GM Corn & Organ Failure: Lots of Sensationalism, Few Facts

By Andrew Moseman | January 15, 2010 1:04 pm

cornUPDATE: On Tuesday, Gilles-Eric Séralini responded by email to the criticisms in this post. Mostly, he says, the answers can be found in the study itself. But where he has addressed these criticisms in particular, we have included that below in italics. Séralini stresses that while the data he had available was limited, his findings show that you can’t say these GM corn varieties are safe enough to put on the market and authorize for human consumption right now.

On Wednesday, we covered the overreaction by a few important online sources to an International Journal of Biological Sciences article claiming to find “signs of toxicity” in three varieties of genetically modified (GM) corn produced by Monsanto. We posted some caveats that made us uneasy about the study, such as the funding sources, the unknown quality of the journal, and the fact that the toxicity claims rely on reinterpreting statistical data that Gilles-Eric Séralini and his coauthors themselves note is not as robust as it needs to be.

Karl Haro von Mogel, a University of Wisconsin Ph.D. student who works with Pamela Ronald (the GM expert we quoted in our last post), responded with some other problems he has on this study. He has a blog post of his own (in which he gets hopping mad at coverage that attributed organ damage, organ failure, or even cancer to the rats in the study). But here are the major issues he points out to DISCOVER:

1. Cherry-picking. “They were picking out about 20–30 significant measurements out of about 500 for one of the sets of data they analyzed,” Haro von Mogel tells DISCOVER. “At the 95% significance level, you would expect that 5% of the observations would show a significant difference due to chance alone, which is what happened.” In other words, one would expect to get some alarming results in approximately 25 out of the 500 of the measurements, which is indeed what they found. “Picking apart what seems to be normal background variability seems to me to be data dredging.”

Séralini: We have not  chosen the significant measurements, we have listed all the parameters  disturbed, all indicated by stars (see Tables joines), there are 20 on 60 for  NK603, 15/60 for MON 810 and 23/60 for MON 863 (other paper published in  2007). This is a lot, concentrating mostly on liver and kidneys, the major  organ reacting in case of chemical intoxication by food.

One must understand that there are the only  blood mammalian analyses allowing the commercialization of these GMOs in the  world, these tests lasting only three months and kept secret for the crude  data before our study.

2. “False Discovery Rate.” The battle over these corn varieties has been cooking for years; Séralini and others published a paper in 2007 on the same issues, and after statistical criticisms like the ones just mentioned the authors came around with this new edition. One of the main shots scientists took at the previous paper, Haro von Mogel says, was that the team didn’t employ a “false discovery rate”—a stringent statistical method that controls for false positives. This time they did, but for at least two of the three varieties—MON 810 and MON 863—the researchers themselves note p-values that are not significant. (A p-value is a measure of the likelihood that any particular finding was due to chance alone rather than a real effect. By convention, science calls anything that has a greater than 5 percent chance of being a random effect “insignificant.”)

Séralini: Our conclusions are that it is  necessary to request from the industry to prolongate the tests before  commercialization (2 years for chronic tests, like usually for drugs or  pesticides tested on rats). Signs of chronic pathologies (cancers, hormonal  diseases, metabolic diseases…) could be the same when measured within three  months only. Don’t forget that there are positive FDR results, preoccupying  (see our discussion in the paper). If the spleen is increased by 18%  significantly, or the heart by 11% when eating GMO foods within 3 months, how  could it be scientifically and socially acceptable to authorize these GM for  all people to eat that during their entire life ?

3. “Insignificant” results. As you can see in the study’s chart, there a significant effect shown in “Lar uni cell” (large unnucleated cell count) for female rats fed the GM corn as 11 percent of their diet. But for female rats fed three times as much GM corn, it’s not there. “Are they highlighting random variation or finding genuine effects? These are the kinds of questions that scientists need to address before concluding that they have found ‘signs of toxicity,’”Haro von Mogel asks. (Séralini et al. have argued that more attention needs to be paid to nonlinear toxic effects, where greater doses would cause less harm.)

Séralini: The hypothesis that a side effect should be linear or  proportional to the dose (when Monsanto used only two doses) to be taken into  account is not scientific.

A difference in crude weight accompanied by a  difference in relative weight (vs body weight) should be noted, it constitutes  another information, in Monsanto’s file also. Both results are similarly  significant. For instance if you increase weight, your liver increase, but in  can increase more than the body, it is preoccupying still.

