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GM-soy affects posterity. New research.

Moscow ¤ 20:03 ¤ October 17, 2005

Regnum

http://www.regnum.ru/english/526651.html

Genetically modified soy affects posterity: Results of Russian scientists’ studies

On October 10, during the symposium over genetic modification, organized by the National Association for Genetic Security (NAGS), Doctor of Biology Irina Ermakova made public the results of the research led by her at the Institute of Higher Nervous Activity and Neurophysiology of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS). This is the first research that determined clear dependence between eating genetically modified soy and the posterity of living creatures.

During the experiment, doctor Ermakova added GM soy flour to the food of female rats two weeks before conception, during conception and nursing. In the control group were the rat females that were not added anything to their food. The experiment was formed by 3 groups of 3 female rats in each: the first one was control group, the second one was the group with GM-soy addition, and the third one with traditional soy addition. The scientists counted the number of female species to give birth and the number of born and died rats.

After the result of the first stage, the second part took place. Now the rats were divided into two groups – one with GM-soy addition in their food, and other without the GM-soy. In three weeks the scientists received following results:

Additions Female that gave birth Born rats Dead rats (in three weeks) Percent of dead rats Rats still alive

Additions Female that gave birth Born rats Dead rats (in three weeks) Percent of dead rats Rats still alive
Control group 4 (of 6) 44 3 6,8% 41
With GM-soy 4 (of 6) 45 25 55,6% 20
With normal soy 3 (of 3) 33 3 9% 30

 

Thus, according to these results, the abnormally high level of posterity death has been detected at the posterity of the female species with GM-soy added to their food. And 36% percent of born rats weighed less than 20 grams that is an evidence of their extremely weak condition.

“The morphology and biochemical structures of rats are very similar to those of humans, and this makes the results we obtained very disturbing,” said Irina Ermakova to NAGS press office. According to NAGS Vice-president Aleksey Kulikov, the data received by Dr.Ermakova confirm the necessity of full scale tests of GM-products influence over living creatures.

Thus, according to these results, the abnormally high level of posterity death has been detected at the posterity of the female species with GM-soy added to their food. And 36% percent of born rats weighed less than 20 grams that is an evidence of their extremely weak condition.

“The morphology and biochemical structures of rats are very similar to those of humans, and this makes the results we obtained very disturbing,” said Irina Ermakova to NAGS press office. According to NAGS Vice-president Aleksey Kulikov, the data received by Dr.Ermakova confirm the necessity of full scale tests of GM-products influence over living creatures.


Rebuttal to Above Article from CropGen

http://www.cropgen.org/article_45.html

London (31.10.2005) – Last week saw a very dubious report from Russia claiming that people eating GM food would die early (1). As so often with these stories, instead of verifiable evidence there was support from well-known anti-GM pressure groups but no actual data.

Unfortunately, people who are not adequately informed about this and similar controversial matters get taken in, believing there can be no smoke without fire. But they are wrong: there is no fire and the smoke is deliberately generated to fog the issue.

Dr. Christopher Preston, Senior Lecturer in Weed Management at the University of Adelaide in South Australia, has reviewed the matter in detail (2). With his permission, the review is presented here in full:

Earlier this week, a Russian scientist disclosed non-peer-reviewed claims about feeding studies with genetically modified soybeans. Dr. Christopher Preston, from the University of Adelaide, Australia, exams the claims and compares them with past peer-reviewed scientific publications.

The following story is starting to do the rounds of the anti-GM websites. The original report was published in a Russian online newspaper in mid-October, but is only now starting to do the rounds.

On the surface, this study appears to indicate a major danger with GM soy fed to rats. There was 6-fold increase in the number of deaths and the surviving progeny were significantly smaller. The study in question was conducted by Dr. Irina Ermakova of the Institute of Higher Nervous Activity and Neurophysiology of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the results released at a conference organised by National Association for Genetic Security.

Dr. Ermakova is a researcher on brain function whose speciality is in the function neurotransplants into the brain, and who has published in both Russian and English journals.

From the report, it is hard to get a good sense of how the experiments were done. There is simply not enough information given in the report. The report states that the experiment consisted of 3 groups of 3 rats, but results are reported for 15 rats.

The report also indicates that the three groups of rats were condensed to 2 groups after birth. It is not clear from the report why or how this was done. We are not told crucial points such as were there true replicates or only pseudo-replication? Why did a third of the rats in each of the control and GM soy groups not give birth? What was the source of GM and non-GM soy and how much was included in the diet?

In the absence of answers to these questions, it is difficult to analyse the data further. One question that does come to mind is why the deaths are reported as total numbers instead of as means with an idea of the variance.

This report is a stark contrast with a previously published study by Brake and Evenson (3) on mice. This study looked at a generational study of mice fed a diet containing GM soy or non-GM soy. They reported identical litter sizes for the two groups (7.3 per female in nine replicates for both groups) and nearly identical growth rates for the mice fed transgenic feed and for their progeny, compared to mice fed non-transgenic feed. The differences, where they occurred, favoured the mice fed transgenic feed.

