Monsanto Roundup weedkiller and GM maize implicated in ‘shocking’ new cancer study

  • Print
  • Share
  • Comments (90)
  • Save

The world’s best-selling weedkiller, and a genetically modified maize resistant to it, can cause tumours, multiple organ damage and lead to premature death, new research published today reveals.

In the first ever study to examine the long-term effects of Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller, or the NK603 Roundup-resistant GM maize also developed by Monsanto, scientists found that rats exposed to even the smallest amounts, developed mammary tumours and severe liver and kidney damage as early as four months in males, and seven months for females, compared with 23 and 14 months respectively for a control group.

“This research shows an extraordinary number of tumours developing earlier and more aggressively - particularly in female animals. I am shocked by the extreme negative health impacts,” said Dr Michael Antoniou, molecular biologist at King’s College London, and a member of CRIIGEN, the independent scientific council which supported the research.

GM crops have been approved for human consumption on the basis of 90-day animal feeding trials. But three months is the equivalent of late adolescence in rats, who can live for almost two years (700 days), and there have long been calls to study the effects over the course of a lifetime.

The peer-reviewed study, conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Caen, found that rats fed on a diet containing NK603 Roundup resistant GM maize, or given water containing Roundup at levels permitted in drinking water, over a two-year period, died significantly earlier than rats fed on a standard diet.

Up to half the male rats and 70% of females died prematurely, compared with only 30% and 20% in the control group. Across both sexes the researchers found that rats fed Roundup in their water or NK603 developed two to three times more large tumours than the control group. By the beginning of the 24th month, 50-80% of females in all treated groups had developed large tumours, with up to three per animal.

By contrast, only 30% of the control group were affected. Scientists reported the tumours “were deleterious to health due to [their] very large size,” making it difficult for the rats to breathe, [and] causing problems with their digestion which resulted in haemorrhaging.

The paper, published in the scientific journal Food and Chemical Toxicology today, concluded that NK603 and Roundup caused similar damage to the rats’ health, whether they were consumed together or on their own. The team also found that even the lowest doses of Roundup, which fall well within authorised limits in drinking tap water, were associated with severe health problems.

“The rat has long been used as a surrogate for human toxicity. All new pharmaceutical, agricultural and household substances are, prior to their approval, tested on rats. This is as good an indicator as we can expect that the consumption of GM maize and the herbicide Roundup, impacts seriously on human health,” Antoniou added.

Roundup is widely available in the UK, and is recommended on Gardeners Question Time. But this also represents a potential blow for the growth of GM Foods.

With the global population expected to increase to nine billion by 2050, the UN has said that global food production must increase by 50%. And a consultation led by DEFRA entitled Green Food Project recommended as recently as 10 July 2012 that GM must be reassessed as a possible solution.

Some 85% of maize grown in the US is GM, while 70% of processed foods contain GM ingredients without GM labelling. In the UK and Europe GM maize is not consumed directly by humans but is widely used in animal feed without the requirement for GM labelling.

Antoniou said there could be no doubting the credibility of this peer-reviewed study. “This is the most thorough research ever published into the health effects of GM food crops and the herbicide Roundup on rats.”

Led by Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini, the researchers studied 10 groups, each containing 10 male and 10 female rats, over their normal lifetime. Three groups were given Roundup – developed by Monstanto – in their drinking water at three different levels consistent with exposure through the food chain from crops sprayed with the herbicide.

Three groups were fed diets containing different proportions of Roundup resistant maize at 11%, 22% and 33%. Three groups were given both Roundup and the GM maize at the same three dosages. The control group was fed an equivalent diet with no Roundup or NK603 containing 33% of non-GM maize.

A spokesman for Monsanto said: “We will review it thoroughly, as we do all studies that relate to our products and technologies.”

Watch the video: experts discuss the significance of the findings

Readers' comments (90)

  • Irrelevant of studies and testing done.What i do not understand, is that we supposedly live in a democracy, yet we are not given the right to chose what we ingest. If i do not want to have GM modified food, then why isn't everything labeled as such. It should be my choice what i eat, not the governments or corporations.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I have been involved in the agrochemical industry for nearly 30yrs.

    We need a thorough and balanced review of the study. It seems to go against all the evidence available to date on health risks, but we must keep an open mind and be prepared to act if there are unacceptable levels of risk.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • In regard to the comment that "The biggest human epidemiological study has been going on for the last 15 years in North America with no ill effects.", How do you know there are no ill effects? This is not a study- where are the control groups, monitoring, testing, follow up? This is a mass human experiment being perpetrated without our consent and no oversight. But don't worry, I'm sure Monsanto and the others have our best interests at heart.
    GM is about owning the food supply, not improving it.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I think it's more that if confirms with a fairly high confidence that something won't give people cancer. I these rats which can get cancer from anything, don't get cancer from this then it very likely ok for humans.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • In one study, rats were fed GM soybeans and the controls were fed organic soybeans and it had shown that the GM-fed rats had a significant higher rate of cancer than the non-GM. These were soybeans, straight up. Not poison. And yet, it still showed worse effects.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • the ones who try to deny the research work are seemed very "scientific", but where their rationality goes when they completely ignoring that such GMO food had been pushed into market before sufficient safety test for human being?
    is it much more a common sense that Monsanto should give enough evidence show their seeds are safe than such tests carrying our for people to withdrawing those seeds back from market?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Derek,
    Cancer is now the #1 cause of death in the US. Is GMO consumption to blame? Who can say...and that is just as Monsanto would like it. "Longevity continues to increase" as do degenerative diseases. Rotting away your last 10 years in a nursing home doesn't say much for longevity. Would it not be wiser to continue doing LONG term testing on rats rather than on humans? There are no FDA studies on GMO foods yet they green light them on the studies of the creators of these franken-foods. Just like Big Pharma doing the studies on their own drugs and we all know how that has been working out. (Legal)Drug caused illness and deaths are significant in the US.
    Just let me know with a label that it's GMO and so that I may personally avoid it. You can gobble up all of the non-browing apples and salmon with eel genes to your heart's content. There is NO reason not to let people know what is in their food.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • It is my understanding that farm worker human studies have been proving the health risks associated with pesticides for years with higher rates of cancer and other diseases. It probably doesn't show up in this way in humans because we slowly kill ourselves and some people are more susceptible than others, and possibly a pesticide/GMO link could be established if GMOs were labeled and could be traced back. I will never forget when 30 years ago a farmer's wife came into the dress store I was working in and told me about how she had had 11 miscarriages and everyone happened right after they sprayed pesticides on their farm. Pesticides are designed to kill and are a neurotoxin period. What do you think when you eat it the effect goes away? I have had top scientists on my Smart Health Talk radio show with Dr. Charles Benbrook on today to talk about pesticides. Interested to see what an expert that is not afraid to tell the truth will say today at 4:00 pm PST on to tune in or watch live from anywhere in the world.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • it is only "shocking" if you have been living under a ROCK for the last 20 years.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • OK where is the urgent worldwide massive recall and halt to shipment and use of this poison food material?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

View results 10per page | 20per page | 50per page |

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

  • Print
  • Share
  • Comments (90)
  • Save

Grocer jobs Experts in FMCG

Search jobs
Sign in

Newsletter Sign-up


I wish to receive the following newsletters:

For Members

Become a Gold Member to receive these newsletters:

Become a Platinum 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