The results of a French study were published last month in the Food and Chemical Toxicology journal and showed that rats fed on a lifetime diet of genetically modified (GM) corn, ended up suffering from tumours and severe internal damage.
The international media hugely promoted this story. It was a controversial bombshell in the scientific world. It could prove a decisive “game-changer” in the extremely volatile issues of genetically modified crops. However, this ‘controversial bombshell’ might be completely untrue.
Well-renowned scientist, the late Carl Sagan said, “You must prove your case in the face of determined, expert criticism. Diversity and debate are valued”.
Thanks to this method, the GM crop scandal faced a multitude of strong critisisms, which were published in the Science Media Centre. The study included a species of rat that is said to be prone to cancer formation. It also only used ten rats, where the reccomended number is 50. The raw data from the study was never released and, to top it all off, the study was funded by an anti-bio technology organisation.
Upon further investigation, a multitude of strong criticisms of the study were published in the Science Media Centre, made by experts, ranging from:
“This is not an innocent scientific publication. The study was designed to produce exactly what was observed,” according to Professor Dr Bruce Chassy of the University of Illinois.
Some believe this was simply a poorly structured study, in which the results are inconclusive and unsatisfying. Alternatively, if the study is the result of manipulations, it becomes an indictment of the scientific method and the ways the public can be so easily deceived.
When politics and individualism are brought into the lab, the scientific method’s value and its structural integrity is completely compromised.
Several examples of this have appeared in cases involving the big pharmaceutical industries in the UK. The problem is that drugs are tested by those who synthesise them. Tests are manipulated, specific analyses can be flawed, and certain trial data can simply be not shown. The drugs are then authorised for market, and the general public are the ones who suffer while the pharmaceutical companies profit.
In a study in 2003, Industryfunded trials were found to be four times more likely to produce these flattering, positive results.
It is hard for the general public not to distrust these large pharmaceutical companies, when the researchers themselves are the only witnesses to their own experiments. Scientists can distort evidence when communicating results, through removing outliers, changing baselines and a number of other techniques.
Carl Sagan saw Seralini’s fault in all scientists, “If you examine science in its everyday aspect, of course you find that scientists run the gamut of human emotion, personality and character”. It is only through overcoming this with humility and a strong belief in what is right, that we, the public, can offer our full confidence in science again.
Image Credit: r-z