The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has rejected controversial research linking Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup and genetically modified (GM) maize with premature death.
EFSA judged that the study − led by Professor Giles-Eric Seralini at the University of Caen – to be of “insufficient scientific quality to be considered as valid for risk assessment”.
Seralini’s research claimed that rats exposed to Roundup (glyphosate) and/or its Round-up-resistant maize, NK603, developed cancers in the form of mammary tumours plus liver and kidney damage.
But the first part of EFSA’s two-stage review concluded that “the design, reporting and analysis of the study, as outlined in the paper, are inadequate.”
EFSA said: “The numerous issues relating to the design and methodology of the study, as described in the paper, mean that no conclusions can be made about the occurrence of tumours in the rats tested.”
The watchdog has invited Séralini and his colleagues to share more key information about the study.
Per Bergman, who led EFSA’s research, said: “Some may be surprised that EFSA’s statement focuses on the methodology of this study rather than its outcomes; however, this goes to the very heart of the matter.
“When conducting a study it is crucial to ensure a proper framework is in place. Having clear objectives and the correct design and methodology create a solid base from which accurate data and valid conclusions can follow. Without these elements a study is unlikely to be reliable and valid.”
EFSA will deliver the second part of its judgement on the controversial research by the end of the month. This assessment will take into account additional information supplied by the study's authors.
To read the initial EFSA verdict, click here .
Meanwhile, the Institute of Food Science & Technology (IFST) welcomed EFSA’s judgement. Jon Poole, IFST chief executive, told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “We are pleased to see that EFSA’s conclusions align with all other considered scientific views over this study although somewhat slow coming out given the sensitivity of the subject. Even the UK’s new government chief scientific adviser, Professor Mark Walport was highly critical of this report when he spoke recently at a science media event this week. This was very much IFST’s position when we looked into the detail of the study.
‘Little negative reporting’
“What is very encouraging is that, even though the headline conclusions for this study looked very alarming, there was very little negative reporting by any of the popular press. This was also the case back in the summer in relation to the Rothhamsted GM Research protestors. Could this be an indication that public antipathy towards the idea of GM is not as strong as it was? Or, at least, that the media is being more balanced in its reporting?”
A spokesman for Monsanto said: “EFSA’s finding clearly rejects the claims made by Seralini et al. They confirm the existing safety assessment by EFSA and regulatory authorities around the world of Monsanto´s products.
"Monsanto’s products are subject to detailed scrutiny and safety testing. It is appropriate that claims like those made in the publication by Seralini et al. should be scrutinized in the same way. This is the second high profile paper by Seralini to be rejected by independent regulators.
“Millions of farmers see the real story about biotech crops every season in their fields where measurable agronomic, environmental and economic benefits help contribute to their sustainable farming practices.”
For more on the row among scientists following the publication of the research, click here .