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    Can The Damage From Agenda-Driven Junk Science Be Undone?
    By Steve Savage | October 23rd 2012 03:31 PM | 21 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Steve

    Trained as a plant pathologist (Ph.D. UC Davis 1982), I've worked now for >30 years in many aspects of agricultural technology (Colorado State...

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    Unfortunately, junk science can be generated by people with agendas, and the editorial process does not always prevent it from getting the undeserved legitimacy of publication.  In extreme cases the legitimate scientific community responds, but can it undo the damage?  

    Recently a group of scientists led by Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen published a feeding study which purported to find tumorigenic effects of GMO corn and glyphosate. It was so blatantly flawed in design and interpretation that it elicited a rapid and overwhelmingly negative response.  


    The Scientific Community Responds

    In an unprecedented move, the French academies of agriculture, medicine, pharmacy, science, technology and veterinary studies released a joint statement calling the Seralini paper a "scientific non-event" and the overall assessment that:  

    "This work does not enable any reliable conclusion to be drawn."   

    This follows a similar critique by the German, Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) which concluded:

    "The study shows both shortcomings in study design and in the presentation of the collected data.  This means that the conclusions drawn by the authors are not supported by the available data."  

    This sort of rapid rejection by such an agency was also unusual.  Today, ANSES, the French agency responsible for risk assessments with biotech crops, published an opinion that: 

    "The study's central weakness lies in the fact that the conclusions advanced by the authors are not sufficiently supported by the data published."  

    While these statements are in the civil and precise tone of scientific communication, they amount to as much of a "smack down" as is possible from the restrained, academic and regulatory communities.  The currency of respect in the scientific community is solid data from objective, well designed, well executed, and properly interpreted experiments.  The "Seralini study" met none of those standards and should rightly be ignored by the broader society unless someday confirmed by more objective research.  Unfortunately, that is not a likely scenario.  

    How This Controversy Will Play in the Anti-Science World

    It is far more probable that this "cancer link" will become another permanent entry in the lexicon of anti-GMO "evidence."   It will join toxic lectins-in-potatoes, Monarch butterfly toxicity, and Indian farmer suicides as endlessly repeated, mythic narratives in the echo-chambers of groups and publications which oppose crop biotechnology.  It matters little how much good, respectable research has been published to document the safety of biotech crops, such as a review of 12, independent, long-term feeding studies published in the same Journal as the Seralini study just this April.  

    It matters little how many major scientific bodies conclude that biotech crops are safe.  To those who have bought into the conspiracy thinking, this will stand as irrefutable evidence that they have always been right to oppose this technology.  All criticism of the Seralini study will be written off as part of the grand, profit-driven conspiracy to kill everyone with GMO crops.

    The Real Fallout From Fear-Mongering

    It would be bad enough if something like the Seralini study simply contributed to the unnecessary angst amongst consumers around the world.  It also has very real political, economic and practical effects.  For instance brand conscious food companies have used their leverage to prevent the development of GMO versions of potatoes, bananas, coffee and other crops because they fear controversey.  Apple growers worried about the market response are opposing the introduction of a non-browning apple even though it was developed by one of their own fruit companies.  French activists destroyed a government-run field trial of a virus-resistant root stock which could have made it possible to produce good wine on sites that have become useless because of contamination with sting nematodes and the virus they vector.  California voters have the potential to pass a seriously flawed "GMO labeling" initiative next month that could only serve the purposes of the lawyers and "natural products" marketers who created it.

     More importantly, European and Japanese importers of wheat essentially blackmailed the North American wheat producers into blocking biotech wheat development because those companies were nervous about consumer response in countries where GMO angst is so high.  This has delayed by decades not only specific desirable trait development, but also what might have been an enormous private investment in a crop that is critically important for feeding a lot more people than just those in those rich countries.  

    There is a huge cost of "precaution" based on poor science.


