Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Predicting the Future -- Seralini Rat Paper Redux

"I don't need a crystal ball; I have a crystal brain."
--Adam Carolla

Today the famous Lumpy Rat paper was published by Seralini and colleagues.  I should say RE-published because it is basically the same content published in 2012, that was later retracted from the journal.  Personally, I was glad to see him attempt to publish it again.  The literature is where the conversation should happen, and if the work is of good quality it will be reproduced and expanded upon. 

If the work is of poor quality it will die a scientific dead end, cited only by the same authors in future papers with no additional progress.  Kind of like the rest of the Seralini work. 

Unfortunately the general public doesn't follow the scientific conversation. People only pick the monologues they agree with, and a single flawed study from a biased lab carries as much weight (or more) than a thousand agreeing reports from 800 different groups. 

It was disappointing to see that Seralini's group didn't even try to fix the obvious and egregious errors and omissions.  They even took on a snarky commentary in their Competing Interests section, stating, 

"The author(s) declare that they have no competing interests, and that, in contrast with regulatory assessments for GMOs and pesticides, they are independent from companies developing these products."

... which is amazingly unprofessional, off base and not scientific.  It is a political statement.  The journal and the editors should be ashamed. 


However, all of this comes as no surprise, as back on March 3, 2014 I wrote in this blog: 

"It is conceivable that the data may find publication in a smaller low-impact title, like Carman's article in the Journal of Organic Systems, an apparently online only journal with no impact factor and limited editorial rigor.  The credulous anti-GMs don't understand science, let alone what the quality of the venue means." 

Some may consider this prophetic, but it is easy to see the future when the future is painfully obvious.  Seralini appears to have quite an ego to sustain, and the retraction from an okay journal must have hit pretty hard.  It was almost certain that he'd attempt to republish the work-- but it isn't going to a decent journal.  Today it came out in Environmental Sciences Europe, a journal with a less-than-rigorous grasp on reality, a clear anti-biotech slant, and the journal that has published such duds as Benbrook's famous paper on increasing pesticide use that used interpolated and extrapolated data (because actual numbers didn't exist).  

It boils down to this-- if these data were significant, if the experiments were good, and the interpretations sound, this would not be buried in the depths of a crappy journal.  If there was hard evidence that our food supply truly caused tumors, it would be on the New England Journal of Medicine, Science, Nature, or maybe Cell if he wanted to go slumming.  But it's not there.  It is in a tiny, obscure journal that has quite a visible agenda, and that's the only thing visible about it. 

And that's where it belongs.  Let him have his day in the sun.  History will not remember him for his science. It will remember him as a disgraceful hack that let personal agenda affect adoption of safe scientific technology.  He'll be the guy that fooled millions with low-quality data.  

It is very sad, because I'd rather be writing blogs about exciting science and new findings.  Instead we're back to this nonsense.  Luckily, it will slowly disappear into time, like Puzstai's lectins, Huber's mystery organism, and the rest of the alarmist junk never published or never reproduced. 

It does not take a crystal ball to see that. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Voyager's Gold Record- Vintage Technology for Extraterrestrial Audiophiles

I'm a huge Sagan fan, and even today I am surprised at how well his words and the 70's series resonate gloriously.  But WTF is with the Gold Record on Voyager? 

The records were constructed of copper with a gold plating and contain Sounds of Earth.  They were placed on both Voyager spacecraft launched in 1977 and now are somewhere out past Pluto.  Sagan noted, "The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced space-faring civilizations in interstellar space (that have a turntable)." 




Shot into space, any extraterrestrial can enjoy "Sounds of Earth".
If they have a good thrift shop they might find a way to play the damn thing.

