ASHLEY HALL: A study has thrown doubt on the safety of genetically modified corn and soy. It found pigs that eat the genetically modified feed suffer a significantly higher incidence of health problems.
The study's lead author says her results show the need for better regulation of GM foods. But the GM industry has responded by attacking the credibility of the author and the journal which has published the study.
Simon Lauder reports.
SIMON LAUDER: Genetically modified crops are grown widely in many countries, including the USA, that's where this study was based. Researchers raised two sets of 84 pigs on different diets at a commercial piggery. One group ate GM corn and soy, the other ate a non-GM diet.
The farmers didn't know which was which nor did the veterinarians who conducted autopsies when the pigs were slaughtered after about five months.
Dr Judy Carman is the study's lead author.
JUDY CARMAN: And that's when we found two major findings. The first was that the weight of the uterus in the female pigs was 25 per cent heavier in those that were fed the GM feed compared to those that were fed the non-GM feed. And the other main finding is that we looked inside the stomachs and the results show quite clearly that the level of severe stomach inflammation in the GM-fed pigs was much higher than in the non-GM fed pigs.
So overall it was 2.6 times higher in the GM-fed pigs.
SIMON LAUDER: Would those gastric or uterine differences have been a real health concern for those pigs?
JUDY CARMAN: If the pig wanted to get pregnant it might have been. I imagine that it would have been unpleasant to be the pig with a stomach like that. It didn't actually influence the body weight of the pig or the life, how many pigs die during the experiment or anything like that. But it would certainly not have been pleasant to have that stomach.
SIMON LAUDER: What do you suppose this means for the human diet?
JUDY CARMAN: The thing about a pig is that their digestive system is very similar to that of a human and my interest has always been in human health outcomes from eating GM food, so the fact we've got these results in the stomachs of pigs means that we should really start looking to see if we're getting similar effects in the stomachs of humans.