The journal that published Seralini's paper and its publisher are enmeshed in conflicts of interest with industry.
Information has been trickling in that sheds more light on the corporate influence on Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT), the journal that retracted the Seralini study on GM maize and Roundup; its editor, A. Wallace Hayes; the former Monsanto scientist Richard E. Goodman, appointed as FCT's editor for biotech papers; and FCT's publisher, Elsevier. The following update is from Claire Robinson.
Elsevier published fake journals
Elsevier has 'form' when it comes to corporate influence. Elsevier published several seeming peer-reviewed journals that were in fact PR puffs for the products of Big Pharma, but did not disclose their sponsorship (see item 1 below).
Goodman's criticism of Seralini study silenced by giving him control of GMO papers at FCT?
In early 2013 the former Monsanto scientist Richard E. Goodman was appointed as "assistant editor for biotechnology" at FCT, in the wake of the "Seralini affair".
It has now emerged that Goodman was approached about the editorial position at FCT after he complained to FCT about their publication of Seralini's paper.
In our view, to give Goodman an editorial position after he complained about an inconvenient paper is a craven act on the part of A. Wallace Hayes, the editor of FCT. It would be equivalent to Richard Horton, as the editor of The Lancet in 1999, asking GM pushers Sir Peter Lachmann or the Royal Society to give editorial guidance on The Lancet's biotech papers after they (according to The Guardian) complained about the Ewen and Pusztai study showing harm in rats that ate GM potatoes. In fact, in contrast with Hayes, Horton did the right thing. Honoring the outcome of the peer review process, he went ahead and published the paper and told The Guardian newspaper about Lachmann's bullying.
Advice to researchers: Don't bother to submit critical articles on GMOs to FCT
Between May 2013, when I co-authored an article with Dr Jonathan Latham about the appointment of Goodman at FCT, and the present, two separate cases have been brought to my notice regarding the unhappy fate of scientific papers that question GMO safety and that are submitted to FCT.
The first was the article by Mezzomo et al on Bt toxins' toxicity to mouse blood. FCT published the study prior to Goodman's appointment but after he arrived on the editorial board, the paper was withdrawn from FCT. Fortunately it was immediately published elsewhere (see Madeleine Love's comment here and article here).
The second case also involved a paper by experienced researchers that brings the safety of GM crops into question. The negative and hyper-critical responses from the peer reviewers and Goodman himself (who probably selected the peer reviewers and coordinated the peer-review process), as well as the Mezzomo et al case, lead me to offer the following advice to any researcher who authors a paper that raises questions about GMO safety: Don't bother to submit it to FCT, unless you enjoy wasting time and energy.
FCT editorial board stuffed with people with conflicts of interest with industry
The German scientific research organisation Testbiotech reminds us that the editorial board of FCT is stuffed with corporate-affiliated people (item 2 below). FCT should publish the declarations of interests of all their staff, in line with the guidelines of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE).
FCT editor has serious conflicts of interest with industry
A. Wallace Hayes, editor of FCT, is one of 18 scientists who earlier this year wrote a controversial editorial critical of Europe's plan to regulate endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Hayes was an employee of the Rohm and Haas Company, now a subsidiary of Dow Chemicals, from 1980-1984, and of tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds, 1984-1991. He was former vice president for “corporate product integrity” at the Gillette Company and is former principal and responsible for product safety at Gradient Corp. He is now the senior science advisor at Spherix Consulting, which, as the consulting arm of biotech firm Spherix Inc., provides "technical and regulatory consulting services to food, supplement, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies".
European health agencies' response to Seralini study was orchestrated
An article from a French magazine from December 2012 describes a 'kangaroo court' teleconference about Seralini's study, held by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) with representatives of a few member states in order to reach a joint position. As EFSA put it, the purpose of the teleconference was "in order to discuss scientific concerns and avoid divergence". The only member states involved were Belgium, Netherlands, France, and Germany, including no less than three representatives from the German industry-friendly risk assessment agency BfR. GMWatch reported on this story in October 2012.
The not very surprising result of the teleconference, the French magazine reports, was that six European health agencies came to exactly the same damning conclusions on the Seralini study. All used the same mendacious talking points disseminated by pro-GM lobbyists with ties to the GM industry, via the UK Science Media Centre.
Corinne Lepage MEP comments in the article that this orchestrated response, masquerading as independent analysis, was "dishonest".
1. Elsevier published fake corporate-sponsored journals
2. Economic interests quashing scientific controversy?
3. Séralini study on GMOs: the response of health agencies was coordinated
1. Elsevier published fake corporate-sponsored journals (multiple items)
(i) Elsevier published 6 fake journals
The Scientist, 7 May 2009
Scientific publishing giant Elsevier put out a total of six publications between 2000 and 2005 that were sponsored by unnamed pharmaceutical companies and looked like peer reviewed medical journals, but did not disclose sponsorship, the company has admitted. Elsevier is conducting an "internal review" of its publishing practices after allegations came to light that the company produced a pharmaceutical company-funded publication in the early 2000s without disclosing that the "journal" was corporate sponsored.
(ii) Merck published fake journal
The Scientist, 30 Apr 2009
Merck paid an undisclosed sum to Elsevier to produce several volumes of a publication that had the look of a peer-reviewed medical journal, but contained only reprinted or summarized articles--most of which presented data favorable to Merck products ...
(iii) Australasian Journal of Bone & Joint Medicine
Wikipedia (with refs to articles in The Scientist
The Australasian Journal of Bone & Joint Medicine (originally titled the Australasian Journal of Musculoskeletal Medicine) was a periodical presented in the style of a scientific journal, published by Elsevier but established and funded by pharmaceutical company Merck. Publication began in 2002, and the last known issue appeared in 2005. According to The Scientist: Merck paid an undisclosed sum to Elsevier to produce several volumes of [Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine], a publication that had the look of a peer-reviewed medical journal, but contained only reprinted or summarized articles-—most of which presented data favorable to Merck products-—that appeared to act solely as marketing tools with no disclosure of company sponsorship..
2. Economic interests quashing scientific controversy?
New round in the dispute on the NK603 rat-study
Testbiotech, 29 Nov 2013
The editors of the international journal Food and Chemical Toxicology have asked the group around French scientist Gilles-Eric Seralini to withdraw their publication on the long- term impact on health from feeding herbicide mixtures such as Roundup (active ingredient glyphosate) and genetically engineered maize NK603. They are saying the data are insufficient to back up severe impacts on the health of rats, as described in the French scientists’ publication. This is an unusual attack on a peer reviewed scientific publication. Normally fraud or incorrectness would be reasons to withdraw a paper, neither of which the study was accused. Testbiotech believes that the request to withdraw the publication is not driven by scientific interest, but mostly by economic interests.
“The request to withdraw this publication shows that the whole dispute is not about science, but driven by an attempt to protect financial interests. The scientific publication raises doubts about the safety of two Monsanto products. Industry repeatedly claims there is consensus on the safety of genetically engineered plants. Publications showing major uncertainties in current risk assessment and therefore raising new scientific controversies, are annoying for anyone with a vested economic interest in marketing these products”, says Christoph Then for Testbiotech, “Instead of suppressing this paper many more studies should be requested to investigate the true long-term risks of the products.”
So far, the names of the experts responsible for the review of the publication have not been made public. However, it is known that there are several experts on the editorial board of the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT) who have ties with industry and to the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), which is financed by industry. The editor in chief, Wallace Hayes, worked for the tobacco industry. Others have direct links to biotech-industry or the European Food Safety Authority, which is defending its own opinions claiming that products such as NK603 are safe. Furthermore, some are working for biotech service contractors - or the pesticide industry:
*Richard Goodman, former Monsanto employee, who worked with ILSI;
*Brian Delaney, employee at Pioneer/ Dupont;
*Susan Barlow, former expert at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), also worked with ILSI;
*Ivonne Rietjens, former expert at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), also worked with ILSI;
*David J. Brusick, consultant for pharmaceutical and chemical companies, former leading staff member of Covance Laboratories, which are a service contractor for Monsanto (feeding studies with genetically engineered plants);
*William C. Hall, Hall Consulting, former Charles River Laboratories, which are a service contractor for Monsanto (studies on glyphosate);
*Palma Ann Marone, Product Safety Laboratories, which are a service contractor for agrochemical industry (studies on glyphosate);
*Claire L. Kruger, consultant for pharmaceutical and chemical companies;
*Dieter Schrenk, EFSA.
3. Séralini study on GMOs: the response of health agencies was coordinated
Lyon Capitale, 3 Dec 2012
GMWatch translation of French original:
In October, six European health agencies, including the EFSA, ANSES and HCB [French national agencies], pronounced on the study by Professor ralini involving the long-term safety of transgenic maize NK603. All expressed a negative opinion. Six independent agencies came to the same conclusions. The disavowal seemed total. Except that this concert was apparently prepared, as revealed by a document uncovered by Lyon Capitale.
The media bomb exploded on September 19. Professor Gilles-Eric Séralini and his team published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology a study that calls into question the safety and therefore the approval of genetically modified maize NK603, an authorized GMO in Europe.
The next day, in France, a joint statement by Stéphane Le Fol (Minister of Agriculture), Delphine Batho (Environment) and Marisol Touraine (Health) reopened the debate on the assessment of GMOs. The ministers referred to the National Agency for Food Safety (ANSES) and the High Council of Biotechnology (HCB), two independent bodies, for their advice and scientific expertise on the Seralini study, which was also sent to the European food Safety Agency (EFSA), the ultimate[?] expert body.
Successively, and at different times, six European safety agencies formed negative conclusions about the Séralini study. But according to a document procured by Lyon Capitale, it seems that consultation had taken place between them upstream at a teleconference organized by EFSA.
So did the six agencies form their expert opinions independently? Corinne Lepage, chair of Criigen (sponsor of the Seralini study), said that this meeting, held in secret, was scandalous: "The six agencies organised a joint reply (…), while giving the impression that each individually came to the same conclusion. This is dishonest. They talk to each other, why not? Then at a certain moment, they provide a coordinated response. At least things are clear. But they made us believe that each agency had performed its assessment independently and come to the same conclusion. It's dishonest!"
This entire investigation - with the analysis of conflicts of interest among EFSA's experts, ANSES and HCB - can be read in Lyon Capitale No. 717, on sale at news-stands until 20 December and in our online store.