CLAIM: A scientific study has proven that genetically modified corn is not safe to eat because it caused cancer in rats.
AP ASSESSMENT: False. The 2012 study cited by some social media users was retracted by the academic journal that originally published it, after the publication determined that the research was inconclusive and unreliable. Food safety agencies in the United States and the European Union have found that genetically modified foods are just as safe as their unmodified counterparts, and experts have told The Associated Press that there is no credible evidence that genetically modified corn is dangerous.
THE FACTS: In recent days, social media users have falsely claimed that genetically modified corn is unsafe because it has been found to cause cancerous tumors and other health complications in rats.
Most messages point to a ten-year-old study by Gilles-Eric Séralinia molecular biologist at the University of Caen in Normandy, France, who sparked fierce debate within the scientific community when first published in 2012, only to be retracted and republished elsewhere.
“Remember, GM corn was found to be unsafe for human consumption in a 2012 chronic toxicity study,” one Instagram user wrote earlier this week. “How easily the world forgot, or never even knew, the Séralini study on genetically modified maize that was conducted with the highest accepted scientific standards, proving long-term harm to animals that ate GM maize.”
The lengthy post, which has been liked hundreds of times, goes on to say that the test subjects, some of whom also received pesticides in their drinking water, died of “horrific tumors in their cleansing organs” within months.
But the Séralini study was retracted by the academic journal Food and Chemical Toxicology the following year amid criticism from other scientists.
The peer-reviewed journal, in its 2013 retractionsaid there was “justifiable cause for concern” due to the relatively small number of animals used in the study as well as the particular strain of rats tested.
The journal determined that “no firm conclusions” could be drawn given the study’s small sample size of 200 rats divided into groups of ten, some of which were fed genetically modified corn.
He also agreed with other scientists that the Sprague-Dawley rats used in the experiment were already susceptible to developing health problems at 18 months of age, including tumours.
The following year, however, another scholarly journal republished the study.
At the time, Environmental Sciences Europe said it decided to republish the article to ensure the scientific community had access to the study data, although it acknowledged this. did not conduct its own scientific peer reviewas Food and Chemical Toxicology had concluded that there was no fraud or misrepresentation in the data itself.
Yet the republished work – and the publication of Séralini’s later articles on the matter — have not influenced national and international regulators.
In the United States, the maize varieties covered in Séralini’s study have all passed successfully Food and Drug Administration Notice without raising food safety concerns, Kimberly DiFonzo, a spokeswoman for the agency, said in an email Friday.
“We believe that GM foods currently on the market are as safe as their non-GM counterparts,” she wrote.
The European Food Safety Administration, which provides recommendations to the European Union, has come to a similar conclusion that genetically modified corn is “safe for humans, animals and the environment”, said the agency spokesman Edward Bray.
Séralini’s study was “poorly designed, analyzed and reported” and of “insufficient scientific quality for safety assessments,” he told The Associated Press in an email on Friday.
Later studies by other scientists were also unable to replicate Séraliniaccording to Richard Goodman, a food allergy researcher at the University of Nebraska, who was editor of Food and Chemical Toxicology when SéraliniThe article was retracted by the newspaper.
In reality, a 2019 study published in the Archives of Toxicology using a different strain of rat found “no adverse effects” of feeding animals genetically modified corn, Goodman noted.
“To date, there is no credible evidence to suggest that human or animal consumption of genetically modified corns currently in commerce is unsafe,” said Margaret Smith, associate dean and corn breeding expert at Cornell University in New York. York, in an email to the AP. .
Séralini did not respond to emails seeking comment this week, but the French scientist has firmly maintained his work is valid.
This is part of AP’s efforts to combat widely shared misinformation, including working with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.