Seralini study

A popular French study published in 2012 that tied genetically modified seeds and the herbicide glyphosate to an increased risk of cancer has been retracted by the journal that originally published it.

According to the New York Times, the editor of the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology told the paper’s main author that “the study’s results, while not incorrect or fraudulent, were ‘inconclusive, and therefore do not reach the threshold of publication’.”

Widely known as the “Séralini study,” after lead author Dr. Gilles-Eric Séralini, the research conducted by a team at the University of Caen in France, was controversial from the date it was published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology. It was criticized as being “sensationalistic,” reports the Times, and even “fraudulent” by members of the scientific community, some of whom are “allied with the biotechnology industry.”

A. Wallace Hayes, the editor in chief of the journal, wrote in his letter to Dr. Séralini that “unequivocally” he had found “no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data.” But he cited that there was still “legitimate cause for concern.” Issues surrounded the number of rats used in the study, and the fact that the type of rats that were used are particularly prone to developing cancer, which could not rule out “normal variability” as the cause for the development of tumors.

Two hundred rats divided into ten groups (of ten males and ten females) were followed for two years. Some groups received a diet laced with heavy amounts of glyphosate, the herbicide sold as Monsanto’s Roundup. The groups of rats that received the glyphosate (whether in food or water or both), were more likely to develop cancerous tumors and die earlier than those rats who did not receive the chemical and the genetically modified corn.

The study had become one of the stronger arguments in the anti-GMO / pro-GMO labeling movement. GMWatch, which posted the letter on its website, called the journal’s actions “illicit, unscientific and unethical.” Even though the data may have been inconclusive, “it was not sufficient grounds for a retraction.” The group states: “It violates the guidelines for retractions in scientific publishing set out by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE)… of which FCT [Food and Chemical Toxicology] is a member.”

Dr. Séralini stands by his research, “We maintain our conclusions,” he told Food Navigator, suggesting that regulatory science resembles “a prostitute with industry.”

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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Image: GMWatch