“GMO” Foods (Once Again) Proven Safe
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.
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?
Van Eenennaam AL, & Young AE (2014). Prevalence and impacts of genetically engineered feedstuffs on livestock populations. Journal of animal science PMID: 25184846
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