Mae Wan Ho Letter to Nature Biotechnology
You are still being unfair to Ermakova, especially in allowing the panel of critics in your original Feature2 - all well known for their writings and public appearances if not in declared financial interests to be strongly pro-GM - to have the last word.3
You asked for suggestions regarding the format you might use for Features of this kind. The real issue, however, is not the format but the journal’s policy on reviewing. When there is a debate or a controversy about an issue, reviewers must apply the same standards to papers on both sides, and that Chassy et al2,3 did not do. They explicitly wrote that Ermakova’s work should be judged by a more rigorous standard because it contradicts earlier work that showed no adverse effects from GM food. Yet the crucial earlier work4 that they repeatedly cited was indeed, not subjected to same rigorous standard they are demanding for Ermakova’s study; far from it. The same applies to other earlier research purportedly demonstrating that GM food is safe.
The specific GM food in question, Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soya (RR soya, event 40-3-2), has been commercially grown since 1996 if not before. But contrary to the assertions of proponents such as Chassy et al,2,3 its market approval - as indeed the market approval of all genetically modified organisms (GMOs) - has been contested right from the start.5 At issue was a reductionist regulatory regime that allowed companies to present results of the most undiscerning tests to bolster the claim that the GMO is ‘substantially equivalent’ to, and hence as safe as, its conventional counterpart(s).
Feeding trials, typically conducted by the company seeking market approval,6 tended to focus on agronomic performance, not on safety, and were not of sufficient duration to assess any but the most acute, short-term effects.