Retracted Junk Science Study Claiming Biotech Corn Causes Cancer In Rats Republished Without Peer Review



In 2012, anti-biotech activist Gilles-Eric Seralini managed to get his seriously flawed study in which he claimed that feeding rats biotech corn caused them to develop tumors. Naturally, the anti-GMO claque hailed it. The study was severely criticized by researchers representing leading toxicological science organizations. As Nature reported:

Last week, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in Parma, Italy, and Germany's Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) in Berlin both issued initial assessments slamming the paper, bluntly asserting that its conclusions are not supported by the data presented. "The design, reporting and analysis of the study, as outlined in the paper, are inadequate," says the EFSA in a press release, adding that the paper is "of insufficient scientific quality to be considered as valid for risk assessment".

In light of those criticisms, the editor of the journal in which it was published chose to retract it last fall. The retraction most likely affected the sales of Seralini's book and associated documentary, both entitled, Tous Cobayes (All Guinea Pigs). Seralini has managed to find another less rigorous journal in which to republish his flawed study, Environmental Sciences Europe.

The anti-biotechies are treating the republication as an activist triumph over corporate suppression of science. It is, instead, a very sad commentary on how the producers of flawed science can search around to find some obscure journal or other in which to publish their junk findings. The progressive news/activist website Alternet features an article from The Ecologist that claims:

A highly controversial paper by Prof Gilles-Eric Séralini and colleagues has been republished after a stringent peer review process.

Similarly Mother Earth News reports:

The republication restores the study to the peer-reviewed literature so that it can be consulted and built upon by other scientists.

Stringent peer-review? False. The study was not, in fact, peer-reviewed by Environmental Sciences Europe. So why would folks assert that it was? Largely because of the press materials released by Seralini himself making that claim. Nature reports what actually happened:

Environmental Sciences Europe (ESEU) decided to re-publish the paper to give the scientific community guaranteed long-term access to the data in the retracted paper, editor-in-chief Henner Hollert told Nature. "We were Springer Publishing's first open access journal on the environment, and are a platform for discussion on science and regulation at a European and regional level." ESEU conducted no scientific peer review, he adds, "because this had already been conducted by Food and Chemical Toxicology, and had concluded there had been no fraud nor misrepresentation." The role of the three reviewers hired by ESEU was to check that there had been no change in the scientific content of the paper, Hollert adds.

One of the proprietors of the Retraction Watch website summarized the sorry situation well in response to a CBS News query:

"This whole episode has taken us farther away from knowing the truth," Ivan Oransky, a founder and editor of, told CBS News.

"The ratio of politics to science when it comes to discussions of GMOs [genetically modified organisms] is so high that I think it often ceases to be useful," said Oransky, a journalist with a medical degree who is also vice president and global editorial director of MedPage Today.

He also said:

"This is a good example of what happens when people with hardened beliefs manipulate a system for the result they want," Oransky told CBS News. "Science should be about following the evidence, appropriately changing your mind if the evidence warrants it. But in this case people seem to reject the evidence that doesn't suit their needs."

With regard to rejecting evidence that doesn't suit activist needs, see my article, "A Tale of Two Scientific Consensuses."