Yes, scientists are attacking the latest Monsanto study – but not because of the science

  • Published on September 30th, 2012

You’ve probably heard by now that some scientists are attacking the latest Monsanto study, which shows their genetically lab rat by bungirlmodified (GMO) corn  causes ugly tumors in rats.

Sometimes, there’s a fine line between the rats and the scientists.

One important element of science is: Presenting all the data.

So, for instance, when a scientist attacks a GMO study as “using too few subjects”, it’s helpful to know that the study used the same sample size as Monsanto does in their own studies. This allows the listener to objectively deduce whether the objection is valid – or bunk.

Likewise, when a scientist attacks a GMO study, it’s useful to know whether the scientist is a dispassionate observer who is speaking out due to legitimate scientific concern… or the scientist has side-businesses in GMOs himself and therefor has a serious vested interest in Monsanto’s success. Or even one who has been on Monsanto’s payroll.

It’s also telling when scientists put out a press release denouncing a study the same day that the study comes out. This presents the appearance of a PR response, rather than a considered objective analysis.

Case in point: The Science Media Centre of London (which bills itself as “an independent venture working to promote voices, stories and views from the scientific community to the news media when science is in the headlines”), put out a harsh press release the same day as the study – fast work, considering that it quotes eight top scientists!

What they don’t tell you is the industry affiliation of their experts – which is pretty extensive. GMWatch goes down the list, and it’s  disturbing how closely-tied the group is to Monsanto and the GM industry, considering the “independent” label the SMC tried to slap on this (and sneak past the media):

  • The first expert quoted by the SMC is Prof Maurice Moloney, Chief Executive of Rothamsted Research. What the SMC fails to tell journalists is that Moloney doesn’t just drive a Porsche with a GMO number plate, but has a c.v. to match. It is in fact Moloney’s GM research that lies behind Monsanto’s GM canola (oilseed rape). He also launched his own GM company in which Dow Agro Science were investors. In other words, Prof Moloney’s career and business activities have long been centered around GM.
  • Another expert quoted by the SMC is Dr Wendy Harwood. Dr Harwood is a GM scientist at the UK’s John Innes Centre, which has had tens of millions of pounds invested in it by GM giants like Syngenta. In fact, a previous director of the JIC told his local paper that any major slow down or halt in the development of GM crops “would be very, very serious for us.”
  • Prof Anthony Trewavas of the University of Edinburgh is another of the experts that the SMC GMO corn caused increased risk of tumor risk in ratsquotes. They don’t mention that Prof Trewavas is also a GM crop scientist, as well as a fervent opponent of organic farming, or that he is notorious for his attacks on scientists who publish research critical of GM.
  • Prof Mark Tester is yet another GM scientist quoted by the SMC. He is described by the SMC as Research Professor, Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics, University of Adelaide. His University of Adelaide profile tells us: “His commercial acumen is clear from his establishment of private companies and successful interactions with multinational companies such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer and Pioneer-DuPont.”
  • The SMC describes Prof Ottoline Leyser as Associate Director of the Sainsbury Laboratory, University of Cambridge. They don’t mention that the Laboratory is funded by the Gatsby Foundation of Lord Sainsbury, the well known GM enthusiast and biotech entrepreneur, who also set up and funds the GM-related work of the Sainsbury Laboratory at the John Innes Centre.
  • Prof Alan Boobis is described by the SMC as Professor of Biochemical Pharmacology, Imperial College London. They don’t mention that he is a long-time member of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), i.e the very body that approved the GM corn in question, or that he has also long been on the board of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) – a biotech and food industry lobby group whose backers include the GM giants BASF, Bayer and Monsanto.
  • Prof Tom Sanders is described by the SMC as Head of the Nutritional Sciences Research Division, King’s College London. Like Prof Trewavas, Prof Sanders was involved in attacking the Pusztai study that suggested concerns about GM. His criticisms do not appear to have been well founded. This was back in the late 1990s. According to an article in The Independent in 1996, Prof Sanders was at that time “Nutrasweet’s professional consultant”. Up until 2000, Nutrasweet was owned by Monsanto.

So when you hear that “Scientists are attacking the study,” it’s important to look a little deeper into who the scientists are, and what their connections might be. You can nearly always find someone with some sort of scientific credential to attack just about anything; that’s why you should look at all the evidence, and why it’s so insidious when evidence is withheld, as it’s being withheld here.

Like what you’re reading? Share it on your wall to spread the word, tweet it, and like us on Facebook for more updates!

After all, scientists (many of them on the payroll of big oil or big coal) have attacked studies on climate change, as well – but the vast majority of the world’s scientific community has not doubts that climate change is happening.

About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue. He lives in New York, where he combines his passion for the environment with his passion for film, and is working on making the world a better place.
  • Pingback: With Monsanto refusing to cooperate, how can we study GMOs?()

  • werp

    Mice are breed for diff purposes. Diff studies. For scientific control, labs around here feed only non gmo corn.

  • Claude

    I think we should let Mike just eat lots more GM crops. good science or bad science I see this whole thing as a very clear cut choice in my mind. I KNOW that there is nothing wrong with organically grown, sustainably produced food and I do not believe a damn thing that the FDA says and certainly nothing that Monsanto, Dow Agro, and all the others say. So, I’ve decided that its not worth taking the risk at all. Vioxx should be still in your memory… and this was a drug that past many clinical trials… but still killed people. Food passes through much less scrutiny and tumor rats or not I’m not taking the chances. I also choose not to support the likes of Monsanto and even if they do produce perfectly safe food, their mission to strip this would of biodiversity and to control life through seed makes me absolutely sick. Monsanto is the most evil corporation in the world.

  • Pingback: A Welcome Harvest | Tangled Up in Blue Guy()

  • Elisa

    The Snell review of GMO studies that is often claimed to show safety does not do that. First: many of these studies are not toxicological studies that look at health effects but feed conversion studies, to see how much weight the animals put on in relation to feed consumed. Second: many of the studies did find statistically significant effects on health, growth etc but these effects are dismissed by the Snell review authors as of no biological relevance, without proper scientific justification. Third: Much necessary information is not given by the study authors, a fact noted by the Snell review authors.

  • Lynne

    Hey Mike, I think you need to do a little more research before determining that there is an anti GMO conspiracy. No one is telling you what not to eat. We just want the right to know what we ARE eating. Ignorance is not bliss.

  • Smart Mike

    “Does it make sense a corporation that could be completely eliminated if their products are so toxic would truely hide any evidence of harm.”

    That has to be one of the dumbest questions ever asked. Of course it makes sense that a corporation would hide evidence of harm if it would affect their bottom line. The examples are numerous, take the tobacco industry for example. How many years did they claim the cancer connection was “bad science”, using the same type of immoral “scientists” that the GMO industry is using today. You say “let’s talk logic” and then proceed to make the most illogical statements imaginable. Do you also work for Monsanto?

  • Hello Mike- why not label our foods and let the consumers know. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that cancer, autism are so widespread. At the least this study should be repeated, not hidden, torn down and attacked. They used the same rats, they used the same number of rats. Follow the money. It’s NOT the organics- that is just laughable. Organics are REAL FOOD and should be labeled as such.

  • Paul

    Mike just remember not everyone who smokes gets lung cancer over night but after 20 or 30 years of smoking! I think that’s important to take note that this rat study was done over a 2 year period representing the rats life span! Nobody knows the long term health effects of this on human health for humans live much longer than rats do!

    Monsanto strictly forbids anyone else from studying their GMO crops or doing any feeding studies, even the FDA is not aloud to do research on Monsanto’s crops! The only feeding studies that have been done here in the United States has only been done by Monsanto or contracted out by them with a research firm that has ties with Monsanto! You see the whole system is rigged by Monsanto to only benefit them!

