Friday, 16 March 2007
For the first time, a genetically modified (GM) product cleared as safe food for humans and animals has shown signs of toxic effects in internal organs, according to a study published in a scientific peer-review journal this week.
The study, by Greenpeace International and an independent group of scientists, analyses safety test data submitted by Monsanto when the company was seeking authorisation to market its GM maize variety MON863 in the European Union.
According to the study, laboratory rats fed with Monsanto’s genetically modified (GM) maize have shown signs of toxicity in their kidneys and livers and differences in weight gain between the sexes.
The South African regulatory authorities approved Monsanto’s 2003 application to import the maize (MON863) for use in food, feed or processing in 2003, according to the written reply in October 2006 from the Minister of Agriculture to a Parliamentary question.
Following release of the Greenpeace study and its publication in a scientific journal, the European Food Safety Authority (EFTA) said it would review the data from the study. EFTA has previously rejected criticisms of the MON863 maize rat feeding study presented by Monsanto to support its application to import the GM maize into the EU.
In January 2007, the South African regulatory authority planned to consider an application from Monsanto for permission to import a variety of GM maize which is produced by combining MON863 with other GM maize lines.
Biowatch South Africa supports Greenpeace International’s call for a complete withdrawal of MON863 maize from the global market and for governments to undertake an urgent reassessment of all other authorised GM products and a strict review of current methods of testing the safety of genetically modified crops.
Like Greenpeace International, Biowatch South Africa has consistently tried to get access to information about how GM crop applications are approved. And like Greenpeace, we have been forced to apply for this access to the courts.
In 2005 the Pretoria High Court ordered the Department of Agriculture to make this information available. Biowatch South Africa’s analysis of the documents obtained indicated that GM crop applicants were largely taken at their word in terms of the effects of the crops on the environment and human and animal health.
And a written reply from the Minister of Agriculture in October 2006 to a Parliamentary question suggests that this is so. According to the Minister’s written reply (Question 1213 for written reply, published Friday, 13 October 2006), the Advisory Committee on GMOs evaluated only 71 risk assessments. Risk assessments are submitted by applicants seeking permits. According to a list of approved appplications on the Department of Agriculture’s website, 1 133 GM crop applications were approved from 2000 to 2005.
For more information, please contact Leslie Liddell, Biowatch South Africa director, on 021-447 5939 or 073 307 8873.