What happens when 100 billion animals, over 18 years, eat GMOs?

| | September 19, 2014

Visit almost any anti-GMO website and you will find alarming headlines about the alleged dangers of GMO foods. They kill pigs, cows and sheep on farms and in lab studies! Humans are next!

Estimates of the numbers of meals consumed by feed animals since the introduction of GM crops 18 years ago would number well into the trillions. By common sense alone, if GE feed were causing unusual problems among livestock, farmers would have noticed. Dead and sick animals would literally litter farms around the world. Yet there are no anecdotal reports of such mass health problems.

But we don’t need to depend on anecdotes to address these concerns. Writing in the Journal of Animal Science, in the most comprehensive study of GMOs and food ever conducted, University of California-Davis Department of Animal Science geneticist Alison Van Eenennaam and research assistant Amy E. Young reviewed 29 years of livestock productivity and health data from both before and after the introduction of genetically engineered animal feed.

The field data represented more than 100 billion animals covering a period before 1996 when animal feed was 100 percent non-GMO, and after its introduction when it jumped to 90 percent and more. The documentation included the records of animals examined pre and post mortem, as ill cattle cannot be approved for meat.

What did they find? That GM feed is safe and nutritionally equivalent to non-GMO feed. There was no indication of any unusual trends in the health of animals over 18 years since 1996 when GMO crops were first harvested. Considering the size of the dataset, it can reasonably be said that the debate over the impact of GE feed on animal health is closed: there is zero extraordinary impact.

Read the full, original article: The debate about GMO safety is over, thanks to a new trillion-meal study

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Click the link above to read the full, original article.

64 thoughts on “What happens when 100 billion animals, over 18 years, eat GMOs?”

  1. These animals live a lot less than 18 years and a lot less than humans. There is no way to study the long term effect this way. Also the definition for health of the livestock is quite different from that of a human – does your doctor only looks to see you’re alive and gain weight? The way these obviously important details are swept under the rug in the article is a clear WARNING SIGN of the quality and the purpose of all the materials on the web site and everybody with enough clear though will notice it. In case there are people who didn’t – then that’s a sign GMO is really influencing their mental health for the worse and we missed seeing it on the cows :)

    • 1 and 2 year animal studies are considered state of the art in determining health consequences that might be mirrored in humans. The key information from this data is that NO unusual health issues were found…none…after the introduction of GMO foods. These findings mirror the longterm studies on lab animals. There is zero evidence of any kind that the process of genetic modification leads to any health problems.

      • Not that it ever made any sense that it would… superstitious people think that eating genes can somehow alter your body — as if all food didn’t contain genes before they were modified.

      • Plus diary cows and others live out most of their natural lives…Plus diary cows and others live out most of their natural lives…Plus diary cows and others live out most of their natural lives…are you fucking retarded?

    • Actually the paper looks at heath parameters including somatic cell count (SCC; an indicator of mastitis and inflammation in the udder) and postmortem
      condemnation rates in cattle, and both postmortem condemnation rates and mortality in the poultry industry. It should be noted that if animals are sick they do not grow well, – and growth rates have not be affected by GMO feed. The paper also summarizes the results of two thorough multigenerational studies that examined the long-term effects of feeding a GMO corn variety to food-producing animals, specifically, a German study in dairy cattle and an Irish study in pigs that included several papers looking specifically at health indicators. These stud­ies were notable in that they included appropriate con­trols consuming isogenic non-GE lines of corn, and both comprehensively examined a range of phenotypes and indicators of health using sophisti­cated techniques including histopathology and hematological analyses. These papers found that that transgenerational consumption of these GMO corn diets was not detrimental to animal health.

      • I agree that there is probably not much difference in health of livestock fed GMO corn/soy vs non-GMO corn/soy, and their milk/meat is most likely nutritionally equivalent. But, it is my understanding that there is a significant nutritional difference between milk/meat from grass-fed cattle versus corn/soy fed cattle. I would love to see you do your next study on that.

        • Then you’re on the wrong website.
          I can vouch that there are flavor differences between free ranging cow’s milk and field fed cow’s milk, in England we used to get “Cornish butter” that tasted completely different from regular butter, but as it became more popular, Cornish corners were cut, and although the cows resided in Cornwall, they no longer ranged across the heaths, and ate wild flowers that influenced their milk and butter.
          Such a shame.
          I don’t know of a study that shows significant differences between the composition and nutrition of grass fed versus feedlot fed cow’s milk.

