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BUAV criticises cruel GM food rat experiment

09/10/2012

The BUAV has spoken out about their concerns for the animals used in a French study on maize and weed-killer which is attracting widespread scientific criticism. Researchers from Caen University fed rats genetically modified (GM) maize that had been sprayed with a popular weed killer called Roundup for two years. The experiment essentially duplicated earlier research that had already found no risk to humans, but French researchers repeated the study until the rats had developed large cancerous tumours that led to multiple organ damage and premature death in 50% of males and 70% of females. 

Photographs of rats with shockingly large tumours were seen in the paper published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology. According to the UK Co-ordinating Committee on Cancer Research (UKCCCR) the "tumour burden should not usually exceed 5% of the host animal's normal body weight in the case of animals being used for routine tumour passage, or 10% in animals involved in therapeutic experiments. (This latter size, i.e. 10%, would typically represent a mean subcutaneous flank tumour diameter of 17mm in a 25g mouse or 35mm in a 250g rat)." The US Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) also states that “tumour size should not exceed 4.0cm in adult rats.” The tumours shown in this experiment reached at least 7.0cm in length and in one photo two of these appallingly large tumours can be seen on either side of one rat’s body. 

A broad range of scientists have strongly criticised the research on statistical grounds and because the strain of rats used are prone to develop cancer as they age anyway. The BUAV believes the experiment should also be strongly criticised on animal welfare grounds.

The BUAV's senior science advisor Dr Katy Taylor states; "The BUAV is appalled at this poorly-conducted and cruel experiment. The researchers allowed the rats to suffer huge tumours, which far exceeded that allowed under established animal welfare guidelines. It is unacceptable that animals are being abused in the debate about the safety of GM food. This experiment should never have been allowed as it was a repeat of an earlier study. The storm of criticism about the study just shows how unreliable animal safety tests are and how weak the controls are to prevent duplication and suffering in animal experiments. "

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