A research paper was recently published in the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology which claims that dietary exposure to glyphosate and a Roundup Ready (RR) corn variety causes tumors, organ damage and premature death in lab rats. The mostly French research team was led by Gilles-Eric Séralini at the U. of Caen, France. Séralini is known to hold anti-biotech sentiments.

The study followed 200 rats for two years, a far longer study than the normal 90-day feeding studies required for regulatory approval of genetically engineered crops. Different groups of rats were fed either Monsanto’s NK603 strain of RR corn or different doses of Roundup in their drinking water. The 10th group (the control) was fed conventional corn and plain water.

According to the report, 50 percent of males and 70 percent of females died prematurely, compared with only 30 percent and 20 percent in the control group. The researchers also described late-developing, large mammary tumors and severe liver and kidney damage. The tumors, although not metastasizing, were said to be big enough to impede organ function in the affected rats.

Organic and anti-biotech groups immediately picked up and promoted the report. It will certainly be a point of contention in the California referendum on mandatory labeling of biotech food products (Proposition 37).

Numerous independent scientists, however, were equally quick to publicly question the study’s scientific validity. Most alarming of these criticisms is Séralini’s choice to use as the subject of his study the albino Sprague-Dawley strain of rat which has an inherent tendency to develop cancers, especially the mammary tumors reportedly seen in some of the study subjects.

Others are questioning the timing of the study results’ release considering the upcoming California vote. According to Bruce Chassy, professor emeritus of Food Science, U. of Illinois, “This is not an innocent scientific publication. It is a well-planned and cleverly orchestrated media event.”

Studies by Seralini have not always withstood peer review, including criticism from the European Food Safety Authority, Food Standards Australia New Zealand and the Public Research & Regulation Initiative (PRRI), a world-wide initiative of hundreds of public sector scientists.