In October last year we raised concerns about animals used in a French study on genetically modified (GM) maize and weed-killer.1 After receiving widespread criticism from the scientific community, this study has now been retracted from the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology.
In the experiment conducted at Caen University in France, rats were fed a diet of GM maize that had been sprayed with weed killer, for their entire lives (about two years).2 The researchers allowed the rats to suffer from shockingly large tumours that were up to 25% of their body weights, exceeding the humane endpoint recommended by international guidelines.
The study was criticised on statistical grounds and also because the strain of rats used are prone to develop tumours as they age anyway. Consequently, the study has been retracted and is no longer publicly available. In a statement published by the journal, the study was removed on the basis that “the results presented (while not incorrect) are inconclusive, and therefore do not reach the threshold of publication for Food and Chemical Toxicology”.3
According to the journal’s guidelines, a paper can only be retracted if the findings were incorrect (e.g. false data), if the work was plagiarised, or if the research was unethical. The journal is now facing backlash from scientists who believe that they were manipulated into retracting the article by panel members that have a vested interest in the GM food industry.4
Unfortunately, the retraction of this study does not take back the suffering that the animals were forced to endure and we are disappointed that the journal did not retract it on animal welfare grounds. We are still waiting for a response to the concerns we raised with the French government to explain why the experiment was granted ethical approval.
2. Seralini, G-E et al. Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. Food Chem. Toxicol. 50, 4221-4231 (2012).