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    Rachel Carson's Advice On The Eve Of The California Labeling Vote: Why Smart Environmentalists Back GM Foods
    By Jon Entine | September 9th 2012 07:08 PM | 58 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    Fifty years ago, marine biologist Rachel Carson ignited the modern environmental movement with the publication of Silent Spring. It was an ecological alarm call – an attack on what she believed was the overuse of pesticides and the potential harm they might cause to humans and wildlife – and a call for a progressive, science-focused view of modern agriculture and food.

    Her deeper, ecological message is often overlooked by her most ardent supporters. It should be front and center as Californians prepare to go the polls in November to decide the fate of Proposition 37 – which could introduce mandatory labeling of genetically modified (GM) foods into the United States for the first time.

    Carson got some key facts catastrophically wrong in her book, particularly her wholesale demonization of DDT, which she believed was killing eagles and other wildlife. Hundreds of studies have since shown that DDT, as properly used, does not cause cancer in humans or pose serious threats to wildlife.

    Then and today DDT is recognized as a unique and indispensable tool in combating mosquito-born malaria. Literally millions of people may have died because of bans imposed on DDT as the result of campaigns inspired by Carson’s book.

    But Carson’s overriding vision remains powerful and prescient. She spurred awareness of the fragility of nature’s food chain and she introduced to a science-wary public the notion that genetics can work with nature in a sustainable way. “A truly extraordinary variety of alternatives to the chemical control of insects is available,” she wrote.

    So what would she say if she were around to witness the raging debate over the future of GM foods?

    While many of Carson’s followers mischaracterize her book as a wholesale rejection of pesticides, and say she would have rejected GM crops, her writings suggest that she understood that solving world hunger rested on developing a range of science-based solutions, including the deployment of crop biotechnology.

    “Specialists representing various areas of the vast field of biology are contributing – entomologists, pathologists, geneticists, physiologists, biochemists, ecologists – all pouring their knowledge and their creative inspirations into the formation of a new science of biotic controls,” Carson wrote.

    What about the science?

    Yet, a broad coalition of activists in the US who invoke Carson as their inspiration – led by high-profile organic producers, Friends of the Earth, Center for Food Safety, Environmental Working Group, Consumers Union and the Sierra Club – continue to play fast and loose with the very science that motivated Carson to write Silent Spring.

    “It would be a setback to the ecologically based farming movement if Californians approved this labeling initiative,” says Pamela Ronald, a University of California-Davis plant geneticist who is a leader in the emerging “green genes” movement - environmentalists who see genetics as a key tool to dramatically enhance sustainable agriculture.

    Ronald has contributed to the development of flood-tolerant and disease-resistant rice (it’s already reached one million farmers, mostly in the developing world), which along with drought-tolerant and vitamin-enhanced varieties is poised to revolutionize farming. Ronald outlined this prospect in Tomorrow’s Table, which she co-authored with her husband, Ronald Adamchak, an organic farmer who manages the student-run organic farm at the Davis campus.

    “The science is clear,” she says. “The GM crops currently on the market are safe to eat, benefit the environment and improve the health of farm workers.”

    Ronald has found that the views of progressive scientists are being overwhelmed by the voices of precautionary-minded, anti-science advocacy groups. If current polls hold up, in November California foods will be subject to strict GM labeling laws. And in India, the ministry of health has proposed one of the most restrictive labeling laws in the world, tighter even than those imposed in the European Union.

    Anti-GM, pro-labeling forces behind the US and Indian initiatives have gone to great lengths to frame this issue as a matter of choice, transparency and precaution. But what’s really at stake here?

    GM labeling policies vary considerably around the world. The great divide is between the EU, which has favored mandatory labeling, and the US federal government, which is legally barred from imposing such requirements unless there is a proven scientific justification rather than just fears.

    Japan has loose labeling laws, limited to 30 foods. In the developing world, while Brazil and China have adopted mandatory labeling laws, the Philippines and South Africa rely on voluntary labeling.

    India is proposing mandatory labeling that would be the most stringent yet. It would include no exemptions for animal products or processed foods. It reads: “A GM food, derived there from, whether it is primary or processed or any ingredient of food, food additives or any food product that may contain GM material shall be compulsorily labeled, without any exceptions.”

    Costs and benefits

    If mandatory labeling were, as its proponents claim, merely a matter of transparency then the choice would be easy. But that’s not the case. There are huge consequences, intended and unintended if a "made with biotech" label is suddenly slapped on the side of food containers.

    Unlike other quality attributes of agricultural produce, genetic modification is difficult to detect. You can’t just see it. A food product cannot be verified to be GM-free unless documented steps have been taken to preserve the “identity” of the product in the production and marketing chain through what’s known as “identity preservation” (IP). However, because some GM foods are genetically equivalent to non-GM foods, existing testing mechanisms cannot accurately detect transgenic DNA.

    For instance, there is no reliable way to distinguish soy oil derived from GM soybean from soy oil from non-GM beans. The only differences are in the process, not in the final product, which (despite what GM critics claim) is nutritionally and functionally identical to organic and conventional varieties.

    So, unlike with the case for most labeling – for example, whether a product contains high fructose sugar, which is easily identified – the cost of verification can be considerable or even catastrophic to producers and consumers. In fact, that’s what labeling supporters are betting on.

    Opponents are determined to beef up regulation to achieve their real goal of make producing GM foods prohibitively costly - a back door ban. They know that a mandated system in California (or India) would require the construction of parallel production, processing and distribution systems to track every crop, processed food or trait, dramatically raising prices – and immediately ending the cost benefits of GM foods that drives their growth.

    Quality standards and labeling are traditionally justified by health and safety considerations. So, tighter regulations could be justified if a case could be made that GM foods pose a unique danger to consumers. Better safe than sorry. The problem is that there is no credible data that shows that GM foods have any unusual health impacts.

    Some consumers may wish not to consume GM foods because of ideological fervor (“it violates nature”), which amounts to a religious or ethical preference. Or they can “fear the unknown”, the precautionary justification for setting aside the empirical data. But there is no actual evidence that GM foods are harmful.

    There have been more than 300 independent medical studies on the safety of genetically modified foods. The World Health Organization, the US National Academy of Sciences and most recently the American Medical Association House of Delegates have evaluated the evidence. They have all concluded that there is no evidence that the genetic modification process presents any unique safety issues and recognized the potential benefits of the technology.

    The US Food and Drug Administration has not even considered the labeling question, despite enormous pressure from advocacy groups. At its best, it’s a science-based agency. Unlike precautionary-obsessed regulators in the EU and elsewhere, the FDA does not even have the authority to react solely to consumer fears – it’s mandated to follow the evidence. The evidence consistently shows that genetically engineered foods are as safe and have a similar nutritional profile as their non-GM counterparts.

    And that’s why the EU’s chief scientist, renowned biologist Anne Glover, recently reaffirmed that foods made through genetic engineering are as safe as organic or conventional foods – unleashing predictable howls from Friends of the Earth and other anti-GM campaigners.

    Shutting down choice

    The only justification for labeling is that consumers have a “right to know”. In other words, in the absence of mandatory labeling, consumers have no choice but to consume GM foods. Mandatory labeling could theoretically give consumers the choice of selecting foods according to their preferences.

    At first blush, this seems reasonable – more consumer disclosure. But in the real world, it’s quite reactionary. Contrary to what pro-labeling advocates maintain, almost all academic studies have made the point that rather than facilitating consumer choice, mandatory labeling acts as a “fear generator” and market barrier. That’s because GM foods, which require the use of less pesticide and produce higher yields, are less costly than either conventional or organic competitors.

    Information masquerading as “knowledge” would actually limit consumer choices. As the anti-GM US Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility cheerfully told me, labeling a product as GM would be akin to slapping “a skull and cross bones” on it. Activists are banking on the fact that many consumers are “label sensitive,” meaning they will reflexively impute a negative quality to a labeled food – GM would imply “bad”.

    “We fully expect producers or grocery stores won’t want to risk alienating their customers with labeling, so they’ll eventually decide not to use any bio-stuff at all,” says Michael Passoff, senior strategist at the US NGO As You Sow. Consumers will end up paying more. The very existence of a label would create a market barrier and restrict competition, jacking up overall costs to consumers.

    Anti-GM groups also claim that they are merely following consumer preferences, not leading them. Superficially that’s true. Consumer surveys invariably show a large preference for GM-free foods. Why? Confused by the he said/she said quality of the controversy, many consumers default to precaution when responding to surveys.

