GM Cancer Warning Can No Longer Be Ignored
By Prof Peter Saunders and Dr Mae-Wan Ho
Food Freedom News, 9 July 2013
The latest findings of cancers and deaths from GM maize and Roundup herbicide are the result of the most in-depth long-term toxicology study ever done on GM food; we ignore them at our peril.
In the Vatican Museums in Rome stands a statue of La0coön and his sons. Legend has it that Laocoön tried to warn his fellow citizens against taking in the wooden horse that the Greeks had left outside their gates. It was not a gift, but a ruse designed to allow Greek soldiers to enter the city. The Greek gods, who wanted to see Troy destroyed, sent sea serpents to kill Laocoön. This convinced the Trojans that the horse was indeed sacred; so they opened the gates and dragged it into the city. The result was the total destruction of Troy and its empire.
The biotech industry is doing its best to convince us that GMOs are the key to feeding a hungry world, when all the evidence is that they profit only the companies. Whenever anyone tries to warn of the dangers of GMOs, the industry responds by doing its utmost to discredit the whistle blower and prevent the warning from being heard. We have already witnessed what happened to Arpad Pusztai ( Pusztai Publishes Amidst Fresh Storm of Attack , ISIS News 3), David Quist and Ignacio Chapela ( Who’s Afraid of Horizontal Gene Transfer?, SiS 15) and Irina Ermakova ( Science and Scientist Abused, SiS 36) to name but a few; also Nancy Oliviera ( Big Business = Bad Science? ISIS News 9/10) and David Healy ( The Depressing Side of Medical Science, SiS 39) with the pharmaceutical industry no less corrupt than biotechnology.
GM maize and herbicide link to cancer “a bomb”
The latest warning – perhaps the most dramatic to-date – comes in a paper published online 19 September 2012 in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology reporting high rates of death and cancers in rats fed Monsanto’s GM maize NK603 and/or Roundup herbicide compared with controls . The study carried out by Gilles-Eric Séralini and his group at the University of Caen involved the largest number of rats followed for their entire lifespan of two years. By all accounts, it was the most in-depth long-term toxicology study ever done on GM food . Séralini reported the results in the European Parliament.
France’s former Environment minister Corinne Lepage MEP said the study was “a bomb” calling into question all existing regulatory authorizations of GMOs. GMOs are approved in the European Union and elsewhere on the basis of a 90-day toxicology study at best, carried out by the biotech companies. The key finding of the new study is that tumours and other serious health impacts appeared at 4-7 months, which would have been missed in all previous tests.
On the same day the study was published, the French government asked a health watchdog, The National Agency for Health Safety to investigate the new findings . The next day, Austria called for EU to review its approval process for GM food . Within a week, Russia suspended import and use of GM corn from the USA . On 10 October, the company Vilmorin, the world’s fourth largest seed group and a holding of Limagrain dropped its planned GM field trials in France .
The response from the pro-GM lobby was equally dramatic and immediate. The UK industry-funded Science Media Centre (SMC) issued quotes from “experts” (with undisclosed conflict of interest) in an attempt to discredit the study. This was followed by a deluge of attacks and off the cuff and largely irrelevant criticisms from the scientific establishment and official regulatory bodies around the world (see later).
The notorious European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which authorized the GM maize, issued its initial review of the study – pending a detailed review – claiming, unsurprisingly, that there is no need to re-evaluate the safety because the study is of “insufficient scientific quality”. Lepage expressed serious concerns about EFSA’s initial review, which did not read like carefully considered opinions but hastily put-together points circulated by the pro-GM lobby. She highlighted the conflict of interest in Andrew Chesson, one of the only two people appointed by EFSA to review the study, who was on the panel that originally approved the GM maize NK603 and actually helped prepare the draft document recommending its approval. Thus, Chesson is acting as “both judge and jury” . Chesson, it turns out, was also involved in discrediting his former colleague Arpad Pusztai; he chaired the audit committee that found fault with Pusztai’s research.
EFSA has since been criticized by the European Court of Auditors for inadequate management of conflicts of interest . This came as no surprise as conflicts of interests are rife within EFSA. Earlier in May 2012, the Chair of EFSA’s Management Board was forced to quit because of her industry links. Just a month earlier, EFSA admitted to the European ombudsman that it had not properly responded to the case of Suzy Renckens, the former head of EFSA’s GM unit, who left EFSA and moved to a lobbying job with the biotech giant Syngenta. And GMO panel chair Harry Kuiper clearly used his position to influence the work of the panel in a pro-industry direction.
Friends of the Earth condemned EFSA for having consistently sided with the biotech industry and disregarded health or environmental concerns about GM crops. It called on national governments and EU safety authorities to immediately suspend all Roundup-t0lerant GM crops from market, the European Commission to suspend all new GMO approvals and to start and root-and-branch reform of how the risks of GM foods are to be assessed, and for the EU to review the safety of the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate), including the link between GM crops and the use of the herbicide. Greenpeace too, called for immediate freeze on approvals of new GM crops and a redesign of safety testing over the long term. They should both call for banning glyphosate as the damning evidence on glyphosate is even stronger than for GMOs, and the maximum permitted levels of glyphosate are set to rise by 100-150 times in the European Union if Monsanto has its way (see  Why Glyphosate Should Be Banned, ISIS Report).
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