$25 Million Russian-backed Study of GMO and Pesticide Safety

By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

Nov 20, 2014

A Russian nongovernmental agency is funding a $25 million, 2-3-year study in Europe to examine whether a genetically engineered, herbicide-tolerant maize and the glyphosate herbicide it is designed to be grown with create any ill health effects.

"Factor GMO [the name of the study] will investigate the health effects of a genetically modified (GM) crop that has been in our food and animal feed supplies for many years. It will answer the question: Is this GM food and associated pesticide (glyphosate/Roundup) safe for human health?" says a news release announcing the study.

"Farmers, retailers, governments, scientists and consumers have been involved in a heated international debate since GM foods were introduced in 1994," the release continues. "However, there has never been a scientific study that is comprehensive enough to give them a clear answer regarding the safety for human health of any one GM food – until now." Or until 2-3 years from now.

Saying it will deal with "real-world levels of consumption and exposure," the project will test the corn on more than 6,000 rats. The animals will be fed the GM food and pesticides according to a protocol whose scale, rigor and range of measurements will meet and exceed current international standards for testing the toxicity of GM foods, pesticides and other chemicals. It will yield a five-generation projected outlook at toxicity and other factors.

The Russian National Assn. for Genetic Safety (NAGS) is the initiator and coordinator of the Factor GMO experiment. NAGS was formed in 2004 as a non-governmental, non-profit organization based in Moscow, “to contribute the protection of biological and genetic safety of humankind and the environment, and to promote sustainable development.”

"NAGS has had and will have no involvement in designing the study, in the day-to-day running of the experiment, or in the gathering, interpretation, or publication of the scientific results" said a statement. "These aspects have been and will continue to be decided and controlled by the independent and neutral scientific review board."

Close to $25 million in funding needed for this project has been or is being sourced from around the world. But Factor GMO will not accept funds from the industry that manufactures GM crops and their associated pesticides. Nor will the funders will influence on the design, results, or publication of the study.

The study will be performed at undisclosed locations in Western Europe and Russia. "The exact locations of the study must be kept confidential for security reasons as Factor GMO wants to avoid any outside interference that could compromise the day-to-day running of the experiments and/or the final results."

Groundwork for the project began this year. The full experiment will begin in 2015 and will last 2-3 years, with interim results being published at regular intervals during that time.

The three arms (toxicity, carcinogenicity and multi-generational arms) of the experiment will try to answer such questions as:

  • Is the GM food (or its associated pesticide) toxic to organ systems over the long-term?
  • Does the GM food (or its associated pesticide) cause cancer?
  • Does the GM food (or its associated pesticide) reduce fertility or cause birth defects?
  • Is the mixture of chemicals present in Roundup herbicide more or less toxic than its active ingredient glyphosate?

The scientists involved come from a neutral background, with no connection to the biotech industry or the anti-GMO movement. The three scientists on the study review board are "internationally respected experts in their fields":

  • Dr. Oxana Sinitsyna; Deputy Director for Science at the Federal State Organization “A. N. Sysin Research Institute of Human Ecology and Environmental Health” of the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation, Moscow.
  • Dr. Bruce Blumberg; Professor, Developmental & Cell Biology, School of Biological Sciences, University of California, Irvine, USA.
  • Dr. Fiorella Belpoggi (on the Review Board as a Fellow of the Collegium Ramazzini); Director and Chief of Pathology of the Cesare Maltoni Cancer Research Centre of the Ramazzini Institute, Bentivoglio, Italy.

More details are at www.factorgmo.com.

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