    But studies show they often reach that default opinion without factoring in what will undoubtedly happen in California and India should mandatory labeling prevail. Prices will soar, impacting the most vulnerable and least affluent, and some products will disappear because they will no longer be price competitive.

    The default desire for non-GM foods often dissolves in the grocery store, when choosing between expensive organic food “A” and cheaper food “B” containing GM ingredients. The perception of quality matters to consumers – but it has its limits and is directly and negatively correlated to price. Surveys are renowned for hyping hysteria and missing actual purchasing behaviors.

    Because price matters most, the market share of exclusively segregated, comparatively expensive, voluntarily purchased GM-free products is likely to be small. That means such products are likely to be available in large quantities only if regulators – or voters – artificially impose a closed market. This exists in Europe and could happen in the US, India and other places with Draconian mandatory labeling laws set to take effect.

    The California vote will undoubtedly unleash a torrent of legislation, as the measure is all but unenforceable without huge infrastructure changes in the food business, at very high cost. But the precautionary mindset that is driving this is unlikely to abate soon.

    Under a barrage of lobbying pressure from the organic movement, even the American Medical Association turned weak-kneed, passing a resolution recommending pre-market assessment of genetically engineered foods, even though the science says there are no health concerns. In response to anti-science campaigners, they invoked an odd twist on the “trust but verify” strategy – which is doomed to fail because no test can allay precautionary fears.

    And Carson?

    So what would Rachel Carson make of all this?  

    First, a little perspective. Genetically modifying foods is not new, and Carson certainly recognized this. For 10,000 years, humans have altered the DNA make-up of our crops. Conventional approaches were often quite crude, resulting in new varieties through a combination of trial and error, and without knowledge of the precise function of the genes that were being moved around.

    Such methods include grafting or mixing of genes of distantly related species, as well as radiation treatments to induce random mutations in the genetic make-up of the seed. Today, virtually everything we eat is produced from seeds that have been genetically altered in one way or another.

    Pamela Ronald, and other science-minded ecologists and environmentalists, worry that the labeling initiative will end up having the opposite effect of that intended.

    “A ‘warning’ label would unnecessarily frighten consumers and force a return to a conventional system of breeding,” she warns. “Such an approach is eerily similar to the recent campaigns against vaccines, which has led to outbreaks of life-threatening diseases in children. Denying the scientific consensus behind agricultural and medical science only hinders humanitarian goals.”

    She believes Carson might very well have been on the front lines of the new era in biology – campaigning for the precise control of genetic modification, instead of relying on random chance to create new varieties. That’s sustainable agriculture in its purest form.

    FOLLOW JON ENTINE ON TWITTER

    A version of this article originally appeared in Ethical Corporation

    Jon Entine, founding director of the Genetic Literacy Project, at George Mason University, is a senior fellow at GMU's Center for Health&Risk Communication.

    Comments

    Labeling may or may not do all you imply or claim in the article, but you can be assured that GMO'ers and others will now have to PROVE, that their masterful products are safe for consumption by ourselves and our children. Something they've collectively refused to do on their own.

    I suspect that's a very steep slope because instead of educating consumers over the many years, they've resisted in so many hurtful ways: suing non-GMO farmers into bankruptcy, funding lobbyists to buy laws/policies in their favor, staffing government offices with overtly friendly GMO minions, modifying native Indian plant cultivators against India agricultural law, indirectly causing the suicidal deaths of many thousands of Indian farmers by tilting the playing field when a tinkered-with maize seed was introduced with insufficient watering instructions, and many others. GMO corporations are not good corporate neighbors!

    Conduct a Google Mail Alert for "Monsanto" and follow it for about a month; I've been doing that for about 2 years. It's an eye-opener!

    And Remember: Just because you can doesn't mean you should.

    Hank
    Labeling may or may not do all you imply or claim in the article, but you can be assured that GMO'ers and others will now have to PROVE, that their masterful products are safe for consumption by ourselves and our children.
    There is a reason the lawyer and the magic soap people behind this proposition exempt organic food; organic food would have both organic and GM labels and they don't want truth in food, they want someone to be able to sue.
     
    And you need to take a course in logical fallacies.  You can't prove something is safe for consumption.  Can you prove water is safe?  Can you prove organic corn is safe?  Cars?  Your couch?  Of course not.   The burden of proof is instead for harm - now when it comes to harm the proof is there.  Tens of thousands of people have been poisoned and hundreds killed after eating organic food and not a single person has been harmed by a GMO.
    Gerhard Adam
    Well, everyone seems to be quite adamant about the safety issue, and I expect that it's probably mostly true.  However, the overall science leaves much to be desired.  I'm cross-posting this from another post I left on Steve Savage's column (http://www.science20.com/comments/120105/First_all_thanks).  This was a paper doing a review on all the animal safety studies associated with GMO foods.

    ----------------------------------------------------
    ... I was somewhat disappointed at the ambiguous and lax nature of these studies.
    "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)."

    "Yet, this review reveals deep weaknesses shared by most long term studies because of non-adherence to standard procedures outlined in the OECD Test (1998)."

    "The observations of major flaws in some papers highlight the urgent need to improve the reviewing process before publication of papers addressing this subject."
    Perhaps most disturbing was this line:
    "It should be mentioned that increasing the number of animals tested increases the statistical power but is more costly. High costs may hinder the public sector from conducting such studies."
    I am also concerned about some of the phrasing in the paper which sounds a bit too "political" for my tastes.

    In other words, there was a great deal of emphasis on nutritional equivalence, which is undoubtedly true, but is also irrelevant to the question at hand.  Even the abstract concludes with:
    "The studies reviewed present evidence to show that GM plants are nutritionally equivalent to their non-GM counterparts and can be safely used in food and feed."
    This simply leaves me scratching my head wondering how nutritional equivalence translates into safety.

    Again, statements like the following don't inspire confidence that these tests have reached well accepted conclusions.
    "They found in the fifth generation (only this generation was sacrificed and autopsied) enlarged inguinal and axillary lymph nodes, a decrease in the percentage of T cells in spleen and lymph nodes, increased IL-2 levels (by a factor of 2.5 for the fifth generation compared to controls), and decreased IL-6 levels (by a factor of 0.4 for the fifth generation compared to controls) but no significant changes in the levels of IgE. The authors showed that this expansion of the B cell compartment in the secondary lymphoid organs was not caused by an allergy or a malignant process. Further studies should investigate the reasons of these changes and whether they are reproducible."
    I guess that my feeling is that the promotion of the idea that GMO foods are completely safe, involves my crawling out on a limb that doesn't appear to be backed up by extensive data.  While we can certainly say that these results would suggest that there is no safety concern, I would hardly consider these to be exhaustive.

    More importantly, I find it totally unacceptable to have such a major scientific policy and process being introduced to the public and then complaints about there not being enough money to conduct long-term studies on cows and other animals that are part of that food chain.  The idea that rodents are anything except preliminary is mind-boggling to me.

    If money is an issue, then no scientist should be putting their stamp of approval on anything requiring a policy decision until the data is as conclusive as it can be, and there truly is consensus.

    ----------------------------------------------------
    Mundus vult decipi
    I'm really astounded that anyone would make that ludicrous of an argument. Our life is filled with decisions, basic to our survival, based on "proving" something is safe to some reasonable degree. You wait to cross the street until you have verified to the degree that is reasonable, that the way is clear. You do not simply walk blindly into the street without looking because you cannot 100% prove it is safe. You eat corn without absolute proof it is safe, but you do not eat some tasty looking unidentified plant you find in the woods because you have no evidence of it being harmful.

    Any reasonable person understands "prove" in the messy real world, in areas like health and tradition (we aren't discussing physics here) to mean "demonstrate to some high level of confidence".

    Hank
    Then what's the dilemma?  It has been proven to a high degree of confidence.  Millions and millions have proven it over years and years.  The standard for anti-science people is instead 'prove it can do no harm' and that is a fake metric.  No product in use today could pass that standard.
    Sorry, that is an entirely different argument. Where to draw the line of "high level of confidence" is indeed a judgement call that the two sides disagree on. However the argument you were making was not "I disagree with what you consider a high level of confidence", your argument was that asking for proof of safety was a fallacy, and that my friend, was either dishonest or disingenuous. If it was an honest reasoning mistake on your part, then all the more embarrassed you ought to be about your snarky "And you need to take a course in logical fallacies."

    I would also add that you are also using a strawman by implying that the other side is asking for absolute mathematical proof, rather than simply disagreeing with you that the existing proof is sufficient, and using ad hominen tactics by calling them anti-science.

