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Antivaccine versus anti-GMO: Different goals, same methods

Countering ideologically motivated bad science, pseudoscience, misinformation, and lies is one of the main purposes of this blog. Specifically, we try to combat such misinformation in medicine; elsewhere Steve and I, as well as some of our other “partners in crime” combat other forms of pseudoscience. During the nearly five year existence of this blog, we’ve covered a lot of topics in medicine that tend to be prone to pseudoscience and quackery. Oddly enough, there’s one topic that we haven’t really written much about at all, and that’s genetically modified organisms (GMOs). GMOs, as you know, are proliferating, and it’s quite worth discussing the potential and risks of this new technology, just as it is worthwhile to discuss the potential benefits versus the risks of any new technology that can impact our health, not to mention the health of the planet. Unfortunately, GMOs have become a huge political issue, and, I would argue, they have become just as prone to pseudoscience, misinformation, and bad science as vaccines, with a radical group of anti-GMO activists who are as anti-science as any antivaccinationist or quack.

Leave it to that quackery promoter to rule all quackery promoters, Mike Adams, to give me just the opportunity to show you what I mean. Over the last couple of weeks, Mike has been in a fine lather about GMOs, with multiple posts with titles such as The GMO debate is over; GM crops must be immediately outlawed; Monsanto halted from threatening humanity and The evil of Monsanto and GMOs explained: Bad technology, endless greed and the destruction of humanity. In other words, it’s a series of post with Adams’ typical hyperbole. If you were to believe him, GMOs are the product of a plot by Satan, Monsanto, big pharma, and the government, and he’s not sure which one of these is the most evil of the bunch.

Not to be outdone, that other quackery supporter vying with Mike Adams to be the quackery supporter to rule all quackery supporters, Joe Mercola, also weighed in with a post entitled First-Ever Lifetime Feeding Study Finds Genetically Engineered Corn Causes Massive Tumors, Organ Damage, and Early Death. It also turns out that Mike Adams had pontificated about this very same study a couple of days before Mercola with a title equally ominous, Shock findings in new GMO study: Rats fed lifetime of GM corn grow horrifying tumors, 70% of females die early. Whenever I see the cranks pile on a study like this, my curiosity is piqued. I also noticed that Steve Novella had already discussed the study that had this not-so-dynamic duo in such a frothy lather. Of course, as you know, that a blogger as awesome as our fearless leader had covered a topic never stopped me from pontificating about the very same study before (well, actually, it has, but in this case it wasn’t enough to stop me). Besides, these sorts of studies are right up my alley, given that I’m a cancer researcher, and the study being touted as “smoking gun” evidence that GMOs are pure evil is such a an incompetently designed and performed study that it actually irritated me more than the usual bit of bad science that I discuss on occasion.

There’s a lot in common between anti-GMO activists and antivaccine activists. Perhaps the most prominent similarity is philosophical. Both groups fetishize the naturalistic fallacy, otherwise known as the belief that if it’s “natural” it must be good (or at least better than anything man-made or “artificial”). In the case of antivaccine activists, the immune response caused by vaccines is somehow “unnatural” and therefore harmful and evil, even though the mechanisms by which the immune system responds to vaccines are the same or similar to how it responds to “natural” antigens. That’s the whole idea, to stimulate the immune system to think that you’ve had the disease without actually giving you the disease, thus stimulating long term immunity to the actual disease! In the case of anti-GMO activists, the same idea appears to prevail, namely that, because GMOS are somehow “unnatural,” they must be harmful and evil. That’s not to say that they might not have problems and issues that need to be dealt with, but the apocalyptic language used by many of the anti-GMO activists like Mike Adams and Joe Mercola is so far over-the-top that it is very much like the language of the antivaccine movement. In fact, not surprisingly, antivaccinationists are often anti-GMO as well, and vice-versa, an example of crank magnetism in action. Indeed, Joe Mercola himself is one of the biggest backers of California Proposition 37, which would require the labeling of GMO-based food, having donated $1.1 million so far.

The particular study that has been reverberating through out the anti-GMO community over the last couple of weeks was done by a group in France led by Gilles-Eric Séralini at the University of Caen with a history of opposition to GMOs. Also, as Steve pointed out, Séralini et al did not allow reporters to seek outside comment on their paper before its publication. If there’s a bigger red flag that a study is ideologically motivated crap and that the authors know it’s ideologically motivated crap, I can’t think of one. Even if Séralini et al didn’t know their study was weak and were somehow afraid that the nefarious Monsanto scientists would plant negative sound bites into news stories about the study, I’m sorry, but trying to control initial news reports like this is just not how scientific results should be announced, period. It’s cowardice and an unseemly attempt at spin:

“For the first time ever, a GM organism and a herbicide have been evaluated for their long-term impact on health, and more thoroughly than by governments or the industry,” Séralini told AFP. “The results are alarming.”

Meanwhile, Mike Adams writes:

As a shocking new study has graphically shown, GMOs are the new thalidomide. When rats eat GM maize, they develop horrifying tumors. Seventy percent of females die prematurely, and virtually all of them suffer severe organ damage from consuming GMO. These are the scientific conclusions of the first truly “long-term” study ever conducted on GMO consumption in animals, and the findings are absolutely horrifying. (See pictures of rats with tumors, below.)

What this reveals is that genetic engineering turns FOOD into POISON.

I do so love all caps for emphasis. So very antivaccinationist-like.

Meanwhile, Mercola writes:

The research was considered so “hot” that the work was done under strict secrecy. According to a French article in Le Nouvel Observateur,2 the researchers used encrypted emails, phone conversations were banned, and they even launched a decoy study to prevent sabotage!

One wonders if they mixed up the “decoy” study with the real study, if the quality of the final published study is any indication. Let’s take a look. This study, by Séralini et al, was entitled Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. Here’s the abstract:

The health effects of a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize (from 11% in the diet), cultivated with or without Roundup, and Roundup alone (from 0.1 ppb in water), were studied 2 years in rats. In females, all treated groups died 2–3 times more than controls, and more rapidly. This difference was visible in 3 male groups fed GMOs. All results were hormone and sex dependent, and the pathological profiles were comparable. Females developed large mammary tumors almost always more often than and before controls, the pituitary was the second most disabled organ; the sex hormonal balance was modified by GMO and Roundup treatments. In treated males, liver congestions and necrosis were 2.5–5.5 times higher. This pathology was confirmed by optic and transmission electron microscopy. Marked and severe kidney nephropathies were also generally 1.3–2.3 greater. Males presented 4 times more large palpable tumors than controls which occurred up to 600 days earlier. Biochemistry data confirmed very significant kidney chronic deficiencies; for all treatments and both sexes, 76% of the altered parameters were kidney related. These results can be explained by the non linear endocrine-disrupting effects of Roundup, but also by the overexpression of the transgene in the GMO and its metabolic consequences.

Wow. Sounds really disturbing, doesn’t it? Certainly, at first glance it did to me, but something seemed fishy. Although some have pointed out that the rat strain used (albino Sprague-Dawley rats from Harlan Labs) have a high propensity for tumors to develop as it is, initially I didn’t really consider that as big a problem as some do. You want a certain baseline of tumor development, and it’s not entirely unreasonable to pick a strain that develops tumors at a rate that is frequent enough that it’s likely that the strain will be sensitive to carcinogens. On the other hand, if the baseline rate of developing tumors is high enough, there’s not much room to go up further, and it’s harder to detect effects that result in an increased incidence of tumors. The problem with this particular rat strain is that the rate might well reach that point, which is why the control group size is a really big problem.

Indeed, what seemed fishier to me were two things. First, there were only 20 rats in the control group. In actuality, in practice it was less than that, because the authors looked at both males and females; so there were 10 male controls and 10 female controls, which struck me as a rather small number for a study of this type. Then there were nine other groups, with twenty mice in each group, 10 males and ten females each, making for a very complicated experimental design. Indeed, I agree with Marion Nestle, the Paulette Goddard professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University who supports labeling of genetically modified foods on a national scale, when she said, “It’s weirdly complicated and unclear on key issues: what the controls were fed, relative rates of tumors, why no dose relationship, what the mechanism might be. I can’t think of a biological reason why GMO corn should do this.”

“Weirdly complicated” doesn’t even begin to describe it. I found the experimental design unnecessarily complicated to a ridiculous degree, with too few mice in each group, especially the controls. In fact, these were the groups (the number of animals in the group is in parentheses):

  1. Controls (20)
  2. 11% GMO (20)
  3. 22% GMO (20)
  4. 33% GMO (20)
  5. 11% GMO + R (20)
  6. 22% GMO + R (20)
  7. 33% GMO + R (20)
  8. R(A) (20)
  9. R(B) (20)
  10. R(C) (20)

The percentage means the percentage of GMO corn in the rat chow, specifically the Roundup resistant strain NK603, and “R” means that Roundup had been applied to the corn. R(A) through R(C) are different concentrations of Roundup in the rats’ drinking water. This is way too many groups to have a high likelihood of producing interpretable data, particularly with only 10 females and ten males in each group. In essence, there were 20 experimental groups with ten rats in each group. Most problematic is the small number in the control group. There’s an old study on this line of rats published in 1979 that looked at the spontaneous development of endocrine tumors. After two years, 86% of male and 72% of female rats had developed tumors of the sort described by Séralini et al. Note that the time period of this 1979 study was the same as that of Séralini et al, two years. In other words, the “treated” rats developed as many tumors as expected for this particular strain of rats allowed to live to their natural lifespanand in fact the control groups arguably had an unusually low incidence of tumors.

Elsewhere, biologist Andrew Kniss ran a simulation (for which he provides the code) based on this study and found:

Let’s assume that the Suzuki et al (1979) paper is correct, and 72% of female Sprague-Dawley rats develop tumors after 2 years, even if no treatments are applied. If we randomly choose 10,000 rats with a 72% chance that they will have a tumor after 2 years, we can be pretty certain that approximately 72% of the rats we selected will develop a tumor by the end of 2 years.

