(Authors listed below) (Traduction Francaise)
A new paper by the French group of Gilles-Eric Seralini describes harmful effects on rats fed diets containing genetically modified maize (variety NK603), with and without the herbicide Roundup, as well as Roundup alone. This peer-reviewed study (Seralini et al., 2012), has been criticized by some scientists whose views have been widely reported in the popular press (Carmen, 2012; Mestel, 2012; Revkin, 2012; Worstall, 2012). Seralini et al. (2012) extends the work of other studies demonstrating toxicity and/or endocrine-based impacts of Roundup (Gaivão et al., 2012; Kelly et al., 2010; Paganelli et al., 2010; Romano et al., 2012), as reviewed by Antoniou et al. (2010).
The Seralini publication, and resultant media attention, raise the profile of fundamental challenges faced by science in a world increasingly dominated by corporate influence. These challenges are important for all of science but are rarely discussed in scientific venues.
1) History of Attacks on Risk-finding Studies. Seralini and colleagues are just the latest in a series of researchers whose findings have triggered orchestrated campaigns of harassment. Examples from just the last few years include Ignacio Chapela, a then untenured Assistant Professor at Berkeley, whose paper on GM contamination of maize in Mexico (Quist and Chapela, 2001) sparked an intensive internet-based campaign to discredit him. This campaign was reportedly masterminded by the Bivings Group, a public relations firm specializing in viral marketing – and frequently hired by Monsanto (Delborne, 2008).
The distinguished career of biochemist Arpad Pusztai, came to an effective end when he attempted to report his contradictory findings on GM potatoes (Ewen and Pusztai, 1999a). Everything from a gag order, forced retirement, seizure of data, and harassment by the British Royal Society were used to forestall his continued research (Ewen and Pusztai, 1999b; Laidlaw, 2003). Even threats of physical violence have been used, most recently against Andres Carrasco, Professor of Molecular Embryology at the University of Buenos Aires, whose research (Paganelli et al. 2010) identified health risks from glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup (Amnesty International, 2010).
It was no surprise therefore, that when in 2009, 26 corn entomologists took the unprecedented step of writing directly to the US EPA to complain about industry control of access to GM crops for research, the letter was sent anonymously (Pollack, 2009).
2) The Role of the Science Media. An important but often unnoticed aspect of this intimidation is that it frequently occurs in concert with the science media (Ermakova, 2007; Heinemann and Traavik, 2007; Latham and Wilson, 2007). Reporting of the Seralini paper in arguably the most prestigious segments of the science media: Science, the New York Times, New Scientist, and the Washington Post uniformly failed to “balance” criticism of the research, with even minimal coverage of support for the Seralini paper (Carmen, 2012; Enserink, 2012; MacKenzie, 2012; Pollack, 2012). Nevertheless, less well-resourced media outlets, such as the UK Daily Mail appeared to have no trouble finding a positive scientific opinion on the same study (Poulter, 2012).
3) Misleading Media Reporting. A key pattern with risk-finding studies is that the criticisms voiced in the media are often red herrings, misleading, or untruthful. Thus, the use of common methodologies was portrayed as indicative of shoddy science when used by Seralini et al. (2012) but not when used by industry (see refs above and Science Media Centre, 2012). The use of red herring arguments appears intended to sow doubt and confusion among non-experts. For example, Tom Sanders of Kings College, London was quoted as saying: “This strain of rat is very prone to mammary tumors particularly when food intake is not restricted” (Hirschler and Kelland, 2012 ). He failed to point out, or was unaware, that most industry feeding studies have used Sprague-Dawley rats (e.g. Hammond et al., 1996, 2004, 2006; MacKenzie et al., 2007). In these and other industry studies (e.g. Malley et al. 2007), feed intake was unrestricted. Sanders’ comments are important because they were widely quoted and because they were part of an orchestrated response to the Seralini study by the Science Media Centre of the British Royal Institution. The Science Media Centre has a long history of quelling GMO controversies and its funders include numerous companies that produce GMOs and pesticides.
4) Regulator Culpability. In our view a large part of the ultimate fault for this controversy lies with regulators. Regulators, such as EFSA (the European Food Safety Authority) in Europe and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the US, have enshrined protocols with little or no potential to detect adverse consequences of GMOs (Schubert, 2002; Freese and Schubert, 2004; Pelletier, 2005).
GMOs are required to undergo few experiments, few endpoints are examined, and tests are solely conducted by the applicant or their agents. Moreover, current regulatory protocols are simplistic and assumptions-based (RSC, 2001), which by design, will miss most gene expression changes – apart from the target trait – induced by the process of transgene insertion (Heinemann et al., 2011; Schubert, 2002).
Puzstai (2001) and others have consequently argued that well-conducted feeding trials are one of the best ways of detecting such unpredictable changes. Yet feeding trials are not mandatory for regulatory approval, and the scientific credibility of those which have been published to date has been challenged (Domingo, 2007; Pusztai et al., 2003; Spiroux de Vendômois et al., 2009). For example, Snell et al. (2012), who assessed the quality of 12 long term (>96 days) and 12 multigenerational studies, concluded: “The studies reviewed here are often linked to an inadequate experimental design that has detrimental effects on statistical analysis…the major insufficiencies not only include lack of use of near isogenic lines but also statistical power underestimation [and], absence of repetitions…”.
Apparently, the same issues of experimental design and analysis raised about this (Seralini) risk-finding study were not of concern to critics when the studies did not identify risk, resulting in ill-informed decision-makers. In the end, it is a major problem for science and society when current regulatory protocols approve GMO crops based on little to no useful data upon which to assess safety.
5) Science and Politics. Governments have become habituated to using science as a political football. For example, in a study conducted by the Royal Society of Canada at the request of the Canadian government, numerous weaknesses of GM regulation in Canada were identified (RSC, 2001). The failure of the Canadian government to meaningfully respond to the many recommended changes was detailed by Andree (2006). Similarly, the expert recommendations of the international IAASTD report, produced by 400 researchers over 6 years, that GMOs are unsuited to the task of advancing global agriculture have been resolutely ignored by policymakers. Thus, while proclaiming evidence-based decision-making, governments frequently use science solely when it suits them.
6) Conclusion: When those with a vested interest attempt to sow unreasonable doubt around inconvenient results, or when governments exploit political opportunities by picking and choosing from scientific evidence, they jeopardize public confidence in scientific methods and institutions, and also put their own citizenry at risk. Safety testing, science-based regulation, and the scientific process itself, depend crucially on widespread trust in a body of scientists devoted to the public interest and professional integrity. If instead, the starting point of a scientific product assessment is an approval process rigged in favour of the applicant, backed up by systematic suppression of independent scientists working in the public interest, then there can never be an honest, rational or scientific debate.
Note added 3rd Dec 2013: There is an excellent new review of the Seralini study methods in the context of its critics.
