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Bt maize not safe for even rats, says study

Hyderabad, Oct 4, 2012, DHNS: 1:00 IST
A study that found rats consuming Bt maize develop tumour and die prematurely — published in Food and Chemical Toxicology—sparked furious debate among supporters and opponents of GM crops at the on-going bio safety convention in the city.

Robin Mesnage, a scientist at University of Caen in France, who was part of the study, said: “Male rats fed with GMO (grain), developed liver and kidney problems, while the females developed mammary tumours.”

Mesnage, currently attending COP-MOP 6, and a team of seven other scientists arrived at the conclusion after performing 100 different experiments on 200 laboratory rats.
Speaking to reporters, the scientist called for stringent review on genetically modified food, particularly on BT maize.

“I suggest extension of trial time from three months to at least two years to carefully evaluate the impact of these genetically modified foods on humans,” Mesnage said.
“France is awaiting the report from European Food Safety Authority -EFSA to take a final call on banning the Bt Maize, while Russia has already banned it.”

Rejecting claims by the industry that biotechnology is the panacea for crop damages, Prof Johnnie van den Berg from South Africa’s North West University, pointed to his observations that pests have developed resistance to genetically modified food varieties which are meant to develop immunity from them.

Pest menace

A study his team had conducted in South Africa found that pests had attacked 71 per cent of BT maize crop.

“The infestation took place despite planting refuge crops -which were non-Bt crops- along with BT maize to bear the brunt of the pests,” he said on the sidelines of the convention.

GM scientists and the industry faulted the researchers for the claims.
” If pesticide usage has decreased for some years because of BT then it is good.” a GMO industry representative said.

A delegate from Egypt claimed that the study on rats “is totally wrong.”
Pooja Bhatnagar, an ICRISAT scientist said “When life is extended in rats, they inherently develop tumours.”

In 2011, 16 countries across the globe planted approximately 51 million hectares of Bt Maize.

Countries like the United States, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and Canada planted the GM crop in more than one million hectares.

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