Approval time for GM crops and pesticides 'is critically short'

  • Print
  • Share
  • Comment
  • Save

After a two-year study identified a “shockingly” increased risk of cancer in rats exposed to the world’s biggest-selling weedkiller, and a GM maize crop resistant to it, The Sustainable Food Trust has called for a change in the regulatory approval process.

In the first-ever study to examine the long-term effects of Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller and NK603 Roundup-resistant GM maize, scientists found that rats exposed to even the smallest amounts developed mammary tumours and severe liver and kidney damage.

The study revealed a fundamental weakness in the current regulatory approval process, which dates back to the 1940s, said Patrick Holden, founder of The Sustainable Food Trust.

“The research exposes a critical deficiency. The short duration of the required feeding trials fails to identify the long-term consequences of consuming these crops,” he added.

Mustafa Djamgoz, professor of cancer biology at Imperial College agreed. “A firm takeaway message for the regulatory bodies is that pesticides and crops have got to be evaluated and tested over longer periods,” he said.

The GM maize was rubber-stamped by EFSA in 2009 under the current 90-day approval process. However, rats live for 700 days, and the two-year study found that the first tumours were only diagnosed after four months.

Up to half the male rats and 70% of females died prematurely, compared with 30% and 20% in the control group. Across both sexes, rats that were fed Roundup in their water, or NK603 maize, developed two to three times more large tumours than the control group.

By the beginning of the 24th month, 50% to 80% of females in all treated groups had developed large tumours, with up to three per animal.

The study, published in Food and Chemical Toxicology, was described by Dr Michael Antoniou, molecular biologist at King’s College London, as “the most thorough research ever published into the health effects of GM food crops and the herbicide Roundup on rats”.

Monsanto promised to thoroughly review the study. EFSA said it would consider the paper,

However, some academics and pro-lobby groups criticised it. “The methods, stats and reporting of results are well below the standard I would expect,” said Prof David Spiegelhalter, a professor of risk at the University of Cambridge.

“This strain of rat is prone to mammary tumours,” added Prof Tom Sanders, head of nutritional sciences research at KCL.

Have your say

These comments have not been moderated.

You are encouraged to participate with comments that are relevant to our news stories. You should not post comments that are abusive, threatening, defamatory, misleading or invasive of privacy. For the full terms and conditions for commenting see clause 7 of our Terms and Conditions ‘Participating in Online Communities’. These terms may be updated from time to time, so please read them before posting a comment.

Any comment that violates these terms may be removed in its entirety as we do not edit comments.

If you wish to complain about a comment please use the “report this comment” facility or email


Related images

  • Approval time for GM crops and pesticides 'is critically short'
  • Print
  • Share
  • Comment
  • Save
Sign in

Newsletter Sign-up


I wish to receive the following newsletters:

For Members

Become a Gold Member to receive these newsletters:

Become a Finance Member to receive these newsletters:

Become a member of The Grocer



CLICK HERE to search for the products, services and companies you need in the definitive guide to the UK food and drink industry.


The Grocer's commentators and opinion makers