  • judith scott

    mike,english is not your first language? i’m just guessing.

  • mike

    not everything is conspiracy. Why
    isn’t the anti-GM a conspiracy/ Why is the CA initiative on labeled supported by Millions from 2-3 organic industry people? Its about money – the organic industry needs to make GM look bad so that people will pay more for their product. Does it make sense a corporation that could be completely eliminated if their products are so toxic would truely hide any evidence of harm. lets talk logic – the gene that is in RoundUp corn is in all corn and in all plants and many harmless bacteria – ow can it be the only protein ever to cause cancer? If all rat and mouse feeding studies in the US also use a corn based diet at some level why aren’t they all getting cancer? Why aren’t all the people eating tacos getting cancer? Why doesn’t the level of cancer go up with dose like every other cancer forming agent? Its because this doesn’t form cancer and the cancer is random noise in the test system that has a base very high level of cancer – its just bad science -its a joke if it wasn’t so serious and its a cry wold story that will stop real truth getting out one day.

    • Jeremy Bloom

      One more time: The new study used the same protocols, same numbers, and same rats as Monsanto’s studies.

      So if these studies are invalid, then the studies Monsanto did to “prove” their products were perfectly safe are ALSO invalid, and Monsanto’s seeds should be pulled off the market until we CAN do some valid studies to find out what the actual long-term effects of this stuff are (and no, the Roundup gene is NOT in “all corn and in all plants”, it was taken from a bacterium and inserted into Monsanto’s patented corn, or there wouldn’t have been anything to patent.)

      And I know, that’s never going to happen… but it’s the logical end result of YOUR argument.

      • Loren

        You’re just flat wrong here. There are plenty of studies on the long-term health effects of GE food, and they all conclude that it is completely safe.

        Here’s one of the studies:

        This french study is being universally slammed by scientists all over the world:

        I understand that you don’t like Monsanto, but jumping on the conspiracy bandwagon gets you nowhere. How on earth do you expect to argue with global warming deniers when you’re using the same basic arguments that they are? This isn’t good for the cause.

        • Jeremy Bloom

          Um… Your link to “study is being universally slammed by scientists all over the world”… IS the press release I talk about at the core of this article. Did you even read it? Or are you just reflexively posting your useless talking points all over the web?

          As for the pro-GMO study, I’m posting an extended critique of it today. But the short version: EVERY criticism your side has used to attack the French study applies to it, in spades (You think 10 rats is too small a group for statistical relevance? How about 3!?!).

          Finally: Monsanto has maintained strict controls on their patented genes and corn and limited and blocked scientific inquiry. If they don’t want to engender “paranoid conspiracy theories”, maybe they should allow a little more openness, and stop attacking their legitimate critics with such apocalyptic fervor.

          • Loren

            Are you really saying that a meta-analysis on 12 long-term studies and 12 multigenerational studies has ALL of the same problems as the French study? The main problem with the French study was that they had 18 experimental groups of 10 rats compared to only 2 control groups of 10 rats and then didn’t mention in the paper how they ran the statistical analysis. That gives them a free pass to cherry-pick positive results. What evidence do you have that all/most of the previous studies, which all concluded that GM food is safe, were conducting in a similar way?

            You seem to be saying that everyone speaking out against this study has a conflict of interest, ignoring that the authors of the study were anti-GM activists.

            What about Dr. David Gorski?

            What about Dr. Steven Novella?

          • Jeremy Bloom

            Look, this is straighforward:

            • ALL the studies followed the same protocol, including the breed of rat used and the number of subjects used.
            • Now, as part of a PR campaign, some people with science credentials are claiming the French study shouldn’t have used those rats and used so few of them.
            • But if that’s the case, then the Monsanto-sponsored studies, which followed the same protocol, used the same rates, and used the same number of rats (or fewer) ALSO are invalid.

            Is that clear enough?

            Two: I can judge dispassionate, fact-based science by the language used.

