Anti-GMO Studies


Let’s Talk About: Anti-GMO Studies

Ever since biotechnology became part of a new, more productive and safer era of agriculture, it has come under criticism. Around the world, activists have attempted to demonize biotechnology using flawed “academic” studies. Some of the accusations linked to these studies include stomach inflammation in pigs fed GM crops, tumors in rats fed GM corn, and death of Monarch larva by Bt corn. Despite the fact that these studies have been discredited or roundly criticized, their results continue to be cited as truth. It is important to analyze the credentials of any study, not just anti-GMO studies, to ensure the information is from a valid source and that the study’s methodology and results are peer-reviewed.  

Illinois Farm Bureau Policy

The Illinois Farm Bureau (“IFB”) supports “utilizing science, including unbiased research such as feeding trails, on the development and use of biotechnology enhanced products.” Furthermore, IFB supports “ongoing monitoring of the process of biotechnology product research and approval.”[i]

Anti-GMO Arguments

In 2013, a team of Australian and U.S. researchers published a study in the Journal of Organic Systems that concluded pigs fed a diet of only genetically modified grain showed significantly higher stomach inflammation than pigs fed conventional feed.[ii] Multiple experts and scientists came forward to criticize the study:

  • The American Association for the Advancement of Science refuted the study saying that in addition to “the World Health Organization, American Medical Association, British Royal Society, and every other respected organization that has examined the evidence”, it had come to the same conclusion: “consuming foods containing ingredients derived from GM crops is no riskier than consuming the same foods containing ingredients from crops modified by conventional plant breeding.”[iii]
  • A University of Guelph professor at the Ontario Veterinary College also claims the study’s methodology is flawed in that the pig stomachs were merely observed for their redness, and tissue samples were not taken that would have verified either stomach inflammation.[iv]
  • In addition, the study’s lead researcher is the director of the Institute of Health and Environment Research (IHER), an anti-GMO organization, and its co-author is president and founder of Verity Farms, a company that markets non-GMO grain. The study was also funded by IHER and Verity Farms.[v]
  • It should be noted that the Journal of Organic Systems’ website claims to only accept articles on topics that are “consistent with current principles of organic farming and its associated industries.”[vi]
  • Each expert or scientist that refuted this study concluded that the research, methodologies, and sources are too flawed for it to be considered credible.

In a 2011 French study, European scientists claimed high tumor rates and early death in rats fed GMO corn.[vii] Multiple experts and scientists came forward to criticize the study’s methodology and results:

  • The primary tumors observed in the study are common in the rodent strain selected for the study. Therefore, the observed frequencies of the tumors are consistent with historical observation for that species.[viii]
  • France’s six scientific academies dismissed the study in a joint statement which is extremely rare. The academies cited numerous gaps in methodology and interpretation as reasons for the dismissal, paralleled with the fact that this particular study doesn’t challenge the numerous other studies showing genetically modified foods safe for human and animal consumption.[ix]
  • The European Food Safety Authority also concluded that the rat study’s statistical and methodological weaknesses eliminated its credibility for being used in any food safety evaluation.[x]
  • France’s Higher Biotechnologies Council and the National Agency for Food Safety also said they saw nothing in this study to challenge the existing safety evaluations for Monsanto’s NK603 corn or for its Roundup weed killer.[xi]
  • In addition to French, British and U.S. scientific associations criticized the study, as did the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment in Germany. The latter criticized the study saying the authors’ main claims are not sufficiently supported by the evidence collected.

In 1999, Cornell University researchers claimed that Bt (Bacillus thurengiensis) corn increased the mortality rate of monarch butterflies. The study argued pollen shed from Bt corn would land on milk weed and be consumed by monarch caterpillars. Again, the study’s methodology and researchers’ conclusions were widely discredited; nevertheless, news on the study remains active on Cornell’s website. Further study of Bt corn shows the risk to butterflies is minimal because:

  • The life cycles of the monarch and corn do not coincide. In most parts of the country pollination occurs before the larva stage of monarch butterflies.[xii]
  • The varieties of Bt corn on the market do not express large amounts of Bt proteins in their pollen.[xiii]
  • The amount of Bt corn pollen needed to kill the larva does not naturally occur in field pollination.[xiv]

[i] Illinois Farm Bureau. (2015). Biotechnology. Policy Resolutions (pp.49). Bloomington, IL.

[ii] Carman, J.; A long-term toxicology study on pigs fed a combined genetically modified (GM) soy and GM maize diet. Journal of Organic Systems. June 2013.

[iii] Statement by the AAAS Board of Directors on Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods. American Association for the Advancement of Science. 20 October 2012. Retrieved: July 16, 2013. Web.


[v]McGuire, Jana. “Topic: Pigs Fed GM Diet Suffer Stomach Inflammation.” Engage Farmer Resource Center. June 2013. Web. 30 July 2013.  


[vii] Vendomois, Joel; International Journal of Biological Sciences. A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health. International Journal of Biological Sciences.

[viii] Seralini, Gilles-Eric; Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. ScienceDirect. 1 November 2012.

[ix] Revkin, Andrew. “Six French Science Academies Dismiss Study Finding GM Corn Harmed Rats.” The New York Times. October 2012. Web. 18 July 2013.

[x]European Food Safety Authority. EFSA Publishes Initial Review on GM Maize and Herbicide Study. EFSA. October 2012. Web. 6 August 2013.  

[xi] Radio France International. “French Experts Reject GM Corn Cancer Study.” Radio France International. October 2012. Web. 6 August 2013.

[xii] University of Nebraska. “Do Biotech Crops Harm Monarch Butterflies?” 2005. Web. 6 July 2015

[xiii] University of Nebraska. “Do Biotech Crops Harm Monarch Butterflies?” 2005. Web. 6 July 2015

[xiv] University of Nebraska. “Do Biotech Crops Harm Monarch Butterflies?” 2005. Web. 6 July 2015

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