29-year study of trillions of meals shows GE crops do not harm food-producing animals, humans

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Activists dressed in large chicken suits have blocked Ingham's main feed silo in Cardiff, Newcastle, and Berrima.

Although there have been more than two thousand studies documenting that GMOs do not pose an unusual threat to human health, questions about the safety of genetically modified foods remain in the minds of many consumers.

Gilles-Eric Séralini, in his retracted GMO corn study (later republished in a pay for play journal without peer review), claimed rats fed genetically engineered corn developed grotesque cancerous tumors—the kind no farmer would miss among his animals if the cause-effect was genuinely in place.

Anti-GMO crusader Jeffrey Smith, on his personal website, the Institute for Responsible Technology, lists more than a dozen cases in which he claims test animals fed GMOs exhibited abnormal conditions, including cancer and early death. He also references his own self-published book and anecdotal activist web site posts in claiming that pigs fed GM feed turned sterile or had false pregnancies and sheep that grazed on BT cotton plants often died.

“Nearly every independent animal feeding safety study on GM foods shows adverse or unexplained effects,” he writes. “But we were not supposed to know about these problems either—the biotech industry works overtime to try to hide them. Industry studies described above, for example, are neither peer-reviewed nor published.”

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine—an alternative medicine group that rejects GMOs and believes that vaccines are dangerous, and characterized as a “questionable organization” by Quack Watch and Science Based Medicineclaims, “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food,” including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system.”

Leveraging these allegations, anti-GMO groups regularly post blogs alleging that animals fed GMOs have developed health problems that could show up in humans. “Monsanto’s GMO Feed Creates Horrific Physical Ailments in Animals,” screamed a typical headline, in AlterNet, a popular fringe alternative site. It touted “new research” but as is typical of many such articles, it neither cited a study nor linked to any independent research.

Is there any basis to these allegations? After all, globally, food-producing animals consume 70 percent to 90 percent of genetically engineered (GE) crop biomass, mostly corn and soybean. In the United States alone, animal agriculture produces over 9 billion food-producing animals annually, and more than 95 percent of these animals consume feed containing GE ingredients. The numbers are similar in large GMO producing countries with a large agricultural sector, such as Brazil and Argentina.

Estimates of the numbers of meals consumed by feed animals since the introduction of GM crops 18 years ago would be well into the trillions. By common sense alone, if GE feed were causing unusual problems among livestock, farmers would have noticed. Dead and sick animals would literally litter farms around the world. Yet there are no anecdotal reports of such mass health problems.

But we don’t need to depend on anecdotes to address these concerns. Writing in the Journal of Animal Science [NOTE: article behind paywall], in the largest study ever conducted, Alison Van Eenennaam and Amy E. Young, geneticists with the Department of Animal Science at the University of California-Davis, reviewed 29 years of livestock productivity and health data from both before and after the introduction of GE animal feed. The field data represented more than 100 billion animals.

What did they find?

There were no indications of any unusual trends in the health of animals since 1996 when GMO crops were first harvested. Considering the size of the dataset, it can reasonably be said that the debate over the impact of GE feed on animal health is closed: there is zero extraordinary impact.

The authors also address the implications of their study on human health.

No study has revealed any differences in the nutritional profile of animal products derived from GE-fed animals. Because DNA and protein are normal components of the diet that are digested, there are no detectable or reliably quantifiable traces of GE components in milk, meat, and eggs following consumption of GE feed.

The authors go on to warn about the fractured regulatory process in which countries eager to export “second generation” GE crops are likely to get approvals before import countries give their okay to receive the new varieties.

“GE crops with altered output traits for improved livestock feed [are] in the development and regulatory pipeline,” they write. “Additionally, advanced techniques to affect targeted genome modifications are emerging, and it is not clear whether these will be encompassed by the current GE process-based trigger for regulatory oversight.”

They argue for the harmonization of both regulatory frameworks for GE crops and governance of advanced breeding techniques to prevent widespread disruptions in international trade of livestock feedstuffs in the future.

