Friday, 26 October 2012

Genetically Modified Animal Feeds Used in New Zealand

Although New Zealand presents itself to the world as basically GM-Free (see my earlier post Genetic Modification (GM) in NewZealand), and progressive enough to label the GM content of foods, unidentified genetically modified foods continue to subversively infiltrate into our food chain. 

Sandra Finnie’s recent article in Straight Furrow highlights the use of imported GM feed in supplements used by dairy farmers to encourage peak milk production. Although Federated Farmers chairman Willy Leferink refused to comment on how much stock feed is actually imported, citing that information as “commercially sensitive”, recent large shipments of GM cottonseed meal and soybean meal—at least 100,000 tonnes of the latter annually, according to the article—suggest this is a common and significant practice.

In a response to that article, genetics professor Jack Heinemann of Canterbury University points out that when it came to the public attention that GM feeds were used for chicken production by New Zealand’s Ingham foods in 2009, the Commerce Commission ruled that animals feed on a GM diet are different from those raise on non-GM feed. In the UK and much of Europe, only non-GM feed can be used for animals (meat, fish) and animal products (milk, cheese, eggs) destined and identified  for retail sale as non-GM. New Zealand, it seems to me, risks alienating key overseas markets if our animal and animal product foods cannot be truly claimed as GM-free.

Regarding the Ingham chicken story, it seems the Commerce Commission wasn’t concerned about the use of GM-soy and corn in the chicken feed, just about the labelling of these chickens in the marketplace as GM-free. If you buy your chicken at a local NZ supermarket today, you’re likely to see labels claiming it is “hormone free” and “no artificial colours, flavours, or preservatives” and sometimes  “no antibiotics” and even “free range,” but you have to go to “organic” chicken to find chicken that you can be pretty sure has not been fed ANY GM-corn or soy.

Given that GM-feeds are used in New Zealand’s dairy industry and poultry industry, I got to wondering about New Zealand salmon industry. On the NZ Ministry for Primary Industries aquaculture website, we are told that NZ farmed salmon are fed “an artificial diet, high in protein and fat...with vitamins and minerals added”. They go on to say that NZ salmon are not given “antibiotics, vaccines steroids, or other growth enhancers.” They do not say exactly what they DO feed salmon (animal, vegetable, or mineral?) or anything about GM feeds, and I’d consider that omission ominously significant.

I recently posted an article on the GM/Roundup study done in France which found aggressive and abnormal tumour growth in rats fed even a small portion of GM corn, GM corn that had been sprayed with Roundup (which is why it is genetically modified in the first place, so they can spray the crop and kill the weeds without killing the food plant), or were given low to moderate levels of Roundup in their drinking water. Most chickens and dairy cows aren’t allowed to live out a normal lifespan, so disease caused by a partial GM diet might not be so evident, but that doesn’t mean the animals aren’t sick. 

We know that milk reflects not only the food consumed by the person or animal producing it (see my article on toxic breast milk) but also its environment. I don’t know if anyone has done a study on the GM-safety of milk produced by cows that consume GM feed, and I doubt any agri-chemical or agricultural company wants to fund one any time soon, but I’d be surprised if GM-fed dairy cows produce a truly “safe” product. And I don’t really fancy eating chicken or fish that’s been fed GM foods either.

New Zealand certainly isn’t GM-free, it’s just that we don’t produce GM field crops. On a final note on a GM and farming-in-New Zealand theme, I surely must mention Daisy the calf, born earlier this year in New Zealand. She has raised a bit of a storm because she is genetically modified (and cloned) to produce milk without the BLG protein that causes allergic reactions in some people. She also—inexplicably—doesn’t have a tail.

[Added October, 2014: Please see my latest post Cows, Swedes and Dodgy Seeds.) 

1 comment:

  1. nice blog !! i was looking for blogs related of animal feed . then i found this blog, this is really nice and interested to read. thanks for sharing such type of information.


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