Featured letter: Anti-GMO horror stories are just mumbo-jumbo

Your article on GMO and Monsanto is superstitious mumbo-jumbo based on horror stories by inferior “researchers”. Why is the anti-GMO stance not witnessed in the mainstream community? Simple: peer review literature does not support the outrageous claims of the “activist” scientists. [Really? See Rogue wheat imperils US exports in this issue. Ed]

In properly constructed feed trials, when testing balanced “first limiting amino-acid” rations on animals, they showed no difference in animal welfare between rations that incorporated GM maize or soya, and those that used non-GM. These trials have been replicated and published in many countries. [Over what period of time were the trials run? – ­Ed]

Linear programmes used by animal nutritionists do not differentiate between GM and non-GM feedstocks. Empirical evidence in the poultry and pork sectors that have used GMO feedstocks for about 20 years, confirms there is no negative difference in performance.

When I read in your article that the rodents had fared poorly on Monsanto GMO potatoes,  I was outraged. I checked the literature and found that the experimenter had abused the test animals.

When animal nutritionists check a new ingredient in their compound feed, they make a partial replacement in a formula. In this way they can determine if the new ingredient affects growth, mortality or fertility, at different levels of inclusion. A test where only GM potatoes are fed to rodents – wanton cruelty – is guaranteed to result in an unhappy outcome. Anyone restricted to a diet of potatoes – GMO or not – would suffer their teeth to loosen.

Biologically, people are little different from chickens or pigs. We may confidently allow humans to dine on GMO maize as part of an amino acid balanced diet and expect them to flourish.

Rainbow Chicken nutritionists constantly check and calculate their mix of raw materials for poultry rations, to ensure efficient, safe production. If non-GMO gave better results, they would be buying it. Every single hen laying eggs commercially in South Africa eats GMO. The “pulses” fed to fowls producing “free range” and “organic” eggs are nothing less than meal from Roundup Ready Argentinian soybeans. If GMO had any deleterious affect on the fowls, Rainbow (and its competitors) would be buying non-GMO feedstock.  

In the USA, over 200 million eggs are placed in incubators each week. Over the past 10 years, despite the “parent flocks” eating ever-increasing amounts of GMO feeds, the egg-hatching rate has improved. That is quite a data set to argue against: over 20 billion eggs hatched, with the trend for the number of addled eggs down.

The researchers who claim that GMO causes stillbirth or birth defects are wrong. GMO maize and soybeans do not have a deleterious effect on the creatures which consume them.

Your attack on genetic engineering is closer to an “ad hominem” than an exposé. Genetic engineering is not without risk nor controversy, which is why Noseweek should not cry wolf. We rely on Noseweek to do a solid job of its exposés. We need to be able to trust the content so that we can widen our knowledge and our grasp of the issues.

If Noseweek readers tend to be in left field, it is because the facts inform us to take that position, rather than any pique or defiance.  

David de V Murray
Grain Merchant, Stellenbosch

Thank you for your considered and well-crafted letter. We have always seen ourselves as only one half of the conversation. But the conversation continues.

You seem to have missed the main point of our GM/Monsanto article: it is the secrecy, paranoia and aggression of the GM industry which raise questions about the safety of its products, rather than the conclusive results of any research. The fact is, there has been a piffling amount of independent research into the long-term health effects of GM food, even on rats, and the industry has done everything it can to hamper potentially critical science. The impact of GMOs on biodiversity and the effects on food security of patented crops are two more reasons why the precautionary principle should apply.

Monsanto and its brothers-in-biotech are very powerful organisations that spend fortunes on persuading politicians and the public that GM is safe and the answer to world hunger.

As a N
oseweek reader, you are expected to retain a grain of healthy scepticism – yes, even about GM feeds.  What do Japan and the European Union know about Monsanto’s GM crops that Rainbow Chicken perhaps doesn’t care about? Ed

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