About Those Industry Funded GMO Studies . . .

 photo Johan_Kjeldahl_1848-1900_-_Painting_by_Otto_Haslund_1842-1917_-_Color_version_zps0d58122c.jpg

Let’s talk about those GMO funded studies. You know the ones. The ones you always hear about from Anti-GMO folks when you read the comment section for any story about GMOs. According to those folks, the whole scientific consensus on GMOs is based on those studies. According to peanut gallery, the only studies that show that GMOs pose no different risks than conventionally bred crops were all bought and paid for by Monsanto. That would make the consensus suspicious right? It would if there weren’t also a ton of independently funded studies that show the same thing.

Instead, what the complaints about industry funded studies show is an ignorance of the literature and a lazy desire to dismiss inconvenient evidence in order to preserve predetermined ideological commitments. It’s just plain old confirmation bias and motivated reasoning run amok.

Let’s put aside the fact that this line of thinking would mean that while fossil fuel behemoths Exxon Mobil (market cap:$394.83B), Chevron (market cap:$215.45B) and BP (market cap:$150.07B) (total: $760.35B) have been completely stymied in their efforts to buy the scientific consensus they desire on climate change, a medium large company like Monsanto (market cap: $57.43B) has been able to manipulate tens of thousands of scientists performing thousands of studies for three decades with no whistleblowers resulting in a scientific consensus that has been bent completely to their will. Let’s put that aside.

Instead, let’s first take a look at the evidence, before moving to unravel some of pretzeled logic often employed to dismiss the weight of that evidence in support of the scientific consensus on GMOs.

Take for example the EU. Politicians in the EU aren’t that friendly to GMOs and they wanted to be very careful about them. So they ponied up €200 million over the course of decade to look into the matter. The studies they carried out are neatly summarized in A Decade of EU Funded GMO Research [pdf].

This new publication presents the results of 50 projects, involving more than 400 research groups and representing European research grants of some EUR 200 million. This figure brings the total Commission funding of research on GMO safety to more than EUR 300 million since its inception in 1982 in the Biomolecular Engineering programme.

. . . The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies.

Elsewhere, the fine folks at Biofortified have begun working on a database of GMO research, while that work is still in progress, they have gathered a collection of 126 studies with independent funding. Not all of the studies are supportive of the position that GMOs are no riskier than their conventionally bred counterparts, but the vast majority support that proposition.

Let’s look at two types of papers from the list that are of particular value to the non-scientists among us. For the lay person, sticking with literature reviews and meta-analyses are a great way for getting a sense of the weight of the evidence on a given topic. They help us avoid single study syndrome and keep us from missing the forest for the trees. Here are four of those types papers from the Biofortified list of studies with independent funding.

1. Assessment of the health impact of GM plant diets in long-term and multigenerational animal feeding trials: A literature review

The aim of this systematic review was to collect data concerning the effects of diets containing GM maize, potato, soybean, rice, or triticale on animal health. We examined 12 long-term studies (of more than 90 days, up to 2 years in duration) and 12 multigenerational studies (from 2 to 5 generations). We referenced the 90-day studies on GM feed for which long-term or multigenerational study data were available. Many parameters have been examined using biochemical analyses, histological examination of specific organs, hematology and the detection of transgenic DNA. The statistical findings and methods have been considered from each study. Results from all the 24 studies do not suggest any health hazards and, in general, there were no statistically significant differences within parameters observed.

2. A Meta-Analysis of Effects of Bt Crops on Honey Bees

Honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) are the most important pollinators of many agricultural crops worldwide and are a key test species used in the tiered safety assessment of genetically engineered insect-resistant crops. There is concern that widespread planting of these transgenic crops could harm honey bee populations.

Methodology/Principal Findings: We conducted a meta-analysis of 25 studies that independently assessed potential effects of Bt Cry proteins on honey bee survival (or mortality). Our results show that Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) Cry proteins used in genetically modified crops commercialized for control of lepidopteran and coleopteran pests do not negatively affect the survival of either honey bee larvae or adults in laboratory settings.

Conclusions/Significance: Although the additional stresses that honey bees face in the field could, in principle, modify their susceptibility to Cry proteins or lead to indirect effects, our findings support safety assessments that have not detected any direct negative effects of Bt crops for this vital insect pollinator.

3. A Meta-Analysis of Effects of Bt Cotton and Maize on Nontarget Invertebrates

Although scores of experiments have examined the ecological consequences of transgenic Bt crops, debates continue regarding the nontarget impacts of this technology. Quantitative reviews of existing studies are crucial for better gauging risks and improving future risk assessments. To encourage evidence-based risk analyses, we constructed a searchable database for nontarget effects of Bt crops. A meta-analysis of 42 field experiments indicates that nontarget invertebrates are generally more abundant in Bt cotton and Bt maize fields than in nontransgenic fields managed with insecticides. However, in comparison with insecticide-free control fields, certain nontarget taxa are less abundant in Bt fields.

There is one more literature review from the Biofortified list that I want to look at, but in the context of making an important point.

The point is this. Yes, there are lots of industry funded studies. The majority in fact. But, as I hope that I’ve demonstrated, there is a robust literature of independent studies. How can we judge if the results of the industry funded studies are reliable? Well, one indicator would be if that the independent studies and the industry studies, in the aggregate, come to the same conclusions. When we look, that is in fact, what we find.

Let’s parse out the findings of a 2007 literature review on human and animal toxicological/health risks studies for GM foods/plants and the 2011 follow up.

2007’s “Toxicity studies of genetically modified plants: a review of the published literature” found little to no evidence that genetically engineered crops posed significantly different risks than conventional crops, while sounding several cautious caveats and underlining that the body of literature seemed too scant for drawing confident conclusions. One statement caught me eye. “Moreover, most published studies were not performed by the biotechnology companies that produce these products.”

They followed up in 2011 and found a much more robust literature, but also a shift in the proportion of industry funded studies. This was unsurprising since prior to 2006, companies hadn’t been publishing their test results (aside from in their patent applications) but an industry-wide push for transparency had changed that.

4. A literature review on the safety assessment of genetically modified plants

The main goal of the present review was to assess the current state-of-the-art regarding the potential adverse effects/safety assessment of GM plants for human consumption. The number of citations found in databases (PubMed and Scopus) has dramatically increased since 2006. However, new information on products such as potatoes, cucumber, peas or tomatoes, among others was not available. Corn/maize, rice, and soybeans were included in the present review. An equilibrium in the number research groups suggesting, on the basis of their studies, that a number of varieties of GM products (mainly maize and soybeans) are as safe and nutritious as the respective conventional non-GM plant, and those raising still serious concerns, was currently observed. Nevertheless, it should be noted that most of these studies have been conducted by biotechnology companies responsible of commercializing these GM plants. These findings suggest a notable advance in comparison with the lack of studies published in recent years in scientific journals by those companies.

Domingo and his team are certainly no cheerleaders for biotech crops. Yet, despite the increase in industry funded studies between their reviews of the literature in 2007 and 2011, they still find plenty of evidence to affirm their cautious stance towards the technology.

