I ran across an article on the internet the other day about how dangerous it is to feed beet pulp to horses because it is GMO. The article stated that feeding beet pulp would cause renal failure, tumors, cancer, fertility issues, digestion problems and a suppressed immune system.
GMO is an acronym (abbreviation) for genetically modified organism. This alteration can occur naturally or artificially. The GMO sugar beet has had it's genetic material artificially altered so the plant will not die when the field is sprayed with the herbicide glyphosate (one of the recognized trade names is Monsanto's RoundUp ®). Glyphosate kills weeds and grasses that compete with the sugar beet plants in the field.
The internet article neglected to mention that it is almost impossible to avoid GMO plants and grain. High percentages of corn and soybeans are genetically modified (GM). According to the United States Department of Agriculture in 2014, 89% of the corn crop and 94% of the soybean crop was GM. (I could not find USDA data on the percentage of GMO sugar beets grown in the United States, but several unverified sources state it is 90% of the crop.)
It is going to be difficult to avoid genetically modified grain if feeding commercial horse feeds. There are horse feeds that do not use corn, but soybean meal is the best source of protein for horses, and will be almost impossible to avoid.
There is a lot of controversy regarding the safety of GMO plants, grain and the products from which they are made. The Federal Drug Administration states "food and food ingredients derived from GE plants must adhere to the same safety requirements under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic (FD&C) Act that apply to food and food ingredients derived from traditionally bred plants". The FDA does recommend that developers of GM plants consult with the agency to ensure food made from the plants is safe, but it is strictly voluntary.
According to Monsanto's web site there have been no documented illnesses related to products that use GMO grains or plants. They go on to state that numerous studies have been conducted to ensure GM plants are safe for consumption.
So, what about the beet pulp?
You are not going to be able to avoid genetically modified grains and products unless you are willing to pay the price for verified GMO-free products. The benefits of feeding beet pulp (high in digestible fiber, low in non-structural carbohydrates, low glycemic index, great for senior or underweight horses) far outweigh the questionable risks from feeding GM feed.
This does not mean we ignore what our politicians, government and big corporations are doing, but we can't quit feeding our horses…or ourselves.