In our very large sample of 10,000 simulated rats, we found that 71.4% of them will develop tumors by the end of a 2 year study. That’s pretty close to 72%. But here is where sample size becomes so critically important. If we only select 10 female rats, the chances of finding exactly 72% of them with tumors is much less. In fact, there is a pretty good chance the percentage of 10 rats developing tumors could be MUCH different than the population mean of 72%. This is because there is a greater chance that our small sample of 10 will not be representative of the larger population.

In other words, large numbers matter. In a group of 10 mice, each with a 72% chance of developing tumors after two years, there’s a much higher chance that the number of rats in the control group that develop tumors will be a number other than 7 (72%). Also curious is that the rate of mortality didn’t appear to be related to the dose of GMO corn. The authors attribute this to the GMO corn being so nasty that it was a “threshold” effect, where the observed effect maxed out before the lowest percentage of GMO corn was even hit, which, if true, would imply that a followup study was warranted looking at, for instance, 0% GMO corn to 11% GMO corn. However, more modeling of the study revealed:

But here’s the important part: Simply by chance, if we draw 10 rats from a population in which 72% get tumors after 2 years, we have anywhere from 5 (“t2″) to 10 (“t1″) rats in a treatment group that will develop tumors. Simply due to chance; not due to treatments. If I did not know about this predisposition for developing tumors in Sprague-Dawley rats, and I were comparing these treatment groups, I might be inclined to say that there is indeed a difference between treatment 1 and treatment 2. Only 5 animals developed tumors in treatment 1, and all 10 animals developed tumors treatment 2; that seems pretty convincing. But again, in this case, it was purely due to chance.

It’s even worse than Dr. Kniss demonstrates.

What do I mean? The investigators measured numerous parameters in each group, some of them at multiple different time points. An experiment with this many groups and this many parameters measured this many times is virtually guaranteed to generate multiple “positive” results. How did they control for all these multiple comparisons? I’ve read the study a few times now, and I still can’t figure it out. An experiment with this many groups in which this many parameters are measured is guaranteed to produce “statistically significant” differences in a number of variables by random chance alone. Heck, in Figure 5, I counted 47 different parameters measured, and in some tables thirteen different parameters recorded curiously as percentage changes. Even worse, for the mortality data (arguably the most critical data), no confidence intervals are reported, and there appears to be no discussion of how the mortality data were analyzed, as Michael Grayer points out in an excellent takedown of the statistical analysis (or, more appropriately, lack of statistical analysis) in this paper. I would only add to this a couple of questions. First, why was there no power analysis reported to justify the number of mice per experimental group and the number of experimental groups chosen? What was the statistical power of this design to detect significant differences? This is some very basic stuff here. Second, who the heck was the statistician on this? He or she should be fired for gross incompetence.

And don’t even get me on the lack of blinding of observers to the identities of the experimental groups. That’s just single blinding, which is the absolute minimum that could be acceptable in an animal experiment. Double blinding would have been better. Apparently, the researchers used neither.

There’s another fishy thing about how the results are reported. Steve Novella noted this, too, but it’s more pervasive than he pointed out. In fact, never before in a scientific paper have I seen a line like, “”All data cannot be shown in one report and the most relevant are described here”—that is, until this paper. Steve wondered whether the authors were cherry picking the results they were presenting. I more than wonder. I strongly suspect. After all, in these days of online publication, that’s what supplemental data sections are for, to publish all the supporting data necessary to convince reviewers and readers, but prioritizing the important data to be shown in the paper. What this paper represents, in fact, is a massive failure of peer review.

Then there are the graphs. I was half-tempted to reproduce the graphs here, but in reality I found Figure 1 (which contains them) so confusing. It consists of six graphs, three for males, three for females, each graph consisting of four curves for different percentages of GMO corn in the rat chow. Not only that, each graph had a shaded area stated to represent the mean lifespan and beyond. But not only that, each graph had an inset graph representing “cause of death” for mice who died before the lifespan of the gray area. That’s basically a total of twelve different graphs, in which it’s hideously difficult to directly compare the experimental groups that I would want to compare to each other. It’s almost as though the authors were trying to make it hard to interpret the results of this study. However, considering that, in essence, this was a study of 20 different groups (two controls and eighteen experimental groups), the results are well nigh uninterpretable to the point of meaninglessness. Besides, Emily Willingham went to the trouble (and it was a lot of trouble, I bet) of graphing the data in a much more standard way that makes it easier to interpret. Guess what? The differences mostly disappear. She also speculates whether BPA was a confounding factor, although I’m not particularly convinced by her arguments for that. She is correct, however, in pointing out how crappy the statistical analyses were and deceiving the graphs were. In fact, if you want an idea of why Figure 1 is so deceptive, you can find it in, of all places, this Tweet. When someone can demolish graphs in a Tweet like this, you know they’re bad.

Finally, there is a question of whether the control groups were exposed to GMO corn. Tim Worstall, a blogger at Forbes.com, looked into the issue of whether there is GMO corn in normal rat chow sold for use in feeding laboratory rats. He contacted Harlan, the company that supplied the rats for this study, and asked about GMO products used in rat chow. The company told him that “we do not exclude GM materials from rodent diets.” He also points out that, if the findings of this paper were accurate, because there is a difference in the use of GMO corn in the U.S. and Europe, we’d expect to see a massive change in the incidence of tumors in this mouse strain in the U.S. but less so in Europe. He has a point, but I think he overstates his argument. If the incidence of tumors in these mice is really 72-86% by two years, it could very well be difficult to detect a significant increase in a number that is already so high. On the other hand, his point that the control mice might well have been exposed to GMO corn is valid. Certainly, there is nothing in the paper that demonstrated that the control group’s feed was free of GMO corn.

The bottom line is that this study is about as bad as studies get. The editors of Food and Chemical Toxicology, the journal in which this pitiful excuse for a study was published, ought to hang their heads in shame. As it was so aptly put:

But it could more simply mean the GM maize and the herbicide had no measured effect, and that is why the dose made no difference. “They show that old rats get tumours and die,” says Mark Tester of the University of Adelaide, Australia. “That is all that can be concluded.”

Indeed. That is about all one can say about the study. Certainly we can’t say whether the GMO maize increased the propensity for tumors. It’s also interesting how the authors included so many photos of the rats and their tumors, photos that quacks like Mike Adams and Joe Mercola eagerly post on their websites, but failed to include photos of the control rats. They got tumors too. Were they qualitatively different in histology or organ distribution or different in size than the tumors in the mice eating the GMO maize? No, including all those photos of rats with tumors served no purpose other than to be sensationalistic and provide shocking pictures for anti-GMO activists to use to scare people.

So why should we care? As I said before, I detest ideologically-motivated pseudoscience and bad science. It’s the same reason I come down so hard on antivaccine “researchers” like Andrew Wakefield, Mark and David Geier, and various other “researchers” who pump out bad studies that support the long-discredited hypothesis that vaccines cause autism or that vaccines cause a whole host of problems. This bad science has real implications, both politically and in policy. Already, Séralini’s risibly bad study has motivated the French government to order a probe into the results of the study, which could result in the suspension of this strain of genetically modified corn. Moreover, one can’t help but wonder a little bit about the timing of the release of this study, given that Proposal 37, which would require the labeling of GMO-based food, is a big issue in California right now, and a study like this might just influence the election.

When it comes to GMO, I don’t really have a dog in the hunt, so to speak, but brain dead studies like this one certainly prod me towards the view that much of the “science” behind anti-GMO activism just doesn’t hold water, and the easy acceptance of such nonsensical results as valid by those who should know better but apparently don’t is just plain depressing. There might be valid reasons to be wary of the proliferation of GMO-based foods, such as concern over the control that large multinational corporations like Monsanto might exercise over the food supply, but the studies purporting to find horrific dangers of GMO-based food strike me as having the methodological rigor of a typical Andrew Wakefield or Mark Geier study—or an acupuncture study. Perhaps that’s why I wasn’t too surprised when one of my readers pointed out that one of the authors of the study is also a homeopath and acupuncturist; so maybe the better comparison to make to this paper would be papers by homeopaths trying to show that homeopathy works. Either way, this is bad, bad science, and it’s sad to see how many people who should know better (but apparently do not) lap it up so credulously while applying much greater skepticism to science that doesn’t damn GMOs as pure poison.

Next up, I anticipate that someone, instead of calling me a “pharma shill,” will call me a “Monsanto shill.” It’s coming. You know it is. Just wait. It’s inevitable. On the other hand, maybe I should look on the bright side. Perhaps I can generate a new revenue stream by adding all that filthy food industry lucre to all the filthy pharma lucre that antivaccinationists and quacks think I’m getting.

Heck, maybe Monsanto will want to hire me.*

*I kid. I kid.

Posted in: Cancer, Politics and Regulation, Public Health

Leave a Comment (100) ↓

100 thoughts on “Antivaccine versus anti-GMO: Different goals, same methods

  1. joshdmiller says:

    I’ve been very unclear about the specific mechanisms the GMO opponents worry about.

    Is it that they feel our tweaking will accidentally code for some horrible toxin that would adversely affect humans but that would also somehow not alter the organism in a detectable way? What are the specific concerns?

    Secondly, other than by methodology, are GMOs really fundamentally different than what Norman Borlaug did?

    (I am ignoring ecological concerns in order to focus on the medical ones)

  2. cervantes says:

    It’s kind of obvious, but there’s also a basic logical flaw here. It wouldn’t be surprising that if you fed rats a steady diet of glyphosate it would be bad for them. (It’s not very acutely toxic to mammals because it’s readily broken down by C-p450 oxygenases, but I don’t think we know much about long-term exposure to high doses, mostly because that never happens in the real world.) But “roundup ready” crops are simply equipped with a mechanism of resistance to glyphosate — e.g., a way of pumping it out of cells, or not letting it in. That lets farmers apply Roundup to the field while the crop is already planted.

    There is obviously no reason why toxicity of one should imply anything at all about the toxicity of the other. They are completely unrelated.