Of course, back in the 70's we were pretty sure that the LP was here to stay.  I remember thinking they should have shot the KISS Alive II double album into space too. The problem of launching an LP into space is that the receiving party has to figure how to use it.  If such a thing were to land from space in some random locale in the USA, the finder would either grill it, rape it or pawn it. Unfortunately the utility of a 1970's style LP record is highly dependent on the sophistication of the receiver. 
On our next space probe we should include a turntable, one of those cool ones with that arm that drops a stack of records one-by-one.  Include that weird plastic swastika-thingy that you had to use to play 45's in case they find one on another space probe that liked a few Sounds of Earth but didn't want to commit to the whole album. This is a great idea for a Kickstarter campaign.

The B side is the lousy sounds of earth, like the kid screaming behind you in the airplane, that clicky noise your car makes when you turn the key and the battery is dead, and the noise the dental drill makes when it really starts to dig in. 
We also need to include a dime for them to put on the needle in case it skips. Nothing worse than the Sounds of Earth with an annoying "ka-thunk" every revolution. 
The whole thing is kind of charming in that it was the best we had at the time, and kinda cute that we'd see the LP record as a durable technology that might transcend the ages. It was gone in a decade. It is a reminder of how far we have come in a short time, and a prelude to how exciting our future must be. 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Day I Paid to Have My Best Friend Killed



On May 31, 2013, I planned on writing this blog but I could not do it. I figured I'd give it a year. So now it is posted on May 31, 2014.  Every time I actually sat down to do it, emotions grabbed me and stopped me.  It was one of the worst days ever- but one of the best days ever.  Two extremes at one time and a harsh ride in between. I'll explain....

My dog Xeenah was exceptional.  Humans keep dogs, or they keep us, they are beasts in our home.  But Xeenah is a dog that became one of us.  She was sweet, strong, smart, funny.  She was with us through some of the worst of times and an ever present contributor to the best of times. The whole story of how I got her and my first farewell was posted on this blog a year ago, the day she died.  I couldn't write about what I'm preparing here- no way.  here it is 365 days later.

This is a story of putting a dog to sleep.  I was not "putting her to sleep".  She was not going to sleep, as she did 10,000 times before on my leg.  I was paying someone to mercifully kill a mammal that shared a home and a part of my life with me. I can candy coat it with sleeping, putting her down, etc. She was going to be gone from my life.

I witnessed her health declining, more accurately, crashing.  I knew for years her heart was slowing down, and for years I took her outside 2-5 times a night.  It was a complete loss of sleep, but I did it for her.  I did that for years.  She was an old dog, and had to get outside a lot. She still was a sweet as a companion could be.

Sometime in the spring late in her 13th year she developed huge salivary glands. I'd pet her head like I did every day and clearly there was something different, something wrong.  For years we knew that she had a bad heart, bad liver, bad everything.  But she just kept going, alive, sweet and tender. She was my girl.


Even in her last weeks she'd get fired up for a walk.  She'd start out just as fast as ever.  She had one speed-- on!  It just didn't last very long and I'd carry her home. 


After that she went into a rapid decline that seemed so fast. The night I knew she was done was when she walked across the floor and all four legs collapsed at once.  She was helpless.  I had to proceed forward.

The doctors at West End Animal Hospital were as good as you can get.  Dr. Stevens saw where it was going- the decline.  She suggested a last shot of a steroid that might limit pain and swelling, but after that she could recommend only going to the university for chemotherapy and treatment for pain. She gave the shot and things were better for a day or two.

But then that was it.  Roxy was out of town, I was home with Xeenah, and she was crashing.  Advanced chemotherapy was prescribed.

One night we somehow decided together that it was time. 


I declined.  I didn't want her fizzle out and suffer. I knew time was limited and asked about what happens, what a guy does to euthanize his dog.

The vet hands you a paper with a choice of cremation options and an array of vessels you can buy to store the ashes.  To me she was going to be gone.  No sense in keeping her powdered remains on a shelf. I took the price list and options, folded the paper neatly and put them into my pocket.  We went home.

That week I gave Xeenah her favorite food.  She went crazy for chicken. Chicken. Each day I'd prepare a chicken breast and cut it to pieces.  I'd include it with her special food and bathe the mess in chicken soup.  She'd dig in, the best meal she ever had in all her years.  I knew that I only had a short time before she'd be gone.

