Cornell alliance for science evaluation of consensus on genetically modified food safety: Weaknesses in study design

Michael N. Antoniou, Claire J. Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Cornell Alliance for Science has launched an initiative in which "citizen scientists" are called upon to evaluate studies on health risks of genetically modified (GM) crops and foods. The purpose is to establish whether the consensus on GM food safety claimed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is supported by a review of the scientific literature. The Alliance's citizen scientists are examining more than 12,000 publication abstracts to quantify how far the scientific literature supports the AAAS's statement. However, we identify a number of fundamental weaknesses in the Alliance's study design, including: evaluation is based only on information provided in the publication abstract; there is a lack of clarity as to what material is included in the 12,000 study abstracts to be reviewed, since the number of appropriately designed investigations addressing GM food safety are few; there is uncertainty as to whether studies of toxic effects arising from GM crop-associated pesticides will be included; there is a lack of clarity regarding whether divergent yet equally valid interpretations of the same study will be taken into account; and there is no definition of the cutoff point for consensus or non-consensus on GM food safety. In addition, vital industry proprietary biosafety data on GM crops and associated pesticides are not publicly available and thus cannot inform this project. Based on these weaknesses in the study design, we believe it is questionable as to whether any objective or meaningful conclusion can be drawn from the Alliance's initiative.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
Issue numberAPR
Publication statusPublished - 13 Apr 2017


  • Citizen science
  • Cornell Alliance for Science
  • Genetically modified food health risks
  • Genetically modified foods
  • Glyphosate
  • Scientific consensus


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