Will Monsanto Destroy Another Crop?

The U.S. wheat industry was nearly brought to its knees after the discovery of a genetically modified strain Monsanto (NYSE: MON  ) had tested years ago was inexplicably found growing in an Oregon farmer's field. Because most of the rest of the world rejects GM wheat and the wheat from the Pacific Northwest is mostly targeted for export, the ramifications of the discovery were massive.

Now it's deja vu all over again. A Washington State farmer had his alfalfa crop rejected by a broker after it tested positive for the presence of genetic modification. The implications for this recurrence are just as profound as they were for wheat.

Several countries immediately imposed bans on the import of U.S. wheat and an investigation that's still ongoing was launched to figure out how a strain of genetically modified wheat that Monsanto said it completely destroyed except for the small amount the U.S. government supposedly has under lock and key in its vaults made it into the wild.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, alfalfa, with a value of around $8 billion, is the fourth-most widely grown field crop in the country, surpassed only by corn, wheat, and soybeans. Alfalfa hay, which the Washington farmer was selling, is a valuable export and hit a record high of $1.25 billion last year. Washington is one of the country's largest export alfalfa producers.

Like the runaway wheat strain, the tainted alfalfa was found to contain the genetic presence of the Round-Up Ready trait. That's the powerful and deadly herbicide that kills any plant life its sprayed on unless Monsanto has rejiggered its genetic code to withstand its onslaught. You can spray the herbicide on Round-Up Ready seed all day long, and it will still grow because of its genetic modification. 

The only difference between alfalfa incident and the wheat one earlier this year is the U.S. government permits farmers to grow genetically modified alfalfa; it prohibits GM wheat from being grown because of the global opposition to it. 

And that highlights one of the biggest risks opponents of GM foods have pointed out: once you start growing a genetically modified crop, you can't protect non-GM fields from being contaminated. One farmer can grow GM alfalfa -- or corn or soybeans -- and another across the road can choose not to, but wind and bees can can cause the fields to be cross-pollinated, and the non-GM farmer is left without recourse.

The episode raises some far-reaching fears. Farmers now are at risk if they practice the time-honored tradition of seed saving, and not just here, but all around the globe. DuPont (NYSE: DD  ) just acquired South Africa's largest seed company that owns a large storehouse of maize germplasm, one of the most important crops on the continent where Monsanto already owns 50% of the market. Once they start accepting GM seed, they'll quickly learn they're no longer allowed to save it as the chemical giants own the food chain.

Not only should alfalfa farmers be worried because many countries including China don't allow any imports of GM crops, but alfalfa hay might not be able to be fed to domestic livestock because the introduction of GM contaminants can ruin their sales. And no just of beef, but organic dairy and other animal-based products. Monsanto says all is well as other importers like United Arab Emirates, have no restrictions on genetically modified crops and negotiations are under way with China too.

Once again the livelihood of farmers is being threatened by the pursuit of Monsanto to expand its reach over agriculture. We continue to be assured there's no harm to come from eating GM food,s but we are continuously reminded why such foods need to be labeled at a minimum. 

As this looks like it's going to become a recurring nightmare for our nations farmers, let's all take bets on which crop will be next to threaten their futures and put the country's economy at risk, all for Monsanto and the biotech industry's benefit.

Read/Post Comments (45) | Recommend This Article (33)

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  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 10:13 AM, carmeno wrote:

    "Monsanto says all is well as other importers like United Arab Emirates, have no restrictions". Sure, why not, find yourself a new middleman to sell your crops to (for less) because Monsanto is so omnipotent they have the right to "control all that you see and hear". Oh, wait wasn't that the Outer Limits? It is unfortunately that the federal government chooses to back one company while disregarding the opinion of most Americans and especially the people who produce food for all of us and who need to make a living. Anyone who has doubt of what the American public wants, just needs to read articles such as this one and wait for the comments. I have a choice because I decided to grow what I eat (and cross my finger that there are no GM crops nearby to contaminate mine) but most people don't. I'm down to a handful of companies that I can buy seeds from because I no longer believe the "organic" seeds label of the many seed companies owned by Monsanto. How did we end up like this?

  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 10:27 AM, golchie2 wrote:

    Good ole Monsanto. The same corporation that brings Agent Orange and Agent Blue now contaminates our food supply with GMO's.

    No wonder so many Americans eat only organic food anymore

  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 10:28 AM, 18RC wrote:

    Monsanto stock has made alot of college degreed white collar investors who are not afraid of GMO foods alot of money. The anti-GMO blue collar / hippie demographic investors missed out, though some may have done OK investing in the anti-GMO movement via buying Whole Foods Market stock or other organic food stocks.

  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 10:56 AM, lexiwords wrote:

    According to several books I have read---you can find them in NOOK or KINDLE---Monsanto has made known the corporate desire to OWN the world's seed supply.

    I grow my own from certified organic heirloom non-GMO seeds.

    I grow indoors during the flowering season and work to self pollinate.

    I believe Monsanto HQ and plants (ironic that they are called plants) should be dismantled and the CEO, Board members etc should be placed in a GULAG and forgotten.

  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 10:57 AM, jonnyappleseeds wrote:

    and now they want to be exempted from our law system and permission to do anything they like. think not

  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 11:08 AM, philthymcnasty wrote:

    In the long run monsanto will win this. All it takes is for another wheat exporter to have a bad year, and the price will skyrocket(again).

    I am not saying that i agree with monsanto, but unfortunately there are other economic factors that will probably remove the GMO bands in the future.

  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 11:24 AM, NationalJester wrote:

    Not to defend Monsanto's genetically modified crop business, but Roundup (Glyphosate) isn't particularly deadly...about the same LD-50 as table salt. And it doesn't kill all plants. Let's not mix science and tin-foil hats together.

    That being said, there are lots of reasons to object to their program. Contaminating the seed supply of non-modified crops being only one of many objections I have. The safety they promised for the non-modified seed supply has proven to be wrong.

  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 11:33 AM, Derbrit wrote:

    Although the corp has found a way to patent a seed I find it incredible that they cannot be found responsible for controlling their product. The birds, bees, weather and any natural means of transportation has been around a great deal longer then the company and therefor they must have taken this into consideration when they applied for their patent. If they cannot prevent the natural spread then they should not put it out there, likewise if their product contaminates an abutting crop they should be responsible for funding or compensating the farmer for his loss. Every other producer is responsible for the product and how it performs in the market place and it is clear that they did not consider the naturally occurring weather in their calculations and that can only be their own fault, not the farmers, the state or the nation, and if they cannot find a way around the problem then as with other corporations they withdraw their product and go back to the lab, and put enough money aside to pay farmers for the results of their product prematurely sold in the market place.

  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 11:44 AM, bigal64 wrote:

    Has everybody also forgotten what Monsanto has done to our American farmers. When the crops got pollinated from monsanto products and a farmer wasnt growing monsanto products and didnt pay for them Monsanto lawyers either had them destroy their own crops or try to get them to pay Monsanto. they would trespass on farmers land and test the products. Really monsanto and there is alot more to it then that. Monsanto sucks and Im glad they cant sell their products and playing God should be outlawed. I should not be forced to grow Monsanto products. Last I checked wind was still free and is uncontrollable.

  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 11:48 AM, sarahesmith wrote:

    Speaking as an Oregon State University master gardener, I need to correct a misimpression created above: table salt is very toxic to most plants. So to compare Roundup to salt to make the point that they are at all benign is misleading. As many folks along the Eastern Seaboard can attest after Hurricane Sandy, salt water (a form of much diluted salt) caused hundreds of millions of dollars of damaged to strong, well-established trees and other healthy plants. Likewise, Roundup kills very effectively and can drift through the air on a warm day across property lines to also kill or harm neighbors' desirable plants. So I understand the farmers' well-founded scientifically based concerns and their costly experience.

  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 11:50 AM, dfrie wrote:

    GMO patent holders used to run all over

    the place suing farmers who's stock had

    been cross contaminated by GMO pollen.

    Should of been the other way around.

