October 07, 2014

ASAS Board: There is no scientific basis for Starbucks to stop using conventional milk


Written by: ASAS Board of Directors

Official Statement from the American Society of Animal Science Board of Directors

The U.S. milk supply is safe, wholesome and nutritious. That remains true nearly two decades after the introduction of genetically engineered (GE) crops in 1996. Furthermore, it has been repeatedly shown that feed crops of biotech origin do not compromise the health, well-being and ability of food-producing animals to contribute to a safe, plentiful food supply.

Since their introduction, GE feed crops have become a growing segment of livestock diets, including those fed to dairy cattle. Today, more than 95 percent of the nation’s food-producing animals consume feed containing GE crops.

Recently, the milk produced by animals that eat GE feed crops came under attack. On Sunday, October 5, several anti-GMO groups launched a social media blast aimed at pressuring Starbucks to “ditch conventional milk from cows fed GMOs in favor of organic milk.”1

This messaging creates further mistrust and confusion about GE feed crops among consumers when these feeds pose no health threat to animals or to the humans who consume animal-derived products.

Many studies have been conducted on GE feeds. Studies that involve feeding GE crops to livestock are used to evaluate the safety of these crops. Recently, a scientific review published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Animal Science2 documents evidence that the productivity and health of food-producing animals fed GE crops are comparable with those of animals fed non-GE crops.

During the review, the researchers analyzed livestock production statistics collected from a number of publicly available databases. In total, the review paper examines nearly 30 years worth of livestock-feeding studies, representing more than 100 billion animals. The analysis showed that animal health is better since the introduction of GE feeds – healthier udders in dairy cows, for example, which translates into improved milk quality.

The review also examined the composition of products like milk, meat, and eggs that are derived from animals fed diets containing GE feeds. “No study has revealed any differences in the nutritional profile of animal products derived from GE-fed animals,” state the authors. In other words, these foods are indistinguishable from foods derived from animals fed a non-GE diet.

Furthermore, recombinant DNA, or transgenic material, from biotech crops has not been detected in animal products, including milk, meat and eggs from animals fed GE feed. In fact, the DNA from GE crops is chemically the same as DNA from traditional sources. Both are completely broken down in the human and animal gastrointestinal tract during digestion.3,4,5

ASAS believes in the consumer’s right to make an educated choice. There are ample opportunities for multiple production systems in the marketplace, including conventional systems that use crops derived from biotechnology, as well as natural and organic production systems. However, that choice should not be clouded by fear-mongering or misinformation related to GE feed crops.

The full Journal of Animal Science review article is available in open-access form at www.asas.org.

The American Society of Animal Science fosters the discovery, sharing and application of scientific knowledge concerning the responsible use of animals to enhance human life and well-being. Our members work in agriculture because they love animals and believe feeding our families, friends, and communities is important.

1 “Trouble Brewing For Starbucks: 150,000+ Consumers Urge CEO To Switch To Organic Milk, Major Social Media Push Set For Sunday,” PRNewswire-USNewswire, Oct. 2, 2014.

2 A. L. Van Eenennaam and A. E. Young. October 2014. Prevalence and impacts of genetically engineered feedstuffs on livestock populations. J. Anim. Sci. 92: 4255-4278.

3 D. E. Beever and C.F. Kemp C. F., 2000. Safety issues associated with the DNA in animal feed derived from genetically modified crops. A review of scientific and regulatory procedures. Nutr. Abstr. Rev., Ser. B: Livest. Feeds Feed. 70: 175–182.

4 D.A Jonas et al., 2001. Safety considerations of DNA in food. Ann. Nutr. Metab. 45: 235–254.

5 Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST). 2006. Safety of meat, milk, and eggs from animals fed crops derived from modern biotechnology. Issue paper no. 34. CAST, Ames, IA.


ASAS Media Contact:

Kim Schoonmaker



Scientific Contact:

Larry Reynolds