Russia’s main consumer watchdog organization, Rospotrebnadzor, yesterday suspended the import of all American grown, Monsanto GMO corn, following the publication of a French study in the Food & Chemical Toxicology Journal which found that even minimal exposure to genetically modified corn caused severe liver and kidney damage, as well as mammary tumors (breast cancer) in lab rats.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has also ordered an evaluation of the peer-reviewed study, and has promised to petition the European Union to block the import of all GMO corn should the findings be substantiated.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Caen, took a full two years to complete, and investigated the effect of genetically modified food on the rats over the span of the entire lives. Previous studies have evaluated the safety of GMO crops based upon only a small portion of the lives of the test subjects.
Monsanto, for its part, has disparaged the study, calling it “insufficient” and scientifically unsound, and producing a whole array of associated, pro-GM scientists who call into question the study’s findings. The agro giant has been forced to engage in international damage control since the publication of the study one week ago.
Among the accusations of bias aimed to discredit the study’s conclusions is that the particular breed of rat used in the study is naturally more prone to mammary tumors than other breeds, and that this was not taken into consideration by the researchers when they compiled their conclusions.
But now Dr. Michael Antoniou, a specialist in molecular genetics and leading member of Criigen (Committee of Research & Independent Information on Genetic Engineering) has come out in defense of the study’s scientific credibility, stating that
“The key is that there were both quantitative and qualitative differences in the tumours arising in control and test groups. In the former they appeared much later and at most there was one tumour per animal, if at all…Many animals in the test groups had to be euthanised for welfare legal reasons due to the massive size of the tumours; none of the control animals had to be euthanised but died in their own time. One should not ignore these biological facts…[T]here are big differences between the tumour frequencies in the control and the experimental groups. Claims that the results are just the result of random variation in a rat line that has a high frequency of tumours is not valid.”
Dr. Antoniou further lauded the study for its breadth and scope, saying that it was unique among other studies of its kind for evaluating the potential risks associated with GMO corn over the life spans of the rats, rather than for just a limited period of time:
“This study used more rats in test groups, for a far longer duration than any previous investigation employed by industry to obtain approval for this and other GM crop products.”
Meanwhile, Jose Bove, ranking member of the European Parliament’s commission for agriculture, has called for an immediate halt to all cultivation and importation of GM crops throughout the European Union, stating that “it is urgent to quickly review all GMO evaluation processes.” He encouraged the European Parliament to act on the study’s findings, saying:
“National and European food security agencies must carry out new studies financed by public funding to guarantee healthy food for European consumers.”
GM crops have already been outlawed in the UK, Germany, New Zealand, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Peru, Venezuela and Bolivia. And now Russia has joined the list. Whereas, in the United States, repeated efforts to require that GM foods simply be labeled as such have met with failure.
But then, perhaps it’s no wonder, as President Barack Obama only recently appointed a former vice president of Monsanto to a senior advisory position at our own Food and Drug Administration.