By Dr. Dan
It’s time for a blunt discussion on Seralini’s laboratory studies on placental and breast cancer cells.
If you put a detergent of any sort on cells in a petri dish, the cells get sick (and will die if you get the concentration high enough or recover if you remove the detergent soon enough).
Therefore, Seralini’s choice of cells was not biological but, I believe, political. Reproductive tissue cells were chosen, I submit, so that the author could scream, “endocrine disruptor.” Any other cell line would have given essentially the same result–but would not have been as politically useful in terms of gaining media coverage and elevating public concern.
Similarly, he chose to measure cellular function by sex hormone production. He could have measured almost any cellular function–but again, this choice was useful from a political rather than scientific perspective. He has not demonstrated endocrine disruption–he has demonstrated that detergents injure cells using endpoints chosen for apparent political convenience.
Roundup formulations contain surfactants (detergents) to help the active ingredient penetrate the waxy cuticle of the plant. The same is true of virtually any herbicide formulation. In the case of Roundup formulations, the active ingredient has such a low degree of cellular toxicity that it is actually the detergent that injures cells in culture.
Baby shampoo, liquid bath soaps, shampoos, dishwashing soaps, laundry detergents and a slew of other product we use everyday also have detergents in them. We squirt them in our hair, rub them all over our skin, soak our dishes in them and wash our clothing with them. Over 99 percent of our exposure to these types of materials comes from these direct and indirect human applications–NOT from pesticide use in general and certainly not from Roundup formulations in particular.
And if you test the types of surfactants and detergents used in shampoos and soaps guess what–they injure cells too.
But what about plant-based detergents? You can go buy plant based detergents if you want. But, so what? You can make a detergent by chemically processing any kind of fat from plants or animals. But fatty acids are fatty acids–whether from animals of plants, and polyethoxylated fatty acid detergents (POEAs) have the same structure and the same toxicity no matter what the source of the fat. (If you are vegetarian and wish to get your polyethoxylated fats from non-animal sources, I can respect your personal decision as to source–but don’t kid yourself about the chemisty or the toxicity).
These kinds of detergents are common in our everyday environment, mostly, as noted above, NOT from pesticides- and with no apparent harm. Why? Last time I checked, we did not consist of naked, unprotected cells living in protein-free media at the bottom of a petri dish. Whole organisms have a wide variety of defense mechanisms or barriers in place–like skin or metabolic processes.
In my mind, Seralini’s data are worthless and irrelevant for safety assessment at best. At best, the data are misleading to those who have not sorted through the politics and emotion to get to the science, or do not have the scientific background to do so.
What I find most disturbing about the cell lines chosen and the endpoints measured–and the way in which the results are positioned–is that they were clearly undertaken by the investigator for maximum political ruckus, not optimum scientific understanding.
Maybe the public should expect more from investigators like this one. But that is not for me to determine.
Dan is the Director of Medical Sciences and Outreach at Monsanto. He is a pediatrician, medical toxicologist, and clinical pharmacologist by training, and for the past 10 years his role at Monsanto has been devoted on human safety and health, with a focus on communications with the general public and with physicians, nutritionists, and other scientists both in the US and around the world. Dan received his undergraduate degree in Molecular Biology from the University of Wisconsin in 1976 and my MD degree from Johns Hopkins in 1981, followed by a residency in Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins and a fellowship in Clinical Pharmacology and Medical Toxicology at the University of Toronto. He is board certified by the American Boards of Pediatrics, Medical Toxicology, and Clinical Pharmacology, and by the Royal College of Physicians of Canada (Pediatrics).
Prior to Monsanto, Dan spent 10 years in private practice in Denver, Colorado, providing consultation in the area of Clinical, Occupational, Environmental and Forensic Toxicology. He joined Monsanto’s Medical Department in 1998, was appointed a Senior Science Fellow in 2002, and currently serves as Director of Medical Sciences and Outreach within Regulatory Affairs. Dr. Dan has been extensively involved in plant biotechnology, pesticide, and children’s environmental health issues, and served on the U.S. EPA’s Child Health Protection Advisory Committee, as a member of the EPA Science Advisory Board regarding the cancer risk assessment from early-life exposure to carcinogens, as an advisor to the NAFTA Commission for Environmental Cooperation regarding the development of international child health indicators, and as well as Board member for the American College of Medical Toxicology.
Dan is married, with four children, and lives in suburban St. Louis, Missouri. In addition to personal interests in carpentry and other do-it-yourself activities, digital photography, and collecting apothecary glass, he is currently writing a compendium of apothecary and pharmaceutical terminology spanning the time frame from colonial America through to the era of modern therapeutics circa 1930.