back to article Did genetically modified food cause giant tumours in rats?

A French study claiming to link genetically modified crops to cancer has come under fire almost the instant it was released. The study has dropped like a bomb into the “Frankenstein crops” debate. Californians are due to vote in November on Proposition 37 which would mandate GM labeling on all foodstuffs. In Australia, …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. solidsoup
    Thumb Down

    Bullshit study. Statistical analysis set up and release strategy suggest an agenda.

    1. Thorne

      Just the way that their handling the results screams setup.

      The whole point to science is to release the results so others can replicate the experiment and achive the same results. If everyone gets the same results then the results are correct. If the results are different, then something is wrong.

      A non disclouse agreement before anyone can view the results prevents anyone from rubbishing the results. Those who have seen the results are gagged and those who haven't can't comment.

    2. Jesrad

      Yes it's a setup. Gilles-Eric Séralini is publishing this as a marketing strategy for his upcoming book and movie, both titled "Tous cobayes ?" ("We the guinea pigs"), set for release on the 26th this month.

      If you read french this page has a lot of debunking and damning information about Séralini:

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    GM's lawyers are just as vicious as Apple's. GM's corn is cross pollinating with every species of corn in the world. Soon farmers will be slaves to GM and their patents if somethings isn't done about it.

    1. Aaron Em


      Just like we're all slaves to Apple, right?

      (FYI, Apple's lawyers aren't "vicious"; they're lawyers -- professionals, in a highly technical field, who are paid by the hour to produce results. Blaming lawyers for doing what they're hired to do is like blaming soldiers for the existence of war, or hookers for the existence of whoring.)

    2. Anonymous Coward 101

      That conflates the concept of GM crops with the IP behind GM crops - two separate issues.

      Saying that the patents behind GM crops are often problematical is different from saying that GM CROPS GIVE YOU CANCER. The former states that GM crops can be useful but there are some issues with their implementation, but the latter says that GM crops are bad and must be banned.

    3. Jtom

      Um, GM wrt crops means, Genetically Modified, not General Motors. Monsanto likely is the largest producer of GM seed, but not the only one. And while Monsanto (and General Motors) have lawyers, Genetically Modified crops don't. For those of you who did not realize this, please read up on a subject before posting. There's enough misinformation on the web.

  3. Curly4

    Big stakes gamble.

    I can see why so many people are up in arms over this. The chemical companies and the Ag companies that developed the GM crops will stand to loose Billions if it is found true while the rest of us will loose our life. How ever there those on both sides who are more than willing to stir up the discontent be cause this sell news but dose not produce any more food for anybody.

    1. P. Lee

      Re: Big stakes gamble.

      More food?

      Do we really need more corn? Does India, the land of lentils, need protein-enhanced potatoes? If you live in an arid area, how long will a strategy of planting crops which can suck more moisture out of the ground, last? Has anyone else noticed the rise in problems with mass-consumed products? Gluten, dairy, sugar and increasingly, soy?

      Everyone I've met who is interested in food says that your best food is the stuff people haven't processed, that is left on the plant until ripe and then eaten.

      GM is all about factory efficiencies. Yes we can produce "more" food, but is it just swollen with water or has the nutrient content per lb/kg been preserved? Yes people want red tomatoes, but that's because historically red tomatoes mean ripe tomatoes. If you make them red when they are unripe you can store/sell them for longer, but that is just tricking the customers, not making things better. Yes we can make the crops insecticide-resistant and then kill all the insects, but that will kill all the birds and hence other types of plants which we do actually need to have around. All these are costs are not incurred by the GM companies.

      In the UK organic food is governed by the Soil Association. If you care for the soil and the plants thrive and you don't have to go around "altering" out large parts of the ecosystem. Efficiency should not always be the highest priority.

      GM might be efficient in the short-term, but so is slash and burn. That doesn't make it the right thing to do.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Your "everyone" are mightily ill-informed

        First of all, without intensive farming, your lifestyle could not exist. You'd be out in the fields every day along with everyone else not of noble birth.

        Secondly, without intensive farming, you'd probably have starved to death by now, or never been born because your parents did.

        Look at Africa, parts of China etc. Subsistence farming is not the idyll you think it is.

        Finally, humans have been genetically modifying animals and plants for the last ten thousand years or so. How do you think we got from crab-apple like things to the large tasty cox pippins, or from grass to wheat, corn etc?

        Selective breeding, cross-breeding - both forms of genetic modification.

    2. Magani

      Re: Big stakes gamble.

      "...chemical companies and the Ag companies that developed the GM crops ..."

      Why doesn't the article mention the 'M' company? Monsanto - makers of both Roundup and GM seed.

      Compared to this company, most sewer rats would appear to be shining examples of ethical and moral rectitude.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Need to independently study GM vs. "Roundup"

    Attempts at testing two different issues - GM and Roundup in the same experiement is unacceptably poor methodology and a waste of time and money. These two issues must be evaluated independently for the results to have any credibility.

    1. Mephistro

      Re: Need to independently study GM vs. "Roundup"

      "Attempts at testing two different issues - GM and Roundup in the same experiement is unacceptably poor methodology and a waste of time and money"

      No, it's not. What they are trying to do is to know the risks of GM crops normal usage - which will include routinely drowsing GM crops in Roundup at the slightest suggestion of a pest. After all this is the reason they created these GM strands. They are also somehow addressing the 'Roundup alone, no GM crops' angle, by giving the mice the product dissolved in their drinking water .

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Need to independently study GM vs. "Roundup"

        Roundup is used against weeds, not pests.

        1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: Need to independently study GM vs. "Roundup"

          So was agent Orange. Originally...

          With similar results. Apparently...

          Frankly, as far as someone discovering statistically significant correlation between a weedkiller and cancer - I am not surprised. We have seen that movie before.

          Same for the GM crops. I can bet a case of beer that they did not grow them in a lab environment free of weedkiller and bought them off the open market. If so, they are guaranteed to be contaminated with similar doses of weedkiller as to their "control" experiment. So that is not surprising either if you think of it - just an unclean negative control.

          What is really bad news here is that if proven correct, it writes off the last "safe" weedkiller out there. Come to think about it - even if I do not use every second neighbor around me pours liters of that sh*t annually on their lawn to keep it clover-free, on their driveway to keep it weed-free and so on.

          1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            Re: Need to independently study GM vs. "Roundup"

            I doubt if your neighbours put Roundup on their lawn to kill the clover, given that it does a fine job of killing lawn grass as well.

          2. madsenandersc

            Re: Need to independently study GM vs. "Roundup"

            Just to clear up a misconception in the comment above: The GM crops have no weedkiller in them and has not been treated with anything before leaving the lab. The GM crop can tolerate treatment with Roundup better than non-GM crops so it is possible to use higher doses of Roundup or treat the fields more often while not harming the crop.

            If you are talking about any residual Roundup in the seeds from treatment of the crop that produced the seeds, I think it is proven that these levels are extremely low and with no measurable residual content in the next generation of crops.

            Any testing with a treated and a non-treated group of crops is therefore valid, at least as far as the levels of Roundup in the harvested crop goes.

        2. Mephistro

          Re: Need to independently study GM vs. "Roundup"

          "Roundup is used against weeds, not pests."

          My wrong. In my languaje, weeds are also considered pests, hence my error.

  5. Eddy Ito

    "The French government has leapt in with both pieds..."

    Oh there it is. Why it's the reason for generating a controversy of course. You see if you do the study right the first time there isn't quite as much gubbermint dosh handed out. Now both sides can be flush with cash as they run off to spend a few years finding out inconclusive results and will need more money. Just have to keep the citizens scared and confused while settling nothing and retire with a substantial retirement package even if you've got a mouse sized tumor sprouting from your neck. Just remember, they don't get paid for answers, they get paid for studying a potential problem.

  6. theniginator


    because on reading the paper there is no relationship between the dose of the GM maize and the rate of death eg more GM actually gave less death. If this was a toxin then this would not be expected. The group numbers (10 per treatment) are also very small. As usual poorly designed study = results that dont make sense and cant be properly interpreted. And its a crap journal suggesting it didnt stand up to better scrutiny in a more well know publication.

  7. Mephistro

    Some quotes from Wikipedia

    "In soils, half-lives vary from as little as three days at a site in Texas to 141 days at a site in Iowa.[71] In addition, the glyphosate metabolite aminomethylphosphonic acid has been found in Swedish forest soils up to two years after a glyphosate application.[82] Glyphosate adsorption to soil varies depending on the kind of soil.[83] A 2009 study using a RoundUp formulation has concluded that absorption into plants delays subsequent soil-degradation, and can increase glyphosate persistence in soil from two to six times.[84]"

    "It has been suggested that glyphosate can harm the bacterial ecology of soil and cause micronutrient deficiencies in plants,[85] including nitrogen-fixing bacteria,[86]"

    "On Fri Jan 20, 2007, Monsanto was convicted in France of false advertising of Roundup for presenting it as biodegradable, and claiming it left the soil clean after use."

    I really love these Monsanto guys.

    1. Anonymous Coward 15

      Re: Some quotes from Wikipedia

      A weedkiller that can cause damage to plants? Well I never.

      1. Euripides Pants

        Re: Some quotes from Wikipedia

        "A weedkiller that can cause damage to plants? Well I never."

        It also kills thing you want like the nitrogen fixing bacteria in the soil.

  8. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Ohh... homeopathic levels.

    Does this study also try to get positive evidence of homeopathy? Though wouldn't treating the mice homeopathically with roundup cause the inverse effects of roundup (according to the tenets of homeopathy). Come to think of it, what are the effects of roundup on these poor mice? Come to think of it, what happened to the study apparently showing mice fed GM-engineered potatoes dying horribly? It was once on TV for a week, then disappeared forever.

  9. This post has been deleted by its author

  10. Ben M

    Is this the same Richard Chirgwin...

    ...hack who wrote "Climate denier bloggers sniff out new conspiracy" here at El Reg?

    Surely not. It couldn't be.

    A paper is accepted for publication "proving" that all 'climate deniers' think the moon landing was faked, MI5 killed Lady Diana, and that our soon-to-be one-world-government overlords are in the final throes of arrogating to themselves all power in the known universe ... and one Mr Richard Chirgwin shows not the slightest curiosity or skepticism. Not an ounce of investigative instinct. Instead, this Mr Richard Chirgwin dutifully takes up his position around the wagon. 'Climate deniers' are shot down in an instant before their evil words can even come out of their mouths. Their questions are dismissed out of hand - and for good reason. The mere fact they're asking questions is evidence of their conspiratorial mindset.

    Nothing to look at here, folks. Keep moving. Three cheers for that Chirgwin fellow.

    Never mind that those 'deniers' were asking how the data was gathered, and whether that data (even if taken at face value) supports the conclusions drawn by the authors.

    And then we have this report from one Richard Chirgwin. A two-year controlled study using actual rats (as opposed to using unknown trolls pretending to be rats...errr, I mean, pretending to be 'deniers') shows a positive link between GM food / drink and tumor growth.

    And how did Mr Chirgwin present this article? By shooting the doubters? By shutting down debate? No, the reader is all but forced to assume the study is utter rubbish. It begins with a headline that manages to both question and mock the entire study. The results are said to be terrifying "if true". Readers are astonished to learn that the study did not find a positive link between GM and tumors in every single test group (which must surely be grounds having the study retracted, no?).

    And then we are invited by Mr Chirgwin to peer closer - to see the mysterious events which move like shadows around the study. There's the behaviour of the authors who, against all known rules of publication, demanded an NDA be signed before issuing anyone a pre-print copy. And there's the timing of this paper. It is highly suspect, to say the least: Californians are due to vote on GM food. (No evidence need be given, because of course everyone knows that Californians are vulnerable to whatever happens to be the the latest science-by-press-release on the day of voting.)

    And look!, Chirgwin writes. See how the French Government has reacted to the paper? They picked this paper and ran for the hills. They took it - hook, line and sinker. There must be something going on here. There simply must. It all points to a ... ummm... what's that word... conspiracy?

    Care to take Lewandawsky's Climate-Change-Denial-Is-Proportional-To-A-Person's-Susceptibility-To-Conspiracy-Theories questionnaire , Mr Chirgwin?

    1. Aaron Em

      Address the issue?

      Nah, just impugn the source. After all, if you call someone enough rude names, you might be able to embarrass him into compliance, and defining as a "conspiracy theorist", i.e. a smelly tinfoil-toqued mumbling-to-himself might-have-a-knife schizophrenic nutter, anyone with doubts about the standard "Earth is burning and it's all your fault!" line on climate change, is a pretty good way of -- wait a sec, that's my phone.

      ...Hello? Not badly, and yourself? You are? He is? -- Really? OK, I'll let him know. Thanks!

      Yeah, that was the IPCC's public relations recruiter on the phone for you, she asked if you'd call them back about a potential offer of employment.

