One thing that can be a little mind-blowing to realize about food is that whatever we eat, we also consume some of everything else it was exposed to during its lifetime. This is why we’re cautioned against eating some kinds of fish, for example. Bioaccumlative mercury moves up the food chain – from the krill eaten by smaller fish up through the bigger fish that prey on them, and from there to us.
Similarly, as we noted in an earlier post, whenever we eat meat, eggs or dairy from conventionally, industrially raised livestock – animals that are typically given large amounts of antibiotics over their lifetime – we get a dose of antibiotics, too.
We couldn’t help but think of this upon hearing of a new study on the effects of GMO soy and corn on pigs. Though it focuses on the direct effects to the animals – and how those effects might be the same for us – you can’t help but wonder how we may be affected less directly, as well. Research to date does not build confidence.
According to Civil Eats, the current Journal of Organic Systems study found that
pigs raised on a mixed diet of GM corn and GM soy had higher rates of intestinal problems, “including inflammation of the stomach and small intestine, stomach ulcers, a thinning of intestinal walls and an increase in haemorrhagic bowel disease, where a pig can rapidly ‘bleed-out’ from their bowel and die.” Both male and female pigs reared on the GM diet were more likely to have severe stomach inflammation, at a rate of four times and 2.2 times the control group, respectively. There were also reproductive effects: the uteri of female pigs raised on GM feed were 25 percent larger (in proportion to body size) than those of control sows. (All male pigs were neutered, so scientists were unable to study any effects on the male reproductive systems.)
The study confirms anecdotal evidence from hog farmers who’ve reported reproductive and digestive problems in pigs raised on GM feed.
Even in the measured tones of scientific writing, the study authors’ concluding comments likewise give pause:
Given the widespread use of GMO feed for livestock as well as humans this is a cause for concern. The results indicate that it would be prudent for GM crops that are destined for human food and animal feed, including stacked GM crops, to undergo long-term animal feeding studies preferably before commercial planting, particularly for toxicological and reproductive effects. Humans have a similar gastrointestinal tract to pigs, and these GM crops are widely consumed by people, particularly in the USA, so it would be be prudent to determine if the findings of this study are applicable to humans.
It would also be prudent – as in so many other cases – to take the precautionary principle to heart: If there’s cause for concern and no scientific consensus as to whether an action will be harmful or not, we should hold off until those who want to do the action prove it will not, in fact, cause harm. The responsibility is theirs.
Meantime, studies such as this one offer another good reminder of why it’s so important to make organic, sustainably raised whole foods the core of your diet, opting for them as much as possible.
More info on clean eating from Living Medicine
Image by Donna Cleveland, via Flickr