Saturday, November 30, 2013

Corny Science

The journal Nature reported on November 28, 2013, the retraction of a published scientific article claiming that laboratory rats fed genetically-modified ("GM") maize suffered substantial health problems.  As the journal reported,
Bowing to scientists' near-universal scorn, the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology today fulfilled its threat to retract a controversial paper claiming that a genetically modified (GM) maize causes serious disease in rats, after the authors refused to withdraw it.
Elsevier, the publisher of Food and Chemical Toxicology, explained its decision to retract the article as follows:
there is a legitimate cause for concern regarding both the number of animals in each study group and the particular strain selected. The low number of animals had been identified as a cause for concern during the initial review process, but the peer review decision ultimately weighed that the work still had merit despite this limitation. A more in-depth look at the raw data revealed that no definitive conclusions can be reached with this small sample size regarding the role of either NK603 or glyphosate in regards to overall mortality or tumor incidence. Given the known high incidence of tumors in the Sprague-Dawley rat, normal variability cannot be excluded as the cause of the higher mortality and incidence observed in the treated groups.
There are interesting times - sensu the oft-cited, but apparently apocryphal, Chinese curse - for the science and public opinion of GM food.  While robust scientific evidence that GM food causes harm to humans remains elusive, a vocal opposition maintains that GM food is unhealthy.

This retraction, by Food and Chemical Toxicology, is not the first.  In 2007, I published an article, entitled "Intellectual Property as the Third Dimension of GMO Regulation," that discusses similar previous GM publication shlamazels (available for free download here).  Disputes over food are often primal in character.  They have led to war, revolution, famine, and disease.  People behave from instinct when their access to healthy food appears threatened.  For this reason, ensuring that information about food is derived from reliable science is vital.  Publication of flawed food science is not merely unpalatable for peer review journals, it can cause painful political indigestion.

there is a legitimate cause for concern regarding both the number of animals in each study group and the particular strain selected. The low number of animals had been identified as a cause for concern during the initial review process, but the peer review decision ultimately weighed that the work still had merit despite this limitation. A more in-depth look at the raw data revealed that no definitive conclusions can be reached with this small sample size regarding the role of either NK603 or glyphosate in regards to overall mortality or tumor incidence. Given the known high incidence of tumors in the Sprague-Dawley rat, normal variability cannot be excluded as the cause of the higher mortality and incidence observed in the treated groups. - See more at: http://www.elsevier.com/about/p
there is a legitimate cause for concern regarding both the number of animals in each study group and the particular strain selected. The low number of animals had been identified as a cause for concern during the initial review process, but the peer review decision ultimately weighed that the work still had merit despite this limitation. A more in-depth look at the raw data revealed that no definitive conclusions can be reached with this small sample size regarding the role of either NK603 or glyphosate in regards to overall mortality or tumor incidence. Given the known high incidence of tumors in the Sprague-Dawley rat, normal variability cannot be excluded as the cause of the higher mortality and incidence observed in the treated groups. - See more at: http://www.elsevier.com/about/press-releases/research-and-journals/elsevier-announces-article-retraction-from-journal-food-and-chemical-toxicology#sthash.0DEVUvqe.dpuf
there is a legitimate cause for concern regarding both the number of animals in each study group and the particular strain selected. The low number of animals had been identified as a cause for concern during the initial review process, but the peer review decision ultimately weighed that the work still had merit despite this limitation. A more in-depth look at the raw data revealed that no definitive conclusions can be reached with this small sample size regarding the role of either NK603 or glyphosate in regards to overall mortality or tumor incidence. Given the known high incidence of tumors in the Sprague-Dawley rat, normal variability cannot be excluded as the cause of the higher mortality and incidence observed in the treated groups. - See more at: http://www.elsevier.com/about/press-releases/research-and-journals/elsevier-announces-article-retraction-from-journal-food-and-chemical-toxicology#sthash.0DEVUvqe.dpuf
there is a legitimate cause for concern regarding both the number of animals in each study group and the particular strain selected. The low number of animals had been identified as a cause for concern during the initial review process, but the peer review decision ultimately weighed that the work still had merit despite this limitation. A more in-depth look at the raw data revealed that no definitive conclusions can be reached with this small sample size regarding the role of either NK603 or glyphosate in regards to overall mortality or tumor incidence. Given the known high incidence of tumors in the Sprague-Dawley rat, normal variability cannot be excluded as the cause of the higher mortality and incidence observed in the treated groups. - See more at: http://www.elsevier.com/about/press-releases/research-and-journals/elsevier-announces-article-retraction-from-journal-food-and-chemical-toxicology#sthash.0DEVUvqe.dpuf
there is a legitimate cause for concern regarding both the number of animals in each study group and the particular strain selected. The low number of animals had been identified as a cause for concern during the initial review process, but the peer review decision ultimately weighed that the work still had merit despite this limitation. A more in-depth look at the raw data revealed that no definitive conclusions can be reached with this small sample size regarding the role of either NK603 or glyphosate in regards to overall mortality or tumor incidence. Given the known high incidence of tumors in the Sprague-Dawley rat, normal variability cannot be excluded as the cause of the higher mortality and incidence observed in the treated groups. - See more at: http://www.elsevier.com/about/press-releases/research-and-journals/elsevier-announces-article-retraction-from-journal-food-and-chemical-toxicology#sthash.0DEVUvqe.dpuf

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