The Society of Biology and a number of its learned Fellows have cautioned that the conclusions drawn from a report released this week, claiming long-term health effects from Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide and from a type of genetically modified (GM) Roundup-resistant maize, need to be considered in context. The paper published in Food and Chemical Toxicology claims that in lifetime feeding studies, rats fed on a diet containing NK603 Roundup-tolerant GM maize, or given water containing Roundup, died earlier than rats fed on a standard diet - suffering mammary tumours and severe liver and kidney damage.

The authors of the paper have been criticised for overstating their conclusions and not providing sufficient statistical backing or experimental information. Comparisons were made between ‘treated’ groups and ‘untreated control’ groups, which each comprised only 10 rats of a particular sex, making it difficult to draw conclusions. The strain of rat used in the study is also known to be susceptible to tumours.

Dr Mark Downs, Chief Executive of the Society of Biology, commented:

“Studies to assess the safety of food for human and animal consumption are extremely important. However, it is difficult to draw any conclusions from the data in this study and the results need to be considered alongside the accumulated evidence on the safety of herbicides and GM plants.”