Largest international study into safety of GM food
A Russian group working with scientists is set to launch what they call the world's largest and most comprehensive long-term health study on a GM food.
The $25m, three-year experiment will involve scientists testing thousands of rats which will be fed differing diets of a Monsanto GM maize and the world's most widely-used herbicide which it it is engineered to be grown with.
The organisers of the Factor GMO study, announced in London in mid-November and due to start fully next year, say it will investigate the long-term health effects of a diet of a GM maize developed by US seed and chemical company Monsanto.
"It will answer the question: is this GM food, and associated pesticide, safe for human health?" said Elena Sharoykina, a campaigner and co-founder of the Russian national association for genetic safety (Nags), the co-ordinator of the experiment.
According to the Nags, the experiment will try to establish whether the GM maize and its associated herbicide cause cancers, reduce fertility or cause birth defects. The scientists also want to know whether the mixture of chemicals present in Roundup (Monsanto's tradename for its glyphosate herbicide) are more or less toxic than its active ingredient glyphosate.
Farmers, governments, scientists and consumers around the world have been involved in an intense debate since GM foods were introduced in 1994. But while there have been many thousands of studies conducted, mostly by GM companies, which show that there is no health risk, government regulators have not required evidence of long-term safety and deep mistrust has built between different "sides".
"We would clearly support well-conducted, hypothesis-driven science. If the science is conducted according to OECD guidelines and shows that there are hazards with a particular event, then the public will understand that," said Prof Huw Jones, senior research scientist at Rothamsted Research, which specialises in agricultural research and is the only research institute in the UK currently carrying out a GM crop trial.
Oxana Sinitsyna, deputy science director at the Sysin research institute of human ecology and environmental health which is part of the Russian ministry of health, one of the three scientists on the Factor GMO study's review board, said: "The scale and format of this research project will allow us to create a really objective and comprehensive data set on the mechanics of the impacts of a GM diet on the health of living organisms over the long term.
"From a scientific point of view the 'Factor GMO' project is highly ambitious, which makes it very interesting, for both the public and for the scientists involved."....