The Story Behind the Story
of the Retracted GMO Corn Study

OCA memeby Melissa Diane Smith

The widely circulated study linking genetically modified corn to an increased rate of organ damage, tumors, and premature death in lab rats, about which I and many others have written and spoken, has been officially retracted by the journal that published it. A retraction of a study in a journal rarely happens and, when it does, it normally indicates there was some type of fraud or misrepresentation of data by the authors. In this case, the publishers explained that the authors had not committed any mistakes or deliberate deception, just that the results do not reach the threshold of publication for Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT).

So, is there more to know about the retraction? Yes, this important detail: The study was retracted from FCT less than a year after the journal appointed Richard E. Goodman, an ex-employee of genetically modified seed giant Monsanto, as the editor tasked with reviewing its biotechnology papers. The study that was retracted evaluated the effects of Monsanto’s patented corn NK603 and its patented herbicide Roundup.

The Organic Consumers Association is spreading the word about this detail with its  “Who Smells a Rat?” meme seen here that is circulating on the Internet right now.

As the OCA writes in its newsletter Organic Bytes:

If there was no evidence of fraud or misrepresentation, why did FCT retract the study? Because, the journal said, “there is legitimate reason for concern about both the number of animals tested in each group and the particular strain of rat selected.”

But as (Professor Gilles-Eric) Séralini (the main researcher) and his supporters point out, “the offending strain of rat (the Sprague-Dawley) is used routinely in the United States—including sometimes by Monsanto to study the carcinogenicity and chronic toxicity of chemicals.” What’s more, Séralini told Sustainable Pulse, the FCT in 2004 published a study by Monsanto finding the same strain of GMO corn (NK603) safe after measuring its effects on only ten Sprague-Dawley rats for three months only.

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(The Séralini study measured the effects for two years.) So, Séralini’s study used the same type of rat and the same type of corn as Monsanto did in one of its studies, just for a longer period of time.

More than a hundred scientists have protested the retraction, writing:

This arbitrary, groundless retraction of a published, thoroughly peer-reviewed paper is without precedent in the history of scientific publishing, and raises grave concerns over the integrity and impartiality of science.

The scientists say their concerns are heightened in part by the appointment of Goodman to the newly created post in the journal. They also say they will no longer publish, purchase, or review articles in Elsevier publications like FCT unless the retraction is reversed.

This issue is likely not yet complete and may eventually end up in a legal battle. The researcher and his colleagues wrote on that they “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.”

Séralini is not the first researcher whose work has been criticized or questioned after finding results that give cause for concern about genetically modified foods. Other scientists who have found disturbing results in research with genetically modified foods who have faced similar attempts at disaccreditation include Arpad Pusztai, Ignacio Chapela, Irina Ermakova, and Andres Carrasco.

Copyright © 2013 Melissa Diane Smith

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