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life science

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
  • Roundup the most toxic of herbicides
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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.
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Points to Consider: Organic and Conventional Milk are Nutritionally Indistinguishable

Points to Consider: Organic and Conventional Milk are Nutritionally Indistinguishable

Organic advocates often claim foods produced through organic methods are superior in one way or another to other foods. Time and again research has failed to corroborate these claims Yet the convictions of organic advocates remain undented, reinforced by uncritical reporting and/or misleading papers. A classic in this genre is a recent publication wrongly claiming the nutritional superiority of organic milk. We take a closer look.

Original Paper:  Charles M. Benbrook, Gillian Butler,  Maged A. Latif,  Carlo Leifert,  Donald R. Davis.  2013 (December 9). Organic Production Enhances Milk Nutritional Quality by Shifting Fatty Acid Composition: A United States–Wide, 18-Month Study.   PLoS ONE 8(12): e82429. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0082429

Published Analysis: Tamar Haspel, A Paper Touting the Benefits of Organic Milk for Heart Health May be Overselling the Drink, Washington Post, January 27, 2014

Primary Claims of the Original Paper: Organic milk is nutritionally superior because of higher levels of ω-3 fatty acids.

Salient Facts: The study reaffirms something long known: that cows fed diets rich in pasture and forage have higher levels of ω-3 fatty acids than those fed

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Medical Innovaiton

Investment in Medical Innovation Produces Immense Value for Patients, Economies

Earlier today, I participated in a panel discussion entitled “The Value of Medical Innovation to Patients, Economies and Societies”, which was a part of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturing Association’s Annual Meeting. The discussion centered on one common theme – prioritizing medical innovation has far-reaching benefits for society.

In the U.S., public health problems take a toll not only on individual patients but also on society as a collective whole. The Milken Institute recently concluded that the most common chronic diseases cost the economy an estimated $1 trillion each year and that figure could rise to $6 trillion by 2050. More specifically, a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health and the World Economic Forum found that cancer costs the economy about $250 billion in 2010 and anticipated that expense to rise to at least $458 billion by 2030. Promoting and investing in medical innovation could significantly reduce these economic costs and improve public health outcomes.

In addition, the U.S. economy benefits tremendously from expanded medical innovations and the industries it promotes. The field, which accounts for $69 billion of U.S. economic activity, produces highly-skilled jobs that pay,

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Crops

Reuters (Predictably) Gets It Wrong. Again.

One of the reasons the “controversy” over crops improved through biotechnology persists, is because it is manufactured and sustained by a well-organized, ongoing campaign, funded and sustained by vested interests. This astroturf campaign is fueled by credulous and disengaged journalists who recycle their press releases, and allow those biases to bleed over into other coverage.

We’ve written before about one repeat offender, Carey Gillam, of Reuters. She’s back with more of the same, in a story that ran on April 9 covering legislation introduced in Congress that would (redundantly)  preempt state legislation to mandate labels that would mislead consumers and abet fraudulent marketing campaigns. Gillam writes “But some scientific studies warn of potential human and animal health problems, and GMO crops have been tied to environmental problems, including rising weed resistance. Millions of acres of U.S. farmland have developed weed resistance due to heavy use of crops that have been genetically altered to withstand dousings of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide.”

Hold the weed/herbicide resistance issue for a moment, and let’s look at the “scientific studies that warn of potential human and animal health problems…” This claim is false,

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scientists in research lab

U.S. is Falling Further Behind in Research and Development Funding

Yet another study has highlighted the United States’ expanding investment deficit and our growing innovation disadvantage compared with our global competitors. Battelle’s 2013 Global R&D Funding Forecast indicates that, even before accounting for the looming sequester, total U.S. R&D investment in 2013 is expected to decline in real dollars, with growth of only 1.2 percent compared with an inflation rate of 1.3 percent. This continues a long period of U.S. underinvestment in R&D, which has been particularly acute in stagnating federal research investment. According to the National Science Foundation, federal R&D investment grew at just 1.3 percent annually from 1989 to 2009, while gross domestic product rose an average of 2.4 percent over that time. In fact, to restore federal support for research as a share of GDP to 1987 levels, Congress would have to increase federal research funding by almost $110 billion—per year.

Meanwhile, the world’s greatest growth in R&D investment in 2013 will come from China, which is expected to increase its R&D investment by $22.9 billion in 2013.Through its Innovation 2020 strategy, China plans to invest $1.5 trillion over the next seven years on seven “strategic emerging

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