GM Corn Leads to Organ Failure!? Not So Fast

By Andrew Moseman | January 13, 2010 7:11 pm

CornFew things bring out the hyperbole like genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and that was true again with a study making the rounds yesterday and today.

In the International Journal of Biological Studies, a team examined three genetically modified corn varieties created by Monsanto. The study’s authors say they see evidence of possible toxicity to the kidney and liver, “possibly due to the new pesticides specific to each GM corn.” However, the findings became over-hyped headlines like the Huffington Post’s “Monsanto GMO Corn Linked to Organ Failure, Study Reveals.”

That’s a pretty big leap from the not entirely convincing finding of a potentially questionable study. What actually happened is that the research team, led by Gilles-Eric Séralini, re-analyzed data from tests that Monsanto scientists themselves conducted on rats eating these three varieties of corn—data that, to be fair, the team had to scratch and claw and sue to get their hands on. In their statistical analysis, Séralini’s team says that Monsanto interpreted its own data incorrectly, and that its new analysis shows potential for toxicity.

But the scientists themselves give significant caveats that make such bold headlines a bit of a reach: “Clearly, the statistically significant effects observed here for all three GM maize varieties investigated are signs of toxicity rather than proofs of toxicity”—that is, the evidence isn’t rock solid, and not enough to warrant a bunch of alarmist headlines. The researchers argue that more research is necessary to settle the question either way: “In conclusion, our data presented here strongly recommend that additional long-term (up to 2 years) animal feeding studies be performed in at least three species, preferably also multi-generational, to provide true scientifically valid data on the acute and chronic toxic effects of GM crops, feed and foods.”

In addition, there are a couple issues that make the study itself seem a little fishy:

1. Funding. “Greenpeace contributed to the start of the investigations by funding first statistical analyses in 2006, the results were then processed further and evaluated independently by the authors,” the scientists write. Certainly one can’t oppose a huge corporation like Monsanto without funding, but drawing those funds from a political lightning rod like Greenpeace can paint conclusions in a bad light, University of California, Davis, plant genomics expert Pamela Ronald tells DISCOVER. “That does not mean that it is incorrect,” she says, “but makes me a little skeptical.”

2. The journal: The International Journal of Biological Sciences is somewhat obscure, with an “unofficial”–that is, self-assigned–impact factor of 3.24. “In other words, it has not been assessed for impact or quality,” Ronald says. Again, that doesn’t mean Séralini’s team is wrong, but it suggests that jumping to conclusions would be unwise.

The actual data analysis of the paper has started an in-depth back-and-forth on the the statistical analysis. We’ll continue following this story to see how the analysis shakes out.

Related Content:
80beats: New Biotech Corn Gives Triple Vitamin Boost; Professors Unmoved
80beats: Germany Joins the European Mutiny of Genetically Modified Crops
DISCOVER: Genetically Altered Corn tells how a corn not intended for humans got into the food supply

Image: flickr / Peter Blanchard

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Living World
  • John

    While the study may fall short of necessitating alarmist headlines, I find it fully news-worthy. The fact of the matter is that these aren’t “test crops” we’re speaking of. These are crops now in the human food supply with seeds free to roam the open air. While some in the science community snicker at what they see as technophobia, I think the general public has the right to err on the side of caution when considering personal health and what we put in our bodies. This is the exact same argument, erring on the side of caution, we use in combating catastrophic climate change. I think it’s a good argument.

    Considering study funding objectively, I don’t see how the donations of a political organization, with an environmental agenda, should raise eyebrows more than the countless more studies funded by corporations, with a profit agenda. I hope the media stays on top of any follow up research, wherever it leads.

  • Sam

    Not only is funding very hard to get for safety studies on GM foods, which is why so much of what’s been done is industry funded (doubtless not a source of skepticism to the avidly pro-GM Pamela Ronald) but the industry maintains a stranglehold over research on GM crops – see the quotes here from Scientific American and others: http://bit.ly/5vLKFz

    Here’s what the science correspondent of the Financial Times, for instance, has to say, “Imagine pharmaceutical companies trying to prevent medical researchers comparing patented drugs or investigating their side-effects – it is unthinkable. Yet scientists cannot independently examine raw materials in the food supply or investigate plants that cover a lot of rural America’.”

  • xdurant

    Just because a substance is toxic to rats does not mean it is bad for humans. I’m thinking of the rat poison warfarin. My mother and sister take Coumadin which is warfarin.

