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    Confessions Of An Organic-Munching Genetic Engineer (No On Prop 37 As Written)
    By Robert Cooper | November 3rd 2012 06:47 PM | 93 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Robert

    I have given up on categories. I did a BA in physics, a PhD in molecular biology, and now a postdoc in a bioengineering department. So call that...

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    Well here's an interesting development.  Mandatory labeling of GMOs (genetically modified organisms), the subject of CA Prop 37, has opened a rift between two of my favorite organizations.  The AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) recently released a statement opposing mandatory GMO labeling, while the UCS (Union of Concerned Scientists), remains firmly in favor.  The AAAS says mandatory labeling is reserved for potential dangers, but genetic engineering is as safe as conventional breeding.  Therefore, labels would falsely imply something wrong with GMO products.  The UCS, on the other hand, supports GMO labeling along with 21 other independent scientists.  As Hank points out elsewhere on this site, the GMO labeling debate reveals quite a bit of hypocrisy in public opinion.

    All of which might leave me in a bit of a quandary.  I am a member of both the AAAS and the UCS (though I must admit I trust the AAAS more for objectivity).  I buy organic groceries at a local co-op to minimize ingestion of pesticides and hormones, to support more sustainable and humane farming practices, and to get a healthy dose of the placebo effect, which is, after all, quite real and quite potent.  But in my day job as a molecular biology PhD student, I regularly GM my O's, since there's no other way to understand what genes do.  (My research has been fairly basic although inspired by eventual applications, and I haven't worked with crops.)  So as an informed, rational, tree-hugging hippie, where should I fall on this issue?  Like any good scientist, I went straight to the sources and evaluated their arguments.  

    As with many disagreements, the two sides seem to be simply talking past each other, making different and non-contradictory points.  The problem lies in painting all GMOs with the same brush, and in separating science from policy advice.

    Left: Golden rice was engineered with the best of intentions to contain beta carotene.  This would fight vitamin A deficiency in an estimated 190 million people, for many of whom rice is an important staple crop. Right: Some of the more controversial GMOs are resistant to the herbicide Roundup, encouraging heavy spraying in fields. Images: International Rice Research Institute and PI77 of wikimedia commons.
    First for the science.  Genetic engineering is simply a tool.  Like any tool, it can make good things and it can make bad things.  Good things example: vitamin-enhanced foods that fight malnutrition.  Potentially bad things examples: soybeans containing a brazil nut gene that could cause allergic reactions, and Roundup resistance that encourages heavy herbicide use, which can promote resistance and cause health and environmental effects.  In referring to the tool, then, the AAAS is correct that "crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe."  At the same time, In referring to the products the UCS is also correct that some GM crops could cause health effects or environmental damage.  So scientific conclusion: genetic engineering as a tool is perfectly benign, but the products of that tool might be or might not be.

    Next, the current policy landscape.  Here the AAAS and the UCS have different interpretations, with the AAAS saying that "in order to receive regulatory approval in the United States, each new GM crop must be subjected to rigorous analysis and testing."  The UCS counters that "the FDA review process for GE [genetically engineered] foods is voluntary, and provides no detailed guidance on how to test GE foods to ensure their safety."  Here I'll have to admit that I don't know enough about regulation and testing to know which group is correct.  However, I'd venture to guess that GMO regulations grew hodgepodge out of agencies not used to dealing with them, and could likely stand some thoughtful updating.

    Which brings us to the crux of the question: the policy response.  The AAAS thinks current policy is sufficient, the UCS thinks we need better testing and mandatory labeling.  I could agree with redesigning regulations and testing for the biotech era.  But mandatory labeling treats all the products of the tool in the same way.  A mandatory label would treat thoroughly tested and completely safe GMOs exactly the same as crops engineered to produce iocaine powder.  That doesn't make any more sense than slapping yogurt with the same surgeon general's warning found on whiskey.

    These products were both produced via fermentation followed by distillation.  Should they bear the same surgeon general's warning?  Images: Algont of Wikimedia Commons and Enrico Uva
    If the problem is with allergic reactions, require labels on potentially allergenic GMOs.  If the problem is with herbicide resistance, put labels on those GMOs.  But lumping all GMOs together under the same label implies that the genetic engineering tool itself is unsafe, and that is clearly not true.  The only reason to support universal mandatory labeling would be if you were fundamentally against the tool based on principle rather than science.

    So, as a Californian minus one week, I say this to my future co-residents.  Support sensible GMO testing and regulation.  Eat organic, especially if you are pregnant or a baby.  Support sustainable and humane agriculture.  But recognize that genetic engineering is a tool that can advance all the ideals that "organic" (possibly falsely) means to people.  And, vote no on Prop 37 as written.


    I love the whisky/yogurt analogy.  Of course, the primary difference between AAAS and UCS is motivation - like them or not, AAAS is a science body, composed of scientists and a really minor number of literate laypeople.  It is run by a respected person and publishes a top journal.

    UCS is run by a guy who was an aide to two Democrats and then ventured into being an anti-weapons and anti-nuclear advocate; those are the primary qualifications you need to run UCS, no science needed.  They just have good marketing and put science in their name so they have a feel of science truthiness due to that.

    UCS is against the science consensus on 2 out of 3 of the most pressing issues the world faces yet claims to be about science.  They are no different than Greenpeace or PETA or any other group that only accepts the science they like. As with nuclear power, no GMO solution will ever be good enough for UCS. 
    Of course, greek yogurt (distilled) would be a better analogy for whiskey, but I couldn't find a good picture on wikimedia.  Do you worry about taking pictures from other websites?

    Agreed that UCS has an agenda that can block their view of science.  It's difficult to find organizations that are objective on all points, but they advocate for clean energy which is one of the issues most in need of advocacy in the world.  AAAS is much more objective, but to maintain that they really can't get into advocacy.  It would be nice if UCS would get behind newer, safer, cheaper nuclear technologies, and stop being so blindly anti-GMO.  Their main arguments against both technologies boil down to "they aren't perfect yet so we should just give up now", which is about as anti-science as you can get.

    Yeah, the more I pay attention to UCS, the more I gravitate away from them.  The most objective scientific organizations tend to stay away from specific policy issues, and the more activist organizations tend to drift away from science, unfortunately.  Anyway, hopefully opening with a moral quandary between the two will get all GMO partisans to open their minds a bit O:-)
    Of course, greek yogurt (distilled) would be a better analogy for whiskey, but I couldn't find a good picture on wikimedia.  Do you worry about taking pictures from other websites?

    Here's one taken by me. By coincidence my wife bought Greek yogurt yesterday.

    One big problem with your thinking here is that it's based on the erroneous idea that some GMO products have tested safe. There are no such products. No thorough testing has ever shown any GMOs to be safe.
    It's the exact opposite.

    Here's a new report by two leading genetic engineers:

    Why genetically engineered food is dangerous: New report by genetic engineers

    One big problem with your thinking here is that it's based on the erroneous idea that some GMO products have tested safe. There are no such products. No thorough testing has ever shown any GMOs to be safe.
    Please identify one product on planet Earth that can be proven safe. You will overturn the entire world of risk management and science with your wondrous discovery.   GMOs have harmed no one and yet you have no problem getting in an automobile, for example.
    No harm from GMOs?