Jon Entine, executive director of the Genetic Literacy Project, is a senior fellow at the World Food Center, Institute for Food and Agricultural Literacy, University of California-Davis. Follow @JonEntine on Twitter

  • mem_somerville

    I point I keep making is about research animal feeds too. All of the mouse colonies, rat colonies, etc–everything in the US research enterprise–does not get organic chow. This means that every “control” animal in every publication eats GMOs.

    So every “normal” animal is either fake (because there’s no giant tumors, or liver damage, or kidney damage), and part of a giant conspiracy of animal handlers, technicians, and veterinarians…or they are fine.

    Which is it, team conspiracy theory??

    • JoeFarmer

      Don’t worry, the “Fear teh GMOz” bunch has a seemingly unlimited ability to make stuff up.

      Shiva says Monsanto controls all the research. Lab animals eat GMO chow, therefore Shiva is correct. Wait for it, it will show up somewhere in the anti-GMO echo chamber soon.

  • GEsuperhumannotpestcontrol

    If soil science was understood actually there would be no need for GE crops lolz

    • battleshiphips

      The woo is strong in this assertion. Perhaps you should start farming and show everyone how it should be done.

    • Warren Lauzon

      If gravity was understood then water would not be forced to unwillingly run downhill.

    • GeSuperHumansAlready

      It’s already happening though, I mean those that are farming the way it should be, which is essentially to get rid of the farm 😀 Water running downhill is beneficial if you know how to slow it down, if we’re talking about soil that is?

  • OrganicBrian

    I’m curious about how the farms were chosen for this study? Were there any farms that the study authors looked at the documentation but didn’t include in the results? Most of the data is behind a paywall.

    I haven’t taken time to research in depth the two authors of the study, but Alison Van Eenennaam (one of the two authors) has been employed in the past by Monsanto. The tone of the study abstract is like a pro-GMO news article, lots of criticism of competing studies and they even devoted space to criticizing (apparently) the cost of Organic milk.

    • Tom Holloway

      You wont get that from the paper – email the authors… you’ll probably get a reply saying they can’t release that data because of privacy issues – which is fair enough. I imagine the selection criteria were just ‘who will agree to sign up’ in a study this broad. Probably most of them were large agribusinesss.

      • Bill

        The data were collected by USDA. There was no selection by the authors other than to use data available from public databases.

    • BirdGirl

      Reading the abstract myself, I can honestly say I don’t think we read the same thing. This abstract reads like a the abstract for a scientific paper, with no bias whatsoever, unless you consider facts to be a bias. There is absolutely nothing in it about the cost of organic milk, but instead concerns about trade disruption. They didn’t criticize competing studies, in fact they didn’t even mention a competing study in the abstract. They simply summarized the current research, which completely agrees with their findings. Either you are purposefully misrepresenting the article, as you hope people will not go on to read it but just take your word for it, or your scientific reading comprehension skills are non-existent.

      • OrganicBrian

        Apparently I’d been referring to the full study, in my comments about “tone of the study” and so forth. For some reason, when I clicked the link on the journal’s site for the full version it had opened for me although it isn’t doing that now (possibly it had been a glitch that allowed access to non-members of the journal and by now they’ve fixed it).

        I’m looking right now at the full version, sent to me by someone from another forum who has access via their university affiliation. Some quotes:
        – “Independent studies have shown the compositional equivalence…Despite these findings, some states have considered legislation that would require mandatory GE labeling” (promoting the myth about equivalence between GE and non-GE crops, when GE crops are often sprayed with more pesticides as they are engineered to be pesticide-tolerant)
        – “Before approval, each new GE crop goes through a comprehensive risk assessment…” (promoting myth about rigorous testing, when new GE crops in many countries including US are tested only by the company which will sell them which is a conflict of interest)
        – “…substantial equivalence, which stipulates that any new GE variety should be assessed for its safety by comparing it with an equivalent…” (myth of equivalence; if they were the same as previously existing seeds they would not be patented)
        – “The US organic dairy systems depend on the willingness of consumers to pay a premium… 3 times the cost of conventional milk…” (is this a market analysis or a review of studies regarding GMO vs. non-GMO feed and the associated impacts on livestock health?)

        There are 60 pages of info in the document, and the figures are almost entirely about things not related to animal health (corn imports/exports by country, market share of various crops, and so forth). I don’t see any figures that compare animals from farms feeding non-GMO and those feeding GMO of the same type. This isn’t scientific at all: they are comparing Organic and non-Organic farms, on the assumption that farms not raising animals for the Organic market will be using GMO feed.

