Rats fed genetically modified corn or exposed to the Monsanto herbicide Roundup were at greater risk for developing tumors, suffering organ damage or dying prematurely according to a just-published study in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology. 200 rats were tested for two years (more or less their lifespan), much longer than the 90 days required for studies that are used when companies seek regulatory approval for genetically engineered foods. “The results were really alarming,” the study’s author, Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen in France, said.
The French site, Rue89, has photos of the rats with tumors that, it would be an understatement to say, are very disturbing.
Immediate Controversy About Rats and GMO Corn Study
The study‘s results, announced at a news conference organized by a British-based anti-GMO organization, immediately stoked criticism of Seralini’s methods and comments about his campaigning against GMOs since 1997, NPR notes. Bruce M. Chassy, professor emeritus of food science at the University of Illinois, told the New York Times that Seralini’s study is “not innocent” but rather “a well-planned and cleverly orchestrated media event.” Indeed, Seralini’s earlier research has also been questioned for using statistical methods that “led to misleading results.”
But others, including those supporting a California ballot measure, Proposition 37, to require that GMO foods be labeled and the French government, heralded the study‘s findings. France bans growing GMO crops and might suspend European imports of genetically engineered corn.
200 Rats Studied For Two Years
The study involved 200 rats split into ten groups (with ten male and ten female rats per group). Six groups were fed varying amounts of corn that Monsanto has genetically modified to be resistant to its best-selling weedkiller, Roundup. Three other groups were given Roundup in varying amounts in their drinking water. A tenth group was the control and given nonengineered corn and plain water.
Of the rats who ate the GMO corn, up to 50 percent of the males and 70 percent of the females in the different groups died prematurely, compared with 30 percent of the males and 20 percent of the females in the control group. In addition, says the New York Times, ”some 50 to 80 percent of the female rats [in the different groups] developed tumors compared with only 30 percent” of those in the control group. Rats exposed to GM corn or Roundup also had several times as many cases of liver and kidney injury as the control group.
Some scientists pointed out that the types of experimental rats used in the study are prone to tumors, says NPR. David Spiegelhalter, a professor at the University of Cambridge whose specialty is the public perception of risk, said in the New York Times that the “numbers of animals in each group was too low to draw firm conclusions.”
In addition, other scientists pointed out that the rats who ate a diet with a GMO concentration of 11 percent were less healthy than those whose diet contained a GMO concentration of 33 percent: if the experiment intended to show a link between developing tumors and GMOs, those who ate more GMOs should have been less healthy.
In Reuters, Mark Tester, a research professor at the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics at the University of Adelaide, observed that, since genetically modified food has “been in the food chain” in the U.S. for over ten years, “If the effects [of Seralini's study] are as big as purported, and if the work really is relevant to humans, why aren’t the North Americans dropping like flies?”
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