Is Dr Hayes’s decision to retract the Séralini study an act of scientific censorship at the behest of special interests?

After the Séralini study on the toxicity of GM NK603 maize and Roundup was published in Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT), the editor of the journal and the journal’s publisher Elsevier came under sustained attack from critics who demanded that the study be retracted. Many of the critics had undisclosed conflicts of interest with the GMO industry or represented regulatory agencies that had previously approved this or other GMOs as safe.[1]

The arrival of Dr Richard E. Goodman, a former Monsanto employee, to a newly created editorial position in biotechnology at FCT occurred after the publication and mere months before the retraction of the Séralini paper.[2]

Industry connections need to be acknowledged, particularly in research bearing on something as fundamental as food safety. Published reviews of studies on controversial products such as tobacco[3] [4] and pharmaceutical and medical products[5] [6] show that research controlled by industry is more likely to conclude that tested products are safe. 

Recent reviews of the GM food safety literature have likewise found that research concluding that GM products were safe tended to come from industry-connected research[7] and that research conducted by those with either financial or professional conflicts of interest was associated with outcomes favorable to the GM industry.[8]

Given this climate of corporate control of scientific outcomes and publishing, Dr Hayes’s retraction of the Séralini study more than a year after it was published, overriding the judgment of the peer reviewers, has the appearance of being a capitulation to corporate interests.

Retraction decision reached through non-transparent process

Normally, once a study has passed peer-review and been accepted for publication, the authors – and other scientists seeking to challenge, validate, or expand on the work – can be confident that the findings will stand unless fraud, error, or plagiarism come to light.

The case of the Séralini study is a radical departure from this convention. The decision to retract the study was reached through a nontransparent post-publication second review. This unprecedented process appears to have been orchestrated in direct response to challenges raised by a vocal subset of the scientific community. The second review process involved a panel of unnamed persons of unknown professional competence and with undisclosed potential conflicts of interest, who evaluated the study according to undisclosed points of reference. The process was not only irregular but unprecedented in scientific publishing.


[1] Matthews J (2012). Smelling a corporate rat. Spinwatch. 12 Dec.

[2] Robinson C and Latham J (2013). The Goodman affair: Monsanto targets the heart of science. 20 May.

[3] Tong, E. K. and S. A. Glantz (2007). Tobacco industry efforts undermining evidence linking secondhand smoke with cardiovascular disease. Circulation 116(16): 1845-1854.

[4] Michaels, D. (2008). Doubt is Their Product: How Industry’s Assault on Science Threatens Your Health, Oxford University Press.

[5] Lexchin, J., et al. (2003). Pharmaceutical industry sponsorship and research outcome and quality: systematic review. British Medical Journal 326: 1167.

[6] Bekelman, J. E., et al. (2003). Scope and impact of financial conflicts of interest in biomedical research: a systematic review. JAMA 289(4): 454-465.

[7] Domingo, J. L. and J. G. Bordonaba (2011). A literature review on the safety assessment of genetically modified plants. Environ Int 37: 734–742.

[8] Diels, J., et al. (2011). Association of financial or professional conflict of interest to research outcomes on health risks or nutritional assessment studies of genetically modified products. Food Policy 36: 197–203.

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