        As per usual with these types of reviews, many studies were left out for one reason or another, but without giving exact specifics just general reasons such as “Statistical methods were sometimes not provided in sufficient detail to confirm if they were conducted appropriately for the data…” In multiple cattegories, studies by Pusztai were left out of these resuls. Wasn’t he considered one of the very best, most competent, and thorough researchers before he began bringing up criticism of GMO testing and regulation at which point he suddenly became a crazy old crank? It is well-known that double-standards are often applied when determing what “science” to include or exclude, in reviews such as this. I don’t know much about A. E. Young, but A. L. Van Eenennaam had worked for Monsanto. Without more transparency as to how they chose the farms/animals to study, I’m considering this just another example of cherry-picked data.

        • yeah, sure, whatever

          – “Independent studies have shown the compositional equivalence…Despite these findings, some states have considered legislation that would require mandatory GE labeling” (promoting the myth about equivalence between GE and non-GE crops, when GE crops are often sprayed with more pesticides as they are engineered to be pesticide-tolerant)

          not true. non-gmo crops are often sprayed with more pesticides, but are considered “safe” because they often use “natural” ingredients, giving way to the naturalistic fallacy. also, you’re completely disregarding the point that the crop itself is compositionally equivalent, not the pesticides. way to move the goal post.

          “Before approval, each new GE crop goes through a comprehensive risk assessment…” (promoting myth about rigorous testing, when new GE crops in many countries including US are tested only by the company which will sell them which is a conflict of interest)

          not true. crops can take years before they are put out into any market, and independent studies are done all the time. the study that you’re even citing from is an independent risk assessment…

          – “…substantial equivalence, which stipulates that any new GE variety should be assessed for its safety by comparing it with an equivalent…” (myth of equivalence; if they were the same as previously existing seeds they would not be patented)

          again, cherry picked, again, moving the goal post. notice the pattern here?

          “I’m considering this just another example of cherry-picked data.”

          every single one of your points is cherry picked and attacking a claim that isn’t even made!

          so as birdgirl originally said, “Either you are purposefully misrepresenting the article…or your scientific reading comprehension skills are non-existent.” it’s abundantly clear that it’s both. i mean seriously, you read a 60 page study and thought that was the abstract? GMO’s are safe. just deal with it. you obviously know nothing about genetics or how any of this works. please educate yourself, you’ll feel a lot lot better and less paranoid.

    • rick

      There are no farms selected. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that every animal on every farm was selected.

      The study that appears in the Journal of Animal Science the article talks about indirectly tests the claims put forth in anectdotal testimonials and so-called “independent” researcher studies that are frequently cited as evidence of harm to livestock from feedstuffs derived from ge crops by biotech critics . These harms range from severe gastrointestinal irritations to reproductive failure. If these independent findings are correct and there has indeed been some sinister alteration of corn and soybeans due to traits being added by the recombinant dna process, then these effects should begin to show up in closely watched statistical data that are indicators of livestock health and productivity that have been kept continuously since long before ge feedstuffs arrived on the scene. If true, the author theorizes we should be able to detect a change in the trajectory of feed conversion efficiency and reproductive success indicators such as litter size and rates of survival, particularly in countries where ge crops make up the dominant portion of corn and soybean components of livestock feeds.

      What I understand the report to show is that there have been no interruptions in long-term trends toward greater feed efficiency or litter size and survivability since ge crops were introduced. Suppose feed efficiency on all farms in the U.S. had been increasing at a rate of 1% a year prior to ge crops being grown, (i.e. it takes 1% less feed each year to raise a hog to market weight). If ge were indeed causing for instance severe gastrointestinal problems as claimed in one study, we should be able to clearly detect slower gains in feed efficiency and even declines after ge crops are introduced and the trends should become more pronounced over time. If outlier research and anectdotal reports of ge harm were correct, or indicative of a real phenomonon, there would be widespread complaints by farmers and veterinarians who would be the first to detect problems. It hardly seems likely that farmers would not have noticed it is suddenly taking more feed to raise livestock to market weight, that breeding hogs were producing fewer live pigs per litter and fewer of those born survive to weaning. These outcomes would have dramatic impacts on livestock producer’s bottom line.