The Authors: Susan Bardocz (4, Arato Street, Budapest, 1121 Hungary); Ann Clark (University of Guelph, ret.); Stanley Ewen (Consultant Histopathologist, Grampian University Hospital); Michael Hansen (Consumers Union); Jack Heinemann (University of Canterbury); Jonathan Latham (The Bioscience Resource Project); Arpad Pusztai (4, Arato Street, Budapest, 1121 Hungary); David Schubert (The Salk Institute); Allison Wilson (The Bioscience Resource Project)
Signatories: Brian Wynne (Professor of Science Studies, UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Centre for Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics, Cesagen, Lancaster University); Irina Ermakova, Dr of Biology, Russian Academy of Sciences; Jo Cummins (Professor Emeritus University of Western Ontario); Michael Antoniou, (Reader in Molecular Genetics; his university (King’s College, London) has a policy not to allow Dr Antoniou to use his affiliation here); Philip L. Bereano (Professor Emeritus University of Washington & Washington Biotechnology Action Council); Dr P M Bhargava (Former and Founder Director, Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology, Government of India); Carlo Leifert (Professor for Ecological Agriculture Newcastle University); Peter Romilly (formerly University of Abertay, Dundee); Robert Vint (FRSA); Dr Brian John (Durham University, UK, retired); Professor C. Vyvyan Howard, University of Ulster); Diederick Sprangers (Genethics Foundation); Mariam Mayet (African Centre for Biosafety, South Africa); Eva Novotny (ret. University of Cambridge); Ineke Buskens (Research for the Future); Hector Valenzuela (Professor, University of Hawaii); Ronald Nigh, (Centro de Investigaciones y Estudio Superiores en Antropología Social, Chiapas, Mexico); Marcia Ishii-Eiteman (PhD, Senior Scientist, Pesticide Action Network North America); Naomi Salmon (Dept. of Law, Aberystwyth University, Wales); Michael W, Fox (Minnesota, Veterinarian & Bioethicist, PhD, MRCVS); Neil J. Carman (PhD Sierra Club); Vandana Shiva (India); Hans Herren (President, Millennium Institute, Washington DC, USA); John Fagan (PhD Earth Open Source, UK and USA); Sheila Berry and the Global Environmental Trust; Av Singh (PhD, Perennia); Laurel Hopwood (for the Sierra Club, USA); Philip H. Howard (Associate Professor of Community, Food and Agriculture, Michigan State University); Donald B. Clark (on behalf of Cumberland Countians for Peace & Justice and Network for Environmental & Economic Responsibility, United Church of Christ, Pleasant Hill, TN); Robert Mann (Senior Lecturer in Biochemistry & in Environmental Studies (rtd) University of Auckland, NZ); Chris Williams (PhD, FRSA, University of London); Mae-Wan Ho (PhD Director Institute of Science in Society); Peter Saunders (Prof. Emeritus of Applied Mathematics, King’s College London); Dr. Terje Traavik (Prof. Gene Ecology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Tromsö); Oscar B. Zamora (Prof. Crop Science University of the Philippines Los Banos College, Philippines); Adrian Gibbs (Prof. (ret.) Canberra, Australia); Christian Vélot (Senior Lecturer in Molecular Genetics, University Paris-Sud, France); André Cicolella (Scientific adviser INERIS (National Institute of Industrial Environment and Risk) France); Maurizio Pea (Bussolengo General Hospital and University of Verona, Italy) Xiulin Gu (PhD, Yunnan University of Finance and Economics, P.R.China); Brigitta Kurenbach (PhD,University of Canterbury, NZ); Elena Alvarez-Buylla (Instituto de Ecología, CU, Coyoacán, México); Elizabeth Cullen (MB, Ph.D, MD and environmental scientist); Claudia Chaufan, MD, PhD (University of California San Francisco); Marijan Jost (Prof., Croatia); Manuel Ruiz Perez (Dpto. Ecologia, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid-Spain); Rubens Onofre Nodari (Full Professor, Federal University of Santa Catarina Florianópolis, Brazil); Judy Carman (Institute of Health and Environmental Research Inc., Kensington Park, Australia); Florianne Koechlin PhD (Blueridge Institute, Switzerland); Richard Lasker (for Brabant Research, Inc., BioInformatix, Inc., Puget Environmental Group, Inc.); Anita Idel (Dr. med. vet. Mediatorin (MAB) Germany); J.R. Olarieta (PhD, Lecturer in Soil Science, Universitat de Lleida); Svein Anders Noer Lie Associate Prof. University of Tromsoe, Norway); Cathey Falvo, MD, MPH [(retired)Prof & chair, international public health, New York Medical College, NY); Thomas Bøhn (GenØk – Centre for Biosafety, Tromsø, Norway); Jiang Gaoming, PhD, Professor of Institute of Botany, The Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China); Prof. Enrique Ortega (FEA/Unicamp, Brazil); Gregory Möller (Prof. Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology, The University of Idaho-Washington State University, USA); Dr Paulo Roberto Matins, Coordinator of the Brazilian Research Network in Nanotechnology, Society and Environment); Paulo Cezar Mendes Ramos (PhD ICMBio – Chico Mendes Biodiversity Conservation Institute, Brazil); Henry Kuska (PhD ret. Associate Professor, Depart. of Chemistry, University of Akron, USA); Philipe Baret (Université de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium); Marco Tulio da Silva Ferreira (MSc, UFMG, Brazil); Facundo Martín Phd (Universidad Nacional de Cuyo, CONICET, Argentina); Jacinta Palerm (Colegio de Postgraduados, Mexico); Dr Maarten Stapper (BioLogic AgFood); Sergio dC Rubin, (Latin Research Center, Bolivian Center of BioScience Research); Dr. Jalcione Almeida (Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul – UFRGS, Porto Alegre, Brasil); Jaime Breilh, Md. MSc. PhD (Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, Quito, Ecuador); Raquel Maria Rigotto (Profa. Departamento de Saúde Comunitária, Universidade Federal do Ceará, Brasil); John J. Moore, S.J. (D.Sc. ret. Professor of Botany UCD, Dublin and UNZA, Lusaka); Gualter Barbas Baptista (Researcher in Ecological Economics and Political Ecology, Portugal); Prof. José Carlos de Araújo (Federal University of Ceará, Fortaleza, Brazil); Ligia Regina Franco Sansigolo Kerr (Universidade Federal do Ceará, Fortaleza, Brasil); Silvana Suaiden (Professora da PUC-Campinas, Brazil); Prof. Florence Piron (Université Laval, Québec, Canada); Luigi D’Andrea, Biologist, PhD (Biome, Switzerland); Dra. Maria do Céu de Lima (Professora Associada LEAT UFC, Brazil); Tim LaSalle, PhD, (Professor of dairy science,ret., RSA); Profa. Dra. Cecilia Campello do Amaral Mello, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil); Randy Wayne (Assoc. Professor, Department of Plant Biology, Cornell University, USA); Pr Marcello Buiatti (University of Florence, Italy); Kathya Orrico, PhD, (Brazil); Gabriel Silva Campos (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Espana); Prof. Dr. Andres E. Carrasco MD (Institute of Cell Biology and Neurosciences, School of Medicine Univ. of Buenos Aires, Argentina); Profa Dra. Valéria Cristina Lopes Wilke (Diretora da Faculdade de Filosofia, Universidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro – UNIRIO, Brazil); Profa Simone Benedet Fontoura (Instituto Federal de Educação, Ciência e Tecnologia do Amazonas, Campus Manaus Zona Leste, Brazil); Prof. Dr. Mauricio Chiarello (Ribeirão Preto – SP, Brazil); Prof. David O. Born (Professor, University of Minnesota School of Dentistry, USA); Isabelle Goldringer (directrice de recherche INRA, UMR de Génétique Végétale, Université Paris-Sud, France); Rueidi Bastos (EMBRAPA, Brazil); Dr Stuart Parkinson (Executive Director, Scientists for Global Responsibility); Jean-Pierre Berlan (Directeur de Recherche INRA (retired)); Marciano Silva (Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil); Dr Ulrich Loening (ex-Director of the Centre for Human Ecology, University of Edinburgh); Flávio Fabrini, PhD; Yara Paulina Cerpa Aranda (Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul – Brasil); Thomas Heams (Assistant Professor, AgroParisTech and INRA, France); Donald R. Davis, Ph.D. (Biochemical Institute, The University of Texas, Austin, USA); Pierre M. Stassart (Associate Professor, Université de Liège, Belgium); Rosemary Mason (MB ChB FRCA); Dott. Ernesto Burgio (President of ISDE Scientific Committee, Italy); Dr. Narciso Barrera-Bassols (Investigador Nacional SNI II, Unión de Científicos Comprometidos con la Sociedad (UCCS), México); Jacques Hallard (Ing. CNAM, France); Jérôme Enjalbert (INRA, FRANCE); Rupa Patel, MD,FCFP (Queens University, Canada); Carlos Sonnenschein MD (Tufts University School of Medicine, USA); Bruno Gasparini (Coordenador do Curso de Direito do Instituto Superior do Litoral do Paraná, Paranaguá – Paraguay); Rod Toms (Ret. Lecturer in Biological Sciences Cornwall College); Cristine Carole Muggler (Associate Professor, Soil Science Department, Federal University of Viçosa, Brazil); Valério Pillar (Professor Titular, Departamento de Ecologia, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil); David Quist (Senior Scientist, Centre for Biosafety, Tromsø, Norway); Emilia Wanda Rutkowski, University of Campinas, Brasil); Raoni Japiassu Merisse (Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade – ICMBio, Brazil); Marc Mathieu (Research scientist, Inserm, France); Prof. Jorge A Quillfeldt (Biophysics Dept, IB / UFRGS, Brazil); Adelheid Kresse, PhD (Medical University Graz, Austria); Paul Connett, PhD (Prof. Emeritus of Chemistry, Director, American Environmental Health Studies Project, USA); Thomas Kesteman, MD, MPH (Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium/Université Aix-Marseille II, France/Institut Pasteur de Madagascar, Madagascar); Juan Carlos Martínez García, PhD (Professor, Advanced Studies and Research Center of the National Polytechnic Institut of Mexico -Cinvestav/IPN-, México); Benjamin Bathfield, (PhD student at El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Mexico); Jan Diek van Mansvelt, (ret. Wageningen University (NL) and Timirazev University (Moscow, Russia); Anna Milena Zivian, Ph.D (Ocean Conservancy); Dr. Peter Weish (Institut für Zoologie der Universität für Bodenkultur, Wien, Austria); Prof. Fábio Kessler Dal Soglio (Faculdade de Agronomia – UFRGS; Porto Alegre, Brasil); Kristin Vala Ragnarsdottir (Institute of Earth Sciences, University of Iceland); Harald Sverdrup (Professor of Chemical Engineering, Lund University, Sweden); Abdybek J. Asanaliev (PhD Kyrgyz National Agrarian University); Dr. Mohamed Shahin (Professor of Embryology, Ain Shams University, CAIRO, EGYPT); Marcos Pereira (Acadêmico de Ciências Biológicas, Universidade Federal do Maranhão, Brazil); Dr. Claus Fütterer (Biophysical Tools GmbH).
