GMO poultry feed does not alter chicken or eggs

The novel proteins coded for by the genes inserted in GMO poultry feeds are fully digested by poultry and are not found in chicken meat and eggs.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have new DNA fragments (genes) inserted into their genomes by scientific techniques so that they exhibit a desirable trait not normally found in this organism. The inserted genes will code for specific proteins, and it is the proteins that actually allow the organism to exhibit the desired trait. Development of genetically modified crops have allowed farmers to plant corn and soybeans with resistance to insects such as the corn rootworm, corn borer and cutworm, which allows for decreased use of pesticides. Roundup Ready soybeans allow farmers to spray their soybean fields with glyphosate herbicide to control weeds after the bean plants have emerged from the ground, which increases yields and reduces extensive field cultivation and erosion.

Despite all the positive effects of modern technologies on corn and soybean yields, the consumer often has a different perception of the value of GMO crops. Unfortunately, there is a fear of the novel proteins in the GMO poultry feed and animal feed surviving the digestive process and being deposited into the egg or poultry meat. Fortunately, protein digestion in the chicken is a well-described process of digestive physiology and chemical breakdown of proteins to small peptides and amino acids for absorption and further metabolism into new proteins in the bird.

Breaking down proteins in GMO poultry feeds

Researchers at the University of Nebraska have conducted research to demonstrate that the novel proteins coded for by the genes inserted into GMO grains are treated just like any other protein as far as the as the chicken’s gut is concerned and will be digested and metabolized by normal processes in the bird. Our first study was conducted to determine the extent that genetically modified protein from Roundup Ready soybeans is deposited in tissues and eggs of laying hens. Because a breakdown of the modified portion of protein was expected by digestive process of the hen, an immunoassay test was run on raw soybeans, soybean meal, the complete diet, whole egg, egg albumen, liver, and feces from laying hens which were collected from two commercial egg producers’ farms.

Roundup Ready soybeans, soybean meal, and complete diets were determined to contain the GM proteins, as expected. Whole egg, egg albumen, liver, and feces were all negative for GM protein. In conclusion, the digestive process of the laying hen effectively broke down the GM protein from the soybean meal portion of the diet, hence no modified protein was found in the liver, egg or feces in this brief field trial.

GMO corn protein not in eggs

A second study was conducted with a GMO corn with genes from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis, Mon 863, fed to laying hens. Daily feed intake, egg production, fecal samples, egg, liver and breast meat tissue samples were collected from 12 killed hens and were tested for the GMO protein. Corn source had no significant effects on egg production parameters.

No GMO corn protein was detected in liver, egg or breast meat tissue. Feces from hens fed the GMO corn-containing diet tested positive for the corn GMO protein, this was likely due to undigested fragments of corn being excreted by the hens. Corn GMO protein, and partially digested fragments, was also found in the digesta sampled from all sections of the digestive tract. An estimated 98 to greater than 99 of the dietary corn GMO protein was digested, similar to that of other dietary proteins.

Our third study testing GMO corn at Nebraska looked at grain from transgenic corn line Herculex1, an insect-resistant strain, along with its isoline equivalent and two conventional corn strains in a 16-week laying hen feeding trial. Egg production and production efficiency of hens fed the diet formulated with GMO corn were similar to those of hens fed diets formulated with isoline or nontransgenic conventional corns.

Hens fed Herculex corn had similar egg qualities as those fed non-GMO grain diets. Diet by phase interactions were noted for Haugh unit and Roche color fan score. Hens fed conventional corn 2 had a poorer Haugh unit score compared with hens fed the other 3 diets. Conventional corn 1 had greater levels of xanthophylls compared with the other corn treatments, resulting in increased Roche color fan score for eggs produced by hens fed this diet. Overall, hens fed the GMO corn grain produced similarly to hens fed the isoline equivalent of GMO corn and hens fed the conventional corn grains.

Efficient protein digestion in hens

Our studies and others have shown that GMO proteins in Roundup Ready soybeans and soybean meal are thoroughly digested by the hen and are not detectable in egg, egg albumen, liver or excreta. GMO corn is also 98 to 99 percent digested by the chicken such that no intact protein is found in the liver, breast or egg. Undigested protein is detectable in very small quantities in the manure. As far as the chicken is concerned, corn and soybeans with GMO protein material is just another protein supplying important amino acids and nitrogen in the hen’s diet to digest and make new proteins in her body and the egg.

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