Retired scientist and GM-Free Cymru activist Brian John last week posted an English language account of a story that has set everyone talking in Denmark. It describes the simple way that one Danish pig farmer has been able to raise healthier animals: about a year ago, he stopped feeding his pigs GM soya.
Ib Borup Pedersen is representative of his sector, with a breeding herd of 450 sows, raising nearly 30 piglets per sow. This is an increase of almost two piglets per sow against the time when he was still feeding GM soy to his animals.
However, Pedersen is far from ordinary, since he has had the courage to talk about his findings openly, appearing in the Danish farming paper Effektivt Landbrug on April 13. The paper’s extensive coverage and editorial comment has set off a lively debate within Denmark, all the more heated after interested enquiries from foreigners.
John’s independently-written collaborative document with Pedersen’s generous assistance is an account of a closely-argued business case study and not a dossier with any scientific standing. This is something which both John and Pedersen are quick to emphasise. One farmer’s huge savings in pharmacy bills are closer to farming than science, after all.
“From a scientific point of view, this can only ever be anecdotal evidence,” John told ARC. “The point is, it’s hard to imagine that Pedersen could be the only farmer to have seen sows with fatal stomach problems or deformed piglets.”
There is simply no way of knowing the extent to which piglet deformities go unreported. It is not difficult to record only healthy live births in a litter and quietly dispose of the dead ones.
The Danish Pig Research Centre study reported here last week is an industry-funded response to requests for research. It is one that John finds procedurally inadequate, having examined the information released.
“For a start, the intake is 30kg weaners, with no apparent dietary monitoring before the start of the study.” In other words, the comparison between control and trial groups is already compromised, since it only looks at the finishing phase.
Nor is there an explicit commitment to exclude glyphosate residues from the non-GMO trial group (the allocation of control and trial groups is also a moot point for John). This is complicated by the fact that glyphosate is also a widely-used dessicant for cereal crops, used to start removing moisture from a standing crop before it is harvested.
One thing is clear, however: Pedersen is sure of his figures and has made a business case for his decision. The extra cost of his GM-free inputs is more than covered by improved earnings from healthier pigs.
Brian John’s full account can be found here: