Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Seralini paper claiming GMO toxicity disappears after journal domain expires

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SJASA paper claiming genetically modified corn may be toxic over long periods has disappeared one day after it was presented at a press conference, after the journal’s domain name expired.

The paper, co-authored by Gilles Seralini — who has published controversial research showing harms of GM food — appeared in the Scholarly Journal of Agricultural Sciences (SJAS). On Tuesday, the Committee for Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering (Criigen) scheduled a press conference about the findings, noting the finding presented

new scientific data on Bt toxins and a thorough study of the records show that this GMO Bt maize is most probably toxic over the long term.

But on Wednesday January 27, the journal’s domain name expired. This isn’t a retraction per se, but a disappearance. Now, any link to the study “Pathology reports on the first cows fed with Bt176 maize (1997–2002)” goes to this page, which says in the bottom right corner:

This domain name expired on Jan 27 2016 09:40:43:000AM
Click here to renew it.

We asked Seralini and co-author Gottfried Glöckner if they knew the journal’s domain was about to expire. Glöckner told us:

We did not know!?

The study was also covered by GMWatch, “an independent organisation that seeks to counter the enormous corporate political power and propaganda of the GMO industry and its supporters.” The site says the journal also published a commentary by Seralini about Glöckner’s expertise in this area (the link to which also goes to the expired site):

When German farmer Gottfried Glöckner began feeding his cows on GM Bt176 maize in 1998, he noticed strange symptoms appearing in the animals. They included partial paralysis (paresis), accompanied by severe fatigue and problems in the kidneys and mucous membranes, followed by death in 10% of cases.

Initially the culprit was thought to be a bacterial or viral disease. Analyses were conducted, including some by university laboratories, in collaboration with the German Ministry of Health and the GM maize developer company, Syngenta (then Novartis). But the investigations drew a blank.

By 2002 the proportion of GM Bt maize in the diet, which had been progressively introduced, had reached 40%. Glöckner had become convinced that Bt maize was the cause of the diseases in his cows. He sued Syngenta and was awarded partial compensation for his losses. But he subsequently suffered legal and personal setbacks, as reported in a commentary newly published by Prof Gilles-Eric Séralini in the the peer-reviewed Scholarly Journal of Agricultural Sciences (SJAS) (Séralini GE, The experience of one of the first GM crop farmers in Europe, SJAS 2016).

After the court cases ended, Prof Séralini gained access to the veterinary records and to detailed archived data for each cow, as well as to the testimony of the farmer, who holds a Master’s degree in Agricultural Sciences.

The publisher, Scholarly Journals, is listed among the “potential, possible, or probable” predatory publishers compiled by Jeffrey Beall.

One of our first thoughts was about a 2015 article by John Bohannon at Science about the risk of journal hijacking — in which hijackers lie in wait for journal domain names to expire, then renew them and ask researchers to pay to publish their work.

Update 1/28/16 10:13 a.m. eastern: We heard from Seralini, who also said he didn’t realize the journal’s domain was about to expire. He also reiterated that this does not mean the paper has been retracted:

Of course we could not know before this technical problem with the website of the Journal. I did not have problems with this Journal existing since a long time, being referenced, very efficient in corrections / proofs / editing. The price to publish color figures and raw data on line was really comparable to others.

The papers are joined and are not retracted because a website is not available, possibly because of too many international openings of it.

Criigen and GMWatch have since uploaded pdfs of the paper, which you can read here.

Update 2/1/16 10:37 a.m. eastern: Seralini notified us that the journal is back online. You can access the two articles and the issue’s TOC here.

Hat tip: Neuroskeptic

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