    Let me start with Bt corn—

    When U.S. regulators approved Monsanto's genetically modified "Bt" corn, they knew it would add a deadly poison into our food supply. That's what it was designed to do. The corn's DNA is equipped with a gene from soil bacteria called Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) that produces the Bt-toxin. It's a pesticide; it breaks open the stomach of certain insects and kills them.
    But Monsanto and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) swore up and down that it was only insects that would be hurt. The Bt-toxin, they claimed, would be completely destroyed in the human digestive system and not have any impact on all of us trusting corn-eating consumers.
    Oops. A study just proved them wrong.
    Doctors at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec found the corn's Bt-toxin in the blood of pregnant women and their babies, as well as in non-pregnant women. (Specifically, the toxin was identified in 93% of 30 pregnant women, 80% of umbilical blood in their babies, and 67% of 39 non-pregnant women.) The study has been accepted for publication in the peer reviewed journal Reproductive Toxicology.
    According to the UK Daily Mail, this study, which "appears to blow a hole in" safety claims, "has triggered calls for a ban on imports and a total overhaul of the safety regime for genetically modified (GM) crops and food." Organizations from England to New Zealand are now calling for investigations and for GM crops to be halted due to the serious implications of this finding.
    Links to allergies, auto-immune disease, and other disorders
    There's already plenty of evidence that the Bt-toxin produced in GM corn and cotton plants is toxic to humans and mammals and triggers immune system responses. The fact that it flows through our blood supply, and that is passes through the placenta into fetuses, may help explain the rise in many disorders in the US since Bt crop varieties were first introduced in 1996.
    In government-sponsored research in Italy, mice fed Monsanto's Bt corn showed a wide range of immune responses. Their elevated IgE and IgG antibodies, for example, are typically associated with allergies and infections. The mice had an increase in cytokines, which are associated with "allergic and inflammatory responses." The specific cytokines (interleukins) that were elevated are also higher in humans who suffer from a wide range of disorders, from arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, to MS and cancer (see chart).
    Elevated interleukins
    Rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, various types of cancer (multiple myeloma and prostate cancer)
    Allergy, allergic rhinitis, ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease)
    Autoimmune disease and colitis.
    Inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis
    The young mice in the study also had elevated T cells (gamma delta), which are increased in people with asthma, and in children with food allergies, juvenile arthritis, and connective tissue diseases. The Bt corn that was fed to these mice, MON 810, produced the same Bt-toxin that was found in the blood of women and fetuses.
    When rats were fed another of Monsanto's Bt corn varieties called MON 863, their immune systems were also activated, showing higher numbers of basophils, lymphocytes, and white blood cells. These can indicate possible allergies, infections, toxins, and various disease states including cancer. There were also signs of toxicity in the liver and kidneys.
    Natural Bt is dangerous
    Farmers have used Bt-toxin from soil bacteria as a natural pesticide for years. But they spray it on plants, where it washes off and biodegrades in sunlight. The GM version is built-in; every plant cell has its own spray bottle. The toxin doesn't wash off; it's consumed. Furthermore, the plant-produced version of the poison is thousands of times more concentrated than the spray; is designed to be even more toxic; and has properties of known allergens—it actually fails the World Health Organization's allergen screening tests.
    The biotech companies ignore the substantial difference between the GM toxin and the natural bacteria version, and boldly claim that since the natural spray has a history of safe use in agriculture, it's therefore OK to put the poison directly into our food. But even this claim of safe use of Bt spray ignores peer-reviewed studies showing just the opposite.
    When natural Bt-toxin was fed to mice, they had tissue damage, immune responses as powerful as cholera toxin, and even started reacting to other foods that were formerly harmless. Farm workers exposed to Bt also showed immune responses. The EPA's own expert Scientific Advisory Panel said that these mouse and farm worker studies "suggest that Bt proteins could act as antigenic and allergenic sources."But the EPA ignored the warnings. They also overlooked studies showing that about 500 people in Washington state and Vancouver showed allergic and flu-like symptoms when they were exposed to the spray when it was used to kill gypsy moths.
    Bt cotton linked to human allergies, animal deaths

    Indian farm workers are suffering from rashes and itching and other symptoms after coming into contact with Bt cotton.
    Now thousands of Indian farm laborers are suffering from the same allergic and flu-like symptoms as those in the Pacific Northwest simply from handling genetically engineered cotton plants that produce Bt-toxin. According to reports and records from doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies, as well as numerous investigative reports and case studies, workers are struggling with constant itching and rashes; some take antihistamines every day in order to go to work.
    It gets worse.

    All thirteen buffalo of a small Indian village died after grazing for a single day on Bt cotton plants.
    When they allow livestock to graze on the Bt cotton plants after harvest, thousands of sheep, goats, and buffalo died. Numerous others got sick. I visited one village where for seven to eight years they allowed their buffalo to graze on natural cotton plants without incident. But on January 3rd, 2008, they allowed their 13 buffalo to graze on Bt cotton plants for the first time. After just one day's exposure, all died. The village also lost 26 goats and sheep.

    One small study in Andhra Pradesh reported that all six sheep that grazed on Bt cotton plants died within a month, while the three controls fed natural cotton plants showed no adverse symptoms.

    Living pesticide factories inside us?

    Getting back to the Bt-toxin now circulating in the blood of North American adults and newborns—how did it get there? The study authors speculate that it was consumed in the normal diet of the Canadian middle class. They even suggest that the toxin may have come from eating meat from animals fed Bt corn—as most livestock are.

    The only human feeding study every published on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) was conducted on Roundup Ready soybeans. Here's their back story: Scientists found bacteria growing in a chemical waste dump near their factory, surviving the presence of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. The herbicide normally kills bacteria, but this organism had some special gene that allowed it to survive. So Monsanto scientists figured, "Let's put it into the food supply!"

    By forcing that genes from that bacterium into soybean plants' DNA, the plants then survive an otherwise deadly dose of Roundup herbicide—hence the name Roundup Ready.

    In the human study, some of the subjects were found to have Roundup Ready gut bacteria! This means that sometime in the past, from eating one or more meals of GM soybeans, the gene that had been discovered in the chemical waste dump and forced into the soy, had transferred into the DNA of bacteria living inside their intestines—and continued to function. That means that long after we stop eating GMOs, we may still have dangerous GM proteins produced continuously inside of us.

    When the results of the study emerged, the funding from the pro-GMO UK government mysteriously dried up, so they were not able to see if the same type of gene transfer happens with Bt genes from, say, corn chips. If it does, it means that eating Bt corn might turn our intestinal flora into living pesticide factories—continually manufacturing Bt-toxin from within our digestive systems.

    I don't know of a test that can confirm that this is happening, but the Canada study may be showing the results—where Bt-toxins are found in the blood of a very high percentage of people.

    If the "living pesticide factory" hypothesis is correct, we might speculate even further. Bt-toxin breaks open the stomach of insects. Could it similarly be damaging the integrity of our digestive tracts? The biotech companies insist that Bt-toxin doesn't bind or interact with the intestinal walls of mammals, and therefore humans. But here too they ignore peer-reviewed published evidence showing that Bt-toxin does bind with mouse small intestines and with intestinal tissue from rhesus monkeys. In the former study, they even found "changes in the electrophysiological properties" of the organ after the Bt-toxin came into contact.

    If Bt-toxins were causing leaky gut syndrome in newborns, the passage of undigested foods and toxins into the blood from the intestines could be devastating. Scientists speculate that it may lead to autoimmune diseases and food allergies. Furthermore, since the blood-brain barrier is not developed in newborns, toxins may enter the brain causing serious cognitive problems. Some healthcare practitioners and scientists are convinced that this is the apparent mechanism for autism.

    Thus, if Bt genes were colonizing the bacteria living in the digestive tract of North Americans, we might see an increase in gastrointestinal problems, autoimmune diseases, food allergies, and childhood learning disorders—since 1996 when Bt crops came on the market. Physicians are seeing such an increase.

    I can also correlate the rise in GI issues, allergies and learning disorders to the price of steel. That is the beauty of taking one curve and conveniently matching it to a curve that happens to be your belief.  What I asked you was for a product that can be proven safe.
    There is not one consumer benefit for GMO products,
    and all the supposed benefits for farmers have been disproven with disastrous results.

    Only the biotechs, those they fund (UC at Davis, etc.), and those they are in bed with (FDA, USDA, ADA) keep insisting that the emperor is wearing clothes. The rest of us can see straight.

    And that is why we demand labeling.

    So I hear an argument for labeling Bt crops, an argument for labeling Roundup ready crops, but not an argument for labeling all GM crops. 
    John Hasenkam
    There should be labeling. I'm not familiar with the proposed law over there so perhaps the devil is in the details. I don't buy the argument that labeling should be prevented because of the scare mongering. It is a dangerous thing to start hiding information for reasons like that. 
    There is a study finding BT toxin in humans. The study seems straight forward enough and might refute the claim that BT toxin is broken down in the gut. It might be the case that the toxin was absorbed through the skin but they did find it in fetal blood.

    Till now, scientists and multinational corporations promoting GM crops have maintained that Bt toxin poses no danger to human health as the protein breaks down in the human gut. But the presence of this toxin in human blood shows that this does not happen.
    See this link(Canada study). 

    This should be followed through pronto. 
    "There is a study finding BT toxin in humans. The study seems straight forward enough and might refute the claim that BT toxin is broken down in the gut. It might be the case that the toxin was absorbed through the skin but they did find it in fetal blood."

    Since Bt is found on organic products as well and, also, in the soil, it is by no means certain the Bt came from GMO's. Speaking of labeling, we should label any produce grown in organic fertilizer, such as those organic bean sprouts in Germany that caused a deadly e-coli outbreak. Organic fertilizer is now a proven killer.

    "Oops. A study just proved them wrong.
    Doctors at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec found the corn's Bt-toxin in the blood of pregnant women and their babies, as well as in non-pregnant women."