    Hank
    Sorry, this is the real world, not humanities relativism. If there is no evidence of any harm and people say 'that is not good enough' then that absolutely is anti-science.  Just because you subjectively want to keep changing definitions and arguments until they match your cultural agenda doesn't make it legitimate.

    Straw man is the over-used 'I have no argument' cliche of 2010. At least get into 2011 and use 'false equivalence' when you have no real point to make. That was the big cliche last year.
    Really? You have the nerve to tell someone they need to take a course in logical fallacies, and then respond to someone pointing out your own (rampant) use of fallacies with yet another fallacy?

    How do you keep a straight face portraying yourself as a defender of science when this is the level of discourse you operate at?

    Keep propping up that strawman.

    Frank Parks
    I think you've touched all the bases, Jon.  All of the emotions, philosophy, science, and activism, will still be there after the election.  The results of which seem to be of little doubt.

    I believe that the aftermath will be even more amazing than these preliminaries we have been noting for some time now.  The tangled maze of new regulations, exclusions, exemptions, and levels of certification may closely resemble a 50 ton ball of mating sea snakes in the Indian Ocean.  (A truly amazing sight from 1,000 feet overhead.)

    One thing that most of the emotional folks forget is that there is big money on each side of this fight.  Consumers will stand in the middle defenseless against the rising prices that will be an inevitable result.  My hope is that this madness doesn't extend too far to the east.
    I am assuming that when DDT and Rachel Carson are used in an introduction to the GMO labeling ballot initiative, and statements such as this are made: >Literally millions of people may have died because of bans imposed on DDT as the result of campaigns inspired by Carson’s book.<- the argument being made implicitly is "just like millions of people are dead of malaria due to banning of DDT -: the GMO labeling initiative will similarly cause starvation and death of poor people.
    The common factor between the two being "the emotional science-phobic environmentalists, and the heroes rushing to the rescue of the poor starving dying people are the magnanimous chemical companies. The same ones which exported millions of pounds of pesticides banned in the developed countries to undeveloped countries, when the markets in the developed countries "dried-up".

    I will do a brief (10minutes) search on DDT to check the veracity of the claims being made.

    A. Is DDT the only choice in reducing cases of malaria (similarly to GMOs being the only choice in feeding poor people)?
    1. “Environmental management for vector control” is the collective term for manipulating or modifying environmental factors or their interaction with humans to reduce vector breeding and vector–human contact. Before the advent of synthetic insecticides, vector control depended primarily on environmental management; a meta-analysis of data mostly from that period indicated that it substantial-ly reduced malaria risk (Keiser et al. 2005). Eliminating vector-breeding habitats and managing water bodies has the potential to suppress vector populations, particularly in human-made habitats or urban settings (Walker and Lynch 2007). In irrigated agriculture, vector breeding can be controlled, for example, through land level-ing and intermittent irrigation (Keiser et al. 2002). New irrigation systems or dams cause drastic changes in vector–human contact, and planning to avoid health risks is essential at the design stage.

    Improvement of housing, for example, through plastering of walls or closing of eaves, contributes significantly to transmission control (Gunawardena et al. 1998). Moreover, screening to keep mosquitoes out at night is a protective option for houses with solid walls (Lind-say et al. 2002). However, information on the cost and feasibility of housing improvement in various settings is largely missing.

    The role of aquatic predators as control agents of malaria vectors is potentially enhanced through conservation or through the introduc-tion of agents from outside. Larvivorous fish have frequently been reared and released for controlling vector breeding in small water tanks and wells, but successes have generally been limited to more or less permanent water bodies (Walker and Lynch 2007).

    The bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis and Bacillus sphaeri-cus are used in formulations as microbial larvicides. They produce toxins that are specific to mosquitoes and that have a low risk of re-sistance development (Lacey 2007). Recent field trials and pilot projects have shown good potential of both bacteria to manage mosquito breeding and to reduce biting rates in certain settings (Fillinger et al. 2008). Insect pathogenic fungi have shown promising results for controlling adult Anopheles mosquitoes when sprayed on indoor surfaces and have potential to substantially reduce malaria transmission (Scholte et al. 2005). Other alternative vector control methods include the use of locally available plants or plant materials as mosquito repellents or as larvicides (Okumu et al. 2007; Seyoum et al. 2003), and the use of expanded polystyrene beads in specific breeding sites (Yapabandara and Curtis 2002). Novel methods under development are genetically engineered mosquitoes and the sterile insect technique (Catteruccia 2007).

    Data on the cost-effectiveness of non-chemical methods are scarce. In a retrospective analysis of data from Zambia, Utzinger et al. (2001) indicated that environmental management was as cost-effective as ITNs. Moreover, environmental management can benefit from local resources, reducing the need for external funds.
    ------------------------------
    Answer: Evidently Not. There are safer alternatives to DDT (and GMO)s

    B. Is DDT Safe?

    Health effects of DDT and DDE most commonly suggested by stud-ies in North America and Europe are early pregnancy loss, fertility loss, leukemia, pancreatic cancer, neurodevelopmental deficits, dia-betes, and breast cancer (Beard 2006; Chen and Rogan 2003; Cox et al. 2007; Eriksson and Talts 2000; Garabrant et al. 1992; Ribas-Fito et al. 2006; Snedeker 2001; Venners et al. 2005). In many cases the results have not been consistent between studies, but nevertheless these accumulating reports bear much concern, particularly in rela-tion to chronic effects. Breast cancer has been most rigorously stud-ied; even though the majority of results showed no causative asso-ciation with DDT exposure (Brody et al. 2007), the latest evidence indicates an increased risk in women who were exposed at a young age (Cohn et al. 2007). In addition, experimental studies on animals have demonstrated neurotoxic, carcinogenic, immunotoxic, and re-productive effects attributable to DDT and DDE (Turusov et al. 2002).

    The adverse health effects of DDT versus the health gains in terms of malaria prevention require more attention. For example, a gain in infant survival resulting from malaria control could be partly offset by an increase in preterm birth and decreased lactation, both of which are high risk factors for infant mortality in developing coun-tries. The WHO is conducting a reevaluation of health risks of DDT, but progress has been slow.
    ----------------------------------------------------
    Answer: evidently the answer is No. (Similarly to GMOs the safety studies on which are flawed in experimental design, too short in duration, too small in experimental study groups, not cohesive or comprehensive enough to be credible)

    http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/article/info:doi/10.1289/ehp.0900785

    Counterpoint: Production of Hazardous Pesticides in Developing Nations
    "Illegal use of banned pesticides have been reported from many parts of the world. Pesticides such as DDT, banned for agricultural uses around the world, are sold through the black market or even openly in small, unregulated shops.

    Many such pesticides are either obtained from old stockpiles or from illegal production. In India, for example, DDT is still commonly used for vegetable and fruit production. A recent study found that up to 50% of produce commonly available in shops was tainted with DDT and other banned pesticides."

    (Source: Pesticide Action Network North America, [Pesticide Production and Dumping|http://www.panna.org/issues/frontline-communities/production-dumping)

    "North-south dilemma over pesticide economics

    As noted above, the general progression of pesticide development has moved from highly toxic, persistent and bioaccumulating pesticides such as DDT, to pesticides that degrade rapidly in the environment and are less toxic to non-target organisms. The developed countries have banned many of the older pesticides due to potential toxic effects to man and/or their impacts on ecosystems, in favour of more modern pesticide formulations. In the developing countries, some of the older pesticides remain the cheapest to produce and, for some purposes, remain highly effective as, for example, the use of DDT for malaria control. Developing countries maintain that they cannot afford, for reasons of cost and/or efficacy, to ban certain older pesticides. The dilemma of cost/efficacy versus ecological impacts, including long range impacts via atmospheric transport, and access to modern pesticide formulations at low cost remains a contentious global issue."

    (Source: FAO report, Control of Water Pollution from Agriculture)
    http://toxipedia.org/display/wlt/Export+of+Hazardous+Pesticides+from+Ind...
    --------------------

    C. Is malaria eradicated in India-- a country which like other undeveloped countries still uses DDT?
    Answer: Doesn't appear to me that there the use of DDT in India has saved the country from malaria (begging the analogy neither are GMOs capable of addressing hunger)
    http://download.thelancet.com/flatcontentassets/pdfs/PIIS014067361060831...

    D. What is the likelyhood of the blatant fear mongering to be based on Scientific Fact rather than a figment of imagination of a PR department @ Monsanto, Dupont, Dow? Are the same players backing DDT standing to gain market share in developed countries standing to gain from GMOs remaining unlabeled in California?

