The obvious panic in pro-GM circles caused by the publication of Professor Séralini's life-long feeding study on 'NK603' GM maize and its associated herbicide, 'Roundup', stems largely from its unexpected findings of cancer. (A selection of our articles on this is listed below.)
Cancer is a very sensitive issue. Cancer Research UK gives some very unpleasant statistics on the subject. In 1975, when the chemical-laden 'green' revolution of our food was well underway, our risk of cancer was already 25%. By 2003, our risk of cancer had risen to 38%. That means two in every five of the people around you will suffer cancer during their lifetime. In most cases, however, you won't know which ones until they're over 60.
Séralini's study was widely criticised for its poor scientific design because it was based on only 10 rats per test group while the established protocol for carcinogen studies demands 50 animals. The findings were also declared invalid because the rat strain used has a known tendency of to develop cancers in old age. Indeed, the control animals, fed on conventional maize and no Roundup, did suffer cancers at the usual rate and at the usual time.
If you're finding these claims persuasive, consider the following:
- One of Séralini's co-authors put the cancer findings in stark perspective:
“In the control group (of test animals), tumours occurred mostly at the end of life, in the 23rd and 24th months which seems to be normal in these rats”. Diseases of the kidney and liver or palpable tumours “begin in the the 4th month and explode in the 11th and 12th months. Which corresponds to the age of 35 to 40 years in a human.”
Compare this with the standard feeding study which lasts only three months, and our current cancer rate which 'explodes' when we're in our 60s.
- Séralini's experiment focused on liver and kidney disease. It used the established protocol for a toxicological study, which is what it was: 10 animals per test group were therefore used. The cancer findings were unexpected, but un-missable. Cancer is a relatively rare occurrence, so you normally need a large sample size to make sure you don't miss it (hence the 50-animal stipulation). Clear detection in such a small sample size makes the results more significant, not less.
- The strain of rats used by Séralini was the same as that used by Monsanto. Using a different strain would have made his experiment incomparable with other studies. Biotech industry tests are never long enough nor large enough to reveal cancer risk, even in susceptible animals.
- All scientific experiments require a 'proof of concept', such as a positive control. This is to demonstrate that whatever you're trying to measure can actually happen during the experiment. If you're studying a disease process, your animal models must be able to suffer from the disease. (Note that the 'oncomouse' genetically transformed for susceptibility to cancer is just such a model used by scientists, and recently, an application was made to patent GM chimpanzees which have been 'humanised' to use as models for human disease.)
Séralini's rats are a good model for the sector of the human population which is predisposed to cancer. This includes all those who smoke, drink alcohol, breath polluted air, or suffer from obesity or diabetes, all of which are risk factors for cancer and which together killed 21.5 million people in 2010.
- All scientific experiments have to be fitted into a budget, time constraints, physical limitations, and personnel availability: compromise is the name of the game. Séralini's study was exceptionally large scale (200 rats), long-term (2 years), and ran to a cost of 3.2 million Euros. Demands for a 'cancer' protocol rather than a toxicological one would entail 1000 rats, cost 16 million Euros, and require an unimaginably large test facility.
Taking into account the early and increased incidence of cancer in every one of 18 different test groups (i.e. males and females fed GM at three doses with and without Roundup, and Roundup alone at three doses), there doesn't seem any justification for enlarging the size of the study. There's plenty of justification, for repeating the study with a focus on specific at-risk groups and on suspected disease outcomes. After this, the development of more refined feeding studies for all novel foods is urgently required.
Now that we suspect that cancers might be a concern in GM foods, the next stage is to develop tests for pre-cancerous cells or markers which can be detected long before the tumours become palpable.
None of the above points are sophisticated science beyond the reach of the man in the street : they're common sense. Treat attempts to persuade you you're ignorant or dim as suspect, even if they come from 'Professors', 'GM experts', renowned Academy members, or bodies with respectable-sounding names. Industry-inspired, profit-motivated bending of the truth have become the norm in GM 'science'. and the truth about cancer is no exception.
If you haven't read them yet, check out the story of Séralini's rat feeding experiment:POLITICAL FALLOUT FROM UNSAFE MAIZE - October 2012
GM MAIZE IS NOT SAFE TO EAT - October 2012
GM MAIZE IS NOT SAFE TO EAT - October 2012
THE SECRECY SURROUNDING GMOs - October 2012
WHAT HAPPENS IN YOUR GUT WHEN YOU EAT UNSAFE GM MAIZE - October 2012
WAR OVER UNSAFE GM MAIZE - December 2012
Then, please, tell everyone about it.
- Kai Kupferschmidt, E.U. Patents on Transgenic Chimps Challenged, New Science Magazine, 13.11.12
- G. E. Séralini, Answers to critics: Why there is a long term toxicity due to NK603 Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize and to a Roundup herbicide, Reply to letters to the editor, Food and Chemical Toxicology, November 2012
- Dr. Joel Spiroux, GMOs: Nine criticism and nine answers on the Séralini study, Le Nouvel Observateur, 20.09.12 (Translation by GM Watch)
- Aidan Radnedge, Millions die from eating far too much, Metro 14.12.12