Eat GM sweet corn? I’d rather eat bugs

A damning new peer-reviewed study, “Long-term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize,” is calling into question not only the safety of genetically modified food but the stringency of government regulations and assessments.

For the first time, a long-term and comprehensive study — two years, 200 rats and 100 plus parameters — has been conducted on the commonly used herbicide Roundup as well as GM Roundup Ready corn.

Scientists at CRIIGEN, an independent research institute based in France, found that when exposed to even the smallest amounts, rats developed massive tumors, suffered multiple organ damage and died prematurely.

Dr. Gilles Séralini, a key researcher in the study, said the findings are important.

“It’s serious because these illnesses showed up after just four months on the diet and in the second year they were worse.

“Until now, GM products have only been tested for three-month periods so no one’s been able to compare the pathology results before,” he said in a TV interview.

When industry proponents, true to form, immediately rushed to criticize the study, Séralini said: “I’m waiting for criticism from scientists who have already published material in journals … on the effects of GMOs and pesticides on health, in order to debate fairly with peers who are real scientists, and not 
lobbyists.”

It should be noted that industry studies that Health Canada relies upon to base its approvals are regarded as “confidential business information.” The department does not conduct its own safety tests.

Health Canada claims it rigorously assesses all new information, including independent and peer reviewed published studies.

However, when I requested the findings of Health Canada reviews on a long list of published research through a House of Commons procedure, it did not provide me the results of even one assessment.

Monsanto recently introduced its new line of GM sweet corn with names like Temptation II, Obsession II and Passion II.

This corn expresses the toxin bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) in every cell of the plant and kills corn pests that eat it by rupturing their gut. It is also engineered to withstand applications of Monsanto’s signature herbicide, Roundup.

Lucy Sharratt of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network notes in her recent article, “GM sweet corn kills bugs but is it tasty on the BBQ,” that GM sweet corn marks the first insect and herbicide resistant crop in the world that will be widely consumed as a whole unprocessed food.  Until now, hard corn used in processed food and animal feed has largely prevailed.

Another study by genetic engineers, “GMO myths and truths: an evidence-based examination of the claims made for the safety and efficacy of genetically modified crops,” found that, unlike industry claims to the contrary, GM crops:

  • use technology that is totally different from natural breeding methods and poses different risks
  • can be toxic, allergenic or less nutritious than natural food
  • do not increase yield
  • do not reduce pesticide use, but instead increase it
  • create herbicide-tolerant super weeds and increase crop disease susceptibility
  • have mixed economic effects
  • harm soil quality, disrupt ecosystems and reduce biodiversity
  • do not offer solutions to climate change
  • are as energy hungry as other chemically farmed crops
  • cannot solve the problem of world hunger but distract from its real causes — poverty, lack of access to food and, increasingly, land

Given the growing body of negative science and the multitude of risks posed by GM crops that simply don’t exist in safer, more conventional methods of agriculture, it is high time for our government to stop rubber stamping GMO science and crops and adopt a far more precautionary approach.

Alex Atamanenko is the NDP MP for British Columbia Southern Interior.


  • http://notapplicable John Fefchak

    I think I will just pass those corn names, (Temptation, Obsession and Passion), and survive quite well, Thank You, without the benefits of tumors, organ damage
    and gut rupturing.
    The sad part is….feeding this maize to livestock, also puts those who eat meat in their diet will still be affected.! for, WE ARE WHAT WE EAT!
    This leads me to conclude that Monsanto must have holdings /shares in the
    mortuary business.

  • Denise Trafford

    At what point in time did we decide that Monsanto’s profits were more important than people’s access to safe and nutritious grains? Thank you for this article.

  • Robert Wager

    Seems Alex forgot to mention the world wide condemnation by science bodies after reading the pseudo-science of Seralini. BTW this is the third time world food safety experts and world health experts have caught Seralini passing pseudo-science designed to scare not educate.

    Have a look

    http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/gmf-agm/seralini-eng.php

    • Denise Trafford

      Given the choice, most people will choose GM free grains and beans to feed to our families. Monsanto isn’t going to stop GM experimentation and attempting to gain control all grain seed supply. They have almost succeeded.It’s very difficult to grow organic crops because of widespread Monsanto seed contamination. Labeling GM foods seems to be all we can do now.

