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GM corn

New GM safety fracas: ‘Safe’ levels of Monsanto herbicide linked to cancer

Although loathed by some, GM crops have become ubiquitous. Despite the massive quantities of GM food eaten in the Americas and elsewhere, few studies have correlated the foods with health problems. However, a recent study [subsequently much criticised] found that rats grew tumours and died young after being fed a diet of GM corn laced with the world’s most popular herbicide, glyphosate, known by the Monsanto brand name, Round-Up.

The new findings are from the first, long-term peer reviewed toxicity study into the health impact of a GM tolerant maize crop and the herbicide.

Led by a team of French researchers, the two-year study reports that consumption of relatively low ‘safe’ levels of Monsanto’s GM NK603 Roundup-tolerant maize – or indeed of the herbicide itself – resulted in significantly higher incidence of mammary tumours, kidney and liver damage, and premature death in laboratory rats.

“The results of the study presented here clearly demonstrate that lower levels of complete agricultural glyphosate herbicide formulations, at concentrations well below officially set safety limits, induce severe hormone-dependent mammary, hepatic and kidney disturbances,” said the authors, led by Dr Gilles-Eric Séralini from the University of Caen in France.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, but some have questioned Seralini’s objectivity. The research was funded by the Committee of Research and Independent Information on Genetic Engineering (CRII-GEN), a French group opposed to GM crops. Seralini is also the president of CRII-GEN’s scientific board, reports the Washington Post.

There has also been a flood of criticism of the study’s methodology as well. For example:

“This strain of rat is very prone to mammary tumours particularly when food intake is not restricted,” said Tom Sanders, Head of the Nutritional Sciences Research Division, King’s College London.

“We have to ask whether a diet with this level of maize is normal for rats,” said Wendy Harwood, senior scientist, John Innes Centre. “Another control with an alternative diet should have been included. The data from the control group fed non-GM maize is not included in the main figures making it very difficult to interpret the results.”

“The first thing that leaps to my mind is why has nothing emerged from epidemiological studies in the countries where so much GM has been in the food chain for so long?” Mark Tester, Research Professor, Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics, University of Adelaide. “If the effects are as big as purported, and if the work really is relevant to humans, why aren’t the North Americans dropping like flies?! And if the effects are as big as claimed, why have none of the previous 100+ plus studies by reputable scientists, in refereed journals, noticed anything at all?”

Read more here: ‘Safe’ levels of Monsanto herbicide and GM crop linked to cancer

Additional reading:

New Scientist Study linking GM crops and cancer questioned

Science 2.0 GM Maize Causes Tumors In Rats? Here Is How Experts Responded

Control Freaks Why I think the Seralini GM feeding trial is bogus

Michael Grayer’s Posterous In which I blow a gasket and get very uppity about this GM-food study which appears to have everyone going nuts at the moment

Forbes Monsanto’s GM Corn And Cancer In Rats: Real Scientists Deeply Unimpressed. Politics Not Science Perhaps?

NHS Choices Claims of GM foods ‘link to cancer’ disputed by other researchers