GM Free Cymru

"The Seralini Affair" and the Degeneration of Science

Date Added to website 6th September 2015

"The Seralini Affair" and the Degeneration of Science

[This is a very interesting paper which highlights the manner in which scientific ethics have effectively been abandoned by the GMO industry and its proponents who purport to be scientists, in favour of something much darker and more dangerous -- in which scientific debate and mutual respect have been replaced by manhunts and quite deliberate and cynical ad hominem attacks on those who have the temerity to discover things that are not to the liking of the GMO patent holders and biotech corporations. Partly this is down to the huge commercial stakes in the GMO business -- the sums invested are so huge that "failure" cannot even be contemplated -- and in this context it is but a short step to a situation where a corporate state of denial (relating to GMO harm) exists, and where "inconvenient" scientific findings can be dissected and attacked without mercy, and where the independent scientists who report on them can be labelled as "activists" or even as incompetent or fraudulent. As we have reported many times on this site, the list of GMO "martyrs" is now a very long one -- Arpad Pusztai, Mae-Wan Ho, Ignacio Chapela, Judy Carman, Gilles-Eric Seralini, Andres Carrasco, Irina Ermakova, Ann Clark, Angelika Hilbeck, Manuela Malatesta................. There is something deeply wrong with this world in which pseudo-science is promoted or accepted, and where real independent science is attacked without mercy by those who have vested interests. So we need to thank these three authors for flagging this up in such a considered and well-supported fashion.]


The Seralini affair: degeneration of Science to Re-Science?
John Fagan, Terje Traavik and Thomas Bøhn
Environ Sci Eur (2015) 27:19
DOI 10.1186/s12302-015-0049-2


A paper reporting findings relevant to safety of the genetically modified (GM) maize NK603 and the herbicide Roundup (Séralini et al., Food Chem Toxicol. 50:4221–4231, 2012) was retracted against the wishes of the authors, and subsequently republished in another peer-reviewed journal (Séralini et al. Environ Sci Europe, doi:10.1186/s12302- 014-0014-5, 2014). These events exemplify a trend in which disputes, between interest groups vying for retraction and republication of papers that report controversial results, overshadow the normal scientific process in which peer-reviewed publication stimulates new research, generating new empirical evidence that drives the evolution of scientific understanding. This paper reviews the current status of research on safety of NK603 maize and Roundup herbicide for human and livestock health, and attempts to glean from recent developments insights relevant to risk assessment policy for GM crops and pesticides, as well as relevant to the scientific process in general. Our analysis of currently published evidence confirms NK603 and Roundup are kidney and liver toxicants at levels below current regulatory thresholds. Consequently, the regulatory status of NK603, glyphosate and Roundup requires reevaluation. Additionally, preliminary evidence indicates Roundup and NK603, individually and in combination, may increase tumor incidence and mortality. Follow-up long-term carcinogenicity studies, using test animal strains and numbers of animals that assure robust conclusions, are required to confirm/refute this preliminary evidence. The inherent tension between the scientific process and commercial interests of product developers necessitates implementation of safe- guards that protect the scientific process and prevent degeneration of Science to Re-Science (typified by retraction and republication disputes).



Six notable developments emerge as a result of the repub- lication of Séralini et al. [2] as Séralini et al. [3]:

1. Evidence is now part of the peer-reviewed scientific literature implicating NK603 maize and Roundup pesticide as chronic liver and kidney toxicants with potentially significant public and animal health con- sequences. Séralini et al. [2, 3] is not the first study
on this topic, but builds on earlier studies [4, 5]. Although it is the first to assess the toxicity of formu- lated Roundup, findings are consistent with the exist- ing literature, documenting toxicity of glyphosate alone, showing that formulations are toxic at levels well below regulatory thresholds for glyphosate.

2. Now, it is time for critics of this evidence to pro- vide substantive new empirical evidence that con- tributes constructively to scientific dialog regarding NK603, glyphosate and Roundup. Four distinct lines of research need to be followed up at this time. First, the logical next step regarding liver and kidney tox- icity will be to conduct detailed cause/effect studies. However, given the commercial implications of the toxicity findings, we can also expect additional rep- licative studies to be conducted to confirm/refute the findings of Séralini et al. [2, 3]. Second, a formal, long-term carcinogenicity study, with larger num- bers of animals, is needed to investigate the increased incidence of tumors and mortality unexpectedly observed by Séralini et al. [2, 3]. Third, if carcino- genicity is confirmed, follow-up cause/effect studies are needed to understand the biological processes involved. Finally, evidence of carcinogenicity should be followed up with comparative studies using a set of carefully selected experimental protocols and ani- mal species/strains.

3. The currently extant evidence of liver and kidney tox- icity in rats is sufficient to justify a thorough review of the regulatory status of NK603, glyphosate and Roundup.

4. Risk assessment policy needs to be upgraded to con- sistently include assessment of chronic toxicity of GM crops and formulated pesticides, and to require that products be assessed, not as isolated “active ingredients”, but in formulations and combinations, and under conditions, used in actual practice.

5. The conflicts of interest inherent in allowing product developers to conduct the safety assessment research that serves as the basis for regulatory approval of their own products also need to be reconsidered.

6. The events surrounding the imposed retraction of Séralini et al. [2] point to the need to recognize the tension inherent between commercial interests of product developers and the scientific process, and to put in place at least basic safeguards to protect the latter. If this is not done, there is growing risk that the standard of the future will not be Science, but Re-Sci- ence, which focuses, not on new research results that build humanity’s knowledge base, but on disputes among interest groups for (i) retraction of papers that report inconvenient results, and (ii) republishing— the new Re-Science: Re-publish or Perish.