Part of the problem with genetically engineered food, or GMOs, in the food system is that there aren't a whole lot of GMO studies investigating their safety. That reason alone has sparked dozens of health experts to call for a GMO ban or, at the very least, labeling of foods containing the questionable ingredients.
But a new study published this week in the peer-reviewed journal Food and Chemical Toxicology deals a major blow to biotech and chemical company giants. In a first-of-its-kind animal study, French researchers discovered that rats fed genetically engineered corn or exposed to the active ingredient in the weedkiller Roundup over a long period died early and suffered mammary tumors and kidney and liver damage. The GMO corn used in the study was Monsanto's NK603 seed, a variety created to live through heaving dousings of Roundup.
Roundup is a systemic pesticide, meaning it is taken up inside of the plant. It winds up in nonorganic food, particularly processed foods, at levels that many toxicologists say could cause harm to humans.
Read More: 9 Farmer's Market Favorites Under Attack
Critics were quick to dismiss the study, but others say the new research could sway voters to support the Proposition 37 Right to Know initiative in California. In just a few weeks, voters there will vote for the initiative that would require all foods containing GMOs in the state to be labeled. Prop 37 seems to have worried the GMO industry, though. Monsanto's donated $7 million to strike down the initiative, the most of any biotech company.
In the study, researchers fed rats GMO corn or gave them water laced with Roundup at levels allowed in the United States. Compared to the control group, exposed rats developed significantly more mammary tumors and suffered organ damage; 20 percent of the males and 50 percent of females died early. Previous studies linked GMOs—which have been infiltrating the U.S. food system since the 1990s—to allergies and digestive disease.
Read More: How You Can Stand Up to GMOs
Previous surveys have found that labeling GMOs earns broad bipartisan support among voters. Regardless of political party or gender, about 90 percent of the population believes GMOs should be labeled. Currently, the only ways to know if your food is GMO and pesticide free is to buy organic food.
For more surprising news regarding why it's important to choose organic, read The Truth about Organic.