The Lancet has just created a Drug Commission to evaluate the effects international drug policy has had on public health —I couldn’t find the news in English, but Rebecca Cooney, North American editor of the journal posted several tweets about it—.
Thanks to a Colombian news venue I found out that the brand new commission has appointed Colombian academic Daniel Mejía as one of it’s members. This is a red flag, and here’s why.
A few months ago Daniel Mejía published a paper that concluded that glyphosate sprayings caused abortions. However, the ‘paper’ faces several uncomfortable facts that make it, at least, wrong.
For starters, this paper was not peer-reviewed or published in a long standing indexed journal. I inquired about this and Mejía answered his paper was published in a book and that the book itself had been peer-reviewed. (Turns out, this is a paper published and reviewed by a Department of Economics — I don’t know of any good reason why an Economist would be in any position to review a biological causal relation research.)
The paper attempts to prove a causal link between the spraying of glyphosate and damage to health and increased abortions, so to that end the authors (Daniel Mejía and some Adriana Camacho) did an econometric study… because designing a paper that measured a causal relationship between spraying and increased abortions the old fashioned way was, somehow, not challenging enough (and perhaps would not give them the results they were looking for).
Econometrics “is the application of mathematics, statistical methods, and computer science, to economic data and is described as the branch of economics that aims to give empirical content to economic relations”. Now, I will not make the mistake of saying that an econometric study can’t establish a causal link, but we must certainly be cautious when trying something like that… and caution was conspicuously absent in the paper.
The sources they cited were published in the Journal of Pesticide Reform, by the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, which seeks to discredit pesticides in any way possible. They also cite a publication by Organic Gardener, a magazine that promotes the dangerous and profitable industry of organic agriculture (so it is not in the business of publishing scientific papers).
Interestingly, the best available evidence on glyphosate managed to evade the minds of Mejía and Camacho and was not mentioned even by mistake. Whether they did so in good faith, or bad faith, that’s still cherry picking and ends up disqualifying the alleged findings of the researchers.
Instead of doing the reasonable thing (have his paper peer-reviewed and do biological research to find out whether glyphosate causes abortions), when I raised these concerns to Daniel Mejía he replied saying that since I’m not an academic, my criticism was invalid (!).
I don’t think it wise to have Daniel Mejía become a part of the Drug Commission while he hasn’t answered for such sloppy work.
Or maybe that’s what got him the position: A few months ago, the very self The Lancet Oncology published an assessment of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluding that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic” — this paper misrepresented serious ones and used pseudoscience such as Gilles-Eric Séralini‘s; not surprisingly the IARC ‘paper’ ignored previous studies that had reached the opposite conclusion.
Maybe I’m wrong but it is not preposterous to wonder if there is an ideological agenda driving some of the latest journal’s choices; at least the glyphosate-related ones. (And don’t get me wrong, I’m all for legalizing drugs — I’m just not willing to lie, cheat, or publish ideologically motivated papers so I can get my way.)
It was bad enough they gave into the religious PC crap last week, and now this. How sad.