UK Environment officials praise GMO crops as ‘safer than conventional’ ones, but a recent study reveals more sobering evidence that the world urgently needs to ask fundamental safety questions about genetic engineering of the human food chain.
The first long term study of the effects on inner organs from a diet of Monsanto GMO maize and GMO soya has just been released. The results are shocking and validate the September 2012 long-term study by Prof. Gilles-Eric Seralini of the effects on rats of a diet of GMO Maize.
Despite the fact that feeding pigs and cattle and other animals with GMO mixes of corn and soya had been common and allowed for some two decades, this is the first independent long-term feeding trial study of GMO effects on livestock. It indicates how thoroughly Monsanto and the GMO agribusiness grain lobby have been able to control government oversight. What few people realize is that since the USDA authorized commercial release of GMO soy and maize for animal and human feed in 1996, most meat sold in supermarkets, not only in the USA, but across the EU contains animals fed not on open grass fields, but on mixes of GMO soya and maize.
EU labeling laws require a product to state if it contains more than 0.9 percent GMO products, but the EU Commission, under lobbying pressure from the giant US grain cartel—Bunge, ADM, Cargill— granted a giant loophole that allows EU food to be contaminated with huge amounts of GMO. Imported animal feed containing GMO soya or maize is exempt from labeling. Because most livestock and poultry in the EU today, as in the USA, is raised in industrial mass concentrated feeding confinements, and are fed a mix, typically, of Monsanto GMO maize and soya, GMO enters the human diet in considerable portions.
The new pig study was the first attempt to seriously and independently test over the typical life of the pigs the effects, if any, of the most widely used mix of GMO feed.
Pigs and people
The study, peer-reviewed and just released, was done by a scientific group led by Dr Judy Carman of the Institute of Health and Environmental Research in Australia. For years farmers in Europe, North America and elsewhere have noted that their livestock fed on a diet of GMO feed suffered serious digestive and reproductive problems. A group of Midwest USA farmers organized an independent scientific study of feeding trials with groups of pigs fed GMO feed mixes and pigs fed non-GMO mixes of corn and soya. The digestive tract of a pig is very similar to that of humans.
Carman and associates explain their methodology: “At a commercial piggery in the US, we took 168 just-weaned pigs and fed them a typical diet for the piggery, containing soy and corn, for 22.7 weeks (over 5 months) until the pigs were slaughtered at their usual slaughter age. Half of the pigs were fed widely-used varieties of GM soy and GM corn (the GM-fed group) for this whole period, and the other half of the pigs were fed an equivalent non-GM diet (the control group). The GM diet contained three GM genes and therefore three GM proteins. One protein made the plant resistant to a herbicide, and two proteins were insecticides.”
Astonishingly, at least to those who might assume that US Government agencies entrusted with animal and human health keep a close watch on GMO product effects, US and EU regulators do not require animal feeding studies on mixtures of GMO feed. Yet most livestock are fed precisely such a mix of GMO maize and soya. That rules out testing the effects of possible interactions between two or more GMO plants that produce toxic results.
A toxic cocktail mix is precisely what the Carman study indicates takes place in the stomach and reproductive organs of GMO fed pigs.
Some of the Carman team investigators had previously seen a reduced ability of GMO-fed pigs to conceive and higher rates of miscarriage in piggeries where sows were fed a GMO diet. They witnessed a reduction in the number of piglets born when boars were used for conception rather than artificial insemination, Carman explained. The current study was not able to monitor that.
In the new study, the pigs in one group were fed a diet of a mixture of GMO Monsanto maize and Monsanto RoundupReady soy, because those are the most used commercial feed mixes. The second group was fed non-GMO feed in a similar proportion of maize and soya. The study ran 22.7 weeks, the normal lifespan of a commercial pig from weaning to slaughter. No such long-term study had ever before been done, a most alarming fact in itself. The scientists measured feed intake, weight gain, mortality and blood biochemistry. Organ weights and pathology were determined post-mortem. Those doing the autopsy were not told which group of pigs they were examining to avoid bias.
