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Long-Term Roundup and GMO Study Renews Concerns

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I thought food was just food, whether it came straight from the farm or via the convenience of the frozen food section at the grocery store.  Mom set the table at our farmhouse with both hearty, cooked-from-scratch meat and potatoes meals — and with the occasional frozen pizza after a long day of chores.I thought pesticides were just tools that you needed on any farm, or around any house and garden.  I was pretty young when I started helping with the tasks of spraying weeds or sprinkling powders to keep away certain insects.  I usually wore gloves when I helped spread the weed-killer, but nothing over my face.

I can’t help thinking about Mom when I see elderly women in my neighborhood now with that container of popular weed killer and its conveniently attached spray nozzle.  They’re going about the task of tidying up their typically well-kept lawns. Occasionally, they’ll wear gloves.

The latest scientific study to spark debate now that it’s been peer reviewed and published is renewing health concerns about tiny doses of Roundup, the world’s best-selling herbicide, in our drinking water. Study author Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini, noted that when his study found tumors in rats, they occurred at very low levels of pesticides, “These are levels that are usually in water, in food and feed,” he explained to reporters.

Most headlines from Seralini’s study noted findings that renew safety questions about genetically modified or transgenic foods, those altered in a laboratory to have special traits like being resistant to dousings of Roundup. “The results were really alarming,” expressed Seralini, a professor of molecular biology at Caen University in France. The two-year-long study found mammary tumors, kidney and liver damage and other serious illnesses in rats fed GM corn. Seralini claims it’s significant that test subjects started developing tumors at around four months after the study began, while most industry studies defending GM safety only run 90 days. The researcher patiently tried explaining to reporters listening around the world that it’s the long-term, low-doses of substances that can be most troubling as they tinker with a body’s endocrine system.

The study grabbed headlines after being peer reviewed and published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology. Seralini has a reputation for doing anti-GMO research. It’s no coincidence that the study is being touted by the Sustainable Food Trust, a supporter of California’s Right to Know Prop 37 initiative over labeling GMOs in consumer foods.  The study was supported by the Committee of Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering. When I reached out to a Monsanto spokesperson for a response, the reply included links to two articles critical of Seralini’s work.

Per Monsanto spokesman Thomas Helscher on September 19:  “We have been made aware of this study through the European media today.  We will review it thoroughly, as we do all studies that relate to our products and technologies. Numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies performed on biotech crops to date, including more than a hundred feeding studies, have continuously confirmed their safety, as reflected in the respective safety assessments by regulatory authorities around the world.  In the past, similar claims made by the same individual were systematically refuted by peer-reviewed scientific papers as well as by the European Food Safety Authority – see EFSA’s press release for more info:  Also, I just saw this which I thought you may find of interest. ”

Yes on Proposition 37 California Right to Know Campaign Manager Gary Ruskin released this statement in response to the newest GMO study:

“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. 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.  The right to know is fundamental, and that’s why 50 countries around the world have already enacted labeling requirements for genetically altered food.”

As the farm kid who once trotted off to journalism school, I’ve felt compelled to include the remarks from the makers of Roundup and the holders of the patents on foods like GM corn that many believe are helping feed the world.

As the young adult who lost her mother to cancer and then realized how many more people are suffering poor health in the heartland, I’m confounded that such a high-minded ideal like feeding the world has raised such serious health concerns.

As a mother now to my own children, I don’t pretend to have all the answers.  But I hear enough reason for concern to take precautions.  I question why the US government doesn’t require long-term, peer reviewed safety studies of chemicals and laboratory-altered foods before they can get into my children’s vulnerable bodies.  I’ll even go so far as to support California’s Prop 37; not because I oppose agriculture, but because I should have the right to make informed choices about whether my children eat GMOs.

And I thought food was just food.

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