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The Goodman Affair: Monsanto Targets the Heart of Science

May 20, 2013 Biotechnology, Commentaries, Science Media 102 Comments

by Claire Robinson and Jonathan Latham, PhD

Richard Smith, former editor of the British Medical Journal, has jested that instead of scientific peer review, its rival The Lancet had a system of throwing a pile of papers down the stairs and publishing those that reached the bottom. On another occasion, Smith was challenged to publish an issue of the BMJ exclusively comprising papers that had failed peer review and see if anybody noticed. He replied, “How do you know I haven’t already done it?”

As Smith’s stories show, journal editors have a lot of power in science – power that provides opportunities for abuse. The life science industry knows this, and has increasingly moved to influence and control science publishing.

Richard E Goodman, University of Nebraska

Richard E Goodman, University of Nebraska

The strategy, often with the willing cooperation of publishers, is effective and sometimes blatant. In 2009, the scientific publishing giant Elsevier was found to have invented an entire medical journal, complete with editorial board, in order to publish papers promoting the products of the pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck. Merck provided the papers, Elsevier published them, and doctors read them, unaware that the Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine was simply a stuffed dummy.

Fast forward to September 2012, when the scientific journal Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT) published a study that caused an international storm (Séralini, et al. 2012). The study, led by Prof Gilles-Eric Séralini of the University of Caen, France, suggested a Monsanto genetically modified (GM) maize, and the Roundup herbicide it is grown with, pose serious health risks. The two-year feeding study found that rats fed both suffered severe organ damage and increased rates of tumors and premature death. Both the herbicide (Roundup) and the GM maize are Monsanto products. Corinne Lepage, France’s former environment minister, called the study “a bomb”.

Subsequently, an orchestrated campaign was launched to discredit the study in the media and persuade the journal to retract it. Many of those who wrote letters to FCT (which is published by Elsevier) had conflicts of interest with the GM industry and its lobby groups, though these were not publicly disclosed.

The journal did not retract the study. But just a few months later, in early 2013 the FCT editorial board acquired a new “Associate Editor for biotechnology”, Richard E. Goodman. This was a new position, seemingly established especially for Goodman in the wake of the “Séralini affair”.

Richard E. Goodman is professor at the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program, University of Nebraska. But he is also a former Monsanto employee, who worked for the company between 1997 and 2004. While at Monsanto he assessed the allergenicity of the company’s GM crops and published papers on its behalf on allergenicity and safety issues relating to GM food (Goodman and Leach 2004).

Goodman had no documented connection to the journal until February 2013. His fast-tracked appointment, directly onto the upper editorial board raises urgent questions. Does Monsanto now effectively decide which papers on biotechnology are published in FCT? And is this part of an attempt by Monsanto and the life science industry to seize control of science?

To equate one journal with “science” may seem like an exaggeration. But peer-reviewed publication, in the minds of most scientists, is science. Once a paper is published in an academic journal it enters the canon and stands with the discovery of plate tectonics or the structure of DNA. All other research, no matter how groundbreaking or true, is irrelevant. As a scientist once scathingly said of the “commercially confidential” industry safety data that underpin approvals of chemicals and GM foods, “If it isn’t published, it doesn’t exist.”

Goodman’s ILSI links
The industry affiliations of FCT’s new gatekeeper for biotechnology are not restricted to having worked directly for Monsanto. Goodman has an active and ongoing involvement with the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI). ILSI is funded by the multinational GM and agrochemical companies, including Monsanto. It develops industry-friendly risk assessment methods for GM foods and chemical food contaminants and inserts them into government regulations.

ILSI describes itself as a public interest non-profit but its infiltration of regulatory agencies and influence on risk assessment policy has become highly controversial in North America and Europe. In 2005 US-based non-profits and trade unions wrote to the World Health Organization (WHO) protesting against ILSI’s influence on international health standards protecting food and water supplies. As a result, the WHO barred ILSI from taking part in WHO activities setting safety standards, because of its funding sources.  And in Europe in 2012, Diana Banati, then head of the management board at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), had to resign over her undisclosed long-standing involvement with ILSI (Robinson et al. 2013).

Goodman’s appointment to FCT is surprising also for the fact that the journal already has expertise in GM food safety. Of the four senior editors, José L. Domingo is a professor of toxicology and environmental health and author of two comprehensive reviews of GM food safety studies (Domingo  2007; Domingo and Bordonaba 2011). Both reviews expressed skepticism of the thesis that GMOs are safe. Consequently, it is far from clear why FCT needs an “associate editor for biotechnology”, but it is clear why Monsanto would have an interest in ensuring that the “Séralini affair” is never repeated.

Editing the scientific record: The case of Paul Christou
FCT
is not the only academic journal that appears to have been captured by commercial interests. After the initial campaign failed to get FCT to retract the Séralini study, the journal Transgenic Research published a heavy-handed critique of the study and of the researchers themselves (Arjo et al., 2013). The lead author of that critique was Paul Christou.

Christou and co-authors castigated the editor of FCT for publishing the study, calling it “a clear and egregious breach of the standards of scientific publishing”. They insisted that the journal editor retract the study “based on its clearly flawed data, its breaches of ethical standards, and the strong evidence for scientific misconduct and abuse of the peer-review process”. “Even a full retraction of the Séralini article” wrote Christou, “will not cleanse the Internet of the inflammatory images of tumorous rats.”

The same writers further implied that the Séralini study was “fraudulent”, that the researchers failed to analyse the data objectively, and that the treatment of the experimental animals was inhumane.

This is not the first time Christou has attacked scientific findings that have raised doubts about GM crops. In 2001 Ignacio Chapela and David Quist of the University of California, Berkeley, reported in the journal Nature that indigenous Mexican maize varieties had become contaminated with GM genes (Quist and Chapela, 2001). This issue was, and remains, highly controversial since Mexico is the genetic centre of origin for maize. In an exact parallel with the Séralini study, an internet campaign was waged against Chapela and Quist demanding that the journal retract the study. Then Christou, just as he was later to do with the Séralini study, attacked Chapela and Quist’s paper in an article in Transgenic Research. The title said it all: “No credible scientific evidence is presented to support claims that transgenic DNA was introgressed into traditional maize landraces in Oaxaca, Mexico” (Christou, 2002).

Responding to the campaign, Nature editor Philip Campbell asked Chapela and Quist for more data, which they provided, and arranged another round of peer review. Only one reviewer in the final group of three supported retraction, and no one had presented any data or analysis that contradicted Chapela and Quist’s main finding. Nevertheless, Nature asserted, “The evidence available is not sufficient to justify the publication of the original paper”. Some subsequent investigations, testing different samples, reported finding GM genes in native landraces of Mexican corn (Pineyro-Nelson et al. 2009), while others did not (Ortiz-Garcia et al. 2005).

Paul Christou, in contrast, probably did not have much trouble getting either of his critiques published in Transgenic Research. He is the journal’s editor-in-chief. And, like Goodman, Christou is connected to Monsanto. Monsanto bought the GM seed company Agracetus (Christou’s former employer) and Monsanto now holds patents for the production of GM crops on which Christou is named as the inventor.  It is normal practice to declare inventor status on patents as a competing interest in scientific articles, but Christou did not disclose either conflict of interest – his editorship of the journal or his patent inventor status – in his critique of the Séralini study.

The Ermakova affair: Preemptive editing of the scientific record
Not only can journal editors prevent the publication of research showing problems with GM crops in their own journals – they can effectively prevent publication elsewhere. In 2007, the leading academic journal Nature Biotechnology featured an extraordinary attack on the work of Russian scientist, Irina Ermakova (Marshall, 2007). Her laboratory research had found decreased weight gain, increased mortality, and decreased fertility in rats fed GM Roundup-tolerant soy over several generations (Ermakova, 2006; Ermakova, 2009).

The editor of Nature Biotechnology, Andrew Marshall, contacted Ermakova, inviting her to answer questions about her findings, which she had only presented at conferences. He told her it was “an opportunity to present your own findings and conclusions in your own words, rather than a critique from one side”. Ermakova agreed.

The process that followed was as deceptive as it was irregular. The editor sent Ermakova a set of questions about her research, which she answered. In due course she was sent a proof of what she thought was to be ‘her’ article, with her byline as author.

However, the article that was finally published was very different. Ermakova’s byline had been removed and Marshall’s substituted. Each of Ermakova’s answers to the questions was followed by a lengthy critique by four pro-GM scientists (Marshall, 2007). The proof sent to Ermakova, now revealed as a ‘dummy proof’, had not included these critical comments. Consequently, she was denied the chance to address them in the same issue of the journal. And in the final article the editor had preserved the critics’ references but removed many of Ermakova’s, with the effect that her statements appeared unsubstantiated.

Nature Biotechnology’s treatment of Ermakova attracted condemnation from many scientists. It was also strongly criticized in some media outlets. Harvey Marcovitch, former editor of a scientific journal and now director of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), which sets ethical standards for academic journals, commented, “This is a type of publication which I have never encountered.” He said that while reading it he was struck by “some surprising things”. He was unwilling to speculate as to what exactly happened: “Either the editor was trying out a new form of experimentation, in which not everything went according to plan, or there was indeed a conspiracy or whatever one wants to call it.”

Dr Brian John of the Wales-based campaign group GM-Free Cymru was more blunt, calling the process “tabloid academic publishing involving deception, lies, duplicity and editorial malpractice”.

Amid the uproar, editor Marshall released his email correspondence with Ermakova on the internet. It showed that far from his having “solicited” the comments from the critics, as he had originally claimed, the four pro-GM scientists had themselves approached the journal proposing their “critique”, and even though none of them are toxicologists, Marshall had agreed. The self-selected critics judged Ermakova’s research – which they had never even seen in its complete form – “demonstrably flawed”.

Nature Biotechnology also failed to fully disclose the conflicts of interest of Ermakova’s critics. Bruce Chassy was lead author on two influential ILSI publications, which defined weak risk assessment methodologies for GM crops that were later inserted into the guidelines of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).  Vivian Moses was chairman of CropGen, a GM industry lobby group with Monsanto among its funders.  L. Val Giddings, an industry consultant, was described in the article as formerly of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). Nature Biotechnology omitted to say that Giddings occupied a senior position at BIO – vice president for food and agriculture – and that BIO’s funders include the GM crop companies, Monsanto, Dow and DuPont. The last of the four critics, Alan McHughen, developed a GM flax called Triffid that in 2009 was found to have contaminated flax supplies coming into Europe from Canada. If these interests had been disclosed, readers might have judged the criticism of Ermakova differently.

Open source scientific publishing?
These examples show that the threat to scientific publishing from industry influence is real. The avenues for researchers to publish critical views in science are already few. This is especially true for the high-impact journals that the media notices and that therefore influence public discourse. Equally problematic is that few scientific institutions will support researchers whose findings contradict industry viewpoints, as Chapela found out when UC Berkeley tried to deny him tenure following the controversial maize study. Even fewer funding sources will give to such researchers. Consequently almost all funding of biosafety research finds its way into the hands of researchers with industry ties.

This directly affects the quality of the science produced. A recent literature review found that most studies concluding that GM foods are as safe as non-GM counterparts were performed by the developer companies or their associates (Domingo and Bordonaba, 2011). It is no coincidence that Norway, a country without an agricultural industry lobby, hosts the only publicly funded institute in the world with a mission to conduct research on the environmental, health and social consequences of genetic engineering.

There are in principle ways within the existing system to mitigate or neutralize the influence of industry on the ability of scientists to publish independent and critical research. The first is transparency in publishing. Journal editors should adopt the COPE guidelines and publish all conflicts of interest among staff and editors.

Also in line with COPE’s stipulation, peer reviewers should be selected to avoid conflicts of interest. If this proves impossible due to the spread of patents and industry research funding, then care must be taken to select a balanced panel representing a plurality of views. FCT is a member of COPE, but does not publish information on editors’ conflicts of interest, and its appointment of Goodman over Domingo shows that it does not seek to avoid them.

There may in fact be a need to critically examine the entire concept of peer review. The limitations of all types of expert opinion – whether that of an individual expert or of an expert panel – are recognized in the field of evidence-based medicine. To address this problem, bodies such as the non-profit Cochrane Collaboration have developed systematic and transparent methodologies to review and evaluate data on the effectiveness of different medical interventions. The aim is to enable healthcare practitioners to make well-informed clinical decisions. The reviewing criteria are transparently set out in advance, so there is less scope for bias in evaluations of studies. When disagreements do occur, it is easy to pinpoint the reason and resolve the problem. Cochrane also implements rules to prevent conflicts of interest among its reviewers and editorial board.

The Cochrane approach is widely respected and the lessons learned in evidence-based medicine about conflicts of interest and resisting industry pressure are being applied to other fields, such as hazardous environmental exposures (Woodruff et al., 2011).  There is no reason why scientific journals, including those publishing GMO research, cannot use similar methods to evaluate papers, so that less discretion is given to experts with conflicts of interest.

Implementing such policies presumes strong support among the scientific community for independent science. But this support may not exist outside of medical research.

FCT took on Goodman, a former Monsanto employee and well-known supporter of industry viewpoints, immediately following the publication of a controversial paper that was critical of Monsanto’s principal products. In doing so, FCT senior management bypassed the normal scientific editorial culture of gradual promotion from within.

Meanwhile, two other prominent academic journals have served as platforms for their editors to generate unsubstantiated and unscientific abuse without any repercussions for their editorial positions. Marshall remains editor of Nature Biotechnology. The fact that journal editors get away with such behavior suggests that support for independent research among scientists is generally lacking and that accountability within the scientific publishing world barely exists.

It seems unlikely that scientific journals will address unaided the defects in scientific publishing at FCT and elsewhere. To do so would require confronting the fundamental problem that academic science now largely makes its money from exploiting conflicts of interest. This has become the underlying business model of science. Universities offer ‘independent’ advice to governments while taking corporate money for ‘research’. Corporations offer that money to universities, not for the knowledge it generates, but primarily for the influence it buys.

These same incentives are reinforced at the personal level as well. Individual scientists occupy taxpayer-funded academic positions while benefitting from patents, stocks and industry consultancies. If journals and government agencies took action to eliminate conflicts of interest, the corporate money for science would dry up, because industry-funded scientists would lose influence.

But if scientific journals do not find a way to level the playing field for critical studies, the few scientists who are still able to carry out independent public interest research may need to find an alternative publishing model: public peer review, or ‘open-source science’. Such online collaborative approaches could even revitalize scientific publishing.

Unless radical reform is achieved, peer-reviewed publication, which many hold to be the defining characteristic of science, will have undergone a remarkable inversion. From its origin as a safeguard of quality and independence, it will have become a tool through which one vision, that of corporate science, came to assert ultimate control. Richard Goodman, FCT’s new Associate Editor for biotechnology, now has the opportunity to throw down the stairs only those papers marked “industry approved”.

Note: Click here to see a response from scientists to the attacks on Séralini

Postcript: FCT has now retracted (Nov 28 2013) the Séralini study. The editors’ letter is at the bottom of this link.

References

Arjo G, et al. (2013). Plurality of opinion, scientific discourse and pseudoscience: an in depth analysis of the Séralini et al. study claiming that Roundup Ready corn or the herbicide Roundup cause cancer in rats. Transgenic Research 22: 2 255-267

Christou P (2002). No credible scientific evidence is presented to support claims that transgenic DNA was introgressed into traditional maize landraces in Oaxaca, Mexico. Transgenic Research 11: iii–v

Domingo JL (2007). Toxicity studies of genetically modified plants: a review of the published literature. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 47(8): 721-733

Domingo JL and JG Bordonaba (2011). A literature review on the safety assessment of genetically modified plants. Environ Int 37: 734–742.

Ermakova I (2006). Genetically modified soy leads to the decrease of weight and high mortality of rat pups of the first generation. Preliminary studies. Ecosinform. 2006;1:4–9.

Ermakova I (2009). [Influence of soy with gene EPSPS CP4 on the physiological state and reproductive function of rats in the first two generations] [Russian text]. Contemporary Problems in Science and Education 5:15–20.

Marshall A (2007). GM soybeans and health safety – a controversy reexamined. Nat Biotechnol 25: 981–987.

Ortiz-Garcia S, et al. (2005). Absence of detectable transgenes in local landraces of maize in Oaxaca, Mexico. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 102: 18242.

Pineyro-Nelson A, et al. (2009). Transgenes in Mexican maize: molecular evidence and methodological considerations for GMO detection in landrace populations. Mol Ecol 18(4): 750-761.

Quist D and IH Chapela (2001). Transgenic DNA introgressed into traditional maize landraces in Oaxaca, Mexico. Nature 414(6863): 541-543.

Robinson, C, et al. (2013). Conflicts of interest at the European Food Safety Authority erode public confidence. J Epidemiol Community Health.doi:10.1136/jech-2012-202185.

Séralini GE, et al. (2012). Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. Food and Chemical Toxicology 50(11): 4221-4231.

Woodruff TJ, et al. (2011). An evidence-based medicine methodology to bridge the gap between clinical and environmental health sciences. Health Aff (Millwood) 30(5): 931-937.

Currently there are "102 comments" on this Article:

  1. Madeleine Love says:

    Richard E Goodman? One of my Monsanto ‘favourites’ in the allergy field, for lead-authoring a line that included concern about trade, viz… “Demanding inclusion of such nonvalidated tests can lead to [...], potentially, disruption of trade [...]“. I’ve never known what trade has to do with determining whether an experimental GM crop is safe.
    Allergenicity assessment of genetically modified crops—what makes sense?; Goodman RE et al; NATURE BIOTECHNOLOGY VOLUME 26 NUMBER 1 JANUARY 2008; http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v26/n1/full/nbt1343.html

  2. Madeleine Love says:

    That’s really interesting because according to pubmed a very recent article on Bt toxins of the type produced in Monsanto’s GM insecticidal crops, “Effects of oral administration of Bacillus thuringiensis as spore-crystal strains Cry1Aa, Cry1Ab, Cry1Ac or Cry2Aa on hematologic and genotoxic endpoints of Swiss albino mice” was published Food and Chemical Toxicology in November 2012 but was withdrawn “at the request of the author(s) and/or editors” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23146696 .

    An article with a similar content (based on the title), same authors, was recently published in an open access journal. The researchers reported selectively hemotoxicity of the Bt toxins they used, and leukogenic activity. This would not be a favourable article for Monsanto’s GM crops. I wonder why it would have been withdrawn from FCT, and whether it was the authors or editors who withdrew it? I wonder now about the influence of Monsanto.
    Mezzomo BP, Miranda-Vilela AL, Freire IdS, Barbosa LCP, Portilho FA, et al. (2013) Hematotoxicity of Bacillus thuringiensis as Spore-crystal
    Strains Cry1Aa, Cry1Ab, Cry1Ac or Cry2Aa in Swiss Albino Mice. J Hematol Thromb Dis 1: 104. doi:10.4172/jhtd.1000104

    • Brian John says:

      This is a truly chilling scenario. I know nothing of the merits of this particular paper, but it clearly went through a peer review process and was deemed to be worthy of publication in FCT. Then it was suddenly “withdrawn.” It looks as if Richard Goodman has settled into his new job very quickly, and is hard at work making sure that nothing that might upset Monsanto or any of the other GM corporations ever gets to see the light of day. Stalin is long since dead and buried, but Stalinist Science is clearly alive and well.

      • August Pamplona says:

        Madeleine Love should have bothered reading and carefully examining this paper as it is painfully clear that it has no merits whatsoever. It’s kind of apropos since the subject of this post seems to be fake journals and this article also seems to have been successfully published in a fake journal the second time around.

        The study did not test purified proteins. It tested whole bacterial spores (if you must know, that’s the same stuff which organic farmers use –not that the study’s results are even relevant to that sort of use). If it proves anything at all is that massive doses of bacteria can have hematologic effects (which should not come as a huge surprise). The study is improperly controlled and the discussion section is so dishonest it should never have passed peer review.

        The post at http://www.biofortified.org/2013/05/leukemia/ has discusses this study.

        • Madeleine Love says:

          August, I have read this study and, as for Seralini2012, it was certainly considered worthy for publication by peer reviewers at Food and Chemical Toxicology, assuming it is the same paper. I cannot guess why it was subsequently withdrawn (on the authors’ initiative? or alternatively on editorial request as for Seralini2012?), or retracted.

          When I first read the study I was confused by the terminology ‘spore crystals’ – I had not read this term in connection with Bt insecticides before. I wondered if it was a matter of regional difference, since it was authored by Brazilian scientists – Department of Genetics and Morphology, Institute of Biological Sciences, University of Brasilia, Brasilia/DF, Brazil. I consequently read into the referenced source of the test substances (Santos et al, Biol Control 50: 157-163.) You will probably be aware that Bacillus thuringiensis kurskaki is frequently reported to contain four different Cry proteins. I understood that the bacteria had been genetically modified to produce only one protein in each line.

          There are frequent claims that the Bt spore-crystal mixes used in organic agriculture are safe, though these claims are made without a particularly thorough testing base in humans. Such claims are frequently used by GM proponents to persuade the public that by some unconnected consequence the substantially different Bt insecticides in GM crops are safe. But now, astonishingly, you seem to be working against this, being not only prepared to draw a distinction between the two, but to suggest that the spore-crystal mixtures are not safe! I’ll leave that with you.

          It is some months since I read the study but I recollect it reported indications of harm (which leads me to second guess if it would’ve been withdrawn/retracted if it had not done so ;) ). So these bacteria that had been genetically engineered to contain only one Cry protein each. I was left wondering if it was the Cry proteins, the spores, the combination, the GM process itself or some other factor that could promote indications of harm.

          Because you have rebutted the value of this study so severely, I think it’s worth my time to re-read it.

          • August Pamplona says:

            Madeleine Love writes:
            «So these bacteria that had been genetically engineered to contain only one Cry protein each.»

            Madeleine, while these engineered bacteria strains were engineered to produce only one Cry protein each, they also produce thousands of other proteins as well as other sorts of bio-molecules. None of that ought to be assumed to be inert. Indeed, the study was also using massive doses on a system (a mammal) primed by evolution to respond to just these sorts of biomolecules (innate immunity).

            The experiment, properly done, would, at the very least, have used the same strain without the ability to produce any Cry proteins as a control.

            As to your concern as to whether the study would have been withdrawn if if had shown no evidence of harm, I actually share your concern. Most studies are simply forgotten and little attention is paid to them. There is a lot of bad science out there and the risk is that other researchers may build on bad science. This study is so bad that I doubt that anyone would ever take it seriously enough to try to build on it but when peer review fails with other studies that may not be so obviously flawed the result is a contamination of our scientific knowledge.

          • Madeleine Love says:

            There was a redundant ‘that’ in that sentence – debated whether to add a clarification.

            I haven’t had a lot time to read the paper in detail yet, but I’ve checked the conclusion, abstract and material used. At a quick look the authors did not seem to go outside the findings related to their materials and methods in their conclusion. I suspect you are extrapolating from the words “Bacillus thuringiensis”, “Cry” and “genetically modified” to develop expectations for the study that are somewhat redundant. But I’ll get back on the rest of it.

            On another note I find your abuse of the paper to be quite strong. It makes me think that you have an ideological position on the GM issue which has been disturbed by this paper. Why should it trouble you so much? Most papers have flaws – few humans are capable of perfection, none hold the necessary omniscience – this is what drives the scientific process. Most papers are symphonies compared to what GM crop developers have supplied as advocacy material to Food Regulators for crop approval.

            So moving back to the topic, if this paper had stayed in FCT (assuming it was originally there) we could have had this discussion in like form – I’m not sure why this paper couldn’t remain. Was FCT so reluctant to have a paper that would attract the interest of participants in a global debate? Was FCT expecting a barrage from the GM industry that was too uncomfortable for them? Did the authors fear something and withdraw it?

            Bit off the topic again but I want to note that in your writing I have felt an air of scientific certainty, almost wholly without reference, as though the reader should accept you as an authority. It’s a style characteristic of the young, but I feel obliged to readers and to myself to say that I searched for papers under the name “August Pamplona” and “A Pamplona” on google scholar to no success. While neither google scholar nor my search terms are infallible I have found someone under your name as a Graduate Student doing structural biology – maybe this is you. I don’t mean to imply that this should in any way diminish the credibility of your exchanges (nor mine since I haven’t published any papers either) but to say that life and science has a lot of nuance and unpredictability.

          • Madeleine Love says:

            In the last sentence the ‘either’ word is redundant.

          • N Upham says:

            Thank you for this exchange Madeline, and the helpful explanations of this Cry study. I was directed here upon reading that the Seralini et al. 2012 study in FCT was retracted because “the results are inconclusive and therefore do not reach the threshold needed for publication”. As a scientist-in-training (PhD student) I find that statement highly disturbing, since most if not all studies have “inconclusive” results to some extent (or at least large error bars), and if results that are negative or raise suspicion about a particular problem cannot be published then we have a serious problem. The scientific debate needs to happen in the literature not in the court of public opinion or biased media sources. If the peer review process cannot be responsible for determining the worth of an article, and instead it is at the whims of agri-business and next quarter’s profits, then we have seriously tainted our ability for objective debate.

          • August Pamplona says:

            Hi Madeleine,

            You wish to know who I am? As you wish, Buttercup (just call me farm boy).

            I am no one of consequence. I am not joking when I say that this is how I would prefer that you think of me. With respect to your writings here, I certainly think of you in that way. In this way, I can focus on what you actually write; and in this way I hope that you can focus on what I actually write. Maybe I am actually a lot older than you think and maybe you are a lot younger than I think? None of it matters. The fact is that if someone writes nonsense, it will still be nonsense even if they are a Nobel laureate; and if one writes something that is solidly backed by the evidence it will still be something that is backed by the evidence even if they are a bum turning tricks for some spare change.

            One thing that does matter, though, is whether you are willing to learn. I think I am. Are you?

            But if, like Iñigo Montoya in _The Princess Bride_, you must know, I can assist you with your endeavor to figure out who I am. I almost always write under my real name and my name seems to be fairly rare. If you look for “August Pamplona” or “Augusto Pamplona” it will almost certainly be me. If I remember correctly, I did find one “Augusto Pamplona”, when googling myself years ago, who was a Brazilian politician so you can probably rule me out if the language used is Portuguese (wishing someone from Portugal a happy birthday in Portuguese on Facebook with the aid of Google Translate is about the extent of my use of the Portuguese language). Oh, and you could also look for me under “cosmicaug”. I think that there may be others using that username around the internet but I’d guess that at least 90% of the posts are probably me (I could be mistaken but I think it will still be mostly me –even if there happened to be more posts out there of people using “cosmicaug” as their user name who are not me than what I think to be the case).

            As to your brilliant psychoanalysis of my person such that you infer a perceived threat (from this paper) to some alleged strongly held ideological position (by which, presumably, you mean to invalidate whatever it is that I write as hopelessly contaminated by motivated reasoning), one could just as easily surmise that your charitable assessment of this incontrovertibly flawed paper betrays an interpretation which is arrived at through motivated reasoning rather than by a careful examination of what is actually written. One could but it would be better to actually talk about the paper and try to actually address exactly what the other has written instead.

            Because, moving on to the actual paper (which is what we should be talking about), you seem to be under the impression that I am noting some minor problems with this paper. You seem to be under the impression that I am troubled by a paper suggesting that further work might be needed to explore the issues it raises and even its own possible shortcomings. I suppose such a view would at least be consistent with the Monsanto led conspiracy you are intimating but this is not I am noting. What I am pointing out is that this is a profoundly flawed paper (its retraction thus being entirely justified).

            My problem with the Mezzomo paper is simple. In the introduction, this paper makes it appear as if they are examining the toxicity of various individual delta endotoxins (which is exactly how NaturalNews & other websites of its ilk have been portraying this paper) and then they pull a bait and switch and test something completely different (something which is neither basic research nor applied research –and which should not have even passed an institutional review board). Do not tell me that they are not doing this because you admitted misunderstanding this very issue on your first reading of this paper (just as I did). They do use confusing language which conflates whole bacterial spores with individual endotoxins. One might even be tempted to question whether whoever wrote this had honest intentions and did this on purpose.

            If one had any doubts, the discussion section reiterates that they are positing their study to be a valid model for exploring delta endotoxin toxicity when they write the following:
            «Considering the increased risk of human and animal exposures to significant levels of these toxins, especially through diet, our results suggest that further evaluations are needed, with longer exposure of mammals to these diets, and involving clinical observations, before concluding that these microbiological control agents are safe to mammals. Cry1Ab induced microcytic hypochromic anemia in mice, even at the lowest tested dose of 27 mg/Kg, and this toxin has been detected in blood of non-pregnant women, pregnant women and their fetuses in Canada, supposedly exposed through diet [34]. These data, as well as increased bioavailability of these MCA in the environment, reinforce the need for more research, especially given that little is known about spore crystals’ adverse effects on non-target species.»

            The introduction section makes it clear that the alleged “increased risk of human and animal exposures to significant levels of these toxins, especially through diet” that they are referring to is due to the presence of BT traited plant materials in our diet rather than due to something else (I don’t know what that something else could be, increased use of BT spores in organic agriculture?). However, I am puzzled by what they mean by “increased bioavailability of these MCA” unless, again, they are referring environmental exposure to various delta endotoxins through BT traited plant material in our diets.

            What this paper is doing is as if you wrote a paper about firearm related morbidity and deaths which looked at data from emergency rooms even as you described it in your abstract as being about the health effects of lead exposure and even as, in toxicological discussions on your introduction and discussion sections, you referenced papers correlating lead blood levels with IQ. It may very well be the case that lead toxicity might be a part of of the sequelae of being shot but being shot is not the same thing as lead poisoning.

            I will confess to you that in my earlier looks at this paper, I stopped seriously looking at it after I realized what they had done because, once you realize that they are injecting these mice with massive BT spore suspensions and pretending to draw valid conclusions regarding the effects of delta endotoxin exposure, it becomes too farcical to be taken seriously. If at least they were looking at something which might approximate some other kind of real world exposure (maybe the more traditional use of BT?) it might be a useful study but it is clear that this study is not even doing that (even chugging 16 oz. of Thuricide(TM) concentrate you’d fall short of this level of exposure in the real world).

            Looking at it more carefully, I find the following passage (that I totally overlooked the previous times I read this) rather curious:
            «After 24 hours of exposure, Cry1Ac and Cry2Aa showed a non-monotonic dose response curve, where Cry2Aa presented a U-shaped dose response curve, with high responses at both low and high levels of contamination, while the Cry1Ac response curve was shaped like an inverted U with the greatest response in intermediate ranges. On the other hand, Cry1Ab seemed to have an effect similar to hormesis, where lower toxin doses (such as 27 and 136 mg/Kg) increased the body’s tolerance for greater toxicity (such as 270 mg/Kg), while Cry1Aa seemed to maintain almost the same behavior, regardless of the dose.»

            In the rest of the paper, they are discussing observations following a single dosing study and yet the last sentence from what I quoted above, with its mention of some sort of a priming effect modulating later responses, is clearly regarding multiple dosing observations. Why aren’t they showing us data from the multiple dosing observations? It makes me suspicious because one way you can make your preferred hypothesis look good when you have multiple sets of data which support it to varying degrees is by leaving out the data which supports your preferred hypothesis weakly (or not at all). In this case it looks like at one time there were additional experimental groups with additional treatment conditions which were meant to be a part of this study and which were omitted from the final report (except for that single sentence). I suppose it could be an editing error and that they forgot to properly explain that they are citing a separate (presumably) unpublished study.

          • Madeleine Love says:

            Thanks to N Upham above.

            August: Regarding your paragraph beginning “My problem with the Mezzomo paper is simple.”

            I neither admitted to being misled by the paper, nor was I misled. I have read (or skimmed) hundreds? of papers on these insecticides, whether from Bt, or GM crops, e-coli, full length, part length, natural, codon altered, chimeric. I seldom have any expectations about what I will find within – always a surprise. All sorts of configurations and origins can be used under the same name; and conversely, there can be many different names on different databases for exactly the same thing. When I got to the methods I didn’t recognise the term ‘spore-crystals’, that’s all. If they’d used a description I was more familiar with there would’ve been nothing more to remark on. With the subsequent attention focus I began to see the term more frequently. I had no expectations that this would be a feeding study testing GM in-crop proteins in animals – the general absence of such studies is a major problem of the field that undercuts all claims of premarket safety testing.

            I think [that what I read as] your presumptions about author intent are probably wrong at base, and that what you have found disturbing is more likely to be the direct consequences of the GM industry PR disinformation, the general loose use of terms in this research field, and perhaps narrow expectations on your part. From extensive reading on Bt it is apparent that authors write at all levels of information, and that many authors of both published science and regulatory documents do not know precisely what Bt-related insecticide/s are in the GM crops. I suspect this is due in part to the pervasive GM industry disinformation that people assume to be true, and partly because it is very difficult to track down the information. To give the example, I recently made another attempt to find the synthetic cry1Ab code Monsanto used in transformation of MON810 – something I’ve been trying to find for years, mostly so I could be definitive about the number of codons changed (small matter). I asked FSANZ and they sent me the wrong sequence. I replied… [added clarifying brackets]

            “The Perlak reference you offered is actually to a Cry1Ab gene developed by Monsanto, licensed to Northrup King (now Syngenta) that was used in the transformation of the Bt-11 corn crop. It is quite a different gene, being shortened from 1156 aa to 615 aa [coded protein lengths].

            “I realise Monsanto gave you the Perlak reference in respect of MON810, and that FSANZ (ANZFA) cited it in it’s reports, but it does not reference [the] Cry1Ab gene used in the transformation plasmid PV-ZMBK07, based on the data provided by Monsanto, and subsequent sequencing of the truncated in-plant sequence by Hernandez et al http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/nuccore/AY326434.1 . I think it must have been provided for illustrative purposes in respect of alteration to the DNA code, not to represent the genetic transformation sequence actually used.

            “If Monsanto did not provide the full Cry1Ab genetic sequence used in the transformation plasmid PV-SMBK07, can you ask them for it, and for permission to provide it to me.[?]

            “If Monsanto did provide the sequence with their application, can you provide it, or seek permission from Monsanto to provide it.[?]”

            In reply FSANZ said that I should ask Monsanto directly. I’m still waiting for Monsanto to answer my last question. A few things to note about this – FSANZ seems to have approved the crop without actually knowing what happened, and doesn’t seem to be interested in finding out what it actually approved. As a citizen of Australia I think this is disgraceful. But FSANZ is making the industry happy – never rejected a GM application – our signatories to the corporate trade deals should be happy.

            Abstracts are not only summaries but marketing tools for papers and for journals to maximise article downloads, not necessarily entirely written by the author at time of publication. I’ve been hooked by quite a few into downloading. I’m an independent researcher some hours from my old university and sometimes I just pay. Often I’ve been pleasantly surprised by what I’ve found within a full text that wasn’t overtly admitted in an industry-pleasing abstract!

            Mezzomo provided information on a question that had not emerged before in my reading and it is relevant to my questions about Bt insecticides, in both natural and engineered forms, in bacteria or crops. If it had remained in FCT you could have submitted your analysis as discussion. I am sorry that I have not yet fully replied on it. The horrors of the Trans Pacific Partnership have been distracting – I researched into intellectual property, plant variety rights, UPOV1991 and Colombia instead, and now it’s Christmas and performance time and I’m sewing costumes. It’ll be a little while still.

            When I did the research on August Pamplona it wasn’t to dig into your psychology but to assess/validate an apparent claim of authority. I made a suggestion that you include more allowance for uncertainty.

            Note to self: Have a cup and tea and proof read before hitting ‘submit’.
            Done, but then I made more changes and can’t be bothered checking again.

        • August Pamplona says:

          Madeleine,

          Maybe I was putting words into your mouth when I claimed that even you admitted being misled. If I did so, it was not intentional but I apologize.

          Nevertheless, you were still misled. You (and not anyone else) wrote that the “researchers reported selectively hemotoxicity of the Bt toxins they used, and leukogenic activity.” and yet the paper very clearly shows no such thing. This is the very bait and switch I am accusing them of.

          That I see it this way is not because of any expectations. I got this impression from the same place you did: from reading the fine article. We both read the same thing and that is why we both got the same thing out of it. The only problem being that what their study is actually looking at is not they appear to be claiming that the study is examining.

          That is all I am saying. I can’t see how you can consider this a minor issue when you appear to be reading the paper as I am. If you had problems in understanding the paper, it would be different.

          The fact is that they did a good approximation of a perfectly useless study (for what reason, I do not know) and tried to cover up that fact by confusing the issue in the introduction and discussion sections.

          • Madeleine Love says:

            I wrote that “researchers reported selectively [sic] hemotoxicity of the Bt toxins they used, and leukogenic activity” but your statement “the paper very clearly shows no such thing” is just your claim at this stage, I think? Amongst other things it may depend on the author’s intended meaning of ‘Bt toxins’ in the context (assuming I represented it correctly) – they changed usages throughout the paper. Unlike you I didn’t see it as any form of bait and switch (how can you possibly think you know their mind?) but as the consequence of using shorthand terminology (it takes less journal space to write ‘Cry1Ab’ than ‘Cry1Ab spore crystals’) and being ‘less travelled’ in the Bt topic. As I’ve said above, the consistency of Bt terminology in papers is, in general, very loose. But in respect of your claim, if you feel it’s worth spending the time why don’t you write a letter to the journal where the article is currently published? (Oh, that it was still FCT.) Isn’t that the usual process?

            My use of the authors report above was simply to bring evidence to the existence of reports in the paper that Monsanto may not like (independent of merit), thus presenting possible cause for its retraction, as others seem to be describing it now.

            Diverting… amidst the pressure of trying to spatially conceptualize how to fit an upright collar to a performance costume (see sewing reference), an association of two dogs suddenly came to mind…
            - Your writing has similarities that of the anonymous poster ‘jytdog’ below
            - When I was searching on your name I came across a blog by a young student of your name who told a sympathetic story of the death of a dog belonging to his grandmother, with whom he lived.
            My brain put these two dogs together – you would be the best person to tell me if it was a useful insight.

          • August Pamplona says:

            Madeleine Love wrote:«I wrote that “researchers reported selectively [sic] hemotoxicity of the Bt toxins they used, and leukogenic activity” but your statement “the paper very clearly shows no such thing” is just your claim at this stage, I think? Amongst other things it may depend on the author’s intended meaning of ‘Bt toxins’ in the context (assuming I represented it correctly) – they changed usages throughout the paper. Unlike you I didn’t see it as any form of bait and switch (how can you possibly think you know their mind?) but as the consequence of using shorthand terminology (it takes less journal space to write ‘Cry1Ab’ than ‘Cry1Ab spore crystals’) and being ‘less travelled’ in the Bt topic. As I’ve said above, the consistency of Bt terminology in papers is, in general, very loose.»

            Words mean things. The issues here are not related to some presumed lack of facility in the English language on the author’s part and to intimate such a thing is disingenuous.

            Madeleine Love writes:
            «My use of the authors report above was simply to bring evidence to the existence of reports in the paper that Monsanto may not like (independent of merit), thus presenting possible cause for its retraction, as others seem to be describing it now.

            Diverting… amidst the pressure of trying to spatially conceptualize how to fit an upright collar to a performance costume (see sewing reference), an association of two dogs suddenly came to mind…
            - Your writing has similarities that of the anonymous poster ‘jytdog’ below
            - When I was searching on your name I came across a blog by a young student of your name who told a sympathetic story of the death of a dog belonging to his grandmother, with whom he lived.
            My brain put these two dogs together – you would be the best person to tell me if it was a useful insight.»

            I see you like to “connect the dots”. Sometimes this makes a person see patterns with no correspondence to an underlying reality. In the case of the article retraction, it was likely due to the editors still having some sense regarding how accepting such obviously deeply flawed articles makes them a laughingstock. In the case of myself, I already told you how to look for my online presence and when I did I did not tell you to look for “jytdog”. I am not jytdog.

          • Madeleine Love says:

            More extensive reading will show you that shortening is a common practice in this field. FSANZ regulatory mid-assessment document for Dow’s DAS-81419-2 contains the following phasing:

            “The line contains two insecticidal genes, cry1Ac(synpro) and cry1Fv3 [...] These genes express two insecticidal proteins which, for the purposes of this assessment are referred to as Cry1Ac and Cry1F.”

            According to FSANZ the cry1Ac(synpro) gene

            “…is a synthetic chimera comprising sequences from: the cry1Ac1 gene originally isolated from B. thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki strain HD73; the cry1Ca3 gene originally isolated from B. thuringiensis subsp. aizawai strain PS811; and the cry1Ab1 gene originally isolated from B. thuringiensis subsp. berliner 1715.”

            I would’ve thought the name “Cry1Ac(synpro)” was not an unreasonable shortening from a gene comprised of code from cryAc+cry1Ca+cry1ab, each from three different strains of bacteria. But FSANZ must’ve thought it a bit long, so went for the shorter (and incidentally, natural-sounding) “Cry1Ac” instead.

            According to FSANZ the cry1Fv3 gene

            “…is chimeric and comprises sequences from the cry1Fa2 gene originally isolated from Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. aizawai strain PS811; the cry1Ca3 gene originally isolated from B. thuringiensis subsp.aizawai strain PS811; and at the cry1Ab1 gene originally isolated from B. thuringiensis subsp. berliner 1715.”

            Again, “cry1Fv3″ seemed too long for a chimeric combination of cry1Fa+cry1Ca+cry1Ab and FSANZ saved the regulatory document two letters by opting for “cry1F” instead.

            http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/code/applications/Documents/A1087-GM-CFS-SD1.pdf

            FSANZ aren’t alone in this but I won’t labour the point.

            Thank you for the information that you are not jytdog. I found it unsettling though because my dot connecting had identified the subliminal third dog, being your profile pic, immediately after posting. And then behold a third poster, again with a similar style to yourself and jytdog turned up on another ISN blog. It had been all so neat. Ah well, “only Allah is perfect”, as they say.

          • Madeleine Love says:

            “Blog” is the wrong word – I would better have written “article”.

          • Madeleine Love says:

            @August Pamploma The children have returned to school after the long summer holidays; I’m actively reading into the field again without interruption. In an effort to write one line I spent a night that stretched into a couple of days reading into the pathogenic aspects of Bacillus thuringiensis, and the wider Bacillus Cereus group, including food contamination and illness arising. It was a fascinating journey that led naturally to a re-examination of Mezzomo.

            On returning to the paper from this extended background reading I was this time struck by the complete absence of reference and recognition in the discussion to possible confounding role of the spores. It wasn’t as if I didn’t recognise on the first read that the spores were a factor to be addressed, but I hadn’t noticed the lack of remark by the authors. It was as if they regarded the spores as entirely neutral, and that except for the crystal insecticides Bt was perfectly safe and beyond all examination. Although I found this position to be disappointing, given the abundance of remark in the recent literature on the pathogenic aspects of Bt and the wider Bacillus Cereus grouping, it also wouldn’t be entirely surprising that the authors could enter the project with this view. The GM and PR industries fulsomely promote the harmlessness of Bt, including reference to its use in organic farming as though this should be an indicator of harmlessness. I’m sure both you and I know that Bt pesticides are products of the mainstream pesticide industry and it was one of the few pesticides that remained in organic farming, not because it’s inherently safe but because it is a biological as opposed to a synthetic chemical product.

            This absence of reference in the discussion doesn’t detract from the original work, which I found to be a particularly interesting addition to knowledge about Bt spore-crystals and their impact in mammals (although more information about the negative control group would make it more solid for me). As for the role of the cry proteins I’d like to see them run an elisa with the re-suspended spore-crystals to see if there were cry proteins in solution rather than in crystal form (which according to the GM and regulatory assumptions should not be solubilized in the mammalian GIT). I would’ve like to see them analyse the faecal material to see if the crystals emerged unscathed. There’s a lot I’d like to know, including a toxin assessment of the spores, and an analysis to see if the Bt re-entered the vegetative state, but, isn’t that always the way?

  3. Rosemary Mason says:

    That is precisely what happened to our paper Immune Suppression by the neonicotinoid insecticides at the root of global wildlife declines. The Journal of Environmental Immunology having accepted our paper July 2012, finally launched the inaugural copy about 4 weeks ago. Our paper was mentioned in the Editorial and on the front page; you can get into our abstract, but when you try to download the pdf it comes up with an error page (despite our corresponding authors complaints to the Editor-in-Chief Marc Williams and Managing Editor Jack Jia).

    We had already discovered that they both work for the US EPA. The review articles on toxicity of other pesticides such as organophosphates can be read, but not ours.

    Science has been totally corrupted by the Agrochemical Industry.
    Rosemary Mason MB ChB FRCA

    • Madeleine Love says:

      That’s amazing. I went to the current issue – pdf’s from other articles came up, not yours. Have the editors come up with a reason for you about why the pdf isn’t showing?

    • Brian John says:

      I wrote to the Editor to ask about the PDF, but the message bounced. So the Contact address doesn’t actually exist. Does the journal exist, or is it a phantom? Are the Editors real people?

      • Madeleine Love says:

        The Mason et al article in the Journal of Environmental Immunology and Toxicology is published in Volume 1, Issue 1. I haven’t found a tab for ‘previous issues’, only current.
        Re the Mezzomo et al article I wrote about above in the ‘Journal of Hematology and Thromboembolic Diseases’, there is a tab for ‘previous issues’ but no volumes come up. The article itself is in Volume 1, Issue 1 of the ‘current issue’.

        • Madeleine Love says:

          I have emailed the Managing Editor of the Journal of Environmental Immunology and Toxicology, Jack Jia.
          He has replied “Sorry, I will ask IT engineer check and update the PDF file immediately and sent back to you today.”

          • Brian John says:

            Madeleine — the Mason et al article in JEIT is NOT published online. The abstract is there, on the journal website, http://www.stmconnect.com/jeit.html, but when you try to get at the PDF of the article, all you get is a blank page with “Not available” on the top. I too have contacted the Editor about this, and he assures me that this is down to a technical glitsch, given that this is a new journal that doesn’t yet have all its systems operating properly. Strange that — given that all the other articles in the journal have their PDFs working smoothly, available for all to see…….

            This is particularly unfortunate, since the title of the article suggests that it might be quite important: ” Immune Suppression by Neonicotinoid Insecticides at the Root of Global Wildlife Declines.” One would have thought that in view of today’s news (http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/20/us-usa-bees-idUSBRE94J0MK20130520) there would be lots of people who are only too keen to look at the article — and to bring more and more attention to this redoubtable new journal. So let’s all help the Editor to overcome his technical problems by circulating the peer-reviewed article by Dr Rosemary Mason and her colleagues as widely as possible. Rosemary has already provided a link to it towards the top of this correspondence chain.

          • Lynn Carroll says:

            From the home page, click Archive on the green bar and then View Issue for Volume 1, Issue 1. Even after the link was evidently fixed, I had trouble yesterday saving the article to my hard drive, and was finally able to do it by right-clicking on Full Text (PDF), and Save-Target-As.

  4. Phil Bereano says:

    Great piece. We might make note that:

    (1) for many years before going to BIO, Giddings was emplyed by USDA and led the US delegation
    to some of the negotiations of the Cartagena Protocol–where he was thoroughly obstructive

    (2) the Mexican gov’t has long acknowledged the truth of the Chapela/Quist findings–even
    earlier than the event it held at the first Meeting of the Parties under the Protocol, in
    2004, Kuala Lumpur–where they tried to maintain an arm’s length posture and I suggested that they award ignacio a medal!.
    http://www.seattleglobaljustice.org/agra-watch/

  5. Tommy Longnecker says:

    Really amazing.
    Congratulations to Monsanto and associated companies! They are really strong. Perhaps they should publish their own journals. Thus they would directly write their own articles without needing their middle-men. However, doubtless the results would be the same.

  6. Brian John says:

    What is reported here is just the tip of the iceberg. I had the privilege (I won’t call it the pleasure) to blow the Ermakova Affair out into the open. As a resident of Russia, she innocently asked me whether what was going on with her submission to Nature Biotechnology was “normal” in the west! When I investigated, I discovered the worst case of scientific publishing malpractice that I have ever seen. The editor, Andrew Marshall, should have been sacked on the spot. But it tells us something about “Nature” journals, and about today’s scientific publishing ethics, that he is still there, orchestrating the same old pro-GM spin that we have grown, over the years, to know and despise.

  7. Dan says:

    The corruption doesn’t end with the scientific publishing community. Many of our federal and state legislators are puppets of agribiz all under the guise of trying “to feed the world.” Even the current U.S. president came into office with the promise of labelling GMO-containing food products. Now in his second administration, there’s not been an effectual peep about it from the White House … draw your own conclusions of the legacy of Earl Butz.

  8. Muriel Hykes says:

    I’m saddened that the 1% has shut down science so thoroughly. It’s like the last scene of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers. There’s no where to turn, no one to protect us….

    Someone needs to start a Journal of Academic Truth where rejected articles can get published; where editors aren’t owned by corporations.

    A woman can dream, can’t she?

    • Brian John says:

      Well, there is open source publishing, as mentioned by the authors. This could be accompanied by public peer review of some sort, as in the excellent case of Wikipedia. There are already some online open-source publishing routes already open. They don’t have the same “status” as top-ranked journals, but if Nature and the other big journals don’t get their act together, the whole idea of “peer-reviewed science” will become a laughing stock. So there is a threat here, with corporate control of the publications process — but also a major opportunity for truth to prevail. It’s down to all of us to devise appropriate mechanisms for the publication of papers which MUST be published in the public interest — whether Monsanto, Syngenta at al like it or not..

  9. Brian John says:

    Good news. As soon as things started to get hot in the editorial office of the redoubtable journal, following our little piece: http://www.gmfreecymru.org/pivotal_papers/bee-losses-paper.html and no doubt following enquiries from readers of this web site as well, the technical problems that were apparently causing the non-appearance of the pesticides / bee article were suddenly resolved! The result is that we can now read it at our leisure and ponder on why somebody did not want us to read it at all…. http://www.stmconnect.com/toc/jeit/2013v1n1/page3-12.pdf

  10. Karl Seidel says:

    Over the years I’ve watched our media become a circus of biased and often silly information. And I’ve had to chalk it up to bad taste or bad information.

    This issue of reporting science poorly and with bias is a criminal act, more akin to a conspiracy and should be approached and ultimately prosecuted as such.

    Alas, not until Clarence Thomas is off the bench, will that possibility become realistic.

  11. jytdog says:

    “Independent Science News”, this website is not. Opposed to GMOs, this site is. That title is as deceptive and ugly as the name of the group ” Science and Environmental Policy Project” which is a climate-change denier group. Sheesh.

    People are free to advocate whatever they want but don’t try to dress it up in “science” – especially when it goes against the scientific consensus.

    Broad anti-GMO advocacy is as ideological and a-scientific as climate change denial. (a-scientific, as in, does not care what science says — is driven by ideology, not science)

    • jrlatham says:

      Dear jytdog
      On this site we expect civil discussion but since you raise some interesting points we will let your sprinkling of adjectives pass.
      Much of the content of this site has nothing to do with GMOs, but even if it did, we would like to know how you know what the scientific consensus on GMOs is? Many scientific organisations dispute what is known about the safety of GMOs. The panel assembled by the Brazilian regulator (http://aspta.org.br/campanha/press-release-nk603/) tried to fake their consensus on the Seralini research, as did the French academy of sciences (http://gmwatch.org/latest-listing/52-2013/14667-expose-of-french-academy-of-sciences-hatchet-job-on-seralini). If there is a consensus, we are not sure what it is (and among who?). It certainly isnt what you may read in the pages of ‘Science’ or ‘Nature’ magazines. Even if there was such a thing, we agree with Richard Feynman who wrote

      “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”

      If the consensus equalled the truth we could all pack up and go home and science could be decided by a poll of experts (chosen by?).

      Which leads us to wonder, in your research, do you not challenge a consensus of some kind?

      • jytdog says:

        Hi Jonathan. Thank you for overlooking my adjectives.

        The scientific consensus on GM food that is on the market, is that is as safe as its conventional counterparts. I know this because this is what regulators and mainstream scientists say. As with global warming, there are fringe scientists who push unsupportable claims based on flimsy data. And there are people who imagine themselves to be toxicologists, who are not. I would have loved it — loved it – had Seralini done his experiments with 65 or more rats per arm, so that we would have very solid data from which to draw conclusions. It is tragic to me that he that he spent two years gathering uninterpretable data. More tragic that he scared the pants off the public by claiming certainty where none can be had. I really do look forward to the day when a scientifically sound long term feeding study is done. I really don’t get why Seralini chose the design he did. After 6 years in the wilderness (since his first paper on this ion 2007), he could have come out with rock solid data and blown his critics out of the water (or proved to himself that his hypothesis is incorrect). He didn’t. Terrible.

        The statement “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.” is healthy in some ways, and is a recipe for a society of ignoramuses on the other, don’t you think? A healthy mix of respect for the scientific method and skepticism of received wisdom is better. What is far worse, is the combination of passion and outright ignorance of the science and regulatory work that has been done on GMOs, among much of the anti-GMO community. And I do not think your site of “independent science news” is helping the public understand either, but rather is feeding fear that drives mistrust of both.

        In my work I have to challenge consensus points of view all the time. But the proof is in the pudding. Either i make it based on the merits of what I produce, or I fall flat. Seralini fell flat with weak data.

        I think I responded to your questions. You say that this site is not really anti-GMO. With respect to the articles and reviews listed on this page, 11 of them are overtly anti-GMO, one is about how to go without GMO, and the other is Chinese nutrition. I know this is your site, but I don’t see how you get around that.

        What upset me as I read this article, is the “Fox News”-ness of it. You ask: ” Does Monsanto now effectively decide which papers on biotechnology are published in FCT? And is this part of an attempt by Monsanto and the life science industry to seize control of science?” How is this a smidge different from Fox News asking, “What if the President lied about Benghazi, and what about if he in fact knew about this much earlier?” (Jon Stewart has a great take-down on this tactic http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-may-8-2013/the-big-benghazi-theory—-if-). What if… that is exactly what you are doing in this article? Thanks again for talking, and I look forward to continued dialogue. Thanks again for overlooking my adjectives.

        • Brian John says:

          Jytdog says: “The scientific consensus on GM food that is on the market, is that is as safe as its conventional counterparts. I know this because this is what regulators and mainstream scientists say.” Dear oh dear. His faith is actually quite touching……

        • Madeleine Love says:

          @jytdog I read you saying that there is a “scientific consensus” about the comparative safety of GM food with its conventional counterparts. You say this “because this is what regulators and mainstream scientists say”.

          From time to time various groups of scientists have gathered together and come up with statements on the relative safety of GM food. I promised some people that I would collect the statements, names of the scientists/participants in the consensuses and the events/dates/times/projects at which such consensuses were reached.

          As such, I wonder if you could ask the regulators and mainstream scientists about these particular moments of scientific consensus that you are referring to.

          A note of advice – groups of scientists that I have collected so far have reached different points of consensus on this subject.

          • jytdog says:

            Hi Madelaine (and Brian)

            I regret that I wrote “because this is what regulators and mainstream scientists say”. This has made me cringe several times.

            Here is what I should have written: I have read the history of how the US policy toward regulating GMOs was developed, the policy itself, and the resulting US regulations, as well as documents produced by regulators (including approval letters). I have also read much of the counterpart EU and OECD documentation, as well as the US National Academy report on Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods: Approaches to Assessing Unintended Health Effects.

            All of this adds up and makes sense to me. And importantly, has been in place for years now, and has resulted in many GM foods being on the market, for many years now.

            It is mainstream.

            Within the mainstream, consensus, scientific community, there has always been a desire for better and better tools to assess “events”. This desire does not mean that the existing tools are inadequate – it means that everybody always wants the best answers they can get, in the real, resource-limited world. The NAS report is really beautiful in discussing this honestly.

            What the issue comes down to, is a matter of managing risk. Nothing is 100%, everything has some risk to it. Non-GM food (including both conventionally-produced and organically produced) food is not 100% safe – many foods have “anti-nutrients” that any instance of a given food can have lots of, or little of; there are allergens in food; food can be contaminated; and importantly, any food can be toxic if you consume too much of it. So the question that regulators have asked about GM food that has been approved is, “is this any riskier than its conventional counterpart?” and have acted accordingly.

            There have always been those who are concerned that the risks have not been assessed well enough; this is where Seralini started out. While the mainstream made its decisions and moved on, Seralini set off on a path outside that mainstream 6 years ago (this is what I meant, Brian, by his “years in the wilderness) and has tried, unsuccessfully, to show that the consensus methods for assessing risk are not adequate. This culminated in the disaster of last year. If you want to overcome the consensus – if you want to make extraordinary claims – you have to come with extraordinarily strong data, which he did not.

            Anyway, that is the story as I see it.

            ==

            With respect to the Monsanto studies you cite, where did you get that information? I would be very interested to read more about that!

            ==

            With respect to instrumentation or specific studies done under GLP, GLP doesn’t specify what assays are instrumentation are to be used… so I am not sure what your point is there. Could you please clarify?

            ===

            Turning now, to the BPA article you sent. I read the NTP report – all of it – and here is one of the most interesting passages to me:

            3.0 DEVELOPMENTAL TOXICITY DATA The Panel attended to multiple design and analysis characteristics in judging the acceptability of individual studies. It was our consensus that for a study to be acceptable for this review process, several conditions had to be met. (snip) In addition, the Panel carefully considered the value of studies where bisphenol A was administered anywhere other than to the mouth or stomach of the experimental animal. Human exposure is overwhelmingly oral, and oral exposure produces an internal metabolite profile which is overwhelmingly dominated by the (inactive) glucuronide in both rats and humans. Subcutaneous or parenteral injections result in blood levels of active parent compound which are much higher than those seen after oral exposure. In light of these pharmacoki­netic differences, the Panel concluded that injection studies, unless they proved otherwise, would produce irrelevantly high internal doses of the active parent compound, and would tend to produce ‘‘false positive’’ effects from the point of view of the human oral situation. Thus, the Panel viewed those otherwise adequate studies that injected bisphenol A as providing ‘‘supplemental’’ information (i.e., of limited utility), unless they also analyzed the levels of parent compound and metabolites after the injection. The intent of this approach is limit the impact of those studies which produced an unrealistic and irrelevant internal metabo­lite profile (i.e., one which is significantly different from that experienced by humans). Thus, the closer any given study came to replicating the human situation, the more weight it had in the final analysis” (pp 235-236)

            The review article that you sent, does not seem to pay mind to the route of administration, which is a key element in assessing tox for BPA…

            ==

            Finally, I am sorry that my anonymity is discomfiting to you, and if you choose not to correspond any further, I would fully understand that. I chose to comment here in continuity with my Wikipedia persona so that all of this would be of a single piece – Brian for instance very quickly connected the dots, which is fine with me. Wikipedia allows and welcomes anonymity, and has strict policies against “outing” people. I like civil discussion very much, and have had the misfortune of having some very ugly exchanges on Wikipedia, and was grateful that these people could not chase me into the rest of my life. So no, I will not say more about who I am. And as I said, if you choose not to correspond further I would fully understand.

            Thanks for the discussion!

    • Madeleine Love says:

      @Jytdog Reporting the corporate corruption of science publishing in relation to GMO’s does not by consequence imply an opposition to GMO’s. Indeed, when published, GMO science is a fascinating and informative read, the more so when it is independent of professional conflict of interest. See: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306919210001302 Association of financial or professional conflict of interest to research outcomes on health risks or nutritional assessment studies of genetically modified products; Diels et al; Food Policy, Volume 36, Issue 2, April 2011, Pages 197–203

      Further, reporting the corporate corruption of published science in relation to GMO’s does not by consequence imply a either a coincident acceptance, or denial, of climate science. They would appear to be independent events. Along with other GMO proponents you seem to have been given a confounding rhetoric to market with.

      • jytdog says:

        Thanks for responding Madelaine. I work in academia, and I find it laughable that people think academic scientists are somehow free of conflict. Academic science is pretty darn cut-throat – you live and die by getting grants awarded, and you get grants awarded if you are able to publish work based on your prior grant, and the more “relevant” you can make it, the better. I have seen paper after paper on good basic science strain to push its conclusions to find some direct tie to health. I have seen poor paper after poor paper too, do the same thing.

        Some of the worst are those by non-toxicologists, who dump a ton of pesticide on some cells in a tissue no one has tested yet, find damage (surprise!) and claim “Another terrible health effect of an endocrine disruptor!” And get it published. Ludicrous, from a toxicological point of view.

        And is academic science any better than industrial science? In the pharma and biotech industries it has long been rumored that academic science is rarely replicable. If there is a paper, in say Science, making a claim that protein X is potentially a great new target for say, ovarian cancer drugs, the first thing industry scientists will do is try to replicate it, before seeking internal funding to begin a drug discovery program. Real money is on the line there. Well now two groups have come out and published the results of their reviews over the years. You know what the percentage of replicable, high profile, potentially important papers was? About 20%. Twenty. Here is one: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v483/n7391/full/483531a.html and here is the other: http://www.nature.com/nrd/journal/v10/n9/full/nrd3439-c1.html Why is this? One reason is that journals allow data based on low Ns to be published. Another is that scientists cherry pick their data, to get it published. Publish or perish is a real deal. Another reason is that academic labs don’t follow GLP. Although “money” may be a dirty word to some, smart companies invest in projects based on good data, and kill projects when good data shows bad results. There is no penalty in academia for getting “good enough to be published” data published. You hit that, and move on the next thing. If you get to refine your findings later, with new data, all the better.

        Anyway, that was too much of a ramble. But I wanted to address the notion in what you wrote that “academic/independent science is “good” and corporate science is “bad”. Best regards.

        • Madeleine Love says:

          I am aware of academia’s need for grants, both public and private, and have suspected it to be one of the underlying causes of the frequent optimistic advocacy of GM potential in the media, without substantiation in the study itself, nor as proved by time and subsequent study. I appreciated the passion of your writing.

          I understand that an unrepeatable study might be frustrating to the pharmaceutical industry, and that the industry might feel frustration in such cases with publishing journals. However, in the case where the funding for the study came from the public purse, it was, after all, a freebee (do you use that word?) that industry hoped to profit from.

          I read your statement about real money being on the line, and I drew from this the desire for reasonable chance of success before embarking on development. However the other side to that coin is that where real money has been spent there is a disincentive for an industry to abandon a suspect product which, in a short lifetime on the market before discovery or thoughtful removal from litigious risk, can return some research costs.

          You mentioned “GLP”, writing as though this was not only something that industry followed but that it was superior to academic approaches. I have spent a lot of time examining compliance to Good Laboratory Practice in the work supporting the GM company advocacy material given to our food regulator FSANZ in respect of their GM crops. As such I am compelled to unequivocally rebut your claims or inferences that may be thus drawn. Firstly, I have never seen a dossier where a GM company has fully complied with GLP. In respect of Monsanto’s GM GT73 canola for which 32 studies were provided:
          In 15 studies Monsanto self-reported that they failed to meet compliance with Good Laboratory Practice.
          In 10 studies Monsanto did not provide a Statement of Compliance.
          In 3 studies Monsanto said it complied with Good Laboratory Practice.
          In 1 study Monsanto reported that it didn’t ‘significantly deviate’ from GLP.
          In 1 study Monsanto said it didn’t have to comply.
          Compliance failure included such obvious suspect practices as writing in pencil, but also included a GLP failure of the testing house to characterise the test substances before animal trials.
          The other issue about GLP made by this study -> http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2661896/ and on subsequent review is that the standards are established seemingly decades behind state of the art scientific practices at the time the testing is done, and the requirements fail in their potential efficacy. Indeed some of the failure to comply with GLP seemed to be because Monsanto decided at their discretion to use more up-to-date methods than those described in GLP. Where not to their advantage however, it isn’t to be assumed that they would modify their approach beyond that required by GLP.

          I may have rambled away from the topic as I thought your points were interesting. But addressing your last line, I don’t believe I inferred that corporate science is ‘bad’ – I just wrote that I enjoyed reading studies that were independent of corporate interest. If pressed though to come to a judgment on such corporate work I would describe it as corporate ‘invention’ rather than ‘science’, and that the material published in journals on behalf of this invention to be likely to suffer from particular biases. This is not to say that independent work may not also suffer from the different kinds of biases that are common to both corporate and non-corporate work.

          Returning to the topic of interest on this page, it would be scientifically unconscionable if independent science of a suitable standard was denied publication as a result of corporate pressure within the operations of a journal.

          I don’t usually engage with people in these discussions who don’t provide their name. Can you tell me who you are?
          Regards, Madeleine

          • Madeleine Love says:

            Clarifying lines
            Para1: “..without substantiation in the study BEING PROMOTED, nor as proved…”
            Para2: “..I drew from this AN UNDERSTANDING OF the INDUSTRY desire…”
            Para4: “..given to our food regulator FSANZ in respect of the COMPANY’S GM crops…”
            Sorry – not big on pre-click proof-reading.

          • jytdog says:

            Hi Madeleine

            Something that you wrote above has been sticking with me..

            “I understand that an unrepeatable study might be frustrating to the pharmaceutical industry, and that the industry might feel frustration in such cases with publishing journals. However, in the case where the funding for the study came from the public purse, it was, after all, a freebee (do you use that word?) that industry hoped to profit from.”

            I thing I feel that is important, that i learned just a couple of years ago, is that at least in the US, government funding of research is motivated – very explicitly – to benefit industry. It is one reason why we spend taxpayer money on basic research. I don’t know if you ever read the famous (in some circles) letter from Vannevar Bush to President Roosevelt written in 1945, called “Science the Endless Frontier” https://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa/nsf50/vbush1945.htm

            If you are unfamiliar with it.. basically during WWII the federal government funded many huge research projects across academia and industry to address the several needs that arose and to develop new weapons and other equipment (synthetic rubber; the manhattan project). As the war was winding down, Roosevelt asked Bush, who was coordinating those efforts, to provide advice about whether the federal government should continue to fund basic research. Bush gave a resounding yes. “The pioneer spirit is still vigorous within this nation. Science offers a largely unexplored hinterland for the pioneer who has the tools for his task. The rewards of such exploration both for the Nation and the individual are great. Scientific progress is one essential key to our security as a nation, to our better health, to more jobs, to a higher standard of living, and to our cultural progress.” He makes a very long and strong argument that basic science is essential to provide a foundation for industry to develop new and better products which themselves benefit the public, and the sale of which give companies that allow them to make money and grow and hire more people and provide good jobs that everybody wants to be plentiful.

            In short, federally funded research at universities is intended to provide “freebies” to industry. To the extent the results are useless for industry, they directly thwart one of the key reasons why the funding exists at all. And, just to say, if the results are useless for industry because they are not replicable, they are definitely useless to the progress of basic science (and indeed it means they are bad science, period), so I don’t understand your kind of dismissive argument even on that level….

            Best regards

            jytdog

  12. Brian John says:

    Ah — welcome to Jytdog, who plays a key role in maintaining the despicable assault on Gilles-Eric Seralini on Wikipedia — on the page called “Seralini Affair.” The whole article is so biased and carefully crafted as a continuous attack on Seralini’s integrity that I am amazed Wikipedia has not taken it down. To try and restore some balance, I sought to add this to the introduction:

    “The term “Seralini Affair” was invented by the proponents of GM technology as part of a classic diversionary campaign. [3] By the use of this term they deliberately sought to suggest notoriety, dishonesty or incompetence, and they also sought to turn a carefully orchestrated “scientific furore” into the story that the media might concentrate on — while ignoring the real story, namely that the health of experimental rats was seriously damaged when GM maize and Roundup residues were incorporated into their diets. [4] The media were also encouraged to forget that the scientific paper in question was fully peer-reviewed and published in a reputable scientific journal, and that the authors were more highly qualified in their field than many of their critics. [5]”

    Within a very short time of me adding that, it was taken down, and if one looks at the history of edits on the page one can see that Jytdog and one or two others keep a watching brief, and will block off or undo anything that anybody puts up in an attempt to restore some balance. So the article on Wikipedia will probably remain a travesty of the truth simply because Jytdog and others have the time and the inclination to keep it that way.

    Straight question — Jytdog, are you paid by Monsanto?

    • jytdog says:

      Hi Brian. Sorry you are frustrated with the Seralini Affair article. NPOV does not mean that fringe science gets the same WEIGHT as mainstream science. For what it is worth, I was pretty unhappy when I saw that article being created since all it did, was open another front for arguments. But there it is.

      Lovely question about whether I work for Monsanto. Why can you not conceive that there are independent people who have perspectives different from you? However, I will answer – and the answer is no. I work at a university and do not have any relationship with any ag biotech company. I work on human stuff, not ag stuff.

      Here is my story, which I have told elsewhere.

      I came to this set of issues a bit over a year ago with no knowledge of it and no stance on it. I walked by a protest where a guy had a sign that said “Monsanto kills” and I thought, “wow, what’s up with that?” So I started reading about Monsanto. I hit the Monsanto article in Wikipedia first thing when I started doing that research, and the article at that time reeked of bullshit (sorry if that is offensive, but I am using it as a technical term a la Harry Frankfurt – his essay which I strongly recommend is here: https://athens.indymedia.org/local/webcast/uploads/frankfurt__harry_-_on_bullshit.pdf In brief, bullshit is speech intended to persuade, without regard for truth. It is a-truthful, like someone who is amoral doesn’t take morality into account).

      So I started doing research like a scholar would – like we are supposed to do in Wikipedia – finding neutral-point-of-view, reliable sources and reading them and then coming back and editing the Monsanto article and other GM-related articles. It was surprising to me – really surprising – to find the same statements about Monsanto repeated over and over (often verbatim) in anti-Monsanto sources, which you come across a lot of, as you search for information on the web. And repeated again in the Monsanto article and the other GM-related articles in Wikipedia.

      And it was more surprising to me to find that many of those statements were untrue or half-true, when I ran their claims to ground. I spent hours learning and digging down into the issues, reading entire OECD, EFSA, and FDA guidances and reports, and the history of regulatory law and policy, reading patents and court cases, reading about the biotechnology behind GMOs and how ag biotechnology has been regulated. And really importantly, reading about farming and why farmers have so widely adopted these products. (Stunning to me how rarely you read anything in the anti-GM literature about what real farmers actually think and do — most times they are portrayed as powerless victims or patsies. Not as the savvy business people they are. Terrible.) Reading how food is actually produced in the US. Reading the scientific papers that both sides tout. And always going back and matching what I was reading, with what was in the anti-GM sites.

