Crop Biotech Update

Scientific Assessments Dismiss Séralini's Claims about Health Effects of GM Crops

December 5, 2012

The September 2012 article of Séralini et al (Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology)  that suggested that rats developed cancer after being fed with genetically modified (GM) herbicide tolerant maize, resulted in an unprecedented wave of analyses and criticism from public sector scientists. On 28 November 2012, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published its definitive opinion on the study by Séralini et al concluding that the study as reported by Séralini et al. was found to be "inadequately designed, analyzed, and reported". PRRI fully endorses EFSA's analysis and conclusions, and together with farmers organizations – adds in an open letter to the European political community the concern about the way in which some policymakers have hastily reacted to Séralini's research, and how some politicians have used the research to advance political agendas.

The letter explains that the design of the Séralini study was so fundamentally flawed that no scientifically justified conclusions can be drawn from it, and that the authors' conclusions about rats developing cancer after consuming GM maize have no basis. In addition to the flaws in the research, Séralini widely publicized the unsubstantiated conclusions in a campaign with anti-biotech groups and politicians. This is a very unusual format for scientists. Moreover, as activist groups pointed out, letting this particular strain of rats - which spontaneously develop tumors - live so long that they develop huge tumors, is unethical. Many national authorities, such as the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment and the French Haut Conseil des Biotechnologies have issued reviews that come to a similar conclusion, i.e. the design of the research of Séralini et al was so fundamentally flawed that the conclusions of the authors have no basis.

An overview of these reviews is provided on the PRRI website. The letter also explains that the reason why the public research community reacted so strongly to the flawed Séralini study is because unsubstantiated claims about health effects of GM crops can seriously jeopardize the contribution that modern biotechnology can make to human well-being and can seriously undermine the public's confidence in science.

For future cases, PRRI calls on journalists, politicians, policymakers to carefully read publications and when necessary, consult scientists before rushing to conclusions and statements on this sensitive area. PRRI offers its extensive worldwide network of public sector scientists to help. On the "Q&A" page of the PRRI website journalists, politicians and policymakers will find a "priority button" for questions about science.

The full text of the letter is available on the PRRI website. For further information about PRRI's reaction on the article of Séralini et al, contact PRRI via: info@prri.net.