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expert reaction to reports of a request for Gilles-Eric Séralini to withdraw his paper on the effects of GM maize on rats

The journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, has reportedly requested for Gilles-Eric Séralini to withdraw the study that purported to show that GM maize and the pesticide Roundup could lead to a high incidence of cancer in rats. 

 

Prof Alan Boobis, Professor of Biochemical Pharmacology at Imperial College London, said:

“Retraction of a scientific article should always be seen as a last resort.  Even when inconclusive, an article can contribute to scientific discourse on a topic.  This is why replication of findings is so important. 

“However, there are instances where the conclusions of a paper significantly over-interpret the findings, as was the case here.  Whilst always of concern, this is particularly problematic when the subject of the paper is of considerable public and media interest.  Hence, in the case of the article by Seralini et al I believe that the journal has acted responsibly and appropriately in evaluating all the data and taking this decision.”

 

Prof Jonathan Jones, Project Leader at the Sainsbury Laboratory, said:

“I congratulate the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology for its level-headed reappraisal of the original decision to accept the Seralini et al paper for publication.  Whatever one’s opinion of the motivations of the authors, all must accept that the suggestion that glyphosate or GM maize can elevate cancer risk is not supported by the experimental data in this paper.”

 

Prof Dale Sanders, Director of the John Innes Centre, said:

“The careful design of a scientific study is essential for generating results upon which reliable conclusions can be based.  If many studies draw the same conclusions, evidence-based policy can be developed.  Retracting a study that fails to meet accepted standards of reliability is particularly important given the controversy generated in Europe by GM crops.”

 

Prof Cathie Martin, Group Leader at the John Innes Centre, said:

“The major flaws in this paper make its retraction the right thing to do.  The strain of rats used is highly susceptible to tumours after 18 months with or without GMOs in their diets.  Keeping animals alive beyond their recommended lifespan means the results are inconclusive and also raises serious animal welfare concerns.”

 

Prof David Spiegelhalter, Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at the University of Cambridge, said:

“It was clear from even a superficial reading that this paper was not fit for publication, and in this instance the peer review process did not work properly.  But at least this has now been remedied and the journal has recognised that no conclusions can be drawn from this study, so I suppose it is better late than never.  Sadly the withdrawal of this paper will not generate the publicity garnered by its initial publication.”

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