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A scientific journal that published a study in 2012 linking cancer with Monsanto's genetically modified corn has now retracted it, months after hiring a former Monsanto employee to fill a new editorial position reviewing biotechnology papers.

The study, by Gilles-Eric Seralini and others, reviewed the toxicological effects of Monsanto's NK603 and its associated Round-Up pesticide and was published in Food and Chemical Toxicology. The journal said it retracted the study because the its small sample size and choice of rat used in the research meant no definitive conclusions could be reached.

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Seralini's study was aimed at creating a chronic toxicity study under the same conditions that Monsanto used to assert the genetically modified corn’s safety. The study found “severe toxic effects (including liver congestions, necrosis and kidney nephropathies), increased tumor rates and higher mortality in rats fed Monsanto’s genetically modified NK603 maize and/or the associated herbicide Roundup." 

Last February, the journal hired a former Monsanto employee, Richard E. Goodman, for a new position reviewing biotechnology papers, reports GreenMedInfo. On Nov. 19, Food and Chemical Toxicology reported its decision to retract the published paper.

Writing for CRIIGEN, the independent lab with which Seralini is affiliated, Frédérique Baudouin noted that a short Monsanto study, which was published in the same journal to prove the safety of its product, “was conducted with the same strain and number of rats.” Séralini has said he will sue.

"In science, repeating someone else’s study is common practice. Retracting a published paper is not," food writer Marion Nestle wrote in her blog.

 Guidelines for retracting journal articles published by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) say journal editors should consider retracting a publication if:

  • They have clear evidence that the findings are unreliable, either as a result of misconduct (e.g. data fabri­cation) or honest error (e.g. miscalculation or experimental error)
  • The findings have previously been published elsewhere without proper crossreferencing, permission or justification (i.e. cases of redundant publication)
  • It constitutes plagiarism
  • It reports unethical research

"The Séralini paper may be unreliable, but that should have been obvious to the peer reviewers and the journal’s editors. Otherwise, the paper does not fit any of the established criteria for retraction," Nestle wrote.

The European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER) has condemned the journal's actions and warned they were “a flagrant abuse of science” that will “decrease public trust in science.” ENSSER condemned the journal for violating “the criteria for retraction to which the journal itself subscribes," and "any standards of good science.”

The GreenMedInfo article details Goodman's affiliation with Monsanto. The article says Goodman worked for the company between 1997 and 2004. While at Monsanto he assessed the allergenicity of the company’s genetically modified organisms and published papers on its behalf on allergenicity and safety issues relating to genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

GreenMedInfo said Goodman has an active and ongoing involvement with the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI). ILSI is funded by the multinational GMO and agrochemical companies, including Monsanto. It develops industry-friendly risk assessment methods for GMOs and chemical food contaminants and inserts them into government regulations.

Visit EcoWatch’s GMO page for more related news on this topic.

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Institute for Responsible Technology

Dow Chemical is currently requesting unprecedented approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to market a genetically engineered (GE) version of corn that is resistant to 2,4-D, a major component of the highly toxic Agent Orange. Agent Orange was the chemical defoliant used by the U.S. in Vietnam, and it caused lasting ecological damage as well as many serious medical conditions in both Vietnam veterans and the Vietnamese.

Exposure to 2,4-D has been linked to major health problems that include cancer (especially non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma), lowered sperm counts, liver disease and Parkinson’s disease. A growing body of evidence from laboratory studies shows that 2,4-D causes endocrine disruption, reproductive problems, neurotoxicity and immunosuppression. Furthermore, tests within the industry show that 2,4-D is contaminated with dioxins, a group of highly toxic chemical compounds that bioaccumulate, so even a minute amount can accumulate as it goes up the food chain, causing dangerous levels of exposure. Dioxins in Agent Orange have been linked to many diseases, including birth defects in children of exposed parents—and, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 2,4-D is the seventh largest source of dioxins in the U.S.

USDA approval of Dow’s GE corn will trigger a big increase in 2,4-D use—and our exposure to this toxic herbicide. Yet the USDA has not assessed how much exposure will increase, nor analyzed the resulting impacts on public health, the environment or neighboring farmers (2,4-D is prone to drift and cause damage to nearby crops). Instead, the agency has once again bowed to the pesticide industry by giving preliminary approval to still another pesticide-promoting crop that will likely harm people and their children, including farmers, and the environment. The USDA claims to be adhering to a scientific process, yet they are blatantly ignoring the science on 2,4-D.

Tell the USDA to reject 2,4-D resistant GE corn—Sign the petition today.

For more information, click here.

Pesticide Action Network

Responding to a study released last week highlighting the increased resistance of weeds to glyphosate, and the potential introduction of new corn varieties genetically engineered (GE) to be used with more highly toxic weedkillers, farmers are calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to take action to protect rural economies.

If USDA deregulates 2,4 D resistant corn, farmers will once again shoulder the cost of the failed promise of GE crops.

“Widespread planting of 2,4-D corn will inevitably lead to a surge in the herbicide’s use,” said George Naylor, an Iowa corn and soybean farmer. “This will not only have adverse effects on public health from air and water pollution, but will also pose another economic risk to Midwest farmers whose non-2,4-D resistant crops will take the brunt of more herbicide drift."

The study in last week’s edition of Bioscience projects greatly increased herbicide use and collateral damage to nearby, non-resistant crops and wild habitat. 2,4-D is well understood to drift, both directly after it is applied and through volatilization, drift that takes place long after an application. As a result, farmers growing their products within miles of cornfields where 2,4-D is applied could face crop losses and serious financial hardship. In addition, organic farmers could lose their certification for years if their fields are contaminated.

Authors of the article, relying in part on industry analysis, note that use of 2,4-D and dicamba herbicides, first used during World War II, are expected to increase ten fold over the next decade. Dow AgroSciences is the driving force behind 2,4-D-resistant seeds, while Monsanto, the dominant manufacturer of glyphosate-resistant seeds, is collaborating with the European industry giant BASF (soon moving to the U.S.) in engineering dicamba-resistant seeds. And other pesticide and biotech firms have similar products in the pipeline. For years, Dow, Monsanto, and the rest of the “Big 6”, have argued that genetically engineered crops result in reduced pesticide use or can even “resist” drought, though with little to no documented success, according to independent scientists.

“Genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant seeds are the growth engines of the pesticide industry’s market strategy,” said Dr. Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, PhD, senior scientist at Pesticide Action Network. “Repackaging antiquated pesticides as new solutions for Midwest economies is a disaster waiting to happen.”

The study also ties the increase in herbicide use to the decline of sustainable weed management. The authors note that USDA has increased funding at major universities for chemically-intensive methods while at the same time decreasing funding for agroecological methods—such as cover cropping, crop rotation and limited tillage—that are successful at improving weed control and reducing weed pressures.

At the same time, weed scientists have been raising red flags around the impending problems of resistance, the reliance on the “pesticide treadmill” and the need to invest in sustainable weed control, or Integrated Weed Management.

"It is only going to get worse," said Lee Van Wychen, director of science policy at the Weed Science Society of America in a Reuter’s interview.

The Weed Society of America just announced it will focus its May 2012 meeting on finding solutions to herbicide resistance. However, concerns remain about Monsanto’s efforts to undermine science and promote the next wave of GE technology, including 2,4-D and dicamba.

"I'm convinced that this is a big problem," said Dave Mortensen, professor of weed and applied plant ecology at Penn State University. "Most of the public doesn't know because the industry is calling the shots on how this should be spun."

For more information, click here.

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