In a study that prompted sharp criticism from other experts, French scientists said on Wednesday that rats fed on Monsanto’s genetically modified corn or exposed to its top-selling weedkiller suffered tumors and multiple organ damage.
The French government asked the country’s health watchdog to investigate the findings further, although a number of scientists questioned the study’s basic methods and Monsanto said it felt confident its products had been proven safe.
Experts not involved in the study were skeptical, with one accusing the French scientists of going on a “statistical fishing trip” and others describing its methods as well below standard.
Experts asked by reporters to review the scientific paper advised caution in drawing conclusions from it.
Tom Sanders, head of the nutritional sciences research division at King’s College London, noted that Seralini’s team had not provided any data on how much the rats were given to eat, or what their growth rates were.
“Based on the conclusion …, the government will ask the European authorities to take all necessary measures to protect human and animal health, measures that could go as far as an emergency suspension of imports of NK603 maize in the European Union,” the French health, environment and farm ministries said in a joint statement.
This is some serious stuff. Based on this study, they are asking for some drastic measures to be considered. With the study under scrutiny and this being a HIGHLY contentious and emotional issue, sparks are FLYING. Stay tuned. Updates to follow…
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UPDATE (20-Sept-2012) Indeed, a tsunami of public comment has occurred in response to this study. Problems with study methodology, statistics, reporting, bias/conflict of interest and mechanism have all been raised. One point that was raised worthy of consideration is the widespread use of both these products. If they are so dangerous, why is there not an already recognized issue? One study does not clear out all the rest in one swoop. Here are some of the rebuttals:
Washington Post: French Scientists question safety of GM corn
Tom Helscher, director of corporate affairs for Monsanto, sent a statement that noted more than a 100 peer-reviewed animal studies have confirmed the safety of biotech crops, but added that the company would review the French study ”thoroughly, as we do all studies that relate to our products and technologies.”
Helscher also pointed out that Seralini and his colleagues have made similarly faulty conclusions in the past, notably in 2007 when they analyzed a previously published 90-day animal study about Monsanto maize. The European Food Safety Authority, which reviewed the paper at the request of the European Union, found no merit in Seralini’s report, concluding:
“EFSA considers that the paper does not present a sound scientific justification in order to question the safety of [Monsanto] maize.”
“[I] can’t figure it out yet,” said Marion Nestle, the Paulette Goddard professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University. “It’s weirdly complicated and unclear on key issues: what the controls were fed, relative rates of tumors, why no dose relationship, what the mechanism might be. I can’t think of a biological reason why GMO corn should do this.”
A collection is a available from the Science Media Centre
The full paper is available here (PDF)