and if you are a scientist or academic and would like your name added to this list, please email: isneditor (at) bioscienceresource.org and write ‘Seralini letter’ in the headline, providing an affiliation if you wish.
(1) In addition, US scientists who publish studies finding adverse environmental effects are frequently vehemently attacked by other pro-GM scientists. As a report in Nature, which discusses numerous examples, points out, “Papers suggesting that biotech crops might harm the environment attract a hail of abuse from other scientists. Behind the attacks are scientists who are determined to prevent papers they deem to have scientific flaws from influencing policy-makers. When a paper comes out in which they see problems, they react quickly, criticize the work in public forums, write rebuttal letters, and send them to policy-makers, funding agencies and journal editors” (pg. 27 in Waltz. 2009a. Indeed, when one of us wrote a Commentary in Nature Biotechnology ten years ago suggesting that more attention needs to be paid to the potential unintended effects associated with insertional mutagenesis, we received a flood of responses, and an administrator at the Salk Institute even said that the publication “was jeopardizing funding for his institution” (see Waltz, 2009a). Similar attacks have greeted studies on adverse effects of Bt toxins on ladybird beetles and green lacewing larvae, which were used by German authorities to ban cultivation of Mon810, a Bt corn variety (see: Hilbeck et al. 2012a,b , respectively). In 2009, a group of 26 public sector corn entomologists sent a letter to the US Environmental Protection Agency which stated “No truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions involving these crops [because of company-imposed restrictions]” (pg. 880 in Waltz, 2009b; it was no surprise that the letter was sent anonymously as the scientists feared retribution from the companies that funded their work (Pollack, 2009). Furthermore, industry control over what research can be conducted in the US means that adverse findings can effectively be suppressed. In one example cited in the article, Pioneer was developing a binary Bt toxin, Cry34Ab1/Cry35Ab1, against the corn rootworm. In 2001, Pioneer contracted with some university laboratories to test for unintended effects on a lady beetle. The laboratories found that 100% of the lady beetles died after eight days of feeding. Pioneer forbade the researchers from publicizing the data. Two years later Pioneer received approval for a Bt corn variety with Cry34Ab1/Cry35Ab1 and submitted studies showing that lady beetles fed the toxin for only 7 days were not harmed. The scientists were not allowed to redo the study after the crop was commercialized (Waltz, 2009b). In another example, Dow AgroSciences threatened a researcher with legal action if he published information he had received from US EPA. As the article notes, “The information concerned an insect-resistant variety of maize known as TC1507, made by Dow and Pioneer. The companies suspended sales of TC1507 in Puerto Rico after discovering in 2006 that an armyworm had developed resistance to it. Tabashnik was able to review the report the companies filed with the EPA by submitting a Freedom of Information Act request. “I encouraged an employee of the company [Dow] to publish the data and mentioned that, alternatively, I could cite the data,” says Tabashnik. “He told me that if I cited the information…I would be subject to legal action by the company,” he says. “These kinds of statements are chilling” (pg. 882 in Waltz, 2009b).
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From Dr Mariam Mayet (The African Centre for Biosafety)
The new study, carried out by Professor Seralini of the French University of Caen and his team was accepted by the peer reviewed journal, Food and Toxicology on 2 August 2012. This 2- year study, covering the average life span of the rat, is the longest and most thorough feeding trial carried out on GMO food to date. This is in contrast to the 90 day non-peer reviewed studies that regulators generally rely upon. The study raises red flags about the safety of the maize for human consumption, including the growth of cancerous tumours, impacts on liver and kidney, functioning, hormonal disruptions and shorter life spans.
The African Centre for Biosafety, supported by a number of organisations, individuals and academics, has already written to the Minister of Agriculture to request an immediate ban on the import and cultivation of RoundUp Ready maize in South Africa. In addition, we have written to the Minister of Health to request an investigation into genetically modified maize and associated chemicals. We have also requested our GM decision making bodies to:
· urgently review the decision to approve RoundUp Ready maize NK603
· initiate an investigation into the safety of glyphosate on human health and investigate South Africa’s capacity to regulate and monitor this chemical
· review current risk assessment protocols to ensure that they are effectively designed to identify potential harmful effects
We support this open letter fully and note that the now well-worn trend of discrediting scientists who publish “inconvenient results” and the role that the science and popular media plays in assisting in doing so. We note and fully support these scientists pointing out that the very methodologies that Monsanto has criticised as “shoddy” are the exact ones employed in their own feeding trials submitted to regulators as part of their risk assessment procedure. It would seem that even Monsanto is in agreement that current risk assessment procedures are not scientifically robust enough to ensure our safety.
I am more than a little intrigued by the role of the Science Media Centre in all of this. If you go to its web site you can see who its funders are — including Bayer, BASF and Syngenta. It has clearly set itself the task of creating such scientific confusion that the poor naive journalists who write for the national press do not know what to think, and meekly connive in burying the story that NK603 and Roundup are probably both toxic to mammals. So the “furore” becomes the story — and the media maintain the pretence that GM products are completely harmless, because the GM industry and its sychophants tell us that it is.
That is both irresponsible and culpable — since this is one of the most important public health stories of recent years. Now we find that the Science Media Centre is also active in Canada, Australia and New Zealand — apparently also spreading disinformation and confusion there, and wheeling out its own pet “experts” to vilify a group of scientists who have produced a seminal paper submitted and published in a top-ranking peer-reviewed scientific journal. What is going on here? And whatever happened to respectful scientific debate? Am I alone in thinking that something deeply sinister is going on here?
