News / Health

    French Experts Question GMO Cancer Study

    A product labeled with Non Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) is sold at the Lassens Natural Foods & Vitamins store in Los Angeles. Californians are considering Proposition 37, which would require labeling on all food made with altered genetic material. A product labeled with Non Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) is sold at the Lassens Natural Foods & Vitamins store in Los Angeles. Californians are considering Proposition 37, which would require labeling on all food made with altered genetic material.
    x
    A product labeled with Non Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) is sold at the Lassens Natural Foods & Vitamins store in Los Angeles. Californians are considering Proposition 37, which would require labeling on all food made with altered genetic material.
    A product labeled with Non Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) is sold at the Lassens Natural Foods & Vitamins store in Los Angeles. Californians are considering Proposition 37, which would require labeling on all food made with altered genetic material.
    French officials and experts have added their voices to the chorus of criticism over a recent study linking genetically modified corn to tumors in experimental rats.

    The French national food safety agency joined six scientific academies in concluding the study was too badly done to support its conclusions.

    The debate comes as voters in the U.S. state of California consider whether to require labels on all foods with ingredients from genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

    Disturbing images

    The study in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology included shocking photos of rats which researchers say grew giant tumors after eating GMO corn for two years.

    Study author Gilles-Eric Seralini at the University of Caen says his findings show regulations on the crop are not good enough.

    "GM foods have been evaluated in an extremely poor and lax way with much less analysis than we have done," Seralini says.



    Eighty percent of the packaged foods on U.S. supermarket shelves contain GMO ingredients, according to the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

    California advocates of a law requiring those ingredients to be identified on food labels have used the French study to bolster their argument.
     
    The “Yes on 37” campaign, backing mandatory GMO labeling in this November’s statewide voter referendum, held a press conference with Seralini to announce the results of his research.

    'Numerous problems'

    However, other scientists immediately found problems with the study, including geneticist Alan McHughen at the University of California at Riverside, an expert with the prestigious U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

    “First of all, the authors of the study used a line of rats that was genetically predisposed to form tumors in the first place," McHughen says. "So right off the bat the whole study was suspect.”

    The European Food Safety Authority also found numerous problems with the French study, from not enough control rats to substandard analytical methods. And the French science academies said the release of the study, which coincided with the release of a book and a film highlighting the work, raised ethical problems.

    At the University of California at Davis, toxicologist Alison van Eenennaam questioned the researchers’ motives.

    “I think it was a cynical ploy to exploit the scientific process to create fear in the minds of consumers,” she says.

    Long-term tests?

    Even opponents of genetic engineering agree the study was flawed. But they believe more long-term studies should be done.

    “There should be required safety assessments before these crops are put on the market," says Michael Hansen, with the advocacy group Consumers Union. "That is not what happens in the United States.”

    The French food safety authority called for more publicly funded research covering the entire life span of experimental animals.

    US tests

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration normally reviews voluntary safety assessments that companies submit for new GM crops. They typically include a 90-day rat-feeding test for toxicity.

    That is the international standard. And the longer studies that have been done have not shown major problems, says UC Davis’s Alison van Eenennaam.

    “The science doesn’t show there’s any additional data that wouldn’t already be caught at these 90-day studies,” she says.

    Regulators OK GMOs

    Regulators in the U.S. and Europe, as well as the U.N.’s World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization, have concluded that genetically modified products on the shelves today are no more dangerous than products made the usual way, according to UC Riverside’s Alan McHughen.

    “All of those, I think, give us the body of scientific evidence to state with a certain degree of confidence that yes, these products are as safe as other products on the market,” McHughen says.

    Public confidence in this reassurance will be put to the test in the California referendum November 6, when state voters decide if GM foods should carry a special label.

    Steve Baragona

    Steve Baragona is an award-winning multimedia journalist covering science, environment and health.

    He spent eight years in molecular biology and infectious disease research before deciding that writing about science was more fun than doing it. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master’s degree in journalism in 2002.

    You May Like

    Republicans Struggle With Reality of Trump Nomination

    Despite calls for unity by presumptive presidential nominee, analysts see inevitable fragmentation of party ahead of November election and beyond

    Nielsen's, Sina Weibo Team Up for Closer Look at Chinese Social Media

    US-based rating agency reaches deal with China's Twitter-like service to gauge marketing effectiveness on platform which has more than 200 million users

    Despite Cease-fire, Myanmar Landmine Scourge Goes Unaddressed

    Myanmar has third-highest mine casualty rate in the world, according to Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, which says between 1999 to 2014 it recorded 3,745 casualties, 396 of whom died

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Timur Tyncherov
    October 24, 2012 10:56 AM
    It’s a pretty controversial topic, but it’s all simple as I see it. Our digestive system assimilates molecules split by the stomach. Molecules, not genes. Chemical composition of organisms is rather consistent, whether genetically modified or not. The simplest example: If an organism wants water, it may take it from a genetically modified crop, and the water still be just water, not GM water any case. I would rather be concerned about the pesticides and synthetic fertilizers and all those artificial flavors-colors.

    by: Ian from: USA
    October 23, 2012 1:12 PM
    So why do these GMO companies against labeling the food if they think it is safe .
    I would love to see all the ingredient listed honestly just as artificial colors , flavors.
    I don't care if they can prove that it is safe , same for irradiated food . I want to have the option to chose what go into my body .
    In Response

    by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
    October 24, 2012 2:02 AM
    I agree with you. It's impossible to verify any harmful event never happen even with any experiments. What could be verified is that some events have happened.  

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora