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Retraction of GM-Maize Rat Study Findings

Dear ABCA Subscribers,

The journal Food and Chemical Toxicology today announced the retraction of the article Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize by Séralini et al first published online in September 2012.

Shortly after the article was originally published, the journal received many letters to the editor expressing concerns about the validity of the findings, the proper use of animals and even allegations of fraud.rat

The study alleged that biotech corn and herbicides caused tumours and organ damage, and led to premature death in laboratory rats.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), in agreement with food safety regulators globally, rejected the conclusions of the study, finding “On the basis of the many scientific deficiencies identified in the study, FSANZ does not accept the conclusions made by the authors and has therefore found no justification to reconsider the safety of NK603 corn.”

The journal Food and Chemical Toxicology’s retraction today states:

“The Editor-in-Chief found no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data. However, there is a legitimate cause for concern regarding both the number of animals in each study group and the particular strain selected. The low number of animals had been identified as a cause for concern during the initial review process, but the peer-review decision ultimately weighed that the work still had merit despite this limitation. A more in-depth look at the raw data revealed that no definitive conclusions can be reached with this small sample size regarding the role of either NK603 or glyphosate in regards to overall mortality or tumor incidence. Given the known high incidence of tumors in the Sprague-Dawley rat, normal variability cannot be excluded as the cause of the higher mortality and incidence observed in the treated groups.”

The journal’s letter to Séralini requesting he withdraw his article can be downloaded here. The responses of a number of Australian and international scientists given when the study was first published can be found here.

ABCA will be disseminating this information in the coming weeks and months to ensure that Australians are informed of the erroneous nature of the conclusions drawn from this study. We would encourage subscribers to do the same.

Jessica Lee
Chair, Public Affairs Working Group
Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia

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19 Responses to “Retraction of GM-Maize Rat Study Findings”

  1. Comment from: davefromweewaa


    Are you telling me roundup ready corn doesn’t kill rats ?
    DAMN !!!

  2. Comment from: Johnathan Wilkes


    @davefromweewaa

    and here we were buying it as a sub for ratsack, being a fraction of the price.
    What’ll they come with next?

  3. Comment from: Larry Fields


    I was a little confused by this. Were there two independent findings in the same study? Or did the apparently negative effects come from GM corn that had been treated with Roundup?

    I read elsewhere that the journal had asked Séralini for the raw data. I was mildly surprised to learn that this kind of request is relatively uncommon.

    A few years ago, I read at Jo Nova’s blog that the outrageous cherry-picking in Keith Briffa’s dendro-climatology study was uncovered only because the prestigious journal, to which he submitted his article, had a strong transparency policy. The data set, in its entirety, did not even come close to supporting Briffa’s wild claim.

    In light of Briffa and Séralini, here’s my modest proposal: Whenever the goobermint provides all or part of the grant money for a research project involving (human or animal) health, public safety, climate, or the environment, the investigators must post ALL of the computer programs and RAW (unadjusted) data online when the results are eventually published. And yes, The Great Unwashed (that’s most of us) must be given the URL (in the abstract of the journal article), as well as instant access when we click on the link.

    Moreover the law should be retroactive. The authors of past articles in these categories should be given a reasonable amount of time to comply — depending on how many scientific studies they have published.

    Authors who refuse to comply must return ALL of the grant money that the goobermint provided for the studies in question. If outright fraud is proven beyond a reasonable doubt, there should also be mandatory jail time.

    The Larry Proposal will not put an end to sloppy science, or to outright fraud. But it will put a small dent in the worst of the BS, at negligible cost to taxpayers.

  4. Comment from: kuhnkat


    Larry,

    The type of rats used in these studies are much more sensitive to toxins that cause tumors and cancer. In fact, eating a normal healthy diet they will have a rate of tumors and cancers significantly higher than standard breeds. The rates of tumors and cancers in this study were NOT significantly different from what was expected of these animals based on spontaneous disease with no toxins.

    Yes the rats had disease. No the research did NOT show an elevated rate of disease that could be reasonably assumed to have been caused by the GMO feed. Notice that this is a CORRELATION ONLY. There is rarely the extensive chemical and biological workups on the animals to PROVE what caused the disease in question. These types of studies should only be done to see if there is enough correlation to do a more in depth EXPENSIVE study.

    Notice also that the number of animals tested was too small which almost guarantees a spurious result. Remember that one exceptional tree from Yamal?!?!

