Last week, we told you about an disturbing new study that found long-term damage caused by Monsanto’s Genetically Modified (GMO) corn and Roundup week-killer.
And despite a firestorm of invective from the agribusiness giant and its allies, it looks like they won’t be able to talk their way out of this one – France has promised, for the first time, to put GMO crops under a microscope and seriously look at possible health risks.
As Guardian (UK) environment blogger John Vidal noted, Monsanto’s corporate flacks and their bought-and-paid for allies trotted out every epithet imaginable to trash the study, including “biased”, “poorly performed”, “bogus”, “fraudulent”, “sub-standard”, “sloppy agenda-based science”, “inadequate” and “unsatisfactory”, and France was outed as “the most anti-science country in anti-science Europe”. (If those arguments don’t sound particularly “scientific” to you – there’s a good reason. They’re not. They’re completely ad hominem -attacking the person, rather than the facts.)
Does this sound like an anti-science crusader?
Unfortunately, it is impossible to verify that genetically modified crops perform as advertised. That is because agritech companies have given themselves veto power over the work of independent researchers.
…Under the threat of litigation, scientists cannot test a seed to explore the different conditions under which it thrives or fails. …And perhaps most important, they cannot examine whether the genetically modified crops lead to unintended environmental side effects.
Research on genetically modified seeds is still published, of course. But only studies that the seed companies have approved ever see the light of a peer-reviewed journal.
…when scientists are prevented from examining the raw ingredients in our nation’s food supply or from testing the plant material that covers a large portion of the country’s agricultural land, the restrictions on free inquiry become dangerous.
Anti-science crusaders? Nope. That would be the Editorial Board of Scientific American magazine!
What’s the truth?
- This is the longest study ever performed – Monsanto’s studies nearly always ended at 90 days, so they never addressed any long-term health effects.
- By showing an increase in tumors and shortening of lifespan, it makes pretty clear that Monsanto’s longstanding claim – that GMO food is just as safe as conventional, and Roundup is harmless - needs some serious looking-into.
- This blows a hole in Monsanto’s decades-long practice of blocking publication of negative evidence, and then using the absence of evidence as evidence that everything was just fine with GMOs and Roundup. (See: Monsanto blocks research on GMO safety).
- Most of the arguments being used to invalidate the study make good soundbites for public relations – but fall apart when compared to, you know, actual science. Which implies they’re actually part of a PR campaign to discredit, not an actual scientific debate of the merits. (See: Yes, scientists are attacking the latest Monsanto study – but not because of the science.)
Vidal runs down how meritless the arguments of the GMO industry are:
1. The French researchers were accused of using the Sprague Dawley rat strain which is said to be prone to developing cancers. In response Séralini and his team say these are the same rats as used by Monsanto in the 90-day trials which it used to get authorisation for its maize. This strain of rat has been used in most animal feeding trials to evaluate the safety of GM foods, and their results have long been used by the biotech industry to secure approval to market GM products.
2. The sample size of rats was said to be too small. Séralini responded that six is the OECD recommended protocol for GM food safety toxicology studies and he had based his study on the toxicity part of OECD protocol no. 453. This states that for a cancer trial you need a minimum of 50 animals of each sex per test group but for a toxicity trial a minimum of 10 per sex suffices. Monsanto used 20 rats of each sex per group in its feeding trials but only analysed 10, the same number as Séralini.
3. No data was given about the rats’ food intake. Seralini says the rats were allowed to eat as much food as they liked.
4. Séralini has not released the raw data from the trial. In response he says he won’t release it until the data underpinning Monsanto’s authorisation of NK603 in Europe is also made public.
5. His funding was provided by an anti-biotechnology organisation whose scientific board Séralini heads. But he counters that almost all GM research is funded by corporates or by pro-biotech institutions.
Meanwhile, California is taking the lead in forcing the food industry to at least reveal when the food we buy contains GMOs. Proposition 37 continues to lead in the polls. Learn more from CA right to know.