorist I would suggest the anti GMO movement would’ve been started by Monsanto to corner the market. Just a thought though.

      September 27, 2014 at 9:05 pm

  3. Pingback: Boosting Crop Yields via Genetics | Loony Labs

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