There are a number of other questions about the Russian research that come to mind. Firstly, what is a neurological scientist doing conducting feeding studies on GM food? This is always a question that arises when someone conducts research outside his or her speciality.

In this case, it is quite easy to determine the motivation. A visit to Dr. Ermakova's website (http://irina-ermakova.by.ru/eng), provides the clues. Under the section "Publications" is a list of popular articles by Dr. Ermakova. They include an open letter to the Russian President called "Stop transgenization of the country", and "Russian roulette. Delayed-action mine, or why generically modified organisms are so dangerous".

Under the section "Ecology and Life" is a list of "new articles" described as "Important information". These include links to anti-GM articles by Mae-Wan Ho and Beatrix Tappeser from 1997, Arpad Pusztai from 2001, the "World Scientist's Statement" from ISIS, and from bio-integrity. Clearly Dr. Ermakova has concerns about the use of GMOs, but I suggest is quite selective in the views she promulgates.

Secondly, why report the results at a conference organised by an anti-GM NGO? This is an important question as it is a good way of ensuring that mainstream scientists will take the research less seriously.

The NGO involved is called The National Association of Genetic Safety (NAGS). According to their website (http://www.geneticsafety.org ), their mission is described as "NAGS considers its top priority to protect the interests of citizens of the Russian Federation as an integral part of the international community and to facilitate the creation of a system of biological safety of humankind and the surrounding environment."

Their goals are described as "participating in the development of legislation that would cover the entire complex of biological safety issues, facilitating the development of the National Genetic Safety Concept, taking part in international projects on the issues of biological and genetic safety, spreading the ideas of protection of genetic resources of the Earth, promoting educational initiatives in the sphere of biological safety, creating the system of public control over the market of food and food industry raw materials, and cooperating with the media, government bodies, political parties and public organizations in Russia and worldwide."

However, all of their public statements that have turned up in the Western media (and internet) are on GM foods. For example, NAGS organised a letter to the Russian President in October 2004 warning of the dangers of GM foods. In the press material, GM foods were described as "dangerous in their unpredictability" and as "biogenic terrorism".

In March 2005, NAGS released the findings of a study of a Moscow meat market, claiming that 50% of vendors used GM feed. While this might be true, there is significant scientific evidence that GM feedstuffs are not dangerous (see the list of 42 peer reviewed studies I collated last year at http://www.agbioworld.org/biotech-info/articles/biotech-art/peer-reviewed-pubs.html). The claim is disingenuous and made simply to frighten people about their food.

In June 2004, NAGS released claims about the use of GM products in baby food. Their claims as reported in the Western Press where that 70% of samples contained GM materials and some mixes were 100% genetically modified. Even allowing for the problems of translation from Russian to English, this is an unequivocal statement and certainly not true. This would leave no room for any other ingredients including water.

Even worse, NAGS claimed that some of the dairy and vegetable mixes were entirely made of GMO. This claim made when no GM vegetables were commercially available, unless one counts soybeans as a vegetable. The President of NAGS, Alexander Baranov, had claimed in 2003 that 70% of people in the US were allergic to GMOs, a claim that hardly stands any scrutiny. With this record behind them, it is difficult to give NAGS much credibility.

This brings me back to the question I asked: Why would you report results of feeding studies at a conference organised by an anti-GM NGO? Surely, if the results were that striking they would be presented to health authorities rather than to a group of anti-GM activists? These were similar questions to those I, and others, asked when Terje Traavik reported his results on Bt corn at a Third World Network sponsored conference. Indeed, this whole exercise reminds me a lot of that episode. Now 18 months down the track from Traavik's preliminary announcement in Kuala Lumpur, we have seen no more on the issue.

The answer to my question lies in how science is being used in these episodes. It is clear in both cases that the data available would not stand regulatory scrutiny. This is why it has not been delivered through normal channels.

Presenting results such as these at an anti-GM conference containing true believers is a good way of ensuring affirmation of the research. The audience will believe it because they want to believe it, whereas a more sceptical audience might ask some difficult questions about the research. Even more importantly, it ensures the ability to apply political pressure with scientific research that would not stand the rigors of normal peer review.

Sources:

1. People eating genetically modified food may have rat-short lifespan. Pravda (27 October, 2005) (http://english.pravda.ru/science/19/94/377/16372_GMF.html)

2. Christopher Preston. Genetically-modified Soy Affects Posterity? AgBioWorld (27.10.05) (http://www.agbioworld.org/newsletter_wm/index.php?caseid=archive&newsid=2434).

3. D.G. Brake and D.P. Evenson (2004). A generational study of glyphosate-tolerant soybeans on mouse fetal, postnatal, pubertal and adult testicular development. Food Chemistry and Toxicology 42:29-36