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Journal retraction of unethical Golden Rice study by deceitful scientist approved by judge


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(NaturalNews) In 2014, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition announced its plans to retract a study that had supposedly proven that genetically engineered (GE) "golden rice" provided as much vitamin A to children as a beta-carotene supplement. The first author of that paper, Guangwen Tang of Tufts University, immediately filed a lawsuit against the journal and sought an injunction to prevent the retraction.

On July 17, a Massachusetts judge denied the injunction. Twelve days later, the journal filed an online statement of retraction of the study. The retraction will also be published in the print version of the journal's September 2015 issue.

The reason for the retraction was blatant ethical misconduct on the part of the researchers, who forged papers and did not inform parents that their children were being fed GE rice.

Court rules that researcher sought to suppress free speech

The study in question, which was originally published online in August 2012 and in print a month later, was the result of a $1 million grant from the National Institute of Health. The purpose was to determine whether "golden" rice genetically engineered to be high in beta-carotene was actually a good source of the nutrient when consumed by human beings.

The study was carried out in 2008 at an elementary school in China. Its findings -- that the rice was a good source of vitamin A -- gained widespread scientific attention. The article has been downloaded more than 30,000 times.

For part of the study, 25 children between the ages of six and eight were fed 60 grams of the GE rice. Investigations by the Chinese government later revealed that the parents of these children had not been given honest information about what their children were being fed.

When the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition announced plans to retract the study, Tang obtained a preliminary injunction against the journal's publisher, the American Society for Nutrition. The injunction came as part of a lawsuit against the society and Tufts University, which had taken punitive measures against Tang for her violation of ethics rules.

The lawsuit, which is still pending, claims that the retraction and the measures taken against Tang by Tufts constitute defamation, breach of contract and interference with business relations. The lawsuit argues that retracting the study damages Tang's professional reputation and thereby her career and income prospects.

On July 17, the court rejected Tang's motion to bar the retraction of the study after hearing oral arguments. The court found that doing so would violate the defendant's right to free speech not only by restraining their speech but also by compelling it.

Extra effort to publicize retraction

Other than saying it was pleased that its First Amendment rights had been upheld, the American Society for Nutrition had little to say about the ruling and the subsequent article retraction.

"We do not have an additional statement at this time," the American Society for Nutrition said. "There is still an active lawsuit associated with the retraction and we have been advised by legal counsel not to comment further on this matter."

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition took the unusual step of not only publishing a retraction statement but also issuing a press release announcing that the article had been retracted. The statement specifies that the authors of the study were unable to prove that their methods had received prior approval from either Chinese or U.S.-certified ethics review bodies or that all parents involved had received proper consent paperwork before their children were involved in the study.

The retraction is only the latest in a long chain of fallout from the study. The Chinese government has reprimanded several officials for their collusion in unethical practices, and Tufts has banned Tang -- who has been at the university for more than 25 years -- from conducting human research for two years. Once that period is over, all of her future research will have to be carried out under supervision.

Sources for this article include:

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