“I only worked on RJ Reynolds’ attempts to develop a less hazardous, safe cigarette,” says A. Wallace Hayes
Dr A. Wallace Hayes, the journal editor who retracted the Séralini study that found toxic effects from GM maize and Roundup, is a former tobacco company executive.
An investigation by the Center for Public Integrity found that Hayes is the former vice president for biochemical/biobehavioural research at RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company, a subsidiary of RJR Nabisco, Inc. Hayes joined Reynolds Tobacco in 1984 and was promoted to the vice presidency in 1987.
A 1990 performance record defined Hayes’ objectives as to “ensure that appropriate toxicological information is available” to “support product development efforts” and to “increase our knowledge base regarding the role of nicotine/cotinine in smoking enjoyment/satisfaction.”
“I only worked on RJ Reynolds’ attempts to develop a less hazardous, safe cigarette,” Hayes said. “I did not work on the traditional cigarette.”
In 1989 Hayes testified on behalf of RJ Reynolds before the Missouri State Board of Health on the topic of the company’s “less hazardous, safe cigarette”, Premier. Hayes said the product “looks like a cigarette, lights like a cigarette, and is smoked like a cigarette”, yet offered “a chemically simplified smoke, with less potential for biological activity”. In spite of Hayes’s efforts on behalf of RJ Reynolds, Premier was not popular with smokers and was withdrawn from the market just a year after its introduction.
Prior to taking up employment at RJ Reynolds, Hayes was a company toxicologist for the chemical company Rohm and Haas in Pennsylvania.
The Center for Public Integrity names Hayes as one of a small group of scientists that the food industry turns to over and over again in the US to determine whether food additives can be deemed “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) and thus avoid a rigorous pre-market government safety review.
Hayes’s retraction of the Séralini study
Hayes’s action in retracting the Séralini study from the pages of Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT), even though a review panel he convened found nothing wrong with the data, was condemned by hundreds of scientists as unethical, scientifically flawed, and potentially motivated by commercial interests.
Hayes reached his decision to retract the paper after the appointment of a former Monsanto scientist, Richard E. Goodman, onto the editorial board of the journal. The Germany-based research group Testbiotech outlined similar industry conflicts of interest in other experts on the Food and Chemical Toxicology editorial board.
The Séralini study was later republished by another journal.
The wider picture
Hayes’s career history with Big Tobacco is just a tiny part of the syndrome of “flagrant conflicts of interest” denounced recently by Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet. Horton is also concerned about the poor methodological standards of many scientific studies, which have led to a situation in which “a lot of what is published is incorrect”.
In the GMO field things have got so bad that authors from DuPont claimed they had “no conflicts of interest” in a paper they published asserting that the company’s GM canola was as safe as non-GM canola when fed to rats. And it emerged that the control diet fed to the rats was potentially contaminated with GMOs and pesticides, thus making any conclusions drawn from the study meaningless.
Small steps in the right direction
There are signs at least that FCT is trying to clean up its reputation. Earlier this year Hayes was quietly replaced as editor-in-chief by Dr Jose L. Domingo, who has published papers showing that safety of GM crops is not an established fact.
At the same time, Goodman disappeared from the journal’s editorial board.
These are encouraging steps. But while individuals tainted with conflicts of interest may be sidelined or disposed of, any damage they do, in the form of dubious scientific claims and judgments, remains behind.
Report: Claire Robinson