GM-Free Feed Can Lead to Increased GHG Emissions, Price of Food & More

New research shows that if more U.S. food companies require feed for the livestock and poultry that they source their meat, milk and eggs from to be free from genetically modified (GM) ingredients, then greenhouse gas emissions on farms could rise, grain elevator and feed mill product handling and production requirements would be greater and the price of meat, milk and eggs for consumers could increase.

About the Study:

In recent years, an increasing number of food companies have differentiated their food products in the marketplace by offering foods that are free of GM ingredients. For products produced from livestock and poultry, this means the use of GM-free ingredients extends to the feed the livestock and poultry consume. Given the implications this could have on the animal feed industry, the Institute for Feed Education and Research (IFEEDER) sought to answer: If non-GM feed production were to increase in the United States, what would the environmental and economic implications be for the animal food industry?

Joining together with partners Dairy Management Inc., MFA Incorporated, the National Corn Growers Association, the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association and others, IFEEDER hired Iowa State University and Decision Innovation Solutions to conduct the research.


Overall, the data showed that farmers enjoy many benefits from using GM seed technology, including greater crop yields, reduced land tillage and lower fuel use, which results in a reduction in overall carbon emissions. Until non-GM seeds achieve similar advantages, farmers will be less incentivized to use them.

For feed production, the ability to be part of a potentially expanding GM-free feed market has capital and operating cost considerations – both at the grain elevator and at the feed mills themselves. Although it is feasible to segregate crops based on the desired tolerance level of GM ingredients, the management requirements would add production complexities unless the facility is solely dedicated to non-GM feed.

For consumers, the research shows that non-GM feed could increase the price of feed by as much as $4 to $9 per ton of pork, layer and broiler feed, by 40 cents to $3 for beef feed and $1 to $4 for dairy feed.

This would have the trickledown effect of potentially raising food prices as much as 16.7% the cost per pound of meat.