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    Atomic Gardening - The Ultimate Frankenfoods
    By Kevin M. Folta | July 7th 2012 07:25 AM | 78 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Kevin M.

    I'm proud to be a public scientist at a land-grant university with great interests in public education. I completed a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology...

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    If you are not a fan of transgenic (GMO) technologies, just wait until you hear about the freakish practices scientists and big seed companies are sneaking under the radar!  Now, scientists soak seeds or tissues in toxic chemicals or subject them to high fields of radiation to cause random damage and genetic changes.  Random damage to DNA causes unknown effects that produce new proteins, leading to new plant traits.  The new plant lines are untested for safety and not assessed for environmental impact.  They want to put these on your dinner table and feed them to children! 

    Actually it has been done for decades.  No opposition, no labels wanted, no protesters, no fear.  Okay for organic cultivation and the EU.  Let's look at a mutation breeding!

    All genetic variation starts with mutation.  Mutations are changes in DNA that ultimately may affect the expression or performance of a gene product.  Mutations occur spontaneously at high rates during DNA replication and in response to natural mutagens like UV light.  Cellular surveillance mechanisms are extremely robust and fix these errors before they affect the organism-- usually.  Occasionally an error is not corrected and results in a permanent change in that gene, perhaps changing a trait of interest.  Mutations are the source for pure genetic variation, but also are the basis for many diseases.

    Mutation breeding is the process of inducing genetic variation in a crop through use of chemical treatment or radioactivity.  Chemicals like ethyl methane sulfonate (EMS), sodium azide (SA), N-nitroso-N-methylurea (NMU) are used to soak seeds or treat tissue or pollen in culture.  They induce random changes in DNA, usually single bases or small deletions. These changes alter the encoded protein, forming new proteins that may be more or less functional, or perhaps truncated or even not made at all.

    For radiation, fast neutrons, x-rays or gamma rays bombard seeds causing double-strand breaks in chromosomes.  These lead to larger deletions of genetic material and sometimes rearrangements.  These changes are essentially random. They are induced by short-term exposure (seconds to hours) to a powerful radioactive source, usually Cobalt-60. Sometimes whole plants are grown in high radioactive fields to generate these genetic errors. The Institute for Mutation Breeding in Japan has generated a number of cultivars using these techniques.

    A powerful radioactive source in the center of this field hammers surrounding plants with gamma rays.  This treatment induces random damage DNA that results in new genetic variation.  

    Actually many cultivars have been produced using this technique. There is a wealth of information at the Mutation Enhanced Technologies for Agriculture website.  Barley, wheat, corn, bananas, grape, tomato, sunflower... at least 3000 induced-mutant plant lines in the Mutant Variety Database. Some are ornamentals, so not all food crops.

    In the USA there are maybe 100 examples including grapefruits, lettuces, oats, common bean, peppermint, wheat, rice, hops and barley.

    Transgenic techniques come under fire for many reasons.  Let's hold mutation breeding to the same criteria and compare the two techniques for some common criticisms:


    How do transgenic (GMO) plants compare to plants derived from mutation breeding for commonly raised criticisms?

    What about labels, organic cultivation, growth in the EU?   No problem if the plant's DNA has been scrambled by radiation or chemicals!  Here is an ironic juxtaposition of acceptability.

    Angry citizens demand to know what is in their food... unless it is mutation bred, then not so much. 

    For intellectual consistency, mutation breeding of crops must be considered much more random, unpredictable, un-assessable and imprecise.  There is no question that genetic changes have been made, as traits of interest are selected based on visible traits, such as resistance to drought/cold in wheat.  There is no easy way to assess what additional genetic baggage comes along with that new trait.

    Don't get me wrong, I don't see any problem with mutation breeding.  The techniques are proven successful at producing useful genetic variation that results in improved plants.  Awesome. As a scientist, it is difficult to reconcile how this method is freely accepted, while transgenic techniques are harshly criticized. Or is it?

    Maybe it simply points out that the scientific and intellectual arguments against genetic alterations are not the real concerns-- they are just strawmen for the actual political, business or social agendas. The science of transgenics is a convenient place to cultivate misunderstanding and fear.  But somehow the same fear mongers miss mutation breeding. 

    It tells us a little about the real agenda.  It is not about the process or product, but rather, who makes the product.




    Comments

    I looked at the META database a bit and saw one that used ultrasound. On their "recent" list was this sunflower:
    http://mvgs.iaea.org/Search.aspx?ID=3287

    I didn't realize that was being used too.

    KevinFolta
    Super weird!  I can't imagine how that might work, other than to cause physical breaks.  It is more common in animal cell culture. 
    Here's the paper _http://www.agrojournal.org/14/04-07-08.pdf  for sunflower. Not much information other than they whack embryos with ultrasound.  I guess they do that in humans too!
    Don't tell me it can't be done. Tell me how you are going to help me do it.
    Yeah, actually, I thought about ultrasound for fetuses too--but I hadn't seen the details and had no idea what the dosage levels were. Thanks for the paper, I'll have a look.

    Not much information other than they whack embryos with ultrasound. I guess they do that in humans too!
    The ultrasound levels for fetal monitoring are quite low, often 20dB below regulatory limits.  That level would be merely "deafening" if your hearing went up to the MHz region :) For imaging scans, the levels are much much higher, resulting in both compression and rarefaction of many times atmospheric pressure. Cavitation is only avoided because, at such high frequencies, there isn't time for the fluid to be ripped apart. Instead, the wave propagation becomes very non-linear and various mechanical effects such as streaming occur even within cells.  Amazingly, ante-natal ultrasound scans are regarded as perfectly safe, (cue endless arguments, claims and counter-claims...).
     
    TCM used to play news reels from the 40/50s. One showed a field of grain with a radiation source, probably Cobalt 60. It was on a pole in a canister, with a wire to lift the canister. Quite a contrast between the optimism of then and the pessimism of today.

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Kevin, can random mutations also create new Bt bacteria insecticide in every cell of the seeds and the plants that we and our animals now eat, in the way that GMOs can? If not then they don't really worry me as much as some of these GMO foods do. If only there were some scientific studies somewhere, that have been done on animals eating GMOs, preferably for longer than 90 days, that scientifically prove that the animals organs were not adversely affected. Then I could put my mind at rest about the possible adverse effects of eating these GMOs that are full of these Bt insecticides designed to target specific prey insects but apparently safe for everything else that hasn't been targeted. As I understand it, the Bt bacteria create spores and holes in the targeted insect's guts causing them to eventually starve to death, but won't do the same to our guts or our animals, even though there have been some well publicised cases of cows dying after eating Bt GMO corn and sheep dying after eating Bt GMO cotton

    Do you know of any studies proving that eating Bt insecticide containing GMOs are safe? I have only seen studies that show the opposite like this scientific paper analysing Monsanto's own experimental data and comparing the effects of 3 GM corn varieties on mammalian health which says :-
    Our analysis clearly reveals for the 3 GMOs new side effects linked with GM maize consumption, which were sex- and often dose-dependent. Effects were mostly associated with the kidney and liver, the dietary detoxifying organs, although different between the 3 GMOs. Other effects were also noticed in the heart, adrenal glands, spleen and haematopoietic system. We conclude that these data highlight signs of hepatorenal toxicity, possibly due to the new pesticides specific to each GM corn. In addition, unintended direct or indirect metabolic consequences of the genetic modification cannot be excluded. 
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    KevinFolta
    Hi Helen, let me put your mind at ease on this one.  The Bt protein (or Bt toxin) is a rather brilliant invention by the bacterium that makes it, Bacillus thurengensis.  The Bt protein is not a broad-scale insecticide.  Studies going back to the 1950s have demonstrated its safety in animal models as well as in insects.  The reason it kills selectively is because it is made as an inactive "pro-peptide".  Think of it as an active molecule with a cap that keeps it turned off.  The activator is a processing activity in the gut of certain moth and/or butterfly larvae.  It does not exist outside of these organisms. 
    Next, the larvae-activated peptide binds a specific molecule in the gut of the larvae. It is a lock-and-key mechanism, a highly specific interaction that does not occur in other organisms.  The bound receptor cause the Bt protein to form a pore in the larval gut, leading to ion leakage and death.  

    The mechanism is wonderfully understood and has been tested exhaustively in other organisms.  Recently, groups trying to link Bt toxins to bee death force fed bees loads to Bt toxin in the laboratory and saw minor effects.  Other safety studies go back to the 1950s with many others recent.  Bt is also used widely on organic crops as acceptable pest control. 

    I'm sorry for being vague about sources and citations. I'm at home tonight and not in the office, so I don't have access to all of my papers.  However, if you are interested in specific articles I'd be happy to send them, including the oldies from the 50's that paved the way for Bt use in organic gardening. 

    As for cows and sheep dying... the reports you present probably are cows and sheep dying.  However, there is no report that shows any causal relationship or mechanism to Bt corn (or cotton, as the sheep were eating, lord knows why).  Keep in mind that billions of animals have eaten this stuff (including humans) over the last 15 years.  This one German farmer is the only one affected?   Seems strange.  
     
    The final paper is Seralini's work.  Seralini is one of a handful of groups that always seems to find harm in GM foods, yet results are not expanded to mechanisms or reproduced outside of his group. 

    In this case his group re-analyzed Monsanto data.  Basically, you can "massage" statistics to generate statistical significance (not the same as biological or physiological significance) and that's exactly what they did.  Their statistical tests produce the results they want, but they are not consistent with proper tests.  The paper was re-evaluated many times.  One conclusion by the European Food Safety Authority says:

    _Following this work, EFSA has responded to the Commission, published a statistical report and issued a scientific statement from its GMO Panel. The main conclusions are:
    • The statistical analysis made by the authors of the paper did not take into account certain important statistical considerations. The assumptions underlying the statistical methodology employed by the authors led to misleading results.
    • EFSA considers that the paper does not present a sound scientific justification in order to question the safety of MON 863 maize.
    • Observed statistically significant differences reported by Monsanto, Séralini et al., and EFSA, were considered not to be biologically relevant. In the absence of any indications that the observed differences are indicative of adverse effects, the GMO Panel does not consider that this paper raises new issues with respect to the safety of MON 863 maize. Therefore, the GMO Panel sees no reason to revise its previous Opinions that the MON 863 maize would not have an adverse effect in the context of its proposed use.
    Prior to this most recent work, MON 863 maize has been subject to a comprehensive risk assessment by EFSA and by other authorities which did not identify any adverse effects on human and animal health or the environment. The 90-day rat study analysed by this paper is one element of the comprehensive risk assessment of MON863 maize.  In addition to the original Opinion in April 2004, this study has been reviewed again twice since then, prior to this recent work.

    The link to the whole page is here 
    _http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/gmo070628.htm

    To conclude, Bt is pretty good stuff.  I've lived in places that grow non-Bt corn and during pollination season those spray planes go over every few minutes with more broad-spectrum pesticide. Tons.  Bt gets around most of that. 

    thanks for your note, I hope this is helpful.   Glad to answer questions anytime.  Kevin 
    Don't tell me it can't be done. Tell me how you are going to help me do it.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
     Studies going back to the 1950s have demonstrated its safety in animal models as well as in insects. 
    I'm sorry for being vague about sources and citations. I'm at home tonight and not in the office, so I don't have access to all of my papers.  However, if you are interested in specific articles I'd be happy to send them, including the oldies from the 50's that paved the way for Bt use in organic gardening. 
    Wow, thank you for such a speedy and informative response Kevin. No need to send me anything, a link to the scientific papers and studies here will be fine. Plenty of other people will be interested to see this scientific evidence from scientific studies and papers showing no adverse effects of different Bt GMOs upon different mammal's organs, not just me.
    The final paper is Seralini's work.  Seralini is one of a handful of groups that always seems to find harm in GM foods, yet results are not expanded to mechanisms or reproduced outside of his group. 
    In that case do you know if earthopensource also belong to these groups? This paper GMO MYTHS AND TRUTHS claims to be 'an evidence-based examination of the claims made for the safety and efficacy of genetically modified crops' written by university academics Dr Michael Antoniou, Claire Robinson, Dr John Fagan in June 2012. I wonder what you think of the scientific evidence that they show there from many more scientific studies and papers demonstrating adverse effects of both eating Bt GMOs and GMOs in general?
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    KevinFolta
    Hi Helen, I'll post those sources for you.  There are literally hundreds of them showing long-term safety studies.  Plus, most don't put much stock in this, but the companies that release these things do some the most complete testing out there.  If somehow one of their products is clearly linked to a human disorder the company would be subject to massive lawsuit and would be driven out of business.  

    There are 32 independently funded studies on this page that are associated with Bt. 
    http://www.biofortified.org/genera/studies-for-genera/independent-funding/ 


    GMO Myths and Truths.  This author team has put out several similar reports over the years.  They even quote me in this one.  The authors use the same fear-based language and stretching the interpretations or results of sub-par scientific reports.  Over the years I've debunked most of the evidence presented in this report, and will continue to do so. If you have specific questions I'd be glad to address them. 


    The bottom line is that there is a lot of poor-quality science out there (like the Seralini stuff above) that some hold up as absolute proof of harm from transgenic crops.  Together it looks impressive. However, the pieces are not so good and through the lens of hard science don't stand up to scrutiny.  It is the same stuff as in Genetic Roulette by Jeffrey Smith.  Easily debunked. 

    If it was real evidence, you'd see it on the cover of Science or Nature, and it would change the way we grow food.  I'd be the first one fighting for the change!!  Thanks Helen.
    Don't tell me it can't be done. Tell me how you are going to help me do it.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Wow, thank you very much Kevin! Where have you been all my blogging life? I will read all your links and ask you more questions if I need to. Thanks again :)
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    KevinFolta
    It is a tough topic Helen.  I'm here because I'm a university scientist that just thinks science holds so much promise.  I really want to get people excited, in a good way.  Glad to answer any questions, and you can find me easily by email too.  kf
    Don't tell me it can't be done. Tell me how you are going to help me do it.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Kevin, I have gone through your list of recommended, independently funded scientific studies with a fine tooth comb looking specifically for any studies that have been done feeding Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) GMOs to animals and the effects that these have had on their internal organs. I ignored all of the other studies that tested other effects of both Bt and non Bt transgenic GMOS upon any animal’s blood, faeces, intestinal flora, milk, testes and multigenerational breeding etc. I have only selected the Bt GMO fed animals because this is the main area that concerns me. This is because I have always religiously washed my fruit and vegetables for my family and myself, in an attempt to remove all insecticide and herbicide sprays, as well as any bacteria contaminated soil and animal excretions from fruit bats, birds etc.

    As I mentioned earlier, what concerns me about the Bt GMOs is that there is now no way of washing off or removing the Bt bacterial insecticides and herbicides from my Bt GMO fruits and vegetables, as they are now in every cell of the Bt GMO plant that we eat. I am also concerned because I have seen quite a few studies showing adverse effects of Bt GMOs on animals organs in some of the other literature that you have discredited above but I had not yet seen any studies showing that there were no negative or significant effects of Bt GMOs on the animals organs.

    After going through your list I could only find one short term study done on sheep for 30 days that were fed Bt cotton that showed absolutely no adverse effects. I did however find 1 rat study, 1 mice study and 2 pig studies that all showed either significant or adverse effects upon the animals organs. These were the following 4 studies from your link above (with different numbers now) :-

    1.Finamore A, Roselli M, Britti S, Monastra G, Ambra R, Turrini A, Mengheri E.(2008) Intestinal and Peripheral Immune Response to MON810 Maize Ingestion in Weaning and Old Mice. J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Nov 14. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 19007233

    Abstract - This study evaluated the gut and peripheral immune response to genetically modified (GM) maize in mice in vulnerable conditions. Weaning and old mice were fed a diet containing MON810 or its parental control maize or a pellet diet containing a GM-free maize for 30 and 90 days. The immunophenotype of intestinal intraepithelial, spleen, and blood lymphocytes of control maize fed mice was similar to that of pellet fed mice. As compared to control maize, MON810 maize induced alterations in the percentage of T and B cells and of CD4(+), CD8(+), gammadeltaT, and alphabetaT subpopulations of weaning and old mice fed for 30 or 90 days, respectively, at the gut and peripheral sites. An increase of serum IL-6, IL-13, IL-12p70, and MIP-1beta after MON810 feeding was also found. These results suggest the importance of the gut and peripheral immune response to GM crop ingestion as well as the age of the consumer in the GMO safety evaluation.

    2.Schrøder M, Poulsen M, Wilcks A, Kroghsbo S, Miller A, Frenzel T, Danier J, Rychlik M, Emami K, Gatehouse A, Shu Q, Engel KH, Altosaar I, Knudsen I. A 90-day safety study of genetically modified rice expressing Cry1Ab protein (Bacillus thuringiensistoxin) in Wistar rats. Food Chem Toxicol. 2007 Mar;45(3):339-49.

    Abstract - An animal model for safety assessment of genetically modified foods was tested as part of the SAFOTEST project. In a 90-day feeding study on Wistar rats, the transgenic KMD1 rice expressing Cry1Ab protein was compared to its non-transgenic parental wild type, Xiushui 11. The KMD1 rice contained 15mg Bt toxin/kg and based on the average feed consumption the daily intake was 0.54mg Bt toxin/kg body weight. No adverse effects on animal behaviour or weight gain were observed during the study. Blood samples collected one week prior to sacrifice were analyzed and compared for standard haematological and biochemical parameters. A few parameters were significantly different, but all within the normal reference intervals for rats of this breed and age and not in relation to any other findings, thus not considered treatment related. Upon sacrifice a large number of organs were weighed, macroscopic and histopathological examinations were performed with only minor changes to report. The aim of the study was to use a known animal model in performance of safety assessment of a GM crop, in this case KMD1 rice. The results show no adverse or toxic effects of KMD1 rice when tested in the design used in this 90-day study. Nevertheless the experiences from this study lead to the overall conclusion that safety assessment for unintended effects of a GM crop cannot be done without additional test group(s).

    3.Maria C. Walsh, Stefan G. Buzoianu1, Gillian E. Gardiner, Mary C. Rea, R. Paul Ross, Joseph P. Cassidy and Peadar G. Lawlor. Effects of short-term feeding of Bt MON810 maize on growth performance, organ morphology and function in pigs. British Journal of Nutrition (2012), 107, 364–371 doi:10.1017/S0007114511003011

    Abstract - Male weanling pigs (n 32) with a mean initial body weight of 7•5 kg and a mean weaning age of 28 d were used in a 31 day study to investigate the effects of feeding GM (Bt MON810) maize on growth performance, intestinal histology and organ weight and function. At weaning, the pigs were fed a non-GM starter diet during a 6 d acclimatisation period. The pigs were then blocked by weight and litter ancestry and assigned to diets containing 38•9 % GM (Bt MON810) or non-GM isogenic parent line maize for 31 d. Body weight and feed disappearance were recorded on a weekly basis (n 16/treatment), and the pigs (n 10/treatment) were killed on day 31 for the collection of organ, tissue and blood samples. GM maize-fed pigs consumed more feed than the control pigs during the 31 d study (P < 0•05) and were less efficient at converting feed to gain during days 14–30 (P < 0•01). The kidneys of the pigs fed GM maize tended to be heavier than those of control pigs (P = 0•06); however, no histopathological changes or alterations in blood biochemistry were evident. Small intestinal morphology was not different between treatments. However, duodenal villi of GM maize-fed pigs tended to have fewer goblet cells/μm of villus compared with control pigs (P = 0•10). In conclusion, short-term feeding of Bt MON810 maize to weaned pigs resulted in increased feed consumption, less efficient conversion of feed to gain and a decrease in goblet cells/μm of duodenal villus. There was also a tendency for an increase in kidney weight, but this was not associated with changes in histopathology or blood biochemistry. The biological significance of these findings is currently being clarified in long-term exposure studies in pigs.

    4.Walsh MC, Buzoianu SG, Gardiner GE, Rea MC, Gelencsér E, et al. (2011) Fate of Transgenic DNA from Orally Administered Bt MON810 Maize and Effects on Immune Response and Growth in Pigs. PLoS ONE 6(11): e27177. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0027177

    Abstract - We assessed the effect of short-term feeding of genetically modified (GM: Bt MON810) maize on immune responses and growth in weanling pigs and determined the fate of the transgenic DNA and protein in-vivo. Pigs were fed a diet containing 38.9% GM or non-GM isogenic parent line maize for 31 days. We observed that IL-12 and IFNγ production from mitogenic stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cells decreased (P<0.10) following 31 days of GM maize exposure. While Cry1Ab-specific IgG and IgA were not detected in the plasma of GM maize-fed pigs, the detection of the cry1Ab gene and protein was limited to the gastrointestinal digesta and was not found in the kidneys, liver, spleen, muscle, heart or blood. Feeding GM maize to weanling pigs had no effect on growth performance or body weight. IL-6 and IL-4 production from isolated splenocytes were increased (P<0.05) in response to feeding GM maize while the proportion of CD4+ T cells in the spleen decreased. In the ileum, the proportion of B cells and macrophages decreased while the proportion of CD4+ T cells increased in GM maize-fed pigs. IL-8 and IL-4 production from isolated intraepithelial and lamina propria lymphocytes were also increased (P<0.05) in response to feeding GM maize. In conclusion, there was no evidence of cry1Ab gene or protein translocation to the organs and blood of weaning pigs. The growth of pigs was not affected by feeding GM maize. Alterations in immune responses were detected; however, their biologic relevance is questionable.

    So Kevin, do you have any more links to any respectable, independent scientific studies that clearly show no significant or adverse effects upon the organs of animals that have been fed Bt GMO foods? So far, I only have that one sheep study eating Bt cotton which we humans don't eat and which was only conducted for 31 days, which like the pig studies above does not really impress me very much as being a long enough period of time to draw conclusive evidence one way or the other.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Helen, in response to your long-ish comment above: a succinct answer.

    The Bt protein is not a broad-scale insecticide. Studies going back to the 1950s have demonstrated its safety in animal models as well as in insects. The reason it kills selectively is because it is made as an inactive "pro-peptide". Think of it as an active molecule with a cap that keeps it turned off. The activator is a processing activity in the gut of certain moth and/or butterfly larvae. It does not exist outside of these organisms.

    What part of Kevin's comment did you not understand?

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Studies going back to the 1950s have demonstrated its safety in animal models as well as in insects. 
    I'm sure you are right MikeB, I just want to read those studies, is that too much to ask for?
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    KevinFolta
    Helen, 
    Sorry, I didn't see your post in the list.  Here's what I can generally say about all of these.  I'll be happy to review specifics of each, but I can make a blanket statement. 

    First, the Bt protein is not an insecticide.  It does not target all insects, but rather a single type of insect, and then only the larval form.  This was demonstrated long before the gene was introduced to plants, really back when it was used almost exclusively in organic cultivation.  

    If you look at the studies they generally share one or more of the following:

    1  Inadequate controls.  They fail to use the same plant background as the one containing the transgene.

    2.  They do not monitor feeding.  Mice and other rodent studies will typically be skewed because either transgenic or control populations do not eat as much food.  The amount of lipids, proteins, and other secondary metabolites could easily explain effects. 

    3.  Small numbers.  They look in 3-4 mice where natural variation exceeds experimental effect.  In other words, one mouse with a bad genetic problem can skew all data.

    4.  Good or bad?  The authors typically describe small changes in cells, tiny changes.  Are they advantageous?  Some studies like this show that the effects are consistent with "higher metabolism" which is spun as negative.  However, if they had lower metabolism, they would say that transgenics are slowing down the cells.  It is a win-win for biased authors.

    I will look at these again, case by case and post some findings here.  Thanks Helen.  I'm glad you are doing your homework.  Let's see if it is really a problem.  I suspect if it really was a smoking gun that showed we have to trash 90% of corn, soybeans, cotton and canola, it might be in a better journal and have more impact. There is a reason why it is where it is.
    Don't tell me it can't be done. Tell me how you are going to help me do it.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Here's what I can generally say about all of these.  I'll be happy to review specifics of each, but I can make a blanket statement....If you look at the studies they generally share one or more of the following:
    1  Inadequate controls.  They fail to use the same plant background as the one containing the transgene.
    2.  They do not monitor feeding.  Mice and other rodent studies will typically be skewed because either transgenic or control populations do not eat as much food.  The amount of lipids, proteins, and other secondary metabolites could easily explain effects. 
    3.  Small numbers.  They look in 3-4 mice where natural variation exceeds experimental effect.  In other words, one mouse with a bad genetic problem can skew all data.
    4.  Good or bad?  The authors typically describe small changes in cells, tiny changes.  Are they advantageous?  Some studies like this show that the effects are consistent with "higher metabolism" which is spun as negative.  However, if they had lower metabolism, they would say that transgenics are slowing down the cells.  It is a win-win for biased authors.
    Kevin, you do realise that these Bt GMO studies that I have quoted and that you are criticising are from your list of 126 GMO studies with independent funding that you gave to me in your link above, don't you? They are not something that I have independently found and posted here. 

