New concerns about the safety of genetically modified crop consumption erupted last week after The Independent, a London newspaper, stated that Monsanto Co. discovered its GM corn had potentially harmful effects on rats in a privately conducted test, but didn't disclose the information.
Monsanto spokesman Chris Horner said the information about the effects of GM corn on rats was not published because it contains sensitive business material that Monsanto did not want competitors to access. But for those already wary of the effects of GM crops, Monsanto?s defense does not stand.
?That?s what you have a patent for,? said Craig Winters, president of The Campaign, a political advocacy group for the labeling of GM foods. Winters said there was no good reason for Monsanto to keep from publishing the research, which the Independent said found differences in kidney size and blood composition in rats fed the GM corn.
Monsanto holds that since regulating authorities, who decide whether or not to allow the sale of the GM corn, have seen the entire report, there is no reason to make the report public. But Winters said this event points to a need to re-evaluate the GM crop approval process, which does not require any third-party testing or safety approval in the United States.
?Monsanto?s statement that nine global authorities have approved the genetically engineered corn is not really an assurance that adequate safety studies have been done,? said Winters in a statement. ?Moreover, it appears that Monsanto?s own internal studies on this genetically engineered corn give significant cause for concern.?
Katherine DiMatteo, executive director of the Organic Trade Association, said this is just one more piece of evidence in the arsenal against genetic engineering. She agreed with Winters that it furthers the argument for improving the process of approving GM crops for production in the United States. ?All these things will come together to the point where the consumer can no longer ignore it,? said DiMatteo. ?It?s unfortunate that we have to go through this over and over, since we don?t use the precautionary principle (in approving GM crops).?
Controversy over the unreleased research comes as the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol summit meets in Montreal to discuss issues of GM labeling and liability. Though Monsanto?s GM corn is in production in the United States, the European Union has not yet agreed to approve it.