Retraction reaction…

The recent retraction of the Séralini study by the journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology journal (more at Retraction Watch) has been a hot topic over the past few weeks.  The editors of the journal wrote a letter (Letter_AWHayes_GES (1)) to Seralini on November 19, 2013, inviting him to voluntarily withdraw the article.  In the event that Séralini chose not to do so, the editors informed him that they would retract the article.  Apparently, Séralini opted not to withdraw and the article was retracted by the editors in late November.

The Séralini study should never have been published in the first place. There were fundamental problems with the study (even grammar errors) which makes me question the quality of peer review — not to mention the low number of rats used and lack of controls.

Sample size and controls, in this case, represent huge red flags. There are well articulated Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development (OECD) guidelines about numbers of rats required for experimental purposes in studies of this nature. And for Séralini to draw such broad sweeping conclusions based on a shoddy study results is inappropriate. We can’t forget that Séralini also violated science based rules regarding the ethical treatment of rats. Those rats suffered needlessly. See the European Food Safety Authority’s review of the study and a more simplified overview of the “Séralini Affair” on Wikipedia.

Soon after the study was published, it was discredited by independent scientists and food and feed safety authorities all over the world (orgs that discredit seralini study). Sadly, it appears that the European Commission is going to invest big bucks to replicate the study.  Fortunately, the work will be done by independent scientists.  And if they use the proper protocols and controls, they will likely reach conclusions that we can hang a ‘good science hat’ on although I’d be awfully surprised if the results will vary at all from current scientific consensus.  So what a colossal waste of money, especially when research money is so scarce! (See Kevin Folta’s rant (er…post) on this: Throwing Euros Down a Rat Hole).

seralini blog

Séralini probably spent in excess of 3 M Euros on his study (2012). An enormous amount of money. And he made such FUNDAMENTAL mistakes in developing and executing the methodology. Any funder Séralini had for this study should be less than satisfied with how things were managed and how experimental protocols were executed. Unless, of course, they were just interested in the PR and political shenanigans that came with it. Then the outcomes would be exactly what they would want. Which means that other agenda(s) were involved and there was no real interest in having the subject matter objectively investigated.

We can’t hold progressive and innovative science to such low standards as was demonstrated by the Séralini study. Society deserves better than that. It will be interesting to see what happens from here on in. Rumour has it that Séralini has hired a US law firm to take legal action against the journal for the retraction. More PR genius. And more to come, I’d wager.

11 thoughts on “Retraction reaction…

  1. Pingback: Seralini Rat Study Retracted | Vegan GMO

  2. The Séralini study was based & set up the same way as an early nineties study done by the Monsanto company. Séralini used the same breed of lab rats, the same sample size as Monsanto. The two studies were basically identical with the exception of Séralini carrying out his for 2 years and instead of 90 days. So should we also discredit Monsanto’s study as well?

    It’s not surprising the Chemical toxicology journal retracted the study after it was taken over by a former Monsanto employee. It’s seems Monsanto is trying to control the Science so they can keep selling their products.

    • It’s a poor study that should have never been published in the first place (I think that I said this in my blog post but apparently it needs to be reiterated here). European Food Safety Authority stated in a news release at the end of November that “the authors’ conclusions cannot be regarded as scientifically sound because of inadequacies in the design, reporting, and analysis of the study.” The release notes a “broad European consensus” among member states that the authors’ conclusions were not supported by the data presented in the study (see: http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/121128.htm). By the way, there is a link to this within the body of the blog post, but perhaps you didn’t thoroughly read the blog post and the affiliated links?
      I’m not sure which study you are referring to in particular as you didn’t provide a reference (providing refs helps, if you are really interested in dialoguing about this stuff). If Monsanto and their approaches are such a problem (as you suggest (no references)), why bother replicating those methods in the first place (as you suggest (no references))?
      Good scientific approaches adopt the latest (most updated) methods. Science evolves over time, and methods improve as well. There have been numerous studies conducted using proper protocols, controls (see Snell et al 2011 https://doccamiryan.wordpress.com/2011/12/14/no-long-term-effects-of-gmo-consumption-a-review-article-by-snell-et-al/) — and done according to OECD guidelines for appropriate sample sizes (see links in my blog post above). Is Séralini and his team somehow “above” adhering to well-articulated scientific standards and protocols (OECD guidelines 2004)? Any reputable scientist will adhere to standards regarding samples sizes, human treatment of animals. If you justify the study’s weak protocol’s on the fact that they based it on another (dated) study, that argument doesn’t hold water in reputable science circles. Rather, it does nothing more than point the spotlight more fully on the deficits of the Seralini study, his political agenda, his manipulation of the media and well-executed PR campaign (hmmm… who’s trying to control things now??).
      I assume that you are referring to Richard Goodman – as the “former Monsanto employee.” “Taken over” is a bit strong. Goodman was brought on as an Associate Editor of FCT to handle review process for biotech related manuscripts. It would be necessary to bring on an expert given that the journal appeared to lack that kind of expertise given that Séralini’s study magically made it through the peer review process in the first place. Make no mistake, the journal (FCT) got a great deal of flack about it from independent scientists and food and feed safety agencies all over the world (again, review the list embedded in blog post above – it’s all there). Presumably Goodman was brought on because he was the right person for the job. You can bring up the Monsanto connection until the cows come home but good science is good science, whether it is conducted in universities, research institutes, or in companies. Period. Goodman’s track record for reputable scientific work stands (http://foodsci.unl.edu/web/foodsci/goodman). At this point, the journal (FCT) cannot afford to have anyone on board that is less than reputable.