    The other trick that is common in these studies is to use ridiculously high doses that humans, or the animals, would never encounter in their diets and then PROJECT down to zero the harm. Linear No Threshold it is called. Basically there is a threshold dose that must be reached for anything before it starts causing harm.

    Basically it doesn’t matter if there were confirming studies unless they did NOT make the same mistakes. This study did not have a valid result. Confirming a lack of valid result would be exceptionally sill or corrupt.

  5. Comment from: bazza


    so science is self-correcting – unlike denialism. All very well suggesting data for past papers be put up as well if you only have one paper.

  6. Comment from: jennifer


    Bazza,

    There is much evidence to suggest that science is not self-correcting when it operates within an established paradigm.

    I wrote about this here… http://jennifermarohasy.com/2012/07/how-scientific-ideas-become-fashionable-part-2/

    But in particular see Banobi, J. et al. 2011. Do Rebuttals Affect Future Science? Ecosphere. Vol 2, pp 1-11. http://www.esajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1890/ES10-00142.1

    In the process you might learn something about fisheries science, so far your comments on this topic suggest you have been eaten by the propaganda that has repeatedly ignored the published rebuttals.

  7. Comment from: Debbie


    KK,
    that ‘other trick’ has seen the banning of many useful products.
    A very high & exclusive concentration of just about anything can be shown to cause harm. Force an animal like these rats to have an exclusive diet of something like carrots or lettuce and it will become very ill and prone to infections and other complications.

  8. Comment from: bazza


    Jennifer,
    A different kettle.
    I would like to see a bit more than one weak analogy from fisheries to support your ambit claim : “But in reality most rebuttals are totally ignored and so fashionable ideas often persist even when they have been disproven.”. This would enable you to cast your net a bit wider and show Arrhenius was erroneous! I am still waiting to see a useful rebuttal by analogy.

  9. Comment from: Larry Fields


    Hi kuhncat,
    Great comment! I’d like to expand a bit on two points that you raise.

    November 30th, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    “Notice also that the number of animals tested was too small which almost guarantees a spurious result. Remember that one exceptional tree from Yamal?!?!”

    Larry’s response: Yes, but in principle, an honest spurious result can be in either direction — unlike the Yamal outlier, which was obviously cherry picked to promote the Hockey Team narrative. In contrast, the design of the frankenfood study had the potential for both Type 1 and Type 2 errors.

    “The other trick that is common in these studies is to use ridiculously high doses that humans, or the animals, would never encounter in their diets and then PROJECT down to zero the harm. Linear No Threshold it is called. Basically there is a threshold dose that must be reached for anything before it starts causing harm.”

    Larry’s response: The Threshold Assumption is often more reasonable than the Linearity Assumption. Paracelsus’ old saying: “The dose makes the poison.” That’s certainly true for copper salts. Copper is an essential nutrient for humans. Truism: Increasing a sub-optimal intake will improve health until the threshold level is reached.

    Lead toxicity is a different story. Pb is NOT as essential nutrient. Large epidemiological studies have shown that chronic ingestion of minuscule doses has a measurable adverse effect on the IQs of growing children. And on violent crime rates (article in Mother Jones magazine).

    My academic back ground is in analytical chemistry, rather than toxicology. That said, I’d be very skeptical of the claim that the dose-response curves for all potentiall nasty substances have the same shape.

  10. Comment from: jennifer


    Bazza,

    Thomas Kuhn wrote a whole book explaining the phenomenon. It is called the ‘Structure of Scientific Revolutions’ and it was published in 1963. You can get it on kindle. It is not that long.

  11. Comment from: jennifer


    Debbie et al.

    A good recent example of overdosing and more, and then the rebuttal being ignored is my recent paper:

    Abbot J., Marohasy J. 2011. Has the herbicide Diuron caused mangrove dieback? A re-examination of the evidence. Human and Ecological Risk Assessment. Volume 17, Pages 1077-1094. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10807039.2011.605672

    Put in context here: http://jennifermarohasy.com/saving-the-great-barrier-reef/

  12. Comment from: kuhnkat


    Larry,

    If you look into the data and procedures in those Lead studies you will find the same flaws we are discussing. The amount of paint a child would have to eat to have the negative effects reported amounts to more than one building denuded…

    I believe the studies reported in Mother Jones may actually have more of a problem ignoring possible confounding factors. Again, just because there is a correlation does NOT mean there is a physical connection. The seemingly strong evidence reported was NOT shown to be directly connected to the lead as issues such as diet in general, living in a generally unhealthy environment, possible genetic effects, poor social environment, etc. were all ignored.