I'd watch her eat, loving every second of it.  She just loved it.


 That last week she enjoyed a special breakfast of chicken and veggies over her kibbles.  



*****

The day I had to take her for that last ride it was more about me.  She didn't know what was happening.  I put on my most comfortable clothes.  It was Addias sweat pants and a soft oversized sweatshirt I bought in Zurich, Switzerland.  I had on a baseball cap and comfortable shoes.

I carried her to the truck for her last ride.  We sat together on front seat like we did thousands of times before, but I would go home without her. I petted her little head on the passenger seat, rubs behind the ears and warm massages to her read legs that she always liked.  And a belly rub.  To end her suffering, and to begin my suffering, was the best thing I could do for her. I carried her into the animal hospital.

You never know who is going to be the last vet in her life. The door opened, and to my surprise, it was Dr. Cottrell.  She was Xeenah's first vet in Gainesville, someone I really liked who rarely saw her in her annual visits.

The procedure was simple.  They would give two injections. I signed a form that said I understood the process. The first would make her comfortable, the second would stop the heart.

They delivered the first shot, suggesting that she might seem sort of, "out of it" while they left the room. It was a final time for the two of us. She sat in my arms like she always did, and the drugs crept in.. I rubbed her little neck and belly like I did a million times before.  She was tired and at rest, and obviously in retreat.

But then suddenly a surprise.  The drug was kicking in, and she must have felt some relief.  Life sprang to her eyes.  She sat up strong and certain.  She looked at me and panted, alive, alive, alive! It was my puppy again, the young dog that captured my heart 14 years before.  It was her again.  She had no pain, no problems, just a release from the shackles of age and pain and wanted to tell me she was okay.  It was my dog again, a friend I hadn't seen in years, back again to tell me it was okay.  Her mouth was breathing heavy but fast, she had a smile on her face and love in her eyes. It was my dog again. It was her.

Those moments were priceless.  Forever grateful.  She showed me that she was still there, but could not live within the broken frame.

After probably sixty seconds she slowly drifted back to sleep in my arms.  It was okay.  Minutes later Dr. Cotrell entered the room and asked if I was ready.  I was.

She laid Xeenah on a soft, olive colored blanket. The doctor looked at me, and inserted the syringe's needle into Xeenah's tiny little arm, pressed the plunger, and then placed the stethoscope on her heart. She listened for a few seconds.

"She's gone", Dr Cottrell said, her voice wavering.  She knew my little dog with the mohowak. Her voice quivered not for Xeenah, but for me.

I tried to not react, but sorrow exploded inside of me until I just did a massive exhale and burst to tears at once.

My dog, my little friend, was gone.

 I still rubbed her little head and gave her, and me, what would be the next chapter and a new time without each other.

The doctor and her assistant left the room and offered me time.  "Stay as long as you need to" they said.

I rubbed Xeenah behind the ears with no tears.  This time it was not for her, it was for me.  She was gone.  She laid there on that olive-green blanket, motionless and still.  She was really gone.

***********

Probably five years before Dr. Cottrell said that Xeenah had a heart problem and might have another year and half.  Those extra years were golden. Xeenah was always so sweet, so gentle, so loving, with everyone.

I built up to that last day, figuring it was the best thing I could do for her, not me.  The last trip to the vet was natural, like I owed my dog a soft and simple exit, painless and happy.  She got that.

Those last minutes with her were so priceless. When the drugs relaxed her to where the little pup inside sprang out and told me all was well, that she was happy and okay, that she was glad to be there with me... I'll remember that forever.

****

A year later I struggle daily with the loss.  Every night she pushed up against me, every morning she got up with me.  She greeted me at the door when I got home and sat on my lap or at my feet while I went through my day.  She was a special creature.  I'm stuck between the joy of knowing her and the pain of not having her here.

