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LE MONDE (France)

Worldcrunch

PARIS - Genetically modified corn from Monsanto, touted as safe for human consumption, has been shown to cause breast tumors in female rats and kidney and liver disease in male rats, a new study shows.

NK603 corn was originally engineered by Monsanto, a worldwide agricultural conglomerate, to be resistant to the herbicide RoundUp, which is used to keep weeds out of cornfields. However, biologist Gilles-Eric Séralini of the University of Caen, in northwestern France, is publishing a study in the next issue of Food and Chemical Toxicology, an important peer-reviewed journal in the field, suggesting that the corn has harmful effects on rats, whose genetic makeup largely resembles that of humans.

According to Le Monde, the study was “particularly ambitious,” testing more than 200 rats, divided into four groups, for more than two years. One group of rats received the genetically modified corn alone; one group got the modified corn treated with Roundup; one group got just Roundup; and a control group was fed with corn close in type to NK603, but not genetically modified or treated with herbicide.

Interestingly, the deleterious effects showed up in the rats fed with the genetically modified corn whether or not they were exposed to RoundUp. In the control group, before the average life expectancy was reached, only 30 % of male and 20 % of female rats had died. But up to 50% of the males and 70 % of females in the control group died before reaching the same age.

The authors of the study note that the apparent toxic effects of the genetically modified corn were not proportional to the amount of corn eaten, but instead suggest that some substance was interfering with the rats hormonal systems. Mr Séralini, whose study was partly funded by the French government’s research ministry and by an anti-GMO organization, told Le Monde that he is prepared to turn over all raw data from the study to any researcher who asks.

A few dozen protestors at Nimes, in the south of France, demonstrated in front of the gates of Monsanto’s headquarters, demanding to be allowed to inspect activities there. The company’s management refused, saying that in any case GMO experiments are illegal in France and that none took place at the facility.

The French government has asked a health watchdog to investigate the matter further.

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