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EFSA Discounts Study Suggesting GMO Corn Promotes Tumors in Rats

By October 16, 2012

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About three weeks ago, as posted here, a questionable 2-year study by Gilles-Eric Séralini and colleagues that suggested that rats fed of diet of Monsanto's Roundup-tolerant GMO corn had a higher risk of developing cancer than rats on a non-GMO diet.  In follow up, last week, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) announced it had dismissed the findings, describing the study to be of, "inadequate design, analysis and reporting," and finding, "that it is of insufficient scientific quality for safety assessment."

The EFSA review noted, in particular, that the low number of rats used in the study were, "insufficient to distinguish between specific treatment effects and chance occurrences of tumours in rats." Also that the study's design, analysis, and reporting was of "insufficient scientific quality for safety assessments."

The German Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) reached a similar conclusion.  Also, the EFSA findings reflect the widespread criticism by a range of scientists in response to its initial release.

Compounding the controversy, the authors are also maintaining an unusual degree of secrecy regarding the actual data.  Although the study was published by Elsevier in the peer-reviewed Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicity, Dr. Séralini and his colleagues have yet to provide any of the primary data for the study.  Notably omitted from the publication are the actual numbers (not relative percentages) of rats that died or developed tumors in each experimental group over time.

As is standard for scientific journals, the publisher specifies that, "Authors may be asked to provide the raw data in connection with a paper for editorial review, and should be prepared to provide public access to such data."   In response to the veil of secrecy, a petition is circulating with over 700 signatures of scientists and colleagues calling on Dr. Séralini to provide the actual data on which the study reports.


October 16, 2012 at 9:15 am
(1) Glenn says:

Sorry Paul, but you opinion on this in not objectively viewed. ESFA is probably as corrupted by large corporate GMO companies as the US FDA. I do believe they need to release their data but they want to release it to an independent entity to review. Try finding an independent entity in the GMO/biotechnology world to actually objectively review their results. Few and far between. Certainly, your long career with the companies you are involved in that develop biotechnological cancer cures and other GMO products would exclude you from that objective independent group to review or write this article. And on another obvious note, the same accusations of unscientific methodology is exactly the same argument Monsanto uses against any science that questions the health and safety of their products. Your article sounded like a broken record…

October 16, 2012 at 2:22 pm
(2) biotech says:

Thanks for the comment Glenn, but I don’t see how your position is reasonable. You agree they should release the data but only to an “independent entity” and then state there are few of these in the “GMO/biotechnology world.” Further, you seem to dismiss people like me with a background in biotechnology as objective. So, are you saying some rare insulated group unconnected to any organization and without a background in the technology should review the study?

In fact, it is clear the study was supported by an anti-GMO advocacy group that Dr. Séralini co-founded—the Committee for Research and Independent Information on Genetic Engineering. However, that really isn’t so relevant. The bias of the authors does not necessarily invalidate the study. The essential measure of the validity of the study is whether the data supports it. Anyone can have a bias or agenda. So what?

The question is whether one can make the argument based on the data. There may be different interpretations of what data shows or means. For example, Dr. Séralini has reanalyzed and reinterpreted Monsanto primary data in the past (A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health). However, without the data, there is just hearsay and unfounded statements, not science.

I believe this is why you are seeing such a response to this study. Sure, some scientists may have their own agenda, and some may be on the lobby payroll of the Ag industry. However, the problem here is bad science compounded by a disregard for accepted scientific practices. Few things tick off scientists more than that.

October 26, 2012 at 9:26 am
(3) al says:

Thanks, Paul, for the posting. I am always amazed at how everytime their insufficient studies are proven wrong the alarmists always turn to the same tired excuse, “Oh well, this organization is corrupt, that organization is corrupt.” I have a business in the wellness industry and have been following the GMO controversey closely. It is always the same progression, a half baked study is done by “naturalist” people and alarmists, usually designed to create certain results, the study is debunked for what it is, and the alarmists scream that the debunking entity is corrupt. You should do with the two above criticisms as I have done, throw them out the window as the rantings of people who hate progress.

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