In November 2012, a study was published in Elsevier’s journal Food and Chemical Toxicology that purported to show that genetically modified corn produced tumors in rats. The report, led by French scientist Gilles-Eric Seralini, was controversial from the get-go. The EU’s food safety authority criticized the study’s methodology, and hundreds of scientists signed a petition requesting the raw data that underpinned Seralini’s remarkable conclusion. Seralini complied, and after reviewing the data, Elsevier announced late last week that it was retracting the study from the journal.Elsevier made it very clear that it did not find Seralini guilty of “fraud or deliberate misrepresentation of the data,” but noted that the study’s sample size was too small for the results to be conclusive. Moreover, the rats Seralini used had a “known high incidence of tumors,” regardless of their diets. Seralini called the retraction “unacceptable,” but as Reuters reports, other scientists were more supportive of Elsevier’s decision:
“The major flaws in this paper make its retraction the right thing to do,” said Cathie Martin, a professor at John Innes Centre…David Spiegelhalter, a professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at the University of Cambridge, said it was “clear from even a superficial reading that this paper was not fit for publication”.
As a meta-study showed earlier this year, genetically modified organisms are, to the best of our knowledge, safe to eat. Studies like the one recently retracted muddy the waters and stoke the public’s fear of a technology that is likely our best bet for feeding the planet’s growing population.