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Uncovered: Monsanto Campaign to Get Séralini Study Retracted

Internal Monsanto documents released by attorneys leading US cancer litigation show that the company launched a concerted campaign to force the retraction of a study that revealed toxic effects of Roundup. The documents also show that the editor of the journal that first published the study entered into a contract with Monsanto in the period shortly before the retraction campaign began.

The study, led by Prof GE Séralini, showed that very low doses of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide had toxic effects on rats over a long-term period, including serious liver and kidney damage. Additional observations of increased tumour rates in treated rats would need to be confirmed in a larger-scale carcinogenicity study. 

The newly released documents show that throughout the retraction campaign, Monsanto tried to cover its tracks to hide its involvement. Instead Monsanto scientist David Saltmiras admitted to orchestrating a “third party expert” campaign in which scientists who were apparently independent of Monsanto would bombard the editor-in-chief of the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT), A. Wallace Hayes, with letters demanding that he retract the study. 

Use of “third party experts” is a classic public relations tactic perfected by the tobacco industry. It consists of putting industry-friendly messages into the mouths of supposedly “independent” experts, since no one would believe industry attempts to defend its own products. Back in 2012, GMWatch founder Jonathan Matthews exposed the industry links of the supposedly independent scientists who lobbied the journal editor to retract the Séralini paper. Now we have first-hand proof of Monsanto’s direct involvement.

In one document, Saltmiras reviews his own achievements within the company, boasting that he “Successfully facilitated numerous third party expert letters to the editor which were subsequently published, reflecting the numerous significant deficiencies, poor study design, biased reporting and selective statistics employed by Séralini. In addition, coauthored the Monsanto letter to the editor with [Monsanto employees] Dan Goldstein and Bruce Hammond.” 

Saltmiras further writes of how “Throughout the late 2012 Séralini rat cancer publication and media campaign, I leveraged my relationship [with] the Editor i[n] Chief of the publishing journal… and was the single point of contact between Monsanto and the Journal.”

Another Monsanto employee, Eric Sachs, writes in an email about his efforts to galvanize scientists in the letter-writing campaign. Sachs refers to Bruce Chassy, a scientist who runs the pro-GMO Academics Review website. Sachs writes: “I talked to Bruce Chassy and he will send his letter to Wally Hayes directly and notify other scientists that have sent letters to do the same. He understands the urgency… I remain adamant that Monsanto must not be put in the position of providing the critical analysis that leads the editors to retract the paper.”  

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