    I read through the 126 studies from your link and found the 32 Bt GMO studies that you mentioned and then narrowed them down to just those 5 Bt GMO studies where the animals internal organs were then measured. The reason I did this is because I imagine that the livers, kidneys and other internal organs are more likely to be adversely affected by large quantities of the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxin if the bacteria or the associated Cry toxins are in any way toxic to animals and not just toxic or harmful to the targeted insects. Especially as these organs are responsible for filtering many of the environmental toxins from the animals' bodies and can become damaged in the process or show signs of environmental stress, even when the animals still appear outwardly healthy, especially after only 30 days! 

    People and their animals are going to be eating these Bt GMO foods for many years not just days, so studies showing no long term adverse effects of eating large quantities of Bt bacteria and Cry toxin laden GMO foods, upon these animals' internal organs, seems to be quite important to me.
    I will look at these again, case by case and post some findings here.  Thanks Helen.  I'm glad you are doing your homework.  Let's see if it is really a problem.  I suspect if it really was a smoking gun that showed we have to trash 90% of corn, soybeans, cotton and canola, it might be in a better journal and have more impact. There is a reason why it is where it is.
    Thanks Kevin, I'll look forward to that as I already trust your judgement and enthusiasm. Also, there must be many more studies of Bt GMO foods being fed to animals elsewhere that have preferably been done for more than 30 days and ideally for much longer than 90 days, that show no adverse effects upon these animals internal organs you would think, so why are they so hard to find?
    Don't tell me it can't be done. Tell me how you are going to help me do it.
    OK, I'll also start searching through my university databases and not just the Internet and see what I can find, while I'm waiting for your findings. Thanks again Kevin :)

    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine

    Apologies if I'm misrepresenting either of your positions but you seem to talking at cross purposes. Bt  is well tested as a spray. Helen is more concerned about GMO crops that produce the stuff in situ. Cells are unimaginably complicated, we really cannot be sure that expression of the Bt gene(s) in a cell that is not designed for it doesn't have dire side effects that we haven't thought about. I'm not particularly scared of GMO but a 30-day trial does seem a bit short when we don't how the machine works either before or after its alien extension.

    Hi Mike,
    I was just wondering if you were aware that the range of Bt related toxins generated in the various GM crops are mostly truncated (accidentally or intentionally) and/or chimeric, not so much of a protoxin anymore, and that any such studies on the native Bt toxins which you have indicated exist and that Helen would like to see may not be applicable.
    Cheers,
    Josephine

    Antoniou is on the Scientific Council board at CRIIGEN: http://www.criigen.org/SiteEn/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=... where Séralini is the president.

    And the first author of that paper that they cite a lot is Spiroux de Vendômois. He's a homeopath. http://www.criigen.org/SiteEn/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=... I don't have high confidence that anyone practicing homeopathy has any grasp of actual science.

    John Fagan is an interesting guy. He quit mainstream science and wrote a book in the 1990s. http://www.mumpress.com/health-maharishi-vedic-approach-to-health/e07.html Perhaps some prefer the Maharishi U view of things. I don't.

    Good for you for looking into the sources.

    Hank
    I don't have high confidence that anyone practicing homeopathy has any grasp of actual science.
    Maybe if this were the 1600s he might get some respect.  It's more evidence the anti-GM campaigns have nothing to do with science and more to do with sending society backwards.
    John Fagan is an interesting guy.
    People in science are quirky just like anywhere else.  When the kooks behind the lawsuit to stop the LHC (because it was going to consume the planet in a black hole) were getting attention, they got one physicist to agree with them.  One immunologist says HIV does not cause AIDS too. Dirac was a numerologist. I am sure if we looked we could find a respected scientist who believes in psychics and ghosts too.  

    The woo contingent latches on to those, just like they latch on to any anti-GMO site, and claim their one agreement invalidates tens of thousands of biologists because it is a Vast Science Conspiracy.
    Gerhard Adam
    I'm not inclined to dispute the general issues of safety or equivalence regarding GMO foods, however I do find it interesting that you mentioned mutation breeding.

    Primarily what's interesting is that it is clear that you chose it because it is unlikely that anyone would be familiar with what it is.  From here, the argument is simply extended to GMO foods.  However, I would stop before that point and question why mutation breeding is considered acceptable regarding safety testing or assessment for environmental impact.

    It suggests that there are even more things that one can be concerned about, rather than fewer.

    My growing concern is the naivete of scientists in their failure to realize that virtually every major problem we face today is a direct result of our uncontrolled implementation or exploitation of science.  Everything ranging from the explosion of nuclear devices to antibiotic resistance to the toxic contamination of geographic areas.  Every one of these is a direct result of science.

    More specifically it isn't the science itself that is to blame since that's merely information.  Instead, it is the implementation and exploitation of that knowledge by those that seek to profit and gain, while tending to ignore the difficult bits.  Every physicist knows that radioactive waste is produced in a nuclear reactor.  However, there is no scientific solution to that, so it is left up to politicians and business people to "sell" a solution to the public.  Toxic waste is too expensive to deal with properly, so corporations look for the cheap solution by burying it on land that residences are later built on because no one wants to ask the hard questions.

    This doesn't make any of the science bad, but it makes those that are optimistic seem rather naive.  After all, would any really believe that pollution exists because we didn't realize that some dangerous byproduct needed to be disposed of?  So, in our innocence we dumped it into a river hoping that it would somehow make it less toxic?  Obviously no one believes that.  Pollution exists because someone thought they could get away with a cheap solution and that no one would catch them at it. 

    Let's consider the reality of GMO's and mutation breeding [and other methods of modification].  In the first place, we can't even begin to imagine or project the long-term effects of these modifications, since natural selection isn't going to stop simply because we wish it to.  In addition, we don't know even [or sometimes we know nothing] about those that may be subject to coevolution.  This is especially true with microbes when fully 99% have never been identified, let alone cultured.  This doesn't mean that we shouldn't proceed, but it would seem that a program of monitoring would be quite appropriate.  Again, this will be considered too expensive, so we can look forward to something happening that no one expected, and then having to fund a study to determine what went wrong [and try to reconstruct data that was readily available, but we were simply too cheap to bother collecting when we had it].

    So, an honest assessment suggests that we have been exceptionally lucky in the application of our knowledge and that it is largely due to an environment that is rather "forgiving" scientifically that we can hang much of our successes, rather than because we actually possessed comprehensive understanding.

    I, for one, am not filled with hubris at our technological progress.  In many ways we are dangerously ignorant, but I also realize that often we may have to address problems for which we can't afford to wait decades for the necessary solutions.  It is for this reason that I'm in favor of the labeling.  Not just of GMO foods, but all foods that are subject to modification.  There is absolutely no excuse for scientists to not be gathering and tracking data on changes made, by humans, in the environment and to our foods.

    There can be no corporate excuses, or economic rationalizations, or political expediencies.  If we aren't prepared to do this scientifically and properly, then we have no business pursuing it.  I'm not inclined to purchase GMO foods, simply to improve the quarterly profits of a corporate farmer.  Again, if GMO's are actually cheaper to produce, then they'd fly off the shelves because they were cheaper.  Let the market choose.  However, we know that that isn't going to happen, because the purpose in avoiding labels is so that these cheaper goods can be sold for the same price as all others, and thereby improve the profit pictures of producers while relying on the ignorance of the consumer.

    So, while I can appreciate your comment to Helen, about wanting to get people excited in a good way.  I agree that such would be a great vehicle for getting people to appreciate the role of science.  However, it is also become increasingly obvious that science can be easily abused, and it is that aspect of it that is hurting science and increasing the levels of distrust. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    KevinFolta
    Gerhard, 
    I'm with you on a big part of this.  It is a balance between power and the wisdom to use it properly.  It has been a balance humans have faced for a long time and at every technological step.  Personally I'm a huge fan of science.  Reading the Higgs stuff this week literally gave me goosebumps.  It is easy to point to the places where technology went too far, fell short or overpromised.  I do that all the time.  But at the same time we can't forget about the tremendous lives we enjoy because of technology. 

    But every point you make about pollution, radioactive waste, etc has been recognized if not corrected.  We move forward and adjust. Benefits outweigh risks one-hundred fold and we come out better. A lot of good solutions also die because of politics.

