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$25 million for “Factor GMO” study—Are the results pre-determined?

What anti-GMO activists are billing as the most expensive and comprehensive longterm study of the impact of GMO crops and pesticides is set to be announced next week in London, according to a press release by the mystery group organizing it that calls itself “Factor GMO.”

The news of the pending announcement was completely ignored by the mainstream press but ballyhooed endlessly by a loosely linked consortium of GMO opponents, including GMWatch and SustainablePulse, which is run by Henry Rowlands, a well-known anti-GMO activist, web developer and publicist. Both are dedicated anti-GMO sites.

Questions are already emerging about how the study came to be, what scientists might be involved and who is funding this mystery research. In an email exchange with the Genetic Literacy Project, Ivan Lambert, International Coordinator for Factor GMO, claimed that the scientists involved in the study would come from a “neutral” background and not from the biotech industry or the anti-GMO movement.

“This of course means that all results will be published, if they show the GM crop or associated pesticide to be ‘safe’ or ‘harmful’,” he wrote.

No other details were released about the “independent” researchers who will oversee the project, other than the statement that “the scientists on the study review board are internationally respected experts in their fields from the U.S., Italy, and Russia.”

Lambert’s claim is a non sequitur. The fact that the results are expected to be published does not support the claim that the researchers are indeed “neutral”. Gilles-Eric Seralini published his results but they were cherry-picked to fit a pre-determined conclusion. For the scientists to be neutral, they would have to be the best in the field, regardless of their background or affiliation, and there could be no clear ties to activist anti or pro GMO groups. There would also have to be a pre announced commitment to release all the raw data–something Seralini pledged to do but then reneged on. Despite the claim that the study will be free of politics, initial signs to not look promising:

Karl Haro von Mogel, founder of Biology Fortified, offered his analysis of what might be in store.

The website of the “Factor GMO” project contains only an image* advertising its future launch on the 11th, and a contact email. The domain is registered to  Elena A Sharoykina, who runs the National Association for Genetic Safety (NAGS) in Russia, an NGO that campaigns against GMOs.

The NAGS has a questionable history when it comes to scientific claims about genetically engineered crops. They organized the conference where Russian scientist Irina Ermakova publicized her heavily-criticized claims that rats fed genetically engineered soy were infertile. The NAGS is also the source for a second “study” (translated) claiming that hamsters had altered sex ratios and infertility. The second one was publicized by Jeffrey Smith, who said that they also found hair growing in the mouths of these hamsters. Neither study has ever been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, and the history of producing far-reaching claims based on these science-by-press-release studies does not inspire confidence.

Lambert confirmed that NAGS, a virulently anti-GMO group, has been involved in the conception and organization of the study, but claims “the NGO – NAGS is in no way involved in the experimental part.” The GLP has pressed Lambert and Factor GMO about the details on the relationship and how the study came to be and was funded but has not received a reply.

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As Biofortified notes, the press release by Sustainable plus claims that will be the first ever independent international study. That’s not true, and according to Lambert, who reached out to Karl Haro von Mogel and the GLP, they never made that assertion. There have been hundreds of independent international studies conducted on GE crops over the years, some of which are in the GENERA database. Independent research is more common than is often claimed, and anyone can see this for themselves from a joint GLP-Biofortified infographic.

The scientific literature on the safety of GMOs for consumption
(jpg | PDF with links)

GENERA Safety

 

The GLP will continue to monitor this story and report back if Factor GMO clarifies its claims of independence, explains how scientists were identified and selected and fully details its funding sources and commitment to releasing the full raw data from its research.

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