Will GMO corn give you tumors?

I was given an article saying GMO corn might give tumors. I thought I would dig in to it. I neither wanted to dismiss it out of hand or accept it unquestionably because I know there is a lot of bias whenever GMO is brought up on both sides. First, I tried to find some good information on the subject. It was copied from a Natural News article, a really crappy website. Happily, the author linked to the actual study on the science journal’s website. I confirmed that it seemed to be a reputable journal.

So let’s see what they have to say! The headline said that the study’s result were that rats grow tumours when eating GMO corn, and die early:

Shock findings in new GMO study: Rats fed lifetime of GM corn grow horrifying tumors, 70% of females die early

It sounded to me like your usual anti-Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) food scare mongering. I usually dismiss these right away, but lets look into the article. The next line, as usual, says something completely different:

Eating genetically modified corn (GM corn) and consuming trace levels of Monsanto’s Roundup chemical fertilizer caused rats to develop horrifying tumors, widespread organ damage, and premature death.

The headline claimed that GMO corn can cause tumors. The first paragraph — which actually described the study — says that GMO food and Roundup fertilizer are correlated with tumors. This isn’t saying that GMO food is intrinsically bad. Maybe the GMO food is fine and it’s just the Roundup causing the problem? That’s a very different claim. So the article is trying to give the impression that GMO food is bad in general, but the findings don’t support that conclusion. Through the rest of the article, it painted a picture of GMO food being the problem, not the agriculture process. Very misleading.

Back to the article, they quote a British newspaper as saying what terrible things happened to those rats on a diet of GMO food:

The animals on the GM diet suffered mammary tumors, as well as severe liver and kidney damage. The researchers said 50 percent of males and 70 percent of females died prematurely, compared with only 30 percent and 20 percent in the control group.

Again, it says the those rats fed GMO food had health complications, and you can see pictures of rats with grotesque tumors. Since they talk about the rats on a diet of GMO food versus the control group, it is implied that this is compared to rats that had safe, non-GMO food. However, the study said that all the rats were given GMO food:

We investigated three different GM corn namely NK 603, MON 810 and MON 863, which were fed to rats for 90 days…. In fact, there were only two treated groups for each sex (20 animals each consuming specific GM maize feed).

So there is no need to fear GMO corn because of this study. Both the healthy control group and the unhealthy, tumor ridden, prematurely dying group were fed GMO corn. The GMO is not the problem here.

It may be that the problem is the specific type of GMO corn. Or the problem might be the type of Roundup. But the problem is not that all GMO corn is bad for you, or all GMO food is bad. You can grow corn in a healthy way or unhealthy way. The same is true with all food. Any food can be contaminated, defective, diseased or unhealthy because of poor practices at any link in the chain from planting the seed in the ground to eating the food.

Clearly, there is a difference between the two diets fed to the rats that we need to pay close attention to. But Natural News is irrationally anti-GMO. This article is anti-GMO. They are saying GMO is dangerous through most of the article. Most people will probably think it’s the GMO corn that is the problem. But that’s like being against all organic food because of one organic recall. No matter how your food is grown it is possible for bad decisions and poor practices to effect your health. You can’t say an entire category is wrong, but that’s the impression the Natural News article is trying to give.

I posted an article saying not all GMO foods are terrible, debunking some myths about GMO foods. This article in question was given to me as more food for thought on the subject. It clearly had given that person the impression that GMO is bad. But that’s not what the study — the evidence — said.

Sources:

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