From the horse’s mouth:
Andrew Wadge, head of the UK regulator (the FSA) says he has appreciated the work of the Science Media Centre this week:
According to his blog, he leaves the science to his experts but nevertheless doesnt find the study alarming in the least. Hence his approval of the ‘balanced’ media coverage.
You are right. What we have here is the Chief Scientist of the FSA (the body charged with looking after the health of the public with regard to the food supply chain) saying, in effect, that he is incapable of understanding what the Seralini et al study is all about. So he refuses to comment upon what its significance may be, and leaves it the likes of Fiona Fox and the SMC to tell him what to think and how to react. Then he says he will wait for the “independent experts” of EFSA to advise him too — the very people who gave consent for NK603 in the first place, and the very people who have steadfastly refused to take any action on the effects of Roundup residues, while the evidence of harm stacks up day by day. While Rome burns, the Emperor fiddles and dithers…… the words “culpable negligence” come to mind.
It is time to expose and remove those who continually court industry for their own betterment.
We recently reviewed Seralini’s GMO/tumor research submittal. Contrary to what the EFSA noted we found the following;
1. The research was done as an in-context research (broad-context) and as such did not require a preliminary objective. It is done “in-context” to allow for background data to the next level of research.
2. The use of tumor-prone rats has merit because a) all treatments and control used the same animals and b) humans are no longer “hardy” especially in 1st world countries. Cancer rates are ever-increasing, mortality especially infant mortality is high, auto-immune diseases, ADD/ADHD & autism rates are frightening; therefore the use of hardy lab rats was not indicated in this study.
3. As a broad-context initial research project number of rats per treatment, number of controls per treatment does not invalidate the findings. Rather the findings are background data that should call validation research into action from unbiased research organizations and independent universities not on GMO grants.
The ‘Open Letter’ was not about the Seralini study per se, but rather the social need and the right of scientists in general to perform and communicate their research, and the activities of people who curtail those freedoms.
Exactly why I listed the notations above: there was no reason for the EFSA to have released criticism of the report given that the reasons they stated are not aimed at the peer review aspect but on the findings as a whole.
If one cannot do “broad-context” initial research, and publish it, without attracting the immediate ire of the EFSA (in Europe, here the FDA/USDA is the immediate reactants) then does that not suppress the independence and range of research on a whole?
I just wanted to say that when I read the letter, I found that it was centered on comparing it to two other studies that were promulgated universally as “proof” that roundup was safe. Point by point was made to the effect that if the worst you could say about the Serralini study was that it didn’t explain itself well enough in terms of reductionist values, and didn’t adhere strictly to one or two specific standards of research, it was at least more accountable to same standards and easier to interoperate than the two industry “safety” studies. Thanks, it’s sort of a hero-worship worthy moment to read from people actually involved in the fight “while Rome burns”. Always refreshing to see ethics and expertise in alignment!
I’d like to ask Dr Richard Lasker if his/his colleagues’ review is a published document anywhere? I find his observations interesting.
Claire: We have not published these points of accord. We are in the process of determining if we can budget to duplicate and validate the Seralini research but with EFSA protocol as 2nd level inclusions.
Our initial thought is that the cost for EFSA submittable protocol is prohibitive for small self-funded groups like us. But we are working on a design that may work just as well. The “art” of designing these trials is what Monsanto, et al, have mastered to the Nth degree.
In the USA as apparently the EFSA; once you have approval of a product it takes an act of God to get it revoked.
And as “God” has been recently replaced with “money” it takes an act of money to open the books for a re-look.
Richard, one problem I foresee here is that EFSA doesn’t have any accepted protocols for GMO animal feeding studies and neither has Codex; in fact EFSA has argued against the need for mandatory feeding trials at all! It also says that if indeed they are required, then 90 days is enough to see any effects. Industry actually does whatever tests it likes on its GMOs–there are no mandatory protocols, animal choice, endpoints, study length etc. If there were such norms, then Seralini would have taken them into account. It is one of his perennial complaints that proper norms have never been established.
The statement the EFSA and Codex do not have protocols fopr animal testing is completely false. Perhaps you need to ask those who are very familiar with these very procedures if you want to do real toxicology research. May I suggest the 2008 EFSA report:
Safety and nutritional assessment of GM plants and derived food
and feed: The role of animal feeding trials
Report of the EFSA GMO Panel Working Group on Animal Feeding Trials
Food and Chemical Toxicology 46 (2008) S2–S70
of if you are interested in multigenerational studies
Assessment of the health impact of GM plant diets in long-term and multigenerational animal feeding trials: A literature review
Food and Chemical Toxicology
Volume 50, Issues 3–4, March–April 2012, Pages 1134–1148
@Richard Wager – You misunderstand the EFSA paper on animal feeding trials, which does not establish mandatory or even recommended protocols, it just observes that “relevant” protocols include certain OECD protocols for the testing of chemicals, e.g. 408 and 453, which Seralini drew on for his study. But these are not mandatory and industry is free to adapt them or even not to do them at all! It then describes the tests some companies have done on their GMOs — they differ widely and industry obviously has adapted them as it wishes.
This would be fine if industry adapted them in the direction of more rigour, as Seralini did, but they watered them down, eg by introducing spurious controls and only testing 2 doses instead of the OECD-recommended 3 (in what’s evidently a piece of retrospective legislation, otherwise known as locking the stable door after the horse has bolted, EFSA allows the 2-dose-only practice after industry had already done this for several years).
Richard, Peter is correct regarding the lack of protocols, it’s a serious problem that NGOs and Parliamentarians have been trying to correct for years, without success. Please feel free to contact me via the Earth Open Source website (earthopensource.org) if you’d like to discuss in person.
OK; got it, I will be in touch. The area of our research was not touched in the GMO Review I read and it is both interesting and horrific.
A kind reader has sent in the following:
A link to an interview with a departing member of EFSA GMO panel, from 2009:
The reader writes: Note Dr. Schiemann’s quote:
“Of course, studies that describe potential negative environmental effects of GMOs are discussed particularly intensively,”
Comment: Schiemann’s statement is ambiguous. It could mean that potential negative effects are discussed in a way that showed a special concern; e.g. that EFSA always requests additional experiments, more analysis, or invokes the precautionary principle (which the legislation expects it to do). OR, it could mean that studies with ‘negative’ effects are subjected to much more scrutiny than those showing no effect — i.e.it is truly an admission that EFSA’s GMO panel is essentially biased against accepting what they consider ‘negative’ results. There is little evidence for the former explanation but EFSA’s statement today (Oct 4th), dismissing the Seralini conclusions (http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/121004.htm) without requesting more data, plainly points to the second of these two explanations.
A second aspect to appreciate here is that experiments finding negative effects are, in Schiemann language, ‘potential’. EFSA, however, never describes findings of no effect as ‘potential’ (otherwise they could hardly lead to an approval). This asymmetric use of language also implies an unconcious bias at EFSA that Schiemann implies is collective, otherwise, why ‘Of course,…’.
I agree — the level of scrutiny which EFSA places on “uncomfortable” research findings vastly exceeds that which is employed for GM consent applications and their dossiers. Consents have always been issued by EFSA on the basis of “good faith” — ie an acceptance that dossiers submitted by Monsanto, Syngenta and the other corporations contain accurate and honestly analysed data. Corrupt or simply naive? It’s difficult to say — but we do know that EFSA sees its main brief as the facilitation of consents, not the protection of public health, when it comes to GMOs.
However: one must also note that the EFSA does not do any of their own research; only reviews other research. When they commission studies it is with other research or university organizations.
In their defense, if all the research submitted and reviewed is without fault the results are validated.
Then, along comes someone like Seralini and their submittal does not look, feel or agree with all the other information they have. Looks like a hoax; they refute it.
What is missing, just like in the USA, is accountability. The EFSA is accountable to no one. They have a title with some regulatory powers but none of them are in any way personally accountable for their actions.
My guess is that if they were held accountable there would be a lot more balance in their decisions.
