France will push for GM ban if cancer threat confirmed (Update)

Sep 20, 2012

France will seek an immediate EU ban on imports of a genetically-modified corn made by Monsanto if a study linking it to cancer in rats is deemed credible, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Thursday.

But the French scientist leading the study said he would not let the European Union's food safety watchdog, EFSA, verify his results because it had approved the NK603 corn in the first place.

Scientists at France's University of Caen found that rats fed on NK603 or exposed to the weedkiller Roundup used with it, also made by Monsanto, developed tumours.

The authors of the study billed the findings as "extremely worrying," but their methodology and results and their relevance to humans have been questioned by other experts in the field.

"I've demanded a rapid procedure, in the order of a few weeks, which will allow us to establish the scientific validity of this study," Ayrault said.

"If the results are confirmed (agriculture minister) Stephane Le Foll will seek a European ban on these GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms)."

However Gilles-Eric Seralini told a press conference at the European parliament that "It's out of the question that those who authorised NK603 carry out a counter-study of our findings as there'd be a conflict of interest."

EFSA, which authorises the sale and planting of GMOs, was asked by the EU executive Wednesday for an opinion as soon as possible, hopefully by year's end, on the study headed by Seralini.

But for EFSA to rule on the findings, it would need to see the study's original data.

NK603 is a type of corn, or maize, that has been engineered to make it resistant to Roundup and is used by farmers to maximise yields.

The authors of the study said it was the first experiment in GM food that followed rats throughout their lifespan, as opposed to just 90 days.

Premature death and tumours were far higher among rats, especially females, that had been fed the GM corn or given ordinary corn supplemented by water to which low concentrations of Roundup had been added, they said.

At the 14-month stage of experiment, no animals in the control groups showed any signs of cancer, but among females in the "treated" groups, tumours affected between 10 and 30 percent of the rodents, the study said.

"By the beginning of the 24th month, 50-80 percent of female animals had developed tumours in all treated groups, with up to three tumours per animal, whereas only 30 percent of controls were affected," it said.

Males which fell sick suffered liver damage, developed kidney and skin tumours and digestive problems.

But other scientists said the study was too underpowered, had questionable gaps in the data and raised doubts more about Roundup than the NK603 corn itself.

It entailed 200 rats divided into 10 experimental groups, of which only 20 were "controls" fed ordinary corn and plain water.

This sample size is too small to rule out statistical quirks, especially as the rats were of the "Sprague-Dawley" laboratory strain, which is notoriously susceptible to mammary tumours, said Maurice Moloney, research director at Britain's Rothamsted agricultural research station.

"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, a professor at the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics, University of Adelaide, told the news site Science Media Centre.

"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?! GM has been in the food chain for over a decade over there—and longevity continues to increase inexorably."

Explore further: How does enzymatic pretreatment affect the nanostructure and reaction space of lignocellulosic biomass?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

France asks EU to suspend GM crop authorisation

Feb 20, 2012

France's ecology ministry said Monday it had asked European regulators to suspend authorisation for the use of genetically modified MON 810 maize crops from US company Monsanto based on new studies.

Mexico approves GM maize pilot project

Mar 09, 2011

Mexico has approved its first pilot project to grow genetically-modified (GM) maize, a move expected to draw fire from environmental groups who fear its impact on treasured local corn.

Recommended for you

Quest to unravel mysteries of our gene network

18 hours ago

There are roughly 27,000 genes in the human body, all but a relative few of them connected through an intricate and complex network that plays a dominant role in shaping our physiological structure and functions.

EU court clears stem cell patenting

20 hours ago

A human egg used to produce stem cells but unable to develop into a viable embryo can be patented, the European Court of Justice ruled on Thursday.

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

extinct
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 20, 2012
There must be and will be labeled GMO's on food packaging so that those who love them can clear the shelves of GMO products and die prematurely, and so that those who prefer actual real food can buy organic & live healthier. on election day November 6th, Californians will vote labeling laws into effect for the first time in the U.S. (currently 65% to 70% support) just like Europe has already done. other states will quickly follow in California's direction. vote Yes on Proposition 37 in California if you want the right to know what you and your family are eating.
http://CArighttoknow.org/
ValeriaT
3.5 / 5 (2) Sep 27, 2012
We should realize one thing: this study took two years, not three months as usual cheap in-house studies from BASF or Monsanto (longest study of GMO so far took 110 day, which is absolutely insufficient for serious judging of long-term health effects). The cancer effects have no chance to manifests itself during short term period. So if you try to oppose me with some other study, you should save your time, until this study didn't take two years too.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (1) Sep 27, 2012
France may be able to ban GMO's, however the US will never follow suit, regardless of the data and anecdotal evidence. Monsanto has far too many politicians in it's pocket to allow for such an outcome. Such is life in a fascist "democracy".

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.