Wednesday, December 21, 2016

I'll Turn 50, Where's My Free Stuff?

On January 11, 2017 I will turn 50.  To many this chronological milestone represents a harsh reminder of beer-soaked sand clumping through life's hourglass, a grim reminder of aging and the unpleasantries of human senescence. 

I look at it as a way to start cashing in my chips for free stuff and early bird discounts. 

Frankly, I think it is all crap. It doesn't phase me a bit, but I'll take the bonus goods for eclipsing an arbitrary chronological metric.

I spent my first 35 years in school and postdoc time, scrounging for change, and taking any job that would give me five bucks or a sandwich. I could never figure out why the elderly got the discounts. Not only did they have all of the money, they also had social security. 

Senior discounts seemed wasted on the old.  I was the one that really needed the free bagel. 

I was taken back to January 10th, 1988, the day before my 21st birthday, and how the next day I'd be magically responsible enough to buy the alcohol I had been enjoying for four years already.

After the milestone of 21 years old my auto insurance rates dropped at 25.  Big deal.  Then I set my sites on 50 and put a big red X on the calendar, 25 years in the future. 

Now that marked date happens next month.  Many places consider 50 as eligible for certain discounts and freebies.  I'm interested in nailing those down now so that I can plan a 2017 filled with discount shit.  I've paid my dues, now I want them refunded. 

First stop, "senior coffee" at Arby's.  Mine. And then I'll bench press more than anyone that works there. 

So-- what do you know internet?  Where do I get something for free, just because I somehow managed to avoid the dirt nap for half a century?

What I've found so far:
  • Steak ‘n Shake: 10% off every Monday & Tuesday (50+)
  • Bealls Outlet: 15% off on every Tuesday (50+ or “fifty & fabulous” as customer service told me)  verified
  • Peebles: 20% off with 50+ card on Tuesdays (50+)
  • Traditions Restaurant (East TX): Senior platter meal for $4.71 (50+) verified
  • Tea Room Cafe: 10% off for seniors (50+)
  • Kagle’s Barbecue: 10% off (50+)
  • American Discount Stores: 10% off every Monday (50 +)
  • Jitterbug: $10/month cell phone service
  • Chili’s: 10% off
  • Dairy Queen: 10% off
  • Krispy Kreme: 10% off

Monday, December 12, 2016

Comment on Natural News

I needed a picture of myself to send to organizers of an upcoming conference. I found this in Google images and was curious what it was:

So I clicked the link and it took me to a Natural News story that talked about how I "receive bribes", "run scams", engage in "corruption".  It says that Monsanto provides me with money to take luxury vacations in Hawaii.  It was all assembled from cherry-picked comments in my personal emails that I willingly handed over to USRTK.

Of course, none of that is true. 

it is simply an opportunity to hurt someone, so Mike Adams used his reaching website to produce a (well, one of many) story that was false and potentially very damaging.  

When you read the comments section you see how this hateful rhetoric whips people into a frenzy.  This is just one example.  Five likes! 

I thought that since it has been a year I could provide a factual synthesis of the situation and maybe at least have the proper story out there in space. So I wrote this in the comments section:

Hi Everybody, it's me, the guy that is the subject of this piece. I stumbled upon now, more than a year after it was posted. It was a sad attempt to harm my credibility as a researcher and scholar that helps the public understand science. A couple of quick notes. I run a science communication workshop. When someone offers to pay me to do a lecture or seminar, that money could go in my pocket-- but instead goes to the workshop. I financed this for years, along with organizations that would donate (farm bureau, etc).

Monsanto offered to do the same thing. That's great. It is expensive to rent a venue, travel somewhere, put out coffee and sandwiches, provide media/materials. They did the right thing. They didn't give me a script, not even a hint. They said, "We think your program in teaching scientists how to speak to the public is a good thing."
And for that, I was very grateful, and promised an excellent return on their investment-- that return being a scientific community more likely to engage the public about science.

All of this was public record (that's why it was in the emails too), all above board. Zero went to me. Zero went to my research. Zero. In the end my university took it and put it into a campus food bank because of threats against me, my lab, and my family. We had police presence in the building and the
Domestic Terrorism Task Force involved.

Because of articles like this. Read the comments below. This stokes hate.

