A “study” that a French team of scientists claim shows that Monsanto Company’s biotech transgenic corn can cause health problems has researchers around the world skeptical and biotechnology industry science community repudiating the French as off base in their conclusions.
The controversy also centers around whether Roundup herbicide is also a contributing factor to the French scientists’ results. How much the science group has an axe to grind against biotech crops and Monsanto, as the international lead in developing biotech crops, is also under scrutiny.
If the results of the study stand up, it would be the first time in history that biotech crops have been found to be unsafe for consumption by animals or humans. Food safety is a major contention of the biotech industry in favor of such crops being appropriate for worldwide production and as safe as conventional counterpart crops.
The French researchers claim they have initial findings suggesting transgenic corn or Roundup herbicide fed to rats cause a higher than normal rate of tumors and premature deaths.
The French government immediately announced a national agency will investigate the study, looking for a reason to ban importation of the particular corn variety referred to as NK603.
A Russian government agency jumped even faster than the French government in calling for the suspension of the Monsanto-developed corn being imported into the country. The Russian agency known as the consumer rights arm of the Russian Ministry of Health, reports Russian government scientists have been asked to scrutinize the French study. But, in the meantime imports of the NK603 corn has been banned. Suspicion is that the Russians are playing politics in one way or another and looking to validate themselves as non-biotech grain producers for exporting to Europe.
The French government seems to be giving the study a lot of validity, too, because the study was “peer-reviewed” before being published in the Food and Chemical Toxicology journal and because a lead researcher reportedly has former and current connections to the French government
“This was the longest and most detailed experiment ever published, not only on a GMO but on a pesticide. The results are alarming,” the University of Caen professor Eric Seralini is quoted as telling reporters.
Tom Helscher, a Monsanto spokesman, said the company would review the study thoroughly. “Numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies performed on biotech crops to date, including more than a hundred feeding studies, have continuously confirmed their safety, as reflected in the respective safety assessments by regulatory authorities around the world,” Helscher said in a statement printed in the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
Activist organization scientists are applauding the study while other scientists are criticizing the results as not adequately supported. For example, “We've never done this kind of study before, and we should have been doing it a long time ago,” Andrew Kimbrell, of the Washington-based Center for Food Safety, a group critical of the regulations surrounding genetically engineered crops, was also quoted by the St. Louis Post Dispatch writer Georgina Gustin. “I've heard for two decades that no one's shown any health impacts with GMO foods. As of Sept. 19, 2012, that's no longer true.”