            Gorski starts off with “Ideologically motivated bad science, pseudoscience, misinformation, and lies irritate me. In fact, arguably, they are the very reason I started this blog” and continues to denounce anti-GMO activists as quacks. Novella’s critique leads off with the line: “By all accounts this study looks like the perfect storm of ideologically motivated pseudoscience.” That hardly sounds like dispassionate, objective, fact-based analysis, does it?

            They may not be on Monsanto’s payroll (as far as I can tell), but they DO take on the roll of GMO chearleaders, and vituperative denouncers of those who are skeptical of GMOs.

            So, again, show me some clear, dispassionnate scientists who have an actual scientific critique of this study? Please?

          • Loren

            Aren’t you just saying that Gorski and Novella are GMO cheerleaders because they think this study is pseudoscience? That’s called confirmation bias. You’re just dismissing all dissent as part of the “conspiracy.” Of course they are dispassionate professionals. There’s no reason to think otherwise.

            I understand that this site is strongly anti-Monsanto, but there are different ways to go about it. When I see liberal people using the same techniques as the anti-science right, it makes me sad. It doesn’t seem very productive to have the same very scientists you need on your side in the climate debate thinking of you as a “quack.”

          • Jeremy Bloom

            Read what I said. “I can judge dispassionate, fact-based science by the language used.”

            Would it be clearer if I called them “Pit bulls for Monsanto tearing into the flesh of their enemies”?

            If they use intemperate, viscous language, then they are not talking the language of science, and they are not discussing merits. They are attacking and sliming. It’s a whole different kind of thing.

            If they are scientists engaged in serious, fact-based discussion, then they shouldn’t be stooping to name-calling.

      • Gabriel

        “One more time: The new study used the same protocols, same numbers, and same rats as Monsanto’s studies.”

        Come one : you can write this as many time as you want, it’ll still be false.
        Monsanto studies :400 rats, 16 control groups.
        Seralini study : 200 rats, 2 control groups.
        No use lying about that : anybody can go look at the articles and check it out.
        But I guess you didn’t even bother reading the article.

        Anyway, the fact that all you can rely on is a study which also show a 3 fold decrease in mortality in male rats which eat GMO and drink concentrated roundup is pretty funny.

        If this study had any scientific value, male would live 3 time older when drinking concentraded pesticide. Talk about being dishonest…

    • The science-boys should stay out of a consumer rights issue. The fact of the matter is that GMOs are a totally unique-in-nature foreign protein, foisted upon an unsuspecting public in the mid-90s representing a new allergic stimuli. Combine this with the fact that there is NOT a SINGLE published human health study proving the safety of GMOs, the public has a right to choose food sans patented pesticide traits. This isn’t a science argument. It’s about transparency, honesty and informing the public about a very important development that the food supply has been changed out from underneath them (us).

  • mike

    the science is just not valid -its really badly done

    • Gabriel

      “One more time: The new study used the same protocols, same numbers, and same rats as Monsanto’s studies.” That’s the main argument here.

      But well, that’s a blatant lie spreaded around by seralini himself.
      Same protocol ? Hammond et al. 2004, the 90 days study which is taken as a reference in the Seralini article use 20 groups of 20 rats, 16 of which are control groups.
      Seralini use 20 groups of 10 rats, 2 of which are control groups. Same protocole ?!?!? That’s a joke !
      Seralini managed to use 2 time less rats/group than a short-term study.

      Now, get a look at some real long-term study, like Haryu et al. 2009. He used mices, not rats which develop tumours at an amazing rate. 50 individuals per group, 3 generation, and the last generation was followed during 3 years.
      The mortality is compared between groups, the weight are recorded and shown.

      Seralini’s article don’t even look like a scientific publication. He asserts things based on the difference between two values, and refuse to do any stats on the variables which matter the most : mortality and tumour number. No surprises : when other researcher looked at his data, every statistic test came as negative.