There was no bribe, no scam, no corruption. It was a manufactured story produced from my emails which I freely provided.

Luxury hotels in Hawaii? Ha! Motel 6 in Columbia, Missouri! "Unrestricted gift" is university accounting language for "no strings attached" or "no delieverables." That means that the donor gets nothing in return. Zero.

The good news is that Adams' hateful rhetoric and the comments below are all screenshots that will be used in upcoming books, documentaries, etc about how activists try to destroy scientists' careers in vaccines, climate and genetic engineering.

The other good news is that this kind of hate brought a scientific community to my defense. I've won awards and earned tremendous respect for weathering such a vitriolic, personal attack.

Of course, all of my funding, reimbursement, etc are all public record and can be seen on my website at any time. Check it out. Not a cent from Monsanto was ever seen for research or to me personally, and not a cent was ever used for the workshops. Reach out if you ever have questions, I'm always glad to answer them.

I hit the button to post my reply, only to find out that it is "...waiting to be approved by Natural News."

It is amazing. Not only do they publish falsehoods that stoke vitriolic response, they don't afford their target to even present the factual interpretation.

Oh well. At the same time mine would be the first comment posted in a year, so maybe nobody cares anyway.

But I'm glad I saw this Adam's hit piece. It reminded me of where we were a year ago and how far we have come, and how far they had to sink. It reminds us of the anger, hate, and slander we have to endure when we simply teach science.

Amazing times.

**** Irony Alert! --for what it's worth, 20 minutes later the comment was apparently not approved, as it was removed. The people that scream for a 'right to know' are the first to censor what they don't want you to know. ****

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Mythbusting "Terminator Genes"

The discussion of the concept of Terminator Genes is important.  Many people feel that this technology is a reason to not adopt genetically-engineered crops.  Vandana Shiva speaks of the technology as though it is present in every plant. 

However, the story is much more interesting and is the subject of today's podcast.  The technology only existed in concept, maybe in a few plants that never left a greenhouse.  It was originally devised to limit gene flow, one of the issues that critics raise today.  However, it was never even close to commercialization. The story is told by Dr. Mel Oliver, the USDA scientist that developed the idea. 

The story is important to know.  Why do people claim that this technology is widespread?  The answer is that it is a way to create fear.  Why does anyone them, when their claims are not true? 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

More USRTK Harassment - My Correspondence with Journalists

It has been a couple of months now since I received a public records requests from USRTK or The Food Babe Vani Hari.  They love reading the boring emails of a lifelong public scientist, hoping that they can funnel off specific statements and feed them to writers that can fabricate bogus accusations. 

After turning over about 27,000 pages of email under records requests in the last two years without any resistance, they found no smoking gun.  Gary Ruskin originally said that he wanted to know why a scientist would possibly provide science-based answers on a website where the public asks questions. That was the original probe.

After 27,000 pages of email, they can see that I've done nothing wrong, nothing unethical, and that I'm pretty happy to enjoy a casual conversation with others. 

But now they want more.  After they've retrieved all correspondences between me and every company you can think of, every other scientist in my discipline, and even entities I've never heard of--- now they want my interactions with the media. 

They could not intimidate me and other scientists from sharing the science, so now they want to break our ties to media-- the people that help us tell science's stories. 

Why?  This makes little sense.  Do they think I'm being secretly paid off to talk to the public by someone that writes for the Washington Post

My only thinking is that they feel if you can't stop the science, you can at least break its connection to significant media outlets. 

The good news is that I don't think I have many correspondences with the folks in question.  There might be a few things here and there, and absolutely nothing that qualifies as a "public record" by definition. They'll get a few dozen pages of niceties, maybe a few questions answered, that kind of thing. 

But will this have a chilling effect on writers who want to interact with qualified scientists in controversial areas?  This is exactly what happened to Michael Mann in the climate change attacks.  Activists couldn't silence him, so they intimidated the channels that would share his story.

Once again, the attacks on science and reason from a well-funded, industry-sponsored activist group will cost a public university substantial time and money.  They'll violate the privacy of journalists that may have asked questions because ironically, they felt they had a right to know

The saga continues.  Intimidation, harassment, and a lame attempt to further silence science and those that communicate it. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

GE Crops in Organic Production?