    Doctors have prescribed it for both because of heart problems. They have to have their Pro Time tests monthly to monitor the level of the toxin in their systems, but it has saved their lives by thinning their blood.

    The anti GMO argument has many other flaws, but that is the main one that jumps out at me.

  • http://www.chefoso.com Oso

    Hey Andrew,
    We’re having a get together tonight, some friends and beverages. I’m gonna cook a feast , come on ever.
    About 7- bring a friend or your family, there’s gonna be a lot. Oh some of it may be poison, I’m not sure though but come over anyway. It would nice to see you there!
    Chef Oso

    Maybe “not so fast” just doesn’t work in this case, how about not at all. How could you as a fellow human being possibly ever put food out that had potentially dire consequences? Oh that’s right I forgot a part of the invite, the get together buffet is $25- I put a lot of time and effort into so I need to recup that cost at any price.
    See you there!

  • Maria

    I’m involved at a low level with some research on Bt maize. The issue is complicated and requires a more nuanced approach than we get from either the Greens (e.g., Greenpeace) or biotech/agribusiness (e.g. Monsanto). The issues around biotech and agriculture are far more complex than either side will allow, and the rhetorical moves each side makes cloud the issue. I challenge anyone to investigate the economic effects of the European cornborer or the corn rootworm, and come back and say that GM crops are totally evil. I challenge anyone to really listen to the maneuvers of Monsanto and that crowd and come back and say GM crops are totally good.

    The biggest risk associated with GM crops is the evolution of insect resistance. These bugs adapt to everything we throw at them.

  • Georg

    One can add a third clue:
    3. ” Result”:

    “” …that more research is necessary to settle the question either way: “In conclusion, our data presented here strongly recommend that additional long-term (up to 2 years)…”

    Grin, this is more or less tje same wording as in the “results” on cancerogenity of cell phones.
    More resarch means another 2 years of funding for that obscure “professor”.
    Georg

  • tito

    The larger story lies in the following two sentences:

    “data that, to be fair, the team had to scratch and claw and sue to get their hands on”
    “Séralini’s team says that Monsanto interpreted its own data incorrectly”

    Let’s think about this.
    Monsanto solely funds and runs its own studies to see if its own products are safe to sell to people.
    Researchers who work on the studies must sign a Non Disclosure Agreement.
    Monsanto refuses to allow the public to see the data that these studies were based upon.
    In effect, they are put in charge of regulating their own products.
    And they lobby the government to disallow the labeling of GM foods in the US (unlike Europe).

    Can you see a potential conflict of interest here?
    Is it really that surprising that Monsanto interpreted its data to not show a potential toxicity in products from which it has heavily invested in and stands to gain quite a lot of profit from?

    Instead, you focus on the (partial) funding of the study and the obscurity of the journal:

    “Greenpeace contributed to the start of the investigations by funding first statistical analyses in 2006″

    I assume this to mean that Greenpeace were the partial (ie, not sole) funders of the study?
    The real question should be: did the funding influence the methodologies used?

    Following questions would be:

    Why aren’t major universities and government regulatory departments funding this work or the demands to disclose the data?

    If major universities were to study this data, would you or more ‘established’ scientific journals disclose the funding and relationships that researchers and their departments have with Monsanto?

    And of course, regardless of whether the headlines fomenting from this study constitute ‘hyperbole’, citizens should have the chance to decide for themselves whether they want to
    continue to consume GM corn or not. Unfortunately, they can’t because products containing GM foods are not labeled. Finally, there are issues regarding the cross-pollenation of GM crops into ‘normal’ crops and the potential toxicity that could result.

  • nosmokes

    Precautionary principle. What part of that is so GD difficult to understand? Transpecies GMOs is a Genie that cannot be put back in the bottle, and is already contaminating the fields and causing economic damage to farmers dedicated to preserving heritage lines and breeds and bio-diversity, which is much healthier for the planet in the long term than any damn thing we can whip up in a lab.

  • Pdiff

    The Gilles-Eric Séralini paper is inconsistent with itself. They start off criticizing the Monsanto study as being poor in design and power, e.g. ” … a sample size of 10 … is largely insufficient to ensure an acceptable degree of power to the statistical analysis performed and presented by Monsanto.” I would agree with the comments on the poor power of the study, but then they turn around and conveniently ignore those same problems in their own analyses. In fact, it would seem to be worse in their case because they push the data even harder by employing larger statistical models. Curious how they go through detailed statistical power computations on the Monsanto analysis, yet fail to even mention the same for their own. Even more curious how a “Journal” would let this slip through, since it was a major bone of contention that Gilles-Eric Séralini had with the Monsanto study.

