Although loathed by some, genetically modified (GM) crops have become ubiquitous. Farmers in the western hemisphere now plant vast fields of engineered corn, soy, and cotton. The crops find their way into the food supply after processing into products such as high-fructose corn syrup.
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Despite the massive quantities of GM food eaten in the Americas, few studies have correlated the foods with health problems. However, a recent study found that rats grew tumors and died young after being fed a diet of GM corn laced with the herbicide, glyphosate, known by the brand name Round-Up.
“After four months the tumors began,” said lead author Gilles-Eric Seralini, a biologist at Caen University, according to the Washington Post. “After one year, there was a . . . high increase in the number of tumors.”
The study was published in the peer reviewed journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, but some have questioned Seralini’s objectivity. The research was funded by the Committee of Research and Independent Information on Genetic Engineering (CRII-GEN), a French group opposed to GM crops. Seralini is also the president of CRII-GEN’s scientific board, reported the Washington Post.
The Science Media Centre was flooded with criticism of the study’s methodology as well. For example:
“This strain of rat is very prone to mammary tumours particularly when food intake is not restricted,” said Tom Sanders, Head of the Nutritional Sciences Research Division, King’s College London.
"We have to ask whether a diet with this level of maize is normal for rats,” said Wendy Harwood, senior scientist, John Innes Centre. “Another control with an alternative diet should have been included. The data from the control group fed non-GM maize is not included in the main figures making it very difficult to interpret the results.”
"The first thing that leaps to my mind is why has nothing emerged from epidemiological studies in the countries where so much GM has been in the food chain for so long?” Mark Tester, Research Professor, Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics, University of Adelaide. “If the effects are as big as purported, and if the work really is relevant to humans, why aren’t the North Americans dropping like flies?! And if the effects are as big as claimed, why have none of the previous 100+ plus studies by reputable scientists, in refereed journals, noticed anything at all?”
Corn, Zea mays (Ashlyak, Wikimedia Commons)