Anti-GMO articles retracted – shocking news

I’ve written this about 1 million times online (give or take 990,000) – the only thing that matters in science is evidence. Not opinion, not anecdotes, not bad research. The science that supports the safety and productivity of GMO crops is overwhelming, while one more of the anti-GMO articles has been retracted.

Science wins. And I guess lies and manufactured data don’t.

If this sounds familiar, it is. I wrote about a few weeks ago, discussing  a paper, by Federico Infascelli and other colleagues, an animal nutrition researcher at the University of Naples in Italy, who attempted to show that GMO soybeans consumed by female goats could pass modified genes into the blood and organs of baby goats.

According to an article in Retraction Watch, there was a lot more going on. The good people at Retraction Watch translated an article in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, which claimed that “an investigation suggests that Infascelli has manipulated images to suggest GMOs are harmful. He could face fines and be suspended from the university.”

Retraction Watch also  that La Repubblica “also reported that a committee appointed by the rector of the university, Gaetano Manfredi, found errors in Infascelli’s data that suggested he had manipulated the results to show GMOs were harmful.”

And Infascelli’s research improprieties continue to grow.

More of Infascelli’s anti-GMO articles

 

Retraction Watch, once again providing invaluable information about bad research, reports that another of Infascelli’s anti-GMO articles has been retracted. In this case, the paper that has been retracted is a 2010 article in Food Nutrition Science, entitled  “Fate of transgenic DNA and evaluation of metabolic effects in goats fed genetically modified soybean and in their offsprings.”

In the  retraction note for the article, the editors noted:

From late September 2015, we received several expressions of concern from third parties that the electrophoresis gels presented might have been subject to unwarranted digital manipulations (added and hidden bands or zones, including in the control samples and the DNA ladder). A detailed independent investigation was carried out by animal in accordance with the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) guidelines. This investigation included an analysis of the claims using the figures as submitted, and reassessment of the article by one of the original peer-reviewers in light of the results of the analysis. The authors were notified of our concerns and asked to account for the observed irregularities. In the absence of a satisfactory explanation, the institution was asked to investigate further. The University of Naples concluded that multiple heterogeneities were likely attributable to digital manipulation, raising serious doubts on the reliability of the findings.

Based on the results of all investigations, we have decided to retract the article.

“Digital manipulation?” Wow, that’s a serious charge.

Nature, a highly respected science journal, has also weighed in on Infascelli’s “research.” Nature noted that both papers (now retracted) were among three that raised concerns for Italian senator Elena Cattaneo, a neuroscientist at the University of Milan. Senator Cattaneo noted:

what looked like problems in all three papers: sections of images of electrophoresis gels appeared to have been obliterated, and some of the images in different papers appeared to be identical but with captions describing different experiments.

She then commissioned Enrico Bucci, head of the biomedical services and information consultancy firm BioDigitalValley in Aosta, Italy, to carry out a forensic analysis of all three papers. The analysis suggested that the papers did indeed contain manipulated and reused images. Cattaneo contacted the journals concerned in September last year, and in November forwarded the analysis to the University of Naples.

 

Like the discredited and ultimately retracted article by Gilles-Eric Séralini from a few years ago, Infascelli seemed determined to show that GMO crops were somehow dangerous. Lacking evidence, he apparently fell victim to the temptation to invent data. He didn’t fool anyone.

 
 

Detailed critique

 

Although I wrote about the bad science in my original article about Infascelli’s fraudulent research, it bears repeating.

Enrico Bucci, who works at BioDigital Valley, a firm that specializes in analyzing scientific literature, has issued a report examining eight of Infascelli’s papers, including his Ph.D. thesis. The report places all of Infascelli’s work into question.

Here are some of their findings:

  • Deletion of data via digital manipulation and software
  • Cropped figures and charts that eliminate contradictory data
  • Splicing of data from unrelated studies
  • Fabricating data
  • Creating figures by moving data between lanes in the images
  • Duplication of lanes
  • Deletion of bands

Furthermore, Layla Katiraee, Ph.D., a molecular geneticist,  wrote in Biofortified that Infascelli’s research contained flawed materials, methods, and analysis. For example, he failed to specify the source of the animal feed, but, more importantly, failed to report a nutritional analysis of the feed to determine if or how much GMO soy was in the feed.

In other words, we’re not sure what the goats were fed. For all we know, they were fed non-GMO food, which would then mean that his research, even if his results were remotely verifiable, showed nothing whatsoever.

Dr. Katiraee summarizes Infascelli’s paper, just so the readers here are fully cognizant of what has happened:

Even if this particular paper had not been retracted, even if the authors had not been accused of fraud, the research was not well-designed and its findings were not solid. Even if it had been conducted ethically, it still should not have been published, let alone touted as evidence of GMO harm because it’s not a good paper.

It should not have passed peer review, and it’s possible that it never did, leading the authors to publish in a predatory journal. Yet the paper, and all other papers from this group, have been used in campaigns to warn us of the dangers of GMOs.

Infascelli’s articles were published in really low level journals, who apparently have enough integrity that they do have a minimum standard for veracity of research.

Summary

 

The vast breadth and depth of real scientific research supports the conclusion that GMO crops are safe and productive. It’s not even close.

Furthermore, the leading scientists of the world have arrived at a consensus, based on this solid evidence, that GMO crops are safe. And useful to humanity.

Of course, one can resort to cherry-picking a bad article here and there to support your belief that GMOs are dangerous – Infascelli’s junk science should be off the list.

On the other hand, I still see the thoroughly debunked Séralini research being used as “proof” of the dangers of GMO corn. More evidence that the GMO deniers are the climate change deniers of the left.

 

Key citations

 

The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!