There are currently 13 new genetically engineered crops pending USDA approval, the most threatening of which may be Monsanto’s Dicamba Soybean. Farmers like Indiana’s Troy Roush urge USDA Secretary Vilsack to stop the unchecked flood of these seeds from entering the market.
The team of researchers who caused uproar when they claimed a variety of genetically modified corn causes cancer has insisted the crop ‘cannot be regarded as safe’.
Leading scientists lined up to condemn the study after it was published two months ago, saying it lacked scientific rigour and had made a series of basic errors.
Russia banned the import of the corn and a group of six French scientific institutions carried out an investigation which accused the study authors of playing on public fears to hype their own reputations.
But French scientist Dr Gilles-Eric Séralini and his colleagues have now hit back maintaining the safety of the NK603 variety of GM corn remains unproven.
They accused many of their critics of lacking credibility because of links to the GM industry and said much of the criticism was led by ‘plant biologists, some developing patents on GMOs, and from Monsanto Company owning these products’.
Refusing to give in to demands to withdraw their study, they said their findings represented ‘the most detailed test’ of genetically modified crops that are ‘ independent from the biotech and pesticide companies’ which develop them.
They said in their rebuttal, published as a letter to the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, that unlike many other scientists involved in researching GM foods they were free from industry influence because they had no intention of ‘commercialising a new product’.
It was also pointed out by the team that the research represented a ‘first step’ rather than a final conclusion about the potential impacts of NK603 corn and that further experiments may be able to establish its safety.
For their original study they carried out experiments on rats and concluded that the GM corn, developed by US biotech company Monsanto, increased the risks of breast cancer and liver and kidney damage.
Experiments carried out by the team also suggested that tiny quantities of the widely available weedkiller Roundup, also developed by Monsanto, was also associated with an increased risk of cancer.
The experiments were carried out over two years whereas, they pointed out, biotech companies have usually based claims that their GM products are safe after feeding new varieties to rats for 90 days.
After publication of the study, in the peer reviewed Food and Chemical Toxicology, a dozen senior scientists signed a letter to the journal saying it should never have been published.
GM FOOD REGULATION
GM food and feed is strictly regulated within the EU. Labels must indicate to consumers when GM ingredients are included in food All products that are GM or include GM ingredients must meet traceability rules so that all retailers are able to identify their suppliers.
Risk assessments for all new GM products are carried out by the European Food Safety Authority before they can be sold in Europe.
‘This study does not provide sound evidence to support its claims. Indeed, the flaws in the study are so obvious that the paper should never have passed review,’ they wrote.
‘This appears to be a case of blatant misrepresentation and misinterpretation of data to advance an anti-GMO agenda by an investigator with a clear vested interest.’
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) ordered a French University to carry out a review of the research while in Russia the Institute of Nutrition was asked to conduct a similar exercise.
Monsanto said in a statement in September: ‘Based on our initial review, we do not believe the study presents information that would justify any change in EFSA’s views on the safety of genetically modified corn products or alter their approval status for genetically modified imports.’
Live in the Now
by Mary West
The GMO nightmare continues to unfurl, as the crop technology designed to reduce the need for pesticides has backfired. Farmers’ heavy adoption of these modified crops has sparked an increase in “superweeds” and hard-to-kill insects, creating the need to use more toxic herbicides.
Proponents of GMOs have alleged that these crops are a vital tool for weaning farmers off of toxic pesticides, but this claim has been resoundingly refuted by a recent study published in Environmental Science Europe. Chuck Benbrook, a researcher for Washington State University’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, found that GMO use has led to a “monsoon in herbicides.” Not only have these crops necessitated the need for higher applications of Roundup, Monsanto’s herbicide, but the problem has also forced farmers to use older herbicides that have more harmful effects, says Benbrook.
Statistics demolish Monsanto’s claim that GMOs reduce the need for herbicides.
The magnitude of the increase in pesticide use is illustrated by the statistics of the study. In the period between 1996, when the use of Roundup-ready crops began, and 2011, herbicide use increased by 527 million pounds, equating to 11 percent.
During the first few years of the use of Roudup-ready crops, these GMOs actually fulfilled Monsanto’s promise of reducing the need for herbicides: they reduced the use of these chemicals by 2 percent between 1996 and 1999. This advantage, however, was short-lived. After this period, weeds started developing resistance to Roundup, which led to farmers’ increasing their application of this herbicide by 21 percent, evidenced by a 19 million spike in its use, Benbrook tells The Guardian. The stepped up use of Roundup eliminated the weak weeds, which gave the resistant weeds, or “superweeds,” the opportunity to proliferate and take over.
Statistics revealing a 24 percent increase in pesticide use between 2009 through 2010 show the problem is only getting worse. Benbrook relates to The Guardian that by this time the problem of resistant weeds had fully kicked in, resulting in the use of greater volumes of Roundup as well as more toxic herbicides such as 2,4-D, a component of the infamous Agent Orange.
What about Bt seeds, the other main biotech product?
Resistance problems leading to pesticide increases are not limited to Roundup-ready crops but also include the other primary biotech product – Bt seeds. These seeds have been engineered to contain a gene present in Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that is toxic to insects. This product’s purported benefit is that it will take care of the insect problem, but has it worked?
Although it initially reduced the need for insecticides, the resistance problem developed by Roundup-ready crops has now begun to manifest in these crops as well. Just as weeds acquired resistance to Roundup, so also rootworm, the biggest pest of corn, is showing signs of resistance to the Bt technology. In areas of the Midwest where these crops have been popular, agricultural experts are advising farmers to spray other insecticides because the Bt trait is failing.
Greater use of chemicals translates into more health hazards.
The harmful effects of pesticides, including Roundup, are not confined to weeds and inserts. Studies show they increase health risks in people and animals exposed to them through food and water. Experts say the use of more chemicals leads to more health hazards. Benbrook aptly characterizes the GMO problem as a “slowly unfolding train wreck.”
by Sayer Ji
Glyphosate, the most well-known ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, has recently been the focus of an intense debate over whether or not it is dangerous, even carcinogenic, to those exposed to it through food and the environment.
Monsanto, the original creator and patent-holder of glyphosate, and of the most famous glyphosate formulation Roundup, has funded research denying the emerging glyphosate-cancer link, but the latest (and only known) long-term feeding study from an industry independent research group out of France indicates that the transgenic material within Roundup-Ready Monsanto corn, as well as Roundup itself, are highly carcinogenic, and should be banned to protect the millions who are already consuming it on a daily basis.
Glyphosate, however, is only one dimension of a complex toxicological problem. What is often overlooked is the role of adjuvants in glyphosate formulations like Roundup, which while being labeled “inert” or “non-active,” are in no way neutral, and which amplify glyphosate toxicity far beyond what toxicological risk assessments presently are designed to ascertain.
Glyphosate-Formulations Dramatically More Toxic Than Glyphosate Alone
Back in Feb. of 2012, the journal Archives of Toxicology published a shocking study showing that Roundup is toxic to human DNA even when diluted to concentrations 450-fold lower than used in agricultural applications.[i] This effect could not have been anticipated from the known toxicological effects of glyphosate alone. The likely explanation is that the surfactant polyoxyethyleneamine within Roundup dramatically enhances the absorption of glyphosate into exposed human cells and tissue.
If this is true, it speaks to a fundamental problem associated with toxicological risk assessments of agrichemicals (and novel manmade chemicals in general), namely, these assessments do not take into account the reality of synergistic toxicologies, i.e. the amplification of harm associated with multiple chemical exposures occurring simultaneously.
“Inactive Ingredients” In Herbicide Formulations Are Actively Poisoning Us
But adjuvants in glyphosate formulations do not just increase the toxicity of glyphosate — they are themselves highly toxic. Indeed, a study published in the journal Toxicology September, 2011 titled “Ethoxylated adjuvants of glyphosate-based herbicides are active principles of human cell toxicity,” found 24 hour exposures on liver, embryonic and placental cell lines at concentrations as low as 1 ppm – a dose well within “acceptable” environmental and occupational doses – resulted in negative effects on cellular respiration and membrane integrity.[ii] The authors reported their findings as such:
Altogether, these results challenge the establishment of guidance values such as the acceptable daily intake of glyphosate, when these are mostly based on a long term in vivo test of glyphosate alone. Since pesticides are always used with adjuvants that could change their toxicity, the necessity to assess their whole formulations as mixtures becomes obvious. This challenges the concept of active principle of pesticides for non-target species.
What the consumer of GM-contaminated food must understand is that glyphosate, and the many insufficiently tested “inactive” ingredients sprayed on these foods, enter the body and have real, adverse effects that are cumulative, even if mostly subclinical. The only way we can be sure to reduce our exposure to these agrichemicals is through consciously refraining from consuming them. And how do we do that? Get the stuff labeled, and give the consumer a choice not to eat it.
