A Few Cubans Are Concerned about GMO Health Risks (I)

Isbel Diaz Torres

seralini-rats
Séralini. Rats

HAVANA TIMES — Those of us who first approach the subject of the benefits or disadvantages of Genetically Modified crops, normally ask a very obvious question, are GMOs dangerous to human health?

In a comment made on my last article about this subject, Professor Seralini’s study was mentioned and it is used as an example of the lies that exist in the anti-GM field, aiming to thereby discredit this struggle.

Dr Gilles-Eric Seralini is a professor of molecular biology at Caen University in France and president of the Committee of Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering.

The research I’m referring to is a study that was published over two years ago, with experiments to test the toxicity of Monsanto’s GM maize NK603, and the glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup. This maize was approved for consumption by the European Union over a decade ago, when a speedy investigation which only lasted 3 months was carried out by Monsanto itself.

In 2012, Seralini’s study found that there was severe liver and kidney damage and hormonal imbalances in rats fed GM maize and low levels of Roundup, levels which are below those permitted in drinking water in the EU. Further unexpected discoveries involved the high rates of large tumors and death.

Seralini was criticized for using a strain of rat (Sprague-Dawley) that is supposedly more prone to developing cancers, however it’s true that, just like rats, there are humans who are more prone to developing cancers too. Furthermore, this was the same strain of rat used by Monsanto in its own studies.

Critics of Seralini mistakingly assume that this was a badly designed study “about cancer”; but that wasn’t the case. It was a “chronic toxicity study”, and as such, it was designed and carried out in full order.

On the other hand, Seralini was also criticized for not revealing the raw data of his investigation; however, the fact of the matter is that he was willing to do so, on the condition that Monsanto did the same, but Monsanto wasn’t swayed and refused to reveal its own results.

Seralini’s study was originally published in Food and Chemical Toxicology. However, it was withdrawn in 2013 by the editor-in-chief after an orchestrated campaign of critique and defamation which was carried out by scientists who are committed to developing GMO patents.

What the critics haven’t told us is that this study was later reprinted by the Environmental Sciences Europe magazine, this time with an extra report which dealt with criticisms made about the original publication. Raw data which highlight the study’s findings are also published, while data from Monsanto’s studies still remain a mystery.

Reprinting this study reinstates it as peer-reviewed literature so that it can be consulted and developed by other scientists.

Seralini’s study is the only long-term study of its kind about GM maize NK603 and the Roundup herbicide. This study analyzed the same sample number of rats that industry tests do, but over a longer time period, it measured more effects, more regularly, and allowed us to distinguish between the effects of a GM crop to those of the herbicide used to cultivate it for the first time ever.

The study proved that the industry and regulatory authorities made a mistake when they underestimated the toxic effects which were seen in 3 month studies deeming these effects “not biologically significant.” Indications of toxicity detected in Monsanto’s studies later led to organ damage, cancer and premature death in Seralini’s research.

Nevertheless, if you believe that Seralini’s study did not prove the tested GM crop was dangerous, then you should also acknowledge the fact that the GM industry’s studies do not prove that these are safe.

However, if we are going to seriously question the validity of these studies, we can refer to one carried out by Monsanto on Roundup Ready GM soybeans, published by the Journal of Nutrition (Vol.126, No.3) in 1996. In 2003, this research was scientifically discredited by the Danish investigator Ian F.Pryme in a text he published in the English scientific magazine Nutrition and Health (Vol 17).

Monsanto used old-aged rats in its study, not young ones, which are normally used when looking to see if there are any biological changes to their anatomy. The original essay never gave us any absolute assurance, as it stated: “Studies on these animals’ food intake gives us partial assurance that there are no important biological changes.”

The truth of the matter is, however, that they didn’t examine inside the rats’ livers, only its external appearance. Pryme tried to offically get hold of the study’s original results, but after lots of bureaucratic hurdles, he received “no” for an answer.

And so we must ask, why is that, where we’re at today, we still don’t have any conclusive results about the impact of GM crops on our health? Well, there are several reasons why.

  • Most of the time, studies which are accepted are carried out by none other than GMO producing companies, which implies an obvious conflict of interests (which is happening in Cuba right now).
  • Studies carried out by independent bodies are victim to media, legal and all kinds of campaigns trying to discredit them. Leading scientists have lost their jobs and have been threatened if they publish data that could damage these multinational corporations interests.
  • An example of bad science, GM producing companies offer very little data from their experiments for use in scientific articles and they hide their original test data, so they can’t be tested by independent studies.
  • Corruption and economic interests are a decisive obstacle. Unclassified FDA documents in the US reveal that this same body has ignored reports from its own scientists warning against the fact that GMOs are NOT safe for human consumption.
  • A conflict of interests: CEOs of companies involved in agribusiness form part of State-run regulatory bodies; and vice versa.

Nevertheless, there a large number of studies that prove that GM crops do in fact have toxic effects on farm and lab animals, but we’ll leave that for my next article.


Isbel Diaz

Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.

33 thoughts on “A Few Cubans Are Concerned about GMO Health Risks (I)

  • I got informed about Monsanto after what happen to my Non-GMO. soybean crop.( by the way soybeans are self pollinating) so I would not have believed it or the other people that seen the standing bean plants or tested the beans harvested or saw it for themselves. That is when an organic group from Maine got interested. A U of G researcher told this had happened in field trials years before, He was going to come to my court case but was told if he did ,his job and the dept. funding would be slashed. The answer is to reduce amount of corn and other crops used for fuel and make sure that nobody is in the extreme poverty of that one and many more mothers. Child nutrition is very important . I have seen people come to Canada and see people born in Canada able to out work them (people from India, Mexico) because their bone are weaker and are not as healthy. This was because of poor diet before 8 years of age in most cases.

  • Do you know anything about Cuba, or are you merely using this blog to expatiate about your obvious hobby horse?

  • As you well know, there is insufficient nutrition available to provide for the current world population.

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