We couldn’t help noticing that the past few weeks have seen calls to retract two papers on food, from different sides of the political spectrum. One paper actually looked at the effects of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), while the GMO link in the other paper seems mostly to be in activists’ minds. Consider:
On the right, we have Henry I. Miller writing on Forbes.com about a study of rats fed genetically modified maize: “The honorable course of action for the journal would be to retract the paper immediately“:
It also deserves mention that the publication of this article represents an abject, egregious failure of peer-review and editorial competence at Food and Chemical Toxicology, the journal in which it appeared. The honorable course of action for the journal would be to retract the paper immediately – a point on which the editors have thus far been silent.
There are a lot of weaknesses in the study, which Miller — a fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford — points out. And the way the scientists handled the pre-publication embargo — forcing reporters to sign a non-disclosure agreement that barred them from seeking outside sources — left more than a bit to be desired. But retraction?
Now on the left: “Retract the Flawed ‘Organic Study’ Linked to Big Tobacco and Pro-GMO Corps,” a call on Change.org to yank a recently published study, “Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier Than Conventional Alternatives?”
As Rosie Mestel of the Los Angeles Times wrote in an article about the petition:
The article focused specifically on health aspects of organic food versus conventional food; in an interview, the first author said that she and the senior coauthor, both doctors, often get asked by their patients if eating organic food is healthier, so they decided to look at it.
The scientists weren’t studying genetically modified foods (though if GMO foods were in the conventional data, one might think that GMO-caused health factors would have revealed themselves in the results). And they weren’t studying high-fructose corn syrup — they were only reviewing fruits, vegetables, eggs, grains, dairy, poultry and meat. Not processed foods.
The article, in other words, wasn’t about the entirety of everything that people think is wrong about the way our food is grown and produced today. It wasn’t even about every type of difference between organic and conventionally grown food.
Check out the rest of her piece. And let us know whether you think either of these studies should be retracted, in our poll below. (We should note that we’re not aware of any problems with the data, be they fraud or errors, in either study.) Based on the heated discussion of PLoS’s blog post on their retraction policy earlier this week, we’re betting there are some strong opinions out there.
Hat tip: Neurodojo