    My point in juxtaposing mutation breeding and transgenics (GMO) is because nobody cares about the former.  Nobody ever will.  It is because the argument against transgenics is not a scientific discussion.  There is scant evidence showing negative data that exceed conventional agriculture.  The argument is a social and business one, and I don't know how to fix that (I have a good guess, lower regulation).  I do know that the science is solid and effective. 

    I hear your points about long-term effects, but they don't resonate well.  We have never formally studied the long-term effects of growing tomatoes, potatoes, corn, sugar cane, or any of the major ag crops in North America.  None of them came from here.  How do you know THEY are not affecting soil microbes?  Much more likely than the addition of a single gene! 

    This is why the point is rather moot.  We have created an artificial system and now we're optimizing it.  Yes, right now there is a profit motive.  How can we fix that?  Better regulation, more sophisticated rules so that small companies, private breeders and academic scientists can commercialize transgenic plants.  

    Thanks for a thoughtful post as always. 
    Don't tell me it can't be done. Tell me how you are going to help me do it.
    Plants are mutating themselves all the time. In fact, some research suggests that they shake up their genomes quite a bit as a response to climate stresses.
    http://www.genomeweb.com/informatics/genome-duplication-may-have-helped-...

    Worse, though, is that pathogens are mutating. Let's look at Ug99, which could be a major threat to wheat around the world. It arose in Uganda--not exactly a biotech hotspot. I guess you could call this natural and let it run its course. But I think I'd rather try to avoid famine, with all the tools we have.

    There are consequences of inaction as well.

    Gerhard Adam
    I personally am not advocating inaction.  However, the mutations your describing will continue regardless of what we do.  So, that changes nothing, except that now we are also adding variables into the mix.

    Be that as it may, it seems that the primary objective of every scientific endeavor would be the collection of the greatest amount of data possible considering all these possibilities.  That's why I'm so puzzled by the seeming attitude that industry carries, which is .... we don't need to know, so we don't need to collect data, and that's why labeling is so prohibitive.   In addition, it doesn't raise much confidence that we are prepared for assessing long term consequences if don't ensure that we collect data.

    I am not so naive as to believe that everything we believe today will necessarily be scientifically valid tomorrow, or that it may not require significant revision.  I'm quite prepared for the fact that we may make mistakes.  Sometimes those mistakes can be serious.  However, if we don't collect the data when we have the means of acquiring it, it simply strikes me as irresponsible.  Nothing scientific about it ... it just seems lazy.

    NOTE:  I am not in agreement with the idea of warning labels.
    Mundus vult decipi
    I keep hearing how all these other countries label, and that solves all the issues apparently. Can you tell me if there's any data from all these labeling countries that show reduced facets of the things people are concerned about? Seems they'd know, but nobody has demonstrated that's true to me. Do you have any evidence labeling affects the things you are concerned about?

    Gerhard Adam
    I'm not claiming that all issues are solved, or that no problems occur.  My only point is that there can be no harm simply because we have more information available to us [especially as consumers].  I don't personally care if the majority of people don't read labels or ignore their contents.  I just don't think that it's a reasonable presumption [i.e. that people don't need to know].  As the individual who is expected to spend money on a product, I reserve the right to know what that product consists of, regardless of how many others ignore such data.

    Mundus vult decipi
    That's not what I'm asking--I am not asking for your personal opinion. I'm asking for data about the labels and if they are working to accomplish the things people are claiming they want. Do they reduce allergy incidents? Do they reduce ...whatever. I'm not actually sure what the list of things are that people claim they need these labels for (beyond personal philosophical objections--which I don't think belong on a government mandate).

    I have no problem with the voluntary labels like Non-GMO for the philosophical objections. But if people are claiming they will have health outcomes I want to see that data.

    Gerhard Adam
    It doesn't matter what you're asking, since this isn't a scientific question.  It's a personal question being answered by a consumer.  Science does NOT reserve the right for itself to do whatever it chooses and demand that the consumer justify their requirement for data.

    If you wish to sell to me, then you must comply with MY wishes.  You do not get to claim the "divine right" of science and choose to tell me what I must accept.
    I'm asking for data about the labels and if they are working to accomplish the things people are claiming they want.
    I don't need any data, since the only purpose of the label is to convey information.  That is true simply by its existence.  Whether the information is used or not, is irrelevant to the discussion. 

    However, we do know that information does perform all the actions I'm asserting which is precisely why businesses spend billions of dollars to ensure that the information they think is most useful gets presented to the consumers.  This is the purpose of advertising.  So, if information can be used to influence the purchases of consumers, then it assuredly can be used to convey other more passive bits of information.  As I said ... I'm not arguing that a particular action must follow.  Instead, I'm simply advocating that the "free market" can determine the success or failure of products being introduced by ensuring that the proper information is presented to the purchasing public.

    Just to reaffirm...   I'm not advocating that any particular food be singled out for labeling, but instead that a much more informative approach to food, overall, be followed [including organic foods].
    Mundus vult decipi
    Oh, well, that's the difference then. I am asking for evidence because I think that government mandated labels should be evidence based and scientifically relevant and sound.

    It's fine to ask for consumer preference labels. I just don't think the government should go there. I don't think they should manage the Kosher or Halal or any other philosophical preference--the communities that want that should be the ones to track, maintain, and issue those. Or other consumer whims that aren't scientifically relevant (changes your quantum structure!).

    Gerhard Adam
    OK.  So your position is simply that you don't think the government should involve itself in anything that you don't think is important.  I get that. 

    So you don't have any problems with animal products being included in items that might be considered vegetarian? 
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    Lawsuits handle that just fine, much as they would if kosher food is not kosher.  Any religious preference, including the anti-GMO/organic sectarian view, has recourses to make sure its products can be purchased and can be sued for fraud if they are not.  The government does not need to be involved, just like they don't actually inspect organic food - they just have to make sure it is safe, which they also do with GMOs.
    Gerhard Adam
    You can't really be suggesting that lawsuits will handle such situations.  The  mere fact that I could die of old age before a lawsuit even gets to trial already indicates that it is a poor application of the law.  I can't think of no corporations that don't have the economic means to outlast anyone in court if they elect to do so, so the suggestion of a lawsuit is simply a cynical solution in my view.

    No, they cannot be sued for fraud unless there is a framework of governmental laws establishing what the criteria must be.  Misrepresentation, in and of itself, is NOT a crime.  Without a standard against which fraud can be measured, then it requires the legal establishment of intent, which makes any case practically impossible.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    Lawsuits happen every day.  Asbestos, for example, has had 30 years of judgments.  Sen. John Edwards got rich doing lawsuits when he was very young.   Vioxx judgment - lawsuits.

    When someone commits fraud, they get sued and they do not die before it goes to court. 
    Gerhard Adam
    Unless you've got a huge class action, it is nearly impossible to get an attorney to be interested.  So, unless you have the financial means to sustain a lawsuit, you won't even get started.    As for fraud, I'll believe it when I see it.  To the best of my knowledge the only such cases that have ever been successfully prosecuted have been between corporations or the justice department. 

    Generally lawsuits can only be successfully prosecuted by private individuals when the financial stakes are comparable.  For a private citizen to sue a company like Walmart without a huge class action backing them up  .... like I said, I'll believe it when I see it.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    ...that people claim they need these labels for (beyond personal philosophical objections--which I don't think belong on a government mandate).
    Of course you do.  You don't seriously suggest that you don't absolutely depend on the government's assurances for clean water.  You don't seriously suggest that you don't absolutely depend on the government's meat inspections to ensure non-diseased animals are on the market.

    You depend unequivocally on the government's enforcement and laws for fair advertisement and to ensure that what companies present is essentially true and accurate information.

    I always find it curious that businesses [or individuals] that complain about the government are those that depend absolutely on the government for their very existence.  Whether it be the governmental laws that protect their limited liability [in the form of corporations] to their ability to collect debts.  Yet, somehow when the government is supposed to provide basic protections for consumers it's always considered interference.

    In short, you depend on all the things you are suggesting I don't need by labeling.  Unless you specifically know the farmer, or the source of any product, then you are operating in ignorance.  Why ignorance should be considered a good thing is not something I can grasp from those advocates.
    Mundus vult decipi
    I don't understand what you are getting at here. My water is unlabeled. But I do filter it post-faucet for drinking and cooking. That's a choice I make and that I pay for.

    And I don't eat meat--a personal philosophy I don't expect matters to anyone else. But those inspections are for legitimate food safety concerns. Not philosophical whims. Well, unless it's a religious issue--which should be managed by those religious authorities.

