Rat Study of GMO’s “Severely Tainted” By Release Strategy Designed to Avoid Scrutiny

Here’s a link to a link to a NY Times opinion piece on how the French group that authored the rat study on genetically engineered corn generated press coverage that didn’t have the benefit of analysis or cross-checking.  The article quotes extensively from the Embargo Watch blog which first reported on a disconcerting aspect of how the study was promoted:

Breaking with a long tradition in scientific journalism, the authors allowed a selected group of reporters to have access to the paper, provided they signed confidentiality agreements that prevented them from consulting other experts about the research before publication.

Normally, a press embargo on scientific research allows journalists to seek outside comment during the embargo period to provide appropriate analysis and comment on the merits (or lack thereof) of the research.  Thus, the French research group created a situation where journalists felt compelled to provide an essentially verbatim report on the alleged findings of the study after the embargo lifted.  Evolutionary biologist Michael Eisen labels this a suspect study “done by people out to prove something rather than investigate something.”

“This affects every aspect of the work, from study design, to execution, interpretation and publicity…. The result of all of this severely tainted work (and there’s plenty from the pro-GMO side too) is that the really good science in the field gets drowned out, and isn’t taken seriously because people just assume that it, too, must be biased. Total mess.”

The elephant in the living room is California’s Proposition 37, on which I’ve written about extensively in prior posts.  It seems self-evident that the release strategy by the French research group was designed to help influence popular opinion on this issue where the fear-mongering tactics of some anti-GMO groups has been attacked by opponents of GMO labeling as lacking any scientific support.

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