The Very Thick Line Between Raising Concerns And Denialism

By Christie Wilcox | June 19, 2013 8:00 am

The real question is, which side of the line are studies that lack scientific rigor on?
Image credit: silent47

Recently, Kara Moses asked Guardian readers: “Should we wait for conclusive scientific studies before becoming concerned about an issue?” Her personal answer was no; that special interest groups should perform and publicize their own findings. “I believe they should be given a voice,” she concluded, “not dismissed out of hand for lacking the scientific rigour demanded by professional scientists.”

Quick to support her was Treehugger writer Chris Tackett. “The point here is that scientific proof matters in science, but it shouldn’t necessarily be what determines our actions,” he wrote. “We can intuit that some things are unwise or dangerous or against our values without needing reams of scientific data to back up our concerns.” While Kara’s piece talked only about the use of glyphosate (the pesticide known by its brand name RoundUp), Chris used it to attack both the pesticide’s use and Monsanto GM crops.

I understand where they are coming from, but the hair on the back of my neck bristled reading those words. I think they’re both getting into very dangerous territory (or, in the case of Chris’ comments later, happily dancing around in it). The trouble is, it’s one thing to notice a potential danger and raise a few alarm bells to get scientists to investigate an issue — it’s a whole other to publicize and propagandize an unsubstantiated fear despite evidence against it. The former is important, as Kara suggests, and should occur. I have no problem with non-scientists raising honest concerns, if their goal is to have the concerns considered — so long as they’re actually willing to hear what the evidence has to say. The latter, on the other hand, is denialism. You see, once scientists have weighed in, you have to be willing to listen to them.

When it was first suggested that vaccines might lead to autism, is was a legitimate question to ask. Kids seemed to develop autism around the same age they got their vaccines — and can you imagine if the vaccines were to blame? That would have been huge news! We would have had to revolutionize the vaccine industry, to start from scratch and figure out if we can keep these life-saving shots without screwing up our kids’ brains. One of the core foundations of our children’s public health program would have been forever shaken. So, like they should, independent scientists investigated the concerns. They checked and double checked the safety testing. They ran and re-ran results, but they kept getting the same answer: whatever causes autism, it isn’t vaccines. A cumulative sigh of relief was uttered by doctors, nurses, scientists, parents and children around the world.

Except that some people didn’t listen to the data. They called foul, saying every scientist that disagreed with them was under the thumb of Big Pharma and lying to the public. They released the results of unscientific, pet studies showing how they are right and everyone else is wrong. These anti-vaxers still won’t give up their beliefs, even though scientists have come to consensus that vaccines are, in no way, related to autism. We see the same refusal to listen when it comes to climate change. It doesn’t matter how many studies show the same thing, or how many consensuses are reached by scientists. They simply don’t want to question their biases. They don’t want to be informed. They stick their fingers in their ears like children, shouting “I can’t hear you!” — and sadly, the same attitude is found throughout the anti-GMO platform.

Instead of listening to the evidence, campaign groups conduct unrigorous, unscientific and completely biased studies, dig in their heels, and stand their ground. Just look at the recent anti-GM rat and pig studies which have been thoroughly flayed by scientists that have nothing to gain from the GM industry. The groups that performed and published these “trials” weren’t asking whether GM foods are unsafe; they sought and executed sham research hellbent on proving their beliefs, then denied any conflict of interest. I can’t agree with Kara that such studies deserve equal voice. They don’t. 

I’m not sure where Kara stands on the GM issue, but Chris’ clear bias towards one side of the argument shows in the comments. “I don’t need scientists to tell me that GMOs are not a good idea,” he says. There is an astounding level of cognitive dissonance in his statements. Though Chris brings up climate change, he misses his own point. For example, he calls out deniers, saying that “once enough peer-review science had been completed, still maintaining disproven beliefs would not be respectable, like in the case of global warming deniers”, then doesn’t even blink when he says “I would dislike GMOs whether the scientific community agreed they were bad or not. Likewise, I think we should not use Roundup, whether the scientific community agrees that it is dangerous or not.” [emphasis mine]. This is exactly the problem.

GM crops have undergone rigorous safety testing — and passed.
Image credit: adapted from Andrey Khrobostov

The simple fact is our fear of GM technology is based entirely on emotion. There is no science to support it. When it comes to GMOs, the anti crowd are not ‘raising concerns’—they’re denying scientific consensus.

There is a plethora of science that supports the safety record of GM foods. As the Skeptico blog pointed out, there are more than 600 studies (>125 of which were independently funded) that stand behind the safety record of GM crops. Scientists have been studying GMOs and their potential effects for decades. With every major scientific body saying the exact same thing, I simply don’t know how else to spell it out: there is a scientific consensus that GM foods are safe. Continuing to act as if the science is mixed or unclear about the safety of genetic modification is not raising a legitimate concern. It’s not even uninformed; it’s denialist. It’s right up there with the claims of anti-vaxers and climate deniers: that is, simply, flat-out, 100%, dead wrong.

As for the use of pesticides like glyphosate… that’s a much more complex and difficult question. It’s not as simple as “is this pesticide toxic” because the answer to that is undoubtedly yes. That’s what makes it a pesticide! If it wasn’t toxic, it wouldn’t kill anything. A better question is how toxic is this pesticide? Is it more or less toxic than another? Is it toxic to other species we’d like to keep around at the levels it’s used, including us? And what are the consequences — in terms of yield and meeting the demand for food and nutrition in an area — if it isn’t used? What are the alternative options?

When it comes to RoundUp, those kinds of studies have been conducted and continue to be conducted. So far, glyphosate has passed the tests, at least as well as any other pesticide (I personally think RoundUp Ready plants are a disgraceful use of GM technology, and would be perfectly happy to see them wiped off the face of the Earth and replaced with drought-resistant or nutrient-boosted GM varieties instead). Unfortunately, there still isn’t a black and white answer to whether that means the use of glyphosate is warranted.

That’s not to say that all future GMOs or pesticides will be perfect, or even that all current GMOs or pesticides are great or the best option for every farmer everywhere. Modified foods and pesticides raise a myriad of concerns outside questions of safety, including those about agricultural politics and environmental impact. These are legitimate questions that still are being answered. Monsanto and their sway over agricultural law and standard practices are definitely worth investigating. Our reliance on chemical pest control when there may be other options is worth investigating.

But what keeps happening is that anti-GMO or chemiphobic interest groups choose to attack technology wholesale, claiming a supposed lack of safety and demanding outright bans instead of tackling the real issues. They keep saying things like ‘GM crops are untested’, when they’re not, and they do so while, without a second thought, supporting things like alternative medicines, even though only 1/3 of those have been tested for safety or efficacy and some of those are responsible for serious negative ecological impacts. They make bold statements that all synthetic pesticides are dangerous while blindly believing in natural ones that are just as (if not more) toxic. But of course, if you point out the horrendous double standard, you’re attacked and called an industry shill*. Climate change science they will listen to. Vaccine science, they listen to (at least some of them). But all synthetic pesticides and GM foods are going to kill you and they always will, no matter what the scientists say. The level of hypocrisy displayed in these arguments (including Chris’) is simply inexcusable.

To reply to Kara’s original question: no, you don’t need a body of scientific evidence to raise concerns, if that’s really the goal of what you’re doing. But you do need at least a shred that suggests such concerns are valid before you shout them as facts from the rooftops. You should support independent scientists that study what you’re concerned about instead of trying to tie every one (usually in some ludicrous way) to biased funding. And if those scientists weigh in with well-designed studies that don’t agree with your initial concerns, you should feel relieved, not betrayed. If scientists are in consensus on a topic, it’s because the evidence is strong. It’s because they’ve investigated and rigorously tested the possible hypotheses using different methods, and the same conclusions keep stubbornly arising. Scientists don’t come to consensus easily, so when they do, you should listen to them.

The difference is night and day.
Image credit: photo by simonquinnphotography.com

The real question is whether the charities and NGOs Kara talks about that perform and publicize these unrigorous studies are really just sounding alarm bells, or whether they’re trying to push an agenda. There’s a very thick line between raising concerns and denialism, though the latter will always staunchly claim that there isn’t.

 

 

UPDATE: Since a few comments have pointed this out, let me clear up my use of the word “pesticide”. Glyphosate kills plants, and thus, yes, is an herbicide. All herbicides — and insecticides, and fungicides, etc — are classified as pesticides by the EPA, as they are a chemical used to prevent, destroy, repel, or mitigate a “pest” (see, also, the Wikipedia page on pesticides). The choice to use the word pesticide was intentional; I felt jumping back and forth between “herbicide” and “pesticide” would be confusing and, for the sake of the argument I was making, irrelevant.

* I can’t even count how many people have attacked my scientific integrity in response to my opinions, claiming that I am being paid by Monsanto or that I’m clearly in Big Ag’s pocket, even though my scientific research and funding sources are clearly stated. And, of course, I can’t help but laugh at the hypocrisy of such specious arguments. Attacking my opinions by saying they’re driven by money when those of the assailants are entirely based upon the unscientific claims pushed by biased and sometimes even profit-driven interest groups is simply laughable.

Side note: I disagree completely with Kara’s statement that “charities and NGOs often don’t have the resources or expertise to undertake full scientific studies and publish them in journals.” Many of the scientists I personally know are funded by The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, and a suite of other big and small name charities and NGOs with cash to burn on the issues they care about. Which, of course, makes me a little wary when such organizations release and push results that haven’t been peer-reviewed, because I know full well that they *can* afford to follow the proper scientific channels. 

 

  • mem_somerville

    I get really confused about the animosity towards weed control. This is a serious issue for farmers. I think tech that benefits them also generates consumer benefits too–but most people don’t grasp this. This includes less spraying, less gasoline used in the equipment, and in some cases even means having fewer humans to do hand-weeding in terrible migrant work situations.

    Do you feel the same way about conventional herbicide tolerance? Say the Clearfield tech?

    • Psyclic

      A thorough study of the EFFECTS of growing RUR crops and using roundup assiduously would be nice to see, don’t you agree?

      • mem_somerville

        But why would that be different from conventional herbicide resistance?

        • Psyclic

          I don’t know that it would or would not. Why not do the study and find out?

          • mem_somerville

            Well I’m all for MOAR SCIENCE! But there are a lot of studies already, of many types.

