by Marjorie Smith


Some basic information about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's), also called Genetically Engineered (GE) crops -- to help you think about what you want to feed your horse.


Most GE crops are made by Monsanto, one of the "Big 3" agri-corporations. So far, the GMO's that have been developed are not about improved nutrition or hardiness, as Monsanto would have us believe. The modified plants are only designed to survive huge applications of the pesticide "Roundup," which Monsanto sells; they are called "Roundup Ready."


About half of the soybeans and corn planted in the U.S. are already GE. Other major crops are also engineered. (See There is no labelling of GE batches of these crops, so they cannot be traced to their farm of origin; therefore most soybeans, corn, and other major feeds that we buy probably contain at least some GE grain.


Seeds of Deception by Jeffrey Smith presents the best information I have found about GE crops. He describes a dozen aspects of GMO's that either have not been tested at all, or Monsanto has lied about. A few of these are:


      1) There is nothing precise about the way foreign genes are introduced into an organism. Genetic material is sprayed into cells in a "shotgun approach" in the laboratory; there is minimal control of which genes are being inserted, or of where they will end up in the DNA of the engineered grain. Given the unknown and complex working of genes during an organism's lifetime, many "side effects" (unplanned and unexpected effects) can and do occur. By 2004, at least 20 humans, and probably many livestock, have already had extremely strange, fatal results from eating them.


      2) Contrary to Monsanto's assurances, the engineered genes appear to be easily passed on from the original GMO to other organisms. For example, gut bacteria take in the new genes after a single meal eaten by livestock. There is no way to predict nor to protect ourselves and our animals from unplanned GM mutations of disease organisms.


      3) Once GE crops are planted in an area, the pollen (which contains the GE genes) blows into neighboring fields and pollinates them. Farmers who planted GE-free seed end up with a GE harvest that they did not want; and Monsanto has been requiring that these farmers pay a royalty on that harvest, under the copyright laws. A courageous Canadian farmer, Percy Schmeiser, has been fighting Monsanto in the Canadian courts, with many setbacks from big-business-oriented judges.


Based on these and other hair-raising problems noted in Seeds of Deception, I would highly recommend that humans eliminate all corn and soybean products and derivatives ("high fructose corn syrup," etc.) from our own foodlist, as well as from what we feed our horses. Even organically grown corn and soybeans, which are supposed to be non-GE, are estimated to be already about 15% contaminated by GE pollens blowing from nearby fields. In particular, infants and children should be protected from GE foods, because their DNA is actively guiding their growth.


Dairy farmers have noticed that when they offer both normal and GE corn, their cows will eat the normal corn and leave the GE corn. Only cows given no choice will eventually eat GE corn when they get hungry enough.


As it is difficult to find organically grown animal feeds, this is another reason to change your horse's diet to mostly hay, with a minimal addition of protein (needed by the body for daily maintenance and repair of cells).


It will be good if lots of us start asking at the feed store for GMO-free or organically grown grains. Some farmers have already gone back to non-GE crops because of "consumer preference." We can support and encourage their refusal to plant GE seed.