We write to correct inaccuracies presented in the commentary by
Millstone, Brunner and White, Nature Vol. 371:647-648, "Plagiarism or
Protecting Public Health". The main thesis of the commentary by
Millstone et al. was that Monsanto has suppressed information on
the real change in somatic cell content (SCC) of milk from bovine
somatotropin (bST)-supplemented cows and that this has public health
I don't know about the public health implications, but Millstone
et al do say that in the EU farmers are docked for high SCC levels.
Actually, I don't see where Millstone et al. make public health
claims at all. In fact they refer only to animal health.
I read the rest of the letter reasonably carefully, and couldn't
really find the corrections of the "inaccuracies" mentioned in
the first sentence. Anybody else see them? C&H continue:
Therefore, they contend they were justified in trying to
publish Monsanto data without permission of the scientists who
gathered the data. Science is a self-correcting institution striving
to find truth based on published data.
C&H are certainly correct in suggesting that the peer-reviewed
publication process is the sand on the greased pig of truth
in science. That's the problem: the real issue here (for me,
anyway) is to what extent Monsanto interferes with the process.
This is very, very serious. Only a couple of things are worse,
like actually fabricating data (which no one is suggesting, of course).
Millstone et al. didn't want to publish data without permission,
they wanted to publish their interpretation of the data. C&H again:
the impact of bST on SCC of cow's milk has been widely published
--documentation of this fact deleted--
The papers cited represent over 5000 dairy
cows from 77 individual studies in peer reviewed articles. This
hardly represents suppression of the facts. This literature was never
mentioned in the Millstone et al., commentary.
This seems like the pot calling the kettle black. They may
have left it out to make Monsanto mad, or more likely there
may have been space limitations. It seemed to me that Millstone
et al. were actually fairly balanced in their discussion (see
the last paragraph of the first section of the Nature article).
The SCC data from Monsanto studies has been peer reviewed
--documentation of how extensively reviewed deleted--
Second, the entire data set from all Monsanto
studies is published in the JDS article. Third, all of the individual
studies were published separately or in the case of the clinical
trials as a group in several journals and these are referenced in the
I don't have time to track down this literature. The question
is, is there enough information for Millstone et al. (or anyone)
to extend their analysis. According to Millstone, who is currently
the more credible of the parties, the answer is no. They
conclude their Nature article "Hard declined to provide us
with the data from the seven additional studies [mentioned
in the JDS paper]..."
What would it take to spare us having to go to the extra trouble
of typing `Monsanto "scientists"' in the future? Release
the data! Science can only be self correcting with the
input of data, and Monsanto has a ways to go to shake the
possibility that obstructionist behavior is part of its
Department of Crop & Soil Sciences
Washington State University
Pullman WA 99164-6420