French scientist Séralini threatens suit after discredited anti-GMO paper retracted

| | November 29, 2013

As GLP executive director Jon Entine reports in Forbes, the GMO wars are set to escalate after the discrediting of a central pillar of the anti-crop biotechnology movement and the stumbling by a prominent science journal.

A. Wallace Hayes, the editor of Food and Chemical Toxicology, which last year published the controversial rat study by Gilles-Éric Séralini that claimed to show that genetically modified corn could lead to a high incidence of cancer, wrote in a letter to the embattled French scientist that the paper will be withdrawn if he does not agree to do it voluntarily. In either case, evidence of the discredited paper will be expunged from the journal’s database.

According to Le Figaro, which broke the story, Séralini rejected Hayes’ findings. The embattled biologist, who works in Caen as founding director of anti-GMO research group called CRIIGEN, the Committee for Research and Independent Information on Genetic Engineering, said the journal’s criticisms of his work were “unacceptable,” adding, “Were FCT to persist in its decision to retract our study, CRIIGEN would attack with lawyers, including in the United States, to require financial compensation for the huge damage to our group.”

Related article:  Scientists, journalists and farmers join lively GMO forum

A fringe organization known as the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER), whose deputy chairman is co-author of the French study and whose membership is a ‘Who’s Who’ of anti-biotechnology scientists and campaigners, released a statement as well, calling the retraction “a severe blow to the credibility and independence of science, indeed a travesty of science. … The conclusiveness of their data will be decided by future independent science, not by a secret circle of people.”

Many scientists believe the journal badly botched the peer review of this paper. A court airing of this ugly episode now appears inevitable. There are numerous unconfirmed reports that Séralini has already sought legal counsel. The disgraced scientist, in an attempt to rehabilitate his reputation, could also turn around and submit the article in its current or revised form to a third-tier journal, including the many pay-for-play publications that cater to activist scientists.

View the full, original article: Séralini Threatens Lawsuit In Wake Of Retraction Of Infamous GMO Cancer Rat Study

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Click the link above to read the full, original article.

53 thoughts on “French scientist Séralini threatens suit after discredited anti-GMO paper retracted”

  1. Jon, in many cases we can gauge the truth by how people respond to allegations or criticism. Those that have an evidenced-based leg to stand on develop more data, better evidence. Those with reputations built on a failing foundation start lawsuits and scream conspiracy.

    It has been almost two years since he submitted the famous lumpy rat paper. The next wave of data should be coming from his lab and hundreds of others based on that first report. Those data and findings would support the original report– if they actually existed.

    He’s now the Andrew Wakefield of the GMO world. Like Wakefield, he’ll coalesce a group of true believers to continue support while exiting science and disappearing into further irrelevance.

    • Hi Kevin, I agree, but I do think the retraction will be like poking a hornets nest. Besides law suits, I would expect even more outrageous claims and shoddy studies, if Seralini and his ilk think they can get away with it.

    • This is nothing more than the “I did nothing wrong, I am a victim”
      tactic we see so often in business and politics. And just as with the
      anti-vaxxers, they think that a win in a courtroom holds the same weight
      as credible evidence garnered by laboratory investigations.

      Litigation and legislation seem to be the desperate refuges of those who cannot manage to build an argument based on verifiable evidence. Of course, when the decision is made against Seralini, they’ll blame the judge and/or jurors as is being done by creationists against John Jones who presided over Kitzmiller v. Dover.

  2. This guy is bluffing. There is absolutely no way that GMO crops can cause cancer. What a bunch of hogwash. This guy must be thrown out of scientific research. That paper is riddled with inconsistencies and hardly has any controls at all. I am surprised that it got published.

  3. EUROPEAN NETWORK OF SCIENTISTS LASHES OUT AT RETRACTION OF THE SERALINI STUDY. The arguments of the journal’s editor for the retraction, however, violate not only the criteria for retraction to which the journal itself subscribes, but any standards of good science. Worse, the names of the reviewers who came to the conclusion that the paper should be retracted, have not been published. Since the retraction is a wish of many people with links to the GM industry, the suspicion arises that it is a bow of science to industry. ENSSER points out, therefore, that this retraction is a severe blow to the credibility and independence of science, indeed a travesty of science.”

    Journal’s Retraction of Rat Feeding Paper is a Travesty of Science and Looks Like a Bow to Industry:

    • They’re entitled to their opinion, Susan. Personally I consider Seralini as totally incompetent and while the retraction is a victory for common sense and VERY basic experimental design, I fear that we are setting this guy up to be another martyr (like Huber and others).

