April 18, 2014

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Human Health Risks


November 28, 2013: The editor of the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology has decided to retract the (long-term) study by the team of Prof Gilles-Eric Séralini, which found severe toxic effects, including kidney and liver damage and increased rates of tumours and mortality in rats fed Monsanto's genetically modified NK603 maize and/or the associated herbicide Roundup.


We do not know what, if any, impacts eating genetically engineered foods will have on our health. There are many indications that we do not know enough to be integrating GE foods into our diets. Additionally, there is no mandatory labelling of GE ingredients in Canada and there is no post-market surveillance to help us determine if there are already impacts. In the interests of public health, the precautionary principle needs to be applied in relation to introducing GE foods.

"We are performing a massive experiment. The results will only be known after millions of people have been exposed to (these foods) for decades…Any politician or scientist who tells you these products are safe is either very stupid or lying. The hazards of these foods are uncertain. In view of our enormous ignorance, the premature application of biotechnology is downright dangerous."
- David Suzuki quoted in The Globe and Mail, October 20, 1999.

GE foods are approved for human consumption based on industry-produced science that is not peer-reviewed and cannot be accessed by the public or independent scientists. Peer review is the process whereby independent scientists assess the work of others – it is a fundamental and defining practice of science. As the Royal Society of Canada Expert Panel on the Future of Food Biotechnology states, “peer review and independent corroboration of research findings are axioms of the scientific method, and part of the very meaning of the objectivity and neutrality of science.” (p. 214 ) Without peer review, the data used to approve products cannot be assumed to be good science, or indeed “science” at all.

There are many scenarios for risks to human health given the lack of certainty involved in the science of genetic engineering. In their research, genetic engineers continually encounter unintended side effects -- plants create toxins, react to weather differently, contain too much or too little nutrients, become diseased or malfunction and die.

October 2013: No scientific consensus on safety of genetically modified organisms: An international group of 93 scientists, academics and physicians have issued a statement asserting that there is no scientific consensus on the safety of GM foods and crops. The statement was made in response to sweeping claims that GM crops and foods are safe. In reality, many unanswered questions remain and in some cases there is serious cause for concern. The statement draws attention to the diversity of opinion over GMOs in the scientific community and the often contradictory or inconclusive findings of studies on GMO safety. The scientists conclude:

"Whether to continue and expand the introduction of GM crops and foods into the human food and animal feed supply, and whether the identified risks are acceptable or not, are decisions that involve socioeconomic considerations beyond the scope of a narrow scientific debate and the currently unresolved biosafety research agendas. These decisions must therefore involve the broader society. They should, however, be supported by strong scientific evidence on the long-term safety of GM crops and foods for human and animal health and the environment, obtained in a manner that is honest, ethical, rigorous, independent, transparent, and sufficiently diversified to compensate for bias.

Decisions on the future of our food and agriculture should not be based on misleading and misrepresentative claims that a “scientific consensus” exists on GMO safety."

Recommended Resource

“GMO Myths and Truths, An evidence-based examination of the claims made for the safety and efficacy of genetically modified crops”, by Michael Antoniou, PhD, Claire Robinson, and John Fagan, PhD is published by Earth Open Source. The report is 123 pages long and contains over 600 citations, many of them from the peer-reviewed scientific literature and the rest from reports by scientists, physicians, government bodies, industry, and the media. Published June 2012.


Carmen et al. Study of Mixed GM Feed on Pigs, 2013

The first-ever study of mixed GM feed on pigs - a long-term toxicology study published June 2013 - observed negative health impacts. The study's authors - Dr Judy Carman, Adelaide Australia, et al. - conclude that "Pigs fed a GMO diet exhibited heavier uteri and a higher rate of severe stomach inflammation than pigs fed a comparable non-GMO diet. Given the widespread use of GMO feed for livestock as well as humans this is a cause for concern. The results indicate that it would be prudent for GM crops that are destined for human food and animal feed, including stacked GM crops, to undergo long-term animal feeding studies preferably before commercial planting, particularly for toxicological and reproductive effects. Humans have a similar gastrointestinal tract to pigs, and these GM crops are widely consumed by people, particularly in the USA, so it would be be prudent to determine if the findings of this study are applicable to humans."

The study: Judy A. Carman, Howard R. Vlieger, Larry J. Ver Steeg, Verlyn E. Sneller, Garth W. Robinson, Catherine A. Clinch-Jones, Julie I. Haynes, John W. Edwards (2013). A long-term toxicology study on pigs fed a combined genetically modified (GM) soy and GM maize diet. Journal of Organic Systems 8 (1): 38-54. Open access full text: http://www.organic-systems.org/journal/81/8106.pdf

Séralini et al. Study of GM Corn and Roundup, 2012 (Retracted)

The first GM animal feeding trial conducted over the lifetime of laboratory rats to test Monsanto's GM corn NK603 and their herbicide Roundup found tumours, multiple organ damage and premature death. (Séralini, G.-E., et al. "Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize." Food Chem. Toxicol. (2012) See the short video and summary of the peer-reviewed study at the Sustainable Food Trust Website http://research.sustainablefoodtrust.org/

Update November 28, 2013: The editor of the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology has decided to retract the study by the team of Prof Gilles-Eric Séralini, which found that rats fed a Monsanto genetically modified (GM) maize NK603 and tiny amounts of the Roundup herbicide it is grown with suffered severe toxic effects, including kidney and liver damage and increased rates of tumours and mortality. GM Watch says "Journal retraction of Séralini study is illicit, unscientific, and unethical"

Take Action

Legalizing GM Food Contamination as "Low Level Presence" (LLP)

The Canadian government wants to allow a percent, 0.1% or higher, of our food to be contaminated with genetically modified (GM) foods that have not been approved by Health Canada for safe human consumption. The GM foods will have been approved for safety in at least one other country but not yet approved as safe by our own regulators. The federal government calls this “Low Level Presence” or LLP and argues that this “low level” of contamination from unapproved GM foods is not harmful.

Click here to send your instant letter to the Minister of Health

Click here for more information on LLP

Other News

January 2013: US and European regulators have discovered a hidden viral gene present in many commercialized GM crops - a substantial segment of the multifunctional Gene VI from Cauliflower Mosaic Virus (CaMV). Scientists working for the European Food Safety Authority published a scientific paper which concluded that functions of Gene VI are potential sources of harmful consequences. Read the explanatory blog from Independent Science News

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