Study Links GM Corn to Cancer in Rats

A new study links GM’s corn to cancer in rats, leading to more controversy regarding the genetically modified (GM) crops.

The study found that rats who were fed a diet of Monsanto’s genetically modified corn or who were exposed to Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer, suffered from tumors and multiple organ damage, according to a French study, wrote Reuters. The news outlet pointed out that the lead researcher for this study has a reputation of being an industry critic, which could affect how other experts view his findings; however, the findings are expected to spark even more controversy over genetically modified food crops.

In a rare move, the researchers—Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen and colleagues—allowed a select group of reporters access to the paper if they signed confidentially agreements, explained Reuters and The Herald Sun. In essence, this agreement banned the group from seeking external comment on their paper prior to its publication in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, said Reuters. The peer-reviewed journal was presented at a London news conference.

The researchers said that the rats were either fed a diet containing NK603, which is a seed variety manufactured to be tolerant to Roundup, or water containing the weed killer in amounts allowed in the United States. The rats fed NK603 or the water containing Roundup died earlier than rats fed a standard diet, said Reuters. Rats fed a genetically modified diet suffered from mammary tumors and sever liver and kidney damage.

NK603 is a corn, or maize, manufactured by Monsanto, a U.S. agribusiness. The maize is engineered to be resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup because that resistant allows farms to spray fields with the weed killer, just once, affording Monsanto significant savings, explained The Herald Sun. GM crops are popularly grown in North America, Brazil, and China, but quite controversial in Europe.

Two hundred male and female rats were split into 10 groups, each with 10 animals. A control group was fed ordinary rat food with 33% non-GM corn, and plain water, said The Herald Sun. Three groups were fed rat food and water that contained increasing amounts of Roundup that mimicked the different concentrations of the herbicide seen in the food chain. The other six groups were fed rat food containing either 11, 22, or 33% NK603 corn that was and was not treated with Roundup during its growth cycle.

NK603 and Roundup both caused similar adverse reactions, regardless of whether they were consumed together or alone; premature deaths and sickness were more prevalent in the females, noted The Herald Sun. At the 14-month stage no control group animals revealed any signs of cancer; however 10-30% of the females in the treated groups had tumors, in some cases, up to three. Half of the males and 70% of the females suffered premature death, versus 30% and 20%, respectively, in the control group, said Reuters. Males suffered liver damage, kidney and skin tumors, and digestive problems, said The Herald Sun.

In a paper published in December 2009, Seralini and a prior team discussed similar safety concerns on a shorter rat study, which was conducted over a three-month period, the equivalent of the rats’ early childhood. This new research, noted Reuters, expanded on those findings, following the rats throughout the full length of their life spans, which is about two years. Seralini believes the current lifetime test provides more meaningful views when compared to the 90-day feeding trials that, today, are the basis for GM crop approvals, said Reuters.

Meanwhile, said The Herald Sun, Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll, Ecology Minister Delphine Batho, and Health and Social Affairs Minister Marisol Touraine requested that the National Agency for Health Safety (ANSES) investigate the findings. “Depending on ANSES’ opinion, the government will urge the European authorities to take all necessary measures to protect human and animal health,” they group 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,” the statement continued.

The study was the first to research rats over their full two-year lifespan, said The Herald Sun. “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.”

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