This is fun. Am I being libelled here?

A new paper by the French group of Gilles-Eric Seralini describes harmful effects on rats fed diets containing genetically modified maize (variety NK603), with and without the herbicide Roundup, as well as Roundup alone. This peer-reviewed study (Seralini et al., 2012), has been criticized by some scientists whose views have been widely reported in the popular press (Carmen, 2012; Mestel, 2012; Revkin, 2012; Worstall, 2012).

OK, I did report on it and I did say that I thought it was tosh.

There\’s this as well:

1) History of Attacks on Risk-finding Studies. Seralini and colleagues are just the latest in a series of researchers whose findings have triggered orchestrated campaigns of harassment.

That\’s the bit where this open letter gets a bit hairy really. For there are two possible ways of reading this.

a) Seralini et al are subject to an organised campaign of harassment and Tim Worstall has written a popular press report about the paper. Two independent events.

b) Tim Worstall\’s popular press piece about the Seralini paper is part of that orchestrated campaign of harassment.

3) Misleading Media Reporting. A key pattern with risk-finding studies is that the criticisms voiced in the media are often red herrings, misleading, or untruthful.

Knowingly untruthful…..that would be fighting talk really.

6) Conclusion: When those with a vested interest attempt to sow unreasonable doubt around inconvenient results,

You see the point here?

They haven\’t said \”Worstall was bribed with industry money to rubbish our research\”. But they have come close to at least implying it.

Of course, I\’m not actually going to do anything about this. Dihydrogen monoxide off an Anatidae\’s back and all that. Absolutely no point at all in trying to make Carter Fuck even richer.

But it would be interesting to know the opinion of those who actually understand the law in this area. Am I actually being libelled here or not?

Umm, OK, on the assumption that I haven\’t just cashed a large check from Monsanto that is.

11 thoughts on “This is fun. Am I being libelled here?”

  1. You should sue them in the French courts – criminal libel there. If you want an independent expert witness to demolish the credibility of the study, I am at your disposal.

  2. To be honest, I’m getting so sick of seeing the ‘Waaaah, I’m being harassed’ bullshit defence whenever bad science is subjected to open criticism that I’d rather like to see some call these idiot’s bluff and challenge them to substantiate their allegations.

    Maybe not drag it all the way to court, but at least chuck in a properly drafted notice preparatory to action, just to see how quickly they roll over and how much they squirm in the process.

  3. The question is whether a jury would hold that an ordinary, reasonable person would understand the article to be implying that you were part of a conspiracy. I don’t think it is, but I’m unlikely to be on the jury. Oh, and IANAL.

  4. For it to be actionable, there would have to be some damage to your reputation. If the speaker is as insignificant and lacking in credibility as in this case, it’s arguably impossible for them to be libellous at all.

    Being attacked by sententious idiots who are so very evidently twisting the evidence, and yet still fail to make their point, is the exact opposite of being libelled, in my book – it marginally improves your reputation, rather than damaging it.

  5. @Grumpy Old Man (3): that was my first thought too, but it appears that he is merely cited as an example of the press reporting scientists’ claims that the paper is tosh.

  6. @Dave: is the status of the person making the allegations pertinent to libel? Are people convicted of horrific crimes (murder, rape, torture for example) therefore able to accuse people of similar behaviour with impunity because they are not of ‘good standing’?

  7. Jim>

    Broadly speaking, yes, the status of the person making an accusation has some bearing. To pick an extreme example, an allegation made by a senior BBC journalist on Newsnight would be treated very differently to the same allegation made by some random drunk in a pub somewhere.

    Of course it would be unlikely that the people in question in this case would defend their words as non-libellous on the basis that they have no credibility, but it’s a possible defence.

  8. Pointing out shit science is now ‘harassment’ or worse, part of some Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy.

    Whereas I thought it was an essential part of the scientific process. Surely they realise that unless the incompetents and frauds are weeded out, eventually we’ll view them all as incompetents and frauds?

  9. Rob (10) – it’s already too late.

    Speaking as someone from a proper physical science (chemistry) the fwits in the climate science crowd have immeasurably damaged the credibity of scientists. It will get worse as the narrative (not necessarily wrong but overstated, and with “solutions” which won’t help) unravels.

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