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Response to Séralini paper

(November 2013)

In September 2012 Professor Gilles Eric Séralini and co-authors published a study in the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology. On 29 November 2013 the journal retracted the paper and stated the following:

"The journal Food and Chemical Toxicology retracts the article "Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize," which was published in this journal in November 2012. This retraction comes after a thorough and time-consuming analysis of the published article and the data it reports, along with an investigation into the peer-review behind the article. The Editor in-Chief deferred making any public statements regarding this article until this investigation was complete, and the authors were notified of the findings."

Read more about the retraction.

FSANZ published a response to the study in December 2012. This response is published below.

In September 2012 Professor Gilles Eric Séralini and co-authors published a study suggesting laboratory rats fed genetically modified (GM) corn NK603 and/or Roundup (glyphosate) had a shortened life span, although apparently this was not proportional to the treatment dose.

The shortest lifespan was observed among rats consuming the lowest concentration of NK603 corn (11%) in the feed. The reduced lifespan was also associated with a high rate of tumours (cancer) in some of the test groups. The authors also reported adverse effects in the kidneys and disturbances in some plasma hormone levels.

The relevance of the reported findings and conclusions drawn is limited because of a number of methodological and interpretive limitations.

Key limitations include the small number of animals in each test group, selective reporting of data, and no acknowledgement of the well-known spontaneous occurrence of mammary tumours in this strain of female rats.

The claimed toxicity of Roundup is implausible and doesn’t align with extensive data from well designed and conducted long-term studies that used the active ingredient of Roundup; glyphosate, in multiple species (i.e. mice, rats, rabbits and dogs) at higher doses where no effects were observed.

In October 2012 FSANZ asked the authors to provide a copy of the original data so a comprehensive analysis could be undertaken to determine if the current approval of NK603 maize should be amended. Professor Séralini and co-authors did not respond to this request.

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, originally approved in 2002.

There are few differences in composition between NK603 corn and its conventional counterpart. It is therefore important to note there is no plausible scientific basis to expect a long-term feeding study, such as that undertaken by Séralini and others, could reveal an adverse effect even if using larger numbers of laboratory animals. FSANZ considers such toxicological studies in rodents to be unsuitable for testing whole GM foods.

Read our information about the role of animal feeding studies

More information

The European Food Safety Authority, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment and Health Canada have now completed their reviews of the Séralini paper and rejected its conclusions.

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