GM maize, health and the Séralini affair
Published 01 December
GENETICALLY modified maize causes cancer: that was the gist of a study, among the most controversial in recent memory, published in September 2012 in the journal, Food and Chemical Toxicology. Well, actually, it doesn’t. The journal has just retracted the article. It would be too much to say that GM foods have therefore been proven safe. But no other study has so far found significant health risks in mammals as a result of eating GM foods.
The article in question was by Gilles-Eric Séralini of the University of Caen and colleagues. It describes what happened to rats fed with NK103 maize, a variety that is resistant to a herbicide called Roundup, as a result of genetic modification by Monsanto, an American plant-science firm. Because the crop has resistance, farmers can spray their fields with Roundup, killing the weeds but leaving the maize unscathed. In Dr Séralini’s experiment, rats fed with the modified maize were more likely to develop tumours than those which had not. Female rats were especially badly affected: their death rates were two or three times higher than those of control groups. Rats fed with diluted Roundup also suffered health damage.