A scientific journal that published a study linking Monsanto’s genetically modified corn to increased tumor rates and premature death has now retracted the study, just months after hiring a former Monsanto employee as an assistant editor, EcoWatch reports. The journal stated that it chose to retract the study because of inconclusive results and that the study’s small sample size and the type of rat used in the study “meant no definitive conclusions could be reached.”

In 2012, a study by Gilles-Eric Séralini, a French scientist and professor of molecular biology at the University of Caen, and his team had their research published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology (FTC). Their study involved feeding Monsanto’s Roundup-resistant NK103 corn and Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup to rats. The researchers found severe toxic effects (including liver congestion and necrosis and kidney deficiencies), increased tumor rates, and higher mortality in rats fed the GM corn and/or the Roundup.

The study incited controversy and, almost immediately, a campaign was launched to discredit the team’s findings. The controversy over the study even became known as the “Séralini affair.” According to GreenMedInfo, many opponents of the findings who wrote letters to the journal asking for the study to be retracted had conflicts of interest with the GM industry and associated lobbying groups, although these conflicts of interest were not publicly disclosed.

Then, last February, the journal, FTC, hired a former Monsanto employee, Richard E. Goodman, to be its new “Associate Editor for Biotechnology.” Dr. Jonathan Latham of GreenMedInfo notes:

This was a new position, seemingly established especially for Goodman in the wake of the ‘Séralini affair’… His fast-tracked appointment, directly onto the upper editorial board raises urgent questions. Does Monsanto now effectively decide which papers on biotechnology are published in FCT? And is this part of an attempt by Monsanto and the life science industry to seize control of science?

On November 19, 2012, Food and Chemical Toxicology announced that it was retracting the published study. Last month, the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER) issued a response the retraction. Members of ENSSER feel that the retraction is “a severe blow to the credibility and independence of science, indeed a travesty of science.”

According to ENSSER, the publisher of FTC issued a statement saying the journal’s editor-in-chief “found no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data” in Séralini’s study. The only reason given for the retraction was that the results were, after being published, found to be inconclusive.

There are specific guidelines for retracting a scientific publishing, which are dictated by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), that do not include “inconclusiveness.”  Members of ENSSER point out the following issues with the retraction:

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.

Retracting a published scientific study is not a common practice. Making matters more controversial are Richard Goodman’s industry ties. Not only did Goodman work for Monsanto from 1997 to 2004, he is closely involved with the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), a lobbying group funded by and acting on behalf of multinational GM food, agrochemical, and drug companies, including Monsanto. ILSI focuses on industry-friendly risk assessment designed to combat regulation of dangerous or environmentally-damaging substances.

In January of 2006, in response to an appeal by health, environmental, and labor groups, the World Health Organization (WHO) banned ILSI from ever taking part in setting global standards for protecting food and water supplies. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), WHO received a petition from the NRDC, Physicians for Social Responsibility, United Steelworkers of America, and 15 other organizations, asking WHO to sever its ties to ILSI. WHO requires non-governmental organizations to “be free of concerns which are primarily of a commercial of profit-making nature,” which ILSI is not.

Goodman’s appointment as Associate Editor of Biotechnology is also questionable because the journal already had a senior editor with expertise in GM food safety. José L. Domingo is one of 4 senior editors for Food and Chemical Toxicology and a professor of toxicology and environmental health. He has authored two “comprehensive reviews” of GM food safety studies; however, both of his reviews “expressed skepticism of the thesis that GMOs are safe.”

Dr. Latham notes, “Consequently, it is far from clear why FCT needs an ‘associate editor for biotechnology’, but it is clear why Monsanto would have an interest in ensuring that the ‘Séralini affair’ is never repeated.”



Via: The Organic Prepper (Left to Right: tumors on rat fed with GM corn, tumors on rat fed with GM corn and Roundup, tumors on rat fed with Roundup)

Alisha is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow her on Twitter @childoftheearth.