    Dr. Harriet Hall has a handy rule of thumb to follow for evaluating "scientific" claims:

    1. Never believe one study.
    2. Find out who disagrees and why.
    3. Roosters do not make the sun rise.

    If you follow step two, you would find that the Aris/Leblanc study you cite is bogus. It's one of the few studies of bt toxin I've read and even a lay person can detect the awfulness. Did you know that, in a footnote with teensy-weensy print, the authors of that "study" say:

    "Our study did not quantify the exact levels of [pesticide-associated genetically modified foods] in a market-basket study. However, given the widespread use of GM foods in the local daily diet (soybeans,corn,potatoes, . . .), it is conceivable that the majority of the population is exposed through their daily diet."

    Did you hear that? They did not bother to check whether the subjects they studied even ate genetically modified foods! They just ASSUME it!

    This means they did not -- because they COULD not -- attempt even a semblence of controls in their study.

    That alone makes the subject JUNK.

    I won't even go into the fact that the test they used to "detect" bt in pregnant women's blood wasn't even designed to use in blood. I leave that up to you to find, but you'll have to take off your anti-GE blinders first.

    John Hasenkam
    That alone makes the subject JUNK.

    I stated this needs to be followed through. When one study does raise an issue like this it is worth investigating. One study does not mean "nothing". It proves nothing but that does not mean it means nothing. Get your epistemology right. This should be further investigated. To my knowledge there have been no follow up studies but that was only on a medline check with "BT Toxin" human filter reveals no studies after this. 

    Sure, everything result needs to be followed up, which is how science works. But when someone reports that they found Bt in maternal blood of 0.19 ± 0.30 ng/mL that means that 0 is within the range of uncertainty, e.g. there's a good chance that the Bt is not there at all. For fetal blood the reported result was 0.04 ± 0.04 ng/mL, again meaning possibly no Bt at all. It's shameful that some propagandists are making the claim that this is an alarming finding.

    Uncertainty error bars are calculated assuming a normal (Gaussian) distribution for the measured variable.  If there's a long tail with more high values than you'd expect for a normal distribution, you can get error bars that appear to include 0.  A quirk of statistics.

    Standard deviation: 
    Standard Error of the mean: 

    x would be Bt level, n is the number of samples.  Not sure which of these they're reporting in their ±.
    I'm not sure you want to get me started on elementary statistics.

    Obviously a random variable cannot have a gaussian distribution if it can never be negative, as is the case for a measured concentration of Bt in blood. It's perhaps Rayleigh distributed. It's not a quirk of statistics. It's a mistake in statistics.

    Your two formulas are correct in any case, as they are definitions.

    Surely anyone, even without statistical training, can see that you can't have much confidence in any measurement when the error bars are large. There are a bunch of other technical criticisms of Aris and Leblanc, but I think this one is understandable without much mathematical training.

    Sorry if the stats was condescending, you don't have a profile so I can't judge your stats proficiency.  Maybe it'll be useful for others anyway.

    I haven't read this paper, but I would assume they measured blood Bt levels in different people with different histories and different eating habits.  The range given would then indicate the population level distribution, and for that one would definitely expect a fairly large range.
    Perhaps you would assume it, but in fact they did no such thing. They "assumed" that Bt that they (thought they had) found must have come from eating GMO food, e.g. that it did not come from non-GMO crops treated with Bt (as would be the case in my backyard garden).

    The reason their error bars are so large with respect to their measured values is that they are reporting measurements that are less than the limit of detection of their technique.

    If, instead of reading the paper, you'd like to jump to a well-written critique, let me recommend the blog article written by Dr. Anastasia Bodnar, at http://www.biofortified.org/2012/10/bt-in-blood/

    Have fun.

    Those numbers tell me that they are at and likely beyond the limits of measurement of whatever instruments they used to measure the levels of bt in blood. They may have gotten similiar readings from distilled water.

    I don't think I've ever seen a comment with so much wrong information
    Steve Savage
    Have you ever seen a comment with so much information period?  Perhaps we need a word limit.
    Anti-science people mastered the art of generic pasted comments long ago. 
    Cotton doesn't grow in the Pacific Northwest. It's too cold there. Raw cotton is also poisonous to cattle, sheep and swine, Bt enhanced or not.

    And, as far as gene transfers from foods to our gut bacteria, this may explain why everytime i eat beef, my ass moos !

    I'm not aware of any problems with golden rice, for example.  But it could potentially save millions from vitamin A deficiency.
    Why would any rational person gamble with his health and the health of our planet?
    The precautionary approach is wisest when it comes to life.

    19 Studies Link GMOs to Organ Disruption —

    Monsanto's herbicide causing Sudden Death Syndrome in plants

    Doctors Warn - Avoid Genetically Modified Food

    GM Crops Decimating Monarch Butterflie­s Habitats

    Austrian Government Study Confirms Genetically Modified (GM) Crops Threaten Human Fertility and Health

    Monsanto tried to block Austrian government research linking GMOs & Infertility

    GMOs failing across America - Farmer to Farmer film reveals disastrous failure

    "Monsanto's herbicide causing Sudden Death Syndrome in plants"
    LOL ! I thought that is what herbicides are supposed to do !

    "GMOs failing across America - Farmer to Farmer film reveals disastrous failure"
    You don't have to do a linear regression to plainly see the upward trend.

    Except for the Monarch Butterfly link, the rest of the links are similiarly pure garbage. For the Monarch butterflies, roadside milkweed planting will help and, just like those other superweeds, milkweed will also develop a tolerance to the herbicide, Roundup.

    Thor Russell
    A good article, GM is a tool, yet it gets hyped as a cure-all or the end of the world. Its the big picture and whole agriculture business not just the "science" that needs to be considered. Organisms evolving to develop glyphosate resistance is just as much science as chopping up genes, yet it is often not presented that way. Raising legitimate criticisms can sometimes lead you to be labelled "anti-science". 
    Not so sure about buying organic any more lately as the studies havn't been much in favour. It seems like reacting to one extreme by going to another. I expect some kind of middle ground, paying attention to sustainability and perhaps heaven forbid having some GM in the mix where it has a definite advantage would be optimum. 
    Thor Russell
    Organic foods are definitely superior. Even the Stanford meta-analysis showed that. Although both the researchers themselves and the media made it sound as if conventional came out on top, the numbers clearly made the case for organic:
    • Organic foods are just as nutritious as conventional foods. 
    • Conventional fruits and vegetables are more likely to carry pesticide residues.
    • Organic milk contains more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
    • Conventional meat is more likely to be contaminated with antibiotic resistant bacteria.

    And so many other studies in the last decade have shown organic to be superior nutritionally—






    All foods carry ultra-low levels of pesticides. Repeated tests by the FDA show that ALL foods have levels that are orders of magnitude below the amounts necessary to cause health effects. You have not done your homework.


    No, you cite junk sites like "mercola" and "natural news."

    When you "support" organics, you "support" lies, junk science, fear-mongering, and homeopathy for animals.

    Sorry, you'll have do better than slander people you don't even know.
    Show me something specific that either Dr. Mercola or Mike Adams has written that is so wrong.

    It's astonishing that you take them at their word, uncritically.

    I invite you to do your own homework. Start at Science-Based Medicine.

    John Hasenkam
    Show me something specific that either Dr. Mercola

    Don't have time to write a book. Seriously, think very carefully at his arguments. He is clearly playing to his market base. Some of the writers on foodconsumer write very good articles and so does Mercola on occasion but he makes far too many outrageous claims. 
    The phrase "junk science" customtfits Monsanto.

    It's amazing to me that anyone can swallow the non-research conducted by Monsanto, a company that has brought us PCBs, DDT, rBGh, Aspartame, and Agent Orange.

    What good has this company ever done for the health of this planet and its peoples?

    PCBs are not the worst thing you will get out of the Hudson River.  And they were discontinued in 1979. DDT and agent orange actually are terrific for their recommended usage.  Please spare us the Rachel Carson 'DDT causes cancer' hysteria on a science site, that was debunked dozens of times in the last 50 years.  Just-so stories are not science. And you seem to be trapped in the 1960s with your examples.

    You can seriously find nothing good Monsanto has ever done?  Every scientist who ever worked there has been some eeeeevil cartoon stereotype?  You realize why the 'anti-science crackpot' warning light goes off over your statements, right?
    The anti-human health warning light goes off with every response from you.
    You don't seem to value human life over technology.

    Monsanto's PR is not science.
    PCBs, DDT and Agent Orange are in no way good for human health.