Dr. Mark Williams has extensive training in molecular biology.  He also is interested in sustainable crop production, and leads training in organic production at University of Kentucky.  In this interview he speaks about the intersection of these areas, touching on how what have been treated as disparate approaches really fit well together.  Dr. Williams touches on  gene editing, food labeling, environmental impact, and how education efforts need to focus on sustainable agriculture using the best tools going forward.  Hosted by Dr. Paul Vincelli

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Post-Truth and Ag Policy: Boulder County Colorado

I've known of the stewing agricultural pressure cooker known as Boulder County, Colorado for several years, and this week the inevitable happened.  Affluent city dwellers have used post-truth emotional arguments to denounce scientific and agricultural experts, placing their Whole-Foods-informed truthiness above evidence. 

The county harbors 25,000 acres of farmland, most of it under needed irrigation.  The space has been greened by annual plantings dominated by corn and sugar beets.  Over the last two decades these crops have transitioned to genetically engineered (familiarly "GMO") seeds that bear traits to limit farmer costs and reduce environmental impacts. 

Boulder County plans to restrict farmer seed choice based on politically-motivated, emotionally driven rhetoric that denies basic scientific facts.

But last week a county council voted 2 to 1 to 'phase out' the use of genetically engineered seeds, putting restrictions on farmers about the plants they choose to grow.  

I won't try to tell the story in its entirety, but I want you to please read this post by area farmer Fameur Rasmussen Jr.  He is a member of Farmers Alliance for Integrated Resources, a collection of area farmers that has united to present a codified voice in county politics.   His post is a testament to the post-truth decisions in agriculture foisted on farmers by those that know nothing about farming. 

I've spoken to this group. They are impressive, dedicated, and understand the science. I really feel for them now. 

Get to know this story.  This is the most prominent example of government overstepping into a private business decision, limiting choices for farmers because -- well, "Because we said so." 

In conclusion, many of my friends and colleagues wonder how Hillary Clinton lost the election.  This is a key example of why.   It is frequently embarrassing to be a progressive when those of similar stripes ignore (or outright deny) evidence.  On the other hand, the farmers affected by left-leaning, science-free policy  vote in droves in an effort to protect their interests from clueless ideologs aflamed to interfere with their operations.

Those that claim to be forward-thinking progressives best reign in their policymakers.  Ignoring science and evidence is a dangerous place that will only backfire.  

Science is not a democracy.  We don't vote on what's true.  Evidence matters. 

Science always wins. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

"Monsanto Supporters" - A Desperate Move?

The enemies of science and reason must take unethical steps in attempts to tarnish and discredit the legitimate scientists who retard penetration of their fear mongering campaigns. 

Last week's fear brochure claiming "alarming" levels of herbicides in familiar processed foods was a joke to scientists that understand analytical chemistry, agricultural chemistry, and their relative risks. 

When Dr. Shelly McGuire and I correctly commented that the analysis presented was wholly insufficient to support a claim of alarm, we immediately became targets for those that manufacture risk and wish to erode trust in food, farming and science.  We were immediately chastised by those that promote pseudoscientific claims, and those paid to obfuscate science and ablate the trust of public scientists. 

USRTK employee and paid content producer Carey Gillam cites article where Dr. McGuire and I were referred to as "Monsanto Supporters".  Wow. Sticks and stones... 

The tactic is simple.  Play off of the popular notion that the Monsanto Company is somehow at the root of all evil, and say that scientists presenting criticism of shoddy work are just their pawns. 


Anyone with a modicum of computational prowess can quickly see that both Dr. McGuire and I are public scientists, all of our funding is open and available for scrutiny.  (mine's here)

It is also clear that Dr. McGuire and I have also published work where such analytical techniques were used correctly, and we are in a position to appropriately criticize sloppy presentation of soft results. 

I don't support Monsanto.  I don't un-support Monsanto. I feel the same thing for Monsanto as I do for New Balance or Pizza Hut.  It is a company where I don't use their products and recognize that many end-product users appreciate what they do. If they went away tomorrow it would have zero effect on me or my work.  I'm agnostic. They don't influence what I do or my synthesis of scientific information.

In fact, if they went away it would be wonderful because it would remove the red herring from the activist defamation strategy. 

My criticism is not that of a Monsanto supporter. It is of a Science Supporter, a Truth Supporter. 

