DAVIS, California — A pair of scientists recently released a study analyzing the diets of billions of livestock to determine the impact of genetically engineered food on the animals.
Alison L. Van Eenennaam holds a doctorate in animal genomics and biotechnology and works at the University of California, Davis. Along with the help of research assistant Amy Young, Van Eenennaam analyzed 31 years of data on animal diets and GE food. She compiled her findings in a new study titled "Prevalence and Impacts of Genetically Engineered Feedstuffs on Livestock Populations," published in the Journal of Animal Sciences. The entirety of the study will be released for free Oct. 1.
After analyzing the diets of more than 100 billion livestock animals from records dating back to 1983, the two scientists determined that providing the animals with GE feed had little to no effect on their health, and in turn did not have any impact on consumers.
“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 study’ says.
Prior to 1996, almost no commercially produced animals were fed using genetically engineered feed. After 1996, the rate of GE-fed animals rose to almost 90 percent, Van Eenennaam said.
“These field data sets representing over 100 billion animals following the introduction of GE crops did not reveal unfavorable or perturbed trends in livestock health and productivity,” Van Eenennaam said in the study. ”No study has revealed any differences in the nutritional profile of animal products derived from GE-fed animals.”
Genetically modified organisms, or food products that are genetically altered for size and productivity, have come under fire from nutrition advocates in recent years who worry that altering the genetic landscape of food can have a negative impact on consumers' health.
In an opinion piece that ran on KSL.com in March 2013, contributor Leah Garriott spelled out some of the perceived pros and cons of GMO foods.
“By genetically altering common allergy-inducing foods the allergens in those foods can be removed so that the foods are consumable by all," Garriott said. "On the other hand, many argue that there has not been sufficient testing to ensure that GMOs are, in fact, okay for human consumption.”
Many still feel GMO foods should be labeled as such.
“The pro-labeling side worries about the unknown health concerns of GMOs and the predatory practices that the large GMO companies are having on family farms and heirloom foods,” Garriott said.
After analyzing the data from their study, however, Van Eenennaam and her team posit that, at least when it comes to livestock feed, GE products have little to no effect on the health of the animal, in turn have no negative health effect on consumers.