            There aren’t usually good comparisons with other metrics of the whole process though. Yield, land use, water, energy, and toxicity. A lot of people are surprised to learn that “organic” treatments can be worse for the environment than conventional ones. Doesn’t seem to alter the call for more organics. Go figure.

            http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0011250

      • theLaplaceDemon

        You mean like a bunch of the studies listed here?

        http://www.biofortified.org/genera/studies-for-genera/

        • Psyclic

          Maybe you could point out these extensive studies – What I got was: “This page is the future home of the GENetic Engineering Risk Atlas, or GENERA. The goal of this project is to build a searchable database of peer-reviewed research on the relative risks of genetically engineered crops that includes important details at-a-glance. “

          • http://geneticmaize.wordpress.com/ Anastasia

            Give it a few seconds and the list will load below the text. Patience :)

          • theLaplaceDemon

            Mouse over “Genera” on the top navigation bar. Click “Studies for GENERA.” You also have the option to only look at independently funded studies.

            When I click on the link I posted it takes me directly there, I don’t know why it doesn’t do the same for you.

            The list isn’t sortable by topic yet, but you can use Find to search for Round-Up/Glyphosate.

          • theLaplaceDemon

            (by the way, when I did a quick find search for “glyphosate” I identified 40+ studies)

          • Isabel Herron

            like Stephanie said I
            am stunned that people can make $7104 in four weeks on the internet. have you
            read this webpage w­w­w.K­E­P­2.c­o­m

          • Psyclic

            Thanks for the pointer.
            Paywall prevents access to most but abstracts like:

            “… it is unlikely that substances present in small amounts and with a low toxic potential will result in any observable (unintended) effects in a 90-day rodent feeding study, as they would be below the no-observed-effect-level and thus of unlikely impact to human health at normal intake levels. Laboratory animal feeding studies of 90-days duration appear to be sufficient to pick up adverse effects of diverse compounds that would also give adverse effects after chronic exposure. This conclusion is based on literature data from studies investigating whether toxicological effects are adequately identified in 3-month subchronic studies in rodents, by comparing findings at 3 and 24 months for a range of different chemicals. The 90-day rodent feeding study is not designed to detect effects on reproduction or development other than effects on adult reproductive organ weights and histopathology…”

            Unlikely?

            Appear?

            probably?

            90-day study….!!!

            Bt-on testicular devlopment in mice: “it was concluded that the Bt corn diet had no measurable or observable effect on fetal, postnatal, pubertal, or adult testicular development. If data from this study were extrapolated to humans, Bt corn is not harmful to human reproductive development.” By COUNTING the number of germ cells and finding that the QUANTITY of cells was basically the same in Bt-fed vs non-Bt fed mice, we EXTRAPOLATE that there would be NO HARM to human reproductive development.”

            These are NOT really solid, reassuring proofs that GM-crops do NOT present a danger. Lead in small amounts is not fatal, but can lead to signficant nerological damage.

            “With the exception of the risk to those with phenylketonuria, aspartame is considered to be a safe food additive by governments, worldwide” – we didn’t know in advance that aspartame could dangerously target a genetic subset.

            Caution, not defensive hype, is required.

      • Tom
    • Warron van Riet

      Interesting to note that the average farm size in India is 1.3ha and in China 0.6ha. Mechanization on such small plots is not feasible. Weed control and other intensive farm activities are done by the farmer and family members.
      Seed is selected, collected and passed on to future generations.
      How long this will last with the arrival of biotech is anyone’s guess.

    • teknowh0re

      Thats just it, mem, the people who are against these things, they aren’t likely considering the migrant workers who have to go out in the fields. They don’t SEE any benefits. And the scariest part of ALL OF THIS is: The people raising money to spread the disinformation campaign, or spread half truths about monsanto and others….they are being funded by evils they aren’t even aware of. Its very interesting, and quite disturbing actually.

  • Sleuth 4 Health

    Excellent piece and I love your “down the middle” stance about GE. I so agree that all this sensationalized rhetoric detracts from the REAL issues.

    And who can explain the irony of folks who insist that climate denial is in direct opposition to what the science says, yet, in their next breath completely denounce GMOs because they simply don’t like them and who care’s what science says.

    What irritates me the most is the attitude of… by golly… GMOs are no good for me, I don’t like them, so they’re no good for the world and should be banned.

    How arrogant!

    • http://whenfallsthecoliseum.com/author/kwatson/ megapotamus

      You should look into so-called ‘climate change science’. It is a hoax.

      • TomJB

        The climate is always changing. A static climate has not occurred since the formation of the Earth. It has been a molten ball of lava and completely encased in ice. The fraudulent part of the climate change lobby is that they are so arrogant as to believe that humans can do anything about something so complex (either cause or fix) when what all we can really do is hang on and try to enjoy the ride. That they also believe the “ideal” climate for the Earth is what it was like when Al Gore was growing up is also another good question.

      • SmoovB

        “Hoax” is far too strong a word. Nevertheless, the fact that climate change was left out of this article is alarming. No area of science has been subject to more ideological pressure in the past century than has the field of climate science. The twisting of facts to fit narratives is so pervasive that it’s almost impossible to tell who is telling the truth — and that includes many scientists, who after all are just human beings with their own agendas, flaws and egos.

        One thing is fairly certain: the models that were used over past several decades to predict catastrophic anthropogenic global warming are now hopelessly wrong. The global temperature data (hadcrut, nasa, et al) are now well outside the 95% confidence level of ALL the major climate models recognized by the IPCC. This fact has been little reported in the mainstream media with a few notable exceptions (e.g., The Economist has essentially reversed their stance on global warming). Scientists with the courage and integrity to stand up for the truth are now beginning to come forward and denounce the phoney notion of “97% consensus” (which was never true, and has been fully debunked).

        Climatologists must be permitted to go about their scientific work without the extreme political/ideological pressure that has been used to drastically distort their work. We need to understand how and why our climate changes, but political extremists of all stripes must be forcibly ejected from that process.

        • Mythxx

          I would like to point also that climate science has far greater hurdles to jump through to prove its validity. Unlike the other examples there can be no control group. We also are forced to use data from different sources and obtained by different methods. The concrete conclusions that have emanated from many on these issues have always seemed to me to be more about gaining fame and benefactors than about actual science.

      • Sleuth 4 Health

        I’m going to pretend you’re not serious. If you are serious, I am flummoxed.

    • TomJB

      You really don’t have to look much farther than how the same organic champions reacted when Wal-Mart started to sell organic. It was an atrocity! You must ask yourself whether they truly believe organic is better or, from their reactions to it being available to more people at lower prices, whether they just want pump their sense of superiority and keep access of it to themselves while preaching to those who dont go organic.

  • Leslie Bianchi

    If you want to see liberals turn into conservatives, post this and discuss it.

    Grouping all GMOs as though they are equal is common. Perhaps you might write about the different ways GMOs are made and why as well as how and why they are different.

    This question was asked “Are all the reports of resistant Super Weeds also fake science? And the resistant Super Bugs? Or is Monsanto already engaged in the next generation?”

    Do you have an answer?

    Also this came up “Genetic science is still in its infancy. Scientists used to think there were a lot of “wasted” proteins on the chromosomes that didn’t seem to do anything. Then they found out that different proteins could be activated and “express” associated genes in different ways. It’s just the tip of the iceberg. The science of splicing a gene from one species to another may be sound, but the potential outcomes are just not known. Such activity should require long-term testing before being declared safe for profit-making.”

    I suspect there will never be enough sound scientific evidence. I don’t believe the people I am talking to would ever want to be eating GMOs but that is not why I am talking about this.

    If when we, as fairly open-minded liberals, hold strongly held opinions for which we cannot be convinced to change our minds, when faced with sound scientific evidence contradicting them, however can we expect to make headway convincing others to change their minds about their issues by citing sound scientific evidence?

    One person used this argument to explain her positions on both climate change as real and GMOs as unsafe.

    “If we ignore our instincts, and just plow forward with no regard for maintaining basic preservation values, we will probably not survive.”

    This to me says that sound scientific evidence doesn’t matter. How do we change that?

    • Psyclic

      Are you saying that once “science” has passed judgement, we are done, and emotional reaction should be castigated?
      Where in “science” is the last step?

      • Leslie Bianchi

        nope.

        but some issues have been put to bed — like the age of the earth be millions of years — and yet people still argue about it.

        Also the earth being round not flat

        *but take the later — it’s not exactly round — but not flat is definitely settled

        • I_Callahan

          Leslie – this is a non-sequitur. We already have proof that the earth is millions of years old, and have proof that the world is not flat. We DON’T have proof that human-caused climate change is an issue.

      • Tedd

        Castigated, no. But denied a voice in setting policy, absolutely.

        • Psyclic

          TEDD – Some very bad policies come from poor or bad theories – eugenics is classic; welfare moms can be demonstrated (incorrectly) to be a prevalent social strata; the Stanford Prison experiment demonstrated a social fallacy which had been demonstrated many times before, but forgotten and generated poor social policies –
          my question: ‘Where in “science” is the last step?’ has not been addressed.

          • Tedd

            Psyclic:

            Exactly. All policies driven by emotional reaction which, unless I misread you, is the very thing you’re promoting.

            Re your question, I don’t understand it, so I don’t have an answer.

  • Psyclic

    Christie, Your comment: ” I personally think RoundUp Ready plants are a disgraceful use of GM technology, and would be perfectly happy to see them wiped off the face of the Earth…”
    Why?

    • http://christiewilcox.com/ Christie Wilcox

      My issue with RoundUp Ready plants is that by giving them herbicide resistance, we are ensuring that we keep spraying fields with herbicides rather than looking for better solutions. Even with the best chemicals, there are ecological effects to spraying, because as I said in the post, these chemicals *are* toxic on some level. Glyphosate is better than many of the other herbicides we used to use, but I think we can do better overall. I actually prefer the strategy taken by Bt plants, which places the toxin inside the plant (at least from an ecological perspective). And, not surprisingly, the difference in strategy has yielded very different results: RR fields show increase in chemical use, while Bt fields show less http://www.enveurope.com/content/24/1/24 . Even still, I think we can do better—using irrigation for weed control, for example, which doesn’t leave chemicals lying around to damage other species. If we made plants flood tolerant that normally aren’t, we could really use irrigation-based weeding on a bigger scale. And that’s just one idea—the whole point of why GM has such potential is that it allows us to be creative and come up with out of the box solutions. Herbicide resistance is lazy, status quo thinking. I want to see more innovative ways to tackle agricultural issues like weeds, with GM as one of the tools available.