    Answer: I believe quite likely because the following claims have not been been backed by Any Convincing Credible independent Cohesive science:
    “The science is clear,” she says. “The GM crops currently on the market are (1)safe to eat --not really, see Gerhard's analysis of the latest "science" showing how safe the food is,
    (2) benefit the environment--citations, please_______________________
    (3) and improve the health of farm workers.--citations, please.____________________

    My conclusion is that Jon's piece reaks of chemical company propaganda. Sorry Science 2.0!

    JonEntine
    Was this a serious post or a joke? You created a strawman then couldn't even destroy it! As for DDT, you don't need to rely on my analysis. All you have to do is read that rightwing organization, the World Health Organization which has numerous reports on the positives and negatives of DDT, and its critical importance both historically and today. As for the false equivalence between DDT and GM, that was a creation of your own fevered mind.
    Jon.

    "Rachel Carson's Advice On The Eve Of The California Labeling Vote: Why Smart Environmentalists Back GM Foods"

    Was this a scientific post.....

    ....or a PR joke, crumbled into a pile of hay-- with 5 scientific citations?
    ;-)

    Labelling of genetically-engineered products is important when it can give important health information. For example - genetic engineers have created a soybean that does not contain the major allergen that causes diarrhea in infants, meaning that mothers who cannot breastfeed can give their babies soy based formulae - especially important in the developing world where the mother can be both malnourished and impoverished. The the soy based formula should be labelled: "CONTAINS GENETICALLY-ENGINEERED ALLERGEN-FREE SOY. DOES NOT CONTAIN NATURALLY ALLERGENIC SOY PRODUCTS". Unfortunately, such products have been kept from the markets by the anti-choice fear mongers who refuse to let the consumers choose .

    Hank
    Who are these anti-choice fearmongers?  The only ones I see are the people behind Prop 37.  If the issue was food transparency, restaurants, alcohol and organic food would not be exempt from truth in labeling.  It's bad law written by a lawyer who wrote a similar law that protected no one yet made him wealthy with nuisance lawsuits - and his financial backers peddle magic soap and quack supplements.  

    Siding with them is doing you no favors.

    Fortunately, California is just as quacky as most organic soap buyers so this should get 64 percent of the vote.  Why do I pick that number?  I will tell you after the election.
    As usual. GMOs don 't address the root causes of neonatal death and malnutrition

    1. It has been estimated that in 2009, 8.1 million children under five died, mostly from
    preventable causes such as pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria and neonatal conditions
    (Figure 1); about 90% of deaths of children under five happen in 42 countries, with half
    the worldwide deaths occurring in only six countries
    5
    . Undernutrition, associated with
    about one third of those deaths, was then associated with almost 3 million children
    deaths in 2009. .....
    Exclusive Breastfeeding (EBF)
    Six months of exclusive breastfeeding: the recommendation revisited
    The recommendation to exclusively breastfeed babies for their first six months of life was
    formulated after a meta-analysis and review of the evidence by a WHO Expert
    Committee
    29
    . The systematic review of the effects of exclusive breastfeeding for six
    months (versus four months) on child health, growth and development, and on maternal
    health showed that:
    • infants who are exclusively breastfed for six months experience less illness due
    to gastrointestinal infections and good growth (no loss in weight or length gain);

    26
    Evidence for the ten steps to successful breastfeeding (Revised) World Health Organization, Geneva,
    1998.
    27
    Moore ER, Anderson GC, Bergman N. Early skin-to-skin contact for mothers and their healthy newborn
    infants (Review) Cochrane Collaboration, 2009.
    28
    Edmond ME et al. Effect of early infant feeding practices on infection-specific neonatal mortality: an
    investigation of the causal links with observational data from rural Ghana. Am J Clin Nutr 2007: 86:1126-
    31.
    29
    Kramer MS, Kakuma R. The optimal duration of exclusive breastfeeding: A systematic review. World
    Health Organization, Geneva, 2001 Evidence for Essential Nutrition Actions
    Draft May 2011- Page 11
    • mothers who exclusively breastfeed for six months experience a longer period of
    post-partum amenorrhea (lack of menstrual bleeding which is a natural, though
    not fail-safe, method of birth control);
    • preterm babies fed their mother's own milk have a lower incidence of infections
    and necrotizing enterocolitis, as well as improved neurodevelopmental outcomes.
    Term low-birth-weight babies similar benefits.
    An expert consultation
    30
    analysed two background documents: the systematic review
    summarized above and a review on nutrient adequacy of exclusive breastfeeding for the
    first six months
    31
    .
    In 2009 the Cochrane Collaboration published the results of an updated systematic
    review on the optimal duration of exclusive breastfeeding
    32
    , the authors concluded that
    "Although infants should still be managed individually so that insufficient growth or other
    adverse outcomes are not ignored and appropriate interventions are provided, the
    available evidence demonstrates no apparent risks in recommending, as a general
    policy, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life in both developing and
    developed-country settings. Large randomized trials are recommended in both types of
    setting to rule out small effects on growth and to confirm the reported health benefits of
    exclusive breastfeeding for six months or beyond."
    One of these effective and most rewarding preventable interventions is breastfeeding
    and appropriate complementary feeding which has the potential to reduce 19% of the
    under five mortality. http://www.who.int/nutrition/EB128_18_backgroundpaper2_A_reviewofhealthi...

    2. From personal experience.... we shipped baby formula to keep the Haiti babies alive after the earthquake.... that strategy only worked in areas which had access to safe drinking water

    3. Do you have data on human babies in a form of a double blind analysis demonstrating that the genetically engineered soy was truly non-allergenic?
    --------------------------------------------

    This is Science 2.0, right?.

    I don't care if gmo is harmful or not. But because big agribusiness is trying desperately to hide it from consumers, then there's gotta be something fishy. So, needless to say, I'm 100 percent sure to vote yes on prop 37.

    Frankly as a consumer, I feel I have a right to know what is in the food I buy. While labeling may be "traditionally justified by health and safety considerations" it serves many purposes. The ingredients list allows the consumer to choose to buy or not buy a product based on its contents for any number of reasons. It may be a health or safety reason, it may be an ethical reason, or something else.

    You are essentially making the argument that consumers should not be trusted to decide for themselves because they will be swayed by those groups that you disagree with, and you don't like the consequences of that. Your arguments around this sound less like reasoning than rationalization.

    Hank
    Consumers aren't being trusted, they are handing it over to a lawyer and a bunch of corporations. If this were about consumers and food transparency, restaurants, alcohol and organic food would not be exempt, right?

    Bad law is not better than no law.  Only good law is better than no law.
    JonEntine
    No, I'm making numerous arguments, but not the one you've suggested. Consumers have a right to buy whatever they want. The government has a responsibility on food labeling to limit the kinds of things that can be written for all kinds of public health reasons. GM labeling would serve no health purpose, we know that. I would serve no nutritional purpose. Those are the two primary concerns in labeling. So the GM label falls outside conventional reasons for labeling. Moreover, labeling would open up a legal pandora's box--it's hardly a secret that the largest bankroller of the labeling movement is the tort bar, which sees in this law as a litigation bonanza. As it is now, more than 75% of foods in the US are estimated to contain GM ingredients, introduced at one stage or another in the process. To set up dual oversight/control systems to satisfy for your vanity need for "information" that has no nutritional or health value stands way outside accepted FDA/USDA policy. Its narcissism.
    Gerhard Adam
    GM labeling would serve no health purpose, we know that.
    Everyone's pretty confident about that, despite the dearth of actual studies on the matter.
    Mundus vult decipi
    JonEntine
    There he goes again....

    Dearth? About 400+ studies, plus 20+ years of real experience experience with nothing so much as a rash attributable to GM foods.

    Meanwhile, in that same time, there have been literally hundreds of deaths and many thousands of illnesses linked to organic foods.

    Gerhard Adam
    Good ... then provide some links, because as I linked earlier, the reviews of these "studies" isn't very impressive.

    Your claim about a "rash" is the same nonsense that keeps being said, but it's impossible to demonstrate because there's no way to correlate such a "rash" since no food history is being kept, and without labels it would be even more difficult to determine where such a "rash" came from if it was diagnosed.  [BTW, with so many studies available, surely there's one that has tracked humans, perhaps you could link to just one of those?]

    After all, certainly no one can be suggesting that there haven't been any human studies or trials done since the food entered the general population.

    I'm not claiming organics are better, so while you can pursue that argument, that isn't one that I'm interested in nor concerned about.

