GMO COMPASS - Information on genetically modified organisms
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Feed

Genetic Engineering:

Feeding the EU's Livestock


Europe’s cows, pigs, and chickens are eating GMOs: their feed usually contains ingredients made from genetically modified plants. In addition, animal feed often has additives and enzymes that are produced with genetically modified microorganisms. Although GM animal feed must be labelled, the end products of animal production like milk, eggs, and meat do not require labelling. 

It has been a long time since the EU Member States have been self-sufficient when it comes to producing animal feed. Without importing feed, the EU would have to cut back on meat, dairy, and egg production. The ban on using animal parts in feed brought on by the BSE crisis (mad cow disease) has heightened Europe’s dependence on foreign imports.

Soy is extremely important as a relatively inexpensive source of protein and oil. Soy meal is the single most important animal feed in the EU, accounting for 55 percent of protein-rich animal feed.

Other important animal feeds imported into Europe include maize, rapeseed, cottonseed, wheat, rye, and oats.

Bild vergrößern

Bild vergrößern

GM soy. In Europe, producing meat and other foods derived from animals requires large quantities of soy products. Most of the soy grown around the world is genetically modified
Photo (below): Novozymes

Animal feed from soybeans: By and large genetically modified.

The Member States of the EU annually import approximately 40 million tonnes of raw soy products. Half is used in animal feed, either as entire soybeans or as meal leftover from oil extraction. Soybean imports come from Brazil, the US, and Argentina, which are the world’s leading soybean producers. All three of these countries practice large-scale genetically modifiedsoybean cultivation. For the most part, imports from the US, Argentina, and parts of Brazil consist at least partially of GM soybeans. It is estimated that 60 to 90 percent of world soybean exports come from GM plants.

“GM-free” soybeans having less than 0.9 percent GM content are available from certain states in Brazil. These areas grow exclusively conventional soybean cultivars and carefully ship their crop to Europe separated from GM products. Soybeans that do not require labelling come with a certificate and are sold at a premium.

Maize: More GM feed in the future

Europe is quite self-sufficient when it comes to maize. Almost two thirds of maize production in the EU is used in animal feed. GM maize is currently being grown in Spain, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Portugal. Europe’s GM maize crop is mainly used for animal feed.

Most of the maize in European animal feed is not genetically modified. If GM maize production in Europe were to increase, so would the amount of GM feed fed to animals, especially cattle.

The EU Member States import maize gluten (a protein rich maize feed from the US) and sweet corn (from Argentina) in small quantities. Both of these countries are major producers of GM maize.

Feed from rapeseed and cotton

No GM rapeseed or GM cotton is grown in the EU. Although GM rapeseed and cottonseed animal feeds could reach the European market through imports of raw materials, imports from North America remain low and relatively insignificant.

Genetic engineering in feed additives

Various additives and enzymes added to animal feed can be produced with the help of genetically modified microorganisms. For example:

  • Vitamins: Vitamin B2, vitamin B12, or biotin (for animal health)
  • Various amino acids (improved feed quality)
  • Enzymes (improved breakdown efficiency)
  • Colouring, beta carotene (e.g. for salmon)

 

Not a trace in foods

Despite methods that are becoming more and more sensitive, tests have not yet been able to establish a difference in the meat, milk, or eggs of animals depending on the type of feed they are fed. It is impossible to tell if an animal was fed GM soy just by looking at the resulting meat, dairy, or egg products. The only way to verify the presence of GMOs in animal feed is to analyze the origin of the feed itself.
 

 


An EU Research Project

What are the risks of growing GM crops?

What are the benefits?

Numerous studies have addressed the potential impacts of genetically modified (GM) plants. Yet the existing evidence on the effects of GM plants is often contradictory and the quality of scientific research varies widely.

Therefore, the GRACE project will establish new tools for assessing the quality of existing studies and will conduct comprehensive reviews to identify health, environmental and socio-economic impacts of GM plants.

More information

Crops and Cereals
GM Plants: The Big Four
Soybeans
Maize
Rape Seed
Cotton
Global GM Crop Production in 2013
December 7, 2006 [nach oben springen]

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