E-mail this article to
yourself or a friend.
Enter address:


Dangers of GM chicken feed

(Sunday, July 6, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- Sean Poulter, Daily Mail, 06/25/03: Alarming safety doubts have been raised about GM maize after a feeding trial in which death rates among chickens doubled. Twice as many birds fed GM maize died during the 42-day Canadian trialcompared with those on conventional diets. And when it was over, the birds fed GM maize varied widely in size.

But far from raising concerns, the trial was used to back up an application to grow the new crop in Britain.Chardon LL maize, or T25, was developed by Aventis/Bayer and has become thefirst GM crop to be approved for commercial use here.

Last night, independent experts condemned the approval of T25 by theAdvisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE). Farm animal specialists Dr Steve Kestin and Dr Toby Knowles said the decision raised serious questions about Britain's approval regime for GMcrops and food. They said the chicken trial, paid for by the biotech firm and carried out at the University of Guelph in Ontario, was too small to offer reassurance.

They described the work as 'mediocre' and 'no better than a school project'and said the differences in death and growth rates should have triggered more research. They also complained that the feed demanding study involved chickens when the maize is intended to be fed to cattle. Further studies were vital to discover whether genetically modifying the crop to make it resistant to the weedkiller glufosinate created unexpected toxins, they said.

Dr Kestin and Dr Knowles, from the University of Bristol, are involved in the peer review of experiments carried out by universities around the world. The chicken trial involved 280 male birds, half of which were fed GM maize and the rest conventional maize. Five of those on the conventional diet and ten given GM feed died during the trial. The variation in weight in the remaining 130 birds given GM feed was much greater than for the other group.

Dr Knowles said he was alarmed that the findings were submitted for the approval process for T25."For a study with such obvious defects to be taken as evidence in the first place, and to reach the stage it did and not be recognised as such poor science, doesn't give you any faith at all in the way these crops are being certified," he said."I would not be surprised if at some time something goes horribly wrong."He said the feeding trial was a long way short of the standards required of pharmaceutical firms for new products.

Like most of the research on the safety of GM crops, the chicken trial was not carried out independently but paid for by its developer, Aventis/Bayer.Dr Kestin said: "There are fundamental flaws in the study they should have spotted. The fact that the mortality rate of the chickens fed GM maize seemed higher should have prompted an in-depth investigation."

The concerns of the Bristol team were raised with ACRE. However, they were not considered by the committee or a related sub-committee before T25 was approved. That failure was yesterday condemned by Friends of the Earth, which commissioned the Bristol team to examine the feed trial findings.Phil Michaels, lawyer for the campaign group, said: 'Here we have an advisory body which has completely failed to do the one thing it must do, which is look at all the relevant evidence. "ACRE said its members were aware of the work of the Bristol experts, even though it had not formed a formal part of the approval decision.