AUSTRIAN STUDY FINDS EATING GENETICALLY ENGINEERED CORN MAY REDUCE FERTILITY
Center for Food Safety Calls for Moratorium on Genetically Engineered Foods
Pending Thorough Safety Studies
Vienna, Austria, November 13, 2008 – The Center for Food Safety cited results of an important study released Monday by the Austrian government as cause for great concern over the long-term consumption of genetically engineered crops. The study found that mice fed a type of genetically engineered corn developed by the Monsanto Company produced fewer offspring than those fed conventional corn.
"This meticulous study suggests that a popular type of genetically engineered corn may harbor fertility-reducing substances," said Bill Freese, Science Policy Analyst at the Center for Food Safety and co-author of a peer-reviewed study on GE crop regulation. "It's no surprise to us that U.S. regulators did not catch this. None of our regulatory agencies require any long-term animal feeding trials before allowing genetically engineered crops on the market."
The study was sponsored by the Austrian Ministry of Health, Families, and Youth, and led by Dr. Jürgen Zentek, Professor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Vienna. For 20 weeks, Zentek and his team fed mice diets consisting of either 33% genetically engineered (GE) corn, or 33% of a closely related non-GE variety. The diets were otherwise nutritionally equivalent.
Mice fed the GE corn diet had fewer litters, fewer total offspring, and more females with no offspring, than mice feed the conventional corn. The effects were particularly pronounced in the third and fourth litters, after the mice had consumed the GE corn for a longer period of time. The authors attributed the reduced fertility to the GE corn feed, and said it might be related to unintended effects of the genetic modification process. Dr. Zentek said that further studies are "urgently needed" to corroborate his team's findings.
"This study should serve as a wake-up call to governments around the world that genetically engineered foods could cause long-term health damage," said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety. "The Center calls upon national and international authorities to place a moratorium on the distribution of GE products for human consumption unless or until their safety can be undeniably established."
"We hope this study will finally persuade the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to completely overhaul its 'rubber-stamp' regulatory process," added Freese. "The FDA must stop letting biotech companies self-certify their GE crops as safe, and instead establish strict, mandatory testing requirements, including long-term animal feeding trials, for every GE crop," he added.
The Center notes that the GE corn used in the study (NK603 x MON810) was developed by the Monsanto Company, and is sold under the brand names YieldGard (Plus)/Roundup Ready. Monsanto's figures show that U.S. plantings of this GE corn have exploded in recent years, from just 2.2 million acres in 2002 to 38.2 million acres in 2008. The corn is a so-called "stacked" variety with two traits: the Roundup Ready trait allows the corn to survive direct spraying with Roundup herbicide, while a built-in insecticide kills certain above-ground insect pests.
The Center further notes that U.S. regulators allow biotech companies to cross GE crops at will to develop "stacked" crops with virtually any combination of traits without any regulatory oversight, despite expert warnings that stacked crops may pose special risks.
The Center for Food Safety is national, non-profit, membership organization founded in 1997 to protect human health and the environment by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture. On the web at: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org