I recently put on that same Switzerland sweatshirt and found the cremation vessel choices in my pocket. Looking more carefully the sweatshirt had her little white hairs on it.  When I think of the day that I rode home alone I just need to grab on to the minute or so that I got to share with her when the first shot kicked in and the pain left her body.  Silver linings.

There's no way to end this that makes sense.  One year ago I paid someone to kill my best friend.  While it was one of the worst days of my life, it gave me a few shiny, perfect memories that will be with me forever.








Monday, May 26, 2014

Thank Goodness? How to Smear a Scientist

Here's a story that starts with a simple comment on a website.  It ends with insults, anger, and delusional defiance.

A graduate student funded by NSF (the same folks that have funded my work over the years) libeled me in a harsh way.  Complete lies and nonsense.  I got nowhere with her kindly through private correspondence, and therefore just want to make the conversation public. I didn't want it to come to this.

There is a level of professionalism that is lost and an unacceptable breech of ethics for an academic.  She overstepped many lines, refuses to correct her falsehoods, and I feel it necessary to tell my story to protect myself from libelous accusations that are simply not true.  I never wanted her to experience any harm or negative effects from her indiscretions.  She refuses to correct her libelous statements, she stands by them, so I'm happy to post my interactions with Valerie Goodness here for all to enjoy.

I also contacted her Dean.  His response was limp at best, turning me over the the Office of Equity, Diversification and Inclusion, which found they have no jurisdiction of her actions.  Duh.  I feel that the university does have jurisdiction over the quality of scholars they produce, and if this is acceptable behavior for someone in the their program, it leaves a lot to be desired.

A Quick Note on Mother Jones 

About a month ago COSMOS aired the story of a public scientist that blew the whistle on a corporate influence scam.  Of course, Mother Jones didn't see it that way.  They portrayed it as corporate influence buying off scientists, playing into the far-out-liberal and far-out-conservative concept that academic scientists are just paid stooges for whatever corporations want to say.

I was the first to post, and posted a thoughtful retort that simply stated that it was about an independent academic scientist bravely standing up to corporate influence.

Then the poopstorm rained upon me in the comments section. I"m only posting a few gems in this blog.  The whole thing can be viewed here. Within the hour a vicious thread assembled, telling me about the bought-off scientists and fake results.  Of course, being a non-bought-off scientist that only publishes highly reproducible results (like the rest of the scientists I know) I had to respond, and did so throughout the thread.


Nativegrl59 claims I'm a "paid subversive who receives his funding for his doublespeak... and pro-corporate science"


One commentor was particularly awful.  It was not just her bankrupt opinions.  Those I can deal with.  It was what she was saying about me.  Awful, mean, personal stuff. I didn't know her.  It was just a chance to smear me by making up false associations.

She went by the handle Nativegrl59.  Even in the sample above you can see that she's really blown a gasket.  She then goes on...

She's really going after me with no evidence.  Pretty mean.

I do take this rather personally because she claims that I have harmed the careers of "ethical scientists, fellows, and grad students".  That breaks my heart.  I have been recognized with highly competitive awards for my undergraduate teaching and my outreach.  I also received a wonderful award for postdoctoral mentoring and serve on a university-wide committee to enrich their experiences. 

Moreover, all of my former students contact me, send me baby pictures, and just about all of them found great careers.  A few of them give me big cred for helping them get to where they are today. 

She claims I have "Monsanto bedfellows" when I don't have any associations with them other than knowing people that work there.  And they moved there after I knew them from academic science.

She claims my funding comes from places-- well, that just are not true.  My record is all public.  I have no money from Jon Entine or Searle or Monsanto, or whoever she says.  It is her way of trying to hurt my reputation as an independent academic scientist, all which is public record.

It continues...

"I know Folta's work, I know the cyber bullies he hangs out with, I get threats from them on a daily basis, so do my children"

She's has crossed a line.  At the time I had no idea who she was, I certainly never threatened her or her children.   This is a horrible thing to put on the internet, no matter how much you disagree with someone- why try to harm him/her personally?   