Richard, you are very generous to EFSA! Those of us who are avid EFSA watchers are perhaps more cynical. EFSA is not as passive as you make out. Although the organization does no lab research, it does commission work when it feels like it. Also, it plays a powerful role in determining the nature of the studies that come before it for consideration. For years — in spite of pressure from independent scientists — it has resisted calls to extend the “feeding trial period” beyond 90 days; it has frequently pretended that nutritional studies are valid as safety studies; it routinely accepts that studies using “surrogate proteins” are acceptable in place of feeding studies based on whole GM plants; it assumes that GM plants are “substantially equivalent” to their isolines when they patently are not; and it constantly seeks to loosen regulation and to ignore synergistic and other effects in stacked varieties. It has even been pressing recently for an end to animal feeding trials on the basis that mathematical modelling can do the job perfectly well. Rubbish in, rubbish out — and EFSA knows that perfectly well. I am prepared to offer EFSA no tolerance at all — after all, the thing that is at stake here is of massive importance — namely the health of a whole continent.
Hence why we are initiating our own research project. And ours will touch upon the taboo subject: transfer of GMO traits, as well.
THANK YOU for writing this letter and also my gratitude to all that are undersigning it. Thank you form the bottom of my heart.
I never have wanted to consume GMO’s. As a citizen, I simply don’t want to. Ever since I heard about them. My personal fear is that they will mess with my own DNA.
In any case, the fact that it’s safe or not it should be subordinate to my freedom to choose what I eat. That freedom is curtailed forever when GMO’s are released into nature and cross-breed, when sub-products are manufactured and slipped into food items, unlabeled. When I consume them inadvertently while dining out or at friend’s houses.
I may be labeled as an idiot for not wanting to consume GMO’s, but it is my right. There has to be a right to freedom of nourishment, just like there is a right to liberty.
If I’m not able to chose what I eat, then I’m a slave of someone that is choosing for me.
Since this fundamental freedom of choosing what I nourish myself with has been under attack for years, I thank you for coming forth and fighting this giant with truth.
We need you now. I know that.
The results of Professor Seralini are in total agreement with industry but take the analysis longer to the point of CLEAR danger to our health.
GMO foods are not SAFE and even industry based papers nearly ALWAYS show huge cause for concern. Eg this soy trial by a Japanese group in 2007 IGNORED liver organ DAMAGE as no different from the controls (Sakamoto et al.Shokuhin Eiseigaku Zasshi. 2007 Jun;48(3):41-50). ABSTRACT says no SIGNIFICANT difference. Note WEASEL words.
A quick glimpse at USA health should make the point clear. Some early signs of harm are at ARMAGEDDON levels. 47 per cent of USA citizens have pre-signs of diabetes.
Signs of CLEAR GMO food harm found after 8 days is typically reported by the industry as: NO harm found after a 7 day feeding experiment.
A recent review of science research papers showed less than 0.01 per cent were fraudulent. On this basis alone we have 99.99 per cent chance to be VERY, VERY worried what a ten year exposure to the NK603 killer food has done to our health.
And of course when EFSA passed it as safe all that time ago they are hardly likely to admit their ERROR and putting 300 million people at long term risk from CANCER, DIABETES et al.
In a NORMAL world we would ALREADY have a TOTAL ban on GMO foods.
BUT we are on a WAR FOOTING; so expect NO CHANGE for the next ten years to this increase of GMO FOOD fit only for the RUBBISH DUMPS or those wishing to IMITATE the current USA health record.
Merci Docteur Seralini !
As a matter of fact I have been one of the members of ENSSER who contributed to the document of our network and of course signed it. However I am glad to sign again this document also as a part of actions that I am organizing in my country (Italy). Today I was asked to discuss the paper at the Italian anti-GMOs coalition (all the agricultural organizations of this country, the main consumers organizations, a distinguished group of scientists, four members of the parliament, one member of the European parliament, the international Slow Food organization, the network of GMO-free regions etc). Following my discussion the coalition decided to ask Prof Seralini to come in Italy in November, the month when EFSA enters its eleventh year ad the coalition are organizing a number of actvities against the present guidelines of EFSA. It should also be recalled that in this moment Italy is directing the anti-GMO regons organization (56 regions now) and therefore actions supporting GIlles Eric will be extended to the whole network
Thank you all who have had input into the letter of support for independent science.
Any scientist who finds concerns in their studies has the right to be reviewed by their colleagues and if the study passes per review then published. As a member of the consuming public I have not yet found any research that gives me confidence that GE is safe for the environment, animals or for consuming.
I have asked every scientist who has refuted GE negative findings to provide me with their research that refutes these studies. To date there has been a silence in providing this information.
Thank you again for the clear and concise points that have been made in relation to this topic. We, in New Zealand calling for an immediate re-call of the NK603, asking if they won’t recall it to provide information as to what products contain it, and to provide their assessments of the study so we can see why they are dismissing it out of hand. This will be a major issue for us on World Food Day.
I agree that this has all the signs of a premeditated witch-hunt, conducted for the most part by people who have never conducted animal feeding or experiments or safety tests themselves. In other words, the “expert” critiics are not members of the peer group to which the authors of the paper belong. We see double standards, vested interests and hypocrisy everywhere — and these are exactly the issues addressed in this excellent Open Letter.
It is a matter of great concern that the Science Media Centre (which has orchestrated the anti-Seralini campaign in the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand) has sought from the beginning to concentrate on its “spoiler” story about a “scientific furore” and on burying the real story, related to the actual findings of the research team.
And it is a matter of equal concern that EFSA, the body charged with looking after public health across the whole of the EU, has put in charge of its review process the very people who persistently recommend approvals for GM products and whose careers and reputations would be destroyed should the Seralini findings be shown to be correct. They have even put in charge of the process the very man — Andrew Chesson — who was heavily involved in the sacking of Arpad Pusztai all those years ago, and in the original approval of NK603. Such institutional bias is of breathtaking arrogance — and the time for a complete transformation of the regulatory system is long overdue.
There is truth to what you have said and much that you have missed:
a) originally, when the first GMO corn & soybeans entered the market, (as animal feed only) both GMO and non-GMO variety were available for growers to purchase. In that 2 year span, many independent labs ran analyses comparing the 2 side by side. Those comparisons were submitted to FDA which, without investigation, merely stated that the differences were “nominal” and not subject to initiating a review.. (It does not take much difference in amino acids or associated compounds to make a completely different being)
b) immediately, Asgrow and and others stopped selling the same varieties side by side in GMO & non-GMO versions.
c) also immediately the restriction on allowing GMOs into the direct human consumption food chain occurred without any additional research and without any additional application process. Partly because the traits had already transmigrated into non-target varieties and partly to lower the argument against human consumption concerns of the GMOs: once in the marketplace you have “precedence” for its safety, ( if no one outright dies on the spot.)
It was possible back then to do side by side feed impact analyses even without access to the traits for testing because you had GMO & non-GMO varieties side-by-side.
Today; it is illegal to have in your possession the GMO trait without the owners approval. And if you want to do independent research you must first have the trait to help identify the movement or impact in your research. Only selected co-operative labs get that agreement and are severely restricted in how they use them.
Germany has been on a “eliminate naturalism” run since the late 1990s. That they have sided with the high-tech mega-commercialization corporations is not a surprise. However, like the Japanese are all about Japan; the Germans are very “pro-German.” It makes no sense that they would totally overlook impact from GMOs on their own people. The French think it natural the Germans would want to hurt them but their own people? Not hardly.
Unless the lesson they have learned from the USA has given them reason.
It is much better for the economy to have both GMO and GMO chemical sales AND the cost of curing the impact from the GMOs.
That becomes the sticky issue in all this because German & Swiss pharmaceutical giants are heavily invested in cancer technology. Almost a conflict of interest. In my opinion, Spain would have been the better choice for independent EFSA testing then Germany.
But the main issue becomes the traits. If the GMO corporations had no fears they would allow the traits to be used to prove they are safe. They do not.