  2. This is a good example of two sides talking past each other. I don’t think that arguing that factory farmed animals are healthy is going to convince critics of industrial agriculture. And I think presenting this research uncritically does a disservice to the smart readers of this blog.

    • Question: Why would presenting any research on GMOs and animal health be a disservice? The information was not presented as a ‘defense of industrial agriculture”. Also, what do you mean by “industrial agriculture.” Modern agriculture? Before modern ag took advantage of sophisticated techniques such as genetics, fertilizers and pesticides, we were on the verge of an epidemic of global starvation. There are certainly consequences to any innovations, and I’m not suggesting we should downplay those issues, but surely you are not arguing that we return to a time before the world employed large scale agriculture? Or are you?

      • No, I’m not arguing that we go back to the stone age. But saying that feedlot animals are healthy on both GMO or non-GMO feed does seem like a defense of industrial agriculture as well as a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be healthy.

        I see that Allison has provided more information on her study below. But I take issue with her statement that “if animals are sick they do not grow well”, a kind of circular logic that would justify modern CAFOs: if feedlot cows grow faster than free-range cows, than they must be ‘healthier’!

        The fact is that CAFOs are run to maximize growth (and therefore, profit), not animal or human health. Confined animals are fed an unhealthy and unnatural diet of grains and chemicals that necessitates heavy use of antibiotics. They are also treated with rBST or rBGH and/or other steroid hormones to promote growth in the short time before slaughter. I hope no one is suggesting that this toxic diet would be healthy for humans!

        I’m sorry, but to say that “no unusual health issues were found…none” strikes me as bizarrely ignorant of the conditions of many farm animals today. If this is the kind of ‘health’ we should expect from a brave new GMO world, please count me out.

        • I think this discussion is conflating two issues. This study looked at peer-reviewed literature and field experience with feeding GMO crops to livestock to examine whether there are data from these large datasets showing deleterious health trends in commercial livestock populations following the adoption of GMO crops in their diets. The points you raise about the many other management practices and technologies used in livestock production are addressed in many other peer-reviewed articles.

      • Fertilizer was around before that, Genetics, Well they have been doing that with cows naturally for a hell of a long time as well as other agricultural products and pesticides have been used for thousands of years, They have improved in recent years but largely due to government programs, Not big agro.

        What has actually allowed for increased productivity is efficiency, It comes down to the vehicles being used, Not done by hand which is slow but by big machines, Simple as that.

    • I call BS on your BS, cows are not slaughtered after 3 months, even chickens get longer than that. As I noted above, the only meat animal that is harvested in that time frame would be the homesteaders favorite, the rabbit!

  3. might believe that there is not big impact on human consumption of GMOs (if well engineered, but how to be 100% sure?), but here nobody considers the effect on biodiversity.

    • Interesting you should say that, I want more biodiversity, and adding new genes to corn adds diversity to the corn genome, or at least it would if the plants were allowed to cross pollinate other corn plants!

  4. Everyone’s full of crap, even anti-GMO companies. It boils down to one thing. Profit. This article is pure propaganda. To begin with, cows in feedlots (or what you refer to a “farm”) are pumped full of antibiotics and live knee deep in shit. It has been proven that a grain fed diet causes a multitude of problems. You’re going to lay claim that these animals are healthy to begin with, you are full of it. GMOs are still debatably unsafe for long term and daily consumption.

    • Cuckoo-catchoo. We have a live one here.

      Your rantings might convince someone who has never left the city, but people like me who live in Wisconsin know that your description of farms is nonsense.

    • To add to Falcon’s point, I’ll quote Alison’s words to a similar rant:

      Alison Van Eenennaam
      “I think this discussion is conflating two issues. This study looked at peer-reviewed literature and field experience with feeding GMO crops to livestock to examine whether there are data from these large datasets showing deleterious health trends in commercial livestock populations following the adoption of GMO crops in their diets. The points you raise about the many other management practices and technologies used in livestock production are addressed in many other peer-reviewed articles.”