In the female pigs, the scientists found that “on average, the weight of the uterus of pigs fed the GM diet, as a proportion of the weight of the pig, was 25% higher than the control pigs. We found that this biologically significant finding was also statistically significant. We list some of the pathologies that could be occurring in these uteri in the paper.” Among the possible pathologies indicated were endometrial hyperplasia or carcinoma, endometritis, endometriosis, adenomyosis, inflammation, a thickening of the myometrium, or the presence of polyps. The uteri from two GM-fed pigs were full of fluid compared to nil from non-GM-fed pigs.
Some of those involved in the study had also previously witnessed higher rates of intestinal problems in pigs fed a GMO 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 their bowel and die. Because they were not able to look inside the intestines, due to the amount of food in them, they were only able to look inside the stomach.
What they found was alarming enough. The level of severe inflammation in stomachs was markedly higher in pigs fed the GMO diet. “Pigs on the GM diet were 2.6 times more likely to get severe stomach inflammation than control pigs. Males were 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,” Carman’s group observed.
They also noted that such vital findings had never before appeared in standard biochemistry tests done in Monsanto or GMO industry-controlled studies because standard biochemistry tests provide a poor measure of inflammation and matters associated with uterus size.
Most shocking was that the GMO fed pigs had uteruses that were 25% heavier than non-GMO fed pigs and that GMO fed pigs had a higher rate of severe stomach inflammation with a rate of 32% of GMO-fed pigs compared to 12% of non-GMO-fed pigs. The severe stomach inflammation was worse in GMO-fed males compared to non-GMO fed males by a factor of 4, and GMO-fed females compared to non-GMO fed females by a factor of 2.2.
UK Minister Praises GMO
With remarkably poor timing, the pro-GMO British Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, has just come out with a major call for the EU to go full-speed ahead with GMO. Paterson told the BBC that GMO crops were “probably” safer than conventional plants, claiming, without proof, that GMO has significant benefits for farmers, consumers and the environment. He held out the promise that a next generation of GM crops offers the “most wonderful opportunities to improve human health.” Paterson, whose business career was in the leather business, not bioscience, blithely dismissed criticisms that GMO might pose problems to human health: “The use of more precise technology and the greater regulatory scrutiny (sic!-w.e.) probably make GMOs even safer than conventional plants and food.”
In an earlier interview, he cited the now discredited GMO “Golden rice” project of the Rockefeller Foundation which was a variety of rice genetically engineered to produce enhanced Vitamin A allegedly against child blindness. The only problem, as one scientist pointed out, for a child to get sufficient Vitamin A from rice, they would have to consume some 9 kilos per day of cooked GMO rice. Better get it from non-GMO spinach or leafy vegetables?
Time for serious studies
It is clear that Monsanto and pro-GMO advocates like Paterson are trying to make a major new propaganda push to break the growing resistance to GMO worldwide, to counter a groundswell of new opposition to Monsanto and GMO in general. The Carman study, coming just now, presents a major problem for them.
The Carman group strongly urges reproductive tests now be carried out to determine effects of GMO diet on animal reproduction. Will the EU or the USDA or the relevant government agencies in Brazil, India, Russia, and China (the world’s largest import market for GMO feed mixes and GMO soy) authorize such tests?
Best would be, of course, if all governments allowing GMO feed mix imports or commercial sale, order such tests on a high-priority basis, and that all publish the results in peer-reviewed scientific journals so that the world can see what the effects of GMO diet on the reproductive capacities of pigs actually might be.
Because the digestive tract of a pig is very similar to that of humans, perhaps there are also lessons about the possible reproductive capabilities of humans exposed to a diet of animal meat consumption fed on GMO feed mixes.
Last September the first peer-reviewed long-term study of GMO effects and Roundup on rats showed alarming results. That study was swept under the dirty carpet of the EU’s EFSA food safety agency and rejected as “flawed.” Now a similar long-term study of GMO feed on pigs shows equally alarming results. This suggests a fundamental review of all GMO licensing decisions worldwide is at the very least an urgent priority.