      • As far as I know you won’t find Monsanto’s study anywhere on the internet. You can do a Google search of it until your blue in the face. Monsanto never published it. Séralini said himself that he based his study off of Monsanto’s study. Where Séralini got this information I don’t know. I do know one thing for sure Monsanto had to have done more then one feeding study. The FDA did a voluntary consolation process with Monsanto where they (Monsanto) provided them with the necessary data that the FDA requested for the approval of genetically engineered food for human consumption. I’m assuming that the FDA would have required data from an animal feeding study before approving GMOs.

        If the food and chemical toxicology journal wanted to add more controversy to the retraction of Séralini’s study by hiring a former Monsanto employee, then they got it. I always find it ironic how it just happens to be a former Monsanto employee that just happen to be the best person for the job.

        To me any industry funded Science can’t be trusted even if it’s done in public universities because Biotech companies like Monsanto have a very strong influence over them. Even if a scientist were to find something with GMOs they know that there would be a good chance that their reputation or even their job would be on the line. Monsanto is a VERY PROTECTIVE company. The three things Monsanto hates: bad press, low stock prices and organic farmers!

      • Sorry, all this sounds like more conjecture to me. I expect that Monsanto – as a business – is no different that any other business – – – bad press, low stock prices. I’m sure you wouldn’t be very happy if the price of organic milk dropped off the charts, either. I assume that you like having an income as well. As for Monsanto hating organic farmers (or any other kind for that matter), you might want to take a look at this: http://www.realagriculture.com/2013/12/an-organic-farmer-walks-into-monsanto-and-this-is-what-happened/

        The next time you post a response to anything on this blog, I would appreciate it if you could come armed with more compelling arguments or counterpoints than what can be found on the first five pages of a Google search sourced from poor (and biased) resources. At least come with references. Those of us that are interested in participating in progressive dialogue around GMOS, food security, food production methods, etc. really don’t want to waste our time on emotionally charged, politicized discourse.

  3. Many critics of the 2 year Séralini rat feeding study using Monsanto’s NK-603 GMO corn claimed that he used rats that are prone to getting cancer (Sprague-Dawley rat). This was one the reasons that some people were saying the study was invalid. In one of the below links you will find that Monsanto used the same breed of rats in their 2004 13 week rat feeding study also the same breed of rat was used in this study of the Long-term carcinogenicity of D-003, a mixture of high molecular weight acids from sugarcane wax, in Sprague Dawley rats which was a 24 months study
    So should these two studies which were published in the Food & Chemical Toxicology Report be also retracted??? Maybe their results are inconclusive too!!!

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691504000547
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691507001810

  4. Séralini’s study was a chronic toxicity study, not a carcinogenicity study. The increase in tumour incidence was a surprise outcome. Now why would Monsanto or that other study use a rat that has a genetic pre-disposition to getting tumors? The Monsanto study as far I can tell was also a chronic toxicity study. How does one factor out the fact that these rats in both Monsanto’s study and Séralini’s rat feeding study have a genetic pre-disposition to getting tumors? Does one do a shorter study like 90 days instead of a 2 year study? I’m curious to know? I know that Monsanto use 400 rats instead of using 200 rats like Séralini. All them rats rather it was Monsanto’s or Séralini’s study still had to be dissected for analysis and therefore needlessly died. Séralini’s rats either got tumors from the corn or it was because they had a genetic pre-disposition to getting tumors. I think it’s interesting that the last study that I mentioned in the above comment of mine which was also a 2 year study. The tumors rates in that study both control and the other group were extremely low.

    • Hi Paul, I’ve been reading this thread, and as someone in science that sees Seralini’s work as such a distraction to productive discussion, I had to chime in.

      The early “Monsanto” work had a remarkably different hypothesis. They were using these rats and numbers to determine if there was a difference between the GM plants and controls. No differences were seen. The means were in line and statistically relevant.

      On the other hand, when you want to show a difference you need to be careful. Seralini really blew it experimentally- even showing data that 10% dead vs 30%– that’s one or three rats out of ten. That’s a lot of error statistically. To make a claim about differences requires many more replicates, especially in a strain of rats known to get tumors with time.

      To me, it is nothing about Monsanto or Seralini’s study. One does not justify the other. Each has to stand on merits of design and interpretation of statistics within statistical power.

      The bottom line is good one– if Seralini’s work was good and showed conclusive health effects from GM food, it would be in Science or Nature. It would be Nobel Prize, and hundreds of labs would be hurrying to do their own tests to expand the work. A new area of science would open, and replicated studies would limit/stop the use of GM corn.

      But the scientific world yawned, criticized the work as junk science, and then applauded the retraction (for the most part, some didn’t like that the journal pulled it after accepting it). If it is a good study with great results that are definitive, he can publish elsewhere, maybe Science, Nature, New England JM. I’m not holding my breath on that. Thanks.

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