It “takes a long time to have these experiments redone,” so group retracts wheat paper after reader challenges

Normally we’d make hay with the following notice in Acta Biochimica et Biophysica Sinica — separating the wheat from the chaff, Love and Death, and all that — but, well, it speaks for itself (sort of).

A group of researchers in China have retracted their 2011 paper on the biochemistry of chloroplast in wheat:

Dear editor;

After receiving the comments from the readers, we checked the results carefully and decided to repeat all the experiments. As the first author has already left the lab, other members are still trying to repeat these experiments. Because it takes a long time to have these experiments redone, we decide to retract our paper entitled “Stable chloroplast transformation of immature scutella and inflorescences in wheat (Triticum aestivum L.)” by Cuiju Cui, Fei Song, Yi Tan, Xuan Zhou, Wen Zhao, Fengyun Ma, Yunyi Liu, Javeed Hussain, Yuesheng Wang, Guangxiao Yang, and Guangyuan He, published in Acta Biochimica et Biophysica Sinica, Volume 43, Number 4, April 18, 2011, pp. 284-291 (DOI: 10.1093/abbs/gmr008), until all the results are reconfirmed. We would like to thank the readers for their critical comments and we feel sorry to the readers for the inconveniences caused.

The paper has been cited four times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

The letter is signed by Guangyuan He, of Huazhong University of Science and Technology, or HUST. He also is director of a joint China-United Kingdom lab, whose goal is

to improve the end use quality, resistance to biotic and abiotic stress and yield of crops by biotechnology, to develop crop functional genomics, and to establish an international training centre for young scientists in the areas of plant biotechnology and plant science in Wuhan, China between Institutions in China and UK.

The study was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China and something called the Genetically Modified New Varieties of Major Projects of China. China has been committed to developing genetically modified crops, but last year, officials announced that it was putting a five-to-ten year hold on its efforts to commercialize genetically modified rice and wheat.

0 thoughts on “It “takes a long time to have these experiments redone,” so group retracts wheat paper after reader challenges”

  1. “we decide to retract our paper … until all the results are reconfirmed.”

    So this is just a temporary retraction?

  2. Why do they need to redo the experiments? Why can’t they verify with the original data? Is it because the original data doesn’t exist anymore in the lab or is it that the original data does not show what they claimed?

    1. Could be that the plants don’t exist anymore so they need to regenerate them, a 7-8 month process. It’s a technique description paper, so there may be a technical issue about the exact methods they used. This would also require making re-making the plants.

      1. I too can understand that but the point is that these experiments were supposedly done before the manuscript was communicated and presumably repeated to verify whether their observations were a fluke or real. So where is that data? Why can’t they use that data to either support their paper or else let others know that it wasn’t so? I find this happening repeatedly that authors are doing new experiments to prove something that they had already done and repeated but never come up with the earlier data.

  3. If you successfully transformed Wheat, you would be publishing in Nature. There would have been fundamental flaws in the experimental design/falsified results.

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