Here in Gainesville I teach special science classes for children at the Alachua Public Schools.  I teach there, voluntarily, a few times a year (used to be more when I didn't have administrative work).  I judge science fairs, run programs for kids and coordinate grad student efforts in teaching at the schools.  At night I teach karate classes- don't get paid to do it- but do it because it helps kids and the organization. 

In today's world background checks are commonplace, and as a potential teacher you are guilty until proven innocent.  Having this information on the internet is truly harmful, and I can lose opportunities to help others. 

Again, more false smear.  No words can describe how this makes me feel- a complete blend of anger, disappointment and empathy for this deluded soul.  I'm disappointed that an NSF-sponsored fellow would do this.



My website states no such thing, and I never got anything from Jon Entine.


Who is Nativegrl59? 

The threads went on forever, others came on to discuss and defend my position.  Awful things were said about me and I do take it way too personally.  I didn't even consider to figure out who Nativegrl59 was.  Didn't care. Clearly someone that had it in for me.  But others did care, and in the middle of the night  I got an email from one internet sleuth that in a google search connected the dots. 

She's Valerie Goodness, a graduate student at SUNY- Buffalo.  Public information says that she's an NSF-IGERT fellow, so essentially the same people that fund my outreach activities, also fund her to trash me so I can't do outreach activities.

There's no question about it. I"m not publishing the screenshots that make the connection, but it is clear. Even her facebook page has the same "Non-GMO" icon. 


Corrective Actions? 

Now that I knew who she was, could I get her to kindly correct the content, especially about daily threats to her children?   I sent her a professional letter by email asking for correction and compliance. 





The letter was pretty soft and asked for her cooperation.  The overarching spirit was to simply make it go away, lesson learned, false information corrected.  But she had a different interpretation.  My simple request for an apology was taken as a threat.  This is the email I received from her. 


 I was kind of hoping for, "I'm really sorry and will fix it"


There was no action, no news for several days.  I prepared another letter, again, soft, kind, and just asking her to remove the horrible falsehoods she put into a public forum with great authority. 


My 4/28/2014 letter.


Maybe progress?  She seems to be getting reasonable, and backs away from the "threatening". 


Then, ****crickets**** crickets ***** crickets *****


Last Correspondence

It was something like three weeks since she decided to put vicious lies about me into a public forum and she clearly was not going to make any attempts to remedy them.  At this point I'm assuming she's standing by them as factual content.   I try one more time with a simple email...


One more try.  Can I appeal to her sensibilities?  Please?  


Apparently not.  Again, the blistering accusations of "threats" which appears to be a front-and-center claim in her arsenal.  Her response:



She's obsessed with being the victim of threats. I've continually said that I have no intention to be difficult and please just fix it.  That's a threat ?


Where it Stands

First off, it was simple to figure out who she was and I thank those that took the time to do it.  However, I request that nobody harass or even contact Valerie Goodness.  In a situation where unethical behavior is the central criticism, we must not adopt those behaviors.

I have been advised to go after her legally and have even been put in touch with attorneys that say that this is actionable-- slam dunk.  I just don't see how spending the time and money to go after a grad-school mother makes sense.  I don't want her to have personal hardship, I just want her to fix the website and apologize.  Hell, I'll even take fix the website.

This has had damages. How do you quantify cost to my career and reputation, especially over time?  In a way, it is nothing.  Most know me and what I do, who I am.  But that information could cost me opportunities, both professionally and personally.   

The easy solution is for her to fix it.  She won't do that.  I acted 100% in good faith and wished to keep this private.  I wanted her to realize her mistake and fix it.  Unfortunately that false information remains in the public domain from Valerie Goodness' doing, and this is my only realistic recourse. Valerie Goodness clearly stands by her statements that I'm at least associated with people that daily threaten her children and get my funding from big business.  She stands by her statements of my collusion with companies and journalists.  She even claimed that I show proof of this sponsorship on my website- which is false. This is not about affecting Valerie Goodness, it is about correcting her false statements about me.  I want the truth to be out there, as that is how I operate.  She could learn a lot by spending a semester in my lab, and I'd be glad to mentor her in professionalism and ethics.

Note her twisting my request for truth- into being a victim of threats.  Note that she has broadcast horrible falsehoods about a public scientist that works hard in independent scholarly research, community outreach, student/postdoc mentoring, and many other aspects of academic interactions.

In Closing

Science is not just about data and hypotheses.  It is a pursuit for the Truth. It is about trusting students and postdocs, trusting other scientists to live by tight ethical standards. If someone can say outright false information about a public academic scientist, then that person may not be trustworthy.  I would absolutely question any results, claims, or conclusions in any manuscript, grant proposal or professional interactions coming from someone that could manufacture false information, and then dig in their heels when asked for validation.

This is not allowed in academia.  When someone is willing to fabricate information to meet their needs, or harm others' careers if they stand in the way of ideology-- that's is unacceptable.

I really wish that my simple comment to add to a public discussion did not have to come to this.  However, gentle interaction and discussion failed, and it was a last resort to get the real information into the public domain. As always, I'm happy to answer any questions,   kevinfolta@gmail.com.


Special thank you to everyone who has given me such kind thoughts in light of her comments,

Kevin







Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Six Months Later- Still No Evidence

Back on November 12, 2013 I patiently sat through a talk by Dr. Don Huber.  Huber is a former professor at Purdue with a really good record.  He was recognized by many as an expert in plant mineral nutrition and disease.

Now he travels from audience to audience extolling the perils of glyphosate and GMO crops.  He states, in no unclear way, that even just the process of adding the gene makes the plants dangerous.  (I actually recorded his whole talk, will post it someday).  You can find it anywhere on YouTube.

During his presentation he talked about this new virus-fungus, an unknown life form that invades GMO crops.  The organism causes abortions in cattle and infects humans, causing a suite of diseases from autism to cancer.  When he talks about it he shows graphic images of dead calves.  Audiences are visibly shaken and viscerally moved by his presentation.


The list of diseases caused by GMOs and glyphosate from Don Huber. 
The same list caused by chemtrails, vaccines and fluoride! 


I've heard this tired scam for eight years and never believed this for a second.  First, there's no evidence presented.  Next, the claims are all based on top secret work by unnamed figures in other countries, and his home institution, Purdue University, and the Centers for Disease Control know nothing about this deadly threat to all humans.



After his talk I asked him if he'd share his cultures.  I told him I could have it sequenced and understood by Jan 1, 2014.   We'd have the sequence for this deadly pathogen for five months now.

But Huber declined.  In a rambling cloud of no direction, Huber spent 10 minutes telling the audience why it could not be done.  Eventually he got defensive when the crowd turned on him and asked him to share so we could solve the "emergency".  Read the whole story here. 

Huber responds!  Afterwords he sent a libelous letter to my boss, saying that I was "disrespectful and disparaging" and that I "need to seek professional anger management counseling".  He said I interrupted the whole talk.  He didn't know I recorded it, and upon playback we see that he's lying to discredit me and conceal his fake pathogen.  I'll post this all someday when I have time.  Plus I've been advised to keep it in my pocket.

But shame.  For a credentialed scientist to get in front of a public audience and lie to them without evidence, THEN to try to harm the career of another scientist for requesting evidence.  That gets no lower. 

Some things have changed.

1.  He's distancing himself from the organism, recently claiming that he didn't discover it and that he does not have much to do with it.

2.  It is all in the hands of "the Chinese"

3.  He does not answer questions after the talk, maybe answers a few safe ones.

4.  I heard that at his last talk he didn't even talk about the deadly GMO organism.


So Dr. Huber, how about an update?  Where is the deadly organism now?  Is it being published?  Where is the sequence, protein or DNA?

The offer stands, I can tell you what it is in a few weeks if you share your cultures, the cultures you claim obey Koch's postulates and are easy to grow.