    You are welcome to comment here and/or to write me at savage.sd@gmail.com


    Trash can image from Montgomery Cty Division of Solid Waste Services

    Comments

    As recently as three years ago, I was associated with the Organic farming movement and believed the stock-in-trade arguments against "GMOs" (along with many other dire certainties, such as anti-pesticide paranoia and anti-industrial farming conspiracy-mongering).

    I feel like such a fool when I look back on those days and see how easy it was to absorb the views of the people around me, but now I'm very relieved to be free of that pinched little mindset. The Skeptics movement has been instrumental in helping me alter my views.

    I've changed my mind considerably and now avoid organic-speak as best I can, though I've changed my actual farming practices very little.

    While I don't see Organics ever going away, or even diminishing in influence in the near future, I see that the threads of sheer, anti-scientific craziness are woven so tightly into the fabric of the Organic movement that it will always be a marginal movement. They can have it.

    Gerhard Adam
    It matters little how many major scientific bodies conclude that biotech crops are safe.

    It matters little how much good, respectable research has been published to document the safety of biotech crops...
    One part of the problem is quite obvious.  One of the links you provided is behind a paywall, so while one may write the author for a copy, this isn't a particularly useful way to disseminate information to the public.

    The other problem is demonstrated by several articles on this site that argue that safety can never be demonstrated, so the precautionary principle is much abused by those looking for such reassurance.  Yet, in your article, you twice claim that GMO's are safe.  You know that such a claim cannot stand.  As you well know, "substantial equivalence" is not the same thing as demonstrated safety, but instead is simply an argument that GMO's pose no greater risk than current foods.

    Similarly, it also sounds agenda-driven when studies like Seralini are refuted because of poor design or inadequacies, and yet pro-GMO reports are excused for the very same reason.
    "The GMO Panel also noted shortcomings in the methodology used for the monitoring; but said such shortcomings did not have implications on its overall conclusions for the safety of the GM maize."
    http://www.foodnavigator.com/Legislation/EFSA-finds-genetically-modified-maize-safe-for-health-and-environment
    So what shortcomings are these?  Would everyone agree that they have no implications?

    Unfortunately, everyone is only too familiar with information that has come to light over the past few decades based on long-term studies for all manner of substances ranging from cigarette smoke, to asbestos, and even, now, gluten in wheat.  Each has ramifications on human health and yet with GMO studies the general consensus is that 90-day rodent feeding studies are sufficient to establish that there are no long-term effects?

    We both know that that isn't true and cannot be true.  There is absolutely no science to back the assertion that rodents and humans are sufficient similar to warrant such a conclusion, especially over the longer life and diverse diets that humans partake in.

    Certainly it may establish a baseline to claim that there don't seem to be any substantial differences in basic responses, and that there are no overt toxic effects nor physiological changes in the rodents, but any further claim is simply unfounded.

    Again, this is not to argue that GMO's are dangerous, but let's not pretend that either the scientists nor the companies producing these products have done much to advance public education, nor disseminate information to the public.  Instead they have left a void that can readily be filled by junk science and, even now, don't seem inclined to do much to combat it beyond relying on government mandates and protections to ensure they can proceed.

    In short, the whole issue of GMO foods has demonstrated that these companies have no desire to gain public support, but would rather rely on the government to give them legal standing so that they don't actually have to answer such questions as the public may have.
    Mundus vult decipi
    sdsavage
    Gerhard,You are essentially saying that there is no way that anyone could ever answer your questions in a way that would satisfy your doubts.  In the mean time, there are crops to be grown and everywhere that farmers have been give the opportunity to utilize biotech crops, they have found it advantageous to do so.
    Steve Savage
    Gerhard Adam
    No, you're misinterpreting what I'm saying.  We already know there are going to be people that have serious doubts, and then there are going to be lots of folks that are in the middle and potentially undecided.