  3. Janet says:

    I was pleased to see you cite Marion Nestle, someone I always look to for good science-based information on nutrition and public health issues. I have read all of her books and follow her blog. I have heard her speak and correspond with her occasionally. You would be surprised how many people post the worst kind of woo-oriented thinking on her blog on many subjects, including GMO’s. This may be because she supports labeling of GMO’s and organic food, (in the interest of the right to know on the former and in favor of something that has a knowable standard on the latter) I think, but this is widely interpreted by readers as an endorsement of the anti-GMO stance and even taken as an endorsement that organic food is “healthier”. If they read her books, they would know otherwise, but alas…

    A huge problem with discussing GMO’s rationally with the general public is the conflation of GMO technology with its application by Monsanto and others. It’s all the same thing to most people. I belong to a skeptics group who mostly hate SCAM, but reacted very aggressively to the speaker who is a plant biologist and gave a very engaging and science based talk on GMO technology. It seems to be, as you say, the naturalistic fallacy in full bloom. I even have to admit that while I have no issue with GMO technology in general, I do wonder about putting animal genes into plants. I wanted to ask the speaker at our meeting about this, but never got the opportunity with all the ruckus–the guy was young and not an experienced speaker and totally lost control of the Q and A.

    I have been posting everywhere this comes up (and it seems to be everywhere) that this study has been widely discredited and included links, but I fear that Adams and Mercola have many more readers than SBM.

    It gets very lonely in the non-academic world to be scientifically literate, so thank you all for doing SBM. If anyone has any recommended reading on GMO technology, I would appreciate knowing about it. I’ve had email exchanges and read some stuff the speaker I mentioned recommended, but I still have trouble forming a definite evidence based, easy-to-articulate view on this subject.

  4. Angora Rabbit says:

    Janet, I don’t know of a reference but consider this. GMO technology inserts a new bit of DNA into the animal or plant. We eat DNA every day in our food, so the DNA itself doesn’t pose a problem health-wise. Digestive enzymes chop it into nucleosides like all the other DNA we eat. Doesn’t matter if from plant or animal, it’s all the same.

    FDA has jurisdiction because the new DNA is considered a “food additive.” IThey review each product individually because each change is unique to that product. The big concern is the protein that would be made from the new DNA.* They ask if there is the potential for allergy, not because it would be inherently allergic, but because it would appear in an unexpected place. For example, if you’re allergic to hazelnuts, you’d want to know if the hazelnut protein appears in, say, cashews.

    Remember, too, that farming is a pennies business and being able to shave pennies per pound is a huge deal. So if the DNA change slightly reduces the plant or animal’s yield, it won’t make it to market. I mention this because it seems to be a crux point for some. “This new DNA isn’t “natural” therefore it must make the animal or plant unhealthier.” It might, but then it wouldn’t be a lead for market use.

    Hope this helps a bit.

    *This assumes the DNA makes a protein. There are some, like the Flavr-Savr tomato that uses anti-sense RNA (kinda like DNA) to silence a gene involved in rotting, so that the tomato lasts longer. Not sure if this one ever made it to market for political reasons.

  5. Angora Rabbit says:

    One has to point out that we’ve been eating GMO foods for millennia. It’s called breeding. Why rearranging half the genome randomly is somehow superior to inserting a single gene selectively, is beyond me. In fact, traditional breeding presents all sorts of problems due to the loss of genetic variability.

    We went through this 20yr ago with rBGH in dairy cattle. The reality is that rBGH and the cow’s BGH have no difference on milk quality or content. BGH is in milk naturally and the levels don’t differ if rBGH or BGH. The cows are at higher risk for mastitis due to higher milk flow, but this is treated by antibiotics and the milk screened for it anyway. The bottom line is that there is no scientific reason to avoid rBGH milk. There may be political reasons (having to do with big vs. small producers). The key, as I tell my students, is to defend your choice for the right reason and not a bogus one.

  6. Kevin Folta says:

    I question the intent of this paper. It was not to test a hypothesis. The clear evidence that this is an article meant to inflame and frighten is Figure 3. They show three grotesquely malformed rats with giant tumors. It is ghastly.

    However, they neglect to show the control rats— that according to Table 2 also presented tumors!

    They also label them as “GMO” which makes no sense because there are many GMOs with different constructs and gene products. This is labeled to smear a technology, not test a given gene/transgenic line.

    Between this, small numbers, the lack of demonstrate (plausible) mechanism, no experimental replicate (just technical reps) and arm waving at for why dose-response fails, this is not evidence. Hilarious how Adams and Mercola think it is so solid.

    The work is typical Seralini. I’ve been a critic of his work for years. What I can’t figure out is why the true believers in the anti-GMO work will trust this data and hold it as gospel, yet dismiss me (25 years in public, academic science following the field) as a shill for big ag.

    Get ready for a barrage of misinformation leading up to Prop37 in CA. Nation of Change just published a technology smear article again based on Seralini’s work on GMOs & glyphosate causing sterility.

    Seralini is to GMOs what Wakefield is to vaccines, not only in the quality of work presented but the way that his vicious followers hold his work as outstanding, despite a scientific community that rejects it outright

  7. Quill says:

    If the effects are so pronounced and the corruption of nature by “evil” entities like Monsanto so thorough and pervasive, it would be a simple thing to show all this through a well-designed and well-done study. But no. What this study seems to be is a example of exactly what the authors reportedly fear: bad science, poorly done, in service to an ideology rather than anything resembling the truth.

    It’s also interesting to me to note that those championing this study as a revelation are describing it in terms that would make Monsanto’s PR department blush with embarrassment.

    Would have been far more interesting to feed Mike Adams and Joe Mercola nothing but corn-on-the-cob for a month and see what happened.

  8. rork says:

    The experiment isn’t that complicated. Having lots of groups is fine, so long as your stats are good. Yes, you need to have a strategy to deal with multiple testing situations – if you do statistical tests. Here, mostly, they don’t. If you test nothing, then you need no corrections. Isn’t that sweet.

    Complaining that the sample sizes are too small is something you get to do when differences are found to be non-significant, but you wanted more power to detect a smaller difference than the current study – exactly why Gorski thinks small sample size is a problem here is not clear. Are the results too significant or not significant enough? It’s true that if I compare 10 vs 10 tosses of a coin, the differences in the fraction of heads will be bigger on average that if it is 100 vs 100, but the p-value is not expected to be any smaller. Under the null the p-value for the small and large study have the same distributions nearly (uniform on 0-1, if the data are discrete it’s not perfectly uniform). Under the alternative the larger study has a better chance of a small p-value. Anyway repeat after me: small sample size does not mean better chance of a significant result. Not at all. I’m not saying Gorski is saying otherwise. He just skipped this point and it’s the one that matters.

    Power calculations describe your intentions. Enough said.

    What’s really very wrong with the paper.
    Mice die or get diseases, so they show Kaplan-Meier plots, and burn words describing them. What does reader want to know about such data? We want log-rank tests (or trickier Cox models or similar, if there are several groups with dose/effect relationships) that ask if there are differences in the outcomes. In other comparisons of count data where 7/10 die here and 3/10 die there, we want tests that ask if these proportions are different – every reader wants that. Did these folks do those simple tests that every reader wants to see? No. Is that acceptable? No. Would they get significant results? Usually No. Bottom line: it is very difficult to find where they ever tested any of the top 10 hypotheses I would have wanted to see them test. The bewildering part is how that is publishable.

    Conclusion: There’s what a reader wants you to tell them and there’s what author wants to tell, and not tell. Always insist that the author has to satisfy the reasonable reader’s wish on that score, and answer the obvious questions. That requirement does not seem as traditional and obvious as it once was. Author has a duty I think.

    I’d rather talk about labeling. Briefly, if one foods genes need to be described, then to be fair, so should all others, since old-fashioned breeding or fancy crossing to mutagenized genomes and everything in between can get you crazy genes (or combinations) too. That’s a hassle right now, but in future, genomes on the web could be reasonable for popular food.

  9. DugganSC says:

    Personally, I’m not so worried about GMO food itself as in the risk of us losing genetic diversity by farmers replacing all of their crops with the one strain developed by the local company. To me, that seems like it risks one calamity wiping out everything, forcing us to start from scratch. Yes, there’s been some degree of that ever since farmers figured out that they could take the seed from a particularly good harvest and replant it to try to ensure the next harvest, but I feel like there’s a huge difference in degree happening here.

    Ultimately, I think the problem lies more in psychology than in science. If disaster strikes, it will be because everyone will assume that someone else is making sure there’s a fallback position.

  10. joshdmiller says:

    @DugganSC – Nearly all bananas sold globally are somaclones. Same goes for many other crops. The problem of genetic diversity is real, but we’re already ignoring it.

  11. Robb says:

    Ideally I’d like to see an overview of the evidence for and against GM crops. Taking apart one study and showing flaws in it is great, but then trying to smear all concerns about GM crops with the anti-vaccine-Mike Adams sensationalism is a low blow.
    There is an evidence based assessment for the claims of GM crops here: http://earthopensource.org/index.php/reports/58
    I don’t have the background to really assess its strengths and weaknesses but it seems like a worthier source to consider than Mike Adams website.
    Even assuming GM crops do not pose any health risks to humans, shouldn’t patenting, monopolizing and controlling the food supply in this way be a huge cause for concern?
    And just to put to rest this myth of “why the fuss? haven’t we been altering genes by breeding all these years anyway?” that came up in the comments: they are completely different and it should be very obvious why. Natural breeding involves the same species while GM involves injecting foreign species’ genetic material. The review I linked goes into more detail on this point.

  12. dan131riley says:

    I’d think that the problem with the sample size, and the number of groups, is that they have only one control group of the same size as the trial groups. Having only one control group means that all comparisons to the control group are highly correlated, so the results for their different groups aren’t independent. This wouldn’t be a problem with a larger control group, but with a single control group the same size as the trial groups, the statistical uncertainty in the control group becomes the dominant source of uncertainty in the analysis. That’s poor experiment design. If they did their statistical analysis properly, they should have realized they would get more significant results with more controls.

    This doesn’t say anything about whether GMOs are safe or not. Poorly designed studes are uniformative–they don’t tell you anything about the subject of the study. The most they tell is something about the researchers.

