27 November 2013
Journal Retraction of Séralini
is Illicit, Unscientific, and Unethical
violates scientific publication ethics.
Statement by GMWatch
The editor of the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT), Dr
A. Wallace Hayes, has decided to retract the study (Long Term Toxicity of a Roundup
Herbicide and a Roundup-Tolerant Genetically Modified
Maize) by the team of Prof Gilles-Eric
fed with Monsanto genetically
modified (GM) maize NK603 and tiny amounts of the Roundup herbicide,
it is grown with suffered severe toxic effects, including kidney and
liver damage and increased rates of tumors and mortality.
GMWatch believes FCT's retraction of Prof Séralini's paper to be
illicit, unscientific, and unethical. It violates the guidelines for
retractions in scientific publishing set out by the Committee on
Publication Ethics (COPE), of which FCT is a
COPE guidelines state that the only grounds for a journal to retract
a paper are:
Prof Séralini's paper does not meet any
of these criteria and Hayes admits as much.
In his letter informing Prof Séralini of
his decision [link
here], Hayes concedes that an examination of Prof
Séralini's raw data showed,
"no evidence of fraud or intentional
misrepresentation of the data" and nothing "incorrect" about the
Hayes states that the retraction is
solely based on the "inconclusive" nature of the findings on tumors
and mortality, given the relatively low number of rats used and the
choice of rat strain, which Hayes says naturally has a "high
incidence of tumors".
Crucially, however, inconclusiveness of findings is not a valid
ground for retraction.
Numerous published scientific papers contain
inconclusive findings, which are often mixed in with findings that
can be presented with more certainty. It is for future researchers
to build on the findings and refine scientific understanding of any
It is important that scientists do not overstate their findings or
draw conclusions that are not justified by the data, but Prof
Séralini's paper does not do this.
Because Prof Séralini's study was a
chronic toxicity study and not a full-scale carcinogenicity study,
which normally requires larger numbers of rats, he conservatively
did not do a statistical analysis of the tumors and mortality
findings. Instead he simply reported them, without drawing
This is in line with the OECD chronic
toxicity protocol, which requires that any "lesions" (including
tumors) observed are recorded.
The criticisms of the low number of rats and choice of rat strain
have been addressed by Prof Séralini's team in a comprehensive
response to critics that was published in FCT,
as well as by independent scientists writing in support of the
Experts in statistics writing in support of the study have pointed
out that large numbers of animals are only required in safety
studies to avoid false negative error, where a toxic effect exists
but is missed because too few animals are used.
In the case of Séralini's study, this
was not an issue. The toxic effects of the test substances were so
pronounced (there was a "large effect size") that smaller numbers of
animals were sufficient for statistical significance.[7,8,9]
Regarding the Sprague-Dawley strain of rat that was used, all
strains of rodents develop spontaneous tumors with age, as do
The fact that there is a low level of spontaneous tumor
occurrence in the control group in Séralini's study mimics the human
condition. For this and other reasons, most toxicology studies use
this strain of rat.
Hayes fails to address these responses and arguments in support of
the study, raising questions about the expertise, balance, and
objectivity of his anonymous review panel.
In addition, the legitimate peer
reviewers had previously considered these aspects of Séralini's
study and nevertheless decided that "the work still had merit" and
should be published.
In a highly irregular process, Hayes now contradicts the outcome of
the peer review and editorial process and decides to retract the
paper over a year after it was published.
His decision is not made on the basis of
new data, but on a secret and non-transparent review by unnamed
persons, who evidently do not feel able to stand behind their
decision publicly or disclose any conflicts of interest they may
Hayes' decision will tarnish the reputation of FCT and will increase
public mistrust of science in general and genetically modified foods
Hayes' decision to retract the paper follows FCT's appointment of
Richard E. Goodman, a former Monsanto scientist and an affiliate
of the GMO industry-funded group, the International Life Sciences
Institute, to the specially created post of associate editor for
biotechnology at the journal, early this year.
Goodman's appointment in turn followed an orchestrated campaign by GMO supporters to persuade FCT to retract the study.
Some critics even accused Prof Séralini
of fraud, without presenting any evidence. Many of the critics had
undeclared conflicts of interest with the GMO industry.
After Goodman was installed, FCT withdrew a separate study by
Brazilian researchers that also raised questions about GM crop
The study showed that Bt insecticidal
toxins similar to those engineered into GM Bt crops were not broken
down in digestion, as is claimed by the industry and regulators, but
had toxic effects on the blood of mice.
The Brazilian paper, like Prof
Séralini's, had been peer-reviewed and published by FCT prior to
Goodman's arrival. After Goodman's arrival, the paper was withdrawn
without explanation from FCT  - only to be
immediately published in another journal.
There is no proof that Goodman was responsible for the retraction of
Prof Séralini's study.
But his appointment, coming so soon
after the "Séralini affair", along with FCT's failure to list the
interests of its editors, raises questions about corporate influence
on the editorial board at the journal.
1. Séralini GE et al (2012)
Long Term Toxicity of a Roundup
Herbicide and a Roundup-Tolerant Genetically Modified
Maize - Food and
Chemical Toxicology, 50(11): 4221-4231.
4. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
(2009). OECD guideline no. 452 for the testing of chemicals:
Chronic toxicity studies: Adopted 7 September 2009.
5. Séralini GE et al (2013). Answers to critics: Why there is a
long term toxicity due to NK603 Roundup-tolerant genetically
modified maize and to a Roundup herbicide. Food and Chemical
Toxicology 53: 461-468.
7. Deheuvels P. Étude de Séralini sur les OGM: Pourquoi sa
méthodologie est statistiquement bonne [Seralini study on GMOs:
Why the methodology is statistically sound]. Le Nouvel
Observateur. 9 October 2012.
8. Saunders P. Excess cancers and deaths with GM feed: The stats
stand up. Science in Society. 16 October 2012.
9. Deheuvels P. L'étude de Séralini sur les OGM, pomme de
discorde à l'Académie des sciences [The Seralini GMO study - A
bone of contention at the Academy of Sciences]. Le Nouvel
Observateur. 19 October 2012.
12. Mezzomo BP et al (2012). WITHDRAWN: Effects of oral
administration of Bacillus thuringiensis as spore-crystal
strains Cry1Aa, Cry1Ab, Cry1Ac or Cry2Aa on hematologic and
genotoxic endpoints of Swiss albino mice. Food Chem Toxicol.
13. Mezzomo BP et al. (2013). Hematotoxicity of Bacillus
thuringiensis as spore-crystal strains Cry1Aa, Cry1Ab, Cry1Ac or
Cry2Aa in Swiss albino mice. J Hematol Thromb Dis 1(1).