And science and truth are two things Gillam, Food Democracy Now and Sustainable Pulse don't exactly have on their side. 

And it shows.  After more than twelve hours online, no shares, except for one on Google Plus. 

So why write about it?  

Simple.  The point is to show that these activist groups resort to what they think are defamatory methods, but actually only show that they can't be trusted.  It is one big ad hominem against me and Dr. McGuire.

I don't support Monsanto any more than I support Chevrolet or Burger King.  I don't use their products, but certainly recognize that others do, and find value in them.  

The bottom line:

1.  Understand that these activist groups can't defend themselves with science, so they resort to ad hominem attacks against scientists. 

2.  The efforts use the loose term "supporters" to attempt to connect a scientist to a company with a perception issue. 

3.   The goal is to defame public scientists.  Our appropriate and measured critique of their fear campaign resonates with the public that sees them as a distraction from a responsible dialog about safe food and farming. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Translating Activist Spin: How They Lie to the Public

Two weeks ago now an activist brochure was distributed through the internet, promoted as exposing "alarming" levels of glyphosate in common grocery store items.  The report did not provide adequate methods, statistics, or evidence of replication, and therefore does not qualify as work that can be trusted.  I have spoken with the laboratory that did the work.  They claim to have done the test correctly, but did not provide evidence of that or any statement of the numbers of replicates.  They won't do that because the data belong to a paying client. 

And of course, the paying client has no interest in transparency, as that would let the air out of the fear balloon. 

My comments and criticisms were all correct and within the bounds of conventions of analytical chemistry.  Others have been much more critical and feel that there's no way these results should ever be trusted. 

Bottom line-- it is unacceptable to scare the public with false statements about un-trustable data. 

So how does the anti-science movement handle this?  Attack the scientists!  Here is my translation of today's article over at Sustainable Pulse

Translation:  Scientists that know about this technology present ideas that are incompatible with our beliefs and our mission to scare the public.   Monsanto supporters?  In order for activist groups to demonize independent scientists they must attach them somehow to Monsanto.  They make a claim of "Monsanto Supporters" when there is  no evidence that I support Monsanto,  Not sure how I do that.  

"Monsanto supporters went into full attack mode to protect their number one product.."

Translation:  Scientists appropriately criticized an underpowered brochure that made claims that exceeded the data.  That's my job as a scientist, to analyze claims and vet them against convention and the literature.  That's not an "attack" and it is not my product.  It is not even Monsanto's product, as glyphosate has been off patent since 2000 and many companies make it. 

Translation:  The analytical chemistry group that did the analysis did not find reliable numbers for most of these products and stated that clearly.  Where they allegedly were detected it was done without providing a method, and no idea of statistical variance between samples.  The levels do NOT present significant risks, in fact they present no risk unless you are planning to eat millions of boxes of crackers. 

Translation:   Folta and McGuire (two scientists that understand these techniques) criticized the slim methods provided and lack of replication.  Folta took the time to discuss the methods with the laboratory, and they claim to have done the proper work, after they original report and laboratory analysis certificates made an incorrect statement about the method used.  Or of course, they did it exactly as they stated and now that scientists are criticizing that technique, the company changed its position.

Translation:   Firstly, it was appropriate criticism of an inadequate technique as presented in the original document by the analytical chemists.  

But more importantly, look at how they paint public scientists that correctly and appropriately criticized their fear-mongering brochure. 

"Monsanto supporters".  Really?  

I'm not an "industry scientist" - outright lie. 

Scientists adhere to the concept that dose-response relationships exist in almost all cases of pharmacology and the exceptions are rare. 

The evidence of glyphosate being an endocrine disruptor is thin, and never demonstrated outside of a petri dish.  In other petri dish studies the same results were not seen. 

Translation:  You should believe activists that misinform the public over independent public scientists.  Peer review is important.  A non-reviewed document is meaningless if it has political or economic intent, which is what Food Democracy Now does.  Would they accept a report from Monsanto?  Of course not! But they will accept anything that confirms their biases. 

Bottom line-- 

1. It is not clear if all of these numbers are accurate, Anresco says that clearly.  It has confidence in a few of the samples, the vast minority.  Most have no detection or low detection. 