A more robust review of the total literature published last year was more conclusive in there findings. “In a meta-review recently published in a peer-reviewed, high impact factor journal, Critical Review of Biotechnology, where the authors collected and evaluated 1,783 research papers, reviews, relevant opinions, and reports published between 2002 and 2012, a comprehensive process that took over 12 months to complete. The review covered all aspects of GM crop safety, from how the crops interact with the environment to how they could potentially affect the humans and animals who consume them.” And their conclusion?

The scientific research conducted so far has not detected any significant hazards directly connected with the use of genetically engineered crops.

According to an interview with the lead author, Alessandro Nicolia, an applied biologist at the University of Perugia in Italy, ”Our goal was to create a single document where interested people of all levels of expertise can get an overview on what has been done by scientists regarding GE crop safety. We tried to give a balanced view informing about what has been debated, the conclusions reached so far, and emerging issues.”

So, we can observe that there is little daylight between what independent and industry funded studies find. What if we were a little more rigorous in our scrutiny. Johan Diels of The Biotechnology College of the Portuguese Catholic University led a team that did exactly that. The results were interesting, but not without some problems, which we will take a look at.

First, though let’s look at what they found.

Association of financial or professional conflict of interest to research outcomes on health risks or nutritional assessment studies of genetically modified products

In a study involving 94 articles selected through objective criteria, it was found that the existence of either financial or professional conflict of interest was associated to study outcomes that cast genetically modified products in a favorable light (p = 0.005). While financial conflict of interest alone did not correlate with research results (p = 0.631), a strong association was found between author affiliation to industry (professional conflict of interest) and study outcome (p < 0.001).

Regarding financial COI (conflict of interest), no association was observed between the presence of such conflict and article outcome (p = 0.631).” Did you get that? Let that sink in for a minute.

They did find a correlation between industry affiliation and favorable study outcome. I’ll grant that. But realize how far we have moved the goal posts. We started with the proposition that we couldn’t trust any of the research because it was it was all paid for by the industry. Then we showed that wasn’t true. Now we have researchers looking into the matter and they can’t find a relationship between industry funding and favorable study outcomes. What’s left is griping about the industry ties of some of the researchers. Before looking a little closer at that, let’s get one thing out of the way. When a company pays for a study, they are paying because they want to find out something. Fudging the data does not help them in their business. Maybe somewhere on the margins in a 60 Minutes kind of way, but by and large it would be highly counter productive. That’s why it didn’t show up in the data.

Now, about the association between author affiliation and study outcome. There are a few things that might explain that correlation besides a lack of independence. Half the sample was undeclared regarding COIs, so on that central question of the hypothesis, half of an already small sample was noise.

On the question of whether industry ties correlates with favorable study outcomes, they show a significant correlation. However, in the professional COI category nearly 10% of the sample size was categorized as undetermined. Moreover, while 43 authors had COIs, 28 of the studies were compositional studies. These are nearly always funded by the companies and they are close to always favorable since substantial equivalence is nearly a sure fire bet. Remove those 28 studies from the set of 43 with financial or professional COIs and the P values will shift towards insignificance.

Another thing to keep in mind, especially where compositional studies are concerned is that the company has already performed in-house studies. They are contracting independent scientists to confirm their findings. This is going to skew the results of the sample towards industry favorable study outcomes. This doesn’t mean the studies were suspect. They were just more likely to result in a favorable outcome to begin with. If the in-house study had an unfavorable outcome in compositional assessment or other tests, then the current version of that plant would be scrapped and it’s back to the drawing board for the breeders. There is no need for follow up testing by outside independent researchers. That’s a big reason why so many studies in that sample will produce favorable results.

In written conversation, independent researcher and professor of horticultural sciences, Kevin Folta put it this way, “I think the other factor is that industry recruits independent experts to independently reproduce findings. They show in house that x+y=z. They then hand the test to a university, that finds x+y=z. If the test fails in-house, then it does not go for independent verification. That will skew statistics too, because the outcomes of the university-based tests have already been demonstrated. The reason the results frequently agree is because they are frequently correct.”

On his blog, Folta looked at the question of industry funding at his employer, the University of Florida:

First, I went to an easy source at my university, the University of Florida. The Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) publishes their financials every year. You can find this online here.

How much Big Corporation money did we spend? Not that much. It is buried somewhere in that “other sponsored funds” piece of the money pie.

If corporations are fueling scientific discovery at universities,
they sure aren’t contributing too much. Somewhere in “Other Sponsored Funds”
Now wait, I can hear critics already screaming that “other sponsored funds” is almost 10% of the research dollars spent, and that’s a significant amount at a place like the University of Florida. So let’s use the record to break that down:
Yikes. Corporate sponsorship is a pretty small sliver of that pie.
So about two percent of our funds come from corporate interests. For the anti-scientific critics out there, that’s about two dollars out of every hundred.
If we are bought and paid for, we’re bought really cheap and not paid well.

Elsewhere in that conversation, Kevin Folta had this to say, “The other important thing to remember is that almost no university researcher is going to commit career suicide by fudging data, especially for some damn company. That’s why companies come here. If the results don’t agree with what they found, it means that they are not reproducible. That’s the answer they NEED to know, and why they go independent in the first place!

. . . Even if a university gets a building, how does that make an individual researcher change research, essentially torpedo a career? Even if a company finances a lab (which is rare) they want the real answer, not some fabrication. To suggest that we’re all somehow sellouts is insane. Show me where my data do not hold up.”

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t pay attention to potential conflicts of interest or take industry funded research at face value. What I am saying is that dismissing an entire body of research because it’s supposedly bought and paid for is simply foolish and lazy. Or as I’ve said before:

When you start hollering ‘Conflict of Interest’ before evaluating the evidence and analysis, it becomes a ‘Get of Jail Free Card’. It becomes an excuse for discounting inconvenient evidence. Asking about conflicts of interest should be safeguard against getting snookered. Instead, it becomes a way to justify motivated reasoning. Awareness of conflict of interest should be a tool for explaining weak evidence and poor analysis. Instead it becomes an excuse for dismissing strong evidence and sound analysis. It leaves you lost in a hall of mirrors, surrounded by industry funded research, revolving door regulators, and defending bad research that confirms your biases. It leaves you lost in a fever swamp of paranoia without firm footing.

Examining the soundness of the evidence and the strength of the analysis must come first. Then you can decide whether questions of funding and loyalties are relevant. This is how you maintain a firm footing and hew to solid ground. This is how you can use awareness of conflicts of interest to avoid motivated reasoning. Otherwise you are only fueling the fire of your own biases

Sources:

A Decade of EU Funded GMO Research (2000-2010) [pdf].
European Commission | Directorate-General for Research

Studies with independent funding
Biofortified.org

Assessment of the health impact of GM plant diets in long-term and multigenerational animal feeding trials: A literature review
Chelsea Snella, et al. | Food and Chemical Toxicology | March 2012

A Meta-Analysis of Effects of Bt Crops on Honey Bees
Michelle Marvier, et al. | PLOS One | 9 January 2008

Toxicity studies of genetically modified plants: a review of the published literature
José L. Domingo | Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition | 2007

A literature review on the safety assessment of genetically modified plants
José L. Domingo, Jordi Giné Bordonaba | Environment International | May 2011

An overview of the last 10 years of genetically engineered crop safety research
Alessandro Nicolia, et al | Critical Review of Biotechnology | 16 November 2013

Association of financial or professional conflict of interest to research outcomes on health risks or nutritional assessment studies of genetically modified products
Johan Diels, et al | Food Policy | April 2011

Unintended Compositional Changes in Genetically Modified (GM) Crops: 20 Years of Research
Rod Herman, et al | Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry | 15 February 2013

Single study syndrome – clutching at convenient confirmation
Graham Coghill | Science or Not | 23 October 2012

About these ads

Tags: , , , , ,

About Marc Brazeau

Free lance cultural attaché. Writing at REALFOOD.ORG.

