You may remember back in March, this site called out a study in the Journal Food and Chemical Toxicology as being fraudulent. No, I cannot claim credit for outing the study, however, as by the time it showed up here, a number of prestigious scientists had pointed out the extreme flaws in the study and conclusion.
None the less, the study, complete with dramatic photos of tumor-ridden rats has become a mainstay of the anti-biotech movement. It is one of the most often cited pieces of evidence of the evils of genetic engineering. Now, however, after much criticism, the journal has decided to retract the study.
Via the International Business Times:
GMO Corn Study To Be Retracted By Journal Following Storm Of Scientific Criticis
A controversial paper purporting to show a link between genetically modified corn and tumors in rats is poised to be retracted by the journal that published it following a storm of critics from scientists over the past year.
University of Caen biologist Gilles-Eric Seralini and colleagues published their findings on GMO corn and rats in September 2012 in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology. They reported that rats fed genetically modified corn or water spiked with glyphosate, the herbicide used in conjunction with GM corn, were more prone to tumors and multiple organ failures. But there were odd signs surrounding the paper from the start: Seralini allowed some journalists early access to the paper, but only on the condition that they sign a confidentiality agreement that reporters not seek comments from other scientists on the paper before publication, an extremely unusual move. Once the research was released, scientists criticized almost every element of the paper: the experiment’s design, the use of a strain of rats prone to tumors, the lack of standard controls, and conclusions that did not seem fully supported by the data.
“This paper as it is now, presents poor quality science and dubious ethics,” scientists from the Brazilian Biosafety Association wrote in a letter to the journal.
On Thursday, French newspaper Le Figaro reported that Food and Chemical Toxicology editor-in-chief A. Wallace Hayes had sent Seralini a letter saying the paper will be retracted if he and his colleagues do not agree to withdraw it.
Having an article retracted, with or without the agreement of the authors is a rare event and about the most extreme form of censure that can be imposed on a scientific publication. It is especially noteworthy that this comes as a direct result of the legitimate criticism that came from the scientific community. Although the journal it was published in was far from prestigious, it became apparent that this was the only way to maintain any credibility they may have had.
Unfortunately, this is unlikely to end the use of the study as evidence of the evils of biotechnology. Just as Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent study still convinces anti-vaccine groups, it is impossible to shake the faith of true believers. Already some are saying this is just more evidence of a Monsanto-backed conspiracy.
So while this is a positive step and will certainly assure no legitimate scientists put any weight on the conclusions of this study, it will not unring that bell or put this claim to bed.