According to a new study, organic feed produces measurably different gene expression in chickens compared to normal feed, even if the ingredients are the same. The finding surprised researchers at the Louis Bolk Institute in the Netherlands, where a large research project is underway to examine possible health effects of differently produced feed.
Two generations of chickens were fed either organically cultivated feed or normal feed. Scientists then sampled RNA, the partner molecule for DNA during gene expression, from the small intestines of five organically fed chickens and five conventionally fed chickens. The results showed significant differences in gene expression among 49 genes.
Those 49 genes may not sound like much among 20,000 chicken genes. But the Dutch researchers note that seven of the 49 genes were involved in helping the chickens synthesize cholesterol, when just 30 genes are involved in the overall cholesterol biosynthesis.
"Cholesterol is a building material for many substances, such as hormones," said Astrid de Greeff, a scientist with Livestock Research in Lelystad. "We don't know yet what the cholesterol does in the chickens."
But this study seems to be one of the first to show a biological difference on the (chicken) consumer end, based solely on whether the feed ingredients were grown organically or not -- we're not even talking about genetically modified organisms here. What this all means remains to be seen.
Well I haven't seen the publication, but I am always skeptical about significant differences that come out of closely related samples from gene expression arrays. I wonder about the number of replicates and how the false discovery rate was controlled. Maybe the differences are real: I wonder if the results are caused by the level of insecticides in the organic feed?breeding seeds for crops that grow well without insecticides selects for mutations in "natural" insecticides expressed at 1000x levels in seeds not selected for ability to grow without insecticide. Maybe we are seeing the harmful effects of using organic feed with high natural insecticide levels.
Don't get in a bunch, you have to deal with the devil's advocates....
It could be that this is similar to that of cows. If you feed cows grass and hay for extended periods of time it effects the amount of meth the product, and enzyms in there stomachs. could be similar in chickens, could turn on and off genes depending on what they eat.