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News archive: May 2009

US Corn lowers fertility

A long-term feeding trial commissioned by the Austrian government found mice fed on genetically modified corn had fewer offspring and lower birth rates. Corn grown and eaten in the USA is almost exclusively genetically modified. Genetically modified corn is an ingredient in most regular packaged foods in the USA, including bread, pizza, soda and snacks. Corn is listed in ingredients under many different names, including modified corn starch and high fructose corn syrup.

The Austrian trial triggered a call from Greenpeace for a recall of all GM (genetically modified) food crops currently on the market worldwide on the grounds of the threat to human health.

Why eating GM food could lower your fertility

A long-term feeding trial commissioned by the Austrian government found mice fed on GM corn had fewer offspring and lower birth rates.

The trial has triggered a call from Greenpeace for a recall of all GM food crops currently on the market worldwide on the grounds of the threat to human health.

Most of the research on GM crop safety has been conducted by biotech companies, such as Monsanto, rather than outside independent laboratories.

GM advocates have argued that the fact the US population has been eaten some types of GM food for more than a decade is proof of its safety.

However, these reassurances have been turned on their head by the study commissioned by the Austrian Ministries for Agriculture and Health, which was presented yesterday at a scientific seminar in Vienna.

Professor Dr Jurgen Zentek, Professor for Veterinary Medicine at the University of Vienna and lead author of the study, said a GM diet effected the fertility of mice.

GM expert at Greenpeace International, Dr Jan van Aken, said: ‘Genetically modified food appears to be acting as a birth control agent, potentially leading to infertility.”

‘If this is not reason enough to close down the whole biotech industry once and for all, I am not sure what kind of disaster we are waiting for.”

‘Playing genetic roulette with our food crops is like playing Russian roulette with consumers and public health.”

The Austrian scientists performed several long-term feeding trials with laboratory mice over a course of 20 weeks.

One of the studies was a so-called reproductive assessment by continuous breeding (RACB) trial, in which the same parent generation gave birth to several litters of baby mice.

The parents were fed either with a diet containing 33% GM maize, a hybrid of Monsanto’s MON 810 and another variety, and a normal feed mix..

The team found changes that were ‘statistically significant’ in the third and fourth litters produced by the mice given a GM diet. There were fewer offspring, while the young mice were smaller.

Prof Zentek said there was a direct link between the changes seen and the GM diet.

A press release from the Austrian Agency for Health and Nutrition, said the group of mice given a diet of genetically engineered corn saw a significant change in fertility.

It said: ‘The number of litters and offspring decreased in the GE-fed group faster than in the control. In the GE-fed group more females remained without litters than in the control group.’

Monsanto press offices in the UK and USA were unable to provide a comment on the findings.

CropGen, which speaks for the biotech industry, claims GM crops have been accepted as safe by Government authorities on both sides of the Atlantic.

By Sean Poulter

Swine Flu is caused by Cheap Meat

“Clearly, keeping animals packed together in unnatural conditions is conducive to the breeding and mutation of viruses. Most food scares of recent years — dioxin contamination of pork, antibiotics in salmon, salmonella in chicken, BSE and so on — come down to unnatural, intensive farming practices done on the cheap. Then there is the troubling disappearance of the honey bees, thought to have been caused by pesticide overuse.”

“Now, I’m not saying that buying organic will save us from swine flu or bring back the bees but, clearly, if you worry about these things you should choose to eat food that has been produced in a natural way, with minimal chemicals and without cruelty to animals.”

Alex Renton, The London Times

“Life-threatening disease is the price we pay for cheap meat. How much harm will we do to ourselves in the name of cheap meat? We know that bird flu developed in the world’s vast poultry farms. And we know that pumping animal feed full of antibiotics in factory farms has given us a new strain of MRSA. It’s a simple, horrible process. The only way to keep animals alive in such conditions is to pump their feed full of antibiotics. But this has triggered an arms race with bacteria, which start evolving to beat the antibiotics – and emerge as in the end as pumped-up, super-charged viruses invulnerable to our medical weapons.”

Johann Hari, The Independent UK

“Given that the new strain of Swine flu virus (containing segments of bird, pig and human flu virus), has shown itself capable of passing from human to human and causing human fatalities – the immediate priority must be to protect human health, containing further spread if possible and building-up stocks of suitable vaccine. But this occurrence of yet another disease emanating from livestock and capable of infecting humans – raises serious questions as to the role of intensive livestock systems acting as ‘incubators’ for a wide range of human health-risks and specifically as breeding grounds for potential flu’ pandemics… ”

Robin Maynard, Soil Association campaigns director, comments on the outbreak and spread of Swine ‘flu virus.

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