64 responses to “About Those Industry Funded GMO Studies . . .”

  1. Ena Valikov DVM says :

    One does not do science by citing abstracts and conclusions. If you would like I’ll find the entire text of the review by Snell et al, numbered 1. https://plus.google.com/106528425932936429331/posts/1oS4TR1MARS

    It cites the studies I analyzed, which are substandard junk science. The review in no way demonstrates long term safety.

    • Marc Brazeau says :

      I’m not doing science, I’m writing about science. I’ve read enough of your motivated reasoning, confirmation bias, and pretzel logic to steer clear of the Dogctor rabbit hole. Thanks for stopping by.

      • Ena Valikov DVM says :

        Writing about science without comprehending science is a deaf person giving piano lessons. You can shove keep your psychobabble and your junk science. They do not belong in my science and evidence-based world.

    • GMO says :

      Ena,

      I read your blog, and it’s a laughable appropriation of science. Nothing but scare-mongering and easily debunked misinformation.

      • Ena Valikov DVM says :

        That’s funny, because no one has refuted my blog post about Monsanto’s junk science SCIENTIFICALLY-and there is no science organization, I am aware of, in which ad hominems constitute a scientific argument….which is all you’ve got. Buh Bye!

  2. ab says :

    Ena is an excellent example of a gish galop master. The vocabulary used makes you think there is something behind the writing, but there isn’t. It’s just a bunch of luddite crap. The stuff on their website is cringe worthy. Reminds me of my old relatives in the 80s who were afraid of microwave ovens. Like that, this too will pass.

    • Marc Brazeau says :

      She’s hilarious as always.

      She’s the only one in the world who understands science. There’s always one test that she can dream up that they should have done and didn’t that invalidates EVERYTHING.

      The best is when she tries to conduct study critiques via Twitter. That should be it’s own reality show.

  3. Pat O'shaughnessy says :

    Thank you for writing this! I assume you knew you would come under attack from the Monsanto hating mob. It’s a shame that people refuse to have an open mind and somehow translate 600 studies in 20 years as all junk science funded by Monsanto (which they were not). But hold bloggers with no experience, education, or basic knowledge of what they’re writing about as so called experts. Stop trying to scare me and make a concrete point based on facts and maybe I’ll change my position on this.

  4. Ignacio says :

    Hello,

    This article is excellent and clarifying for many issues that people unrelated with science usually mention.

    We would like to translate it and publish it in this website, for promoting it around Spanish speakers (with proper citation to this original source). Let us know what you think.

    https://www.facebook.com/contransgenicos

  5. Dave says :

    I don’t think anyone who looks at the data will conclude that GMO crops are any more dangerous than anything else. There is some evidence, however, that GMO crops are a little less nutrient-dense than their conventional counterparts, and that they carry higher pesticide residues, in particular, Round Up. This shouldn’t be surprising in that GMO’s were initially made to resist these pesticides. The residues are probably not at great enough levels to harm most people, but I suspect that a small set of the population could show some intolerances to them. This is true of anything, of course, including vaccines, that you put in your body. So, completely dismissing the anti-GMO groups is a little short-sighted, in my opinion. I think they have their place. And, you hear people say that certain varieties of non-GMO crops yield higher than any GMO variety. So, things to consider…

    • Norbrook says :

      First, the initial GMO crops were not made to resist pesticides. That was a subset of them, and one of the commercial successes.

      The other thing is that GMO crops, unlike any other “naturally bred” crops, have to go through an extensive safety testing process. Now, saying that some small percentage may show intolerances is not a reason to accept the anti-GMO groups arguments. There are people who are intolerant or allergic to many foods, yet no one is considering banning them. Pesticide residues may – and are – a concern, but that is a separate issue from GMOs.

      • Mlema says :

        Most GMO crops planted in the world today (in fact, more than 90% of them) are either pesticide resistant or pesticide producing. Yes, it’s a subset. The biggest subset. And GMO crops do go through testing, but the fact that they’re less “nutrient dense” as Dave mentioned, is not a concern for the producer or the regulators (who only require an assurance of substantial equivalence from the producer itself, and haven’t necessarily tested for the types of problems Dave mentions).

      • Marc Brazeau says :

        The few studies that have demonstrated that some GMO crops might be less nutrient dense are problematic at best. There is no credible reason why they would be.

        What matters more is the variety, soil quality and growing conditions.

      • Norbrook says :

        @Mlema: That GMO crops are pesticide resistant or producing is not a surprise, since that’s where the marketing is. You haven’t refuted my initial point that they weren’t initially done for that reason. As to the “less nutrient dense,” I’ve seen that same argument trotted out for organics, heritage strains, wild food foraging, grow-your-own, you name it. The problem is all the studies show is a selected definition of “nutrient density” and are dependent on any number of planting criterion.

        My problem with all of the anti-GMO activists is that they’re busily joining unrelated things to make their case. It’s quite remarkable. It’s like saying “You eat apples, and smoke cigarrettes. Studies show smoking is bad for you, so we must ban apples!”

    • Donald Steiny says :

      Roundup is an herbicide, not a pesticide.

      • Marc Brazeau says :

        Herbicides are a subset of pesticides.

        Insecticides, fungicides, miticides, herbicides are all types of pesticides.

      • Bill Carey says :

        Thank you Donald.

      • Donald Steiny says :

        Mark, the “herb” in “herbicide” means “plant.” Herbicides kill plants. They may also kill animals but that is not their purpose. Insecticides kill insects, fungicides kill fungus. They are different things with different purposes.

      • Marc Brazeau says :

        Yes, they are meant to kill weeds. Weeds are a type of pest.

        From the EPA page “About Pesticides”

        “hough often misunderstood to refer only to insecticides, the term pesticide also applies to herbicides, fungicides, and various other substances used to control pests.

        Under United States law, a pesticide is also any substance or mixture of substances intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant, or desiccant.”

        http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/about/

        Just some friendly advice. It’s easier to just fact check yourself instead of forcing others to do it for you. (Not once, but twice, I might add.)

