- Written by Lisa Cerda
09 Oct 2012
CERDAFIED - A new study was released by a professor of molecular biology and his team at Caen University in France, which questioned the safety standards applied to varieties of Monsanto’s NK 603 (GM) genetically modified maize.
Professor Gilles-Eric Séralini re-analyzed their industry-funded studies. The government-approved GMO corn will now face intense political, scientific, social and financial scrutiny. But first the professor must face his own critics who claim his findings are biased because his study was funded by an anti-biotechnology organization, “Committee for Research and Independent Information on Genetic Engineering” (CRIIGEN) who’s scientific board Séralini heads.
Known for their intense smear campaigns, GM reacted immediately, attempting to discredit the professor’s findings and methodologies. Séralini responded by suing Marc Fellous, president of the French Association of Plant Biotechnology, for defamation and he won.
Unlike GM’s 90 day study, Séralini studied the rats for over two years, close to their lifespan, looking at the toxicity of the Roundup herbicide. The results of the study, was reported in peer-reviewed US journal. The study, “Food and Chemical Toxicology” found that rats developed higher levels of cancers and died earlier than controls due to the endocrine-disrupting effects of Roundup, and over expression of the trans-gene in the GMO.
The results concluded that female rat’s mortality was 2–3 times increased mostly due to large mammary tumors and disabled pituitary. Male rats had liver congestions, necrosis, severe kidney nephropathies and large palpable tumors. Males presented 4 times more large palpable tumors than controls which occurred up to 600 days earlier. Biochemistry data confirmed very significant kidney chronic deficiencies; for all treatments and both sexes.
Nearly a dozen studies of different GM crops have failed to find similar effects. Which study is more credible? The self serving studies by GM or the anti-biotechnology study by Séralini? French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said that, if the results are confirmed, the government will press for a Europe-wide ban on the maize. The European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) will assess the study.
Criticism is fast and furious, focusing on the Sprague-Dawley strain of rats used in the experiments, which have been shown to be susceptible to developing tumors spontaneously. While the authors concede that Sprague-Dawley rats may not be the best model for such long-term studies, they argue that many fewer control rats developed tumors in middle age. They also reveal that the 90-day trial of Monsanto’s NK603 (GM) maize used in its authorization also used Sprague-Dawley rats.
Séralini and the other authors of the study have been labeled as “crafty activists” in order to diminish their findings. Similar tactics were used on Arpad Pusztai of the Rowett Institute in Scotland. He was sacked after his research suggested GM potatoes damaged the stomach lining and immune system of rats and David Quist and Ignacio Chapela, who studied the illegally planted GM maize and the flow of genes to the Mexican wild maize.
Most of the critics are not toxicologists, and some may have competing interests and ties to Monsanto or GM, or are developing genetically modified crops. Even though the academic criticism is harsh, immediate action is needed to stop the consumption of GMO’s until long term independent studies are completed.
Séralini is demanding that all the data be assessed by an independent international committee. He prefers the exclusion of the experts involved in the authorization of the maize. Séralini says he won’t release his data until the raw data underpinning the authorization of NK603 in Europe are also made public. Of course, his critics are less than agreeable.
This week, Séralini launched his new book, “Tous Cobayes”? It covers the research project and is also accompanied by a film and a television documentary. He asks the question, “Are we all guinea pigs now?” His question begs to be answered. Many of us wonder why we allow companies to perform studies when they have a vested interest in the outcome of a study. We need independent studies and reviews from multiple sources, in order to protect the interests of the consumers and those exposed to the products unknowingly.
José Domingo, a toxicologist and a managing editor of Food and Chemical Toxicology, said that the study “raised no red flags during peer review”. Domingo authored a critical review of safety assessments of GM.
Martina Newell-McGloughlin, director of the International Biotechnology Program at the University of California/Davis stated, "This study appears to be without scientific merit." However, their program is funded by international biotechnology companies; Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont and Bayer. And as the university's top official, Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef, wisely points out, “We have to be very vigilant and very wary,” he said. “Universities are flirting with the gray zone with regard to what kind of research there is to be done - and whether or not our noses are being turned by the money.”
As scientists like to point out, Séralini's study was about the toxicity of the Roundup herbicide used on the crops. It was the longest study performed and must not be ignored by regulators and governments. Concern over lax regulations is at an all time high and our sense of safety is at an all time low.
(Lisa Cerda is a contributor to CityWatch, a community activist, Chair of Tarzana Residents Against Poorly Planned Development, and former Tarzana Neighborhood Council board member.) –cw
Vol 10 Issue 81
Pub: Oct 9, 2012