Our Biofuture

Life Sciences musings

Maize

Points to Consider: Republication of Discredited and Retracted Paper on Rats, GMOs, and Cancer

“Original” Paper: “Republished Study: Long-term Toxicity of a Roundup Herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant Genetically Modified Maize,” by Gilles-Eric Séralini, et. al., June 24, 2014, Environmental Science Europe,

This is a re-framed re-publication of a paper first made public in 2012. That article was subsequently retracted by the journal publisher, followed by an explanatory note from the editor.

Primary Claims:

This paper recycles claims made in the original paper, specifically:

  • Glyphosate (Roundup) tolerant corn (maize) causes cancerous tumors in rats that consume it.
  • Glyphosate itself causes cancerous tumors in rats that consume it.

It adds some related claims as well:

  • That the retraction of the original paper was imposed even though the publisher admitted that “the data were not incorrect, that there was no misconduct, no fraud or intentional misinterpretation in our complete raw data…Our study was however never attended to be a carcinogenicity study”
  • The retraction of the original paper was unjustified, as “Censorship of research into health risks undermines the value and the credibility of science, thus we republish our paper.”
  • They also claim that the retraction illustrates “a historic example of conflicts of interest in
  • Read the rest

glyphosate

Points To Consider: Unfounded Claims of Glyphosate Accumulation in Breast Milk

Original Sources:  Press Release: “Glyphosate Testing Full Report: Findings in American Mothers’ Breast Milk, Urine and Water,” Mom’s Across America; Article: “World’s Number 1 Herbicide Discovered in U.S. Mothers’ Breast Milk” by Zen Honeycutt and Henry Rowlands, Sustainable Pulse

Primary Claims:

  • “In the first ever testing on glyphosate herbicide in the breast milk of American women… found ‘high’ levels in 3 out of the 10 samples tested. The shocking results point to glyphosate levels building up in women’s bodies over a period of time, which has until now been refuted by both global regulatory authorities and the biotech industry.”
  • “The levels found in the breast milk testing of 76 ug/l to 166 ug/l are 760 to 1600 times higher than the European Drinking Water Directive allows for individual pesticides (Glyphosate is both a pesticide and herbicide). They are however less than the 700 ug/l maximum contaminant level (MCL) for glyphosate in the U.S., which was decided upon by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) based on the now seemingly false premise that glyphosate was not bio-accumulative.”

Salient Facts and Context:  

global

Points to Consider: GM Crops Have Provided Global Environmental Benefits

Ideological opponents of innovations in agriculture are mounting a major campaign to denigrate and discredit crops improved through biotechnology. They face a tough challenge, as the economic and environmental benefits of such crops have, due to their undeniable virtues, been adopted by farmers around the world more rapidly than any other innovation in the history of agriculture. Opponents are often aided in their struggles by journalists who recycle their press releases rather than digging for the truth. We take a closer look at a recent example.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: U.S. GMO Crops Show Mix of Benefits, Concerns – USDA Report, Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/24/usda-gmo-report-idUSL1N0LT16M20140224

THE USDA REPORT: http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/err-economic-research-report/err162.aspx#.Uwz0fPldWSo

PRIMARY CLAIM IN THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE:

  • “U.S. farmers are continuing to see an array of benefits, but the impacts on the environmental and on food production are mixed, and high farmer use of a popular herbicide on GMO crops is a cause for ongoing concern.”

SALIENT FACTS & CONTEXT:  

  • The reporter that wrote this piece, Cary Gilliam, has acquired a well-deserved reputation for finding the most negative way to convey even the most positive information about crops improved through biotechnology. This latest offering continues
  • Read the rest

world

Points to Consider: The Worldwide Scientific Consensus on GMO Safety

Ideological opponents to crops improved through biotechnology work very hard to convince people of their alleged dangers. They are hampered in these efforts by the existence of a robust, worldwide consensus on the safety of these crops and the foods derived from them. They claim, therefore, that this consensus does not exist, and hold up a variety of alleged authorities who deny the consensus to argue that it doesn’t exist. We take a closer look.

ORIGINAL PAPER: European Network of Scientists for Social & Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER) Statement: No scientific consensus on GMO safety  

PRIMARY CLAIMS OF THE ORIGINAL PAPER:

  • There is no consensus among scientists on the safety of crops and foods improved through biotechnology.
  • The scientific studies claimed to show the safety of GMOs have been bought and paid for by industry.

SALIENT FACTS & CONTEXT:  

  • What does “consensus” mean? Per Miriam Webster Dictionary “the judgment arrived at by most of those concerned.”
  • There most definitely is a global scientific consensus on the safety of crops and foods derived through biotechnology on the market today. It is wide, deep, and extraordinarily strong.

Farm

Points to Consider: Biotech Improved Herbicide Tolerant Crops Have Improved Yields and Sustainability

Professional opponents of agricultural innovations have failed utterly to make their case that seeds improved through biotechnology impose novel risks.  Massive data and vast experience have refuted such claims in the eyes of all but the most fervent true believers.  Opponents have therefore lately tried to construct dubious linkages with time honored scapegoats of pesticides and herbicides.  A popular target is the world’s most widely used herbicide, glyphosate, which has ushered in a new area of improved sustainability for conventional farmers. We take a closer look at one of the recent misfires against glyphosate from a cadre of hard core biotech opponents.

ORIGINAL PAPER:   Bøhna, T.,  M. Cuhraa, T. Traavika, M. Sandenc, J. Fagan, & R. Primiceriob.  Compositional differences in soybeans on the market: Glyphosate accumulates in Roundup Ready GM soybeans. Food Chemistry Volume 153, 15 June 2014, Pages 207– 215. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814613019201

PRIMARY CLAIMS OF THE ORIGINAL PAPER:

  • RoundupReady soybeans contain elevated residues of glyphosate and its breakdown product AMPA (aminomethylphosphonic acid).
  • Organic soybeans have a healthier nutritional profile than other soybeans.

SALIENT FACTS & CONTEXT:  

  • The experimental design, sampling and analytical methods, and literature citations described in this paper
  • Read the rest

Cowboy pondering

About Censorship

For those of us who are curious, or maybe just in need of an occasional diversion from reality, the Internet is a rich and wondrous toy. With a click or two we can open a window to unexpected marvels or places we’d love to visit  but will likely never get to. But the path to unexpected marvels can just as quickly shunt you off into bad neighborhoods and dark places that no one needs to visit. Herewith a tale…

We all love somebody who beats the odds, a self-made success who overcomes a challenge and builds something significant; even better if there’s a “cowboy” angle of bucking current trends or speaking truth to power. On its surface, then, Mike Adams would seem to have a lot going for him.

Calling himself the “Health Ranger” and hosting a widely viewed website Adams offers up a steady stream of health related claims and comments through which he has become one of the Internet’s leading promoters of bogus health schemes, medical conspiracy theories and quack medicine. He often starts from a springboard of fact, but regularly careens off in some conspiratorial … Read the rest

Kidney

Points to Consider: Unsubstantiated Claims that Glyphosate is Linked to Kidney Disease

A number of recent reports have attempted to link pesticides improved through biotechnology with negative health impacts. Unfortunately, most of these efforts have been proven to be ideological attacks on technology rather than considered, scientific reviews designed to enhance knowledge. We take a closer look at a recent paper claiming to show a correlation between the widely used herbicide glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) and kidney disease.

ORIGINAL PAPER: Glyphosate, Hard Water and Nephrotoxic Metals: Are They the Culprits Behind the Epidemic of Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Etiology in Sri Lanka? By Channa Jayasumana, Sarath Gunatilake, and Priyantha Senanayake. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2014, 11(2), 2125-2147; doi:10.3390/ijerph110202125

PRIMARY CLAIMS:

  • Some journalists  and opposition groups  have suggested the paper shows chronic kidney disease is caused by exposure to glyphosate.
  •  The paper makes no such claims, but only advances a “hypothesis” unsupported by any data, for which there is no plausible causal mechanism, and which is inconsistent with published, peer-reviewed science on the safety of glyphosate, and the findings of regulatory authorities around the world.

SALIENT FACTS & CONTEXT:  

crops2

Consumers Union Makes False Claims Against the Safety of Genetically Modified Foods Based On Ideology Not Science

The ideologically driven, anti-technology campaign to restrict access to safe, sustainable and affordable foods improved through biotechnology got a boost when Vermont Governor Pete Shumlin signed into law a new measure that mandates the labeling of foods modified through genetic engineering sold in Vermont.

This campaign in support of the law is based on financial self interest and fear, not on reasoned policy designed to inform and protect consumers. Since other states are considering similar laws based on the same faulty reasoning, a detailed consideration of the argument is timely. To test the misleading statements and mischaracterizations of the labling campaigners I present testimony below from Michael Hansen, Ph.D., Senior Scientist with the Consumers Union. This testimony was presented as part of the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection’s Public Hearing on the Use of Biotechnology in Foods and the Effects on Consumers at Lehman College, on Tuesday, July 30, 2013. I include Hansen’s statements on GMOs and provide a factual analysis with documentation correcting his false and inaccurate claims.

The italicized portions below are statements by Assembly Members or by Michael Hansen. Some of Read the rest

Pesticides

Points to Consider: Claims About Pesticide Toxicity are Based on Discredited Methods

Having failed to convince the public that biotech improved seeds present novel or unexamined risks, professional opponents are now working overtime to tar GMOs with the same brush they’ve used successfully to denigrate the use of synthetic chemistry in agriculture.  Papers that look scientific to the casual observer are frequently cited in these attempts. We take a closer look at one particularly good example of a bad example.

Original PaperRobin MesnageNicolas DefargeJoël Spiroux de VendômoisGilles-Eric Séralini.  2013.  Major Pesticides Are More Toxic to Human Cells Than Their Declared Active Principles. BioMed Research International (Impact Factor: 2.88). 12/2013; 2014(Article ID 179691).  DOI:10.1155/2014/179691

Published Analysis:

ScienceInsider:  “Pesticide Study Sparks Backlash

ravingscientist: “Séralini Has Done it Again!

In the Pipeline: “Pesticide Toxicity?

European Crop Protection Association (ECPA) Statement: “Séralini Study Fails to Meet Basic Scientific Standards

Primary Claims of the Original Paper:

  • Pesticide formulations as sold and used are up to 1000 times more toxic than the isolated substance that is tested and evaluated for safety

GMO Labels

Points to Consider: Flawed and False Arguments for Mandatory GM Food Labels

Opponents of agricultural innovation are in the second year of a massive campaign aimed at stampeding state legislatures into imposing mandatory labels on foods derived from crops improved through biotechnology. They cite a litany of justifications, none of which survives critical scrutiny. We take a closer look.

Original Article: Shubert, David, Why we Need GMO Labels, CNN, February 3, 2014

Primary Claims of the Article:

  • The lack of labeling requirements for GM foods is because of money spent in opposition by seed companies.
  • There is no consensus that these foods are safe.
  • Labeling is required to ensure safety and enable consumer choice.
  • Genetic engineering has not created any new varieties with “with increased yields and resistant to flooding and salt” as promised “When GMOs were introduced nearly 20 years ago.”

Salient Facts: Virtually every claim made is abundantly contradicted by data, experience, and the published scientific literature.

Rebuttal:

  • The lack of State labeling requirements for GM foods is because of money spent in opposition by seed companies.
    • Significant amounts of money have been spent by organic interests in support of labeling that would help expand their market share.
  • Read the rest