    Now this. GMOs need to be banned

    internationally, and all patents on life forms

    revoked. This is about mad hat USA religious

    blind faith in "markets" and it's corrupting

    influences. Shut it down..

  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 12:04 PM, funfundvierzig wrote:

    What the anti-Monsanto mob doesn't get is no one is forcing farmers to buy Monsanto's genetically-engineered seeds. No one has a sabre to the neck of any farmer demanding she or he buy only


    The global seed business is diverse and highly competitive. In addition to the major players, Monsanto, Syngenta, and DuPont, there are numerous smaller independent seed producers and distributors.

    Farmers buy Monsanto's superior products because the seeds produce higher yield, more profit per acre.


  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 12:11 PM, funfundvierzig wrote:

    The cry a couple of years ago was that Monsanto was a choking monopoly depriving farmers and consumers of choice. That libelous and untrue propaganda was perpetrated by DuPont's unethical executives and their shadowy lobbyists and lawyers. Unfortunately, the 21st century DuPont has a dominating culture of CHEAT-to-COMPETE.

    The claim of monopolisation by Monsanto has been roundly rejected by the U. S. Department of Justice and numerous attorneys general in the states.


  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 12:52 PM, Nikki1964 wrote:

    Did Monsanto give Obama a butt-load of stock or something. We're fat thanks to what they did to wheat--autism is on the rise, maybe GMOs? How are they getting away with this. Can we alter their board of directors--maybe give them medically altered viagara? Good lord

  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 1:00 PM, phdwho wrote:


  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 1:01 PM, ss06470 wrote:

    Despite the hysterical rhetoric that gets repeated and repeated and repeated until everyone assumes GMO's must be dangerous there is not a single demonstration of GMO's being dangerous.Just crazy rhetoric that has become the norm in discussions. China does not ban GMOs so your original article is off the mark. On the contrary they are working with Monsanto to try to improve their techniques. And why shouldn't they. For the first time in their history the masses of Chinese my be able to afford meat, that due to the miracle of huge harvests of corn and soybeans GMO's make possible Monsanto is selling their GMO seeds to Argentina and many other nations that are turning their acres into a miraculous supply of grain. Local organic produce (which I enjoy) just ain't gonna get it done. It should be noted that organic food is simply not healthier. See

    The whole Food Inc movie is part of a buzz word campaign that most doctors are fearful to challenge, but eventually the politico rhetoric will be replaced by FACTS

  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 1:22 PM, ss06470 wrote:

    Here are some sites that feature Monsanto China cooperation


    I wonder if your original poster will admit he's gotten his facts all wrong. I doubt it. This Monsanto Hitler association is completely over the top

    And by the way, Costco features wonderful tomatoes IN THE WINTER that allows tomato growers to pick their tomatoes ripened on the vine. (as is done in the summer) This is due to a single GMO alteration that causes the tomatoes to ripen very slowly. Monsanto is not purveyor of this particular, but they have come up with cotton that can be grown in areas that normally could not grow the cotton. Same for frost resistant crops

  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 1:56 PM, cdkeli wrote:

    A valuable point that must be made here is that though this is only the second reported instance, there will be far too many like this contamination in the future and this must not be allowed. Thus far we've only witnessed contamination to flora categorized as "food" but what hasn't been investigated properly has been the natural flora that isn't harvested for consumption that may well be at risk.

  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 1:57 PM, ss06470 wrote:

    Here are some other miracles of GMO's

    Golden rice which is estimated to save 670,000 children a year because it adds Vitamin A.

    Here is a pretty good site for info

  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 2:20 PM, ShadowOfTheVoid wrote:

    Monsanto's products aren't the problem. Roundup (i.e., glyphosate herbicide) is not carcinogenic, and GM crops are perfectly safe for human consumption and may actually be beneficial. These "Frankenfood" scares simply don't stand up to scientific scrutiny. The problem with Monsanto is their business practices, such as aggressive patenting of seeds (there's a good argument to be made that organisms shouldn't be able to be patented), forcing farmers to agree to burdensome contracts (which allow them to, among other things, sue the farmers for saving seeds), etc. All the technophobic hippie woo-woo junk science damages the argument of the anti-Monsanto crowd. If GMO foods were actually bad, I'd be all over that, too, but they're not. If you're going to criticize Monsanto — and they do deserve criticism —, stick to their practices, not their products.

  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 2:27 PM, mapsguy wrote:

    What we do know about GMO foods is that the baseline starts high for productivity and drops, hence the need to continually alter the strains. Pests that were deterred by original strains adapt almost as quickly as the scientists creating the strains. The likely answer is that we will hasten the demise of all non GMO strains by creating super pests. Is it worth taking that risk? The fact is that humanity, in general, today is only concerned with today.

  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 2:44 PM, Oorfeo wrote:

    Try a search for glyphosphate and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

    Oh, and note the refuting article authored by Monsanto includes "non-published" references. Let us know if Monsanto actually sends you copies if you request them (they give you a number to call).

  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 2:52 PM, organicalltheway wrote:

    Maybe glyphosate doesn't kill the crops, but maybe it does kill insects. No long study has been done on the effects it will and does have on humans. Starting a baby out on GMOs sure doesn't sound like a good start. Someone should explain why so many bees are dying off. I am almost 60 yrs old, never saw that before in my life. Now I have to go out of my way, and usually out of the grocery store to find organic food. Wasn't like that as a kid..when I was a kid, organic food, was called food. Now, it is the most expensive and rarest. Hard to compete with a big company like Monsanto. I think we could grow enough food, without gmos to feed the world. Oh, and if you go by a farm that's got signs up saying it isn't safe to walk is it safe to eat?

  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 2:59 PM, MotleyGman wrote:

    There will never be "studies" or "clinical research" that demonstrates the harmful effects of these chemicals on human beings because actual clinical research must be approved by an institutional review board, and no IRB would approve research for human subjects to be given chemicals such as these. This is both good and bad. Good because we know better, bad because we all find out the truth, facts, and real science too late. There was a time when people thought smoking tobacco was harmless too. There are plenty of questions such as why do so many people have food allergies? why do people have irritable bowel syndrome? and a new condition called leaky gut? why is autism on the rise? why are all the bees dying? Would anyone care for a glass of Round Up? How about just a shot glass of it? How about a milliliter?

  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 3:07 PM, goodhealth2u wrote:

    There are many valid, reasonable and non-alarmist reasons to oppose GMOs.

    Here is one of many:

    And more here:


  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 3:09 PM, CharlieBrown68 wrote:

    There are numerous scientific studies that have found negative and harmful side effects with animals eating GMO products such as tumors, cancer, organ failure, and infertility. What do you think it does to humans?

    Here is a link to a GMO study linking it to tumors in rats:

    No wonder why all of those medical problems in humans have been more on the rise in the last 20 including auto-immune diseases and Autism (which have been scientifically linked to Glyphosate - the active Round Up ingredient). But Monsatan has the revolving door which their executives go back and forth between government positions and Monsanto positions (FDA and USDA) and has paid its way to getting laws passed that protects them. I am even surprised that this article is out there in public because Monsatan also controls the media like they did for the walk against Monsanto earlier this year that was no where to be fond in the media and it was a world wide event.

    Of course Monsatan tell you they have scientific studies that GMOs are safe. That's like every doctor telling you that Cheetos are bad for you but those two doctors being paid by Cheetos saying that they are not bad for you. There are so many countries that have banned GMO products with scientific studies that have found GMOs unsafe for human consumption. All we ask for is to give us a choice and label your product and not spend millions of dollars to try and defeat labeling. Let us choose!!!

  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 4:48 PM, vgraham01 wrote:

    China has NO standards. They are filthy and have no care for quality and THEY ban GMO's!!! Still, the U.S. allows Monsanto to poison us all. Only when it is too late will we realize the damage that has and is being done...

  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 5:20 PM, StACC wrote:

    "Several countries immediately imposed bans on the import of U.S. wheat and an investigation that's still ongoing was launched to figure out how a strain of genetically modified wheat that Monsanto said it completely destroyed except for the small amount the U.S. government supposedly has under lock and key in its vaults made it into the wild."