  13. stanmrak says:

    The lack of education present here about GMOs is truly frightening. Please, people, do some investigation into GMOs before you spout off opinions about them. You might have to dig a little, and go somewhere besides the mainstream sources of information, since Monsanto hold control over most of those.

    This article is a clear demonstration of skepticism at its worst. Skeptics would rather pick apart a single study just to prove they’re right, and ignore all evidence to the contrary. This isn’t the first, or only, study that has found harm in GMOs.

  14. Chris Repetsky says:

    By all means then, please provide us with links to these studies.

  15. stanmrak says:

    Good lord, if you can’t find any evidence, you need more than my help.

    The list of life-damaging chemicals and environmental scandals in Monsanto’s history is astounding – PCBs, dioxin, Agent Orange, DDT, bovine growth hormone and now GMOs. For nearly 40 years, Monsanto routinely discharged toxic waste into a west Alabama creek and dumped millions of pounds of PCBs into open-pit landfills. Monsanto documents show that for decades, the corporate giant concealed what it did and what it knew.

    Is this the company you want to trust with your food supply?

    The following countries have banned or restricted the import, distribution, sale and commercial planting of GMO’s… WHY? Maybe they know something.
    Africa: Algeria, Egypt
    Asia: Sri Lanka, Thailand, China, Japan, Phillipines
    Europe: The European Union, Norway, Austria, Germany United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Greece, France, Luxembourg, Portugal
    Latin America: Brazil, Paraguay
    Middle East: Saudi Arabia
    Pacific: American Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Australia, New Zealand

  16. David Gorski says:

    One notes that stanmrak has not provided even a single one of these studies that he claims have found great harm due to GMOs. Instead, he looks as though he cut an pasted a list from an anti-GMO site.

  17. Chris Repetsky says:

    Agreed, Dr. Gorski. I love when proponents of nonsense always claim “THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE!” “OPEN YOUR EYES!” “DON’T TRUST THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA!” Yet when questioned to show the exact studies that correlate the hated-1st world technology-of-the-week with damage to human health, it’s always a backtrack, “Find it yourself, that’s not my job!” or stretching weak data sets to accompany their emotionally biased opinions.

  18. Chris says:

    And when we do come up with real research, the proponents of nonsense don’t like it much. I usually find stuff that says the opposite of what they were spouting, and it is usually real scientific evidence.

    That’s when they come up with different conspiracy theories like how public health agencies like the CDC and the NHS are in the pocket of Big Pharma.

  19. stanmrak says:

    Dr. Don M. Huber has been a scientist studying plant diseases in the U.S. and around the world for 50 years, and spent 35 years at Purdue University as Professor Emeritus of plant pathology.
    He has a 41-year military career as a retired Colonel, evaluating natural and manmade biological threats, including germ warfare and disease outbreaks. He coordinates the “Emergent Diseases and Pathogens Committee” as part of the USDA National Plant Disease Recovery System under Homeland Security.

    Dr. Huber says:

    “When future historians come to write about our era they are not going to write about the tons of chemicals we did or didn’t apply. When it comes to glyphosate (RoundUp) they are going to write about our willingness to sacrifice our children and to jeopardize our very existence by risking the sustainability of our agriculture; all based upon failed promises and flawed science.”

    “The only benefit is that it affects the bottom-line of a few companies. There’s no nutritional value.”

  20. stanmrak says:

    The list of countries banning GMOs is not fictional; it’s documented. The list of atrocities committed by Monsanto isn’t fictional either. Monsanto was convicted of all these in a court of law.

  21. Scott says:

    That’s nice. Do you have anything resembling actual evidence? Not just unsupported random quotes?

  22. DWATC says:

    @ stanmrak…

    Soooooo reference to Monsanto’s poor business practices and nothing else…. Thanks, good job!

  23. Robb says:

    Or, when real research is provided (see link above), it gets ignored. We’re talking about tightly controlled, patented, genetically modified seeds – doing independent research on them is incredibly difficult as it requires permission from the company owning the patent, and they often will claim publication control rights in the case of negative findings. In the case of farmers purchasing seeds from Monsanto, they must sign a contract saying they will not collect seeds – a tactic obviating the need for Monsanto to push for legalization of their “terminator” seed variety. The US government is an active promoter of GM technology and industry (the USDA initially helped develop the terminator gene technology) so it’s no wonder acceptance and safety standards have been extremely lax. I’m surprised a website devoted to science and skepticsm would not take a more rigorous critical look – both at the regulations surrounding GM acceptance in the US, the science supporting their safety, and the science questioning their safety.

  24. Chris Repetsky says:

    Dr. Huber may have impressive credentials, but unless he produced high quality studies backing his claims, then this is simply the Argument to Authority.

    If he has published studies on this topic making the aforementioned conclusion, I’d enjoy seeing them, if you have a link or two.

  25. Narad says:

    Dr. Don M. Huber has been a scientist studying plant diseases in the U.S. and around the world for 50 years, and spent 35 years at Purdue University as Professor Emeritus of plant pathology.

    I see that Stan doesn’t quite grasp what “emeritus” means.

  26. jmb58 says:

    @Robb

    What you linked to is basically a book of 123 pages, published on a website with a clear agenda. Briefly looking over it I could not find any sudies in the referencecs showing any actual harm. A lot of theory and anti-corporate sentiment. Did I miss the studies showing harm?

  27. Robb says:

    jmb58,
    page 60, References to section 3. A long list of studies to do with health concerns of GM crops. Yes, the organization that produced the report has concerns about GM crop safety, and they back up those concerns very well – not with theory. Many of the concerns go well beyond human safety. They also cover a lack of evidence for many of the claims GM proponents make in order to justify their use in the first place. It sounds like you dismissed it out of hand without really reading much.

    It is very difficult to find anything approaching an objective or unbiased look at GM crops – on the one hand you have mostly industry funded studies with close ties to regulations designed to fast track business concerns first and foremost and on the other hand you have sensationalistic knee-jerk reactions against anything and everything that is genetically modified. This report seems like a good example of a reasoned, science based response.

    One of the main authors is listed this way:
    Michael Antoniou, PhD is reader in molecular genetics and head, Gene Expression and Therapy Group, King’s College London School of Medicine, London, UK. He has 28 years’ experience in the use of genetic engineering technology investigating gene organisation and control, with over 40 peer reviewed publications of original work, and holds inventor status on a number of gene expression biotechnology patents.

    To my geneticist layman’s eye, it seems like he would have a sound grasp of the science and the issues and have a bit more to say than just “theory and anti-corporate sentiment.”

  28. David Gorski says:
    He has a 41-year military career as a retired Colonel, evaluating natural and manmade biological threats, including germ warfare and disease outbreaks. He coordinates the “Emergent Diseases and Pathogens Committee” as part of the USDA National Plant Disease Recovery System under Homeland Security.

    That’s all very well and nice, but I can show you a list of several Nobel Laureates who went right off the deep end into pseudoscience. That Dr. Huber seems like a qualified guy and has an opinion tells us very little.

    Show me the peer-reviewed studies.

  29. Mark P says:

    We’re talking about tightly controlled, patented, genetically modified seeds – doing independent research on them is incredibly difficult as it requires permission from the company owning the patent, and they often will claim publication control rights in the case of negative findings.

    This is very weak. Patents are a limited economic protection only, nothing more.

    Patents last 14 years. After that it is open season. Patents don’t prevent you testing the product anyway, only selling it. (That is why if you have an actual trade secret you never patent it – because then it is no longer a secret.)

    And they can claim publication control rights all they like, but they won’t get them. In the last resort one publishes in a foreign jurisdiction.

    The people with a vested interest in this research, and the money to pursue that interest, are the other seed companies. They would leap on an opportunity to bring Monsanto down.

    No doubt some people will claim that it is all a massive collusion between companies. Yet you would think that the non-GM seed companies would have little reason to collude with Monsanto.

    On top of all this, how much does it actually cost to conduct this research? A few thousand rats, some experimenters and bucket loads of corn. Greenpeace could fund a proper version of this study without any difficulty at all. (Greenpeace, in all its international forms, has a $300+ million a year budget.) I bet they don’t want to though, since they wouldn’t like what they found!

  30. jmb58 says:

    @Robb

    True, I didn’t read it much. I’m not doing a book review. I skimmed it. In section 3 most of the references are basic science, newspaper sources, or internet blog sources. It’s just not very impressive.
    They admit that there are plenty of saftey studies, but that they can’t be trusted for a number of reasons, usually blaming industry funding.

    So basically, rats fed GM-soybeans have more activity in certain allergy markers and DNA from this or that has been detected in the GI tract of goats, etc. Fine.

    From the article you linked:

    “no epidemiological studies have been carried out.”

    ” These studies should be followed up with controlled long-term studies”

    When there is some good data I’ll adjust my world view.

  31. Hey all :) Just wanted to give my perspective on GMOs/GEs..I did notice a mention of Mercola’s contribution of a million… Monsanto is paying out 25 million to not have GMOs labeled, just sayin :)

    Aside from whether GMOs effect us badly or not, it’s not up to you, or any company or even government, to change the natural food supply of people, without at the very least, telling the people their forcing them on and giving them a choice. Quite honestly, I don’t even know how it got this far. It’s sneaky, it’s scary, it’s unethical, that’s saying the least. Since when should any corporation have the say in what/how our food is grown and sold as? We’re talking our natural whole food supply at its very core, and we do not know the result of it..not in the long term on humans. I’m sorry if it effects corporations ‘bottom line’…but ..too freaking bad :)…I’m a free market capitalist, but there are rules..and destroying the food supply of the world should not be within the rules. We do know there are bad effects on animals..whether they were on those rats or not..yet, this is not alarming to some. Perhaps someone can explain that. Animals have had to be force-fed gmo grown foods..because THEY refused it..yet we press on to push it on people. Just on that alone, it’s hard to believe anyone can defend it, let alone, not demand that people at the very least be made aware of what is in their food! …What are we coming to? Who are we becoming? and with the defense of it by seemingly decent intelligent people..what will be next? Telling us we should eat toxic waste? It’s already in our food supply without our knowing, which is why I’ve gone organic. And the same ethical, intelligent people argue that! What is wrong with eating pesticides/hormones/antibiotics,…toxins? Remember? last time I was here? :) that was fun. :/ anyway…sheesh..what does effect you people arguing for the corporations, and not for your own food supply? Where does it end? How much more will be shoved ..shovelled down our throats..and we’re told to excuse my language..but…stfu about it! Something is dreadfully wrong.

    http://www.raw-wisdom.com/50harmful.
    As we ingest transgenic human/animal products there is no real telling of the impact on human evolution. We know that rBGh in cows causes a rapid increase in birth defects and shorter life spans and the number of calves born with birth defects to dairy cows has increased significantly. A Circle of Responsibility article says that while no thorough study of long term effects has been conducted, Canada and the European Union have taken precautions and banned the use of rBGH in their dairy cows. In a very recent study by Cornucopia Institute Research the following information was reported:

    “…The experience of actual GM-fed experimental animals is scary. When GM soy was fed to female rats, most of their babies died within three weeks—compared to a 10% death rate among the control group fed natural soy. The GM-fed babies were also smaller, and later had problems getting pregnant.