I'll do the work, you get the Nobel Prize.   I'm not holding my breath.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

At the Master Gardener Spring Festival

For those of you that attended, thanks.  Please see the links below for some more information on points discussed!

It was a beautiful Saturday to drive to Ocala and see the Marion County Master Gardener's garden show.  It was even sweeter because I was on the schedule to talk about GMO Technology:  Coming to a Garden Near You, a provocative title for sure.

1505133_653271598063426_73471402_n

The Spring Festival was great, the audience was fun. Thanks for coming out. 


You may have already read some of the grief the organizers received for having me come give a science talk. Chatter on their Facebook page concerned the organizers that there would be trouble brewing, such as violent protests and angry throngs.  They emailed me and let me know that there would be police present and they'd be checking the room.

Of course, I sent a note back that it was completely unnecessary, that there's no problem and that such things didn't concern me.  They don't.  It does give you a sense of what happens when we even dare to discuss science.  What would Galileo do?

The audience was small and everyone was attentive and interested.  There were a few people that clearly disagreed with the technology and we shared a reasonable dialog.  The major points were right from the GMO Bingo card, with some new ones, including allegations of nefarious use of aluminum tolerance genes so that plants could survive spraying with chemtrails.

The saddest part is that some members of the audience knew every cent that Monsanto and the tree company ArborGen contributed to researchers or programs at the University of Florida.  Of course, none of this gets to me or just about any specific researchers. They go to a scientist to answer a question. We're experts in what we do. Companies want to pay for that expertise.

Overall, it was a good time.  One woman there told me that the last time I spoke there it changed her mind 100%.  That makes it worth it.


Information and links from the talk:

1.  It was suggested that Japan does not accept Hawaiian papayas.  I indicated that the policy had changed that the point was disputed by an audience member. 

-- After a quick check, it turns out that Japan does accept Hawaiian GM papayas as of December 1, 2011.  Link

2.  The Indian suicide issue.  Here are some resources regarding that allegation.

-- Here are great posts on the myth  click here  and here!
-- Here is a link to an entry-level dissection of the issue by Dr. Ronald Herring of Cornell, the political science expert that has studied the dynamics of cotton farming and its impacts. 
-- And GM cotton makes farming profitable. A link from PNAS, one of our most prestigious journals, points to "large and sustainable benefits, which contribute to positive economic and social development in India."

3.  A vague point was made about GM bacteria leading to the "deaths of 37 Americans" and many others made ill... that was all I had to go with, but assumed it was the trypophan issue.  Years ago a Japanese supplement company made tryptophan as a dietary supplement and didn't purify it correctly, many people developed a disease known as EMS.  Anti-GM folks point to this as a fault of GM, when it was a fault of manufacturing.  A full discussion is here. 

4.  As always, I'm accused of having no professional integrity and judgement because of the claim that scientists are all bought and paid for stooges for Monsanto.  The claim came up again today, and I can direct you to my feelings on the subject here and here. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Roundup In Air and Rain? What the Report Really Says

This week websites across the whackosphere exploded with the the news.




Wow, that seems pretty remarkable.  I wanted to get a copy of the actual research paper right away! 


I wanted to learn more, but I could not access the paper at Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.  So how did all of these websites and their scholarly journalists get the manuscript?

I contacted one of the paper's authors, Dr. Paul Capel, and asked for a copy and he kindly sent one.  Apparently I was the first.  Seems like those coming to the conclusions of the websites above were acting true to form-- skimming an abstract and drawing a conclusion that best fits their desires.

So I actually read the paper!   Want to know what it says?  

In short-- the conclusions from the websites above are cherry-picked nonsense.  

First, the paper's authors do this work because ag chemicals volatilize.  I never realized to what extent, but wind, rain and other factors stir up otherwise latent chemicals and it is important to understand what is present.  The authors did such a survey.   They performed a survey in 1995 and 2007, at two separate sites in northwestern Mississippi that support 80% of the state's agricultural harvest, mostly supporting corn and cotton.

