Michael Specter talks denialism

By Phil Plait | April 18, 2010 8:00 am

I wish everyone on Earth– including Oprah, and Jenny McCarthy, everyone — would take 19 minutes of their lives and watch Michael Specter talk about why science is so important:

Of course, Jenny McCarthy won’t listen. But if the people who listened to her did, then they’d stop listening to her. And what a wonderful world that would be.

Comments (48)

Links to this Post

  1. Dangers of Science Denial | April 19, 2010
  1. Douglas Troy

    I am so glad you posted this video, it’s an excellent lecture.

    Thanks Phil

  2. sideshow_billybob

    Great stuff but the talk is only 16 and a half minutes long (the rest is advert)

  3. Michel

    I still think Oprah is eviller than her guests.
    She gives them a platform. And only for her own gain.

  4. Messier Tidy Upper

    Humans are human.

    As Spock would say we are illogical creatures.

    Sometimes that really sucks. :-(

    But then there are some among us who are incredibly logical despite the sea of illogicality about them – and still wonderfully human.

    Guess we have to accept that that is humanity in all its flaws and glory.

    Great speech & excellent points made there by a very logical and very good human. :-)

  5. David

    Should be required viewing in science classes,

    And at Texas School Board meetings…

  6. Jya Jya Binks Killer

    Specter? Isn’t that the music dude with bad hair that got arrested for shooting some chick? ;-)

    Nah, just kidding! ;-)

    Nice speech, well said Specter.

    Big placebo? Hey it works, LOL! :-)
    Science works even better natch.

    If I had a time machine I’d go forwards – if nothing else I’m curious. I *know* what happened in the past. The future, OTOH, I don’t know what happens & I’d like to see if my dreams or my nightmares come true. Plus oddly enough, if its possible I’d rather change our future than our past. ;-)

  7. Sean

    I think its worth noting the source of this talk: http://www.ted.com

    The TED conference is rapidly becoming a national treasure. I’d characterize it as being about 80% woo free – a much higher signal-to-noise ratio than PBS.

    TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design

    Most of their videos ( hundreds, I think ) are available as a podcast at http://www.ted.com

    -S

  8. StevoR

    Plus oddly enough, if its possible I’d rather change our future than our past.

    If I, personally, had a time machine & could change something I would go back & save my old dog. And I know just what I’d have to do & would do it without hesitation.

    Sorry Harry (my current much loved & marvellous dog) but I would.

    RIP 2008, Sirius Dogstar Nell, awesome staffy terrier with one fatal flaw.

    - StevoR a.k.a. Plutonium being from Pluto.

  9. IVAN3MAN AT LARGE

    Damn it! I’ve got 10Mb broadband here, but that video (even in 360p mode) is downloading as slow as via bloody dial-up! I’ll have to try later when the bloody server is less busy! :|

  10. Michel

    #9
    Everybody is watching it! :)
    And that´s terrific!!

  11. Wayne Robinson

    I have just finished reading his book last night. I noticed it mentioned on the H5N1 ‘flu website and immediately bought it as the Kindle edition. I well recommend it, and it has almost convinced me to send off my buccal smear to have my genetic predisposition to disease assessed, or perhaps not,

    I’m intrigued with the idea of being able to bringing back the thylacine (Tasmanian wolf) and mammoth, since we can recover the DNA from both (pity the only remains of the dodo was discarded by a short-sighted museum curator in England), although it would be extremely difficult (for one thing I think the mitochondria in the host egg would also need to be replaced or modified to match the mitochondrial genes in the implanted nuclear DNA).

    If I could travel in time I’d want to go to 2060 so I could see Halley’s comet again (I saw it in 1985), inspired by Mark Twain who said that he was born in 1835, the year of Halley’s comet and predicted that he’d die in 1910, the next year it would again be visible (he was right, so I wonder if he ever actually saw it).

  12. Joao

    I was surprised to have a divided opinion about this talk. I certainly agree with the main premise that evidence should trump personal beliefs for a large majority of the population, which does not occur today.

