Is Your Butter Really GMO? Food Scares vs. Reality

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Home / Is Your Butter Really GMO? Food Scares vs. Reality
What's in your dairy products? Image by Smartshiva

What’s in your dairy products? Image by Smartshiva

Genetically modified organisms, or commonly known as GMOs continue to make the rounds in the news – and on social media.

The latest scare is ‘GMO Butter.’

Does your butter actually contain DNA from those GMO plants in the dairy’s feed?

GMO and the Dairy Industry

Many cows living in industrialized farms or concentrated animal feeding operations are fed almost all GMO crops such as corn, soy, alfalfa, cotton seed, or sugar beets.

According to GMO Inside, 98 percent of genetically-modified soy and 49 percent of genetically-modified corn goes to feeding livestock and poultry.

So does that mean that if dairy cows eat the genetically-modified food, they produce genetically-modified dairy products?

GMO Butter and DNA

Decoded Science had the opportunity to interview Mary Martin Nordness, MA, RD, LD, CHES, Director of Nutrition Affairs at the Southeast United Dairy Industry Association, Inc.

According to Nordness, “When cows eat GMO feed, the DNA proteins are broken down in the digestive process like any other protein. Any protein broken down from GMO feed is not distinguishable from that of conventional feed once it’s digested, therefore there is no difference in the milk.”

Decoded Science asked whether there is DNA present in the butter, and Nordness responded,

“There is cow DNA in milk, therefore it is also in the butter. That DNA is broken up during human digestion just as all other proteins. Cow’s DNA is not altered or impacted in any way by the consumption of GMO feed. All DNA in feed, whether GMO or conventional, is broken down during digestion therefore it isn’t distinguishable in milk.”

GM Foods: Genes On Your Dinner Plate?

Decoded Science spoke to Dr. Kevin Folta, a molecular biologist with the University of Florida who also took some time to answer questions about the GMO Strawberry scare that was making its rounds on the Internet.

Dr. Folta tells us, “There is no way that you can feed a cow GM grain and see any trace of it in the milk.  You could never test milk and find DNA from the plant. Milk production is a specialized process wholly independent from digestion.  DNA from the plant is degraded in the gut, does not circulate in the bloodstream as plant DNA and is not in milk.

Dr. Folta agrees that there may be traces of cow DNA in the milk or butter, but confirms that there is no plant DNA, regardless of the type of feed the cow eats.

He says, “There is a lot of information going around about how GM foods have genes that magically end up in the bodies of those that consume them.  It is one gene, in a plant you eat now and then, when you eat some kinds of corn products or some soy products. There is little/no DNA in soy/canola/corn oil.  There is no DNA in sugar.

We eat literally millions of genes every single day from plants, bacteria and fungus (our food isn’t sterile).  In fact, you probably eat the same gene that’s in glyphosate resistant corn every day, even if you don’t eat the corn.  That gene comes from a naturally -occurring bacterium.

The Science of GMO and Livestock

Scientists have tested this issue exhaustively over the past ten years, publishing studies in journals such as Food and Chemical Toxicology, Livestock Production Science, and the Journal of Dairy Science. Researchers have not found any traces of GM plant DNA in dairy products, regardless of the feed.

Genetically Modified Butter, Or Headline-Grabbing Hype?

When you see a scary headline or meme, or you read a blog post about GMO, check the sources. Many bloggers are just after advertising dollars, driven by page views – and have to scare you with ‘GMO Butter’ to get those page views.
Fortunately for butter-lovers everywhere, there’s another side to the story: science. Whether you like butter or not, now you know: There is no DNA from genetically-modified feed in your dairy products.

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