    Are you really getting gene content information from farmers? That's very cool. I've never seen or heard of that. Can you show me an example?

    Gerhard Adam
    Who said anything about gene content information?  Who required that level of detail in a label?  Are you trying to stretch the argument to absurdity to make your point?

    Your personal consumption regarding meat or water is irrelevant because you still recognize the government's need to be involved.  Since regardless of your personal philosophy I seriously doubt that you would advocate that meat inspection is unnecessary nor that water processing plants are superfluous.

    As for "legitimate food safety" concerns, you're simply adding qualifiers that are relevant to your view of food.  "Legitimate" concerns may range from the content of particular foods to simply knowing whether ingredients are fresh or artificial.  It isn't up to you to decide what someone might find a "legitimate" basis for their purchase.

    Again ... to reiterate;  I do NOT agree with the notion of warning labels.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Well, tell me what you want on the label then--I'm not sure I understand. If it's not gene content details, what do you know? And how would it help you make a decision?

    And if it's not gene content you want--but something about the process--then that's a philosophical issue. You want to be notified about the process. That seems just like Kosher to me.

    Gerhard Adam
    Good.  As I said, you seem to think that consumer's desire to be informed about a process is something that is solely up to them to enforce, provided they don't use the government they elected to do it.

    I don't know why you feel compelled to make that kind of a split, since you clearly don't have an objection if the government is small enough [i.e. community], so it simply suggests that you have some arbitrary reason for drawing the line where you do.

    The irony is, that since the government is supposed to represent the people, then technically the laws the government enforces are the "will of the people".  You seem to be arguing that the government somehow operates independently of those people.  If that's the case, then there are bigger problems than labeling and perhaps the electorate needs to be paying better attention.  If that's not the case, then the issue of labeling is precisely what the people have elected to have the government do.  So why would you argue that the government shouldn't be involved?
    Mundus vult decipi
    I'm really not following your case. Do you think the government should be responsible for everyone's food philosophy labels? They should establish and monitor Kosher, Halal, Krishna, Mercola's beliefs, whatever....? Should we take Kosher out of rabbi's hands? Seriously?

    I just don't see the need to layer government on any group's philosophical labels.

    Gerhard Adam
    First of all, let's stop talking as if "the government" is something that is "out there".  The government is the people that elected it.  So, it is really up to them what role it is to play.  While you may disagree with it, that really is just your philosophy and is no more legitimate a default position than anyone else's view.

    You're trying to turn a simple labeling issue into some government interventionist program, which it isn't.   You failed to answer the question previously, when I asked if you felt it was OK for animal products be included in something considered vegetarian.  Should there be no standards beyond those that the "local community" [whatever that is] can enforce?

    So, if a food producer lies to me about the contents of food, what recourse is suggested?  Take it up with my city council?  What exactly is a suitable means by which such "enforcement" should take place, if not government?  More to the point, what legal standing would any body have against a corporation without the legal framework of the government?  After all, this seems to be a common position from many people that appear to feel that the government is merely intrusive.  They argue that people should take responsibility for themselves, while ensuring that the government has all the legal protections in place so that they can't take responsibility for themselves.  It is a bit absurd to suggest that an individual can enforce anything against a corporation, when the corporation enjoys government protection. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    But I do filter it post-faucet for drinking and cooking. That's a choice I make and that I pay for.
    That's interesting.  How do you know that your filter works as claimed? 
    Mundus vult decipi
    I don't know specifically. I haven't run independent tests on the output. I can see that there is gunk in the upper chamber though, and there's no gunk in the lower chamber. If you want I can clean one of the tubes and show you the gunk.

    Also, I have a degree in microbiology, and the filtration mechanism as described makes sense to me based on my understanding of microbe sizes. And I have no reason to believe that the provider has misled me on the pore sizes--it wouldn't be in their interest to do that. Maybe you need the government to check on the pores. But I doubt that there is has been government testing on that, and that's ok with me. I don't expect them to have evaluated every product I use.

    Gerhard Adam
    Good, so now we've established that your position is simply one of your own personal philosophy and isn't any more scientific than my desire to have information available. 

    I'm not going to argue with you about your notion about government, since it is clear that you view it as a superfluous interfering body.  Great ... I happen to think that that's an untenable position, but that's my view.  While I certainly don't view government as a savior, I'm also not naive enough to believe that ANYONE possesses enough knowledge to negotiate all the anonymous byways of consumer protection. 
    Also, I have a degree in microbiology, and the filtration mechanism as described makes sense to me based on my understanding of microbe sizes.
    That's fine, so you choose to believe the information you've been provided with.  Would you feel the same if no one felt compelled to provide such information?  If they simply said it's a filtering system ... take it or leave it.
    Mundus vult decipi
    I don't think you should be required to pay taxes for my desire to have my water post-filtered, no. Exactly.

    I'm so glad we could come to an agreement there.

    Gerhard Adam
    Please ... don't use the tax argument.  It simply doesn't hold.
    Mundus vult decipi
    MikeCrow
    It would depend on how you use the word tax.
    I content that GMO labels to have any use would require knowing specifically which GMO variant and how much of it is in a product. There will be a cost in the supply chain to do that.
    If a farmer plants 50/50 GMO/non-GMO does he have to ship them in different trucks? Does he have to use different harvesters to keep the product separate from each other? Does he have to scrub any equipment of all dust from GMO crops prior to processing non-GMO so that it can be labeled as non-GMO? All of this cost money, and one might call that added cost a "tax" on GMO labeling.

    So, let's see how much info you really want.
    If a product has any corn, soy, wheat (or any other crop that has a GMO variant) product in it, and they added a label that said "This product might contain GMO content", would that make you happy? It would have zero scientific content, but you could not buy it if you wanted too, would that work for you?
    Never is a long time.
    Part of the reason plants mutate is because of world wide radioactive fallout dating back to the 40's.
    There is nothing untouched, remember scientist are always experimenting and we are their mortal mice.
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mutation-Watch/330100447017280?ref=pb
    http://www.chicagonow.com/steve-dales-pet-world/2012/07/more-on-radioact...

    Then theres Fukushima that overshadows all else you may think is important.

    Nice work, Kevin... Now they'll be coming for the mutants!

    Gerhard Adam
    So your position is "ignorance is bliss"?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Almost. Much of mankind actually survived sausage, Spam and selective breeding long before Government determined that the protection racket is a perfect cudgel for accretion of power and money. I therefore reserve most of my paranoid anxieties for Government. History suggests that armies of bureaucrats and their cronies are likely to hurt more citizens than any meat-flavored dandelion.

    Hank
    Chris Clarement, writing in The Uncanny X-Men, predicted this in 1984.  He even nailed that it would be a big government progressive; in this instance, his fictional stand-in for Ted Kennedy. 
    Hence, the jig is up.

    "the actual political, business or social agendas" are the core of any argument in society; why people find it palatable to pretend we are discussing scientific evidence instead escapes me; perhaps its easier to keep the peace if we all agree to lie?

    John, those opposed to transgenic technologies ABSOLUTELY make it a science discussion. Look at the new rag GMO Myths and Facts. It is packaged as a purely scientific attack on transgenic technology using peer-reviewed evidence. It is low-quality, suggestive or in some cases invalid research, but they hold it up as solid evidence.

    If they could make this a business and social argument they'd get some traction. Instead they look silly dismissing sound, proven science. Not good for the movement that has a legitimate argument in many ways.

    Hank
    Yes indeed. We have all heard of the politicization of science but the scientization of politics, masking a cultural agenda with a veneer of carefully picked science data, has become a lot more common. 
    Great article, Kevin. Thank you very much.

    In my opinion the fact that mutation breeding is so widely accepted (or ignored) even by the "organic" organisations, is one of the biggest inconsistencies in the green business (even though there are so many). Your article hits exactly that point.

    I would like to ask you for the permission to translate your article into German and publish on Science Skeptical Blog. That most of modern crops are due to nuclear reactors or similar techniques is not being recognized by media in Germany so far.

    Btw, a good source in this context is the book Mutation Breeding: Theory and Practical Applications by A. M. Van Harten, which is available in excerpts here.

    Regards,
    Rudolf Kipp

    KevinFolta
    Dear Rudolf, 
    You have my permission to translate it to German.  Mein Deutsch is nicht so gut. Sehr schlect. 

    Thank you for the reference.  I have some old materials on mutation breeding- pretty wild and "atomic age" looking.

