Russia suspends import and use of American GM corn after a French study revealed Cancer development and organ damage in rats.
Hoax or Fact:
The story is a fact, but the study stands controversial.
The message is a fact. Russia's federal service for protection of consumers rights, Rospotrebnadzor has suspended the import and use of a Genetically Modified (GM) corn belonging to the American biotech company Monsanto after the revelations of a French study showing significant risks of cancer and organ damage in rats. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has further ordered its own review in to the research conducted at the French University of Caen and study the corn's safety.
Study of GMO Effects on Rats
A group of independent experts at the University of Caen, headed by Mr. Gilles Eric Seralini, a French microbiologist conducted an experiment of genetically modified corn consumption in rats running for their full lifespan, i.e 2 years, and the results of this study were published in a scientific journal. The study examined 180 rats, by feeding them different amounts of a strain of weedkiller-resistant GM corn (NK603); water containing Roundup, which is the world's bestselling weedkiller; and a combination of these two. After 2 years, 50 to 80 per cent of all the female rats that were fed the corn or weedkiller have developed at least one large tumour, compared with 30 per cent from a small control group. The study also reported that male rats in the treated groups were more likely to develop serious liver and kidney damage. In the image section below, you can see pictures of couple of those rats developing cancerous tumors. The researchers think that consumption of this GM corn can increase the chances of breast cancer, liver and kidney damage in humans as well.
Biotech Response to the Rat Study
However, it is important to note that there has been a mixed response about this study from experts around the world. There is highly controversial side to this study, especially from the American scientists and biotech experts. They insist that biotech companies have already proved the safety of GM crops in the past, based on trials involving feeding rats for a period of 90 days. Dr. Bruce M. Chassy, the professor emeritus of food science at University of Illinois says:
"This is not an innocent scientific publication. It is a well-planned and cleverly orchestrated media event. The study was designed to produce exactly what was observed and it was deliberately allowed to continue until grotesque and fear-evoking tumors developed. The way the study was conducted, including the treatment of the animals, especially those who developed tumors as these rats are known to do, raises serious ethical concerns and profound questions of possible scientific misconduct. The purpose of the study was not to produce new scientific information but rather was to negatively influence public opinion of GM crops."
In a related article in Forbes, Bruce Chassy, along with another a biomedical scientist Henry I. Miller explain why this study is fraudulent. You can read their complete version of analysis of the study here. On the other hand, Professor Djamgoz, who describes himself as a neutral on GM, says:
"The results are significant. The experiments are, more or less, the best of their kind to date. We are not scaremongering here. More research, including a repetition of this particular study are warranted."
The professor concluded saying that it will take 2-3 years to get a definite answer.
Pros and Cons of GMO Food
The advantage of using GM corn is that it contains enhanced resistance to insects and/or the herbicide glyphosate, and this modification is bred using tissue culture selection and the chemical mutagen ethyl methanesulfonate. In America, up to 85 percent of corn is genetically engineered, and more than 70 percent of processed foods in supermarkets like the soda, soup, crackers and condiments contain genetically engineered ingredients. And many studies in the past decade have revealed that genetically engineered foods like these can pose significant health risks to humans, domestic animals, wildlife and the environment as well. While the supporters of this technology maintain that genetically modified food ensures and sustains food security around the world and caters to the increasing population.
Update: 08 May 2013
Dr. Thierry Vrain, a former research scientist for Agriculture Canada, who was designated to address public groups and reassure them that genetically engineered crops and foods were safe, has changed his position in the last 10 years. He explained that he has been paying attention to numerous studies coming from Europe, Russia and other countries, some from prestigious labs, published in prestigious scientific journals, that question the impact and safety of genetically engineered food. He says:
"I refute the claims of the biotechnology companies that their engineered crops yield more, that they require less pesticide applications, that they have no impact on the environment, and that they are safe to eat. The scientific literature is full of studies showing that engineered corn and soya contain toxic or allergenic proteins"
Thierry points that there are a number of scientific studies done for Monsanto by universities in U.S., Canada, and abroad, but most these studies are concerned with the field performance of the engineered crops, which is why they find GMOs to be safe for environment and human consumption. He also points that there are no long-term feeding studies performed in these countries that can demonstrate the safety of engineered corn and soya. The video shows Dr. Thierry Vrain talking about this gene revolution and the future of agriculture at a TEDx conference. He explains the concerns of growing genetically engineered crops, their environmental effects, and serious health concerns.
Dr. Thierry Vrain is now promoting awareness of the dangers of these genetically modified foods. From the reference section below, you can find his complete draft of response to a related letter to the Comox Valley Environmental Council.
Russia suspends GM corn
Genetically Modified food
Genetically Modified Corn
Genetically engineered crops concern
Genetically Modified Corn - French study
Genetically Modified Corn study article
Gilles Eric Seralini
US Scientists reject study
Genetically Engineered Food - Issues
Former Pro-GMO Scientist Speaks Out On The Real Dangers of Genetically Engineered Food