Biotech giant Monsanto's official position on labeling genetically modified foods (GMO) is that "there is no sense" in it. French scientist Gilles-Eric Seralini, on the other hand, begs to differ: After test-feeding lab rats Monsanto's genetically modified corn and herbicide, he and a team of researchers found frightening results and warned that more GMO research is necessary. According to the Wall Street Journal, experts in Russia are listening. The country has temporarily banned imports of Monsanto's genetically modified (GM) corn.
According to RT.com, Russian consumer-rights group Rospotrebnadzor has also asked scientists at Russia's Institute of Nutrition to review the French study. In addition, Rospotrebnadzor has requested an explanation of the EU's stance on GM corn from the European Commission's Directorate General for Health & Consumers.
Though more than 50 countries have at least some labeling laws in place for genetically modified foods, the U.S. does not. A recent proposal on California's November ballot, called Prop 37, could introduce the first labeling laws in the U.S. The proposition made it onto California's ballot in July; by September 17, Monsanto had contributed $7.1 million to thwart the campaign, according to the California Right to Know campaign. Other contributors trying to block the proposition from passing include PepsiCo ($1,716,300), Nestle USA, Inc. ($1,169,400), and Dow Agrosciences, LLC ($2 million), as of September 17.
Russia's recent decision is largely symbolic: A representative from Monsanto told RT.com that, since Russia is a net exporter of grain, "the actual impact of their temporary suspension, if any, is likely to be small." The Russian government already forbids farmers from planting GM crops.
Though some have criticized the French study as biased (Seralini has a history of criticizing GMOs) or scientifically unsound (one researcher not involved in the study called it "a statistical fishing trip"), the French government is also taking caution.
Based on the study's conclusion, French health, environment, and farm ministries issued a joint statement, saying, "the government will ask the European authorities to take all necessary measures to protect human and animal health, measures that could go as far as an emergency suspension of imports of [the maize used in the French study] in the European Union," according to Reuters.
Supporters of Prop 37 are confident that victory is ahead. "Monsanto wants to buy this election so they can keep hiding what's really in our food," Gary Ruskin, campaign manager of the Yes on Proposition 37 campaign, said in a Right to Know press release. "They are on the losing side of history. Californians want the right to know what's in our food, and we will win it."