Thursday, July 23, 2015

GMO Formaldehyde Challenge!

Last week Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai published a systems biology paper in Agricultural Sciences.  The report left much to be desired, and was critically analyzed here.   The anti-GMO activist community exploded with the news that "GMOs are full of formaldehyde", of course not realizing that the paper represented a deeply flawed and testable conclusion, that was not tested. 

Nowhere in the existing literature, where tens of thousands of plant products have been analyzed, did anyone find actual measurements that match the predictions. When your computer prediction is wrong, then why publish it? 

Because it did exactly what it set out to do-- create fear and controversy around technology that folks like Ayyadurai and his spouse, the fabulous Fran Drescher, fail to appreciate. 

Fran and Shiva have been vigorously defending the work online, with Drescher even making the bold (tired) claim that scientists are all just working "4 monsanto".  She's even been so bold as to demand testing for formaldehye on all GM products based on hubby's computational synthesis. 


Which is not what the computer prediction found. 


A little agenda showing? 

Downside?  Changing safety protocols based on a crackpot computer program's output that does not match reality. 

Argument from authority.  Great to have degrees, too bad to see them misused to achieve unethical political gains-- scaring people from good, safe food with nonsense.


#ShowUporShutUp. I like it! 

Let's talk about #ShowUporShutUp.  It is really simple to measure formaldehyde levels quantitatively in plant extracts. I've started to build a collection of materials to actually do the test. 

I'll have probably a dozen soy/corn samples on hand in a week or so, both transgenic (GMO) and corresponding isolines. This way we can test the systems biology-driven hypothesis, potentially validating Ayyadurai's findings. 

I was hoping to just do this on my own to not waste lots of time. However, transparency and wider involvement would be a good thing.  

Therefore, I've invited Dr. Ayyadurai via Twitter to come to UF and do the extractions and analysis with me.  We can do this in a couple of days, no problem.  It probably should be video recorded just for transparency, and we can make a YouTube video afterwards.

Protocols and statistical methods will be determined mutually ahead of time, and results will be compared to those from an independent lab.  We'll make all raw data public. How cool is that? 

We do need to keep analysis pretty narrow to formaldehyde and glutathione, along with a few internal and spiked controls.  

We'd do extractions and separations together here, along with a colleague who specializes in such things.  The three of us would publish the results together, all three authors, and would report about how the results support, or do not support the hypothesis, "GMO crops have higher levels of formaldehyde, and lower levels of glutathione".  

All samples will be blind to researchers, and coded by a third party. We'll do formaldehyde using published protocols and glutathione using a commercially-available kit I'll buy this week.  All materials will be screened for transgenes/lack of transgenes using PCR, along with appropriate controls. 

In addition, I'll cover the cost of taking a subset of the materials, chosen by Dr. Ayyadurai, and sent to independent analysis. We will include formaldehyde-spiked samples as positive controls. 

I'm usually not so rude, but since Ms. Drescher used the term, how about #ShowUporShutUp?  

Or as it should be put, let's do the experiment. Let's agree to the materials to be used, and quantitative methods.  Let's agree on an independent lab to validate results. 

If it actually hyper-accumulates formaldehyde, then that Science paper will look pretty good on my CV.  

What do you say Shiva?  Let's do it.  Plus you'll have a good time down here in G-ville.  We'll welcome you with open arms and a kind spirit of finding the Truth through collaborative, transparent research. Show me I'm wrong, that would be just fine. Let's do it.