GM Free Cymru

NIH journal publishes condemnation of Séralini retraction

Date Added to website 6th February 2014

Moderator's Note: In December we posted a report on a statement issued by the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER). The statement was a sharp condemnation of the retraction of a research article by Séralini and colleagues (Séralini et al. 2012) by the Editor-in-Chief of the journalFood and Chemical Toxicology.

A brief refresher is in order about the study and the controversy unleashed by the journal's retraction. First, we should note that the study exceeded the minimal time span in the research design of the commercial biotechnology companies' own experimental data, which typically involves very short term feeding trials of 6 weeks or less. Séralini et al used a more realistic and proven minimum of 13 weeks length for the feeding trials since toxic, mutagenic, teratogenic, or carcinogenic effects from any given food source usually have cumulative and long-term exposure effects.

The Séralini team used 200 rats divided into ten groups, each of ten males and ten females. The GM maize alone was tested on three groups at 11%, 22% and 33% of the total diet. GM maize, which had been sprayed with Roundup in the field, was tested on three groups in the same proportions. Roundup alone, given in drinking water at three different doses, was tested on three groups. The lowest dose corresponded to contamination found in some tap water, the intermediate dose to the maximum level permitted in the USA in animal feed, and the highest dose to half the strength of Roundup as used in agriculture. Controls were fed a diet containing 33% non-GM maize and plain drinking water.

The study also found escalation of signs of liver and kidney toxicity found in Monsanto 90-day feeding trial (Hammond et al. 2004). Results of the 13-week safety assurance study with rats fed grain from glyphosate-tolerant corn confirmed effects of liver / kidney failure and premature death, especially in males and unexpected increase in tumor incidence, especially via Roundup in females (mammary tumors). There was an unexpected low dose toxicity result from Roundup in the rat's drinking water, with a toxicity measured at 10,000 times lower than that permitted in drinking water in USA and in which females died prematurely from mammary tumors and pituitary dysfunction.

Séralini's findings have provoked a major controversy in part because the retraction was not based on any evidence of misconduct, fraud, or even a failure of methodological design. The study was not withdrawn because it was "inconclusive" and that is truly amazing since the very nature of scientific inquiry is that it produces a lot of inclusive results – that is the pathway of what Kuhn calls "normal science". Indeed, many critics of the retraction note that the Séralini study used a more rigorous methodology that will likely influence future feeding trials and that is what has the biotechnology advocates so angry and worried.

A growing number of scholars feel the study provides a serious finding that should remain part of the published record and that the retraction appears to indicate an unresolved dispute over the need for redesign of all future corporate-run feeding trials. In other words, Séralini also means that corporate trials are methodologically flawed but the same Editor does not consider asking for a retraction of the previously published feeding trials that used industry-suggested designs including short-span feeding trials of as little as six to ten days. This apparent double standard should be grounds for the resignation of the Food and Chem. editor.

Regardless, now comes an even bigger bomb in the form of a harsh set of criticisms leveled in a letter published in from the prestigious journal, Environmental Health Perspectives, a flagship journal of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Is this an opening to a conflict between the NIH and the FDAS and USDA? One wonders. In the current February 2014 issue, the journal features a letter from three American scientists condemning the retraction of the Séralini study.

We are re-positing here and mark the significance of this letter that in many ways represents a first for the mainstream public health discourse in the USA. The authors note this sort of retraction has never happened before:

"The nature of science is such that individual studies are rarely, if ever, conclusive. Numerous published studies have later been found to be deeply flawed through further scientific investigation, as may well be the study by Séralini et al. To our knowledge, there is no precedent for 'inconclusive data' being a reason for retraction for Elsevier or other publishers, or elsewhere in the scientific literature."

For complete and continuing coverage of this controversy, I invite my readers and followers to visit the website, GMOSeralini.

more at: