Supporters of genetically-modified (GM) crops are likely to draw the Supreme Court’s notice on the retraction by the Food and Chemical Toxicology Journal of the only study on adverse effects of GM corn to justify their case for allowing field trials in the country.
The Supreme Court will resume hearing a petition to ban field trials of GM crops on January 6.
A fresh affidavit pointing to the retraction of the study could be filed in the apex court, according to Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises (ABLE) that is in favour of GM crops.
Aruna Rodrigues, who has petitioned the Supreme Court seeking a ban on GM crop trials, said there would be no use in filing a fresh affidavit on the retraction of the study.
Anti-GM groups, lead by Greenpeace India, are confident that the ban on GM crop trials will continue.
In September, the Food and Chemical Toxicology Journal said that it was retracting the only study on “Long-term toxicity of a roundup herbicide and a roundup-tolerant genetically-modiﬁed maize” by Gilles-Eric Séralini of the University of Caen in France.
The study said that rats fed with a diet of genetically-modified maize (Roundup Ready NK603) developed health problems, including cancer.
The journal said it was withdrawing the study after analysis of the study and reported data. Soon after the article was published in November 2012, the journal said it received several letters expressing concern over the validity of the findings.
A close look at the raw data, supplied by the authors on the journal’s request, revealed that the sample size was small and no definite conclusion could be reached with regard to either the presence of glyphosate in the GM maize variety or overall mortality or tumour incidents.
The journal said the rat species Sprague-Dawley, used for the experiment, was prone to developing cancer with age and particularly when there is no dietary restriction.
The journal said the study was not incorrect, though it was inconclusive.
In his defence, Seralini justified the use of the Sprague-Dawley rats on the grounds that testing of any species not sensitive to tumour or cancer would not make sense.
Commenting on the development, ABLE said that the study had been used by anti-GM organisations to whip up public sentiments in the country.
“The Supreme Court should take cognisance of the fact that the only paper alluding to health issues on GM crop has been retracted,” said P.M. Murali, ABLE President.
N. Seetharama, ABLE Executive Director, said: “The issue of the study’s retraction is figuring among those who are in favour of GM crops since the findings have been cited as a reason to bar trials of GM crop here.
Kenya and a few other countries have changed their GM crop policy after this study was published. It has had a negative impact on technology.”
“We can file a counter to any affidavit, pointing to lack of studies on long-term effects,” Rodrigues said.
Rajesh Krishnan, Agricultural Campaign, Greenpeace India, said that the retraction has only exposed the lack of a long-term study of animal models to know the effects of GM crops.
“After the study was rejected, the European Food Safety Authority has floated tenders on conducting long-term study of GM crops on animals. We feel no proper explanation has been given for the retraction (of the study),” he said.
“Who were those who examined Seralini’s study?
The journal got a new bio-technology editor who has a Monsanto background,” Krishnan said.