Monday, December 18, 2017

"Expert" Commentary on a Paper They Didn't Read

The story of canola oil causing dementia and memory issues seems like old news.  But I received an email that it has popped up again in the wacky press, another alleged expert weighing in on this obvious relationship that actually is not even remotely supported by the data in the paper.  These cases are especially egregious because these health-oriented websites get huge traffic, and lousy information is consumed rapidly and shared widely. 



The claim emerges again, but this time with a new twist! 


The author, Michelle Schoffro Cook didn't even read the paper, but is happy to lend her opinions that further advance this misinformation, along with a dandy of a tangential spin.  How do I know she didn't read it?  She notes in her analysis that it was published in the journal Nature.  It was not.  Nature wouldn't touch this paper with a 10 impact factor pole. 

It is not a bad paper.  It is not a good paper.   I would not have done the experiments that way, but the authors reported how they did it and only slightly overstepped the data in their Discussion.  

The problem is the university communications office that turned a few data points into a national culinary catastrophe. 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

TB113 - The Tragic Story of Nikolai Vavilov; Science Moms Documentary


Can politics shape science into disrepair?  Can government decisions harm people and long-term progress?  These questions were answered in the tragic story of Nikolai Vavilov.  The story is told by Dr. Jules Janick, Emeritus Professor from Purdue University.  In the second half the film "Science Moms" is discussed with Natalie Newell.  The complete episode can be found here, or anywhere you consume podcast media!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

How the Media Gets It Wrong - Case Study in Canola Oil and Alzheimer's


The manufactured hyperbolic connection between canola oil and Alzheimer's Disease is a perfect example of how a grain of research is extrapolated to wild new proportions. 


Sunday, December 10, 2017

No Evidence that Canola Oil Causes Dimentia and Alzheimer's Disease

I posted this article over on Medium.  It shows how a set of experiments in mice prone to Alzheimer's like brain pathology were wildly misinterpreted to create a sensational headline that the media promoted everywhere. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Canola Oil is Not Causing Alzheimer’s and Dementia


Misinterpretation of Science Extrapolates a Bogus Claim
The headlines are remarkably clear — if you eat canola oil, you’ll soon not remember that you ate canola oil. The media exploded with their interpretation of a peer-reviewed scientific report in the cleverly named journal Scientific Reports. The spate of internet articles from any Google search indicates the link between canola oil and leaky mental gaskets is as clear as canola oil.

The news is pretty damn certain this stuff is brain poison! The scientific paper has a rather different view.

