Is our food un­healthy?

Auckland City Harbour News - - OPINION -

Un­healthy an­i­mals = un­healthy food = un­healthy peo­ple.

Dr Judy Car­man, ad­junct as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor, lead re­search at Flin­ders Univer­sity, Ade­laide, tells us: ‘‘A ground­break­ing new study shows that pigs were harmed by the con­sump­tion of feed con­tain­ing ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied (GM) crops.’’

And Hans Kriek, Safe ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor says: ‘‘Bat­tery hens are once again be­ing let down by of­fi­cials look­ing out for busi­ness and profit ahead of an­i­mal wel­fare.’’

Dr Car­man says: ‘‘GM-fed fe­male pigs had, on av­er­age a 25 per cent heav­ier uterus than non-GM-fed fe­males, a pos­si­ble in­di­ca­tor of dis­ease that re­quires fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Also the level of se­vere in­flam­ma­tion in stom­achs was markedly higher in pigs fed on the GM diet. The re­sults were strik­ing and sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nif­i­cant.

‘‘Our find­ings are im­por­tant for sev­eral rea­sons. First, we found these re­sults in real on-farm con­di­tions, not in a lab­o­ra­tory but with the added ben­e­fit of strict sci­en­tific con­trols that are not nor­mally present on farms.

‘‘Sec­ond, we used pigs. Pigs with these health prob­lems end up in our food sup­ply. We eat them.

‘‘Third, pigs have a sim­i­lar di­ges­tive sys­tem to peo­ple, so we need to in­ves­ti­gate if peo­ple are also get­ting di­ges­tive prob­lems from eat­ing GM crops.

‘‘Fourth, we found these ad­verse ef­fects when we fed the an­i­mals a mix­ture of crops con­tain­ing three GM genes and the GM pro­teins that these genes pro­duce. Yet no food reg­u­la­tor any­where in the world re­quires a safety as­sess­ment for the pos­si­ble toxic ef­fects of mix­tures. Reg­u­la­tors sim­ply as­sume that they can’t hap­pen.

‘‘Our re­sults pro­vide clear ev­i­dence that, for safety, we need to as­sess GM crops con­tain­ing mix­tures of GM genes, re­gard­less of whether those genes oc­cur in the one GM plant or in a mix­ture of GM plants eaten in the same meal, even if reg­u­la­tors have al­ready as­sessed GM plants con­tain­ing sin­gle GM genes in the mix­ture.

‘‘The new study lends sci­en­tific cred­i­bil­ity to anec­do­tal ev­i­dence from farm­ers and vet­eri­nar­i­ans, who have for some years re­ported re­pro­duc­tive and di­ges­tive prob­lems in pigs fed on a diet con­tain­ing GM soy and corn.’’

Iowa-based farmer and crop and live­stock ad­viser Howard Vlieger, one of the co-or­di­na­tors of the study, says: ‘‘For as long as GM crops have been in the feed sup­ply, we have seen in­creas­ing di­ges­tive and re­pro­duc­tive prob­lems in an­i­mals. Now it is sci­en­tif­i­cally doc­u­mented.

‘‘In my ex­pe­ri­ence, farm­ers have found in­creased pro­duc­tion costs and es­ca­lat­ing an­tibi­otic use when feed­ing GM crops. On some farms, the live­stock death loss is high, and there are un­ex­plained prob­lems in­clud­ing spon­ta­neous abor­tions, de­for­mi­ties of new-born an­i­mals and an over­all list­less­ness and lack of con­tent­ment in the an­i­mals.

‘‘In some cases, an­i­mals eat­ing GM crops are very ag­gres­sive. This is not sur­pris­ing, given the scale of stom­ach ir­ri­ta­tion and in­flam­ma­tion now doc­u­mented. I have seen no fi­nan­cial ben­e­fit to farm­ers who feed GM crops to their an­i­mals.’’

Gill Row­lands, a farmer based in Pem­brokeshire, Wales, who is also a mem­ber of the cam­paign group GMFree Cymru, says: ‘‘This is an an­i­mal wel­fare is­sue. Re­spon­si­ble farm­ers and con­sumers alike do not want an­i­mals to suf­fer. We call for the rapid phase-out of all GMOs from an­i­mal feed sup­plies.’’

Claire Robinson of the cam­paign group GMWatch in the UK sug­gests pres­sur­ing su­per­mar­kets to buy prod­ucts which use GM-free soy from coun­tries like Brazil.

The re­search was con­ducted by col­lab­o­rat­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tors from two con­ti­nents and pub­lished in the peer-re­viewed Jour­nal of Or­ganic Sys­tems. The feed­ing study lasted more than five months, the nor­mal com­mer­cial life­span for a pig, and was con­ducted in the United States.

One hun­dred and sixty newly weaned pigs in a com­mer­cial pig­gery were fed ei­ther a typ­i­cal diet in­cor­po­rat­ing GM soy and corn, or else (in the con­trol group) an equiv­a­lent nonGM diet. The pigs were reared un­der iden­ti­cal con­di­tions.

They were then au­top­sied by qual­i­fied vet­eri­nar­i­ans who worked ‘‘blind’’ – not told which pigs were fed on the GM diet and which were from the con­trol group.

The GMO feed mix was a com­monly used mix. The GM and nonGM di­ets con­tained the same amount of soy and corn, ex­cept that the GM diet con­tained a mix­ture of three GM genes and their pro­tein prod­ucts, while the con­trol (nonGM) diet had equiv­a­lent non-GM in­gre­di­ents.

Of the three GM pro­teins in the GM diet, one made a crop re­sis­tant to be­ing sprayed with the her­bi­cide Roundup, while two were in­sec­ti­cides.

And when it comes to eggs, Mr Kriek of Safe says: ‘‘ Egg in­dus­tries have suc­cess­fully lob­bied the Na­tional An­i­mal Wel­fare Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee (NAWAC) to de­lay the tran­si­tion dates lead­ing to a ban on con­ven­tional bat­tery hen cages, as they want to use the cruel cages for longer.

‘‘NAWAC is propos­ing to de­lay each of the tran­si­tion steps by two years, while still re­tain­ing the fi­nal date when con­ven­tional cages will be phased out.

‘‘Bat­tery cages do not al­low hens to ex­press their nor­mal be­hav­iours and have there­fore been in breach of the An­i­mal Wel­fare Act since its in­tro­duc­tion in 2000. In­stead of en­forc­ing the law and ban­ning these cages im­me­di­ately NAWAC col­luded with farm­ers to al­low the on­go­ing use of bat­tery cages for up to a shock­ing 22 years.

‘‘In 2012, NAWAC de­cided on three tran­si­tion dates to phase out bat­tery cages, 2016, 2018 and fi­nally 2022. This de­ci­sion was an­nounced in the Code of Wel­fare for Layer Hens, a code that NAWAC took three years to write.

‘‘By de­lay­ing the tran­si­tion NAWAC again shows how eas­ily it crum­bles un­der in­dus­try pres­sure. This in­com­pe­tent com­mit­tee al­ready failed the hens by al­low­ing colony bat­tery hen cages to re­place con­ven­tional cages de­spite the fact that colony cages still do not al­low the hens to ex­press their nor­mal be­hav­iour. NAWAC is now set to ex­tend the suf­fer­ing of bat­tery hens even fur­ther,’’ Mr Kriek says.

‘‘What is most out­ra­geous is NAWAC’s claim to be com­mit­ted to get­ting layer hens out of bat­tery cages, when in re­al­ity they are sen­tenc­ing hens to mod­i­fied cage sys­tems for decades to come.

‘‘This is sim­ply a lie to the pub­lic, and Safe con­tin­ues the fight against the in­tro­duc­tion of these new cage sys­tems. Safe will make a sub­mis­sion to pre­vent the phase-out dates be­ing pushed back and is urg­ing the pub­lic to do the same.’’

Make your voice heard. The bat­tle for bet­ter lives for pigs and bat­tery hens goes on.

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