PARMA, ITALY, Oct. 4, 2012 - The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) rejected a controversial paper by French scientists which tried to link genetically modified (GM) corn to increases in the risk of cancer.
EFSA found that the paper raising concerns about the potential toxicity of genetically modified (GM) maize NK603 and of a herbicide containing glyphosate is “of insufficient scientific quality to be considered as valid for risk assessment.”
EFSA’s initial review found that the design, reporting and analysis of the study, as outlined in the paper, are inadequate and invited the authors to provide more information. But in the meantime, “such shortcomings mean that EFSA is presently unable to regard the authors’ conclusions as scientifically sound. The numerous issues relating to the design and methodology of the study as described in the paper mean that no conclusions can be made about the occurrence of tumors in the rats tested.
“Therefore, based on the information published by the authors, EFSA does not see a need to re-examine its previous safety evaluation of maize NK603 nor to consider these findings in the ongoing assessment of glyphosate.”
As we first reported in the September 29, 2012 issue of Agri-Pulse: “Research by an anti-biotech French scientist, purported to show that rats developed tumors and died prematurely when fed either Roundup-laced water or corn engineered to resist the Monsanto herbicide, is being discounted widely by scientists around the world. Despite its flaws, it could affect already-stifling European biotech policy and November’s biotech label vote in California.
Despite suspicious circumstances surrounding publication of the paper , tightly controlled by the London-based Sustainable Food Trust, that have raised numerous concerns, the Russian government announced that it was temporarily suspending the sale of Monsanto’s biotech corn seed, NK603, citing the French study.
The principal author, molecular biologist and endocrinologist Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen, has a long record of claims of dangerous effects from biotech crops. Other scientists and the European Union’s regulatory agencies have refuted his previous claims. In the latest case, critics point out that his experiments involve a breed of rat that is susceptible to early tumor growth, suggesting research designed to promote an agenda rather than impartial results.
Reaction was quick and critical. Science writer Andrew C. Revkin of Pace University, on a blog at The New York Times, notes that anti-technology groups immediately began touting its assertions, but observes also that even labeling supporters are troubled by its shortcomings. The Los Angeles Times’ Rosie Mestel, one of the most thoughtful of newspaper writers on food and technology, quotes skeptical scientists who see a “red flag” in the report’s disclosure that the tumors in rats did not increase in line with higher doses of herbicide or resistant corn.
Michael Eisen, a biologist at California-Berkeley, told Revkin that the study is “so poorly designed that you don’t even have to look at the ridiculous statements from the lead author (like ‘GMOs are a pesticide sponge’) to see that it was biased.”
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