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By Dr. Becker
Over the last few years, I’ve written frequently about aflatoxin contamination of commercial pet foods, in particular, dry corn-based dog food formulas. More recently, I’ve been keeping an eye on the effects of drought conditions on increased recalls of pet food for suspected aflatoxin contamination.
For those of you who may not be familiar with the term aflatoxins, they are noxious metabolites produced by fungi that grow on crops – especially corn. Aflatoxins are the most extensively researched mycotoxins in the world, known to cause acute toxic illness and cancer in animals and humans.
As predicted, accelerated recalls of corn-based dog food began early this year as a result of the extremely hot, dry conditions in the U.S. Midwest during the summer of 2012. As I’ve explained in past articles, the behavior of the molds that produce aflatoxins makes it very difficult to control or minimize contamination, or to accurately assess the extent of the problem. There can be pockets of plants that are heavily contaminated, while the rest of the crop is relatively mold-free, so analyzing occasional random samples of corn plants can give misleading results.
A Brand New Twist in the Aflatoxin Contamination Crisis
A fascinating new twist in the growing contamination problem is a recent study that shows Roundup herbicide, the primary herbicide used in GM agriculture, promotes the growth of the fungi that produce aflatoxins. This certainly further explains the alarming increase in contamination levels in U.S. corn.
The study was conducted by researchers in Argentina and was published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Health1. According to GreenMedInfo, the study:
“Adds to an increasing body of research indicating that glyphosate (aka Roundup), the primary herbicide used in GM agriculture, is seriously undermining the quality of our global food supply, and may help to explain recent observations that GM corn heavy markets, such as the U.S., have a significant aflatoxin problem.”
Since little research has been done on the role of glyphosate on the growth rate of aflatoxin-producing fungal species, the goal of the researchers was to determine its effect on the growth of aflatoxin B1 production. Aflatoxin B1 is produced by two species of fungi (Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus) that commonly grow on cereal grains, and is considered one of the most carcinogenic substances in existence.
Argentine Study Concludes Roundup Promotes Growth of Aflatoxin-Producing Fungi on GM Corn
According to GreenMedInfo, Argentina's GM corn production is on par with the U.S., which means GM farming’s environmental and toxicological impact on food quality is likely very similar in both countries.
What the researchers in Argentina discovered was that all six concentrations of Roundup they tested enhanced the growth of aflatoxin-producing Aspergillus strains – and the concentrations they used were lower than those normally detected in Argentinean soils.
Not surprisingly, these study results dispute numerous earlier studies, including one conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which did not conclude glyphosate increased the growth of Aspergillus flavus.
It seems glyphosate-tolerant fungi use the chemical as a food source.
What This Means for You and Your Pet
Not only is corn and all its derivatives in commercial pet food highly allergenic and biologically inappropriate for dogs and cats, chances are it’s also genetically modified and carries an unacceptably high risk of mycotoxin contamination. If you haven’t done so already, I highly recommend you move away from any pet food containing GMOs, including corn or its derivatives.
Study the ingredients in the food you buy your pet, and avoid brands containing grains or corn in any form, including corn gluten meal, whole grain corn, corn flour, etc. Also avoid formulas containing cereal grains like maize, sorghum, pearl millet, rice and wheat.
Consider transitioning your pet away from all dry food to either a high-quality, human grade canned food, or better yet, a balanced, fresh food diet made from organic ingredients. You can make your pet’s meals at home using recipes that are balanced nutritionally for either a cat or a dog. You can also look into commercially prepared raw pet foods as well as dehydrated raw foods that are GMO-free. Or you can consider a mixture of homemade and commercially prepared organic diets.