      • TravisKeene

        Weed control certainly isn’t as sexy as drought tolerance or Golden Rice but that doesn’t make it any less critical to sustainability in agriculture. Weeds are often horribly inefficient users of nitrogen and water. Controlling weeds makes agricultural systems more drought tolerant and nutrient efficient. Herbicide tolerant crops have been an invaluable tool in helping farmers shift away from older more problematic herbicides like atrazine and shifting towards more conservation and no-till systems that have slashed erosion rates and improved soil health. HT crops have also made “non-conventional” practices like cover cropping more attractive to conventional growers. Where stewarded properly by growers who rotate crops and herbicides it has been great.

        I cannot believe that flood irrigation for weed control is logistically possible or even wise if it was possible. I mean seriously does flooding 1.7 million acres of row crops sound like a good idea? Nitrogen run off and GHG emissions would sky rocket…not to mention figuring out where all that water would come from.

        RoundUp ready may have been an inelegant use of genetic engineering but take it away tomorrow and agriculture’s environmental impact goes up, not down.

        Travis Keene
        Certified Crop Advisor

        • http://christiewilcox.com/ Christie Wilcox

          Travis,
          Thank you for your comments! I agree irrigation isn’t a global solution, but it might be a local one for certain crops in certain areas. The overall points you make, though, are valid—as much as, as an ecologist, I dislike the idea of herbicide resistant crops, they have proven useful, and shouldn’t be written off completely (as I did in my original comment in the piece). I hope that our future GM crops can take what we’ve learned from RR and Bt crops and do even better, and find the balance between sustainability and efficacy to create long-term solutions that take into account not only GM technology but also diverse agricultural practices like those you mention. Hopefully the bright minds of today’s GE scientists will come up with more creative solutions than I can think of!

          • TravisKeene

            I hope so too!!

          • http://cumulativemodel.blogspot.com/ aaron

            IIRC, the herb/pesticides used with ready plants breaks down faster and more completely, making them more environmentally friendly despite more use by volume and frequency.

        • Leslie Bianchi

          The ownership of technology is a huge reason why people are up in arms against Monsanto, and tbh, why should a company be able to force dependency on an industry?

          • Eric Liskey

            Nobody forces this on anyone. Farmers are free to go on farming in any way they wish. Of course Monsanto owns the technology — they invented it, and spent hundreds of millions in the process! Is it unreasonable to expect a return on their investment?

      • Eric Liskey

        I don’t get your issue with RR plants, or glyphosate. If there’s a herbicide that’s been shown to be safer or more effective, I don’t know what it is. It has an amazing track record. And you throw the word “toxic” around carelessly. By your reasoning, we should look for alternatives to antibiotics, because, hey, they’re toxic to life, right. Also, comparing chemical use in RR fields to Bt plants is erroneous. Bt plants turn entire croplands into pesticide factories. And I would hardly call herbicide resistance “lazy, status quo thinking”. Why do you dismiss it so blithely? You want to see more innovative ways? Seriously? This is cutting edge stuff, and nearly miraculous in its transformation of agriculture. Nobody’s against any and all innovations that really improve agriculture. But we’ve got a good technology here. Let’s have more of it, I say. Having said all this, I really appreciate your broader point in the essay. Unfortunately, it’s been made many times, to little effect.

  • Drake Larsen

    I oppose GMOs. Not because of safety issues, but for 2 reasons. First, they stifle innovations in agriculture – I would rather have 90,000 Iowa farmers making the decisions for my state’s 26 million ag acres than 12 members of the Monsanto board dictating what will happen by way of patents and litigation. Innovations happen more readily when the process is democratic and includes the brain-power of the masses vs 12 isolated, non-farmer folks making profit driven choices around a big fancy table. And second, they don’t work – by and large the history of GMOs is a history of gimmicks. Bt is a perfect example – the technology decreased chemical use for about 3 years. Now the corn borers are all resistant and chemical use exceeds the levels from before the genetic tinkering. So in the fight for GMOs, what are we fighting for… for more profits for corporations with zero societal benefit. I suppose if that’s where you want to spend your energy, so be it…. but don’t be surprised when folks suspect you are beholden to industry… for why else would anyone stand up for these technologies, there are certainly very few altruistic reasons.

    • TravisKeene

      You are confused. European corn borer has not shown field resistance to any in plant Bt proteins. Some bio types of corn rootworm on a limited number of acres have evolved resistance to one specific Bt protein. There are other proteins on the market that still control this bio type. A farmer does not have to resort to using more soil insecticides than he would have used pre Bt crops for control. Bt isn’t a silver bullet but a good tool for growers that when stewarded properly has and still is reducing broad spectrum insecticide use. Also, no seed company tells a farmer what he must plant. Contrary to the myth, farmers have many non-GM seed choices.

      • Drake Larsen

        In fact, the gene that confers Bt resistance in ECB was first reported in the journal Science in 1999. Refuge can be an effective tool to fight resistance in populations, but every study on the matter finds individuals with resistance. But this treadmill only lasts so long. Last month the Wall Street Journal quoted an Iowa farmer saying Monsanto’s Bt hybrid is “a train wreck” after he took a 66% yield hit from ECB infestation in Bt hybrid corn.

        The larger proof can be seen in chemical sales. Bt hybrids were introduced on the market in 2003 and soil insecticide use reached a low in 2006. But the use of these chemicals has been climbing since that low. According to the Amvac Chemical Corporation there were single-digit percentage increases each year from 2007 to 2010, then a 10% increase in use 2011 from 2010, a 30% increase 2012 from 2011, and they are estimating a 40% increase this year over last. The EPA says the Bt hybrids will be worthless within a decade.

        As for seed choice, there are 67% fewer non-GMO seed varieties today than there were in 2005 – and the trend continues downward. In a recent study, Corn Belt farmers were asked if they had access to high-yielding non-GMO varieties and a majority said NO. So, if this is a myth, it isn’t just me that has been fooled… but also a majority of corn farmers too.

        • theLaplaceDemon

          “The larger proof can be seen in chemical sales. Bt hybrids were introduced on the market in 2003 and soil insecticide use reached a low in 2006. But the use of these chemicals has been climbing since that low. ”

          Which chemicals, specifically, are you referring to? Because if you’re talking about sprayed Bt, an increase in demand for organic produce is a much more plausible cause for increased use than Bt crops.

          As for the 1999 Science paper: I can’t get access to the full text from my home computer – will have to wait until work tomorrow. I note that it was a lab test, rather then data from the field. Would you be willing to explain to me what they did to mimic real-life agricultural settings? What arguments do they give for why their study should translate?

          I also cannot get any information from the abstract on whether the plants they used expressed just one Bt protein, or several. Which is it?

          Also, can I get a direct link to the EPA statement?

          • Drake Larsen

            Amvac-chemical ain’t making organic Bt, it’s synthetic chemicals for use in conventional systems. You can look at their product selection on their website if you’d like.

            I am not saying the ’99 Science paper suggests infield applicability – but rather simply proves that the mechanism exists. If you “believe” in evolution then that is all you need to know to understand it will always be a treadmill battle, running and running just to stay in the same place.

            A constant chemical & technology treadmill is a rather stupid scenario to submit to for a pest problem that can be eliminated with longer rotations. It only makes sense if you are the one selling the seeds. In 10 years Monsanto is on their 2nd gen Bt tech and the 3rd is in the works.

            The EPA quote speaks to the issue that it is largely found that farmers don’t follow refuge recommendations very well. Folks want to argue with science from the plot level and forget we deploy these technologies at a landscape level in social contexts that aren’t part of the agronomics.

          • theLaplaceDemon

            “Amvac-chemical ain’t making organic Bt, it’s synthetic chemicals for use
            in conventional systems. You can look at their product selection on
            their website if you’d like.”

            Then how are you linking this to Bt GMOs, exactly?

            I don’t think anyone would argue that pesticide/herbicide resistance isn’t a problem – the issue is how much of that you can reasonably pin on specific GMO crops. You are arguing that Bt crops are a bigger risk than conventional crops. The only source you provided was the ’99 Science paper, which I notice you have not answered my questions about.

            I asked for a link on the EPA quote, I didn’t ask for you to explain it.

          • Drake Larsen

            Amvac says they are selling more because of failures in Bt hybrids – I guess I take their word for it. Chemical use declined when Bt came on the scene and increased as efficacy waned.

            There are hundreds of peer reviewed literature detailing resistance to Bt hybrids in both corn and cotton. I picked one of the earliest as an example. Or try Gahan et al in Science 2001, or the 430 articles that have cited it since.

            I am not arguing that Bt crops are a bigger risk, but rather simply that they are a waste. Farmers are paying asinine fees to overcome a problem they have brought on themselves by not practicing crop rotations. Costly inputs have replaced ecology – but nature always bats last in the end

            Laplace, you are mistaken to assume that I am here to answer your every question or decipher an entire body of literature for you. Fine to me if you are buried in reductionist science and unable to view agriculture as a system where you can’t buy every answer in a bag. Good luck with that.

          • theLaplaceDemon

            Where does Amvac say that? Do you have a link to that statement?

            Pretty much all of my questions to you have been asking you to back up your points with sources. In the case of the Science paper, I asked questions necessary to determine it’s applicability to the statements you were making. I have asked for you to link me to the EPA statement over and over, because quite frankly I’m not willing to take your word for it.

            Making sweeping statements about studies involving Bt resistance says nothing unless those studies are comparing Bt GMOs to conventional sprayed pesticides. That’s not ‘reductionist’, it’s looking at Bt GMOs *in the context* of modern agriculture.

            Are there non-pesticide, cost-effective ways to deal with pests? I don’t know, I’m not a farmer. But that’s a point about pesticides period, not necessarily GMO pesticides.

        • TravisKeene

          The WSJ article you are refering to is talking about rootworm not ECB.
          http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323463704578496923254944066.html

          Sure
          individual resistant insects exist. The question is whether or not the
          field population becomes resistant. So while lab reared insects have
          given rise to resistant populations, so far that has not developed in
          the field for ECB, only WCR. Some bacteria will always be resistant to antibiotics. That doesnt mean we should never use antibiotics. Farmers need to do a better job of stewarding these tools though for sure.

          And soil insecticide sales have risen but use rates per acre have not gone above what they where pre rootworm Bt as you suggested. Resistance to one Cry protein is not going to increase the amount of pyretheroid it takes to kill a rootworm.

