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  • Study found rats eating GM corn NK603  suffered higher risk of tumours
  • Researchers hit back at critics who they  suggest are too close to industry

By  Lewis Smith

PUBLISHED: 07:12 EST, 21  November 2012 |  UPDATED: 10:51 EST, 21 November 2012


The team of researchers who caused uproar  when they claimed a variety of genetically modified corn causes cancer has  insisted the crop ‘cannot be regarded as safe’.

Leading scientists lined up to condemn the  study after it was published two months ago, saying it lacked scientific rigour  and had made a series of basic errors.

Russia banned the import of the corn and a  group of six French scientific institutions carried out an investigation which  accused the study authors of playing on public fears to hype their own  reputations.

Two GM corncobs (right) are compared to non-GM corn (left) grown in Germany.Just too perfect? Two GM corncobs (right) are compared  to non-GM corn (left) grown in Germany


But French scientist Dr Gilles-Eric  Séralini  and his colleagues have now hit back maintaining the safety  of the NK603  variety of GM corn remains unproven.

They accused many of their critics of lacking  credibility because of links to the GM industry and said much of the criticism  was led by ‘plant biologists, some developing patents on GMOs, and from Monsanto  Company owning these products’.


Refusing to give in to demands to withdraw  their study, they said their findings represented ‘the most detailed test’ of  genetically modified crops that are ‘ independent from the biotech and pesticide  companies’ which develop them.

They said in their rebuttal, published as a  letter to the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, that unlike many other  scientists involved in researching GM foods they were free from industry  influence because they had no intention of ‘commercialising a new  product’.

It was also pointed out by the team that the  research represented a ‘first step’ rather than a final conclusion about the  potential impacts of NK603 corn and that further experiments may be able to  establish its safety.

For their original study they carried out  experiments on rats and concluded that the GM corn, developed by US biotech  company Monsanto, increased the risks of breast cancer and liver and kidney  damage.

GM crops biohazard warning. 

Controversial: The introduction of GM foods to our shops  has been met with horror by some consumers

Experiments carried out by the team also  suggested that tiny quantities of the widely available weedkiller Roundup, also  developed by Monsanto, was also associated with an increased risk of  cancer.

The experiments were carried out over two  years whereas, they pointed out, biotech companies have usually based claims  that their GM products are safe after feeding new varieties to rats for 90  days.

After publication of the study, in the peer  reviewed Food and Chemical Toxicology, a  dozen senior scientists signed a letter  to the journal saying  it should never have been published.


GM food and feed is strictly regulated within the  EU.

Labels must indicate to consumers when GM  ingredients are included in food

All products that are GM or include GM ingredients  must meet traceability rules so that all retailers are able to identify their  suppliers.

Risk assessments for all new GM products are  carried out by the European Food Safety Authority before they can be sold in  Europe

‘This study does not provide sound evidence  to support its claims. Indeed, the flaws in the study are so obvious that the  paper should never have passed review,’ they wrote.

‘This appears to be a case of blatant  misrepresentation and misinterpretation of data to advance an anti-GMO agenda by  an investigator with a clear vested interest.’

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)  ordered a French University to carry out a review of the research while in  Russia the Institute of Nutrition was asked to conduct a similar  exercise.

Monsanto said in a statement in September:  ‘Based on our initial review, we do not believe the study presents information  that would justify any change in EFSA’s views on the safety of genetically  modified corn products or alter their approval status for genetically modified  imports.’

Read  the rebuttal by Dr Séraliniand  and his colleagues.

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