New peer-reviewed research published today shows the results of the first animal feeding trial into the life-time exposure of Roundup tolerant GM corn and Roundup, the world’s best selling weed killer. The study, published online by the scientific journal, Food and Chemical Toxicology, shows that levels currently considered safe can cause mammary tumours, kidney and liver damage, in laboratory rats.
The study was led by molecular biologist and endocrinologist, Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen in France and was supported by the independent research organization, CRIIGEN. The researchers used 200 rats that were fed a diet containing the Roundup tolerant GM maize, NK603, or given water containing Roundup, at levels permitted in drinking water and GM crops in the US. It showed that these rats developed tumours faster and died earlier than rats fed on a standard diet.
The results are an important consideration in the debate around genetically modified food as this is the first time scientific research has shown a link between GM food crops and negative health outcomes. The research is also the first to show the impact of consuming the herbicide, Roundup, over a two-year period – the entire lifespan of a rat. Previous studies into GM and Roundup have stopped at 90 days whereas this research showed that the most serious health impacts only started to show at four months, with the majority of tumours developing from 18 months onwards.
GM food crops are a hotly contested issue around the world. Supporters believe they could be the silver bullet for feeding an ever-expanding population while opponents claim GM technology is untested and under-regulated. In the US, 70% of all processed food contains GM ingredients without GM labeling and 85% of the corn grown in the US is GM.
In the UK and Europe, GM maize is not consumed directly by humans but it is widely included in animal feed. Hundreds of thousands of tons of GM maize are imported to the UK each year for use in the diets of chickens, pigs and dairy cows. Products from these animals are currently sold in British supermarkets without any requirement for GM labelling.
Michael Antoniou, molecular biologist and gene expert at Kings College, London says, “This is the most thorough research ever published into the health effects of GM food crops and the herbicide Roundup on rats. It shows an extraordinary number of tumours developing earlier and more aggressively – particularly in female animals.
Patrick Holden, the CEO of the Sustainable Food Trust says, “In-line with our core mission of developing a body of informed public opinion about the links between farming practice and health, the SFT was approached by CRIIGEN to play a supportive role in communicating the outcomes of this research as widely as possible. The SFT considers that research of this kind is fundamentally important to informing the dialogue around how we produce our food, and the SFT has an important role to play in communicating such research findings in accessible, plain English so that the majority of the general public feel able to engage with these issues.”
Aine Morris, the Head of Communications for the Sustainable Food Trust says, “It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from you will be able to download the information in a way that you can understand. The microsite will hold a range of resources and communications materials because we feel it is important that rigourous, independent, peer-reviewed science is made available and understandable to everybody.”
The research findings raise serious questions about the current regulatory process for licensing industrial chemicals, pesticides and other new-generation crops. Only Roundup’s active principle, glyphosate, has ever been tested rather than the commercial product, which includes ingredients that enable the glyphosate to penetrate plants more efficiently. To date, all GM crops have been approved safe for consumption on the basis of 90-day animal feeding trials.
Patrick Holden believes there is an urgent need for more research into both the wide spread use of pesticides and the consumption of GM food crops. He says,“The implications of this research suggest potential flaws in the current regulatory process which, due to the short-duration of the required feeding-trials, may fail to identify the serious, long-term health consequences of consuming these crops. To ensure that the public is protected against potential exposure, there is a need to review the regulatory framework, and to undertake further research into potentially similar health impacts of these crops on humans.”
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