      In other words, the study asks the question are the alleged harms from ge reflected in real world observations.

      • rick

        I should qualify. The article above and the abstract appears to indicate the author utilized several approaches to evaluate the question of whether ge feed products are having adverse affects on livestock health or productivity. The approach I described above appears to be one avenue taken by the authors to evaluate that question. It appears that they also synthesized literature that evaluated ge crops to determine whether there were any detectable or material alterations in nutritional content or composition, and also feeding studies. The overall meta statistical data I describe above is not in itself a controlled feeding study, it utilizes data that is produced by third parties and available publicly. Lack of adverse trends in statistical measures of productivity in the nation’s livestock herd is merely further corroboration of feeding studies and content analysis that have concluded feedstuffs derived from crops having one or more traits acquired through biotech methods are substantially equivalent to feedstuffs from conventional varieties.

      • OrganicBrian

        Long-term trends: since many farm practices would have changed in the multi-decade span, leading to increased success rate with surviving/healthy animals, comparing figures from before and after a certain year would have little relevance to GMO food safety.

        A scientific comparison would be: a large number of animals, raised by similar practices in similar climates and in the same timespan, but some of them fed GMO and some fed non-GMO and they are analyzed for diseases at time of slaughter (or retirement if raised just for eggs/milk). There isn’t anything like this in the study.

        • rick

          I do not claim as others havre that the paper proves safety. It simply fails to find evidence of harm in data that should be apparent if claims and theories that ge causes all kinds of metabolic, reproductive and other health stresses that srralini, carmen, huber and others purport to find were true. You are right that many factors contribute to improved feed efficiency, over time, genetics, changes in production systems that minimize stresses that require animals to divert feed energy and nutrients from growth to maintenence and dealing with illness and stress, improvements in feed quality,and so forth. The study does not say ge feeds have caused improvements in the slected measurements of indicators of poor health or perfomance, it just fails to find confirmation of harm theorized from ge feeds that should have offfset gains from other factors if ge is indeed poison, less nutritious or whatever.

          If you have ever raised hogs, you would understand that if hogs were experiencing the gastointestinal stress from ge feeds that carmen claimed to demonstrate, it would be apparent to every producer as it would require more feed to raise a hog to market weight, regardless of other factors. Sinc=e gr feeds make up the majority of the feed of the majority of animals, harms from ge feed would be sytematic, we wouldn’t have needed to wait a decade and a half for carmen’s study, Farmers and vets would have reported problems long ago and demanded answers why it is now taking more corn and soy than it used to to raise a hog from feeder to market weight, It would be apparent in the bottom line of a large number of farmers, perhaps all farmers, not just a couple of anecdotal claims by a handful of producers that have an economic self interest in discrediting ge.

    • yeah, sure, whatever

      the fact that you think you need to “research in depth the two authors of the study” instead of the actual data in the study sure says a lot about you. but then again, what else should we except from someone with a handle like “OrganicBrian”

      • BirdGirl

        Ad homimen attacks are the best argument to be expected from someone whose avoidance of actual science also includes a complete acceptance of the naturalistic fallacy as legitimate.

    • rick

      I don’t mean to appear that I am picking on you. However, I do share your frustration that the article is behind a paywall. If it is of interest to you or others, there are more tidbits from the article itself at the Neurologic blog [http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/19-years-of-feeding-animals-gmo-shows-no-harm/]. I’ll be upfront as gmo skeptics would brand neurologica a pro-gmo site. I’ll describe it as a site that tends to be skeptical of many popular anti-gmo claims.

      Anyway, the article talks about other livestock health statistics that should show adverse trends if theories of ge adulteration are correct. Somatic cell counts in milk (an indicator of mastitis and inflammation in the udder, and indirectly can suggest other systemic health problems in a dairy herd), postmortem condemnation of livestock carcasses and mortality in poultry have all improved since ge crop varieties have been introduced.
      These types of statistics have been kept for many years and are utilized for a variety of purposes that have nothing to do with ge. For example, milk is tested both at the farm and at the processor for somatic cell counts as regulations require rejection of milk with too high of counts. It is a very large sample size. Dairy health and food safety communities consult this data frequently. Increasing count over time would indicate something systemic is occurring that is widely impacting milk animal health. A surge from normal counts in local or regional milk samples would indicate something happening unique to that area. Somatic cell counts are also a measure of how well the regulatory system is working.

