Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Distracted by a Rat and Disputed GMO Corn Study

All week I’ve been distracted by this picture of a rat with an obscene tumor. It’s been sitting on my desk freaking me out on an hourly basis. The rat in question was part of a French study of GMO round-up ready corn. I’ve written about my own concerns about GMO corn before. In case you aren’t aware (and you wouldn’t be because the USDA refuses to require labeling) about 90% of the corn in the US is GMO corn, and most of it is grown from Monsanto’s Round Up Ready GMO seed. And that corn is all over your grocery store, vending machines, restaurants, and school cafeterias.

The study has gotten an awful lot of official people, agencies, and lobbyists in a tizzy. They are busy pointing out all the errors in the methodology of the study. If you read a few of their postings on line, you will soon be thoroughly confused and certain that the study has nothing to do with GMO corn, rats, or cancer. They’ll have your head spinning so fast you’ll begin to doubt global warming, gravity, and whether you put your socks on this morning.

In honor of this poor mouse who is still gazing my way as I write, let me break it down for you.

This study followed 200 rats over a period of 2 years (the average life span of this species). Among the rats receiving GM corn and/or Roundup in their feed, up to 50% of males and 70% of females suffered “severe adverse health effects, including mammary tumors and kidney and liver damage, leading to premature death.” compared with only 30% and 20% in the control group.

The critics would contest that this particular breed of rat was already predisposed to tumors. Fair enough. But why then didn’t all the rats develop the same issues at the same rate? There was more fussing about the number of rats in each group and the amount of GMO feed and/or traces of Round Up fed to the rats. This seems like a bit of smoke and mirrors.

Not being a scientist, I can’t speak to these errors. But as a relatively intelligent, college-educated person I can say that from the evidence presented something is horribly wrong here. The mice in the control group did not develop tumors or die prematurely of liver and kidney diseases at the same rate as the mice who ate Roundup Ready GMO corn. That’s the bottom line.

If you’re a complete skeptic, the least you can say is further study is called for as to the chronic effects of eating GM corn and/or Roundup. Industry funded studies have not gone past 90 days so they can only attest to the acute effect of GMO corn and Round Up. The authors sited that none of the health issues began until after 90 days.

This is the first study to last longer than 90 days, unless you count the current long-term study being done on the American people who are fed a steady diet of GMO corn with or without traces of Round Up. Oh wait, the American Cancer Society has been doing that. In 2012 there were 1.7 million new cancer diagnoses, compared to 2005 when there were 1.4 million cases. But hey, we’re only talking about a third of a million people here.

The evidence about the dangers of GMO food is piling up. And yet the government does nothing except tamp down any studies that might raise the public awareness of this danger. And how could you blame them. Consider what would happen if the entire population suddenly refused to eat GM food and demanded non-GMO products. We’d have a serious food crisis on our hands as Monsanto’s monopoly on the food industry is stronger every day.

So what is to be done? We need to make it a legal requirement to label all food containing GMO ingredients as such. If the public was given a choice, the market would begin to force producers to grow more non-GMO corn and other crops. In Europe where foods containing artificial food-dyes are required to be labeled with the warning, “contains artificial food dyes which may have an adverse effect on the attention and activity in children”, producers have begun using natural food dyes instead. It irks me to no-end that our country can’t do the same. But I suppose as long as our Congress is held hostage to lobbyists, that won’t happen.

Demanding labeling will cost our government a fraction of the cost of health issues brought about by a population consuming GMO corn at greater and greater rates. In fact, it could bring down the cost of health care if it reduced the number of new cancer cases. For all our pharmaceutical research in to fighting a disease, we are losing that battle. Perhaps we should begin fighting the cause instead of focusing only a cure.


  1. Well done. And if you don't mind, a couple of points I might add.

    The official 90 day study by industry-backed institutions is awfully convenient considering the effects on the rats didn't start to show until after the 90 days of exposure. Hmmm, has me thinking the industry knows the effects on rats exposed for longer periods of time. Not to go all conspiratorial on your wonderful post, but, I'm "just sayin'" as they say.

    The other point: Given the possibility the industry does know the harmful effects, won't that be setting themselves up for one whopper of a law suit? And if that turns out to be the case, once again, it will be a shame it has to come down to so many people suffering and dying before real action is taken. But that's how the game seems to be played here in the capitalist, greed-driven go ol' US of A for some - make your money and run.

    Any lawyers out there looking in to this? One has to wonder.

    1. Excellent point you raise. Perhaps some industrious lawyer will capitalize on this tragedy and stand up for all of us. I absolutely agree that the government is well aware of the danger here, but turning a profitable blind eye.