Study suggests Monsanto corn toxic


Richard Moore

Original source URL:,1-0@2-3244,36-882385@51-852781,0.html

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    Strong Suspicions of Toxicity in One GMO Corn
    By Stèphane Foucart
    Le Monde
    Tuesday 13 March 2007

Allowed to go on the market in France and Europe, MON 863, a transgenic corn 
invented by Monsanto, has been at the center of a controversy over its 
innocuousness for over two years (April 23rd, 2004, Le Monde). These debates 
could resume after the March 13th publication in "Archives of Environmental 
Contamination and Toxicology" of a study suggesting this genetically modified 
organism (GMO) is toxic to the liver and kidneys.

According to this work, consumption of MON 863 corn disturbs numerous biological
parameters in rats to a greater or lesser extent: weight of the kidneys, weight 
of the liver, the level of reticulocytes (new red blood cells), the level of 
triglycerides, etc. Urinary chemistry is also changed, with reductions in 
excreted sodium and phosphorus going as high as 35 percent. The effects vary 
with the sex of the animals. "Female rats exhibit an increase in blood fat and 
sugar levels, and an increase in body weight - all associated with greater 
hepatic sensitivity," says Mr. Sèralini, principal author of this study and, 
moreover, president of the Research Committee for Independent Research and 
Information on Genetic Engineering (Criigen). "Among males, the impact is 
opposite, with a drop in body and kidney weights."

The authors of this work used data drawn from an experiment sponsored by 
Monsanto, which bore on the study of 400 rats for 90 days. The statistical 
treatment applied to these data by the experts of the agrochemical firm was 
published in August 2005, by "Food and Chemical Toxicology." That work brought 
to light significant variations in biological parameters between animals fed MON
863 and those fed with its isogene - the same plant variety without the genetic 

Monsanto researchers, for their part, had concluded that those disparities were 
within the frame of the natural variability of the measured parameters. The 
effects produced by the GMO were therefore not considered pathological. As for 
the "natural variability," it had been established by measuring the same series 
of data on rats fed with other varieties of non-GMO corn, with different 
nutritional values from MON 863 and its isogene.

The raw experimental data - over a thousand pages - were kept confidential by 
the agrochemical firm until Greenpeace obtained an order for its publication in 
spring 2005 from the Appeals Court of Munster (Germany).

Criigen was thus able to examine the data in detail and to apply a new 
statistical treatment to them. According to Mr. Sèralini, that, notably, 
consisted of extracting from the raw data the most significant effects 
specifically imputable to GMO absorption.

"Of the 58 parameters measured by Monsanto," the researcher details, "all those 
that were altered concern kidney or liver functioning." He continued, 
"furthermore, Monsanto had deemed that, because the males and the females 
responded differently, there was no reason for worry." He added, "Yet, the 
liver, for example, is an organ that reacts differently as a function of sex." 
In the same way, the fact that the measured biological response was not always 
in exact correlation with the dose of GMO received was interpreted by the 
company's experts as proof that the transgenic corn being tested was not the 
cause. Mr. Sèralini contests that principle: "When the disturbances are 
hormonal, for example, the impact may not be proportional to the dose."

Toxicologist Gèrard Pascal, a member, like Mr. Sèralini, of the Committee on 
Bio-molecular Engineering, deems certain that Criigen's conclusions are 
erroneous. "I reject the analysis of the animals' weight curves, conducted 
without taking their feeding into account," says Mr. Pascal. "But I agree that 
the biological responses may vary between males and females and with the 
principle that the effects of a GMO corn must be compared with its isogene only 
and not take into account effects produced by other corn varieties."

According to Mr. Pascal, the lack of direct correlation between the GMO doses 
received and the impacts observed on the hepatic parameters disqualifies the 
conclusions about liver toxicity. Significant differences with respect to 
"kidney weight" and "urinary sodium, phosphorus, and potassium" suggest a renal 
impact. "However," Mr. Pascal recalls, "at my request, the CGB pressed for 
investigations of the kidneys and had not found any definitive evidence of 
toxicity" (December 15th, 2004, Le Monde). "The variations in the levels of 
reticulocytes and eosinophiles (white blood cells) remain," adds M. Pascal. "I 
don't know how to interpret that, but those are parameters that move around a 
lot in experiments." As far as Mr. Pascal is concerned, the information 
developed by Criigen is not of a nature to call into question the favorable 
opinions delivered with respect to MON 863. "All that is nothing but a personal 
interpretation," adds the toxicologist.

Criigen's work has been financed by Carrefour and Greenpeace, but, as Mr. 
Sèralini explains, "Unfortunately, today there is no public budget for 
conducting this type of research." A situation all the more harmful, according 
to Mr. Sèralini, in that, "the whole toxicological study ought to be redone, 
controlling for hormonal dosages" and, above all, the tests should be continued 
well beyond 90 days and on species other than the rat to reach a definitive 

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