2.  The levels are remarkably low and pose no risk if consumed. 

3.   You know they are dishonest by repeated mischaracterization of me as a "Monsanto Supporter" and "industry scientist"  There is no evidence to support those statements.  


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Important Follow Up to Glyphosate/Groceries- Please Read!

Science is not about entrenching into a position based on ideology. It is about making interpretations based on the evidence provided, and that evidence can, and does change. 

This is a critical follow up to the discussion of the Food Democracy Now brochure that claims dangerous levels of herbicide in common grocery items.

I was contacted by the laboratory that did the analysis for them and I am comfortable that they did the detection 100% correctly. No question. There was no way that I could have known this from the information presented by FDN or by the company's analytical documents.

This tells us two things:
1. Peer review and complete disclosure of methods is important.
2. The levels are still of absolutely no biological consequence.

If anything, this reputable laboratory's analysis and document tells consumers that their food is safe, because an herbicide aggressive food activists find controversial is detectable at the edge of nothing.

You can see how Food Democracy Now and Vani Hari manipulate the fear of the consumer. They call this poison. It's not.

They wanted non-zero numbers, and that's what today's extremely sensitive analytical chemistry can, and does, provide.  This simply opens the door for misinterpretations.

They still do misrepresent the numbers on the Detox Project website, conveniently removing the asterisks from numbers they want over-interpreted. Many readings on this chart are described by the company as "not reliable", and we don't know the number of samples or any variance between samples.  

I have a verbal recap on a special edition of the Talking Biotech Podcast, as I want to make sure that this is clarified. To be effective we need to be honest and roll with the changes as new information is gathered. Thank you.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Standing By for Retaliation

As a public scientist I'm deeply committed to providing research, teaching, and outreach to help broaden our understanding of farming and food.  One leg of that stool is to connect with the public and help them understand the current scientific literature, and help them make evidence-based decisions. 

Last week a glossy brochure was published by the fear factory called Food Democracy Now.  Despite the name, it is much less democracy as it is a cult. Their deceptive self-published report featured hyperbolic images of babies juxtaposed with herbicide bottles and Cheerios.  The meat of the report was a table that claims to find parts-per-billion levels of the herbicide glyphosate in an array of common grocery products. Even if it was true, such levels would be biologically meaningless. 

I've discussed the technical limitations of their analysis here and on my podcast.  The bottom line is that this is statistically underpowered, they are likely reading noise, and the work has not been subjected to rigorous peer review.  I suggest you learn what is done well and not well in the report so you can engage friends and relatives that are afraid of perfectly safe food thanks to this report.

They feel they are victims of a "U.S. Media Blackout" which is partially true-- when an activist group deceives and scares the public with marginal data and false claims, that's not news.

Like any cult, these folks must insulate their true believers from any information critical to their cause. It is important to disrupt the cognitive and self-protective mechanisms of their followers. It fits well with the definition of a "fervent community"-- a group that means well but becomes abusive to maintain order and adherence to its beliefs.  Now, they know they have no standing based on the data and techniques used.  So they attack the messenger, a familiar, defamatory endeavor I've weathered with them before. 

I've asked questions and they cannot answer them. So they blame Snopes, and call in the wicked people in their defamation team like Ena Valikov, GMWatch, Shiva and Mercola.

Like any structured aggressive belief system these groups must insulate their followers from outside information that challenges the core tenets of the movement.  Such groups also keep order by retaliating and committing character assassination of anyone that provides information counter to their message. 

Note above how it says, "Discredited scientist."  I think they fail to realize that their attacks have actually made me a much more visible voice for science and reason. Not discredited at all, but actually quite well acknowledged. 

They also loop in @wikileaks which is an obvious call for illegal hacking of my personal accounts.  The usual desperation. 

At this point I'm standing by.  The Food Babe Vani Hari, USRTK, and others have received something like 27,000 pages of my private emails.  And just like Eric Lipton, Alison Vuchnich and Brooke Borel assembled highly-manipulated, agenda-driven hit pieces based on them last year, you'll see it again here.

I was hesitant to comment on the glyphosate brochure.  I knew it would put me in the cross hairs of evil people with a mission to scare people about food.  

But how do we let them continue the misinformation campaign and an asymmetrical attack on science and reason? 

Now we wait.  Storm clouds on the horizon.  