      They said 0 health differences, reading comprehension is important. The study would be valid even if the non-gmo-fed animals were extremely unhealthy, as it found that gmo-fed animals have the same health conditions.

  5. That study is a red herring. The problem comes in with
    sustained use. That GMO study touts the millions of animals that ate GMO. But, livestock only live to be a few months old before slaughter. There is no significant time for effects. But, people generally don’t stop eating corn after 6 months.

    • Errr, wait are you advocating that 4 letter V word?
      I think cows are still classed as veal in the US beyond 6 months, and lambs are lambs until they’re at least a year old here, pigs are mostly killed well after 6 months as well, and dairy cows (also included in the study) show no affects after several years of milking.
      That only leaves the youngest veal calves, suckling pigs and chickens that are killed within 6 months, and the livestock that only live to be “a few months old before slaughter” would be what? Rabbits?

  6. Well, I am still waiting for the anti-GM activists to produce a peer-reviewed study (that hasn’t been retracted) that uses sound empirical evidence and proper scientific methodology to make a direct connection between human/animal consumption of GM foods and a diagnosed medical condition. Until that happens, they’re nothing. Not credible; not worth listening to; and certainly not making any contributions to society. Sound and fury, signifying nothing.

  7. I do not think this accurately presents evidence for long-term effects. Since these animals are used for meat, over how long of a period is the study conducted? This does not reflect positive results for humans that may be consuming GMO over a period of 5 years or more. I disagree that there is zero extraordinary impact in consideration of long term impact in animals, including humans.

    • disagree all you want, but unless you are a geneticist conducting your own study, or have a peer reviewed study of your won to present, your opinion means exactly bupkiss, especially when used as an argument against an actually thorough peer-reviewed study…

  8. Awesome. So ingesting Roundup is good for me. Glad to know. Thanks. I didn’t need gut flora anyway. There is some good research going on right now on the effects of long term exposure to low levels of Glyphosate. I know someone who is loosely connected with one of the studies underway currently. Let’s wait to have a discussion until these start being published. What I have been told is that the work is showing much greater toxicity at much lower levels than previously believed. And guess what? Fun fact. Roundup is in 70% of processed foods in your local market or restaurant. So if you eat GMO food, you are eating Roundup weed killer. Yummy! Again, wait until the studies are published. Then we’ll talk. Based on what Ive been told and my own experience of being very sick for many years with multiple immune system disorders, this product is dangerous. I stopped eating all GMO not long ago and all of my chronic illnesses are in remission. Eight weeks ago I didn’t give a damn about GMO. Someone pointed me to a study, I did some research, and decided to cut out all glyphosate containing food. Anecdotal I know but I spent years and tens of thousand of dollars trying everything to heal myself and nothing worked. But when I switched to organic, I got better. Psoriasis and eczema almost gone. Hyperthyroid, gone. Hypertension, gone. Again, wait till the new work is published. Based on what I’ve been told, I’d take DDT any day over Glyphosate. This chemical is one of the most toxic chemicals ever administered on such a broad scale. Actually, probably the most toxic. Data to follow.

    • We need better science than this, still. We need actual long-term studies with high enough sample size and in-depth microbial community analysis of gut microbiomes.

  9. One more thing. Help me to understand this. Monsanto and their supporters claim that Roundup is harmless to animals and humans because the mechanism of action it uses (which allows it to kill weeds), called the shikimate pathway, is absent in all animals.

    However, the shikimate pathway IS present in bacteria.


    For every cell in your body, you have 10 microbes of various kinds, and all of them have the shikimate pathway, so they will all respond to the presence of glyphosate!

    As the overwhelming majority of GMO is produced to withstand Glyphosate, we end up with Glyphosate residue in our food, which causes severe disruption to over 90% of the cells in our body.

    Do you want to explain to me and anyone else listening how eating something that is toxic to the vast majority of cells in your body is a healthy practice to engage in.

    I’d really like to know. Because I really don’t get it. Would you please share whatever information you have that I have somehow missed. Have you learned that those trillions of microbes in our bodies are simply unnecessary? Please, help me understand this because I can’t make sense of it at all.

    Explain please.

