Caption: Tumours developed more readily in rats fed genetically modified maize than in controls, recent research reports. Image from the film All of us guinea-pigs now? J.-P. Jaud/J+B Séquences
From Rat study sparks GM furore [Nature] which highlights some of the immediate debate surrounding that GM paper.
Last week a scientific paper appeared that reported that eating genetically modified (GM) corn causes cancer in rats. Specifically, the scientists fed Roundup Ready® corn, or maize, to rats for two years, and reported that both females and males developed cancer and died at higher rates than controls.
This is very surprising. If GM corn causes cancer, why aren’t Americans “dropping like flies,“ as one scientist asked? We’ve been eating Monsanto’s Roundup Ready® corn for over a decade, even if most of us aren’t aware of it. But our rates of cancer haven’t increased more than Europeans, who eat far less GM corn. Maybe the effect is limited to rats - in which case we should also have seen dramatic increases in cancer in lab rats. But we haven’t seen that either.
So what’s wrong? The best way to find out is to read the paper, which I did. It turns out to be a very badly designed study, and the report itself omits many crucial details that may (and probably do) completely invalidate the findings. The scientists leading the study have a strongly biases agenda and a conflict of interest, which they failed to reveal. I’ll explain below, but meanwhile this study has already been taken up by politicians as proof (proof!) that GMO crops are harmful. As Forbes blogger Tim Worstall explained, this paper is more politics than science.
A lot of interesting questions are coming out of this study, many that are repeatedly and hotly debated. We’re all acutely aware of the role of bias in science in many of the darkest chapters of the 20th century but what about when that bias runs the other way? What happens when modern Leftist politics substitute for science?