    Investigation? How about you can't control all of mother nature. Monsanto needs to be held civilly and criminally responsible for such irresponsible actions.

    I have no problem with GM food per se, but when you can foresee how your actions can have devastating consequences for a whole class of people, you need to be held responsible for your negligence.

    Frankly, I think GM foods needs to be a case of strict liability, just like corrosive chemicals, explosives, and lateral and subjacent support of neighboring land. When you do this kind of stuff, you are messing with something inherently uncontrollable, and if you want to take that risk, fine, but you should need to pay the consequences when they occur.

  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 5:41 PM, zizzer wrote:

    So many words, so little truth. The U.S wheat industry wasn't "nearly brought to it's knees" by unapproved GMO contamination - simply not true. Just because you write something in a Motley Fool blog, doesn't make it true. But some people will believe anything. The anti-gmo movement will never win by repeating debunked studies, wild speculation, and outright misinformation (Rich Duprey - your mom should be ashamed).

    Here's an idea: crowd fund a legitimate scientific analysis of at least one of the gmo crops, and I'm talking deep analysis of all genetic changes, composition and consumption effects. The stuff Monsanto and our regulators haven't done. With those facts in hand, you may accomplish something.

  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 6:22 PM, DaZrebe wrote:

    I travel a lot to eastern Europe. I have noticed all the people over there are not Obese like America. They eat like crazy but no weight gain.

    My last trip I paid attention to my weight and I dropped 7 pounds the second day after arrival and a total of 20 pounds while I was gone. I mean it pealed right off. When I'm home I can't hardly lose a pound no matter what I do.

    When I arrived back at home the weight came right back..!!! My only conclusion is our food has been GM/Rigged, it's bad, like the Wheat, they increased the Gluten to 5 times what it should be.

    To me, our food has been Weaponized against U.S.

  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 6:43 PM, Paininyourbut wrote:

    Something stinks here. The cross pollination story doesn't hold water. Alfalfa is a perennial plant whose genetic code will not change after it is established. You can't have a bee come in with GMO pollen and make that plant glyphosate resistant. It could make a cross and cause the seed to be tainted. But, alfalfa is harvested long before it goes to seed or the resulting hay is of such poor quality no one will buy it. If the plant did go to seed, the resulting seed that tried to germinate would die as alfalfa is an autotoxic plant. If there is genetically modified alfalfa in that field, it was planted there. Why are all these "accidents" showing up in the northwest where you have the radical environmentalists? It sure would be an easy way to cause market panic and hurt Monsanto at the same time. The biology of this particular contamination just doesn't add up.

  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 7:54 PM, iosax wrote:

    we really should declare war on Monsanto, it's a much bigger threat than Syria or Iran. Where is Obama when you need him?!

  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 7:54 PM, iosax wrote:

    we really should declare war on Monsanto, it's a much bigger threat than Syria or Iran. Where is Obama when you need him?!

  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 7:58 PM, BobFairVu wrote:

    Where are the facts behind the assertions in this article?? Wow.

  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 9:02 PM, dockofthebay wrote:

    What is regulatory capture?

    "Regulatory capture occurs when a regulatory agency, created to act in the public interest, instead advances the commercial or special concerns of interest groups that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating. Regulatory capture is a form of government failure, as it can act as an encouragement for firms to produce negative externalities. The agencies are called 'captured agencies.' "

    Monsanto appointees occupy high positions in both the USDA and the FDA, thanks to President Obama, who originally called for GMO labeling when running for President in 2007. The conventional farmer is all but dead now as Monsanto and other corporate titans have taken over control of major crops, in part by capturing control of key government agencies - regulatory capture Labeling won't much matter if GMO foods are 90% of what is available. We won't have a choice.

  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 11:15 PM, drixnot wrote:

    Just a little background on how roundup works.... it interferes with a plant's enzyme production... making the plant unable to produce proteins needed for growth. Mammals (Humans) don't have this enzyme so you would think it wouldn't matter... you would be wrong.

