Study claims GMO cancer risk
21.09.2012 - Researchers from the organisation Criigen have published a GMO feeding study suggesting a cancer risk in mice. Critics say the study design was not appropriate.
In the peer reviewed journal Food and Chemical Toxicology a team headed by Criigen president Gilles-Eric Seralini report that lab mice fed with Monsanto’s GM maize NK603 or with the herbicide Glyphosate developed faster tumours than control mice. While treated female rats died 2-3 fold more frequently than controls, male rats which received the GMO or herbicide diet over 2 years developed tumours, which were up to 4 times larger than in control mice and occurred earlier in their life cycle, accompanied by kidney defects in both sexes.
However, critics questioned the credibility and reliability of the data. "The methods, stats and reporting of results are all well below the standard I would expect in a rigorous study – to be honest I am surprised it was accepted for publication“, stated Prof. Dr. David Spiegelhalter from University of Cambridge, UK, explaining that there was no full data set, no relevant number of animals involved to demonstrate statistical significance and no dose-dependent effect confirming the conclusions of the study authors. Prof. Dr. Maurice Moloney, chief of Rothamsted Research, pointed to the fact that the rat species used by the French researchers is extremely susceptible to developing spontaneous cancers, with up to 86% in wild-type males and 72% in normal females. According to Dr. Wendy Harwood, John Innes Centre, „without access to the full data, we can only say that these results cannot be interpreted as showing that GM technology itself is dangerous.“ Some researchers also criticised that it was not good scientific practice to give the data to the press before making them public to the scientific community. Others such as Prof. Dr. Jose Miquel Mulet from University of Valencia presumed the study was politically motivated: The reports of Criigen are put forward by the French authorities as justification to maintaining bans on cultivating GMOs,“he stressed. French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault stated in Paris: "The government is keeping its moratorium on the cultivation of GMO seeds currently authorised in the European Union."
A spokesman of the European Food watchdog EFSA said it will consider the paper’s relevance (http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/120919b.htm). The study appears as a direct attack on the EFSA’s methods. However, recently, an independent study carried out by Ernst & Young confirmed the agency’s assessments had excellent scientific quality.
Since the foundation of Criigen in 2001, its researchers have questioned the design of animal studies used to assess GMO safety. The organisation is financed through contract research . Although its researchers carry out contract studies for Greenpeace and Carrefour, the large French food retailer which claims its products to be GM-free, its researchers say the organisation is independent.