There have been news reports far and wide in recent years regarding Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMO's, and how they affect those who come into contact with them. These are essentially genetic manipulations of living organisms in order to create characteristics that are not naturally occurring but are said to be useful in terms of growth and development. For example, traits such as resistance to herbicides and insects are genetically created within crops, making them better able to grow and thrive. The question that remains, however, is at whose or what expense?
Photo: Kimberly Snyder
Studies by The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) have shown many negative impacts on human and animal health as well as the environment as a whole. Gastrointestinal and immune system disorders, organ damage, and infertility are just a few of the problems seen thus far. Additionally, there is even more potential for long-term damage as consuming food that has been genetically modified can cause a buildup of retained toxins in the bloodstream that is then passed on to offspring. In fact, since GMO's made their way into the world in nine years ago, cases of chronic illness amongst Americans have increased by 6%. At the same time, food allergies and autism have been on the rise, lending on to believe that there is something to the claims that GMO's are bad news after all.
Speaking of the dangers of GMO's, imagine a whitetail deer wandering about the Missouri landscape and happening upon a field of corn on which that animal begins to feed. To the deer, it is likely a happy moment, but we must consider the perils of his feast. Since Missouri is a big corn producer, the crop is plentiful across the state, so much so that it is actually exported for use in animal feed and ethanol gasoline. In the state of Missouri, genetically engineered corn is grown. What was once either herbicide tolerant (glyphosate or RoundUp tolerant) or insect resistant is now being switched over to another genetically modified variety which offers both herbicide tolerance and insect resistance in the same plant. This essentially means that herbicides will not harm it and insects either avoid it or die upon sampling it. This is what the Missouri whitetails we hunt are able to eat in their travels.
Photo: Prairie State Outdoors
Since the early 1900's, the deer population has been on the rise, or at least it was until the year 2000, at which point it began to decline once again. This could be coincidental timing as the deer population decline just happened to occur within a few years of the beginning of the GMO era, or it could be a very clear indication that something very wrong is going on here. Though figures for deer populations are arrived at via harvest reports and it is likely that many harvested deer go unreported, it is still alarming to see that the whitetail deer population dropped from approximately 29.9 million in 2013 to 28.6 million in 2014 with preliminary data for 2015 continuing to show population decline. All told, there was a 12.6% drop in deer numbers since the year 2000 after close to 100 years of thriving populations. The only thing that seemingly changed in addition to a 9% rise in the number of hunters was the introduction of GMO's.
In addition to corn, there are many other crops that could be GMO. Those include alfalfa, barley, canola, oats, potatoes, rice, rye, soybeans, and wheat, just to name a few. Though it is highly possibly that whitetails will encounter and consume these, so will other livestock animals. These crops are commonly found in food products fed to livestock animals, which are in turn eaten by us as are the whitetails we harvest, especially if your food plot contains GMO's. It is even possible that livestock animals themselves have been genetically modified, such as in the case of salmon and pigs.
Potential problems whitetails may experience include thyroid and hormone issues as well as damage being done to cellular functions. Deer may fail to appear healthy due to an inability to gain weight and loss of hair. Also seen is poorly formed hooves and weakened pasterns. The ability to bear fawns may be lost as well and those born may exhibit birth defects, which can also contribute to further population decline as those deformities shorten life expectancy.
Photo: Fishing Buddy
Unfortunately for deer, livestock, and humans as a whole, the GMO business is booming. It is pushed along by companies with deep pockets that have no intention of caving to the pressure currently being applied by the concerned people of our country. In time, this may change, but for now one must be concerned with what the deer we eat are eating first. On the bright side, some farmers have reported that deer leave GMO's untouched, which bodes well for the health of the animals but should also send a very clear message to those who deem GMO's safe to consumption. After all, if an animal knows better than to eat it, perhaps we should, too.
Do you have concerns about the deer you harvest consuming GMO's? Have you seen firsthand an example of poor health at the hands of GMO's? Let us know in the comments.