      • Al Landis

        But even with labeling Denise the genes of genetically modified crops hop plant species, they cross-pollinate into other species. Genes can’t be contained if I understand plant science correctly (I’m studying it this year at UBC). By any measure of sane reasoning it is not advisable to ingest foods whose genes have been cut by all manner of who-knows-what, even if industry tells us things like Roundup is “dish soap” and “safe enough to drink”. What farmer hasn’t heard that old line (even if the ill effects have not shown up from ingesting dish soap as blatantly obvious (yet)). It is the issue of this hundred years, starting in the 80′s, and on which we will be judged by our children (the ones that survive things like contraception corn (yep. the technology and breeds of which are owned by M’santo). If it sounds completely insane to you that there is even “debate” about this, then be happy. Your conscience has not been hijacked through ingesting copious amounts of industrial propaganda, and your conscience is what makes you human (and not genetically modified).

  • joe leschyshyn

    To those that endorse this crap and other like it, I wish the people that endorse this a belly full every meal !!

    Thanks , Alex

    joe leschyshyn

  • http://truefoodfoundation.org heidi osterman

    The new French study was conducted by independent scientists who are not tied financially to the makers of GMO corn. The study used exactly the same type of rats that were used in Monsanto’s feeding trial of only 3 months. This new independent Seralini study fed the animals for 24 months and showed multiple tumors and organ damage. Health Canada must finally conduct it’s own independent long term feeding study- and also label genetically modified crops like corn,soy,canola, and sugarbeet.

  • http://www.naturespath.com Dag Falck

    The important issue highlighted by the French study is not the claimed findings, which are concerning in themselves, but rather the importance is that it effectively demonstrates that the current Canadian evaluation of genetic engineering prior to approval is inadequate. Had the French study been a complete contradiction of existing science, this is what would have been in the media immediately. The fact is that there is no comparable science available to which to compare it! How convenient then to simply criticize it. Accurate or not it’s the first 2 year feeding study. Accurate or not it used the same rats as the study Health Canada based their approval on. Accurate or not, the size of the study groups (number of rats and control groups) was bigger than the study Health Canada based it’s approval on. Accurate or not the study went on 8 times longer than the “official” study.
    For a section of agriculture that prides itself on basing their products on “science”, I think it’s time that we demand that our government start actually taking this to heart and start having scientific facts in hand before issuing approvals. So far all we have is “the applicants proof” that there is “no proof of harm”. Stop avoiding the issue and start independent rigorous scientific testing! Or are we afraid of what we may find if we actually did? Without any credible assurances that it’s safe – what the majority of the public is going to choose is pretty clear – to demand mandatory labelling and avoid it.

    • http://notapplicable John Fefchak

      I couldn’t agree more.
      We, the public have become the guinea pigs.!
      I believe the government knows this, but is
      reluctant to act otherwise, for fear of offending
      the huge corporations, like Monsanto.
      Governments have a commitment, a duty if you will
      to regulate on behalf of, and to protect the public.
      They alway seem to do this commitment backwards. (re: Justice Horace Krever, The tainted blood scandal)

      • Denise Trafford

        Remember the concern over the disappearance of the bee population? We are the guinea pigs in this experiment. The bees are the canaries in the coal mine. Check out : GE corn &sick honey bees- what’s the link?

    • Al Landis

      Dag, Who couldn’t sympathize with promise of bigger yields and bigger profits? Farmers were offered contracts (jobs) and promises and they got them. Whether this is right or not is the question but regardless…

      “Apparently, the same issues of experimental design and analysis raised about this (Seralini) risk-finding study were not of concern to critics when the studies did not identify risk, resulting in ill-informed decision-makers. In the end, it is a major problem for science and society when current regulatory protocols approve GMO crops based on little to no useful data upon which to assess safety.

