Unprecedented GMO and Glyphosate Study

2014-1020 Post-roundup desiccation

Thousands of rats will be fed Monsanto maize diets in a $23m, three-year ‘Factor GMO’ study into long-term health effects of GM food and associated pesticides.

A Russian group working with scientists is set to launch the world’s largest and most comprehensive long-term health study on a GM food.

The $25m three-year experiment will involve scientists testing thousands of rats which will be fed differing diets of a Monsanto GM maize and the world’s most widely-used herbicide which it is engineered to be grown with.

The organisers of the Factor GMO [genetically modified organism] study, announced in London on Tuesday and due to start fully next year, say it will investigate the long-term health effects of a diet of a GM maize developed by US seed and chemical company Monsanto.

“It will answer the question: is this GM food, and associated pesticide, safe for human health?” said Elena Sharoykina, co-founder of the Russian national association for genetic safety (Nags), the co-ordinator of the experiment.

The experiment will try to establish whether the GM maize and its associated herbicide cause cancers, reduce fertility or cause birth defects.

The scientists also want to know whether the mixture of chemicals present in Roundup (Monsanto’s trade name for its glyphosate herbicide) are more or less toxic than its active ingredient – glyphosate.

Farmers, governments, scientists and consumers around the world have been involved in an intense debate since GM foods were introduced in 1994. But while there have been many thousands of studies conducted, mostly by GM companies, which show that there is no health risk, government regulators have not required evidence of long-term safety.

Oxana Sinitsyna, deputy science director at the Sysin research institute of human ecology and environmental health which is part of the Russian ministry of health, one of the three scientists on the Factor GMO study’s review board, said: “The scale and format of this research project will allow us to create a really objective and comprehensive data set on the mechanics of the impacts of a GM diet on the health of living organisms over the long term.

“From a scientific point of view the ‘Factor GMO’ project is highly ambitious, which makes it very interesting, for both the public and for the scientists involved.”

Bruce Blumberg, another board member, who is a biology professor at the University of California, Irvine, said: “The cultivation of herbicide resistant crops is widespread in the US, and the use of the herbicides to which these crops are resistant has increased many-fold in the decades since they were introduced. There is a notable lack of published, peer-reviewed data on their safety, as well as data on the safety of the increased use of herbicides with which they are grown.”

The planned study will have no input from the biotech industry or the anti-GM movement, said Sharoykina.“Comprehensive scientific safety studies on GMOs and their related pesticides are long overdue. All previous studies caused controversy for various reasons: choice of animal, insufficient statistics, duration of tests, research parameters, and researchers’ connections to the anti-GMO movement or the biotech industry.

“This study is intended to remedy the situation. The project organizers have considered all of the points of disagreement and distrust surrounding this subject.” Nags would not have any involvement in the scientific process.

Most of the $25m has been raised, say the organizers, but the names of sponsors and funders will not be revealed until the experiment starts fully next year.

Fiorella Belpoggi, a cancer specialist with the Ramazzini institute in Italy and a board member of the study said: “This is not at all an anti-GM study. We are being neutral. We don’t know if it’s good or bad. Maybe in the future I will be a cheerleader with Monsanto. But I want science to find out”.

The experiment, which will be conducted in western Europe and Russia. Peter Melchett, policy director with the Soil Association, said: “I welcome this. It has been a scientific fraud that no scientific study like this has been done in the past.”

Monsanto was contacted for a response but did not reply.

The announcement of the experiment came as British anti-GM campaigners delivered a letter to Downing street signed by US environment groups representing over 50m people, as well as celebrities including Susan Sarandon, Daryl Hannah and Robert Kennedy. The letter warns Britain that the intensive growing of GM crops has caused major environmental problems in the US.

“GM crops have never delivered on their promises to increase yields and profits or to decrease pesticide use. In fact, they have done the opposite with the cost of growing GM crops now greater than conventional crops in the US and pesticide use 24% higher amongst GM farmers than non-GM farmers planting the same crops”, says the letter which was delivered by former Labour environment minister Michael Meacher.

Read more: The Guardian