QWhy did Monsanto pressure Elsevier to hire Monsanto employee Richard Goodman to review all GMO related research following the Seralini study? Does Monsanto need censors to protect their brand from negative research?

Why did Monsanto pressure Elsevier to hire Monsanto employee Richard Goodman to review all GMO related research following the Seralini study? Does Monsanto need censors to protect their brand from negative research?

AExpert Answer

As far as I know, Monsanto did not pressure Elsevier to hire me (Richard Goodman, a Research Professor in the Dept. of Food Science & Technology at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln, employed there since August, 2004).  I hope you will consider the following disclosure so that those who are interested in considering how the peer review system works might have a glimpse of reality as I see it.

 

I was employed at Monsanto in Regulatory Sciences from 1997 until July, 2004, and worked on the safety assessment of genetically engineered crops during that time and as researcher, and continue with similar work since then.  My work includes evaluating GMOs and novel food ingredients developed by non-profit and for-profit entities. 

 

I believe it is important to be transparent.  You can read about my background on the University website (http://foodsci.unl.edu/web/foodsci/goodman).  As a research professor I have to fund my program, pay my salary, the salary and costs of a bioinformatician, graduate students and research costs through grants and contracts.  I manage the Allergenonline.org database, which is funded by the six major biotechnology companies.  The purpose of the database is to provide a science-based peer reviewed platform to allow anyone to compare novel protein sequences (including proteins from genetically modified organisms) against proteins that are proven allergens or with substantial proof of allergy (e.g. IgE binding using sera from relevant allergic individuals), based on peer reviewed publications.  We have an expert panel that is described on the website (allergenonline.org).  

 

When the Seralini paper was published I was one of the primary critics of the editors of Elsevier for allowing this clearly deficient and sensationalistic paper to be published without apparent adequate peer review.  I saw a number of deficiencies in the paper and wrote a critical letter to the editor (as did many scientists both within and outside of the biotech industry). The editorial staff of the journal, Food and Chemical Toxicology, knew that they did not have enough individual Managing and Associate Editors to cover the wide array of topics and the large number of manuscripts that they receive every year (more than 3,000 papers).  The editor contacted me to inquire whether I was willing to become an Associate Editor to handle the review process for manuscripts related to biotechnology.  I reluctantly agreed.  I do receive a very small honorarium for the effort (probably less than $5 per hour spent on the assignments).  The work is done outside of my normal University responsibilities.  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. Reviewers do not get paid.  It often takes many contacts to find someone qualified and willing to review a paper depending on the topic. In the end I have to judge the scientific rigor and appropriateness of the reviewer’s comments, then communicate with authors with a decision, often requiring considerable revision (if the author so chooses).  It is not an easy task. And I take fairness very seriously.  Undoubtedly some authors are not happy with the review.  But critical reviews usually lead to much more sound publications.

 

I certainly don’t do this for the money. I can make far more as a consultant.  You will find that most (all) editors and reviewers do their tasks because of an internal obligation to ensure scientific articles that are published are based on a sound hypothesis, good experimental design (and description) and that conclusions are based on data and data analysis that supports the authors claims.  Will I make mistakes?  Certainly, but I hope they are few and not very serious.  Every author, reviewer and editor makes some mistakes.  The review process is set up to try and reduce the number of mistakes, reduce fraud, reduce sensationalism that is not supported by science.  

 

By the way, reviews of scientific papers are anonymous. That is designed to provide the most unbiased judgment of papers and to ensure that reviewers are not intimidated.  The Associate Editor is not anonymous. The authors get correspondence from me.  You have seen my disclosure and you can see many of my public statements posted in various places.  I find it very interesting that many critics of technology are less open in disclosing their expertise, identity and possible “conflicts of interest.”

Posted on April 22, 2017
GMO plants, like all other plants, do not “sleep” in the sense that you and I as mammals sleep. However, plants do have natural processes that may be cyclic or seasonal, indicating a cycle or rhythm to their growth and life. This is not technically “sleeping” but let me give you a couple of examples of what I mean.    Some plants have a type of metabolism known as CAM (Crassulacean Acid Metabolism). Plants which have CAM close the pores on their leaves... Read More
Posted on August 15, 2017
  On average, the recent research that has been conducted on GMOs, on a per product basis is calculated to be an average of $130 Million (and 13 years). This is a per product average, so each product that reaches commercialization in a given year would also cost something similar to this value.   Please see below for additional helpful resources: The Cost and time involved in the discovery, development and authorization of a new plant biotechnology derived trait by Phillips... Read More
Posted on February 9, 2017
A species is defined by the ability to reproduce viable offspring, so any two plants within a species generally have the potential to cross pollinate. Like any good successful mating, it requires the union of male and female contributions at the right time, same place. So absolutely, GE crops have the potential to cross with non-GE crops of the same species—if they manage to get it on through time and space.    So the rules that apply to dogs and teenagers also apply to... Read More
Answer: