Translation of French science academies critique of controversial Séralini GM corn study
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Translation of French science academies critique of controversial Séralini GM corn study

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This is an English translation of the French science academies’ statement on problems with the Séralini et al. study of health impacts of GM corn and Roundup herbicide on rat health. More ...

This is an English translation of the French science academies’ statement on problems with the Séralini et al. study of health impacts of GM corn and Roundup herbicide on rat health. More background on Dot Earth: http://j.mp/dotseralini

The statement in French:
http://www.academie-sciences.fr/presse/communique/avis_1012.pdf

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Translation of French science academies critique of controversial Séralini GM corn study Translation of French science academies critique of controversial Séralini GM corn study Document Transcript

  • The French science academies’ statement on problems with the Séralini et al. study ofhealth impacts of GM corn and Roundup herbicide on rat health, translated (via U.S.embassy in Paris). Related Dot Earth post.Given the media coverage around this issue and its impact on the public opinion, theAcademies decided to jointly publish a review covering several aspects: scientific,societal, and ethical, and including recommendations.- Science aspects: the Academies would like to point several severe flaws of thearticle: Statistics and methodology: in the case of the Seralini 2-year study, a significantly higher number of animals should have been used as recommended by guidelines, of in the specific case of a total number of 200, a lower number of groups would have allowed to answer specific questions, such as (1) can the studied GMO have a toxic or tumorigenic impact on its own? (2) can Roundup have a toxic or tumorigenic impact on its own? (3) is there a specific impact of the combination of the 2 products? The use of small size groups of 10 animals cannot answer the specific questions. There is no significant difference between the groups, according to the results presented. Saying that animals fed with GM corn present more tumors than those receiving conventional corn has no statistical value. This finding on its own should have suspended the analysis of the contents of this article, which cannot establish any toxicity. Tumorigenesis: the words “cancer” and “cancerogenesis” do not appear in Seralini’s article, but the word “tumor” that is used is confusing because everyone thinks of cancer and this is the word that the media have taken over. The analysis of longevity rather than mortality is not satisfactory due to the statistical methodology. Considering any death occurring after the average survival as “natural” is not acceptable. The choice of the strain of Sprague-Dawley is particularly unfortunate with regard to tumorigenesis. This rat strain has a high rate of spontaneous tumors, which shows that there is a specific genetic predisposition field in these rats and also that the statistical analysis must focus on a high number of rats (which has not been done in Séralini’s experiments). Other: feed composition is not detailed, there is no dose/effect relation, the presentation of methods and results is very short.- Societal impact of the article: The orchestration of the reputation of a scientist or of a team is a serious misconduct when it helps to spread to the general public fears not based on any established conclusion. Consumers not having sufficient information, this results in increased fears of GMOs spread by 1
  • “catastrophic” media. This is particularly serious for people who consume large quantities of GMOs, as in South Africa. This is also very harmful to other countries where both use and research on GMOs may be questioned.- Ethical aspects: Orchestrated media coverage around work without strong conclusion poses a major ethical problem: that of the authors who have seen fit to organize a high scale communication campaign around these works, a process which appears to be motivated more by ideology than by the quality or relevance of the data obtained, and that of the journal that has agreed to publish data that appear very fragile on many aspects, if only statistics. The conditions of distribution to the press, which was unable to be informed in advance and therefore which had not no opportunity to comment with full knowledge of the facts, are not acceptable. Assuming that Séralini was convinced of the quality of his work and the accuracy of his conclusions, his duty was to warn as early as 2011 the highest health authorities of the country to draw their attention to the very serious danger of Roundup and the NK603 GMO for the population. Withholding this information is a serious professional misconduct on his part and on all those who were aware of the results. As for the conflicts of interest of which G.E. Seralini continuously accuses all scientists of all kinds, one can wonder about the absence of such conflicts of interest for himself and those around him given their environmental commitment and financial support they received from retailers groups advertising the absence of GMOs in the food products they sell to customers.- Questions about the publication of the article in Food and Chemical Toxicology On can wonder how such a scientifically weak article could be accepted. Failures unanimously identified in the work design are such that it is quite surprising that the peer review of a scientific journal of good reputation has accepted its publication. In any event, in science, publication by itself does not establish the proof of a scientific fact. It is the opinion of the scientific community, peers, after publication, independent confirmation of the results and integrating them in a wider data that all support one another, which will allow to pass from experiment to science facts. 2
  • - Conclusions and recommendations: It appears that the media and political hype caused by the disclosure of the results of Séralini is not based on results as indisputable as they should have been compared to the consequences of media coverage they lead to. Two responsibilities are clear. First, that of the journal that should have never accepted this article, and this is serious because the expertise of the article by journals serves as initial assessment by peers. Second, that of Séralini for having orchestrated an advance media exposure based on questionable results not bringing any start of proof. In terms of health, it is necessary firstly to reassure the population and confirm statements already given on the low quality of the article. The issues raised need to be studied by reputable researchers, not suspected of conflict of interest, and funded under public control. Broadcast media have widely reported shocking images that could only strike the viewers. They contributed to fuel totally irrational fears since the results presented are not valid science. To limit such abuse, the six Academies recommend the establishment within the Chairman of the Supreme Audiovisual Council (CSA) a "High Level Committee on Science and Technology." The mission of the High Committee would draw the attention of the Chairperson of the CSA on the media coverage of scientific work questioning knowledge shared by the vast majority of the scientific community without officials in television or radios be previously sure of their validity, while the dissemination of which could be later be "false news" will and unduly influenced deeply the French, sometimes irreversibly. 3