Touting GMO Corn Research Critique, Change.org Gets All Up in Monsanto's Face

I'm no scientist, but I do have a little bit of experience dealing with these:


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Yep, questions involving conflicts of interest arise around here on a pretty regular basis...

Well, what do you know? Here's one now!

I have had my share of differences with Monsanto. I don't like the way the company attacked dairy farmers who don't hormone-ize their milk cows, and I don't like the company's aggressive -- make that bullying and sanctimonious -- quest for domination of the world's seed supply.

So you should raise an eyebrow or three when I gas up the ol' Blog-u-lator whilst cogitating upon the St. Louis-based chemical giant.

Nevertheless.

Like I said, I'm no scientist, but I happened upon this headline yesterday via the curiosity aggregator BoingBoing and just had to click on through:


In the short post, the (normally level-headed and irony-enriched) folks at BoingBoing inform us that a group called Change.org has uncovered "[t]he first-ever public study of the health effects of genetically modified corn[, which] shows that three patented crops developed and owned by agriculture giant Monsanto cause liver, kidney and heart damage in mammals. The FDA has approved all three varieties for sale and consumption in the U.S. and all three are in our food supply right now."

​Get out the Ipecac, Momma, I need to puke up these GMO cornflakes!

Click through to the Change.org site and the GMO Terror Level rises to Flashing-Crimson-w/-Air-Raid-Siren:


The post beneath that headline comes complete with a petition -- nearly 2500 signatures so far -- and a lovely graphic. Exhorts Change.org: "The FDA should immediately investigate and at least temporarily rescind approval for all three varieties of corn while research continues. By allowing Monsanto to sell its proprietary but dangerous corn, the FDA is failing to protect the public from needless risk. Tell the FDA to halt the sale of all three crops and re-investigate their health effects immediately."

There's even a link to a petition widget!

Sorry, I could never resist a widget.

But before you go signing the petition, you might want to read the study itself. Or, as in my case, attempt to read it. (For the record, the authors are Joël Spiroux de Vendômois, François Roullier, Dominique Cellier and Gilles-Eric Séralini. The title is "A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health" and that "no conflicts of interest" screenshot I stuck at the top of this post appears about halfway down, just before "References.")

Be forewarned, though, it's not really a study, in the scientific sense of "we fed GMOs to a bunch of rats and their insides got all nasty." It's a study in the sort-of-scientific sense of "we analyzed data from a Monsanto-funded study and we beg to differ with their findings." (There is a backstory here, involving Greenpeace and a court case in Europe that ultimately compelled Monsanto to release data from a study it had commissioned to test the safety of its GM corn -- the very data that's now the subject of this debate.

You might also like to download and decipher this: Monsanto's rebuttal of a previous "study" of the very same data by the very same people.

Read this, too: A statement from FSANZ, a governmental agency (the abbreviation stands for Food Standards Australia New Zealand) that has followed this controversy and come down on Monsanto's side twice. The FSANZ statement contains helpful links and references that chronicle the pissing match between Monsanto and the scientists who challenge the company's findings.


Finally, I might be suffering from the effects of a diet too rich in GMOs, but I have to ask: Why did these French scientists go to all the trouble of ferreting out Monsanto's data? Couldn't they buy their own rats and feed 'em GMOs till the cows came home? [Ha!] It's not like there's any shortage of genetically modified corn. Right?

If any scientists happen to be reading this and want to weigh in, feel free to comment below or shoot me an e-mail (tom.finkel@riverfronttimes.com).

Now what's for lunch? Oooh! Corn-dogs!


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