Genetically Modified Corn: Safe or Toxic?

Independent analysis of industry-conducted research has revealed potential health risks from eating Monsanto's genetically altered corn.
By Amanda Kimble-Evans
April/May 2010
Add to My MSN

Among engineered food crops, genetically modified corn is one of the most commonly cultivated.
PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO


Content Tools

Related Content

How to Avoid Unsafe Chemicals in Plastic

Learn about Bisphenol A (BPA) and its prevalence in plastic manufacturing, and get tips on how to li...

Should Genetically Modified Foods be Labeled?

In a recent survey, we asked our online readers if they thought genetically modified foods should be...

Take Action to Protect Your Family from GMOs

Concerned about GMOs in your family's food? Take action.

Genetically Engineered ... Animals?

The  U.S. Food and Drug Administration is accepting public comment regarding a draft Guidance for In...

Pick up a box of cereal or other packaged food at the grocery store, and chances are you’re looking at a genetically modified product. The Center for Food Safety, a nonprofit organization that seeks sustainable alternatives to harmful methods of food production technologies, estimates that more than 70 percent of the processed foods in U.S. grocery stores contain some genetically modified ingredients — mostly corn or soy. But, in most cases, these modified foods have received only limited testing.

For example, take the three genetically modified corn varieties already being sold by Monsanto that are the subject of new analysis by French scientists. Two of the varieties have been genetically modified to contain unique proteins designed to kill insects that eat them, and the third variety was engineered to tolerate Roundup, Monsanto’s best-selling herbicide. Foods containing this “modified” corn are now being eaten by people all around the world, but the French researchers contend that Monsanto’s studies do not prove the corns are safe to consume.

Under current U.S. law, corporations are not required to make industry-conducted studies public. But, in this case, thanks to a lawsuit and the involvement of European governments and Greenpeace attorneys, these studies were released for independent analysis by scientists not being paid by Monsanto.

The researchers, affiliated with the Committee for Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering (an independent, nonprofit association dedicated to studying the impacts of genetically modified organisms), published their detailed critique of the Monsanto studies in the International Journal of Biological Sciences (2009; 5:706-726). They concluded that the data — which Monsanto claimed proved the corn varieties were safe to eat — actually suggest potential kidney and liver problems resulting from consumption of all three modified corn varieties, as well as negative effects in the heart, adrenal glands, and spleen. The findings confirm a 2007 report from the same researchers on a single variety of modified corn.

An Apple Is an Apple Is a Genetically Modified Apple?

The new report also concludes that the Monsanto rat-feeding studies were so small and so brief that they clearly lack sufficient statistical power to prove the corn varieties are safe. So, why did governments grant permission to farmers to grow this genetically modified corn? Back in 1992, the industry persuaded the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to rule that their crops are “substantially equivalent” to traditionally bred crops. This assumption — that genetically modified foods pose no particular risk — has led to our current system of weak regulatory oversight.

According to the nonprofit Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, a project designed to facilitate dialogue about the pros and cons of genetic modification, “No single statute and no single federal agency govern the regulation of agricultural biotechnology products.” And, compared with the battery of tests demanded of chemical pesticides (evaluation of chronic exposure, carcinogenicity, etc.), the testing requirements for genetically altered crops amount to little more than a polite suggestion.

“The corporations can pretty much submit whatever they want to the FDA,” says Doug Gurian-Sherman, senior scientist at the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists. “Some have done animal testing, some have not. The United States does not require more than acute toxicity tests where one high dose is fed to the animals once. Even in Europe, where standards are higher, tests of only 90 days are the longest that are required, which is inadequate.”

While the FDA is charged with ensuring finished products containing the modified proteins are safe to eat, the Environmental Protection Agency regulates the pesticidal protein engineered into the corns. The agency can grant exemptions to even a minimal request for testing, which they did for two of these corn varieties — varieties that produce their own pesticides and that show signs of toxicity in the new feeding studies. The new study from France concludes that the public is consuming modified corn varieties which “contain novel pesticide residues” that may pose grave health risks.