    While roundup doesn't hurt us directly, it is damaging our gut flora ... the bacteria that live in our bodies and help us digest our food. Without the right kinds of bacteria in our guts we will literally die ... in fact about 15 thousand people die just from one type of digestive problem (c.diff bacteria overgrowth brought on when the good bacteria dies off)

    But what about all the other diseases that have become much more common. Obesity, diabetes, autism, allergies, asthma ... there is a growing body of evidence that these are ALL strongly linked to gut disorders.

    What's even worse is the government has given Monsanto legal protection so that when the day comes that it can be absolutely proven that roundup is killing people... no one will be able to sue. You can thank Roy Blunt for that little gem.

  • Report this Comment On September 22, 2013, at 11:33 PM, Money2themax wrote:

    This isn't happening by accident and it affects-- dramatically-- the global food supply and global health. And, note, it is not a big headline-- and that too is no accident.

    Thanks to a Government that looks the other way and a media that is easily swayed by the advertising dollar, Americans and all those whom we are still able to sell wheat to (along with the nations to whom we provide humanitarian aid), will likely be consuming, in a broad base of foods, grains whose full effects on the human body may not be known for generations. And, rather than knowing for certain that there are no adverse effects, we now have to hope that that is the case.

    In my view, there is no proper punishment that could ever go far enough for what has been done-- even if the GM wheat and alfalfa happen to be harmless. It is a crime against humanity to run even a minimal risk with much of the world's population when no risk was even necessary.

  • Report this Comment On September 23, 2013, at 12:55 AM, vv234 wrote:

    For those on this thread who are either Monsanto

    employees or investors, can you explain why you

    strong oppose GM labeling of foods, if you are so confident that GM foods are safe? We've already have food labels for sugar, fat and etc. Adding a few

    more letters should not cost more.

  • Report this Comment On September 23, 2013, at 1:52 AM, TalkingAnimal wrote:


    Fight to ban all U.S Agricultural imports from U.S. to your countries until citizens have shut down Monsanto, DuPont, Genetech, Bayer and rest of the GMO Industry and destroyed all their crops. Help us keep this mess contained within our borders until we have dealt with the problem.

  • Report this Comment On September 23, 2013, at 2:47 AM, Riggerwo wrote:

    Time for the government to step in and put an end to the Monsanto master plan...GMO has been a is dangerous...and it needs to be stopped before it does more damage to us and the environment. I agree 110% with TalkingAnimal....other governments need to ban all GMO crops from the USA...only then when it hurts them in the pocket book will they stop.

  • Report this Comment On September 23, 2013, at 3:49 AM, ss06470 wrote:

    The research on GMOs and tumors. I know Rolling Stone had an article on this but I am confident they never did a followup

    Scientists Smell A Rat In Fraudulent Study

    Academics Review | Sep 24, 2012 | 0 comments

    Editors note:

    “With this post we depart from our usual practice of restricting the scope of this site to peer review of unreviewed science claims and critical analysis of poorly peer-reviewed scientific papers to publish this editorial. The Editors of (Tribe & Chassy) have taken this step in response to the gross violation not only of scientific standards (i.e., proper experimental design and analysis) but of scientific ethics, animal welfare standards, and journalistic ethics of which Seralini, his co-authors, the journal editors, and publisher are objectively guilty. The code of scientific ethics clearly states that scientists who do not report misconduct are guilty of misconduct. A peer reviewed analysis of the paper itself will be forthcoming.”

    Scientists smell a rat in fraudulent study

    by Henry I. Miller and Bruce Chassy (as published by Forbes Magazine)

    Last week French microbiologist Gilles-Eric Séralini and his colleagues released the results of a long-term study in which rats were fed genetically engineered (AKA genetically modified, “GM”) corn that contains enhanced resistance to insects and/or the herbicide glyphosate. They took the unprecedented step of pre-releasing the paper to selected media outlets under an embargo on the condition that they sign a non-disclosure agreement. (That prevented the journalists from seeking expert opinions on the article.) At a carefully orchestrated media event they then announced that their long-term studies found that the rats in experimental groups developed tumors at an alarming rate. Within hours news of their “discovery” echoed around the world. As we say today, the story went “viral.”

