NEWS

Vicious circle of genetically modified foods

In early June, news was leaked to the British press of secret research conducted by the Monsanto biotechnology colossus into one variety of genetically modified (GM) corn. It showed that rats fed on the product developed abnormalities, their kidneys shriveled and their blood altered its composition. Had those results not been revealed, it is highly possible that the GM corn may soon have been on sale at the local supermarket. The news did not surprise Jeffrey Smith, director of the Institute for Responsible Research and author of the book «Seeds of Deception,» in which he presents the health risk to humans of GM foods and the dubious methods that firms use to market GM products. Kathimerini met the writer shortly before a lecture he gave in Athens at the invitation of the non-governmental organizations Greenpeace and ATTAC. «Science is supposedly based on transparent research, which anyone can evaluate,» said Smith, «but biotechnology companies in the United States have been permitted to conduct their research in secret. The result is that the authorities – who often do not possess the knowledge to evaluate these badly designed studies – promote their technology. Of course, when the studies are leaked or are evaluated by independent scientists, it becomes apparent that they are superficial and designed so as not to locate problems. But scientists who dare to express their doubts receive threats, have their funding taken away or are fired.» In fact, research into GM products is largely funded by the biotechnology industry itself. It has been found that when companies conduct the research alone, the results are eight times more likely to favor their products. «Precisely the same occurs with drugs,» commented Smith. «That is why the third most common cause of death in America is prescription drugs. The approval process adopted by the American Food and Drug Administration is a public health hazard. Basically, if the industry says something is safe, then no questions are asked.» The approval process for GM products is not much different in the European Union. «Things are a bit better, but what the authorities demand in order to give approval is so superficial that every time they approve one, they put the population at immediate risk,» said Smith. Is there any evidence that GM products are a health hazard? «There is a lot of evidence which should lead to further research. For example, with the import of GM soya into Britain, allergies increased by 50 percent,» said Smith. At the same time, rats fed on GM corn developed blood disturbances and others fed on GM soya suffered liver malfunctions. The livers of rats fed on GM beets grew heavier. Pigs that ate GM corn became sterile, and cows and chickens that ate it died mysteriously. «Aren’t these reasons to look into the matter more deeply?» asked Smith. «Yet nobody seems interested. This is not real science, but political science motivated by economic interests.»