But wait, canola oil has been touted as a healthy oil with a composition similar to olive oil. How can this be true in light of the new findings?
The answer is pretty simple. The news media took the liberty of overstepping the data actually presented in the scientific report in Scientific Reports. What did the paper actually say?
First, what is canola oil? Like all things Canadian it is a friendly version of something else, in this case vegetable oil. It is extracted from the seeds of Brassica rapa, a plant in the same family as broccoli and cauliflower. Somewhere along the line cunning marketers changed the name to “canola” from “rape”, hence canola oil replaced rapeseed oil. This next part is true. I was visiting a colleague in China and was touring the campus. The buildings had Chinese names on them with English translations. There was one building proudly called “The Rape Institute”. I suggested that they fix that.
I first met canola in 1989 while working as a summer intern for Cargill Hybrid Seeds. I learned that it was an up-and-coming crop because of its favorable healthy oil composition, containing a high proportion of monounsaturated fat. Since then I’ve used it all the time, I think the farms are gorgeous and I know some canola farmers and folks in the industry. They all eat a lot of canola oil and seem to remember things pretty well.
The referenced study was performed at Temple University by Elisabetta Lauretti and Domenico Pratico. The authors note that Mediterranean populations have lower incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) compared to other populations and that the major fat in their diet is olive oil. Olive oil has a composition profile very similar to canola oil, but canola oil is much less expensive. So they tested the hypothesis that canola oil had similar health benefits (but they didn’t state it that way).
The experiment examined mice that were genetically engineered to develop histopathological markers of AD progression — signatures called amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, along with associated memory foibles. Six-month-old mice were fed standard mouse food, or the same mouse food with canola oil, for six months. They were then asked to do some memory tests, and eventually their brains were examined for structural and biochemical evidence of AD-like pathology. What were the results?
Slight Difference in One Aspect of a Behavior Test. The results show that canola oil eating mice perform slightly different in the Y-maze. This is a test where a mouse walks to the fork in the road and then decides which fork to take. Rodents apparently like to explore new space, so the tendency is to alternate between both forks in the maze. The ones that ate canola oil didn’t alternate as much as the non-oil eaters, probably about 20% less, an amount that was noted as statistically different. In the other two tests, including the Morris Water Maze, mice of all diets performed comparably.
Okay, so out of six measures and three different tests, the oil eating mice were different for one test, and showed about a 20% difference in behavior. I guess that’s the alleged cognitive deficit. In the discussion the authors refer to this as “significant deficits of working memory”, but I’m unsure how that slight difference in one test indicates that.
It is interesting to note that the same transgenic mice prone to AD were also used in the group’s previous studies. In Lauretti et al. (2015) the control mice navigated the Y-maze with what appears to be a ~65% alternation frequency. In this 2017 paper the control mice did this with what looks like about ~45% alternation frequency, so the difference in the controls between experiments is greater than the difference between the control and the experimental in the current work, suggesting that this can be a noisy test. The authors did not report the age of the mice (they were at least “7–8 months old” in the 2015 test) so maybe the mice in the current test were older and more diseased, so that could explain that difference. It is not clear from the materials presented.
A Decrease in a Beta-Amyloid Type. The next test examines the levels of amyloid beta species. These are small proteins, in this case 40 and 42 amino acids long, referred to as Aβ1–40 and Aβ1–42. The amyloid hypothesis says that plaques formed by the misfolding and/or aggregation of these peptides are the basis of pathology and associated manifestations like senility. The Aβ1–42 form is considered to be much more likely to form amyloid plaques, and has different intracellular compartmentation.
The authors found no significant differences in extractable levels of these proteins, except for lower levels of Aβ1–40 in a fraction extracted with formic acid. Formic acid has been used to solubilize the proteins resident in the plaques, and indicates those typically associated with senility. That is compared to the RIPA extraction which liberates all Aβ’s, allowing comparison of total Aβ vs those bound in plaques. In Figure 2A the authors show a significantly lower level of Aβ1–40 in oil eating mice compared to controls.
The rest of the figure show that other measures are comparable in all mice when averaged, even though there is variation seen in the assay (a ‘western blot’) for proteins associated with Aβ presence and clearance, suggesting differences between individuals (they assayed four mice for each). No it suggests that variation within the small experimental groups is quite rangy, and makes it difficult to find firm statistical significance.
No Effect on Tau Protein. Tau is a protein also associated with AD particularly as tau deposits. Some have hypothesized that Tau is the actual culprit in memory loss, as asymptomatic brains are seen loaded with beta amyloid plaques (Brier et al., 2016). In this work the authors analyzed the phosphorylated form of Tau, which apparently is present in plaques in the AD mouse model. There were no differences between treatment and the control. This contrasts with olive oil where they saw less Tau protein in previous work (Lauretti et al., 2017).
Less PSD95 Protein. PSD95 is what’s known as a scaffold protein. It coordinates post-synaptic clustering of neurotransmitter receptors, and decreased levels have been associated with aging, AD and neuropathology (Savioz et al., 2014). While thought of as a marker of neural integrity, results are contradictory, suggesting tissue-specific and environmental influences. In this case the oil eating group has lower levels of PSD95, which supports the authors’ conclusion of canola oil leading to specific neurological consequences.
No Difference in Inflammation Markers. The authors then examined levels of GFAP and IBA1, proteins associated with central nervous system damage and breakdown of cells. No significant differences were observed.
No Differences in Other AD Markers. CREB is a transcription factor (in this case) meaning it turns genes on. It is present in different forms, and is sometimes phosphorylated. CREB and products from its downstream target genes are associated with AD pathology. There is no difference observed between the canola oil eaters and controls.
No Differences in Autophagy Proteins. A number of proteins are known to play a role in autophagy, that is (loosely) turnover of specific proteins in the cell. Whereas this group previously demonstrated The authors cite how olive oil also induced autophagy in muscle cells compared to palm oil (Oliván et al., 2014), which seems like a tangential reference, and not fitting the sentence about canola oil.
Synthesis. In my opinion the authors do oversell this a little in their conclusion. While they correctly state that there is a difference in amyloid 40/42 ratio, they also state “negative effect” on memory, which is shown as a statistically significant, yet minor effect on a single test. Other tests are consistent with their hypothesis of canola=no good, and their final statement of “our findings (in AD model mice) do not provide support to some of the current ideas suggesting healthy benefits deriving from the regular consumption of canola oil” does not say that the product causes dementia in humans.
Of course, the healthy benefits were not necessarily claimed to be neuroprotective. I’ve always thought of high monounsaturated fats in the diet as having cardiac benefit over saturated fats, so I’m not sold that their AD tests were germane to the proposed health benefits claimed by canola oil producers.
Weight Gain. Canola oil consuming mice did weigh more at the end of the experiment. I guess that would be expected. The authors did not note if the mice were given the same caloric content in treatment and control, and if I’m a mouse and I can eat as much canola oil as I wanted, I might put on a few grams as well, especially because mice don’t have a Speedo Season. A similar weight gain was observed in the same group’s experiments with olive oil (Lauretti et al., 2017).
Overall. When looking at this paper I see a good lab with competence and expertise in the area performing a test on a small number of mice, where they give standard lab chow and lab chow containing significant amount of canola oil. The effects seen cannot be directly attributed to canola oil per se, but to oil consumption, or increased calories in the diet, or just being overweight. Obesity is associated with at least certain forms of AD, so seeing specific markers and mild impairment in an AD mouse model is probably not surprising. This also was the first scientific paper I’ve ever read that uses the word “propeller” not referring to a boat part. That’s cool.
Rationale for the Study. The group has done previous evaluations on olive oil, and has shown benefit on the tests in this mouse line. They also have shown positive effects on the various disease state markers. Apparently canola oil does not behave the same way that olive oil did, which is interesting because the two are so similar in composition, at least at the fatty acid level. There could be other minor chemicals imparting the effects.
It is not surprising that old fat mice fed oil as a big part of their diet have slightly different behaviors and markers associated with neurological disease and aging. What is surprising is that the results are so different from the olive oil results when the two are so similar in composition. It is indeed curious why they didn’t include olive oil as a control. It is an intuitive one in retrospect, and would have been really helpful. It would show that the results in canola oil were due to some specific characteristic of the oil — something not in olive oil, such as higher levels of alpha-linoleic acid.
The Runaway Interpretation. The figure up top says with great certainty that canola oil is “linked to dementia” and worsens Alzheimer’s symptoms.Clearly that was not the conclusion of the authors and in no way reflects what the data present. What the data show is that mice fed more calories from oil that get overweight behave slightly differently in one of several neurological tests and has a subset of biochemical changes that are consistent with AD, in a mouse that is designed to have neurological modifications that are consistent with AD.
The paper does not show in any way that there is a causal link to disease in humans. Not even close.

