As we begin a New Year, we often express hope for the future.
One of the world's great scientific hoaxes has been ratted out. That's the good news.
The bad news is that his false claims have already done enormous damage to the cause of food security, and it will take a big effort to undo the harm here in
The implication was clear: One of our most conventional and important tools of food production might be bad for us.
This alleged finding generated headlines around the world. The enemies of biotechnology, always desperate for a new talking point, embraced Seralini's work and trumpeted his conclusions. For more than a year, it was almost impossible to have a discussion about GM crops without hearing about "the rat study".
Loose talk led to bold action.
Despite this, many scientists immediately smelled a rat. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and Seralini seemed to contradict a mountain of previous research that had proven GM crops to be completely safe for farmers to grow and people to eat.
Experts who dipped beneath the surface of Seralini's explosive claims quickly identified flaws in his study. Moreover, his own behaviour was suspicious: He shared pre-publication copies of his data only with journalists who signed an agreement not to contact other scientists for comment.
This demand, rejected by many in the media, violated a fundamental precept of journalism. It also suggested that Seralini was more interested in publicity than scientific inquiry.
It turns out that he didn't deserve it. In November, the journal took the remarkable step of formally retracting Seralini's paper.
In its official statement, the journal noted that Seralini had based his astonishing claim on a tiny number of rats: "A more in-depth look at the raw data revealed that no definitive conclusions can be reached with this small sample size."
To complicate matters, he relied on a variety of rat that is notorious for outbreaks of cancer.
"Given the known high incidence of tumors in the Sprague-Dawley rat," the journal said, "normal variability cannot be excluded as the cause of the higher mortality and incidence observed in the treated groups."
The journal's retraction is welcome, but of course it would have been better if Seralini's research never had appeared in the first place. Its publication marked a great setback to the understanding of biotechnology.
The future of food security in
Without access to GM maize seeds and the lifting of the import ban on GM food, it is difficult to see how
Most Popular Stories
- Obama Administration Releases Proposal to Regulate For-Profit Colleges
- Some California Cities Seeking Water Independence
- Motley Crue's Nikki Sixx Marries Model Courtney Bingham
- Chinese e-Commerce Giant Alibaba Gears for IPO in U.S.
- Apple, HP, Intel May Take a Hit from Slowdown in Smartphone Sales Growth
- FDIC Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Banks Allegedly Hurt by Libor Scandal
- SoCalGas Reaches Record Spend on Diversity Suppliers
- Obama Seeks to Stay Neutral in CIA-Senate Conflict
- Will Missing Malaysian Jet Prompt Aviation System Change?
- GM Recall Poses First Major Test for New CEO