          Yup, conventional choices have
          declined with the advent of traited products. Duh. Draft horse options really trailed off after the tractor came around. But you can still buy one if you want. Should seed companies
          have to keep conventional seed around that nobody is buying? That doesn’t mean there aren’t options though. My local ag rag advertises two companies that sell all conventional corn and soybean products. Ive seen conventional products do great in state yield trials. But its still a niche market because most growers prefer traits.

          • Drake Larsen

            Thanks for catching the WSJ snafu, couldn’t pull it up on the iPad.

            Nonchalantly dismissing an abrupt bottleneck in millennia of conventional crop breeding, especially in the face of climate change, is ludicrous. These GMO tools have been around less than a couple decades – your utmost faith in them is narrow-minded, short-sighted, and a leap of faith,…but you seem to be ripe for the Monsanto marketing team.

          • TravisKeene

            Genetic diversity is important. But seed companies aren’t abandoning conventional breeding or the importance of genetic diversity. They go through all of the same breeding steps they did pre biotech to develop new hybrids and varieties. Traits are added after new inbred lines are developed in corn. Traits themselves don’t affect the underlying genetics that are the drivers of intrinsic yield. There are still thousands of genetically unique corn hybrids for sale. As an analogy, if you put ten runners in the same shoes, they won’t all tie.

            Again, biotech traits are not a silver bullet. They’re a tool in the tool box and no substitute for an integrated pest management plan.

          • Drake Larsen

            “They’re a tool in the tool box and no substitute for an integrated pest management plan.”

            Completely agree!

    • http://geneticmaize.wordpress.com/ Anastasia

      1) There was consolidation in the seed industry well before biotech came along. I’m not sure how we can blame one technology for something caused by capitalism and politics.
      2) If biotech traits don’t work, why do farmers keep buying them? In countries where they aren’t allowed to buy traited seed, black markets develop. You are essentially saying that farmers are stupid.

  • Leslie Bianchi

    another issue brought up:

    “i am concerned about the probable connection between GMO corn and hive collapse experienced by honey bees exposed to the corn”

    is this relevant?

    • Billy Oblivion

      Probably not. The “hive collapse” is (purportedly) being seen mainly in commercial hives where almost all of the honey is being removed for sale and the bees are being fed corn syrup instead. Honey has trace amounts of anti-bacterial chemicals in it that the commercial bees no longer get.

      Apparently the hives where the bees continue to feed off their own honey are doing fine.

    • http://cumulativemodel.blogspot.com/ aaron

      I’ve seen facebook post. Of course hive collapes happens near industrial farms “which are likely to use GMO”. That’s where the bees are.

    • http://cumulativemodel.blogspot.com/ aaron

      Bee farming practices and pests are probably the primary causes. One thing that isn’t considered is the climactic changes this past decade: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/sep/6/global-warming-fanatics-take-note/
      This might affect bees, nutrition content of crops, growth of pests…
      The driver of these weather pattern changes seems to be UV, which bees are visually sensitive to in some wavelengths. Probably just conicidence, but interesting. Maybe bees have evolved to see coming changes in their environment.

  • ArchiesBoy

    I say down with Frankenfood. Period.

    • I_Callahan

      Never mind the facts; my mind is made up.

      • ArchiesBoy

        LOL! It’s way too soon for the facts we need. When they start coming in in sufficient amounts, then we can make an informed decision. Meantime, no Frankenfood for me! Regular processed foods are bad enough!

  • Donovan

    Wow. Interesting. I’m going to comment on GM food sources here. It doesn’t surprise me there’s a strong reaction against them. Releasing a GM food source ‘into the wild’ has show that, even when the source is supposedly sterile it mutates and is able to reproduce. GM food that causes ‘leaky gut’ in insects does the same in mammals. Corn DNA is found in human hair. We don’t fully understand human DNA yet, and definitely not how our DNA might work with external DNA….

    We are what we eat, on both microscopic, and macroscopic levels. Everything our bodies do to keep us alive has to do with collections of atoms. If someone’s messing with those atoms, be it via aspartame or the latest pest-resistant grain crop I’d want to see a multigenerational human trial where all members have their dna, before and after thoroughly mapped. That hasn’t been done yet.

    • Billy Oblivion

      “GM food that causes ‘leaky gut’ in insects does the same in mammals”

      Bullshit. Pure bullshit.

    • theLaplaceDemon

      Sources?

  • jw

    I agree with you about people pushing questionable information to justify their positions. I’m a scientist and I loathe pseudoscience and non-rigorous data. BUT… if the debate is about requiring the labeling of GM foods, which it seems to mainly be, then I don’t think you need any data on toxicity, real or fake, to justify your position. I strongly support labeling because I believe in an informed democracy. I would personally choose to avoid GM food because I think the whole political setup with Monsanto patenting crops is bad for society.

    • I_Callahan

      If you strongly support labeling, what is the reason? Is there any science that proves (or at least comes close) that GM food is bad for you? If not, then what does labeling do other than alarm people of something that they shouldn’t be alarmed about?

      Basically, your reasoning is political, NOT based in science, even though you are a scientist. Which is why a larger number of people aren’t so hot on scientists’ predictions anymore.

    • Deyan

      You strongly support labeling because you want to keep people informed? Based on what? GMO’s and organic foods have been proven to have the same nutritional value as each other. So what would be the point in labelling them? Seems more like an emotional concern rather than any logical one. The only reason I can think of having to label GMO’s is being informed over the way they were created, since that’s the only difference between organic and GMO’s. Still, it’s a nonsensical point because the way your food was created has no merit on whether or not you should eat it or its nutritional value. Picking organic or GMO’s doesn’t matter to your health, so this is essentially an emotional argument. Its based on whether or not you’re comfortable with one or the other because of unscientific and mindless fear-mongering.

      • Cameron

        That’s a pretty strong (and unsupported) assertion. Can you link to some support for your case?

        • Deyan

          Unsupported? Lol. Maybe you’re just intellectually lazy. Well, I’ll get you started: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691511006399

          • Cameron

            Accusations? Lol. Maybe you’re just intellectually insecure. Thanks for the link. That’s all I was asking for.

            And I meant that *you* weren’t supporting your claims. Not that your case has no support. But thanks for demonstrating to all that you’re here to rant, not to educate or discuss.

          • Deyan

            Quit whining, address the study or get out.

          • Cameron

            Troll

    • http://geneticmaize.wordpress.com/ Anastasia

      Hurray for voluntary labeling, so people who want to avoid certain things can do so. You may pay a bit more for organic or certified non-GMO but this way you get the information you want. A “may contain GMO” label is not useful in a practical sense for anyone trying to avoid them, and isn’t science based either because there is no biologically significant difference. Now, if there is a difference, such as altered nutritional properties, labeling of that change is mandated by the FDA, as it should be.

  • jcherfas

    Well said, mostly. But there are additional concerns too. For a start, food safety is not the only issue, and to pretend that it is is dishonest on both sides of the fence.

    Why not endorse proper freedom to label — never mind compulsory labelling — and let consumers choose based on their own desires?

    And why are people who are against GMO on “corporate dominance” grounds also opposed to Terminator Technology, which removes any possible harmful impact of GM crops on neighbours, weeds, etc?

  • Gianni Feliciano

    To me, it is a very simple concept: If you have nothing to hide, why hide it? If you are completely and utterly confident that GMOs are in fact non-problematic, you would have no problem labeling them. As a soon to be professional chef, I would prefer to not serve GM foods because of my own personal beliefs that food should be grown naturally and, therefore, I should (as a consumer and professional) know EXACTLY what I am using. What I eat and what I serve should be my choice and I should have the right to know.

    • theLaplaceDemon

      ” food should be grown naturally”

      Can you elaborate on what you mean by this?

      Also, re: labeling. Even if you are completely 100% confident GMOs are non-problematic, as you say, unfair prejudice from consumers is a perfectly good reason to oppose labeling.

      • johnv2

        Why is consumer prejudice a good reason to oppose labeling? Many consumers are prejudiced against artificial sweeteners, so should we exempt those ingredients from laws requiring disclosure of ingredients?

        • theLaplaceDemon

          You misunderstood my point, John. Gianni suggested that if GMOs are safe, Monsanto should not oppose labeling. I’m saying that there are perfectly plausible reasons for a biotech company/food company to oppose GMO labeling *even if* they are 100% confident that their product is safe. I’m not saying it’s “good” as in, “we should make policy based on this reasoning.” Just that opposing labeling doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t confident in the safety of your product.

          • Billy Oblivion

            The problem isn’t whether GMO foods are safe–they clearly are.

            The problem is that the professional activists and fruitcakes get the ear of the press and make people THINK they are unsafe–with absolutely NO evidence other than a childish and ignorant fear.

          • http://cumulativemodel.blogspot.com/ aaron

            And the result is less food and more expensive food which harms the poor and developing nations. And more use of resources, resulting in the same.

    • Tedd

      The first problem I see is that the “nothing to hide” argument is weak on its face. Gays have nothing to hide, either, but they quite reasonably often avoid other people’s judgement by being private about being gay. Just because you have nothing to hide doesn’t mean you don’t have reasonable motivation for hiding it. It’s a bit tyrannical to claim the right to force someone who’s not doing anything wrong to publicly proclaim what they’re doing so that the ignorant or prejudiced among us can pass judgement on them.

      Also, the choice of whether or not to include GMO information has to be left with the seller. If we force that choice upon them it would be yet another regulation favouring large suppliers over small competitors. A small food supplier could easily be completely overwhelmed by the documentation necessary to comply with such a labeling requirement, and be forced to leave the market (or never enter it in the first place), even though they might have a superior product. That kind of thing happens all the time, and is an unintended consequence of such regulations that many people neglect. (Sometimes, of course, it is the whole point of the regulation, from the perspective of the larger competitors.)

  • Anne Dachel

    The easy way to show vaccines have nothing to do with autism would be to conduct a simple study. We need to compare the autism rates in fully vaccinated and never
    vaccinated children. If one in every 50 never vaccinated kids has autism, the proof would be there for all to see. Health officials use similar retrospective studies all the time but they refuse to call for one to look at vaccines and autism.

    Anne Dachel,
    Media editor: Age of Autism

    • Heraldblog

      That’s a great idea, Anne. Withhold vaccines from 10,000 or so randomly selected children for the first three years of their lives, without telling their parents or doctors. And where would you carry out such a ghastly study – North Korea?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pByYy2uhIIU

      • Jonovich

        I think there are 10,000 parents that would willingly participate in this. And notice your tone when compared to Anne’s. Anne is trying to engage in debate; you are attacking Anne.

