Monsanto Co.’s genetically engineered NK603 corn is hazardous to the health, said South Africa’s African Centre for Biosafety, which called on the authorities to ban its cultivation, import and export.
“We urge the South African government to take the necessary steps to protect its citizens,” the ACB said in a letter to the minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries. The modified corn has been shown to cause tumors as well as liver and kidney damage in laboratory rats, it said.
White corn is a staple food in South Africa, where genetically modified plants accounted for 80 percent of the harvest last year, according to the International Grains Council. Monsanto’s NK603 corn has been the subject of a two-year French study, which found that rats fed on it developed tumors and organ deficiencies, a draft shows.
The study “does not meet minimum acceptable standards for this type of scientific research,” Thomas Helscher, a spokesman for St. Louis-based Monsanto, said in an e-mail. The methods used don’t conform to Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development standards, the source and quality of the corn are unclear and details on dietary intake absent, he said.
France asked its national food-security agency, Anses, to examine the study last week. In Russia, the government has suspended sales of NK603 corn pending further information, consumer watchdog Rospotrebnadzor said Sept. 24.
South Africa’s health and agricultural ministries didn’t respond to requests for comment.