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Gilles-Eric Séralini is a professor of molecular biology at the Institute of Fundamental and Applied Biology (IBFA) of the University of Caen in France. He is also President of the Scientific Board at CRIIGEN. He was fairly well known in the biotech community for having a history of flawed studies, but his controversial 2012 study on transgenic NK603 maize made him immensely popular among the anti-GM communities.
"GMO causes liver and kidney damage" study re-analyses
In 2006, Monsanto published a rat study showing that its YieldGuard® GM corn (MON863) was as safe and nutritious as non-GM corn. Séralini disagreed, and performed his own analysis on the same data Monsanto published. He concluded that Monsanto were a bunch of dirty stinky evil corporate liars, and that the data suggested that MON863 corn caused liver and kidney damage in the rats. Greenpeace enthusiastically agreed.
An expert panel examined Séralini's reanalysis, and decided that he was huffing a heap of hot air. This didn't keep Fox News from reporting Séralini's analysis as a "bombshell" against the GMO industry, over six years later.
In 2009, Séralini published another study which re-analyzed the toxicity data for the NK603, MON 810, and MON 863 strains, and — surprise surprise — came to the conclusion that they cause kidney and liver damage. The European Food Safety Authority, the French High Council of Biotechnologies, Scientific Committee and Food Standards Australia New Zealand all had about as many bad things to say about this study as they did about his 2007 study.
In 2011, Séralini did something similar with the results of 19 animal studies on GM corn and soybeans. Since this study didn't receive the same degree of criticism as his 2007 and 2009 studies (probably because in light of the quality of Séralini's previous output, no one was willing to waste their time), we can all safely conclude that it's 100% well-performed science and must be immediately embraced.Do You Believe That?
"GMO causes cancer" study
What became known as the Séralini Affair began in September 2012, and involved the publication of an experiment conducted by a group led by Séralini involving the feeding of of Monsanto’s Round-Up-resistant NK603 maize (corn) and the herbicide Round-Up to rats, over the rats’ two-year lifespan. Soon after publication, numerous news sites posted articles using the study as "proof" that genetically modified foods were dangerous or caused cancer.[note 1] Many scientists sent letters to the editor demanding retraction of the study for having extremely poor study design, but the journal who published it didn't ask Seralini to withdraw the paper until late in 2013. Orac of Respectful Insolence was among many bloggers and news sites that posted articles that criticized Séralini's study. Séralini refused to provide data on the amount of food he fed to the rats and their growth rates (refusing to disclose data from a scientific study is a red flag that there's a serious problem with the study), a standard practice that allows independent scientists to verify that the data supports the conclusions drawn by the study. The French academies of Agriculture, Medicine, Pharmacy, Science, Technology, and Veterinary Science all condemned the study as a "scientific non-event." The EFSA, the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES), Health Canada, Food Standards Australia New Zealand, Germany's Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung, Belgium's VIB, Mexico's CIBIOGEM, and several other notable government agencies and research institutes have also condemned the study.
Many said that Séralini's conclusions were impossible to justify given the statistical power of the study. Sprague-Dawley rats, which were used by Seralini, have a lifespan of only two years and have a high risk of cancer over their lifespan[note 2]. The Séralini experiment lasted for the entire lifetime of these rats. The longer an experiment continues, the more rats get cancer naturally, that makes it harder to separate statistical "noise" from the hypothetical signal. For the study to achieve such separation (statistical power), each control and test group would have to include sufficiently many subjects. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) guidelines recommend 20 rats for chemical-toxicity studies, and 50 rats for carcinogenicity studies. In addition, if the survival of the rats is less than 50% at 104 weeks (which is the case for Sprague-Dawley rats[note 3] the recommended number of rats is 65. The Séralini study had only ten per group.
Séralini responded to a handful of criticisms, but he did not release his raw data and refused to answer many major questions. The EFSA reviewed his response and concluded that "it provided only a limited amount of relevant information which failed to address the majority of the outstanding questions raised in the Authority’s first statement." Many conspiracy and anti-GM websites accused all scientists who criticized Séralini's study of being paid by Monsanto; however, none of these accusers have produced any evidence of bribing, and the one letter to the editor from Monsanto scientists contains proper disclosure of their conflict of interest.
In November of 2013, the journal that published Séralini's study retracted it, Séralini released the study's data to the journal who found the number of animals studied to be insufficient to form a firm conclusion. The next day, Séralini threatened to sue the journal. A Huffington Post article said it was "anti-science behavior" to retract the article. The study was republished in June 2014 in Environmental Sciences Europe, an open access journal whose standards are, shall we say, somewhat more lenient.
Other long-term studies, which were publicly funded, have uncovered no such health issues as imagined by Seralini. The Japanese Department of Environmental Health and Toxicology released a 52-week feeding study of GM soybeans in 2007, finding “no apparent adverse effect in rats.” In 2012, a team of scientists at the University of Nottingham School of Biosciences released a review of 12 long-term studies (up to two years) and 12 multi-generational studies (up to 5 generations) of GM foods in the same journal that published the Seralini paper, concluding there is no evidence of health hazards.”
