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Can I Get Sick from Animals Fed GMOs?

Food Safety, Health

Can I Get Sick from Animals Fed GMOs?

The Dirt:

If I eat meat or dairy and those animals have eaten GMO corn or soybeans, am I ingesting GMOs, too? Will I get sick? And what about the animals...is GMO feed harmful to them?

Many believe that consuming animals fed GMOs will adversely affect our health. For instance, we may think our DNA changes or immune systems weaken when we eat dairy or meat from animals eating GMO feed. These misconceptions create conclusions like “GMO feed must be harmful to both humans and animals alike.” But fear not because, as science shows us, these conclusions are not possible.

Scare Tactics Manipulate Consumers

Some organizations and major consumer product companies are spearheading fear-based marketing tactics that cause concern about GMO-fed meat, poultry, and dairy we put into our grocery carts.

  • A coalition called Green America asks companies like Chobani to stop using GMO feed for their dairy cows, as it is not ‘real’ and ‘natural’. Tell Chobani to shift to non-GMO feed for their cows, to help accelerate the shift to a non-GMO food system! We and the cows thank you.

  • Given their stance on genetic engineering, it is no surprise that Ben & Jerry’s ice cream doesn’t contain milk from cows fed with GMOs.

  • The Institute of Responsible Technology, an anti-GMO blog, posted about a woman who fell down on the floor, terribly sick immediately after eating pork that was fed genetically-modified corn.

Messages like these only gives room for more confusion. We have written about how GMOs are proven safe for humans; however consumer concerns span beyond just choosing to eat GMO or non-GMO foods.

Animal Research into GMO Feed

There is a tremendous amount of animal research that looks specifically at animals fed genetically modified foods, like corn or soybeans. Conclusions illustrate that it is not possible to find any of the genetically modified proteins in the animals’ meat. The beef, pork, poultry, or dairy is not statistically different between animals fed GMO feed and those who have not. Furthermore, the animals and poultry reproduce and mature in exactly the same manner, regardless of whether there are GMO crops in their feed or not.

Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam of the University of California, Davis published the results of her study on animal health in the Journal of Animal Science, August 2017. Dr. Van Eenennaam led a study that examined 29 years of livestock productivity and health before and after the introduction of genetically modified crops. This was a study that looked at trillions of pounds of GM feed and over 100 billion animals. This was no easy feat! Her team concluded the following:

“DNA from GE crops is chemically equivalent to DNA from non-GE crops and both are broken down the same way during digestion.…. there is no evidence suggesting DNA or rDNA transfer from plants to animals.”

When looking at the actual meat, milk and eggs from animals and poultry fed genetically modified feed the study found that…

“Neither recombinant DNA (rDNA) nor protein from GE feed crops are reliably detected in the milk, meat and eggs from livestock that have been fed GE feed.”

Another study from University of Nottingham and AgroParisTech also proved that the meat from animals fed non-GMO grain vs. animals fed GMO grain is genetically identical. Researchers performed substantial equivalent experiments on the effect of diets on GM corn, potato, soybeans, rice, or wheat on animal health.

These tests look at all the metabolites, like amino acids and lactic acids, that are produced by a GMO-fed animal and compared it to its non-GMO fed counterpart. What scientists have found is that GMO- and non-GMO-fed meat are identical. They determined that the GMO corn is “substantially equivalent” to non-GMO corn in order to ensure that it is not present in the animal after it has eaten and digested the crop.

Marketing Misrepresentation

Don’t fall for the food fear misrepresentation. For companies to claim their food is healthier or safer because their animals do not eat GMO feed is not only scientifically untrue, it perpetuates consumer confusion and fear. Each year, millions of animals are grown on GMO feed – none of them have documented evidence that they have had ill health due to GMOs. What we do have is researched evidence that meat is identical from GMO vs non-GMO-fed animals.

Finally, let’s look at this practically. Your meat and eggs are cooked and your milk is pasteurized. The GMO proteins in the animal feed become inactive after heating. If, by chance, there are any small GMO proteins left, they are attacked by the animal’s digestive enzymes. They are then converted into amino acids, where it can either be used to build its own proteins, for energy, or break down and exit the body. By the time you eat the meat or dairy, all of these scenarios would never adversely affect your body, digestive process, or even change your own genes. 

The Bottom Line:

The meat and dairy products from animals fed GMO feed versus animals fed non-GMO feed is identical. Not only do these animals contain no genetic differences, they are also proven safe by the FDA, USDA, and EPA. So rest assured you're not ingesting GMOs if you are consuming products from animals fed GMO feed.

D2D-illustration Bottom Line