Please lend your support to California’s Proposition 37, and vote with your fork as well, by buying only organic food, whenever possible.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
BY GEORGINA GUSTIN
A Russian government watchdog agency has called for the suspension of a Monsanto-developed corn after a controversial French study, published last week, said lab rats that ingested the corn developed tumors and died prematurely.
The agency, which is known as Rospotrebnadzor, and is the consumer rights arm of the Russian Ministry of Health, said that government scientists have been asked to scrutinize the study. In the meantime imports of the corn, known as NK603, will be banned.
Last week French authorities also called on regulators to further investigate the study, which was performed by researchers at the University of Caen, in Normandy. The European Food Safety Authority said it also will review the research.
In an email response, Tom Helscher, a spokesman for Monsanto, wrote Tuesday: “We do not believe the recent French research findings present information that justifies any change in the safety determination for NK603 or its approval status for imports. The safety of NK603 is well established as reflected in the respective safety assessments by regulatory authorities around the world.”
The study, released last Wednesday, analyzed 200 rats over a two-year period. Some groups were given the genetically modified corn, some were given the corn treated with Monsanto’s herbicide, Roundup, and some were given Roundup in their water. The study found that the rats in these groups developed organ damage and tumors, and died faster, than those not treated with the corn or herbicide.
The study immediately sparked controversy, with the biotechnology industry, scientists and research organizations calling into question the scope of the work and the methodologies. Several scientists pointed out that the type of rats used in the study were already highly susceptible to tumors.
Many researchers pointed out that the authors asked reporters to sign documents saying they would not consult outside experts before the publication of the study – a sign, critics said, that the authors felt it would not hold up to outside scrutiny.
Supporters of the work, however, pointed out that it was the longest-ever feeding study performed on rats, far exceeding the length of the 90-day studies performed to gain market approval, in which the same type of rats were used. They also underscored that the treated rats, despite the tumor-prone type used in the study, developed tumors at a higher rate than the non-treated rats.
Proponents of more extensive testing on genetically modified foods said the terms under which the study was released to reporters were designed to ensure that the industry did not debunk the research upon its publication, in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology.
The terms, explained Andrew Kimbrell of the advocacy group, The Center for Food Safety, were based “in the legitimate fear of Monsanto consistently, over many years, trying to suppress science that is contrary to their corporate interests”. The company, Kimbrell added, “would have done a massive preemptive PR job prior to publication.”
by Elizabeth Renter
A study out of Buenos Aires has found that glyphosate, an herbicide created by Monsanto, and used on GMO soy in Argentina, could cause birth defects in unborn children. The most interesting thing about this revelation is that the herbicide known as glyphosate in Argentina, is also known to be connected with Roundup in the U.S.
Roundup Ingredient Shown to Cause Birth Defects
According to the Latin American Herald Tribune, researchers with the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research conducted the study on amphibian embryos. The lead researcher says their results are “completely comparable to what would happen in the development of a human embryo.”
“The noteworthy thing is that there are no studies of embryos on the world level and none where glyphosate is injected into embryos,” said professor Andres Carrasco, one of the lead authors of the study.
The amounts shown to cause birth defects were said to be much lower than those levels used in fumigations. However, it’s important to note that the glyphosate was injected directly into the fetuses, not administered via food products, as it would be in humans.
Still, it’s possible, because our food feeds our cells, which in turn would feed an embryo, that digestion of foods containing the chemical would have similar, though perhaps not as dramatic effects. And of course this isn’t the only time glyphosate and Monsanto’s Roundup has been shown to cause birth defects.
GMO soy is Argentina’s leading crop. They are the world’s third largest exporter, and they use between 180 and 200 million liters of glyphosate annually. In agricultural regions, where the spraying of this Monsanto chemical is common, numerous cancers have shown up that are being associated with it.
A district called Ituzaingo, outside of Cordoba, has seen about 300 cancer cases in the last eight years. This district houses only about 5,000 people.
“In communities like Ituzaingo it’s already too late, but we have to have a preventative system, to demand that the companies give us security frameworks and, above all, to have very strict regulations for fumigation, which nobody is adhering to out of ignorance or greed,” said Carrasco.
Carrasco, and others, are calling on the government of Argentina to fund more in-depth research into the effects of glyphosate on humans. He says, “The companies say that drinking a glass of glysophate is healthier than drinking a glass of milk, but the fact is that they’ve used us as guinea pigs.”