A few weeks ago, Gilles-Eric Séralini and his homeopathy loving coauthor published an article in Food and Chemical Toxicology that concluded that glyphosate (known as Roundup)-resistant NK603 GMO corn, developed by Monsanto, causes severe diseases such as tumors in rats. And usual anti-science websites bought into this nonsense, including the TV medical practitioner, Dr. Oz.
It’s time to remind everyone that the Séralini study was bogus, and that Dr. Oz is also bogus. Here we go.
All about the Séralini study
That study was broadcast widely as “GMO corn cause cancer.” Give me a break.
- Science-Based Medicine » Antivaccine versus anti-GMO: Different goals, same methods.
- Bad science about GMOs: It reminds me of the antivaccine movement – Respectful Insolence.
- NeuroLogica Blog » The GM Corn Rat Study.
- Study linking GM crops and cancer questioned – health – 19 September 2012 – New Scientist.
- Control Freaks » Blog Archive » Why I think the Seralini GM feeding trial is bogus.
- Illumination: Rats, Tumors and Critical Assessment of Science.
You can read my and other’s debunking of Séralini’s study in detail, but essentially the issues with the study are:
- Poor and odd choice in statistical analysis
- Poor and unscientific study design
- Small study population
- Cherry picking of data, ignoring Séralini’s own results which contradict their conclusion
- Poor choice in animal model, because the rat type is prone to cancers
- No dose-response study, necessary for toxicology studies
Except for a few individuals who lack scientific skills, only the anti-GMO crowd has latched onto this study. I have been unable to find any credible scientist who has accepted this study as plausible. None.
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Enter Dr. Oz
Unless, you want to stretch the meaning of “credible scientist.” Dr. Mehmet Oz, known by his TV personality as Dr. Oz, is a cardiac surgeon and host of his eponymous TV show. Dr. Oz is not very popular with the science based medicine community as a result of his pushing of alternative medicine and pseudoscience on his show. He even thinks homeopathy is worth considering.
But now, Dr. Oz decided that the Séralini’s study is not only plausible, but also showed photos of the cancerous rats on TV, as his “proof” that GMO foods are bad for humans. Instead of discussing the quality of the study and of exhibiting the critical and analytical skills of a real scientist, Dr. Oz shoots from the hip with the shock value of pictures. Did he even read the study? Did he even understand the quality of the research? Is this how he accepts new surgical techniques in his surgery practice? I hope not. In fact, the producers of Dr. Oz’s show were informed about biases of the episode.
But this was a step too far, even for the low standards of medical woo pushed by Dr. Oz. Academics Review (which bills itself as “Testing popular claims against peer-reviewed science”) published a “petition”, signed by a number of academic scientists in the field of agricultural and environmental sciences. One of the key points of the petition is:
[infobox icon=”quote-left”]Dr. Mehmet Oz has repeatedly allowed Jeffrey Smith, an activist with no scientific or medical background or other relevant credentials, to appear on his program and make claims that GMOs are somehow associated with human health and safety risks.
…the Dr. Oz Show aired graphic images of tumor-riddled laboratory rats and charts implying associations with the use of biotechnology crops and alleged increases in human health issues ranging from ulcerative colitis to gastrointestinal disorders. Academic health experts, invited to appear on the program by Dr. Oz, informed the host and program producers that the graphics provided by Jeffrey Smith had no medical relevance or accuracy whatsoever and urged that they not be used. [/infobox]
Dr. Oz has shown less and less scientific integrity in his show over the years. He has become more like Joe Mercola than like a real science based physician, and his support of this nonsensical anti-science GMO corn study indicates his lack of scientific credibility. I think he feels TV ratings and adoring fans is more important than principle. That’s all right, he now can join other physicians that have sold out to moneymaking and popularity.
- Séralini GE, Clair E, Mesnage R, Gress S, Defarge N, Malatesta M, Hennequin D, de Vendômois JS. Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. Food Chem Toxicol. 2012 Nov;50(11):4221-31. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2012.08.005. Epub 2012 Sep 19. PubMed PMID: 22999595.
Note: this article was originally published in November 2012. It has been updated and re-formatted, because Dr. Oz is always in the news.