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RSK ASSESSMENT / FOOD: EFSAs MON 863 maize assessment to takeseveral weeks

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  EFSAs GM maize assessment to take several weeks
SOURCE: Food Navigator, France
AUTHOR: Jess Halliday
DATE:   26.03.2007

EFSAs GM maize assessment to take several weeks

26/03/2007 - The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is consulting
with EU member states to ascertain whether further data are available to
help it with its renewed assessment of Monsanto's GM maize MON 863; its
evaluation, based on this input and the work of its GMO panel, is
expected to take several weeks.

The European Commission asked EFSA two weeks ago to examine the recently
published CRIIGEN study on genetically modified maize MON 863, and see
whether it has any consequences for the authority's existing opinion on
the safety of Monsanto's transgenic maize.

CRIIGENII is a 90-day rat study conducted by researchers at the
University of Caen and published in the peer-review journal Archives of
Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. It indicated liver and
kidney toxicity in rats fed the transgenic maize, as well as differences
in weight gain between the sexes.

EFSA's GMO panel has the job of addressing the statistical analysis in
this study and any possible implications for human safety. The matter
was discussed at EFSA's GMO Panel meeting last Thursday and Friday.

This is not the first time that EFSA has been asked to evaluate the
safety of MON 863 as a result of a published study. A 13-week rat study
conducted in Germany in 2004 raised concerns over liver toxicity.

However in October of that year the EFSA GMO panel concluded that there
was "no evidence presented in the report that changes the conclusions
already reached by the GMO Panel earlier this year in its Opinions on
the safety of the insect-protected genetically modified maize MON 863
(EFSA 2004a, b)."

The initial opinions stated that the results of the rodent toxicity
study with MON 863 maize did not indicate concerns about its safety for
human and animal consumption.

The researchers behind the new study, led by Professor Gilles Eric
SÚralini from the independent CRIIGEN (Committee for Independent
Research and Genetic Engineering) based at the University of Caen
questioned the methods used by Monsanto to initially show the safety and
non-toxicity of the corn, saying that the statistical methods used were
insufficient to observed any possible disruptions in biochemistry.

"Monsanto's analyses do not stand up to rigorous scrutiny - to begin
with, their statistical protocols are highly questionable. Worse, the
company failed to run a sufficient analysis of the differences in animal
weight. Crucial data from urine tests were concealed in the company's
own publications," said SÚralini during a joint press conference with
environmental group Greenpeace in Berlin.

Monsanto has continued to defend the safety record of its corn.
Spokesperson Lee Quarles told earlier this month: "The
important thing to note in all of this is the fact that the overwhelming
opinion of expert authorities is that MON 863 is safe for human and
animal consumption. This includes experts in Europe as the European
competent authorities concur that MON 863 YieldGard Rootworm maize is
safe for human and animal health and the environment.

MON863 is a transgenic maize genetically modified to express the Bt-
toxin (Cry3Bb1) which enables the plant to be insect repellent against
the corn rootworm pest. It is different from other GM corns of the
market since these express the Cry1Ab toxin which is toxic to the
European corn borer.

It has been grown commercially in the United States and Canada since
2003, and approved for import and food use in countries including Japan,
Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Russia and Mexico.

MON 863 received European approval for use in animal feed in 2005 and
for human consumption in 2006.

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