--Reason given for retraction - "inconclusiveness" - is unprecedented and violates norms of scientific publishing;
--It is unjustifiable to retract an entire paper because it contains some "inconclusive" findings
--Conclusive findings are rare in science
--Attack on scientific integrity could put public health at risk
--Study must be reinstated
We, the undersigned international scientists and experts, condemn the retraction by Dr A. Wallace Hayes, the editor-in-chief of the scientific journal Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT), of the pioneering study of Seralini et al. (2012) on a genetically modified (GM) maize and its associated pesticide, Roundup.
Dr Hayes, FCT, and the journal's publisher Elsevier must reinstate the Seralini study and provide a full public apology to Professor Seralini and his team.
The study's findings
Seralini and colleagues' chronic toxicity rat feeding study is the first and only long-term investigation of the effects of this particular type of GM maize (called NK603) and low levels of the herbicide Roundup, which the maize is engineered to tolerate during cultivation. The study found severe organ damage, particularly to the liver, kidneys and pituitary gland, in rats fed the GM maize and/or low levels of Roundup in their diet. Additional unexpected observations were higher rates of large palpable tumors and mortality in most treatment groups.
Retraction decision reached in non-transparent process
The decision to retract the paper was reached through a nontransparent, second review process involving a panel of unnamed persons of unknown professional competence and with undisclosed potential conflicts of interest. The decision was announced over a year after the paper had passed through the original peer review process and was published.
Retraction violates norms of scientific publishing
According to the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), of which FCT is a member, retraction of a paper is reserved for cases of "unreliable" findings due to misconduct or honest error, redundant publication or plagiarism, and unethical research.
However, none of these criteria apply to the Seralini paper, as Dr Hayes conceded in a letter to Professor Seralini. Dr Hayes stated that an examination of Professor Seralini's raw data had revealed "no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation" and results presented were "not incorrect".
Dr Hayes added that the retraction was solely based on the "inconclusive" nature of the tumors and mortality outcomes, based on the relatively low number of animals and the strain of rat used. Dr Hayes later wrote in a statement: "No definitive conclusions could be drawn from the inconclusive data".
However, lack of definitive conclusions is not valid grounds for retraction. Retraction on these grounds appears to be unprecedented in the history of scientific publishing.