French researcher Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini and his team have responded to a move from the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology to withdraw the research by claiming that they 'do not accept as scientifically sound' the decision that their findings are inconclusive because of the rat strain and the number of rats used.
FoodNavigator initially broke news of the retraction after Food and Chemical Toxicology (FTC) editor A. Wallace Hayes sent Seralini a letter saying that the paper will be retracted if he does not agree to withdraw it.
In his letter to Dr Seralini dated the 19th November, Hayes asserts 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. This ultimately led to the recommendation that the article should be withdrawn.
"I have been trying to get in touch with you to discuss the specific reasons behind this recommendation," wrote Hayes. "If you do not agree to withdraw the article, it will be retracted."
However, Seralini has now hit back at Hayes and the journal, noting that the methodologies of the study follow international guidelines and accusing the publisher of 'double standards'.
"We maintain our conclusions," responded Seralini. "We already published some answers to the same critics in your Journal, which have not been answered."
Seralini argued that 'a factual comparative analysis' of the rat feeding trial by his group and safety trials conducted by biotech giant Monsanto "clearly reveals that if the Séralini experiments are considered to be insufficient to demonstrate harm, logically, it must be the same for those carried out by Monsanto to prove safety."
Speaking by email with FoodNavigator Professor Seralini suggested that regulators are too easily influenced by industry - saying regulatory science resembles "a prostitute with industry."
Concerns over rat strains and numbers?
In its letter to the French researcher, the FTC journal noted that while it received many letters expressing concerns about the validity of the findings, the proper use of animals and even allegations of fraud, its own investigation found "no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data."
Nevertheless, it added that "there is a legitimate cause for concern regarding both the number of animals in each study group and the particular strain selected."
Seralini, however, refutes such suggestions, arguing that the same strain of rat is used by the US national toxicology program to study the carcinogenicity and the chronic toxicity of chemicals, and that OECD guidelines always asked for 20 animals per group, "although the measurement of biochemical parameters can be performed on 10 rats, as indicated."
"We did not perform a carcinogenesis study, which would not have been adopted at first, but a long-term chronic full study, 10 rats are sufficient for that at a biochemical level according to norms and we have measured such a number of parameters!" wrote the French researcher in response to the letter from Hayes.