Science in Society Archive

Goats Fed GM Soybean Produce Abnormal Milk, Reduces Weight of Off-Spring

GM-fed goats milk has significantly reduced antibody, fat and protein content and also contained transgenic DNA Dr Eva Sirinathsinghji

A new study finds that feeding goats the genetically modified (GM) glyphosate-tolerant soybean MON40-3-2 changes the composition of colostrum, the nutrient-rich first milk produced during pregnancy. Colostrum is ordinarily packed with proteins, vitamins as well as antibodies to protect the new-born against disease. Offspring from conventional and GM-fed mothers weigh the same at birth but those from GM-fed mothers weigh significantly less 30 days after birth. The researchers also discovered transgenic DNA in the milk of mothers fed the GM diet.

Importance of colostrum

The work, published in Small Ruminant Research, led by Professor Lombardi at the University of Naples, Italy [1] should be seen in the light of  recent discoveries of glyphosate herbicide in US mother’s breast milk at concentrations up to 1 600 times the legal limit allowed for single pesticides in EU drinking water [2]. The findings have important health implications, with the colostrum playing a well-known role in the short-term health and survival of both ruminant and human neonates. In addition to providing nutrients, antibodies present in colostrum are essential for the passive transfer of immunity to the offspring within the first 12-24 hours of life. It is already known that inadequate digestion or absorption of colostrum antibodies in ruminants leads to a secondary immunodeficiency condition, called the failure of passive transfer that predisposes neonates to bacterial septicaemia and common diseases and also increased risk of death until at least 10 weeks of age [3-5]. Human breast milk is also associated with protection against diarrheal disease, respiratory-tract infections, and necrotizing enterocolitis attributed to acquired (antibodies) and innate defence factors such as oligosaccharides and their glycocogjugates and antimicrobial proteins thought to promote the development of a healthy microbiota in the baby’s digestive system [6].

Feeding trial on mother and kid

The study looked at 40 male kids and their mothers of the ‘Cilantana’ breed indigenous to the region. All mothers had previously given birth the same number of times and producing similar amounts of milk in their previous lactation. At 60 days before kidding, the pregnant mothers were separated into two treatment groups of 10 mothers each, which were fed GM diets and 2 groups on a control, conventional feed. Both groups were allowed to eat unlimited amounts of hay, and were then supplemented with the same concentration of either conventional or GM soybean concentrate. Polymerase Chain reaction experiments were used to confirm the presence of GM feed in the treatment groups as well as the absence of GM contamination in the conventional feed.

Dramatic differences in colostrum

The two treated groups showed a dramatic 2/3 reduction in average  protein content `in the colostrum from 18.7 % and 18.8 % in control groups to 6.1 % and 6.0 % in treated groups.  Average colostrum fat content was 7.2 % and 7.1 % in control groups compared with 4.6 % in both treated groups. Average colostrum antibody content was 33.2 % and 31.2 % in control groups compared with 20.9 % and 18.0 % in treated groups.

Significant differences were still seen in the milk 15 days after kidding, returning to normal only after 30 days. The lower antibody concentration in the colostrum explains the reduced protein content, but it is unclear why there is a lower protein concentration in milk for 15 days after birth. The authors suggest that there may be less B lymphocytes, cells producing antibodies.

Weight of kids significantly reduced

Analysis of kid weight revealed that those from GM fed mothers were significantly lighter at day 30 (average weights of treated groups were 8.3kg and 8.2kg compared to 9.5 and 9.4kg in the control groups) and 60 when they were slaughtered (average weights of treated groups were 10.3 and 10.1kg compared to 12.5 and 12.3kg in control groups). There were no significant differences in the weight of individual organs. The serum antibody (IgG) levels were also significantly lower in kids from treated groups.  The observation of decreased kid weights at 30 and 60 days old despite the milk not being significantly different at this stage suggests that the abnormalities of the colostrum are the underlying cause for the reduced weight. Indeed, antibody concentrations in the colostrum correlate with serum antibody concentrations in offspring, and the serum concentrations in turn correlate with levels of growth factors and maturation factors in the offspring. A combination of factors such as insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), somatotrophin, fibroblast growth factor (FGF), insulin, transforming growth factor (TGF), epidermal growth factor (EGF) and platelet derived growth factor (PDGF) have been shown to increase the synthesis of DNA, RNA and protein [7, 8]. The growth factors also inhibit the breakdown of protein, thought to help promote growth. Receptors for the growth factors are found in the intestines where they are thought to mediate intestinal growth and maturation.

