Damning review of the approval of Roundup herbicide

December 2012

Just before the safety of Roundup herbicide jumped into the spotlight (see GM MAIZE NOT SAFE TO EAT - News, October 2012), a review was published which explains how this damaging formulation found its way into our food chain.

The review focused on “Teratogenic Effects of Glyphosate-Based Herbicides: Divergence of Regulatory Decisions from Scientific Evidence” ('Roundup' is the most common commercial formulation of these glyphosate-based herbicides), and the lead author was medical toxicologist, Michael Antoniou.

Bending the truth about cancer

December 2012

The obvious panic in pro-GM circles caused by the publication of Professor Séralini's life-long feeding study on 'NK603' GM maize and its associated herbicide, 'Roundup', stems largely from its unexpected findings of cancer. (A selection of our articles on this is listed below.)

Cancer is a very sensitive issue. Cancer Research UK gives some very unpleasant statistics on the subject. In 1975, when the chemical-laden 'green' revolution of our food was well underway, our risk of cancer was already 25%. By 2003, our risk of cancer had risen to 38%. That means two in every five of the people around you will suffer cancer during their lifetime. In most cases, however, you won't know which ones until they're over 60.

Séralini's study was widely criticised for its poor scientific design because it was based on only 10 rats per test group while the established protocol for carcinogen studies demands 50 animals. The findings were also declared invalid because the rat strain used has a known tendency of to develop cancers in old age. Indeed, the control animals, fed on conventional maize and no Roundup, did suffer cancers at the usual rate and at the usual time.

Biology-free assessment

December 2012

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was created in 2002 in the aftermath of the mad-cow disease crisis. It is responsible for the risk assessment of food and feed in the EU, including GM.

EU regulations on GMOs, which the Authority is tasked with implementing, set high standards of safety for the environment and consumers, based on the precautionary principle. It is stated by the EU that
“... genetically modified food and feed should only be authorised for placing on the Community market after a scientific evaluation of the highest possible standard, to be undertaken under the responsibility of the European Food Safety Authority, of any risks which they present for human and animal health and, as the case may be, for the environment ...”
It was this science-oriented remit which led the EFSA executive director, Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle to declare that the Authority had “brought science to centre stage in food policy-making” (see TRANSPARENCY IS A FINE WORD - December 2012).

In 2003, the EFSA created its own department for biotechnology, including a GMO panel.

A fairy tale for Christmas

December 2012

It seems a wicked witch has been plying the Environment Minister in Westminster, Owen Paterson, with a rosy-red GM apple.

The UK government has been engaging in a pre-Christmas high-pressure media campaign pushing its wish-list of fantasy GM crops which will be good for the environment, increase yields, prevent crop disease, reduce pesticide use ... and anyway public hostility to GM is waning ... (yes, you've heard it all before, and it remains as untrue, as unproven, and as misleadingly presented today as it ever was).

The biggest wish that the fairy godmother has failed to deliver is the claim that concerns about the health effects of GM foods are “misplaced”, “a complete nonsense”, and that those voicing the concern about GM “poisons in foods” are “humbugs”.

In Scotland, we have our very own government GM-propagandist in the form of Tory MSP, Murdo Fraser, who is faithfully repeating all the same fantasies (surprise, surprise) including “there is no more risk in eating GM food than eating conventionally farmed food”.

However, in light of the results of Professor Séralini's long-term feeding study (see GM MAIZE IS NOT SAFE TO EAT- October 2012) claims of 'misplaced concern' and 'no risk' sound very hollow. The indications of endocrine disruption, cancer, and liver and kidney disease from eating Roundup Ready GM maize and the Roundup herbicide it accumulates sound like very serious health risks indeed.

Since the Tories in government are clearly too busy reciting the fairy stories prepared for them by the biotech industry to have time to read the science, here is a perfect opportunity for YOU to tell everyone about Professor Séralini's study:
  • Complain to your MP and MSP about the industry misinformation being spread by government, and mention Séralini's study as clear evidence of risk. Your can do this through
  • If you see any article in the press or hear any item on the air which repeats the industry misinformation being spread by government, drop the editor a short note and mention Séralini's study as clear scientific grounds for concern.
The reference to quote is: Gilles-Eric Séralini et al., 2012, Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize, Food and Chemical Toxicology, on-line August 2012

Perhaps if Mr. Paterson and Mr. Fraser want to live happily ever after, they should seek better advice in future or choose their friends more carefully.

  • A GM fairy-tale for Christmas, GM-Free Cymru Press Notice 11.12.12
  • Kirsteen Paterson, Tory claims GM crop field trials ban is 'holding back science', Metro12.12.12
  • GM health fears 'complete nonsense', says Owen Paterson, Guardian, 10.12.12
  • Robert Winnett and James Kirkup, Food minister Owen Paterson backs GM crops, Telegraph, 9.12.12
  • Christopher Hope, Speed up roll-out of GM crops, says Downing Street, Telegraph, 10.12.12

War over unsafe GM maize

December 2012

The publication of a unique, long-term GM feeding experiment was clearly a worst-nightmare come true for the biotech industry.  It revealed multiple evidence of harm not only from eating a GM maize and but also from drinking the herbicide that the maize was transformed to accumulate (see GM MAIZE IS NOT SAFE TO EAT - October 2012).

This was bad enough, but the things that caused the real panic in biotech circles were the indications that both test materials (GM maize NK603 and Roundup herbicide) promoted cancer and disrupted endocrine function.

What happened next was that a scientific civil war broke out.  As the study's lead scientist, Gilles-Eric Séralini, put it, on one side are supporters of biotech "science" and on the other side supporters of the science which he practices which is “not made to feed the insatiable ogre of finance but to protect the human beings of today and tomorrow”.

What are Séralini's grounds for this disparaging statement about his fellow-scientists?

Transparency is a fine word

December 2012
Europe's food safety watch-dog, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), celebrated its 10th anniversary in November 2012.

The occasion was marked at a conference in its Parma headquarters during which the creation of the Authority was described as a “defining moment” in which food safety in the EU “turned firmly towards science” and “brought science to centre stage in food policy-making”. Executive director, Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle described a number of “success stories” which highlighted the EFSA's ten years of “transparency, independence and scientific excellence”.

Meanwhile, outside the conference venue, farmers, NGOs, students and local activists were staging a demonstration. They were calling for fundamental reforms of the EFSA and EU law, in particular to:
1. prevent conflicts of interest
2. ensure substances are tested independently and not by the industry itself
3. establish a code of scientific practice
4. improve transparency and accountability
5. ensure wider participation.

Fish oil without the fish doesn't work

December 2012

Fish oil capsules (tran, trankapsler)
Fish oil capsules. Photo by jcoterhals on Flickr.
Scientists in Cambridge have found scientific support for what many would consider common-sense.

After reviewing 38 studies involving 800,000 people in 15 countries, they confirmed that a diet rich in fish consistently had a protective effect against stroke. Previously such findings have been attributed to the high omega-3 fatty acids in fish oils, and a huge industry has sprung up selling fish-oil capsules to health-conscious people. However, the scientists further concluded that taking such supplements made no difference in preventing strokes.