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What is the WHOLE process of GM food or animals? Why are animals force fed GM corn and soybeans, if they are getting diseases, sick and are dieing?! If there are so many hazards why is there still GM things being made? I also think that GM food should be labeled as so, I and other people who worry about there health and want to eat REAL, NATURAL food can do so.

Submitted by: MAC


Expert response from Yvonne Badke

Senior Biometrician, Breeding Research Group, Breeding and Trait Development Unit, Bayer Crop Science

Friday, 07/11/2014 16:46

The following responses address separately each of your questions related to GMOs and animals:


a) What is the WHOLE process of GM food or animals?


Most of the GM process is rather technical, but it all starts with identifying the right gene to insert. This may sound easy, but it is really more like finding a small, straw-colored needle in a huge haystack — we may have been able to sequence several organisms (including human ones) over the last decade, but single genes and their specific functions are still largely unknown. So, at the beginning of any GMO process, many genes, proteins and regions of interest in the genome are screened for their potential use in increasing the efficiency or disease resistance in a plant or animal. Once a gene is identified, the molecular process of inserting it into the target genome begins. The gene’s location may affect its expression, so this also requires many trials. Afterward, a lengthy process starts testing material with the inserted gene to assess whether or not it produces the desired result (yield increase, disease resistance, etc.) and whether there are any unwanted side effects. All food or animal feed products are required to meet FDA-mandated standards for health and safety, and a consultation process is in place. Further details on the FDA’s procedures can be found on its website.


Only if all requirements are met will the product be forwarded to the market and at some point become available for human and/or animal consumption. 

A more general introduction to the GMO process can also be found on the GMO Answers website, which includes a small clip describing the process of GM biotechnology that saved the Hawaiian papaya farms.


b) Why are animals force fed GM corn and soybeans, if they are getting diseases, sick and are dieing?!


We are not exactly sure where the assumption in this question that animals are getting sick from GM feed is coming from. A few years ago, a rat-feeding study by Gilles-Eric Séralini, looking at the effects of GM corn, got a lot of attention because of its severe health impact on the subjects. However, the study received widespread criticism from the scientific community, and several government agencies in charge of food-safety issues have questioned its results. Several answers regarding the content and trustworthiness of Gilles-Eric Séralini’s results have been provided on Gmo Answers; I refer you for more details  to:

There is no scientific evidence that animals in a production environment suffer health or reproductive issues because their feed is obtained from GMO crops. What is true is that the diet of animals grown for meat and dairy production has changed dramatically over the last century. Adding corn and soybean silage to the diet of cows (ruminants), swine and poultry has been extensively researched to obtain the optimal composition of feed for each species. We are aware that several articles claim that these animals suffered infertility or disease because their feed was GMO derived; however, when you look at the accompanying research, these effects were usually associated with a nutrient deficiency from the new composition of the feed. Once these effects were observed, steps were taken to identify the deficiency and introduce better-composed feed. 


c) If there are so many hazards why is there still GM things being made?

Using GMO technology is not much different from traditional breeding. Over centuries farmers, have selected better varieties that are more resistant to pests and disease or have higher yield or better quality. This traditional form of selection has led to the field crops we know today. Directly introducing one desired gene at a time has greatly accelerated this process and led to the GMO crops planted today. Products derived from GMO crops, as well as the crops themselves, are tested thoroughly to address any concerns for the health and safety of the consumer, and no evidence has been found to date that these products are in any way different from traditionally bred varieties. On the other hand, there are numerous advantages to the use of GMOs in order to supply the food necessary for our growing world population. 


d) I also think that GM food should be labeled as so, I and other people who worry about there health and want to eat REAL, NATURAL food can do so.

Labeling of GMO products is a topic that has been discussed in several GMO Answers posts and in an additional post,which discusses the difficulties of labeling from a farmer’s perspective.


Products from GMO crops are screened for safety before they are released into the market. Any GMO food whose nutritional value differs from that of its traditional counterpart is also required to be labeled. So all food in the grocery store at this moment that contains GMO ingredients has been deemed safe and no different from the traditional product. 


If you would like to compare GMO with GMO-free products, you can find these easily in grocery stores. There are thousands of food items voluntarily labeled non-GMO by the producer. In addition, any food labeled as organic is not produced using GMO seed. If you shop in the produce section, only Hawaiian papayas, squash and some sweet corn are likely GMO products; the remainder of fruits and vegetables are traditionally bred. Local farmers’ markets are growing in popularity, and there you can meet directly with the people growing and producing your food and hear their story and perspective on modern agriculture. You might find that some of the products labeled as organic or GMO-free are a little bit more expensive than their GMO-containing counterparts. This is due to the higher costs of producing and especially tracing these products — which is very nicely illustrated in the last answer we cited above.