    If there are 400+ studies, then where are they?  It has been months that requests for links to studies have been made, and NOTHING shows up.  So where are they?  After all with 400+, then it should be no problem.  Google should be positively overflowing with them. 

    The paper I linked to earlier was from March-April 2012 ... so are you saying that they simply ignored or were ignorant of the 400+ studies you're referring to?
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691511006399

    BTW ... that paper is the one I was referred to when I raised this question before, so it will be interesting to see if it is now going to be disregarded as irrelevant, when previously it was being used as evidence.

    Just as this paper raises the question of where all the studies are.
    Mundus vult decipi
    JonEntine
    The "rash" comment was sarcastic...there hasn't even been any evidence of even something that benign. As the FDA, EU science agencies and WHO, among dozens of international agencies have concluded, there is no functional difference between GM foods and non-GM foods.

    Are you asking if there are 400+ multi-generational studies on humans? Of course there haven't been. But there are many hundreds of toxicity studies in animals there is just no evidence that GM foods are extraordinarily "different" than any conventional food...as science would predict. If you want to play the reactionary "precautionary" card, so be it. But it's not science. It's fear-based.
    Gerhard Adam
    If you want to play the reactionary "precautionary" card, so be it. But it's not science. It's fear-based.
    It's not anything except a request for ONE link to a human based study.  After all, in twenty years, you'd think someone would look.  

    I can appreciate that the "rash" comment was sarcastic, but where is the science on which it is based, if no one's actually done any studies?  How is a doctor supposed to diagnose that a rash is caused by GMO's if there's no linkage?
    ...there is no functional difference between GM foods and non-GM foods.
    Well, we already know that's not true, because that's why the genes were added.  In addition, most of the studies focus on nutritional equivalence which isn't the same as whether there may be longer-term effects due to these modifications.  As Hank as repeatedly pointed out, you can't prove something to be safe, so your statement about them being benign is also unprovable.

    As anyone knows, even with plant hybridization, there don't have to be "extraordinary differences" to garner effects in biological organisms.  In fact, that is precisely one of the key points raised on the post on celiac disease, is that the increased gluten due to plant hybridization may be sparking higher incidences of gluten-intolerance or sensitivity (1).

    This isn't to say that GMO's are, de facto, more dangerous, but just like with plant hybridization, by what stretch of the imagination does anyone think they can simply change the basic composition of the food supply and not have to provide any studies?
    Are you asking if there are 400+ multi-generational studies on humans?
    Of course not.  I simply said that out of 400+ studies, surely there must be at least one that focuses on humans.

    As I said before, I'm not asking you to personally vouch for it, but if there are 400+ studies available then certainly there's got to be links someplace.  Some abstracts, something beyond the few feeble rodent studies that one perpetually encounters.
    ----
    (1) Murray said. “Consumption of wheat has increased steadily over the past 50 years, but it still is less than what it was a century ago, so the issue is not simple consumption,”; Murray noted. “It more likely involves the wheat itself,which has undergone extensive hybridization as a crop and undergoes dramatic changes during processing that involves oxidizers, new methods of yeasting, and other chemical processes. Wehave no idea what effect these changes may have on the immune system.”;
    http://www.celiac.nih.gov/prevalence.aspx
    Mundus vult decipi
    You've just evaded his questions. It's pretty obvious he wasn't asking if there were 400+ multi-generational studies on humans. That's a strawman-like tactic to pretend he was asking for something extreme and use that to dodge responding to his more reasonable request.

    The ability to make choices for ethical reasons is not a vanity issue. (BTW I'd like to point how how much you throw around derogatives like "narcissism" to characterize the opposition to points you make. This is essentially a sly form of ad hominen arguing. Another example: "anti-science advocacy groups", or the aside "there he goes again.")

    I don't accept your invaldiation of ethics issues, and whether this falls outside of the FDA's "conventional reasons for labeling", I really don't care, it happens to be a real world usage of them. The largest impact we have on the world is how we vote with our dollars. Many of the anti-GMO arguments are ethical (environmental, economic) rather than health and safety, and I find it interesting how you seem to write as it these did not exist.

    As to the health issues, you talk about the safety of GMO foods like it is a fact. It is not a fact, it is a judgement call made on the available data, and that data changes over time as more studies are done, and as more GMO strains are created. I want facts about the food I buy ("this contains GMO corn") and not someone's opinions ("this is fine, you don't need to know if there's GMO corn in it").

    JonEntine
    What is a fact OTHER than a judgement call made on the available data? What should scientists do? Make up data? Come up with precautionary dooms day scenarios and pretend that's data?

    The data is there, through studies and literally billions of real world encounters with GM foods. We have plenty of examples of people dying from eating organic foods but none of anyone getting even tummy ache from a food made with GM crops. Hmm. What does the empirical evidence suggest? Oh yeah, junk it! Let's regulate with emotion instead. Good public policy strategy.
    Gerhard Adam
    ...but none of anyone getting even tummy ache from a food made with GM crops.
    I'm getting so tired of hearing that, because you know, as does everyone else, that such a claim can never be demonstrated, let alone proven.  Such claims are decidedly unscientific, since they can't be backed with evidence, so while everyone is so busy claiming about the "anti-scientific" opposition to GMO's, how about providing some science instead of mere rhetoric.

    Moreover, the truth of the matter is that you have no data to make such a claim, so while you can go on about assuming that everything is fine, even the most cursory examination of the actual scientific papers indicates that your claim is wrong.  Even plant hybridization gives rise to allergies, and the fact of the matter is that you don't know whether GMO's have contributed to allergies.  So, your claim about they're the safest thing ever known to man is ludicrous.

    Provide even one scientific link that backs up your claim.  There won't be any, because no scientist would make such a claim without data, and there isn't any.
    Mundus vult decipi
    JonEntine
    ALL substances are potentially allergenic! They are chemicals, and humans react differently to it. If you are suggesting that a GMO crop or food would have to be allergen free, that's an absurd standard, which is why it's rejected by the FDA. One would have to demonstrate unusual allergenic properties, and that's never been shown to be the case when comparing a GM food vs. a non-GM food.

    No one ever said GM foods are the safest things known to man. You have created a strawman. GM foods are JUST FOODS. They are no safer or less safe than other foods. The point is that there is absolutely NO evidence that the PROCESS of gene manipulation creates extraordinary allergenic conditions. You seem to inject the GM process with some mysterious qualities. It's just moving genes around. Look in the mirror. You were bacteria once. We share genes with marigolds and fish and all other living creatures. Moving genes around is what NATURE DOES.
    Gerhard Adam
    If you are suggesting that a GMO crop or food would have to be allergen free, that's an absurd standard...
    I never suggested such a standard.  However, unless you were simply being a smart-ass, then your point about never even causing a "tummy-ache" is patently absurd.  You are the one that set an unachievable standard by making such a claim.
    No one ever said GM foods are the safest things known to man.
    Yes, actually you did.  When you allege that GM foods cause absolutely NO problems in any capacity, then that's precisely what you're suggesting.  Since even the most benign foods have the potential to cause problems in some individuals, to argue that after 20 years, GM foods have caused absolutely NONE, then that is a truly incredible claim.
    It's just moving genes around. Look in the mirror. You were bacteria once. We share genes with marigolds and fish and all other living creatures. Moving genes around is what NATURE DOES.
    OK ... I'm not going to quibble with you over such a quaint view.  You certainly know better.  More importantly I expect you know that we still are mostly bacteria, so to not have the ability to examine the potential impact on the microbiome, and then claim absolute safety is a bit disingenuous.  The truth of the matter is that we have absolutely no idea what, if anything, could be affected.  Yes, we know that there are no extraordinary effects and that they are not obviously toxic.  Without additional studies, no other information is available.  That's as far as the science has taken it.  In truth, since most food has never been subject to testing, then we don't really know what effects modifications [even through hybridization] may have or have had, and we are at a total loss to even know how to proceed.  So, the assumption is simply that if nothing obvious happens, then we can claim "equivalence".  That isn't exactly the same thing as a scientific study. 

    Just to be clear.  I'm not asking that science prove GM foods are safe.  I'm simply asking to see some links to the work that has been done to examine the data that has been available and collected over the past 20 years.  I certainly hope no one is suggesting that we have all this data and opportunity to examine GM foods in practice and no one has done any studies.

    Mundus vult decipi
    >What does the empirical evidence suggest? < that people and animals are not dropping dead on the street en masse, like flies. This is the entire summation empirical evidence suggests-- absence of massive Per-acute adverse effects.

