Seralini et al. study on GMO and rat cancer withdrawn? UPDATED 2.12.13

The Journal Food and Chemical Toxicolgy, due to the doubts about the quality of the data submitted by Gilles Eric Seralini for his controversial study on long term effects of GMO Maize NK603

The editor of the journal, A. Wallace Hayes, has sent Seralini a letter saying that the paper will be retracted if Seralini does not agree to withdraw it. Here there is most of the letter, published on the web:

The panel had many concerns about the quality of the data, and ultimately recommended that the article should be withdrawn. I have been trying to get in touch with you to discuss the specific reasons behind this recommendation. If you do not agree to withdraw the article, it will be retracted, and the following statement will be published it its place:

The journal Food and Chemical Toxicology retracts the article “Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize,”1 which was published in this journal in November 2012. This retraction 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 Editor in-Chief deferred making any public statements regarding this article until this investigation was complete, and the authors were notified of the findings.

Very shortly after the publication of this article, the journal received Letters to the Editor expressing concerns about the validity of the findings it described, the proper use of animals, and even allegations of fraud. Many of these letters called upon the editors of the journal to retract the paper. According to the journal’s standard practice, these letters, as well as the letters in support of the findings, were published along with a response from the authors. Due to the nature of the concerns raised about this paper, the Editor-in-Chief examined all aspects of the peer review process and requested permission from the corresponding author to review the raw data. The request to view raw data is not often made; however, it is in accordance with the journal’s policy that authors of submitted manuscripts must be willing to provide the original data if so requested. The corresponding author agreed and supplied all material that was requested by the Editor-in-Chief. The Editor-in-Chief wishes to acknowledge the co-operation of the corresponding author in this matter, and commends him for his commitment to the scientific process.

Unequivocally, the Editor-in-Chief found no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data. However, there is legitimate cause for concern regarding both the number of animals in each study group and the particular strain selected. The low number of animals had been identified as a cause for concern during the initial review process, but the peer-review decision ultimately weighed that the work still had merit despite this limitation. A more in-depth look at the raw data revealed 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. Given the known high incidence of tumors in the Sprague-Dawley rat, normal variability cannot be excluded as the cause of the higher mortality and incidence observed in the treated groups.

Ultimately, the results presented (while not incorrect) are inconclusive, and therefore do not reach the threshold of publication for Food and Chemical Toxicology. The peer-review process is not perfect, but it does work. The journal is committed to a fair, thorough, and timely peer-review process; sometimes expediency might be sacrificed in order to be as thorough as possible. The time-consuming nature is, at times, required in fairness to both the authors and readers. Likewise, the Letters to the Editor, both pro and con, serve as a post-publication peer review. The back and forth between the readers and the author has a useful and valuable place in our scientific dialog.

The Editor-in-Chief again commends the corresponding author for his willingness and openness in participating in this dialog. The retraction is only on the inconclusiveness of this one paper. The journal’s editorial policy will continue to review all manuscripts no matter how controversial they may be. The editorial board will continue to use this case as a reminder to be as diligent as possible in the peer-review process.”

Dr. Seralini answered to criticism as it follow:

“We, authors of the paper published in FCT more than one year ago on the effects of Roundup and a Roundup-tolerant GMO (Séralini et al., 2012), and having answered to critics in the same journal (Séralini et al., 2013), do not accept as scientifically sound the debate on the fact that these papers are inconclusive because of the rat strain or the number of rats used. We maintain our conclusions. We already published some answers to the same critics in your Journal, which have not been answered (Séralini et al., 2013).”

Basically, he sustains that rat strain and number are equal to those used by Monsanto, so, if they could affirm the safety of the maize, he could equally affirms that it is unsafe.

Dr. Seralini is threatening lawsuit against Food and Chemical Toxicology, in case of withdrawn of the paper.

Related articles:

1. Euro food safety watchdog rejects Roundup GM cancer study

2. EFSA provides Professor Seralini data on GM maize NK603 – Update on GM research

3. EFSA to finalise review of Séralini et al. publication by mid-November

4. EFSA definitely rejects Seralini et al. study

5. EFSA published all data on GM Maize NK603

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