  11. Calum Morrison


    I kept pet rats back when I was a student, and of the six I had, three of them developed tumours similar in size and appearance to the one illustrated; at the time, the vet who successfully removed the tumours told me that fancy (pet) rats were bred from the same stock as lab rats, for their propensity to develop like this.

    IIRC there was no GM food available in the UK at that time, (though they were all partial to kebabs and beer if they could get them - it was a student household...) but I've followed a broadly similar diet since then and don't seem to have put on more weight than a double chin and a bit of a gut.

    With the statistical evidence I saw from my own experience, I guess if I was looking for a spectacular way to illustrate a "scientific" process, I'd probably use rats...

    1. Aaron Em

      Ferrets in the US often have the same problem

      And, as with the rats, it's a result of genetic fragility induced by over-breeding. Horribly unscientific way to put it, of course, but you get the idea.

      But, hey, why is everyone complaining about this? We all know that there's no deceit too base to be used in the cause of Higher Truth, such as putting an end to the hideous genetic manipulation of foodstuff crops.

      Of course, there's sort of an implied Malthusianism in that, GM crops being the difference between subsistence and starvation for many millions of human beings; there's an implied eugenicism in there as well, given the overlap between those who do the most bitching about GM foods, and those who can afford to eat whatever the hell they please.

      Neither of these traits is dishonestly come by, progressive elitism being what it is, but I always find it just so adorable how they'll contort themselves into hypocritical 4D hyperpretzels trying not to admit it.

  12. Kanhef


    A study with methodological errors, written up in a paper with multiple analytical errors (severe enough that some scientists say it should not have been published), by a biased group with a history of similarly flawed analyses and questionable use of statistics. Move along, nothing to see here.

    Hopefully in a couple of years we'll see different scientists re-do the experiment properly and publish results that actually mean something.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Summary


      Studies such as the one you propose have been carried out many times, by many different scientists and every one has come back with the conclusion 'GM crops are safe'. This does not fulfil the criteria of being able to scare an ignorant populace with pictures and sound-bites and so does not receive the media attention that it should. Of course that then plays into the hands of those who think science is evil and we should all go back to living in caves.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Summary

        It's not the science that is scary, it's what the people who have just emerged from cave dwelling will DO with that science that is the scary part. Like not following the directions for use, pouring more and more weedkiller on the crops because more is surely better? Like popping headache tablets as if they are sweeties in order to get rid of that darned pain behind the eyes, you know, the one caused by you screwing up your neuro-receptor balance.

        I could go on.

        1. Aaron Em

          Re: Summary

          And some people aren't bright enough not to check whether it's loaded by looking down the barrel.

          You can't save everyone from himself.

      2. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Summary

        Rather sloppy thinking from a lot of quarters!

        Even taken at face value this is not a reason not to use GM technology.

        A result that said "GM crops are safe to eat" would also be utter bollocks.

        It's just like saying "welded boxes are safe", ignoring that a welder can make a main battle tank or a water tank - one of those is not very safe at all.

        - Which one depends where you are...

        A particular GM crop can be tested and found safe (or unsafe), direct GM itself is merely a tool.

        And a very effective tool as well - much more likely to give the intended resultant crop than the genetic modification via blind breeding that we've been doing for the last few thousand years.

  13. Infernoz Bronze badge

    GM Crops can cause problems themselves.

    A Roundup resistant crop doused in Roundup will have a much higher level of Roundup _inside_ the crop, than a crop which is not Roundup resistant, this is bad because Roundup IS already known to be harmful to animals, including human beings, despite what we have be told.

    Some GM crops even manufacture levels of pesticide compounds which are harmful to human beings.

    GM crops are a bad idea, based on false premises.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: GM Crops can cause problems themselves.

      Those orange carrots you eat - manmade

      All those thousands of different varieties of apples - manmade

      Loganberries - manmade

      This list can go on and on and on and on. The point is these have still been created through genetic manipulation. We select a strain that has useful properties and mix it with another that has useful properties. it is what mankind has done ever since we learned how to farm.

      GM crops just make that process faster, but essentially it is exactly the same thing

      1. Martin G. Helmer

        Re: GM Crops can cause problems themselves.

        Apart from one little detail; the lack of about 1000 years of in-the-field testing.

      2. TRT Silver badge

        Re: GM Crops can cause problems themselves.

        It's not quite the same thing because the insertion of the genetic material is done using a viral injection system. There's also the issue of the marker genes you insert alongside your new gene which indicate that there's an increased chance that you've hit the mark - things like making certain sugars, glowing in the dark, that kind of thing. Plus there's the chance that you will disrupt a control sequence which might turn on a dormant gene that makes a poison or a potent allergen, or that you will turn OFF a gene that makes some nutrient. Besides, the leakage of genetic material is the LEAST worry of the crowd ringing the alarm bell. It's what you might call the indirect effects of the implementation of the technology.

        Such as increased use of herbicides and pesticides, particularly those partnered to a product like Roundup which can lead to super weeds and a loss of biodiversity in the field and its margins, the subsequent loss of or damage to predator species, such as the DDT that built up in the eagles that ate the lizards that ate the bugs and the mice that ate the crops that the DDT was sprayed on.

        Selective breeding involves crossing species, selecting those with characteristics you desire and refining those breeds. It takes years, and at every step you are checking. Even so, mistakes arise using that kind of husbandry too.

        1. Wilco 1

          Roundup resistance is already a huge problem in the US

          The use of just one weed killer year after year means many weeds have now evolved a high resistance to Roundup. Which leads to even more use of the stuff until no amount is enough to kill the weeds. That can't be a good thing for those who are eating the crop...

          As a solution new GM crops are proposed using even more dangerous chemicals: an Agent Orange ingredient is now proposed as the next Roundup (

          GM never seemed like a good idea, even more so with the resistance issues and possible health effects. It's unlikely this study will be conclusive, so more detailed studies will be needed. No doubt Monsanto will deny any link found, just like asbestos and tabacco companies claiming their products were harmless for decades.

      3. JassMan

        Re: GM Crops can cause problems themselves.

        All the examples given may well be manmade but they still only contain the genes inherited from their parent species. GM crops don't just contain genes from other members of the same genus but often contain genes from different order or even class.

  14. TRT Silver badge

    None of the commentards here have mentioned yet...

    the other GM news out this week.

    Superweeds that have developed a resistance to Roundup on their own. Because anything Monsanto can do to a plant, nature can do too. Where do you think they got the gene from in the first place? It was obvious it was going to happen.

    BTW n=20 is vastly insufficient as a control group for anything other than a preliminary fishing trip.

  15. Dan Paul

    Is this why dogs are having so many cancerous tumors these days?

    Several friends of mine pet dogs have had repeated large tumors like shown and eventually died. All of these animals have had a diet of dry dog food, comprised mainly of corn.

    1. umacf24

      Re: Is this why dogs are having so many cancerous tumors these days?

      I suspect this is most likely to be because dogs are living to colossal ages these days. Cancer's always there.

    2. Jtom

      Re: Is this why dogs are having so many cancerous tumors these days?

      Give them a diet composed of mainly one ingredient, and they'll likely have health problems regardless of what that ingredient is. Do you think the advice to eat a 'balance diet' only applies to humans?

  16. umacf24

    Roundup Ready is bad because...

    .. It sets farmers to work watering and fertilising genes for glyphosate resistance (in the crop.) Monsanto doesn't mind because glyphosate is long out of patent, but we are on the point of losing one of the safest and most useful herbicides as those genes are made available to cross, using the usual means, into every weed species.

  17. umacf24

    GM Food is fine because...

    ... We have digestions! It all ends up as lipids, and glucose and amino acids. Guts are the end of an evolutionary process that has happened under selection pressure from the wildest diets. If it tastes OK, it's not taken in excess, it's not part of some organism's defences, and it's not designed or packaged to get into the body, it'll be fine.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: GM Food is fine because...

      I think people with life-threatening food allergies might disagree with that incredibly ignorant statement.

  18. Jtom

    A bogus study a half-century ago involving rats and cancer almost destroyed the saccharine industry. Fortunately for diabetics, other sugar substitutes were found.

    If such a study devastates the production of GM crops, though, people will starve. But then people dying because of bogus studies, such as those that resulted in the ban of DDT, has never bothered some environmental groups. They want fewer people on earth to begin with.

  19. Euripides Pants

    A question for the sceptics

    Why would you want to eat Roundup?

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sad to see such rubbish

    This poorly designed research is a perfect example of bad science. I wonder who paid for this rubbish?

This topic is closed for new posts.