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Genetically Modified Corn Causes Blood, Kidney Abnormalities In Rats
(Beyond Pesticides, May 27, 2004) Rats fed with genetically modified (GM) corn exhibit health problems including kidney abnormalities and blood changes that could indicate larger health concerns, according to secret research by Monsanto, the details of which were leaked by The Independent (UK) earlier this week. The confidential 1,139-page report shows that rats fed MON 863, a variety of corn currently grown and sold in the US, had shrunken kidneys and variations in the composition of their blood. MON 683 has been genetically engineered to be resistant to corn rootworm by Monsanto, the world's largest producer of genetically modified corn, soybeans, and canola.

The disclosure of the Monsanto report has raised concern over whether the GM corn is safe for humans to eat without further research. Doctors said that the changes in the blood of the rodents could be indicative of larger health problems, such as damage to the rats’ immune systems or a disorder that the immune system was fighting, such as a tumor. Dr Vyvyan Howard, a senior lecturer on human anatomy and cell biology at Liverpool University, called for the publication of the full study, saying the summary gave "prima facie cause for concern." Yet Monsanto refuses to release the full report on the grounds that "it contains confidential business information which could be of commercial use to our competitors." The full details of the research that are included in the report are as yet unknown.

The Independent also revealed that these health problems are absent from another batch of rodents fed non-GM food as part of the research project, demonstrating a great deal of variation in the results. Dr Michael Antoniu, an expert in molecular genetics at Guy's Hospital Medical School, described the findings as "very worrying from a medical point of view," adding: "I have been amazed at the number of significant differences they found [in the rat experiment]." Monsanto, on the other hand, dismissed the abnormalities as meaningless and due to chance. British officials are reportedly taking the report very seriously.

This is not the first time GMO foods have been shown to impact the health of rats. A highly publicized UK study in 1998 on rats fed GM potatoes shows similar health problems. That research, which was denounced by ministers and the British scientific establishment, was halted and Dr. Arpad Pusztai, the scientist behind the controversial findings, was forced into retirement amid a backlash by the biotech industry (see Daily News). Dr. Pusztai commented on the recent study, saying a "huge list of significant differences" between rats fed GM and conventional corn strongly indicates that eating significant amounts of it can damage health.

The disclosures come as European countries, including Britain, prepare to vote on whether the GM corn should go on sale to the public. "This news couldn't have come at worse time for Monsanto, which is already facing European Union consumer rejection of its products, due to concerns over the health and environmental hazards of GMOs," says Ronnie Cummins, executive director of the Organic Consumers Association in a press release Wednesday. "European labeling laws require GMO ingredients to be listed, making it easy to avoid them, but American consumers are unwitting guinea pigs, since no such labeling is required. The only way to be sure you are not eating GMO ingredients is to buy certified organic products."

TAKE ACTION: While European countries require foods with genetically modified (GM) ingredients to be clearly labeled, the United States has no labeling laws, even though around 75 percent of processed foods in the U.S. contain some GM ingredients. To protect yourself and your family, eat organic when possible. American consumers have a right to choose for themselves what kind of food they eat, and the U.S. government is acting irresponsibly by denying that knowledge and that choice. Take two minutes to take action on this issue by sending an online letter: go to The Center for Food Safety's website to automatically send a pre-written letter to the FDA demanding thorough safety testing and mandatory labeling of GMOs.