The experimental phase of a $25 million study designed to determine if genetically modified organisms and the associated pesticide, glyphosate, is safe for humans is set to begin in 2015.
Called “Factor GMO,” the study was initiated and coordinated by the Russian National Association for Genetic Safety (NAGS), a non-governmental, non-profit organization based in Moscow which has been a supporter of comprehensive safety studies on GMOs. The study is being touted as the world’s largest study ever conducted on GMOs and pesticide safety.
Factor GMO’s preparatory phase started in early 2014. The full experiment will begin in 2015 and will last two to three years. It will be conducted around Western Europe and Russia, with interim results being published at regular intervals.
A press conference announcing the public launch of the study was held earlier in November.
The study will test herbicide-tolerant GM corn and the levels of the glyphosate herbicide it is grown with. Rats will be used as the test subjects.
Study organizers say its rigorous approach will provide them with the data that will once and for all be able to determine if consumption of GM food and the associated pesticide is safe.
Key questions the study seeks to answer include:
Is GM food (or its associated pesticide) toxic to organ systems over the long term?
Does GM food (or its associated pesticide) cause cancer?
Does GM food (or its associated pesticide) reduce fertility or cause birth defects?
Is the mixture of chemicals present in Roundup herbicide more or less toxic than its active ingredient glyphosate?
To add a measure of neutrality and credibility to the study, the scientists involved have no connection to the biotech industry or any anti-GMO movement. The three scientists selected for the study review board are:
Oxana Sinitsyna, deputy director for science at the A. N. Sysin Research Institute of Human Ecology and Environmental Health of the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation, Moscow.
Bruce Blumberg, professor, developmental & cell biology at the School of Biological Sciences, University of California, Irvine, USA.
Fiorella Belpoggi, director and chief of pathology of the Cesare Maltoni Cancer Research Centre of the Ramazzini Institute, Bentivoglio, Italy.
NAGS says it will not be involved in designing the study or the experiment and will have no association with results.
“Comprehensive scientific safety studies on GMOs and their related pesticides are long overdue,” says Elena Sharoykina, project initiator and NAGS director and co-founder. “All previous studies caused controversy for various reasons: choice of animal, insufficient statistics, duration of tests, research parameters and researchers’ connections to the anti-GMO movement or the biotech industry. Factor GMO is intended to remedy the situation.”
According to NAGS, the study’s funders will be revealed at the beginning of the experimental phase in 2015 and will remain transparent.
While NAGS is quiet on the exact amounts raised to date, it says a high percentage of the total has been secured from donors around the globe. However, study officials say Factor GMO has not and will not accept funds from the industry that manufactures GM crops and their associated pesticides.