Gilles-Éric Séralini is an anti-biotechnology activist and researcher. As a trained molecular geneticist, he is one of the few organic industry shills with scientific expertise. Consequently, his worked is used to justify much of the political advocacy carried out by trade groups like the Organic Consumers Association (OCA).
Séralini’s “Affair” With Industry: The 2012 Glyphosate-Cancer Study
Séralini has been involved in anti-science causes for much of his career, but he’s best known for a study he originally published in 2012, which purported to show that Sprague Dawley rats fed the popular herbicide glyphosate and glyphosate-tolerant corn developed cancerous tumors.
The study was part of a larger organic industry effort to promote the passage of Prop 37 in California, a GMO labeling initiative that would have required all conventional food to carry a GMO warning label. Strangely, journalists given advanced access to the paper before it was published were prohibited from seeking independent expert commentary on the study. They were forced to report on the research without giving scientists an opportunity to criticize Séralini’s findings.
The study was widely criticized by the scientific community, however, and eventually retracted by the journal that published it, after Séralini refused to withdraw the paper. The study’s methodology was so flawed, in fact, that even academics sympathetic to Séralini’s views attacked his experiments, Marion Nestle being the most prominent.
Despite these striking problems in Séralini’s paper, the geneticist republished an updated version of the text in a predatory journal and continues to defend the study to this day. Likewise, activist groups like U.S. Right To Know (USRTK) cite Séralini’s research. They don’t rebut the scientific criticisms of the paper, but they do suggest that the retraction was a conspiracy hatched by Monsanto.
Séralini’s Research: The Lynchpin for Organic Conspiracy Theories
This is also the talking point promoted by the Organic Consumers Association, which has given millions of dollars to USRTK since its establishment in 2014. Both groups ignore that labs independent of Monsanto have been unable to link transgenic corn, potatoes or soybeans to cancer in animals. But the organic industry’s baseless assertions here are part of a larger story that, according to OCA’s website, reveals “influence of chemical companies on academics.”
OCA has pushed this narrative for years, claiming that the expert consensus on glyphosate safety has been manufactured by agrochemical companies that pay researchers to hide the dangers associated with glyphosate use. They call it “Monsanto’s efforts to bury the truth about Roundup’s true toxicity,” according to OCA Associate Director Katherine Paul. The lynchpin holding this conspiracy together? Séralini’s organic industry-financed research.
Séralini’s Financial Connections to Anti-Science Corporations
Séralini has financial relationships with dozens of anti-biotech groups that benefit by denying the science of transgenic crops. Two major French organic food firms have funneled millions of dollars to Séralini through a variety of non-profit groups and foundations. Greenpeace, infamous for their hard-headed stance against genetic modification, have also directly financed Séralini’s research, a 2007 study also alleging that transgenic food harms rats.
Séralini maintains a working relationship with organic industry PR spin doctor Henry Rowlands, who was paid to coordinate the promotion of the 2012 study linking glyphosate to tumors in rats. Rowlands continues to promote Séralini’s work online through his marketing firm Sustainable Pulse.
If that isn’t enough to sink his credibility, Séralini also serves as a consultant to a French firm that sells homeopathic remedies, giving lectures and leading training seminars to help the company promotes its sham products. Homeopathy, for the record, has been shown fraudulent by dozens of quality studies.