    But there is both more and less to this story than meets the eye.

    Who is Professor Séralini and how did he make this shocking discovery which conflicts with decades of research and extensive worldwide use of genetically engineered crops? Whom should non-experts believe? Is there now evidence that suggests that genetically engineered crops are dangerous?

    To answer those questions we need to roll the clock back a few months. In a article earlier this year, we speculated that Séralini was a scientist less guilty of actually fudging data to get the desired answer than of performing poorly designed experiments and grossly misrepresenting the results. Séralini has made a specialty of methodologically flawed, irrelevant, uninterpretable — but over-interpreted — experiments intended to demonstrate harm from genetically engineered plants and the herbicide glyphosate in various highly contrived scenarios.

    The experiment we wrote about purported to show toxicity in vitro to a line of cultured embryonic kidney cells exposed to two proteins commonly incorporated into many varieties of corn, soybean and cotton to enhance insect-resistance. As we discussed, because the experiment was so poorly conceived, any result would have been meaningless.

    We were mistaken about Séralini. The experiments reported last week show that he has crossed the line by committing gross scientific misconduct and attempted fraud.

    Séralini claimed that his experiments found harmful effects, including a high incidence of tumors, in laboratory rats fed genetically modified corn and/or water spiked with the commonly used herbicide, glyphosate. The treatments lasted for two years.

    There is so much wrong with the experimental design that the conclusion is inescapable that the investigators intended to get a spurious, preordained result. Here are a few of the criticisms that have been raised by the scientific community:

    – the investigators used a strain of rats that were bred to develop tumors as they aged (a detail they failed to disclose). Significantly, mortality rates and tumor incidence in all experimental groups fall within historical norms for this strain of laboratory rats. Therefore, the claim that the genetically engineered corn component of the diet or herbicide caused the tumors is insupportable.

    – Séralini et al. argue that the exceedingly long time-frame of their study was necessary to reveal the experimental effects, but animal researchers long ago established that such lengthy studies add no additional meaningful or valid information beyond that which can be collected in shorter times.

    – there is no documentation of the rats’ food intake, which strongly affects the incidence of tumors in this strain;

    – the experiment included 180 rats (9 groups of 20) fed the genetically engineered or herbicide-containing diets (the “treated rats”), while only 20 rats were fed a standard (control) diet. Both common sense and a rudimentary understanding of statistics tell you that even if there were no actual differences between the groups, the greater numbers of animals in the pooled treated groups increases the odds that one of the treated rats would die first (one of the parameters reported in the paper);

    – the statistical methods employed were unconventional and appeared to be selected specifically in order to give a certain result. Tom Sanders, head of the nutritional sciences research division at King’s College London, called the treatment of data “a statistical fishing trip”;

    – absence of statistical analysis for mortality or tumor incidence. Statistical analysis is basic, and given that the claims of the study allege tumor and mortality effects, omission of statistical analysis is telling;

    – the investigators have refused to release all the data from the experiment, which is scientific misconduct;

    – insufficient information about the source and quality of corn varieties used in the rats’ diet (contamination with molds could be a critical factor);

    – absence of data concerning liver or kidney histopathology and liver function tests;

    – insufficient explanation of the absence of a dose-response relationship between the experimental variables and supposed effects;

    – inappropriate, unnecessary suffering of the rats, which should have been euthanized long before the tumors became so huge – an especially egregious ethics violation given that the study is, in any case, worthless.

    – the reported results conflict with innumerable experiments conducted by innumerable labs around the world on both genetically engineered corn and glyphosate, and also with vast real-world experience.

    Finally, the authors wrongly claim that they have no conflicts of interest. Séralini is president of the scientific board of a self-described anti-genetic engineering NGO which apparently is hosted by his laboratory; he has a long and sordid history of anti-genetic engineering and anti-agricultural chemicals activism; and his research is funded by two large, “GM-free” French supermarket chains, purveyors of organic and homeopathic products, and perhaps other undisclosed parties who stand to profit from the smear campaign against genetically engineered foods.

