27 September 2012, 16:08

Russia bans import of genetically modified cobs

Russia bans import of genetically modified cobs

Rospotrebnadzor has suspended the import of genetically modified corn to Russia. The ban on the import of genetically modified cobs is Gennady Onishchenko’s answer to the statement of French scientists that so far only genetically modified corn can cause cancer. Now Russian geneticists are to find out whether new generation corncobs really cause cancer, or the scientists are simply seeking cheap sensation, and the results of their research are just another link in a marketing war.

Photos of GM corn fed rats with cancer tumors the size of a ping-pong ball published on September, 19, came as a shock, at first, to Western Europe, and then to Russia. French authorities have already expressed their concern and stated their intention to carry out further research. Gennady Onishchenko ordered a ban on the import of GM corn until all the circumstances are clarified.

For the sake of fairness, we should admit that the Old World has never had a tender affection for GMO: according to polls, only 5% of Europeans think well of GM plants and animals. In Russia this rate is somewhat lower, but there is not much enthusiasm either. According to the data of the National Union of Protection of the Rights of Consumers, in 2011, 81% of Russians defined their assessment of GMOs as “generally negative”. And the photos of the unfortunate animals that could hardly move because of the monstrous cancer tumors came as a bombshell. The more so because scientists named the main culprit - genetically modified corn of the Spanish GMO giant Monsanto.

The scientists’ conclusions were all the more impressive, as they were based on two-year tests. That is, the scientists fed test rats modified corn for 24 months instead of the prescribed 3, gradually increasing the size of the portions in the course of time. The increase of the portion provoked the progress of the disease. In the end, the French scientists have found that 83 percent of the animals immediately developed cancer and died. Such figures are enough to put housewives in a bad mood.

State organizations took up arms against GMO and Monsanto, and consumers started declaring a boycott against the lethal corn in private. Last week, a civil picket for imposing a moratorium on genetically modified organisms took place in Moscow. The protest was organized on the initiative of Occupy Monsanto - a movement created by analogy with the Occupy Wall Street movement and directed against the Monsanto Company, the largest manufacturer of GMOs.

However, if we look at the results of the study more closely, it becomes clear that they are hardly able to stand up to criticism. Firstly, a group of scientists, headed by Gilles-Éric Séralini, is accused of using an insufficient scientific approach. In particular, it is known that the breed of rats used in the experiment develop cancer very often and very quickly. That is why they are usually used for short-term studies.

Secondly, the fact that the project was financed by trade networks, which have publicly renounced the use of GM products, and especially, the fact that the results were presented precisely a week before the premiere of the film All of Us Are Guinea Pigs produced by the laboratory, is suspicious. Moreover, Mr. Séralini himself is known as an opponent of GMO. All this does really look like a PR company.

However, all these are details, and according to fact, manufacturers of GM corn and its suppliers are the only ones who suffer. The scandal is so serious that even the Monsanto Company itself has revised its policy of completely ignoring criticism. The company’s French website has posted a statement accusing scientists of not complying with scientific research criteria.

Meanwhile, the Izvestia newspaper reported that the National Association for Genetic Security was going to carry out a public experiment, during which rats would be fed on soy, corn, and potatoes with inclusions of an alien DNA. It will be possible to observe the progress of the experiment on the Internet. A few months ago, head of the organization Elena Sharoykina told the Voice of Russia that a similar experiment in 2010 had resulted in infertility in the rodents.

All in all, trust but verify. It seems that conclusions can be made only after a number of experiments carried out by independent specialists - and this has the potential to drag on for months or even years.

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