CRIIGEN, the institute behind Séralini's study, has some worrying issues. Their current president is a homeopath/acupuncturist, and several articles have found financial connections to the French supermarkets Auchan and Carrefour. Carrefour launched an advertising campaign for their GM-free product range a mere five days after Séralini's study was published. CRIIGEN's funding is funneled through CERES, a shell foundation whose funding sources are shrouded in secrecy. The Foundation for Human Progress is another organization that funds Seralini's research — and this foundation has direct ties to anti-GM activist groups. CRIIGEN was also caught manipulating the embargo system in order to have articles on their study published without having an expert review the results.
Personal conflicts of interest
Séralini published a book titled Tous cobayes! (which translates to "We're all guinea pigs!") right around when he released his 2012 study. He is a consultant for Sevene Pharma (a homeopathic pharma company), and there is also evidence that he is linked to Invitation to Life, a New Age faith healing cult.
Séralini has sued at least one person for libel. In November 2010, he sued Marc Fellous (professor of genetics at the University of Paris) for defamation. In January 2011, Mark Fellous was held liable for defamation, but the judges would only rule on his claim that Séralini's relationship with Greenpeace was a conflict of interest, saying that the other comments were part of scientific debate.
Hasty exit from the Cato debate
Séralini and Jeffrey Smith were scheduled to debate with Jon Entine and Anastasia Bodnar at the Cato Institute (yes, they're the reasonable ones here) on June 4th, 2013. When Anastasia had to cancel and Kevin Folta took her place, Jeffrey Smith withdrew from the event. Séralini stated that he would not debate either Entine or Folta, and abruptly left the debate.
- In 2009, Séralini studied the effect of some of the inert ingredients in Roundup (glyphosate) on cell cultures in vitro. These were made using dilutions between 400 and 2000 times weaker than the concentrations sprayed on fields for weed control. He concluded that POEA (polyethoxylated tallow amine), a surfactant found in commercial Roundup preparations, would totally kill you. He neglected to take into account the fact that POEA degrades even more rapidly on contact with soil than glyphosate does. He would probably have gotten the same results if he'd used plain soap.
- Pr Gilles Eric Séralini – President of the Scientific Board – Molecular Biology Professor
- GMO Panel deliberations on the paper by de Vendômois et al. (2009, A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health, International Journal of Biological Sciences, 5: 706-726), page 8
- EFSA review of statistical analyses conducted for the assessment of the MON 863 90-day rat feeding study
- Results of a 90-day safety assurance study with rats fed grain from corn rootworm-protected corn, Food and Chemical Toxicology, Volume 44, Issue 2, February 2006, Pages 147–160
- GMO corn causes liver, kidney problems in rats: study, Reuters, 13-Mar-2007
- Report of an Expert Panel on the reanalysis by of a 90-day study conducted by Monsanto in support of the safety of a genetically modified corn variety (MON 863), Food Chem Toxicol. 2007 Nov;45(11):2073-85.
- SHOCK: Fox News Airs BOMBSHELL Report On GMO Food, 3 Nov 2013
- De Vendômois, Joël Spiroux (2009). "A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health". International Journal of Biological Sciences 5 (7): 706-726.
- "EFSA Minutes of the 55th Plenary Meeting of the Scientific Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms Held on 27–28 January 2010 IN Parma, Italy, Annex 1, Vendemois et al 2009". European Food Safety Authority report. Retrieved 11 November 2010.
- "Opinion relating to the deposition of 15 December 2009 by the Member of Parliament, François Grosdidier, as to the conclusions of the study entitled "A comparison of the effects of three GM corn varieties on mammalian health"". English translation of French High Council of Biotechnologies Scientific Committee document. Retrieved 11 November 2010.
