Super-maize with super problems

April 2019

In 2018, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) GMO panel gave a positive opinion on a new five-event stacked GM maize for food and feed use in the EU.

By breeding together five existing GM variants, the biotech industry has produced a maize which generates three Bt toxins to kill moths plus three Bt toxins to kill beetles, and which can be sprayed with extra glyphosate and extra glufosinate herbicides due to a doubling of the genes conferring tolerance to both.

It seems the GMO Panel considers unexplained agronomic changes* in the GM crop to be outside its remit, even if these could indicate the presence of elements harmful to human health.

* Note. The five-stack GM maize plants had altered growth, stalk strength and grain quality. When sprayed with herbicides, they had altered rates of reproductive development.

Similarly, the possibility of the GM crop, with its huge extra burden of Bt toxins and herbicides, negatively affecting its environment is deemed beyond the Panel's horizon, even if there could be knock-on impacts on humans.

Also, residues of the herbicides, their derivatives, and co-factors in the applied spray formulations (some banned for use in the EU but widely used elsewhere) are not part of the GM food safety consideration.

The Panel was happy to accept a novel food with significant compositional differences in some 75% of constituents analysed (including three additional unexplained changes after herbicide treatment). It seemed equally happy to ignore the allergenic potential of all those Bt toxins interacting with each other or reacting to adjuvant effects from the increased applications of herbicide formulations.

Combinatorial effects of all those novel toxins on gut microbial complement (the gut microbiome) do not seem to have fallen within the risk assessment either.

Lets be clear what we're dealing with here:
  • All five parent-plants of the super-maize have been forced into producing unnatural proteins. This will interfere with the healthy, balanced and resilient functioning of its whole interacting gene/protein network, and could generate unexpected biologically active substances [1]. 
  • The process used to create each of the five parent GM plants involves culturing the plant cells in an artificial nutrient medium, attacking them with a DNA-carrying vector, and the insertion of novel DNA. All of these are known to cause mutations in the cells' DNA which could generate unexpected biologically active substances. 
  • Breeding the GM events (plus their companion mutations) into a new genetic background can alter the expression of the novel genes and change the effects of all the novel mutations, which could generate unexpected biologically active substances. 
  • Environmental stressors, including weather, pests, diseases, agrichemical applications, and toxins, can alter the expression of the novel genes and alter the effects of the novel mutations, which could generate unexpected biologically active substances.


Testbiotech has pointed out that suitable methodology to assess combinatorial effects in novel food and feed products is available and widely used. For example, chronic feeding or multigenerational studies using standard laboratory rodents are well established.

The biotech industry seems to be applying its energies to 'proving' GM feeding studies are pointless [2], while regulators are sleepwalking into GM mine-fields with an awful lot of unplanned biologically-active substances.

It’s time to alert your government about the sheer depth of the GM problem.

[2] GM WITH A TwYST - April 2019


  • Andreas Bauer-Panskus & Christoph Then, Testbiotech comment on 'Scientific Opinion on application EFSA-GMO-BE-2013-118, 2.01.18

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