UPDATED. The French study, released last week by a research team led by molecular biologist Gilles-Eric Seralini, links varying levels of both the Roundup herbicide and the transgenes in Monsanto’s patented NK603 corn to mammary tumors and severe liver and kidney damage.
Russian authorities have suspended the import and sales of a Monsanto genetically-engineered corn variety that French researchers recently linked to tumors and organ damage in lab rats.
The Russian consumer watchdog, known as Rospotrebnadzor, asked scientists to review the French study on the potential health impacts of Monsanto’s NK603 corn variety, which is commonly grown in the United States.
French health and safety authorities also are investigating NK603 and the study’s findings. Top French agriculture ministers have said they will pursue an emergency ban on NK603 in the European Union if investigators find that the corn could harm human health.
The US Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration have not made any formal announcements in response to the French study. US regulators do not conduct independent health and safety studies before approving genetically engineered crops and insteadsecretly squabbled with French authorities over bans on certain Monsanto corn varieties.
A Monsanto representative said that Russia exports more grain than it imports, so the temporary suspension is not likely to have a big impact on sales, according to Bloomberg. After the study was released last week, a Monsanto spokesman told Truthout that the company would review the findings, but previous short-term studies have found Roundup and genetically engineered corn to be safe.
The French study, released last week by a research team led by molecular biologist Gilles-Eric Seralini, links varying levels of both the Roundup herbicide and the transgenes in Monsanto’s patented NK603 corn to mammary tumors and severe liver and kidney damage.
The two-year study is the first long-term study on lab rats fed a lifetime supply of NK603 or exposed to Roundup herbicide, a popular formula originally patented by Monsanto. NK603 and other Monsanto varieties are genetically engineered to be resistant to Roundup. Seralini said health impacts from the herbicide were observed at levels commonly used in agriculture.
Female rats on the Monsanto diet were two to three times more likely do die from health complications compared the control group, and both male and female rats tended to die more quickly due to tumors and organ damage. Seralini and his team concluded that more long-term research on the health impacts of genetically engineered crops is needed.
Western scientists and pro-business publications have criticized Seralini’s methods and accused the French researcher of seeking out the results, while biotech agriculture critics are calling for more research and regulatory oversight in the US and Europe.
In the past, Seralini, has publicly wrangled with peer scientists, pro-industry groups and regulators over interpretations of data from 90-day studies on rats conducted by biotech companies that were used to justify regulatory approvals of Monsanto crops in several countries.
Supporters of Proposition 37, a California ballot initiative that would require groceries that contain genetically engineered ingredients to be labeled as such, are touting the study as proof that consumers have the right to know what is in their food.
“There is a giant question mark hanging over these foods and their health risks,” said Gary Ruskin, a manager for a pro-Proposition 37 campaign. “For those of us in California, the case for labeling of genetically engineered foods has never been stronger.”
Ruskin’s campaign, primarily funded by organic foods companies and alternative health groups, is facing off against a campaign to defeat Proposition 37 funded by millions of dollars in donations from big biotech companies. Monsanto alone has already spent more than $7 million to defeat Proposition 37.
Foods containing genetically engineered ingredients are subject to labeling requirements in 50 countries, including France and much of the European Union.