    Kevin
    Don't tell me it can't be done. Tell me how you are going to help me do it.
    Dear Kevin,

    Thank you very much. Your article is now online in German: "Atomares Gärtnern – Die ultimativen Frankenstein-Pflanzen".

    The libertarian portal "Die Achse des Guten" ("The axis of good") also has the story.

    Btw, the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften (Max-Planck-Society for the promotion of sciences) has an interesting explanation, why mutation breeding requires no regulations. Its all natural...

    Mutation breeding is not subject to statutory regulations, as no genes imported from other organisms, but the natural mutation rate is increased.

    Gerhard Adam
    I think the issue of the politicization of science [and the scientization of politics] bear some careful consideration, because science will lose this battle/effort, if they don't become significantly more savvy.

    The concept of closed publishing is now a liability and the ability for those that are waging PR battles make science look "shady" when information is not readily and freely available.   It doesn't matter what the standards or criteria for peer-review are, or anything else.  Without a more popular message reaching the public, then science will always look like it's divided between those that are looking for self-gain versus those that are trying to bring the message to the public.

    Certainly this means that there is a more significant role for scientific journalism, because most of the published data will not be understood, so without some mechanism to ensure that the essential information is properly interpreted and presented, then it leaves open the means by which "spin" and politics determines what the message is.

    Science also needs to stop appearing as if it is perpetually in "react" mode.  The issue of GMO's or virtually anything with the potential for controversy should be part of the public dialogue.  It shouldn't wait until public policy decisions raise the controversy.  At that point, it simply makes science look like it is trying to hide or get by under the radar.

    There are many points within science and the scientific media that will all share some responsibility, but it basically comes down to the fact that those opposing many of these efforts are learning how marketing works.  So, if this is going to be about ensuring good, valid information reaches the public, then scientists needs to get on board rather quickly.  If science "wins" such disputes by legislation, then they will have lost the public.  Simple cheerleading efforts are no longer sufficient.

    Let's keep in mind that despite much of the derision that is heaped on the "green" movements, these were started by science and scientists that began to question the destructive path that we were pursuing.  It is a direct result of people seeing that science [more properly the use of science] was not arbitrarily good when it was unconstrained by industry and politics.  Much of the activity that resulted in positive outcomes was a direct result of people becoming enthusiastic about science and exercising their skepticism about messages that really were "to good too be true". 

    The problem with the climate change, anti-GMO, or anti-vaccine crowd isn't that they are Luddites.  It is that they are exercising scientific skepticism in an environment that somehow manages to stumble in providing factual contrary data.  In many ways, this also illustrates how often we provide inadequate studies and data on which to base public policy decisions.  This is what provides the means for others to question the motivation and reliability of data.

    Someone that is anti-vaccine isn't being anti-scientific.  They are precisely being scientific since their claims can be disproven.  So let's disprove them, instead of waffling about with various half-baked studies and questions.  This shouldn't be that hard to do.   We can't do anything about those people that accept conspiracy theories or are looking for world-takeover plots.  However, we can do a far better job of ensuring that people that have real questions aren't arbitrarily ridiculed by not having data available. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    I grant that some folks over-react to GMOs.
    I think there is some cause to be a bit more concerned with GMO's than with conventional or mutational breeding, and it is concern over long-term use of stuff like roundup. I don't know of a parallel where we've breed something to have resistance to a poison we apply. Now I'm not saying Roundup is conclusively evil, but the question is larger there, since it is not just the safety of the corn or beans as food, but also the safety of using the chemical on a massive scale out there. I felt the article was wilfully ignoring that.

    I'm not an expert on whether any of the alleged problems with roundup are true, so I won't be able to debate any of those details (like if amphibians are really being hurt). And I do realize benefits too, so even if there is some harm, we'd have to weigh it carefully. I also admit I see lots of anti-GMO folks thinking every GMO is like the roundup-ready story. I am not one of them. I am aware of several other modifications that seem quite admirable, and no different than what a plant breeder would hope for (like the papaya story).

    Note: this is not about who makes it.

    Hank
    Sometimes the precautionary principle does a lot more harm than what it is supposed to cure; banning DDT killed millions of children in malaria regions and replacements to supplant it have been both expensive and far more dangerous for people and the environment.

    The public should not get its science from a 1960s book written by a hysterical crank or from fringe sites where homeopathy believers are the experts.
    Gerhard Adam
    Yes, but also the public in California [as an example] should not be held to the same standard as a region that breed malaria.  What I don't understand is why decisions made in the U.S. should be applied to third world nations and why the choices we make is used as the criteria for how they live.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    That's what an anti-science mentality does. If kooks in California got it banned but developing nations did not, the kooks would claim no one cares about African kids, never once realizing their ban was without merit.  The UN, at least, has gotten back to some rationality in this one instance.
    Gerhard Adam
    I'm not sure that the "anti-science" label is particularly helpful.  It often has the opposite effect since many of the people that oppose some of the technologies appear to have data on their side, while the scientific perspective is often reduced to the "trust me" approach.  My concern is creating a false dichotomy where we create an "us vs them" mentality similar to the approach used to force the evolution debate into an atheist vs believer condition.

    I realize that it can be difficult especially when the scientific evidence may be more complex to present and form a coherent argument, while those opposed can simply make up facts (1).

    However, this is precisely the nature of the marketing game that we're currently involved in and science and scientific credibility will lose if they don't find a better way of ensuring the public stays informed. 

    ------------------------------------------------
    (1) I know exactly how difficult some of this can be, because I've often run into posts that simply appear intractable to respond to because of how much an individual has wrong. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    Sometimes language has to mean things.  If someone says the world is 6,000 years old, they are anti-science.  If someone says vaccines are causing autism they are anti-science.

    No one here would have any issue with calling those stances what they are, nor would you in calling out a Nibiru crank as anti-science, so why would fear mongers promoting hysteria get a special exemption on a science site?

    Just because science loses a marketing campaign, and science has already lost this one, does not automatically make the opposition legitimate. They're still anti-science because they are ignoring evidence and promoting irrationality.
    Gerhard Adam
    I understand what you mean, and my point is probably more suited towards a general philosophy discussion.  In particular, my specific meaning is based on the notion that "anti-science" would mean someone that rejects the means of assessing evidence.  The items being mentioned aren't, by themselves, anti-science since they can be verified with data and demonstrated to be wrong.

    This is commonly demonstrated by using something like the "flat earth" where one can clearly show that it is a completely scientific idea which can be verified and tested.  As a result, the earth can be scientifically shown to not be flat, and therefore the claim can be refuted.  Once that data has been established, then an individual that persists in the assertion of a flat earth is clearly denying the evidence/data and then their behavior would be unscientific despite the question itself being scientific. 

    I know you're going to roll your eyes at that, and I can understand why, but bear in mind that it's more of a philosophical definition issue than anything else [to me].  Sorry 'bout that :)
    Mundus vult decipi
    "Once that data has been established, then an individual that persists in the assertion of a flat earth is clearly denying the evidence/data and then their behavior would be unscientific despite the question itself being scientific."

    Gerhard, (to me and my sensibilities) Their behavior would be “unreliable”, or, “inaccurate”, and not “unscientific”, since you could “observe” ‘Scientifically’, that their assertions are: false, inaccurate, and unreliable, and report thus to them, ad infinitum.

    Science is like a Deity, without ever an “un” or a “shun” or an “anti”!

    In the situation you presented, What is interfering with WHAT IS; are their beliefs, which are either: “accurate or inaccurate”, "reliable or unreliable", or “false and not true”.

    The word-term, ‘unscientific’ does not apply, since their “position” is centered on a non-refutational model, irrespective of ‘the data’ or ‘The Science’, and their denial is not against ‘The Science’, and thus, their behavior is not ‘unscientific’.

    Their ‘behavior’ arises from : "A Desire" : to believe something that confirms 'their beliefs'; Thus, The Science stands irrefutably, eternally, though without acknowledgement.

    Science is always King or Queen, without any “un-ness’ to : IT :.

    The only instance where the word ‘unscientific’ would apply is in describing the memory of a dead corpse, otherwise, among “The Living” Science marches on without any “un”.

    Gerhard Adam
    Their ‘behavior’ arises from : "A Desire" : to believe something that confirms 'their beliefs';
    All human beliefs follow such a pattern.  Do you think  a scientist doesn't pursue a particular theory because it fits his belief of how the world works?
    Science is always King or Queen, without any “un-ness’ to : IT :.
    No, science is merely process.  Therefore, "unscientific" would be reserved for those that deny the process.  Any question that is capable of being examined, tested, and validated is "scientific".  Once it's nature is established, continued denial of those results is the denial of the process.

    In other words, the distinction I'm striving for is to differentiate being wrong versus denying the data.  One may have a completely scientific understanding of something that turns out to be wrong.  However, once that has been established, to continue with the erroneous view is "unscientific", despite the original incorrect view being "scientific" initially.
    Mundus vult decipi
    “All human beliefs follow such a pattern. Do you think a scientist doesn't pursue a particular theory because it fits his belief of how the world works?”

    It is possible to live from knowledge or certainty and not belief, and thus end ‘doubt’, rendering “Science” -- mute or meaningless!

    Science is always King or Queen, without any “un-ness’ to : IT :.
    “No, science is merely process. Therefore, "unscientific" would be reserved for those that deny the process. Any question that is capable of being examined, tested, and validated is "scientific". Once it's nature is established, continued denial of those results is the denial of the process.

    Science is a Practice, not a process. Let me explain, in a process, such as the manufacture of a “Frisbee”, the process, if properly designed, will produce an indistinguishable Frisbee today from the first Frisbee decades ago.

    Ideally, A Scientist will grow and mature over time, and thus through practice, they will not remain the same, as they would if they were seriously concerned about “processing” -- nothing changes.

    Behavior is Hierarchical, and situational; different situations reveal different priorities, so behavior is not linear; behavior is ‘stacked’ or ‘nested’.

    “In other words, the distinction I'm striving for is to differentiate being wrong versus denying the data. One may have a completely scientific understanding of something that turns out to be wrong. However, once that has been established, to continue with the erroneous view is "unscientific", despite the original incorrect view being "scientific" initially.”

    A Denial of anything, does not transform whatever was denied into non-compliance, and thus Science cannot be rendered “unscientific”, so yes, the Science is denied, but "Science" does not now become “unned”, or 'shunned'. The denier is merely 'newly' categorized, as “unreliable” not The Science!

    Gerhard Adam
    It is possible to live from knowledge or certainty and not belief, and thus end ‘doubt’, rendering “Science” -- mute or meaningless!
    I disagree.  Everything requires a basic set of axioms from which information is evaluated.  Science isn't the absence of beliefs.  It simply defines them to as few axioms as possible, but the most fundamental belief present in science is that "the world is fundamentally capable of being explored and understood".  There are numerous other beliefs that exist, such as the consistency of the the universe, the predictability of phenomenon, etc.  these are all elements for which complete knowledge cannot exist, therefore they are in the domain of beliefs.
    Mundus vult decipi
    < Everything requires a basic set of axioms from which information is evaluated.>

    I exist. I know that completely, Perfectly. No Science needed here!@

    Now, you want to learn, explore, and understand. Fine. Yet my existence is beyond belief, as well as yours. My existence is certain, I am REAL without the need for Scientific Validation!

    Gerhard, How’s this? : Evolution: IS: A Process. The Process of Creation (and for me, ‘digestion is NOT a process, it’s an event with eventualities).

    Now, in any ‘process’, for me, those ‘guiding the process’, as in genetic engineering, seek: consistency, reliability, and essentially: “No Change from within the Parts of the Process – No Growth or Maturation”, for this would make the process of genetic modification of plant propagation, impossibly problematic, since change is all that would be occurring with no consistency of output.

    Now, when my first wife and I conceived our first and only child, neither of us, was shocked, that at birth, it was a gorilla.

    And that’s because we had accepted what Science has learned about evolution, and sometimes, when ‘Fred and Wilma Flintstones’ ‘Dino’ mates with ‘Barney and Betty Rubbles’ ‘Dinah’ you get “tweety-Bird” over ‘Allegorical Geologic Time Scales’.

    Thus, in: A Process: “Change”: can occur.

    And when ‘mutations’ occur, favorably or unfavorably, they occur from “influences’ - as a consequence of ANOTHER AGENDA, even when, from within the same individual.

    Thus in a process, the 'Impulse for Change' is located from OUTSIDE THE SYSTEM, though the 'content' will be within the 'system'.

    In Science, the Change is from WITHIN the Scientist, from within the MIND of the Scientist, and that’s why Science is not A Process, since the ‘change’ is internal, it’s attitudinal, not merely informational.

    Since the ‘purpose’ (and not the function) of ‘science’ is to educate the Scientist, this education or change or learning occurs from a new perspective, or a new vision, it results in a new or nude consciousness.

    When Science studies ‘Evolution’ or ‘Creation’ or ‘Life’, they do so as a PURSUIT of knowledge, and this PURSUIT is different for each Scientist -- based upon their previous learning or experiences. Thus, different levels of aspiration are within Science since different abilities seek differing sensibilities.

    In a process, all ‘parts’ must exist on the SAME LEVEL or Relatedness, or the process will be discordant.

    In: A Practice: multiple levels can exist simultaneously, students and teachers, and do, all independent of each or dependent of each other; each part is related, though not necessarily favorably or antagonistically, each case is specific.

    The Investigation of Evolution is NOT A PROCESS, it is a PURSUIT, which over time is enhanced by previous learning and knowledge.

    The best ‘method’ to describe: The Pursuit of Knowledge: IS: “How is it accomplished”?

    And the Pursuit of Science is accomplished over time through the practical outcome of being there IN Practice in practicum’s of study and observation.

    So lets be practical here, and learn to distinguish a Process from a Practice, Engineering from Science, and Evolution from Science.

    Yet, ‘Genetic Engineers’ want to control the Process of Evolution. A Process that is 13.75 +/- 0.11 Billions years old, and unbelievably complex. This strikes me as grand arrogance.

    ‘Genetic Engineers’ want to Direct Creation according to their desires -- without knowing the relationships over the last 13.75 billion years of every gene to every other gene from every organism to every other organism that has ever existed, in every solar system, in every Galaxy and in all Regions of Space, for all life is connected, and if your going to CONTROL EVOLUTION to direct it in a Positive Manner, you MUST Know all the relationships, to make the ‘claim of knowledge’, Which is Science, otherwise, your acting pre-mature, anti-scientifically.

    So, I’m not saying that this should not be an area of Research in a lab on Mars, only that it’s global application on Earth is pre-mature at this time.

    One last item, when I mentioned that “I exist” I did not mean that I exist as “a body” but rather, that I exist as a Mind, independent of Physical Creation and thus, independent of the Study of Science.

    Gerhard Adam
    Gerhard, How’s this?
    It's not.  At first, I thought you might be serious.
    Mundus vult decipi
    KevinFolta
    Hi Rork. 
    Some good points on the product-- glyphosate.  However, when compared to other herbicides glyphosate is pretty reasonable in terms of toxicity and environmental impact.  It actually is the agent in one of the more compelling studies against transgenic technologies.  Recently Rick Relyea from University of Pittsburg presented some nice data on glyphosate on tadpoles.  Tadpoles exhibit morphological changes in response to chemicals emitted by predators-- their tails grow longer.  Glyphosate mimics this response. 

    http://www.biology.pitt.edu/sites/default/files/facilities-images/Relyea_pubs/2012%20Relyea.pdf 

    Many say, "So what" because the tadpole has a longer tail.  To me, as someone that thinks about development, I think it is an important finding because it says that glyphosate is mimicking a signaling chemical.  That's something to study further for sure, and I'm confident that additional careful studies will be performed. 

    Some plants are being selected for roundup resistance using traditional breeding. 

    Sainfoin, a forage, is resistant to glyphoaste.  There are reports of natural resistance in strawberry too, and these are being investigated.
    http://www.mindfully.org/GE/Ecological-Effects-Genes-Berry.htm 


    Thanks for your thoughts. 
    Don't tell me it can't be done. Tell me how you are going to help me do it.
    Thanks Kevin, Mary, Hank.
    Those are good examples to test whether people's opinions are rational (though thinking roundup evil would not be internally inconsistent, if the data were good). I'll be testing.

    Actually, there are numerous "conventional" herbicide resistant plants. Check out Clearfield varieties. And this just came across my twitter feed the other day: http://www.capitalpress.com/newest/JO-Canola-070512

    Hank
    So the scientifically manipulated yet much more hapazardly mutated Clearfield variety created by multi-national behemoth BASF is okay but a more precisely engineered GM variety of today is not?

    Does. Not. Compute.