Organization States “Retraction Violates Standards of Good Science” and Suspects “Decision Was a Bow of Science to Industry”
The Elsevier journal Food and Chemical Toxicology has officially retracted a research paper (Séralini et al. 2012 Study) which found severe toxic effects, increased tumor rates and higher mortality in rats fed Monsanto’s genetically modified corn and/or the associated herbicide Roundup.
The European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER) stated:
“The arguments of the journal’s editor for the retraction, however, violate not only the criteria for retraction to which the journal itself subscribes, but any standards of good science. Worse, the names of the reviewers who came to the conclusion that the paper should be retracted, have not been published. Since the retraction is a wish of many people with links to the GM industry, the suspicion arises that it is a bow of science to industry.”
According to ENSSER, this retraction is “a severe blow to the credibility and independence of science, indeed a travesty of science.”
Below is a summary of ENSSER’s comments on the retraction:
- Inconclusive results claimed as reason for withdrawl:
Elsevier, the publisher of Food and Chemical Toxicology, has published a statement saying that the journal’s editor-in-chief, Dr. A. Wallace Hayes, “found no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data”. The statement mentions only a single reason for the retraction, namely that “the results presented (while not incorrect) are inconclusive”.
- Séralini paper a chronic toxicity study, not a full-scale carcinogenicity study:
Séralini and his co-authors did not draw any definitive conclusions in the paper in the first place; they simply reported their observations and phrased their conclusions carefully, cognizant of their uncertainties. This is because the paper is a chronic toxicity study and not a full-scale carcinogenicity study, which would require a higher number of rats. The authors did not intend to look specifically for tumours, but still found increased tumour rates. Secondly, both of Hayes’s arguments (the number of rats and their tumour susceptibility) were considered by the peer reviewers of the journal, who decided they formed no objection to publication. Thirdly, these two arguments have been discussed at length in the journal following the publication of the paper and have been refuted by the authors of the paper and other experts. Higher numbers of animals are only required in this type of safety studies to avoid missing toxic effects (a ‘false negative’ result), but the study found pronounced toxic effects and a first indication of possible carcinogenic effects.
- Who did the reevaluation?
“Even more worrying than the lack of good grounds for the retraction is the fact that the journal’s editor-in-chief has not revealed who the reviewers were who helped him to come to the conclusion that the paper should be retracted; nor has he revealed the criteria and methodology of their reevaluation, which overruled the earlier conclusion of the original peer-review which supported publication.”
In conclusion, ENSSER states:
“In short, the decision to retract Séralini’s paper is a flagrant abuse of science and a blow to its credibility and independence. [ . . ] It will decrease public trust in science. And it will not succeed in eliminating critical independent science from public view and scrutiny. [ . .] Prof. Séralini’s findings stand today more than before, as even this secret review found that there is nothing wrong with either technicalities, conduct or transparency of the data – the foundations on which independent science rests. […]”
This story has been generating a lot of buzz on Twitter as well: