Dr Eva Sirinathsinghji Institute of Science in Society – Farm Wars June 28, 2012
A Danish farmer has gained huge public recognition for publishing his simple method for ridding his pigs of illness- removing genetically modified (GM) ingredients from their diet.
Published in the farming magazine Effektivt Landbrug on 13 April 2012 , the farmer Ib Borup Perderson describes how his pigs suffered from symptoms including chronic diarrhoea, birth defects, reproductive problems, reduced appetite, bloating, stomach ulcers, weaker and smaller piglets, and reduced litter sizes. This was not just a problem for the animals themselves but also the profitability of the farm, with fewer healthy animals, mounting costs of medicines and added labour costs.
After researching the health hazards of GM foods and associated herbicides, Pederson decided to stop feeding his 450 sows with GM soybean, replacing them with fishmeal and non-GM soybean instead. He began to notice health benefits after two days of a GM-free diet. The farmer’s account has since been published in an English dossier compiled by scientist Brian John of GM-free Cymru (Wales), with collaboration from Pederson, published online by GM Watch .
This finding adds to the continual flow of new evidence appearing in peer-reviewed scientific studies, farmers’ reports and witness accounts of the devastating health impacts of glyphosate-based herbicides and the associated GM crops modified to tolerate it. Birth defects from glyphosate exposure were detected in the 1980s in lab animals performed by Monsanto (see  EU Regulators and Monsanto Exposed for Hiding Glyphosate Toxicity, SiS 51,  Lab Study Establishes Glyphosate Link to Birth Defects, SiS 48, 5 Glyphosate Kills Rat Testes Cells, SiS 54). Residents of heavy agrochemical-use zones in Argentina have seen startling increases in birth defects, adult and human cancer rates as well as other illnesses (see  Argentina’s Roundup Human Tragedy, SiS 48,  Pesticide Illnesses and GM Soybeans, SiS 53). Argentinian tobacco farmers have recently filed a lawsuit against Monsanto for birth defects suffered by their children following claims by the corporation that the chemical was safe to use . Animal feeding studies have shown GM soya feed to cause sterility, stunting and death in rats (see  GM Soya Fed Rats: Stunted, Dead, or Sterile, SiS 33). This is also not the first time that livestock illness including reproductive problems has been linked to glyphosate-tolerant crop derived feed. Professor Emeritus Don Huber of Perdue University, a senior scientist of USDA (US Department of Agriculture) has been studying crop health for over 20 years, and warned how reduced mineral content of glyphosate-tolerant crops lead to nutritional deficiencies in livestock that in turn cause reproductive problems (see  USDA Scientist Reveals All, SiS 53). Reduced mineral content in crops results from glyphosate’s metal chelating properties, rendering essential minerals unavailable. Nutrient deficiency effects are independent of direct glyphosate toxicity that causes endocrine disruption, birth defects and cancers among other illnesses. The identification of a novel pathogen in glyphosate-treated crops, reproductive organs of livestock as well as aborted foetal tissue may also be a contributing factor (see Emergency! Pathogen New to Science Found in Roundup Ready GM Crops?,SiS50).
Improvements in health with GMO-free diet
The dossier  presents following effects since removing GM produce from the pigs’ diets, as described by Pederson:
1. Within 2 days, diarrhoea virtually disappeared in the farrowing house, whereas before, 50-100 ml Borgal / day [an antibacterial drug] had to be used.
2. Since switching, there had been no death from bloat in sows or death by ulcers, as opposed to minimum 1 per month previously (36 sows died due to stomach related sickness over the last two years before switching).
3. No sows have died through loss of appetite, whereas 2 sows died from this cause last year.
4. Even without washing between farrowings, diarrhoea does not reappear; previously failing to wash between sows would result in more diarrhoea.
5. Previously the farmer had struggled with diarrhoea in first layer sows, no more problems there.
6. Two years ago when the diarrhoea was as its worst, there were months with nearly 30% dead in the farrowing house. At that time it was impossible to find sows that could nurse piglets.
7. Before it was unusual to have a sow with 13 piglets weaned. The average was about 10.5 per sow plus spare mothers. Now the farmer is getting over 12 piglets on average weaned and 14 piglets weaned per sow is common. There are fewer nursing sows, simply because the sows are milking better and eating more.