        • NYlawyer

          To protect patients, a clinical study has to be approved by an Institutional Review Board, and none would approve it. There has to be a plausible basis to the concern before it would be ethical to expose children to disease by withholding vaccines.

          • Jonovich

            There is a plausible basis, there are many parents who already aren’t vaccinating their children (due to distrust of Big Government and Big Medicine), and finally withholding vaccines is not equivalent to “exposing children to disease”.

            It seems like there are two paths that society can take: forcing parents to vaccinate their kids, or persuading them that the vaccines are a better, healthier alternative. Sad that liberals always choose the former even as trust in government is eroding at an alarming pace.

          • Heraldblog

            Vaccines are not currently mandated in any state or city. Getting your facts straight would go a long way toward the latter.

          • Jonovich

            Read again what I wrote, sport. I used the modal “can” to express possibility. And I also know that many schools are requiring vaccinations, so we’ve already started down this path.

          • Heraldblog

            So your argument is that it is “possible” that “liberals” want to mandate vaccines, even though you have no evidence for that claim. Is that right? The only vaccine laws proposed lately have been for scaling back personal belief exemptions, or requiring some proof of informed consent before parents are allowed to expose their children to potentially dangerous diseases. Not exactly my definition of freedom. If there is a plausible basis for exposing children to VPDs, I haven’t heard it. Anything you can share?

            And just because some schools (especially many private Catholic schools which don’t allow any exemptions) require immunization does not mean evil liberals are forcing vaccines via government mandates. Because there’s no evidence that is happening. Do you understand what “mandate” means?

        • Heraldblog

          Anne does not want debate. She spams comment boards and moves on. If Anne welcomes debate, them she could explain which 1980s-era study found a 1:10,000 ” rate” for autism. Then she can defend why she treats “prevalence” and “incidence” as synonyms.

          You’re new at this, aren’t you?

          • Jonovich

            Put autism aside for a moment (I know, that will be hard for you). Are vaccines 100% safe?

          • Heraldblog

            Of course not. Nothing is 100% safe. You’re about to make a point, right?

    • Jonas Cord

      Here you go, Anne:

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1124634/

      “Although MMR vaccination was introduced in Denmark in 1987, the rise in autism began only in the mid-1990s.”

      Denmark comes to the rescue again if you thought it was Thimerosal, because they banned it in 1992:

      http://www.immunizationinfo.org/science/autism-and-thimerosal-danish-study

      So neither had any effect on Autism rates, therefore Vaccines do not cause autism. QED.

  • Anne Dachel

    This link shows the dramatic increase in the number of vaccine our children received between 1983 and 2012.

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-arqv6t8VacY/T7QvOcTrpmI/AAAAAAAAD-U/EBqU4n3R0SE/s1600/VaxCDC.png

    Where is even one study on the cumulative effect of the increasing number of vaccines in the childhood schedule? THERE ISN’T ONE.

    Anne Dachel,
    Media editor: Age of Autism

    • I_Callahan

      Correlation doesn’t mean causation. There are other correlative trends between those two time periods as well, including the fact that the average age of parents has increased as well. There have been a number of studies that show this, yet some people still dwell on vaccines.

  • Anne Dachel

    This is a link to a list of approximately 150 scientists and physicians who have serious concerns about vaccine safety.

    If you are a worried parent, you are not alone. If you or your child has been vaccine-injured, you are not alone.

    http://www.greatergoodmovie.org/news-views/doctors-and-scientists-with-concerns-about-vaccines/

    Anne Dachel, Media editor: Age of Autism

    • Billy Oblivion

      You’re a fruitcake and people like you are killing and injuring children. You should be shunned by society.

  • Heraldblog

    “When it was first suggested that vaccines might lead to autism, is was a legitimate question to ask.”

    Perhaps to the lay public and credulous reporters, but it never made sense to bona fide researchers who understood the relevant science. Autism is not mercury poisoning, and vaccines don’t contain elemental mercury. So there’s that. And Wakefield’s fraudulent “measles in the gut” research lacked a credible biological mechanism for transforming a vaccine-strain measles virus into a harmful pathogen that crosses the blood brain barrier without causing measles.

  • asdffdsa

    This is a spectacularly good post.

  • Jonovich

    “You see, once scientists have weighed in, you have to be willing to listen to them.”.

    Except when scientists “weighed in” on global warming, and were completely wrong. And the few scientists that raised concerns were shredded by the main stream media and the Democrats (but I repeat myself).

  • http://whenfallsthecoliseum.com/author/kwatson/ megapotamus

    “Climate change science”…. that’s a good one. Does any of this rigor apply to global warming? (And why did the name change?) Hell no. That is a religious sacrament although it is a hoax from the ground up. You might want to look into THAT one because all the same things you complain about have occurred there except even the original ‘data’ the alarms were based on has been revealed as fabrications. Look into it, genius, if you care. You won’t because that one is YOUR fantasy.

  • Levin

    I think you overstate the purity of the scientific community. Scientists are human and are as susceptible as anyone to biases especially when their bread and butter of research funding comes from the political class.

    Here’s a thought experiment for you. Suppose you are a zoologist studying the habits of black squirrels in mid-Atlantic states. You want money to do your research. Which paper do you think will get you a grant?

    “Black Squirrels and their contribution to the Ecology of Eastern Forests”
    or
    “The affects of Global Warming on Black Squirrel’s contributions to the Ecology of Eastern Forests.”

    • I_Callahan

      Then that is the problem, isn’t it? Of the groups you mention, only one is titled as though they’re interested in being open minded; the other already has its mind made up.

      • Levin

        Bingo.

    • john pennell

      I take your point. What your thought experiment example illustrates is in the words of Ernest Rutherford, “stamp collecting”

      “All science is either physics or stamp collecting.” Rutherford

  • john pennell

    I wish writers would cease and desist from using “consensus” in relation to hard science. I sounds as if by vote the world could be made flat. I understand that isn’t your meaning, but I wish you would find a better shorthand way of saying that all results of repeatable tests agrees.

    • johnv2

      +1000. Consensus doesn’t matter. What matters is agreement of predictions with experimental evidence. Or as Richard Feynman put it, Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.

  • MoReport

    ‘You see, once scientists have weighed in,
    you have to be willing to listen to them.’

    Respectfully beg to differ: A layman, even an educated one,
    sometimes cannot understand the scientists explanations,
    and sometimes is faced with ‘settled science’ which is
    an attempt to defend a mistake, as happened in…..
    The cause and cure for stomach ulcers (Google!). >:)

    A better guideline would be as follows:
    If even _one_ scientist with demonstrated experience
    in a particular field doubts the majority opinion, so should
    the lay public; If, say, 10% express a minority opinion,
    the issue is still open; One might be prejudiced, two
    might have been bribed, but three or more is cause
    for concern that the results are rigged.

    • Tedd

      I know that seems like a reasonable position to take, but it’s not a robust decision-making process. That one voice could be a formerly-credible source who has been derailed (think Ted Kaczynski), or currently “in the pocket” of some partisan organization, or merely wrong. The best approach for the lay person (and we are all lay-persons outside of our narrow fields of expertise) is to take the prevailing view among scientists seriously, but with an important caveat: The full implications of the view have to be considered.

      An excellent example is climate science. It seems undeniable that the prevailing view of science is that there is a strong probability that certain human activities are influencing the atmosphere in ways that are potentially serious. Even those who point to flaws in this view acknowledge that it is the prevailing view (at least the thoughtful ones do). But the same science that identifies this problem also shows that the Kyoto Accord and other such policy proposals will not prevent the resulting problems. Where many people concerned with AGW go wrong is they only look at half the prevailing scientific view — the half that says there’s a problem. Then, when they start to look at solutions, they start ignoring the same science that made them concerned in the first place.

  • http://www.thedonovan.com/the_farm bethdonovan

    I’m just curious why you are calling Roundup a pesticide, it is an herbicide. I know because I have had to use it to kill off thistles before.

    I do worry about Roundup, though – Agent Orange was also an herbicide – and look at how many illnesses have been attribute to exposure.

    • A Smith

      Agent Orange was often dumped on people’s heads by planes flying overhead. I don’t think that is part of the Roundup instruction booklet. In fact, Roundup becomes inert upon contact with soil. That’s why it’s a “post-emergent” herbicide, not a preventative one.

      In short, use Roundup with confidence. No, I don’t work for the Roundup people!

    • http://cumulativemodel.blogspot.com/ aaron

      When they finally got around to admitting and investigating the AO problem, it was found that it was a quality problem from batches produced by a subcontractor.

      • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed heedless

        Turns out dioxin is bad for you. Who’d have guessed? (For those of you coming to this issue for the first time, dioxin is not supposed to be in agent orange)

    • http://christiewilcox.com/ Christie Wilcox

      Please see the update added to the end of the post. All herbicides are pesticides, by definition, according to the EPA: http://vtpp.ext.vt.edu/faq/consumer-questions/are-herbicides-weed-killers-considered-pesticides

      • http://www.thedonovan.com/the_farm bethdonovan

        That’s really disappointing. I would prefer that words be defined by something other than regulatory agencies. Herbicide is much more descriptive that pesticide, if pesticide suddenly has been redefined by the government to mean poisoning anything that could be considered pesky.

        But thanks for your reply.

        • http://twitter.com/r343l Rachael Ludwick

          It’s not an arbitrary definition and the regulators didn’t invent it. Pesticide is the general word for any substance that controls a pest. It includes insecticides, herbicides, nematocides (worms), fungicides (fungal infections like rust, etc.), rodenticides, etc. Having a single word to describe all those classes allows us to talk about them as a group and allows laws and regulations to cover them all without having to anticipate new classes.

  • Recovering Lutheran

    Wilcox’s article makes some good points, but she undermines her overall argument against by appealing to “scientific consensus”. There has never been – and never will be – proof by taking a poll of scientists. Frankly, dismissing scientific ideas by appealing to consensus (whether or not it actually exists) is a lazy argument.

    Worse still, appeals to “scientific consensus” set up a perverse incentive system. The evidence that childhood vaccines cause autism or that GM crops represent a danger is weak at best, and Wilcox would have been on solid ground to have left it at that. Instead, she invokes “scientific consensus” in an effort to strengthen her argument. The response by the anti-GMO/autism-vaccine link crowd has been predictable: we’ll *make* a consensus. Thus the shouting and bullying, which I predict will only get worse.

    And do not underestimate the effect that such shouting and bullying can have. I feel that Wilcox has an overly romantic notion of science and scientists as somehow being above the fray. It is true that many scientists are dedicated to finding the truth no matter where it may lead. But scientists are also human, and under the right circumstances can be persuaded to do things that would otherwise be abhorrent to them. If you think science cannot be made to serve the interests of a political ideology or economic system, an examination of the history of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union should remove all doubt.

    Appeals to “scientific consensus” is the antithesis of science.Those who use consensus as a way to invoke cloture on debates should not be surprised if it later backfires on them.

  • http://cumulativemodel.blogspot.com/ aaron

    This is a great article which I would like to share if not for “It’s right up there with the claims of anti-vaxers and climate deniers: that is, simply, flat-out, 100%, dead wrong.”

    I recommend editing this to maybe something like “greenhouse effect deniers”.

    Climate denier is just a wierd, broad and not really meaningful term. Most people are who are labeled “climate deniers” are very scientifically literate and actually believe people cause very significant climate change and are certian of the greenhouse effect. There is a very tiny subset that might reasonably be called “climate deniers” who believe there is no greenhouse effect from human emissions. These are regarded as cranks by most skeptics of political policy.

    The size and consequenses of the anthropic component of the greenhouse effect are very much in question, and most research taken in proper context suggests that global temperature sensitivity to GHGs is small and the effects of warming on climate and society will be slight and beneficial on net.

    • MDBritt

      Excellent point! I think it is really pretty straightforward to say that adding megatons of a greenhouse gas is *going to have an effect.* The widest consensus is that the direct effects of this much gas will cause a mild warming. Somewhat fewer believe that the feedback effects will elevate temperatures and fewer still believe that this effect will be substantial (although still a majority). The thinnest support comes for the wild claims of ecological collapse: exactly the kind of sensational prediction that will get pushed out to the public. So climate change is problematic: hard to deny core principles but hard to take seriously when powerful players are pushing the most extreme and unlikely predictions. Add in the sheer volume of money to be made via carbon trading schemes and it is no wonder that a lot of people are distrustful.

  • David Dunn

    Thank you for this insightful article. It is important to point out that anti-science has fairly deep roots on the left, a fact that many are simply not aware of. Somehow, a “creationist” or a global warming “denier” are readily branded as stupid knuckle-draggers, yet anti-GMO or anti-fracking sentiments are morally upright and noble. Anti-science is anti-science, no matter what side to the aisle you are on.

    • A Smith

      What’s worse, GMO foods and fracking have benefits _right now_.
      Unlike a pointless ‘age of the earth’ argument, or the very long term, still-dubious global warming argument.

  • JohnYuma

    Um, Roundup is a herbicide, not a pesticide. Plants are GM to be immune to Roundup so the farmers can spray the whole field and only the weeds will die.

    • http://christiewilcox.com/ Christie Wilcox

      Please see the update added to the end of the post.

  • Eric Liskey

    There’s something deeply troubling about science, and scientists, these days, particularly with global warming (but not just that). They are disturbingly resistant to real world data, much like the anti-GMO and Anti-vax crowd. We know that GMOs aren’t what the opponents claim because of what we see in the real world. We know the anti-vax crowd is wrong, because of what we see in the real world. This is foundational to science: you create theories to explain real-world data. When the predictions of the theory don’t pan out, then you must question your theory, right? I remember a sea temperature study, which showed a strange absence of heat storage (which was supposed to explain the lack of atmospheric warming). All the author could say was (paraphrasing, obviously) “We didn’t see it, but by golly we have to find out where all that heat is going! It has to be going somewhere!” There’s another alternative, of course: perhaps global warming theory isn’t quite right. But no scientist ever says that when their results aren’t a perfect fit for the dogma. They scratch their heads, and wonder how this could happen. That kind of reaction betrays the fundamental problem in that discipline: They have long since stopped questioning the whole notion, and they are now simply trying to confirm what they have already made up their minds about. And the unexpected “pause” in warming (now approaching two decades)? Maybe it’s a pause, maybe it’s something more. Regardless, at the very least it should cast grave doubts on the models these folks use, which have been embarrassingly bad at prediction. And without those models…..

  • jarober

    You made a huge error in this statement: “These anti-vaxers still won’t give up their beliefs, even though scientists have come to consensus that vaccines are, in no way, related to autism. We see the same refusal to listen when it comes to climate change. It doesn’t matter how many studies show the same thing, or how many consensuses are reached by scientists.”

    Science is not about consensus; it’s about fact, regardless of what the “consensus” says.

  • Ken Kennedy

    Roundup is an herbicide, not a pesticide. Hard to take much of what you say seriously in view of this rather glaring error.

  • Amy J. Train

    Research science has become about what people want to believe. They come to the research table with a preconceived notion and they make the science fit. Climate Change, Vaccines, and now GMO’s. Until Scientists get back to coming to the table without preconceived notions, this will keep going on.

    • Jonovich

      Scientists are people with their own worldviews and beliefs who look after their own self-interest. If politicians throw money at them to produce a certain result, that’s what they will do. It’s always been that way.

  • Byron33196

    Glyphosate is NOT a pesticide. It is a herbicide. Its method of action is very selective, and it has gained widespread use because it is extremely safe and nontoxic towards animals, aquatic life, and has a very short active life once introduced into plants or soil. You are engaging in the very same sort of emotional and unscientific bias that you are criticising, in this VERY article…

  • christackett

    Hi Christie,

    Thanks for adding to the discussion. One thing I’ve always loved about blogs is that getting called out by someone gives you an opportunity to clarify and strengthen one’s argument.

    First things first, I must acknowledge a weakness in clarity in my post that allowed my argument to be so misconstrued.

    Unfortunately, I think you have badly mischaracterized by point, so I want to respond to a few of your critiques.

    First, you wrote:

    “While Kara’s piece talked only about the use of glyphosate (the pesticide known by its brand name RoundUp), Chris used it to attack both the pesticide’s use and Monsanto GM crops.”

    This is factually inaccurate. I never mentioned Monsanto GM crops, but in the comments to questions from readers mentioned concern over the idea of GMOs, in general.

    I should have expanded on my point in the one comment you quote. It doesn’t read well and I can see how it can be interpreted a number of ways.

    A better summary of my viewpoint is found in the other comment you didn’t quote. I wrote:

    “I don’t need scientists to tell me that GMOs are not a good idea. My values of respecting nature’s way of doing things is reason enough for me to dislike GMOs.”

    I thought this was pretty clear, but in hindsight it would have been good for me to expand on this for clarity. My point was that GMOs concern me in the same way that the overuse of antibiotics or geo-engineering concerns me. Personally, I think nature has developed some pretty good ways of doing things and these technologies are so new that we may not fully realize the potential consequences, such as the evolution of antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

    Note: I am not advocating for the ban of these technologies, just noting that in some instances I think it is fair for one to be concerned despite what the current science happens to say.

    I take issue with this framing. You wrote:

    “I think they’re both getting into very dangerous territory (or, in the case of Chris’ comments later, happily dancing around in it). The trouble is, it’s one thing to notice a potential danger and raise a few alarm bells to get scientists to investigate an issue — it’s a whole other to publicize and propagandize an unsubstantiated fear despite evidence against it.”

    You seem to be suggesting I publicized and propagandized an unsubstantiated fear despite evidence. I don’t think I did, but this reads as if you’re accusing Kara and I of doing just that.

    I completely agree with you here:

    “Modified foods and pesticides raise a myriad of concerns outside questions of safety, including those about agricultural politics and environmental impact. These are legitimate questions that still are being answered. Monsanto and their sway over agricultural law and standard practices are definitely worth investigating. Our reliance on chemical pest control when there may be other options is worth investigating.”

    One can dislike GMOs for a number of reasons, as you mention. While the food may be found to be safe, my view is that one can still dislike the idea of GMOs for ethical or philosophical reasons, such as the way some farmers are financially ruined due to legal threats related to GM seeds, not to mention the related issues, such as monocultures, soil loss, dead zones, impact on pollinators, etc.

    You wrote:

    “Climate change science they will listen to. Vaccine science, they listen to (at least some of them). But all synthetic pesticides and GM foods are going to kill you and they always will, no matter what the scientists say. The level of hypocrisy displayed in these arguments (including Chris’)”

    Here you are clearly putting words in my mouth by equating my two comments on GMOs with the idea that “all synthetic pesticides and GM foods are going to kill you and they always will, no matter what the scientists say.” I said no such thing, nor do I believe anything close to that.

    Overall, I agree with you that this was dangerous territory. Science is too important to discard evidence, proof and simply believe what we want. I didn’t intend to suggest that, but wanted to add my two cents of agreement to Kara’s post that in some instances it is acceptable to be concerned about something even in the absence of scientific proof. But, as you point out, when there is proof to the contrary, those concerns move from legitimate concern to stubborn denial.

    I think we agree that when it comes to GMOs, generally, there are, as you wrote, myriad concerns that don’t hinge on the scientifically testable issue of safety.

    My post left things too open to interpretation, but appreciate the opportunity to clarify things here.

    • http://christiewilcox.com/ Christie Wilcox

      Chris,

      Thank you for taking the time to clarify your position!

      To respond more specifically:

      “This is factually inaccurate. I never mentioned Monsanto GM crops, but in the comments to questions from readers mentioned concern over the idea of GMOs, in general.”

      Indeed, I did lump the two together. That was my bad.

      “You seem to be suggesting I publicized and propagandized an unsubstantiated fear despite evidence. I don’t think I did, but this reads as if you’re accusing Kara and I of doing just that.”

      I have to acknowledge my lack of clarity on this one. My point was not to say that you and Kara did this specifically, but that a lot of the non peer-reviewed stuff that pops up as news on a topic is doing just that, and that by saying that such ‘research’ should get equal voice, you’re getting into dangerous territory.

      “Here you are clearly putting words in my mouth by equating my two comments on GMOs with the idea that “all synthetic pesticides and GM foods are going to kill you and they always will, no matter what the scientists say.” I said no such thing, nor do I believe anything close to that.”

      I didn’t mean to imply you specifically said GMOs will kill you (that is referring to the overall arguments against safety and how they are the same as anti-vax or climate change denial). Instead, I was pointing out that listening to scientists on one topic then not on another is hypocritical, and I do stand my ground on saying that, your piece and your comments on it taken together, come off that way. It’s the part about “no matter what the scientists say” that gets me — if many, independent scientists were to research and conclude that a given set of GMOs really do solve the myriad of issues like the ones you mentioned (soil loss, monocultures, pollinators, whatever), would you really still not listen to them?

      My main issue, though, is that when you discuss GMOs, you seem to equate all genetic modification with what is currently on the market via Monsanto. This isn’t just you — I hear this a lot in arguments against GMOs, especially from those (not you!) that say they should be banned/research defunded/etc. GM does not = Monsanto! The false equivalency drives me absolutely nuts. It’s because people can’t separate the tech from the one company that happens to be doing it now that Golden Rice isn’t on the market yet, a completely non-Monsanto GMO that may solve malnutrition in developing countries. People want to know why Monsanto has a defacto monopoly? Because the funneling of hatred for the company into GMOs as a whole makes it nearly impossible for anyone else to get involved.

      On a somewhat side note, the trouble with trusting ‘how Nature has done things’ is that very little of our lives is natural. We live in cities of concrete in densities that were once unfathomable. Our medical advances have completely changed what it means to be healthy and how long each of us remains a part of this global ecosystem. Our foods, even before GM, have been drastically modified from what our ancestors once ate, so much so they’re practically unrecognizable. We’ve long since screwed with Nature’s way of doing things, and stopping now won’t help. We need innovation and technology to solve the problems that our innovation and technology have caused, or go back to how things once were—but I don’t think anyone really wants that.

      • christackett

        Thanks for the reply to my reply!

        I definitely regret that “whether the scientific community agreed they were bad or not” phrasing. If we’re including hypotheticals, that is not how I should frame my view.

        And this is a great point: “GM does not = Monsanto!” I agree with that whole graf and should do better to not equate the two. +1

        And while I generally agree with your last graf on how we’ve changed the ways nature does things in so many ways, my personal bias is to question the urge to always innovate a technological fix to a technological problem. I think in some areas, such as agriculture, reverting to an older way of doing things would be a step forward.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com David Smith

    The terms of the “debate” ought to be an embarrassment to both sides. But there is a particular element of hypocrisy in the climate change advocates that calls into question their sincerity and integrity at the most basic level.

    Advocates like Al Gore call climate change a threat to our survival, yet refuse to push for a shift to nuclear power – the only readily expandable carbon-free energy source. Nuclear power is simply branded as unthinkable and swept from the table, while civilization supposedly founders. This is hypocrisy so rank that it cannot be ignored without a great effort.

    Political correctness, like all ideology, consists in large part in making certain thoughts both unspeakable and unthinkable. For this to be the mode of the “forces of Science” just fuels the cynicism which hinders the entire debate. If (as I believe) this is a serious matter, then we should recognize how much harm has been done, not just by alarmism, but by hypocrisy.

    More at: http://mistermoleman.com/2013/04/04/global-warming-new-data-and-old-hypocrisy/.

  • bittman

    I believed scientists before so many of them joined the Climate Change/Global Warming propaganda team to help the Progressives’ achieve their one world government.

  • John

    If you know the way humankind has been since the last 3,000 years, a business that does not openly label or claim accountability for their own product (here labelling), does not respect other people choice, try to profit malicioulsy from inattention by not labelling, etc..this is the self preservation our gene (ahah!) taught us. You article is of a great naivity and condone disrepect of other by corporations to cut corner and avoid accountability.

  • Samuel

    The clinical investigators that explored Autism children with GI disease, most notably Inflammatory Bowel Disease in 1998 established for the first time significant discoveries in Autism. They were pioneers that tried to establish that ASD was an interaction between genes , physiology, neurology and the environment. They helped

    Immune Dysfunction is a core feature of Autism as is an inflammatory process.

    Key genetic research is now being focussed on central immune pathways. eg NFkB, MHC …

    The gastrointetsinal tract and the microbiome are also central features to some but not all ASD children.

    There is a clear relationship between these two and the neurology of ASD and positively treating GI tract / IBD brings with it positive changes in ASD behaviors.

    The relationship between Regressive autism/ GI as described honestly by the parents and carers of those ASD children (Lancet) is a real physiological and neurological process that has been evidenced by two major independent studies at 87-88%

    Harvard researchers have found significant Co-morbid conditions found in ASD children include schizophrenia , Type 1 Diabetes, Inflammatory Bowel Disease , Epilepsy,

    ASD children’s rates of asthma , eczema , allergic rhinitis are also significantly more common.

    At School of Medicine, Oregon Health and Science University researchers found children with eczema were twice as likely to suffer clinically significant anxiety, depression and conduct disorder. They also found these children were 3 times more likely to have a diagnosis of Autism.

    What is the cascade of events that eventually is diagnosed poorly as Autism I certainly don’t know … but there is certainly a lot more medical research to be undertaken in to how we as product of physiology, genetics and neurology interact with the environments, we have all created .

  • jh

    Christy:

    It’s always important to know as much as we can on any issue before drawing conclusions. It’s also important to be willing to revise our position as new evidence comes in. In so far as that goes, scientific research is obviously an excellent source of knowledge.

    Nonetheless, we need not accept the conclusions of scientists just because they are scientists. There are many problems that science simply hasn’t been able to crack, but scientists are full of opinions and recommendations just the same. A good example is the daily vitamin supplement: is it beneficial? Some studies say yes, others say no. Many doctors recommend vitamins nonetheless.

    Furthermore, there are numerous cases in which the scientific consensus has been embarrassingly wrong. For example, for many years, women were advised against breast feeding their babies. Would it have been appropriate to call women who chose to ignore – or, worse yet, speak out against – this advice “deniers”?

    Science is an excellent method of solving problems. But because it’s practitioners are subject to human foibles, its conclusions aren’t foolproof. We’d be better served by science if more scientists recognized this problem.

    • Tom

      I’m a scientist and spend quite some time reading other scientists work. The first thing you learn is to find the holes in some other scientist’s argument. If you do not accept a particular scientific conclusion then please read up on the science behind it and then provide an alternative conclusion or reject it all together using solid data. Science is built on trashing each other’s hypotheses. But if you can’t falsify a hypothesis, you accept that as fact until further notice. Some hypotheses are harder to test than others. Human nutrition is a perfect example: proving that a certain vitamin is essential is fairly easy and was done long ago. Figuring out what the optimal dose is – much more complex.

      We are quite aware of how human nature can influence our reasoning thank you very much. We’re also aware how lay people can make random statements with zero data to back it up and we try to be nice about it. Most of the time.

  • eno2001

    Is there a source of information about the scientists who perform studies that will allow the average person to discern what the business interests are? While I do trust truly independent scientific studies to provide usable information in forming an idea of how to handle a new technology, I don’t trust that scientists haven’t been compromised by profit motive.

    The “wireless signals cause brain cancer” studies are a great example of this. One study says, “No it doesn’t cause brain cancer” and another says that “Yes it does cause brain cancer”. Whether one knows or not if there is a financial connection to pro/anti parties, how can you trust either answer? I LOVE wireless technologies and what they do for me. I also love my brain and the brains of my loved ones. The studies I’ve seen from both sides provide good answers to support or disclaim the connection with brain cancer.

    This means that the only approach that non-scientists have is either to treat the new technology with caution (as I do with wireless), or to have complete faith that the technology is safe until proven otherwise. And what then? “Oops. Sorry that your health/life/safety/planet is damaged.” That’s not a good enough answer.

    Science is NOT the villain here. The villain is the occasional corrupt individual or business that skews data in a certain direction. Science is far more politicized now than it’s ever been. That is not a science problem, that is a people problem.

  • Loren Eaton

    “…that special interest groups should perform and publicize their own findings. “I believe they should be given a voice,” she concluded, “not dismissed out of hand for lacking the scientific rigour demanded by professional scientists.” This is a slippery slope. At what point does a study have so many flaws that even legitimate concerns are hard to find?? At what point does giving these people a ‘voice’ begin to morph into a seat at the table when it comes to policy making? Both the Seralini and Carman studies are flawed to the point that they really can’t even fall back on the ‘more research is called for’ line. The quality of the work doesn’t back tht conclusion. I’m sorry Kara, but a minimum level of ‘scientific rigour’ should be required.

  • Warron van Riet

    Is it possible that the diversity of crops might be under threat from the introduction of GM crops through the laws being passed to protect the IP rights of GM products and the insane laws that make the saving and growing of “Heritage’ varieties almost out of reach of the average individual. (Is there a correlation between the two?)

    Is seed saving a thing of the past?

    Is there any impact on the evolutionary process when we add GE crops into our Earths Ecology?

    GM might be proven safe, but does it have value compared to. ‘heritage’ crops, especially when concerns of antibiotic resistance to Indian bt

    And have the right questions been asked and answered that might put to rest the fears of the GM critics?

  • James Sweet

    You say: “(I personally think RoundUp Ready plants are a disgraceful use of GM technology, and would be perfectly happy to see them wiped off the face of the Earth and replaced with drought-resistant or nutrient-boosted GM varieties instead)”

    I agree, and it’s this where I have experience both some sympathy for, and a lot of frustration at the anti-GMO movement: As a technology, GMO is a potentially great thing, with loads of promise. As a business practice, “contains GMO” is actually a reasonably proxy for “associated with predatory business practices”.

    So to the extent that this proxy measurement holds up, I tend to agree with the anti-GMO crowd. But the reasons they give, the fearmongering behind it… it’s all wrong. Blagh, life is complicated.

  • dogctor

    “I simply don’t know how else to spell it out: there is a scientific consensus that GM foods are safe. ”
    I find your pushing of a dubious scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs ignorant and naive.
    I simply do not know how to spell it out for you… you have not shown any evidence whatsoever of reading any actual study on the subject and comprehending what it means, as if an appeal to authority can replace properly done studies and data. So, I’ll spell it out for you: there are no convincing safety studies to assure me, a veterinary medical practitioner with 23 years of clinical experience, whose patients are eating GMOs, that they are safe.

    Now, when you can post a link to properly conducted feeding trials which fit basic long established medical standards, I may change my mind. Please link to a study, rather than post lazy links to “authoritative” opinions. I will recognize it by a materials & methods section and DATA. It will be

    1) blinded

    2) statistically powered and statistically balanced

    It will contain

    3) comprehensive biochemical analysis, urinalysis, hematology including tests for pancreatitis, tests for proteinuria, tests of liver function, intestinal inflammation proxies(B6 and cobalamin)

    -performed in a serial fashion longitudinally to permit assessment of metabolic trends

    4) complete histopathological findings to be contrasted with biased conclusions

    I will be the judge, once the link to properly conducted studies and data is published, and I wont be holding my breath.

