Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Seralini saga continues

Well, I'm probably the last person writing about this. Tweets are flying and articles are being furiously typed about the latest in the Seralini scandal. Dear readers, if you've been following this blog since its inception, you'll know that the Seralini article and its retort by Monsanto were the first two items I ever reviewed (links here to the original article review and here to the review of Monsanto's response). This Thursday, the paper was retracted from the journal.

Unfortunately, I don't think this will die down. If anything, it will only make matters worse, because there are already conspiracy theories about how the paper was retracted due to the fact that one of the members of the journal's board is a former Monsanto employee. I've seen petitions and articles about how the biotech industry is attacking Dr Seralini and how we should ask the journal to reconsider their decision to retract the paper.

According to the most popular letter that I've seen circulated on this topic, there are only 3 reasons why an article should get retracted which based on the guidelines of the Committee of Publication Ethics (COPE):
Clear evidence that the findings are unreliable due to misconduct (eg data fabrication) or
honest error
Plagiarism or redundant publication
Unethical research

COPE actually has a whole slew of guidelines and recommendations for unethical conduct and honest error, and I think the paper falls in the category of "honest error" as grounds for its retraction. But in speaking about this whole thing with the spouse, I think that it would have been better if the journal had admitted that the article should not have been published in the first place, and stated that the journal and its reviewers made a mistake. I know that it's wishful thinking. I know that it would never happen. But if the journal came out and stated, in an honest manner, the real reason why the article is being retracted then there would be no doubts and there could not be claims of secrecy or non-transparency, as reported by GM Watch's statement on the matter. The Editor did issue a statement, but fell short on accepting responsibility. I think the Journal's editorial staff should take some of the blame, because they definitely are not innocent by-standers in this matter. Let's face it: if I was able to find fatal flaws in the very first paper related to GMOs that I ever read, then their experienced reviewers should have definitely been able to do the same.

Actually, the real solution to this whole this is to redo the study properly...

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