Open letter on pro-GM bias at academic journal

An open letter to the publishers and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology, regarding the potential pro-GM bias introduced by the appointment of a new Associate Editor, Richard Goodman.

1 October 2013
 

OPEN LETTER re: Appointment of Richard Goodman

To: Mr Bart Wacek, Elsevier
Cc:
Mr Ron Mobed, CEO of Elsevier
Dr A. Wallace Hayes, Editor-in-Chief for Vision and Strategy, Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology
Ms Sarah Jane Gooding, Elsevier


Dear Mr Wacek,

It is of great concern to us, a group of scientists and researchers, that Richard E. Goodman has been appointed as Associate Editor for Biotechnology at the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology.

Dr Goodman is a former employee of Monsanto and has had a long-standing involvement in the International Life Sciences Institute, an organisation funded by major food and agricultural biotechnology companies, including Monsanto. ILSI has a controversial history in the US and Europe of influencing government risk-assessment methodologies that are used to assess the safety of products produced by its funder companies [1]. Dr Goodman's presence as editor for biotechnology will make it very difficult, if not impossible, to publish papers that find problems with GM crops or foods. Monsanto has a record of infiltrating organisations in ways that give it control over their activities; and journals, news media and even government bodies that express or imply anti-GM views are not exempt from its powerful influence and use of litigation. For example, in the United States, Fox News on television was threatened with "dire consequences" when Monsanto learned that two reporters planned to disclose damaging evidence about Monsanto's growth hormone, rBGH, which increases milk production in cows [2]. In another case, the printer of The Ecologist magazine, after contacting Monsanto, was so fearful of reprisal that it shredded all 14,000 copies of the 'Monsanto Files' issue, which was already printed and ready to be sent out [3]. Another printer was found, but two major UK news agents, W.H. Smith and John Menzies, refused to sell the magazine for fear of being sued by Monsanto [4]. A book, Against the Grain, Biotechnology and the Corporate Takeover of Your Food, by Marc Lappe and Britt Bailey, was stopped from publication just three days before leaving the printer because of a threat against the publisher [5]. (The book was later published elsewhere.) In 2012, the Connecticut state legislature wanted to pass a bill that included labelling of GM foods, but "The labeling provision was eliminated from the bill due to fears that it opened the state up to a lawsuit" by Monsanto [6]. Many other examples of intimidation by Monsanto could be cited.

The appointment of Dr Goodman has been discussed in a published article [7], which described his connections with the GM industry. It is therefore unfortunate that your respectable Journal now has a biotechnology editor with a known bias in the GM debate.

The appointment will be of interest to the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), of which the Journal is a member, because it fails to comply with the best-practice guideline of "publishing lists of relevant interests (financial, academic and other kinds) of all editorial staff and members of editorial boards" [8] and may contravene other articles in the their Code of Conduct, as well. We are bringing this matter, including Dr Goodman's conflict of interest, to the attention of COPE.

Richard Goodman's appointment can only result in the loss of impartiality on the editorial board in regard to research dealing with genetic engineering and its consequences. We urge you to rescind this appointment at the earliest opportunity. If Richard Goodman remains, the Journal will gradually lose the respect of independent scientists, who will no longer wish to publish their work there.

We respectfully request a reply to these concerns, which can be addressed to Dr Eva Novotny [address].

Yours sincerely,

Dr Eva Novotny (University of Cambridge, retired)
Dr Mae-Wan Ho (Director, Institute of Science in Society)
Dr Brian John (Durham University, retired)
Dr Arpad Pusztai (Rowett Institute, retired)
Ms Claire Robinson (Research Director, Earth Open Source)
Prof Peter Saunders (Professor Emeritus, King's College, London)
Dr Eva Sirinathsinghji (Institute of Science in Society)
Dr Philip Webber (Chair, on behalf of Scientists for Global Responsibility)

 

References

[1] International Life Sciences Institute:
(a) Conflicts of interest at the European Food Safety Authority erode public confidence. J Epidemiol Community Health. http://jech.bmj.com/content/early/2013/03/07/jech-2012-202185.extract
(b) Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) (2006). Industry association barred from influencing international health standards. http://www.nrdc.org/media/pressreleases/060131.asp
(c) WHO to rely less on U.S. research, http://www.trwnews.net/Documents/News/2006/ap012706.htm

[2] Fox News. http://www.foxbghsuit.com/jasw042500.htm

[3] Monsanto edition of The Ecologist
http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Shredding+%60The+Ecologist%27.-a053706056

http://mobile.zcommunications.org/pulp-non-fiction-the-ecologist-shredded-by-robert-weissman

[4] W.H. Smith and John Menzies
http://mobile.zcommunications.org/pulp-non-fiction-the-ecologist-shredded-by-robert-weissman

[5] Book by Marc Lappe and Britt Bailey
http://www.sciencegroup.org.uk/ifgene/lapperev.htm

[6] Connecticut bill:
http://darien.dailyvoice.com/news/food-bill-loses-its-bite

[7] Article about appointment of Richard Goodman
http://independentsciencenews.org/science-media/the-goodman-affair-monsanto-targets-the-heart-of-science/

[8] COPE mandatory 'Code of Conduct for Journal Editors' standards
http://publicationethics.org/files/Code_of_conduct_for_journal_editors_Mar11.pdf