    Whole towns are still suffering from water contamination from PCBs.
    Whole bird populations were destroyed by DDT.
    Our veterans are still suffering from contact with Agent Orange.

    So again, if you like their products, go ahead, but don't ever force me to guess what's in my food.

    For 90% of us, in this wild card environment, labels are a must and we will have them.

    I didn't say products weren't misused, I said Monsanto did not create them to be misused nor were Monsanto employees dumping PCBs into rivers.  Blaming Monsanto for veterans who developed neurological issues is like blaming a spoon for making Chris Matthews fat.

    Your shrill nonsense about 'forcing' you to guess what is in your food is just that - nonsense.  You have no idea what is in organic food or any other food. Or you would know that synthetic pesticides or genetic modifications are in those too.  You are 'forced' to guess what is in your food if you eat any product grown or made in the last 2,000 years.

    Now if you are asking for comprehensive labeling of all food, I am with you on the front line.  Prop 37 does not do that, nor does it protect even one person in the US from harm.  That is the problem; it was written by a lawyer who got paid by quacks like Mercola and the magic soap company to get an advantage in the marketplace.  Nothing more.

    But if people want it, the FDA should certainly make a comprehensive labeling law.  The reason the $29 billion organic industry tries at the state level rather than the federal is the FDA won't let them write the law, it would have to apply to all food.  And the moment people see labels on what is really in organic food, that industry shrinks by 90%.
    So now you let the creators of the poisons off by saying it's the people who used the poisons.
    Big tobacco made the same arguments.

    Sure organics may not be totally organic yet, especially with the USDA controlling what can be called organic.
    They've already allowed non-organic substances to slip in.
    Still, organics are infinitely safer than GMOs.

    But go ahead, play your game of genetic roulette. A majority of us want to play it safe and we don't really care what you think.

    See, here's the problem. This whole thread is not about GMOs, it's about Monsanto. If you have a problem with specific Monsanto products that could realistically cause health effects, then label those for what they contain. But don't confuse either the company or their products with the process they use. 
    But the GE process itself is flawed!

    Genetic engineering is in no way precise.
    It is impossible to guide the insertion of the new gene. This can lead to unpredictable effects. Also, genes do not work in isolation but in highly complex relationships which are not understood. Any change to the DNA at any point will affect it throughout its length in ways scientists cannot predict. The claim by some that they can is both arrogant and untrue.

    GM bears no resemblance to traditional breeding techniques. The government's own Genetic Modification (Contained Use) Regulations admit this when it defines GM as "the altering of the genetic material in that organism in a way that does not occur naturally by mating or natural recombination or both".

    Traditional breeding techniques operate within established natural boundaries which allow reproduction to take place only between closely related forms. Thus tomatoes can cross-pollinate with other tomatoes but not soya beans; cows can mate only with cows and not sheep. These genes in their natural groupings have been finely tuned to work harmoniously together by millions of years of evolution. Genetic engineering crosses genes between unrelated species which would never cross-breed in nature.

    Substantial equivalence is a legal concept invented by the biotech industry. The industry claims that a GM food or food supplement is "substantially equivalent" to, or the same as, the non-GM version and therefore does not require labels or extensive testing.

    Regulators have blindly accepted the substantial equivalence doctrine without backing up their belief with independent scientific research.

    Gene insertion can be guided through homologous recombination, and the location can be checked and verified.

    I'll agree that not all effects of a new gene can be perfectly predicted.  But they can be measured and studied, and determined to be safe or unsafe.  Perhaps the regulatory system needs to be revamped to do so more thoroughly.  But other than crops engineered to produce toxins, there aren't many plausible mechanisms for how genetic engineering would make crops unsafe.
    Anonymous, when you say that the GMO process is not precise you are being, at the same time, accurate and misleading.

    First, it is true that an inserted gene can end up almost anywhere on any chromosome. It is also true that some of the places it could end up would be bad. Like it could land in the middle of another gene, making that gene non-functional. Or it could land in a place where it disrupts the regulation of another gene, the cell's control for turning the gene on or off.

    But you leave out the fact that after the gene is inserted, the scientist knows exactly where it went. The cases where it went in a bad place are essentially do-overs. It may take a hundred tries to get one satisfactory insertion, but that's the one we care about and it is as accurate as one could ask.

    The other thing you are leaving out is that every other breeding method has uncertainty about where the chromosome is changed, and without the do-overs. Gamma rays make random disruptions. Chemicals make random disruptions. Even normal sexual reproduction - the way your father and mother created you - makes a few random changes by the process or "crossing over" and, sadly, sometimes the result is a genetic disease.

    So playing up the uncertainty of where the transgene is inserted is accurate but still essentially dishonest. It is the most accurate breeding technology we have ever had.

    Inserting the gene is only one half of the story. Mutations is the other half. Totally unpredictable and so far with horrible consequences for the livestock eating them, for the crops dying sudden deaths, and for the human populations suffering from chronic problems and overweight ever since the GMOs were first introduced.

    But Anonymous, mutations have always been part of life. Not only GMO plants are subject to mutation. All life forms, no matter how natural, are subjecty to mutations. You yourself, it's a sure thing, have some DNA that you got by mutation.

    And most mutations are harmless and many of the ones that are bad are so bad that the plant doesn't grow. And, oh my goodness that obesity comment again - as if we don't know perfectly well that obesity is caused by eating too much and exercising too little. Try jogging to the polls tomorrow.

    These type of mutations have never occurred before.
    GMOs are mixes of things that were never meant to be mixed.

    I'm leaving this site's discussions now because I have the feeling that your minds here
    are closed like traps.

    Enjoy your GMOs. You'll be able to find them. They'll be labeled.

    GMOs are mixes of things that were never meant to be mixed.
    Right, Bt is only meant to be sprayed on organic food.  By actually giving a plant the gene to express it...organically...it is suddenly an abomination of nature.

    You shouldn't be bragging that you are gullible enough to buy organic pineapple and magic soap. California is not the first place to ban science.  It just wants to be even goofier than anti-science crackpot countries like France.
    You seem to be mixing up gene transfer and mutation. Let me try to make it clear.

    DNA is long strings of small chemical letters, always labeled A,C,T or H. The string length can be in the billions, but, like letters in a newspaper, there are substrings that have individual meaning, as do words in the newspaper. Some of the substrings have the meaning of being a recipe for making a particular kind of protein. We call those genes. A typical plant has several thousand different genes.

    Any one of those genes can sometimes get accidentally changed. The change can be one chemical letter either changed (like a C to a T) or dropped out, or inserted. After such a change in a gene, the recipe for the protein is no longer the same. That's a mutation. Most mutations are random and since a typical genome has billions of letters, the chance of any one of those letters changing is around one in billions and the chance of any two changing is one in one in several sextillion. In other words, many mutations are mutations that have never happened before in the whole history of life on earth. We can speculate, religiously, about whether they were "meant to happen".

    The kind of change of DNA we are talking about in Prop 37 is NOT mutation. It is moving a gene which came from one species into the DNA of another species. It's a different philosophical discussion whether changes like that were "meant to happen" - they are not as common in nature as mutations, but over millions of years they do happen. Genes can be carried across from one species to another by viruses. They can be carried from one plant to another by a certain kind of bacteria. They can even cross the species boundary in wild and exotic ways. For example, the wheat in your daily bread was not a plant in nature thousands of years ago. There was a natural accident that brought together the complete set of genes from two different species of wild grass, creating a very different plant from anything that had existed before. Then thousands of years later, another accident brought together the early wheat genome and a third wild grass. So today's wheat is a combination of all the genes from three separate species. Again, we can have religious discussions about whether this was "meant to happen" but we know that it happened.

     A,C,T or H
    -H, +G


    He's missing a lot of the genome, as my peptide clearly shows:

    But everyone knows I have some non-standard amino acids anyway.
    Now that's a proteome, not a genome.  52% homology, eh?  What's the reference sequence?
    BLAST searches are undervalued for their comedic potential and graphical editors even more so. The only thing close was a restriction enzyme from Tetrahymena thermophila
    Right, many people think either that GM can do no good, or that it can do no evil.  It can do both, and we certainly need a better middle ground than broadly labeling all products the same based on the tool that made them.  Good points, although the recent studies on organics do show lower pesticide residues, even if not higher nutritional content.
    John Hasenkam
    I expect some kind of middle ground, paying attention to sustainability and perhaps heaven forbid having some GM in the mix where it has a definite advantage would be optimum. 