    • Let me help you to understand….
      Whereas you are on the right track when you say that some microorganisms (some bacteria and some fungi) do possess the shikimic acid pathway in their physiology, that does not mean that they would be exposed to glyphosate at significant levels, even if you or other people eat Roundup Ready crop commodities (corn and soybean grain). Glyphosate residues in food commodities are very low, hundreds to thousands of times lower than the concentrations required to inhibit the shikimic acid pathway of the bacteria in your gut. The published residue tolerances (maximum residue limits, or MRLs) for glyphosate in human food commodities are available for all people, worldwide, to read on the U.S. EPA website. All pesticide tolerances are based upon rigorously conducted, GLP compliant studies, and they cannot be exceeded. In the U.S. and Canada, pesticide tolerances carry the force of law, so if any violations were to be found then I’m quite sure we would have heard about it by now.

      • Good4U, your statement is just factually untrue, sorry to break it to you. Typical U.S. diet includes glyphosate at daily levels in the micrograms. That is enough to inhibit shikimic acid pathways in human gut microbes. Glyphosate has a low molecular mass but works in a highly amplified way, by competitive inhibition of a biosynthesis metabolic pathway. Thus, one microgram could theoretically affect all 100 trillion gut microbes, as one microgram contains 35 molecules of glyphosate for each of those microbes. These studies you mention did not study human gut microbiome community dynamics. I’m happy to be proven wrong by good science. I do hope that half the world is not being micro-dosed with a gut disrupting monkey wrench chemical.

        • Sage…don’t you think that if what you stated could be true then somehow, somewhere, in all of the animal feeding studies that have been done on glyphosate for the past 35 years, there would have been some significant effect on the test animals? Adverse effects would have been found in the form of body weight reductions vs. the untreated control animals. Keep in mind that all of those test animals contain gut microflora too, which are just as essential to the lives and health of the test animals as they are to humans. The subchronic and chronic (full lifetime) feeding studies that have been done on glyphosate would surely have identified any adverse effects on the animals’ gut microflora in terms of impacts on the overall health and integrity of the animals receiving glyphosate dosing regimes.

          Your postulations don’t make any sense. The evidence is clear: glyphosate is a very safe substance for humans to consume, especially at the extremely low dietary levels as described above, and on the U.S. EPA website.

  10. GM Soy Linked to Illnesses in Farm Pigs

    Danish farmer Ib Borup Perderson reverses Illnesses in pigs by reverting to a GM-free diet for his animals, which is yet further evidence for the toxicity of glyphosate tolerant GM crops.

    Here’s the link: http://www.i-sis.org.uk/GM_Soy_Linked_to_Illnesses_in_Farm_Pigs.php

    He was also interviewed at the GMO conferecne in China late last year. The interview can be found on youtube. He discusses his experience on a farm with over 3000 pigs

  11. Monsanto patented Glyphosate as an antibiotic. And indeed it is a very powerful and broad spectrum antibiotic.

    Abstract from patent:

    Protozoan parasites of the phylum Apicomplexa include some of the most important causative agents of human and animal diseases, in particular, malaria. The discovery that an organelle found inside parasites of this phylum probably stems from a plastid of plant origin has stimulated research onthe effect of chemical herbicidal agents on Apicomplexa. Importantly, the growth of these parasites can be inhibited by the herbicide glyphosate, suggesting that the shikimate pathway will make a good target for the development of new anti-parasite agents. The present invention discloses the use of the herbicidal agent glyphosate in combination with the polyvalent anion oxalic acid for the prevention and therapy of these pathogenic infections.

    If you eat GMO food designed to survive repeated glyphosate application, you are ingesting this powerful antibiotic and chelating agent I might add, every day. Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t it already established medical fact that consuming antibiotics continually is damaging to your own microbial population as well as causing antibiotic resistance. Continual and prolonged use of a broad spectrum antibiotic will be detrimental to any human being’s health. And further more, Glyphosate is a powerful chelator. Do you even know what that means? It grabs onto mineral in whatever environment it is in and wraps around them, creating mineral deficiency.

    Gee, is it possible that right now tests nationwide are showing pronounced manganese as well as other key mineral deficiencies in soil exposed to Glyyphosate and livestock who consume Glyphosate treated feed. Is something wrong with your brain?