      Governments have become habituated to using science as a political football. For example, in a study conducted by the Royal Society of Canada at the request of the Canadian government, numerous weaknesses of GM regulation in Canada were identified (RSC, 2001). The failure of the Canadian government to meaningfully respond to the many recommended changes was detailed by Andree (2006). Similarly, the expert recommendations of the international IAASTD report, produced by 400 researchers over 6 years, that GMOs are unsuited to the task of advancing global agriculture have been resolutely ignored by policymakers. Thus, while proclaiming evidence-based decision-making, governments frequently use science solely when it suits them.”

      let me know if you want the link to this article.

  • Lisa

    Who really needs any studies or tests done in labs to know that GMO foods, and the chemicals they douse them with, are toxic to living organisms?? Shouldn’t it be safe to assume these things probably cause serious health problems in anyone consuming this stuff? I don’t even understand why someone would debate it. This study wasn’t “pseudo-science”, but the countless studies done by huge corporations looking to stay in business and swindle the world should be considered such.

    • Neil

      I didn’t realize I could respond to a comment directly until after I posted my general comment. I try to keep a very open mind to the science of modern agriculture, good and bad so please don’t brush me off as a brainwashed farmer. I just wanted to point out that plants and animals (like humans) have very different mechanisms for living. So something can be toxic to a plant and not toxic to a human or vice versa. In the case of the “chemicals” we use it is all about dose, not unlike human medicines. The rate we use is tested at 100 times that rate on rats to ensure safety for animals. That 100 times is arrived at by using a 10 times factor for species difference between rats and humans and a 10 times factor for age of human, specifically that babies would be more suspectible than an adult to a given toxin. Our government departments that regulate pesticides have determined through world agreed science that this is an acceptible safety margin. Maybe some people don’t beleive it is and that I can easily accept as their opinion. Anyway not trying to change your mind but just wanting to make sure you knwo a little more about why we farmers do what we do. Thanks for reading my opinions.

  • Neil

    I am a farmer who has been growing GM crops for 17 years but try not to use the Roundup resistant crops because I already use the product before seeding for weed control. I don’t want to use any product too often to avoid any possible resistance building up in weeds to any particular product. I use other GM crops resistant to other products not already used on my farm. I believe the truth is somewhere in the middle of pro and con arguments. I agree that large multinational seed and pesticide companies want to make sales, make money for shareholders, grow their market influence, etc. so as a society we need to make sure that independent research is done to verify or refute their claims. Up until now I believed, perhaps naively, that our goverbment departments do the necessary research and checks to make sure an approved technology is safe. Alex calls this into question. I do know pesticides are studied by four seperate deparments and don’t beleive their is a conspiracy among that many department employees to be bought off by pesticide copmpanies as suggested by some anti pesticide people. I’m not well informed on the GM crops registration process but have been told it is very similiar to the pesticides. Maybe that is wrong, its hard to know who to believe when the pro and con arguments are both so one sided. The one thing I do know is while I have been growing these crops my wife and I have raised our five children on the farm among these GM crops and not been afraid to feed them food made from GM crops. The only two cancers on the rise are lung and skin, neither caused by pesticides but by other human behavour. If GM crops were bad for humans wouldn’t it have shown up in hopitalizations and increase in certain diseases? I don’t mean humans shoud be guinea pigs but this makes me feel more confident that the right research was originally done to prove safety. Science makes mistakes too (thalidimide babies, DDT, etc.) so maybe 50 years from now with new analytical techniques science will prove GM crops and me wrong. But I do believe mankind hasn’t progressed to this point in time by being scared of new technology, as long as it is proven to be safe before its use, as best is humanly possible at that point in time. I guess that is where the crux of the debate is, has it been proven or not at this time.
    One comment for Lisa is the “chemicals” we use on crops affect plants at the low rates we use but don’t affect humans unless used at 100 times or more those rates. It would be like consuming 100 times the rate of caffeine or salt, not good for us either. There is a lot more I would like to discuss about our modern agriculture, why we do what we do, the good and bad of it, but there is not enough space here. If anyone would like to discuss it rationally with me comment here again and maybe we can somehow hook up by email or phone. Thanks for consideriing a farmer’s opinion.