GMO and Antibiotic Livestock Feed

by Catherine Haug, January 19, 2012

I’ve written about CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) before, but I want to call your attention to a particular aspect of this type of food production. Cows, hogs and chickens are the most common animals raised by this method, which involves tight (confined) indoor quarters without exposure to the outdoors, specially grown and treated food, and often inhumane conditions.

When you consume the meat, eggs and/or milk from such animals, you intake all the problems associated with the method by which they were raised. Even produce, including organic produce can be contaminated from manure used as fertilizer.

Are you aware that most meats, as well as commercial eggs and dairy products come from CAFOs? When you buy these foods, you are making a statement that your are OK with the conditions and the risks that come with the food. Are you sure this is what you want to convey?

View3 minute CBS News video: Antibiotics Risk to Humans embedded below.

CBS News Video: Antibiotics Risk to Humans

If video is not displayed, see CBS News: Antibiotics Risk to Humans from July 2010.

July 16 2010: “A congressional hearing is underway to determine whether or not the feeding of antibiotics to healthy farm animals could pose a significant health risk to humans. Katie Couric reports.”

CAFOs: How they affect the quality and safety of your foods

Lack of outdoor and sun exposure

Indoor confinement operations deprive the animals of vital immune-boosting sunshine, which creates vitamin D. It also deprives them of vitamin-A- and Omega-3 fat-rich grasses typically found in pastures. Not to mention, limiting their ability to exercise and oxygenate their tissues.

All of this results in less-than optimum nutrition in the animal products, and can lead to sickness in the animals – sickness that can be transmitted to the consumer through their meat, eggs or milk.

Factory diet

Instead of native pasture as feed, CAFO animals are fed special grain-based feed laced with antibiotics. The latter is used primarily to induce them to grow larger faster, but also to keep illnesses caused by confinement at bay.

The typical factory diet is made primarily from GMO corn and soy. The GMO aspect is typically either or both:

  • bT-bacteria genes inserted into the corn or soy DNA, so that the plant will generate the bT-toxin and keep pests at bay.
  • Roundup-ready corn or soy, which allows the fields to be heavily treated with roundup (for weed control) without harming the crop.

In both cases, the toxins involved are picked up by the hapless animal, and in turn passed onto the consumer who consumes the animal product. Then you, the consumer are slowly poisoned by your diet.

The feed is laced with antibiotics, primarily synthetic penicillin or tetracycline. The intent of this practice is two-fold: to induce the animals to gain weight faster, and to keep disease at bay. The disease typically is induced by the GMO grain in the feed. Cattle and hogs do not have the ability to properly digest grains; this leads to their guts becoming inhospitable to their native probiotics, leaving the door open for disease-causing bacteria to get a foothold.

These bacteria and antibiotics are then transferred to the soil and groundwater via their urine and feces, where they can go on to contaminate the produce, milk and eggs at your supermarket. Even Organic foods are not exempt from this contamination, because animal manure is often used to fertilize the soil in which Organic produce is raised.


It is believed that this rampant over-use of antibiotics is resulting in the superbugs that are resistant to known antibiotics. A recent report by the FDA (1) indicates scary data: “CAFOs used a whopping 29 million pounds of antibiotics in 2009 alone. On these industrial farms, resistant bacteria are increasingly common.”

According to a 2009 University of Iowa study (2), 70 percent of hogs and 64 percent of workers in industrial animal confinements tested positive for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The study pointed out that once MRSA is introduced, it could spread broadly to other swine, as well as to their caretakers and in turn, their caretakers’ families and friends.

Chicken factories are very scary in this regard. A pathogen common to chicken products is the antibiotic-resistant strain is Campylobacter. Conventional CAFO chicken products are up to 460 times more likely to carry antibiotic-resistant strains than organic (antibiotic-free) chicken products, according to Mercola (3).

The FDA’s decision

In 1977, the FDA laid out a plan to eliminate antibiotics in animal feed. It was scheduled to come to fruition this year, but this last December, the FDA quietly posted notice to reneg on its plan, caving to pressure by the CAFO and Big Ag industries. See FDA Won’t Act Against Ag Antibiotic Use (4) for more on this issue and its history.

Public Comment encouraged

Note that the FDA is accepting public comment on its decision, so if SAFE FOOD is important to you, I urge to to write to the FDA. They are taking public comment on this issue, via the docket established for the draft guidance issued in 2010. That docket number is FDA-2010-D-0094-0002, and the form for submitting comments is here.


  1. FDA 2009 Summary Report: Antimicrobials Sold or Distributed for Use in Food-Producing Animals
  2. University of Iowa: Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) Strain ST398 Is Present in Midwestern U.S. Swine and Swine Workers
  3. Mercola: Organic Chicken
  4. FDA Won’t Act Against Ag Antibiotic Use
  5. Submit a comment to the FDA:!submitComment;D=FDA-2010-D-0094-0002


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