- "Feeding studies and GM corn MON863". Food Standards Australia New Zealand. July 2012. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
- Genetically modified crops safety assessments: present limits and possible improvements, Environmental Sciences Europe, vol. 23 no. 10 (2011)
- Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize
- “A rancid, corrupt way to report about science”
- expert reaction to GM maize and tumours in rats, science media centre
- A.Y. Panchin: Toxicity of roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize is not supported by statistical tests Food and Chemical Toxicology 2013, 53, p. 475
- E. Barale-Thomas: Letter to the editor Food and Chemical Toxicology 2013, 53, p. 473-474
- D. Tribe: Letter to the editor Food and Chemical Toxicology 2013, 53, p. 467-472
- F. Schorsch: Serious inadequacies regarding the pathology data presented in the paper by Séralini et al. (2012) Food and Chemical Toxicology 2013, 53, p. 465-466
- B. Hammond, D.A. Goldstein, D. Saltmiras: Letter to the editor Food and Chemical Toxicology 2013, 53, p. 459-464
- L. Ollivier: A Comment on “Séralini, G.-E., et al., Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. Food Chem. Toxicol. (2012),” http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.fct.2012.08.005 Food and Chemical Toxicology 2013, 53, p. 458
- M. Tester, Letter to the editor Food and Chemical Toxicology 2013, 53, p. 457
- Several authors: Letter to the editor Food and Chemical Toxicology 2013, 53, p. 455-456
- R. Pilu: Letter to the editor Food and Chemical Toxicology 2013, 53, p. 454
- D. Sanders, S. Kamoun, B. Williams, M. Festing: Letter to the editor Food and Chemical Toxicology 2013, 53, p. 450-453
- A. Trewavas: Letter to the editor Food and Chemical Toxicology 2013, 53, p. 449
- W. Grunewald, J. Bury: Comment on “Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize” by Séralini et al. Food and Chemical Toxicology 2013, 53, p. 447-448
- C. Berry: Letter to the editor Food and Chemical Toxicology 2013, 53, p. 445-446
- D.L. Tien, H.L. Huy: Comments on “Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize” Food and Chemical Toxicology 2013, 53, p. 443-444
- P. Langridge: Letter to the editor Food and Chemical Toxicology 2013, 53, p. 441
- L. de Souza, L.M. Oda: Letter to the editor Food and Chemical Toxicology 2013, 53, p. 440
- Letter to Seralini
- Bad science about GMOs: It reminds me of the antivaccine movement
- Study linking GM crops and cancer questioned
- Avis des Académies nationales d’Agriculture, de Médecine, de Pharmacie, des Sciences, des Technologies, et Vétérinaire sur la publication récente de G.E. Séralini et al. sur la toxicité d’un OGM
- Séralini et al. study conclusions not supported by data, says EU risk assessment community
- OPINION of the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety
- Health Canada and Canadian Food Inspection Agency statement on the Séralini et al. (2012) publication on a 2-year rodent feeding study with glyphosate formulations and GM maize NK603
- FSANZ: Response to Séralini paper
- A study of the University of Caen neither constitutes a reason for a re-evaluation of genetically modified NK603 maize nor does it affect the renewal of the glyphosate approval
- VIB concludes that Séralini study is not substantiated
- Link to assessment
- Sprague-Dawley rats (see also)
- Responses to criticism, Wikipedia
- Seralini Rat Study Revisited, Weed Control Freaks
- Séralini et al. study conclusions not supported by data, says EU risk assessment community
- Letter to the editor — bottom of the page contains these words: 'The authors are employees of Monsanto Company.'
- Science journal retracts French study on GM foods, 28 Nov 2013
- Elsevier Announces Article Retraction from Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology, from Elsevier's own site, 28-Nov-2013
- Author Threatens To Sue Journal That Retracted Study Linking GMO Corn, Herbicides to Rat Tumors, International Science Times, 30-Nov-2013
- The Anti-Science Behavior of GMO Proponents, by Carole Bartolotto, 10-Jan-2014
- The republished study
- Sakamoto Y, Tada Y, Fukumori N, Tayama K, Ando H, Takahashi H, Kubo Y, Nagasawa A, Yano N, Yuzawa K, Ogata A, Kamimura H. A 52-week feeding study of genetically modified soybeans in F344 rats. Shokuhin Eiseigaku Zasshi. 2007 Jun;48(3):41-50. Japanese. doi: 10.3358/shokueishi.48.41. PMID: 17657996.
- Snell C, Bernheim A, Bergé JB, Kuntz M, Pascal G, Paris A, Ricroch AE. Assessment of the health impact of GM plant diets in long-term and multigenerational animal feeding trials: a literature review. Food Chem Toxicol. 2012 Mar;50(3-4):1134-48. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2011.11.048. Epub 2011 Dec 3. PMID: 22155268.
- Dr Joël Spiroux de Vendomois — President of CRIIGEN
- Auchan and Carrefour financed CRIIGEN studies on GMOs
- Etude Anti-Ogm de Séralini : les petits soldats de la Fondation pour le progrès de l’homme
- Anti-GMO researchers used science publication to manipulate the press
- Nature News: Hyped GM maize study faces growing scrutiny
- The dark side of Professor Seralini
- The Snake oil gambit. French drug company promoting "natural" medicines exploits the science-in-reverse fallacy to promote their wares
- Seralini's Connections to Quack Science and Strange Philosophies
- The “dark side” of Professor Séralini
- Anti-GMO leaders withdraw from Great Biotech Debate
- Benachour, N; Séralini, Gilles-Eric (Jan 2009). "Glyphosate formulations induce apoptosis and necrosis in human umbilical, embryonic, and placental cells". Chemical Research in Toxicology 22 (1): 97-105.
- Séralini required that journalists, in order to receive a copy of the paper prior to the press conference, sign a confidentiality agreement prohibiting them from contacting other researchers and scientists for comment on his works and his credibility before the press conference.During the press conference, Séralini also announced he was releasing a book and a Schlockumentary on the research. The press conference received extensive coverage (and unsurprisingly uncritical) in the media, since Seralini had made all the necessary arrangements for unscientific sensationalism.
- Over eighty percent of males and over seventy percent of females developed cancer under normal conditions
- There is a 72% chance that a Sprague-Dawley rat develops tumours in 2 years (it’s lifetime)