Divisive since the day it was published, "Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize," the French study that labeled widely consumed genetically engineered corn and the herbicide glyphosate as toxic, is now subject to a fresh round of controversy.
More than a year after it was published, the study on the health impacts of GMO corn and glyphosate herbicides on rats is being retracted by the journal that published it. Food and Chemical Toxicology editor-in-chief A. Wallace Hayes wrote the author, G.E. Séralini, notifying him of the rare retraction.
After rehashing the response to the paper, which elicited cries from the scientific community that at best the study was flawed and at worst Séralini was a fraud, Hayes writes, “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 letter continues, “Ultimately, the results presented (while not incorrect) are inconclusive, and therefore do not reach the threshold of publication for Food and Chemical Toxicology.” Hayes says the retraction is an example of the peer-review process doing its job.
Critics of the study have pointed out that the rats Séralini used are highly susceptible to developing cancer without the introduction of any carcinogens and that the sample size was too small to support the types of claims the paper made. Still, as the anti-biotech group GMWatch points out, the Committee on Publication Ethics, of which Food and Chemical Toxicology is a member, has specific guidelines for retracting papers.
There are only three conditions that, if violated, should result in a retraction, according to the committee’s guidelines. They are as follows:
• Clear evidence that the findings are unreliable due to misconduct (eg data fabrication) or honest error
• Plagiarism or redundant publication
• Unethical research.
GMWatch believes that because the results are not, as Hayes writes, “incorrect,” none of these guidelines was violated.
Séralini, for his part, is considering suing the journal.