Is our food unhealthy?
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.