In fact they vigorously defend against anyone even suspected of having those traits. And therefore Seralini’s type of research is what we are reduced to and while that is perfectly acceptable it does not have the same effect on the people then having the research that shows the trait themselves are lethal. Although Seralini’s research does show a direct link between GMO foods and health impact and that was why their research was so thoroughly denied by the EFSA.
It seems the European Court of Auditors (Oct 11 2012) agrees with you that EFSA is inappropriately handling conflicts of interest. I wonder if, having covered unquestioningly every EFSA viewpoint re Seralini, the rest of the science media will be reporting that their source is not as credible as they thought it was?
I sign the letter,
Directeur de Recherche Inra (retired)
I think we are missing an important issue here. Who will benefit financially from Séralini’s attack on Roundup and maize variety NK603? Of the two components of the Séralini et al. experiment the Roundup is by far the most commercially-important. However, the Monsanto patent on Roundup ran out in 2000 and Monsanto then lost market share. The active ingredient of Roundup is glyphosate and the main manufacturer is now China, exporting to 95 countries. This is a far greater number of countries than grow GM crops, as glyphosate is a widely-used herbicide, for example in minimum-till systems.
In the years before 2000 Monsanto attempted to maintain its Roundup market by developing Roundup-ready GM crop varieties and bundling the herbicide and the variety together at point-of-sale. But – a big but – the world’s most widely adopted biotech trait, Roundup-ready soybeans, is set to go off patent. The last applicable Monsanto-owned patent on this will expire in 2014. In the following years all of the first generation of Monsanto GM crops patents will expire. Anyone now can produce Roundup (as glyphosate) and from 2014 anyone – farmers included – can start producing seed of out-of-patent varieties: anyone can then bundle the two for sale.
As Monsanto patents expire and the costs of the glyphosate and the GM glyphosate-resistant varieties fall, the use of GM crops will spread globally and Monsanto will continue to lose market share. But if, as Séralini tried to show, glyphosate is toxic it will be progressively banned worldwide and the range of glyphosate-resistant crops and varieties will be then no use to anyone, including competitors to Monsanto.
Monsanto is probably now developing both a new patentable herbicide to replace Roundup and new matching herbicide-resistant crop varieties, also patentable. These patented inventions could lead to Monsanto dominating GM crop production for a couple of decades.
So Séralini could benefit Monsanto product marketing by perhaps several billion dollars over the next decades. Why on earth have all those scientist in Latin America signed the open letter? Pre-Séralini their countries could soon benefit from out-of-patent herbicide and valuable GM crops. Post-Séralini glyphosate herbicide – and all the future out of patent GM crops that depend on it will be no more.
Even worse for Latin American signers of the open letter, they are supporting its claim that the IAASTD report showed GMOs to be “unsuited to the task of advancing global agriculture”. The IAASTD did no such thing: it promoted `agroecology’ as an alternative to GM crops. And it did this in an extremely biased way. There are five regional reports of the IAASTD. Mentions of `agroecology’ in these reports: Sub-Saharan Africa, 2; Central and West Asia and North Africa, 2; North America and Europe, 2; East and South Asia and the Pacific, 8; Latin America and the Caribbean, 151 (91.5% of total mentions). As North America is the main promoter of `agroecology (in numbers of academic papers) and Latin America the main competitor to North American GM crop exports, the IAASTD was a closely focused attempt to undermine Latin American GM crop exports. `Science and Politics’ (Section 5 of the open letter) and the global media certainly failed Latin America in the IAASTD report. They are now failing to see the cascade of impacts any global ban on glyphosate would have on global food supply – down, and Monsanto’s future profits – up. Scientists should be capable of a more careful analysis of evidence than shown by this open letter.
Subjectively what you have stated is true. Yet we have not seen much movement by Monsanto in any new herbicidal direction in the last few years.
Instead: they have concentrated, heavily, on patenting Roundup Genes in so many food crops that I have not been able to keep up. Whereas they lose the glyphosate patent exclusivity they are not losing the seed-patents by any means. And most do not know the extent of the protection of the patent laws: even if your crop was an accidental recipient of the gene trait; you still have no rights to own, plant or use it without paying Monsanto, et al. And a number of test cases, in Canada no less, has protected Monsanto’s interests. This given Canada has the strongest chemical-trespass laws; the GMO trespass was not accorded the same judicial regulation.
We are however seeing a new and potentially more dangerous approval set in motion; Dow Chemical’s 2,4,d resistant trait. The #1 lesson is that when you apply millions, if not billions of TONS of herbicides there is no place to hide.
Glyphosate is moderately persistent in the environment. It moves with the movement of water, above ground or below ground.
2,4,d on the other hand, volatilizes…. it will be in the air you breathe, it will be in the plants you grow.
Grape growers put out rings of tomato plants in order to determine which direction the 2,4,d damage in the vineyards comes from. Telling you 2 things; grapes are sensitive as are tomatoes. The cloud of toxic death being readied to be unleashed on the planet is unlike any war, unlike any agricultural impact ever seen before.
It will cover the globe in toxic gases.
Seralini is correct in the design of the research: point at the feed, not the genes, only because pointing at the genes requires the wealth of King Solomon.
People of 3rd world order countries are starving: they care little for arguments of death, disease and health: they live that horror every day in real-time. With Gates, Monsanto and the USA pushing GMOs onto their plates they are only seeing today the benefits: it will take a few years for the negatives to catch up and by then they are hooked.
Europe is the last chance to slowing the GMO. Japan has opted out. The counter argument, sustainability/natural, is losing momentum because no one is actually coordinating a frontal attack on GMOs in any manner meaningful.
So it is up to science in the EU to pick-up the gauntlet thrown by Seralini and throw it one-thousand times more into the face of the EFSA, IAASTD and Monsanto, et al, if this is a battle to be won.
Dave — in the midst of those rather convoluted points, you seem to be getting rather mixed up on the matter of glyphosate versus Roundup. Seralini and colleagues hypothesised that Roundup was much more dangerous than glyphosate, and wanted to test for its safety — or its danger — in mammal feeding studies. A perfectly reasonable thing to do — with results that perfectly justified the setting up of the experiments. Any sensible regulator will now conclude, on the basis of the Seralini study, that Roundup is very dangerous and that glyphosate is probably dangerous too. That should surprise nobody — herbicides and pesticides are meant to kill things, and always kill things other than the target organisms. Anybody who tells you otherwise is either a fool or a charlatan.
Yes, you are correct; pesticides are meant to kill living things. Normally the issue of mortality is based on size, time & dose. Virtually every insecticide can almost immediately kill a human. Most fungicides can eventually kill a human and herbicides are more a longer-term, slow death for humans.
The issue is dose.
And: The issue is ego.
Humans, for some as yet unknown reason, believe they are “different” than other living beings. However, having taught college level cell biology I can assure you that our dells and other living cells are more alike then different.
When I hear farmers, chemical dealers, chemical reps say: “Herbicides kill plants not people” I can hardly contain myself.
In the USA it is the bible belt, conservative religious right’s mantra: ” God made man above the animals and plants and all other living creatures, big and small. We are not plants, we are not bugs, we are not animals. pesticides kill pests; not people. They are a boon to mankind. ”
The devil is in the dose.
Every whiff of chemicals does some damage, every drop, every morsel does some damage. But because they normally do not kill you outright the companies doing the toxicology testing realize that it is virtually impossible to sort out and separate what damage they do to you from the damage being done by other chemicals.
That is why Seralini’s research was/is so important. It hones in on one impact; Roundup.
However; roundup resistant genes also resist glyphosate generic. So his testing is for either roundup OR glyphosate induced tumors because unless he specifically used Mass Spec to do qualitative analyses of which were used in his feed source the point of differentiating them in wordage would be moot.
I’ll make it less convoluted. I predicted above that: “…Séralini could benefit Monsanto product marketing by perhaps several billion dollars over the next decades”.
