GM Free Cymru

Independent GM researcher wins court victory for defamation

Press Notice 19 January 2011

On Tuesday January 18, the court of Paris concluded the lawsuit between Prof Gilles-Eric Séralini, researcher in molecular biology at the University of Caen and President of the Scientific Council of CRIIGEN, and the French Association of Plant Biotechnologies [Association française des biotechnologies végétale] (AFBV), chaired by Marc Fellous. Séralini sued for libel following a smear campaign, which appears to have come from AFBV. This was part of a furious response from the GM industry to a number of papers by Seralini and colleagues which demonstrated serious statistical and other shortcomings in the Monsanto research dossiers submitted in support of applications for the approval of three GM varieties. The papers had not argued that the Monsanto GM maize lines were actually dangerous, but had simply argued that there were no grounds for assuming them to be completely harmless. They asked for further research and longer animal feeding studies than those that had been conducted.

Seralini believed the researchers Claude Allegre, Axel Kahn, and Marc Fellous were behind the defamation and intimidation campaign in France and that is why he pursued Fellous in the courts. He argued that the campaign had damaged his reputation, reducing his opportunities for work and his chances of getting funding for his research.

During the trial, it was revealed that Fellous, who presented himself as a ’neutral’ scientist without personal interests, and who accused those who criticise GMOs as ’ideological’ and ’militant’, owned patents through a company based in Israel. This company sells patents to many corporations such as Aventis. Seralini’s lawyer showed that various other AFBV members also have links with agribusiness companies -- so their scientific impartiality and integrity came under careful scrutiny.

The court found in Seralini's favour. The judge sentenced the AFBV to a fine on probation of 1,000 EUR, 1 EUR for compensation (as requested by the plaintiff) and 4,000 EUR of court fees.

Corinne Lepage, president of CRIIGEN, was delighted by this victory, the more so as she stressed that she was not optimistic when leaving the first court session which had been held on November 23, 2010. ”One cannot any longer say what ever one wants about whistleblower,” she said. And she added: ”It is the first time that a whistleblower is not on the defensive but on the offensive”.

Commenting on the court victory, Pete Riley of GM Freeze said: “We warmly welcome this judgement and are delighted for Professor Séralini. Let’s hope that we now see an end to the type of smear campaign we saw in this case and others over the last decade or so. Freedom of independent scientists to challenge the finding of scientific findings funded by an industry trying to sell seeds or chemicals is a vital element. The history of technological disasters tells us that industry and regulators are the last people to recognise and admit there is a problem. We fully support Séralini’s right to pursue his research on GM crops and wish him more power.”

Commenting for GM-Free Cymru, Dr Brian John said: "This is a very gratifying outcome to a case which would never have been necessary had the GM industry followed long-standing traditions of respect for fellow scientists and honest debates with academics whose views -- and research findings -- do not coincide with theirs. But for years now the industry and its apologists have indulged in the vilification and intimidation of those who have the temerity to question the safety of GM products which they want to place in the food supply with as little hassle as possible. Some quite senior academics working for the GM industry have behaved more like thugs than scientists. Their philosophy has always been to "shoot the messenger." Their list of victims is a long one -- Arpad Pusztai, Ignacio Chapela and David Quist, Irina Ermakova, Judy Carman, Manuela Malatesta, Andres Carrasco, and many others. Their attacks have been personal, despicable and defamatory. We congratulate Prof Seralini for having the courage to stand his ground and fight back -- and we hope that this court victory will encourage the GM multinationals and the regulators to give independent scientists the respect that they deserve -- even if their findings demonstrate that GM crops are less safe than they are made out to be."

ENDS Contact: Brian John on 01239820470 for GM Free Cymru

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The scientific publication “A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health”, where Professor Séralini is the corresponding author, is a counter analysis of data produced by Monsanto. The availability of the data used by Professor Seralini’s team is partly the result of a court order, where the confidentiality of a part of the data was deemed illegal by a German court. The released Monsanto data was a study on rats fed for 3 months with the three maize lines under regulatory consideration. As emphasized by Professor Séralini and co-workers in their articles, in their analysis they do not make claims of evidence of chronic toxicity of the GMOs under study, because the experimental design of the feeding trial by Monsanto contain too numerous deficiencies to allow to draw robust conclusions. What Professor Seralini and colleagues describe, however, is that warning signs are present in the data, which may lead to the development of a chronic condition and therefore strongly merit further inquiry. In other words, they refute the ability of the data provided by Monsanto to formally and scientifically demonstrate the safety of the three GM maize events under investigation, given the poor study design and lack of statistical robustness of the chosen methodology.

Incomprehensibly, the French Association of Plant Biotechnology (AFBV), chaired by Marc Fellous, Professor of Genetics and former president of the Biomolecular Engineering Commission (a governmental commission to assess agricultural GMOs, where Professor Séralini was a member from 1998 to 2007), supported by well-known professors like Claude Allegre and Axel Kahn, stated in a press release dated from December 14, 2009, that "The work of Professor Séralini has been invalidated by the scientific community." These allegations are totally false and have no basis. Not only has all of the work conducted by Professor Séralini and colleagues been published in international journals after rigorous peer review by anonymous referees, but also none of their work has been subject to any science- based or formal means of invalidation.

Following the participation of Professor Séralini in the TV show Health Magazine on January 21, 2010, on the French TV channel France 5 (where he was invited to talk about his latest study), the same AFBV sent two letters (dated 26 and 28 January) to managers of the channel and the show, including the High Audiovisual Council, resorting to name-calling by describing Professor Séralini as a "merchant of fear" and a scientist not recognized. It would seem that members of the AFBV, declaring themselves all in favor of GMO, are acting more as a political group rather than as scientists.

Moreover, in January 2009 and 2010, the expertise of Professor Séralini was solicited for the Supreme Court of India where the Indian Government had requested the reviewing of the raw data of the Mahyco company’s safety studies conducted to gain approval for commercialization of a new GM eggplant (Bt brinjal), producing an insecticidal toxin. Based on this review, which included a range of other experts, a moratorium was established.

Since then, Professor Séralini has been repeatedly the subject of defamatory attacks extending far beyond any scientific discourse and without any scientifically supported justification or merit. Such attacks fundamentally undermine the principles of due scientific discourse and fairness of an open society.