The researchers detected transgenic DNA in the colostrum of GM-fed mothers (see figure 1). This finding comes after the recent discovery of transgenic DNA of the same sequence – the cauliflower mosaic virus 35S promoter (CaMV 35S), in the genomic DNA of rat organs fed a GM diet (see [9] CaMV 35S Promoter in GM Feed that Sickened Rats Transferred into Rat Blood, Liver, and Brain Cells, SiS 65). The horizontal transfer of transgenic DNA into the genome of those eating GM foods, or the microbes living inside those consuming GM foods poses an additional and under-recognized hazard of GM crops. The CaMV 35S promoter has its own specific hazards including its propensity to recombine with DNA, thus potentially modifying the genomic sequences of those eating it. It is also active in mammalian cells, which means it has the potential to influence the expression of other genes, including dormant viruses. This is yet another finding that goes against the purported claims that nucleotides are broken down by the digestive tract, preventing any toxicity of transgenic DNA to those consuming it.

To conclude

The US has by far the highest level of neonatal mortality in industrialised nations. Many factors likely underlie this statistic but it is clear that the integrity of the first meals of a baby’s life has far-reaching and long-term effects and must be protected against pollution with pesticides and GM foods.

Article first published 16/03/15


  1. Tudisco R, Calabrò S, Cutrignelli MI, Moniello G, Grossi M, Mastellone V, Lombardi P, Pero ME, Infascelli F. Genetically Modified soybean in the goat diet: Influence on kid performance.  Small Ruminant Research 2015,
  2. Glyphosate Testing Full Report: Findings in American Mothers’ Breast Milk, Urine and Water., 2014.
  3. Mastellone V, Massimini G, Pero ME, Cortese L, Piantedosi D, Lombardi P, Britti D, Avallone L. Effects of passive transfer status on growth performance in buffalo calves. Asian Australas. J. Anim. Sci 2011, 24, 952–956.
  4. Tyler JW, Hancock DD, Wiksie SE, Holler SL, Gay JM, Gay CC. Use of serum protein concentration to predict mortality in mixed-source dairy replacement heifers. J. Vet. Intern. Med. 1998, 12, 79–83.
  5. Weaver DM, Tyler JW, VanMetre DC, Hostetler DE, Barrington GM. Passive transfer of colostral immunoglobulins in calves. J. Vet.Intern. Med. 2000, 14, 569–577.
  6. Baricelli J, Rocafull MA, Vázquez D, Bastidas B, Báez-Ramirez E, Thomas LE. β-defensin-2 in breast milk displays a broad antimicrobial activity against pathogenic bacteria. J Pediatr (Rio J) 2015, 9, 136-43. doi: 10.1016/j.jped.2014.05.006. Epub 2014 Sep 7.
  7. Oda S, Saloh H, Sugawara T. Insulin-like growth factor-1 GH, insulin and glucagon concentrations in bovine colostrum and inplasma of dairy cows and neonatal calves around parturition. Comp. Biochem. Physiol 1989. 94, 805–808.
  8. Ginjala V, Pakkanen R. Determination of transforming growthfactor-beta 1 (TGF) and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) in bovinecolostrum samples. J. Immunoassay 1998, 19, 195–207.
  9. Ho MW. CaMV 35S Promoter in GM Feed that Sickened Rats Transferred into Rat Blood, Liver, and Brain Cells. Science in Society 65,  32-33, 2015.

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There are 8 comments on this article so far. Add your comment above.

