Farm and Food Session 1

The first session Genetically Modified Foods and Mammal Health was presented by Howard Vlieger of Verity Farms. The session covered a lot of the basics of GMO foods and crops and the issues involved. There are some good places you can go to read up on these basics. I was mainly interested in some of the connections made in the presentation.

The process for creating GMO plants injects viruses or bacteria with genes into the DNA of plants. This process was described as “shooting a bullseye with a shotgun.” This is a very imprecise process that cannot hit the same place twice within an organism. It is known that the process of creating a GMO creates new proteins. The speakers conservative estimate was that 1200 new proteins are being created in GMO corn and soybeans. When these plants are fed to animals in the form of feeds, their stomachs do not recognize some of these foreign proteins and this causes irritation and ulcers in the animal’s stomach. Mr. Vlieger was clear that this was not a scientific study, but was based on his experience and data that he collected.

Mr. Vlieger was able to take pictures at the hog slaughtering facility that he uses for slaughtering his pigs. He took pictures of the stomachs of his own pigs, “A” Natural pigs, “B” Natural and conventionally raised pigs. Of course his pigs had very healthy looking model pig stomachs. Both of the “natural” pigs were not given antibiotics or hormones, but there are no restrictions on GMO in what is fed to these animals. Their stomachs both showed significant irritation, inflammation, and ulcers.

What I found really interesting was the difference between “natural” pig stomachs and conventional. Those of us who are predisposed to think the worst of conventional agriculture would assume a bloody mess. In fact, the antibiotics are effective in keeping the inflammation and irritation down in the stomachs. The stomachs are not red and irritated, but they do appear more pale than the Verity Farms pig. However, it does not prevent the immune system from attacking the foreign proteins and creating ulcers.

If GMO feed causes this kind of reaction in pigs (and/or other livestock), what might the effect be on the end consumer, you and me?

The final piece that I found interesting was the connections that were made concerning the corporations that produce both pharmaceuticals and seeds. Syngenta, Bayer, Monsanto and others are first and foremost chemical companies. They use these chemicals on and in crops which are then fed to livestock. When the livestock inevitably become sick the veterinarian is brought in to make them healthy using drugs also produced by the same companies. Producers also feed hormones to their livestock to improve their production.

The purpose of all of this is to sell meat to consumers. So what happens when we buy this meat and eat it? We get heartburn, indigestion and acid reflux. So we go to the doctor and he prescribes drugs to deal with that which the same companies benefit from. The point is that these chemical companies are creating and driving a market and a need that depends on sick animals and sick people. It is also important to point out that the promises of GMO feed and seed has yet to be realized.

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