    When male rats were fed GM soy, their testicles actually changed color—from the normal pink to dark blue. Mice fed GM soy had altered young sperm. Even the embryos of GM fed parent mice had significant changes in their DNA. Mice fed GM corn in an Austrian government study had fewer babies, which were also smaller than normal.

    Reproductive problems also plague livestock. Investigations in the state of Haryana, India revealed that most buffalo that ate GM cottonseed had complications such as premature deliveries, abortions, infertility, and prolapsed uteruses. Many calves died. In the US, about two dozen farmers reported thousands of pigs became sterile after consuming certain GM corn varieties. Some had false pregnancies; others gave birth to bags of water. Cows and bulls also became infertile when fed the same corn.
    http://farmwars.info/?p=6920
    When scratched, the bumps oozed clear liquid. I can best describe what this turned into as the worst case of poison oak rash that anyone has ever endured. This rash spread all the way up my leg to my shoulders, and included the other leg as well. There seemed to be no relief in sight. I got so desperate to ease the itching that I actually bathed in bleach. This DID NOT help. In fact, it only made things worse. Antibiotics did not work, fungicides did not work, steroid creams did not work. NOTHING worked. I was desperate.

    I finally determined that the food I was eating must have something to do with it and stopped eating, drinking my pure well water only. The itching seemed to subside. Quite frankly, after making this connection, I was scared to eat! This couldn’t go on for long, so after hunger took over, I slowly started introducing foods into my diet, one item at a time.

    It should be noted that during this time, I was told about genetically modified foods (GMOs) and started doing some research. I checked out the labels of all of the processed foods in my kitchen, and found that almost all of them contained known GM ingredients such as corn, soy, beet sugar, and milk containing rBGH hormone. Could this be the cause of my affliction? I would soon find out.
    http://www.purezing.com/living/toxins/living_toxins_gmofoods.html
    Children are three to four times more prone to allergies than adults. Infants below two years old are at greatest risk-they have the highest incidence of reactions, especially to new allergens encountered in the diet. Even tiny amounts of allergens can sometimes cause reactions in children. Breast fed infants can be exposed via the mother’s diet, and fetuses may possibly be exposed in the womb. Michael Meacher, the former minister of the environment for the UK, said, “Any baby food containing GM products could lead to a dramatic rise in allergies.”
    http://www.saynotogmos.org/uoct03a.htm
    Superweeds undermine the environmental benefits that GE crops are claimed to offer by reducing soil tillage, pesticide applications and soil and water contamination.[7] Affected farmers must now resort to more toxic chemicals, increased labor or more intense tillage of their fields to address superweeds on their farms. The newly approved Roundup Ready alfalfa and sugar beets will only exacerbate that problem. And as companies like Bayer, Syngenta and Dow Chemical work on their own pesticide-resistant crops (including one designed to resist 2,4-D, a component of Agent Orange!),[8] even nastier superweeds may be on the horizon, with even nastier pesticides being used to control them in the ever-escalating arms race against weeds and pests.

    GE crops pose additional environment risks, such as threats to biodiversity or unintentional harm to other insects and animals in the ecosystem, many of which are beneficial to crop production. But remember, there’s absolutely no recall on GE genetics. Once they’re out there, they’re out there for good. What’s more, once a crop is fully deregulated, USDA currently conducts no monitoring of any kind to see if a GE crop has harmed the environment.[9] To date, we are completely unequipped to deal with all of these consequences. (For more on how GE crops are regulated, see this Ask Farm Aid column from 2009).

  32. Raise your hand if you care what rustichealthy rambles on about!

  33. Chris says:

    Actually I can’t figure out what she said!

    Though I’ll remind her that all she needs to do is grow all of her food herself. I even gave her a book reference with instructions. Has she prepared a sunny spot on her property to start her crops? Has she built a chicken coop and a place for a couple of goats? Has she joined an organic farm share?

  34. jmb58 says:

    “When male rats were fed GM soy, their testicles actually changed color—from the normal pink to dark blue”

    What!? Another cause of blue balls! Maybe I was eating a lot of GM soy when I was 15.

  35. Chris says:

    Oh, no! Jmb58 was a normal teenage boy! (in the mid-1970s, if the number is his birth year, I am one year older) Alert the authorities!

    And then there is Ke$ha’s ghost sex. Yeah, it is a type of dream one has while waking up, usually accompanied by sleep paralysis. Personally these are among my favorite dreams. I much prefer the sex during my vivid dream state than the absolute fear during perilous apparitions that weigh down on me as I descend into unfathomable horrors (ie; nightmares).

    Um, I am asleep as they occur, so I only know the difference when I wake in a hot sweaty state, barely recalling the dream. Truthfully, that is not fun. Especially when darling spouse has chosen to snore, or it is the wee hour of the morning where the newspaper is delivered with a crunching of driveway gravel and the thud of the paper hitting the porch… at 5am.

    For some reason I don’t wake so easily from the ghost sex dreams. Really, bring them on. I like ‘em.

    Now I have to go to bed. I need to preserve the organically grown apples and pears in my yard. We’ve eaten the Orcas pears (they only need a day or two on the counter to ripen), so I will need to put the Comice and Bosc in cold storage (the Comice need to be eaten by American Thanksgiving* and the Bosc by January). I have made concentrated apple sauce/butter (it is between the two) from the Belle de Boskoop tree. The other other apple four trees will follow shortly.

    * I am married to an ex-Canadian (it happens!). So I am well aware that Canada celebrates it in October at the absolutely more logical time of year for us on the North 47th parallel, which coincides with when now very few Americans get to stay off work for Christopher Columbus Day (the second Monday in October, which sometimes is Oct. 12th).

  36. Chris Repetsky says:

    And yet, none of what Rustic posted was Double-Blind, Placebo Controlled studies.

    Still waiting for the evidence that GMOs adversely affect human health.

  37. Chris Repetsky..whether they are or not..it’s still objectionable and unethical to do things to foods and sell them to people, without their knowing what’s being done, what’s in them, and their then determining whether they want to trust you or not. If you have no problem with that, in the grocery store, that is your decision. People want to know for various reasons and concern whether what they’re eating is actually what they think it is. We’re asking it be labelled.

  38. And, the whole idea of testing on animals first is to see if they’re harmless and acceptable for human consumption isn’t it? If they do affect animals adversely, then, it’s up to the corporation/producer to prove they are still fit for human consumption. Not to then thrust it on humans anyway. You’re right..let’s see the double-blind placebo controlled studies! Before they are put them on the shelf..where are they? Good question..that should be what you’re asking Monsanto Chris R..not me.

  39. *Before they are put on the shelf

  40. stanmrak says:

    We’re still waiting for proof that tobacco causes cancer, too.
    No double-blind placebo peer-reviewed studies there either.

    http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/un-earthed-monsantos-glyphosate-destroying-soil

  41. Chris Repetsky says:

    So the groundbreaking study to prove GMOs are hazardous to human health consists of blood draws only from a sample size of 30 and 39 respectively in a small township in Canada with no further controls, and no guarantee that the test subjects actually ingested GMO products. Meanwhile, the only research cited for one of those chemicals is by Greenpeace. Also, the assay method utilized in that study is not very sensitive. Furthermore, all the births associated with that poor study had normal outcomes and no teratogenicity, carcinogenicity, or further problems.

    This is a prime example of websites and advocacy groups pouncing on speculative and/or weak findings to advance an agenda. If we want to paint GMOs as unsafe, we need FAR better data than this.

  42. rork says:

    I mistook it for brilliant satire. Poe’s law – it’s true.

  43. the bug guy says:

    Despite being made early in 2011, Dr. Huber has yet to publish anything to substantiate his extraordinary claimes.

    Biofortified has a good overview:
    http://www.biofortified.org/2011/02/extraordinary-claims%E2%80%A6-require-extraordinary-evidence/

    The Bt in human blood claims are also very poor science, with the authors improperly using a plant tissue bioassay to detect the toxin in animal tissue, improper standardization curves and, IIRC, reporting values below the detection limit of the assay.

    Contrary to the common mythology, there is a very robust body of peer-reviewed publications supporting the safety of biotechnology, including many with independent funding sources.

  44. stanmrak says:

    Yeah, let’s wait until it’s too late and all the crops are contaminated with GMOs before we have ‘proof” that they’re bad. After the bees are gone, the bats are gone, the soil is ruined – then what? If you think this is ridiculous, you haven’t been paying attention to news reports. There is evidence everywhere. Sure, no proof, but you can’t “prove” anything – including the safety of GMOs.

    By the time they proved DDT, lead in gasoline, PCBs, asbestos, and tobacco were harmful, how many people got sick and died? WE don’t need GMO agriculture to feed the world; this is a blatant lie. Profit is what it’s all about.