I got it very wrong: it happened not over decades, but (almost) in one day. A 2.9% increase in Monsanto share price on September 19th – the day the Séralini report was released – added $1.39 billion to the market value of Monsanto.
My argument may have been difficult to understand but others understood the implications of the Séralini report and backed their analysis with lots of cash.
A similar thing happened 50 years ago. US patent on DDT 1943; patent expired 1960; “Silent Spring” published 1962; DDT banned by USA in 1972; knock-on bans in other countries, a couple of million unnecessarily dead humans from malaria. This time it could be starvation as weeds take over the world’s farmland.
Umm, in a word; No.
That is convoluted logic at best.
First: we did without weed killers for thousands of years. I know growers from North America into Central America and throughout South America who barely use herbicides. The ban of one herbicide only means the rise of another. Period. Sorry: no dead humans in that equation.
DDT still is sold on major markets throughout the world. The USA is still one of the major producers. It is still used in virtually every malaria country in the world. Again: no “extra” dead humans in that equation.
I am not sure where you are getting these facts but they need checking.
Ban roundup or roundup genes means little: another GMO or chemical rises to take its place.
SCIENCE MEDIA CENTRE – DIRECTOR – FIONA FOX former
Wikipedia: “Fiona Fox is the younger sister of Claire Fox; both were members of the Revolutionary Communist Party and key players in the Living Marxism group/ magazine. Claire Fox founded and directs the Institute of Ideas. Fiona Fox went on to be employed by the Science Media Centre ”
Despite having no previous background in science or science communication, Fox has been afforded, since her appointment to the Science Media Centre in December 2001, the status of expert. She has, for example, been included in a working party on peer review set up by Sense About Science and in a steering group on improving communication over science policy and risk set up by the Office of Science and Technology. In 2003 Fox delivered a lecture at Green College Oxford, on the challenge of adapting science to the mass media.
By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 9th December 2003
One of strangest aspects of modern politics is the dominance of former left-wingers who have swung to the right. The “neo-cons” pretty well run the White House and the Pentagon, the Labour party and key departments of the British government. But there is a group which has travelled even further, from the most distant fringes of the left to the extremities of the pro-corporate libertarian right. While its politics have swung around 180 degrees, its tactics – entering organisations and taking them over – appear unchanged. Research published for the first time today suggests that the members of this group have colonised a crucial section of the British establishment…….
(Comment edited. Please visit http://www.monbiot.com/2003/12/09/invasion-of-the-entryists/
for the rest of this Monbiot article.) It is certainly worth reading. That who controls the science media also controls the future has yet to be adequately appreciated….
Graham: Thanks for drawing attention to the excellent Monbiot article. I don’t think the left-right swing is the answer. These people are professional, career, activists. They train on the left – lots of opportunity bit little funding – and then as they gets more skills, they sell themselves to the highest bidder – the corporate right.
The interesting fact about the Séralini report was that people in the know could have made a billion dollars in a day by backing the stock market on 19th September: a good return for the 3 miilion euros the experiment cost.
Dave — I think I know where you are coming from, but i still do not see what you are trying to say. Are you suggesting that Seralini and their colleagues should not have done this study? if so, say it, and we will then know something about your ethics. Speaking for myself, if GM products, Roundup and glyphosate are toxic to human beings, I want to know it, and I will applaud any scientist or group of scientists who seek to undertake careful research in order to get at the truth. Monsanto’s share price has nothing whatsoever to do with this. This is a health and safety issue, and not an economic or political issue. I would like to think that our regulators (including FSA in the UK and EFSA in Europe) also see it that way — but I have my doubts.
Interesting that you should ignore the economic impact of the Séralini paper on Monsanto share price and choose to question – literally – my ethics. Can I try a couple of ethical questions on you? How do you feel about Séralini keeping a tumour-prone strain of rats alive for a photo-shoot when guidelines on the ethical treatment of lab animals indicates the rat should have been put out their misery long before? How about Séralini gagging the media to prevent adverse comment on the paper by reputable scientists and therefore increasing the positive impact on the Monsanto share price on 19th September, the day the paper was released (after a seven week delay requested of the publishers by Séralini)?
Patents are awarded for a fixed period. When patents expire, we – the general public- should be allowed to use the product without paying fees to the patent holder: that’s the deal. The Séralini paper – almost 50 years to the day – tries the `Silent Spring’ gambit of trashing an expired patent. China and possibly India would go on producing glyphosate but the slightest trace of it on any crops exported from developing countries would block markets to developed countries (exactly as happened with DDT).
More human time is spent weeding than any other activity bar sleeping. It is not ethical to expect women – often with babies on their backs – to spend 10 hours a day in the tropics weeding when a good, cheap, herbicide could increase food production and reduce drudgery. I did not use herbicides in four years of gardening in India – hand-weeding nearly killed me and I certainly couldn’t work hard enough to feed a large family. India is an outstanding example of the success of GM crops – with Bt cotton. I was working in Central America when Nicaragua was wrecking its cotton production with overuse of pesticides in the 1980s. And don’t get me started on bananas and multinationals.
Does that explain your puzzle about where I am coming from?
@Dave Wood Because of your objection to hand weeding, I assume then that you believe it’s unethical to plant GM herbicide-tolerant crops, on the grounds that they have forced farmers to resort to hand weeding to control herbicide-resistant weeds.
–and countless other reports.
Claire: This is only marginally to do with GM crops – glyphosate is used all over the place – especially for soil-friendly minimum-till farming. Herbicide-resistant weeds are no more difficult to grub out by hand than the weeds farmers would have to get rid of before GM crops. And most GM crops (probable big exception cotton in India but that’s Bt) are tractor weeded and not hand weeded. And by no means all GM herbicide-resistant crops have resistant weeds. And I don’t care two hoots about weed problems in the US. They are first adopters for GM crops and can suffer all the pains when things start to go wrong. And as to my objection to hand weeding – have you tried it with shade temperature of over 40 degrees when fields are in the sun? I thought not.
Unfortunately, nowadays we have been witnessing more and more $cientists practicing $cience and others that end up changing $ides and denying their own findings on behalf of financial interests.
At my first visit I have found the comments fascinating and am heartily glad that so many eminent scientists are on the side of the angels regarding GM. I fully understand the view that everything must be “proved” before it is accepted, but as a simple, ordinary person I can only apply common sense (whatever happened to common sense ?) If you insert a toxin into a plant which is then eaten – does the toxin magically disappear ? If you insert a gene into a plant which does not belong there – how will that plant react ? Plants produce their own toxins in order to protect themselves. so……?
This whole GM thing is a very inexact science and we are the guinea pigs in a huge unregulated experiment in which those responsible are not even interested in the “results” only in the money they can make.
Unfortunately there are so many apocryphal(?) tales, such as the Indian sheep grazing on the remains of a GM crop and dying, which are passed around and it becomes impossible to ascertain the truth – so those in favour of GM use this to their advantage, rubbishing those who spread the stories.
What is quite clear to me is that it is already too late to ban GM – it is already out there and cannot be recalled – the genie will refuse to be bottled up again and will spread where it will. I thank goodness that here in the UK we have been able (so far) to keep GM crops at bay beyond the channel,(expect for some “trials”) and that unlike the poor Americans, most of whom desperately want to know what they are eating, we have proper labelling here.
Oh – last but very much not least, following the comments about those who think insecticides only kill insects and are therefore nothing for us to worry about- ask them what they think a bee is ? Then ask them how many bees have been lost in recent years. You might add that without bees we would have to resort to hand pollinating (already happening in some countries) or face a very limited diet. FAR worse than hand weeding, (which if you practice no-till farming is not necessary)
More power to your collective elbows SGR
Seralini must receive support (a great one) in order to continue his research… and as a “précaution” task, the use of such herbicide must stop right now…
Here we forward a statement from Dr. Vandana Shiva: Independent science in jeopardy
The Asian Age, December 5 2012
If citizens don’t have the right to know and scientists don’t have the freedom to speak the truth, we are creating societies that are dangerous — for democratic freedom and for biosafety
Science is considered science when it is independent, when it has integrity and when it speaks the truth about its search. It was the integrity, independence, and sovereignty of science that drew me and propelled me to study physics.
