Written by Kevin Folta
The 2012 work by Seralini et al has long been retracted, and months later friends and admirers of Prof Seralini still are screaming foul and injustice, even leveling claims of censorship. In the recent online twitter rally over at #SupportSeralini, you can read claims about how Monsanto controls all scientific journals and their editors, effectively expunging any evidence of transgenic plant product harm from the scientific literature.
However, there’s only one person controlling censorship at this point– Prof. Seralini himself!
The way scientific publication works is that there are hundreds of journals, and all of them are eager to publish work that will raise their visibility and credibility as a scientific resource. If the claims of the retracted work were backed by solid methods, sufficient numbers, reproducible data, appropriate controls with appropriate interpretations, then there is no question that the work would be worthy of publication in the finest journals.
The paper claims evidence that both insertion of a gene and the glyphosate herbicide are intensely tumorigenic. If sufficient evidence was provided, the work would have tremendous support in the scientific community and in publication. Approximately 70% of processed food products contain ingredients from a GM plant, and definitive data would be absolutely noteworthy and of broad interest.
Those that claim a conspiracy at Environmental and Chemical Toxicology should refocus their charge. Instead of concocting wild associations between companies and journals, why not simply just find another journal to publish the work? As a publishing scientist, if I felt I was unfairly treated by one journal, I would simply move along to the next. Editorial Boards are hardly anonymous, and an author can easily request editorial support from independent scientists with zero ties to corporate ag.
The Seralini 2012 work was retracted. Still today there exists a sharp rift between scientists that questioned the methods, numbers and interpretations from the beginning, and a section of the public that believes the data represent sufficient evidence of danger. What is correct? The answer is in publication. If the original work was scientifically rigorous, it will find a new home in the literature. More importantly, it will seed hundreds of new publications that will identify the mechanisms that connect an inserted gene or an herbicide to tumors.
A failure to re-publish is also quite telling.
At this point efforts like #SupportSeralini need to change their focus from conspiratorial allegations to encouraging Prof. Seralini to publish the work with sufficient numbers and controls. If the story was real, it is something all of us need to know about ASAP, and there is no company that can somehow override hard, reproducible, statistically relevant data from well designed experiments.
Written by Guest Expert
Kevin Folta has studied biology and agricultural biotechnology for over thirty years. His research examines the role of light in controlling plant traits, especially those relevant to agriculture. His group is known for using innovative genomics approaches to identify genes associated with fruit quality, especially flavors and aromas.