Pigs eat

Once again, research into the detrimental health effects of consuming GMOs has come under scrutiny by the scientific community.

The study, published on Tuesday in the Journal of Organic Systems, was conducted by research teams in Australia and the U.S. and followed 168 pigs over the course of five months—from weaning to slaughter. Of the group, half ate a diet of genetically modified corn and soy, while the other half ate non-GMO versions of corn and soy.

While both groups showed few differences on close to 20 different health markers, the GMO-fed group developed severe stomach inflammation while the non-GMO group developed more cases of mild and moderate stomach issues. The female sows also developed an average 25 percent heavier uterus than the non-GMO fed pigs. And in general, the pigs fed the GMO grains were noticeably more irritable than the pigs fed the non-GMO grains.

The study researchers point to several reasons why this research is significant to humans: mainly because humans eat pigs (fed GMO grains), and because we share many digestive similarities. If GMOs are causing digestive problems in pigs, it could shed light on the recent crop up of digestive issues in humans. Jeffrey Smith of the Institute for Responsible Technology asserted this connection in the documentary Genetic Roulette: The Gamble of Our Lives. Smith, along with health experts, track the trajectory of GMO foods in our diet over the last several decades, which parallels a significant increase in a range of digestive disorders.

Health and consumer advocates have said the study’s results clearly warrant further research and continued caution around the consumption of GMO foods. But, similar to a French study conducted last year that connected GMO foods and biotech giant Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup to an increased risk of cancer, this new research is being dubbed “junk science” by the biotech community.

Food Safety News reported that Mark Lynas, a one-time GMO critic and now one of the technology’s biggest supporters, suggested the study results weren’t indicative of much at all, pointing out that “60 of non-GM pigs had mild or moderate inflammation compared with 41 GM pigs, and only 4 non-GM pig stomachs were graded ‘nil,’ while the GM pigs tallied up 8.”

The study is also being criticized because of the source of the feed, which came by retail distributors rather than growing the samples in a controlled environment. The study authors say the corn and soy products were substantially equivalent, but the biotech industry has called this point into question, refuting the study results.

Researchers face major hurdles when assessing genetically modified organisms. They generally need approval from the companies to utilize a patented product. They’re often limited in what they can and cannot do, even once they get approval. And then once results are released, they’re quickly picked apart by the GMO industry paid scientists and experts, making credibility difficult.

While the controversies continue to surround the study’s credibility and whether or not GMOs impact the health of pigs, what’s been lost in all the hype is the clear fact that genetically modified or not, corn and soy—the most common ingredients fed to commercially raised pigs—create digestive issues from mild to severe for the animals. These conditions are among the leading reasons antibiotics are fed in extremely large doses to livestock animals, creating antibiotic-resistant bacteria and myriad human health issues as a result.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: Fairy Heart