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      • Why don’t you do the research to find out what they are instead of implying that they’re people that aren’t in the know? When someone is closed-minded and doesn’t have any true specific
        science-based knowledge about a topic and doesn’t like what others say, they
        resort to calling them names or stupid instead of doing the same kind of
        research that these others did that resulted in them making the statements they
        did. Many of these people are Republicans. That’s not based on
        belief. It’s based on research that can be found in a book entitled The
        Republican Brain. The area of the brain that is necessary for empathy and
        logic is inactive in Republicans. Do the research and if you don’t, you
        should keep quiet. Most of what you have said shows that you are closed
        minded about things that are different or opposite from what you believe.
        You identify yourself by what you believe instead of scientific fact, and by
        the way you behave and treat others.

        • ‘When someone is closed-minded and doesn’t have any true specific
          science-based knowledge about a topic and doesn’t like what others say…’ These are strong words from someone who thinks people can fly. Unlike you (or Kimbrell, or Shiva or Smith) I’ve being doing this research for over 25 years (and I’m a moderate Democrat, I never vote Republican).

          • Video of people who levitate for short periods of time. Eventually they will be able to fly. This
            knowledge is spreading all over the world.

            Any human being who has gained the state of Enlightenment,
            also known as “moksha” and “Unity Consciousness” can perform miracles. Such a person is a “yogi.” A yogi is someone who has developed the
            highest state of consciousness, the 7th.

            All the abilities a yogi has are listed in the book The Yoga
            Sutras of Patanjali (and the rewrite How To Know God). Here are a few of them:

            40. By controlling the nerve-currents that govern the lungs
            and the upper part of the body, the yogi can walk on water and swamps, or on
            thorns and similar objects, and he can die at will.

            41. By controlling the force which governs the prana, he can
            surround himself with a blaze of light.

            This is the force which regulates the various functions of
            the vital energy (prana). One of the brother-disciples of Sri Ramakrishna
            actually had this power; and it is recorded that he once used it to light the
            path for Ramakrishna on a dark night. However, Ramakrishna later found it
            necessary to take the power away from him because it was making him egotistic.

            42. By making samyama on the relation between the ear and
            the ether, one obtains supernatural powers of hearing.

            43. By making samyama on the relation between the body and
            the ether, or by acquiring through meditation the lightness of cotton fiber,
            the yogi can fly through the air.

            44. By making
            samyama on the thought-waves of the mind when it is separated from the body-the
            state known as the Great Disincarnation-all coverings can be removed from the
            light of knowledge.

            Like aphorism 39, this refers to the yoga power of
            Withdrawing the mind from one’s own body in order to make it pass into the body
            of another. In this state of withdrawal, the “Great Disincarnation,”
            the mental coverings composed of rajas and tamas dwindle away and the light of
            sattwa is revealed.

            45. By making samyama on the gross and subtle forms of the
            elements, on their essential char-acteristics and the inherence of the gunas in
            them, and on the experiences they provide for the individual, one gains mastery
            of the elements.

            46. Hence one gains the power of becoming as tiny as an atom
            and all similar powers; also perfection of the body, which is no longer subject
            to the obstructions of the elements.

            Not only can the yogi become as tiny as an atom but as huge
            as a mountain, as heavy as lead, or as light as air. And the elements cease to
            obstruct him. He can pass through rock. He can hold his hand in the fire,
            unburned. He can walk through water, unwetted. He can stand firm against a


            Do search for “kali-yuga” and “sat-yuga.”.

      • Here’s a test for you. Do a search for “yogic flying.” You will find a video of people who are levitating. There is hard scientific research that shows what’s going on in the brains of those who are doing this. It’s been published in legitimate scientific journals and accepted as true. There are thousands of people around the world who are doing this. Ecuador has decided to teach its entire military the technique that results in people developing this ability, one that all humans have. You can go to a major university in Fairfield Iowa where every student and faculty member does it. Look at the research and try to deny that.

  5. “Were FCT to persist in its decision to retract our study, CRIIGEN would attack with lawyers, including in the United States, to require financial compensation for the huge damage to our group.”
    Really?? I think this might be a more accurate translation:

    ‘You don’t frighten us, English pig dogs. Go and boil your bottoms, you sons of a silly person. I blow my nose at you, so-called “Arthur King,” you and all your silly English K-nig-hts.’

  6. I value much of the thoughtful, well-written science-based journalism at GLP, but when I see reader comments that involve name-calling or making derogatory associations (to levitation, creationism, anti-vax people, Andrew Wakefield, etc), I am disgusted and turned off by this site. It makes me want to respond by putting most of you into a bucket of angry, bitter, uninformed “pro-GMO” elitists that are affiliated with the Biotech industry. But that wouldn’t be fair. While I personally try to avoid GMO foods, I consider both sides of the issue and prefer to engage in productive dialog aimed and improving all of our understanding rather than trying to wage war.

    I accept that the results of the Seralini study are inconclusive. But that is NOT to say they are fraudulent. Many inconclusive findings are published in highly respected journals. That alone is not cause for retraction and therefore, it seems that Seralini has every right to sue (but of course let’s see what the jury finds, maybe evidence of fraud will turn up?).

    We must also keep in mind that this study was not a “safety trial.” The paper reports on what was observed without drawing conclusions. It is the media that has twisted this. I also think that FCT’s appointment of Richard Goodman earlier this year to associate editor of biotechnology is very suspect given his ties to Monsanto and the Biotech Industry.

    I agree with Marion Nestle, NYU Professor, who suggests that the journal should:

    Admit that the journal’s peer review—and editorial—processes are deeply flawed.

    State that the journal never should have accepted the paper in the first place.

    Announce immediate steps to correct the flawed review processes.

    Apologize to Séralini et al. for having caved in to pressure and blaming him, rather than themselves, for the mess.

    Publish all documentation about the paper on the journal’s website.

    Call on the scientific community to repeat the Séralini study with
    populations of rats large enough to permit statistical analyses of the

    • From Arjo, et al. (2013):

      “It started with a press conference in which journalists
      agreed not to engage in fact-checking in return for a
      preview of new research indicating that both a widelyused
      herbicide and a genetically modified variety of
      maize resistant to that herbicide caused high levels of
      tumors in rats (Butler 2012). Within hours, the news
      had been blogged and tweeted more than 1.5 million
      times. Lurid photos of tumor-ridden rats appeared on
      websites and in newspapers around the world, while
      larger-than-life images of the rats were broadcast
      across the USA on the popular television show Dr. Oz.”
      Don’t kid yourself, this guy MADE CLAIMS from half baked methodology and he knew EXACTLY what he was doing.

      But somehow, “Apologize to Séralini et al. for having caved in to pressure and blaming him, rather than themselves, for the mess.” The Galileo Argument. We knew it was coming. But Dr Nestle shouldn’t hold her breath cuz there ain’t no apology coming.
      Perhaps Nestle, Shiva, Smith, Benbrook, Seralini, Suzuki, Oz, Rifkin, Rodale, Robinson, Ho, Greenpeace, FOE, Soil Association, OCA and anybody else who questions our integrity and accuses us of crimes against humanity without evidence of anything other than the fact that we draw a paycheck should also be dragged into court for defamation.
      Fact is, bad review process or not, HE did the work and is responsible for it. HE claimed effects that he cannot back up. Perhaps HE is the one that should be sued.
      I’ve been reading and listening to this crap from people like you for 15 years. It is time we fought back.

      • Loren, would you tell me specifically what claims he made?

        What troubles me most with your response is that you are basically suggesting that publications should become even more biased than they already are by giving ever more scrutiny to any research on controversial topics when the findings are inconclusive or inconvenient. This angry onslaught that you and others are facilitating is scaring researchers from ever attempting to replicate this or similar experiments or publishing inconclusive results. Combined with the legal and political barriers the patent holders put up to conducting such research, this only exacerbates the problem of publication bias, which ultimately hurts all of us because it makes it impossible to learn the truth.

        The fact that this study went viral is evidence that the public wants more such science to be conducted. So it should be done! Let’s not confuse this important point with your personal gripes about these other people and organizations you list.

        • Churn, this has nothing to do with ‘publlcation bias,’ and in fact suggests the oppostite. Journals should not be in the business of publishing “inconclusive results.” The entire point of a joint article is the data is MORE THAN RANDOM. Yes, it was published. Yes, it was a huge blunder, as statistical analysis shows that the results were, in scientific terms, meaningless. Inconclusive results do not rise to the level of publication. Journal’s make mistakes. This article should never have seen the light of day. This study is totally anomalous. No study before or since, including short and multiple year studies of GMOs, has linked any GMO product to cancerous tumors. Zero. What happened in this case would not ‘scare’ any legitimate researcher–just the opposite, in fact. If any researcher should find results in a study that indicated a genuine health hazard-not just noise but signal–every major publication in the world would kill to publish it. It would be Nobel Prize level work. That person would become influential beyond their wildest dreams. IF THE DATA is more than just random noise, and performed on rats who are bred to generate tumors. Real scientists do not do what they do to prove a pre-determined conclusion–that’s the disgraceful game that Seralini et al played, and it’s come back to haunt them. Yes, let’s have more research, certainly. If you understand the basic science of GMOs, particularly as it is linked to this maize product. That said, tthere is no plausible biological route that would lead to turmor production. Zero. None. Zlich. So, sure, let’s have more studies. We’ve had more than 2000, and not one study has shown a unique health hazard linked to approved GMOs that are not present in equal or greater terms in conventional or organic food production. GMOs are the most studied food process in history. There has been billions of dollars of precious reseearch dollars wasted, so what’s with another $30 million or so. It has to be done with scientists who do not have a history of research done with a pre-announced bias. Meaning no more Seralini fiascos.

          • “Authors, editors and publishers all have ethical obligations with regard to the publication of the results of research…Negative and inconclusive as well as positive results should be published or otherwise made publicly available.”
            Declaration of Helsinki – Ethical principles for medical research.

            In the recent cover story in The Economist, entitled How science goes wrong, the author states, “failures to prove a hypothesis are rarely even offered for publication, let alone accepted…The failure to report failures means that researchers waste money and effort exploring blind alleys already investigated by other scientists.”

            I wholeheartedly agree that the study could have been designed better. But on the topic of bias, most researchers are trying to discover something groundbreaking. That starting “suspicion” or “pre-determined conclusion” as you’re calling it, is the hypothesis – a key part of the scientific method. Sure, “happy ears” may get in the way of a proper interpretation of results, but the peer review process is designed to address this. This article went through a full peer review process and also was reviewed for scientific rigor by FCT’s editors prior to publication. While the results may be unreliable, there’s been no evidence of error or misconduct and therefore, FCT seems to have no valid grounds on which to retract the paper.

            Like you, I don’t want my taxpayer dollars wasted on pointless research. But I also don’t want to blindly trust safety studies conducted over short periods of time by the GMO producers. I am also suspicious of research conducted by universities who receive funding from the biotech industry. Events like the Pusztai affair, in which a GMO researcher’s career is destroyed following publication of inconvenient findings, terrify many researchers and surely influence their choice of research topics.

          • Churn, No one was stopping Seralini from making his data publicly available. That does not mean that first tier academic publications have the obligation to publish crappy papers or, if a mistake was made, that they shouldn’t retract it. If you look at the data, it’s not actually inconclusive by the way. It suggests, in accord with every other study done on GMOs, that GMOs posed no statistically unusual health concerns. As you write, the data was “unreliable.” It should not have been published, and now will, rightly, be expunged from data bases. Let Seralini publish his ethical/research monstrosity elsewhere. He can buy his way into a pay for play journal. He can get the organization that he set up, ENSWER, to publish it. It will rightly be viewed as Andrew Wakefield’s irresponsible hysteria driving article on vaccines is viewed. You can be suspicious of any research you want–data is data, and it’s should be matched up against other research. There have been more than 2000 studies on GMOs, with more than 1500 specifically addressing health and safety. No paper showing any serious health issues to approved GMOs has been published in a front line journal. Not one. The industry studies are in accord with the independent ones. Then there is Seralini. He’s a marginal researcher with an avowed agenda, and he clearly twisted data to fit his pre-baked conclusion. You may not like that. You may be suspicious of the World Health Organisation and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the German Academy of Sciences and the 100+ non-industry related organizations that have reviewed the vast number of studies and concluded that GMOs are as safe or SAFER than conventional and organic foods. I’m not.

          • Jon, I think we’re not as far off as you may think. I do agree that the quality of this research is suspect. Maybe it shouldn’t have been published. But a retraction is *much* different from declining to publish. Retraction can ruin a career. I think it’s why the standards for retraction are so much higher than the standards for acceptance for publication and based on my limited understanding of what constitutes grounds for retraction, this case doesn’t appear to meet it.

            On the topic of GMO safety, I agree with you that the credible research overwhelmingly fails to prove any harm to human health from consuming GMOs. That does not prove they are safe, though. It also doesn’t address
            the economic and political factors that determine which science gets conducted and how, but I know that your website specifically doesn’t want to get into “ideology.” So I’ll stop there.

            In the absence of enough long-term studies, I am choosing to be cautious with my own body, however, I am not necessarily opposed to GMOs in principle. I do not feel that GMOs should be banned. And believe it or not, I’m on the fence regarding labeling. I read your articles and occasionally blog myself because I want to learn as much as possible about this important topic and I recognize that it’s incredibly complex. Even though I don’t agree with all of your viewpoints, I do learn from your articles and I thank you for the good work you do in running this site.

