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GM soy linked to birth defects, cancer: new study

06 October 2010

Wednesday, 6 October, 2010: Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup used on genetically manipulated (GM) Roundup Ready crops is linked to human cell death, birth defects, cancer and miscarriages, says a report released at the European Parliament by an international group of scientists. The report comes at a crucial time for Australia, where a popular infant soy formula has tested positive to unlabelled GM soy and corn, and Roundup Ready canola and cotton are grown.

The report, “GM Soy: Sustainable? Responsible?”, highlights new research by Argentine government scientist Professor Andrés Carrasco and an international coalition of scientists. They found serious health impacts from Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, other chemicals in the formulated herbicide and its breakdown products. The report also provides a global overview of scientific papers and other documents on the impacts of GM soy production. The new research is published in the American Chemical Society journal ‘Chemical Research in Toxicology’.

GM Roundup Ready (RR) soy is now more than 90% of soy grown in North American and Argentina, and is also widely spread in Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Bolivia. Monsanto’s own data shows Roundup herbicide sales have skyrocketed since GM RR crops were first planted in the USA in 1996[i]. The amount of toxic herbicide now used on soy has public health implications.

At the European Parliament in Brussels where the report was presented[ii], Prof Carrasco said childhood cancer had increased by 300% and babies with birth defects by 400% during the past decade in parts of Argentina. GM RR soy is grown there to supply European and Australian farmers with cheap GM animal feed: “I suspect the toxicity classification of glyphosate is too low...  in some cases this can be a powerful poison,” he said.

The report also refers to studies that found: the uterus and ovaries of female rats fed GM RR soy showed changes; rabbits’ kidney and heart enzyme functions were disturbed. An intergenerational study of hamsters fed GM soy found slower growth rates and higher mortality among pups, and widespread infertility in the third generation[iii].

Bob Phelps, Executive Director of GM-free Australian advocacy group Gene Ethics, says the Australian response to genetically manipulated ingredients in baby formula is grossly inadequate. “Every test for GM contamination of S-26 formula has been positive for GM contamination. Yet our food regulator FSANZ refuses to mandate a recall, while Coles and Woolworths refuse to remove S-26 from their shelves.

“This routine contamination requires GM labelling under the law. If FSANZ won’t act on this false and misleading failure to label GM ingredients, then the ACCC should intervene,” he says.

“The Gillard Government must support independent Senator Nick Xenophon and Greens Senator Rachel Siewert who both want to fix up our food labelling laws. Labels must enable parents to choose baby formulas that that are not GM polluted. We call for the Government to ensure the assessment criteria of all novel foods, including GM, are amended and to remove the loopholes in Standard 1.5 that exempt most GM and other novel food products from any requirement to be labelled as such,” he concludes.

 

Further information or interviews:

Bob Phelps, Gene Ethics Executive Director: (03) 9347 4500

Notes to Editors:

1.      Peer-reviewed scientific paper by Prof. Andrés Carrasco et al on Roundup link to birth defects: www.gmo-free-regions.org/fileadmin/files/gmo-free-regions/GMO-Free_Europe_2010/Carrasco_ChemResToxAug2010.pdf

2.      Report: GM soy: Sustainable? Responsible? Key points: http://www.geneethics.org/resource/download/148

3.      Report: GM soy: Sustainable? Responsible? Full text: http://www.geneethics.org/resource/download/149

4.      Prof Carrasco is the Director of the University of Buenos Aires Medical School Laboratory of Molecular Embryology and lead researcher at Argentina’s National Council of Scientific and Technical Research.

5.      The new research, “Glyphosate-based herbicides produce teratogenic effects on vertebrates by impairing retinoic acid signalling”, is published in Chemical Research in Toxicology, 9 August 2010: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/tx1001749.

 Background on infant formula contamination in Australia:

The contaminated baby formula story was broken by Channel 7’s Sunday Night on 26 September http://au.tv.yahoo.com/sunday-night/

Mothers were arrested taking action on Monday in Sydney and Melbourne.

From The Age ‘Angry Mums storm supermarket baby formula aisles’ on Monday 27 September http://www.theage.com.au/national/angry-mums-storm-supermarket-babyformula-aisles-20100927-15t2j.html?autostart=1

[i] For example, during 1996-2004 the volume of Roundup sales increased by 1000% in Argentina, as reported by Qaim, M. And G. Traxler, 2005 in “Roundup Ready soybeans in Argentina? Farm level and aggregate welfare effects”. Agricultural Economics 32, 173-86.

[ii] The findings were presented as part of the GMO-free conference at the EU Parliament on 16 September, 2010.

[iii] Report: GM Soy: Sustainable? Responsible? Key points: http://www.geneethics.org/resource/download/148, p.3

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