How a GMO, a pesticide, and a system can be toxic
by Gilles-Eric Seralini, professor of molecular biology at the University of Caen, Criigen
Le Monde
26 October 2012

English translation by GMWatch

In the area of ​​food toxicology, Food and Chemical Toxicology is undoubtedly the most reputable journal in the world. Its peer reviewers studied our paper for four months and took care to ask us for further analyses before accepting it for publication (All Guinea Pigs, Flammarion, 256 p., 19.90 euros).

Our results showed the harmfulness of long-term ingestion of a genetically modified food, NK603 maize, and its associated herbicide, Roundup. This is the first toxicological study conducted over two years and based on such a high number of biological parameters, pathological analyses, etc. To date, more than 160 scientists worldwide have lent their support or underlined the originality of our work, including the sole statistician of the Academy of Sciences.

In less than three weeks, various agencies involved in the evaluation of these substances have appointed subcommittees to discredit our research. Thus they can avoid banning the GMO and pesticide in question ...

However, there is a first step [in the right direction]: the National Agency for Food Safety, Environment and Labour (Anses) and the High Council of Biotechnologies (Haut Conseil des Biotechnologies, HCB) now are calling for long-term tests of these substances. I and a few others have been calling for this constantly for fifteen years. Citizens now know that the authorities that ensure [protection of] their health have so far not seen fit to require such "worthy" and "good" science.

In 2003, these same committees authorised the placing on the market of this Monsanto NK603 maize based on tests conducted over a period eight times shorter than the duration of our study, on the same strain of rats (Sprague Dawley, the mammal used in experiments of this type), and on groups of animals of which not more than ten were analyzed (as in our study). The fact that the number of biological parameters and organs analyzed [in industry studies] was very much lower than in our study did not prevent them from giving the green light (I was at the time on the commission of biomolecular engineering). It's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde!

These agencies that criticize our study's statistical weakness have never demanded from industry a tenth of [the data] that they now instruct us to provide them with. They have even accepted, without blinking an eye, food safety tests of 90 days or less, carried out on groups of four or five rats, for example, for the placing on the market of the Amflora potato (EFSA, 2006)!

They sometimes even gave their agreement without any tests on animals. They are asking us for encyclopedic details without which it would be "impossible for them to conclude the validity of our results," but they have never demanded from industry the simple public communication of blood analyses, which they nevertheless claimed revealed nothing. It is they who have kept the industry code of silence on the health data from its tests. "Commercial confidentiality ties our hands," they argue.

Especially when you are both judge and jury and no law prevents scientists with conflicts of interest from serving on the relevant national and international committees... But who is offended by such collusion, this lack of transparency that is detrimental to public health and therefore citizens?

"Worthy" and "good" science does not follow such a twisted path[?]: all six academies - or more accurately, according to witnesses, two people per academy and not in plenary, have given an opinion on this study.... I dwell only on three points.

1. "It would be particularly dangerous to evoke a potential need for long-term experiments as a result of this study..."

The nightmare has come full circle. Those academicians who, in their time, downplayed the dangers of asbestos, etc., are not even able to recommend the bare minimum of mandatory testing over three short months for the placing on the market of a GMO; or to require that a pesticide is tested in the commercial formulation, such as the farmer or gardener uses (this is what we tested in our study).

For industry only has to do long-term tests on the active molecule (glyphosate, in the case of Roundup). Additives are included to increase the effect of a chemical or a vaccine, but this synergy has no effect on living organisms ... It is well known, because it is not tested!

2. Contrary to what my accusers say, I did not use either the word "tumour" and "cancer" indiscriminately in our study: Roundup is an endocrine disruptor, and we found that it causes more cancers in females than in males.

3. "The media hype orchestrated around work without a firm conclusion poses a major ethical problem."


But to minimize health effects, to close one's eyes to the shortcomings of the regulatory system and conflicts of interest, to support the industry code of silence, is ethical and responsible? Finally, who can think that we organized media coverage of our results simultaneously in Russia and India, which took immediate action on agricultural GMOs, in China, the US, South America, Canada, Africa, and so on?

Some "experts" even went so far as to demand, with a violence that is unusual in our [scientific] community, that the editor of Food and Chemical Toxicology retract our paper. Some will understand why we chose not to notify the health authorities of the country [about our study] in advance: if we had, the study itself would not have been carried to completion. And it is more important than ever that our study is examined and extended, but by independent scientists.

We read here and there that millions of animals and Americans eat GMOs every day for years with no consequence: how can people utter such falsehoods? There, the supply chains are not segregated, and GMOs are not labelled, so no epidemiological study is possible.

Transparency of health data and long-term studies by scientists with contradictory viewpoints are absolute necessities. We can help implement them. The explosion of chronic diseases over the past sixty years should encourage our political leaders to take note of health and environmental alerts, and not to endorse rushed refutations and orchestrated pillorying.

It is consciousness and solidarity that our society needs: in a word, wisdom. Scientists have the right to be wrong. But they have a duty to avoid what may be avoidable: most major scandals of public health are avoidable. The science that I practice was not made to feed the insatiable ogre of finance but to protect the human beings of today and tomorrow.