Mark one victory point for the GMO critics. A new study recently found that genetically modified feed could be having a notable impact on goat mothers and their offspring. Critics are now using this as another point to help press the argument that there are some glaring gaps in GMO assessment and regulation that still need to be addressed.
The study, recently published in Small Ruminant Research, the official journal of the International Goat Association, found that GM soy feed traditionally fed to goats across Europe was resisting digestion, locking away some nutrients that would otherwise be found in mother goat milk. A significant reduction of immunoglobulins (up to 40 percent) were also identified in the GM-fed mother's milk compared to the milk of goats fed alternative feeds.
The consequence, of course, was that kids fed the affected milk grew slower and stayed smaller, compared to kids of mothers on alternative feed.
The exact cause remains open to debate, but the study team from the University of Naples, Italy, believe that the growth reduction can be traced directly back to the impairment of a specific group of white blood cells (B lymphocytes) in the mother animals.
They add that the intention of this study was not to condemn GM feed. Countless studies before this have identified how many common commercial feeds have little to no effect on livestock. However, they press that what is important about these results is that it shows how one GM crop can influence one group in particular during a very specific time in their lives. (Scroll to read on...)
And that's a very important distinction, as past studies have lumped livestock data across species or only examined adult health and not newborn influence.
"Recent findings have triggered new questions and show just how large the gaps are in the risk assessment of genetically engineered plants," expert Christoph Then commented in a statement for the European watchdog group TestBiotech.
He explained that as things stand, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) still does not request any specific investigations before authorization of GM livestock feed, leaving many to wonder if there are products such as wholesome goat's milk that could actually affect consumers.
"Consequently, we cannot exclude effects on human health," Then said.
Still, it should also be noted that this study most importantly shows industry, not consumers, the risks that come with not properly assessing GM feed. Humans, even children, certainly won't be drinking goat's milk straight from the teat, and can easily receive key nutrients and antibodies from other sources. However, when affected mother's milk is slowing kid growth in a livestock industry, that's bad for business, and goat owners should be made aware of this consequence to ensure the health of their livelihoods.
It's also important to note that the United States and some parts of Asia have stricter regulations when it comes to GM livestock feed, while the European Union is making moves to have GMO regulation left to the discrepancy of individual nations.
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