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 Apparently, Séralini opted not to withdraw and the article was retracted by the editors in late November.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).
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.