    My god. Please tell me you’re not a biologist because you should know this. I’m an engineer by training and I know this from some of my first basic classes in biology.

    Is something wrong with your brain. This is basic chemistry. It is plain as day for anyone to see that this chemical is toxic to mammals.

    I am not going to engage in this conversation any longer. I will go talk to my eight year old child where I can get a more mental engagement. This is ridiculous.


    Dear god, let this person not be someone who is educated. Otherwise I fear our educational system is beyond repair.

    • Indeed, glyphosate does interrupt the shikimic acid pathways of many organisms other than plants, including some eukaryotes as well. This is true. We may have glyphosate to thank for helping us out with parasitic infections, but we may also have glyphosate to curse regarding changes in beneficial gut microbiome population balance. Science remains to be done on this topic, which is a very odd thing to be saying about a chemical that is used worldwide for decades now.


    The Monsanto herbicide Glyphosate is being fed to children in levels higher than what has been shown to destroy gut bacteria in chickens. But that’s ok. Those kids didn’t need their gut bacteria anyway!

    New lab report testing carried out by Moms Across America has found the world’s number one herbicide, glyphosate, to be in feeding tube liquid which is given to babies and children who are in need of nutrition in intensive care. Specifically, the herbicide was found in PediaSure Enteral Nutritional Drink.

    The testing found that 6 of the 20 samples tested contained ‘high’ levels of glyphosate – over 75 ug/l, which was the minimum detection level of the ELISA assay used.


    Moms Across America Founder Zen Honeycutt stated:

    “It is appalling that our health care providers have been led to believe this feeding liquid is safe. Our children and loved ones believe that our health institutions are supporting their immune system and recovery, instead they are being fed a liquid which contains a herbicide that could be seriously damaging their health.”

    The PediaSure Enteral Nutritional Drink tested contained GM maize (GM corn syrup) and GM soya, both of which are sprayed with glyphosate-based herbicides (these include Monsanto’s ‘RoundUp’ herbicide), during the growing season and at harvest as a drying agent.

    Abbott Nutrition, the manufacturer of the PediaSure family of products, describes them as “a source of complete, balanced nutrition designed especially for children 1 to 13 years of age.”

    Sarah Cusack, MPT, CHHC told Moms Across America:

    “As a mother I am very disturbed by these results. Working as a paediatric Physical Therapist I met children with feeding issues who depend on tube feedings for their entire lives. Children who experience trauma and are recovering from car accidents, shootings, cancers, surgeries and other illnesses may require these tube feedings for days, weeks, or years.

    I have long questioned the nutritionally poor and inflammatory ingredients in these feedings but am devastated to find out that they are contaminated with poison. Our most vulnerable children, and our children healing from overwhelming trauma, deserve better.”

    Read: Meta-Analysis Finds Link Between Glyphosate and Cancer of Lymph Tissue

    This new testing is the latest to raise awareness regarding the ubiquitous and harmful nature of glyphosate-based pesticides. Regulators as well as Monsanto claim that glyphosate is excreted from the body, but numerous studies have shown that not only is it causing numerous health problems, it is also showing up in urine samples, blood samples, and even breast milk.

    The lab results also follow the first ever pilot biosurvey on glyphosate in the breast milk of American women, commissioned by Moms Across America and Sustainable Pulse in 2014, which found ‘high’ levels in 3 out of the 10 samples tested.

    Sustainable Pulse Director Henry Rowlands concluded:

    “The more data produced regarding the levels of glyphosate in our food, water and medicines the better. Even though this testing is not validated it does give a strong clue as to how ubiquitous glyphosate is in the U.S. food supply system. The question the EPA, USDA and all regulatory bodies worldwide should be asking themselves is are they willing to risk public health by relying on short-term industry sponsored safety studies on glyphosate and all other pesticides.

    It is time for the regulators to support long-term independent science to determine just how damaging glyphosate pesticides are for this and future generations. While these studies are being completed all glyphosate-based herbicides should be removed from the shelves.”

    Approximately 1 billion pounds of pesticides are sprayed on crops in the United States alone every single year. Thanks to pesticide/herbicide-resistant GMO crops, that number is growing every year. Much of this pesticide spraying contains a toxic ingredient known as glyphosate – the primary poisonous active ingredient in Monsanto’s best-selling herbicide RoundUp.