4. Lack of corroboration or explanation. The government organization Food Standards for Australia and New Zealand (which disputed Séralini’s 2007 paper [Microsoft Word file]), also disputes the recent study, in part because there is no other science corroborating the statistical data—data that was challenged in the previous points. Their response concludes by saying, “The authors do not offer any plausible scientific explanations for their hypothesis, nor do they consider the lack of concordance of the statistics with other investigative processes used in the studies such as pathology, histopathology and histochemistry…Reliance solely on statistics to determine treatment related effects in such studies is not indicative of a robust toxicological analysis. There is no corroborating evidence that would lead independently to the conclusion that there were effects of toxicological significance. FSANZ remains confident that the changes reported in these studies are neither sex- nor dose-related and are primarily due to chance alone.”

We emailed Séralini to ask if he would respond to these particular criticisms, and have not yet heard a response. But the study is currently available to read for free, and you can see a YouTube clip of him discussing this paper, his methods, and his criticisms of Monsanto.

In light of these concerns regarding the study, it would be an enormous stretch to say the study proves that these corn varieties cause organ damage in mammals. But none of this puts Monsanto’s GM corn totally in the clear, either. As commenters on our earlier post pointed out, Monsanto was simply following the rather laissez-faire rules for government approval, doing the 90-day trials themselves. But Séralini’s team calls for long-term studies, upwards of two years, to get reliable data.

With the dearth of available data, which Monsanto was loath to give up to the researchers in the first place, strong conclusions are tough to come by. As Per Pinstrup-Andersen, a Cornell food expert not associated with Haro von Mogel’s team, sums up this study: “It is very convoluted but the authors imply that the results are not scientifically valid by recommending a study “to provide true scientifically valid data,’” he tells DISCOVER.

But, as Séralini notes in his YouTube clip, that scientifically valid study would cost a fortune. And considering that these biotech crops have already been approved, Monsanto has little incentive to continue testing them.

Related Content:
80beats: GM Corn Leads to Organ Failure!? Not So Fast
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: Environment, Feature, Living World
  • http://www.biofortified.org Karl Haro von Mogel

    Uh oh, I didn’t realize that I came across as hopping mad! Just trying to give a brief summary so far, with the eye-catching headline terms other bloggers have used.

    Kudos for catching that two out of the three varieties had no significant effects after they applied the False Discovery Rate approach, rather than just the one that I noted in my email. I noticed the second one after I sent it.

    Besides the study itself, I’m very interested in watching the patterns of how the discussion spreads about this study. Good post!

  • http://www.twitter.com/NewRepublican JoshSN

    I’m confused how I guess that I read your comments at my community website, not realizing you were at work, doing your job, producing it. If you had been “User@DiscoverMagazine” I’d have understood _your_ funding sources and natural biases. I have nothing against Discover, but, as you point out here and pointed out in the comments, funding sources can be important.

  • John

    This heasdline could also be used for AGW!
    so, we should just trust that Monsanto would NEVER think of
    creating chemicals that would harm us, right?

  • Neal

    John, your logic-fu is weak.

    This article says nothing about what Monsanto would or would NEVER do. This article casts a critical eye on the data that was used in a particular study to come to a particular conclusion.

    Though the artical supports conclusions aligned with Monsanto’s interests, I see no bias int he artical other than a bias towards sound use of statistical methods.

  • Tundra

    Of course not, John. Care for some more Agent Orange?

  • bigjohn756

    I really don’t know diddly about this, so, I would like to know what is the mechanism by which genetically modified food can harm me. Do I incorporate genes from what I eat into my cells? Please explain or direct me to a simple explanation of hoe all of this works.

  • nathan

    Here’s the biased scoop from my own personal experience. I own an operational 65 cow dairy farm. I used monsanto GMO corn because it did exactly what it said. I could no til plant early in the season, spray with roundup and wait 120 days to harvest. The corn actually increased yield, energy, and profitability… and it worked excellently for 3 years. But then last fall my cows started dying from what looked to be milk fever and ketosis. After necropsy samples were tested at State College i found my herd had fatty liver disease. – which is funny because my cows were not fat. Further testing showed mycotoxins in the liver and kidney – which is funny because I own a closed herd. These mycotoxins did not come from the hay, the grain, or any other site we tested. They came from the corn silage. This mycotoxin did not come from a mold. It came from the corn itself.- which is funny because GMO corn is safe. Or so they tell me. I lost 24 cows last fall and nearly went out of business because of Monsanto’s product. Which isn’t very funny.

  • Eric

    Hey Karl,

    Up for this fellowship anytime soon?

    http://news.cals.wisc.edu/newsDisplay.asp?id=1786

    that’s a lot of money monsanto gave to your academic program.

    keep on bloggin’ scientist!

  • titter

    The Austrian Ministry of Health found that the same Monsanto GM corn (NK603 x MON810) led to infertility and reduced weight in mammals:

    http://www.foodnavigator.com/Science-Nutrition/Austrian-ministry-links-GM-corn-to-infertility

    France, Germany, Austria, Hungary & Greece have studied and banned the corn mentioned in the study. Monsanto sued Germany to try and stop their ban.

