Thursday, January 26, 2012

Critical Reading Anti-GMO Literature

The recent news from the anti-science world features new found attacks on transgenic crops. I've been reading the literature again, including some new reviews.  As usual, no evidence of harm.

Except when you read the anti-GMO literature. Here is a web-based paper that passes itself off as a scientific synthesis of the literature on GMO research.  It paints a very clear view of the horrendous technology (that almost all of us eat daily without consequence).  It is compelling, scary, and persuasive.

It is a lot easier (and a lot more fun) to scare people
to death than to educate them.  The anti-GMO interests
have perfected anti-science terrorism

I started to do a little deeper digging than the average franken-nut might want to do.  I didn't have to look far to see that the report featured above says one thing, when the literature they cite says another.

THEY ARE LYING.  These are folks with an agenda, and they bend the truth for their own cause.  Deplorable.

Let's look at an example.  From the report GMO's- Just the Science

"Rats fed GM insecticide-producing maize over three generations suffered damage to liver and kidneys and showed alterations in blood biochemistry"

This is referenced to Kilic and Akay's 2008 article in Food and Chemical Toxicology  (46, 1164–1170).  If you take the time to actually read the article it says right in the abstract:

"No statistically significant differences were found in relative organ weights of rats within groups but there were some minimal histopathological changes in liver and kidney."

and they wrap it up with, "In conclusion, although the results obtained from this study showed minor histopathological and biochemical effects in rats fed with Bt corn, long-term consumption of transgenic Bt corn throughout three generation did not cause severe health concerns on rats."

The minor differences that were documented in cell metrics and enzyme levels were seen in populations with a very small number of subjects (n=5 to 14).  Natural variation from genetic or environmental sources could easily perturb these results, so the fact that most metrics measured were almost identical, or within statistical similarity, is pretty amazing.

This is just one example. Here is a paper, published in a lowish-impact journal (2.6), based on an extremely small data set that shows some small differences. The authors say that there is no significant difference.

However, the anti-GMO report (that claims to be all about the science) says liver and kidney damage.  If you Google the authors' names and year of the paper, you'll find hundreds of websites that hold this report up as evidence of transgenic food dangers.

The anti-science, anti-progress, anti-GMO contingent is easily manipulated and unsophisticated in their critical evaluation of scholarly research.


Mary said...

Just found your blog--and delighted to see another voice of science in this discussion.

Whose report was that? I didn't see any attribution.

PythagoreanCrank said...

Why am I always surprised by how often people post studies as evidence when it refutes their very claim!

Karl Haro von Mogel said...

The report first appeared on GM Watch, but does not list its authors. I have received word on who are the authors of this "Just the Science" paper, and am currently confirming it. Stay tuned...

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