Rats fed GM corn die young (with tumors and organ damage)

Researchers in France fed rats a lifetime diet of Monsanto’s GM corn (NK603, to be specific), and found that 50% of the males and 70% of the females died prematurely (compared with 30% of the males and 20% of the females in the control group).  They suffered from mammary tumors, also severe liver and kidney damage (this is in stark contrast to the carefree life portrayed by French rats in Ratatouille).

What’s most interesting here, to me at least, is the implications.  Specifically…NK603 is a type of corn that’s tolerant to the pesticide Roundup…it wasn’t stated specifically, but I’m assuming that when growing NK603, they did so by using Roundup as intended.  Thus these deaths are not necessarily due to the genetic modification of the corn plant, but rather the pesticides that that modification allowed the use of.  In the end, perhaps it doesn’t matter, the result is dead rats…but I worry that a GM crop could be shown to be perfectly safe by itself, but use of that will result in secondary factors that lead to problems down the line.

I’m also disturbed by the article’s statement that GM crops are approved based upon a 90 day feeding trial.  As this study showed, there are lifetime impacts that need to be properly quantified…a mere 90 day test may be insufficient to expose long-term health impacts.

NK603 was approved for food use in the US in 2000.

You can read the full article at Reuters.

Drought-tolerant corn

The drought hitting much of the US is highlighting why genetically modified crops (or GMO, as they’re commonly referred to) are something that’s hard to avoid in our future.  As corn fields wither and die under the drought conditions, some drought-tolerance corn is doing OK, and while that particular strain is not GMO (next year should be the first production crops of GMO corn that has been engineered to be drought-tolerant), this does help show the promise of GMO in agriculture.  Instead of fields of dying corn and rising food prices, we could have just another normal, un-news-worthy year.

I still fear our current system of using humans as guinea pigs testing the safety of GMO crops, but I believe that if properly managed and scientifically tested for safety, GMO crops could go a long ways towards feeding a growing population on a planet with a changing, more extreme climate.  Frankly, I don’t see another choice.

(via TechnologyReview)

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