Skeptics on the link between Genetically Modified (GM) food and health should read about a new study suggesting that Canadian-grown Genetically Modified (GM) corn and Roundup was toxic to lab rats. The study, performed by The Center for Research and Independent Information on Genetic Engineering (CRIIGEN), was the first of its kind to assess the long-term impacts of GM foods on laboratory rats for their entire two-year life cycle. The results have garnered much attention.
Researchers observed 200 rats over a two-year (700-day) period, while testing the impacts of both Monsanto’s GM corn (NK603) and Roundup herbicide on the health of rats. Scientists compared the impacts of GM corn, Roundup only, and a combined sample of both Roundup and GM corn, in varying concentrations. When compared with a control group, researchers discovered an increase in the amount of tumors, kidney and liver dysfunction, pituitary disorders, and issues with the digestive tract.
Premature death was perhaps the most alarming result of the study; about 50 percent of treated males died prematurely as compared with 30 percent of males within the control group. Premature death among females was even more drastic, with a 70 percent premature fatality rate among rats treated with GM corn and/or Roundup, as compared to 20 percent in the control group.
Some health risks associated with GM corn and Roundup were found throughout the study, with little regard to concentrations. The study states: “Similar degrees of pathological symptoms were noticed in this study to occur from the lowest to the highest doses suggesting a threshold effect. This corresponds to levels likely to arise from consumption or environmental exposure.” The lowest concentration of Roundup used in the study was similar to that found in tap water in some areas.
Some nations have responded quickly to this report by refusing to allow GM corn to enter their borders. According to Fox Business News, “Russia’s consumer rights watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor, said Tuesday it has suspended the import and use of genetically modified corn made by Monsanto following a study’s allegations that the crop causes cancer.” People and nations are paying close attention to this study and are demanding more research on GM foods.
According to Scientific American, “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 Commission has instructed the independent European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) in Parma, Italy, to assess the study.” This is a huge step toward limiting the potential impacts of GM foods on the citizens of Europe and may help to impact global sentiment about GM crops.
Not everyone agrees that the findings presented by this study are as significant as they sound. For instance, Tom Philpott’s article, Does GMO Corn Really Cause Tumors in Rats? in Mother Jones points out that the number of rats used in the study would ideally have been much greater. He does agree, though, that the study is further cause for concern about GM crops and that it should prompt more research.
This study helps bring GM food at least a little closer to the forefront of political debate — and to the forefront of “What’s for dinner?” debates going on in homes. It is causing some regulatory agencies and governments to rethink the way they test the impacts of GM foods. Greater understanding of the long-term impacts of GM crops and the results of future research may even lead to the testing of GM foods before newly engineered products reach the shelves.
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