    Saw an interesting example of sustainability on a TV program here in Aus. An old agricultural scientist is growing wild tomatoes in the desert by regenerating the soil with bacteria and some nutrients. Very cheap, very promising in my view. Soil degradation is a problem with mass agriculture. Australia has vast amounts of arid land and vast amounts of water in the north that mostly goes to the sea. Divert the water(very expensive but feasible), rejuvenate the soils in those arid lands and we have the potential to create great swathes of agricultural land. GM plants could play a major role in such a scheme. May not be required but I think we would benefit from a synergy of these 3 approaches. 
    Sounds like an interesting story!  No-till agriculture and cover-cropping are other very effective ways to build soil fertility.
    You weight the pros and cons and then what you ACTUALLY DO is eat organic.

    GMOs are complex and potentially unsafe. It's a big can of worms. Are consumers REALLY going to weigh the pros and cons for every GMO out there that may hurt them and their kids.

    The easy consumer choice is "These are risky, unnatural and I want no part of it" just as you have done.

    We have the RIGHT TO KNOW. Yes on 37.

    The internet is complex and potentially unsafe.  Bread is complex and potentially unsafe.  GMO crops should be thoroughly tested, perhaps more rigorously than they are now, but if they pass all tests and there's no reason to suspect harm, then accept them like all the other abominations of nature that we eat.  (Corn and wheat did not exist 5000 years ago, remember).

    Yes I choose organic foods, but I believe the proscription against GMOs is unfortunate.  It's an imperfect and rather politically motivated label, but it's what we have.

    Label Bt crops, label herbicide/pesticide resistant crops, but label them for what they are, not for the tool used to make them.
    "I buy organic groceries at a local co-op to minimize ingestion of pesticides and hormones, to support more sustainable and humane farming practices, and to get a healthy dose of the placebo effect, which is, after all, quite real and quite potent."

    I respect your science credentials and yet find it hard to take the above statement seriously.

    How would you know whether you are "minimizing ingestion of pesticides" and whether that even means anything? If you don't consider the concept of dose, or concentration, you are really not saying anything at all. Steve Savage and others have pointed out repeatedly that current farming practices do an excellent job of already "minimizing" the concentrations of pesticide residues, Environmental Working Group lies notwithstanding. Tolerances are set orders of magnitude below what causes any kind of effects in laboratory animals, and the actual detected residues are yet order of magnitude below that!

    "Sustainable and humane practices?" Once again, how would you know? This is making a huge claim that is hardly supported by a consensus. It's what people tend to believe, but that hardly makes it true.

    At a recent conference for farmers, an apple grower described for us new farmers how he takes care of his "conventional" (a despicable term, that) apples versus his organic apples. (Yes, one can be certified "organic" and yet be "conventional" at the same time). He has 100 acres of "organic" apples surrounded by 300 acres of "conventional" apples. There is a buffer of a few hundred feet around the "organic" trees where he is not allowed to spray certain pesticides. Through the course of a year, this farmer told us, he sprays his "conventional" trees 12 times with a combination of insecticides and fungicides to protect the trees from the hosts of arthropods and diseases that like apples.

    Throughout the course of the same year, he sprays the "organic" trees twenty-two times with "certified organic" pesticides to protect them from the same pests. You read correctly: this farmer sprays his organic trees almost twice as much as his conventional trees. That means nearly twice as much diesel and associated pollution; twice as many passes through the orchard with consequent soil compaction; twice as much cost for the "organic" pesticides, which do not work as well as those that are non-"certified."

    And his "organic" trees produce only 25% of what his conventional trees produce. Sheer economic calculus is this farmer's sole reason for having an "organic" plot: The exorbitant prices people will pay for that "organic" label means he can sell his apples up and down the east coast for a hefty profit, low production notwithstanding.

    Here's the punchline: We are a small CSA farm, and we sell some of our apples at a local farmers market. I use Integrated Pest Management to control insects and diseases, which is a combination of scouting, sanitation, prevention and well-timed pesticide applications to minimize spraying--because I have to walk through my little orchard with a spray wand in my hands and I'd prefer to do it as little as possible.

    People ask at the farmers market, "Are your apples sprayed?" and of course I tell them "Yes," because apples have to be sprayed. Sometimes the customer will tell me, "Thank you, but I'm not giving your apples to my children," and of course, there's really nothing I can do about that. Then that customer will go to the "organic" booth at the other end of the market and buy "certified" apples from a local farmer who BUYS his "organic" apples from the big orchard I describe above to re-sell at the market! Of course, the customer never even thinks to ask this vendor whether the "organic" apples have been sprayed, because the customer assumes "organic" means "not sprayed."

    If anyone should ever ask the "organic" vendor whether those apples were sprayed, do you think he's going to say, "Oh, yes, twice as much as conventional apples"? Probably not, because that particular vendor did not attend the farmers conference I attended where the apple grower described his methods, and the vendor probably has no idea that he's selling his customer a peck of lies.

    Mikeb, as someone who has attempted his own garden plot, I understand your frustration with the definition of "organic".  At a farmer's market I would certainly buy apples from your IPM orchards, and I respect you for applying scientific tracking of insect cycles to minimize your spraying.  Just as with GMOs, the public conception of pesticides and the "organic" label is skewed.  It is the integration of pesticide impact multiplied by the number of sprays that should count, not whether the pesticide is "natural" or synthetic.  Have you tried putting up a bar graph of your number of sprays vs the number of sprays on organic orchards?  Might at least get customers to have a conversation.

    In my ideal world there would be some new label, maybe "certified sustainable", based on a rational evaluation and regularly updated.  Some possible points:
    •  Quantify the impact of all pesticides, and set an upper limit on impact x # of sprays.
    •  Limit nitrogen fertilization to the amount that can actually be absorbed by the fields to reduce runoff and eliminate ocean dead zones.
    • No prophylactic antibiotics in animal feed, but allow judicious use of antibiotics when an animal is sick and suffering, just as you would for a person.  Then require enough time for the antibiotics to clear.
    • Cover cropping, no-till, and crop rotations to make soil more fertile, sequester carbon, and prevent erosion/runoff.
    • Allow GMO crops that are thoroughly tested and do not include potential toxin genes (i.e. Bt)
    • Just in general use best practices.
    Unfortunately, there is no such label.  Maybe someone will start one.
    I agree, Robert! This is a very thoughtful list, and it represents the way I think about farming here in Maine. The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association is a joke, a hotbed of pseudo-science, fear-mongering, and absolutist dogmatism.

    I only disagree with the statement about "potential toxin genes (i.e.Bt)." I have no problem whatsoever with Bt corn. Bt is widely used in "organic" farming. The problem is that I can't get Bt corn seed as a small farmer. I would grow at most 1/4 of an acre for CSA customers, but a farmer can't get small quantities, and then there's that thing where you have to sign a contract and all that legal crap.

    I look forward to the day when GMOs are democratized! Imagine being able to get seed potatoes with built-in resistance to blight and Colorado potato beetles; sweet corn with all the Bt traits; brassicas that resist cabbage looper, etc. I hate spraying--not because it's "toxic," but because it's time-consuming and expensive. The sprays themselves simply have not been shown to cause harm to fruit and vegetable consumers, period.

    The problem is that I can't get Bt corn seed as a small farmer.
    Ironically, one of the anti-GMO arguments I've heard is that evil Monsanto business practices hurt small farmers by denying them access and not allowing them to save seeds.  So ban GMOs, because there's not enough access to GMOs.  (side note, Monsanto ≠ GMO)
    I'm hesitant to declare Bt safe or unsafe without going through all the links and studies posted here, and I don't have time for that.  But I recognize there is a difference between external sprays that wash off and degrade vs. internally produced chemicals.  That's why I punted by saying "potential" toxin genes – Bt is a toxin and there's a plausible mechanistic reason to be concerned and to thoroughly study it.

    Not all sprays are equal, just as not all GMOs are equal.  But the fact that pesticides and herbicides are specifically designed to interfere with biology gives me pause as a biological creature.  Chemical testing traditionally assumes a linear relationship between dose and response, but there's evidence that some endocrine disruptors, can have low-dose effects that wouldn't be predicted from high dose toxicology studies, particularly during development.  Also, farm workers get a much higher dose than I do as a consumer (I don't know what you spray, but I hope you wear protection and keep your kids away).  And then there are environmental impacts on things like the economically important honey bee.