  6. 13A says :

    I tend to believe Scientists who jeopardize their license and reputation by publishing a negative study on GMOs. If there are very little negative studies is because real Scientists don’t want to lose their reputation and license… is too much to lose. I don’t blame them. See what happened with the Saralini’s study… if you don’t see the corruption behind the retraction of the study?… Well you need glasses.
    People say “you are not a scientist, therefore you can’t understand the complexity of the GMO seed,”. Really!!! This is irrelevant, I don’t need to know how a car is built to be able to drive a car nor I need to know the complexity of a GMO seed to be able to plant a seed. GMO or not, seeds are planted in the soil and let the sun, water and care to do what it’s suppose to do.
    The problem is not the technology behind the GMOs, is HOW and WHY the technology is controlled: secrets, lies and misleading all for one purpose: MONEY. That is WRONG.
    By the time everybody is arguing about the safety of GMOs, the MOST IMPORTANT question is:
    Are GMOs better quality than non-GMOs?
    In all the studies out there, very little are talking about the nutrition of the GMOs. Studies say that GMOs is equivalent (equal, =, as good) as the non-GMOs. NONE are saying they are BETTER than non-GMOs. So, really why do we need GMOs for? A few comparisons documents GMOs vs non-GMOs on the internet show a lot less minerals and vitamins in GMOs than non-GMOs food and a lot more herbicide/pesticide in GMOs than non-GMOs. GMO plants are producing their own herbicide/pesticide that cannot be washed or peeled. Some people are saying that BT is made from natural bacteria in the soil, therefore it should be OK . If a plant produces enough poison to kill bugs…Hummm! Any poison should be avoid… period! Why do you want to eat herbicide/pesticide anyway? Because Monsanto says it’s safe? A little bit of round up with your cereals?

    • Marc Brazeau says :

      I’ve written about the Seralini retraction here and here. Seralini lost his reputation by performing and publishing shoddy work. It did little to harm his career since research is a sideline to support his day job as a lecturer on the professional scaremonger circuit. If you don’t understand what was wrong with Seralini’s work at this late date, I doubt there is anything I can say to change your mind.

      As well, for a topic that you are clearly so passionate about, it’s surprising that you haven’t taken 10 minutes and learned how Bt works.

      For the protein in Bt eggplant to be a toxin, she said, it must first be activated under an alkaline environment, which is the condition in the stomach of insects. Fortunately, the digestive system of humans and most animals is highly acidic. As such, the Bt protein will not be activated to a form that is toxic to insects and will just be quickly denatured.

      And even if the protein were to be activated, Dr. Bernardo said that it will still not get absorbed into the human’s digestive system because of the absence of receptors. “If there are no receptors, even the activated Bt protein cannot be absorbed, and therefore it can never accumulate and affect our system,” she pointed out.

      Lots of plant produce their own pesticides, mimicking natural systems is where the idea for Bt crops came from.

      But Dr. Ames began rethinking this war against synthetic chemicals after thousands of chemicals had been subjected to his test. He noticed that plenty of natural chemicals flunked the Ames test. He and Dr. Gold took a systematic look at the chemicals that had been tested on rodents. They found that about half of natural chemicals tested positive for carcinogencity, the same proportion as the synthetic chemicals. Fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices contained their own pesticides that caused cancer in rodents. The toxins were found in apples, bananas, beets, Brussel sprouts, collard greens, grapes, melons, oranges, parsley, peaches — the list went on and on.

      Then Dr. Ames and Dr. Gold estimated the prevalence of these natural pesticides in the typical diet. In a paper published in 2000 in Mutation Research, they conclude:

      About 99.9 percent of the chemicals humans ingest are natural. The amounts of synthetic pesticide residues in plant food are insignificant compared to the amount of natural pesticides produced by plants themselves. Of all dietary pesticides that humans eat, 99.99 percent are natural: they are chemicals produced by plants to defend themselves against fungi, insects, and other animal predators.

      We have estimated that on average Americans ingest roughly 5,000 to 10,000 different natural pesticides and their breakdown products. Americans eat about 1,500 mg of natural pesticides per person per day, which is about 10,000 times more than the 0.09 mg they consume of synthetic pesticide residues.

      Even though these natural chemicals are as likely to be carcinogenic as synthetic ones, it doesn’t follow that they’re killing us. Just because natural pesticides make up 99.99 percent of the pesticides in our diet, it doesn’t follow that they’re causing human cancer — or that the .01 percent of of synthetic pesticides are causing cancer either. Dr. Ames and Dr. Gold believe most of these carcinogenic pesticides, natural or synthetic, don’t present problems because the human exposures are low and because the high doses given to rodents may not be relevant to humans.

      “Everything you eat in the supermarket is absolutely chock full of carcinogens,” Dr. Ames told me. “But most cancers are not due to parts per billion of pesticides. They’re due to causes like smoking, bad diets and, obesity.”

      He and Dr. Gold note that “many ordinary foods would not pass the regulatory criteria used for synthetic chemicals,” but they’re not advocating banning broccoli or avoiding natural pesticides in foods that cause cancer in rodents. Rather, they suggest that Americans stop worrying so much about synthetic chemicals:

      • John says :

        Monsanto’s own studies based on Seralini’s design should also be retracted

      • Marc Brazeau says :

        John,
        Which studies are you referring to? Can you provide link?

      • Marc Brazeau says :

        None of that goes to why the Seralini study was retracted. It also seems like Seralini is hanging a lot on how these two sentence are interpreted.

        Consideration should be given to using a strain of animal that has an acceptable survival rate for the
        long-term study. The study should be carried out in animals from the same strain and source as those
        used in the preceding toxicity study(ies) of shorter duration, unless scientifically justified.

      • John says :

        “Monsanto’s own studies based on Seralini’s design should also be retracted well this was my point” not why Seralini’s study was retracted. Double standard indeed.

      • Marc Brazeau says :

        1. The Seralini study was based on the Monsanto study, not the other way around.

        2. Seralini’s study was retracted because the conclusions that he drew in the ‘conclusions’ section were not supported by the evidence he presented. The previous Monsanto study did not have this problem, so, there is not grounds for retraction.

        3. Sprague Dawley rats are not considered appropriate for 2 year studies. How is that you have followed this issue closely enough to have read the EFSA statement on protocols for chronic toxicity and/or carcinogenicity studies in rodents with whole food/feed , but still fail to grasp that?

        4. Speaking EFSA, if were are going to give weight to their considerations of how to properly conduct long term rodent feeding studies, perhaps we should credit their analysis of the Seralini study.

        Serious defects in the design and methodology of a paper by Séralini et al. mean it does not meet acceptable scientific standards and there is no need to re-examine previous safety evaluations of genetically modified maize NK603. These are the conclusions of separate and independent assessments carried out by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and six EU Member States following publication of the paper in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology on 19 September 2012.

        EFSA today delivered its final evaluation of the paper by Séralini et al. which raised concerns about the potential toxicity of genetically modified (GM) maize NK603 and of a herbicide containing glyphosate. In particular, it suggested a link between exposure to these substances and an increased incidence of tumours in rats.

        The Authority’s final review reaffirmed its initial assessment that the authors’ conclusions cannot be regarded as scientifically sound because of inadequacies in the design, reporting and analysis of the study as outlined in the paper. Consequently, it is not possible to draw valid conclusions about the occurrence of tumours in the rats tested. Based on the information published by Séralini et al., EFSA finds there is no need to re-examine its previous safety evaluations of NK603 or to consider these findings in the ongoing assessment of glyphosate.

      • Lighten Up says :

        Perhaps because I haven’t had my caffeine dose for the day, but in my first reading of this sentence, I interpreted “it” to be EFSA; on second reading, Seralini, after doubling back from next paragraph. A potential for misquoting, perhaps.