          • Churn, thanks for the dialogue. What we agree on is the issue of ‘choice.’ Individuals have the right to set their own risk parameters, so I certainly respect where you decide to draw lines. I do believe the risks of GM foods is almost negligible…certainly far less than the risks of consuming organic foods (because of pathogens) although the risks there are statistically minimal as well (I choose organic for certain foods myself). There have been dozens of long term studies–maybe not enough to convince you, perhaps–and the results are consistent/unvarying. There are no apparent biological mechanisms to pose health and safety hazards that are not also present in organic/conventional foods. The food and safety studies just confirm the obvious. Yes, we should do allergen testing, and that’s done–but oddly, that’s not done for organics and conventional foods, and those are where the real dangers lay. For some reason, people are willing to eat organic peanut butter or organic Kiwis, each of which are very allergnic to a sizable number of people (many of whom are not aware of their allergies.)

          • Glyphosate safer then organic? Thank God your here…God. Why did you wait so long? Look everyone the second coming of Christ. Jon has produced food better the God. Today you are my God. I will go out into the woods and write a bible encore with you as the Editor. We can probably get polygamy accepted again for ourselves. Are you with me Jon? Lol.

          • Jon, do you think there is now a degree of apprehension on the part of some journals in terms of rejecting work that doesn’t pass muster, because there may be an appearance of siding with industry?

          • Loren, hard to know. My guess is that some journals have bent over backwards to accommodate studies that pinpoint potential problems with GMOs, if the studies are reasonably well executed, to flag their independence–but I could be totally wrong. Hopefully, good journals will not care one way or the other and will just follow clear protocols, and have the cajones to stick with their principles.

    • He used a strain that develops tumors spontaneously 76% of the time. The amount of tumors produced by the GMO fed rats was only slightly higher and NOT significant. And only 10 rats were used with incorrect controls. Toxicity levels were not determined. Yes repeat it but design the experiment CORRECTLY and use significant numbers of rats this time. The peer review was shoddy. In the meantime read it and see for yourself what shoddy science is.

  7. The report says they are not fraudulent but bad science is almost as bad. The study shows that cancer rate goes down with high dose – does GM food cure cancer — hardly hence showing just how bad it was and should never have been published. The problem is noone is prepared to speak out in case they are wrong. Deal with it people. We can’t publish crap just becuase we are worried it might be right — just toss a coin instead (but do it 100 times and do the stats !)

  8. This article seems full of similar rhetoric used over the past 50 years to condemn things like, the harmful effects of tobacco smoke, climate change, acid rain the hole in the ozone layer, and I’m sure many other topics

  9. It’s “Seralini, the Discredited Anti-Gmoer”!

    He glowers at all who dare to speak out. There he is now!

    “…What? You don’t agree? I SUE YOU !, You, there! I SUE YOU TOO ! YOU! yes YOU !! Silence! I SUE YOU TOO! I SUE YOU ALL !!!”

    (Apologies to, “Achmed, the Dead Terrorist”)

  10. Who’s your target audience?

    If you’re aiming to change anyone’s minds, you need to sound far less partisan.

    I don’t believe the anti-GMO b.s. either, but the sneering and condescending tone are really not helpful in convincing moderates on the other side.

    (I’ve been guilty of this before, but realised it was a mistake, especially now I read it with the perspective of a reader instead of having written it myself.)

    We need to sound emphatically impartisan and exaggeratedly scrupulous about demonstrating non-partisan scientific critical evaluation of methods, results and interpretation of results, otherwise it’s just more preaching to the choir and polarising the factions in this culture war.

    How about some critical reviews in lay language of poor quality papers from the biotech industry, to show balance and rigour?

    • There are hundreds of examples of critical analysis throughout the GLP. What specifically did you object to in this Forbes article, which was widely cited by mainstream press as definitive piece on this incident?

      • It was this bit:

        “A **fringe** organization known as the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER), whose deputy chairman is co-author of the French study and **whose membership is a ‘Who’s Who’ of anti-biotechnology scientists and campaigners**, released a statement as well…”

        That’s a stereotype-discredit-dismiss rhetorical tactic.

        With hindsight (I’ve very much been guilty of this before), I think it’s better to stick to pointing out the flaws in the methodology, results, statistical analysis and interpretation of results, and let the evidence speak for itself and people make up their own minds. Of course that’s a stylistic tactic too, but it has developed because it’s more effective at convincing those who’re opposed to you/ us/ one.

        • Reasonable point. I think the characterization was accurate and not overstated but to those coming to the issue cold, or without much context, they could easily see it as too polemical. Ultimately this is about science. Thanks for taking the time to write and critique!

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