December 10, 2013
The following statement will be published in the journal,
Food and Chemical Toxicology
, alongside a selection of letters to the editors regarding the decision to retract the paper by Séralini et al.(Séralini et al., 2012).
, this journal published an article titled "Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize," by Séralini
.(Séralini et al., 2012). The publication of this article caused quite a stir in the media, as well as in the scientific community. The journal received many letters expressing concerns about the validity of the findings. A careful and time-consuming analysis found that the data were inconclusive, and therefore the conclusions described in the article were unreliable. Accordingly, the article was retracted. Since the public announcement of the retraction, the journal has received many letters to the editor; a selection of these letters will be published, along with this response to those letters. Many of these letters expressed concerns about the decision making process behind this action, particularly what role (if any) current or former Monsanto employees played, whether or not COPE guidelines were followed, and if the journal was also considering retraction of a similar paper by Hammond
(Hammond et al., 2004). The answers to these questions are below.
The membership of the editorial board is composed of academic, government, and industrial scientists. Contrary to what has been suggested by some, the appointment of Professor
University of Nebraska
, as an Associate Editor was not influenced by Monsanto or any other party. Members of the editorial board are chosen based on their expertise as scientists. It is the goal of this journal to have a variety of different viewpoints. In this case, as in other cases, I as Editor-in-Chief listened to as wide and diverse a set of expertise as possible. To wit, Professor Goodman, along with all other members of the editorial board was involved in initial discussions of the Séralini paper and the request to view raw data. When the request was made to Dr. Séralini to review the raw data, the journal suggested to Dr. Séralini that all parties involved sign a confidentiality agreement. This confidentiality agreement was designed to protect Dr. Séralini and his data so that it was (A) not viewed by anyone he did not want to view his data and (B) that it would not go beyond the people he agreed would review the raw data. Not initially, but during the process, Dr. Séralini made a direct request that Professor Goodman be excluded, and we at FCT readily and quickly agreed. It is understandable that Dr. Goodman's involvement, however small, might be cause for concern for some. However, the decision to retract the paper was mine alone, made by me exclusively and not by a vote of the editorial board. Further, when Dr. Séralini asked for Dr. Goodman's involvement to stop, I agreed, fully and promptly.
The Monsanto Company did write a letter to the editor regarding this article, and it was published along with a number of other letters to the editor (Hammond et al., 2013); neither the company nor any of their scientists put any pressure on the Editor in Chief regarding this matter.