Russia Suspends Use of Genetically Modified Corn
WALL STREET JOURNAL, by Michael Haddon and Ian Berry, September 25, 2012
Russia's consumer-rights watchdog said Tuesday it has suspended the import and use of a genetically engineered corn made by Monsanto Co. following a study's findings that suggested the crop might cause cancer.
The consumer-rights watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor, said the country's Institute of Nutrition has been asked to assess the validity of the study.
The study, conducted by France's University of Caen and published last week, found that rats fed over a two-year period with the U.S. crop-biotechnology company's genetically modified NK603 corn, marketed under the Roundup Ready brand name, developed more tumors and other severe diseases than a test group fed with regular corn.
The study also found that rats fed with NK603 and exposed to St. Louis-based Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller suffered from more pathologies than the test group. The corn variety is genetically engineered to withstand glyphosate, a weedkiller that Monsanto sells under the Roundup label.
The study has been greeted with skepticism by many scientists and nutritionists. The Science Media Centre, a London independent group that compiles reaction to published research, posted critical comments from several experts who said the sample size was too small and the data incomplete, among other criticisms.
Monsanto reiterated Tuesday that nothing in the study warranted a ban on the biotech seed.
The company criticized the study in a statement last week, saying it "does not meet minimum acceptable standards for this type of scientific research, the findings are not supported by the data presented, and the conclusions are not relevant for the purpose of safety assessment."
A Monsanto spokesman Tuesday played down the effect of a Russian ban, noting that the country imports little American-grown corn. "Russia is a net exporter of grain, so the actual impact of their temporary suspension, if any, is likely to be small," the spokesman said.
Any impact on Monsanto's sales of corn seed to farmers also is likely to be limited, because the Russian government doesn't permit farmers to plant transgenic crops.
The French government last week ordered its food-safety agency to review quickly the study and said it would seek an immediate ban on European Union imports of the crop if the study's findings were deemed conclusive.