In a landmark ruling, the NZ Commerce Commission has accepted evidence from Prof Jack Heinemann, from an exhaustive review of the literature and on the basis of his own extensive professional experience, that animals fed on GM components ARE different from those which are reared using non-GM feed. This is a direct challenge to EFSA and FSA, who have maintained consistently that there are no differences between GM- fed and non-GM-fed animals, and that there is therefore no need for labelling or segregation of feed supplies to meet consumer demand for GM-free products.
This issue came to a head because of complaints that NZ poultry producer Inghams claimed, in a high-pressure advertising campaign, that its chickens contained no GM ingredients, in spite of using up to 13% GM soy-based feed. In one of its adverts, Inghams said: "Research confirms that animals that consume feed with a component of GM are no different compared to animals that have been fed a low GM or GM free diet."
The Commission has now told Inghams that it was breaching the Fair Trading Act by making false or misleading claims. Inghams continued to argue on its website that the use of GM soy did not compromise an absolute GM-free status and animals that ate feed with a GM component were no different to animals that may have been fed a low GM or GM- free diet. This position was verified by numerous feeding studies, the website said. The company cited publications by a New Zealand Royal Commission, the Royal Society and the Federation of Animal Science Societies. However, those publications were at least 7 years old; and the company accepted the CC ruling and stopped the advertising as soon as Prof Heinemann's investigation was commenced.
Prof Heinemann's Report, entitled "Report on animals exposed to GM ingredients in animal feed" (July 2009), makes interesting reading. It surveys all of the published animal feeding studies which are cited by EFSA, FSA and other bodies, and subjects them to a careful analysis. He refuses to be drawn on human health and safety safety issues (since that was not his brief) but concludes that there are many deficiencies in the studies which purport to show "no effects" from the consumption of GM animal feed. Sometimes, in animal feeding experiments, GM components have been used in both the test group and the control group, as a mechanism for masking GM effects. Many animal feeding experiments are too short to reveal physiological changes. Other deficiencies are related to variability in the GM DNA of feed supplies, the sensitivity of the testing methods used, and the use of surrogate proteins rather than whole GM feed in the testing protocols.
Nonetheless, there are abundant studies (including some conducted under the auspices of the GM industry itself) that show statistically significant physiological changes in GM-fed animals, and that reveal the presence of "DNA and protein unique to GM plants within animals and animal products." Prof Heinemann also concludes: "There is compelling evidence that animals provided with feed containing GM ingredients can react in a way that is unique to an exposure to GM plants. This is revealed through metabolic, physiological or immunological responses in exposed animals."
This is a very important study which should form the basis of a direct challenge to EFSA and FSA to change the wording on their websites and to abandon their fondly-held beliefs that GM components fed to farm animals do not enter the animal and animal product food chain.
NOTE: Prof Heinemann's study is available via the Commerce Commission web site.
Inghams warned over GM free chicken claims
Release no 50, Issued 18 November 2009 Commerce Commission (NZ)