    What the empirical evidence is incapable of even remotely touching are associations between sub-chronic & chronic disorders, allergic/ immune mediated & "idiopathic" disease.

    In reading the following article:
    Results of a 90-day safety assurance study with rats fed grain
    from corn rootworm-protected corn
    B. Hammond a,*, J. Lemen a, R. Dudek a, D. Ward a, C. Jiang a, M. Nemeth a, J. Burns b
    a Monsanto Company, 800 North Lindbergh Blvd., St Louis, MO 63167, United States
    b Covance Laboratories, Inc., 9200 Leesburg Pike, Vienna, VA 22182-1699, United States
    Received 1 June 2005; accepted 22 June 2005

    I learned that rats developed Focal chronic inflammation Focal tubular regeneration in the kidneys at the ripe old age of 5months. It turns out the most common disease cats die of -- is chronic renal insufficiency, and in the majority of cases we have No Idea why.
    Can you cite a single study comparing renal function in cats eating GMO and non-GMO corn, to disprove the possibility that cats are dying prematurely of renal failure because of GMOs, Jon?

    I think a sublimely perfect example of narcissism is you, of journalistic and literary pedigree and Zero Medical training /medical clinical pedigree- believing yourself to be qualified to articulate health-related/ medicine- related judgments.

    JonEntine
    God, you seem to not understand genetics 101. You can't disprove what you are saying. But you can use that kind of logic to ban any food. Do you understand science/genetics at even the most basic level? No one is impressed by the "Dr." by your name. Yes, I did not get a PhD. While accepted into two separate PhD programs in philosophy and psychology, I got bored of the prospect of being an academic and decided to become a TV producer, and spent 20 years as a network TV producer and executive. I guess I don't have your science wisdom. That said, I have more peer reviewed articles in genetics and science journals and other academic journals and more science books reviewed positively by peer reviewed science journals and top flight science publications, by scientists, than you, with your flashy degree in...what? Vet medicine?. If you want to try to pull rank, you have to try a bit harder than that. The proof is in your posting. Kind of embarrassing.
    It likely isn't psychology, cause what I am reading is a whole lot of what shrinks would call psychological projection.

    What exactly is your degree in, famous celebrity Jon--religious studies?

    JonEntine
    I never said I was a celebrity--your words. I just indicated that I have a public body of work on genetics and science that is regarded by the science community and the public at a high level. And you are a vet. I'm sure you are a good one. What you are not is well educated about risk assessment, toxicology, genetic research or basic genetics. Your posts speak for themselves. I have books and voluminous pubic writing on complex science issues that speak for themselves. Wouldn't matter if I didn't graduate grade school. Empirical evidence matters. Science 101. Play your vet card all day. You just look silly.
    >>> Empirical evidence matters. Science 101. Play your vet card all day. You just look silly.<<<

    Right-- the empirical evidence is this, Jon---> I've been treating cats and dogs since 1990. Most of my career my patients have been eating GMOs. The cats eating GMOs are empirically dying of renal failure. They are getting inflammatory bowel disease. If I was motivated by money, I would open an endoscopy center, cause there are thousands of cats needing endoscopically harvested biopsies weekly. There is an epidemic of obesity and diabetes paralleling these disorders in the human population. We are finding pnacreatitis in cats, in whom we've never seen pancreatitis two decades ago. ( did you read Maltesta's paper on alterations of pancreatic zymogens, Jon?)
    The empirical evidence is that pets are getting all sorts of idiopathic chronic disease while eating GMOs.... same as people.

    Science 101: Can I see scientific studies in the form of comprehensive feeding trials (so that corporations can't manipulate findings) demonstrating that it isn't GMOs, which are the leading cause of the rising incidence of these chronic idiopathic diseases?

    JonEntine
    We get it now. Your anecdotal experience in which you have no idea what your cats eat and have no idea of the thousands of other inputs into their lives are suddenly turns into science? Enough said.
    >We get it now. Your anecdotal experience in which you have no idea what your cats eat and have no idea of the thousands of other inputs into their lives are suddenly turns into science? Enough said.<

    Not exactly anecdotal. The one input which we all know for certain is presence of GMOs (corn, soy, canola) in their dry food since the mid 90s.
    The number of cats diagnosed with chronic renal disease increased nine-fold between 1980 and 2000 and now afflicts over 2 million felines, with 49% of cats over the age of 15 suffering from the disease.

    Although some kidney disease, such as polycystic kidney disease (PKD) in Persians and Exotics and amyloidosis in Abyssinians, is known to be inherited, the cause of kidney disease in most cats is unknown http://www.catvets.com/healthtopics/medical_conditions/?Id=211

    JonEntine
    Do you understand the difference between anecdotal evidence v empirical evidence. There are zero controls, and it's all based on supposition. From a scientific perspective, it's worse than worthless, because it can be so misleading. Moreover, even if your supposition (though you don't really have one) is found to have an inkling of truth, it would be applicable only to cats who have forced regular diets of the identical food day in and day out for years. In other words, its applicability to humans would be...ZERO.
    > In other words, its applicability to humans would be...ZERO.<

    Great point!

    Do you mean sort of like the 90 day regulatory rodent tests have Zero applicability to cats, dogs OR people?
    I understand.-- Do You??????
    And do you understand how unethical Stealth introduction of these Novel Foods is into the food chain without a SINGLE CONTROLLED blinded cross-over feeding trial in cats, dogs, cows, horses or People?

    Does it not strike you as profoundly morally wrong to enroll millions of unsuspecting subjects in an experiment without gaining their consent, or their doctors' consent--in the absence of ANY convincing long term studies on the safety of these novel foods in the species in question?

    What the hell am I saying, here-- of course you don't-- moral/ ethical judgement is not a strong suit of a narcissist, or a sociopath. Makes one want go to law school in order to be able to partake in the joy of taking the irresponsible unethical lying cowards to court in a massive class action law suit. I think for now, though -- I, as a Californian, will see to it that Prop 37 passes, and hope there are already some good litigators out there.

    JonEntine
    Here's a good database of more than 3500 studies on the environmental and health effects of GM crops and foods. Go at it:
    http://cera-gmc.org/index.php?source=&year_to=&year_from=&authors=&keywords=&mode=search&action=bibliography_database
    Right.

    Please respond to the specific questions posed.

    Please post ONE doubled blinded controlled feeding trial in people.
    Please post a single blinded FEEDING TRIAL in animals.

    Jon-- what is so magical about 90 day feeding trials?
    Can you please be so kind as to explain the policy re. magical 90 days-- rather than 93 days, 95 days, 134 days, 376 days?

    JonEntine
    As you should know, a 90 day feeding trial meant to show long term effects would be meaningless. If it was so easy, anti-GM scientists would be doing them every day. Since the only differences between a GM food and non-GM food are proteins, you won't see anything. Most scientists are not silly enough--and the government is not stupid enough--to waste money on meaningless experiments.
    >As you should know, a 90 day feeding trial meant to show long term effects would be meaningless. If it was so easy, anti-GM scientists would be doing them every day. Since the only differences between a GM food and non-GM food are proteins, you won't see anything. Most scientists are not silly enough--and the government is not stupid enough--to waste money on meaningless experiments.< In other words -the experiments are structured to avoid looking for chronic adverse effects--by design! In the same exact way that the Monsanto study I cited demonstrated pathological changes consistent with renal damage and avoided including urinalysis results.

    3.2.3. Urine chemistry
    There were no statistically significant differences in
    urinalysis parameters between the male and female
    33% MON 863 group and the 33% control group (data
    not shown).


    Because guess what-- a very cheap simple test done in a serial fashion might just demonstrate a decreasing specific gravity, or presence of protein or renal casts.
    If you had a medical background you'd get that. Any first year medical school student knows this!

    Any newly minted veterinary doctor understands that if you report these types of changes in the liver:
    Foci of chronic inflammation
    Bile duct, inflammation, chronic
    Bile duct hyperplasia

    it is incumbent on you to run a bile acid test to prove absence of liver dysfunction. A test which can be done on 5 microliters of blood, serum, urine or feces in less than 30 minutes on mice and rats.

    Other Information
    >Bile acids are an important test for monitoring normal liver function. Bile acid is metabolized in the liver and is present in increased concentrations with abnormal liver function. This assay can be used to measure bile acid concentrations in mice in a wide variety of applications including mouse serum, liver, bile, feces, and intestine.<
    http://www.crystalchem.com/mouse-total-bile-acids-assay-kit.html

    And any scientist reading the Monsanto masterpiece understands that if you use 400 animals in an experiment, only 80 of which are experimental animals-- you are trying to hide something in blatanly Unbalanced Statistics.