    But, while Specter had an easy case when it comes to vaccination, my opinion is that genetic manipulation of foods is not so clear cut. He points to feel good examples of genetic engineering such as adding vitamin A to help malnourished populations, but the vast majority of genetic manipulation taking place today aim at much less noble goals such as adding pesticide resistance to a crop so that farmers can increase pesticide use without damaging the plant.

    But the biggest problem with genetic engineering is that, unlike vaccines, we don’t have a clear mechanistic understanding of what genetic manipulation does. Sure if we express an enzyme that catalyzes the production of vitamin A in a plant of bacteria, we will have vitamin A, but at the same time, we will be diverting and upsetting large parts of the organism’s metabolic network in ways that would be hard to fully quantify. How can we expect to completely determine what will be the consequences from human consumption of these products?

    The fact is that we don’t even know what simple sugar intake does to us. High fructose corn syrup is nothing but glucose and fructose, compounds found in all foods and the exact components of sucrose, or common sugar. But, nonetheless, somehow, researchers have recently gathered strong evidence that intake of HFCS instead of sugar causes obesity, even though the caloric intake is the same.

    Further, genetic engineering is not the same as cross breeding, on the grounds that the former is not bound by the use of genetic code that is already feasible in parent organisms. With the latter, you can add whatever you want to the genetic code.

    I do believe that we will in the future benefit greatly from genetically modified crops, but the current evidence for their safety is at best inadequate given our lack of a deep understanding of the molecular causes of prevalent issues ranging from obesity to cancer.

    Joao

  13. Egaeus

    Warning: set your irony attenuators to maximum to protect your irony detectors from overloading.

    http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=4059682&id=180783538575

  14. Gary Ansorge

    I have friends who will eat nothing but organically grown foods. When I point out that it is 60% more expensive than standard foods BECAUSE it is only 40% as efficient in land use, they declaim “,,,but it TASTES better”, which is sometimes true, mainly because it’s grown closer to its market and is therefore a bit fresher.

    I grow tomatoes in my yard. I DON’T use pesticides on them. (Mainly because the only thing that will eat tomatoes is a grub which mainly shows up in large, concentrated growth areas.)
    I DO use inorganic fertilizers. They’re more efficient than organic sources and don’t carry parasites.

    They DO taste better than some store bought tomatoes because they’re not picked until they’re ripe(then they are immediately eaten) so yes, they taste better.

    None of these arguments make the least impression on my friends.

    As long as westerners have the excess money to afford organic food, some will opt for them but two thirds of the world don’t have that option. For them, we have to go with efficiency and that means everything from pesticides to inorganic fertilizers to genetic mods.

    THAT’S the way of the world.

    GAry 7

  15. Ben

    I want to ask: how many of us are against GMO food because of the semi-mystical “naturalist” reasons he derides in this talk? I’d wager not many. The rest of us have serious concerns about the patent law, the regulations, the enforcement, the economics, and yes, the SCIENCE. If you engineer a plant so it naturally produces pesticide, that’s great, because then you don’t need to spray the pesticide, but now the plant is producing dangerous chemicals internally. What are the long-term effects of that? As a previous poster mentioned, we don’t really know the metabolic effects of various gene expressions.

    And frankly, most of the money for genetic research is going to be in the “harder faster better stronger” category, and not in the “let’s help grow food for people that can’t pay us” field. The anti-organic reactionism likes to claim the mantle of feeding the world, but I think that’s a pretty severe misconstrual of the order of the world.

    Again, I don’t see any problem with GMO in general, hell, we’ve been shooting X-rays at seeds for sixty years just to see what happens. But it’s not all high-minded goals and saving humanity. There are bottom lines at work. In that same vein, it’s not just anti-science rulers that are fueling disease in Africa; it’s also pharma companies protecting their patents and their balance sheets.

    Science is wonderful, but it’s a tool that can be used to many ends. Don’t confuse opposing the ends with opposing the tool.

