10th December 2013
Richard E. Goodman is not an evil scientist but let Monsanto and the industry fund Seralini for another, proper study
When upon initial review I did not find evidence to substantiate friend Devinder Sharma's claim against Monsanto, I reported the matter to him, to which he has responded:
I don't want to get into a debate on this. I have been debating this for decades now at various international/national. But if you want to read another opinion, read this article in The Ecologist
The Ecologist article points to Richard E. Goodman as the evil scientist acting under orders from Monsanto:
in early 2013 Richard E. Goodman, a former Monsanto researcher with close ties to the biotech industry, joined the senior editorial staff of FCT. Goodman was given the specially created position of associate editor for biotechnology.
Claire Robinson, research director at the science policy platform Earth Open Source and a co-author of the new article, said, "Goodman's fast-tracked appointment straight onto FCT's upper editorial board raises the question of whether Monsanto is now effectively deciding which papers on GM foods and crops should be published and which should not."
So what does Goodman have to say to this?
He actually has a longish statement here.
The main point is that Goodman was NOT employed by Monsanto at the time of publication of the Seralini paper. He had been out of Monsanto for around eight years (having left it in 2004), and had been working as an academic at the University of Nebraska since August 2004.
Goodman is a scientist of no mean achievements himself. He has a Ph.D. in Dairy Science from The Ohio State University and a Post Doc. in Immunology from Cornell University. He has 37 peer-reviewed papers, primarily on allergy and immunology.
Goodman freely agrees that he was one of the PRIMARY critics (but not the only critic) of the Seralini paper. Is it a crime to be a critic, as an academic scientist? I don't think so. He was NOT the only critic. There were many others, as I've already noted here.
Goodman was appointed as an Associate Editor to deal with some of the thousands of manuscripts they receive each year. He is paid less than $5 per hour for the time he spares for this work. "It often takes two hours to do an initial review and find two to three highly qualified scientists (from any country, from any employment area) who are willing and able to provide a scientific review. Often I have to search published literature for people who have published papers on related subjects." All this is quite reasonable. Not an enviable job, by any means.
What about any secret influence Monsanto exercised through him?
The cloak and daggers story, with Monsanto controlling this appointment, and through Goodman, controlling the retraction of the Seralini paper, sounds highly implausible. For this story to be proven, I'd need more evidence. More importantly, I'd need to know (if Monsanto bribed the journal to retract the article), why did it need Goodman to first be appointed, to conduct a LOT of really boring administrative work, and THEN bribe the journal? Could Monsanto not have bribed in such a way that no one even suspected anything?
I mean, if Monsanto had to bribe, then why risk such potential charges by getting someone who had worked with them, to first be appointed by the journal, IN ORDER TO BRIBE the editor? Bribes can be surely given anonymously, without all this complex intermediation.
This charge against Monsanto is not proven.
Goodman is a CREDENTIALED scientist and there is no reason to question his appointment as Associate Editor.
The Seralni paper was bad science but need not have been retracted.
As far as the charge of use of the incorrect rat for the Seralini experiment is concerned, I note that:
1) It is true that normal studies of GMOs are for 90 days.
2) It is true that there is no other such study that went on for 2 years.
But the point No.2 is crucial. If a study had to go on for 2 years, it was mandatory to find rats that did not deteriorate on their own. For statistical difference to be conclusive between SUCH rats (and therefore not merely subject to random chance), it was necessary for there to be a much larger sample size. I believe that there is sufficient ground to question the findings of this paper.
However, since there was no fraud AND this paper had gone through the peer review process, it should have been allowed to continue as a published paper, along with publication of various letters critical of the paper.
There are MANY misleading published scientific papers, the findings of which are subsequently rebutted. This paper would have been rejected in the normal course through further studies. Bad science happens. Peer review is not the gold standard of science, it is only the BEGINNING of the long and dreary process of replication of findings and debate that finally constitutes science.
I believe that Monsanto is innocent of this retraction. The retraction, however, was not necessary. Bad science would have been caught out on its own.
The only problem with peer reviewed literature is that FOOLISH POLICY MAKERS across the world tend to "believe" peer reviewed papers as the Gospel. It is perhaps due to these FOOLISH policy makers that the paper had to be retracted. Not because of Monsanto.
But given Monsanto has been "implicated" by innuendo, and given there are alternative methods to study rats for such a long duration, the industry should fund Seralini for another study (under supervision by an independent body) that is methodologically sound. The results of such a study would necessarily have to be acceptable to ALL sides.
I'm sure that the SAFETY of humans is too important a subject to quibble about. Let there be GOOD SCIENCE that we can all rely upon.