Genetically altered crops may hurt pigs

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Howard Vlieger, co author and primary coordinator of a first-of-its-kind study on GMO's talks about the effect that they have on plants and animals.Photo credit: Thomas Martinez

Pigs that are fed genetically altered crops may suffer from severe stomach inflammation at a rate of 2.6 times more than pigs that aren’t, according to the research of one Iowan farmer.

Howard Vlieger, who has studied genetically modified crops for over 20 years, presented his research at the Chico Grange off of Nord Avenue Thursday night.

A Pig’s stomach functions similarly to a human’s stomach, Vlieger said. The human stomach works with the immune system through secondary lymphoid organs.The organs trap foreign substances and produce antibodies.

When human beings or pigs consume genetically modified crops, the immune system categorizes the food as foreign, he said.

The body fights back by releasing antibodies which, causing inflammation, he said.

“We started to see these problems in 1998 and manifesting themselves more and more as we start to go forward,” Vlieger said. “So if you start to see something consistently, what might you call it at some point? Normal? It wasn’t.”

Vlieger said he was compelled to conduct this study because many farmers in his area owned animals that began suffering from digestive and conception issues.

The stomach and uterus were the most affected organs Vlieger inspected. Although this isn’t a direct cause and effect situation, his study concluded correlation.

Though the study didn’t aim to discover genetically engineered foods effects on human beings, the pig evidence raises the question whether humans are also experiencing its negative effects, Vlieger said.

Pamm Larry, who devised Prop 37 in 2012, which aimed to label genetically engineered foods, said she firmly believes in studies like Vlieger’s.

Labeling genetically modified organisms is a battle Larry said she continues to fight.

“I care about the children, the future of food,” Larry said. “This is why I continue on.”

Yessenia Funes can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_yfunes Twitter.