France orders probe after rat study links GM corn, cancer (Update)

September 19, 2012
A variety of genetically modified maize (corn). France's government asked a health watchdog to carry out a probe, possibly leading to EU suspension of a genetically-modified corn, after a study in rats linked the grain to cancer.

France's government on Wednesday asked a health watchdog to carry out a probe, possibly leading to EU suspension of a genetically-modified corn, after a study in rats linked the grain to cancer.

Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll, Ecology Minister Delphine Batho and Health and Social Affairs Minister Marisol Touraine said they had asked the National Agency for Health Safety (ANSES) to investigate the finding.

"Depending on ANSES' opinion, the government will urge the European authorities to take all necessary measures to protect human and animal health," they said in a joint statement.

"(The measures) could go as far as invoking emergency suspension of imports of NK603 corn to Europe pending a re-examination of this product on the basis of enhanced assessment methods."

Earlier, French scientists led by Gilles-Eric Seralini at the University of Caen in Normandy unveiled a study that said rats fed with NK603 corn or exposed to the weedkiller used with it developed tumours.

NK603 is a corn, also called maize, made by US agribusiness giant Monsanto.

It has been engineered to make it resistant to Monsanto's herbicide Roundup.

This enables farmers to douse fields with the weedkiller in a single go, thus offering substantial savings.

Genetically modified (GM) crops are widely grown in North America, Brazil and China but are a hot-button issue in Europe.

The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, says it is the first to look at rats over their normal lifespan of two years.

"For the first time ever, a GM organism and a herbicide have been evaluated for their long-term impact on health, and more thoroughly than by governments or the industry," Seralini told AFP. "The results are alarming."

Two hundred male and female rats were split into 10 groups of 10 animals.

One was a "control" group which was given ordinary rat food that contained 33 percent non-GM corn, and plain water.

Three groups were given ordinary rat food and water with increasing doses of Roundup, reflecting various concentrations of the herbicide in the food chain.

The other six were fed rat food of which 11, 22 or 33 percent comprised NK603 corn, either treated or not with Roundup when the corn was grown.

The researchers found that NK603 and Roundup both caused similar damage to the rats' health, whether they were consumed together or on their own.

Premature deaths and sickness were concentrated especially among females.

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.

"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.

Breaking with a long tradition in scientific journalism, the authors allowed a selected group of reporters to have access to the paper, provided they signed confidentiality agreements that prevented them from consulting other experts about the research before publication.

Asked to respond, the French unit of Monsanto said "it is too soon to make a serious comment because we have to evaluate the study. As soon as it is available, our experts will look closely at it to give their scientific assessment."

Green groups say GM crops could be dangerous to health and the environment, although this claim has so far found no traction in large-scale studies.

The Monsanto spokesman said that "more than 300 peer-reviewed studies" had found that GM food was safe.

In 2009, the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) panel on GM organisms determined that NK603 was "as safe as conventional maize".

"Maize NK603 and derived products are unlikely to have any adverse effect on human and animal health in the context of the intended uses," it said, delivering a judgement based in part on a 90-day feeding study on rats.

NK603 can be imported but cannot be grown in Europe.

Only Monsanto's MON810 transgenic corn and a gene-modified potato, Amflora, made by BASF, have authorisation for being grown in Europe.

However, Austria, Bulgaria, France, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg and Romania have outlawed the growing of MON810 on their territory, citing the principle of precaution.

Explore further: EU approves GM maize for animal feed

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not rated yet Sep 19, 2012
Not having access to the study - I could be wrong, however it sounds to me like it would be the pesticide/roundup causing the cancer, rather than Maize NK603. Blaming GM food itself (rather than the additives) seems misleading. Or did I miss something?
5 / 5 (1) Sep 20, 2012
Heliocentric - yes you missed the description of the different groups of rats. It seems that either the corn or the chemical or the combination of both got the same results - tumors and other organ damage. GMOs are not natural and it is amazing to me that anyone would think that their ingestion by any living being would be benign. Look at the health of the American people to see the effects of eating GMOs. Nuf said.
not rated yet Sep 20, 2012
Thanks ariela72 - I did indeed misread this part "...The researchers found that NK603 and Roundup both caused similar damage to the rats' health, whether they were consumed together or on their own...". Whilst I am not a fan of how multinationals use GM plants for profit (i.e. use it to control/limit or sell additional pesticides with resistant crops) – this would be the first evidence I am aware of that it can cause health issues in humans. After all, we have been manipulating plants for thousands of years via selective breeding, GM is just faster. Let's hope it isn't reproducible.
not rated yet Sep 20, 2012
Problem with labeling GM is that when you buy chicken there is no labeling what the chicken was fed on.
Same goes for all heavily processed foods. Maybe the food coloring on your birthday cake is based on corn syrup made from GM corn? That may show up in the label on the food coloring but probably not on the one for the cake.

We really need GM-free zones.

After all, we have been manipulating plants for thousands of years via selective breeding, GM is just faster.

With breeding the changes are slow. So we find out if something is poisonous, or the poisonous side effect is so weak that we have time to adapt to it as a species as it grows with the wanted effects of the breeding.

GM just makes huge jumps. It's not surprising that our bodies will find part of that hard to digest. And what the body doesn't digest it either has to sequester (in fat, liver or - if we're unlucky - in brain tissue). And if it's biologically active then that means cancer sooner or later.
not rated yet Sep 20, 2012
we have been manipulating plants for thousands of years via selective breeding, GM is just faster
It's not about speed but about presence of various potentially toxic chemicals and proteins. For example the BT-toxin from GMO corn actually belongs to bacteria, which our immune apparatus always used to fight against. The low but permanent allergen concentration in food has a sensitization effect even for normal food components, because the correct function of biochemical pathways of adaptive immune system depends on temporary decrease of allergen concentration in reaction with specific antigen.
not rated yet Sep 20, 2012
If such decrease doesn't occur (for example because of human or bees are in permanent contact with GMO contaminated food every day), immune system continues in production of another various antigens, until their number and concentration isn't so high, they initiate an accidental violent immune reaction ("allergy") even in contact with proteins and various pollutants, which are harmless under common situation. After then the positive feedback is established under formation of permanent allergic reaction (chronic rhinitis, asthma or urticaria as an example).
not rated yet Sep 21, 2012
In California there is already Yes On Proposition 37, demanding GMO foods be labeled. Scientists in Europe and the USA have proved GMO Foods are hazardous to the health of Animals, Humans and Insects. A number of scientists suggested GMO grains fed to animals are responsible for sterility in animals, the chemicals and pollen on GMO Corn is responsible for the destruction of honeybee populations, in addition, scientists have found an increase of human allergies and intestinal problems associated with the consumption of GMO Foods.

Europe has banned many GMO Crops, due to the dangers associated with cross-pollination and destruction of Organic Crops. The fact that animals have become sterile after consuming GMO Foods and Grains should be recognized as a serious threat to human life.
1. Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies About the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You're Eating, by Jeffrey M. Smith
2. Food Fray: Inside the Controversy over Genetically

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