        “EFSA today delivered its final evaluation of the paper by Séralini et al. which raised concerns about the potential toxicity of genetically modified (GM) maize NK603 and of a herbicide containing glyphosate. In particular, it suggested a link between exposure to these substances and an increased incidence of tumours in rats.”

        Ann

        >

    • delius1967 says :

      “I tend to believe Scientists who jeopardize their license and reputation by publishing a negative study on GMOs. If there are very little negative studies is because real Scientists don’t want to lose their reputation and license”

      So: you believe the studies that confirm your existing beliefs; and you explain the dearth of studies confirming your existing beliefs as “the rest of them are just scared of the truth”. One question, with this attitude, what could actually change your mind? It sounds to me like the answer is, Nothing.

      Why is it that you believe the lack of negative studies is a result of fear, and NOT a result of the truth being that GMOs are not harmful? You’ve invented out of whole cloth a reason to reject the vast majority of studies. Can you not see how tainted your reasoning is?

  7. April Reeves says :

    I’ve been on the Non-GM side since 1997. At first, it was seconds after seeing a bunch of dead insects in a corn top (food shouldn’t kill) and then I grew to understand there were far larger issues than GM health that “paid consultants” and those in the GM industry fearing their jobs could not argue with. We are at a tipping point in the next 24 months of losing every heirloom and general seed we have to Big Biotech’s “tsunami” of GM vegetable seed (starting 2015, Western Producer, Oct 13). While I love the debates about the health issues (as it only aids the Non-GM side) we will go around in circles forever until we move from health into environment and corporate control of the food supply. That is real, it is now and it is very serious indeed. I appreciate this article very much, and is well written. But don’t put all your eggs in this basket: you may lose the goal post…

    • kevinfolta says :

      April, I hear the “lose every seed” argument a lot lately. Seeing as though most ‘heirloom’ varieties are still pretty recent (like last 40 years), how to companies and home gardeners ensure their genetic lineage now? Even an outcross between two heirlooms wrecks the genetics. How do they protect against that, and how does seed from a big company magically work around that block? Just curious. It never made much sense. I go through rather large steps to keep my tomato inbred lines pure.

    • Carol says :

      April – What GM vegetable seeds are you referring to? It is false to think that we will lose heirloom seeds because of genetic modification. The majority of vegetables are NOT in fact GM since genetic modification requires decades of research and focuses on crops that are the most prevalent. The only GM crops that are currently being produced and sold in the US market are corn, soy, rapeseed/canola, cotton, sugar beet, and a small percent of zucchini and papaya.

      Incidentally, I’m thinking the “Western Producer” article from Oct. 2013 that you cite may have been retracted as I was unable to find the article.

  8. Lighten Up says :

    Are anti-GMO studies also scrutinized for bias? When researchers have clearly taken the “anti” side publicly, shouldn’t their work be suspect, too? Are these accounted for in the search for bias?

  9. John says :

    What I finding here is a nice little intricate web of GMO promoters that all associate with Monsanto answers and I am not necessary against GMO’s. However, your systems “attacking” approach will not convince anyone of the importance of this particular technology in relationship to food that other food production methods cannot manage with creating less of an environmental impact.

    There is not one GMO food on the market that benefits consumers, yet. Except maybe the papaya. All of the rest have not proven any worth, to people or the environment. What you’re promoting is activism based on wishes and dreams of a technology that may prove their worth hopefully in another 20 years or so.

    As far as the reports that you mention they are either meta analysis or literary reviews both of which are not convincing evidence of anything.

    • Marc Brazeau says :

      If it helps farmers, then it help consumers. Besides, the reduction in mycotoxin poisoning from Bt crops has been beneficial to consumers.

      If you don’t find literature reviews and meta-analyses convincing, what do you find convincing?

    • Donald Steiny says :

      John, what you say is unequivocally not true. “Golden rice” is rice that has been genetically modified to contain carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. Millions of children every year go blind because they live in areas where rice it the staple food and the lack of vitamin-a destroys their vision. Golden rice was made available for free but anti-GMO folks have manage to slow and ever stop its use. I think that is cruel, especially because there is no basis for it. The “problem” with GMOs is psychological. Once people have committed to a point-of-view they rarely change. There is not a shred of evidence that GMOs are harmful. . http://www.goldenrice.org/

  10. Charles Rader says :

    Marc, the other side of the distrust of research which might have a pro-GMO conflict of interest is the complete trust shown for research where there is an anti-GMO conflict of interest. Certainly any research from Seralini would be in that class. I consider the Pig study by Judy Carman to be biased since at least one co-author is connected to an organic food company, and that author has also circulated a completely non-credible comparison of nutritional content of GMO and non-GMO corn.

    In fact, of all the research usually cited as showing dangers of GMO crops, the single example I know of that doesn’t have an obvious bias was Pusztai’s work with potatoes.

    • Marc Brazeau says :

      Charles,

      I agree, but didn’t go into that in order to keep the argument that I was making as clean and tidy as possible. There is enough of a culture war aspect to this issue without being perceived as throwing mud at the other side.

    • Marc Brazeau says :

      Also, the studies you cite have had obvious flaws. There is no need to bring conflicts of interest into the debate to explain what is wrong with their work.

      That has been my running theme between this essay and the Seralini retraction essays. Looking at COIs is really only useful for explaining anomalous findings or analysis. The biases in Carman and Seralini’s work are beside the point, because their work was so obviously sub-standard. If their work seemed solid but wasn’t replicable, then COIs become interesting. Otherwise they may serve to explain why they persist in standing behind discredited work, but dwelling on them really distracts from the fact that the work is sub-standard.

  11. Bernie Mooney (@berniemooney) says :

    I’ve been trying to come up with a good Monsanto comparison and your oil company one was right on the money. Oh, and btw: pay no attention to the Orly Taitz of the anti-gmo movement.

  12. Michael says :

    Reblogged this on Minnesota Farmer and commented:
    You always hear the anti’s rant about Big Ag. paying for all of those adds that show no danger in using GMO’s. Turns out that if they are paying for the favorable studies, they are getting by really cheap.

  13. ryanware says :

    “Writing about science without comprehending science is a deaf person giving piano lessons. You can shove keep your psychobabble and your junk science. They do not belong in my science and evidence-based world.”

    Beethoven anyone?

    • Bruce Wilson says :

      Beethoven went deaf late in life, as opposed to someone who was born with a congenital defect. My sister was born deaf. I can tell you there is an enormous difference between someone born deaf and someone becoming deaf much later in life. Many of the “deaf” people you see performing musically are actually hard of hearing. Legally they are classified as deaf, but in reality retain enough hearing capacity to learn and perform their chosen instrument. My sister tried to learn to play the clarinet, and alas she could learn the fingerings but she couldn’t hear the notes, so it was rather pointless.

  14. Gregory Everette Huffman says :

    Thanks for informing me.

  15. Mike Kaplan says :

    Thanks for this blog.

    What April, John, and other anti-GMO voices never seem to address is this: what is the biologically plausible mechanism by which genetically modified plants are, as a class, a threat to health? Not individual GM products with a particular gene product, but all GMO crops? Because it seems to be an article of faith with most anti-GMO people that GMO crops are suspect or “poison”, as a class. All of them.

