What is it that animals know that we don’t when it comes to eating GMO corn?
Noah Nolt, an organic farmer outside of Liberty, Ky., said while the science around the safety of Genetically Modified Organism crops is not settled, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that points to its problems, for humans and animals.
“There are several other farmers in the neighborhood who have cows that tried the GMO corn,” he said. “One of them had put GMO corn in the silo first, then he put regular, hybrid corn on top. The cows were eating that silage corn just fine until it came to that point (of GMO) and then they didn’t want to eat it anymore. Cows recognize that there is something that they don’t like as well.”
Nolt, who raises corn as well as sorghum cane, said another neighbor who had sprayed their feed corn with chemical herbicides noticed problems with the cows’ health and milk production after eating the feed.
“They finally concluded that the only major change they had made was the GMO corn,” Nolt said. “They switched back again and felt like the problems that had come up were disappearing. They are persuaded that there is something there that they would rather not have.”
GMOs are foods that have been genetically engineered for reasons unrelated to health or nutrition, to give them a trait they don't naturally possess, such as a resistance to chemical pesticides. For example, it enables farmers to plant seeds they can spray them with chemicals such as Roundup to kill weeds or ward off insects and other predators, so farmers can save time and money not fighting those battles.
“There is one side of science that explains that to put something in the corn, it either takes out or pushes out something in the structure of the corn,” Nolt explained. “And so the concern in that realm is, what is being taken out? Is it something nutritionally valuable or vital to the animals and humans that we feed it to? It seems like there is quite a bit of literature that says, ‘Yes.’”
Ben Abell of Rootbound Farm in Crestwood, said there are generally two schools of thought when it comes to growing GMO crops.
“From the consumer standpoint, it’s, ‘Ew, that’s Frankenfood, I don't want to put that in my body,’” he said. “From my standpoint as a farmer, it’s a terrible way to farm. You become reliant on these chemicals.”
Even naturally occurring herbicides such as the bacteria BT (Bacillus thuringiensis), which is allowed to be used in organic corn farming, begins to create problems when engineered into GMO corn seed.
“When they first genetically engineered BT (into corn), basically the BT corn had one (gene) variation in it,” Abell said. “Now, the corn seed has 20 or 30 (gene) variations of BT in it because the (corn ear worms) have developed a resistance to it. It’s the same thing with Roundup when you’re talking about the Roundup Ready corn; the weeds are developing resistance around it.
“It’s just a short-sighted way to farm.”
Nolt said if he were strictly interested in profit, using GMO would be the way to go.
“But if I’m interested in passing along my farm to my children, I would have serious second thoughts about using them,” he said. “Once I went organic, I didn’t need to think about GMO anymore.”