I have a good umbrella. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Thanks Snopes- A Big Win for Science and Reason

I'm up on a Saturday enjoying a big cup of coffee and working on the podcast. I'm also standing by for the next round of requests for my emails from Vani Hari. What happened?

Yesterday's blog was in response to an article on Snopes.  The article on Snopes was in response to a flashy brochure that claimed to find herbicide residues, in parts per billion (seconds in decades) in familiar foods.  The well-circulated activist rhetoric was intended to scare, and it worked.  My inbox was flooded with inquiries from friends, relatives and dozens of strangers. 

When Snopes talks, people listen, and their analysis was a bit confusing, sort of lending credence to the claim, as well as stating that glyphosate herbicides were carcinogenic. 

This is on the cover of the report. It should be an immediate tip-off to the reader that this is highly suspect and intended to tell a manufactured story, not communicate scientific results. 

 I reached out to the author and participated in the online discussion.  Within 24 hours the author, Alex Kasprak, made good corrections that reflected the simple fact that the data were not peer-reviewed, they originated in activist literature, and were purely intended to scare consumers. 

Huzzah for science and reason! 

But more importantly, huzzah for Snopes and Alex Kasprak.

But news of this change did not resonate well with food activists and anti-GMO interests.  The Food Babe, Vani Hari is not happy. She's convinced that the claims are legitimate.  On her blog she refers to the alleged detections as "poison in your food" and when the Snopes article changed, it must have been the work of....

(wait for it)


Yes, an author on a fact-finding site refines a message to be scientifically precise after a nudge from a scientist that understands the technology.  So it must have been Monsanto.  Of course. 

Oh Vani, A scientist speaking to a journalist about science is not "proof" of Monsanto influencing Snopes. I'll start gathering my emails for you so you can make sure at public expense... 

That's perhaps the saddest part of this chapter.  A debunking website and a scientist work together to correct an important record.  A food activist with a motivated following screams conspiracy.  Sadly, her followers remain misinformed, but also suspicious and maybe angry.  

In the end, I'd be very happy if she'd have a talk with Kasprak, understand what he saw in the communication that motivated the change. That's science, and that's how we operate. 

I won't hold my breath.  Unfortunately she does not realize how her credibility and lost celebrity would skyrocket if she humbly admitted she's off base, and committed to working with the scientific community to improve healthy food and healthy diets. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Snopes Claims About Glyphosate in Food

I like Snopes. 

So many times I've been rescued from a critical debunking excursion because someone had provided excellent analysis that I could use as a starting point. 

It is really disappointing to see them go soft and conflate unrelated issues that just confuse the reader.

The article about the Food Babe's claims about Monsanto covering up glyphosate in food items seemed like it would follow the science and once again foist her on her own critically underpowered petard. 

But instead the article by Alex Kasprak just creates confusion.  Even the subhead says, "Monsanto suppressing evidence of cancerous herbicide in food?"

(and to be fair, Alex did reach out and we're discussing this. I do think he wants to get it right)

What "cancerous herbicide?"

Instead of simply letting the air out of a conspiratorial claim, he conflates three issues at once, an in the process lends credence to the crazy claim, while not critically evaluating the others.  Here's the problem:

This is the headline of the article.  A highly-suspect, statistically bankrupt activist brochure is referred to as an "independent study" -- a term usually reserved for actual research.

Next, the author presents the synthesis of the claim as "Mixture" meaning that the claims present some legitimate points. 

STOP RIGHT THERE.  First, there is no "mixture". That claim is false, false, false.  The analysis did not show the chemical conclusively, and of course, there is no conspiracy.

This should read FALSE.  Done.  Enjoy your Ritz crackers.

But the author expands upon the claim and folds in a non-seqitur conclusion about glyphosate that is not accurate either. I see his intent and understand how he got to those conclusions, but they are not relevant to the claim.  Here's the whole thing:

What's true?  Well he says that "studies performed on laboratory animals suggest that glyphosate may be carcinogenic" and that is not the case.  Glyphosate has been evaluated by hundreds of independent peer-reviewed efforts and certainly by many federal regulators in many countries. They all have concluded that it is not a carcinogen. 

