K. Mennem 7:17 p.m., June 17
French report on bioengineered foods likely to affect Prop 37 debate
Proposition 37 proponents got a boost from a group of French scientists this morning, who released a new study finding serious health problems with rats fed a lifetime diet of Monsanto’s genetically-modified corn and water with levels of the company’s Roundup equal to those permissible in the water supply in the United States.
The study is the first of its kind to follow the animals through an entire life cycle, during which 50 percent of males and 70 percent of females died prematurely, as compared to 30 percent and 20 percent in a control group, respectively.
“The results of this study are worrying. They underscore the importance of giving California families the right to know whether our food is genetically engineered, and to decide for ourselves whether we want to gamble with our health by eating GMO foods that have not been adequately studied and have not been proven safe,” said Gary Ruskin of the Yes on 37 campaign in response to the study. “By requiring simple labels on genetically engineered foods, Proposition 37 gives Californians the ability to choose whether to expose ourselves and our families to any potential health risks.”
Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen headed the team of researchers, and says his study is more comprehensive and should be given greater weight than the 90-day studies that are typically used when approving genetically modified crops, as this marks only the beginning of early adulthood in a rat’s life cycle.
Opponents of the measure, which would require food producers that knowingly use genetically altered crops to label their products as such, point out that Seralini was already on record as a critic of the lab-engineered crop industry prior to publishing the study, which may lead some to be wary of the claimed results.
"[A]fter just a cursory review, unbiased scientists have called into question the study’s controls, its data, and its findings. Additional problems will likely be found as they have time to comb through it more carefully. This is not the first time this researcher’s biased work has been thoroughly debunked by respected scientists," says Kathy Fairbanks from the No on 37 Coalition.
The No on 37 website repeatedly refers to products containing genetically modified ingredients as “perfectly safe,” and cites the American Medical Association as an opponent to mandatory disclosure of bioengineered food. The source material for the claim, however, is an article blocked by a pay wall, and little context can be gleaned from the preview of the article available to the public.
The AMA’s official report on genetically modified food, though, verifies the key assertion by the No campaign that labeling is not scientifically necessary.
“Despite strong consumer interest in mandatory labeling of bioengineered foods, the FDA’s science-based labeling policies do not support special labeling without evidence of material differences between bioengineered foods and their traditional counterparts,” the report’s conclusion states. “To better characterize the potential harms of bioengineered foods, the Council believes that pre-market safety assessment should shift from a voluntary notification process to a mandatory requirement.”