A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health

By April Reeves

Found an interesting study from The International Journal of Biological Sciences on their findings of how GM foods affect us:

We present for the first time a comparative analysis of blood and organ system data from trials with rats fed three main commercialized genetically modified (GM) maize (NK 603, MON 810, MON 863), which are present in food and feed in the world. NK 603 has been modified to be tolerant to the broad spectrum herbicide Roundup and thus contains residues of this formulation. MON 810 and MON 863 are engineered to synthesize two different Bt toxins used as insecticides. Approximately 60 different biochemical parameters were classified per organ and measured in serum and urine after 5 and 14 weeks of feeding. GM maize-fed rats were compared first to their respective isogenic or parental non-GM equivalent control groups. This was followed by comparison to six reference groups, which had consumed various other non-GM maize varieties. We applied nonparametric methods, including multiple pairwise comparisons with a False Discovery Rate approach. Principal Component Analysis allowed the investigation of scattering of different factors (sex, weeks of feeding, diet, dose and group).

Our analysis clearly reveals for the 3 GMOs new side effects linked with GM maize consumption, which were sex- and often dose-dependent. Effects were mostly associated with the kidney and liver, the dietary detoxifying organs, although different between the 3 GMOs. Other effects were also noticed in the heart, adrenal glands, spleen and haematopoietic system. We conclude that these data highlight signs of hepatorenal toxicity, possibly due to the new pesticides specific to each GM corn. In addition, unintended direct or indirect metabolic consequences of the genetic modification cannot be excluded.


There is a world-wide debate concerning the safety and regulatory approval process of genetically modified (GM) crops and foods [1, 2]. In order to scientifically address this issue, it is necessary to have access to toxicological tests, preferably on mammals, performed over the longest time-scales involving detailed blood and organ system analyses. Furthermore, these tests should, if possible, be in accordance with OECD guidelines. Unfortunately, this has been a challenge since usually these are regulatory tests performed confidentially by industry prior to commercialization of their GM crops, pesticides, drugs or chemicals. As a result, it is more instructive to investigate the available data that allows comparisons of several GMOs consumptions on health effects. This will allow the most appropriate statistical analyses to be performed in order to avoid possible false positive as well as false negative results. The physiological criteria used to either accept or reject any GM significant effect as relevant should be made clear. Here we discuss sex-related, temporal, linear and non-linear dose effects which are often involved in the establishment of chronic and endocrine diseases.

We investigated three different GM corn namely NK 603, MON 810 and MON 863, which were fed to rats for 90 days. The raw data have been obtained by European governments and made publically available for scrutiny and counter-evaluation. These studies constitute a model to investigate possible subchronic toxicological effects of these GM cereals in mammals and humans. These are the longest in vivo tests performed with mammals consuming these GMOs. The animals were monitored for numerous blood and organ parameters. One corn (NK 603) has been genetically engineered to tolerate the broad spectrum herbicide Roundup and thus contains residues of this formulation. The two other types of GM maize studied produce two different new insecticides namely modified versions of Cry1Ab (MON 810) and Cry3Bb1 (MON 863) Bacillus thuringiensis-derived proteins. Therefore, all these three GM maize contain novel pesticide residues that will be present in food and feed. As a result, the potential effects on physiological parameters, due either to the recognized mutagenic effects of the GM transformation process or to the presence of the above mentioned novel pesticides within these plants can be evaluated in animal feeding studies.

Materials and Methods:

Experimental design

The three animal feeding studies were conducted in two different laboratories and at two different dates; at Monsanto (Missouri, USA) for NK 603 and MON 810 (June 7, 2000) and at Covance Laboratories Inc. (Virginia, USA) for MON 863 (March 14, 2001) on behalf of Monsanto. The young adult male and female rats, approximately 4-6 week-old, were of the Sprague-Dawley albino strain Crl:CD(SD)IGS BR®, (obtained from Charles River Laboratories Inc., NY, USA). The animals (400 per GMO; 200 for each sex) were randomized for similar body weight distribution. In fact, there were only two treated groups for each sex (20 animals each consuming specific GM maize feed). Only 10 rats were measured per group for blood and urine parameters and served as the basis for the major statistical analyses conducted. In addition, the investigators claimed that OECD guidelines and standards were followed. For each type of GM maize, only two feeding doses were tested per sex. This consisted of either 11 or 33% GM maize in an otherwise equivalent equilibrated diet; that is when the diet contained only 11% GM maize, the difference was made up by adding 22% non-GM maize (varieties not indicated). There were also two comparative control groups fed diets containing similar quantities of the closest isogenic or parental maize variety. Furthermore, groups of animals were also fed with diets containing one of six other normal (non-GM) reference maize lines; the same lines for the NK 603 and MON 810 tests, but different types for the MON 863 trials. We note that these unrelated, different non-GM maize types were not shown to be substantially equivalent to the GMOs. The quantity of some sugars, ions, salts, and pesticide residues, do in fact differ from line to line, for example in the non-GM reference groups. This not only introduced unnecessary sources of variability but also increased considerably the number of rats fed a normal non-GM diet (320) compared to the GM-fed groups (80) per transformation event, which considerably unbalances the experimental design. A group consisting of the same number of animals fed a mixture of these test diets would have been a better and more appropriate control. In addition, no data is shown to demonstrate that the diets fed to the control and reference groups were indeed free of GM feed.

Data collection

The raw biochemical data, necessary to allow a statistical re-evaluation, should be made publically available according to European Union Directive CE/2001/18 but unfortunately this is not always the case in practice. On this occasion, the data we required for this analysis were obtained either through court actions (lost by Monsanto) to obtain the MON 863 feeding study material (June 2005), or by courtesy of governments or Greenpeace lawyers. We thank the Swedish Board of Agriculture, May 30, 2006 for making public the NK 603 data upon request from Greenpeace Denmark and lawyers from Greenpeace Germany, November 8, 2006 for MON 810 material. This allowed us to conduct for the first time a precise and direct side-by-side comparison of these data from the three feeding trials with these GMOs.

Approximately 80 different biochemical and weight parameters, including crude and relative measures (Table A, Annexes), were evaluated in serum and urine after 5 and 14 weeks of feeding. We classified these per organ (markers by site of synthesis or regulation). These organs weighed at the end of the experimental period, along with the whole body were: adrenal glands, brain, gonads, heart, kidneys, liver, and spleen. In addition, some parameters measured were related to bone marrow (blood cells) and pancreas (glucose) function. Unfortunately, some important measurements serving as markers for liver function were not conducted for technical or unknown reasons. This included gamma glutamyl transferase after 90 days feeding, cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the NK 603 and MON 810 trials, and cytochrome P450 family members in all cases. In addition, important sex difference markers were also ignored such as blood sex or pituitary hormone levels. Furthermore, it is well known and present in OECD guidelines that measurements should be conducted for at least 3 different experimental points to study dose- or time-related effects. Contrastingly and for reasons that are not stated, in all three studies for all three GMOs, only 2 doses and periods of feeding were measured, which makes it difficult to evaluate dose and cumulative effects. We have in a first instance indicated lacking values for different parameters (Annexes, Tables B, C, D).

To view the rest of the findings please go to: http://www.biolsci.org/v05p0706.htm


This study begs the question: Why can’t Monsanto do these studies? Why have the biotech companies not studied the effects on humans, both short and long term? Or perhaps they have and they can’t release the findings. Whatever the reason, I will continue to dig and discover the truths behind the science.      April



2 responses to “A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health

  1. I cannot believe this will work!

  2. Great idea, but will this work over the long run?

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