A French study published in 2009 commonly called the Seralini study, after the lead’s author’s name, found that rats fed GMO corn had problems with their kidney, liver, heart, adrenal glands, spleen and hematopoietic system. The journal Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT) published the study. Last week, Elsevier, the publisher of the journal, announced the retraction of the Seralini study. A group of scientists, 28 from six different countries, are outraged over the retraction and wrote a letter in protest to Elsevier.
Elsevier states in its press release about the retraction that it “comes after a thorough and time-consuming analysis of the published article and the data it reports, along with an investigation into the peer-review behind the article.” The publisher cites several reasons for the retraction, including concern for the “number of animals in each study group and the particular strain selected.” The publisher also expressed concern that “no definitive conclusions can be reached with this small sample size regarding the role of either NK603 or glyphosate in regards to overall mortality or tumor incidence.”
There is one big problem with Elsevier’s stated reasons for the retraction, however. The letter signed by the 28 scientists points out that the retraction violates the international ethical norms set down by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), of which the journal is a member. COPE states that there are only three grounds for retraction:
- Clear evidence that the findings are unreliable due to misconduct or honest error
- Plagiarism or redundant publication
- Unethical research
The letter urges Elsevier to reverse their decision, and the scientists vowed to boycott the publisher. “We urge you to reverse this appalling decision, and further, to issue a fulsome public apology to Séralini and his colleagues,” the letter states. “Until you accede to our request, we will boycott Elsevier, i.e., decline to purchase Elsevier products, to publish, review, or do editorial work for Elsevier.”
The scientists raise concerns about the “sequence of events surrounding the retraction,” which include the appointment of former Monsanto employee Richard Goodman to the new position of associate editor for biotechnology at FCT. Two other recent events are mentioned: Another study concerning the harmful effects from GMOs was retracted, and the failure to retract a study by Monsanto scientists published in the journal in 2004 “for which a gross error has been identified.”
Clearly, there is a link between the appointment of an ex-Monsanto employee and the retraction of the Seralini study. Truly, the retraction is an outrage and calls into question the scientific integrity of Elsevier and the journal it publishes.