Nature Biotechnology 25, 1355 (2007)

GM soybeans—revisiting a controversial format

Mae-Wan Ho1 & Peter T Saunders1

  1. Institute of Science in Society, PO Box 51885, London, NW2 9DH, UK. e-mail:

To the editor:

We are writing on behalf of the Institute of Science in Society (London) to express our deep concern over your September Feature about Irina Ermakova and her work. The article is grossly unfair to Ermakova and certainly not in the best traditions of scientific publishing.


There are journals that routinely publish criticisms of papers along with the papers themselves. This can be an effective way of drawing attention to important but possibly controversial work, while not allowing it to go unchallenged. These journals generally adhere to some important rules. The target paper is written by the researcher(s); not by a journalist/professional editor. Comments from other scientists are published along with the paper, followed by a general reply by the author(s). Some of the commentators may be known to be critical of, or even hostile to the author's point of view, but the panel will include others who are not. That is quite different from what you have done.

You were wrong not to make it clear to Ermakova how you proposed to use her contribution, even to the extent of not showing her the proofs of what would actually appear in your journal. Such practice is more appropriate for a tabloid newspaper than for a serious scientific journal, and a public acknowledgement of the oversight from you is in order.