    John Hasenkam
    Chemical testing traditionally assumes a linear relationship between dose and response, but there's evidence that some endocrine disruptors, can have low-dose effects that wouldn't be predicted from high dose toxicology studies

    There is some worrying data on this. Forget about safety thresholds for endocrine disruptors because many of these have synergistic effects, a phenomenon that should be obvious to anyone who reads enough physiology. There is also many studies pointing to some of these chemicals being obesogens and promoters of type 2 diabetes independent of obesity. I haven't looked at the studies in many years now but even back then there were many studies highlighting potential risks sufficient to warrant concerns about food packaging with plastics and other issues. But governments will not take on this problem in any serious way because far too much money is involved. Endojournals is a good place to search for data relating to endocrine disruptors, some excellent review articles there. 
    But the fact that pesticides and herbicides are specifically designed to interfere with biology gives me pause as a biological creature.

    Hm. One minute you make eminent good sense. The next you issue scare statements like the above. It's the kind of simple statement I'd expect from lay person, not a scientist, like "CO2 is necessary for life; therefore, it is not a pollutant."

    I worked at an organic farm for four years so I know what it's like. The "last straw," as it were, was having to go to be trained to apply pesticides. The training in pesticides application took place at Maine's organic headquarters. It was very weird. That's right, pesticides training. Organic farmers use pesticides, and sometimes they have to use them more often because they are not as effective as the dreaded, misunderstood, defamed "synthetic" pesticides. Lovely "organic" OMRI-approved Pyganic pesticide will decimate a beehive as surely as your over-the-counter malathion.

    I have since gone off on my own to start a micro-farm, and my first task was to become a licensed pesticides applicator. The risks to the farmer are minuscule, the risks to consumers even less so, because such "biological creatures" are huge compared to the little arthropods we're after with our Evil Kemikals.

    People regularly wring their fingers off their hands over the alleged effects of nanograms of "pesticides," but they regularly drink coffee, eat barbecued meats, drive cars, and breathe in diesel fumes, all known to have risks associated with them that are orders of magnitude greater than the risks of being damaged by a few stray molecules in their broccolini.

    Gerhard Adam
    ...the risks to consumers even less so, because such "biological creatures" are huge compared to the little arthropods we're after with our Evil Kemikals.
    That's your argument?  That we're huge compared to insects?  Who knew the criteria was that simple.
    Mundus vult decipi
    John Hasenkam
    That we're huge compared to insects?

    Exactly Gerhard, these  types of generalisations don't help. 

    On another thread addressing this where Hank was riding forth on one of his favourite horses I presented data in regard to certain pesticides, one of them a former favourite of the organic crowd(rotenone), which clearly present a big risk increases to rural workers for the second most common form of dementia: Parkinson's Disease. 

    In most parts of the body the loss of a cell here or there is no great matter, that even applies to certain regions of the CNS. But there are specific nuclei in the CNS which do not appear to be regenerated. In PD the primary pathology arises in the substantia nigra, a very tiny  nuclei rich in dopaminergic neurons. There is bugger all if any evidence that such neurons are replaced by neurogenesis and these neurons are already in very short supply to begin with, so any damage to these neurons, even sustained cell loss over decades, a cardinal feature of many CNS diseases, has huge implications. Moreover cells that are "stressed but not killed" can actually damage surrounding cells so over time these slowly dying cells induce a vicious cycle of neurodegeneration. I suspect CTE(NFL football players) is in part being driven by this phenomenon, in that case I suspect iron deposition is a major issue as it is in Parkinsons because the SN has melanin rich neurons which initially soak up the iron(Da neurons have high iron levels) only to become "stressed but not killed". 

    The same could well be true of acetylcholine, which is produced again by small nuclei(Maynert) and acetylcholine decline is a major feature of Alzheimer's and also plays an important role in regulating systemic immunological balance. There are pesticide exposures related to dementias other than PD.

    My point is this: Don't Generalise. This is a complex matter. Sweeping generalisations one way or the other reflect lack of nuance in analysis and\or ignorance about the relevant matters. One of my favourite reasons why I like to attack Mercola. 

    I do have concerns not so much about specific chemical loadings but the cumulative effect of many chemicals over time. All of us are carrying a couple of hundred chemicals that did not exist before 1920. The inherent flexibility of physiology allows a wide range of tolerance but beyond those tolerance windows things can and do get out of control. There is a cost\benefit issue here. Longevity is increasing and clearly this is no longer just about nutrition, hygiene, and sanitation so I'm that not concerned except to say that there is increasing evidence that our cumulative chemical loading is increasingly to be at sufficient levels that we cannot ignore this problem indefinitely. 

    Sorry for the long comment but hey, I didn't want to generalise ... .  

    Some good points in this thread.
    •  "Organic" pesticides are not inherently more or less toxic than synthetic ones.
    • We are carrying an ever-increasing chemical load, of which we do not fully understand the synergistic effects.
    • Cytotoxicity (cell death) at high dosing can be very different from, and caused by a different mechanism than, endocrine effects at very low doses.
    • Endocrine disruption leading to e.g. later life obesity, attention deficit, etc. would not likely show up in animal models at high dosage, which typically looks for acute toxicity. (COA: I am NOT saying pesticides cause those things, but I am saying it is possible that they might have more subtle effects, especially during development, of which those are examples.  We don't fully know yet.)
    So when I consider those points and then also consider the fact that organic crops consistently test with lower pesticide residues, I make the cost benefit analysis that for me personally it's worth spending a bit more for organic to lower my chemical load.  In a farmers market setting when I can talk with a farmer and hear about using Integrated Pest Management, which does not qualify as "organic" but in some ways is better, then I am all for that too.  IPM may be the best practice, but since there's no label, organic is the best widely available actionable proxy.

    And yes, there is a surprising amount of homology between us and insects.  Many genes and pathways are highly conserved through evolution; humans are simply animals, after all.  Otherwise why would the NIH be funding so much "fruit fly research"?  (Rhetorical question, no conspiracy theories please [directed at no one in particular, lest anyone take offense])
    Please excuse the multiple posting.
    It takes so long for the posting button to kick in,
    I hit it repeatedly.

    RE: Golden Rice

    "Golden rice" has been known to be a fraud ever since it was introduced at the turn of the century!
    You would have to eat twelve pounds of the GMO "Golden" rice to get the Vitamin A in one cup of dark green or orange vegetables. And still no safety testing.

    US and China Caught Secretly Testing GMO Rice on Children

    Anthony Gucciardi
September 13, 2012

    Instead of putting genetically modified foods through proper trials as consumers have been demanding for years, it appears the United States Department of Agriculture in alliance with the Chinese government have instead chosen to secretly test their latest GMO rice on young Chinese children. What’s particularly interesting is the fact that the agencies decided they even needed to test the rice, after claiming that GMO rice and all other GM creations are virtually identical to natural foods.
    Currently under investigation by Chinese health officials, the research project was cracked wide open after Greenpeace reportedly corresponded with the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention to expose the ongoing research. Currently, Greenpeace is calling for a stop to the trials which are reportedly continuing in the field. Citing health and environmental risks, Greenpeace says that the studies are taking place on roughly 24 children aged between six and eight years old. It has also been said that the parents likely were completely unaware or misinformed.
    The USDA seeks to examine the effects of the GMO rice on the young children, also known as genetically modified ‘golden rice’.
    Shortly after the news came out, China’s version of Twitter exploded with outrage as Chinese government organizations went into overdrive to downplay the studies. A Tufts University PR spokesperson, the very university developing the rice, claimed to no knowledge of the event and decried it as inhumane and unethical. PR rep Andrea Grossman stated that the GMO rice creators had always placed the ‘highest importance’ on human health:
    “We have always placed the highest importance on human health, and we take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of human research subjects.”
    One Chinese author indicated in the secret GMO rice trials, Shi-an Yin, was suspended from his work. The second claimed to have no idea the study was going on and was therefore not arrested or even suspended.
    For the USDA to be secretly testing genetically modified foods on young children while disregarding all calls for real analysis in the United States shows just how the agency is trying to hide. After all, why would you not perform trials out in the open if the results were so favorable? Likely because their previous secret tests were not favorable, and the agency is determining just how detrimental new GMO rice really is.

    Gene-Altered "Golden Rice" Exposed as a Total Fraud
    I think that it is safe to say that golden rice is a "cosmetic "
product, it has too little vitamin A to alleviate the deficiency but if
the level of Vitamin A was elevated significantly the patentee risks
lawsuits from those suffering vitamin A poisoning leading to birth
defects and liver damage. The cosmetic product poses no threat and
provides publicity for the patentee.

High iron threatens males eating red meat along with their rice through
development of hemochromatosis. As well elevated iron may be associated with enhanced arsenic poisoning. Of the problems with rice high arsenic may be the most immediate threat in Asia and that is the problem easily solved by conventional plant breeding.

In the world of biotechnology it seems that "cosmetic" products are
preferred over real products because they pose little or no risk to the


    Since 2005 Golden rice produces 23x more beta-carotene than the original version. But even the original amount was enough to prevent blindness and death with normal sized servings.

    The Chinese trial was never secret. After it was completed, it was published in 2009. It only appeared secret to Greenpeace as they didn't find out about it until this year. I guess they didn't get the memo.

    Every 47 seconds, another golden rice deprived child goes blind. Every 1.5 minutes, one of those children dies. Thank you Greenpeace !

    Wow. My uncle is a complete asshole. Go figure lol.

    Good luck with the argument on differentiating between the technology and its applications. I've been making a similar one for a while, but opinions are so entrenched it's very hard to get people to think!

    Robert,If you want to maintain credibility about going with the science, you need to reconsider your position on Organic.   The actual science on pesticides  and pesticide residues don't fit your thinking.  Spend your extra money on organic if you wish, but don't pretend that is is based on science.  Also, don't think that just because your biotech efforts are not directed at food crops that you are not subject to potential anti-science nonsense.  Just count yourself lucky for now
    Steve Savage
    I posted these links elsewhere in this morass of comments, but since you study agriculture as an actual day job, I'm curious what you think of these reviews.  They lay out evidence and mechanisms for low dose effects and nonmonotonic dose-response curves for endocrine disruptors, including some pesticides, which might not be picked up by conventional toxicology.

    "Eat organic, especially if you are pregnant or a baby." - I'd be very, very cautious giving such advice, as you may be hold accountable, especially because you suggest that you're somebody with some expertise in the area... Organics seem to have a tendency to come with a higher risk of pathogen contamination (which tend to put in particularly the young and the elderly at risk), and it also seems as if mycotoxin levels are on average higher in organics (which can lead to stunting and worse in children). I would think twice before recommending these foods to pregnant women and young children; on balance organics could be just as good (or as bad) as conventional food. (And in young children the placebo and superficial feel-good effects may not work, either.)

    you may be hold [sic] accountable
    If you look above, I already am :-)  The recent review that got the organic community all up in arms over lack of superior nutritional qualities did conclude that organics have lower pesticide residues.  If you can point me to recent studies finding higher mycotoxin in organics, I'd be interested to read them.
    Incidentally, the placebo effect is not just superficial.  Peace-of-mind lowers cortisol and reduces systemic inflammation, which can be quite healthy indeed.  If the placebo effect was not real, it would not be required in clinical trials.  I'm comfortable enough with my own rationality to admit that I am human, after all, and am subject to the same mind-body connections as everyone else.
    That's a good point, if it's meaningful.  If a phone company produces a new cell phone for the Italian marketplace and declares it has 'less radiation so you won't get cancer' is that valid?  Only if we are buying that placebo effects are worth the stress damage of implying that regular cell phones cause cancer.
    John Hasenkam
    The placebo effect is increasing over time, there was even a NIH taskforce commissioned to investigate this. It is not a statistical artefact, it has physiological correlates. The cell phone thing is interesting but the focus on cancer in some many studies purporting to demonstrate risk is a leap to alarmism. There are other effects to consider. Unfortunately as the Seralini study revealed, any mention of increasing cancer risk is good press but evidence pointing to subtle cellular changes the effects of which may take decades to uncover are less sexy. I don't see any big risk with regular cell phone use but I have read enough studies on EMFs to recognise that cellular perturbation can occur. The consequences remain unclear.
    The biggest stress to worry about is the constant alarmism in so many health news sites. Mercola is great at it and knows how to exploit it to good effect. I was even thinking of posting a series here: Oh Mercola, You've done it again No. 1,2,3 ... . He reminds me of that old animation: Mr. Magoo. I do receive his newsletter, even in the last few weeks I can recall claims of his that were utterly ridiculous. That man is a stressor, a nocebo effect.  
    Yeah, another good point.  We don't want to go around inventing dangers just so we can cure them with the placebo effect!  In this case, there already exists plausible cause for concern about possible effects of pesticides.  For someone who's already aware of those, avoiding them can provide peace of mind.  For those who aren't, I still stand by my judgement of better safe than sorry, especially for children who aren't yet as (mostly) well-developed as I am.  But like all judgements, that reflects a cost-benefit analysis that, while informed by science, is not a scientific fact in itself.  Science tells us what "is", but in moving to "should" we inherently bring in value judgements.  Anyway, agreed that we don't want a new era of snake oil placebo peddlers! (value judgement)
    Thanks for spotting the typo. Of course it's "held"... About the mycotoxins, there is work being done by Felicia Wu (http://www.pitt.edu/~few8/Publications.htm), even if that relates more to GMO/Bt vs. conventional. I would expect that better protection of plants from damage would reduce mycotoxin contamination in general, though, i.e. in as far as "organic" pesticides are not as good/efficient as conventional ones, there's a greater likelihood for fungi to settle in... Another source for my (very cautiously formulated) suspicion is the frequency of findings of mycotoxins in organic vs. conventional crops by the European's Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/rapidalert/index_en.htm). Some years back at a workshop somebody had actually taken those stats apart and shown that in proportion to the traded volume many more alerts were issued for organics vs. conventional. I would not worry too much about this as the thresholds are very low, but that's also true for ("non-organic") pesticides and yet people worry about residues... So now you can decide if you want to get cancer from mycotoxins or pesticide residue (or most likely none of the two but any of a myriad other, much more important factors). Finally, yes, the placebo effect is real, but only for somebody who can believe in it, which probably does not include babies - feeding babies organics will therefore lack the placebo benefit in them.

    Robert, in your brief paragraph about the science, you portray a seeming balance between good and bad used of the GMO technology. Two bad things and one good thing. But the three examples cannot not be equally weighted.

    First the one good thing - vitamin enhanced crops. Can we distinguish, please, between what's possible and what's actual? The golden rice is actually in existence but it has never been brought into the food supply. There are a few other potential GMO foods with nutritional advantages, but not yet in the food supply. The only nutritional advantage I know about among real plants already being eaten is a soybean with a more healthy oil.

    Next one of the bad things - the soybean with the Brazil nut protein. Not only does it not exist, but it provides us with an example of how the anti-GMO propaganda team has used the truth to mislead. This product was conceived as a way to make soybeans rich in the essential amino acid methionine. But the scientists anticipated the problem with allergenicity, tested for it, confirmed it, discontinued the project, and published their results. That's why now there is a rule that genes not be transferred into potential foods from species that contain known allergens. There was never a single person who had an allergic reaction to a Brazil nut protein by eating a soybean. The responsible scientists who set up this protection are rewarded by being treated like heartless Frankensteins.

    Finally, the other bad thing. I can make a credible case that it is a good thing. Let's take corn. It is naturally immune to a herbicide called atrazine. So corn farmers used to control weeds by spraying cornfields with atrazine. As a result, atrazine was the most widely used herbicide in the world. But with the advent of the GMO corn that resists the effects of glyphosate (Roundup), corn farmers have switched from atrazine to glyphosate. It happens that glyphosate is 230 times less toxic than atrazine. And now glyphosate is the world's most used herbicide, not atrazine.

    Thanks for the thoughtful response.  The examples were just presented to show, as you say, what's possible.  I believe GMO policy should be forward thinking, not reactionary.  In looking forward to a day when nutritionally enhanced GE crops are available, I think it's important that they be treated for what they are, not how they were created.  Incidentally, the reason golden rice is not actually in the food supply is largely anti-GMO activists.

    I agree it's good that the Brazil nut soybean creators checked for allergenicity, and they should be commended for that.  But again, that's a possible problem to be aware of.  As for glyphosphate, it's certainly better than atrazine.  But on a systems level, having a whole lot of glyphosphate resistant fields encourages overuse of glyphosphate, which can lead to weed resistance, meaning glyphosphate becomes useless and we then have to go back to more toxic herbicides.  Of course, that's a management issue and not an inherent result of Roundup Ready on its own, but still something to consider.

    Anyway, as to your main point that "the three examples cannot not be equally weighted", I agree.  But you can't weight them if you don't put them out there to begin with.  (A full costs-benefit analysis would take far more time and space than appropriate for a blog, and it's not really necessary to my main point anyway)
    So Charles, you say glyphosate is 230 times less toxic than atrazine. That's still 1000 times too toxic!

    Here's what we know about glyphosate so far:

    - Monsanto and the European Commission (EC) have known about birth defects since the 1980s. Industry studies found statistically significant skeletal and/or visceral abnormalities as well as reduced viability and increase in spontaneous abortions in rats and rabbits exposed to high doses of glyphosate. Lower doses were later shown to cause dilated hearts.  The EC dismissed all the findings. 