  • Larkin Curtis Hannah

    As an independent observation, our farm has been raising hogs for at least 70 years. We farrow and sell about 10,000 to 13,000 per year. We switched to GM feeds as soon as they were available, starting approximately in 1996. Our farrowing rate has never been higher, our weight gain has never been higher, our weaning rate has never been higher and our “dress-out (meat after slaughter) has never been higher. So, if there is a negative effect of GM feeds, we haven’t seen it. We interact with other hog producers, read trade magazines, etc and have never heard of a problem with the GM feeds. Had there been a problem, farmers would have been the first to let you know, not someone using a rat for study that had been genetically selected to produce tumors.

    • mem_somerville

      Exactly. This wouldn’t be one obscure Danish farmer and a handful of pigs.

      That’s my point about the research techs too. And it’s interesting, because in the late 1980s or early 1990s (before GMOs) there actually was an incident with mouse/rat chow. Suddenly all these animals were getting brain bleeds and other things were off-kilter. In short order this was tracked down to a manufacturing defect of the chows and they were not adding the right amount of Vitamin E.

      Today it would get around even faster with techs talking to each other on social media.

      Although I have, in fact, had one conspiracy-theorist veterinarian swear to me that this is all a plot and a coverup. Who needs evidence? Wouldn’t it be the veterinarian community’s professional responsibility to bring this forward?

    • Emily

      I am preparing a speech for my area FFA competition on the benefits of GM crops and feeds to our society. Your information about your farm is very relevant to my topics and I would really appreciate it if you would take some of your valuable time in order to email me some more information about your farm and your usage of GM feeds. If you are interested, my email address is emv1224@hotmail.com. Thank you!

      • Larkin Curtis Hannah

        Would be happy to. How about sending me questions to my email address, lchannah@ufl.edu

  • R. G. Price

    Obviously there is no inherent ill caused by “GM” in the general sense.

    From my understanding the problem with GM don’t have anything directly to do with being GM.

    The biggest health issues I hear about associated with GM is the heavy use of herbicide on GM crops. Here the problem is not directly a product of being a GM crop, the problem comes from the copious use of “Round Up” on the crops, which then presumably remains on the crop and makes its way into the food system.

    Then of course there are the environmental impacts of this type of heavy herbicide usage, including cross pollination with wild species. There are apparently now recorded instances of Round Up resistant “weeds” that have incorporated genes from GM crops.

    Other problems with GM crops have to do with the legal implications of patented living things, which can re-produce on their own. Farmers being sued because they have GM crops growing on their land that they don’t have “rights” to grow, etc.

    Other issues are building in product dependency, i.e. creating crops that require the use of special products from the manufacture to for them to grow, creating product lock-in, etc.

    Obviously there is nothing that is going to make a plant inherently bad simply because it has been genetically modified, and much good can come from GM crops. But it all comes down to implementation. What exactly are the modifications being implemented, and what are the downstream implications of those changes, i.e. “Round Up resistance” have the downstream implications of #1 increased use of herbicides that may harm humans and the environment, and #2 the spread of Round Up resistance to wild populations.

    • RG, I believe there some misconceptions here. First, glyphosate resistant crops represent only a fraction of the approved GMO crops, and almost no second generation crops focused on adding nutrients and other valuable traits. But there is also lots of misinformation about the alleged dangers of glyphosate. It’s an herbicide that’s been already for decades, well predating GMOs. It’s considered one of the safest and most environmentally harmless pesticides around–it’s used in home gardens around the world, as RoundUp. It’s biodegradable. It’s not carcinogenic. It’s not an endocrine disruptor. It’s not persistent in bodies or the ground. It’s LD50 (toxic value) is lower than salt, and far lower than some organic natural pesticides. Every major world organization has approved it…it’s literally undergone hundreds of independent and government reviews. There are no mainstream peer reviewed papers suggesting serious issues as its used (the only paper raising problems is the faux paper in the open source pay for play journal Entropy, which has not studies in it but misrepresents previous studies—it’s a 19th rate journal and its paper, by non experts, has been eviscerated). So that’s not an issue. If you are curious. put the word “glyphosate” in the GLP search box and read some of the articles, including the Entropy article. The consensus is very clear.

      • R. G. Price

        Yes but: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/weed-whacking-herbicide-p/

        From Scientific American: “But now researchers have found that one of Roundup’s inert ingredients can kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells.”

        I’m not saying that this is defiantly a problem, just that it is a legitimate area of concern.

        Obviously, if you create a Round Up resistant crop, then the goal is to be able to spray the crop with Round Up (or wherever herbicide). In doing so, it is inevitable that herbicide residue will remain on the crop.

        It this really a problem or not? I don’t know, but it is a legitimate area of concern.

        Saying that GM crops are inherently bad simply because they are GM is not a legitimate area of concern. Saying that crops heavily sprayed with herbicide might be cause of concern, however, is legitimate.

        • RG: That study was one of the one’s done by Seralini. First it was a study on cells, not on animals or humans, so it has no relevance to human safety. It was reviewed by the European Food Safety Authority which found the study poorly executed and of no scientific value. It was similarly reviewed and rejected by regulatory authorities in the US and Australia and rejected as junk science. There has been no study on glyphosate that indicates any dangers to humans. All crops use herbicides, even organic ones. Glyphosate is as safe an herbicide as available today. Hope this answers your questions.

        • hyperzombie

          POEA, is just refined beef tallow. Hardly deadly, pure water is more deadly to in situ cells than POEA. This is just bad science.

        • Guy G

          R.G., do you realize that GLYcine PHOSphATE can and does occur in nature? Glycine is an amino acid that all animal bodies require and/or produce in order to stay alive. Similarly all of the inert ingredients are just that, inert. Water is inert too and it can still kill you through various means but we don’t see you wringing your hands and warning us about the dangers of water. You are clinging to a position because you and others have trained your nervous system to defend this position not because the position is valid.

    • hyperzombie

      The biggest health issues I hear about associated with GM is the heavy use of herbicide on GM crops. Here the problem is not directly a product of being a GM crop, the problem comes from the copious use of “Round Up” on the crops, which then presumably remains on the crop and makes its way into the food system.

      First of all Round up is applied at about 8-12 oz per acre, hardly a copious amounts, and it replaced far more harmful herbicides like paraquat and Atrazine. “I miss Paraquat” said no farmer ever. Herbicide could have been used on crops before Roundup, but you would get Atrazine and 2-4-D instead of RU.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraquat (check out the toxicity)

      There are apparently now recorded instances of Round Up resistant “weeds” that have incorporated genes from GM crops.

      The resistant weeds use a different method to get around the RU application (gene overexpression), they did not get the trait from GMOs.

      Other problems with GM crops have to do with the legal implications of patented living things, which can re-produce on their own.

      Patent rights on plant cultivars have existed since the 1930s this is not new. Anyone can reproduce software and songs, should we get rid of copyright protection for these media as well?

      Farmers being sued because they have GM crops growing on their land that they don’t have “rights” to grow, etc.

      yep they have been sued because they are stealing. Are you pro-theft?

      Other issues are building in product dependency, i.e. creating crops that require the use of special products from the manufacture to for them to grow, creating product lock-in, etc.

      Look, GMOs dont need any special chemicals, it just gives farmers more options for weed control for instance. They don’t need to be sprayed, you could grow them with organic methods if you wanted. There are also NON GMO crops that have the same traits, like Clearfield crops.

      http://agproducts.basf.us/products/clearfield-portfolio-landing-page.html

      #1 increased use of herbicides that may harm humans and the environment,

      Nope, it actually lowers the amount of harmful herbicides lowering the impact on the environment.

      #2 the spread of Round Up resistance to wild populations.

      Nope again, Wild plants have no use for these traits.

      • cbjester24

        “First of all Round up is applied at about 8-12 oz per acre..”

