NOTE: We were astonished to see that Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is using a study by Velimirov et al (2008) to counter the study by Seralini (item 1 below). Seralini's study found that GM maize NK603 caused tumours, organ damage, and premature death in rats fed over their lifespan.

Velimirov's study, which was commissioned by the Austrian government, found that the NK603xMON810 stacked corn made mice less fertile when fed over several generations. (Velimirov, A., Binter, C., Zentek, J. (2008). "Biological effects of transgenic maize NK603xMON810 fed in long term reproduction studies in mice." Familie und Jugend Report, Forschungsberichte der Sektion IV Band 3/2008.)

The study met with the usual storm of attacks from the GMO lobby and was withdrawn by the Austrian government after challenge by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Thus Velimirov's study was not cited in the Earth Open Source report of evidence on GMO hazards, GMO Myths and Truths:

And Snell et al excluded it from their review of GM feeding trials, which is much cited by GM proponents to show GMOs are safe (though it doesn't): Snell, C., B. Aude, et al. (2011). "Assessment of the health impact of GM plant diets in long-term and multigenerational animal feeding trials: A literature review." Food and Chemical Toxicology.

Now, however, FSANZ is using the withdrawn Velimirov study to defend the safety of GM corn against Seralini's study!

Velimirov didn't find increased tumours in the GM-fed mice and this is the finding that FSANZ is 'cherry-picking' in its attempt to discredit Seralini's findings.

But Velimirov was testing a different GMO (NK603xMON810 stacked corn) on a different test animal (mouse). Also her study was a multigenerational study to examine effects on reproductive performance, not a chronic toxicity or carcinogenicity study. So unlike Seralini's study, it didn't track time of tumour onset, size or aggression.

It's a sign of the extreme desperation of the pro-GM lobby (including, sadly, our 'regulators', who seem more anxious to defend their GM approvals than investigate further) that they resort to citing a study showing GM corn caused infertility in order to try to discredit another study showing that GM corn caused tumours.

The message that consumers should perhaps draw from FSANZ's ham-fisted attempt to rescue Monsanto's GM corn is: eat GMOs and get cancer or become infertile – it's one or the other!
Response to Seralini paper on the long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ)
October 2012

In September 2012 Professor Gilles Eric Seralini and co-authors published a study suggesting laboratory rats fed genetically modified (GM) corn NK603 and/or Roundup (glyphosate) had a shortened life span, although apparently this was not proportional to the treatment dose.

The shortest lifespan was observed among rats consuming the lowest concentration of NK603 corn (11%) in the feed. The reduced lifespan was also associated with a high rate of tumours (cancer) in some of the test groups. The authors also reported adverse effects in the kidneys and disturbances in some plasma hormone levels.
FSANZ’s preliminary assessment

The relevance of the reported findings and conclusions drawn is limited because of a number of methodological and interpretive limitations.

Key limitations include the small number of animals in each test group, selective reporting of data, and no acknowledgement of the well-known spontaneous occurrence of mammary tumours in this strain of female rats.

The claimed toxicity of Roundup is implausible and doesn't align with extensive data from well designed and conducted long-term studies that used the active ingredient of Roundup; glyphosate, in multiple species (i.e. mice, rats, rabbits and dogs) at higher doses where no effects were observed.

Although the authors claimed that the maize line NK603 had not previously been tested in a long-term feeding study in rodents, a long-term feeding study using mice was conducted in 2008 using transgenic maize (NK603xMON810). This study Velimirov, et al, (2008) was funded by the Austrian Government.

In contrast to Seralini et al. (2012), Velimirov et al. applied appropriate statistical tests to similar sized test groups in order to conclude that "no differences were found in the inter group comparison". They went on to state that "long term studies may have limitations as the majority of outbred or inbred strains develop different forms of cancer. Thus diet-related differences could be masked and not really assessed".

Next steps

There is insufficient data in this published paper to enable a complete analysis. FSANZ will ask the authors to provide a copy of the original data for review. Once this data becomes available FSANZ will undertake a comprehensive analysis in order to determine if amendment to the current approval of NK603 maize is required.