What is Non-GMO All About?

Every day I have more and more people ask about the use of GMO ingredients in horse feeds. There is a lot of confusion about just what the term means, and if there is a real difference in how feed concentrates and pet foods are made. Here is some information to hopefully clear up the confusion.

The term GMO refers to “Genetically Modified Organism”. In a nut shell, this means that the genetic makeup of a plant or grain used in the manufacture of a food stuff has been humanly manipulated to create something that does not naturally occur in nature. The goal is to better adapt that plant to certain growing conditions. In general, if you can make a plant less attractive to bugs or fungus that damage the crop, the potential yield can be improved, or less money needs to be spent controlling the pest. Genetic modification can also provide resistance in the plant to allow certain herbicides to be used that the plant may have been susceptible to before that modification. It may also allow a plant to grow better in challenging climate conditions like drought. In general, this sounds like a good idea. Potentially less, or different, chemicals used on the crop and better yield should mean lower ingredient costs to the consumer in finished feed products.

Replacing certain genes in plant species with genes from other organisms may allow the production advantages listed above. The question is what the tradeoff, if any, of this manipulation might be to the animal that GMO ingredients are being fed to. The simple answer is that no one really knows for sure.

Today, many commercial crops have been genetically modified. Corn, Soy Beans, Sugar Beets, and a number of other potential feed ingredients have been modified for a number of reasons. But, the bottom line reason is to make the crop more profitable to the industry. Even alfalfa hay has been genetically modified in many areas to allow expanded herbicide use. I am not saying that this is necessarily bad. I am saying that we humans have a tendency to screw things up given the chance. No one really knows for sure if we are doing it again with GMO feed ingredients. As a result, some people choose to not use feeds made with GMO ingredients if they have the choice of Non-GMO products. Over 20 countries have restrictions on the import or use of GMO ingredients in food products.

Unintended consequences.

As horse owners become more informed about horse health in general we see a real difference in public understanding of just what health issues our horses are facing. I have written about this change in understanding before. Years ago, if a horse did not thrive, it was a “hard keeper”. Today, most horse owners understand that there may be more to it than that. In talking to people about their feeding program I hear them refer to Insulin Resistance, Cushings, PSSM, OCD, metabolic disorders, and just about any other alphabet combination you can come up with. Are horse owners really that much more informed, or are environmental changes, including GMO ingredients in feed, manifesting themselves more than we have seen before the use of genetic modification. We are also seeing a significant increase in apparent allergic reactions in horses and dogs that were not as prevalent in the past. I am not a sky is falling kind of guy, but perhaps it is a little of both. I personally feel that it is important enough to make the commitment to use only Non-GMO Ingredients in the products we feed.  Does it really matter? More than 20 countries seem to think so. How you feed your own animals is up to you, the consumer to decide. There are options available for those who wish to keep GMO ingredients out of their feeds.