    The quickest way to lose credibility is to make a claim of safety and then have to back-pedal because that isn't really what you meant.  So, when someone asks to see studies and they aren't forthcoming, then further credibility is eroded. 
    ...they have found it advantageous to do so.
    Realistically, that's the weakest part of the argument.  I'm not particularly interested in what farmers find advantageous.  Certainly I might begin caring if it impacts my ability to purchase food, but [at least in the U.S.] it is an irrelevant argument.  That simply has the ring of economics to it, and little to do with something that citizens can relate to.

    As indicated before, we keep hearing how this is such beneficial technology and how much the producers like it, etc. etc. etc.  OK ... so what is the benefit to ME?  the consumer?  If this is such great technology then why doesn't it produce an economy of scale that produces lower cost foods?  If the only benefit is to simply enrich producers, because it reduces their costs without actually translating that to the market ... then why should I care?  I'm not starving ... I have no shortage of available foods ... and I have no need to change the status quo in how I'm living ...
    So ... what is the argument?

    Many arguments talk about other countries, etc. but I'm not saying that such technology shouldn't be used over there, but again ... why is such usage contingent on my use?  It sounds like a distraction, because the intent was never to solve starvation, but rather to maximize profits and without a rich consumer market, then no one would be doing anything in this area.

    Lest you misunderstand me ... I'm not particularly concerned about GMO foods.  I think the PR job is ridiculous, and represents a missed opportunity that has been handled amateurishly, at best.  I think that despite the public sentiment against GMO foods, the industry and scientists still haven't connected the dots in terms of advancing that knowledge to the public.  Instead, they let themselves get side-swiped by the likes of someone like Seralini who clearly has more publicity savvy that GMO advocates.

    So, in all likelihood you'll end up having to provide GMO food labels, because no one articulated a meaningful argument to consumers as to why they shouldn't have labels.  The only argument against, is an economic one [food prices will go up] which is ultimately a lie, because everyone already knows that those prices will go up anyway and that industry certainly isn't intent on making them cheaper.

    GMO foods is attempting to fix a "problem" that almost no one recognizes they have [at the consumer level].  So unless someone wakes up and begins to take this seriously and does a much better job of public outreach .... well .... get used to fighting these fights.

    Advocates can posture as much as they like and call them "anti-scientific" or crackpots ... but in the end they will prevail politically, because the scientists and corporations chose to make this a political battle and then showed up unarmed. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    sdsavage
    Gerhard, If something which allows a farmer to be more productive and/or to have less risk, that is also a good thing for consumers.  Those fortunate enough to live in wealthy nations may feel like they have no stake in what matters to farmers, but that is only because farming has advanced so far that 99+% of those people have no need to be involved in food production.  They also have the option to reject certain technologies as long as they are willing to pay for that luxury.  The problem is when pure fear-mongering succeeds in creating barriers to the development of technologies that matter for more than the rich world - the defeat of biotech wheat being a perfect example.  

    You may be right that the PR for biotech has not been great, however, there would have been no way to present it that would have altered the response from groups like Greenpeace etc.  You say that the "scientists and corporation chose to make this a political battle."  Having known the pioneers of this field and watched the whole thing develop since the late 70s I can assure you no one decided to do this because they wanted to start a battle.  They wanted to solve practical problems in agriculture much as they do with a host of other technologies.  Fortunately, that is what they continue to do.
    Steve Savage
    Hank
    This is a good point - it is easy for the food equivalent of the rich 1% to be patronizing and elitist about agriculture, they will survive no matter what.  American science has successfully dematerialized in the last few decades to where we are producing far more food on far less land than it took when I was a kid, that is a win for everyone, regardless of the anti-science and anti-corporation beliefs of detractors.  In America we can afford to be critical.   Economically, the UN's millenium project of getting its target of poor people fed by 2015 happened 7 years ahead of schedule, unheard of for a UN project. And that is because food science marches on despite criticism.
    Gerhard Adam
    Having known the pioneers of this field and watched the whole thing develop since the late 70s I can assure you no one decided to do this because they wanted to start a battle.
    I apologize if it sounds like that was a criticism aimed at the scientists involved in this.  I have no doubt as to their motives.  However, that is an entirely different matter when it comes to the politics of corporations.

    However, it is equally true that between the PR folks, advertisers, lawyers, etc. that permeate corporate life, there was plenty of opportunity to determine whether a campaign needed to be instigated to "sell" this to the public, or whether they figured they'd fly "under the radar" with Agriculture essentially being the only entity with which they would have to deal.

    Even to this day, we see virtually no action coming from these companies to try and educate and inform people about the nature of their products.  They are simply hunkered down, assuming that they will ultimately get their way because they've already penetrated the market they were after.  Labeling laws don't affect them, so they really couldn't care less [i.e. Monsanto, Syngenta, etc.].

    The question isn't about altering the responses of Greenpeace, but rather of having an informed populace that isn't subject to the propaganda.  Again ... even to this day, anyone wanting to read about the research finds far too many paywalls to negotiate, and so the information stays buried or cobbled together in huge lists of papers, the majority of which aren't relevant to the questions the public has.
     They also have the option to reject certain technologies as long as they are willing to pay for that luxury.  The problem is when pure fear-mongering succeeds in creating barriers to the development of technologies that matter for more than the rich world - the defeat of biotech wheat being a perfect example.
    I fully understand and appreciate what you're saying, but the fact remains, that if I, personally, don't need the technology then someone had better do a better job of "selling" it to me.  Why should the expectation be that the populace will behave altruistically simply because it might do good somewhere else in the world?  In most people's minds, that is a different problem and even that might be acceptable if it were presented in that light.  Instead we hear little about the rest of the world, and more and more about how GMO's need to be incorporated into those same rich markets that don't particularly need them.  Hence the backlash. 

    In my opinion, I would bet that other than a few radicals, the majority of people don't have a particularly strong opinion regarding GMO's, but they do have the overwhelming feeling that corporations and government are trying to pull a "fast one" on them by keeping them in the dark.  This is exacerbated by comments indicating that GMO foods have been around for decades.  That raises even more indignation, because people will question, why they were considered so unimportant, that no one even felt it necessary to tell them.

    In a time when people love to complain that government is increasingly become a "nanny" state, then it is the height of absurdity to suddenly argue that government/corporations had no obligation to tell people about this technology.  In effect, they simply behaved as if people didn't have a need to know and that those knowledgeable in such matters, would make the decision for them.
     If something which allows a farmer to be more productive and/or to have less risk, that is also a good thing for consumers.
    In principle, yes.  However, where are any publications that illustrate the actual economics of this?  Many people view this as large corporations creating an artificial dependency that will invariably drive prices higher and become less beneficial. 

    Instead we see more articles dealing with the creation of herbicide resistant weeds [and everyone's already familiar with how well we managed antibiotics, so this rings a bell].  There are also reports that pesticide use may not actually be decreasing, but rather than particular pesticide use may be increasing.  In short, despite the claims of all the benefits that this technology provides, it sounds more like hand-waving instead of actual information.

    Isn't there any where that this is articulated in some way that demonstrates clear benefits?  Something that demonstrates the economic viability of it?  Something that indicates that we aren't going down a road where increased chemical dependence is in our future, with the possibility that more and more exotic solutions will be proposed and implemented ... all the while keeping the public in the dark?

    As I've said before, I don't have any particular problem with GMOs, but I am thoroughly irritated at the behavior of authorities [government/corporate] that feel that it's not worth their time to even present information about it.  Even with all the controversy, we hear next to nothing from these authorities regarding the important aspects of GMO foods.  So, in my opinion, perhaps if the public beats them up enough and creates enough barriers, then perhaps they will finally wake up and realize that they are not operating by divine right, but rather they have a responsibility to have a dialogue with the public about technologies that have such far reaching potential consequences.