  16. mike burkhart

    Of course Science is very important.With out science we would still be liveing in caves .Science has given us a understanding of the universe that humans did not have before science .And munch tecnology ,(this blog would not posable with out science)of couse science has brought us bad things like more deadler wepons and the A bomb.I think that science is neather good nor bad it depends on how it is used.

  17. Steve Ulven

    Excellent video! That went right into my YouTube Favorites.

  18. Daniel J. Andrews

    Egaeus (14). Oh my! My irony meter made it intact thanks to the warning, but a big guffaw did escape my lips when I read that.

  19. Don Gisselbeck

    I’m not as optimistic as Mr Specter. We have no evidence of any civilization progressing more than we have. Given the apparently high likelihood of life and the high likelihood that some of it has at least a billion year head start on us, the “where are they?” question seems likely to have a “destroyed themselves ” answer.

  20. Isn’t that the music dude with bad hair that got arrested for shooting some chick?

    Nice. Real classy.

  21. magetoo

    Ben:
    “If you engineer a plant so it naturally produces pesticide” …

    AFAIK, that’s not what you’d do. What you do is make the plant resistant to your company’s pesticide, which you are of course also happy to sell farmers. (And now you have two revenue streams instead of one.)

    I don’t think there are any *food* crops that have been tweaked to produce pesticides (and you would have to worry about getting your “tomatoes, now with poison!” past the relevant authorities too), but I could be wrong.

    Joao:
    “He points to feel good examples of genetic engineering such as adding vitamin A to help malnourished populations, but the vast majority of genetic manipulation taking place today aim at much less noble goals such as adding pesticide resistance to a crop so that farmers can increase pesticide use without damaging the plant.”

    Right, and why do farmers go along with what these horrible (multinational, soulless, profit-hungry, evil) corporations are trying to sell them? Because pests are a _real problem_. Something that helps us deal with this problem is something that improves yields, and so ultimately has the possibility of _feeding more people_. Is that a bad thing? (And how does that in any way negate the “feel good” uses?)

    “But the biggest problem with genetic engineering is that [...] we don’t have a clear mechanistic understanding of what genetic manipulation does. [...] How can we expect to completely determine what will be the consequences from human consumption of these products?”

    This “biggest problem” seems to be mostly handwaving and ominous language. How is this in any way possibly worse than traditional breeding? If anything, genetic engineering gives us both a deeper understanding and more certainty that we are only changing one single thing at a time.

    Anyway, choosing *not* to use genetic modification techniques will have consequences too. If we really want to get at the best outcome, it seems obvious that we have to look at both sides of that choice, and try to choose at least the less bad option.

  22. Party Cactus

    Some points on GM: First, there has never once been any commercial GMO associated with any health problem. Yes, I’ve seen the ‘smoking gun’ studies, but lo and behold, they always turn out to be the same as all those ‘proof that vaccines cause [insert problem here]‘ studies. There was a French one a few months ago, it wasn’t too hot, and I recall a Russian one that used a grand total of six rats, making it officially worse than the Wakefield study. If anyone has evidence of harm, they’re not presenting it real well. No one has found, for instance, and reason, and chemical causative agent, as to why they would hurt us, for one. It’s certainty possible, it has happened, and the problem was found, but no one has ever found anything amiss with, say, the GMO corn in your nachos, and if they have, they’re proving it about as well as a homeopath at a chemistry convention.

    We can play the appeal to ignorance card and muse about potential but as of yet unknown problems all day long, but by the same line of reasoning, I could claim that maybe the smallpox vaccine will have some sort of long term inter-generational effect that will kill us all in a few generation, and you can’t disprove that, just like I can’t disprove potential long term harm of GMOs. However, what I can say is that there is no evidence of that harm. I assume not many people on this site buy Pascal’s Wager; why would you accept the biotech equivalent?

    Also, crops are engineered with herbicide resistance, not pesticide resistance. Does this lead to the overuse of herbicides and resistant weeds? Maybe, but improper use of anything can lead to resistance (see antibiotics). Even if that is true (and being such a polarized issue I’m not sure either way myself), I don’t think that is an argument against the science of the crops.

