Study on Effects of Geneticly Engineered Food Turns out to be Fradulant

March 29th, 2013

Share

There have been many claims made about the potential health dangers of genetically modified crops by a number of groups.  Of course, most of these claims lack even the slightest evidence and seem to be based on the fallacy that anything artificial is dangerous.   While a few genetically engineered crops under development did show potential to cause allergies, these were quickly pulled from consideration for use in actual products.

Still, opponents continue to grasp for straws to prove that modifying DNA intentionally (as opposed as to by accident, which happens all the time) is somehow a danger to health.  A recent study claimed to have found strong evidence of harm, yet critical evaluation has found it not only to be flawed, but actually fraudulent.

Via Forbes:

Scientists Smell A Rat In Fraudulent Genetic Engineering Study
Last week French microbiologist Gilles-Eric Séralini and several colleagues released the results of a long-term study in which rats were fed genetically engineered (AKA genetically modified, or “GM”) corn that contains enhanced resistance to insects and/or the herbicide glyphosate. They took the unprecedented step of pre-releasing the paper to selected media outlets under an embargo on the condition that they sign a non-disclosure agreement. (That prevented the journalists from seeking scientific experts’ opinions on the article.) At a carefully orchestrated media event they then announced that their long-term studies found that the rats in experimental groups developed tumors at an alarming rate. Within hours news of their “discovery” echoed around the world. As we say today, the story “went viral.”

This really should have raised a red flag from the beginning. Typically, scientists will publish their work in a journal for review by other scientists before going to the media. If there are leaks about an especially large or important discovery, they may need to engage the media sooner, but this is usually done in a guarded manner. Otherwise, it’s normally improper to talk with the media about scientific data before it has been released in full, and doing so with a non-disclosure agreement is not normal.

Based on this atypical behavior and apparent desire for early media attention, the scent of a rat should have been strong even before the paper was released.  They also preempted publication of their study with the release of these extremely disturbing photos of the rats used in the experiment.

The article continues:

The experiment we wrote about purported to show toxicity in vitro to a line of cultured embryonic kidney cells exposed to two proteins commonly incorporated into many varieties of corn, soybean and cotton to enhance their insect-resistance. As we discussed, because the experiment was so poorly conceived, any result would have been meaningless.

We were mistaken about Séralini. The experiments reported last week show that he has crossed the line from merely performing and reporting flawed experiments to committing gross scientific misconduct and attempting fraud.

Séralini claimed that his experiments found harmful effects, including a high incidence of tumors, in laboratory rats fed genetically modified corn and/or water spiked with the commonly used herbicide, glyphosate. The treatments lasted for two years.

There is so much wrong with the experimental design that the conclusion is inescapable that the investigators intended to get a spurious, preordained result.

Once released, the scientific community criticized the experiment on a number of grounds. For one, the rats used in the experiment were of a variety bread to be prone to tumors. Thus, the number of tumors in both the experimental and control groups were high, and, as it turns out, the difference was not statistically significant. But bear in mind, the results, which claimed to show an increased risk of cancer were released to the media before other scientists had any chance to point these flaws out.

Yet, that is only the tip of the iceberg. You can lead a veritable laundry list of fundamental experimental protocol shortfalls in the Forbes article. These include such things as a completely improperly sized control and experimental group, unconventional and questionable statistical analysis methods, absence of pathological samples and lack of explanation of apparent dose discrepancy.

Above all else, the researchers refused to release the raw data from the experiment. Basic data, such as the type of tumors observed, the mortality rates has not been provided. Records of exactly what the rats in the study were fed and wen is also either unavailable or not provided. Without such basic data, it’s impossible to really examine the study’s findings at all. Indeed, without such data, the publication does not even meet the basic standards for being considered a published “study.”

The fact that they would consider it more important to release the graphic and attention-grabbing photos shown above, but not the pathology data or the basic records of the experiment speaks volumes about what the intended audience and effect really was.

