This week, we broke a story on about a highly controversial new French study linking cancer and major organ failure with Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup and a GM strain of maize resistant to it. Response to the story has been overwhelming. In terms of web traffic, it’s far and away our biggest story ever, attracting global interest. And more than 11,000 people have recommended the story via Facebook - unheard-of numbers for a trade title - while many hundreds more have tweeted it to friends and followers via Twitter.

It’s also been fascinating to note the reaction from scientists, academics and lobby groups. As well as being peer reviewed, the study has met with support from a number of independent experts. And Monsanto has commendably promised not to comment until it has studied the findings in more detail. But hasty and hostile reaction from others has at times brought back memories of the Bishop of Southwark, Mervyn Stockwood, who decreed Monty Python’s Life of Brian blasphemous… before admitting he hadn’t actually seen the whole movie.

“Hasty and hostile reaction from some critics has at times brought back memories of the Bishop of Southwark’s condemnation of Monty Python’s Life of Brian”

Adam Leyland, Editor

As recently as July, a Defra-sponsored roundtable attended, among others, by the BRC, FDF and NFU, concluded that GM foods must be more closely considered, believing the alarming growth in global population must lead to a softening in public resistance. Indeed, the consensus from an FSA roundtable on GM last year was that it only needed “a killer app”, as it most unfortunately called it - an apple that doesn’t go brown, or a similar breakthrough innovation to create “the iPod of food”, it noted - for a tipping point to be reached.

These findings may merely delay the growing momentum behind GM foods, but in the week the EU Commission watered down GM regulation, they should give pause for thought. And they may equally widen the debate far beyond the confines of GM, with the world’s biggest-selling weedkiller, Roundup, also singly fingered in the study’s findings. The fact that its active ingredient, glyphosate, was found to be so harmful at such low levels is worrying enough. But only half the water boards in the UK are even monitoring levels in the UK water table.