    Now, as for how they are being used, it is true that many are being used for profit motives (not that I’m saying there’s anything wrong with expecting a return on R&D), and maybe not enough of the most necessary ones are being pushed. But you know what? Monsanto doesn’t own science. Monsanto doesn’t own genetic engineering any more than Pfizer or Bayer of Merck own pharmacology. And there is good work being done out there by humanitarian and universities. The problem is, those GMOs are also viewed as bad by certain groups. BioCassava, Golden Rice, there’s people working on edible cottonseed and ripening delayed tomatoes (to improve post-harvest handling, which is a huge problem in the third world), they are opposed with the same vigor as opposition to Monsanto projects. For many people, this is only a reasonable social issue until you push those, then it becomes a (pseudo-)scientific one, and those ‘reasonable ‘ social issues are the ones that tend to stick in people’s minds, even if they’re really not so reasonable when applied to the field as a whole.

    Speaking of Monsanto, they are working on soybeans that produce omega3. Possibly, this will begin a new wave of GMOs with direct consumer benefit, and not just grower benefit.

    For instance, take the Rainbow papaya. Not a humanitarian one, but it was developed by the University of Hawaii and Cornell to resist the papaya ringspot virus that was destroying Hawaii’s papaya crop. It didn’t need a company’s chemical, it wasn’t to make shareholder’s money, there were no health issues, and it worked splendidly. All the social issues were gone, yet anti-GE folks were still against it. These are the people we have to ignore, but when they keep shouting loud and often, if you don’t know the issues well, how do you know if they’re right when often they appear reasonable on the surface?

    I think, even among skeptics, some of that misinformation makes it past the ol’ BS detectors. Skeptics fall prey to bad information too. None of us are immune to it. I mention this because the comments on sites about that talk seem to have the same divided opinion on GMOs, and to us, to the followers of ‘mainstream’ plant science, the anti-GM sentiment is exactly the same as the anti-vaxxers. They’ve got their different levels, the ‘too many too soon’ people, the ‘long term effects’ appeals, the outright denialists who try to put on an air of reasonableness (like how Jenny McCarthy claims to be pro-safe vaccine, not anti-vaccine)…the GMO issue has very similar parallels to anti-vax and alternative medicine crankery. I for one am glad to see genetic engineering getting the props it deserves. Certainty, there are social issues here, but by and large, this is a legitimate and beneficial field of science that has been unfairly and unreasonably slimed in the public perception, which is so unfortunate because the science hasn’t even approached it’s full potential. (If you want to check out more info, there are comments about this on Orac’s two posts about this, or you could checkout the blog Biofortified, which is both very good and down at the moment).

  23. Astrofiend

    24. Party Cactus Says:
    April 18th, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    God damn Party Cactus, that was literally the best post I’ve ever read on BA. Well done chap.

  24. Jya Jya Binks Killer

    @22. The Chemist Says:

    “Isn’t that the music dude with bad hair that got arrested for shooting some chick?”
    Nice. Real classy.

    No worries. Glad you liked it. Good to see you appreciate some irreverent black humour too & aren’t one of those humourless, over-sensitive types who take everything far too seriously. ;-)

  25. IBY

    Let me get this straight. People have been genetically engineering creatures for thousands of years without thinking of the long term consequences, or whatever they call it, but when people begin doing it in a more direct manner, suddenly people are worried about the consequences? As far as I can tell, people have never worried about consequences when breeding animals. I don’t remember the average joe complaining when overbreeding of dogs have caused accumulation of bad genes, like say hip dysplasia, in the gene pool, for example. But that same average joe, when hearing about genetically engineered food, would probably think that it would produce a Frankenstein like abomination.

