Friday, August 08, 2008

More science less opinion on GM and rats

Another Look at GM Corn Seems Merited

Those who make their living from lobbying/marketing sometimes claim "perception is reality".  One topic that is attracting a lot of talk and perceptions now is genetically modified (GM) food crops which are controversial and present potential risks, but also have benefits.

Indeed, GM cotton has been grown in Australian for 12 years, and through the incorporation of the gene from a naturally occurring soil bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) there has been an over 90 percent reduction in pesticide use in that crop.

The same Bt gene has been incorporated into corn, also providing insect resistance.

No GM corn has been approved for planting in Australia, but we import food derived from GM corn.

Last week Greenpeace demanded that the Federal Government ban the importation of products derived from the GM corn variety MON 863, claiming it to be a human health risk.

This follows an Austrian ban of the Bt variety following concerns raised by French scientist, Gilles-Eric Seralini, including in a paper published last year.

Dr Seralini re-analysed data from a 90-day rat-feeding study undertaken by Monsanto some years ago, claiming potential differences in growth rates and signs of liver and kidney damage in the rats fed the GM maize.

David Tribe, a Senior Lecturer, at the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Melbourne, explains that "the Greenpeace-funded study by Dr Seralini looked at a large number (494) of different clinical comparisons and found small numbers of statistically significant differences with no consistent pattern."

At issue is the interpretation of the results from a single feeding trial with groups of just 20 rats.

Even Dr Seralini would like to see more experiments, concluding that with the present data it can't be concluded that GM corn MON863 (approved for use here in 2003;  see is a safe product, but neither can it be concluded it is unsafe.

Given the controversy, the Federal Government should perhaps sponsor one of more comprehensive studies to get to the bottom of this issue.

At the moment there is much quoting of expert advice based on the disputed interpretation of very limited data which gives the perception there is an issue.


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