(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
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
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.
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
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
(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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