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Now, it's true that GMOs have been proven safe in one sense: No one, to the best of my knowledge, has ever dropped dead from drinking, say, a Coke sweetened with high-fructose syrup from GMO corn, or from peanut butter tarted up with soy oil. But that just means GMOs don't have what scientists call "acute" effects—severe ones that you notice right away.|
But what about "chronic" effects, ones that come on gradually and can't be easily tied to any one thing? Here we are eating in the the dark. Awash in added sweeteners and fats, the US diet in the aggregate is dismal. Nutrition-related maladies like diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and pancreatic and kidney cancers have been rising for decades and continue lurching upward—as as do rates of food allergies. Life expectancy, after decades of gains, has stagnated—at a level well below those of other industrialized countries.
So are GMOs adding subtly to to this sea of dysfunction? The French researchers' study (full text), published in the US journal Food and Chemical Toxicity, raises concerns. The study surely counts as the most ambitious and comprehensive safety assessment of GMOs ever conducted. It involved 200 rats and spanned two years, the life expectancy the particular kind of rat used. The longest-running previous study lasted 240 days, Michael Hansen, senior staff scientist at Consumers Union and an expert on GMO research, told me. Industry-funded studies typically last just 90 days, he added.
The researchers sought to determine how eating Monsanto's Roundup Ready corn affected rats' health. And they wanted to figure out whether any effects came from the corn itself or any Roundup traces that might come with it. So they separated 200 rats into ten groups: three that had part of their standard lab-rat diet replaced at varying levels (maximum 33 percent) with Roundup Ready corn that had been treated with Roundup in the field; three getting the same feed protocol, but with untreated Roundup Ready corn; three getting no GMO corn but tiny amounts of Roundup in their drinking water at varying levels; and one control group ate two-thirds standard lab-rat chow and one-third non-GMO corn. Each group contained 10 females and 10 males.
So what happened? The researchers say their results, summarized here, show "severe adverse health effects including mammary tumors and kidney and liver damage, leading to premature death," in both from both Roundup Ready corn and Roundup itself, "whether they were used separately or together." Interestingly, almost all of the ill effects manifested after 90 days—the industry's preferred length for its own feeding studies. By the end of the study, the researchers report, "50 percent-80 percent of the females had developed large tumors compared to 30 percent in the control group." As for males, "Liver congestions and necrosis were 2.5 to 5.5 times higher than in the control group … [and] there were also 1. –2.3 times more instances of 'marked and severe' kidney disease." Overall, among the rats receiving GMO and/or Roundup, "Up to 50 percent of males and 70 percent of females died prematurely, before deaths could be put down to normal ageing, compared with only 30 percent and 20 percent in the control group."
To drive its point home, the study publication includes several photos of rats with grotesquely large tumors.