Séralini’s rat-feeding trial (part 5)

Professor Gilles-Eric Séralini is a French scientist researching pesticides and GM (genetically modified, genetically engineered, GE) crops. A research paper from his team was published in 2012, retracted (withdrawn) in 2013 and republished in 2014. Here it is.

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts in which I comment on Prof Séralini’s study.

The study was a feeding trial in which rats (Rattus norvegicus) ate a GM maize (corn, Zea mays) called NK603 from Monsanto and Monsanto’s weedkiller Roundup (active ingredient glyphosate) which NK603 had been engineered to resist.

My fellow bloggers at Retraction Watch tell us how the ‘Séralini affair’ isn’t over. Was the original paper peer-reviewed? If it were so, would that make us believe it? I say no, it wouldn’t make me believe it. It wouldn’t make me disbelieve it either.

I’ve been on both ends of the peer-review system – the reviewed author, and the reviewer. Peer review is done by real people with human faults but it’s the best system anybody has invented. Now that we can see what Prof Séralini wrote, we can think for ourselves about his rat-feeding trial. Just now, I’m learning the chemistry.

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New Séralini study shows Roundup damages sperm

Professor Gilles-Eric Séralini is a French scientist researching pesticides and GM (genetically modified, genetically engineered, GE) crops. He’s published a new study in which rats (Rattus norvegicus) were exposed to the world’s most popular weedkiller, Roundup (active ingredient glyphosate) for eight days. It was bad news for their sperm, not so much during those eight days but for months afterwards.

Claire Robinson*, Managing Editor of GMO Seralini, explains the new study. This was ‘the first [study] to measure the delayed effects of exposure to Roundup on sperm in mammals from a short exposure…

‘The study’s findings should raise alarm in farm workers, as well as people who spray Roundup for municipal authorities and even home gardeners. People exposed to lower doses repeated over the long term, including consumers who eat food produced with Roundup and people who happen to be exposed to others’ spraying activities, should also be concerned.’

Here’s the new science.

In case you’d like a reminder, here’s my blog post about how Roundup and Roundup Ready crops work.

You might also want to look at the series of blog posts in which I comment on Prof Séralini’s most famous (or infamous) previous study. That study was a feeding trial in which rats ate a GM maize (corn, Zea mays) called NK603 from Monsanto and the Roundup which NK603 had been engineered to resist.

Here in Britain, and no doubt in other countries too, cute Roundup adverts appear on our television screens. Roundup is easy to buy with our groceries and gardening supplies. Doesn’t it look easy to spray a little weedkiller? As I continue my series about Prof Séralini’s rat-feeding trial, please remember that Roundup is poison.

* Claire Robinson is also one of the leaders at Earth Open Source.

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America’s dwindling diversity

Here’s a graphic picture about the range of crop varieties available to farmers and growers in the United States. A range falling and falling between 1903 and 1983. Of course some of the now-extinct varieties will have been weak, but most of them probably would have been worth conserving. We don’t know what the future holds.

Since the 1980s, genetic modification (GM, genetic engineering) has gone mainstream. I don’t think that’s very good news for biodiversity.

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Is transatlantic free trade a lose-lose deal for food and farming?

The biggest free trade deal in history is being negotiated now. If finalised, this will be the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the European Union (EU) and the United States of America (USA).

The non-profit Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) (‘Exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU’) calls the TTIP a lose-lose deal for food and farming. ‘From a look at their lobbying demands, the agribusiness industry seems to regard the treaty as a perfect weapon to counter existing and future food regulations. However, the corporate food and agriculture agenda has not gone un-noticed. The negotiations face rough weather as more and more people on both sides of the Atlantic are understanding what we stand to lose from this agreement.’

The TTIP has been accused of sneaking past the rule of law.

Free trade, eh? Free for who?

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Debating GM across the Pond

The biggest free trade deal in history is being negotiated now. If finalised, this will be the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the European Union (EU) and the United States of America (USA).

A few hours ago I told you of a legal victory for freedom of information about anything Europe’s involved with, including the TTIP. Today (if you can find it across time zones) you could take part in a webinar. It’s about one of the most hotly debated topics in the TTIP: genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on farms, in food, in grocery shops (noticing moves to label GMOs in USian food) and in livestock feed.

In case you didn’t realise how important this is, the non-profit Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) (‘Exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU’) tells us today that agribusiness is the biggest lobbyist on the TTIP. ‘Food multinationals, agri-traders and seed producers have had more contacts with the Commission’s trade department (DG Trade) than lobbyists from the pharmaceutical, chemical, financial and car industry put together.’

You can browse through this CEO article for a great set of infographics to bring this story alive.

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Opening the door on talks about trade

The biggest free trade deal in history is being negotiated now. If finalised, this will be the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the European Union and the United States of America.

This matters to everybody because we’re all living on this Earth. But we’re not seeing much about it because the talks are shrouded in secrecy. We can learn a little bit more from these films by people who don’t like the TTIP.

This week, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Sophie in ‘t Veld won a court case about public access to documents. The case wasn’t directly about the TTIP secrecy, but it opens the door.

In the article I’ve just linked to, the news website EurActiv tells us some of what Ms in ‘t Veld’s triumph means. ‘Steven Peers, professor of EU law and human rights law at the University of Essex, said: “This judgment makes it possible to apply for any documents which include legal advice on the TTIP negotiations, with a very good chance of success. This might include advice on controversial issues such as genetically modified organisms and data protection.

‘“However, the Council and Commission can still refuse access to the negotiating mandate for the talks, and to any parts of the legal advice which mention that mandate. So overall, it’s a fairly modest step forward.”

‘In ‘t Veld said the ruling would effect the transparency of the TTIP process, especially when combined with public pressure over transparency

‘”I think the negotiators will be aware of this ruling and they may think twice before making documents confidential,” she told EurActiv last night.’

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Syngenta withdraws application to use banned pesticide linked to bee harm

argylesock says… I’m not sure which neonic Syngenta wants to bring back here in Europe. Maybe all of the three which are temporarily banned: clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. [Edit] Soon after this story broke, I’m feeling cynical about it. Maybe Syngenta decided not to fight the neonic ban because it’s only a temporary ban. Also, Syngenta is busy lobbying for its interests as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) draws closer to becoming real. [Edit again] Maybe the story was this one: Syngenta and Bayer challenged the European neonic ban. Syngenta requested an exemption for autumn-sown oilseed rape (Brassica napus) in 2014, but soon withdrew that request.

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