    I can also predict that if, by some odd chance, that there are some long-term effects that will be discovered downstream, then the uproar and backlash will be infinitely worse than what you might be seeing because of "junk science".  Given how close-mouthed the authorities are now, one can only imagine how quickly they would circle the wagons to keep important information out of the public eye, should something negative be discovered.  Essentially the authorities have repeatedly demonstrated that they aren't to be trusted.  So, this is little more that caveat emptor coming back to bite them all in the ass.
    Mundus vult decipi
    sdsavage
    Gerhard,There was actually lots of effort to talk with the broader community starting way back before the first commercializations in 1996.  I remember seeing quite a bit in the press as well.  It is not as if anyone ever tried to keep this "under the radar," its just that most people don't tune into anything about farming.

    I wonder if you know the people who work at the companies like Monsanto, DuPont/Pioneer, Bayer, BASF etc?  These are companies composed mostly of scientists. Even the people who end up in senior management usually come from the scientific ranks including lots of disciplines from Entomology, Agronomy, Plant Pathology, Molecular Biology, Ecology, Chemistry...  The sales force is also generally quite technical in background.  I've worked closely with scores of these people for decades now and have never met one which fits the sort of sinister image people like to imagine.  I won't go with the Romney assertion that "corporations are people," but corporations function based on the work of thousands of individual people who bring their own idealism and ethics into the workplace.  Indeed, each organization tends to take on a "personality" which is based on the sort of people they hire.  In companies like this the researchers are working on things that might not be commercial for 10 or more years so its hardly the short-term profit orientation some imagine
    Steve Savage
    Gerhard Adam
    I will actually go a step farther than you and suggest that the individuals in corporations are mostly trying to do the best they can.  I don't have a problem with that.

    My problem with corporations isn't the individuals, it's what happens when such a collection is required [by law] to place their shareholders above everything else.  The "personality" of such a corporation is set by those at the top.  I've seen more corporate cultures that almost ruined corporations because the guys at the top were nitwits, than not.

    However, at the end of the day, whatever was done clearly wasn't adequate.  It still isn't adequate, and I don't see any effort to make it adequate.  Whether someone is a scientist or a technician doesn't mean much within the broader scope of what is taking place.

    In fact, it could be a liability since many scientists are actually quite naive when it comes to dealing with politics and the public.
    In companies like this the researchers are working on things that might not be commercial for 10 or more years so its hardly the short-term profit orientation some imagine.
    Sorry, but you're simply wrong here.  Monsanto and any publicly traded company is under the microscope every quarter, since shareholders expect a return.  Any company that based their profitability on a 10 year projection would be destroyed.  I can appreciate that many of their efforts are geared towards 10 year efforts before commercialization, similar to pharmaceuticals, but one would be foolish to presume that quarterly profits aren't at the front of every decision.  Without that, the CEO's office would be a rotating door.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Has a similar study (however unscientific) been done, except with non-GMO and GMO foods switched around, and showing non-GMO to be more tumorous/cancerous?

    Hank
    It could easily have been done with Seralini's study. And maybe the results do show that. No one knows because he refused (and still refuses) to include his data, just his handpicked results.  Other people used tumor statistics for that animal model and the tumor rate was 70% for regular feed.  So in one test Seralini did the male rats only had a 50% tumor rate, meaning GMO food lowered the chances of rats getting cancer.

    More studies have not been done on that animal for that period of time because most civilized countries consider it unethical.  In France it was okay but in other countries keeping that line of rats alive that long constitutes animal cruelty (because they are almost certain to get cancer) and the government would have brought scientists up on charges.
    Allow me to rephrase. Has any study, OTHER than Seralini's, been done, which showed non-GMO to be more cancer/tumor causing than GMO feed? Trying to backpopulate/pluginexternal data for what Seralini did not release, and derive "scientific" results from it to support GMO is a bit of stretch.
    Also, a brand new (NOTextension of Seralini's) study would not be any more cruel. Is it not surprising GM companies have not done such a study, which would tremendously boost their sales and standing?

    Hank
    Sure, here is an examination of 12 such studies, but they get ignored by the mainstream media and the crackpot community because they don't feed the 'Myth of the Oppressed Underdog' mentality - Assessment of the health impact of GM plant diets in long-term and multigenerational animal feeding trials: A literature review
    Gerhard Adam
    That paper has been quoted extensively in the comments regarding GMO foods.
    The studies reviewed here are often linked to an inadequate experimental design that has detrimental effects on statistical analysis as far as the most frequently used statistics are concerned. Internationally agreed test methods should be used for toxicity testing (EFSA, 2011).

    Six out of the 24 studies examined here used an appropriate number of experimental animals: three long-term studies (Daleprane et al., 2009a, 2010; Sissener et al., 2009) and three multigenerational studies (Brake et al., 2003; Flachowsky et al., 2007; Haryu et al., 2009).

    Furthermore, seventeen out of the twenty-four studies examined did not use isogenic lines for the control diet (or more precisely did not state they used isogenic lines).
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    You're kind of making my point.  It got no attention in the mainstream media, despite easily being as rigorous as anything Seralini did, because it defied what anti-science cranks want to read about GM foods. You were in the front of the line endorsing Seralini's crackpottery and this was your only defense - 75% of other studies are rubbish too. But those studies got zero mainstream press coverage.
    Gerhard Adam
    I suspect you know better than to claim that I was endorsing Seralini.  My point is now, and has always been, to avoid getting on a cheerleader bandwagon with faux criticisms and faulty reasoning. 

    Feeble attempts like criticizing Seralini because two years is "cruel" to the animals is rubbish, because the paper being quoted used rats for 104 week studies regarding soybeans.  So, on one hand it's "cruel", unless it's in a study we approve of.

    Such criticisms simply distract from the issue.  The central point was always whether there was any merit to the results, and it was clear that it was weak statistically.  However, all the other "piled on" assertions and allegations were coming from people that had already conducted similar studies with similar flaws, so it seemed a bit disingenuous [to say the least] that Seralini committed such gross violations.

    Many studies in this review failed to meet the protocol standards and yet, this isn't considered a problem?  This isn't to suggest that something devious was occurring, but ... come on?   Can't anyone do a reasonable study that isn't subject to such criticisms?

    This is precisely why I had written several times that this is new territory, because despite the claims about safety, the reality was that we simply didn't really know how to test for such things.  This is why the protocols are suspect, and subject to such controversy.  Even if you review all the studies, you'll see huge gaps in the variety of animals studied.  Everything ranging from salmon to cows, coupled with the number of products under questions [i.e. soybeans versus corn], you can readily see that we don't have very many good, quality studies.

    This doesn't make GMO foods dangerous, but it certainly isn't a ringing endorsement about the exhaustive or comprehensive research taking place.
    Mundus vult decipi
    sdsavage
    The paper in question was reviewing other papers.  They sifted through some poor science and found the more convincing examples.  I guess that what they found was a lot of sloppy science, but still not studies that found real issues.  
    Gerhard,
    You seem to have a great deal of time on your hands.  Why don't you write some good summaries of the science on this topic?  Do you have a blog?

    Steve
    Steve Savage
    Gerhard Adam
    You seem to have a great deal of time on your hands.
    Time?  That's a good one.
    Why don't you write some good summaries of the science on this topic?
    Sure ... show me where the papers are.  I've certainly been directed to sites where there are hundreds of papers, of which virtually none are related to actual feeding studies, or they are so far-ranging as to provide nothing useful in assessing impacts on other animals besides rodents. 
     I guess that what they found was a lot of sloppy science, but still not studies that found real issues.
    Well, I guess we don't actually know, if they were sloppy.  Many of the papers suggested additional studies, which don't appear to have occurred.  In many cases, the conclusions drawn were simply meaningless since either the number of animals was too small, too non-specific, or the plants used weren't properly managed.

