According to Drs Robinson and Latham, ‘The life science industry… has increasingly moved to influence and control science publishing.’ They’re not impressed by the appointment of Richard E. Goodman as Associate Editor for Biotechnology at the peer-reviewed journal Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT).
Prof Goodman is an expert on food safety at the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program, University of Nebraska. He used to work for the biotech giant Monsanto. So does his role at FCT involve a conflict of interest?
Perhaps it does. According to Drs Robinson and Latham, ‘Goodman has an active and ongoing involvement with… ILSI [which] is funded by the multinational GM and agrochemical companies, including Monsanto. It develops industry-friendly risk assessment methods for GM foods and chemical food contaminants and inserts them into government regulations.’ GM crops are genetically modified crops, also called genetically engineered (GE) crops.
Drs Robinson and Latham also write about a controversial paper published in FCT. It’s one of the most famous, or infamous, pieces of research about GM crops. Here it is. In that paper, Gilles-Eric Séralini claimed to show evidence of harm from a herbicide-resistant GM maize (corn, Zea mays) called NK603 fed to laboratory rats (Rattus norvegicus). [Edit: I’m unsure whether the maize was NK603 or a cross between that and another GM maize called MON863.]
When I’ve mentioned the Séralini paper, I’ve called it ‘discredited’. But after reading the article by Drs Robinson and Latham I’m no longer sure. You can follow my tag ‘Séralini_Gilles-Eric’ for more about this controversy.
I’m an academic, trained to trust the peer review system. Here’s a summary of how science works, from my fellow blogger manuelinor at Ecology is Not a Dirty Word. That’s how science works. When it works. But I’ve seen the peer reviews system fail to spot good science, and fail to reject bad science. On the topics of biotechnology, this is a minefield.
Don’t believe everything you read in blogs like mine. Don’t believe everything you read on websites like the not-for-profits I’ve linked to here. As I say to students, ‘Keep your critical mind switched on.’ Scientists absolutely don’t deal in absolutes.