“Roundup residues present in one genetically modified corn are much higher than those found to cause toxicity in human embryonic cells and endocrine disruption,” says Gilles-Eric Seralini, one of the study’s researchers. To learn more, read Roundup Weed Killer Kills More Than Weeds.

Confidential Science

In allowing industry to drive the regulation of the technology from which it profits, we are now faced with a reality in which never-before-consumed foods are considered innocent until proven guilty. The burden of proof has been dumped on a scientific community that has to beg and litigate to gain access to what the genetic modification giants call “trade secrets.”

The only solution to this situation is for scientists who work in this field and concerned citizens to demand that the government stop allowing corporate gene giants to have their way. We need laws that require corporations to make their studies public and provide seeds to independent scientists. And, we need laws that require the labeling of foods with genetically modified ingredients, so consumers can make informed choices.

You can find contact information for your congressional representatives by entering your zip code at Congress.org. Let them know that a change is in order.


Previous | 1 | 2 | Next






Post a comment below.

 

moderator
6/8/2013 1:57:22 PM

Please check to see if Monsanto is producing the products you are using nad ingesting. They LEAST you can do is not purchase these products adn make wiser choices that eating cron or soy which is and has been in question. If soemone is telling you that you could "possibly" get sick from it then why even debate it just stay away. Things are not how they used to be. Now this owrld is full of corruption. Don't allow these hungry politicians to rub elbows with people who could even possibly be threatening the healthy norms of our world. There are "better" thing sto do than to worry about these types of things. Eat Locally Grown Certified Organic. There is a mark you can trust! Farmer's Market Forever!


moderator
6/8/2013 1:57:14 PM

Please check to see if Monsanto is producing the products you are using nad ingesting. They LEAST you can do is not purchase these products adn make wiser choices that eating cron or soy which is and has been in question. If soemone is telling you that you could "possibly" get sick from it then why even debate it just stay away. Things are not how they used to be. Now this owrld is full of corruption. Don't allow these hungry politicians to rub elbows with people who could even possibly be threatening the healthy norms of our world. There are "better" thing sto do than to worry about these types of things. Eat Locally Grown Certified Organic. There is a mark you can trust! Farmer's Market Forever!


Bill
3/11/2013 2:27:20 AM
"It is not appropriate scientific inquiry to simply accept without question the proof offered by the companies which are reaping millions by selling these products." "Innocent until proven guilty." Monsanto is taking the fifth, and rightly so. The people that want to persecute GMO must either put up or shut up. A good rule of thumb is "Follow the money." Ask the starving refugees if they want it rather than arbitrarily destroying it.

J. Jacobson_2
5/6/2010 10:31:25 AM
There really is no proof that transgenic foods cause harm because no one is looking for it. There are no epidemiological studies that look for a connection between transgenic foods and any of the maladies that plague us. There is no long term monitoring of the effects of these foods. They are "assumed" to be safe on the basis of substantial equivalence, a flawed scientific premise. The genes inserted into plants to produce bt toxins or glyphosate resistance are not natural genes. They are recombinant genes altered to make them more active in the plant. Why would a feeding study of mice longer than 90 days be "impractical"? It is not appropriate scientific inquiry to simply accept without question the proof offered by the companies which are reaping millions by selling these products.

t brandt
4/15/2010 3:33:11 PM
Exactly- the questions can be raised, but there is no proof GMO can cause harm to humans. After 20 years of use, there is exactly zero evidence that any GMO product causes disease in humans. Theoretically, there should be no harm caused: the biochemical products programmed are natural, merely made to appear in a non-natural place. Short term studies have proven GMO applications to be safe. Long term studies (how long is long? One year? Twenty years?)are impractical. Long term monitoring once an application is in general use is appropriate and has so far proven these products to be safe. Articles presented like this present the problem as yellow journalism rather than appropriate scientific enquiry.

Dog Island Farm
4/2/2010 7:59:37 PM
I just posted a blog this past week on GMOs and was elated to open up my Mother Earth News this afternoon to see an article that delves deeper into the issues that have been questioned but never quite proven. Thank you so much!








Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.