    It also deserves mention that the publication of this article represents an abject failure of peer-review and editorial competence at Food and Chemical Toxicology, the journal in which it appeared. The honorable course of action for the journal would be to retract the paper immediately – a point on which the editors have thus far been silent.

    An obvious question is why Séralini would publish such obviously shoddy studies. The answer may be that negative headline stories laden with color pictures of rats with grotesque tumors are not easily forgotten even if the studies are fraudulent. Also, it may be hard for the non-expert to ignore the reported differences between control and experimental groups, and many non-experts will probably believe that where there is smoke, there is fire even if there are flaws in the experiment. But scientists understand that if the design, execution, or analysis of a study is fundamentally flawed, any conclusions are disqualified.

    There is no question that the publication of Seralini’s latest attack on genetically engineered foods was a well-planned and cleverly orchestrated media event. The study was designed to produce exactly the false result that was observed and was deliberately allowed to continue until large, grotesque tumors developed. The conduct of the study, including the treatment of the animals, raises serious ethical concerns and questions of scientific misconduct.

    In the past Seralini and other anti-genetic engineering activists have played the media like a fiddle, but this time even journalists usually willing to trade accuracy and integrity for an “if it bleeds, it leads” story, were skeptical of Seralini’s claims. Maybe we have reached a turning point where the media will finally realize that they have been played for years by expert professional con-men.

    Not only was there never any plausible scientific reason to believe that genetically engineered crops posed risks any different from other crops, but hundreds of risk-assessment experiments and vast cultivation and consumption of them provides a high level of confidence about their safety and usefulness.

    Henry I. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, is the Robert Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy and Public Policy at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He was the founding director of the Office of Biotechnology at the FDA. Bruce M. Chassy, a biochemist and molecular biologist, is former head of the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is now Professor Emeritus of Food Science.

  • Report this Comment On September 23, 2013, at 6:16 PM, MotleyGman wrote:

    So why would a company need to lobby in order to protect itself from civil actions and litigation? Why would a company be allowed to achive patent stature on biological products? Why create a Protection Act? Why would a company lobby to prevent labeling of products in order to prevent the public from being aware that the foods that they purchase or are consuming contain these substances? Why would the media not report on public protests and actions taken by citizens against a certain company? If there is nothing to hide, then why spend so much money and time trying to hide everything? Wouldn't it make more sense to not hide at all, but to actually announce to the entire world publicly that these products are in fact present in our foods, and that there are so many wonderful, beneficial, and advantageous reasons for this that a company should in fact be proud? I mean usually when an incredible breakthrough is made, this news is advertised to all and everyone over all media sources; why is this different? I wonder?

  • Report this Comment On September 25, 2013, at 6:03 PM, helix123 wrote:

    GMOs causing autism? It'a typical of the anti-science mentality that characterizes much of the GMO paranoia. Anti-GMO and climate changer deniers are cut from the same cloth.

  • Report this Comment On September 26, 2013, at 11:24 AM, vlallen wrote:

    If the Trans Pacific Partnership is agreed upon there will be no labeling within the 12 countries involved. The pact is open for other countries to join. Corporations will be able to sue for loss of anticipated profits. We will receive food from other countries without knowledge of under what standards for safety exist. The participating countries will not know what the foods contain.

  • Report this Comment On September 26, 2013, at 11:40 AM, vlallen wrote:

    It's interesting to listen to so called scientist bad mouth other scientists. The proper way would be to ask another question to go beyound what the last study found. The agratech companies are good at bad mouthing but they never put there money where their mouth is.

    Monsanto et al claim there research is definative and refuses to do any studies to prove the anti gmo studies wrong. They are strong arms and science is what they say it is. Their science is wrong because they are black and white. Good science is grey and one answer leads to the next.

    Monsanto, at least, is very involved in all levels of early education so they can teach science according to monsanto. They also buy chairs or give sizeable "grants" thus they approve graduate school studies. Nothing they do does not involve giving money so people are mesmerized. It can only end badly.

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