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Dubious study cited in article

Published on December 6, 2012 3:01AM

Last changed on January 3, 2013 8:50AM

Professor: Kaiser newsletter referenced 'agenda-driven research'


Capital Press

When Kaiser Permanente printed an article critical of genetically modified food in its newsletter, it cited research that has been discredited by others in the scientific world, a professor says.

Michael Neff, a professor of crop biotechnology at Washington State University, said the article was apparently referring to a September paper by French microbiologist Gilles-Eric Seralini, who led a study at the University of Caen.

Roundup Ready corn was fed to rats, which developed tumors, Neff said. But the study has been refuted based on the poor quality of the science.

Objections were raised immediately, and on Nov. 28 the European Food Safety Agency rejected the study outright, he said.

"They used rats prone to developing tumors, there were problems with the control group and not enough detail on the feeding and treatment of the animals, and there was little data on the statistical methods they employed," Neff said. "In my opinion, this was agenda-driven research."

There are no scientifically demonstrated connections between GMO foods on the market and human health, he said.

Kaiser Permanente's fall newsletter included an article written by an unidentified employee who included the statement: "Independent research has found several varieties of GMO corn caused organ damage in rats. Other studies have found that GMOs may lead to an inability in animals to reproduce."

Kaiser spokesman David Northfield said the article was written by one of the company's nutritionists and presents her views on the subject.

"As a mission-based nonprofit healthcare organization, we believe it is important to share information with our members on a wide range of topics related to health care and health, but we do not take an organizational position on every issue," he said.

"Kaiser Permanente believes the ongoing research and debate on bioengineered foods, or genetically modified organisms is important. We also recognize there are important conversations about related initiatives and propositions. While we believe these are important scientific and political debates, we do not have policy positions on these subjects."

Karen Batra, spokeswoman at the Biotech Industry Association, said, "The world's leading scientific authorities have all concluded that products developed through biotechnology pose no more risk than conventionally produced products, and have even lauded many of the accompanying environmental, economical and societal benefits of the technology.

"Unfortunately, it looks like Kaiser's newsletter article is based on misinformation from anti-GMO groups and even references a recent scientific study that was discredited by virtually every major scientific authority in the world," she said. "We hope that Kaiser will further research the issue to better provide the most correct and updated information to its members."

There was no response to inquiries made to the Anti-GMO Coalition.


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