[NOTE: When the French scientist Gilles-Éric Séralini first published disturbing findings of cancer in rats fed GMO corn (in the peer-reviewed Food and Chemical Toxicology journal), the blowback from the biotechnology industry, and related scientists, was so intense that the journal, in a virtually unprecedented step, withdrew the article.
After going through two more review processes a second peer-reviewed journal, Environmental Sciences Europe, has now re-published the study. Scientists associated with the biotechnology industry will, undoubtedly, again attack the veracity of Séralini’s work. Other scientists have already defended his research while other independent researchers take a more nuanced and skeptical view of his paper.
There is no doubt that not enough research has been done assuring the public that consuming genetically engineered food, organisms that have never existed on Earth before let alone as a part of the human diet, are safe for our families to consume. Although politically popular with the Congressional crowd (bellied up to the biotechnology campaign funding feed trough), public money should be funding bulletproof studies so that the subject matter can focus on the research rather than dueling press releases.]
In an announcement made today in France, the Séralini study on the long term effects of GMOs and glyphosate has been republished in the Springer open source journal Environmental Sciences Europe (ESEU, 2014, 26:14). The study by Gilles-Eric Séralini et al., Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modiﬁed maize, was first published in the Elsevier journal, Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT) in November of 2012. The study showed massive tumors, kidney and liver damage in rats on a genetically modified (GMO) Roundup-Ready maize diet.
In an unprecedented move, FCT retracted the study in November 2013 because, according to editor A. Wallace Hayes, one is unable to conclude from the results that “there was a clear link between GMO and cancer.” A journal paper has never before been retracted based on inconclusiveness, but only for plagiarism or clear evidence that the findings are unreliable due to misconduct (e.g. data fabrication) or honest error. The editor of FCT admitted that there was no fraud, misconduct, or intentional misrepresentation of data detected. If papers were retracted merely because they are inconclusive, over half of the scientific papers already published would disappear.
In a press release, obtained from the International Coalition for Food Safety (ICFS), the editor of ESEU said the reason for republication of this study is, “To support rational scientific debate rather than to censor it.” A companion article is also being published in the same issue by Séralini et al. titled, Conflicts of interests, confidentiality and censorship in health risk assessment: The example of a herbicide and a GMO (ESEU, 2014, 26:13). This article outlines the whole sorry state of affairs of the corporate corruption of science, including conflicts of interest, censorship, and double standards.
What part of the Séralini study was inconclusive?
The Séralini study was designed as a long term toxicology test, using the same protocols as the short term toxicology tests submitted by the biotechnology industry “proving” the safety of GMOs. The findings were damning, showing that GMOs and glyphosate (Roundup) cause tumors, liver and kidney damage in rats. Within a week, a smear campaign was mounted by the biotechnology industry, with scientists (primarily plant biologists and not toxicologists) writing letters to FCT demanding retraction of the study. Even though the study was not designed to test for cancer, critics claimed that the cancer results were inconclusive because the type of rats used (Sprague Dawley) are prone to tumors.
The study was not designed as a cancer study. The word cancer was never used in the paper. The fact that the rats who were fed the GMO maize diet developed more tumors sooner than those in the control group was an unexpected result. The primary result was that the GMO maize diet caused significant liver and kidney damage and hormonal disturbances.
The Séralini team have made their raw data available in the republication. The raw data from the industry sponsored studies, used to authorize Roundup and GMOs on the market, are considered proprietary and thus protected from public scrutiny. CRIIGEN has called on the legal authorities to demand the release of these data into the public domain “to ensure a real protection of the public health.”
Retraction was politically driven
The position of Associate Editor for Biotechnology did not exist at FCT prior to the publication of the Séralini study. It was created in February of 2013 and filled by a person with strong ties to the biotechnology industry who had been highly critical of the Séralini study, Richard E. Goodman. Besides being a former Monsanto employee (1997-2004), Goodman is a member of the International Life Science Institute (ILSI), a group of scientific and regulatory lobbyists funded in part by the biotechnology industry.
There has been a relentless campaign to discredit any scientific study that shows toxic effects from GMOs and glyphosate. The scientists are attacked, their credentials called into question, their methods and analyses are criticized. Many journals refuse to even consider publishing such papers because of the controversy and backlash.
At the same time that the Séralini paper was retracted, the CEO of the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI, publisher of Entropy) wrote to Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff asking them to voluntarily withdraw their paper,Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases. He claimed that the paper was “outside the scope of Entropy,” though the paper featured one of the first articles published concerning Biosemiotic Entropy, the disruption of homeostasis by environmental toxins.
After some wrangling between the CEO and the editor of Entropy, a statement about their position on controversial articles was published on MDPI and an apology was issued to Samsel and Seneff. Their policy “to widely ignore the blogosphere, where competing interests, corruption, and anonymity prevail,” is clearly stated. They have chosen to rise above “political or corporate agendas, and competing economic or intellectual interests.” By definition, any articles casting doubt on the safety of GMOs and glyphosate are controversial. Why is this so?
Scientific community in an uproar
The retraction produced shock waves in the scientific community. A boycott of Elsevier publications was already underway at the time of the retraction because of their exorbitantly high prices and predatory business practices. The retraction of the Séralini paper helped boost signatures on the boycott. There are now 14,675 researchers who have signed the pledge to not publish their work in any Elsevier journal. At the same time, the Institute for Science in Society published an article denouncing the retraction along with an open letter to boycott Elsevier, which was signed by 1,360 scientists.
The republication of the Séralini paper by the courageous Environmental Sciences Europe journal is a step in the right direction. However, the corporate corruption of science may be permanent.