- 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."
- ©2005 Independent News & Media (UK) Ltd.