Friday, July 1, 2022

US pig study raises GM concerns

A prominent researcher is pushing for more work to be done on the effect of genetically modified (GM) stock food on animals and ultimately humans eating the livestock.

Professor Jack Heinemann, of Canterbury University’s Centre for Integrated Research in Biosafety (INBI), said a recent study revealing negative effects of GM feed on pigs should have New Zealand authorities concerned.

The United States study revealed pigs fed a typical diet of GM soy and GM corn suffered inflamed stomachs and had uteruses 25% heavier than pigs fed a non-GM diet.

The figures were statistically significant and the study was peer reviewed before publication in the Journal of Organic Systems.

“What is notable about this research is it’s real world, not conducted through a lab but in a real piggery with typical feed combinations farmers buy,” Heinemann said.

Pigs were part of the human food chain and shared digestive systems similar to humans.

The pigs fed GM feed suffered stomach inflammation 2.6 times greater than those on non-GM diets.

“So we need to ask, are people also getting digestive problems from eating GM crops and what are the effects of digesting products from livestock fed GM crops?”

While GM crops were not grown in NZ, significant volumes of stock feed imported contained GM crops, he said. Because it is not for direct human consumption it is not required to be separated from non-GM feed.

Heinemann has been vocal with his concerns about the possible impact of GM feed products on human health.

In April he voiced his concerns about the use of a GM molecule, double-stranded RNA (dsRNA), in food products.

That coincided with the release of a review he had conducted on the lack of regulation and investigation into dsRNA. The review challenged Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) on its risk assessment of dsRNA use.

Earlier this month FSANZ responded, stating it did not support the view dsRNA in food was likely to have adverse consequences for humans.

Dr Judy Carman, of Flinders University, Australia, and lead researcher in the pig study said her concern was the adverse effects in this study were found when the animals were fed a mixture of crops containing typical GM genes and GM proteins.

“Yet no food regulator in the world requires a safety assessment for possible toxic mixtures,” she said.

The paper has not been without its critics.

Associate Professor Thomas Dearden, of Otago University Genetics, said there might be something in the paper but it needed to be repeated, be more robust and preferably be published in a higher profile journal.

Heinemann agreed.

“It would be good to see a similar study done. In any scientific study there will be some reasonable criticisms. They could go on and do a variable study to determine which thing associated with GM could be causing the problem. We have to know a lot of things before we come to any judgement, not just about pigs’ stomachs.

“The initial point was though, anything under the GM regime raised concerns versus those pigs without the GM feed.”

Heinemann was frustrated at the lack of separation between agriculture and food safety in NZ, with FSANZ being under the Ministry for Primary Industries umbrella.

“No safety regulator should be tied to a department focused on trade.”

Related story: GM a failing biotechnology, researchers say

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