  26. Yeebok

    @IBY, good point. I doubt many people consider that, or the breeding of plants to get more desirable traits.
    @party cactus, fantastic post.
    @astrofiend, well said
    I watched the video and found it quite interesting, and well explained. I must admit I was reading APOD and a few other sites and just listening to the audio but it kept making me lose my place in what I was reading.
    Thanks for yet another interesting video Phil. The article was a bit short tho ;)

  27. David Mead

    I enjoyed this video a great deal, but do have some doubts on his take regarding vitamins/supplements. Many are just placebo as he suggests, but others do have beneficial effects and have been proved to be so. I have had several doctors actually recommend them to me, after knee surgery and in lowering my triglycerides. After my astonishment of having a doctor recommend supplements I found they did work. After all, with our busy schedules it is often hard to eat the proper things to get ones levels of vitamins and minerals, so supplements can help.

  28. kevbo

    US spend on R&D:

    http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1305

    …well, at least it’s still double what the public spends on alt med…

  29. Gary Ansorge

    29 David Mead

    I takes me vit C and B complex because I detest veggies and rarely eat raw meat(cooking meat destroys its water soluble vitamins).

    I’ve tried other supplements but have seen little benefit. Omega 3s don’t lower my triglycerides, I probably get more than enough zinc in my high protein diet(I’m mildly diabetic).

    I Do take 1.5 mg/day of chromium picolinate, because that DOES appear to help control my blood glucose levels however, if one is NOT diabetic, it appears to have no effect at all.

    Vitamin B6(pyradoximine hydrochloride) has shown significant biological effects, so much so that the phrama industry has petitioned the FDA to remove it from over the counter status to prescription only. I’d say that says a lot about SOME vitamin efficacy.

    I wear a seat belt because statistically it has been shown to be an effective life extender. I take some vitamin supplements because it appears they help ME to stay healthier(as opposed to merely out of hospital).(granted, this IS anecdotal).

    ,,,but what seems to be effective for me may have no effect on you. Especially if YOU eat a very balanced diet.

    I HATE veggies,,,

    Gary 7

  30. David Mead

    I agree, supplements need to be studied for each individual. Perhaps the real problem with them is that some people gobble them down as the latest fad without checking on what the side effects may be. I learned that lesson a few years ago when I started taking one without really checking on the side effects. My blood pressure went way up and it took a long time to get it back in the normal range. My fault completely. Just like anything in this world, we need to check the facts and use our minds instead of believing what we see and hear.

  31. Jeff

    I taught college 30 yrs. and saw tens of thousands of students in my career. If your eyes could see what mine did, you’d see this problem of ignorance is far deeper than you think. And unlike some people, I actually worked with those students. That’s all I have to say, and for the 1% of my educated students, it was wonderful working with you, let’s form our own “Educeria” country and have no treaties with the rest of the world.

  32. Joao @ 13 and Ben @ 16: I completely second your thoughts about GMO and would like to add a few more.
    * Fantastic – we have engineered plants that are resistant to our pesti-/herbicides so we can use them at will without hurting the plants we are growing. Ooops… The genes transferred laterally to some of the weeds (this has been observed! – This is Science) and this trait will of course be heavily selected for in the evolution of those weeds – welcome to the super-weeds!
    * The above example is only one of many, and there are potential problems with most of the genetic modifications.
    * IBY @ 27: Read Joao @ 13. Direct genetic manipulation is fundamentally different from the cross-breeding we have been engaging in for thousands of years. The former mixes genes that could never be mixed in nature.
    * Seeds for GMO crops are more expensive (partly because of royalties) so farmers in the developing world will have an even harder time competing.
    * GMO crops will lead to even lower crop diversity (the few super-crops) than the “Green Revolution”, severely increasing our vulnerability as a species, and speeding-up our extinction of other species. Mono-culture means loss of the food-chains that depended on the other crops (for e.g., pollination/nesting/effect on soil, water or micro-climate – food is not always the main reason). Many highly efficient 3rd world crops (e..g, thriving in droughts) have been all but lost, due to the “Green Revolution”.
    * The motivation of commercial companies is profit – that motivation is often aligned with the well-being of their customers, but profit will always be the trump.
    * Why do Americans have such a love-affair with high-tech solutions, when low-tech ones are often better, cheaper, more efficient and a lot sturdier? I love much of what technology has brought us, but please look around and get a more complete picture, before honing-in on the most gizmo-y solution.
    * Soil degradation is one of the biggest threats to our food security (as a species). It is primarily caused by “modern” farming practices which is the prime reason for me to shop organic whenever possible. The nitrogen and phosphorous cycles have been vandalized and we urgently need to fix that. Lots of top-soil have been washed to sea (where the nutrients do harm by causing alga-bloom) due to clear-cutting and mud-slides from melting glacies.
    * Bio-gas plants can accept a wide variety of manure (including ours), house-hold waste, industrial food waste, slaughter-house waste, plant waste, etc. and make energy (the bio-gas) as well as inorganic fertilizer (both a solid and a liquid component) than can easily be adjusted to the optimal N/P/K ratios. This could help close the nutrient/soil structure loops, that right now are a one-way-street to the sea.
    Click link in header for more info.

