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Economic interests have been given precedence over public health

Séralini says GM study retraction was based on 'unscientific double standards'

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By Nathan Gray+

19-May-2014

The decision to retract research linking the consumption of herbicide and genetically modified crops to cancer in rats was based on 'double standards' and pressure from the GM food industry, claims the man behind the study.

Professor Giles-Eric Séralini, the researcher behind the now infamous study linking consumption of Monsanto's NK603 GM maize and its associated herbicide Roundup to long term toxicity and cancer in rats said the decision to retract the study is based on unscientific double standards.

More than a year after its initial publication, the editor of Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT), Dr Wallace Hayes, retracted the research that kinked the two Monsanto products to a ‘greatly increased’ risk of tumours' and premature death.

However, amid heavy criticism from many in the scientific community, and rejections of the study by several high profile regulators including EFSA, Hayes and his colleagues on the FTC board conducted an investigation in to the study. In a letter to Séralini dated the 19th November 2013, Hayes asserted that the journal board had completed a 'thorough examination' of the data provided to them by the researcher and had expressed many concerns about the quality of the data - ultimately recommending that the article should be withdrawn.

“We are forced to conclude that the decision to withdraw our paper was based on unscientific double standards applied by the editor," said Séralini - as a 'right to reply' article is published in the same journal .

"These double standards can only be explained by pressure from the GMO and agrochemical industry to force acceptance of GMOs and Roundup." 

The Séralini response article goes on to note that the decision to retract the paper was reached "a few months after the appointment of a former Monsanto employee as “editor for biotechnology”, a position created for him at FCT."

"Worse, this pro-industry bias also affects regulatory authorities, such as EFSA (European Food Safety Authority),which gives favourable opinions on risky products based on mediocre studies commissioned by the companies wishing to commercialize the products, as well as systematically dismissing the findings of independent scientists which cast doubt on their safety," said Professor Séralini.

"Economic interests have been given precedence over public health," the team wrote.

Double standards

Séralini added that the decision to publish new research that used the same methods as his study, after the journal heavily criticised such methods, shows a double standard.

"We are sceptical about the rationale given to retract our paper, in light of FCT’s recent publication of another study (Zhang et al., 2014 ) which, like ours, investigated the potential chronic effects of consumption of a genetically modified (GM) crop," wrote Séralini and his colleagues in the FTC right to reply.

"Unlike our study, however, it concluded that the GM crop tested, a transgenic insecticide-producing rice, was as safe and nutritious as conventional rice. Yet according to your criteria, it is at least as inconclusive as our study."

The team added that the recent Zhang et al, study like the study by Séralini et al, measured the potential chronic effects of the consumption of a GMO (transgenic rice producing a modified Bt insecticide), and used the same strain and measures the same number of rats.

The only substantive difference was in the results, said the team: "Zhang and colleagues concluded that the GMO under test was safe."

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7 comments

inconclusive data are different from inconclusive findings

Bob, you switch from data to findings, the 2 are very different. Making positive claims from inconclusive data is certainly grounds for retraction.

What should be noted is how the journal pretty much just dipped their toes into the pool of retraction. Among other things, a case certainly can be made against the ethics of the study, both in how they treated the animals as well as how they stifled news outlets from getting a second opinion. Add in the lack of proper control groups and the fact that they were testing for a myriad of ailments in a small test group and you can draw any conclusion that you want. It's similar to the Carman study in that way, poor design + wide range of investigated results = bad data. An interesting note is that the only apparent piece of data with a dose response relationship shows that drinking roundup makes male rats live longer! Bad data is different from inconclusive findings...

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Posted by Chris
26 May 2014 | 22h31

validity of peer-reviews

Being co-editor of a scientific journal and frequent reviewer I would like to ponit to the fact that this process is also not free from severe failures! A review-judgement is only as good as the expertise of the reviewer. And sometimes it takes horribly much time to work through the manuscript, including all the technical details as tables, figures, references. Sometimes the reviewer is inclined to accept a manuscript too early! Sometimes the deficiences of an accepted paper become obvious only through criticism after its publication. I have observed such reviewer failures even with our journal! As Bob Phelps points out, the retraction of the Séralini-paper it not because of dishonesty, but because of severe failures in the experimental procedure and in the conclusions.

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Posted by Dieter Ehlermann
23 May 2014 | 11h25

Peer-review processes undermined

The grounds for retraction of the Seralini study are insupportable as they throw the validity of all peer-review processes into doubt. In trying to justify the retraction, the Editor of Food and Chemical Toxicology writes: "A careful and time-consuming analysis found that the data were inconclusive, and therefore the conclusions described in the article were unreliable. Accordingly, the article was retracted." But the findings of all published and peer-reviewed papers are inconclusive as they must be open to refutation. If not, they would not be products of scientific inquiry. The editor confirmed that no dishonesty was found, which would have been good grounds for retraction. reinstate the report!

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Posted by Bob Phelps
20 May 2014 | 09h31

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