    So.... when the rhetoric you specialize in is discarded, Jon-- the science left behind to demonstrate the safety of this NOVEL FOOD is a Joke. And you obscure this simple truth by posting thousands of clinically irrelevant studies and top this magician act with a classsical logical fallacy known as " appeal to authority"-- or in this case many authorities (FDA, EPA, etc etc etc)-- none of whom are veterinarians, nephrologists, hepatologists, pediatricians, endocrinologists, gastroenterologists or allergy specialists..... and you walk around congratulating yourself after this fantastic sleight of hands.....

    Hank
    I think the philosophical aspect of this movement is important; the people who use the 'science' of Carson as a shield then deny science about any study since that does not match their confirmation bias. You can pretty easily do almost a page-by-page refutation of her book showing she either intentionally ignored results or didn't do research - when she was not reusing the same citations over and over to make it look like she had more than she did.

    Will 'green genes' catch on?  It is certainly smarter positioning that what corporate marketing for GM companies have been able to do, so I hope so.  It costs almost nothing to instill fear and doubt so it is an uphill battle.

    As a California resident, I am adjusting to the idea that the rest of the country will have one more thing to ridicule California about; the anti-science mentality here is rampant. Now we will get to pay more for food than the rest of the country too, even though we grow enough food to feed about 20% of the whole world.
    Gerhard Adam
    Hank, I think an important element of this is the lack of citations.  As you well know, I'm not inclined towards fear-mongering, but I am becoming increasingly disturbed by the fundamental lack of meaningful studies indicating anything except rudimentary rodent studies [a significant number of which don't demonstrate anything because they don't fit the WHO criteria].

    I don't have a problem with stating that GMO's are safe, but I'm not comfortable climbing out on that limb when every time the subject of studies comes up all I see is subterfuge.  Given the claims of how much data is available, I don't think it's too much to ask to link to some of it.  Even abstracts would be helpful at this point.  Instead, we get carefully worded statements about "equivalence" and nutrition.

    From my reading of most of these studies, the reality seems to be that no one actually knows how to go about determining any of this because it's never been a requirement for food before.  As a result, some standards have been set, and as long as nothing obvious happens, the concept of equivalence is invoked, and is simply assumed.  Even in the stated standards there is enough ambiguity hinging on the fact that all foods have some dangers, therefore "equivalence" also means that dangers are viewed as comparable and therefore don't warrant extra tests.

    Again, I don't have a particular problem with that approach if it were simply stated.  What I can't abide is when people make claims about safety that extend well beyond their actual ability to demonstrate.  As you've stated numerous times, safety can't be proven.  OK, then let's cut out the wild claims about how no one's ever gotten a stomach ache, and proceed on the basis of what we actually know.  If we don't actually know if there could be long term effects, because this is unprecedented in food production history, then let's simply say so, instead of pretending that they are so safe that only a crackpot would dare question the science.  Unless and until I see actual studies that have demonstrated such a point, it seems that scientists are being entirely too coy about their "evidence" and it's quite reasonable to ask to see some links to actual studies. 

    No one in their right mind would suggest that rodent studies are adequate for human or other animal studies.  Yet, this is precisely what we're given.  It would be different if the logistics of distribution and testing would be onerous, but the products have been in use for twenty years and constitute a significant part of the food already in use.  It seems to be the height of irresponsibility to NOT have done follow-up studies to see if anything turns up from normal use.

    We've been through this far too many times with pharmaceuticals and other products that were initially deemed safe that turned out not to be.  It's not too much to ask that science back up its claims.  I'm seriously disappointed that whenever the safety claim has been raised, despite claims to the numerous studies available, virtually NONE are ever provided and those that are, seem preliminary at best. 

    I don't have any problem of being shown to be wrong.  In fact, I would welcome it regarding GM foods.  What I won't accept is a bunch of hand-waving arguments that suggest that to even ask the question is somehow anti-scientific.

    In other words, Jon, Steve Savage, you ... have all claimed that GM foods are safe.  All I'm asking is that you share the information that convinced you of it.  Convince me. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    JonEntine
    Gerhard,

    It's great that you are engaging in this but I think your post misses a key issue. The FDA and every world science body that's looked at this has concluded that there is no scientific basis to believe that moving proteins around would impact food to the degree that anti-GM campaigners suggest---contributing to renal failure, for one absurd example. Therefore it's not possible to conceive of any controlled studies here. High dosage studies on rodents wouldn't reveal anything, that's certain. In other words, there is no conceivable scientific path to travel here. That point has been made over and over again when the FDA and various agencies review, and re-review, their testing protocols. The only other choice is to invoke a precautionary standard, which says 'we don't know' so let's not do it. But there is no evidence, even serious anecdotal evidence, of real world harm, mild or severe, despite billions of meals. We have no scientific choice but to rely on the fact that there is no known scientific pathway to even hypothesize how a GM food could cause any problem (other then a new allergan, which is always possible with the introduction of any new food or substance).

    Do check that link I posted...it does go to thousands of useful studies.

    Jon
    Gerhard Adam
    Then why tap-dance around it.  Substantial equivalence simply means that, in the absence of any obvious event, if the food is equivalent to its non-GM counterpart, then we will simply assume it is safe. 
    Food safety can be demonstrated by confirming that the new food is substantially equivalent (e.g., as safe as) to the conventional food.
    Safety Assessment of YieldGard Insect-Protected Corn Event MON 810
    OK. I'm fine with that, but then let's dispense with the rhetorical nonsense that this has somehow been tested beyond the standards of normal food.  Statements such as "no one has gotten a stomach ache", are merely rhetorical devices that aren't true.

    This also means that we should be fine with saying that no safety studies have been done beyond testing for actual toxic effects.  Allergies have not been tested unless the genes originate from an allergenic source.  No overt patterns of disease, organ dysfunction or other changes have been noted that seem to correlate to these foods.

    If that's the state of the science, then we should say so.  If there's more, then that should be pointed to.  It's really not complicated, but it seems that too many people are being way too coy about this and consequently raising up people's suspicion.

    Apparently we can provide all manner of information regarding erectile dysfunction, but when it comes to our food supply, suddenly no one has anything specific to say.  Educating the public and making data available are part of the game, and failure to do so simply raises suspicion and concern in which fear fills the vacuum.  At this point, I'm completely unsympathetic to GM producers, since they have uniformly failed to grasp the simplest aspects of PR and public education.  In fact, their behavior suggests that they  [the GMO producers] fully expected to never have to disclose any of this to the public [which they obviously haven't over the past 20 years] and therefore felt no obligation to explain any of it.  Well ... time to pay the piper.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    I don't know about you, but I'm disturbed when I see phrases like this:

    "...no scientific basis to believe..."

    I would hope that it isn't my belief that is being challenged, but rather my scientific understanding.  In other words, if this is simply a policy decision that is deemed reasonable, then there should be no problem stating it as such.  Let's not pervert the science by making claims for which we have no evidence beyond our personal beliefs.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Does a medical practitioner get to determine what is useful to their patients, Jon?

    I, for one, would like to see the Malatesta studies on hepatocytes and pancreatic cells proven wrong.

    https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/csf/27/4/27_4_173/_pdf

    Dr. Malatesta raised a control group of pregnant mice on a standard rat chow containing 14% soybeans and the experimental GMO group on the same standard rat chow with the exception of the soybeans being Roundup Ready, glyphosate tolerant and probably sprayed with glyphosate soybeans. 24 progeny of these litters were likewise fed respective diets (12 in control group and 12 GMO fed) and hepatocytes from the right liver lobes were analyzed after 1, 2, 5, or 8months of this diet post weaning.

    This study is being criticized because he didn't use an isogenic line, while anyone who doesn't live under a rock understands that Monsanto et al do not release isogenic lines for experimentation by independent scientists who just might prove their seeds harmful.

    Conventional and electron microscopy (Figures 2, 3) revealed differences in neat photographic images. He observed that the nuclei of mice fed GMOs for 2, 5, 8 months were irregular (Figure 2: to my eyes the nucleus margin looks “indented”) and the nucleoli appeared “less compact” Irregular nuclear membranes represent an increase in metabolic rate. Increased nuclear -cytoplasmic interface might increase molecular trafficking between the nucleus and cytoplasm.

