Investigation of GMO vs Organic Diet Effects on Metabolome Profiles in Dairy Cows by NMR Spectroscopy Introduction

CERES 2014 Final Report

Ebru Selin Selen, Porter Lab

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There is concern that GMO crops may induce health related changes in domestic animals and humans; however, there is little direct evidence for GMO exposure consequences. Previously, we analyzed plasma and milk samples collected from two different farms about 20 miles apart, with different management approaches; organic (Miller Farms) and GMO fed cows (University Farm) to investigate the diet effect on cow metabolic biomarkers in milk and plasma. GMO group showed fundamental metabolic differences compared to organic fed diet (ORG) dairy cows. Identified biomarkers indicate increased inflammatory response and oxidative stress in GMO group. However, we could not exclude the possibility that those differences were solely due to the feeding regime or due to different farm practices. To test whether the differences we observed were due to GMO diet, we designed a second ‘side by side’ experiment in which all cows were kept in adjacent organic and GMO farms.We collected plasma and milk samples weekly from 13 April through 18 May, 2013. The timeline and experimental design are summarized in Figure 1. Time course we allowed sampling while all cows were off grass and enabled sampling when the organic cows transitioned to grass. Our objectives were to conduct this type of metabolome experiment with cows fed organic versus GMO diets to demonstrate: 1) that these metabolome effects are not unique to management type or location, but rather diet type.

One of the arguments that arises frequently with GMO versus organic is that the presence or absence of grass (different management practices) in the diet are really what makes the difference and it has nothing to do with GMO. We now know from our cow experiments than grass provides important diet components that provide the optimal metabolome profiles and milk content.

Organic agriculture needs to increase market share. One way to do is building public demand, that provides new market opportunities and promoting additional farmer transitions to organic agriculture to meet increased demand. Creating awareness of the facts that the GMO diet can induce detrimental changes in normal bodily function, constitute a risk factor for chronic and long-term diseases by promoting oxidative stress and low-level inflammation in the public will help to grow public demand for organic products. This will also creates a strong economic advantage to farmers, which has historically been a primary driver of farmer transitions to organic production methods. In our study we aimed to show concrete evidence of how diet influences cow’s metabolism and milk product. We can now strongly reinforce the argument for organic transition, since we are able to present reasons why organic cows live at least twice as long as GMO fed cows and organic cow veterinary bills are approximately half those of GMO farm cows. Once the public recognizes that GMO produced milk has unfavorable health benefits, it should accelerate transitions to a healthier method of production.

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