Why eating GM food could lower your fertility
By Sean PoulterLast updated at 11:22 AM on 12th November 2008
Genetically modified corn has been linked to a threat to fertility in an official study that could deliver a hammer blow to controversial 'Frankenstein Food'.
A long-term feeding trial commissioned by the Austrian government found mice fed on GM corn or maize had fewer offspring and lower birth rates.
The trial has triggered a call from Greenpeace for a recall of all GM food crops currently on the market worldwide on the grounds of the threat to human health.
Most of the research on GM crop safety has been conducted by biotech companies, such as Monsanto, rather than outside independent laboratories.
GM advocates have argued that the fact the US population has been eaten some types of GM food for more than a decade is proof of its safety.
However, these reassurances have been turned on their head by the study commissioned by the Austrian Ministries for Agriculture and Health, which was presented yesterday at a scientific seminar in Vienna.
Professor Dr Jurgen Zentek, Professor for Veterinary Medicine at the University of Vienna and lead author of the study, said a GM diet effected the fertility of mice.
GM expert at Greenpeace International, Dr Jan van Aken, said: 'Genetically Engineered food appears to be acting as a birth control agent, potentially leading to infertility.
'If this is not reason enough to close down the whole biotech industry once and for all, I am not sure what kind of disaster we are waiting for.
'Playing genetic roulette with our food crops is like playing Russian roulette with consumers and public health.'
The Austrian scientists performed several long-term feeding trials with laboratory mice over a course of 20 weeks.
One of the studies was a so-called reproductive assessment by continuous breeding (RACB) trial, in which the same parent generation gave birth to several litters of baby mice.
The parents were fed either with a diet containing 33per cent of GM maize, a hybrid of Monsanto's MON 810 and another variety, and a normal feed mix.
The team found changes that were 'statistically significant' in the third and fourth litters produced by the mice given a GM diet. There were fewer offspring, while the young mice were smaller.
Prof Zentek said there was a direct link between the changes seen and the GM diet.
A press release from the Austrian Agency for Health and Nutrition, said the group of mice given a diet of genetically engineered corn saw a significant change in fertility.
It said: 'The number of litters and offspring decreased in the GE-fed group faster than in the control. In the GE-fed group more females remained without litters than in the control group.'
Monsanto press offices in the UK and USA were unable to provide a comment on the findings.
CropGen, which speaks for the biotech industry, claims GM crops have been accepted as safe by Government authorities on both sides of the Atlantic.
British scientists recently unveiled a GM purple tomato they claimed could help people avoid developing cancer. The tomato is high in antioxidants - naturally found in other fresh produce such as blueberrys, cranberries and carrots - which are seen as a protection against ill health.