    A pattern has emerged where Monsanto refuses to release data about their studies, fights bans and labeling of their products & criticizes any critical study.

  • http://disinformation.org Bob

    You are quoting a STUDENT as your source?

    A Student who pisses all over a PhDs work?

    Seriously, your credibility is next to nil. Not helped at all by the fact that this is a corporate site. Out of interest, how many Monsanto stocks DCI holds in cross ownership holding deals?
    No, I didnt think you’d know that.

    Von Mogel sounds to me like one of those scientists that were assuring us for 20 years that Azbestos, Smoking and Cellular Telephony had absolutely no adverse effects.

    To wit, Corporatists serf (spit).

    The study about adverse effects of franken foods is not the lone voice. There are others.

  • Zensunni

    Bob – what is the problem with quoting a student? Are you suggesting a student knows next to nil about anything they are studying? If you even entertained that thought for an instant you would be a fool. Eric – just because Monsanto gave money to the university does not mean this particular PhD received any benefit from the funding or even had any access to it.

  • Eric

    @zensunni. yes, hence my question.

  • Jim

    These “Scientists” are most likely paid by Monsanto. Monsanto has many things up their sleeve to “prove” that their GMO’s and other poison are healthy for us.

  • Stephen Hodgdon

    I have no opinion about the safety of Monsanto GM corn for human ingestion. It may be completely benign. My problem is the production method: farmers essentially have to Agent Orange their fields every season with Round-Up, harvesting the Round-Up resistant corn from the dead field. Maybe I’m over-reacting, but this extreme, chemically invasive approach to soil management and harvesting seems quite radical.

  • Lachlan Phillips

    Why exactly do we need to genetically design NEW food?

    We’re not new organisms. There’s a food & health crisis on the planet right now (which isn’t surprising considering they are THE SAME THING)

    We’re a species that’s evolved consuming certain chemicals.
    We’re made of those very chemicals.

    We’re now at a position (increasingly, but for the past 70 years at least) where we can consume things that are NOT part of our body. Pesticides, Toxins, Preservatives, Chemicals coloured or flavoured in such a way to fool our tastebuds into thinking they’re food. Carcinogens, needlessly engineered food – designed to be “smarter” than the already perfectly balanced symbiotic relationship food has co-evolved to have with humans.

    In short, you (literally) are what you eat. Why is there a sudden need for us to be made up of toxins and genetic material untested over thousands of generations? (which is the scrutiny regular food has undergone to be part of our diets)

  • http://www.twitter.com/NewRepublican Joshua Simeon Narins

    Neal, your eyes are brown.

    I never talked about Monsanto, I talked about Discover magazine. Discover magazine had an employee, on company time, earning the company’s dime, posting in a community forum that I frequent. No disclosure was made about the funding source for the comments.

  • http://www.twitter.com/NewRepublican Joshua Simeon Narins

    Does Discover Magazine accept any money from any producers of GMO foods? If not, could that please be stated clearly, so people like me won’t be tempted to jump to conclusions?

    For example, when publishing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences when no conflict of interest exists the authors clearly state that no conflict of interest exists.

    Thanks in advance.

  • Steve Savage

    Nathan,
    I’m sorry that your cows died, but if it was because of mycotoxins that came from a fungus that infected some of your feed, most likely your corn. That has nothing to do with GMO/non-GMO as both can be infected depending on the circumstances. Mycotoxins are a vastly greater threat to animals and to us, but they don’t get the attention. See: http://eatdrinkbetter.com/2010/01/13/if-theres-a-toxin-in-the-food-supply-but-no-corporation-to-blame-is-it-still-a-problem/#more-2732

  • http://www.biofortified.org Karl Haro von Mogel

    Eric,

    The funding for my research (which is unrelated to genetic engineering) and other projects comes entirely from a federal grant. I am not a Monsanto Fellow, nor am I applying for it. Also, my blogging is completely separate from my program. This is not the first time people have pointed out the gift to my graduate program in an internet discussion to discredit what I write. What people don’t realize is that there is a huge shortage of plant breeders in the field, and in the next ten years there will be a lot of retiring breeders, and few fresh degree’d students to fill their spots. So seed companies are trying to increase the number of students in graduate programs with monetary gifts to support more student slots. Again, I don’t receive any benefit from it.

    Jim, none of the bloggers at Biofortified receive any funding from Monsanto either. Way to go guys with making the ad-hominem argument your primary means of processing this discussion. I wonder if you will be consistent and apply your argument to the paper itself, which was partially funded by Greenpeace, an organization with an ideological agenda to get rid of GE crops altogether? Bueller?

