New study: GMO corn substantially different from non-GMO


A new study is the first to report substantial differences between Roundup-tolerant genetically modified corn (NK603) and its genetically similar non-GMO counterpart. The authors say their findings challenge claims that this GMO corn is ‘substantially equivalent’ to its non-GMO counterpart.

A new peer-reviewed study led by Dr Michael Antoniou at King’s College London describes the effects of the process of genetic engineering on the composition of a genetically modified Roundup-resistant GMO corn variety, NK603. In-depth analysis of types of proteins (“proteomics”) and small biochemical molecules (“metabolomics”) revealed major compositional differences between NK603 and its non-GMO parent. The results obtained show not only disturbances in energy utilisation and oxidative stress (damage to cells and tissues by reactive oxygen), but worryingly large increases in certain substances (polyamines). Polyamines found to be present in increased amounts in GMO NK603 corn include putrescine and cadaverine, which can produce various toxic effects. For example, they enhance the effects of histamine, thus heightening allergic reactions, and both have been implicated in the formation of carcinogenic substances called nitrosamines. Overall, the findings of this study disprove industry and regulatory agency claims that NK603 is ‘substantially equivalent’ to its non-GMO counterpart and suggest that a more thorough evaluation of the safety of consuming products derived from this GMO corn on a long term basis should be undertaken.


  1. A total of 117 proteins and 91 small molecule biochemicals (metabolites) were found to be statistically significantly altered in NK603 corn by the GM transformation process.
  2. The GM transformation process was the major contributor to variation in the protein and metabolite profiles, rather than environmental factors such as the spraying of the Roundup weedkiller or the growing season.
  3. Alteration in the protein profile revealed by the proteomics analysis was reflective of an imbalance in energy utilisation and oxidative stress (damage to cells and tissues by reactive oxygen).
  4. Small molecule biochemical profile differences revealed by metabolomics mostly consisted of an increase in a class of compounds known as polyamines; the levels of potentially toxic putrescine and especially cadaverine were markedly increased in the GM NK603 corn.


  1. GM NK603 corn and its corresponding non-GMO corn variety are not substantially equivalent.
  2. The GM transformation process caused alterations in both protein and metabolite composition profiles in NK603 corn.
  3. The non-substantial equivalence of NK603 corn with the corresponding non-GMO corn, and the increases in potential toxic compounds (polyamines; putrescine, cadaverine) in NK603 corn, indicate that a more thorough investigation of the safety of consuming products derived from this GMO food is warranted.

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Mesnage, R., Agapito-Tenfen, S., Vilperte, V., Renney, G., Ward, M., Séralini, G.E., Nodari, N. and Antoniou, M.N. (2016). “An integrated multi-omics analysis of the NK603 Roundup-tolerant GM maize reveals metabolism disturbances caused by the transformation process“, Scientific Reports, 2016; 6:37855.

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