News / Health

    Experts Question Validity of 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.
    A recent study claiming that genetically modified corn caused tumors in rats is drawing a chorus of criticism from scientists around the world. European officials say 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.

    The pictures are shocking. Rats fed GMO corn for two years grew giant tumors in this study in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology. Study author Gilles-Eric Seralini at the University of Caen says it shows regulations on the crop are not good enough.

    "GM foods have been evaluated in an extremely poor and lax way with much less analysis that 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 used the new study to say those foods should be labeled. The “Yes on 37” campaign, backing mandatory GMO labeling, in on the ballot in this November’s statewide voter referendum.

    However, other scientists immediately found problems with the study, including geneticist Alan McHughen at the University of California at Riverside, an expert with the 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 found numerous problems with the French study, from not enough control rats to substandard analytical methods.

    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.”

    Even opponents of genetic engineering agree the study was flawed. Michael Hansen, with the advocacy group Consumers Union, feels long-term studies should be done .

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

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does review 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 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 this November, when voters decide if GM foods need 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.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Kathleen from: California
    October 16, 2012 6:39 PM
    Monsanto, primary maker of GMOs has a long history of manufacturing toxic chemicals. They brought the world Agent Orange, DDT, and PCBs. For those of you who think that GMOs are safe, I invite you to eat a conventional tortilla chip. The GMO corn that was used to make the chip was doused in the herbicide Roundup. The GMO soy, corn, canola, or cottonseed oil that it was fried in was also soaked in Roundup and the oil was extracted using the toxin hexane. Would you spray a corn chip with Raid and then feed it to your family? Never. But I bet that you don't think twice about feeding them a conventional (aka GMO) corn chip. I have studied the GMO issue very carefully. In fact, I eat 100% organic now to avoid insecticides, herbicides, GMOs, and hexane-extracted oils. Monsanto also created the Bovine Growth Hormone. When Fox News investigators tried to run a story that linked it to cancer and health problems, Monsanto threatened Fox News. Am I exaggerating? Have a look at this short video clip: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0AL4yml3bw
    In Response

    by: Jose from: Presidio Texas
    October 17, 2012 3:06 PM
    You can bet that the the National Academy of Sciences, under pressure from the National Science Foundation, has given marching orders to invalidate the cancer study or lose funding.

    Take note of the Academy members who are speaking out and watch their grants be mysteriously expedited.

    GMOs have insecticides engineered into the plants to keep bugs from eating them. Unlike poisonous sprays that get washed away, the GMO's insecticide never goes away until it is consumed. The primary application for GMOs should be bio fuel. They should be labeled "Not fit for human consumption."

    by: Tjerk Dalhuisen from: Netherlands
    October 16, 2012 4:22 PM
    Once again this 'wrong rat' argument. Many toxicologic studies use this kind of rat. The studies by Monsanto on GMO's used the same type of rat, only for a much shorter period. Invalid too? That would mean to withdraw this GMO from the EU market (our pigs are fed on it).

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