        I’ll just leave this from the USDA – “In terms of overall herbicide use per hectare based on NASS data, substantial increases have occurred from 1996 through 2011. In soybeans, USDA reported herbicide applications totaling 1.3 kgs/ha (1.17 pounds/acre) in 1996, and 1.6 kgs/ha (1.42 pounds/acre) in 2006, the last year soybeans were surveyed by USDA.”

        “Patent rights on plant cultivars have existed since the 1930s this is not new. Anyone can reproduce software and songs, should we get rid of
        copyright protection for these media as well?”

        Living beings and songs are not the same thing. With that logic, I could make the argument “Slavery has been around for millennia, shouldn’t we still have slavery?”.

        “…wild plants have no use for these traits.”

        Except for surviving when herbicides are sprayed on them.

        • hyperzombie

          USDA reported herbicide applications totaling 1.3 kgs/ha (1.17 pounds/acre) in 1996, and 1.6 kgs/ha (1.42 pounds/acre) in 2006, the last year soybeans were surveyed by USDA.”

          You forgot to include this part of the Benbrook paper that you copied and pasted from;

          Glyphosate-resistant, Roundup Ready (RR) crops now comprise the overwhelming majority of HR crops. RR crops were rapidly adopted because they provided farmers a simple, flexible, and forgiving weed management system, especially compared to systems reliant on the low-dose, persistent herbicide chemistries on the market in the late 1990s, such as imazethapyr (43% soybean hectares treated in 1996) and chlorimuron-ethyl (14% treated). From 1996 through 2008, HR crops resistant to herbicides other than glyphosate either disappeared from the market (e.g. bromoxynil HR cotton), or have been planted on relatively few hectares (e.g. glufosinate HR, LibertyLink cotton and corn).

          12 oz of glyphosate weighs about 1.2 lbs, and sometimes farmers use additional herbicides.

          I could make the argument “Slavery has been around for millennia, shouldn’t we still have slavery?”.

          Ummm, no. Plants are not slaves, crazy talk.

          Except for surviving when herbicides are sprayed on them.

          What wild plants have herbicides sprayed on them? Why would they need this trait in the wild?

    • Benjamin Edge

      Yes, as soon as concerns about health and safety are addressed, the goalposts get moved to herbicide resistant weeds, non-target insects, the ecology, and Monsanto’s business practices. Where was all this concern about herbicide resistant weeds 20 years ago? Herbicide resistance occurred then, before GM crops were available, but you would not know that anyone besides farmers were aware of it.

      Then there is the use of that word, “copious” amounts of herbicide. Has that word been chosen to replace “drenched” and “doused” by the anti-GMO talking points people, because I have seen it used twice in recent days.

      “Other issues are building in product dependency, i.e. creating crops
      that require the use of special products from the manufacture to for
      them to grow, creating product lock-in, etc.”

      Bt requires no product be purchased beyond the seed. Roundup Ready does not require Roundup be used at all, and can use glyphosate produced by any number of other manufacturers, so there is no tie-in to Monsanto.

      • R. G. Price

        The issue of transmitted herbicide resistance is very different from evolved herbicide resistance. Prior to GMO, yes there was concern over evolved herbicide resistance. The problem with GMO is that the specific genes that powerfully confer herbicide resistance can be transmitted to wild populations, even to other species due to the way plant fertilization and hybridization and plant viruses work. Some crops, like millet are both crops and weeds, and I believe wild herbicide resistant strains of sorghum that have GMO genes have already been documented.

        As for lock-in, I don’t know for sure if this has actually been done yet, but it is certainly possible. A manufacturer could create a strain that requires some patented engineered compound in order to survive, thus locking farmers into having to buy products from the manufacturer in order to maintain a crop.

        I completely agree that the general anti-GMO fanatics are mostly idiots and spouting nonsense. I’m simply saying that while there is nothing inherently wrong with GMO in general, it really all depends on exactly how it is done.

        Genetic engineering is just like any other form of engineering. Saying that genetic engineering is inherently wrong is just like saying regular engineering in wrong. It’s absurd.

        But its just as absurd to say that all engineering is inherently good as well. Clearly, you can do a lot of bad things with engineering, and my fear is that out of backlash against the anti-GMO idiots some people go too far in providing blanket and unconditional support for GMO in general.

        Genetic engineering is a tool. It can be used in good ways and bad ways. GMO crops can be good, but they can also be bad, depending on how they are implemented and what exactly the modifications are.