Rory Short Comment left 17th March 2015 07:07:24
Monsanto like many companies is profit mad which means that anything other than the money that their products make is irrelevant.

Johnny Dangereaux Comment left 21st March 2015 06:06:18
Monsanto isn't about making money Monsanto is about making zombies

Cathie Comment left 21st March 2015 06:06:59
Thank you for sharing the study findings. Are you aware of any commercial goat milk brands that are nonGMO? I'm allergic to cows milk and buy Myenberg or Oak Knoll, which are the only two I've seen in the store. Thank you! Cathie

Vic Romano Comment left 31st March 2015 23:11:13
Considering that the only difference between non-GM soy and RR-soy is that the RR-soy has two different versions of the 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthase (EPSPS) gene and the non-GM soy has only the native gene, there is simply no biochemical or biophysical explanation for why the GM soy would cause these problems. Both genes encode for the same enzyme, just with different amino acid sequences. The enzyme converts 3-phosphoshikimate into 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate which is eventually made into folic acid (an essential nutrient for all mammals), and the amino acids phenylalanine, tyrosine and tryptophan. Mammals lack the EPSPS gene but they also lack all the other genes in the pathway. Plants already have an EPSPS gene so giving them another doesn't change anything. Like the fraudulent Seralini paper, these "researchers" probably rigged their study. That would explain why it isn't published in a reputable journal.

Eva Sirinathsinghji Comment left 1st April 2015 01:01:34
Hi Vic, I think you have been misinformed regarding the potential hazards of GMOs and are making spurious claims regarding the work by Prof Séralini and his team. His 2-year feeding trial on GM maize is to-date, the only long term feeding study on that crop and the only to test glyphosate residues within the legal limits allowed in the EU. The retraction of his paper was unprecedented in that the reason for retraction was not fraud, plagiarism or any other reason given by the COPE guidelines for retraction, but “inconclusive results”. Not even Monsanto claim the paper to be fraudulent. Second, with regards to the goat study, there are a number of possible explanations for the observed, clear differences in the milk quality, which resulted in reduced offspring weights. Wishing away genetic differences between GM and non-soy defeats the point of making the GM soy in the first place. If there is no difference, why would Monsanto introduce a novel transgene into the soy? The transgene gives sufficient tolerance to the herbicide that would otherwise not be achieved if relying on the endogenous EPSPS gene alone. Possible causes of the observed differences likely come down to the genetic engineering and the technical procedures involved in it (including the culturing of cells in vitro), which can cause genetic instability of the genome, something that should be analysed for each crop. Analysis of GM crops in the past has shown that not only are the transgene inserts themselves scrambled, but the host genome also. This can have entirely unpredictable results in terms of the expression of genes, the generation of novel genes and so on. The compositional differences of GM plants when compared to their conventional counterparts exposes this, and this is one possible explanation for the altered nutritional content of the milk. See New GMO Studies Demonstrate ‘Substantial Non-Equivalence’. Transgenes themselves have also been shown to be toxic when taken from one edible species and transferred to another, showing that the natural context of a gene and not just the gene itself can determine whether or not it is benign as you claim. Thus, making assumptions of substantial equivalence seems complacent to say the least. Furthermore, the promoters used such as the CaMV 35S promoter drives very high expression of the transgene, which can interfere with expression of nearby genes and is also active in mammalian cells. The fact that it is active in animal cells, along with the observation of the transgenic DNA in the milk and the evidence of horizontal gene transfer into mammalian genomes following digestion of GM foods forms another possible toxicity route. Third, the study does not make clear whether or not glyphosate residues were present in these plants, which would reflect the real life situation where glyphosate tolerant crops are doused in the herbicide. As such, we are unable to dissect these results into an herbicide or a genetic engineering issue. Further analysis of this would be useful. Last weeks WHO assessment showing glyphosate to be a probable carcinogen, along with accumulating evidence of its endocrine disrupting, metal chelating properties may be some of the mechanisms by which glyphosate could exert toxicity. I think the most important thing to realise is the complicated procedures involved in genetic engineering, our limited understanding of the consequences and the accumulation of independent papers pointing out hazards. This makes it our duty to explore all the potential effects of gm technologies that are altering our food supply before we know what all those differences even are. Complacency and reliance on assumption-based regulations such as substantial equivalence is not sufficient to protect the public or the planet, and dismissing the ever growing number of studies that show harm only serves the interests of those who stand to make a profit, not those who should deserve the right to non-toxic, nutritious foods. It is in all our interests to make sure we do not do unnecessary and potentially irreversible damage to our food crops, especially when safer, more sustainable alternatives are proving more successful.