  13. When science trumps ideology the last paragraph reads…

    What did they find? There was no indication of any unusual trends in the health of animals over 18 years since 1996 when GMO crops were first harvested. THIS DATA SUGGESTS that GM feed is safe and nutritionally equivalent to non-GMO feed.

    This is strong correlative data, not direct evidence.

    Thanks for links to 1783 collected articles on GMO foods. Unfortunately, as pointed out, 68% are on environmental impacts. Still working through the list but did not find original research with a feeding study until 1139.

  14. Unless you’re completely oblivious to how the animal agricultural world works you know that meat and dairy cows don’t live past 4 or 5 years of age. When the “Natural” lifespan of a cow is over 20 years. Dairy cows are slaughtered after 4 or 5 years when they can no longer walk and their health has deteriorated to the point they can no longer produce milk.

  15. Let’s face it. Anyone promoting GMOs is advocating that you and your family eat food laced with the toxic herbicide Roundup Weathermax Two. That’s because 90% of all GMOs are designed to be Roundup Ready. This is actually what GMO is all about. What this means is crops like corn, canola, and soy are Ready to be directly sprayed with Roundup weed killer and survive. That’s what Roundup Ready means.

    THIS CORN IS READY TO POISONED AND SURVIVE THE POISONING… and then be turned into food that you will eat!

    That, my friends, is the heart and soul of GMO. Crops that can directly sprayed with poison, absorb that poison, survive, and be turned into your food. Isn’t that neat? What an amazing innovation!!! That’s freaking brilliant!

    Crops and weeds are sprayed with Roundup weed killer. It is then absorbed into the plant. The weeds, not being inoculated against the poison die. While the GMO corn, canola, or soy survive the poison being drawn up into their cellular structure. These crops are then processed into food that you and your family eat. Pretty cool huh?

    GMOs are about one thing. And that is selling more herbicide. If you don’t believe that consider this. Roundup usage in the United States in the year 2000 was 100 million pounds. By 2014 it has increase too ONE BILLION POUNDS!!! We used ten times as much Roundup in 2014 as we did in 2000. Why? That’s easy. It’s because we have spent the last decade switching out our conventional corn, canola, and soy with over 90% Roundup Ready (able to be sprayed with poison and survive) corn, canola, and soy.

    Our food is laced with the toxic herbicide Roundup Weathermax Two. This is the primary effect of the rapid adaptation of GMOs. So when someone tells you GMOs are perfectly safe keep in mind that they are telling you that it’s perfectly fine to eat Roundup Weathermax Two. And trust me, if you are eating canola, corn, soy, sugar, or cotton seed oil and they are not organic, you are eating trace amounts of Roundup Weathermax Two every single day.

    “Go ahead. Eat the GMO foods. Eat the Roundup Weathermax Two. Yes, it is a toxic herbicide that is absorbed into the plants that are turned into your food but it won’t hurt you. True, there has not been one single long term chronic low level exposure study of this formulation of chemicals EVER but who cares? We are confident. Go ahead and eat the poison. It’s safe”


    The Biostitutes

  16. 0h really? Why don’t you go read what individual farmers have to say about their animals getting sick and non-reproductive on GMO’s? And how much improvement came after they switched to GMO free food! Furthermore many farmers are afraid to speak up about the findings they themselves can see with their own eyes so they just quietly switched back to NON-GMO.
    Also veterinarians are also speaking out about the subject while as many more are also afraid to potentially ruin their careers by doing so.

    But really, who the hell wants to eat weed killer in their food anyway? It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that it can’t be good for you!

    • Linda, do you really think farmers wouldn’t have noticed about their animals getting sick and “non-reproductive”? Where do you get this woo? Farmers and ranchers use GE feed willingly and they are well-versed about the health of their livestock. And your assertion that nobody knows about all this sickness and sterility because “…farmers are afraid to speak up…” is a convenient way to avoid having to document your ridiculous fairy tales, but is just bull manure. Same with your oblique reference that vets would speak up about it but they are “….afraid to potentially ruin their careers.” Lots of conspiracy stuff you are throwing out, but zero substance.
      You have a lot of strong ideas about farming, but not much actual fact. Your conspiracy theories are total bunk.

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