8. Sows farrow better and there is 0.3 more live births per sow, of which 0.2 is gained from fewer stillborn. There have been 14.9 live born and 1.6 stillborn averaged over the past 7 months.
9. The piglets weaned are stronger and more evenly sized.
10. Man-hours are reduced by 20-30 hours per month, partly by washing less and because everything is easier.
Pedersen adds: “Independent researchers have shown Roundup to be both a powerful and non-selective biocide and an endocrine disruptor, leading to birth deformities, abortion, cancer and changes in microflora in the gut of mammals, so that clostridia becomes a problem. This, I think, is the direct reason for chronic Botulism in cattle. I know that the diarrhoea and bloated sow problems… which we had — and which disappeared with the changed diet — were due to clostridia bacteria”. Birth defects were a significant problem with “13 malformed piglets (about one in 700) [were] born over the last nine months on the GM diet, most of them live born”.
Economic Improvements with GMO-free diets
The widespread illnesses were burdening the farm with extra costs, including medical costs to deal with rampant stomach problems. Following 12 months of GM-free feed, Mr Pederson now uses half of the national average of antibiotics, compared to above average usage prior to the feed conversion. The savings made by reducing medicinal use by two-thirds was sufficient to cover the extra expense of GM-free feed which has totalled 28,500 DKr. Further, with an extra 1.8 piglet weaned per sow, and 12 less sows dying from stomach problems per year, the farm is making an extra profit of 250,000 DKr a year, translating to roughly an extra £55 per sow.
Danish Government will perform new safety tests
In response to the public interest generated by Mr Pederson’s story, the Danish National Pig Research Centre has decided to investigate effects of non-GM and GM Soya on pig health, stating that there has been no clear scientific study performed to date. The research aims to map stomach changes in pigs fed GM soya-treated with glyphosate from 30 kg bodyweight to slaughter at 110 kg, compared to GM- and glyphosate-free soya.
Brian John, although welcoming the positive move to address the problem, has rightly questioned some of the study design. Feeding pigs from 30 kg instead of 7 kg onwards may miss an opportunity to observe effects that would take place at a younger age, and there is no information as to what they will be fed prior to the GM diet. Effects on reproduction will not be addressed by this study either, which appears to be one of the major concerns.
Scientific investigations have until now been stifled. Regional and national records in many EU countries and the US where GM feed is widely used are inadequate, as government regulators are abandoning their obligations to monitor harmful effects of livestock feed in order to protect food security and public health. Nonetheless, other farmers are sharing personal experiences; another farmer in Denmark, Mr Christensen, has similarly improved his pigs’ health through switching to GM-free feed last year.
Farmer’s testimonies need to be taken seriously. They are witness statements from experts in field whose findings are corroborated by laboratory and clinical studies exposing the detrimental and even lethal effects of glyphosate-tolerant crop technologies.
1. “Svineproducent høster gevinst af gmo-fri soja”, Effektivt Landbrug , April 13 2012 (in Danish).
2. “GM soy linked to health damage in pigs – a Danish Dossier”, http://gmwatch.org/latest-listing/1-news-items/13882, GMWatch.com Dossier, 8th May 2012.
3. Sirinathsinghji E and Ho MW. EU Regulators and Monsanto Exposed for Hiding Glyphosate Toxicity.Science in Society 51, 46-48, 2011
4. Ho MW. Lab study establishes glyphosate link to birth defects. Science in Society 48, 32-33, 2010
5. Sirinathsinghji E. Glyphosate Kills Rat Testes Cells, Science in Societ4 54, to appear.
6. Robinson C. Argentina’s Roundup human tragedy. Science in Society 48, 30, 2010
7. Sirinathsinghji E. Pesticide Illnesses and GM Soybeans. Ban on Aerial Spraying Demanded in Argentina. Science in Society 53, 42-43, 2012
8. “Monsanto sued for poisoning farmers”. http://rt.com/usa/news/monsanto-farmers-tobacco-use-809/, RT.com, 8thMay 2012.
9. Ho MW. GM Soya Fed Rats: Stunted, Dead, or Sterile.Science in Society 33, 4-6, 2007
10. Sirinathsinghji E. USDA scientist reveals all – glyphosate hazards to crops, soils, animals and consumers. Science in Society 53, 36-39, 2012
11. Ho MW. Emergency! Pathogen new to science found in Roundup Ready GM crops?Science and Society 50, 10-11, 2011