7 Oct

Is there such a thing as GMO meat?

This question is the subject of some intense debate.  While animals bred for meat purposes have not yet been genetically modified, the direct effect of GMO feed on the DNA of meat animals has not yet become a reality.  But many farmers and ranchers are feeding their livestock GM animal feed, so what does the end result of that mean?  While the meat of these animals has yet to be tested genetically for changes related to these feeds, I implore you to follow my line of logic and give it some consideration.

As you probably already know, DNA is the code of life for practically every living creature on the planet.  Unique DNA exists in every species, and each individual within that species retains its own unique DNA that gives it its specific traits inherited from two parents.  Individuality is what makes the world so diverse.

DNA, in its simplicity, is literally what comprises an individual animal and maintains its survival.  It is the instruction manual for the growth, development, physical characteristics, and day-to-day function and can replicate itself to ensure the life of the individual.  It is hard to imagine something as simple as a helix being so very important!

The partner to DNA is RNA, as it is the molecule that “reads” DNA.  RNA reads DNA in order to manufacture proteins to be used in the growth, reproduction, physical characteristics and day-to-day function of the individual.  These proteins are made in the cells and sent out to where they are needed, sometimes within the very cell it is made in and other times in a completely different part of the body.

So, when genes are genetically modified, the RNA reads the genetically modified DNA and makes proteins based on that modified DNA that is not original to the individual.  Those proteins then become part of the structure of the individual that was genetically modified.  It is the proteins created that render a genetically modified plant resistant to insects or herbicides.

So the big question pertaining to this line of questioning is….what happens when a livestock animal eats a plant that has modified DNA?

The answer is, several things.  Many studies have supported the reality that the digestive system was designed to break down proteins (and other consumed foods) into the individual counterparts, which in the case of proteins is amino acids.  Those amino acids are then absorbed and used again to make new proteins.

This is simplistic and for quite some time research was not sophisticated enough to detect otherwise.  Now, however, research shows differently.

From 1994 to 2003, several completed research studies have indicated that ingested DNA and proteins may not be digested and may even be absorbed undigested into the bloodstream to then be used in the internal organs or absorbed into the tissues of the digestive tract.  This was found in a wide range of animal species: mice [1], pigs [2, 7], sheep [3, 7], cows, chickens [4], and humans [5, 6].  Research has also suggested that ingested foreign DNA can evade digestion and be transmitted via the placenta to the unborn fetus [8, 9].

If you are wondering if you should be concerned about this, read this blog.  The point for this blog is that research strongly suggests that animals eating GM feed may very well be absorbing and integrating genetically modified proteins into their bodies.

If this is the case, then this also raises the concern that their genome may begin to produce genetically modified proteins from the genetically modified genes their digestive system absorbed.

So what’s the big deal, you ask?

Remember that those genes in the plant-based animal feed that were genetically modified were modified for the purpose of producing toxic proteins.  If those genes are producing toxic proteins from inside the animal via their genome, their genes are producing the same toxins the corn or soy plants produce that comprised their feed.  These proteins then go on the make up the muscle tissue of the animal you cook up to eat.  And there you have GMO meat.

1. Schubbert R, Lettmann C, Doerfler W. Ingested foreign (phage M13) DNA survives transiently in the gastrointestinal tract and enters the bloodstream of mice. Molecular and General Genetics. 1994 Mar;242(5):495-504.
2. Chowhurdy, et al. Detection of genetically modified maize DNA fragments in the intestinal contents of pigs fed StarLink CBH351. Veterinary and Human Toxicology
3. Duggan PS, Chambers PA, Heritage J, Michael Forbes J. Fate of genetically modified maize DNA in the oral cavity and rumen of sheep. British Journal of Nutrition. 2003 Feb;89(2):159-66.
4. Einspanier, et. al. The fate of forage plant DNA in farm animals: a collaborative case-study investigating cattle and chicken fed recombinant plant material. European Food Research and Technology (2001) 212 :129–134.
5. Forsman, et. al. Uptake of amplifiable fragments of retrotransposon DNA from the human alimentary tract. Molecular Genetics and Genomics. 2003 Dec;270(4):362-8.
6. Martín-Orúe SM, et. al. Degradation of transgenic DNA from genetically modified soya and maize in human intestinal simulations. British Journal of Nutrition. 2002 Jun;87(6):533-42.
7. Sharma R, et. al. Detection of transgenic and endogenous plant DNA in digesta and tissues of sheep and pigs fed Roundup Ready canola meal. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. 2006 Mar 8;54(5):1699-709.
8. Doerfler W, Schubbert R. Uptake of foreign DNA from the environment: the gastrointestinal tract and the placenta as portals of entry. Wien Klin Wochenschr. 1998 Jan 30;110(2):40-4.
9. Schubbert R, Hohlweg U, Renz D, Doerfler W. On the fate of orally ingested foreign DNA in mice: chromosomal association and placental transmission to the fetus. Moecular and General Genetics. 1998 Oct;259(6):569-76.