    Moreover, many of the studies were quite specific in what they examined, so drawing conclusions about general "safety" is certainly unwarranted [i.e. focus on milk production, reproduction, etc.].

    We already know that there aren't any overt toxic issues, such as animals simply dropping over dead when they eat the plants, but anything more subtle has certainly not been examined.  I've also written about what "substantial equivalence" means and how this may be the only realistic standard one can adopt in the absence of any clear protocols for testing food, in general.  Yet, it seems that people still want to make unsubstantiated claims of general safety, despite that being an impossible task to the science.
    http://www.science20.com/gerhard_adam/gm_conventional_and_organic_food_safety-94649
    http://www.science20.com/gerhard_adam/problems_biotechnology_gm_foods-94650

    I realize that you don't have any greater access to these papers than I do, but if you could point out some that you feel might be more informative [beyond the 90-day rodent studies], then I'm all ears. 

    Of course, I don't actually hold out any hopes, because if I don't find anything different then I'll simply have been "anti-science", and if I do find anything to criticize, then I'll simply be an amateur. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    I feel compelled to respond to the "safety" issue that Gerhard (and Adam) brought up (what's up with all the people responding to both of your names??)

    I don't see any problem using calling any food or drug "safe" even though we know such a thing cannot be proven. Safe is something of a colloquialism that really means low risk. If we're going to take that usage off the table, then calling asprin a "safe" way to prevent heart attacks will be history. Furthermore, I don't think anybody, scientist or not, really uses safe and assumes it means no risk.

    We shouldn't create a new standard based on parsing terms just for GMO or any single category. Nothing is truly 100% safe, yet we do and will continue to call low-risk items safe. I don't think we have to change our collective vocabulary to be able to understand eachother.

    John Hasenkam
    When scientists start proclaiming new product X causes cancer alarm bells should ring forth because they are too often trying to scare people. Without substantive research into the specific biochemical, cellular, and physiological changes that X causes it is often so much blather. 
    With regard to long term risk forget about cancer or CVD or dementia issues. Experiments looking for those outcomes are unlikely to convey a good picture of long term risks. The history of biomedicine is replete with claims about X being good or bad only to find 20 years down the track it aint so. That is why I often seek a many levels of analysis correlation in determining the implications of an X. For eg, even in the absence of studies specifically pointing to a cancer risk if I saw studies indicating that X caused a loss of Natural Killer function or aneuploidy then I would think cancer might be a risk because NK cells are at the forefront of preventing cancer formation. I would then look for other possible risk factors. There are many such biomarkers to explore and thorough research requires an exploration of a range of relevant biomarkers, not just picking one to suit our hypothesis. But hey, it is far more sexy to to put up pictures of cancer caused by X rather than try and explain how biomarkers a,b,c etc point to potential long term benefits or risks. 

    As for scientists who won't release their primary data, that should be perceived as evidence of possible fraud. 

    BTW, remember that corporations have people who have children. Big Pharma of late has certainly been caught out doing some very naughty things but take the wider view and put it in context. Big govt does evil things, big tribes do evil things ... . In my views directors are too protected by limited liability. That should change. If you want to change behavior punish individuals, the whole bloody board should be subject to class action. That will make a huge different to the behavior of corporations. We do have a problem there but politicians don't want to change that because they will be looking for a seat on a board in the future.  
    Hank
    BTW, remember that corporations have people who have children. Big Pharma of late has certainly been caught out doing some very naughty things but take the wider view and put it in context. 
    This is a fine point.  Governments, academic scientists, basically everyone has people who act unethical.  But fringe types who apply a blanket approach to an entire segment - all climate scientists are chasing funding, all biotech scientists are chasing funding, all teachers only care about their tenure and benefits and not about teaching kids - are on the road to madness.  Only cranks insist all corporations are bad and all government employees are good, or vice versa.