redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
Controversial research which linked genetically modified (GM) corn to cancer and premature death in rats has been retracted by a food safety journal after the study’s authors refused to withdraw the paper.
The study, which was originally published by the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology 14 months ago, claimed rodents had developed tumors and experienced multiple organ failures after consuming GM corn produced by St. Louis-based Monsanto.
The study “described rats that for two years were exposed to herbicide-tainted water and fed an unlimited diet of Roundup-resistant maize, a type of corn genetically modified to resist herbicide and marketed by the agribusiness giant Monsanto,” TheStar.com science and technology reporter Kate Allen explained. She added the researchers “claimed many of the female GM-fed rats grew massive mammary tumors and that the males suffered from liver damage; all died more quickly than animals fed a non-GM diet.”
Lead author Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen defended his team’s research, calling it the most detailed analysis of the subject ever completed. However, criticism of the study began to mount last November as over 700 other scientists signed an online petition demanding the authors fully disclose all information pertaining to their research.
In fact, in a letter to the journal’s editor Maurice Moloney, then the head of the Rothamsted Research agricultural study group, detractors called the paper “seriously deficient in its design, its execution and its conclusions” and said it was “appalling” that a “respected” journal would publish the study. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) echoed these sentiments, claiming there were “serious defects” in the design and methodology of Seralini’s study.
On Thursday, the editors of the journal issued a statement announcing the study was being retracted following “a thorough and time-consuming analysis of the published article and the data it reports, along with an investigation into the peer-review behind the article.” They went on to report the nature of the concerns raised about the research prompted Food and Chemical Toxicology Editor-in-Chief A. Wallace Hayes to review the raw data from the research.
“The request to view raw data is not often made; however, it is in accordance with the journal’s policy that authors of submitted manuscripts must be willing to provide the original data if so requested,” the publication said. While their review uncovered “no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation” of that data, it did find “legitimate cause for concern regarding both the number of animals in each study group and the particular strain selected.”
According to Andrew Pollack of the New York Times, the review ultimately determined that the study results were “inconclusive” and did not meet the journal’s standards for publication. The decision to retract the paper came after the authors refused to voluntarily withdraw it, added Nature.com’s Barbara Casassus.
Study co-author and physician Joël Spiroux de Vendômois, who is also the president of the Paris-based Committee for Research and Independent Information on Genetic Engineering (CRIIGEN), told Casassus that the retraction was “a public-health scandal” and that their paper was subjected to more scrutiny than other published research.
Supporters of the study’s findings also note one of the journal’s editors, Richard Goodman, was once employed by Monsanto – though he denies being involved in the publication’s decision to retract the paper. “Food and Chemical Toxicology asked me to become an associate editor in January 2013 because of my extensive experience in the area, and after I complained about the Séralini study,” he told Nature. “But I did not review the data in the Séralini study, nor did I have anything to do with the determination that the paper should be withdrawn from or retained by the journal.”