By Soil Association
Currently there is a body of scientific evidence published and certified by experts, on animal studies carried out in many countries, by different entities (governments, independent scientific organizations and companies) that demonstrate that transgenics cause a wide range of serious and unexpected health impacts. Additionally, evidence is beginning to emerge that if animals are fed transgenic crops, small amounts of genetically modified substances appear in meat and dairy products, which had not been previously identified.
One of the main concerns about transgenic crops is whether they will have negative health effects. This concern was initially purely theoretical. However, important scientific evidence has emerged in recent years that has substantially developed our understanding and demonstrates that genetic engineering poses real health risks. Currently there is a body of scientific evidence published and certified by experts, on animal studies carried out in many countries, by different entities (governments, independent scientific organizations and companies) that demonstrate that transgenics cause a wide range of serious and unexpected health impacts. Additionally, evidence is beginning to emerge that if animals are fed transgenic crops, small amounts of genetically modified substances appear in meat and dairy products, which had not been previously identified.
Both issues raise serious human and animal health concerns about the use of GMOs in food, as well as deep ethical concerns about the fact that food from GMO-fed animals remains unlabeled. The results also raise serious doubts about the reliability of the European safety assessment and advisory procedures. With this evidence, the Soil Association considers that transgenic crops are not safe and should not be used for food.
Do the milk, eggs and meat of animals fed with GMOs contain genetically modified substances?
Advocates of GM crops often suggest that there should be no concern about this issue, as the GM substance degrades during transformation into food and during digestion. (For example, there are significant secretions of nucleases, enzymes that break down DNA, throughout the intestine.) Until a couple of years ago, none of the published studies had detected genetically modified DNA in the milk, eggs, or meat of GM-fed animals.
However, several of these studies found that plant chloroplast DNA used as animal feed is present in milk, eggs, and meat. This plant DNA is not nuclear DNA, the DNA contained in the nuclei of cells which is where new genes ("transgenes") are generally inserted to make transgenic crops. It is the DNA found in chloroplasts, the plant's "organelles" that photosynthesize and are present in large quantities in plant cells. Chloroplast DNA is much more abundant than nuclear DNA, as each plant cell can have thousands of copies of chloroplast genes, but only two or four copies of each nuclear gene. Therefore, chloroplast plant DNA is thought to be more perceptible in animal products than nuclear DNA, simply because of its greater abundance, not because it is less susceptible to degradation during processing or digestion.
In fact, it is likely that many studies have failed to detect genetically modified ("transgenic") DNA in animal products and tissues due to the comparatively low level of its presence and limitations in the sensitivity of the analytical methods used. they use, and not because transgenic DNA does not reach products and tissues of animal origin.
Since late 2005, however, three studies published by three different scientific teams and one unpublished study have detected transgenic plant DNA in animal tissues and milk.
A Canadian team fed Roundup Ready oilseed rapeseed (or canola) to pigs and sheep and then examined various animal tissues. The scientists found that the liver, kidney, and intestinal tissues of pigs and sheep contained fractions of the transgenes. In another study, Italian scientists fed piglets for 35 days with Monsanto's GMO corn (MON 810). Later, they found fragments of a transgene in the blood, liver, spleen and kidney of the animals.
Another team of Italian researchers, from the University of Catania, detected genetically modified soybean sequences and transgenic sequences in store-bought milk in Italy. An unpublished study, conducted in 2000 at the University of Weihenstephan in Germany, also detected genetically modified substances (from transgenic soybeans and corn) in the milk of cows that had been fed large amounts of transgenic plants. The results of the study were published by Greenpeace in 2004. The researcher has suggested that the DNA may have been a consequence of the contamination of the milk by the dust of the transgenic forage in dairy products. While this is unproven, it points to a possible common source of contamination with the use of GM grass and does not change or undermine the fact that the researcher found genetically modified DNA in the milk.
The Soil Association also decided to investigate this problem. We asked farmers whose forage high levels of GM soy had been found to provide samples of their milk or eggs for analysis to detect the presence of genetically modified DNA or proteins. Two dairy farmers and one egg producer agreed to provide samples. Each farmer provided two milk samples (from two different cows) or two egg samples, as well as a forage sample to recheck the level of transgenic soy.
All samples were analyzed by Genetic ID in Germany. The soybeans in all three forage samples were found to be 100% transgenic. However, our tests did not detect any genetically modified DNA or protein in any of the milk or egg samples. In several of the milk samples, plant DNA, including soybean DNA, was detected, indicating the possibility that a very low level of genetically modified DNA was not detected. Later, when we learned about the Italian investigation, which had detected genetically modified DNA in store milk, we carried out a similar investigation, but on a smaller scale. Milk samples were collected from 10 leading supermarkets or corner store chains. All the samples were analyzed using the same technique applied by the Catania scientists, as well as by an in-house method. Again, we did not find modified DNA or protein, but several samples contained traces of plant DNA, including DNA from soybeans.
In conclusion, based on the fact that chloroplast DNA from cultures is commonly found in milk, eggs and animal tissues, and that four research teams have detected DNA from transgenic crops in milk, blood, liver, kidneys and intestinal tissues of GM-fed animals, we conclude that it is likely that people are frequently exposed to genetically modified DNA through the consumption of milk and meat from GM-fed animals, albeit at very low levels. Therefore further research on this topic is necessary.
Network for a GMO-Free Latin America - RALLT - Bulletin 421