A recent study analyzing the effects of genetically modified (GM) foods on mammalian health found that corn produced by the multinational corporation Monsanto is linked to organ damage in rats.

corn5.jpgThe study, which was published in the December 2009 issue of International Journal of Biological Sciences, was conducted over a 90-day period, in which select groups of rats were fed the three main commercialized GM corn – Mon 863, insecticide-producing Mon 810, and Roundup herbicide-absorbing NK 603. Based on the observed effects, researchers concluded that the three types of GM corn tested – all approved for human consumption in the United States – produced significant amounts of organ toxicity in rats, particularly in the kidney and liver functions. In sum, the study found that:

“Effects were mostly concentrated in kidney and liver function, the two major diet detoxification organs, but in detail differed with each GM type. In addition, some effects on heart, adrenal, spleen and blood cells were also frequently noted. As there normally exists sex differences in liver and kidney metabolism, the highly statistically significant disturbances in the function of these organs, seen between male and female rats, cannot be dismissed as biologically insignificant as has been proposed by others. We therefore conclude that our data strongly suggests that these GM maize varieties induce a state of hepatorenal toxicity.[…] These substances have never before been an integral part of the human or animal diet and therefore their health consequences for those who consume them, especially over long time periods are currently unknown.”

International food activists and consumers have expressed deep concern, but few have shown surprise. According to the Huffington Post, Monsanto gathered its own crude statistical data on the GM corn in question after conducting a 90-day study, despite the known fact that chronic problems can rarely be found after 90 days. Based on this 90-day study, the corn was declared safe for consumption.

The study comes after a long string of negative publicity for Mansanto, which has a litany of complaints alleged against it such as intimidating farmers, using hostile tactics to squeeze out competition, false advertising, committing widespread international pollution, and producing Agent Orange.

Monsanto is also the leading seller of GM seeds – it sells about 90% of the world’s supply. Not surprisingly, critics have accused Monsanto of aggressively promoting the use of genetically modified seeds in the United States and abroad.

While some groups like Change.org see the study as a rallying cry against Monsanto and GM crops, a few experts have questioned the clarity of the study’s results. Dr. Marion Nestle, a leading nutritionist, wrote on her blog, “I found the paper extremely difficult to read, in part because it is written in exceptionally dense and opaque language, and in part because it presents the data in especially complicated tables and figures.”

Monsanto, too, has directly responded to the study, stating in a press release that the research is “based on faulty analytical methods and reasoning and do not call into question the safety findings for these products.”

Authors of the study responded to Monsanto’s statement on the blog Food Freedom. “Our study contradicts Monsanto conclusions because Monsanto systematically neglects significant health effects in mammals that are different in males and females eating GMOs (genetically modified organisms), or not proportional to the dose. This is a very serious mistake, dramatic for public health. This is the major conclusion revealed by our work, the only careful analysis of Monsanto crude statistical data.”

Correction:  The study was published in the Journal of Biological Sciences.  It was originally reported to have been published in the Journal of Microbiology.