    So, anti-GMO folks, I ask you: how is the act of adding one more gene to the tens of thousands present in this or that crop supposed to be harmful, in principle? What is the biologically plausible chain of arrows that get us from the very act of genetic modification to supposed toxicity? Do you folks even have a mechanism in mind, or care about a plausible mechanism, or is it just an article of faith that “unnatural = bad”?

    • Bruce Wilson says :

      http://earthopensource.org/index.php/reports/gmo-myths-and-truths

      “There are three possible sources of adverse health effects from GM foods:
      ●●
      The GM gene product – for example, the Bt toxin in GM insecticidal crops – may be toxic or allergenic
      ●●
      The GM transformation process may produce mutagenic effects, gene regulatory effects, or effects at other levels of biological structure and function that result in new toxins or allergens and/or disturbed nutritional value
      ●●
      Changes in farming practices linked to the use of a GMO may result in toxic residues – for example, higher levels of crop contamination with the herbicide Roundup are an inevitable result of using GM Roundup Ready® crops (see Sections 4, 5).
      Evidence presented below and in Sections 4 and 5 suggests that problems are arising from all three sources – throwing into question GM proponents’ claims that GM foods are as safe as their non-GM counterparts.”

      “3.1.1. Feeding studies on laboratory and farm animals
      Feeding studies on laboratory and farm animals show that GM foods can be toxic or allergenic:
      ●●
      Rats fed GM tomatoes developed stomach lesions (sores or ulcers).2,3 This tomato, Calgene’s Flavr Savr, was the first commercialized GM food.
      ●●
      Mice fed GM peas (not subsequently commercialized) engineered with an insecticidal protein (alpha-amylase inhibitor) from beans showed a strong, sustained immune reaction against the GM protein. Mice developed antibodies against the GM protein and an allergic-type inflammation response (delayed hypersensitivity reaction). Also, the mice fed on GM peas developed an immune reaction to chicken egg white protein. The mice did not show immune or allergic-type inflammation reactions to either non-GM beans naturally containing the insecticide protein, to egg white protein fed with the natural protein from the beans, or to egg white protein fed on its own. The findings showed that the GM insecticidal protein acted as a sensitizer, making the mice susceptible to developing immune reactions and allergies to normally non-allergenic foods. This is called immunological cross-priming. The fact that beans naturally containing the insecticidal protein did not cause the effects seen with the peas that expressed the transgenic insecticidal protein indicated that the immune responses of the mice to the GM peas were caused by changes in the peas brought about by the genetic engineering process. In other words, the insecticidal protein was changed by the GM process so that it behaved differently in the GM peas compared with its natural form in the non-GM beans – and the altered protein from the GM peas stimulated a potent immune response in the mice.4
      ●●
      Mice fed GM soy showed disturbed liver, pancreas and testes function. The researchers found abnormally formed cell nuclei and nucleoli in liver cells, which indicates increased metabolism and potentially altered patterns of gene expression.5,6,7
      ●●
      Mice fed GM soy over their lifetime (24 months) showed more acute signs of ageing in the liver than the control group fed non-GM soy.8
      ●●
      Rabbits fed GM soy showed enzyme function disturbances in kidney and heart.9
      ●●
      Female rats fed GM soy showed changes in uterus and ovaries compared with controls fed organic non-GM soy or a non-soy diet. Certain ill effects were found with organic soy as well as GM soy, showing the need for further investigation into the effects of soy-based diets (GM and non-GM) on reproductive health.10
      ●●
      A review of 19 studies (including industry’s own studies submitted to regulators in support of applications to commercialise GM crops) on mammals fed with commercialised GM soy and maize that are already in our food and feed chain found consistent toxic effects on the liver and kidneys. Such effects may be markers of the onset of chronic disease, but long-term studies, in contrast to these reported short- and medium-term studies, would be required to assess this more thoroughly. Unfortunately, such long-term feeding trials on GMOs are not required by regulators anywhere in the world.11
      ●●
      Rats fed insecticide-producing MON863 Bt maize grew more slowly and showed higher levels of certain fats (triglycerides) in their blood than rats fed the control diet. They also suffered problems with liver and kidney function. The authors stated that it could not be concluded that MON863 maize is safe and that long-term studies were needed to investigate the consequences of these effects.12
      ●●
      Rats fed GM Bt maize over three generations suffered damage to liver and kidneys and alterations in blood biochemistry.13
      ●●
      A re-analysis of Monsanto’s own rat feeding trial data, submitted to obtain approval in Europe for three commercialised GM Bt maize varieties, MON863, MON810, and NK603, concluded that the maize varieties had toxic effects on liver and kidneys. The authors of the re-analysis stated that while the findings may have been due to the pesticides specific to each variety, genetic engineering could not be excluded as the cause.14 The data suggest that approval of these GM maize varieties should be withdrawn because they are not substantially equivalent to non-GM maize and are toxic.
      ●●
      Old and young mice fed GM Bt maize showed a marked disturbance in immune system cells and in biochemical activity.15
      ●●
      Rats fed GM MON810 Bt maize showed clear signs of toxicity, affecting the immune system, liver and kidneys.14,15
      ●●
      Female sheep fed Bt GM maize over three generations showed disturbances in the functioning of the digestive system, while their lambs showed cellular changes in the liver and pancreas.16
      ●●
      GM Bt maize DNA was found to survive processing and was detected in the digestive tract of sheep. This raises the possibility that the antibiotic resistance gene in the maize could move into gut bacteria, an example of horizontal gene transfer.17 In this case, horizontal gene transfer could produce antibiotic-resistant disease-causing bacteria (“superbugs”) in the gut.
      ●●
      Rats fed GM oilseed rape developed enlarged livers, often a sign of toxicity.18
      ●●
      Rats fed GM potatoes showed excessive growth of the lining of the gut similar to a pre-cancerous condition and toxic reactions in multiple organ systems.19,20
      ●●
      Mice fed a diet of GM Bt potatoes or non-GM potatoes spiked with natural Bt toxin protein isolated from bacteria showed abnormalities in the cells and structures of the small intestine, compared with a control group of mice fed non-GM potatoes. The abnormalities were more marked in the Bt toxin-fed group. This study shows not only that the GM Bt potatoes caused mild damage to the intestines but also that Bt toxin protein is not harmlessly broken down in digestion, as GM proponents claim, but survives in a functionally active form in the small intestine and can cause damage to that organ.21
      ●●
      Rats fed GM rice for 90 days had a higher water intake as compared with the control group fed the non-GM isogenic line of rice. The GM-fed rats showed differences in blood biochemistry, immune response, and gut bacteria. Organ weights of female rats fed GM rice were different from those fed non-GM rice. The authors claimed that none of the differences were “adverse”, but they did not define what they mean by “adverse”. Even if they had defined it, the only way to know if such changes are adverse is to extend the length of the study, which was not done. The authors conceded that the study “did not enable us to conclude on the safety of the GM food”.22
      ●●
      Rats fed GM Bt rice developed significant differences as compared with rats fed the non-GM isogenic line of rice. These included differences in the populations of gut bacteria – the GM-fed group had 23% higher levels of coliform bacteria. There were differences in organ weights between the two groups, namely in the adrenals, testis and uterus. The authors concluded that the findings were most likely due to “unintended changes introduced in the GM rice and not from toxicity of Bt toxin” in its natural, non-GM form.23
      ●●
      A study on rats fed GM Bt rice found a Bt-specific immune response in the non-GM-fed control group as well as the GM-fed groups. The researchers concluded that the immune response in the control animals was due to their inhaling particles of the powdered Bt toxin-containing feed consumed by the GM-fed group. The researchers recommended that for future tests involving Bt crops, GM-fed and control groups should be kept separate.24 This indicates that animals can be extremely sensitive to very small amounts of GM proteins, so even low levels of contamination of conventional crops with GMOs could be harmful to health.
      In these studies, a GM food was fed to one group of animals and its non-GM counterpart was fed to a control group. The studies found that the GM foods were more toxic or allergenic than their non-GM counterparts.”