  • teknowh0re

    This was a good article. Thank you Christie Wilcox. I wasnt sure where I stood on this subject until very recently, because, like everyone else, Ive been bombarded almost by data screaming for recognition from BOTH sides, and could not sift through the mess all by myself! It is awful out there!

  • BDM

    The “thick line” is — or should be — between scientific concerns and economic ones. My objection to GMOs has mostly to do with the unwise act of giving a handful of corporations (more) control over the global food supply. Also, corn and cotton — two of the most widely used GMO crops — can easily be replaced. Cotton can be replaced with hemp; and since corn is used primarily for cattle feed and junk food sweetener, we can eat less meat, stop drinking pop, and stop the billions in tax subsidies to the corn industry and grow something more nutritious.

    While the unscientific reasoning of some of the anti-GMO crowd troubles me, what also troubles me is this constant push to classify all opposition to GMOs as anti-science. If you define “science” as “evidence-based reasoning,” and if you acknowledge the evidence that cotton and corn have viable and superior non-GMO alternatives, then opposing GMOs is not unscientific.

  • quicksilver

    point of fact:

    The running and rerunning of data actually showed a link of mercury containing vaccines and autism that wouldnt go away.

    So the complete opposite view that Chris Wicox puts forward as fact.

    You are entitled to opinions Chris but you cant change FACT.

    And in line with the other significant change of job the researcher who found the link of vaccines and autism went from a temporary low paid job at the CDC in Atlanta USA to a top exectuive job at GSK in Denmark Europe with a guaranteed income for life as the vaccine industry doesnt need yet one more whistle blower perhaps?

    People finding inconvenient facts about vaccines either get paid off or get fired as is true in the GMO debate.

    See freedom of information on early studies by Tom Verstraeten and the long haul to produce some sort of paper that while it then denied the vaccine to autism link in the abstract took many years to cobble together and still showed other serious links of adverse health issues from too many vaccines, repeated and at too early an age. It also showed there were problems with mercury in vaccines connected to autism. Most problems from vaccines coming in the first 6 months of life and often unknowingly after the mercury vaccine at one day which many mothers were unaware their child even was given!

    In any event high levels of mercury in vaccines are only found now in vaccines for children over the age of 6 months or for export to the third world countries and their children.

    The very latest research again looks at antibody links to autism. And vaccines rely 100 per cent on inducing antibody effects indicating that perhaps the parents vaccine schedules could affect the next generations! We shall wait and see what and how this new research develops in time.

  • quicksilver

    600 studies showing GMO foods are safe

    This is not the lie of Christie who writes the piece above but that of GMO suporters and not even that of the scientific community who either have tested for a long time and found health issues or those that have tested for a few meals and surmised the problems found are not serious.

    Describing tests for ten years as not adequate and those of one meal as good science because the animals did not drop dead is getting wearisome.

  • quicksilver

    I note Christie is in Hawaii. what a wonderful place for a GMO expert to live and work in.

    Or it was until the big international companies took over vast tracts of land there to do their more dangerous or problematic GMO studies.

    It is at least remote but with modern travel this may no longer be enough to keep problems either quiet or contained.

    We are already seeing for example GMO wheat turning up on farm land despite it never being given permission to be there. Theoretically no one should be eating GMO wheat at present.

    So much for the terminator technology designed to keep non-GMO plants free of the viruses (SV40, tumour promoting viruses et al, bacteria E Coli now mutated to toxic forms etc etc etc).

    As one government official there said last week:

    “We’re really the only Hawai’i island that hasn’t been effectively taken over by the GMO biotech industry corporations.

    Not actually true as GMO is grown for research et al everywhere there.

    Just indicating how most people are unaware.

    The problem with GMO as mentioned is that once released (wheat) it is in the environment as a plant for ever and tesing for it is not done or is very expensive (ten years to find that GMO wheat has never been exterminated after the failed trials to get it passed as safe to eat).

  • quicksilver

    Protein toxins in venomous fish is your metier?

    Isnt that a problem with GMO? The changes made by mans intervention can cause new proteins to be formed in what was previously good non-toxic food. How can we think we can be a god or gods and alter the proteins formed and developed after billions of years and now stable in our food?

    We only were made aware of the nature of DNA structure 60 years ago and for 40 years we have been tinkering with GMO to alter proteins and just assume that GMO papaya, eggplants, soya et al wont get any novel protein toxins in by science gods blasting them with gene guns?

    Wheat intolerance has grown recently and cannot be GMO unless there is an awful lot more GMO unauthorised wheat than we have been told about.

    The problem is a novel protein toxin containing just three different amino acids including glutamine.

    Not so much venomous fish as novel venomous wheat affecting various estimates of 2 per cent or 33 per cent of humans now acting as guinea pigs as increased wheat yields is the god over old varieties that have brought us safely to 2013.

    E coli an essential for GMO work has evolved from safe non toxic forms by rapid evolution to over 200 deadly and novel toxic forms.

    And is still evolving and EXPANDING to newer yet unknown toxic varieties not yet known or even yet formed!

  • quicksilver

    Global Warming – I think there are no deniers that the climate is changing but the deniers possibly believe that the carbon theory is not the correct theory.

    Carbon dioxide is seen by many as the thermometer that actually is a measure of the global warming so that global warming actually is recorded by the carbon (dioxide) levels in the air.

    One theory that is compelling is the pollution from mercury (eg increasing cremations etc etc) preferentially going to the coldest regions (90 per cent the South Polar regions) where the mercury destroys the ozone at a rate of hundreds of thousands of molecules per second allowing no protection from the sun.

    The theories currently put forward get so complex that only those who study them can understand them or fail to understand that the CFC theory is not adequate (falling amounts and increasing warming effects!)

    Arrogance and the failure to listen to others (common sense and without paper proof they have been indoctrinated for years by ruling authorities and experts in the field) results in so many problems today having no known cause and as you say here even no agreement on exactly what is even happening!

  • Skew the Jen Mold

    I’m sorry… I caught a little back pedaling there. For how long did the scientific community and the government tell us BPA was safe? How long were people who continued to use glass bottles in the face of concerns called “tree huggers”? I’m not a tree hugger I’m a realist. It took cancer cells “accidentally” multiplying in a test tube made of BPA for the government to finally take a serious look at BPA. What will it be for GMO’s? An increase in stomach cancer in 10 or 20 years? Children being born with an increased amount of birth defects? How can we be so ignorant as to think that genetically modified corn that causes bugs eyes to turn black and there stomachs to explode will do NOTHING to us? Really? Who’s jumping to conclusions now?

  • jimmy corn

    smh. Wow you really called these scientific peer-reviewed studies: “Instead of listening to the evidence, campaign groups conduct
    unrigorous, unscientific and completely biased studies, dig in their
    heels, and stand their ground. Just look at the recent anti-GM rat and pig
    studies which have been thoroughly flayed by scientists that have
    nothing to gain from the GM industry. The groups that performed and
    published these “trials” weren’t asking whether GM foods are unsafe;
    they sought and executed sham research hellbent on proving their
    beliefs, then denied any conflict of interest.”
    lol what is your evidence that these studies are flawed? a skeptic blog LMFAO and Mark Lynas the same Mark EuropaBio Lynas lobbyist front man ambassador for Monsanto, Du Pont, BASF lobby group….lol….yup your right he has nothing to gain from condemning and trying to discredit a verified scientific peer-reviewed study showing adverse effects about a product for which he is an “ambassador” aka lobbyist for the the maker of the product.
    http://www.alternet.org/food/uncovering-real-story-behind-conversion-mark-lynas-climate-change-journalist-cheerleader
    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/oct/20/europabio-gm-ambassadors-europe
    Come on are you serious? wow where is the legitimate, honest journalist now adays
    Are you oblivious or Just another sorry accuse for a industry propagandist spewing lies to discredit real research to protect your sponsors?
    Ironically none of those studies were done by unscientific biased anti-gm researchers. More ironically is the 2 studies mentioned the rat and pig studies WERE THE FIRST 2 LONG TERM STUDIES ON THE EFFECTS OF GM CROPS. Amazing how NO STUDIES HAVE BEEN DONE ON THE POTENTIAL LONG TERM EFFECTS OF GM CROPS but this author claims “600 studies” have been done on gm crops. lol Which by the way is a utter and complete lie and this author has no real evidence to back that completely outrageous claim.
    http://www.independentsciencenews.org/health/seralini-and-science-nk603-rat-study-roundup/#comment-4292
    http://www.naturalnews.com/041728_food_safety_guidelines_Seralini_study_GM_corn.html
    http://www.nationofchange.org/first-long-term-study-released-pigs-cattle-who-eat-gmo-soy-and-corn-offers-frightening-results-13723
    http://www.naturalnews.com/039170_GMOs_rat_tumors_Seralini_study.html
    http://preventdisease.com/news/10/010710_gm_foods_organ_damage.shtml

    And by the way Monsanto has never tested for the safety of gm crops to humans neither has the FDA or USDA:

    “Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job.”
    – Philip Angell, Monsanto’s director of corporate communications1 (the FDA is the US government’s Food and Drug Administration, responsible for food safety)

    “Ultimately, it is the food producer who is responsible for assuring safety.”
    – US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)2

    “It is not foreseen that EFSA carry out such [safety] studies as the onus is on the [GM industry] applicant to demonstrate the safety of the GM product in question.”
    – European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)
    http://earthopensource.org/files/pdfs/GMO_Myths_and_Truths/GMO_Myths_and_Truths_1.3.pdf

    “An Annotated Bibliography Of Scientific Publications
    On The Risks Associated With Genetic Modification”
    http://researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/10063/3/report.pdf?sequence=5

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About Christie Wilcox

Christie Wilcox is a science writer and PhD Student at the University of Hawaii, where she studies the protein toxins in venomous fish. She is renowned in the science blogosphere for her delicate balance of contemporary science and scientific perspective seasoned with just the right amount of wit. Her award-winning posts have been featured in The Open Laboratory: The Best Science Writing On Blogs four years running and landed on the pages of major media outlets including The New York Times and Scientific American. To learn more about her life and work, check out her webpage or follow her on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook.

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@NerdyChristie on Twitter

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