The interwebs have gone berzerkers.

Why Would the Media Get This So Wrong? My feeling is that it is our continued cultural war on food. Canola is a new crop, made from selective breeding in Canada to produce a new high-oil seed. It also is genetically engineered, and the web is alive and well with claims that it is the magical “GMO” entity that is causing dementia. Just go take a peek for that.
A relatively new crop, using genetic engineering, to make an oil used on a massive scale? It is the perfect punching bag for food activists that don’t understand the chemistry, but certainly know how to over-interpret the results of a reasonable, but statistically underpowered report.
In researching this topic I was surprised to see the plethora of anti-canola rhetoric on the web. Misinterpreting the data from this paper fits well into that agenda.

And the robots are alive and sensational too!

In Conclusion. The test that directly compares multiple kinds of oils with controls will be most welcome. Others have done such studies using olive and palm oils, and shown some nice, direct comparisons. For now, I’ll keep eating canola oil. No problem here, as these results do not indicate any ill effect on human health, and show slight effects on messed up mice.
Again, just overstatement of a sensation hungry media blowing up more nonsense about the safest food supply in human history.

Kevin M. Folta is a Professor and Chairman of the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida. He teaches science communication workshops for scientists and ag professionals, and hosts the weekly podcast Talking Biotech. His research funding and cost reimbursements may be seen at www.kevinfolta.com/transparency.
REFERENCES
Brier MR, Gordon B, Friedrichsen K, McCarthy J, Stern A, Christensen J, Owen C, Aldea P, Su Y, Hassenstab J (2016) Tau and Aβ imaging, CSF measures, and cognition in Alzheimer’s disease. Science translational medicine 8: 338ra366–338ra366
Lauretti E, Di Meco A, Chu J, Praticò D (2015) Modulation of AD neuropathology and memory impairments by the isoprostane F2α is mediated by the thromboxane receptor. Neurobiology of Aging 36: 812–820
Lauretti E, Iuliano L, Praticò D (2017) Extra-virgin olive oil ameliorates cognition and neuropathology of the 3xTg mice: role of autophagy. Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology 4: 564–574
Oliván S, Martínez-Beamonte R, Calvo AC, Surra JC, Manzano R, Arnal C, Osta R, Osada J (2014) Extra virgin olive oil intake delays the development of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis associated with reduced reticulum stress and autophagy in muscle of SOD1G93A mice. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry 25: 885–892
Savioz A, Leuba G, Vallet PG (2014) A framework to understand the variations of PSD-95 expression in brain aging and in Alzheimer’s disease. Ageing Research Reviews 18: 86–94

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

What's Up With Dicamba?

Problems caused by off-target migration of dicamba herbicide have created great divides across agriculture. Between companies denying culpability to farmers damaged and academics in between, the situation has horrible optics for agriculture.  Those looking in see unintended consequences, uncertainty, and all of their worst nightmares coming true.  The effect will be slower registration of future (desperately needed) herbicides and other farm inputs, and perhaps increased skepticism of claims about the safety of modern agriculture.

To add clarity to the situation we discussed what is happening with agronomist Karen Corigan.  This week's podcast. \


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Talking Biotech #110 - Gene Therapies in Pets




In this week's podcast MIT Technology Review's Emily Mullin talks about gene therapies for pets. 

While technologies to treat genetic diseases have been slow to reach humans, they have been deployed in animals to demonstrate their efficacy.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Grateful

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Everyday I feel so grateful for being able to serve the students and faculty at my university, the farmers of our state and nation, and the public that wants to learn more about food and farming.
Still every day we must endure challenges posed by those that want to stop progress, and want to stop our mission. But things are slowly changing. It is because of the huge number of people that are stepping into engage others with evidence-based arguments. And special thanks to everyone that defends the scientists and farmers that passionately share what they do, and why it is important.
For all of these things, I am grateful. Peace, and Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Huber's Letter to My Superiors

Four years ago this week I attended a talk by anti-GMO darling Dr. Don M. Huber, Emeritus Professor affiliated with Purdue University. In his presentation, Huber made reference to his Molecular Bigfoot, a mysterious new organism that only he has seen, that is harbored on Roundup Ready crops. And it kills you and gives your kids autism. 

The magical organism is a central part of his campaign to spread fear around modern agriculture, and he travels the globe misleading audiences and invoking fear from authoritative credentials. As I've always said, he has a solid record and history. That's what makes his fear campaign more deplorable. 

Here are some things you don't know about the story, mostly because I decided not to make a big deal of it.  I will now. He's still out peddling his nonsense, so it is appropriate to show more about who he really is. 

The Slide at PAG

The Plant-Animal Genome Conference brings many people together in my discipline. It is the place where me and my colleagues and collaborators get together to see new science and plan future work. 

In 2016 the conference had a session, a crazy session, where Huber was on the agenda!  He told his story of GE crop doom to a room of scientists that politely sat through it.  In his slide deck, he took the opportunity to throw me under the bus. 



This is the title slide from his talk.  I can't make this stuff up. 



This is also a slide from his deck.  I can't make this stuff up.  It shows his utter contempt for other scientists and the scientific literature.  Plus, to include this in the slide deck at a national conference is a low-class move.


Letter to University Administration
  
I was talking to my boss one day and on the way out he handed me a letter.  He said, "I think you need to know who is out there, don't do anything with this."

It is four years later and I think it is important to understand what Huber is all about.

The letter was from Don M. Huber to my university administration. I'm not going to post the whole thing, it is rambling and boring, but am happy to send it to you.  We can avoid the whole FOIA request thing. 


Huber impugns my professionalism. This coming from a guy that travels the world scaring people with a fictitious organism, lumpy rat photos and Seneff correlation charts.



They were worried about "intimidation" because I sent a letter to the people hosting him, warning them about his message of fake organisms and glyphosate causing autism (and everything else).

He says that I "did not allow an opportunity for fair and informative discussion (and was) disruptive and disparaging." I recorded the whole thing.  I didn't make a peep during his talk and sat patiently, and until the Q&A when I constructively requested a sample of his "organism" so we could sequence the genome.  I just made an offer to help him.  To date, there is no evidence of his organism.


The guy that sends a letter to the US Ag Secretary claiming evidence of a scary organism in GE crops, based on zero evidence, hopes for me to get ethics counseling.

There's a ton more, but no need to go there.  He was so mad that I didn't just buy his story and instead asked for evidence. That's my job.  

It says a lot about him that he'd write to my bosses, stating that I was "disruptive and disparaging", when I quietly sat and watched his presentation.  

The good news is that the recording I made that night confirms my position.  Glad I did that. 

I also showed this letter to other professors and organic growers that were in attendance that night.  They were truly disappointed that Huber would manufacture a false story with the intent of harming my standing within the university, a place where I am in a leadership position that requires a great relationship with my superiors. 

He produced disparaging slides about another scientist for a national conference.  He reported false claims to harm my standing with my administration, simply because I offered assistance in solving a crisis that he claims is real.  He was held accountable for his wild claims.  He doesn't like that. 

He still continues to tour the planet, telling his tall tales to farmers and lay audiences.  It is a sad mission, and a pathetic end to a good career in public service. 

Time will not be kind to Dr. Huber. 

If he apologized and came clean now he'd be a hero. All would be forgiven.  

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Four Years Later, Is the Unknown Pathogen a Fake?

Four years ago this week I went to see Dr. Don Huber present his sideshow at an event in my town. The grandfatherly man ground his axe against modern biotechnology, especially genetically engineered plants and the products used on them. 

One of the highlights of the night was when he scared and disgusted the concerned audience. He showed them pictures of aborted livestock and images of human disease. He claimed it to be caused from a "virus-like microfungus", an organism unknown to modern science, propagated in genetically-engineered crops and fostered by glyphosate treatment. 


