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Iowa farmer visits Southern Oregon to discuss GMO-related health concerns

An Iowa farmer who claims pigs exposed to genetically modified organisms suffer more ailments than other animals will speak in Ashland next week in support of a local campaign to ban GMOs here.

Howard Vlieger, of Maurice, Iowa, conducted experiments in which a group of pigs was fed corn and grain treated with GMO herbicides and a control group wasn't. The pigs exposed to GMOs showed digestive, immunity and reproductive problems, while the control group didn't, he said. As a result, the GMO group needed more antibiotics for E. coli and botulism, he added.

Vlieger, who has conducted studies over the past 20 years, will give presentations Tuesday and Wednesday, Jan. 28-29, throughout the Rogue Valley. He is being sponsored by GMO-Free Jackson County, a campaign to support a May ballot measure that would mostly ban GMOs locally.

"Before there are fundamental changes to the food supply, there should be mandatory, independent, third-party safety testing to prove that no harm has been introduced into the food supply — and this has not happened," Vlieger said in a phone interview.

The GMO group showed ulcers, bloody bowel syndrome, ileitis (gut irritation) and salmonella, he said.

Vlieger said he has only a high school education and has not been to a research facility involved in GMO testing. The lead on-site researcher in his study was Dr. Judy Carman, biochemist and adjunct associate professor from Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia.

In an abstract of the study on her website, http://gmojudycarman.org, Carman said the results are especially valid because they were obtained on a working farm, not in a laboratory, from pigs destined for the market. Because pigs have digestive systems similar to humans, the results may indicate potential problems for us.

Quoted in the study as a coordinator of the test, Vlieger notes, "In my experience, farmers have found increased production costs and escalating antibiotic use when feeding GM crops. In some operations, the livestock death loss is high, and there are unexplained problems, including spontaneous abortions, deformities of new-born animals, and an overall listlessness and lack of contentment in the animals."

Carman called for enhanced safety measures, noting, "We found these adverse effects when we fed the animals a mixture of crops containing (GMO), yet no food regulator anywhere in the world requires a safety assessment for the possible toxic effects of mixtures. Regulators simply assume that they can't happen."

Livestock on GMO crops are more aggressive, likely due to stomach irritation, notes Vlieger, adding, "I have seen no financial benefit to farmers who feed GM crops to their animals."

Vlieger is being brought here by Chris Hardy of GMO-Free Jackson County, who notes that firsthand reports on GMOs in livestock should assist in passage of a ban on GMOs here.

"I didn't move here to be part of biological technology run by multinational corporations," says Hardy. "This valley is about small, family-owned farms."

Media relations with Monsanto, of St. Louis, Mo., a leading producer of genetically engineered seeds and chemicals such as the herbicide Roundup, did not return calls for comment. On its website, monsanto.com, the company lists multiple studies that conclude products such as Roundup Ready corn are "equivalent to traditional corn with respect to food, feed and environmental safety."

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.