    Tito: “Let’s think about this.
    Monsanto solely funds and runs its own studies to see if its own products are safe to sell to people.”

    Uhhh, no, they funded the study (and followed the protocols) as dictated by the federal government. They did not do it to “see if its own products are safe to sell to people”. They did it be able to legally sell their product. And, I might add, that is unlike any other type of new crop release, including those created via random radiation mutations.

    “Why aren’t major universities and government regulatory departments funding this work or the demands to disclose the data?”

    Probably because they are flat ass broke and can barely make ends meet.

    “If major universities were to study this data, would you or more ‘established’ scientific journals disclose the funding and relationships that researchers and their departments have with Monsanto?”

    If they were public universities, it would be public information, and yes, it is common to reference funding sources in published papers, presentations and media releases.

    “Finally, there are issues regarding the cross-pollenation of GM crops into ‘normal’ crops and the potential toxicity that could result.”

    Really? Please provide citations. And please, also tell us what the hell a “Normal” crop is !!! Every crop is potentially toxic to some or all of us. Normal, my ass!

    The anti-GMO arguments are getting pretty stale, like the anti-vax and creationist ones before them. Precautionary principle? Please! Go read the “God Father of Green (TM)”, Stewart Brand’s latest “The Whole Earth Discipline” to see why you’ve been barking up the wrong tree…. It’s time the environmental movement caught up with the 21st century instead of holing up with 19th century Luddites.

  • tito

    Pdiff,

    1.)
    I am not a luddite or necessarily opposed to GM crops and resent being labeled as such.
    I eat GM foods every day.
    I am a proponent of food and environmental safety and transparent science and policy.

    2.)
    I am quite aware that Monsanto is required by the federal government to test their products.
    In laymen’s terms they are required to do this to ““see if their own products are safe to sell to people”.
    The point being that asking an entity to regulate itself is somewhat pointless.
    See the recent Energy Star compliance problem or the results of not regulating over the counter financial derivatives.
    An independent third party should do the testing.

    3.)
    Universities and the US goverment have not been “flat ass broke” for the past two decades.
    European countries (France, UK), Japanese & Australian universities have conducted a number of
    very interesting studies and adapted subsequent policies regarding the safety of GM crops.
    Why did the French government ban Mon 810? It just must be because they’re French, eh?

    4.)
    I said “major university”, not “public”. But the point was that I liked
    how this article pointed out that Greenpeace was involved in
    the funding of the testing. I think it should be a standard that scientific papers and studies
    should disclose any affiliations that the institutions or researchers may have that could
    pose potential conflict of interest issues.
    I love the skepticism; apply it to all parties please.

    Its great that this article questioned the study, but shouldn’t Monsanto’s own studies be questioned?
    Why would do they consistently fight “tooth and nail”, spending millions in legal fees to avoid releasing the data?
    Trade secrets?
    .
    5.)
    By ‘normal’ crop, I mean a non-GM crop. The USFDA has established guidelines for
    this classification. Look it up.

    6.)
    As for your links:

    Crops ‘widely contaminated’ by genetically modified DNA
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn4709-crops-widely-contaminated-by-genetically-modified-dna.html

    Tacos were contaminated with StarLink GM Corn only approved for animal use (because of an insecticide protein it contains)
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg16822590.800-taco-trouble.html

    Toxic pollen from genetically modified corn kills monarch butterflies, researchers find in lab tests
    http://www.news.cornell.edu/chronicle/99/5.20.99/toxic_pollen.html

    GM Beets threaten native pollinators: Boulder County Commissioners
    http://checkbiotech.org/node/26555

  • gdward

    Finally, someone who knows something about what he/she writes. Read pdiff’s comments again. A couple other points. The events under question are for yellow dent hybrid corn and are not used as seed for the next crop. Since 80% of the yellow dent hybrid corn is GMO, not used for seed, and planted in the same field or commingled during harvest cross-pollination is not an issue in these events. (corn raised and sold as non-GMO are raised with specified standoff distance requirements to prevent cross-pollination.) Second very very little yellow dent hybrids are used as food and sweet corn and white corn are not GMO.
    The vast majority of yellow dent corn is used as livestock feed and production of ethanol. Many test have been completed that show the protein containing the GMO events breaks down during digestion and is not expressed in the milk or meat you consume. I guess there is always the chance you might ingest some GMO material if you drink too much Jack Daniels, oh I forgot there is no protein in whiskey.
    Have a good day and worry about some other non-issue as man induced climate change.
    BTW 2009 produced record amount of corn partially because of biotech breeding and partly because of higher CO2 concentrations in the air.

  • LorenE

    Hey Chef Oso,
    You state, “How could you as a fellow human being possibly ever put food out that had potentially dire consequences?” You mean like organic food grown with manure? Composted or not, manure that contains E. coli H0157 has already caused dire consequences (kidney failure), forget the “potentially”. Organically or “naturally” grown peanuts and grains have been shown to have higher levels of fungal toxins such as Aflatoxin (carcinogen, causes liver failure) and Fumonisin (linked to birth defects in mammals, including humans). Remember that the next time you pat yourself on the back for shopping at Whole Foods or Trader Joes.

    Ciao and Happy Friday,

    Loren

  • Merlin

    Articles denouncing the danger of GMO’s have no place in real science publications it’s junk science. There is more than enough evidence of real danger.

  • sally

    Corn is used in 1000′s of products. See the information at http://www.corn.org. With http://www.corn.org/Tapping.pdf

    High fructose corn syrup is in everything from soda and fruit juices to soups, sauces, you name it. Read your labels. And unless you know it is organic or non-gmo, assume that it is gmo. See the following data from USDA Economic Research Service for numbers on percent of gm corn state by state. Overall 85%. http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/BiotechCrops/ExtentofAdoptionTable1.htm
    Don’t kid yourself that it is not in your food.

  • Auntiegrav

    Maria said, “The biggest risk associated with GM crops is the evolution of insect resistance. These bugs adapt to everything we throw at them.”

    So stop throwing things at them. Start making GM plants that encourage beneficial insects instead of trying to kill the ‘baddies’. Insects won’t develop resistance to good things.

    Pretty simple, actually.

    How did we ever survive without Monsanto? Better still, How will we survive WITH Monsanto?

  • DrHenry

    Why have Germany, France, Austria, Hungary, Luxembourg and Greece have banned the GM corn (Mon 810) in the study?

    Obviously, six European countries are not comfortable with allowing GM corn to be grown within their boundaries. Are the research, science, and policy of each entirely without merit or consideration?

    Why did the Austrian Ministry of Health find the same GM corn (Mon 810) to cause infertility in mice?
    http://www.foodnavigator.com/Science-Nutrition/Austrian-ministry-links-GM-corn-to-infertility

    Why did the Italian National Institute for Food and Nutrition find that the same GM corn (Mon 810) disturbed the immune system of mice?
    http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf802059w

    When a Hungarian researcher released his findings that the same GM corn killed two endangered species in the area and one rare insect, why did Monsanto refuse to supply him with more corn to test?

  • Pdiff

    Tito:
    Sorry. I submitted a long reply last Friday, but it appears to have disappeared without a trace. Hopefully it will eventually show up here…

    DrHenry:

    As I had replied in my lost submission to Tito, the French decision was easily shown to be political, not science based. The majority of scientists on the committee assigned to assess 810, objected to the decision of the chairman (a well know environmentalist supporter) saying that the conclusion was not objective. The chairman got his way. Similarly, other European committees have followed the same pattern. Search on “Did Monsanto’s GM maize lower the fertility of mice?” for more information. (Sorry, I’m avoiding links here as I think that killed my last submission). I suspect that, due to the influence of the Green party in Europe, the response to a politician supporting GE in Europe is similar to a politician admitting atheism in America. See the recent flap in England if you doubt that.

  • tito

    All decisions of a policy nature, by definition, involve politics.
    I think advocating a precautionary approach is perhaps both a smart political and scientific choice (See the health/regulatory issues regarding BPA). It is not ‘easy’ for me ascertain that the French decision (or that of other European countries) was solely political.

    Seralini advocates testing these products through the full lifecycle of a mouse
    (2 years) instead of the 90 day cycle that Monsanto has been required to do. This would
    allow them to assess how ingesting this food would effect a mammal’s early development, adolescence, adult life, and reproductive health. Let us not pretend that we are giving this food to humans of a particular age range for only 90 days.

    Without this ‘full lifecycle’ vetting (by an independent party), Americans should be given to opportunity to choose to eat GMO food or not. Since they are not told what food is GMO, their only choice is to buy 100% certified organic. Unfortunately, the high cost of such food, since it includes both non-GMO and non-pesticide food, as well as strenuous certification standards (due, in some part, to the prevalence of some GM crops in the US food chain), makes this choice prohibitive or impossible for many American families.

    In terms of the influence of politics that Pdiff mentioned, please remember that the US is not immune from this practice. A ‘revolving door’ of Monsanto executives and counsel into the US government (particularly regulatory agencies) has been occurring in every US administration since the first Bush admin. Linda Fisher and Michael Taylor are two examples of this trend.

    I would like to salute Discover for opening the discussion into this issue. Important points have been raised about the science in both articles. In the interests of balance and further elucidation, I would be very interested to see Discover request comment from and post Dr. Seralini’s responses to both articles and the comments contained within.

  • Pdiff

    Tito: “I think advocating a precautionary approach is perhaps both a smart political and scientific choice (See the health/regulatory issues regarding BPA).”

    Yes, let’s look at the media hype over BPA, made before any direct links have been identified. The “latest” tells us that there’s a correlation with heart disease, diabetes, and thyroid problems. Sounds serious and warrants more investigation, but it is not causative. Could it just be that the containers associated with BPA are also commonly associated with high fat/carb, processed food stuffs that are known to have direct links to these health problems?

    You can’t just go around banning everything because you suspect a problem. You have to show an existing problem and exactly how it works. That’s the scientific part. Science can’t prove a negative. At what point are you going to be satisfied that GE is safe? Before you answer, consider that every food item consumed by humans is toxic at some level of exposure, so all would fail a zero tolerance policy. The precautionary principle has merit, but as practiced by, say the EU, it is paralyzing.

    “It is not ‘easy’ for me ascertain that the French decision (or that of other European countries) was solely political.”

    Your call, but when I read that more than 40% of the committee (mostly the scientists) disagreed with the conclusions as written by the chairman because they were “not objective”, the red flags went up.

    “Seralini advocates testing these products through the full lifecycle of a mouse
    (2 years) instead of the 90 day cycle that Monsanto has been required to do. This would
    allow them to assess how ingesting this food would effect a mammal’s early development, adolescence, adult life, and reproductive health. Let us not pretend that we are giving this food to humans of a particular age range for only 90 days.”

    Fine. And since we’re not giving any food to humans for just 90 days, let’s test all that too. After all, many of those (developed by good ol’ traditional methods) are known, not just suspected, to harm and even kill humans. Where do you draw the line? Who gets to decide that?

    And if we do your testing and some small percentage of these mice (highly genetically modified themselves) show adverse effects, what then? Is there an acceptable limit (as with drugs)?

    “Without this ‘full lifecycle’ vetting (by an independent party), Americans should be given to opportunity to choose to eat GMO food or not. Since they are not told what food is GMO, their only choice is to buy 100% certified organic.”

    Why? By labeling you are implying that GMO is dangerous, when that hasn’t been established at all. Your assertion is that “100% organic” is somehow safer, when that hasn’t been established either. Organic produce could easily contain ecoli, for example, or cause an allergic reaction. There is no evidence it is better than any specific GMO. If fact, the GMO might be bred to detect ecoli or be non allergenic. Why aren’t these “organics” tested for toxic effects? Clearly, they could cause problems. Why does the precautionary principle not apply here?

    “In terms of the influence of politics that Pdiff mentioned, please remember that the US is not immune from this practice. ”

    I never said it was. I was simply pointing out that the “references” you and others put out here are hardly unbiased either. If there are regulatory issues regarding bias or the intensity of testing to deal with, then so be it. They can be changed. But that says zero about the technology itself and does not warrant discarding it dogmatically like the EU has.

    “I would like to salute Discover for opening the discussion into this issue. Important points have been raised about the science in both articles. In the interests of balance and further elucidation, I would be very interested to see Discover request comment from and post Dr. Seralini’s responses to both articles and the comments contained within.”

    I’ll second Tito’s comments here and would like to see comments from all involved parties, including the regulatory end. It has been enjoyable discussing this with you Tito.

    Pdiff

  • Sam Davis

    Precautionary approaches without science to back them are logical black-holes.

    The burden of disproof is an impossible one. Disprove to me that the Flying Spaghetti Monster did not create all the universe…

  • http://bullhornjournal.com Chris Dudley

    You’re all missing the most significant issue. You’ve built patented products that reproduce themselves. They will inevitably spread. I’m sorry I don’t buy the pollen doesn’t spread argument. Anyone with a semblance of sense about the long-term ramifications of building organisms that replicate themselves would enjoy the research in a controlled lab. But instead you stuck it in the environment you @#$@!!ers.

    You’re denying the expanse of time, even a few meters from a few poorly managed fields of spread annually, will… well you can pretend like it’s not going to spread while you evaluate how life marched across the barren plain.

    You’ve created a product that regenerates itself and is patented. Thanks you smarty-pants science types, thanks a lot. Yes. I am pissed. I’d like to avoid your products just on principal, but, alas, I cannot. Thanks for that. Real gentlemanly of you.

  • Jonathan

    “You’ve built patented products that reproduce themselves. They will inevitably spread”

    No different to every other plant on earth. Why would a GM plant spread, outcross with wild native plants and take over the countryside any more than an organic banana plant would? (Most conventional and organic crops have been randomly geneticaly modified by toxic chemicals/radiation in the past by the way but you can ignore that……as you always do)

    Anti-GMO people should just admit they either have issues with capitalism and big corporations or religious issues with humans altering God’s work. Your scientific arguments never make any sense so stop using them/making them up.

    Best wishes.

    Jonathan

  • http://none Swan

    Reply to Jonathan’s post.

    “Why would a GM plant spread, outcross with wild native plants and take over the country side any more than an organic banana plant would?”

    GM plants are built, designed to resist certain conditions that may be harsher for conventional plants, they also actually PRODUCE pesticide in many cases, thus, it follows when bugs come to attack crop as they usually do, the plant+(plant produced pesticide) crops will last and reproduce in higher numbers than plants without this plant produced pesticide… I guess you can think of them as the “stronger’ form of the species in evolution.. the one that will overtake, or dominate.

    I don’t disagree with you that maybe SOME Anti-GMO peple are motivated to be against GMO because of their views against big corporations, religious issues or capitalism.

    But, regardless of whatever their views are and their motivations, the truth is, GMOs are altering the natural gene pool, yes pesticides may have already helped a bit, but nowhere near as much as a seed massively reproduced with a certain DNA.. i.e. chemicals that have randomly modified plants have a MUCH MUCH slower taker over time because the seeds that contain this resistance and information are not massively reproduced in a factory, rather through a longer term natural process.. i.e. In terms of take-over power they don’t compete with GMOs because their seeds are not massively reproduced.

    This post is getting long, so I’m going to get to the point.
    Don’t you think that people should have the right to choose whether they eat something natural, or whether they eat a human-made product. Especially if the only tests that Monsanto has carried out are short-term, while our ancestors have eaten “natural” crops for thousands of years? Let’s see 90 day study versus thousands of years.. hmm doesn’t seem like a tough question for me.

    Also, if people do have a religious reason for not eating something, shouldn’t the US protect their choice of freedom? Maybe, anti-GMO people should sue Monsanto and Dupont based on that reason.. could they win that? I wish Monsanto would be held responsible for the spread of their seeds, that they would actually pay to take it out of farmer’s soils (those that were forced to pay Monsanto b/c the seed flew into their crop). Let them keep their patent, but let them also take the responsibilities that come with ownership. Let them pay to take it out. That’s my opinion.

  • Maria

    For anti-GM people:

    Nobody’s asking the farmers what they think. Of course, given the rising tide of “anti-cornism “and the fact that farmers often like the bt corn, they are part of the evil empire, aren’t they?

    Much of the social impact of GM crops in the 3rd world hasn’t been all that good. That’s another, related, issue. But unless we DRASTICALLY change the way we produce food in the US, unless we drastically change the US food policy, we have to consider bt corn, and we have to be willing to pay more for food, perhaps a lot more. How much do you want to pay for food? If you can afford to protest GM crops with your wallet, good for you. Many of us can’t. For instance, you can’t buy much with foodstamps or WIC, and you don’t have a choice of products when you get food from a foodshelf.

    In general, I am troubled by GM crops and even more troubled by the behavior of companies like Monsanto. But I’m also aware that the issues are not clear cut, they are not simple, and they elude easy answers.

  • Pete

    I’m a huge skeptic, I subscribe to skeptical inquirer, listen to skeptical podcasts and read blogs… I am really disturbed that the science community hasn’t looked more at GMOs through their skeptic lens, instead they seem to scrutinize only anti-gmo claims. This is not in the same camp as anti-vaccine freaks or 911 truthers, I beleive there is truly something fishy going on with GMOs and the studies done by the industry themselves and the corporate-government revolving door. A good movie to watch for free on youtube (its in like 8 parts) is The World According to Monsanto. Watch it! Research it, decide for yourself.

  • David Peppers

    GMOs are an unsurprising outgrowth of an industrial agriculture mindset, which in turn comes from a bigger is better philosophy. Industrial agriculture focuses on output per person (or yield per unit labor). Industrial agriculture has been really good at producing more per labor unit and they call this improved efficiency. Small farmers usually produce more yield and nutrition per acre than industrial agriculture is able to. Why? 1) A small owner/ operator tends to be more invested than a contract farmer or renter 2) It is easier to better know a place the smaller it is — superlative management is easier on a smaller more intimate scale. 3) In order to compete, a small farmer has to be more careful, more resourceful and clever. With mono-cropping it is difficult to out smart the pests for long , they have a quick turnaround —often many generations per season—- which the industrial agriculture is too slow to match. If you have millions invested in equipment to handle just a few crops, you cannot be diverse. How can you afford to be diverse? So, you buy the latest promises and hope they turn out better than the last.

    I remember talking to a lot of farmers about Roundup Ready soybeans and what a disaster they were. They had fewer weeds, but yields were often much lower. The really sad part is that a number of them were willing to “try” them again. I think there are a lot of desperate farmers who believe that if you don’t get bigger, you will fail. But once you are bigger, that’s a different sort of farming. A mega farmer has no hope of making his land produce like the land of a well-managed, small-scale, diversified farm. If we want better food and more of it we need more farmers on less land not the other way around. This would also require us to eat a better, more varied diet. One can take excellent care of only so much land, no more. We will need it tomorrow. Real stewardship won’t come from a test tube, it can really only come from the farmer. We should do our best to support our farmers in this.

  • Swan

    If any of you are part of the scientific community, then maybe you can try to make it more objective. Instead of just being disturbed by it.

  • Zaxter

    @ Xdurant: When arguing with anti-science cranks, it is very important that we (I am assuming you are with me in not being an anti-science crank; correct me if I am in error) not come off sounding like anti-science cranks. Dose makes the poison. This is the same concept that the idiot anti-vaxers seem unable or unwilling to comprehend. When taken in doses equivalent to what we poison rats with, warfarin has the same effect on humans: namely, bleeding from every orifice until you die. Hence, the whole monitoring the PT/INR regularly.

  • Charles Rader

    This thread started with a discussion of the paper by Séralini’s group. Let’s get back to that.

    I have some training in probability and statistics. I don’t want to overstate my qualifications. I’m not an expert, but I understand the basic principles. I absolutely could not understand the statistical reasoning in their paper. I was interested enough to go looking all over the web for any other statistical genius who used analogous techniques, and found none.

  • Michael Ke

    Why can’ t everyone learn biology / science / engineering? I see way too many stupid responses to these articles.

  • http://www.justforthelads.com?p=2688 John Steffan

    Residential solar panel installation.

  • http://filmy-2011.darmowe-gry-online.zgorzelec.pl bardzo smieszne kawaly

    After I originally commented I clicked the -Notify me when new feedback are added- checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get 4 emails with the same comment. Is there any means you’ll be able to take away me from that service? Thanks!

  • Stephanie Roth

    reply #3 – xdurant in reply – if you mother and sister took the same dose of coumadin the rats are given – they would be dead to. Not a very astute comparasion

  • Elias Char

    “xdurant Says:
    January 14th, 2010 at 4:36 am

    Just because a substance is toxic to rats does not mean it is bad for humans. I’m thinking of the rat poison warfarin. My mother and sister take Coumadin which is warfarin.

    Doctors have prescribed it for both because of heart problems. They have to have their Pro Time tests monthly to monitor the level of the toxin in their systems, but it has saved their lives by thinning their blood.

    The anti GMO argument has many other flaws, but that is the main one that jumps out at me.”

    The flaw you see is flawed, imo. We are talking about food, not meds. Coumadin, if used incorrectly can make a person bleed out just like a rat. I am sure if a rat had just a little Warfarin they’d have moderately thinned blood as well.

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