A STUDY into the safety of glyphosate and genetically modified (GM) corn by a controversial French researcher has prompted a war of words among the scientific community.
The study, which found that rats that ate GM corn and water spiked with glyphosate died earlier than those fed a standard diet, has been labelled a stunt by pro-GM scientists.
The French scientist behind the study, Professor Giles-Eric Seralini is already a controversial figure in Australia, following a Greenpeace-sponsored talking tour that was marred by claims his scientific credentials were overstated.
However Scott Kinnear, founder of the Safe Food Foundation, and one of the major lobbyists highlighting the findings of the study, stood by Prof Seralini’s findings and the study’s methodology.
“We have heard the criticism, but we feel these long-term feeding studies are needed to assess safety of products.
“Rather than the 90-day trials, we are calling for a mandatory two year study before products are allowed here.”
Mr Kinnear’s comments came following a string of criticisms of the French study, which reported high occurrences of tumours and liver and kidney failure among rats fed the Roundup Ready corn variety and drank water containing glyphosate.
Biotech giant Monsanto, which owns the Roundup Ready trait in the corn used in the study, said bluntly the study did not meet acceptable standards for research.
The company said there were fundamental issues with the way the study was designed, saying there was a lack of data about key parts of the methodology.
Monsanto also issued a release saying the damage reported could not plausibly be ascribed to GM corn and that there had been extensive research proving glyphosate did not cause tumours over long term, multi-generational studies.
The company also took Prof Seralini to task over referencing OECD testing guidelines, saying he did not comply with these guidelines.
Another critic of the study was WA farmer Bill Crabtree, who said he was astounded the paper was allowed to be published.
“There are no statistics, no confidence limits, no correlations - it really is anti-science and there is no proof,” he said.
Dean of Melbourne University’s School of Land and Environment Professor Rick Roush said the study was more part of a campaign against glyphosate and GM food crops than a work of science.
He alluded to the fact the study was released to anti-GM campaigners before publication, which he said allowed the study to be pushed through to the media before ‘independent’ scientists had a chance to look at it.
He urged consumers to look at the facts on the issue of GM food crops, saying they had not yet caused any reported ill effects to humans yet.
“If the problem was as serious as the paper and media releases claim, after more than a decade of consumption, Americans would be dropping like flies from widespread cancers not seen in Europe, but this has not happened.” Prof Roush said.
He also contended the rats were fed water with a much higher concentration of glyphosate in their water than was allowed.
However, Mr Kinnear said the study adhered to legal residue limits.
Whatever the doubts regarding the science, the study has had a big impact.
The French government has asked its food safety watchdog to investigate the claims further.