The only departure is a hazard-based assessment by the IARC last year that used a thin set of reports to make the conclusion that glyphosate was a "probable carcinogen".  This was a hazard-based report, not considering actual exposures.  They also didn't derive their conclusion much from animal studies. 

I also reject the premise that this is "an active debate in the scientific community."  Scientists are scratching their heads over this, and why the media is complicit in giving fuel to activists claims built on thin science. 

What's false? -- of course, that section is consistent with the scholarly literature.

What's undetermined? -- The author says basically that the results might not be trusted because they are not peer-reviewed and come from activists.   Under that premise alone, the results are not evidence of anything!  They are a claim on a website as valid as the picture of Bigfoot fur is a "mixture" proof of the existence of Bigfoot on Snopes. 

For Snopes to get this right the claim needs to be broken down into three independent claims.

1.  Are the data in the report believable and do they represent a rigorous test using proper methods and statistical representation?

2.   If the results are real, do the levels claimed to be detected pose a carcinogenic threat to humans? 

3.  Do the prevailing data on glyphosate substantiate its hazard-based description as a "probable carcinogen?"

The answer to all three is no, no, and no.  The only one that is even open for discussion is #3, and evaluators worldwide are constantly scrutinizing the compound.  The best evaluations from Germany, the USA, and many others have shown repeatedly that there is no legitimate evidence of a cancer risk at the levels used or in exposure to its residues. 

The problem is that what I think is an honest effort from Alex Kasprak conflates three separate unrelated questions and in the process accodentally misinforms the casual reader that is simply looking at their cheerios, their kid, a cheesy activist brochure, and then turning to Snopes for a trusted synthesis.

I hope he corrects it.  Unfortunately the Food Babe and others will use FOIA to gather our email exchanges and then say that he was just paid off by Monsanto, adding to the conspiracy.  Same old, same old. 

Glyphosate Detection- Making Claims from Noise

There is a central rule in the anti-GMO world--  scare them at any cost.  

It is amazing how ethics are disregarded in the interest of peddling a fearful message.  It has long been part of the anti-GMO industry and a weapon of its foot soldiers.  If something sounds scary and supports your beliefs, then promote it, run with it.  No matter how weak the evidence is, claim it is real. 

Such was the case with the "Stunning Corn Comparison" where fake data in a soil test table were claimed to represent biological samples-- that were not remotely biological.  Still the authors and pundits stood by it as a legitimate test. 

They also claimed to find glyphosate in breast milk.  However, an actual study by a real scientist with properly reported methods did not show any evidence of detection. Of course, anti-GM folks shouted down this legitimate report as unreliable.  

Fake data, finding positive signals in noise, and wrongful interpretation of good data are cornerstones of their strategy.  Over the last couple of years we've endured report after report, claiming to find glyphosate (well, claiming to find "Monsanto's Roundup") in everything they report. 

Everything.  Nothing has ever been reported as zero-- and that's important. 

This is mostly because they misuse a commercial test for detection of glyphosate.  They use it with an untested solution that likely would inhibit the reaction, rendering a false positive.  To them, that's gold.  A false positive is still a positive! 

But the latest round is a series of tests that claim to use LC/MS to detect glyphosate (I mean, "Monstanto's Roundup") in everything from breakfast cereals to organic cookies

The alleged detection was commissioned by Food Democracy Now.  It was not peer-reviewed, but instead presented in a flashy brochure intended to scare.  This is critical, as the methods are incomplete, there is no evidence of replication, there is no statistical treatment presented, and the effective limit of quantitation was not calculated for extraction for specific matricies. It is not peer-reviewed because it would not survive peer review.

However, last year they hammered the actual peer-reviewed report that did not detect glyphosate in human breast milk.  The work was done by Dr. Shelly McGuire of Washington State University, properly developing an extraction protocol for breast milk and then using proper LC/MS detection methods, replication, statistics, and independent replication of the results. 

Of course, FDN didn't exactly appreciate the findings. They promote soft science in their brochure, yet trash a legitimate piece of work done by a real scientist. 

When you don't find glyphosate, it's "Slack Science".  It also was not a "Monsanto" study. 

The company that  performed the FDN work was Anresco. They place information on their website and in their literature that seems legit, claiming to use LC/MS to detect the compound faithfully.  That's all good.  They discussed concepts like how the sample was derivitized and the use of HPLC etc that all seems kosher.  When doing the detection you should see results presented like these where they analyze glyphosate quantitatively in water. 