Today, independent science is threatened with extinction. While this is true in every field, it is the field of food and agriculture that I am most concerned about.
At the heart of the food and agriculture debate are genetically modified organisms, also referred to as GMOs. The agrochemical industry’s new avatar is as the GMO industry. According to the industry, GMOs are necessary to remove hunger and are safe.
But evidence from all independent scientists has established that GMOs do not contribute to food security. The UN-sponsored International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report — written by 400 scientists after a research of three to four years — concluded that there is no evidence that GMOs increase food security. The Union of Concerned scientists concluded in its report, “A Failure to Yield”, that in the US, genetic engineering had not increased the yield. “The GMO Emperor Has No Clothes” — a Global Citizens’ report on the state of GMOs based on field research across the world — also found that genetic engineering has not increased yields. Yet, the propaganda continues that GMOs are the only solution to hunger because GMOs increase yields.
The Supreme Court of India appointed an independent Technical Expert Committee (TEC) to advise it on issues of biosafety. The committee has some of India’s most eminent scientists, including Dr Imran Siddiqui, director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, and Dr P.S. Ramakrishnan, India’s leading biodiversity expert and professor emeritus at the Jawaharlal Nehru University.
One would have expected the government to accept the recommendations of this eminent panel and to throw its weight behind the integrity and independence of science. Instead, the government is throwing its weight behind the industry and its fraudulent claims.
The Centre has joined the industry in opposing the expert committee’s report recommending moratorium on open field trial of GM crops for 10 years. Responding to a direct query from a bench presided over by Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice S.J. Mukhopadaya, Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati, appearing for the Centre, said that the Centre does not accept the recommendations of the TEC. With the industry also filing objections to the report, the court directed the expert committee to give a final report after considering objections by various parties.
Stressing on the need to introduce GM crops, the Centre has said it would not be able to meet the first millennium development goal (MDG) of cutting the number of hungry people by half without such technologies. A moratorium of 10 years would take the country 20 years back in scientific research, it added. These are fallacious arguments. Only two per cent of the GMO soy in the US is eaten by humans. The rest is used as biofuel to run cars and as animal feed. More GMOs do not mean more food.
The most effective road to reducing hunger and malnutrition is to intensify land use in terms of biodiversity and ecological processes of renewal of soil fertility. Biodiverse ecological farms increase food and nutrition output per acre.
The real scientific need for India and the world is to do research on agroecology, on how biodiversity and agro-ecosystems can produce more food while using lesser resources.
In the chemical industrial paradigm, seed and soil are empty containers to add toxic chemicals and genes to, and water is limitless. Industrial agriculture is destroying the natural capital on which food security depends.
The industrial agriculture and GMO paradigm has no understanding of the millions of soil organisms that produce soil fertility, the thousands of crop species that feed us, the amazing work of pollinators like bees and butterflies. And because ecological interactions that produce food are a black hole in the GMO paradigm, the impact of the release of GMOs in the environment is also a black hole. Independent science is vital to fill the gaps in knowledge about the ecology of food production and the ecology of biosafety. This is the knowledge gap that the TEC and independent scientists everywhere are trying to fill.
All independent research on safety indicates that GMOs have serious biosafety issues. This is why we have a UN biosafety protocol.
Beginning with Hungarian-born biochemist and nutritionist Dr Arpad Pusztai and continuing with French scientist Dr Seralini, industry and its lobbyists assault every independent scientist whose research shows that GMOs have risks. Dr Pusztai’s research, commissioned by the UK government, showed that rats fed with GMO potatoes had shrunken brains, enlarged pancreas and damaged immunity. Dr Pusztai was hounded out of his lab and a gag order was put on him.
The publication of a paper in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology “Long Term Toxicity of a Roundup Herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant GM Maize” by Dr Seralini et al (2012) has generated intense debate on the safety or otherwise of Monsanto’s GM maize NK603. The European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER) welcomes Dr Seralini’s study. I joined 120 scientists to sign a letter — Seralini and Science: An Open Letter — supporting Dr Seralini’s study.
Russia and Kazakhstan have since halted imports of NK603 maize and, more recently, the Kenyan Cabinet has issued a directive to stop the import of GM foods due to inadequate research done on GMOs and lack of scientific evidence to prove the safety of the food.
This precautionary approach is what India’s Supreme Court-appointed TEC is calling for.
Citizens of California had put up Proposition 37 in the recent elections for something as simple as the “Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food” by having a label on GMO foods. This is recognised as a citizen’s right in Europe and now in India. But the California vote was defeated by industry spending — big food industry players are paying big bucks to battle California’s GMO labelling initiative. According to reports, they are spending as much as $1 million a day on false and misleading advertising.
If citizens don’t have the right to know and scientists don’t have the freedom to speak the truth, we are creating societies that are dangerous — both in terms of loss of democratic freedom and in terms of risking biosafety.
Independent scientists, along with the bees and biodiversity of our plants and seeds, could well become a species threatened with extinction if we do not stop the GMO drone.
The writer is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust
Dr. Vandana Shiva: My organization makes a hard delineation between “Science” and “Commercial Science.” Science is the pure abstract discipline, innocent of all ties and plots, whereas Commercial Science is the application of the discoveries made by Science.
Commercial Science is the home of industrialization, wealth and those who would be the Captains of such endeavors. Commercial Industrial Science becomes its own entity and fights for its own existence as fiercely as any person would. Different than an individual: Commercial Industrial Science has no individual soul, just the collective needs or greed of its group members/employees. There is where it fails mankind: no heart/no soul/no conscience.
One quote makes sense of it all: “Behind every great fortune is a great crime.”
However; this battle is long lost. There is no turning back, no return to innocence, no confessions, no concessions. There will be no “outing” the “deep dark secrets”; once the government has been bought we lose the only Allie powerful enough to force change.
Here in the USA we were sold out by a president; Reagan, who (as a champion of the Captains of Industry) replaced the federal paid government EPA and FDA product review board members with short-term contract review-members who are full time employees of the very companies making the applications for approval. The first few years they were not allowed to review products of their own companies but that has since been ignored and now they review even their own company products. The approval rate since this happened? 99.5%
4 presidents have come and gone and not one, not even clinton or obama, changed this practice. Protecting the interests of the people would affect the interests of the economy and no president, no leader, wants to be the one who brings down their country’s economic schemes and dreams over silly things like health and quality of life.
And be clear; I am told by Russian scientists, farmers and activists that there are millions of acres of GMO crops in Russia today: smuggled in with the blessings of the Putin government after being paid millions by USA corporate interests.
No turning back. It would take a world-wide disaster/revolution to affect change and, in my view, today’s people are too lazy, too spoiled, too self-focused, too greedy to affect change. Starving people want food: they do not care if it kills them later; it saves them today. Working people want a paycheck: it is not their business what happens to others only what happens to their family. Business people want to stay in business, wealthy people want their wealth. These groups are the majority in the world. The majority rule.
The world is the loser. Maybe global climate change ends mankind’s “reign of horrors.” Hopefully the next dominate creature will not be so evil.
Thank you Doctor Seralini for your input to World Food Safety.
Nowadays our country attack by GMO plant seeds. While our county has own varieties of crops.
I never have wanted to consume GMO’s by smallest nations like Kyrgyz. It’s will be degraded they DNA .
I sign the letter,
Abdybek J. Asanaliev, PhD
Kyrgyz National Agrarian University
Vindication: “(Full) Reasoning of the Jury for the 2015 Whistleblower Award to Professor Gilles-Eric Séralini,” by the Whistleblower Award Jury; September 2015 (14 pages) http://bit.ly/2evGh6J