      “3.6 Myth: GM Bt insecticidal crops only harm insects and are harmless to animals and people
      Truth: GM Bt insecticidal crops pose hazards to people and animals that eat them
      Many GM crops are engineered to produce Bt toxin, a type of insecticide. Bt toxin in its natural, non-GM form is derived from a common soil bacterium and is used as an insecticidal spray in chemically-based and organic farming.
      Regulators have approved GM Bt crops on the assumption that the GM Bt toxin is the same as the natural Bt toxin, which they say has a history of safe use. They conclude that GM crops engineered to contain Bt insecticidal protein must also be harmless.
      But this is false, for the following reasons:
      ●●
      Natural Bt toxin is not necessarily the same as the Bt toxin expressed by GM Bt plants. The Bt toxin protein in GM plants may be truncated or otherwise modified. For example, there is at least a 40% difference between the toxin in Bt176 maize (formerly commercialised in the EU, now withdrawn) and natural Bt toxin.11 Such changes can mean that they have very different effects on people or animals that eat them. Prions (the folded proteins found in BSE-infected cows), venoms, and hormones, are all proteins, but are far from harmless.83
      ●●
      The natural Bt toxin used in insecticidal sprays behaves differently in the environment from the Bt toxin produced in GM plants. Natural Bt breaks down rapidly in daylight and only becomes active (and toxic) in the gut of the insect that eats it. It does not persist in the environment and so is unlikely to find its way into animals or people that eat the crop. With GM Bt crops, however, the plant is engineered to express the Bt toxin protein in active form in every cell. In other words, the plant itself becomes a pesticide, and people and animals that eat the plant are eating a pesticide.
      ●●
      Even natural Bt toxin has been found to have negative health effects. In farm workers, exposure to Bt sprays was found to lead to allergic skin sensitisation and immune responses.84 And laboratory studies found that natural Bt toxin has ill effects on mammals, producing a potent immune response and enhancing the immune response to other substances.85,86,87
      ●●
      Safety tests for regulatory purposes are generally not carried out on the Bt toxin protein as expressed in the GM plant. The Bt toxin protein that is tested is usually derived from genetically engineered E. coli bacteria, as GM companies find it too difficult and expensive to extract enough Bt toxin from the GM crop itself. As we have seen, the GM process gives rise to unexpected changes in the desired protein, so it cannot be assumed that the Bt toxin protein derived from E. coli bacteria is the same as the protein derived from the GM plant that people and animals will eat. Indeed, the US Environmental Protection Agency, in its review of the commercialised Monsanto GM maize MON810, said it produces a “truncated” version of the protein – in other words, a protein that is not the same as the natural form.60 Such changes can make a protein more toxic or allergenic.”

      And so on…

      • Krebiozen says :

        I’m late to this but I see no one has addressed the report that Bruce Wilson quotes from. It is a huge gishgallop of inaccurate and distorted misinformation, and while it is clearly impractical to address the entire report, I’ll just grab a couple of claims at random:

        Rats fed GM tomatoes developed stomach lesions (sores or ulcers).2,3 This tomato, Calgene’s Flavr Savr, was the first commercialized GM food.

        This is quite true, but omits to mention that rats fed the same quantities of non-GM tomatoes also developed stomach lesions. See: http://academicsreview.org/reviewed-content/genetic-roulette/section-1/1-2-gm-tomatoes-proven-safe/

        Contrary to Smith’s claims, expert pathologists stated that mild gastric erosions were seen at similar levels in both GM and non-GM fed rats (European Commission 2000, FDA 1994). [...] The amount of tomatoes rats were fed was equivalent to a human eating 10-20 large tomatoes a day. Other studies have concluded that 13 tomatoes/day are sufficient to kill about half of the rats because tomatoes contain a lot of potassium and too much potassium can be lethal (Chassy and others 2004, MacKenzie 1999).

        Isn’t this more than a little disingenuous?

        Maybe that’s an isolated error. Let’s look at another claim:

        Female sheep fed Bt GM maize over three generations showed disturbances in the functioning of the digestive system, while their lambs showed cellular changes in the liver and pancreas.

        The reference given is to this study: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1871141307002442
        It concludes:

        This study shows that a diet including insect-resistant Bt176 maize, fed to 53 ewes and their progeny for 3 years, did not have
        adverse effects on their health or performance and that no horizontal gene transfer to ruminal microorganisms or animal tissues was detected. No differences were observed regarding performance, reproductive traits, haematological parameters, antioxidant defences, lymphocyte proliferative capacity, phagocytosis and intracellular killing of macrophages, and ruminal microbial population characteristics between control and genetically modified (GM) maize-fed animals. Immune response to Salmonella abortus ovis vaccination was more efficient in GM maize fed sheep.

        So the claim of “disturbances in the functioning of the digestive system” is simply untrue. The study did find some cellular changes in the sheep’s guts but points out:

        However, the significance of this phenomenon is unclear and is presently under investigation. Fine structural modifications of cellular components in relation to GM feed intake have already been described, although without any consequences on organ functions or animal health (Fares and El-Sayed, 1998; Malatesta et al., 2002).

        I am confident that close examination of the rest of the claims in this report would reveal similar cherry-picking and distortions of the truth.

      • Bruce Wilson says :

        I included these excerpts in response to Mike Kaplan’s comment “Do you folks even have a mechanism in mind, or care about a plausible mechanism, or is it just an article of faith that “unnatural = bad”?”

        Whether or not those excerpts were accurate or not, wasn’t the point. Its that many people who are anti-GMO are not doing it out of an article of faith, but because there is material out their purporting to show the issues of GMO products. I thought it rather naive and patronizing to make the comment he did.

      • Marc Brazeau says :

        Bruce, fair enough, but do any of those studies propose a mechanism for harm that is intrinsic to GE crops? That’s the central question that is never answered. We are all aware that there have been animal feeding studies that have demonstrated the possibility of potential problems with individual crops and that critics of GE crops are especially aware of those studies.

        It still doesn’t change the fact that no one has proposed a reason intrinsic to breeding method for potential problems.

      • Mike Kaplan says :

        Thanks, Mark- that was EXACTLY my point. I’m not talking about people being allergic to a peanut protein that was put in a tomato plant, or some such problem with a particular strain like Roundup which does raise concerns about enabling overuse of pesticides – I’m talking about the kind of mechanism that would justify the kind of blanket condemnation of GMO crops, all of them, as “poison”. And having working with transgenic animals in research, I am aware of no reason why anyone should be afraid of this technology other than reflexive anti-Science hysteria.

