EFSA to review Monsanto maize concerns

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Maize Genetically modified food Efsa

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has revealed that it will review the new data presented by French scientists that revealed toxicity concerns in rats fed the MON863 variety of GM maize from Monsanto.

The new data, from a 90-day rat study and published in the peer-review journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology​, indicated liver and kidney toxicity in the rats, as well as differences in weight gain between the sexes as a result of eating the transgenic maize. 

Alun Jones, EFSA spokesperson told FoodNavigator.com​ that the authority has not yet had the opportunity to look at the new study in detail but this will be done by their scientific experts before any decisions is made regarding the maize. 

The GMO panel will meet on March 22nd and 23rd to consider and discuss the new study. 

Jones also stated that this was not the first time that EFSA have been requested to look at MON863. Indeed, the authority released a statement in October 2004 following a request by the German authorities following a 13-week rat study that suggested kidney toxicity. 

"Following [the GMO Panel's] investigation of the report, and of the retrospective evaluation of renal tissues and data derived from the 13-week rat feeding study performed by independent peer reviewers, the GMO Panel concludes that there is no evidence presented in the report that changes the conclusions already reached by the GMO Panel earlier this year in its Opinions on the safety of the insect-protected genetically modified maize MON 863 (EFSA 2004a, b),"​ read the October 2004 statement. 

"These opinions state that the results of the rodent toxicity study with MON 863 maize did not indicate concerns about its safety for human and animal consumption." 

The researchers behind the new study, led by Professor Gilles Eric Séralini from the independent CRIIGEN (Committee for Independent Research and Genetic Engineering) based at the University of Caen questioned the methods used by Monsanto to initially show the safety and non-toxicity of the corn, saying that the statistical methods used were insufficient to observed any possible disruptions in biochemistry. 

"Monsanto's analyses do not stand up to rigorous scrutiny - to begin with, their statistical protocols are highly questionable. Worse, the company failed to run a sufficient analysis of the differences in animal weight. Crucial data from urine tests were concealed in the company's own publications,"​ said Séralini during a joint press conference with environmental group Greenpeace in Berlin. 

Monsanto have continued to defend the safety record of their corn. Spokesperson, Lee Quarles, told FoodNavigator.com​: "The important thing to note in all of this is the fact thatthe overwhelming opinion of expert authorities is that MON 863 is safe for human and animal consumption.This includes experts in Europe as theEuropean competent authorities concur that MON 863 YieldGard Rootworm maize is safe for human and animal health and the environment. 

"Please also note thatMON 863 YieldGard Rootworm maize has completed full regulatory review and has been grown commercially in the United States and Canada since 2003. This product has also been approved for import and food use in many countries around the world, including Japan, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Russia and Mexico,"​ he added. 

MON863 is a transgenic maize genetically modified to express the Bt-toxin (Cry3Bb1) which enables the plant to be insect repellent against the corn rootworm pest. It is different from other GM corns of the market since these express the Cry1Ab toxin which is toxic to the European corn borer. 

It received European approval for use in animal feed in 2005 and for human consumption in 2006.

Related topics Regulation Europe Safety Grains

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