[extropy-chat] Eat Corn and Die, Rat!

Damien Broderick thespike at satx.rr.com
Sun May 22 05:18:08 UTC 2005

On and on it goes...

Fed GM Corn Due For Sale in Britain Developed Abnormalities in Blood and 
GEOFFREY LEAN, Environment Editor - The Independent (U.K.)

Rats fed on a diet rich in genetically modified corn developed 
abnormalities to internal organs and changes to their blood, raising fears 
that human health could be affected by eating GM food.

The Independent on Sunday can today reveal details of secret research 
carried out by Monsanto, the GM food giant, which shows that rats fed the 
modified corn had smaller kidneys and variations in the composition of 
their blood.

According to the confidential 1,139-page report, these health problems were 
absent from another batch of rodents fed non-GM food as part of the 
research project.

The disclosures come as European countries, including Britain, prepare to 
vote on whether the GM-modified corn should go on sale to the public. A 
vote last week by the European Union failed to secure agreement over 
whether the product should be sold here, after Britain and nine other 
countries voted in favour.

However, the disclosure of the health effects on the Monsanto rats has 
intensified the row over whether the corn is safe to eat without further 
research. Doctors said the changes in the blood of the rodents could 
indicate that the rat's immune system had been damaged or that a disorder 
such as a tumour had grown and the system was mobilising to fight it.

Dr Vyvyan Howard, a senior lecturer on human anatomy and cell biology at 
Liverpool University, called for the publication of the full study, saying 
the summary gave "prima facie cause for concern".

Dr Michael Antoniu, an expert in molecular genetics at Guy's Hospital 
Medical School, described the findings as "very worrying from a medical 
point of view", adding: "I have been amazed at the number of significant 
differences they found [in the rat experiment]."

Although Monsanto last night dismissed the abnormalities in rats as 
meaningless and due to chance, reflecting normal variations between rats, a 
senior British government source said ministers were so worried by the 
findings that they had called for further information.

Environmentalists will see the findings as vindication of British research 
seven years ago, which suggested that rats that ate GM potatoes suffered 
damage to their health. That research, which was roundly denounced by 
ministers and the British scientific establishment, was halted and Dr Arpad 
Pusztai, the scientist behind the controversial findings, was forced into 
retirement amid a huge row over the claim.

Dr Pusztai reported a "huge list of significant differences" between rats 
fed GM and conventional corn, saying the results strongly indicate that 
eating significant amounts of it can damage health. The new study is into a 
corn, codenamed MON 863, which has been modified by Monsanto to protect 
itself against corn rootworm, which the company describes as "one of the 
most pernicious pests affecting maize crops around the world".

Now, however, any decision to allow the corn to be marketed in the UK will 
cause widespread alarm. The full details of the rat research are included 
in the main report, which Monsanto refuses to release on the grounds that 
"it contains confidential business information which could be of commercial 
use to our competitors".

A Monsanto spokesman said yesterday: "If any such well-known anti-biotech 
critics had doubts about the credibility of these studies they should have 
raised them with the regulators. After all, MON 863 isn't new, having been 
approved to be as safe as conventional maize by nine other global 
authorities since 2003."

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