The article “Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize” by Seralini et al, suggested that rats developed cancer after being fed genetically modified maize.
PRRI endorses the conclusion of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and many other public authorities that the research is so fundamentally flawed that the conclusions have no basis. (Link).
Despite these conclusions of EFSA and other public authorities, MEP Lepage held on 15 January a press conference at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, with the title: ” Toxicity Confirmed for GM and for pesticide Roundup, claims for defamation to critics”.
PRRI members attended this press conference and noted several worrying trends:
PRRI calls upon MEP Lepage not to use flawed research for political agendas, but to take a more holistic, more science based and more responsible approach in relation to biotechnology.
PRRI commends MEPs who do take a more balanced and responsible approach, such as MEP Philippe De Backer who organised with PRRI a Q&A event after the press conference of MEP Lepage in which public sector scientists were available for questions by journalists. The messages shared in that Q&A session are summarised below.
PRRI also warmly supports initiatives such as those from MEP Julie Girling to hold debates within the European Parliament on “The risk of getting science wrong in EU policymaking”.
THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE SÉRALINI STUDY
Many public authorities, including the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment and the French Haut Conseil des Biotechnologies, have reviewed the study and all come to a similar conclusion: the research of Séralini et al was so flawed that the conclusions have no basis. The reviews of these authorities can be found on: https://prri.net/qa-seralini-et-al-2012/.
As EFSA concluded, the Seralini study is “inadequately designed, analysed and reported.” The research has several fundamental flaws, such as extending a 90-day feeding trial to two years without adjusting the design of the study, and using this particular strain of rats – which spontaneous develops tumours – without using a statistically required number of those rats.
As pointed out by antivivisection groups, this poorly-conducted and cruel experiment causing suffering for no meaningful scientific purpose is unacceptable. (http://www.buav.org/article/1112).
Despite the flaws in the research, Séralini et al widely publicised their unsubstantiated conclusions in an unscientific and scaremongering campaign with anti-biotech groups and some politicians.
The main defence of Seralini et al after the massive criticisms of their work was accusing those who criticised of not being independent, and proclaiming themselves as ‘independent’ This is a hoax. Apart from the widespread issued concerns about Seralini’s ties with companies, anti-biotech NGOs and politicians, we should remember that criticisms on the work of Seralini et al by individual scientists, academic establishments, research institutes, national bodies and EFSA are based on science. As said by Olivier Godard, Research Director at the French public institute CNRS, during a hearing at the French National Assembly on 19 November 2012, “the right question to ask to ensure the independence of collective expertise is not ‘tell me to who you are linked to…’ but ‘what are the arguments that justify your viewpoint….’.”
THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BIOTECHNOLOGY AND BIOSAFETY
1. Biotechnology contributes to addressing the most pressing global challenges
Modern biotechnology is a key tool for food security and sustainable farming, because it can overcome certain limitations of conventional breeding and thereby help providing farmers with crops that, for example, produce more yield, are less dependent on pesticides and fertilisers, or have higher nutritional value. Unsubstantiated claims about adverse effects of GM crops seriously jeopardises the contribution that modern biotechnology can make to human well being, and can seriously undermine public confidence in science.
2. Safety is ensured by sound science, not by flawed research and scaremongering
The safety of GM crops are tested extensively in a way that conventionally produced crops are not, and over the last 16 years GM crops have been consumed by billions of animals and hundreds of millions of people, without a single verifiable report of adverse effects on human or animal health.
Public sector scientists accept that new technologies and products are looked at in terms of safety. However, safety is not served by flawed research and unjustified conclusions in publicity campaigns.
3. Flawed research should not be used for a political agenda.
PRRI together and the farmers organisations listed on the PRRI website voice concern about the way in which some policymakers have hastily reacted to the flawed research, and how some politicians have used the research to advance political agendas, such as adding requirements for GM crops.
All biotech crops on the market are assessed for by public authorities to be at least as safe as their conventional counterparts for human and animal consumption, and for the environment. The immediate calls for bans or for stricter rules based on this flawed research have no basis, because the current safety requirements are amongst the strictest for any foods and there is no scientific argument provided for additional testing or requirements.
4. All stakeholders need to take their responsibility in this debate
In this complex area of food security and food safety, it is essential that journalists, politicians and policymakers take their responsibility to carefully read and reflect before publishing newspaper articles or making public statements. Journalists, politicians, policymakers and other stakeholders are urged to carefully read publications and where necessary consult scientists before rushing to statements in this sensitive area. PRRI offers its help by providing information on scientific aspects of GMOs and their impact on human and environmental health and on socio-economic consequences. On the “Information” page of the PRRI website, journalists, politicians and policymakers will find a “priority button” for questions.