By Farm & Food Care
Canadian animal health specialists are among the experts around the world denouncing a recent study suggesting animals are harmed by eating GM crops.
The study – published in the little-known Journal of Organic Systems (sponsored by the Organic Federation of Australia) claims researchers found severe stomach inflammation in pigs that were on a diet of genetically modified (GM) grains. But Canadian animal health experts say the study has many flaws.
Dr. Robert Friendship is a professor in the Department of Population Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, and a swine health management specialist. He has reviewed the research report and concluded that it was incorrect for the researchers to conclude that one group had more stomach inflammation than the other group because the researchers did not examine stomach inflammation.
“The researchers did a visual scoring of the colour of the lining of the stomach of pigs at the abattoir and misinterpreted redness to indicate evidence of inflammation. It does not,” Friendship said. “There is no relationship between the colour of the stomach in the dead, bled-out pig at a slaughter plant and inflammation.”
Friendship suggests the researchers would have had to take a tissue sample and prepare histological slides and examine these samples for evidence of inflammatory response such as white blood cell infiltration and other changes to determine if there was inflammation. Including a veterinary pathologist on the research team would have prevented this mistake from happening, Friendship says.
Environment writer Mark Lynas researched and wrote a blog post [http://www.marklynas.org/2013/06/gmo-pigs-study-more-junk-science/#more-1227] also questioning the study’s validity. Among his findings, the lead researcher, Judy Carman, is a long-time anti-biotech campaigner. One co-author, Lynas notes, is the president and co-founder of a company that markets non-GMO grain. “Despite this, the paper declares that the authors have no conflicts of interest,” Lynas says.
Lynas continues: “…Carman and colleagues claim significant differences in a long-term study of pigs fed GMO and non-GMO diets. But if you look at the data they present…there are obvious problems. Clearly all the animals were in very poor health – weaner mortality is reported as 13% and 14% in GM-fed and non-GM fed groups, which they claim is “within expected rates for US commercial piggeries,” a vague statement intended to justify what seem to have been inadequate husbandry standards.”
Another finding that the researchers held out as proof that the GMO fed pigs were different was that the uterus weight was different between the two groups. Dr Friendship noted that the authors did not appear unbiased in their discussion. “The research had a number of factors that could not be controlled for,” Friendship says. “It is disappointing that the authors of the paper did not admit the weaknesses of the study design and caution readers that there may be many reasons for a difference in uterine weight. Unfortunately instead of presenting a fair discussion they made a wild speculation about the weight difference such as the heavier weight might indicate cancer.”
Hundreds of studies have shown that GMO foods are just as safe as conventional, as summarized in this recent statement form the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS):
“The science is quite clear: crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe. The World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the British Royal Society, and every other respected organization that has examined the evidence has come to the same conclusion: consuming foods containing ingredients derived from GM crops is no riskier than consuming the same foods containing ingredients from crop plants modified by conventional plant improvement techniques.”