  13. Comment from: Larry Fields


    Comment from: kuhnkat December 1st, 2013 at 1:32 pm
    “I believe the studies reported in Mother Jones may actually have more of a problem ignoring possible confounding factors. Again, just because there is a correlation does NOT mean there is a physical connection. The seemingly strong evidence reported was NOT shown to be directly connected to the lead as issues such as diet in general, living in a generally unhealthy environment, possible genetic effects, poor social environment, etc. were all ignored.”

    It would be more sporting for me to rely on my aging memory than to redo old homework. That said . . .

    The trend in decreased violent crime is in several developed countries that have taken tetraethyl lead out of their petrol. If it was just the USA, one of the confounding factors would have been the Freakonomics Effect, because of the Roe v Wade decision on abortion in 1973.

    Of course, some countries, like the UK, insist on shooting themselves in the foot, with draconian gun control laws, which actually increase violent crime. A better criminology ‘laboratory’ would have been a world in which no country, state, province, or city made any changes whatsoever in their firearms laws for the last half-century. But fortunately for us, humans are not laboratory rats.

    Another possible confounding factor is income inequality, which in the USA at least, has been getting worse over time. Ceterus parabus (spelling?), one would expect this to increase — rather than decrease — violent crime rates over time.

    Although the Lead-Violent Crime Hypothesis is not yet a conversation-stopper, we can take cold comfort in the fact that it’s on a stronger evidentiary footing than the CAGW Hypothesis. Statistical associations trump hallucinations and data-diddling any day of the week. :)

  14. Comment from: Marc


    I smell a rat, or perhaps it is a Monsanto research consultancy!

  15. Comment from: Debbie


    Marc,
    It’s fashionable to claim a ‘conspiracy’ rather than recognise ‘incompetence’.
    Perhaps you could supply some evidence that Monsanto has been involved in some sort of underhanded manner re this particular retraction?

  16. Comment from: L


    Kuhnkat,
    Here’s that lead-violent crime article that I mentioned earlier. I do not see this as being similar to that retracted frankenfood article. If there is a Pb threshold, it’s so low that we cannot presently measure it.

    I thought that the author did a good job. He even included dose-response data, as well as more sensitive D-R proxy data. If you have contrary evidence, or if you can find a flaw in his logic, I’m all ears!

    America’s Real Criminal Element: Lead

    “New research finds Pb is the hidden villain behind violent crime, lower IQs, and even the ADHD epidemic. And fixing the problem is a lot cheaper than doing nothing.”

    —By Kevin Drum
    January/February 2013 Issue

    http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/lead-crime-link-gasoline

  17. Comment from: Johnathan Wilkes


    Interesting read, one question I have, we know the harmful effects of lead there is no doubt.
    They knew about it a thousand years ago (adulteration of wine to make it taste better?) but how do we know it causes violence?
    On the face of it the study is spot on but!

    To me it’s like citing a deprived childhood as an excuse for antisocial behavior.
    There are a thousand times more people with the same background who don’t offend.

    Just a wondering

  18. Comment from: Larry Fields


    I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, but that has not happened yet. From the article:
    “Given the known high incidence of tumors in the Sprague-Dawley rat, normal variability cannot be excluded as the cause of the higher mortality and incidence observed in the treated groups.”

    I’m assuming that there was a control group. Let’s look at two boundary conditions.

    1. Suppose that the researchers had used a strain of rats that never get cancer when properly cared for. If the carcinogenicity of Roundup plus frankenfood is small, there would have been nothing to report. (On the other hand, if cancer did show up in the ultra-low cancer strain, that would have been interesting.)

    2. Suppose that the researchers had used a strain of rats that always get cancer — even when properly cared for. I don’t know if such a strain of rats exists. (However Flat Coat Retrievers, a medium-large dog breed, typically die from cancer before the age of 10 when they’re well cared for.) In this case, there would have been no difference in cancer rates between the experimental and control groups. Both would have been 100%.

    Suppose that the researchers wanted to optimimize the sensitivity of rat carcinogenicity measurement in their study. Then they would have chosen a strain that ordinarily gets cancer more than 0% of the time, and less than 100% of the time. 50% would have been a good choice. In light of these a priori considerations, criticizing the Séralini study for its use of Sprague-Dawley rats is NOT reasonable.

    However the small sample size criticism is reasonable.

  19. Comment from: hunter


    GMO kooks are like AGW kooks, fabricating and abusing study after study to sell their particular fear.