Russia Bans GM Corn After Study Shows Cancer Risk

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Russia is temporarily banning the import of Monsanto’s genetically modified (GM) corn after results of a new study published in the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology showed rats fed GM corn developed tumors and organ damage, with a high rate of premature death, according to the Wall Street Journal.

According to the consumer-rights watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor, Russia’s Institute of Nutrition has been asked to assess the validity of the study.

Researchers from University of Caen fed the rats Monsanto’s Roundup Ready corn (NK603). As a result, the rats developed mammary tumors and had “severe" liver and kidney damage. A higher rate of premature death also resulted, with 70% of female rats fed the GM diet and 50% of the males dying prematurely (compared to 30% and 20%, respectively, in the control group).

The initial release of these findings drew sharp criticism from the biotechnology sector, as the study’s findings are contrary to safety evaluations performed by biotechnology companies, including Monsanto.

“Numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies performed on biotech crops to date, including more than a hundred feeding studies, have continuously confirmed their safety, as reflected in the respective safety assessments by regulatory authorities around the world," said Thomas Helscher, executive director, commercial acceptance, Monsanto.

On Sept. 21, Monsanto responded to the French study saying the study does not meet minimum acceptable standards for this type of scientific research, the findings are not supported by the data presented, and the conclusions are not relevant for the purpose of safety assessment.

Toxicologists and public health experts find fundamental problems with the study design. Critical information about how the research was conducted is absent, and the data presented do not support the author’s interpretations.

The company also said there is no plausible mechanism for the results reported with genetically modified maize, and the results are inconsistent with an extensive body of experience and scientific study. Extensive animal and in-vitro (test-tube) data has demonstrated that glyphosate does not cause cancer or tumors, nor is an endocrine disrupter. This study does not provide information which calls into question the extensive safety evaluations of glyphosate or Roundup herbicides.

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Two new scientific studies add to concerns about the dangers posed by Roundup (glyphosate), the most widely used weedkiller in the world.

A group of scientists from the University of Caen in France found that human placental cells are very sensitive to the herbicide at concentrations lower than the agricultural use, and that it disrupts human sex hormones. The scientists concluded that the herbicide could “induce reproduction problems” in humans.

In another study, University of Pittsburgh biologist Rick Relyea looked at the effect of Roundup on other life forms. Relyea found that the herbicide caused an 86-percent decline in the total population of tadpoles.

Glyphosate is marketed under several brand names — Roundup is Monsanto’s original brand; Syngenta now markets glyphosate as Touchdown Total. These products are widely used in yards and gardens across North America, and U.S. farmers spray millions of acres of crops with them each year. Drift problems are common, where the herbicide spray lands off the targeted area, killing plants.

Use of glyphosate products has increased in recent years as a result of the introduction of genetically modified (GM) varieties of corn, soybean and cotton designed to tolerate glyphosate sprays. (Normal, non-GM crops and other plants die when they are hit with glyphosate.)

Monsanto has sold Roundup since 1974, and the company continues to argue that the weedkiller is safe. (Visit Monsanto’s Web site to read the company’s responses to these studies.) Others disagree. The Journal of Pesticide Reform published one of the most comprehensive reviews of the dangers associated with glyphosate, written by Caroline Cox, staff scientist for the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides.

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