  45. stanmrak says:

    Rodale: Organic farming outperforms conventional in yields in 30-Year Farming Systems Trial

    http://climate-connections.org/2011/10/21/rodale-organic-farming-outperforms-conventional-in-yields/

    “Organic farming is far superior to conventional systems when it comes to building, maintaining and replenishing the health of soil,” says the Rodale Institute. “For soil health alone, organic agriculture is more sustainable than conventional. When one also considers yields, economic viability, energy usage, and human health, it’s clear that organic farming is sustainable, while current conventional practices are not.”

  46. Chris Repetsky says:

    Again, where is this “evidence everywhere” that you speak of? You pointed to one completely flawed trial. We are awaiting the actual evidence.

    The difference between the things you mentioned (aside from some of them being naturally occurring substances! Natural =/= always good) is that the technology being utilized to create GMOs is heavily studied, and has been since it’s advent. You cannot compare tobacco and gasoline to genetic technology.

    Honestly, people are acting like these companies are sticking untested genes into plants randomly and without regard, not caring if it harms anyone as long as they make a profit. I will admit, there are issues with the business behind American agriculture, but this discussion isn’t about business ethics, it’s about scientific evidence behind the safety of genetic technology. And so far, the OVERWHELMING evidence shows no harm to humans.

  47. Chris Repetsky says:

    Now you’re citing an article cross-posted from Mike Adams’ Natural News? Run out of Whale.to links?

  48. Chris Repetsky says:

    And the Rodale study is not a quality study either. Here’s a step by step deconstruction of why it’s not good science. http://www.agbioworld.org/newsletter_wm/index.php?caseid=archive&newsid=2391

  49. the bug guy says:

    The Rodale report also played a bit fast and loose with data by ignoring fallow years in calculating long-term average yield.

    Overall, conventional still produces better yields than organic, though there is a lot of variability with some organic commodities more productive.

    Funny how the anti-gmo advocates frequently call for independent studies but then turn to studies from their own partisans.

    There are many independent studies out there, and they support the safety of biotech crops.

  50. Chris R..so where are the double-blind placebo controlled studies from the gmo producers showing they are Overwhelmingly harmless to people, yet so disastrous to animals?

  51. Scott says:

    Organic vs. conventional is completely irrelevant to the point anyway, which is GMOs. (It’s actually completely irrelevant to ANY point, since what matters is how well a given practice works. Whether it gets a particular label has no practical meaning.)

  52. Robb says:

    “There are many independent studies out there, and they support the safety of biotech crops.”

    Really? Can you link me any? I’m not being cheeky, I’d honestly like to see them because my understanding was that the vast majority are done by industry alone. The decision on their safety in the US is based purely on non-peer reviewed, non-journal published industry based studies. Please show me these independent, peer reviewed, journal published studies supporting the safety of GM crops.

  53. the bug guy says:

    Here are two lists of safety studies:

    http://www.gmopundit.blogspot.com/#!http://gmopundit.blogspot.com/p/440-published-safety-assessments.html

    http://www.biofortified.org/genera/studies-for-genera/

    With the Genera listing, you can go to the tab and through the pull-down, access a list of studies with independent funding.

  54. Robb says:

    Thank you – a lot of those references have to do with GM crops for animal feed/agricultural use only and many have opaque titles where it’s hard to know what they are about but it’s something to sift through anyway and the it’s good to know there are some independent studies at least.

  55. The Dave says:

    Thank you for that additional info about the Rodale study. Ever since I saw it, I knew something wasn’t quite right about it, but was unable to find anything else about it.

  56. Chris Repetsky says:

    @Rustic Why would GMO producers claim their products are harmful to animals?

  57. Chris Repetsky says:

    Regardless, if you want safety studies, thank “The Bug Guy” above for providing some excellent links. Here’s a direct link for you showcasing over 450 safety studies: http://www.gmopundit.blogspot.com/#!http://gmopundit.blogspot.com/p/450-published-safety-assessments.html

  58. Regarding automobiles and aspirin.. and “risk benefits”

    Generally, technologies are judged on their net benefits, not on the claim that they are harmless: The good effects of, say, the automobile and aspirin outweigh their dangers. Today, arguably, adopting certain new technologies is harder not just because of a policy of precaution but because of a bias in much of the media against reporting the benefits.
    Shale gas is one example, genetically modified food another, where the good news is deemed less newsworthy than the bad. A recent French study claimed that both pesticides and GM corn fed to cancer-susceptible strains of rats produced an increase in tumors. The study has come in for withering criticism from mainstream scientists for its opaque data, small samples, unsatisfactory experimental design and unconventional statistical analysis, yet it has still gained headlines world-wide…..

    People have Choices..in autos and aspirin..whether they want to take or drive them..or not. In this case, you’re tampering with the entire world’s food supply….WITHOUT their knowledge or permission to do so. The problem in this case is billions of babies/children/animals/people are at risk of lethal outcome and possible annilation.

  59. Chris Repetsky says:

    Again, there’s no evidence of this “lethal outcome and possible annilation[sic]“.

    And just because that poor, poor study made headlines means nothing. The huge shortcomings of that study (discussed on this blog and elsewhere) notwithstanding, just because the media carries a story doesn’t mean it’s necessarily something worth paying attention too. Far too many times to count now, mainstream news sources have cited articles from The Onion (A satire website parodying the news) as actual stories, worrying people about them.

    The point is, think critically about the information given to you from the media, especially science reporting, since all too often news outlets are absolutely terrible at it.

  60. Scott says:

    What I find particularly amusing is the number of people who simultaneously hold the views that:

    1. The potential effects of GMOs are not known with absolute certainty, but available evidence indicates that they are benign. But in the absence of absolute certainty, we must invoke the precautionary principle and assume that their real effects will be catastrophic.

    2. The potential effects of AGW are not known with absolute certainty, but available evidence indicates that they are catastrophic. But in the absence of absolute certainty, we must assume that they will be benign because there is a cost associated with mitigation.

    Some serious cognitive dissonance almost has to be going on there.

  61. And, my point is Chris R…no corporation/government/profession has the right to change the food supply of people without their knowledge and permission to do so, whether there is evidence or not. It is Their (corporation/government/profession)’s responsibility to absolutely prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that modified, changed, tampered with whole natural foods are just fine, and then, label it so!…to give the people the freedom of choice to decide for themselves, whether they want to trust Their call on whether a gmo food is safe or not. No one is forced to buy an aspirin, or a car or anything else, without their ability to find out if it is safe or not. (I would dispute whether aspirin is safe too), but that’s my choice not to have it. GMOs done underhandedly, as it’s been done for years now, people only recently becoming informed of it…is more than just a little unethical and underhanded.

  62. Scott says:

    @ rh:

    That’s just plain ludicrous. Far more so than your usual drivel, even. A corporation has a perfect right to change the product they sell. People who don’t like it, don’t have to buy it.

    And if you’re going to flip out over these particular “tampered with” foods, then you should ALSO flip out over pretty much every single other foodstuff in existence – since humans have modified them FAR more extensively than anything Monsanto has ever done.

  63. Chris Repetsky says:

    Scott hit the nail on the head. No one is forcing you to utilize food technology. You are perfectly free to grow your own food at home and consume it as you please (one could argue that the seeds you buy were, at one point, modified by human activity somehow though!) or visit a Farmer’s Market. But wait! There’s also documented risks to pure “natural” organic foods. Should farmers be forced to label their foods as well? They DO carry a risk after all.

    Forcing companies to label GMOs is not really a sound plan, because it implies that there is something catastrophic and dangerous that people need to be aware of when consuming GMOs.

    I mean, you could suffer a very nasty papercut from a ream of printer paper. Should we label each ream of paper with that warning so people have the “right to choose”?

  64. Scott..not without the person’s knowledge or choice..not labeling is the issue. Label it and let the people decide. I choose organic because I choose to want less pesticides/hormones/antibiotics in my system to fight off or to deal with. Again, it’s underhanded and unethical what is being done with gmos. And, just an fyi, I am aware there are problems with some organic foods also, but still my freedom to choose to have at the least less chemicals in my diet. Other countries have actually banned GMOs, why is that? if there is absolutely nothing wrong with them? are they non-thinking imbeciles also? There is something categorically wrong with what is going on here, and what Monsanto and UN and US are planning on doing to the world’s food supply. Flocks of birds have dropped dead feeding on gmo fields.. there is something Dreadfully wrong. Here’s a simple google search…you don’t have to try to refute any or all of them..you couldn’t. Just try to understand, there is something Dreadfully wrong to not question it.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=birds+drop+dead+feeding+on+gmo+fields&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&channel=fflb

  65. Chris R..you went to ludicrous with trying to relate a paper cut to force feeding gmos to children/babies/animals. Oh..too bad if the corporation needs to spend some time and money to label..they’ll spend 25 million to not label though..tell me what that means. I can’t sell you something without you knowing what it is/what’s in it…talk about ‘snake oil’..I can hardly believe this is a science forum now.

  66. stanmrak says:

    Scott, Chris – you clearly don’t even begin to understand GMOs. You don’t even consider the fact that GM crops cannot be quarantined from other crops; they will contaminate the entire food supply. Monsanto doesn’t know that GMOs are safe; they think that’s the FDA’s job. They have officially said this. And why would they bother with annoying long-term safety tests anyway, when you own Congress and can write your own laws – and start making money right away? If there’s no labeling, any health problems that crop up will not be able to be traced back to their source. If we let them have their way, there will be no other type of food left, unless you grow your own… maybe.

    Surveys show that over 90% of consumers want GMO labeling, because they don’t want GM foods. This is why there are virtually no GMOs in Europe and over 40 countries around the world. Consumers don’t want them. The only reason we have them here is Monsanto’s greed, and their infiltration of the FDA and the Dept. of Agriculture. They know that GMOs are vastly unpopular and their answer is to deceive people instead of proving conclusively that GMOs are safe.

    Having to rely on farmers markets and home gardens for wholesome food is an alternative that should not have to be used in the world’s ‘most advanced’ country.

  67. stamnrak…Excellent points..thank you. :)

  68. The Dave says:

    Perhaps people don’t want them because they don’t understand the science behind them (as you have been proving all to well) and are instead listening to and believing the unscientific fear-mongering of the paranoid crowd

  69. Chris Repetsky says:

    “Scott, Chris – you clearly don’t even begin to understand GMOs. You don’t even consider the fact that GM crops cannot be quarantined from other crops; they will contaminate the entire food supply.”

    And where’s the evidence showing that this “contamination” will adversely affect things? Nature has been doing this for longer than we’ve been around. Just because we put a particular gene into the plant doesn’t mean it’s bad. We might come to find new strains and new traits due to recombination and gene swapping, but again this has been going on forever. The origin of the genes makes no difference.

    “Monsanto doesn’t know that GMOs are safe; they think that’s the FDA’s job. They have officially said this.
    And why would they bother with annoying long-term safety tests anyway, when you own Congress and can write your own laws – and start making money right away? If there’s no labeling, any health problems that crop up will not be able to be traced back to their source. If we let them have their way, there will be no other type of food left, unless you grow your own… maybe.”

    This strikes me as the classic “Big Agri” conspiracy. Like Alt-Med wackaloons, people invent these conspiracies in lieu of any evidence. I could be persuaded to see your point, if you’d kindly point me to a verifiable source wherein Monsanto admits their products aren’t tested or safe.

    “Surveys show that over 90% of consumers want GMO labeling, because they don’t want GM foods.”

    Surveys really aren’t hard scientific studies.

    “This is why there are virtually no GMOs in Europe and over 40 countries around the world.”

    If these countries could point to quality studies showing the unsafe nature of GMOs, then I would agree with them wholeheartedly. However, it appears that they’ve banned them only due to public outcry, stemming from people being illiterate with the science behind GMOs.

    “Consumers don’t want them. The only reason we have them here is Monsanto’s greed, and their infiltration of the FDA and the Dept. of Agriculture. They know that GMOs are vastly unpopular and their answer is to deceive people instead of proving conclusively that GMOs are safe.”

    I will agree with you that some of Monsanto’s business practices are questionable. The same goes for some Pharmaceutical companies as well. However, that’s not the issue that we are here to debate. We are discussing the possibility of GMOs causing harm to people’s health, a hypothesis which has been tested readily by biotechnologists and agricultural scientists worldwide and so-far shown no ill effects.

    “Having to rely on farmers markets and home gardens for wholesome food is an alternative that should not have to be used in the world’s ‘most advanced’ country.”

    I disagree. Our scientific progress is what will continue to help our citizens, especially with the many problems faced in today’s world. People are, of course free to do as they please, but they shouldn’t have the right to restrict scientific progress, especially when it is neither unethical nor harmful.

  70. stanmrak says:

    No ill effects? Seriously? Apparently, like all skeptics, you are ignoring the data that disputes your already-found conclusion.

    KEY FDA DOCUMENTS REVEALING
    (1) HAZARDS OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOODS–AND
    (2) FLAWS WITH HOW THE AGENCY MADE ITS POLICY

    http://www.biointegrity.org/list.html

  71. stanmrak says:

    THE POOR PERFORMANCE OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED CROPS:
    Imposing New Risks on Consumers and the Environment While Failing to Improve the Farmers’ Bottom Line
    http://www.biointegrity.org/increased-risks-no-benefits.htm

    Conclusions:
    - GE Crops Are Not Performing As Promised and Farmers Are Not Getting Greater Profits From Them
    - In General, GE Crops Are Not Reducing Environmental Hazards But Increasing Them
    - Hundreds of Scientists, Including the FDA’s Own Experts, Have Warned That Genetically Engineered Foods Pose Higher Human Health Risks Than Do Other Foods
    - There is no reliable evidence showing that any GE food has passed all the safety tests the FDA experts said are necessary, and most have not even been subjected to the crucial ones.

    http://www.responsibletechnology.org/health-risks
    (Every assertion is footnoted, so it is not the author’s opinion.)

    http://www.responsibletechnology.org/fraud/silencing-critics/Monsanto-Whistleblower-Says-Genetically-Engineered-Crops-May-Cause-Disease-August-2006
    (Again, everything footnoted.)

  72. Scott says:

    Scott..not without the person’s knowledge or choice..not labeling is the issue. Label it and let the people decide.

    Labelling is silly – should we also try to label which specific selective breeding went into every single other foodstuff? The ENTIRE IDEA of labeling GMOs is completely based on the false dichotomy that insists on treating a focused precise form of genetic manipulation as somehow vastly more dangerous than large-scale random manipulations.

    I choose organic because I choose to want less pesticides/hormones/antibiotics in my system to fight off or to deal with.

    You choose organic because of the naturalistic fallacy, IOW.

    still my freedom to choose to have at the least less chemicals in my diet.

    ROTFLOL. Such misuse of the word “chemicals” proves beyond the faintest shadow of any possible doubt that you haven’t the faintest clue what you’re talking about and are just parroting nonsense.

    Other countries have actually banned GMOs, why is that?

    Because they surrendered to the Luddites.

    Here’s a simple google search…you don’t have to try to refute any or all of them..you couldn’t.

    Thinking that “a simple google search” has any meaning whatsoever is what’s dreadfully wrong.

    @ stanmrak:

    You still haven’t given any reason whatsoever to assume that GMOs are more hazardous than “conventionally” hybridized/irradiated/selectively bred/crossbred organisms. I don’t object to appropriate food safety testing. I do object to the completely unfounded assumption that it’s the tool which matters, rather than the changes produced by that tool.

  73. Chris Repetsky says:

    “Stanmrak’s FDA Documents”

    Gotta love how all those documents are from the late 80′s and early 90′s, and have been refuted with proper studies showing safety (as linked previously by The Bug Guy and myself). Again, Monsanto and Calgene (now owned by Monsanto, but those documents you linked were concerning Calgene when it used to be operating by itself) may have questionable business practices, but the evidence currently shows their products are safe.

    “And, just an fyi, I am aware there are problems with some organic foods also, but still my freedom to choose to have at the least less chemicals in my diet.”

    If you want less chemicals in your diet, you’d better stop drinking water, breathing oxygen, and eating anything grown by man or nature. Sarcasm aside, just because something is made in a lab doesn’t mean it’s bad or harmful. That’s the naturalistic fallacy at play. (“Nature made it, man did not, so it must be healthier/better”)

    “Other countries have actually banned GMOs, why is that? if there is absolutely nothing wrong with them? are they non-thinking imbeciles also?”

    Yes. Not the insulting words I’d use, but people are woefully ignorant of how science works, and continue to demonstrate that every day. That’s why sites like this exist, to correct these biases and conspiracy theories about Big Pharma and Big Agri that people play into without any evidence to back their claims.

    “Here’s a simple google search…you don’t have to try to refute any or all of them..you couldn’t. Just try to understand, there is something Dreadfully wrong to not question it.”

    And looking through the first couple pages of that Google Search yields no studies looking at that claim. It shows anecdotes of people claiming animals died for a reason they invented with no evidence presented to back it. The plural of anecdote is not data. Toxicology studies, please.

  74. This is what Chris R and Scott are missing. If the people..here or around the world do not trust, or choose to trust a corporation’s product they create, tampering with the natural foods they eat, then it’s actually diabolical to force it on them. Plain and simple. It doesn’t matter whether they (the people) can ‘prove’ something wrong with it or not…it’s their body, it’s their health, it’s their freedom to choose. How that’s not getting through to you is questionable as to where you’re coming from. If you don’t care, or you trust it, then do so…but, it’s not up to you or the corporate bottom line (who should have taken it into consideration all along and not invest whatever they did in it…it’s their loss..too bad), or anyone else to force it on others. That’s all I have to say on this.

  75. Chris Repetsky says:

    It’s fine if you don’t trust something and don’t want to utilize it. You are entitled to your own opinion. However, you are not entitled to your own facts. If you don’t want to utilize GMO foods, then that’s fine. But what I object to is people trying to spin the science to make GMOs out to be something they are not.

    You can say you don’t trust them, and I’ll respect (but disagree with that opinion). However, I will nitpick you when you try to show a harmful effect when the studies don’t support that at all.

  76. Scott says:

    What rustichealthy completely fails to understand is that nothing is being forced on anybody.

  77. UncleHoot says:

    @Scott, that’s true, but it’s not entirely true.

    I raise chickens. I’m not a “chicken farmer” per se, but I raise about 200 meat chickens per year and I sell them to people who believe in “all-natural” and/or “organic” foods. My chickens are not “organic.” Do I have a choice in what I feed them? I do.

    I have two options. I can buy corn and other ingredients from local mills and mix them together, or buy pre-mixed formulations (that’s actually one choice). Alternatively, I can buy “organic” feed, have it shipped across the country, and arrive at my doorstep for about 5 times the price, if not more. Sadly, “organic” feed is also much lesser quality, in my experience.

    I sell my processed chickens for $2.25/lb, and on a good year, I might make about $1-$2 per chicken in profit. If I decided to feed them “organic” feed (I’m going to stop using quotes now), I would be forced to sell the chickens for about $5/lb, last time I estimated it.

    What this has to do with GMO’s… According to farmers that I have talked to, virtually no one grows corn that is not Round-Up Ready. When the corn goes into the corn bank, it’s all mixed together, unless it’s organic. If I had the choice of getting non-GMO corn, but still not organic, I would opt for it. Until a few years ago, I had that option, and it was the same price as the virtually All-GMO corn available today.

    Personally, it’s not an issue at the top of my list of things to worry about, but I wish I had that option. If it’s not organic feed, it’s almost certainly GMO.

  78. batman1876 says:

    There is several problems at play here
    1)You can’t prove a negative so proving GMOs are not-harmful is an impossible standard. The current standard is proving they are functionally identical to the non modified food (aside from the specific manipulation. All foods on the market have passed this standard.
    2)The current American practice is to only legislate warring labels on things that carry risk. So the stated goal may be informed choice however the actual result would be implying risk and thus creating mis-informed choice.
    3)GMO is a misnomer because Genetic modification is present in all foods. The granny smith apple is a cross breed of the domestic apple and a variety of wind apple. The cross breeding resulted in a genetically modified organism, the granny smith. GMO as a label is more about the practice of targeting the gene and intentionally swapping it, rather than letting random chance determine the result. Monsanto could have sprayed corn fields with round up, saved the seeds from the plants that survived and repeated that process for several generations until the result was a reliably resistant strain. This seed would theoretically function the same as the seed tested in this study, would be functionally identical to the original corn seed, and genetically similar to the Monsanto seed , but due to a process would be free of the GMO label, despite undergoing as much or more gene modification.

  79. UncleHoot says:

    Well said, batman1876. I cannot disagree with your analysis. Unfortunately, many of those that I sell to would disagree. (That’s not an argument, just an observation.) But I sell chickens just as a community-friendly exercise. I swear that they taste better than what you can buy in the store, but other than that, I can’t personally make any other claim, and that’s 100% subjective, obviously.

    Of course who wants to eat something that has had Round-Up sprayed on it? Well, if that bothers you, then organics are your only true alternative, although I’m not personally happy with many practices going on in that arena either. Some organic practices can arguably cause more environmental damage than their counterparts. Just my opinion, though. I don’t want to start that debate. ;-)

    This is just a question:
    Is it possible to create a GMO that would not be reproducible given enough time and selection? I think that is the perception that many have. My sense is that the answer is “No” even if it’s a glow-in-the-dark puppy.

  80. BillyJoe says:

    Actually what RH wants is at that the companies be forced to label their products as GM so that he wins the argument by default that there is something bad about GM products.

  81. BillyJoe..

    I am compelled to explain a few things now..it’s not just a matter of ‘winning an argument’..first, I buy organic as much as I can anyway..hopefully they’re not contaminated in the future too..but in any case..I’m just learning about GMOs myself, having no idea they were on the market, totally unawares by most everyone, since the 90′s..and yet they’ve been banned in other countries still! Yet..no one said a word here..until now! Having animals drop dead after being fed them I’d say is a bit concern…

    http://www.natural-health-restored.com/genetically-modified-foods.html

    there are other links at the bottom…and my site has many other links and information now that is more and more troublesome…sorry to say…not just a matter of winning an argument..

    http://gethealthybehappy.yolasite.com/just-say-no.php

  82. batman….crossing types of apples with apples..is like cross breeding different dog breeds..it is not what GMO is..

    • The more GE crops introduced, the more testing will be needed to detect genetic contamination of non-GMO crops. This, Marquardt says, will ultimately raise food prices for consumers looking for organic, non-GMO foods.

    • The American Academy of Environmental Medicine recommends avoiding genetically engineered food ingredients because animal studies have linked them to infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, abnormal insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal tract.

    • Food allergy cases have skyrocketed since GMOs were introduced into the food chain in the mid-1990s.

    • GMO critics, including university scientists, have said herbicide-resistant GMO crops only benefit the biotech company selling the package—both the seeds and the pesticide that needs to be used on those seeds. “In the 30 years of working with GMOs, they still haven’t come up with one benefit for consumers,” says Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety. “They only offer risk.”

    • Roundup, the weed-killer that most genetically engineered seeds are designed to withstand, actually winds up inside food at levels clinically shown to cause health problems, including human cell death. (Read Roundup Red Alert for more details.)

    • We’re already eating GMOs. GMO corn, soy, and canola products have infiltrated up to 90 percent of the products in supermarkets, most of them processed foods. Each new GMO approval adds to a GMO load that gets harder and harder to avoid.

    • The next genetically engineered products up for approval are food crops designed to withstand heavy sprayings of the toxic pesticides dicamba and 2,4-D, which can become airborne and travel nearly half a mile, possibly into home gardens and other organic fields. 2,4-D is a component of Agent Orange.

    http://www.rodale.com/genetically-engineered-0

  83. Robb says:

    If Prop 37 goes through in California, the real winners will be the lawyers. Even more lawsuits than with Prop 65 are expected. The losers will be the food industry even though they are not the ones responsible for the GM technology. The onus of proof will be burdensome enough that many will just settle lawsuits. GM foods, for good or ill, are being forced on people though. Considering 85%+ of sugar beet, corn, and soy crops are GM, they are in most non-organic foods to start with and even organic foods simply cannot avoid some degree of contamination. It is also in some cases, quite different than conventional breeding methods because it involves different species genetic material being inserted. In any case, personally I am less concerned about any potential long term ill health effects due to them actually not being “substantially equivalent” and mostly just concerned with the ethics and business practices of the companies behind the technology. I think patented control/monopoly of the food supply is a dangerous road to go down (effectively preventing/outlawing seed collection, suing farmers because patented seed is found growing down wind, etc.).

  84. fledarmus1 says:

    The tradeoff for a patent monopoly is that it is short term, and once it expires, the subject matter is in the public domain. If people don’t want to pay extra to use seeds covered under patents, they can just plant the older varieties until the seeds come off patent.

    What, they would grow broke trying to compete with people that are paying higher prices for patented seeds? Then this represents a real improvement in technology, which is exactly the sort of thing the patent laws are designed to promote! If Monsanto created a product that is so good that even with the high prices they charge for it, farmers that buy it are doing better than farmers that don’t, then they deserve the money they charge. Once the patent term is over, they won’t be able to charge higher prices or prevent seed saving, and this huge increase in productivity will come at very nearly the same price that previous seeds cost.

    If the product isn’t good enough that people are willing to pay more for it, then there is no value in the patent and nobody cares. If the product is so good that people won’t buy a product that doesn’t have it, then they deserve a relatively short period of exclusivity for bringing such a fantastic product, which never existed before, onto the market.

  85. DougI says:

    Monsanto’s own research used the same rat species and sample sizes yet no criticism of their research. Maybe instead of relying on ad hominem attacks to discredit a study you might like to look at the original research by Monsanto which you automatically concluded is acceptable. If you don’t want to be seen as a Monsanto apologist then perhaps you should show such a double standard is poorly written articles.

    BTW, Monsanto published their research in Food and Chemical Toxicology. You know, that journal you call ‘pitiful’. Hypocrite.

  86. Scott says:

    @ DougI:

    Please quote where Dr. Gorski endorsed Monsanto’s research, or indeed even mentioned it. You’ll find that you will are unable to, and that your flames are thus utterly false.

  87. DougI says:

    Just a double standard then Scott? Looks like you’ve become the resident apologist. Maybe Gorski didn’t want to hurt his Bayer funding, seeing that they fund Gorski and manufacture GMO seed. No mention of the conflict of interest in the article. Hmmm, not surprising.

  88. Chris says:

    Ah, the old and tired Pharma Shill Gambit. Next time, something more original: like answering Scott’s question.

  89. Scott says:

    No double standard whatsoever. This post has nothing to do, in any way at all, with Monsanto’s research. The fact that the study discussed is complete garbage says absolutely nothing about ANY other study. Your supposed “conflict of interest” is also ludicrous – Kevin Bacon, anyone?

    It appears that you’re taking an extremist “us or them” position, where anyone who doesn’t mindlessly agree with any random unsupported claim that GMOs are bad must be a Monsanto shill. Extremely offensive – and grossly wrong.

  90. RUN says:

    I recently listened to Martina Newell-McGloughlin, director of International Biotechnology give a talk on Biotechnology and Genetically-Modified Foods: A look at safety and the Peer-reviewed science. Was a great talk and opened my eyes to the complexity of GMO. She made several points but I will list just a few.

    1) we have been consuming genetically modified foods for 1000′s of years, but cross breeding plants come across as ‘safer’ than pinpointing specific genes and modifying them even though cross breeding plants are more variable in their DNA than modifying genes manually.

    2) GMO is very complex and when we lump them ALL together as ‘bad’ or ‘good’ it is misunderstanding the changes being made.

    3) before hearing her talk, I had been more narrow minded looking at the impact on Americans, but some of the GMO could be very beneficial for other countries and for future generations. Other countries may not be utilizing the technologies because of cost not safety concerns. Also countries that have environments that are not suitable for growing a variety of foods could benefit from GMO foods that can sustain drought or flooding. This could decrease starvation and provide other benefits for the countries. Also with the rate of world wide population increasing, the current land being used for food will not be enough to support future generations. The crops in the future will need to have less waste. Options to do this is to use more pesticides, herbacides, fungicides, antiobiotics, etc, or genetically modify these plants so that they can protect themselves.

    In general, I understand the concern of feeling like we are being blindly force fed ‘things’ but labeling would not solve these changes. Where would we draw the line? General labeling of ‘product contains genetically modified ingredients’ may work, but wouldn’t we have to start to label all items containing cross breeding? They should….if your fear is because of the changes in DNA. Cost concern has been thrown around but the true cost would be for the consumers if labeling standards are changed.

    With any decision, the pros and cons should be considered. Their are both PROS and CONS with every choice.

  91. stanmrak says:

    Re: reaction to Dr. Oz:

    I wonder how much money the Department of Food Science & Nutrition at the University of Illinois whom Dr. Chassey represents gets from Monsanto every year? Not to mention all the organizations he references… the FDA, USDA, WHO, etc. These groups are all beholden to Monsanto and are not to be trusted as unbiased authorities. He sounds like a crybaby.

  92. Narad says:

    I wonder how much money the Department of Food Science & Nutrition at the University of Illinois whom Dr. Chassey represents gets from Monsanto every year?

    Why don’t you ask them?

  93. The Dave says:

    Uh oh, Dr. Chassey has now been revealed. Our Big Pharma overlords will not be pleased with recent development. I told him, in our bi-weekly “Pharma Shill United” video conference call, that letter would make it too obvious. Lets take up a petition that they only put his membership on probation, and not fully revoke them…

  94. schwart1 says:

    When their world view is challenged, the conspiracy theory nuts always claim Monsanto et al. used their limitless wealth to influence people. The reality is that by multinational standards Monsanto is relatively anemic– 396th in terms of company value. There are more than a half dozen individuals whose net worth is greater than the total value of the Monsanto company. The idea that Monsanto could buy out the FDA, the World Health Organization, the National Academy of Science, the media, the majority of academics, and 25 Nobel Laureates is totally absurd!

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