Indeed, the publishing of the study appears so shoddy, that the journal it was published in, Food and Chemical Toxicology has been criticized for allowing it past its peer review panels. It does not meet the basic criteria set out by the journal for editorial and study quality. Exactly how it managed to get published remains unclear. There have been some journals set up entirely for the purpose of publishing studies of too poor a quality to be published elsewhere. However, Food and Chemical Toxicology appears to be an otherwise legitimate journal. While they may not have the highest standards, they also are not known for absurdly low ones either. Still, for any peer reviewed journal, publications of this type can have a big impact on their reputation, and rightfully so.

The Forbes article closes:

An obvious question is why Séralini would publish such obviously shoddy studies. The answer may be that negative headline stories laden with color pictures of rats with grotesque tumors are not easily forgotten even if the studies are fraudulent. Also, it may be hard for the non-expert to ignore the reported differences between control and experimental groups, and many non-experts will probably believe that where there is smoke, there is fire even if there are flaws in the experiment. But scientists understand that if the design, execution, or analysis of a study is fundamentally flawed, any conclusions are disqualified.

I do not think there’s any doubt as to why this study was published or why it was released to the media to begin with. The vast majority of scientific researchers take their job seriously and wish to follow the best protocols necessary to provide valid data to expand human understanding and help provide better information for public policy. Unfortunately, however, there are some who are less concerned about science and more concerned with getting media attention through sensational claims. After all, this type of scaremongering grabs headlines and that can lead to things like lecture tours, book deals, interviews and, most importantly, money.

I encourage readers to check out the full article from Forbes.


This entry was posted on Friday, March 29th, 2013 at 1:10 pm and is filed under Agriculture, Bad Science, Conspiracy Theories, Enviornment, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
View blog reactions

20 Responses to “Study on Effects of Geneticly Engineered Food Turns out to be Fradulant”

  1. 1
    Richard Says:

    Never mind the scientific rigor, the “study” shows no difference with the control group. They can’t even get their manipulated data right.


    Quote Comment
  2. 2
    drbuzz0 Says:

            Richard said:

    Never mind the scientific rigor, the “study” shows no difference with the control group. They can’t even get their manipulated data right.

    Yeah, but apparently the press release implied that it did. Mind you, the stuff they released to the media was targeted at such an unsophisticated audience, it didn’t matter what the data said, only the headline mattered.


    Quote Comment
  3. 3
    Sigivald Says:

    Sadly, of course, nobody who saw the initial reports (or their endless echoings by the Anti-GMO crusaders) will A) look at the Forbes article (which is, also, almost six months old now) or B) believe it if they do.

    Deny the study was any good? You must be being paid by Evil Monsanto The Devil.


    Quote Comment
  4. 4
    quokka Says:

    The European Food Safety Agency reviewed the Séralini study and found little merit:

    http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/121128.htm


    Quote Comment
  5. 5
    DV82XL Says:

    And we are surprised by this because..? Next to nuclear, GMO is the most lied about technology on the planet. It beggars belief that the two things that could do the most to alleviate suffering and avoid ecological destruction in this world are the most vilified and bizarrely by those who claim to care the most about the human condition and the environment.

    Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens.


    Quote Comment
  6. 6
    AKA the A Says:

            Sigivald said:

    You must be being paid by Evil Monsanto The Devil.

    While I will not support the whole “GMO is baaaad for you” nonsense, Monsanto is doing everything in it’s power to be “evil” :P

    Implying copyright laws on stuff like their GMO corn (you can’t use the seeds you grow from it, you have to buy theirs) IS evil!!! >:-(
    They even went as far to either systematically threaten people who do seed separation for a business or simply force them out of business…


    Quote Comment
  7. 7
    DV82XL Says:

            AKA the A said:

    While I will not support the whole “GMO is baaaad for you” nonsense, Monsanto is doing everything in it’s power to be “evil” :P .

    Well that’s half the problem isn’t it. Governments have dropped the ball big time on this file by letting companies like Monsanto assert the same sort of intellectual property rights as they are able for something like a new drug. Clearly any technology that is self-replicating as a function of how it is meant to work needs to be covered by a different legal structure.


    Quote Comment
  8. 8
    Jason C Says:

    “Studies” like these do more than just damage the subject of their study, they damage the reputation of science. When legitimate studies are then released, no one believes them when they contradict the sensationalist “study”.


    Quote Comment
  9. 9
    JeffFromOhio Says:

    You might want to correct “Fradulent” to “Fraudulent”, in the title.


    Quote Comment
  10. 10
    Anon Says:

            AKA the A said:

    While I will not support the whole “GMO is baaaad for you” nonsense, Monsanto is doing everything in it’s power to be “evil” :P

    Yes, but they are nowhere near as evil as the activists (who are unknowingly working for them to keep GMOs too expensive for small businesses to compete).

            AKA the A said:

    Implying copyright laws on stuff like their GMO corn (you can’t use the seeds you grow from it, you have to buy theirs) IS evil!!! >:-(

    Actually they are using patent law, not copyright and patents have the advantage (and a not insignificant one) of actually expiring.

    Besides, most farmers in the west are used to buying new seed anyway as hybrids don’t breed true.

    But assuming that people are allowed to reuse seed and even sell it themselves in competition how then are those who spend a lot of money going through hoops to bring that strain to market meant to recoup their investment?


    Quote Comment
  11. 11
    DV82XL Says:

            Anon said:

    But assuming that people are allowed to reuse seed and even sell it themselves in competition how then are those who spend a lot of money going through hoops to bring that strain to market meant to recoup their investment?

    How did those that created new breeds of cultivars in the ‘traditional’ ways recoup their investment in the past? There must have been some incentive or it would not have been done, and that process was slow and labor intensive so the high cost argument for GMO is not that apparent.

    At any rate it is practices like suing growers who’s crops have been fertilized by natural forces by their patented genes and similar forms of barratry that Monsanto engages in that tars them with the ‘evil’ tag.


    Quote Comment
  12. 12
    Anon Says:

            DV82XL said:

    How did those that created new breeds of cultivars in the ‘traditional’ ways recoup their investment in the past? There must have been some incentive or it would not have been done, and that process was slow and labor intensive so the high cost argument for GMO is not that apparent.

    Much of it was done by individual farmers just storing the best seeds and replanting them, i.e. they were doing it for themselves, hybrid seeds don’t breed true so those who wanted to use them would have to buy new seeds every season and it turns out that it isn’t just transgenic crops that can be patented.

    If the unnecessary hoops GMOs have to go through to get approved were removed then I think there’d be a strong argument that there’s no need for any patents on them (or maybe I could argue that we should remove the hoops so that we can get rid of the patents).

            DV82XL said:

    At any rate it is practices like suing growers who’s crops have been fertilized by natural forces by their patented genes and similar forms of barratry that Monsanto engages in that tars them with the ‘evil’ tag.

    I have not heard of any cases in which a farmer was sued because of accidental and unwanted contamination by GM crops (but have heard people misinterpreting cases about an ‘organic’ farmer who deliberately selected for the GMOs).


    Quote Comment
  13. 13
    DV82XL Says:

            Anon said:

    Much of it was done by individual farmers just storing the best seeds and replanting them, i.e. they were doing it for themselves, hybrid seeds don’t breed true so those who wanted to use them would have to buy new seeds every season and it turns out that it isn’t just transgenic crops that can be patented.

    While that was true in the distant past commercial plant breeding started in the nineteenth century. Check out Gartons Agricultural Plant Breeders.

            Anon said:

    I have not heard of any cases in which a farmer was sued because of accidental and unwanted contamination by GM crops (but have heard people misinterpreting cases about an ‘organic’ farmer who deliberately selected for the GMOs).

    According to this article: Farmers Told To Buy Insurance If They Don’t Want To Get Sued By Corporations Monsanto has sued about 11 farmers per year for patent infringement of their genetically modified corn and soybean seeds. Many of these farmers have had to pay a settlement to the corporation even when their fields were accidentally contaminated with GM seeds from a neighboring farm. Farmers who have sued Monsanto back have been soundly defeated.

