Thursday, February 20, 2014

Independent GMO Research Challenge!

Blocked from Science? 

One of the reasons I've survived as an academic scientist has been a tenacious drive to get things done.  I'm not brilliant like my colleagues, but I work really hard and don't take 'no' for an answer.  If there's a problem to solve, a hypothesis to test-- we figure out a way to do it.

That's why it makes me crazy when people claim that they can't do experiments on GM foods.  They claim independent researchers have been blocked from doing work in this area.  Activists will have you believe that somehow their hands are tied and they are stopped from doing the work.  I just don't understand. 

Want independent research?  Do it.  Don't whine about not being able to do it. If you are afraid to do it, or afraid to publish results, send them to me.  I'll publish them for you and we'll split the Nobel Prize! 

But Isn't It Everywhere?

Anti-GMO folks will tell you two things for sure.  First, that GMOs are in just about everything we eat, and next, that GMO food is killing us. If that is true, why do you need any permission from any company to do the research?  If you are a researcher that finds this compelling, go buy food.  You know, that poison stuff that we put in our pie holes.  Rigorously demonstrate that GM food is more deadly and disease causing than Non-GMO Project equivalents.  Done!  Nobel Prize! 

Can't Get the Seeds! 

What a flaming cop out.  Go buy them.  Farmers do it every day. Do your experiments.  If you are nervous, go file an Academic Research License and do the work with the company's knowledge.  Do your experiments.  If you find that there is a problem, report your results.  Claim your Nobel Prize. Have some guts. 

There's no way anyone will be suing you, and the Blackwater 'copters will be grounded.  Nobody will be hassling you for using the seeds for research, because your high-quality, published, reproducible research will drive the company out of business with lawsuits.

Plus, as I've mentioned elsewhere, you can have any seeds made you want, and you can do experiments until you are blue in the face.  Enjoy! University of Missouri, University of California Davis-- they can make your plants and you can test all day!

I'll Publish Your Results!

If you do a real set of experiments that show harm, make sure they are independently verified and then publish!   That's what scientists do!  If you are afraid because the conspiracy, black helicopters, Blackwater, or Monsanto itself will come get you, send me your data!  I'll write it up and submit it.  

If there is evidence of harm, then you losers are the most unethical, spineless losers to not stand up for what is right.  I'll stand up for you.  I don't fear black helicopters.  


In Conclusion

It is the old, safe retreat-- "nobody knows because the company won't let them test...."   Oh cry me a river.  Just do it.  There's not a scientist alive worth a damn that would see a paradigm-shifting opportunity and an ethical charge and not do it because they are afraid of a company.  Puh-leeeze. 

That's how you know these people have no leg to stand on.  When I think about the scientists I know, the ethics they practice and their concern for farmers, the poor, the average consumer and the environment, if there was something wrong they would not sweep it under a carpet.  It would be on prime-time news.  

The challenge- give me the data you say are suppressed.  I'll publish them, and when the ninjas start coming after me we'll blow the roof off of the story. 




Sunday, February 16, 2014

Proudly Proclaiming Scientific Ignorance

When I saw this advertisement for a t-shirt to wear in May's March Against Monsanto, I could not believe my eyes.  Here was a shirt being sold to those opposed to transgenic (GMO) technologies that basically says that the wearer has no idea about what they are so upset about.  In a way, sad, but in a way pure rhetorical gold.  I can't make this stuff up.  


Proudly proclaim that you know nothing about technology you are rallying against!  A t-shirt that brazenly screams that the wearer is ignorant about biotechnology.


So what's wrong with this picture?  Let's start at the bottom and work our way up!

1.  Tomato.  There are no commercial GMO tomatoes. Oops.
2.  Syringe.  That's not how trangenics are made, and it is simply an iconic scare tactic of the anti-GM movement.  Again, proudly shows complete ignorance of the process. 
3.  Nobody is a science experiment from GM, any more than they are from eating anything else.  Again, a bold statement that anti-GM is in the business of manufacturing non-existent risk.

I only wish that I had designed the shirts and was making a few shekels off of them (oooh... and entrepreneur is born!).

Along that line, I'm not one to claim a conspiracy here, but I'm going to bet, hands down, that Monsanto actually printed these shirts.  Not only are they making money off of the scientifically illiterate, they make the protesters wearing them look like dolts, and they get a little eff-ewe to laugh about in the break room at work.

A little look at the back of the shirt confirms my suspicions.


Nothing like buying a garment to wear that says you have absolutely no clue. 

Anyone participating in Millions Against Monsanto, or for that matter climate change hoaxers and anti-vaxers, might consider consulting a scientist before buying a shirt that actually shows they know nothing about the science they are rallying against.  Even though I disagree with their message, I'm honest enough to not want them look like complete morons while giving it.

Probably. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

GMOs and Leukemia, Debunkulated

Over the last several months there have been many people claiming this link between transgenic crops and Leukemia.  Let's think about this conclusion and the research it is based on.  The conclusion that Bt is related to leukemia, or any human disorder, is just not shown in those data. 


What do you think would happen if a 200lb human being was force fed, with a tube down the throat into the stomach, pure bacterial spores equivalent to half a roll of nickels, and then tested for effects 24h later?   My guess is that you’d see a screaming immune response, massive response from gut flora, and probably some effects on physiology that would be reflected in the blood.  Agreed?

If you agree, then the results of this hypothetical “experiment” are the same as those performed on mice in the Mezzomo study.

In short, the work by Mezzomo et al., (J. Hematology and Thromboembolic Disease) takes Bt spore crystals (dried downBacillis thruengenesis bacteria) containing the different Bt protein (or Cry proteins) and delivers them by oral gavage into the stomachs of mice.  The authors show that mice exhibit minor changes in the blood 24, 72 and 196 hours after the treatment. The authors claim that these findings indicate that “further studies are needed to clarify the mechanism involved in hemotoxicity…to establish risk in non-target organisms.”

Upon analysis I completely disagree with the authors.  The study does not show this at all.

Here are a few of the study’s significant limitations.   

  1. No experimental control was used (well, just water).  There were no bacterial Cry minus strains tested, so it is impossible to know if the effects come from the bacteria or the cry proteins.  The cry protein is what is used in transgenic (GMO) plants.
  2. The bacterial strains used with the Cry gene (an Bt protein) were originally characterized by Santos et al (2009, Bio Controls) to test for larvacidal activity against various cotton pests.  Larvae were fed the spore crystals, just as they would consume when about 50-60% of organic growers apply Bt to plants.  They do not test transgenic plant materials, yet make clear statements implying that these results are relevant to transgenic contexts.  This statement completely oversteps the data. 
  3. The levels of Bt were at least one million times what humans consume when eating transgenic corn.
  4. The study has a problem that is seen in most GMO studies.  There is no real dose-response relationship.  In other words, if something has an effect you see it more when more when a greater amount of the causal agent is applied.  Here Table 1 shows a number of instances were lower doses produce significantly lower effects.  This is always a red flag to critical scientific reviewers and usually means the sample size is too small and the differences reflect natural variation.

Synthesis.

When you force feed massive numbers of bacterial spores to mice, they will have responses that may be detected in the blood.  The responses can be detected, but likely are not even biologically relevant.   Even seven days after being infused with bacteria the changes are small, just a few percent at best.   So when the websites say “GMOs are linked to leukemia and anemia,” the real answer is that mice fed quite a bit of Bt-containing bacterial spores (like the ones used in organic production) the mice have tiny changes in certain blood biomarkers.

Other notes

  1. This was the inaugural issue of JHTD.  I could not access its current list of contents (it gave a jpg of the journal¹s cover) but it does claim to be “one of the best open access journals of scholarly publishing.”  Quite a statement for a journal which launched this year and has no impact rating.  In the SCImago Journal Ranking system (scimagojr.com), among 89 journals in “Hematology” JHTD ranks… well…it did not even make the list, and the 89th place journal has not published a paper in the last three years.
  2. The Omics publishing group is widely criticized as a “predatory publisher.” This means that they get paid every time that something is published and actively seek articles to publish (http://www.academia.edu/1151857/Bealls_List_of_Predatory_Open-Access_Publishers) . They are known in scholarly circles for not publishing high-quality work, and few, if any, of their journals are indexed on PubMed, which means they have not met their quality metrics http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/pub/pubinfo/ . 
  3. Biofortified.com author Dr. Anastasia Bodnar notes that the work was originally published in the respected journal Food Chemistry and Toxicology Nov 9, 2012, but was “withdrawn at the request of the author(s) and/or editor.”   As stated in Elsevier¹s withdrawal guidelines, an article may be withdrawn if it contains errors or if it was submitted twice.  If the paper had errors or was submitted twice, those problems could be remedied for resubmission.  The other reason stated in the policy is when “the articles may represent infringements of professional ethical codes, such as multiple submission, bogus claims of authorship, plagiarism, fraudulent use of data or the like.”

In conclusion.

The article is consistent with the low-quality, low-impact, no control, no dose-response, limited biological relevance, poorly designed studies that are held in sterling regard by the anti-GMO community.   It is again a testament to how bad research and claimed effects will forever be integrated into the fabric of a movement and will be used to scare the credulous and even effect public policy. 

The bottom line is that the Bt protein is just that - a protein.  It is digested by humans just like any other protein.  There is no evidence of bioaccumulation. The compound has been well studied for decades and has been a great benefit to organic growers, as well as in a transgenic context. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Talking to the Masses, Good Times.

Last night I got to speak the Organic and Sustainable Agriculture Club at UF, and it was quite nice.  There were lots of good questions and we had a good time.  Some people got up and left after 15 minutes, but those folks have made up their minds already.  Still, it was a great forum to talk about the even-handed science behind GM crops.

I'm also speaking to the Master Gardeners Spring Festival in Marion County Florida on March 8th.

My talk is titled, "GMO Technology:  Foundation of Future Gardening", perhaps an edgy title, as it provoked a rather pointy response.

As usual, it made its way to the upper echelons of our university.

Nothing like taking time on a Saturday to venture into the county and talk science.  Glad to do it, but it looks like someone is not too happy about it!    


Sadly, when I get to "terminator seeds" I tune out, because obviously this person has so firmly bought into the misinformation that they are probably pretty far gone.  Then when they tell me that I'm "in bed with" Monsanto I know they are goofy.

I could have let it slide, but instead saw this as a great opportunity to win a heart, mind, or buy them a one-way ticket to Kauai.   So I replied...

I'm such a savage beast, a clear pawn of Big Ag.  Slinging lunch invites like this is so evil! 

Once again it illuminates the need to bring the discussion to public forums.  They have "Seeds of Death" as their scientific evidence.  We have a lot of work to do....





Tuesday, February 4, 2014

NHL or NPR?

The following is a list of actual names.  Can you label them as NPR correspondents or NHL goalies?



Answers below! 




























Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Common Disease Spectrum of Crazy


In order to wage an effective war against science and reason, it is important to convince as many people as possible that science and reason are killing them.  This task is difficult because most people realize that science and reason have greatly enhanced life quality and expectancy.  The trick is to misdirect the credulous from the daily examples where science works, and then manufacture risk, connecting an activist target to a familiar disease du jour

Whether you are trying to sell a book on GMOs, get more invites for your anti-glyphosate rants, sell a t-shirt on your chemtrails site, be the president of your hackey-sack club, or convince local moms to stop protecting their children with immunization, there has to be a looming threat of a physical illness connected to your deadly agent of interest. 

Below are cut-n-pastes from various websites or documentaries.  They note the rise in diseases associated with ____________ .  Note that they all are relatively similar lists in terms of specific disease issues. 

The disorders share a few commonalities. First, they are all difficult medical nuts to crack.  These are modern diseases with multiple etiologies and unfound cures.  These are the visible diseases in our society, increasing in frequency since we are not dropping dead from polio, tuberculosis and the flu.  Next, they include highly-visible issues like autism, obesity and cancer, along with long-term dramatic degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. They also include lots of recently visible issues (gluten intolerance) and amorphous disorders (fibromyalgia). 

As time rolls on and we sort out cancers and long-term degenerative disease, the number one cause of death will be accidents.  I suppose they'll have to blame those on GM/vaccination/etc too.

What is the common theme?  To compel the reader to freak out about the issue at hand by claiming physical manifestations-- of course, without ever presenting supporting evidence. 

From Genetic Roulette, by Jeffrey Smith.  This list is fun because it includes cirrhosis and pneumonia. GMO pneumonia?  Huffing corn starch? 



 Don Huber's glyphosate and GMO list is a little more comprehensive. Of course, we'd expect that from an emeritus professor, digging in a little deeper to find more diseases tied to his plant-animal-livestock pathogen.  His list is a lot like Smith's, but it also includes Morgellan's and miscarriage.  Of course, he never has produced any evidence of the pathogen, but he knows exactly what diseases it causes.  Stephanie Seneff also claims a similar suite of disorders from glyphosate. 



Chemtrails!  Chemtrails are blamed for a similar spectrum of diseases to Huber and Smith's list, with the added fun of tinnitis (ear ringing) and high cholesterol.  The "aluminium build up in the pineal gland" might be residues soaking in from the foil hat. 



Oh Joy.  This baby has more syringes sticking in it than a Monsanto tomato. "Up to 60% of the immune system destroyed."  The list here is similar to GMO and chemtrails, but also includes "death", which is quite a symptom. 



Fluoride causes many of the same problems, but I'll give them credit for forging out and finding some new disorders to give them an air of credibility over simply just naming the disease du jour.  I particularly like "Brain Damage in the Unborn Fetus", which must rectify in the born fetus, because just about anyone reading this in the USA was a fetus in the presence of fluoride.  I also like how fluoride "Makes you docile and obeisant", which I think means fat and willing to carry out orders. 

If you go on the internets and root around you can find similar lists for aspartame, radio waves, cell phone towers, and if you live in Kauai-- "smart meters", the internet-reporting electrical meters. 

Why attach a gnarly disease to your controversy?  Because it can be used to frighten people, especially when concerning their unborn fetus, and their born fetus.  When you look at the lists they never actually cite evidence of linkage to the disease, not evidence of true cause and effect.  It is a common tactic of someone trying to scare you with a bowl of Cheerios or an electric meter- manufacture the perception of risk.  

Don't fall for it.  Those chemtrails just may be condensation and not the reason you can't get out of bed in the morning.