GMO -- Interviews
Michael Antoniou, PhD
Updated: 15 March 2014

This is my set of notes on one of a "GMO mini-summit" series of interviews put together by John and Ocean Robbins of Food Revolution in October 2013, many of them conducted by Jeffrey Smith of the Institute For Responsible Technology and author of the international best-seller Seeds of Deception and the comprehensive Genetic Roulette.

Topics Qualifications Highlights

  • molecular scientist and genetic engineer
  • co-author of GMO Myths and Truths, one of the most-thoroughly researched and comprehensive books on GMOs ever written

  • The difference between genetic engineering and GMOs -- containment, no environmental release
  • Unpredictability will affect the plant biologically
    • No control over where insertion happens
    • Genome is a complex interactive ecosystem -- insertion will affect other genes
  • Little or no premarket testing anywhere in the world to determine results of this -- released poorly characterized and without effective safety testing
  • Transgenic methodology (gene gun or bacteria) and problems
    • Random insertion point
    • Damage around the insertion point
    • Tissue culture (cloning) creates tens/hundreds of thousands of mutations
    • No testing for these
    • -- can't test directly because you don't know what might have been created; need to use well-designed non-targeted animal feeding studies.
  • Difference between traditional breeding and GM
    • No cross-species/kingdoms transfer that can't occur in traditional breeding
    • No risk of genome-wide mutations
  • Dr. Zola's proteomics study (Italy)
    • Proteomics measures the protein profile
    • Monsanto 810 Bt corn: study done long AFTER release to market
    • GM vs isogenic (parent w/o GM), grown in same place, same conditions (climate, soil)
    • Result: evidence of massive changes in plant biochemistry
      • dozens of proteins expressed at higher or lower levels
      • truncated proteins (EXREMELY significant evidence of serious damage)
      • Known allergen gamma-zain (not present before, apparently turned on by promoter)
    • Potential for highly toxic substances
  • Regulation
    • US: noexistent: Monsanto claims equivalence and safety, FDA accepts without passing judgment
    • Europe -- 90-day feeding study (equiv. to just 8-9 yrs human life, not required)
  • Monsanto's 90-day rat feeding study -- an example of industry's designed-to-fail studies
    • 3 varieties: MON 810, MON 863, Anchors 603
    • GMO vs isogenic vs 6 unrelated non-GMO
    • Diet: 33% or 11% corn (note: some African diets 50-70%)
    • Measurements: blood & urine composition, function measurements
    • Conclusion: safe (EU accepts)
    • Greenpeace lawsuit exposes otherwise secret data
    • Statistically significant differences in 50 physiol/biochem parameters
    • reflect liver/kidney toxicity, even in the 11% group
    • EU response: yes, but biologically insignificant
    • That's a rewrite of rules of science: may not know results, but can't dismiss, need further testing
  • Response study: Prof. Gilles Seralini (France)
    • Calls the bluff that you can evaluate life-long exposure safety on a 90-day rat study
    • Similarity: same experimental design, same rat strain
    • Differences:
      • 2 years (life of rat)
      • expanded range of measured parameters
      • expanded number of feeding groups
        • GMO, non-GMO, and both GMO and non-GMO with low dose of Roundup (to clearly identify any GMO effects unrelated to Roundup)
        • Use of Roundup (not just glyphosate) is significant: adjuvants make the glyphosate much more toxic
        • male, female
    • Results
      • Found in both Roundup and GMO groups
      • Liver/kidney toxicity (esp. males) worsened during year 1, serious damage by year 2
      • Tumors (unexpected!) -- particularly female mammary
      • first one appeared shortly after the first 90 days (the standard safety test length)
      • Roundup alone at doses found in contaminated drinking water: tumor incidence 3-4x that of control groups (Roundup dilution 0.1 part per billion)
        • toxicity re: acceptable drinking water contamination: 1/2 the EU rate, 20x less than US rate
        • note: US geological survey in Midwest -- glyphosate in surface water and 60-100% of air and rain samples
      • Disturbances to sex hormones in both males/females
      • Early death, organ damage, and multiple tumors are very indicative, but ultimately will need larger study
      • But significance clear -- 90 day toxicity study is insufficient, and must test the agricultural formulation
    • Response to study
      • Ongoing attacks from industry-related scientists started within couple of hours
      • Wrong study design, wrong rats, too few rats, results meaningless
      • Exactly the same design, rats, and numbers as Monsanto (just increased parameters and time)
      • So if his work rejected, Monsanto's must be rejected also
      • Attacked as too small for a carcegenicity -- but was always intended as a toxicology study (ignored by the attackers), the tumors were a surprise
      • Press picked up the attacks, press blackout of Seralini results in UK and US
      • Monsanto published response, Seralini published rebuttal (and Antoniou was front defender in the press)
      • Regulatory response
        • US EPA increases acceptable residues 30 fold (many parts per million)
        • European Food Safety Agency
          • At first echoed industry (wrong rats, too few rats, wrong statistics)
          • Then called for 3M Euro 2-year carcegenicity study using same design
          • French called for 2.5M Euro toxicity study
  • Reference to the revolving door between industry and FDA
  • GMOs are yesterday's technology, unable to adapt to new understanding of the complex interactions of the genome
  • False promise of GMOs
    • Increased yields hasn't occurred except in certain limited circumstances
    • Reduced pesticide use? -- the opposite
    • Solving world hunger? -- yield and adaptability failure and destruction of farm cultures and well-adapted indigenous seeds
  • Biotech's better use: traditional breeding augmented with gene mapping
    • Acknowledges the complexity of the genome
    • Has produced the desirable results: better nutrition, high-yield, tolerance of drought, flood, salinity and heat stress

A bit more by/about Michael Antoniou
  1. Bio
  2. Working group at Kings College (bio, projects, etc., not up-to-date)
  3. Is GMO food devoid of DNA safe?
  4. Economics, not common sense, drives GM crops
  5. Monsanto Roundup weedkiller and GM maize implicated in 'shocking' new cancer study
  6. Scientists shrug off attacks on Monsanto GM/cancer trial

More GMO information here.