    The argument as to whether Monsanto is liable for allowing its product to contaminate the seedstock of others is valid even though the U.S. Department of Agriculture has absolved the biotech industry of contamination of non-GM seeds with their products from other fields by regulatory fiat.


    Quote Comment
  14. 14
    Troberg Says:

    As a pet rat owner who has, sadly, had lots of experience with cancer in rats, this is my take on this:

    Rats, especially female (the rats in the photos are all female), are very prone to cancer, especially in the mammaries (which is what we see in those photos). Of my nine female rats who have reached an age where it’s becoming statistically interesting, only one has never had any such tumor as she got older. Now, I’m aware that I had a bit of bad luck (I’ve spent well over $8000 in vet costs alone, but they are worth it…), but a typical rate is still well above 50%. Rats, particularly female rats, simply are very prone to cancer. It’s the downside of their excellent healing abilities, when things go wrong, bad cells are as good at replicating as the good cells.

    So, if you are going to prove that something causes cancer, rats might not be the best test subjects.

    As a side note, letting the tumors get that big without either surgery or eutaniasia is not right for the animal, and completely unnecessary from a scientific viewpoint. Especially rat L has gone way too far, and is probably in severe pain due to the unnatural position of the head, shoulders and spine forced by the tumor. So, they are letting the animals suffer in order to get a few shock photos…


    Quote Comment
  15. 15
    Chris Says:

    Safety of GMO’s tested on pigs: http://www.organic-systems.org/journal/81/8106.pdf
    Maybe you can write another article debunking this study too.
    I’m sure there will be even more to come.

    Don’t forget (if I remember correctly) most of the studies done on GMO seeds have been done by Monsanto themselves and you usually have to permission from them to use their patented GMO seeds in any type of study. This in itself is sensorship/prevention of critical studies and this is why the studies have been mostly positive so far. Similar case with Big Pharma and drug trials.


    Quote Comment
  16. 16
    Chris Says:

    correction: censorship


    Quote Comment
  17. 17
    Chris Says:

    Article on the above study:
    http://www.pri.org/stories/science/environment/study-finds-health-issues-with-pigs-consuming-genetically-modified-foods-14195.html


    Quote Comment
  18. 18
    DV82XL Says:

            Chris said:

    Safety of GMO’s tested on pigs: http://www.organic-systems.org/journal/81/8106.pdf
    Maybe you can write another article debunking this study too.

    The paper makes the claim that pigs that ate the GM diet had a higher rate of severe stomach inflammation but if you actually read this ‘study’ and look at the data sets you will find that it actually shows that many more pigs fed non-GMO feed had stomach inflammations than those with GMO feed. As well 15% of non-GM fed pigs had heart abnormalities, while only 6% of GM-fed pigs did so. Similarly, twice as many non-GM pigs as GM ones had liver problems.

    Hardly what I would call a smoking gun


    Quote Comment
  19. 19
    DV82XL Says:

            Chris said:

    Don’t forget (if I remember correctly) most of the studies done on GMO seeds have been done by Monsanto themselves…

    Actually most of the peer-reviewed articles published in moderate to high impact factor journals that support the safety of GMO crops over a wide range of hypotheses from transgenic particles in bovine milk to how non targeted insects survive (or don’t) is NOT sponsored by Monsanto or any of the GMO corporations.

    If you’re asserting that GMO’s are dangerous. Provide evidence. And it better be published in a relatively high profile journal.

    REF: What does science say about GMO’s Note list at end of 112 peer-reviewed articles, all concluding GMO food is safe.


    Quote Comment
  20. 20
    Depleted Cranium » Blog Archive » The Only Study to Link GMO Foods to Cancer Retracted Says:

    […] may remember back in March, this site called out a study in the Journal Food and Chemical Toxicology as being fraudulent.  No, I cannot claim credit for outing the study, however, as by the time it showed up here, a […]


    Quote Comment

Leave a Reply

Current month ye@r day *

Please copy the string cFBBO5 to the field below:

*

Protected by WP Anti Spam