ort from Russia claimed that people eating GM food would die early; CropGen commented at the time.

Based on this work, some UK newspapers have recently suggested that if mothers were to eat GM foods they might “risk endangering their unborn babies”. No story would be more likely to worry prospective parents, often in no position themselves to judge the accuracy and reliability of scares. They will tend, not surprisingly, to play it safe.

The Russian experiments had already been rebutted by a well-known Australian scientist, as Cropgen reported. Now the UK’s Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes, an official body working in the public interest to review and regulate GM and other novel foods, has published its own highly critical report.

It is worth quoting their closing remarks in full:

“In conclusion, there are a number of possible explanations for the results obtained in this preliminary study, apart from the GM and non-GM origin of the test materials. Without information on a range of important factors conclusions cannot be drawn from this work. The Committee Secretariat is contacting Dr Ermakova to obtain further information on this study and the Committee will consider any further information that can be obtained and review the position if a full report of the study is published in the peer-reviewed literature.

The Committee also notes that Dr Ermakova’s findings are not consistent with those described in a peer-reviewed paper published in 2004.1 In a well controlled study no adverse effects were found in mice fed on diets containing 21% GM herbicide-resistant soya beans and followed through up to 4 generations.”


3. GM ‘could harm your unborn baby’. Daily Mail (9.1.06). [The same newspaper used a similar headline – Can Frankenstein foods harm your unborn baby? – on 30.1.99 for a story suggested exploring possible “statistical links” with Down’s Syndrome.]

4. Statement on the effect of GM soya on newborn rats. Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes

London (19 January 2006) – What you do – and where you do it – can really upset things.

One of the latest concerns in the unending fears about transgenic crops and foods has hit South Africa. It is felt by some sensitive people that foreigners visiting local campsites and defecating in adjacent open spaces can pose a serious genetic threat to the environment.



The reason is that such wicked foreigners may in Europe (sic!) have consumed a genetically modified food with seeds, travelled to South Africa within hours and there performed their dirty deeds, discharging undigested seeds into the purity of the pristine South African environment.

This submission was made with respect to the Genetically Modified Organisms Amendment Bill now being considered; it calls on the committee to plug the loophole although quite how that might be done is not made clear.

CropGen is reminded of a related and possibly apocryphal story, current about eight years ago, in which it was rumoured that UK anti-GM activists succumbed to paroxysms of fear when British scientists ate some GM tomatoes to prove that they were not toxic. The activists demanded that the scientists be quarantined until all seeds had passed through their digestive tracts and were properly disposed of.

The scenario may not be entirely far-fetched. Someone in charge of inspecting sewage treatment plants reported that the most startling feature of sewage treatment lagoons in late summer is the lush crop of tomatoes growing at the margins. The fruits rivalled any he had ever seen in food shops or in farmers’ markets but he could bring himself to eat any of them.

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