However, they never discuss extraction.  This is a big deal.  They say water and methanol, with no further explanation. If you dig into the report, they show a method developed for beer and barley tea. Hmm. 

They are dealing with complex matricies like ground oreos and other food.  Perhaps they can detect glyphosate and AMPA, but it can't be described as linear and reliable until they show that the extraction protocols do not affect faithful detection of spiked samples to show that there is a relationship. 

This becomes an important issue when you perform derivitization. Targets to be detected are best visualized when they have certain chemical characteristics.  Derivitization can be thought of as a process that chemically optimizes compounds for detection in this technique. This is important because if there are a mixture of similar compounds, they could take on similar characteristics after derivitization, causing noise in the assay. 

All is well and good until you start to attempt to detect a given compound that was pulled from different starting materials. Cheerios are not Oreos. Do all compounds isolated perform the same after derivitization?  Not necessarily. This is why scientists performing LC/MS prepare specific extraction and validation tests for individual matricies (Cheerios, Oreos, Stacy's Chips, etc). 

The fact they claim to detect the compound in non-GMO verified crackers and pita chips says that there's something wrong here. When you are detecting glyphosate where it should not be found, that means that you need to evaluate the detection method more carefully, or at least show some statistical representation of the range of alleged detections. 

But what did the report say? 

Here is a table from the actual report from the analytical lab:

The results show that the compounds are either not detected, or that "samples exhibit very low recovery (meaning from extraction) or response (meaning detection).  The above amounts found are rough estimates at best and may not represent an accurate representation of the sample."

The analysis seems legit, certainly they are detecting amounts on the edge of nothing with no replication and using methods developed for beer and barley tea.  Is it wrong?  Can't say. Is it actual detection?  Can't say.

And in the thin method section in the FDN brochure, why is "derivitized glyphosate and its metabolite AMPA" being injected?  I thought they were testing food extracts?

Of course, these borderline claims from single samples that could very well be noise are beyond convincing for the anti-glyphosate crowd:

However, this report does exactly what it sets out to do, scare people and create what appears to be a legit report. It provides a slick brochure that a rabid anti-glyphosate movement was quick to snatch up and promote.  The above is from Google News.  If you don't like reality, you can manufacture it!

It is also important to note how it is being reported, as is reeks with agenda.  

Important.  *** Look how it says, "Monsanto's Roundup Herbicide" and that should tell you all you need to know.  The test claims to find glyphosate.  Thousands of companies make glyphosate, an herbicide off patent since 2000.  You cannot tell the origin of the company that made it by such detection.  For them to say that with such authority is dishonest, and shows you that they are not to be trusted. 

All of this shapes up to one conclusion:  A non-peer-reviewed brochure from activists claiming to detect an herbicide at levels approaching the limit of detection, from highly variable matricies (foods in this case) using an extraction and derivitization protocol for beer and tea.  The tests were not done in replicates and so we have no idea about the variation within the detection.  

The reason it is not peer-reviewed is because it would not survive peer review. 

But it certainly passes Food Babe review and her critical muster! 

The Food Babe, Vani Hari, not only sees these results as legit, she places them into the context of a conspiracy! 

So there you have it.  Activist groups are making sweeping claims from single samples that are likely just noise from an assay that is not done 100% correctly.  The company that did the analysis says the numbers are not reliable and they certainly cannot be published, the gold-standard of such claims.  But the claims are made with strong conclusions juxtaposed next to pictures of babies and other heart-wrenching pathos.  It is disgusting, dishonest, and they should not be trusted.  

It would be great if these companies actually decided to take legal action.  However, it is just making cranks look like victims and legitimizes their claims.  The best strategy is to share the legitimate criticisms and let this report disappear into obscurity with the rest of the irreproducible claims of glyphosate in umbilical cords, beer, wine, breast milk and every other place they seek to find it.  

Most of all, if it is not peer reviewed it does not count. 

If it is peer-reviewed and never independently verified or expanded upon, it should be considered carefully. 

What does it say about them to use marginal numbers, that would not be a real risk if they were true, to scare parents?  This is the hyperbole of our time, and it is wrong. 

Glyphosate and School Lunches