The authors note that the region had similar area farmed between the two dates, but the management was quite different, the biggest differences being the introduction of GM crops and the discontinued use of several insecticides. They sampled air and rain in this agricultural region over a growing season to understand environmental flux of ag chemicals. The areas had similar rain patterns.  Samples were analyzed by GC/MS, so we're talking sensitive detection.

Conclusions?   CONCLUSION 1- GC/MS is SENSITIVE! 

The authors are obviously quite skilled at analytical chemistry, as they reliably detect glyphosate, atrazine, and a dozen other chemicals in air samples in 2007.  Glyphosate is detected in 75% of samples, atrazine about the same.  The authors even found Molinate, a compound that had not been used in four years-- this is sensitive technology!   

THIS is what the articles above discovered, that chemicals were detected in these samples. Detected?  That means it is there, but it does not say how much is there. More on this later.

CONCLUSIONS 2.  Herbicides.

Figure 4 shows the difference in herbicides between 1995 and 2007. Peak applications are in May, as expected.  What you see is that glyphosate becomes the main herbicide detected.  What the activist literature does not bother to tell you is that the increase in glyphosate substitutes for "other herbicides". Atrazine levels decreased 36%. Trifluralin was present in almost every sample but its levels were 20 times lower than 1995. Essentially, glyphosate removed the need for other herbicides with higher environmental impact, a fact well documented (e.g. Duke et al., 2012).

CONCENTRATIONS. Oh, and don't forget to look at the y-axis units.  We're dealing with nanograms per cubic meter.  Considering these compounds are biologically relevant at the conservative level of milligrams per kilogram, we're talking about levels millions to billions of times below any biological relevance.


What the data really show is that tiny amounts of ag chemicals can be detected (ng /m3), and that between 1995 and 2007 glyphosate substituted for herbicides with more potential impact. 



CONCLUSION 3 -- Insecticides.

Here's another set of data that the scummy green media seemed to forget to report, but more likely they didn't read it because it was not in the abstract.  The trend from 1995 to 2007 shows a decrease in insecticide use.  In 1995 methyl parathion was heavily used in Mississippi on cotton (160,000 kg!). By 2007 its levels dropped twenty fold.  In 1995 there was high reliance on Chlorphyifos and malathion, and by 2007 the levels were down substantially, the authors citing "no local use". All "other insecticide" levels were lower as well.

Why?  Why the decrease between 1995 and 2007?

The introduction of transgenic (GMO) Bt cotton and Bt corn, the two principle crops of the region.  Of course, the crazy green media forgot to take the blinders off to see that.


Insecticides detected in 2007 compared to 1995.  You clearly see what may be attributable to the effect of Bt corn and cotton, that the GMO products work as claimed to decrease insecticide requirement.  The authors do not explain the 4 Sept peak in methyl parathion. 


Basically, the paper says that when you get into an ag area you can find ag chemicals, if you have sophisticated equipment and plenty of know-how.  The authors discuss that they sample two different sites with different crops growing, so that could affect data and account for some of the weirdness and spikes observed..  It does not change the take-home message that agricultural chemicals volatilize and persist in the environment, so it is best to minimize their use, use chemicals with less environmental impact, and choose seeds that require less chemical.

That is exactly what GM crops do, and exactly what the data show. 



Some additional points to note:

1.  The use of "Monsanto's Roundup" in the titles.  Glyphosate was detected.  While AMPA was also detected and is a breakdown product of glyphosate, the test did not find "Roundup" and the authors do not say "Roundup" once.

2.  The headlines above come from places where nobody actually read the paper.

3.  The same information outlets neglected to mention that glyphosate increases offset the use of other herbicides with more impact, that insecticide use was down, and that the levels were nanograms per cubic meter.

These are all important to note because is reveals how misinformed, ignorant and willing to deceive the anti-GMO media really is.  They are not out for science or truth, it is about an agenda.