Séralini did it again!

I was browsing through the internet to find matter for a post I’m currently writing on my French blog when I found that Séralini published another paper in which he claims that pesticides as sold to farmers or gardeners are “2 to 1,000 times more toxic than the active principles, which are the only ones tested” (FR). The journal in which it was published is “Biomed Research International”, from Hindawi Publishing Corporation. Out of curiosity, I went to Jeffrey Beall’s “List of Predatory Publishers 2014” to check whether Hindawi was among them. It appears not, but here’s what Beall has to say about them:

I generally analyze at the publisher level rather than the individual journal level. Hindawi is not on my list of questionable publishers. I do receive complaints about Hindawi, however. They use spam a lot, most of their over 500 journals lack editors in chief, and it seems to be a publisher that focuses just on the authors’ needs and not so much the readers’.

Dodgy? Maybe.

Another commenter writes about their professional work, but immediately adds that their review process is “light”. In all fairness, this comment is about a journal only not the publisher itself, and not Biomed Research International. It doesn’t say anything about Biomed Research International. BRI has a rather low impact factor, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a bad journal. In fact, I don’t believe that a low impact factor means a great deal about the quality of a journal: if the journal covers an extremely specialized field, it will automatically have a low impact factor. That said, I don’t think this applies to a journal entitled “Biomed Research International”.

Anyway, Séralini’s paper can be found here. I haven’t had the time to read the article in full, but I already smell a huge rat: for an extraordinary claim, you need extraordinary evidence. Scanning the paper, I found none. Rather, I found at least two serious flaws: the study is carried out on human cell lines in vitro, i.e. in an environment completely different that the one found in the average human body. Cell lines are a good model to assess cellular toxicity or molecular mechanisms of a toxicity, I do not think for one second that cell toxicity automatically translates at the organism’s level. To properly assess the toxicity of a compound, you need to use whole organisms.

Another flaw is that in no case there is a negative control: what is tested is the effect of the formulation versus the active principle alone. Ok, that’s what the authors want to know, but what about the solvent used? They claim that 0.5% of DMSO has no toxic effect on the cells. That may be true, but why not add a negative control in the form of DMSO diluted in the media to 0.5%, without any “formulation” or active principle, as is common practice? Besides, in all cases, cells were starved (i.e. grown in a media without serum) for 24 hours. This article states that serum starvation “elicited complex and unpredictable time-dependent and cell-type dependent effects”. This certainly warrants a control, does it not?

Well, I guess this paper from Séralini will again be thoroughly shredded. Maybe it is time for the University of Caen to assess the research carried out in Séralini’s lab and to question his links with a militant group, CRIIGEN, which clearly has an influence on the type, and, more importantly, the quality of research carried out there.


I found out on twitter that Ralf Reski, a professor at the University of Freiburg, Germany, had resigned from an editor position at BRI after the publication of Séralini’s paper. I asked him whether he could detail it a bit and here is the twitter exchange. First, Reski’s statement and my question:

Due to my resignation as editor #Hindawi promised to reevaluate the latest #Seralini paper. http://t.co/QbAomFz9PM Good.

— Ralf Reski (@ReskiLab) 6 Février 2014

And here are the details he gave me:

There you have it: a scientist resigns from an editor position to avoid having his name associated with bad science. And why would someone resign from a prestigious position if there weren’t serious problems with a paper?

Besides, it is worth noting that Séralini’s last paper seems to be just a re-hash of this one. The only difference, here, is the publicity credulous media give him. I already linked to a French newspaper above. Here are some links from French public TV and radio broadcasters, a Belgian public TV broadcaster. It would be useful if, instead of looking for sensationalism, journalists would actually try to inform the public —in short: do their job. Seems that it’s not gonna happen any time soon in Europe…


About ravingscientist01

Trained as a molecular geneticist, I did a PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology. I am interested in science, its communication, the impact it can have on policies as well as the impact of various policies related to science may have on the latter.
This entry was posted in Bogus, Quacks, Science, Swindle, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Séralini did it again!

  1. Really. A common theme in these works is the lack of appropriate controls. I remember that from another similar one (there’s actually been a series of these papers). And stressed tissue culture cells? You could drop BSA (just a benign protein) on them and they’d have similar responses. Or organic pesticides and their formulations. Even this “non-chemical” non-herbicide weedkiller: https://twitter.com/BJGoldsmith/status/430382929140019200
    I even worked with one cell line that elicited a stress response when you closed the incubator door. We actually had to control for that. Rotten cells.
    Anyway, you are quite right. It’s a pattern of bad controls and credulous journalism.

    • Actually, during my master’s, I came across a cell line that would enter into apoptosis after 24 hours without serum. Séralini’s effect here could have been just that: an artifact. I’m baffled some people fall for that.

  2. chriskathol says:

    You would think with all the controversy snd criticism of his past studies he would try to be a little more attentive of such things as controls. Just more proof that he is results oriented, his intended results that is, and not science oriented.
    Shame on the media once again but scare sells, skepticism doesn’t… I can guarantee a majority of the stories on this will neglect to mention the resignation or reason for resignation of the editor in chief. Regardless the antis are gonna eat up this new revelation from their lord and saviour like it’s organic tofu with quinoa.

  3. Pingback: Pesticides et vieilles ficelles : Séralini remet le couvert | Contrepoints

  4. Pingback: La dernière étude de Séralini : dépubliée avant même d’être publiée ? | Contrepoints

  5. Pingback: Séralini’s Latest: Will History Repeat Itself? « Biology Fortified, Inc.

  6. Pingback: The Scientific World Journal Will Lose Its Impact Factor — Again | Scholarly Open Access

  7. Apart from there was no control, and the use of serum starvation method, there were very clear differences between the commercial pesticides and the so called active principles.

    It seems that pesticide producing companies do not like this revelation. Business war???

    • Well, the problem is that without controls, his experiments are basically inconclusive: there is no way to know whether the variations observed are due to the experimental protocols or have any biological relevance.

  8. H. Alatas says:

    I wonder, did you submitted a comment to the journal to question the Seralini’s results? I think this is a proper scientific way.

  9. Pingback: La semaine verte et le glyphosate. – agricolincredule

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