Animals Raised on Genetically Engineered Feed Are Different

In a survey of milk products sold in stores in Italy, researchers found evidence of target DNA unique to GM plants in 38% of samples, including those labelled "organic".

Even in the European Union where there is mandatory labeling of GM ingredients in food and feed, there is no mandatory labeling as yet of meat, dairy products or eggs from animals fed on GM feed (GM corn or soy, for example).

Even though such labeling is favored by consumers, and is justifiable purely in terms of transparency, the food industry has tried to make out that GM feed fed to animals makes no difference either to the animal or the final product. Research shows both claims are scientifically unsupported.

In this context, Prof Jack Heinemann has produced an exhaustive review of the literature. Item 1 is GM-Free Cymru’s excellent brief summary of his report, and also sets it in the context of a landmark ruling by the New Zealand (NZ) Commerce Commission. Item 2 draws on the report to give more detail.

NZ Commerce Commission: animals fed on GM components ARE different Comment
by GM-Free Cymru

In a landmark ruling, the NZ Commerce Commission has accepted evidence from Prof Jack Heinemann, from an exhaustive review of the literature and on the basis of his own extensive professional experience, that animals fed on GM components ARE different from those which are reared using non-GM feed. This is a direct challenge to EFSA and FSA, who have maintained consistently that there are no differences between GM- fed and non-GM-fed animals, and that there is therefore no need for labeling or segregation of feed supplies to meet consumer demand for GM-free products.

This issue came to a head because of complaints that NZ poultry producer Inghams claimed, in a high-pressure advertising campaign, that its chickens contained no GM ingredients, in spite of using up to 13% GM soy-based feed.

In one of its adverts, Inghams said: “Research confirms that animals that consume feed with a component of GM are no different compared to animals that have been fed a low GM or GM free diet.”

The Commission has now told Inghams that it was breaching the Fair Trading Act by making false or misleading claims. Inghams continued to argue on its website that the use of GM soy did not compromise an absolute GM-free status and animals that ate feed with a GM component were no different to animals that may have been fed a low GM or GM-free diet. This position was verified by numerous feeding studies, the website said. The company cited publications by a New Zealand Royal Commission, the Royal Society and the Federation of Animal Science Societies. However, those publications were at least 7 years old; and the company accepted the CC ruling and stopped the advertising as soon as Prof Heinemann’s investigation was commenced.

Prof Heinemann’s Report, entitled “Report on animals exposed to GM ingredients in animal feed” (July 2009), makes interesting reading. It surveys all of the published animal feeding studies which are cited by EFSA, FSA and other bodies, and subjects them to a careful analysis. He refuses to be drawn on human health and safety safety issues (since that was not his brief) but concludes that there are many deficiencies in the studies which purport to show “no effects” from the consumption of GM animal feed.

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