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Paper Tying Rat Cancer to Herbicide Is Retracted

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page and our Millions Against Monsanto page.

A food safety journal has decided to retract a paper that seemed to show that genetically modified corn and the herbicide Roundup can cause cancer and premature death in rats.

The editor of the journal, Food and Chemical Toxicology, said in a letter to the paper's main author that the study's results, while not incorrect or fraudulent, were "inconclusive, and therefore do not reach the threshold of publication."

The paper, published 14 months ago, has been cited by opponents of biotech foods and proponents of labeling such foods. But it has been vociferously criticized as flawed, sensationalistic and possibly even fraudulent by many scientists, some allied with the biotechnology industry. The main author of the study, Gilles-Eric Seralini, of the University of Caen in France, had done other studies challenging the safety of genetically engineered foods, some of which had also been questioned.

In his letter to Dr. Seralini, A. Wallace Hayes, the editor in chief of the journal, said that "unequivocally" he had found "no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data."

He said that Dr. Seralini had cooperated in providing his raw data to a review panel formed by the journal.

However, Dr. Hayes said there was "legitimate cause for concern" that the number of rats in each arm of the study was too small and that the strain of rat used was prone to cancer. That made it difficult to rule out that the results were not explained by "normal variability," he said.

The letter was posted on the website of GMWatch, a British organization that opposes genetically engineered crops. GMWatch called the journal's action "illicit, unscientific and unethical," saying that inconclusive data was not sufficient grounds for a retraction.      

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