Yet Séralini has promoted the cancer results as the study’s major finding, through a tightly orchestrated media offensive that began last month and included the release of a book and a film about the work. Only a select group of journalists (not including Nature) was given access to the embargoed paper, and each writer was required to sign a highly unusual confidentiality agreement, seen by Nature, which prevented them from discussing the paper with other scientists before the embargo expired.
Journalists often receive embargoed journal articles, and standard practice is to solicit independent assessments before the paper is published. The agreement for this paper, however, did not allow any disclosure and threatened a severe penalty for non-compliance: “A refund of the cost of the study of several million euros would be considered damages if the premature disclosure questioned the release of the study.”
In an exceptional move, the ethics committee of the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) last week decried the public-relations offensive as inappropriate for a high-quality and objective scientific debate, and reminded researchers working on controversial topics of the need to report results responsibly to the public.
Meanwhile, Séralini says that he won’t make any data available to the EFSA and the BfR until the EFSA makes public all the data under-pinning its 2003 approval of NK603 maize for human consumption and animal feed. He has also criticized the EFSA, and most other detractors of his study, for alleged conflicts of interest, claiming that he is “being attacked in an extremely dishonest fashion by lobbies passing themselves off as the scientific community”.
The journal that published his study, Food and Chemical Toxicology, said last week in a statement that it “welcomes any and all ‘Letters to the Editor' that have questions and concerns about this paper”.
This article is reproduced with permission from the magazine Nature. The article was first published on October 10, 2012.