Roundup the Rats

A story in the LA Times leads with: “Rats fed corn engineered to resist spraying with an herbicide developed tumors and other health problems, a study finds.” The article cites a study involving rats that ate chow containing various quantities of Monsanto Co.’s Roundup-resistant corn, and rats that ate the same chow along with drinking water that contained Roundup.

“During the two-year study, the scientists found that up to 50% of the male rats and 70% of females that ate genetically modified corn, Roundup or both died prematurely. That compared to a 30% (male) and 20% (female) mortality rate among control rats that ate conventional corn without Roundup. The scientists also reported greater numbers — and earlier development — of mammary tumors in female rats exposed to genetically modified corn, Roundup or both than were found in control animals.”

Not surprisingly, the study was attacked. “The rats were the wrong kind,” or “200 rats wasn’t enough to draw meaningful conclusions.” These opposing scientists would like us to wait and see if more studies lead to similar findings. The same “wait and see” arguments were made about tobacco. Some may even recall years ago when advertisements featured physicians who touted the health benefits of smoking. Tobacco companies didn’t care about who got hurt by their products, in fact despite the evidence we have today, they continue to heavily market their products, concentrating on countries with  less stringent laws than we have in the U.S.

History is repeating itself. As was the case originally with tobacco, growing evidence about the adverse effects of genetically modified food is being downplayed and ignored. The real damage in humans is yet to be realized – unlike rats, it may take twenty or more years before the full impact on human health is known and acknowledged.

Do we really want to “wait and see?” Wouldn’t an ounce of prevention now, in the way of switching to organic foods, be worth a pound of cure? What is the downside if it ever is determined that there isn’t a threat of becoming seriously ill by eating Monsanto’s corn? You might have spent a bit more for your food, but the tradeoff would be less soil, air and groundwater contamination, and a safer working environment for the laborers who plant and harvest the food.

Humans have been eating, and surviving, for hundreds of years without genetically modified foods. Why should we change now?

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