    See Table I: measurements of FC area, GC percentage were found to be Lower and DFC and pore density Higher in GMO-fed mice compared to controls. Literature suggests that an increase in metabolic rate is associated with increases of small FCs and increases in DFC area.
    He performed immunocytochemistry by “staining” snRNP (snurps), spliceosome assembly factor SC-35, and fibrillarin (imaging DFC) with gold-conjugated monoclonal antibodies. In order to quantitate splicing the density of gold stain was then measured in 15 random EM images and expressed as number of gold grains per square micrometer. See Table II Quantitative immune-labeling revealed stronger labeling in GM-fed mice livers indicative of increased splicing factors
    He measured liver enzymes: AST, ALT, LDH and GGT—the tests we routinely perform on our patients, which interestingly were found to be within normal limits. Since he did not observe changes in the cytoplasm, he concluded that GM food influences nuclear features of hepatocytes.

    And repeat this one on a larger N using isogenic lines.
    Histochem Cell Biol (2008) 130:967–977
    DOI 10.1007/s00418-008-0476-x
    123
    ORIGINAL PAPER
    A long-term study on female mice fed on a genetically modiffied
    soybean: effects on liver ageing
    Manuela Malatesta • Federica Boraldi • Giulia Annovi •
    Beatrice Baldelli • SeraWna Battistelli •
    Marco Biggiogera • Daniela Quaglino
    Accepted: 1 July 2008 / Published online: 22 July 2008

    Given the billions of dollars of profit, I believe-- it is quite reasonable to ask that Monsanto et al, fund researchers to replicate these experiments -- with a higher N and using isogenic lines--- in a blinded fashion ( to avoid all bias) and report ALL THE DATA, and the names of he scientists in contrast to reporting questionable conclusions reported by anonymous pathologists ( Monsanto study).

    Hank
    In other words, Jon, Steve Savage, you ... have all claimed that GM foods are safe. All I'm asking is that you share the information that convinced you of it. Convince me. 
    It doesn't do any good.  Any time someone attempts to write for one person on the Internet it then becomes a problem because the very next person has a different set of criteria.  I co-wrote a book, it has 600 citations, half of them probably showed up here at some point or another but rehashing them in every article I write - and literally I get that same comment in just about every article I write - is both boring and pointless for people who are writing for nothing.

    We live in a world of freedom, passively sitting back on a royal couch and demanding that someone convince you is not constructive (at least not when it comes to inspiring me to do more work) - if you can find articles claiming GM food is bad, how are you not able to find articles where it is safe?

    Like creationists, anti-GM proponents spend a lot of time instilling fear and doubt about how incomplete the science is - like creationists, what we don't see are people doing their own studies to show they are not safe.  

    I think the green genes concept is interesting because I have never believed the issue is anything other than marketing. It is only a science issue is because bad PR has made it such.  Has any other advancement caused such a controversy?  Sure, hESC research, even though stem cells had been unobjectionable for 40 years.  
    Gerhard Adam
    That's not what I'm asking though.  I'm not claiming they are safe or unsafe.  You and others have made the claim that they are safe.  Moreover, the claim has been that they are effectively safer than conventional foods, since no one has even gotten a "stomach ache".

    OK ... I get that that was exaggeration.

    However, you must have seen something, at some point, that convinced you that the data was there. 

    As I said, I don't have a problem in stating that there have been studies that indicate that there is no obvious difference between the two products [GM and non-GM], therefore by the standard of "substantial equivalence", we are presuming that there is no reason to believe that these foods are any more dangerous than conventional foods.  In other words, we are applying the same standard to food production as has always existed and been used.

    So, my point isn't to prove that GM foods are bad.  However, the point has been made that people are being totally unreasonable regarding GM food safety, and that numerous studies have been done [as far as can they can be taken], etc. etc. etc.

    In fact, this hasn't really occurred, otherwise there would be more exhaustive and complete studies readily available. 

    So, if people are concerned or wish to be afraid, then they would be applying a standard that has never been employed for conventional foods before.  Of course, one could also argue that such a standard is long overdue, regardless of the manner in which the food is produced.  However, that's not my point.

    My point remains.  Surely there must be at least one study or something that you have read that convinced you of GM food safety.  Ultimately my concern here is that, once again, science has overplayed it's hand and become activists regarding GM foods, instead of sticking with the science. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    ...if you can find articles claiming GM food is bad, how are you not able to find articles where it is safe?
    Bear in mind that many of the studies suggest that further studies are necessary.  Many studies indicate that there were deficiencies that need further exploration.  Also, many studies are worded very carefully to cover themselves with the "substantially equivalent" phrase, so they don't openly make such declarations regarding safety, because they realize that such a claim can't be supported.

    In fact, the scientific answer should be that GM foods pose "no greater risk than that of any other produced food".  That would be scientifically accurate.  However, the pro-GM foods arguments that I've heard are just as unscientific as those that oppose GM foods. 

    It's like considering antibiotics.  In that case the benefits greatly outweigh the risks, but it would be grossly irresponsible to claim that there are no risks at all.  Nothing in biology is that absolute.  To make a claim of safety and then be unable to prove it simply allows fear-mongering to enter the gap. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    JonEntine
    Gerhard: "In fact, the scientific answer should be that GM foods pose "no greater risk than that of any other produced food".  That would be scientifically accurate.  However, the pro-GM foods arguments that I've heard are just as unscientific as those that oppose GM foods."

    I don't know that there is a pro-GM argument. There is a pro-science argument. I've never, ever heard any scientist or science writer who is not religiously anti-GM make a claim that GM foods are any safer than conventional foods. They are just foods. That's the point.
    Gerhard Adam
    ...I've never, ever heard any scientist or science writer who is not religiously anti-GM make a claim that GM foods are any safer than conventional foods.
    Well, I'm certainly not going to ask you to defend what others may have written, but far too many posts making wild claims about how you have a greater likelihood of getting sick from organic foods vs GM foods.  There are claims about how no one has suffered any condition [i.e. stomachache, etc.] from GM foods.

    Are we agreed that such statements are simply hyperbole and have no scientific basis?

    As I've said before, I have no quarrel with the fact that science is often ambiguous and that absolutes may be impossible to prove [especially in the case of something like food safety].

    However, it should also be clear that many people are upset and concerned when it appears that someone else is deciding the risk/benefit of any public policy decision without telling them about it [note that this would also apply to any form of modification, including plant hybridization]. 

    In short, many people are becoming increasingly annoyed at the idea that risk/benefit analysis invariably means others benefit while they take the risks.  In an open dialogue, such a situation would be alleviated by consensus.  However, it appears that more and more decisions are being made where the public is simply viewed as an irrelevant component of such discussions [AGW policies, GM foods, etc.].

    I understand how difficult and annoying it can be to try and convince people that may lack a scientific background, or that still hold many pseudoscientific or even superstitious views, but that goes with the territory of having a government of citizens.  We have the means, and it seems to be the height of irresponsibility for me to be able to watch hundreds of infomercials regarding real estate, or "science" programs that are willing to discuss aliens, UFO's and the paranormal, but I can get no information on items of public policy that should concern everyone.

    I realize that many of the examples I've used are produced by private companies and aren't intended to be anything except programming for their own ratings, but my point is that the means are available to disseminate information that is important, instead of simply wasting it in rear-guard actions that leave everyone more disillusioned and frustrated.
    Mundus vult decipi
    JonEntine
    Frankly, what you write seems very sensible.

    As for the organics v GMOs, I would say this (and I've written about this pretty extensively, including a cover story for Vegetarian Times, which no longer exists!)--the chances of getting sick from eating organics is comparatively higher than non-organics (conventional or GM) -- but not because of their chemical make-up. It's because of bacterial contamination that often occurs because of the use of natural fertilizers. It leads to a few hundred deaths every year. That's easy to trace the source of those deaths. Any problems linked to conventional or GMO technology would be less visible.
    Gerhard Adam
    ...the chances of getting sick from eating organics is comparatively higher than non-organics (conventional or GM) -- but not because of their chemical make-up. It's because of bacterial contamination that often occurs because of the use of natural fertilizers.
    I fully agree.  This follows the modern mythology of "Mother Nature" and everything "natural".   I understand that too many people presume that a bear is like "Baloo" and that we can live in some kind of harmony, where we can all join hands in some grand Disney finale.

    I also think that we are taking greater risks than ever before and that it isn't the science that is dangerous, but our hubris.  We have many complex problems to consider and many of the solutions [such as they are] will also be complex.  However, our biggest problem is going to be our desire to do something quickly, and probably "showy" [for those that wish to capitalize on such impressions]. 

    In effect, I consider this to be like the space shuttle Columbia disaster.  It didn't occur because of our ignorance.  It occurred because we didn't think the rules applied to us.
    Mundus vult decipi