Africa Agri-Biotech Updates: Deficiencies in study linking gm maize to cancer: global scientific perspectives – Brief 2, January 2013

Modern biotechnology has contributed to improved utilization of scarce land resources, improved crop yields, enhanced nutritional value of some food crops, better drug development, accurate disease diagnostics and most importantly reduced use of pesticides. Yet despite this immense potential, genetic modification is still widely misunderstood and its application in agriculture is a victim of premeditated smear and scare campaigns. The allegations made by Seralini and his group will no doubt misinform public debate for months, perhaps years to come. They led to a temporary ban on the importation of GM corn by the Russian government. This has however been lifted. The French Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, also announced he might try to get GM corn banned throughout the European Union. Additionally, the Kenyan cabinet issued a ban on importation of all GM foods pending safety review. It should however be noted that prior to marketing GM products, technology developers work with regulatory agencies around the world to ascertain product equivalency to its conventional counterpart for nutrition, food safety and agronomic performance. In addition, there is ample evidence gathered for over 20 years indicating that the scientific methods used to develop GM products assure safety. The development of a GM crop normally requires at least 10 years, during which rigorous laboratory and field trials are done. Animal feeding trials ascertain whether the product is toxic or cancerous, before approving it for commercialization. Technology developers test the safety of each introduced protein before the product is marketed. In cases where potential risk is evident, product development is terminated.