Today the independent scientific research organisation CRIIGEN announced its formal withdrawal from the French government's Risk'OGM project, due to concerns that the study is designed not to find anything of note.

1. CRIIGEN withdraws from French government project on GMO risks
2. GMO: Monsanto invited to assess itself with 3 million Euros of public money
1. CRIIGEN withdraws from French government project on GMO risks
Claire Robinson
GMWatch, 28 May 2014

Today the independent scientific research organisation CRIIGEN announced its formal withdrawal from the French government's Risk'OGM project. Risk'OGM was intended to follow up the findings of CRIIGEN researchers, led by Prof Gilles-Eric Séralini, that GM maize NK603 and the Roundup herbicide it is engineered to tolerate were toxic to rats fed over the long term.

In April this year, France's ministry of the environment announced that it would allocate a total budget of 3.7 million Euros to the Risk'OGM project. This is higher than Séralini's already considerable budget of 3 million Euros.

Accordingly, the French study should have been more detailed than Séralini's and should certainly have been long-term (2 years in rats).

But earlier this year, Earth Open Source learned from ANSES that the French authorities had decided to fund a study of only 6 months or less. The study, entitled “Improved predictability of sub-chronic GMO toxicity by identification of early biomarkers of toxicity” ANSES explained, "aims at improving the 90 day study in order to better and earlier detect potential side effects. This 6-month study will be carried out using various kinds of 'omics' analyses."

It is unfortunate that the French government has turned its back on the long-term study that could have answered questions about the safety of NK603 and Roundup more definitively. It is incomprehensible that it has reduced a potential long-term study of 2 years down to a virtually useless 6 months.

"Omics" analyses can indeed add valuable information to our knowledge of GMO and pesticide health effects, but only in retrospect, after serious diseases like tumours, cancers or organ damage have already appeared. Such "omics" analyses can then look more deeply at pathways and biological processes through which the diseases arose.

If initial signs of potential long-term toxicity are identified through "omics" analyses in a short or medium-term study of only 3-6 months but the study is not extended to see whether any serious disease actually appears, then those initial signs can be easily dismissed as "not biologically relevant".

This is a favourite tactic of GMO proponents in industry and government alike and in fact it was used by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and Monsanto to dismiss initial signs of toxicity in Monsanto's 90-day study on NK603 maize. This dismissal led to the maize's approval.

Therefore the study led by ANSES is likely to be a waste of public money. It will enable industry and pro-GMO lobbyists to continue to pretend that GMOs are safe. It fulfills the number one rule of the GMO industry and its lobbyists when it comes to scientific studies looking at GMOs and pesticide risks: Don't look, don't find.

The EU has also announced a two-year carcinogenicity study on NK603 maize to follow up the Séralini study findings. But no protocol has been published and we are told that the group that won the bid has industry involvement.

There are ways to design a carcinogenicity study and not find anything. In my view, the most likely is that no attempt will be made to exclude GMOs (apart from the NK603 maize that is the focus of the test) and toxic residues of pesticides from the control diets. Thus both treated and control groups of rats will be eating GMOs and pesticides and any toxic effects from the GMO under test will be hidden in the resulting "data noise".

It's a testament to the strength of the Séralini 2012 study that even governments are frightened of carrying out a true replication and extension of the research. What can they be frightened of?
2. GMO: Monsanto invited to assess itself with 3 million Euros of public money
CRIIGEN, 28 May 2014
[Rough translation of French original at url above by Claire Robinson of GMWatch]

* Launched in July 2013 by French health agencies, the study on the toxicological risks of GMOs (Risk'OGM) centres on scientific fraud and is a waste of public money. Worse, Monsanto, whose products will be studied, was invited to participate in the dialogue body created for this study.

In September 2012, researchers at the University of Caen - members of CRIIGEN - published the only long-term toxicological research (2 years) analyzing the effects on rats of GM maize NK603 and the herbicide Roundup, which the maize is engineered to tolerate.

The national agency for food safety, environment and labour (ANSES) was asked for its opinion, had recognised the lack of long-term studies on these products, which are only tested for 3 months before being put on the market. Under the project name Risk'OGM, the ministry of the environment, sustainable development and energy (MEDDE) released a budget of around 3 million Euros with the initial aim of carrying out a long-term study to further investigate the chronic toxicity of NK603 maize and Roundup.

After a call [for bids for] this biased project was launched in mid summer, only INRA, INSERM, and ANSES presented a joint proposal in response to the ministry.

But the study proposed by these organizations will only last for 3 months, possibly extending to 6 months, and will only study NK603 maize without Roundup application. We know already, and ANSES must know also, that the proposed study is insufficient and will thus be inconclusive. A study period of 3 months (and even 6 months) is too short to analyze chronic toxicity - our study has already shown that, specifically for this GMO and Roundup herbicide. The budget allocated to this study would nevertheless have enabled a more ambitious and longer analysis to be carried out.

We learn also that Monsanto itself, in the person of Yann Fichet and under the umbrella of pro-GMO lobby Europabio, was invited to participate in this so-called "forum for dialogue". This committee now seems to be infiltrated by seed companies and GM proponents: Bayer CropScience and Limagrain are also [participating], and the National Association of Food Industries (ANIA). We cannot conceive of participating alongside the very people who use lobbying tactics to allow the acceptance and marketing of their products in the grossest absence of evaluation and lack of transparency.

Professor Gilles-Eric Séralini said, "As scientists and as the authors of the study behind this initiative from the ministry (MEDDE), we strongly condemn the inadequacy of the protocol as well as the biased composition of the 'dialogue' body established for this project, which is also without scientific legitimacy. Our role is to actively participate in the construction of a protocol that fully satisfies the initial recommendations on the need for a chronic long-term study. But there has never been a dialogue on this issue in a committee whose ability to steer anything is limited to its name."

President of CRIIGEN Joel Spiroux de Vendomois therefore draws the inevitable conclusions: "We have decided to withdraw because we do not want to condone such a waste of public money, as well as conflicts of interest, which we have always denounced. We ask MEDDE to stop the project while there is still time and to redirect its public funds into a study worthy of the name, that is more ambitious and scientifically relevant, and that allows an unambiguous response to the questions about public health surrounding GMOs and pesticides."