Genetically Engineered Alfalfa and Your Horse

A new product is about to be force fed to your horse that you need to know about: Genetically modified alfalfa.

In Canada and the US, 2011 is the first year for GE alfalfa planting. For those asking why a horse owner should care, I have written the details so that you become educated on this. Feeding horses should be as important as learning how to ride and train.

What is GE Alfalfa? Monsanto has altered (in a lab) the alfalfa plant to be pesticide resistant. That means, every cell in the plant will produce a pesticide strong enough to kill bugs when they bite into it, AND allow farmers to spray pesticides as they need.

Non-GE Alfalfa (what our horses have eaten for decades) does not need to be sprayed. It rarely has weed issues or insect problems. The crop is often grown in-between other crops to bring nitrogen back to the soil. It has no need of modification, as it already is a wonderful plant just as it is!

Now, your horse will be exposed to chemicals two ways: through the cellular level in the plant, and through spraying, a process not necessary in the past. In short, there was no need to modify alfalfa. GE alfalfa was also not intended to be fed long term to any animal.

Why are they modifying alfalfa then? The biotech companies will be able to make money on the seeds, but first of all, they are chemical companies, and they make the majority of their money on chemical sales. The only benefits are to those companies.

What studies have been done on the impact of GE Alfalfa on horses? We don’t know. None have been done. Monsanto does not do long-term studies on health for ANY of their GM crops, even the ones you eat.

Any idea the impact this could have on our horses? For anyone that has been in the horse industry for years, you will remember that most of the horses had very little chronic diseases, like cancers, Cushings (IR), digestion problems, DSLD/ESPA, head shaking and shivers. You just never heard of it. Today, I can walk into a barn and at least find one horse that has shivers, stories of one that died of cancer, several that cannot digest food properly, and ulcers in around 80% of them.

We are creating an entire new host of equine diseases and problems, and we have to start looking at the potential sources that started this.

What could have created this situation? Horses are subjected to numerous toxic inputs. Vaccines are one of the worst. If you are vaccinating this year, DO NOT have your vet “dump” all the vaccines into your horse at once. Rule of thumb for being on the safe side is one vaccine per month, maximum. If your vet does not go along with this, switch vets. It’s time they woke up and got this.

Many horse feeds have GM products in them that are not approved for humans – just animals only, and most of the animals apart from horses that eat the following GM feeds are those destined for slaughter. Unfortunately, our horses eat this every day and most of you are completely unaware of this little detail until now.  Corn, Soy (two of the worst: have up to 8 modifications for numerous pesticides), canola (in many extruded feeds) are toxic at the cellular level and fed to our horses, daily.

We do not know the impact of this on our horses, but one thing for sure, our animals are getting diseases and health problems we did not see years ago. Yes, there is an increase in pollution (spraying of pesticides) but no studies have been done on the impact of GE foods on horses. Or humans either. If you pay attention you will find our horses are getting the same diseases we are. What needs to happen are long term studies for both animals and humans, but that will never happen.

About GE Alfalfa: This past week, the USDA opened the door to plant (deregulate) GE alfalfa everywhere. In Canada, they too will be able to grow it unregulated. Those farms growing non-GM alfalfa may as well give up: it cross-contaminates within one year. So while you think you are buying clean alfalfa, after this year, you likely are no longer able to buy non-GE. And the real crime: you will never be able to find it again in your lifetime or beyond. Once it’s out there, it’s forever. And we better hope it does not hurt our horses any more than they already are suffering.

What can we do? Let your feed dealer know you want non-GE alfalfa. Let them know you are aware of the problems. Monsanto pushed it through by stating it’s only fed to cows and farm animals, but they didn’t pay attention to the horse industry what so ever. Write, call, email your local politician, President, MLA, Senator, every politician you can! Read up on this and get educated.

Let farmers know you do not want them to buy into this. You may be well advised to wean your horses off it for next year, and find another way to keep the protein up in your horse’s diet.

If you live in the US, Canada or Australia, you may want to get educated beyond alfalfa, as these countries are quickly becoming testing grounds for biotech companies. Australia is in serious danger of losing all their organic and non-GE crops forever. All of them.

Your horse deserves the best, and GE horse feeds is not the answer.

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4 responses to “Genetically Engineered Alfalfa and Your Horse

  1. This is a very informative and well written article. I am nervous now about putting the free horse manure I just got down the road on my organic garden. Maybe I should be though…

    • It’s not likely the plants would “uptake” genetically modified genes Cam. I’m also a farmer: kind of goes hand-in-hand when owning horses and livestock! What would concern me most would be the wormers and any other vaccines or ?? the horses had. Here we have 2 sets of horse compost. One bin is for horses that have just been wormed or vaccinated. We pick the manure for 10 days (as it takes that long for the horse’s system to pass the toxins) and compost it for flowers ONLY. The other compost bins are for clean manures. It’s more likely your garden and plants would be damaged from chemicals more than GM genes, but we don’t know, FOR SURE, if that is true or not, and this is where the “Precautionary Principle” applies. Thanks for writing Cam!

  2. GE alfalfa doesn’t have bug resistance, so the comments about eating pesticides on a cellular level are not accurate.

    • GM alfalfa uses Monsanto’s GM “Roundup Ready” herbicide tolerant trait, and would be sold by Forage Genetics International.

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