  • Eric

    Hi again Karl,

    Explaining that your research is Federally-funded does little for your ethos.

    Federal-funding is often used for the benefit of corporations like Monsanto, whether it be in the form of subsidies paid to an increasingly elite group of farmers who cultivate huge monocultures of crops born of proprietary, GM seed or that of grants given to students who provide cheap, intellectual labor for Monsanto. In fact, such grants often provide taxpayer-funded job-training for future Monsanto employees.

    Fully aware of the returns they can get on well-placed dollar, Monsanto is more than willing to fund fellowships at institutions like yours. Don’t think you don’t benefit from their largesses, even if it is not direct. Monsanto’s gift allows your program to invest state and federal money in alternative ways, such as infrastructure, infrastructure that you likely use on a daily basis. Without Monsanto’s funding, your research would be all the more difficult to conduct, though decidedly less difficult than if you were to try an engage in research that would openly confront the program’s corporate benefactors.

    Folks who want to conduct such research rarely get the opportunity to do so because funds and facilities have been monopolized by corporate interests. Thus, these critics “primary means of processing” in “discussions” such as this one are techniques that have historically been denigrated, methods such as anecdote, circumstantial evidence, and yes, pointing out pertinent conflicts of interest by way of ad-hominem argument. You should try to be less disparaging of a style of argumentation that you yourself seem to readily employ when your science fails. That’s not good for your ethos either.

    xoxo,

    eric

    p.s.–do you realize the irony of someone so supportive of elite and proprietary methods of growing food bemoaning the “huge shortage of plant breeders in the field”?

  • Chuckles

    “We posted some caveats that made us uneasy about the study, such as the funding sources, the unknown quality of the journal, and the fact that the toxicity claims rely on reinterpreting statistical data that Gilles-Eric Séralini and his coauthors themselves note is not as robust as it needs to be”

    LOL, this sounds exactly like the climate change crap.

  • Bill

    Really.

    It comes down to a simple indisputable fact, it’s how we treat this issue. ANY GM food SHALL to be tested before it’s let into the population. Maybe even by allowed to grow by state referendums. And maybe it should take decades for a license too. Either the ways, the level of technology needed to effectively know the ‘real costs’ and ‘long term’ effects of inter-genomic biology – THIS DOES NOT EXIST NOW (yes I’m shouting!).

    I’m just waiting for Alqauda to buy the genome sequencing equipment off Ebay and start messing with cross breeding diseases.

    Happy New Year

    near feeble understanding of…

  • http://www.biofortified.org Karl Haro von Mogel

    Wow Eric,

    Your opinion of this issue and of me appears to stem from a vociferous dislike of companies that do genetic engineering and not from the actual science or anything about myself in particular. After making ad-hominem argumentation your primary and only means of responding to me, you try to paint me with your own brush. My irony meter is at full capacity. I see no benefit for me or anyone else in further responding to your vacuous arguments.

    I will no longer feed this troll.

  • Eric

    Hi Karl,

    If it helps you sleep at night, then yes, my opinion of this issue does stem from a “vociferous dislike of companies that do genetic engineering.” But don’t kid yourself. I also have problems with you and “actual science.”

    One of my issues with the science of genetic engineering is that it is part of a paradigm that assumes its methodology and its methodology alone can provide “solutions” to “problems” that exist in the world. A particularly great example of this kind of thinking is the work of your mentor, Dr. Ronald, who, as I understand it, advocates organic methods in concert with genetic engineering.

    In truth, Dr. Ronald’s position is really just an extension of the kind of thinking that produced pesticides and herbicides in the first place and proffered them as “fixes,” when, as we have seen, the reality is that they just exacerbated old problems and created new ones. Is dousing a monoculture with pyrethrins any better than soaking them with DDT? Likewise, how could/why would the problems exacerbated by the “green revolution” possibly be addressed by genetic engineering, a product of the same manner of thinking?

    That is why I believe the study that started this thread, limited though it may be, is so threatening and has come under such attack; it offers some evidence that the “new” way of doing things really isn’t new at all and that the problems it attempts to address will just return in the years to come with a few more to boot. Rather than face the root of the problem–namely, that an approach which sees the non-human world as somehow always lacking and human intervention, solely through a particular scientific methodology, as the only way to “make it better”–the symptoms alone are addressed, and by methods that make the situation worse.

    This is one way of understanding addiction, and is quite similar to an alcoholic drinking to escape the problems that are made worse by their drinking (you’d think those in the mainstream scientific community would be more familiar with feedback loops, no?).

    This is why I particularly take issue with you as well. I honestly believe that you are a well-intentioned person, committed to pursuing your studies with the noble intention of addressing the issue of hunger in one way or another. But as I pointed out in my last post, you too easily dismiss anything that is not “science” because you see it as “less than.” Ad-hominem arguments can’t be quantified and are thus worthless. Anecdotes are not verifiable in laboratories and are therefore to be distrusted. Anyone who chooses not to exalt science is irrational, thus less than human, and therefore worthless.

    Like trolls.

    As a troll, I am glad you will no longer be feeding me. I would hope than this would extend beyond the bounds of this thread and into the world at large; I’d be much happier if you and those in your “field” kept your myopic logic and your consistent, constant practice of destruction out of the food in the field I share with my neighbors.

    sweet dreams,

    eric

  • Jay Fox

    GMO’s are an issue only in the US because the rest of the world has already said “HELL NO.” The reason they’re still an issue here is because our political/industrial system allows it. If they’re all really that safe, then LABEL them and let the consumers decide. Those who wish to knowingly purchase and consume them may. Those who do not will be able to avoid these frankenfoods. Let the market decide fairly, and I suspect that there will be gluts of this stuff on the market. But that would not help Monsanto’s profits, so we have the government allowing this crap, unlabeled, into an unknown amount of our food supply. Remember the Flavr Savr tomato? When they told us what it was, we refused to buy it. It went bust. The same will happen to GM corn, soy, cotton, and others if we were just allowed to know where it was.

    Do all the studies you want. Eat the stuff yourself, if that’s what floats your boat. But don’t force it on me if I don’t want it. Label it so I can avoid it. It’s funny that now when we shop we have to read what’s NOT in the meat: no hormones, no antibiotics, and now, please, no GMO’s.

  • auntiegrav

    Pretty simple, less costly solution (to the taxpayers) is available right now: have the government declare the patents on GMO seeds to be public domain. If the technology is really useful, then every company will produce it and we’ll get enough data to know if it is harmful.
    Or, eliminate the patent office entirely and the patent systems. Take away the right of Monsanto to sue every Tom, Dick, and Harry, and you take away their power to poison us at the same time.
    What, exactly, happened to anti-trust legislation, anyway? Oh yeah, I forgot, Bill Gates bought the country.

  • Dan

    Wow, quite a hostile discussion, but really nothing surprising in this space. Once again we see the clash of ideologies played out in strong personal attacks, particularly by Eric. Well sharpen the knives guys and get ready to play the man and not the ball again because I believe GM crops have a lot to offer the world.

    Firstly, Monsanto isn’t the only company working on GM crops. I am from Australia and we have a number of public institutions researching GM crops from universities to what we call cooperative research centres. Some of the crops include drought tolerant wheat and pastures designed to prevent methane emissions from cattle. However due to the concerns of anti-GM activists these organisations will not be able to afford to get through the extensive regulatory processes without corporate support from a multinational company. In Australia this takes 5 years of regulatory trials. So paradoxically the activists who now complain that Monsanto dominates everything GM, created this situation. It is the same with their cries that golden rice hasn’t eventuated – same reason, tied up in regulatory processes while children continue to go blind.

    Eric – the point about science is that it has to be more than anecdotes and hearsay. There is a process known as the scientific method that requires a number of important considerations to be met – I won’t bore everyone with them all here. If a study does not meet these requirements then it is not strictly science, regardless of the qualifications of the author. It is precisely this rigour which has given us the great scientific improvements that have led to the modern age – things like the computer you are typing on and the internet you are reading this from (not to mention the electricity that powers both).

    Jay Fox, the rest of the world hasn’t said no, in fact every year the amount of GM crops planted continues to grow. What we are witnessing is the fastest uptake of any agricultural technology in history.

    For those of you who believe that Greenpeace is always telling the truth, Google Patrick Moore – he started Greenpeace, see what he thinks of it now.

    OK, let the personal attacks begin.

  • titter

    Instead of making this a ‘Monsanto’ versus ‘Greenpeace’ type discussion, why can’t we look to studies and policies from other countries?

    Why does Austria, Germany, France, Hungary, Luxembourg and Greece ban this corn?
    Do researchers and governmental institutes from these countries fail to apply the rigor of the scientific method to their studies?
    How are these countries able to subsist without GM corn?

    A 2008 study from the Italian government’s National Institute of Research on Food and Nutrition found that this same corn had adverse immunological effects on rats ( reduced T and B cell counts). http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf802059w

    Or that The Austrian Ministry of Health found that the same GM corn ( MON810) led to infertility and reduced weight in mammals:

    http://www.foodnavigator.com/Science-Nutrition/Austrian-ministry-links-GM-corn-to-infertility

    When a Hungarian study found that Mon 810 killed two protected species and a rare insect, Monsanto refused to supply further corn for research. How is this action, along with refusing to supply study data to researchers, helping to advance the science?

