GMO MEAT, MILK, & EGGS?

Myth

If livestock eat genetically modified grain, there will be GMOs in meat, milk and eggs.

Fact

GMOs have never been detected in milk, meat or eggs derived from animals fed GM feed.

(Ref. U of Cal. GE and Animal Feed)

It has been estimated that over 70 percent of harvested GMO crops are fed to food producing animals, making the world’s livestock populations the largest consumers of the current generation of GMO crops. However, GMOs have never been detected in food derived from animals fed GMO crops. 

It’s important to understand that almost all the food that we (or animals) eat contains DNA and proteins. The DNA and proteins found in food, GMO and non-GMO, are processed by the digestive system in our gastrointestinal tract. During digestion, GMO and non-GMO DNA is broken down into the four nucleotides that make up all DNA, and/or into small nucleotide fragments. Similarly, proteins, again GMO and non-GMO, are broken down into one or a few of the 21 amino acids that exist in nature. Many studies have been conducted on the potential for GMO DNA or proteins to be transferred into animal tissue. No intact or immunologically reactive protein or DNA has been detected in animal tissue.

Therefore, as Alison Van Eenennaam, Ph.D., extension specialist in animal genomics and biotechnology at the University of California, Davis, explains, “Genetically engineered crops are digested by animals in the same way as conventional crops. Evidence to date strongly suggests that feeding livestock with genetically engineered crops is equivalent to feeding unmodified feed sources in terms of nutrient composition, digestibility and feeding value.” Additionally, Dr. Van Eenennaam states, “Genetically engineered DNA, or the novel proteins encoded therein, have never been detected in the milk, meat or eggs derived from animals fed genetically engineered feedstuffs. Several studies have documented that small fragments of plant-derived, but not genetically engineered, DNA can pass into the tissues of animals that consume the plants.”

Source: GMO Answers

WHY GROW GMOs?

GMOs are created to achieve a desired trait, such as resistance to a pest or tolerance to drought conditions.  The 10 genetically modified crops available in the U.S. today include: alfalfa, apples, canola, corn (field and sweet), cotton, papaya, potatoes, soybeans, squash and sugar beets.

GM crops were created for:

GMOs are drought tolerant
  • Insect resistance. This category of traits provides farmers with season-long protection against target pests, reduces the need for pesticide applications, and lowers input costs.
  • Drought tolerance. GM crops that express drought tolerance have better moisture retention and can better endure drought conditions without the need for additional irrigation.
  • Herbicide tolerance. Crops developed to tolerate specific herbicides allow farmers to fight weeds by applying targeted herbicides only when needed and enable them to use conservation tillage production methods that preserve topsoil, prevent erosion, and reduce carbon emissions.
  • Disease resistance. Through genetic engineering plant breeders can enable plants to resist certain diseases, like the papaya ringspot virus (PRSV).  The GM Rainbow Papaya, developed to be resistant to PRSV, allowed Hawaiian papaya farmers to recover from an outbreak of this devastating disease that crippled their industry.
  • Enhanced nutritional content. Genetically modified soybeans with an enhanced oil profile, much like olive oil, have been developed and are longer lasting and trans-fat free.
  • Reduced food waste. Genetic engineering has been used to modify potatoes and apples in order to eliminate superficial browning and bruising (potato only) when the produce is cut or handled.  These traits can help reduce the amount of produce thrown away by producers, processors, retailers and consumers.
  • Improved manufacturing processes. Certain biotech corn varieties enable more efficient biofuels production by improving the process through which cellulose and/or starch is broken down and converted to fuel.  This helps reduce the environmental impact of the manufacturing process by decreasing the amount of water, electricity, and natural gas needed to produce biofuel.

Source: GMO Answers

WHY WOULD ANOTHER COUNTRY WANT U.S. MEAT?

Why would another country want U.S. meat?  Well, it turns out that in many countries, the U.S. is well respected as providing high quality protein.  Some countries, like Mexico, don’t grow enough hogs to provide all the pork their citizens want, so they buy from the U.S. because it’s close, easy, and cheap because of our free trade agreement.

Other countries appreciate our food safety standards.  Or maybe governmental officials from the country have visited our farmers and they like what they see.  The reasons are endless.

U.S. poultry buyers guide

But when another country is interested in buying U.S. poultry or eggs, they might refer to a buyer’s guide, like this one provided by the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council.

The guide helps international customers understand the frozen, uncooked chicken cuts that are available, as well as the processed and specialized products for sale.

Maybe more importantly, the guide also helps the customers understand the safety standards U.S. poultry is subjected to before its allowed to be sold.

“All U.S. chicken meat which is offered for export must be inspected and approved by the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The 90-year-old agency is regarded as a
model for food inspection services worldwide. A USDA inspection stamp indicates that a chicken product was properly processed, has been inspected and is safe to eat. There are three integral layers in FSIS food safety  assurance: manual inspection, HACCP and pathogen reduction.”

Did you realize you live in a country that provides one of the safest food options available worldwide?

TRADE HELPS THE WORLD TO EAT

We talk a lot about trade on this blog, but let me boil it down for you again:

American farmers are great at growing food.  Corn, is a big commodity, but because we’re great at growing corn, we are also great at growing cattle, pigs, and chickens because they eat corn.

When one country has all the food (corn, soybeans, pigs, cows, chickens) and another country doesn’t, the answer is trade.

Last week, our board got a chance to meet with the U.S. Meat Export Federation, whose goal is to help other countries that need more protein sources understand how to use the protein we sell from the U.S. and help them import it into their country.

Here’s a video created by the U.S. Meat Export Federation summarizing a U.S. Pork Seminar they held in the Dominican Republic.

The effort that goes into opening and servicing an international market is huge. First we must work with government officials to alleviate any concerns working with the U.S. Then we have to help the chefs and restaurateurs understand how to use our cuts of pork in their traditional recipes. Finally, we work with grocery stores to help international customers know how to prepare our pork in their homes.

STRAIGHT FROM THE SOURCE: WHY WATER IS IMPORTANT

Farmers use all sorts of different practices to protect the water we all use and drink. This farmer brought her water to a local farmers market to help her community understand what’s she’s doing and why she takes keeping the water clean so seriously.

Watch more farmers explain how they grow food and why here!