    • Good4U

      R.G., when you refer to “heavy use of herbicide” in association with GM (glyphosate tolerant) crops, and when you toss out phrases such as “copious use of Round Up”, please keep in mind what herbicides were applied to those crops BEFORE Roundup Ready technology became approved. They were mostly atrazine and the chloroacetanilide herbicides. Both of those types of herbicides were used at much higher rates of application than glyphosate, and they both have significant environmental fate issues (that glyphosate does not), including potential contamination of groundwater and surface water. If Roundup Ready technology goes away, those other herbicides will come back again. I don’t think you want that to happen. It’s easy to fear something unless you understand the underlying facts, and the regulatory decisions that are based on scientific findings.

  • Abdullah The Sheik of Tikrit

    My, GM Fig trees, are the talk of the Oasis.

  • Eamon

    Hi, so is it 29 or 19 years? The link says 19, this URL does too, but its title says 29.

  • http://journalofanimalscience.org/content/92/10/4255.full.pdf+html (non paywalled, it’s marked as open access if you log in as an individual)

  • yogamatt

    I’m somewhat skeptical of this study. I think there are more variables to this than are being taken into account.

    It was done on animals with lifespans of approximately 16-18 months before slaughter. Was there a long term break down?

    How about a comparison of cows eating GM corn living out their last days in conventional captivity to those living out their last days living on grass in a pasture?

    Or chickens? Or fish? Or rats? (In a setting more akin to their natural habitat)

    IDK if they can actually even live that long, given the growth hormones and drugs they have to take. (I suppose that’s a separate issue)

    Furthermore, what if the real issue is with the gut microbiome; a symbiotic system so complex that it’s basically a rainforest of interdependency. We understand relatively little about that “rainforest”. But we do know that it creates its DNA from the DNA in our food. Could it be possible certain types of bacteria cannot live on GM crops?

    Personally, I don’t buy the cancer angle of GM foods, but I do think there is merit to the gut flora argument. I have personally noticed a massive difference in digestion since incorporating organic foods, despite having changed relatively little else.

    Animals cannot tell you what a human being can. They’re terrible to experiment on in this way because they can’t communicate.

  • Schiepers

    Like biotech giants have been doing nothing new at all since 20 years…

    Like such a study says anything at all about the middle-long term of 50-100 years.

    http://www.genericproperty.org

  • Organic

    Jon, wondering who are your universities largest investors, who pays your wages in other words? Its not just about the GE product, and the potential risk to the population, its also about the bullying tactics of large seed companies in America that basically seem to have brain washed and bought so called brilliant scientist’s into believing that the GE product is full proof…….Its a bit like betting on sports Jon, when large sums of money are involved, along with egos….that’s when the fun starts, unfortunately in this case peoples lives are at stake!

    • JoeFarmer

      What a steaming pile. Yet another shill accusation followed by unsubstantiated claims.

    • BioSciNerd

      Let’s just assume for the sake of argument that industry is funding all of the plant scientists (it’s not, but to just get past that argument let’s say it is).

      The question still remains, where is the real world evidence of substantial harm to human and animal health due to the consumption of GM plants? As Jon points out, if eating GM corn caused massive tumor growth like that seen in Seralini’s study, why don’t we see this happening in the real world?

      Criticizing who pays a scientist can only take an argument so far. It can only inform motive. It can’t provide empirical evidence. If I, as a plant scientist, were being paid by Monsanto (I am not btw), one could argue that my motives were influenced by who signed my paycheck. But still wouldn’t address the arguments I made.

      Does that make sense?

  • Justin

    First off, i’m not overly concerned with the question of GE consumption safety. We still argue about eggs and beef being safe or not.
    I would like to point out that animals raised for food do not live a full life cycle, are often harvested while immature and therefore do not make very good data points for ascertaining the safety of a thing over long term exposure. This makes me skeptical of that study’s validity, and weakens the credibility of this site to prop up such incautious arguments.

  • efcee

    “Although there have been more than two thousand studies documenting that GMOs do not pose an unusual threat to human health…”

    Perhaps it’s the usual – rather than the “unusual” – threats from GMO’s that people are worried about.