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GLOBAL Long-term study finds
no negative effects from GM food 21-March-2012 Western Farm
Hunting for abnormalities
At a press conference in Vienna, an international research
consortium reported that it had not found any harmful health
effects of GM food in animals. In their studies the scientists
investigated potential long-term risks associated with feeding
genetically modified Bt maize MON810 and a GM pea to pigs,
salmon and mice. Through their research they hope to find
suitable biomarkers that can be used as more sensitive indicators
to detect harmful effects of authorized GM foods in humans.
Authorized foods from GM plants must be as safe as comparable
conventional products. That is what the law says. Until
now, there has not been any scientific evidence to indicate
that authorized GMO products could harm animals or humans.
However, the public debate about possible shortcomings in
the authorization procedure and the safety of GM food has
been raging for years. In particular, countries like Austria
justify their critical stance in relation to plant genetic
engineering by citing a lack of research into the potential
long-term risks. Now Austrian researchers from the Medical
University of Vienna have presented long-term research using
GM food. They evidently failed to find any negative effects.
Biomarkers to help identify negative effects
The scientists involved in GMSAFOOD, a research project
funded by the EU for the past three years, had set themselves
the objective of using biomarkers to carry out a more thorough
search for potential adverse effects of GM food on health.
Biomarkers are biological traits of an organism that can
be measured objectively and can indicate potential abnormal
processes in the body. They include simple anatomical traits
like growth rate, and certain substances in the body that
can indicate immunological or allergic reactions to a food.
The aim was to identify suitable biomarkers in the animal
experiment using pigs, mice and salmon that can indicate
negative health effects, and to test whether they can be
used in humans with the help of modern bioinformatics methods.
The biomarkers could then be used to conduct more sensitive
checks for actual effects of approved GM foods on humans
and animals as part of post market monitoring.
Experiments with pigs, salmon and mice
In their studies, the researchers from Ireland, Norway,
Austria, Hungary, Australia and Turkey fed two different
GM plants to the trial animals. One was the Bt maize MON810,
which has been authorized in Europe since 1998 and was grown
on over 100,000 hectares in Spain and Portugal last year.
The other was a type of GM pea developed in Australia that
carries the gene for an amylase inhibitor taken from beans.
This protein gives the peas resistance to the cowpea weevil.
A study published in 2005 came to the conclusion that the
new protein in the pea could trigger allergic reactions
in humans and animals. The protein did not, it claimed,
cause these effects in the bean. As a result, this GM crop
has never been submitted for authorization.
The feeding experiments, some of which lasted the entire
lifetime of the animals, found no negative changes in the
metabolism of pigs, salmon or mice. The progeny of the animals
fed on the GM plants were also included in the assessment,
but the researchers did not find any negative effects.
In the allergy tests, it was found that the bean protein
in the GM peas can trigger allergic reactions in mice. However,
the GMSAFOOD researchers say this effect was predictable
because the natural amylase inhibitor protein in the bean
triggered very similar reactions in the experiments they
conducted. This could therefore be taken into account in
a risk assessment for the authorization of such plants.
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