  • Clive

    I am neither a scientist nor a lobbyist for either Greenpeace or Monsanto. I am a property lawyer in Johannesburg but I can follow a simple argument and the criticism expressed by Karl is straight forward and devastating.

    Can ANYONE of his detractors please address the criticism and ignore the source?

    Until such time I have to conclude that the article he criticises is nothing but alarmist propaganda supported by cherry picked evidence and statistical alchemy. An a-priori ideological conclusion seems to drive the “research”. This is simply pseudo science.

    If their procedure is to be followed in other fields ANYTHING can be concluded about ANYTHING.

    I await to be corrected.

  • Eric

    Dan,

    Why is there a need for wheat to prevent methane emissions from cattle?

    Likewise, why is golden rice necessary? Why are those children going blind? Why do they have a Vitamin A deficiency?

    Why is Séralini’s study roundly denounced as “unscientific,” while the Monsanto research that it calls into question is given a free pass? Didn’t Seralini et al. just point out that Monsanto’s research was not very rigorous? That analysis of the data suggests that the scientific method was not adequately applied? Why the double standard here?

    (Though I ask this out of genuine curiosity, this may be perceived as a prelude to an ad-hominem attack, so feel free to ignore it if you so choose): Why are people so opposed to Greenpeace as a funding source, but not opposed to research produced by a for-profit corporation? Research funded by a for-profit corporation? Corporate funding that is laundered through governmental channels? Why is Greenpeace providing the funding necessary to get access to Monsanto’s data considered as worse than Monsanto providing the funding to generate that data?

    nothing personal,

    eric

  • Dont feed Trolls

    My problem with GMO’s is that they are so effective! Our feed and breed mentality does nothing to adress the basic human need to live sustainedly on Earth. There are too many of us already, as GMO’s make use of previously infertile land, there will be even more people taxing our planets diminished finite resources.

  • Dan

    Eric, happy to answer your questions. Its not wheat its pasture that is being researched. The reason is that methane emissions from cattle are a massive cause of global warming. Methane is actually much worse than CO2 when it comes to global warming, so there is pressure to either remove cattle – which means no more steak (which I would personally be very unhappy about) or to do something about their emissions. Now I don’t know all the details of the science so I won’t embarrass myself by trying to describe it – in essence though they change the composition of the pasture and consequently the cattle produce much less methane.

    The second question is much easier to answer. Children are going blind due to Vitamin A deficiency because of extreme poverty. Currently over 1 billion people in the world go hungry every day (thats the FAO’s figure). The only food that they have access to is rice and sometimes not even much of that. It is way beyond the scope of agriculture to fix all the socio-economic issues that lead to this poverty but it can produce a crop that is higher in nutritional value and can address some of the problems they face. That is why golden rice is a beautiful thing.

    One last thing – I don’t agree that Greenpeace is benevolent even if it is a not for profit organisation. There are many political organisations that are not for profit. I think the only reason they target GM crops is because it scares people and scared people make donations, but that is only my opinion.

  • woundedduck

    Companies such as Monsanto have no interest whatsoever in divulging the health risks of their products. If, like tobacco companies did, Monsanto is shown their products are destructive, they’ll litigate and settle, and still make money. To act forthrightly with the public could never serve their interests, so in this Monsanto-induced vacuum, their critics, even if using less-than-robust methods, will always be given the benefit of the doubt.

  • ask2

    What Clive said. Please.

  • Jay Fox

    And still no one will address the issue of labeling these products. You wish to drink the kool-aid, go ahead. I do not wish to do so. I want to know what products they are in so that I may avoid them. I am not alone.

    Monsanto is all about the profits, not about feeding hungry people. That is why they had laws made that do not require the labeling of their product. They even have one of their cronies installed at the FDA. When those of us decided that we did not want to buy their products, they had the rules for labeling organic products changed to make it prohibitively expensive to use that label. Still, many producers have met the goals, and provide these products with the regulatory expenses added to the price. We pay for the privilege of NOT consuming these frankenfoods.

    Bring the GMO foods into the daylight. Tell us where they are, and let the market decide. If you choose to consume them, fine. The rest of us do not. Remember the Flavr Savr tomato. Given the choice, people will not choose this stuff. Monsanto remembers, and that is why they are trying to hide this stuff in the food supply now. If most of us knew where it was, we’d stop buying it. Monsanto would lose money on it, and it would go the way of those still-ripe tomatoes. You remember those, don’t you? Rats wouldn’t even eat them, they had to be force fed. Same thing with the GM soy now being foisted on us. Test rats would not eat it, they’d rather starve. When they did eat it (forced), they died. This is the food Monsanto wants us to eat? I’m not buyin’ it.

