Can we trust our scientific journals to be unbiased conveyors of truth? Based on the recent move to retract a long-term study that linked GMO consumption to large tumor growth, it appears that at least one journal is interested in hiding the truth from the public, sacrificing its integrity and caving under pressure from the biotech industry.
Last year, the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology (JFCT) published a research paper by Gilles-Eric Sralini and his team titled Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. It was the first—and, to this day, the only—research paper to examine the long-term effects of consuming GMO corn. And the results? Well, they were troubling, to say the least.
Seralinis 2-Year Study Paints a Different Picture From Monsantos 90-day Study
The time length difference between Monsantos 90-day study and Seralinis 2-year study was critically important.
When Monsanto submitted their study to the EU European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for the approval of their Roundup-tolerant NK603 GMO maize, they only submitted a 90-day study, citing that in an earlier 90-day study on the same strain, signs of toxicity were seen, but were dismissed as not biologically meaningful by industry and EFSA alike.
But when Seralini and his team tested more than 200 rats on a diet of GMO corn over a period of two full years, a longer period of time than any other public study, they learned that those sign were, in fact, very biologically meaningful.
In Seralini’s research, the first tumors began to appear four to seven months into the study.
Seralini’s Research Team Shames the GMO Industry
The researchers concluded, In females, all treated groups died two to three times more than controls, and more rapidly. This difference was [also] visible in three male groups fed GMOs.
Among treated females, large breast tumors were the most common manifestation. The pituitary gland was the second most harmed part of the body.
Among treated males, liver congestion and necrosis were 2.5 to 5.5 times that of the controls. Serious kidney disorders were 1.3 to 2.3 greater. Additionally, the males had four times more large palpable tumors than the control males.
Given the controversial nature of the research, Sralini expected some push-back, but after a rigorous four-month review process, the paper was accepted and published in November of 2012.
Retraction Will Violate Ethical Guidelines
Now, nearly a year after the paper was reviewed, accepted and published, the journal has decided to retract the findings and change its documented status to ‘inconclusive.’ According to Claire Robinson of GM Watch, inconclusiveness of findings is not a valid ground for retraction.
And Robinson couldn’t be more accurate—it’s not valid ground. Seralinis research met none of the criteria that warrant retraction.
Violating guidelines set by the Committee on Publication Ethics, which state that the only reasons for a journal to retract a paper are data fabrication, misconduct, honest error, plagiarism, redundancy or unethical research, the journal retracted the paper citing a “legitimate cause for concern [regarding the number] of animals in each study group.”
Do You Smell a Rat?
The timing of the retraction is telling. It occurred six months after Editor-in-Chief of the journal A. Wallace Hayes appointed Richard Goodman, a former Monsanto employee and pro-GMO lobbyist, to the newly created post of Associate Editor of Biotechnology.
In addition to being a former Monsanto employee, Goodman worked for the International Life Sciences Institute, which is a Monsanto front organization that devises GM-food-friendly risk assessment methods and puts them in government regulations.
In effect, Monsanto is now deciding what papers on biotechnology are published in the JFCT. This action is a travesty of the pursuit of medical science.
Physicians and the public at large tend to trust the findings of scientific studies published in journals. Indeed, the conclusions drawn by scientists in these publications often serve as the basis for critical decisions regarding medical treatment and federal policies for health protection. In this case, the journal has violated the publics trust flagrantly.
When the study was published a year ago, it rocked the GM industry as pictures of rats with large tumors appeared in newspapers around the globe. Its findings were diametrically opposed to the conclusions of the EFSA that GMO foods are unlikely to have an adverse effect on health. In response, the ERSA attempted to exonerate itself, claiming Seralinis study used an insufficient number of rats, the wrong kind of rats and that the statistical analysis was flawed. However, these criticisms are without merit because all GMO studies have involved the same type of rats and the approximate number.
Even if the Seralini study was flawed, the precautionary principal would mandate that the EU and EFSA order further research because of the potential for grave health risk to the human population. Moreover, instead of relying on the research of Monsanto, who stands to gain monetarily from the approval of their product, the EU and EFSA should have sought an independent researcher. The failure to do so implies that the EFSA is trying to protect the biotech industry. Many members of the GMO review panel of the EFSA have ties to Monsanto and other like companies, which is a blaring conflict of interest.
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