    - Independent studies have since found caudal vertebrae loss in rats treated with sub-lethal doses of the herbicide; as well as craniofacial abnormalities, increased embryonic mortality and endocrine disruption, abnormal onset of puberty, and abnormal sexual behaviour and sperm count in male offspring of mothers exposed during gestation. 

    - GM soybean-fed female rats gave birth to excessive numbers of severely stunted pups, with over half of the litter dead by three weeks, and the surviving pups were sterile. 

    - Non-mammalian animals exposed to glyphosate resulted in increased gonad size, increased mortality, craniofacial abnormalities correlating with abnormal retinoic acid signalling, and reduced egg viability. 

    - In vitro exposure to glyphosate resulted in endocrine disruption and death of cells of the testis, placenta, and umbilical cord. 

    - A long term in vivo study on rats found females exposed to Roundup and/or Roundup Ready GM maize were two to three times as likely to die as controls and much more likely to develop large mammary tumours, while males presented large tumours four times controls and up to 600 days earlier.
    - Clinical data from Argentina are consistent with lab findings of increases in birth defects and cancers in regions with large areas cultivating glyphosate-tolerant soybean. 

    - Endocrine disruption has been observed in both in vivo and in vitro studies in the laboratory, including abnormal levels of testosterone, aromatase enzyme, testosterone and oestrogen receptors, leutinising hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone. Endocrine disruption can lead to cancers and reproductive problems. 

    - Epidemiological studies have found links to cancer including non-Hodgkin lymphoma and increased plasma cell proliferation. Cancer rates have risen in in glyphosate-use zones in Argentina. Lab studies found significant increases in interstitial cell tumour incidence in rats as well as skin tumour-promoting activity. Numerous lab studies including those performed by industry showed glyphosate damages DNA of cells in culture as well as in humans living in glyphosate-sprayed regions of Argentina. Non-mammalian studies found defects in cell cycle checkpoints and DNA damage repair machinery. DNA damage is a major prelude to cancers. AMPA, the glyphosate metabolite, also has genotoxic effects. 

    - Neurotoxicity effects include Parkinsonism have emerged following acute exposure. Exposure to glyphosate resulted in oxidative stress in lab animals and death of neuronal cells, correlating with Parkinsonian pathology. Acute exposure in fish resulted in acetylcholine esterase (AChE) inhibition. An epidemiological study linked glyphosate -exposure to Attention-Deficit-Hyperactive disorder in children, a disorder associated with AChE inhibition. The original neurotoxicity studies carried out by industry were ruled invalid by the US Environment Protection Agency and urgently need re-examining by independent scientists. 

    - Internal organ toxicity has been documented in animal feeding studies with glyphosate-tolerant soybean. Rats suffered kidney abnormalities including renal leakage and ionic disturbances, and liver pathology including irregular hepatocyte nuclei, and increased metabolic rates. 

    - Acute toxicity of glyphosate is officially declared low by government agencies; however agricultural workers have reported many symptoms including skin irritation, skin lesions, eye irritation, allergies, respiratory problems and vomiting. Ingestion of large volumes causes systemic toxicity and death.

    Cite your sources.
    Here's the source:

    New Study: Why Glyphosate Should be Banned

    By Dr. Eva Sirinathsinghji and Dr. Mae-Wan Ho 
Institute of Science in Society

    October 10, 2012 

    Not peer reviewed*, and,
    The results were dynamite, and the repercussions are still to be played out [2]. Predictably, the pro-GM brigade around the world launched a concerted campaign to discredit the scientists and their findings
    clearly written in pursuit of an agenda rather than an objective evaluation of the evidence.

    *Not a perfect system, but more reliable than places where anyone can write anything, like e.g. blogs.
    John Hasenkam
    Come on Anon just because it is written don't make it true. You are asking us to accept what people say but offering no means to analyse the claims. I can't play that game. I don't even trust the peer reviewed literature and I don't care how large N is or that often hubris riddled claim "controlling for other variables". It takes a great many studies across differing levels of analysis to come close to understanding what is going on. A great many words is pointless here, just an invocation of the Authority Fallacy. In that regard you haven't even provided an authority to falsify. One may as well seek the wisdom of an unknown god. 
    Here's the source:

    New Study: Why Glyphosate Should be Banned
    By Dr. Eva Sirinathsinghji and Dr. Mae-Wan Ho 
Institute of Science in Society

    October 10, 2012 

    Can you find me a single example of something Mae Wan Ho has said or written about GMO agriculture that has not been entirely on the extreme of the range of opinions? You can say that this is an ad hominem argument, but would you give credit to Rush Limbaugh's comments about President Obama?

    Anonymous, I'm not even going to try to respond to such a long post. You don't make any effort to distinguish between propaganda from groups motivated by an ideology and actual science. For arguments sake, let's stipulate that glyphosate is toxic. Still, my original point was that it is very much less toxic than the herbicide it replaced on cornfields. I am in a position to know, because I have a responsibility for the purity of my community's water and we rely on the regulatory agencies (in this case EPA) to tell us what level of each chemical to test for. They consider water with glyphosate safe to drink at 700 parts per billion, and atrazine safe at 3 parts per billion.

    Now you surely have the right to propose other methods of farming that would result in lower levels of toxicity. But you don't seem to see that the ideology you are espousing would actually result in higher levels. It's not even a close call. A factor of 230 is a lot.

    Try, for a moment to put the ideology aside. Set goals - nobody can argue with your right to set goals - and propose means to achieve those goals. But if the means go against the goals, it's really insanity to to insist on those means.

    Good article, Its unfortunate the FDA is not protecting us from the bad GMOs and the people of California are forced to take action in our best interest. The potential to do good things with GMO is obvious. Monsanto is trying to corner the worlds food supply. Theres no money to be made in doing the right things.

    Everyone has the right to choose what foods they eat. Can't choose if you don't know! The labeling of ALL GMO's is just fine. We the consumer are able to decide for ourselves. We don't need food producers to do it for us.

    Also, I work for a food producer, the cost of including a GMO label is next to nothing, it's a simple change to implement with our next packaging order. Bigger producers change up their packaging all the time (remember the polar bear coke can). That argument is bunk.

    So why not have accurate labeling for all foods?  If labeling GMOs would help the food industry surely food transparency of organic food, restaurant food and alcohol would be even more valuable to consumers.

    But Prop 37 cannot be fixed, it is a referendum, so a good transparency law has to be done in the legislature.  If Prop 37 is passed, a good law is impossible until another referendum removes it.  Bad law cannot accomplish good things. Never has, never will. Prohibition taught us that but the modern-day Food Temperance minority think anything is better than nothing.  It isn't.

    Why Monsanto’s attempt to “disappear” tumours by using historical control data is invalid

    An Earth Open Source briefing, 26 September 2012

    Just for argument's sake, let's agree Monsanto is the devil incorporate. Also just for argument's sake, let's suppose Mother Theresa and  start their own company and genetically engineer a miracle crop that has 100% RDA of all vitamins and minerals and can survive floods, droughts, and elephant stampedes. Should their products bear the same warning label because of the method used to create them?
    IMHO, The likes of Mike Adams and Dr. Mercola might call for Mother Theresa to be tried and hung like a Nazi war criminal and all the people who actually ate the miracle crop be rounded up and forcibly sterilized (or culled) lest they pollute the human genome through horizontal gene transfers !


    "GMO-promoting scientists are the most despicable humanoid creatures to have ever walked the surface of this planet. To call them "human" is an insult to humanity. They are ANTI-human. They are demonic. They are forces of evil that walk among the rest of us, parading as authorities when in their hearts and souls they are actually corporate cowards and traitors to humankind. To pad their own pockets, they would put at risk the very future of sustainable life on our planet... and they do it consciously, insidiously. They feed on death, destruction, suffering and pain. They align with the biotech industry precisely because they know that no other industry is as steeped in pure evil as the biotech industry. GMO pushers will lie, cheat, steal, falsify and even mass-murder as many people as it takes to further their agenda of total global domination over the entire food supply... at ANY cost."

    "To march government SWAT teams into the corporate headquarters of all GMO seed companies and shut down all operations at gunpoint would be a mild reaction -- and fully justified. To indict all biotech CEOs, scientists, employees and P.R. flacks and charge them with conspiring to commit crimes against humanity would be a small but important step in protecting our collective futures. "

    "What the Nuremberg trials did to IG Farben and other Nazi war crimes corporations, our own government must now do to Monsanto and the biotech industry."