Six years ago Purdue Professor Emeritus Don M. Huber wrote a letter to the USDA Secretary claiming to have cultured a new type of organism that thrived in Roundup Ready soybeans and corn, and caused harm to humans and livestock.  He never has produced any evidence building on this claim, despite vigorously defending it, claiming that it was being worked on.  Isn't it time he came clean? 


The crowd was literally gasping with his images. A man of noted accomplishment and credibility was showing them the root of all human disease and dysfunction. Damn Monsanto.

He claimed that the mystery critter obeyed Koch's postulates, meaning that you could spread the infection from one organism to another. He claimed he could culture it. 

So during the Q&A time I offered to sequence its genome, I'd just need a little culture. The whole story is here.

Of course, he declined my offer.  He had that he had crack teams of experts in Australia and China working on it.  Aside from the fact that he claims to have shared a deadly organism with China, we sit now four years later, and no further characterization. 

Purdue (his stated affiliation as Emeritus faculty), the USDA, and the CDC know nothing about the mysterious pathogen he claims to have, even though he did send a letter to USDA Secretary Vilsack about it.  

Here we sit, four years later, and the DNA sequence is still not available.  I could have had it done in a few weeks, at my personal expense. 

Could it be that there is no secret microorganism and that Dr. Huber was lying to the audience and sending fraudulent emails to Secretary Vilsack? 

He's still out on the tour, misinforming about science and creating confusion.  If you ask him about it, I'm sure he'll never come clean that he made the whole thing up. 

More on tomorrow's blog. 




Sunday, November 12, 2017

In Support of Dr. Peter Gallogly

I saw the video, I've heard the comments, and read the police reports.  You should too.  I can also add some points you have not read anywhere else.  

I've been seen by Dr. Peter Gallogly and Dr. Tom Raulerson at the Gainesville After Hours Care, mostly in its old location on 2nd Avenue.  I appreciated the care I received so much that I considered them my primary physicians, even though the facility was frequently jammed and it was hard to get an appointment. 

They also are the only game in town in the evenings and weekends outside of the emergency room, which means they see a lot of urgent cases. 


There's my review from Google, probably at least ten years old now. 


I'm a state employee, I have great insurance, and I can go anywhere.  I chose GAHC because of the professionalism, the compassion, their social mission, their service to the community, and an appreciation for the good physicians and staff that work there. 

Both of these physicians always took the time to listen, they were careful and thorough, and served a clientele that typically was uninsured and on tight budgets.  I sat in their waiting room and listened to the stories, heard the excuses, and met many people that were a medical mess but looked to GAHC for excellent care.

I even talked to Dr. Raulerson about it.  He said that it was a mission, the best kind of care to provide. 


From just sitting in the waiting room a dozen times I can tell you that his staff endured frequent abuse from many more people than Jessica Stipe.  

Once I listened to two people complain about Dr. Raulerson taking too much time before they could be seen.  He was obviously running late, or something else was taking his time. 

One of them went outside and came in and reported, "His truck is in the parking lot, so I know he's here..."

I thought this was strange. These frequent patients know what the physician drives and then actively stalk him to determine if he's even on site? 

I've seen people bang on the sliding window making demands, I've seen people loudly complain about payments, I heard people talk in the waiting room about the staff and physicians in unbecoming ways. 

I understand.  It is inconvenient, and it is awful to have to wait for care when you're ill. The magazines are from 2014 and the carpets are old, but this is a place where physicians are doing their best to serve a challenging, predominantly underinsured clientele. 

I thought Dr. Gallogly's response and apology were first rate, and show his professionalism and class. 

I also think that his over-reaction was even a bit reserved.  I would have removed them myself after they threatened my staff with physical violence. Sorry, I'm not going to blame the guy for being angry.

And he should have taken her phone.  It is not a public space, Florida law requires all parties to consent to recording on private property, and I hope he follows up with action against Stipe.  He probably won't.  He's classier than I am. 


Bottom line- I was compelled to write this because I know what it is like to be massacred in the Court of Public Opinion and how lonely it can be to see your solid career trashed in social media.  I want a good report to pop up when people search his name. 


One frustrated moment dealing with a horrible patient and the internet wants to end your career. 


Thanks to Dr. Gallogly and everyone at GAHC.  You do a great service for our community, and I'm sorry you have to endure this episode. 

And if you ever decide to hire a bouncer for your waiting room let me know.  I'd love to correct some of the bad behavior I've seen happen there. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Fake News II - You Can Have it Both Ways

In yesterday's blog I described how a former scientist was provided a high visibility forum by the taxpayer funded Canadian Broadcast Company (CBC)-- to make up fake news.  

I hate that term.  But it is a news website, and the information is fake. Fake news

It is so false, so maliciously untruthful, that neither Thierry Vrain or the CBC reporter noticed the inherent contradiction. The lies are so bad that they don't align. It is about creating fear, uncertainty and doubt, even if the claims are internally contradictory. 

But in the world of false information, you can have it both ways, and nobody cares, so long as the nonsense you spout fits their bias. 

Let's look at three lines from this article. 


This statement implies that rigorous dose-response tests have been performed and have concluded that low-doses lead to disease.  No such evidence exists. 


There is no evidence that it accumulates in all of our organs.



And "no research has been done on humans" but somehow he knows that it "accumulates in all our organs".

Let me get this straight.  No research has been done on humans, but somehow a scientist is making certain statements about a water soluble ag chemical accumulating in all of our organs.  All of them. As determined by no research.  Which means he's making it up. 

I pride myself on soft-spoken restraint, high roads and classy retorts.  However, this requires a pointy response.  Vrain is lying so deliberately with completely made-up bullshit, that he can't even keep it straight.  

And the CBC prints it like it is news.  But we already knew that the anti-farming movement doesn't critically evaluate the information they accept and willfully promote, and amplify on taxpayer dollars.   

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Fake News On CBC? Who Funds This Nonsense?

When a government news agency promotes false information to subvert a government scientific safety decision, it is time to re-evaluate their role and if they should even receive government support.  Their November 6th 2017 interview is a shameful distortion of facts, evidence, and directly opposes the science-based decision that government regulators made. 

As usual, the object in question is glyphosate, the low-toxicity herbicide that has been used for about four decades.  It has been recognized for its low toxicity by 100 world governments, most that did their own independent evaluation. It has a reasonable half life in the environment, low environmental impact, and efficacy against a wide variety of weeds. 

But there is a movement afoot to take this safe and useful chemical away from farmers, municipalities and homeowners.  It has been a carefully orchestrated misinformation campaign driven from many angles. 




The article on CBCNews states clearly that a safe, well studied herbicide "causes disease in animal organs."  There is no sound, reproducible evidence to support this, especially at concentrations used. The claims are made by Theirry Vrain, a former scientist now exploiting his past credibility to sow doubt and push shameful misinformation. 

The  opening sentence is just false.  "Glyphosate accumulates in all our organs " says Theirry Vrain.   Someone should revoke his scientific credentials.  There is no evidence to support this position, he is making up information with the intent to scare.  He's using his position as a former government scientist and doctorate holder to spread false information. 

It is nothing new. I've reported several times about his boring and outdated campaigns that make claims based on his 1980's understanding of the technology, a cursory understanding of science, and the stuff he just makes up. 

Once again, CBC lends their microphone and credibility to a non-substantiated viewpoint by someone that has always had damning information about biotechnology, and someone that has almost always been dead wrong. 

Glyphosate does not "accumulate in all organs".  To the contrary, it is water soluble and passes rapidly through the body in stools and urine, with a small amount broken down in the liver by cytochrome p450 enzymes that do that do that sort of thing.  It's pharmacology is well established, and kinetics well documented.  In fact, recent papers have shown that you can accurately estimate occupational exposure by interpreting urine levels. 

On top of that, there is almost zero exposure. It is detected on raw, harvested commodities in low parts per million, that's tens of thousands of times below physiological thresholds. 

He says that there have been no trials in humans, which shows his contempt for the rules that govern tests on human beings.  When there is no plausible mechanism of harm, and no reliable evidence from animals, and no evidence of harm in humans from epidemiological assessments, why even go down that road?

Because it is about scare tactics. Period. 
Vrain then says that glyphosate causes cancer, kidney disease, liver disease and obesity, all based on rather flimsy studies that were never repeated, and all performed by the usual suspects (the people that always find problems and never follow up with any further study).  Nobody else follows their work either. 

Because it is not real. 

The article says that the herbicide is "registered in 100 countries" and fails to recognize that each country does its own evaluations, and none of them have concluded that this compound is harmful. 

The article says that the "water and cancer" agency of the WHO say it is a probable carcinogen.  That is a highly disputed conclusion made by the IARC, an agency that made this controversial conclusion after ignoring a tremendous body of data that did not support the conclusion, and basing the conclusion on a few data points, some from well debunked papers. 

The CBC gave its power to someone willfully distorting evidence.  

The Canadian government does not agree with activists and the IARC and in its independent assessment re-registered the product for continued use.   They are funded by the Canadian government. 

Now the news outlet funded by the Canadian government purposefully and maliciously claims that the decision by the Canadian government is wrong, and that they by proxy are content with poisoning  people. 

Canadians should look carefully at this.  Someone is lying to you-- either the regulatory agencies or the news service that interviews and extols the rants of an known activist that makes empty claims about well established science. 

Talk about fake news. 








Tuesday, October 31, 2017

TB106- Food Security, Africa, Biotech and NGOs.


In this week's podcast we speak with science journalist and author Mark Lynas.  Mark has been a central figure in the discussion of biotechnology, particularly in regard to its role in ensuring food security in the Developing World.  In the 1990’s and early 2000’s you could find Mark destroying test plots of genetically engineered crops.  Later he would reconsider his view, and support the technology, especially as it can be applied to help issues of food security.  Mark discusses the situation on the ground in Africa, the various threats to production, the innovations that can address them, and the resistance toward adoption of new technology. 

Follow Mark Lynas at @mark_lynas

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Addressing Claims of Herbicide in Orange Juice

Moms Across America turns their slander machine on orange juice producers, seeking to harm an industry that it currently fighting for its survival.  Here's how farmers, scientists and concerned citizens can counter that information. The article appears in Citrus Industry


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Amazon Deletes Review, Protects Bottom Line

I used to really trust Amazon.  Product reviews were important because you could see who was a verified purchaser, and then use their guidance to aid in decisions.  Not anymore. 

Amazon is now in the business of deleting reviews that could affect their corporate bottom line.  This sort of smacks of conspiracy, but it makes sense. 

The book "Whitewash" by Carey Gillam was released last week. Gillam is a vicious anti-biotech activist that has distorted the truth and outright lied about science for over a decade.  I have not read the book, but I will.  I suspect it is more of her nonsense. 



I don't agree with everything Stephan Niedenbach says and does, but this review is consistent with the science behind the chemistry, and the track record of Carey Gillam. It was removed from Amazon's reviews of the book to ensure the slander of conventional farming and more profits for Whole Foods/Amazon.




In summary:

1. A middle-school teacher from Maryland buys a copy, reads it, and writes a review.  It compliments Gillam on her writing and then is scientifically critical of the content, providing point-by-point analysis. 

 2.  Gillam rebuts his comments, says that he just works for Monsanto.

3.  Amazon pulls the review. 

Backstory:

1.  Gillam writes for the activist organization US-RTK. She also writes this book. 

2.  Glowing reviews of the book by her US-RTK employers remain on the website without disclosure. 

3.  US-RTK is financed by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), a morally bankrupt anti-biotech organization that finances US-RTK, who pays Gillam, who trashes conventional farming. 

4.  If OCA, RTK, Gillam can manipulate the public into fearing conventional farming, interest in Whole Foods goes up. 

5.  Whole Foods is owned by Amazon. 

6.  So Amazon profits from censoring objective, scientific reviews of non-scientific claims. 

I don't normally think conspiratorially, but consider that Gillam and US-RTK have hammered me and other scientists for tenuous, non-financial relationships with [Big Corporation].  Here industry groups pay her via USRTK to publish weak claims (actually since this book was in development the wheels of many arguments have come off) that target conventional farming.  

Who are the real paid industry shills? 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Moms Against America Targets OJ

For several years now I've discussed why you should never trust Moms Against America. The organization is run by Zen Honeycutt, someone with zero scientific training that makes a living by harming farmers and indicting scientists that work for public good. She also is against vaccination and raises money to fund billboards mom-shaming parents into buying organic food. 

Now she has set her target on orange producers, and I'm officially abandoning my gentle persuasion and as we say in the hockey arena, I'm "dropping the gloves". 

This report is inexcusable, it is disgusting and it harms an industry that is already collapsing. What is she trying to do? 




From her comfortable well-appointed home in California, Zen Honeycutt, someone demonstrated to lie about science, attacks an industry that is taking a beating from disease and hurricanes

 Zen Honeycutt has a history of falsifying information to advance her agenda of scaring parents away from food. In the past she has promoted knowingly forged data on residues on corn and also promoted highly suspect data about glyphosate in breast milk, a claim that was shown to not be supported by scientists that study contents of breast milk. 

 She now targets orange juice, a key component of the American diet, a much needed daily serving of fruit in a world of caffeinated energy drinks. 

 A Fruit Crop is Dying 

 Aside from the shift away from fruit juice due to market forces and cultural trends, the Florida citrus crop is dying from citrus greening, a disease driving the industry into ruin. Production is at 50% of what it was a short time ago. Solutions are in the works at many levels. 

 Then Hurricane Irma then stripped the trees of a lot of what was left. his was a devastating year for our growers. 

 So here Zen Honeycutt takes on an industry that is supplying an important fruit serving. The crop is dying, the situation is critical, and she screams that a "probable carcinogen" is in your OJ. 

 FIRST. 

  •  The weed killer glyphosate is used to clear space around trees and in row middles-- because it is safe. 
  •  It is a foliar herbicide, meaning it must be applied to leaves to work.  It is not well take up by roots. 
  • If it was taken up by the tree, the tree would die.  
  • For over 30 years glyphosate has been a safe way to manage weeds that compete for limited water and nutrients. It still works great in orange groves. 

 Carcinogen? 

 Honeycutt certainly accepts the lone IARC decision of "probable carcinogen" ignoring the dozens of independent evaluations by many countries, and the scientific literature that says there is no strong evidence for carcinogenicty. 

The lead scientist in this determination was paid $160,000 and hired lawyers to start suing the manufacturer of Roundup before the decision was even rendered, so this looks like a clear pay-to-smear set of allegations. 

 The IARC decision is counter to every other government, company (many companies manufacture it, each has done their own tests), and academic assessment of glyphosate, they did not find reason for concern. (and FYI, the IARC says alcohol and grilled meat are known carcinogens) 

 Claimed Levels? 

 The numbers they present, if true, which they likely are not based on Honeycutt's trend of presenting false data, are far below any risky levels. 5 parts per billion is five seconds in 32 years.

 Methods? 

 They also don't show a non-glyphosate control. There are plenty of places growing OJ without glyphosate. While the claimed LC/MS-MS method is a good way to measure glyphosate, what is the background level in non-glyphosate treated plants? What else elutes at the same time? No controls, just numbers to scare. Claims in the MAM Article The verbiage presented around the claimed presence is a sick distortion of the scientific literature. 

Not only is the work cited typically suspect (it appears she's resting on the highly criticized work by Kruger and Seneff), other conclusions are twisted. For instance she claims, "1 part per trillion has been shown to stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells." She neglects to mention that this is in a Petri dish. Glyphosate is a water-soluble molecule. It is applied in parts per million and even if you consumed it, it would move through the body in stools and urine. I discussed glyphosate pharmacokinetics with a toxicologist/physician on my podcast. 

 The Lab that Did the Work 

 And the work was done by John Fagan (signed off on the bottom) long time anti-GMO crusader. Independent lab? Hardly. Fagan is recognized as a Raja of the Global Country of World Peace with Global Responsibility for Food Purity and Invincibility and Minister of Agriculture in the Maharishi Movement.

 How he fits that on a business card I'll never know. 



Fagan has a long career dedicated to finding stuff at the edge of nothing, and then using those claims to instill fear about food. He was the founder of Genetic ID (a GE crop identification project) and was an early board member of the Non-GMO Project. 

 No controls, no published methods, from an activist lab -- This would never be accepted by peer-reviewed literature, which is why it is only on an activist website with a history of lying to the public.

Accompanying Video

I have to ask myself, is she completely obvious or knowingly lying?  The video is a clueless rant that ignores everything known about glyphosate and even fundamental science. 

She claims that glyphosate gets into oranges because it is taken up by the roots, when we know that it is not taken up well at all.  She says they didn't test organic orange juice because they wanted to test only the top brands. My guess is that they "found" it in organic too (there's likely a product at the same place as glyphosate that they willingly misinterpret, again, without that control, who knows?). 

She also continues the same bogus claims, like glyphosate is found in rain.  A claim long debunked by me! 


Motivation 

 The bottom line is that Zen Honeycutt wants to harm American Farming. She lives in a delusional bubble of happy farms where immigrants toil in the hot sun to remove the weeds to ensure she gets her high-priced food that has other residues that can't hurt you either. 

 This is more anti-glyphosate tripe. The tip off-- they keep calling it Monsanto's roundup. Few citrus growers use Roundup. They use glyphosate. The generic is much cheaper, so they use that. It is not made by Monsanto, it is made by one of dozens of other companies.

 Honeycutt must Monsantoize this to invoke fear of technology, fear of safe, good fruit products-- or more importantly, connect the bogus data to Monsanto. 



 835 shares. About what? False data manufactured by people known to fake data. Why would anyone trust them with their family's health? 


 And to the Orange Juice Industry... 

 This is exactly why I hate that all of the major brands capitulated to labeling orange juice "Non-GMO". There are no genetically engineered oranges, at least none other than those in greenhouses and behind barbed wire that look perfectly fine in the presence of disease pressure. The food activists are horrible people that lie to the public with the intention of harming industries. Now they have targeted orange juice. Sorry about that. 

 The best move would be to make strong statements about the safe use of herbicides in the industry, the likely bogus data here, and the fact that if it was true, the levels are below inconsequential. 

 Silver Lining

 As time goes on Honeycutt is recognized more and more as a crackpot activist that has a clearly rotten agenda. She is generally recognized as someone that will falsify data for her cause and ignore science that does not agree with her interpretations. 

She also is glad to attack scientists like Shelley McGuire, and silence them (like she did me by blocking and erasing my soft, scientific comments) when they engage questions on her website. 

Conclusion 

 More alarmist bullshit from known data fabricators and questionable laboratories, this time sadly targeting a crippled industry to continue their crusade against a company that sells corn and soybean seeds. 

 I'm glad this story hit with a whimper and didn't get much interest.