Study blaming rat tumors on Roundup and GM corn retracted

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The company that published the article “Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize,” by Gilles Eric Séralini et al, in the Food and Chemical Toxicology journal, has retracted the article based on weak evidence to support that the herbicide and trait caused serious disease in rats as conducted by the authors of the study.

Immediately after the French molecular biologists at the University of Caen, France, gained publication of the article blaming rat tumors on the herbicide and traited corn (NK603) in 2012, most scientists of the world who research toxicology condemned the study as making an untrue conclusion that genetically modified (GM) corn caused tumors.

After another peer review post publication that has just recently been concluded, the journal’s editor-in-chief wrote that the small number and type of rats used in the study should have resulted in red flags that “no definitive conclusions can be reached.”

This retraction is only one of several rebuffs by the world’s scientific community of the study results and report.

Of course, those activists against anything that might be classified as GMO are attacking the publishers of the journal. In actuality, it appears that the journal publisher appreciates all the attention generated by it being soft on the original peer review prior to publication.    

Séralini is protesting the retraction and stands by his team’s results. He refused to retract the article himself. One report has activists alleging the retraction is the result of the journal's editorial appointment of biologist Richard Goodman, who previously worked for biotechnology giant Monsanto for seven years. Goodman denies doing any of the new peer review although he let it be known when the research was released that he disagreed with the protocol and results.

The study claimed that rats fed for two years with Monsanto’s glyphosate-resistant NK603 corn developed many more tumors and died earlier than controls. It also claimed that the rats developed tumors when glyphosate (Roundup) herbicide was used with the GM corn, by it being added to their drinking water.

The journal Food and Chemical Toxicolog, published by Elsevier, which produces more than 2,000 technical and medical journals and other information products and services in partnership with the global science and health communities, issued the following retraction statement:

“The journal Food and Chemical Toxicology retracts the article “Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize,” which was published in this journal in November 2012. This retraction comes after 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. The editor in-chief deferred making any public statements regarding this article until this investigation was complete, and the authors were notified of the findings.

“Very shortly after the publication of this article, the journal received letters to the editor expressing concerns about the validity of the findings it described, the proper use of animals and even allegations of fraud. Many of these letters called upon the editors of the journal to retract the paper. According to the journal’s standard practice, these letters, as well as the letters in support of the findings, were published along with a response from the authors.

“Due to the nature of the concerns raised about this paper, the editor-in-chief examined all aspects of the peer review process and requested permission from the corresponding author to review the raw data. 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 corresponding author agreed and supplied all material that was requested by the editor-in-chief. The editor-in-chief wishes to acknowledge the co-operation of the corresponding author in this matter, and commends him for his commitment to the scientific process.

“Unequivocally, the editor-in-chief found no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data. However, there is a legitimate cause for concern regarding both the number of animals in each study group and the particular strain selected. The low number of animals had been identified as a cause for concern during the initial review process, but the peer review decision ultimately weighed that the work still had merit despite this limitation. A more in-depth look at the raw data revealed that no definitive conclusions can be reached with this small sample size regarding the role of either NK603 or glyphosate in regards to overall mortality or tumor incidence. Given the known high incidence of tumors in the Sprague-Dawley rat, normal variability cannot be excluded as the cause of the higher mortality and incidence observed in the treated groups.

“Ultimately, the results presented (while not incorrect) are inconclusive, and therefore do not reach the threshold of publication for Food and Chemical Toxicology. The peer review process is not perfect, but it does work. The journal is committed to getting the peer-review process right, and at times, expediency might be sacrificed for being as thorough as possible. The time-consuming nature is, at times, required in fairness to both the authors and readers. Likewise, the letters to the editor, both pro and con, serve as a post-publication peer-review. The back and forth between the readers and the author has a useful and valuable place in our scientific dialog.

“The editor-in-chief again commends the corresponding author for his willingness and openness in participating in this dialog. The retraction is only on the inconclusiveness of this one paper. The journal’s editorial policy will continue to review all manuscripts no matter how controversial they may be. The editorial board will continue to use this case as a reminder to be as diligent as possible in the peer review process.”

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USA  |  December, 03, 2013 at 11:30 AM

Okay, I enjoy eating GMO's every day. I like eating large quantities of abundant and relatively cheap food. Let's get that out of the way. But I have some questions that need to be addressed by the author, please. What study of GMO's has involved the largest number of rats, ever? Is it not this study that is being retracted now? 200 rats. Can you find any studies that used more than these 200 rats? And how about duration? Less than 90 days, versus this study's many months? In a study trying to determine if GMO's have an impact, would one not select a test subject most susceptible? That is--a segment of our population is most susceptible to breast cancer (females, and particularly those found to have a genetic disposition). What good would it be then to do a study on males and others that don't have that disposition? Would it not be expedient and correct to isolate the group that is most impacted to use as test subjects? Indeed, does not science do that all the time? Such was the case of the rats in this study. Who is Richard E. Goodman? What large corporation did he previously work for? What large pro-GMO lobbying group did he lobby for? Why did this journal hire him shortly after this study, as the 'Associate Editor for Biotechnology', soon followed by this journal's retraction? What are the journal's published guidelines for retracting a published paper? There are 3 of them. None of them were found to be applicable. How then did they retract the paper? Seriously, I'm not a GMO basher, and I enjoy eating them, but this retraction stinks to High Heaven. In short, I want this study redone, by an independent group, without any of the perceived short-comings. Lives depend upon the truth. Answers?

kansas  |  December, 04, 2013 at 11:25 AM

BobW, from Somewhere USA, - Troll, troll, trolling away are we? We-thinks thou doth protest too much your love of gmo snacking and expressed fears for women, in light of all else you say and your feigned lack of understanding what this report says. "Seriously", the statements from the publication and editor-in-chief are extremely clear in the reasoning and foundation for the retraction. And they're also as common as dirt in scientific investigations and reports (try reading something other than GreenPeace handouts). As to the motives of the editor, a highly respected and experienced scientist with real-life experience in addition to academic truing, and the publisher, also highly respected and known for it's integrity for decades, you sound very much like a GreenPeace member... or an Area 51 Conspiracy promoter. Real Science is Real Science and does not ADVOCATE for an outcome or DENY science that doesn't support their preferred outcome. You, and your fellow conspiracy theorists, can be certain more studies are and will be done on this subject. So stop screeching about your "fears", pretending you're unbiased and that your only interest is in "truth". Your transparent pretenses aren't fooling anyone with an IQ in double-digits.

December, 04, 2013 at 12:26 PM

I would rather have seen a follow-up piece on the limitations of the research rather then retract it. This way folks can make up their own mind based on the limitations when they consider the article. Now it will forever be the report that Monsanto quashed through legal threats, regardless of how true or false that might be. The editorial appointment of an ex-Monsanto employee does not help the situation at all.

December, 05, 2013 at 09:46 AM

I am not aware that Monsanto quashed this paper through legal threats. In fact the former Monsanto scientist removed himself from this matter due to perceived conflict of interest. Speaking of conflict of interests, how about you research who else the lead author works for. He's the head of a major anit-GMO group. Doesn't that set off a few red flags? The article was retracted for being inconclusive.

December, 05, 2013 at 09:46 AM

I am not aware that Monsanto quashed this paper through legal threats. In fact the former Monsanto scientist removed himself from this matter due to perceived conflict of interest. Speaking of conflict of interests, how about you research who else the lead author works for. He's the head of a major anit-GMO group. Doesn't that set off a few red flags? The article was retracted for being inconclusive.

California  |  December, 05, 2013 at 02:12 PM

Glad to see the journal acting responsibly! The research done by Seralini was flawed in so many ways, but the anti GMO crowd jumped right on it. The really sad part is that most Americans are so poorly educated that it is easy to dazzle them with B.S. and lead them down the path of stupidity.

mt  |  December, 05, 2013 at 02:32 PM

gm crops were developed to help feed the starving world. I wonder if they tested rats in the same conditions as third world starving children if they would die of malnutrition or something else first.

Truth Seeker    
USA  |  December, 05, 2013 at 03:38 PM

Let me first express my frustration at being able to find unbiased studies that are scientifically sound. Then, if one disagrees with, or is hurt financially by, the conclusive results, that study must be squashed or deemed invalid. If GMO's are proven to be so safe, why did Monsanto stop its study at 90 days? Why do they not simply prove its safety by showing extended studies of two, or better yet 10 years and demonstrate objectively the safety to subsequent generations? We will never know what happens behind the scenes and the educated mind must guard against conspiracy theories. So what, then, does a truth seeker do to find the truth? Of course, if Monsanto believes their product will be harmed they will initiate damage control. Our bodies do that as well--initiate damage control to try to protect them from poisons. Have you looked at the exponential rate of increased GI health problems since GMO's have been introduced? Look at the graphs. What may the cause be? Is seeking truthful answers wrong? Then we must open our eyes and minds to all possible causes, even if it might point to GMO's.

kansas  |  December, 06, 2013 at 07:42 PM

Yet another FAUX "truth seeker" troll from Somewhere, USA (a secret troll bunker - lined with foil perhaps and surely filled with the scent of patchouli ), pretending to be reasonable as they push the typical "monsatan" conspiracy theories with insinuations and disparagements. There are hundreds of unbiased studies (EU, US, Other) that are scientifically sound and have been done over many years and "truth seeker" knows this. What TS fails to mention (Truthy as she is) is that ANY study that does not support the GreenPeace agenda is necessarily and summarily judged Biased & Unsound. GreenPeace and their ilk LIE, and LIE and LIE... and you can ask their Founder, Mr. Moore, who's publicly condemned them for their lying, extremist radicalism himself.

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