    If Monsanto is completely convinced this stuff is safe, they’d make their studies available. Since they do not, it is apparent that they are trying to hide something. The louder they protest, and insist the products are safe, the more doubt generated. Where else is that kind of doubt tolerated? Nowhere, I submit.

  • Clive

    OK the point that Monsanto is cagey about their data and research is valid. Some time ago I corresponded with them about the issue of research limitations in their end user agreement. I had no response despite a promise from them and a reminder.

    Seems to me their real fear is that their data will be dredged for unfair inferences and comments such as the “research” in issue here. Still – at best for them very bad PR.

    I have to say.

    My letter is reproduced below for those who want to plough through it.

    Clive

    Thank you for your reply and the references.

    OK. Seems to me there are limitations in the end-user agreement but you are happy to permit bona fide research conducted for peer review publication.

    1. I assume such research will include research into safety and possible long term negative side effects?

    2. It seems to me a fair and bona fide critic will have to show that Monsanto DENIES requests from bona fide researchers who seek to test the safety of your products. Am I correct?

    3. Has Monsanto ever denied such a request? I.e. a well motivated research proposal from a bona fide researcher intending to test the safety of your products?

    4. It seems to me the obvious starting point by any critic would be to design a study for peer review publication and propose the research to Monsanto for consent. To simply harp on the existence of research limitations without showing that it actually impeded any research is disingenuous. Am I correct?

    5. Personally I doubt such a study has been proposed simply because possible negative side effects (regarding safety for human consumption) seem to be so remote that bona fide researchers probably have better things to do with their time and resources. Is that correct?

    Thanks so much for your responses so far and I hope not to bother you any further. From my questions you can hopefully see that I am not fronting for any anti-Monsanto lobby nor am I motivated to necessarily join the fray on your side. I am simply interested in the facts. I must be honest – I can not see why you do not simply present these issues in a sober and neutral fashion on your website. From what you sent me it seems there are real issues relating to freedom of research when we are dealing with proprietary products such as your own but that you are willing (together with many other interested parties) to work towards a solution.

    I fully understand your fear that competitors or malicious nay-sayers may want to steal or unfairly malign your products. Poorly conducted research obviously poses a serious threat to your public image. It occurs to me for instance that you face a real dilemma should a researcher publish preliminary (and incorrect findings) and/or use too small a sample size and/or design a study that might be very sensitive to confounding factors etc. All such studies would pass peer review as long as the weakness is disclosed in the research analyses. The subsequent press release will ignore the design weakness and simply headline the incorrect (or tenuous) finding.

    But once properly informed, most people can judge for themselves whether someone is unfair in his criticism and/or simply distributing propaganda or cherry picking results. You may want to consider a research program or consent guideline based on high quality research that can be evaluated along the lines of the Cochrane Collaboration (see http://www.cochrane.org/). Cochrane deals with mostly the efficacy and safety of medicines but there is no reason a similar effort could not be launched in respect of GM foods and any other food related health issue for that matter.

    I hope my questions and comments did not bore you.

    Yours Sincerely

    Clive van der Spuy

  • Dave

    @Dan I have to agree with you Dan. It’s not fair to say we should just throw GM crops out the door.

    We do need to cut back on population, which will be near to impossible becuase it would require world wide cooperation. Even though it would solve most of our modern problems. I also agree with others who say we should do more labeling. But to say that nature provides us with all the food and protection we need all the time is willy nilly thought. This isn’t pandora. What nature has provided us is intelligence. We don’t have a brain if it wasn’t meant to be used. True, tampering with natures balance is dangerouse, but if handled with care it can be done.

    Dan’s right. GM crops are beautiful, if handled correctly. They could save many lives. Companies want to make money, that’s just what they do becuase companies are run by humans. But that doesn’t mean we should just throw GM crops out. Develope them, test them, label them, and make sure they are safe before they are commercialized. Or find some way to tell people to stop breeding.

    Good luck with that one :)

  • http://bullhornjournal.com Chris Dudley

    So buried by all these scientists is acknowledging that their research primarily benefits huge-multinational corporations. I get this from the IAASTD (95 percent of GM products are grown by massive corporations). One company owns 1/4 of the seed suppliers in the world as a direct result of GM products they sell. Breeders have had their numbers cut dramatically as a direct result of GM products. Farms have been consolidated as a direct result of GM products. Pesiticide use has increased dramatically in the last two years as a direct result. Production is not the issue. Never has been. Poverty and patenting are the issues. Safety of GM is an emotional side debate that can only be answered by long-term food safety studies. Why not do one or two? Well, you can’t because the seeds are patented. Thanks.

  • Ann Rein

    I sense quite a few shills for Monsanto here doing damage control. To the authors of this article – keep up the good work, as long as you can, we need to hear the truth., not the justification for products that can harm or kill us.

  • http://www.livablefutureblog.com/ Dave Love

    Interesting discussion here! If you want to read another piece on the GM corn debate from staff at Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future: http://tiny.cc/Bhslk

  • http://www.amenta.com/breckenridge/ Breckenridge

    The more info that can get out about GMOs, the better. Corn, Cotton, Cannola, and Soy are the foods to watch out for and buy organic.

  • G. Emo

    Three cheers for the advancement of corporate science here! We should jump headlong into GMO corn now and damn-the-torpedoers, full steam ahead and “profitable until proven guilty” – at least I always say! Forget that WHEAT jumped from just another food, to – in 20 years of GMO introduction, the number ONE allergen on the plates of American Endocrine Disasters…errrhhhhh uh …..Citizens (see Toll Like Receptor 4 Gene Sensitivity New England Journal of Medicine, Aug 2004)

    Forget that dogs die of diabetes and heart disease when fed a steady diet of GMO wheat – such that it has been largely REMOVED from the dog’s diet – as recommended by AKBA.

    Forget that we have not really done rigorous science on all this. Peer review is a great substitute when you want to skip the science, but pretend you did not. All we have to do, is when people get sick, blame it on sloth and gluttony. That trick always works, well, except for smoking – Yes. it is Americans’ own darn fault that the five top endocrine diseases (Hypo-thyroid, Hypo-pituitary, Hypo-adrenal/cortisol, Diabetes, and Hashimoto’s Complex) jumped 20 fold to 40 fold with the introduction of GMO wheat, in each country it is introduced.

    Dang lazy Americans.

  • Uncle B

    Americans fare to dependent on foreign liquid energy economy – not diversified enough, will face same plight with corn – not diversified enough! Terrible, convusive and gut wrenching paradigm shifts long over-due in America are about to be forced by world economics down the throats of Americans and a re-building of the American Dream lifestyle is in order! over-dependency on oil and mono-cropping are examples of what is wrong! Willful polluting of clean water in a country facing water shortges will also come to light, as will the wasting of sewage inplace of bio gasing and fertilizer plant support. America stands to pay for her sins as the dollar falls like astone and we can no longer afford these extravagances! Time for comeuppance approaches! GM(America) – Dead on the water! GM(china) turns 30% profit! What in hell happened there! Yankee Doodle let his corporatists down, and we inherited the ruins called Detroit City! – see net for corporatists monument to American Capitalism: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2Nrlnk/exiledonline.com/slums-of-detroit-a-look-at-the-heart-of-americas-2nd-most-deserted-city Remember when this was a cultural center? Remember when America was great? A few decades ago? Will GMO’s and monoculture by corporatists give us more of this? More of the same? Why does the dollar have no respect in the world? It once commanded 80% of world’s reaources for Americans! What is happening to our lifestyle?

  • Zin

    People who defend the continued testing and evaluation are not (automatically) shills for monsanto- to claim a conspiracy against you, when it doesn’t make sense, simply makes you a nut.

    Genetic engineering is the new radiation. 99% of the people who care passionately about stopping it are clueless as to how it works, and an equal number of it’s supporters don’t take proper precautions. Watch for nanotechnology to come next- first it’s scary as a vague overwhelming threat, then it’s protested against when it enters the home, then nobody cares because in the end everyone talking is fine.

  • http://www.luckymountainhome.com/ Mary

    Personally I am ok with GM plants in a limited sense such as imparting genes from related plants that have immunity to disease or related plants that can give an increase nutritional value. I think giving plants genes from animals or genes that give immunity to pestisides/herbicides are a bad thing. Generally speaking I am opposed to it. I worry about the fate of citrus with the spread of greening disease. In citrus they have imparted genes from spinach and other plants that are immune to greening disease and citrus canker. There are related plants “citroids” that can be infected with greening but never get greening, perhaps those would be better candidates as donor plants?

  • http://www.pubresreg.org Klaus Ammann

    Dear Titter and Eric

    as for the Monsanto Maize rendering mice sterile, just read my contribution in ASK-FORCE:

    http://www.ask-force.org/web/AF-5-Austrian-Micestudy/AF-5-Austrian-Experiment-20100407-opensource.pdf
    http://www.ask-force.org/web/AF-5-Austrian-Micestudy/AF-5-Austrian-Exp-Background-20090807-opensource.pdf

    the Austrian government had to retract the study because of several major flaws, and the principal author Prof. Zentek revised the whole study, and is now in the process of publishing the final version, which does not show effects anymore. I agree fully with the critique of the Seralini study of Karl, no wonder Seralini is not answering…

    Incidentally, Austria retracted the mice study with minimal noise, trying to hide the place where stated, see my blog, I found the statement in an EU document.

    Klaus

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