Rather than battling the biotech giants in the he-said-she-said fight, what we need is one indisputable study that decisively puts the matter of GMO safety matter to rest, writes Chris Kanthan in Nation of Change.
It's wonderful to see this intelligent coverage of the Séralini 2012 study on GM NK603 maize. Useful links are in the original article at the link given.
Let's crowdfund the ultimate GMO study
Nation of Change, 30 April 2014
In the field of biotechnology, something happened that has surprised and shocked the scientific community - an event with potentially dangerous consequences. Blatant corporate influence, reeking of conflict of interest, has succeeded in squashing a scientific study that exposed the dangers of GMOs. Science has not been under attack to such an extent since Galileo was arrested for claiming that the earth revolved around the sun. And there is something we can and should do about it. In late 2012, French scientist Gilles-Eric Seralini published the results of a two-year study on GMOs. His results showed that rats that were fed Monsanto’s Roundup-ready corn (“NK603”) developed tumors and exhibited damages to kidney and liver. The study was peer-reviewed and published in a reputable journal called Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT).
Few months later, the journal created a new position for an Associate Editor, specially for a Richard Goodman who had spent seven years at, you guessed it, Monsanto! Goodman’s job at Monsanto was to study toxicity of GMOs and, of course, he never found any health risks associated with GMOs. Now, with Goodman’s “able guidance”, FCT suddenly realized that the Seralini paper should never have been published in the first place and it retracted the paper. It’s as if the paper never existed; as if the rats never developed tumors.
This is déjà vu all over again. This is exactly how Monsanto got aspartame, rBGH, and GMOs approved in the early 1990s. When the scientists at the FDA had rejected aspartame twice and had serious concerns about GMOs, Monsanto used their political influence to create a special position at the FDA, just for their lawyer/lobbyist Michael Taylor. Once Taylor got his foot inside the FDA, suddenly everything that came out of Monsanto’s labs got promptly approved.
Of course, none of this matters to the mainstream media who see no evil and hear no evil. Unless Monsanto comes out and puts out an ad saying, “Yes, we corrupted, bribed and coerced people,” the corporate media will regurgitate Monsanto’s public relations playbook.
As for the journal, the reasons they gave for the retraction of Seralini’s study are that:
1) The type of rats that were used (“Sprague-Dawley” or “SD”) are more prone to tumors
2) Not enough rats - 100 male and 100 female rats - were used in the study, and hence the results were “inconclusive”.
First of all, if these mattered so much, how come the journal accepted and published the paper? How come the study was peer reviewed by many other scientists and approved?
Of course, never mind that the rats used by Seralini were the same type that Monsanto itself used in its study to get GMOs approved. Never mind that Monsanto studied the rats for 90 days while Dr. Seralini and his group studied the rats for 2 years. Never mind that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a National Toxicology Program that uses the same rats.
As for the argument about the size of the sample and the “inconclusive” nature of the study, one can just laugh out loud. Unlike other fields like physics or math, medicine often has studies that cannot prove or disprove something with 100% certainty. Can any pharmaceutical company claim that 100% of the patients will feel 100% better with a certain drug? No. Can a doctor assure a patient that chemotherapy or radiation will cure their cancer for sure? No.
It is extremely common for scientific studies in certain fields like medicine to be published on the basis that reasonable evidence for some phenomenon exists, and then conclude by saying that more extensive research needs to be done.
If there is one field of science that is very non-intuitive, it’s statistics.
Let’s take an example: smoking. Everybody “knows” that smoking causes lung cancer, right? If you look at all the materials on the web, the official line is that “80-90% of lung cancers are caused by smoking”. Very convincing. Now, the “other” statistics is rarely mentioned: only about 25% of heavy smokers get lung cancer. In other words, 75% of heavy smokers do not get lung cancer at all! But still, we spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year warning people about smoking (as we should).
In Seralini’s study, 30% of the normal rats developed tumors while 50-80% of the “GMO rats” developed tumors. Many had multiple tumors. So the GMO rats were 67% to 167% more likely to get cancer (50 is 67% larger than 30; 80 is 167% larger than 30). Compare this to the smoking-cancer relationship, the conclusions of Seralini’s study are obvious and mind-blowingly convincing.
Finally, according to the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), of which FCT is a member, the only grounds for a journal to retract a paper are: clear evidence of misconduct, plagiarism or unethical research. None of these are true or were given as reasons by the journal. You can find more information on the study from a website organized by many scientists or from Seralini’s website itself.
As for this matter, yes, Monsanto won this battle. However, they are losing the war. Their overreach in this matter shows clearly that this study really scared them.
As Gandhi said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Monsanto is fighting us now. We are close to winning this war and we have truth behind us.
Some people may say, “we are making progress in labeling of GMOs, as Vermont has recently done. Won’t that be enough?” Yes, that’s great and we should pursue the goal of labeling GMOs. However, labeling alone is not going to solve GMO problems unless the health risks of GMOs are clearly recognized.
What we need is the full support of the mainstream media and the average person who is not quite convinced about the health risks of GMOs. Rather than battling the biotech giants in the he-said-she-said fight, what we need is one indisputable study that decisively puts this matter to rest. Like Galileo, it’s time for the GMO movement to prove that the earth revolves around the sun. Period.
That’s why I propose that we crowdfund a massive, conclusive, and collaborative GMO study.
This definitive study should be conducted in a way that the outcome is beyond any reasonable questions or doubts. The number of rats, for example, should be twice or three times the recommended figure. The study should use more than one type of rats, and should involve two or more generations. It should use a few different types of GMOs – RoundUp Ready, Bt and those with multiple traits (“stacked GMOs”). It should even include scientists from Monsanto or other biotech firms, right from the initial phase of designing the study. Journalists and scientists from all over the world should have access to the study while it’s being conducted. We can even have a live webcam of the lab to generate enthusiasm from people all over the world.
(By the way, I love rats – they are very intelligent beings and even exhibit empathy – and these experiments do sadden me, but hopefully this will end a lot of suffering in the future.)
Such a study will of course be quite expensive. Imagine a place with perhaps 1000 rats and all the people needed to feed the animals, monitor and record data, and not to mention the cost for such a laboratory. No university or a government is going to sponsor such a study. That’s why it has to be done by the grassroots movement.
If we can get a few thousand people who are willing to give maybe as little as $5 a month for two years, this study can be done. We can use crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo to fund this study. Such sites have become effective resources to fund many other expensive projects including a movie about GMOs.
If enough people respond positively to this article, we can contact Dr. Seralini and other organizations to make this happen!
We are at a critical junction in human history: this could be the inflexion point when corporations have taken over seeds and our food supply, when biodiversity has been dealt an irrecoverable blow, when rainforests have been destroyed beyond repair in order to grow GMOs, when our life-giving soil has been destroyed, when bees and butterflies and many other beneficial insects have become extinct; this could be the arc of history when a large portion of human population are doomed to lives crippled by chronic diseases.
It is up to us to determine how history evolves from here on. Are you in?