EU food safety watchdog to rule on GM study


THE EUROPEAN Food Safety Authority (EFSA) will give its opinion this week on a controversial new study which links tumours in rats with genetically modified maize and weedkiller.

The Food and Chemical Toxicology journal published the study earlier this month but its findings and study methods have been questioned by many scientists not involved in the research.

According to the study, rats fed a lifetime diet of Monsanto’s genetically modified corn or exposed to its weedkiller Roundup suffered tumours and multiple organ damage.

Tom Sanders, head of the nutritional sciences research division at King’s College London, said “the statistical methods are unconventional . . . and it would appear the authors have gone on a statistical fishing trip”.

Mark Tester, a research professor at the Australian centre for plant functional genomics at the University of Adelaide, said the study’s findings raised the question of why no previous studies had flagged similar concerns.

“If the effects are as big as purported, and if the work really is relevant to humans, why aren’t the North Americans dropping like flies?

“GM has been in the food chain for over a decade over there and longevity continues to increase inexorably,” he said.

Grace Maher of the Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association said the report raised serious questions about the safe consumption of GM crops by humans, while Gavin Lynch of the Organic Trust said it was time for the Government “not only to rethink their policy on GM crops, but also to get serious about the labelling of GM ingredients in some of the food products imported into this country”.

The European Commission sought scientific advice from the food safety authority following publication of the study led by Gilles-Eric Séralini of the University of Caen.

The authority said it had set up a multi-disciplinary taskforce to analyse the paper and publish an initial scientific review as the first step in a two-stage process.

“If information gaps are identified, EFSA will then contact the authors with a request for further details of the methodology used in the two-year study,” the authority said.

On Thursday the authority will be in Dublin to hold a joint conference with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, marking the EFSA’s 10th anniversary.

The conference will involve discussions on how safe the food supply is now, and will look at the food threats and risks emerging in the future.