NOTE: This New Scientist piece, though otherwise almost entirely one sided, does - to its credit - refer to the allegation that biotech interests are hidden behind "the cohort of academic titles" weilded by many of Seralini's critics. Ironically, the article itself provides unintentional support for such a view.
The first expert that the New Scientist's Andy Coghlan quotes in support of retraction is "Cathie Martin of the John Innes Center in Norwich, UK, and editor-in-chief of another journal, The Plant Cell." There's no mention that she herself is a GM scientist or that the John Innes Centre has had tens of millions of pounds invested in it by GM giants like Syngenta. In fact, a previous director of the JIC admitted to his local paper that any major slow down or halt in the development of GM crops "would be very, very serious for us."
The only other expert quoted on the retraction issue is Prof Maurice Moloney who's described in the article only as "director of Rothamsted Research in Harpenden, UK". Moloney famously drives a Porsche with a 'GMO' number plate and he has a c.v. to match. It is Moloney's GM research that lies behind Monsanto's GM canola (oilseed rape). He also launched his own GM company in which Dow AgroSciences was an investor. In other words, Moloney's career and business activities are heavily dependent on the public acceptance of GM.
Much of the rest of the article is taken up with EFSA's criticisms of Seralini's paper. No mention of the serious conflicts of interest that beset EFSA or that its poor handling of this issue has lead to serious criticism from both the European Parliament and the EU's Court of Auditors.
Also not mentioned is the fact that EFSA stands accused of "publishing a radically one-sided assessment putting the entire blame on Seralini, applying a level of scientific standards never reached by the Monsanto study on NK603 it accepted for its EU authorisation, and ignoring some national agencies' calls to more research and a review of GMOs and pesticides' risk assessment guidelines."
Incidentally, the article on how biotech interests are behind the retraction campaign is not by CRIIGEN, as the New Scientist piece suggests, but by the French journalist Benjamin Sourice. You can read a translation of it here:
Pressure mounts for retraction of GM crop-cancer study
Andy Coghlan, reporter
New Scientist, 29 November 2012
Pressure is growing for retraction of a study which concluded that a genetically modified maize and a weedkiller called glyphosate cause cancers in rats.
The study attracted criticism from the moment it was published on 19 September. Yesterday, it was dismissed as having "serious defects" in a final report on the matter by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and independently by the food safety panels of six European countries. They say too few rats were used to justify the conclusions linking Monsanto's NK603 maize and glyphosate with cancers in the rats.
Researchers now want Food and Chemical Toxicology, the Elsevier journal that published the original study (DOI: 10.1016/j.fct.2012.08.005), to retract it. "Given that the EFSA concludes that the authors' conclusions cannot be regarded as scientifically sound because of inadequacies in the design, reporting and analysis, is it not time for Food and Chemical Toxicology to retract the manuscript?" asked Cathie Martin of the John Innes Center in Norwich, UK, and editor-in-chief of another journal, The Plant Cell.
"The consistency of the critique from several national risk-evaluation agencies should prompt Elsevier to re-evaluate the standards of peer review at its journal, Food and Chemical Toxicology," said Maurice Moloney, director of Rothamsted Research in Harpenden, UK.
The EFSA concluded that the researchers, led by Gilles-Eric Séralini of the University of Caen in France, failed to use enough rats in the study to draw statistically valid conclusions about whether the GM food or glyphosate they were fed caused extra cancers compared with control rats. Furthermore, says the authority, the researchers relied on strains of rats that frequently develop tumours spontaneously, especially in old age.
"Conclusions cannot be drawn on the difference in tumour incidence between the treatment groups on the basis of the design, the analysis and the results as reported," says the review of the study. The same conclusion was reached independently by six national food safety bodies also asked to review the study, from Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy and Belgium.
The EFSA and the panels say that Séralini used a fifth as many rats as would be required for standard, internationally accepted toxicology testing, making his conclusions statistically unreliable. "Given the spontaneous occurrence of tumours in Sprague-Dawley rats, the low number of rats reported in the Séralini publications is insufficient to distinguish between specific treatment effects and chance occurrences of tumours in rats," says the authority.
It also criticised Séralini for failing to supply additional information demanded by the authority.
The EFSA found the NK603 maize strain to be safe in 2003. In its report this week, it declared that there is no need to re-evaluate the safety of the maize or the herbicide.
Séralini's backers claim that he's the victim of a "covert war" orchestrated by supporters of GM technology to discredit criticism. "Behind the cohort of academic titles [of critics] that are listed is a hidden 'biotech sphere' which brings together biotechnology researchers, regulatory policy experts and representatives of industry," says a statement from CRIIGEN, the France-based Committee for Research & Independent Information on Genetic Engineering, which opposes GM crops and supported Séralini's study.
The study is the second in recent years by Séralini to assess the safety of NK603. His first study was also critised. New Scientist wrote at the time: "Independent toxicologists contacted by New Scientist said Seralini's analysis overplays the importance of minor variations that most experienced toxicologists would consider to be random background noise."