(NaturalHealth365) In the beloved children’s classic “Charlotte’s Web,” a clever spider advocates for a sensitive pig named Wilbur by weaving words into her web. With livestock being given genetically modified feed, would Charlotte’s message now read “beware”?
According to the results of a long-term study exploring the effects of GM food on pigs, the answer would be yes. Don’t laugh, major universities are already looking to genetically engineer the pig itself!
In a 22-week study published last summer in Journal of Organic Systems, 168 newly weaned piglets were divided into two equal groups and fed either a mixture of GMO corn and soy, or an identical mixture consisting of non-GMO feed. Raised in identical conditions, the pigs showed the same weight gain, illness and mortality rates and bloodstream analysis results.
But, GMO-fed pigs reveal some disturbing results
However, researchers point to two significant differences: the GMO-fed pigs had higher rates of severe stomach inflammation – 32 percent as compared to 12 percent, over two and a half times higher – than the non-GMO pigs. In addition, female GMO-fed pigs had higher uteri weights.
Scientists say there have been insufficient studies on long-range GMO effects
In stating the reason for the pig feeding study, the team of Australian and American researchers noted that only a small percentage of animal GMO feeding studies have been longer-term studies. And few have involved the examination of the soft tissue, organs and blood of animals that are physiologically similar to humans – a limitation that the team strove to correct in this study, as pigs and humans share similar gastrointestinal tracts.
How are plants genetically manipulated?
GM crops, sometimes called “biotech” crops, have been genetically altered with the intention of making them herbicide, disease and insecticide-resistant. GM plants billed as “insecticide-tolerant” have been designed to produce Bt proteins, similar – but not identical – to those of Bacillus thuringiensis, a natural bacterial insecticide. These are known as Bt plants. Herbicide-tolerant plants, known as HT, also produce new proteins. Sometimes, multiple GM genes are even “stacked” in one plant.
For instance, the GM corn used in the pig study had been modified with 3 different proteins: two for Bt and 1 for HT. The soy that was used was herbicide-resistant Roundup Ready.
Why all the worry over GMO’s?
Since 1996, biotech crops have been approved to enter human and animal feed. Many people suspect that their novel proteins could affect the plant’s DNA and cause digestive and other problems in both animals and humans. Other concerns include potential effects on health resulting from the use of viral DNA, and possible transfer of antibiotic-resistant genes to digestive tract bacteria.
Adding to the unease is the fact that some farmers report that their animals seem instinctively reluctant to eat GMO feed.
What now? GM feed dominates the U.S. food supply
Herbicide-tolerant soy now comprises a stunning 94 percent of the soy planted in the United States; GM corn – about 37 percent of which is both Bt and HT-stacked – also constitutes a large majority of the crop. If long-range problems are in fact found to exist, millions of people and animals would be at risk of being affected.
Digestive-resistant proteins are a cause for concern.
Seven years after the introduction of GM feeds, a study published in October, 2003 in Journal of Animal Science, showed that the Cry1ab protein was found in the gastrointestinal tracts of pigs fed on GM corn Bt11, indicating that it could be digestive-resistant.
In addition, they found recombinant DNA fragments – in spite of the fact that manufacturers of GM seed initially claimed that fragments of recombinant DNA won’t make their way into organs or tissues of animals given GM feed. Researchers also stated that accidental or mechanical spread of feeds into the soil – and the possibility of fecal excretion of Cry1ab proteins – could be of additional concern.
Manufacturers of GM feeds insist that biotech crops are ‘safe’. But, for many, the jury is still out. If you want to avoid GMO foods – buy organic food (as much as possible); look for the ‘non-GMO project verified’ seal and support non-GMO labeling initiatives.
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