By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

The scientific debate over whether GMO foods are harmful picked up the pace today with the publication of new website defending what has come to be known as the “Seralini study.”

The website, GMOSeralini, calls out critics of the study for having ties to the biotech industry; ties that call their criticism into question.

Several study rats, fed GMO corn over many months, developed mammary tumors.

First, the original study: Last September, Dr. Seralini and fellow researchers reported that rats exposed to GMO (genetically modified) corn and its companion pesticide RoundUp, developed tumors and other lethal health issues.

Two groups of the rats fed the GMO corn and dosed with small amounts of RoundUp developed high rates of tumors or organ failure. Female rats developed large mammary tumors far sooner than did any controls. Male rats experienced liver and kidney dysfunction that led to early deaths, compared to controls.

The study, led by Dr. Gilles-Eric Seralini, entered the debate over GMOs like a cleaver slamming into a tree. NGOs and scientists leery of GMOs pronounced it to be a smoking gun, showing that genetically altered food can cause serious metabolic disruptions. They heralded the study as landmark — because it was a rare (possibly lone) long-term look at the potential toxicity of GMOs, and called for more long-term studies to investigate further. Industry, they charged, had failed to do more than 90-day studies, which were inadequate to find health effects.

But around the globe, several scientists rose up to denigrate Seralini’s work, calling the study flawed and its results unworthy.

GMOSeralini, the website, exposes many of these critics as having ties to biotechnology firms. An article reprinted from GMWatch shows that many of Seralini’s critics have received direct or indirect institutional support from the makers of GMO seeds and the pesticides used in GMO farming.

Male rats fed GMO corn and dosed with small amounts of RoundUp developed organ failure, such as this rat suffering from a kidney growth.

Another article, also from GMWatch, looks more closely at the Science Media Centre scientists who criticized Seralini’s work. They claim to be “independent,” but according to GMWatch, many rely upon industry money.

For example, one professor, Alan Boobis, described as an expert of biochemical pharmacology at the Imperial College, London, is a long time member of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which approve the GM corn being questioned by the Seralini team. Boobis also sits on the board of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) a biotech and food lobby group, which operates with support from GM-producers BASF, Bayer and Monsanto, according to the report. (See more about the International Life Sciences Institute at Power Base.)

When the Seralini study was published last fall, many scientists privately contacted the research team, concerned about the flood of public criticism from those with industry ties, said GMOSeralini spokeswoman and managing editor Claire Robinson.

“The consensus [of Seralini’s supporters] was that the public was lied to.The criticisms seemed designed to bury the research under a storm of insults, but they do not stand up to analysis,” she said in a statement announcing the new website.

“Critics claim the tumours were due to chance, but the only way to prove that is by doing a full-scale long-term cancer study – something industry has avoided,” Robinson said.

One caveat about the Seralini study: While the rats fed an 11 percent or 22 percent GM corn diet suffered from tumors and early mortality compared with controls, the group fed a 33 percent GM corn diet fared relatively well.

Experts have speculated that this anomaly could be cause by the body raising defenses against a potent invader, but failing to defend against lower doses of a toxic product. No one knows for sure. A Pesticide Action Network scientist told GreenRightNow that this is just one more reason that long-term lab studies of GM foods are sorely needed.

GMOSeralini was organized independently by “a group of concerned citizens and scientists,” according to the website, which aims to be a “one-stop resource” to inform “citizens, the media, and scientists” about research by Professor Seralini and his colleagues.

Professor Seralini (third from the left) and his research team.

The website does not name the backers of the site, perhaps because of cases in which biotech firms have harangued opponents.

While the website aims to correct misinformation about GMO research, it also welcomes  “respectful comments from people of all viewpoints.”

To learn more about why the organizers felt Seralini’s work should be defended, see this link:

For more on the original study, see GreenRightNow’s story: