Rise and shine: the GM wake-up call (19/3/2007)

Interesting comment from the Food Science Reporter for European food industry portals not negatively disposed to GM. His conclusion is that better testing and more transparency are needed GMOs. In particular, biotech companies need to be more rigorous in their studies, and to prove that their methodology is sound; food safety authorities need to demand more complete data.

Rise and shine: the GM wake-up call
Stephen Daniells
Weekly Comment, FoodNavigator, 19 March 2007 [extract only]

[Stephen Daniells is the Food Science Reporter for NutraIngredients.com and FoodNavigator.com. He has a PhD in Chemistry from Queen's University Belfast and has worked in research in the Netherlands and France]

News that a variety of GM corn produced signs of liver and kidney toxicity in rats should be a wake-up call for better testing and more transparency from biotechs, if GMOs are to be accepted by increasingly sceptical consumers.

Last week, amid much media fanfare in France and media silence elsewhere, French researchers from CRIIGEN (Committee for Independent Research and Genetic Engineering) based at the University of Caen reported their findings from a 90-day rat study that indicated liver and kidney toxicity in the rats, as well as differences in weight gain between the sexes as a result of eating the transgenic maize, MON863 is a transgenic maize genetically modified to express the Bt-toxin (Cry3Bb1) which enables the plant to be insect repellent against the corn rootworm pest. It is different from other GM corns of the market since these express the Cry1Ab toxin which is toxic to the European corn borer.

The research was supported by Greenpeace Germany and published in the peer-review journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology.

The scientists also questioned the methods used by Monsanto to initially show the safety and non-toxicity of the corn, saying that the statistical methods used were insufficient to observe any possible disruptions in biochemistry.

And what is Monsanto doing to redress the balance and build confidence? Well, it has remained relatively tight-lipped and has not responded directly to the statements by the French researchers about possible shortcomings in their initial methodology, and suggestions of incomplete data collection. Instead it has stuck to the line "that the overwhelming opinion of expert authorities is that MON863 is safe for human and animal consumption."

But the opinion of these expert authorities was based on data provided by Monsanto, and led to approvals for the maize for animal and human consumption in, to name but a few, Australia, Canada, China, the EU, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines and the USA.

And according to the French researchers, this data does not stand up to rigorous scrutiny, with doubts raised over the statistical protocols used, questions over why no sufficient analysis of animal weight was performed, and why "crucial" data from urine tests were allegedly concealed in Monsanto's own publications.

Read on at http://www.foodnavigator.com/news/ng.asp?n=75058-monsanto-gmos-mon-transparency

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