    There is so much we know works (from science) why don’t we apply this knowledge to make better food for a larger part of the world, and ensure that we can also do so a hundred years hence (that is such a short time-scale for me as an astronomer :-)
    Cheers, Regner

  33. John S.

    Have you ever seen those True-Crime Unsolved Mystery shows? No matter how circumstantial or incomplete or fraudulent the evidence against the suspect may be, the friends and family of the victim are ALWAYS 100% sure he (or she) did it. When bad things happen, people NEED someone to blame. A drowning man will clutch at a straw, and a parent of an autistic child will clutch at anecdotal vaccine “evidence” and ignore everything else.

  34. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Ugh. I had to stop early on when Specter showed total amount of undernourished people constant, in an exponentially increasing population – so we are doing great – and then started to discuss improvements from this measure that tried to deny or at least hinder such an analysis.

    Maybe he said something good after that. But there are many more “how-to-lie-with-statistics” guys out there. You don’t have time with them all. *Shrugs*.

    But some comments here could use a more precise dose of skepticism:

    genetic engineering is not the same as cross breeding, on the grounds that the former is not bound by the use of genetic code that is already feasible in parent organisms.

    Yes, it is. Because the genetic code gives you the unmodified and later modified amino acids, and is hardwired by the metabolism. You need to change the metabolism to change the code. And AFAIU nobody is doing that, or even knows how to do that.

    Besides, it is unnecessary, you want to change the genes and their expression, not the code.

    *Every* organism ever born has been a GMO, a Gene Modified Organism, by evolution – variation (and selection on prior organisms). Each human is GMO, differing randomly in about 150 genes (due to a mutation rate of ~ 10^-10 on ~ 3*10^9 base pairs) and this has been both predicted and observed – live with it. (You must.)

    Direct genetic manipulation is fundamentally different from the cross-breeding we have been engaging in for thousands of years. The former mixes genes that could never be mixed in nature.

    Such as? For bacterias, lateral gene transfer is ~ 1 % of fixed genes. And bacteria, but even more viruses, do these things to themselves and to their hosts.

    Much of mammal genome is viral. In fact, it is viral genes that enables placental mammals by dialing down the immune system between the placenta and the “host” mother.

    Nature incessantly mixes genes that have never been mixed before. And genes that “could never be mixed” are so because they are difficult to change (non-survivable), not because of lack of lateral gene transfer. See the discussion on changing the metabolism above.

    To be afraid for GMO is rather precisely analogous to be afraid for vaccines. Except GMO makes us hardier against undernourishment instead of small pox.

  35. Jens

    As a European, I am continually surprised at the difference in the intellectual culture between Europe and the US. The idea that concepts such as evolution are even an issue in a modern, developed country is just incredible.

  36. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Oops. And now I saw Party Cactus’ comment, where he said the same thing (about the analogy vaccine/GMO). Mea culpa.

  37. Jeff

    The achilles heel of today’s society is oil. If that runs out, watch out, this society will collapse back.

    If that happens, look to the indians of the amazon or aborginal peoples of the world for a future model , the only sustainable one.

  38. Steve in Dublin

    Jens @ 38

    The idea that concepts such as evolution are even an issue in a modern, developed country is just incredible.

    It’s not necessarily because they reject the science. Most often it’s a hidden agenda. With evolution, it’s usually because it (and actually, most branches of science like radiometric dating) conflicts with their religious beliefs. With anthropogenic global warming, it conflicts with their ideology or political beliefs, etc.

  39. @#26

    In my world, dark jokes have to be funny first.

  40. Jeff

    Jens,

    The main reason for the push for creationism, creation science, and intelligent design, and including it side-by-side with evolution in science texts, is largely driven by the American christian fundamentalist movements more so than some of the established churches. You probably heard of the classic case of Dover Pennsylvania, where they tried to get ID into the science curriculum, but a judge wisely threw it out of court.

  41. locke

    I find denialism to be closely akin to “don’t trust the experts” and so-called skeptics seem to be big on this meme ( I suspect it’s because so many of them think they’re smarter than the experts and thus their OPINIONS MUST matter more). I tell people infected with this to hire an amateur the next time they need to take a plane flight or to have surgery done on themselves or a loved one.

  42. pygar020

    the oil propaganda ad after the show was verry painfull

  43. Edie

    “There are things known and things unknown and in between are the doors…”

  44. Rob

    The whole GM food debate… Anyone else read this study? (from abstract):

    “We present for the first time a comparative analysis of blood and organ system data from trials with rats fed three main commercialized genetically modified (GM) maize (NK 603, MON 810, MON 863), which are present in food and feed in the world. NK 603 has been modified to be tolerant to the broad spectrum herbicide Roundup and thus contains residues of this formulation. MON 810 and MON 863 are engineered to synthesize two different Bt toxins used as insecticides. Approximately 60 different biochemical parameters were classified per organ and measured in serum and urine after 5 and 14 weeks of feeding. GM maize-fed rats were compared first to their respective isogenic or parental non-GM equivalent control groups. This was followed by comparison to six reference groups, which had consumed various other non-GM maize varieties. We applied nonparametric methods, including multiple pairwise comparisons with a False Discovery Rate approach. Principal Component Analysis allowed the investigation of scattering of different factors (sex, weeks of feeding, diet, dose and group). Our analysis clearly reveals for the 3 GMOs new side effects linked with GM maize consumption, which were sex- and often dose-dependent. Effects were mostly associated with the kidney and liver, the dietary detoxifying organs, although different between the 3 GMOs. Other effects were also noticed in the heart, adrenal glands, spleen and haematopoietic system. We conclude that these data highlight signs of hepatorenal toxicity, possibly due to the new pesticides specific to each GM corn. In addition, unintended direct or indirect metabolic consequences of the genetic modification cannot be excluded.”

    http://www.biolsci.org/v05p0706.htm

    The argument for GM food not being around long enough is definitely a valid one. We still don’t fully understand the human digestive processes and what foods are ideal, let alone if GM food introduced to us last few decades will cause life long problems. Monsanto conducts most of the studies on its own food anyways. Conflict of interest? And what’s wrong with people not wanting to pesticides on their food? The book is interesting, but it’s just a popular science book. Some of the truth will be bent.

  45. Uncle B

    Issue #1 – GMO’s, still unproven s totally safe and are developed by corporations for profit first and foremost. Large government labs doing the same might arrive at very different products due to different criteria!
    Issue#2 – America is the last bastion of the oil barons and is on the cusp of disaster as we speak! China has nuclear/electricity sourced, electric bullet train networks and the associated social structure, with folks living on veggies and rice, producing manufactured goods for American and World markets, without a drop of oil! This model is being duplicated throughout Asia as we speak! America’s total dependency on oil and its reluctance to branch out to other energy forms will be its downfall! The worlds oil reserves are finite. The oil is dwindling. We share this resource with a burgeoning Asia, more each day. Our EROI without the oil leverage is not sustainable!

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