Linda J.Pannill-Smith Comment left 23rd March 2015 19:07:37
I have 2 Nubian goats that are allergic to soy,the doe breaks out in a rash on her belly and udder and the buck breaks out on his face and mouth every time they eat something with soy meal in it...Both animals are well bred & registered...I had my vet out when the break out happened,she said it was a food allergy...

Rune Geistrand Comment left 29th April 2015 16:04:12
Vic Romano wrote "Like the fraudulent Seralini paper, these "researchers" probably rigged their study". I find this arrogant and ignorant, but is a common attitude among the Mosantoists or other with economic interests in GMO. Even if Seralinis (et al) study not is perfect, the critics are mostly pseudoscientific. One of the critics (and what the former editor-in-chief at FCT also wrote)was about the Sprague-Dawley rat, That is wrong in two ways. They say the rat has "spontaneous" cancer - but so have humans, and more than theese rats - and we study rats in order to consider the risk for us. That is the logical fault. The other fault is a statistical one. Of course we can study this rat (as well as we can study f ex humans that have even more cancer). And we can use different statistic methods - and when you as in theese result have a TRIPLE rate of cancer in the group of 60 GMO-eater that is a very significant result. To say something different is nonsense. But we forget that the study was performed as a toxicological one regarding other damages from GMO (and glyphosate) and too much interest was om cancer (but the unexpected increase in cancer for the GMO-eating rats was of course interesting) This was also the very first study that looked at an animals whole life. It was not said to be perfect, and where there was worrying result - that schould of course be followed by further studies with more rats (or other animals). And, the EU parliament wanted a study and now there will be spent 2 milj euro in an two years study - however only about cancer. But, another and more comprehensive study will be done by factorgmo. Here the budget is 25 milj euro and there will be more than 6000 rats in the investigation. This study are also going to look at Roundup (not only glyfosat. And of course GMO!). There will also be a multigenerational study in this - and that is interesting - at least two former studies have indicated risk for lack of fertility after three generations eating GMO. 6000 is a large number. Of course Monsanto will say that any result that show damages are wrong (look just how they try to attack WHO who after studying science reported that glyphosate propably give cancer. (EPA said "possible" 1985 but 1991 it not even was possible. But I am not going to discuss the corruption in EPA, FDA and USDA in this comment) Let me also mention what the Nobel Prize recipients in chemistry said - that yet we know very little about our genes and cells. Compare this with the pro-GMO who know everything worth to know about genes and what is safe........ A final remark about the Seralinis study. It was published in Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT) but after that the former Monsanto employed Richard Goodman been installed at the journal the Seralini study was retracted (in ways that the rules for FCT not admit) TODAY the publisher Elsevier has removed the Monsanto man (Goodman) from FCT AND there is a new editor-in-chief, José L. Domingo. He have earlier written a paper where he say that FDA in their decisions are not founded in "studies" that was done. He dont mean there is a concensus about the safety in GMO!

Lee Comment left 26th November 2016 22:10:50
Wow glyphosate is toxic beyond what they realized it has been shown to cause gut dysbiosis. It has been shown to have a negative impact on the P450 enzymes. It has been shown to chelate much needed nutrients from plants and humans. It has been found to be far less biodegradable then originally claimed. It has been shown to work synergistically with other toxins to cause many health problems. I could go on and on.