Retracted Seralini GMO-rat study republished
Retraction Watch readers may recall that the editor of Food and Chemical Toxicology decided to retract the heavily criticized paper because it was “inconclusive.” The editor, A. Wallace Hayes, claimed that this was consistent with Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) guidelines, although we and many others disagreed.
Here’s the original abstract of the Food and Chemical Toxicology paper, which has been cited 55 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge:
The health effects of a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize (from 11% in the diet), cultivated with or without Roundup, and Roundup alone (from 0.1 ppb in water), were studied 2 years in rats. In females, all treated groups died 2-3 times more than controls, and more rapidly. This difference was visible in 3 male groups fed GMOs. All results were hormone and sex dependent, and the pathological profiles were comparable. Females developed large mammary tumors almost always more often than and before controls, the pituitary was the second most disabled organ; the sex hormonal balance was modified by GMO and Roundup treatments. In treated males, liver congestions and necrosis were 2.5-5.5 times higher. This pathology was confirmed by optic and transmission electron microscopy. Marked and severe kidney nephropathies were also generally 1.3-2.3 greater. Males presented 4 times more large palpable tumors than controls which occurred up to 600 days earlier. Biochemistry data confirmed very significant kidney chronic deficiencies; for all treatments and both sexes, 76% of the altered parameters were kidney related. These results can be explained by the non linear endocrine-disrupting effects of Roundup, but also by the overexpression of the transgene in the GMO and its metabolic consequences.
The new paper, which appears in a different journal (more on that in a moment), includes a new analysis. Here’s the abstract:
The health effects of a Roundup-tolerant NK603 genetically modified (GM) maize (from 11% in the diet), cultivated with or without Roundup application and Roundup alone (from 0.1 ppb of the full pesticide containing glyphosate and adjuvants) in drinking water, were evaluated for 2 years in rats. This study constitutes a follow-up investigation of a 90-day feeding study conducted by Monsanto in order to obtain commercial release of this GMO, employing the same rat strain and analyzing biochemical parameters on the same number of animals per group as our investigation. Our research represents the first chronic study on these substances, in which all observations including tumors are reported chronologically. Thus, it was not designed as a carcinogenicity study. We report the major findings with 34 organs observed and 56 parameters analyzed at 11 time points for most organs.
Biochemical analyses confirmed very significant chronic kidney deficiencies, for all treatments and both sexes; 76% of the altered parameters were kidney-related. In treated males, liver congestions and necrosis were 2.5 to 5.5 times higher. Marked and severe nephropathies were also generally 1.3 to 2.3 times greater. In females, all treatment groups showed a two- to threefold increase in mortality, and deaths were earlier. This difference was also evident in three male groups fed with GM maize. All results were hormone- and sex-dependent, and the pathological profiles were comparable. Females developed large mammary tumors more frequently and before controls; the pituitary was the second most disabled organ; the sex hormonal balance was modified by consumption of GM maize and Roundup treatments. Males presented up to four times more large palpable tumors starting 600 days earlier than in the control group, in which only one tumor was noted. These results may be explained by not only the non-linear endocrine-disrupting effects of Roundup but also by the overexpression of the EPSPS transgene or other mutational effects in the GM maize and their metabolic consequences.
Our findings imply that long-term (2 year) feeding trials need to be conducted to thoroughly evaluate the safety of GM foods and pesticides in their full commercial formulations.
The team circulated an embargoed version of the study to members of the media last week. They withheld the name of the journal — a highly unusual move about which our sister blog, Embargo Watch, has more — and said the name would be released at a press conference that’s starting as this post goes live. That omission — which Seralini told Retraction Watch was to prevent GMO and Roundup maker Monsanto from pressuring editors to revoke publication — extended to a passage that appears in italics before the study (more on this passage in a moment):
Empirical natural and social sciences produce knowledge which should describe and explain past and present phenomena and estimate their future development. To this end quantitative methods are used. Progress in science needs controversial debates aiming at the best methods as basis for objective, reliable and valid results approximating what could be the truth. Such methodological competition is the energy needed for scientific progress. In this sense, [the editor] aims to enable rational discussions dealing with the article from G.-E. Séralini et al. (Food Chem. Toxicol. 2012, 50:4221–4231) by re-publishing it. By doing so, any kind of appraisal of the paper’s content should not be connoted. The only aim is to enable scientific transparency and, based on this, a discussion which does not hide but aims to focus methodological controversies. [the editor and journal's name will be released at the press conference, June 24th]
Retraction Watch learned yesterday, however, that Environmental Sciences Europe — a journal where Seralini has published before — was the journal publishing the new version. The journal, part of SpringerOpen, is too young to have an official Impact Factor (IF). Using the same calculation, however, the journal would have an IF of .55. That would place it about 190th out of the 210 journals in the “environmental sciences” category at Thomson Scientific. (For comparison, Food and Chemical Toxicology has an IF of just above 3, and a ranking of 27th.)
This is hardly the first time that the authors of a retracted paper have republished it. In a recent case, they did so in the same journal. But in a more typical case, they republished the work in another journal, with a lower IF.
The republished study was peer-reviewed, according to the press materials, and Seralini confirmed that it was in an email to Retraction Watch. But we were curious what “any kind of appraisal of the paper’s content should not be connoted” meant. We asked Seralini and the editor of Environmental Sciences Europe, Henner Hollert, but neither responded.
Seralini and his colleagues provide a timeline in the press materials of their version of events. One element in particular caught our eye:
Wallace Hayes wrote an article to defend his position that raises doubts about his understanding of the study and raw data. He mentions in his defense he was unable to conclude that “there was a clear link between GMO and cancer.” An obvious error of W. Hayes as the term “cancer” has never been mentioned in the paper of Séralini’s research team. And it does not affect any aspect of the research on Roundup.
…has promoted the cancer results as the study’s major finding, through a tightly orchestrated media offensive that began last month and included the release of a book and a film about the work.
Speaking of the book and film about Seralini’s work, the authors — who have lambasted their critics for failing to disclose potential conflicts of interest, including in a paper published alongside the new version – didn’t declare them as conflicts:
The author(s) declare that they have no competing interests, and that, in contrast with regulatory assessments for GMOs and pesticides, they are independent from companies developing these products.