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Expert panel rejects French study linking GM corn to cancer

Latest update : 2012-10-22

A controversial French study linking GM corn to cases of cancer was dismissed by an investigative panel on Monday. Experts, asked by the government to examine the study, found there was no link between the corn and tumours found in rats.

An investigative panel on Monday rejected a contested French study linking transgenic corn to cancer in rats but called for a "long-term, independent" probe into the product to advise the public.

The Higher Biotechnologies Council (HCB) said it found "no causal relationship" between the rats' tumours and consumption of Monsanto's NK603 corn or the Roundup herbicide that was part of the experiment.

The experiment's methods were also "unsuitable," it said in a report made at the government's request.

"The study provides no scientific information regarding the detection of any health risk linked to NK603 corn, whether it was treated with Roundup or not," it said.

But the HCB also called for a wider investigation under government auspices to inform a public bewildered by the controversy.

It recommended "a long-term, independent, transparent study, with adversarial views, into the safety for health of NK603."

In September, researchers led by Gilles-Eric Seralini at the University of Caen in Normandy said rats fed with the genetically-modified corn and/or doses of Roundup developed cancer.

The paper unleashed a storm in environmentally-sensitive Europe, where GM crops face many restrictions.

NK603 has been engineered to make it resistant to agricultural biotechnology company Monsanto's herbicide Roundup. This way, farmers can douse fields with the weedkiller in a single go, offering savings.

Seralini said his experiment was the first to test GM corn on rodents' normal lifespan of two years, as opposed to the standard 90 days. He said NK603 and Roundup both caused tumours, whether they were consumed together or on their own.

But critics faulted the experimental methods and data and accused him of manipulating the media to gain scary headlines.

On Friday, six French science academies joined the accusers, saying that the work "does not enable any reliable conclusion to be drawn" and had "spread fear among the public".

The joint statement, an exceptional event, was issued by the national academies of agriculture, medicine, pharmacy, sciences, technology and veterinary studies.

In a reaction, Monsanto said at its French headquarters in Lyon that "it took note" of the HCB's findings and said the recommended probe "does not change risk assessments" for NK603.

The chair of the HCB's economic and ethics panel, Christine Noiville, said the Seralini study "had led to doubt in the public's mind."

"The aim (of the recommended inquiry) is to reassure public opinion, which doesn't who or what to believe," she told a press conference.

Seralini should take part in the recommended probe, the HCB said.

The European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), which reviews use and authorisation of GM organisms, had already rejected the Seralini report as "inadequate," and watchdogs in Germany and Australia and New Zealand have said it offered no firm evidence of risk.

The French government ordered two fast-track official investigations into the study.

The 66-member HCB was set up in 2009 to provide an independent view of biotech issues. The National Agency for Food Safety (ANSES) was to deliver the second report later Monday.

Seralini is a well-known opponent of GM food. But his paper appeared in journal, Food and Chemical Toxicology, which uses the peer-review process, a system designed to ensure published research is accurate and fair.


Date created : 2012-10-22


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