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.

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