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Scientific research backing an application for GM maize to be commercially sold to farmers is “inadequate” a public hearing was told today. Scientists from the University of Bristol's Department of Clinical Veterinary Science told the national seed list hearing that nutrition tests on chickens, presented by biotech company Aventis, “is inadequate in terms of providing any evidence or conclusions. It is not of a standard that would be acceptable for publication in a scientific journal”. Concerns were also raised about “suspicious” higher death rates among chickens that ate the GM maize during the study.

Aventis research compared broiler chickens fed GM maize with those fed on conventional maize. Friends of the Earth approached Dr Steve Kestin and Dr Toby Knowles, scientists working on chicken studies for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, to peer-review it. Their conclusions included:

*    A failure to investigate “suspicious” trends in the death of chickens fed the GM maize(10 died) compared with those fed conventional maize (5 died). This, they said“suggests either a fault in the study or a real direct effect of diet...and should act as a spur for further investigation”;

*    That there were “far too few” replicates used in the study. Only 4 replicates were used, as opposed to the minimum of 14 recommended by the independent scientists. Using such a small number would be “one of the best show no effect”;

*    The absence of a positive control (feeding maize to 3, instead of 2, groups of chickens) was a “major flaw in the design of the study”.

During the hearing, leading experts have already questioned Aventis' scientific evidence for the marketing of this GM forage maize . In particular, they have expressed concern over the failure to test the GM maize on cows (for whom it's being produced).


Tony Juniper, Policy and Campaigns Director at Friends of the Earth said:
“Once again the 'sound science' of the biotech industry has been found sadly wanting. This shoddy study should never have been submitted to support the case for this GM maize to be granted a commercial licence. The fact that it was,and the Government did nothing about it, is a scandal. When will we learn the lessons of BSE?

“It's high time the cosy and unquestioning relationship between the biotech industry and Government was ended. The well-being of the public, health and environment must be put above vested interest and profit. Aventis can start today by withdrawing this GM application.”

Speaking after the hearing, Dr Kestin commented:
“It's astonishing that this study has not been assessed and found wanting by the Government, and that it's been left to Friends of the Earth to have it properly reviewed”.

Earlier this week the continuation of the hearing was put in severe doubt when the Government revealed that official basic tests on Chardon LL, carried out by the French authorities, had only been conducted for one year rather than the two required under EU law.

In April, the Government announced its intention to allow Chardon LL, which has been genetically modified to be resistant to Aventis' own herbicide, on to the national seed list.This is the final legal barrier before a GM seed can be sold to farmers. This would have been the first GM crop to have been added to the list. However, FOE discovered a little-known law which gave the public the right to appeal against the decision. Sixty seven groups and individuals have paid £60 to have their objections heard in public, with hundreds more filing written objections (which cost £30). The National Seed List hearing started on 2 October and is scheduled to last about 9 weeks. Aventis is refusing to produce any evidence at the hearing.


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Published by Friends of the Earth Trust