      • Bruce Wilson says :

        While finding ” reason intrinsic to breeding method for potential problems” might be important for the researcher, the concern is coming from the consumer side of things. Technology has a history of being introduced into our lives, for better or for worse. The problem is, how many people will suffer before we discover the downside to the technology? Scientists tend to be overly optimistic concerning the benefits of their research, while minimizing any downsides. My father, an electronics engineer working for TRW, had to play the role of the devil’s advocate for the Air Force, against the sub contractors such as Martin Marietta. His job was to point out the weaknesses of their proposals. Needless to say he was not a popular man at these companies, but the Air Force general he reported to was quite happy. Because of this, much of my training by my father is to look beyond the hype.

        Their seems to be a constant requirement on the part of the pro GMO group that the critics need to do a better job of constructing their critiques, to coming up with a mechanism that causes harm. I think this is rather wrongheaded. I think the burden of proof should be on the GMO researchers, to show how we, the public, cannot be harmed by this technology, or how the GMO industry is going to take responsibility for their technology, rather than suing farmers who have no control of how the pollen gets distributed.

        In truth, what I suspect is that much of GMO technology has been vastly overhyped, that much of it is actually ineffectual. But by then we will have moved on the latest “New Thing”.

      • Marc Brazeau says :

        It’s impossible to ‘Prove” safety. You can only demonstrate a lack of risk. So every new technology has unknown unknowns. But it is only with select technologies that because of cultural or political reasons, people obsess over the highly, highly unlikely unknown unknowns and to be honest, in my experience, no amount of evidence will placate that, only the passage of time and ubiquity.

        The industry has taken responsibility for their technology and the regulatory hurdles are ridiculously high. These crops are studied nearly to death before getting to market.

        Meanwhile, no farmers have ever been sued for accidental cross pollination. They get sued for willfully violated the technology agreements that cover the use of the seeds. If you can find a well sourced example that holds up to a fact check, I’ll be greatly embarrassed. I’ve challenged dozens of people to produce the evidence and no one has been able to do it yet.

        If GE crops have been overhyped, that’s partly the natural byproduct of marketing, but it’s also a reaction to dealing with an anti-GMO movement that spreads misinformation, misconceptions and outright lies and sends unsuspecting people out into the world repeating urban legends like farmers getting sued for cross pollination.

        If it was ineffectual, why would farmers plant 80-90% of those crops with GE versions? Unless, like most people you think farmers are too dumb to understand their own business.

      • Marc Brazeau says :

        Once a scientific consensus has been established, the burden of proof always shifts to those critical of the consensus.

        As far as things that science supposedly got wrong I would need examples, because usually the history was that the evidence or at least hypothesis was there for a long time, but politics and economics blocked it from coming to light or being acted upon.

        So it’s not unfair to ask for at least a credible hypothesis of harm other wise we would never adopt any new technology, because we can idly speculate that anything could cause harm down the road in ways we don’t foresee.

      • Krebiozen says :

        Firstly, we have been altering the genetics of food plants and animals using radiation and chemicals for the best part of a century. Thousands of food-stuffs that have been on the market for decades were produced by these means. I see no reason to believe GM crops are any more likely to be dangerous than those crops, or indeed more dangerous than crops that have mutated ‘naturally’ through background radiation and through DNA copying errors, which is how humans have traditionally bred crops for millennia.

        Secondly, as Marc Brazeau has pointed out, it is a myth that Monsanto or other biotechnology companies sue farmers whose crops are accidentally fertilized with GM pollen. I’m a little tired of reading the same myths over and over.

  16. Scotty Perey says :

    I have been reading and collecting articles on “GMOs” for over a year now, and this is one of the best I have come across. Thank you.

    I have been interested in this topic for a long time, ever since I first heard the frightened murmurings against recombinant DNA techniques back in the 90s, but it was the March Against Monsanto back in 2013 that really raised some red flags for me. I have been a “radical left-wing protestor” for almost two-and-a-half decades now (for purposes of full disclosure ha ha) mostly in the context of the anti-war movement, and most recently with my local “Occupy.”

    But the anti-GMO rhetoric has readily sounded off some alarms to me to the point where I feel it is approaching cult-like proportions.

    Coming from a religious background, and then having rejected that for “Grateful Dead tour” and getting to experience that as another sort of “religious” sect of its own (albeit with MUCH better music… *most* of the time!), I feel like I have become very sensitized to the dynamics of “groupthink” and have always been on guard against it in any of my social groups, political or not.

    So when I saw the proliferation of unsubstantiated soundbites on the signs and banners at the March that ventured into memes such as “MonSatan” and “the greatest evil in the world”, I became even more suspect. Personally, a very important aspect of my activism is that I jump on board with something not because “everyone else is doing it” but because the cause is grounded in reality. So I was motivated to learn more.

    And I have to say, that in my investigation of over a year into this, I have become not only less enthused by the anti-GMO campaign and their version of “evidence”, but moreover rather depressed at how many of my colleagues and dear friends have casually signed on to the immense amount of disinformation being promoted out there. Almost every single fearmongering soundbite out there proves to be either complete BS or extremely taken out of context and twisted or maybe legitimate complaints about capitalism in general or factory-farming which have absolutely no exclusive relevance to GM technology. But at a point it seems to become too intoxicating to consider the numbers of marchers against the veracity of what they are marching for.

    Predictably, in vocalizing my opposition to this rabbit-hole, I am assailed by such a “gish-gallop” in return that there is no way I can keep up with it. These folks can memorize a list of one-liners from Natural News or Dr. Mercola in one night, whereas I feel as a non-science professional I could spend a *month* reading up on any one of these single angles at least before i was at a point that I would feel at all confident about talking about any of it at all.

    So again, thanks… it is very helpful to have people who actually *are* more versed in scientific papers and analysis to help “translate” this stuff — now that I know that you aren’t all categorically bought out wholesale by Monsanto, whew (all sarcasm aside, I think that would be a funny calculation, to divide the number of independent scientists globally who have weighed in on this into the operating budget of Monsanto… we’ll see how much it’s worth to all these researchers to put their very career on the line!)

    If anyone does Facebook, I highly recommend participating at GMO-Skeptic. Oregon GMO Information has been a very helpful group as well, and if folks wanted to chime in at my own “GMOs: Separating the Hybrid Wheat from the Rhetorical Chaff” that would be much appreciated too! :)

    It has seemed like a Quixotic effort this past year to get the people in my immediate peer groups to reconsider having swallowed the Kool Aid on this one, but I think some progress has been made, and articles and forums such as this have been indispensable.

    Keep up the good work!

    ~scotty perey

    • Ttguy says :

      Bravo Mr Perey. It must be tough on you to take such a line in the activist camp. What I find sad is that u guys have hearts in the right place. Lots of plant geneticists also want sustainable agriculture. I alaawys ask – isn’t a pesticide produced from solar energy (In a BT GM crop) more sustainable that a BT bacterial spray grown in a vat (as used on organic crops)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,301 other followers

%d bloggers like this: