Chickens fed GM feed do not produce GM meat, scientist says

A very public attack on poultry producer Inghams Enterprises could all be based on a technicality with some scientific evidence indicating birds fed on genetically manipulated feed are not modified themselves.

Last week, the Commerce Commission issued Inghams with a warming claiming it risked breaching the Fair Trading Act through false advertising.

Inghams advertised its products were GM free, contained no GM ingredients, no added hormones or artificial colours. The company also stated on its websites that “Inghams GM policy is clear. Our poultry contains no GM content and are not genetically modified.”

The commission conducted an investigation into the company after media interest regarding its GM policy and its labelling raised concern after allegations of false advertising emerged during January 2008 and June 2009.

Inghams claimed its chickens were GM free even though its birds were eating feed mixed with 13% soy. The commission asked University of Canterbury professor of genetics and molecular biology Jack Heinemann to research whether chickens that have eaten GM feed could contain GM ingredients in their meat.

Prof Heinemann said; “The cumulative strength of the positive detection reviewed leaves me in no reasonable uncertainty that GM plant material can transfer to animals exposed to GM feed in their diets or environment, and that there can be residual difference in animals or animal-products as a result of exposure to GM feed."

But the New Zealand Food Safety Authority said international scientific consensus showed that animals that eat GM feed are themselves not genetically modified.

In New Zealand, food that has been modified, as in the DNA or the protein present in the final food (animal), or if the food has “altered characteristics as a result of the GM process” has to be labelled GM.

But in Inghams case, the chickens themselves were not modified. Only 13% of the feed was modified, which was done to fight off Round Up resistance.

In an email to NBR, AgSearch scientist Jimmy Suttie said: “Professor Heinemann's use of English, as reported, is confusing. He says (effectively) there is a chance that the plant DNA may be transferred to animals and that this transfer could lead to residual differences.

“But in response, while it is undeniable that plant DNA is ingested by animals when they eat a feed, it is by no means certain that that DNA will be incorporated into the animal’s genome rather than being fully digested. For example, every time you eat a fresh tomato or lettuce, you consume plant DNA. This is digested by our bodies.”

Dr Suttie said just as consumed tomato DNA does not become a part of your DNA, chicken feed does not become part of a bird’s DNA.

“Even if any DNA were to be incorporated into the eaters genes, this would be as single constituents of DNA (nucleotides) rather than a piece of gene sequence.

"These constituents carry no genetic information, in themselves. In addition as the genetic code is conserved, then whether this DNA was from a GM or a non GM source is immaterial: the DNA itself is identical. 

"Any residual effect of that DNA being incorporated into the genome is very unlikely, and the source of the DNA, GM or non GM would not influence the chance of such incorporation.

“In the vanishing small chance that a residual effect of any DNA was found,
the question of the relevance of that, in terms of food safety, is left hanging by Professor Heinemann. Even the professor uses the term 'can be' rather than a more definitive verb.”

Dr Suttie said GM corn, soy and canola have been grown worldwide since 1996, and the products have been consumed safely by animals and humans alike.

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7 Comments & Questions

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That would be right. And beeves, who only eat grass, don't turn into vegetables!

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Well done NBR- but I bet this doesn't make TV or the Herald as it goes against the commie greens.
The science is pretty obvious to even to a half wit

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att: Nevil Gibson, Editor in Chief

In response to the comments made by James Suttie of AgResearch regarding Ingham's use of GE soy etc in their chicken feed

Dear Editor

Our farming family has growing concerns about the involvement of AgResearch in the genetic engineering of animals.

It is telling that James Suttie trivialises the concerns of NZ consumers in his attempts to defend Ingham's recent duplicitous attempts to position themselves as GM free.

Inghams advertised their chickens as GM free despite knowingly importing cheap GE soymeal from the U.S. for their chicken feed.

Dr Suttie apparently cares little for either consumer right-to-know or the 70%+ of New Zealanders who oppose the genetic engineering of animals in our food chain.

AgResearch continues to appropriate Kiwi taxpayer dollars for risky and unethical GE experiments on animals.

Last year, AgResearch made four applications for the laboratory testing of human and monkey cell lines and smaller species of GE laboratory animals, and the development of GE cows, buffalo, sheep, pigs, goats, llamas, alpacas, deer and horses. AgResearch asked ERMA to give them permission for the conditional release of this unpleasant cocktail of various species, to undisclosed locations in the North Island.

Taken to the High Court by submitters opposing such cruelty and exploitation, both ERMA and AgResearch were given a roasting.

After 12 weeks of deliberation, Justice Clifford found that ERMA erred in receiving the applications from AgResearch and declared them invalid. ERMA was forced take no further steps toward hearing and assessing the applications.

Typically, AgResearch appealed the decision, wasting more taxpayer dollars.

Now the CRI is branching out into criticising independent scientists who are working to protect the public health and consumer rights, in a transparent attempt to shore up support for their own dodgy activities.

James Suttie fails to grasp that many NZ consumers who don't wish to eat or purchase chickens fed on GE feed.

The NZ Commerce Commission asked Professor Jack Heinemann (and other independent scientists) for assistance in scrutinising Ingham's GM free claims.

Dr Suttie shows no sign of having read Professor Heinemann's 49 page report on the effect on animals exposed to GM ingredients in animal feed.

We trust that NBR will provide Professor Jack Heinemann with the opportunity to respond to Dr Suttie's comments.

We support food manufacturers genuinely pursuing a GM-free policy for their products.

Congratulations to Kiwi companies like Tegel and Whittakers,who actually have taken the time to put robust Identity Preservation systems in place to ensure any imported ingredients are GM free) to meet consumer demand.


Tim Vallings & family

+recent Colmar Brunton poll (September 2008)

"Report on animals exposed to GM ingredients in animal feed" (July 2009) by Professor Jack Heinemann

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Hi Tim, What evidence do have that Tegel Foods (not wholley NZ owned) do not also feed GM soyabean to their chickens?

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The AgResearch scientist and GE apologist, who has a huge conflict of interest due to his trying to push through the most permissive and dangerous GE animal application through ERMA, is misleading in his statements. He is either purposefully misleading about the risk of GE components not getting into the chicken meat or he is like so many in his trade not up with the play. On the other hand, Professor Jack Heinneman's report to the Commerce Commission has plenty of peer reviewed science showing the risks of just that; of DNA material moving into the GE fed animal. Suttie and the NZFSA are negligent to NZ consumers and lack scientific intelligence in their misleading statements and spin and also in the appropriate level of caution for their positions.

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Really Dr Suttie?

Have GM corn, soy and canola been safely consumed since 1996 by animals and humans alike? suggests there is some cause for concern.:

<img src="" />

Anaphylaxis Graph:
Paediatric food allergy trends in a community based specialist allergy practice, 1995-2006, Raymond J Mullins, MJA Vol. 186 No. 12 pp 618- 621 * Rate per million population.

Food Approvals Graph:
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ):
Genetically Modified Foods & Their Approval Status,

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many thanks for taking the time and energy to submit this post for our further education and better understanding of this CRUCIAL issue

i'm sure i type for many who salute your verbose efforts



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