      Intellectually amazing, and from a human perspective, depressing as hell. As I wrote above, the level of passion and ignorance in the anti-GMO community has been just mind-blowing to me. I would read something and say, “wow really??” and go learn more about it, and have it fall apart in my hands. I came to the issues wide open, ready to learn… and what I learned was that many, too many, among the anti-GMO community are science-ignoring ideologues — the “climate change deniers of the left” as Slate so aptly said. It is kind of a religion, almost.

      I remain open to being taught! But I have had it about up to here, with hearing more of the half-truths that get passed around the anti-GM community.

      I know you are going to ask so I will give you an example. Oil. Oil from GM corn or soy. Is that “GM”? If you step back and think about it, oil is highly purified, with vanishingly small amounts of protein or DNA or much else in it. Ditto lecithin, sugar from GM beets, and high fructose corn syrup (which has its own issues, but this is not one of them). Ditto cheese made with GM chymosin. But on one anti-GM site after another, you will see stern warnings to avoid all those, lest you expose yourself to drastic health risks of getting cancer, etc. via exposure to GMOs. Not real world. Magical thinking. Bullshit (speech intended to persuade, without regard for truth)

      There is a lot about industrial ag that I don’t like (I am pretty much vegetarian) and there is a lot of work to do to create a truly sustainable ag system that can indeed feed the world (leaving aside questions of distribution which are always going to be hard). First generation GM crops are definitely a cog in the industrial ag system, and I can understand opposition to them based on that. (2nd generation ones, involving things like canola and soy with better oil profiles, not so much) But are the risks very high that food from GM crops are actually more harmful to human health than their conventional counterparts? I struggle to see how anybody could make a fact-based argument for that.

      One of Harry Frankfurt’s main points in his little books “On Bullshit” and “On Truth” is that if we want to be effective in the world and make real change, we need to see the world clearly, as it is, in all its messiness. These books deeply influenced me. Wildly exaggerating the risks of GM food is bullshit – it doesn’t help people see things clearly so they can act and make the world a better place. Tarring all industrial science as “conflicted” is the same. Making food more scarce by killing industrial ag without something that can scale to take its place will result in high food prices, which means that rich nations will eat and poor nations will starve – as we saw recently with the worldwide wheat crop failures we had. Not a great outcome.

      Anyway, since you asked, that is where I am coming from. I am different from you, but I am not am not a Monsanto zombie. ( i have figured out that the there is a belief in the anti-GM community, that if somebody ever worked for Monsanto, they have become some kind of zombie that must forever thereafter serve that Evil Beast. More magical thinking…great B movie, however. ) But in any case, I am a pure virgin in that sense. Best regards!

      • Brian John says:

        Hi Jytdog

        Thanks for this rather revealing reply. It’s good to know that you are not actually paid by Monsanto, and that my suspicions on that score are unfounded. However, your protestations of virtuous intent fall rather flat when one reads through your narrative. There are value judgments everywhere — and you start off by differentiating between “fringe science” and “mainstream science” and demonstrating that wherever the boundary between those might lie, you place more faith in one sort of science than the other. And then : “bullshit is speech intended to persuade, without regard for truth.” We could have an endless debate about the nature of truth, but you seem to have a naive belief that the anti-GM movement is more than likely to base its arguments on “bullshit”, and to have a lesser regard for the truth, than the pro-GM movement. In fact you do not seem to think that there is a pro-GM movement at all (am I right in that?) — seeming instead to think that on that side of the argument there are just honest scientists, competent and upright regulators, and mainstream commercial corporations intent on turning an honest dollar or two from their carefully-developed products. Get real.

        You make many accusations against those whom you label as “anti-Monsanto” — you say “many of those statements were untrue or half-true” and that “the level of passion and ignorance in the anti-GMO community has been just mind-blowing to me,” and ” too many, among the anti-GMO community are science-ignoring ideologues.”

        I fear that your protestations of independence and virtue are bullshit, Jytdog. You are just as incapable of balance as anybody else, since you have clearly chosen to disregard the mind-blowing capacity for corruption and even scientific fraud within Monsanto and other big corporations, the abundant and well-documented failings of the regulatory system especially in the USA, and the untruths and half-truths trotted out all the tine by the promoters of GM technology (and that includes many who call themselves scientists). You will probably ask me, in best Wikipedia fashion, to cite my sources — life is too short for that, and I need my breakfast, but go out and do some honest research and you will see what I mean.

        You go on : ” …..I have had it about up to here, with hearing more of the half-truths that get passed around the anti-GM community.” Look the other way, Jytdog, at the pro-GM community, and if you can just be bothered to open your eyes, you might see something of interest.

        • jytdog says:

          Hi Brian. Thank you for your reply!

          I am glad you found my story to be helpful and that you perhaps understand better where I am coming from.

          I gave you a historical narrative, narrated from today, and yes there are value judgements in it. I started out a blank slate, today I have come to understand that GM foods that are on the market are as safe as their conventional counterparts. Which by the way, are not without risk.

          And yes, today it is my understanding that the 2012 paper is fringe science. The conclusions in the paper are not supported by its data, and I am bummed that the papers authors did not come with super-strong data to back up their super-strong claims.

          I gave an example of the kind of BS I have found on anti-GMO sites. I could give plenty more. The thing you are missing, is that I counted on those sites to teach me. And they failed me. And yes my disappointment is evident.

          I have not spent a lot of time reading the websites of Syngenta, Monsanto, etc. but I am sure that they have also produced a fair amount of BS.

          Is there a pro-GM “movement”? I would say there is a GM industry, and it has everything that other industries have – advertisements, lobbyists, etc.. I don’t know that I would call that a “movement.”

          I acknowledged that I am still open to learning – I agree that balance is hard for everybody, including me.

          I do not understand what you mean about scientific fraud within Monsanto, but I am aware that regulatory systems have failed. They are institutions created and run by humans.

          I hope you enjoy your breakfast.

          • jytdog says:

            Brian, a last note. I re-read what I wrote above and elsewhere on this page, and realized that no where have I acknowledged that there are plenty of examples of corrupt corporate science – the big scandal with Industrial Bio-test Laboratories, the Merck/Vioxx scandal, and many others. I am by no means saying that corporate science is squeaky clean. Sorry for not saying that earlier. I am saying that all human endeavors are open to error and corruption too. You can say that companies are always tempted to skew the data to serve a goal of getting their products to market and selling them; you can also say that companies have a financial discipline that drives them to reduce their risk by relying on good data and killing projects that don’t meet their goals. You can say that university and nonprofit scientists usually don’t have direct financial interests in the outcome of their research (e.g. they don’t make money on sales of products they are testing) and are therefore more likely to publish accurate and carefully stated results; you can also say that independent scientists are in a cut-throat environment where they need to get published to get their next grant awarded (or more donations to their nonprofits), and the splashier they can make their conclusions and the more they can burnish their reputation for whatever they do, the better for them – that if you look at their “product” as publications and their “sales” as more grants or donations, they are pretty much as conflicted as any company. I don’t see this as black and white – every study needs to be looked at on its own merits.

    • jytdog says:

      Jonathan’s post got me thinking about intersections between Wikipedia and real world identities.

      Wikipedia has a conflict of interest guideline (not policy):
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Conflict_of_interest

      Brian, since you note above that you have edited Wikipedia and provide the edit, I just wanted to make sure you are aware of this guideline. That is all I will say about this, and I will not out you.

  13. Pete Halwell-Jones says:

    As a followup to Brian John’s comment: I’m on an email list where I’ve heard several people complain about the extreme bias of the Wikipedia page, “The Seralini affair”. They have been trying to edit it to add balance and accuracy but their edits are reverted soon after. The would-be editors noticed that one of the most destructive vandalisers of their edits had the Wiki user name ‘runjonrun’.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:Runjonrun

    It’s clear from this page that ‘runjonrun’ has got into trouble with other Wiki users for deleting their work without justification and for not declaring his conflict of interest. On one occasion the Wiki admin person rebuked ‘runjonrun’ for editing a Wiki page about an organisation that he runs, an outfit called NGO Watch linked with the corporate-funded think tank, the American Enterprise Institute. Editing pages about your own organisation is a conflict of interest under Wiki rules. Then the Wiki admin person thanks him for identifying himself. Runjonrun is… Jon Entine.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=NGOWatch&diff=292041817&oldid=251632062

    Entine has written several attack pieces against Seralini and his study, including for Forbes. Entine is linked to Jay Byrne of the PR firm v-Fluence, which Entine described as “a social media company formed by former Monsanto executives”. You can read the whole sorry saga here:
    http://www.spinwatch.org/index.php/issues/science/item/164-smelling-a-corporate-rat

    I feel sad that the public, who have come to trust Wiki as a reliable source, may be duped about the nature of this inaccurate and potentially libelous attack page.

  14. Phil Bereano says:

    Interesting how jytdog has shifted these comments to focusing on himself rather than on the original article by Claire and Jonathan. Is this evidence of narcissism or a tactic to avoid the critical points our 2 colleagues are making?

    • jytdog says:

      I am sure it is my narcissism. : ) But I was responding to Brian, who asked. I have responded to everybody who asked me questions and am happy to continue talking “on topic” and would in fact prefer to, rather than addressing questions of my motivation and affiilation.

  15. Brian John says:

    First of all, apologies for referring to Jytdog’s protestations as “BS” — I have been reprimanded by Jonathan, and will take that on the chin. In self-defence, I will claim that I was using the term ironically in the context of a learned discussion about an academic concept, as enunciated by Jytdog, to which he and various others subscribe. Believe that if you like!

    Moving on, very politely, can I say that I agree with much of what Jytdog says in his latest post about conflicts of interest and motivations for drawing either conformist conclusions or “splashy’ ones in academic / scientific research. Of course it is true that researchers in academic or research institutions are pushed by the system they are in to find dramatic things, since research grants (and even TV programmes) may follow. But ultimately their reputations do matter, and I would disagree that they are as conflicted as the scientists who work for Monsanto (for example) who are required to demonstrate “no harm” with respect to that product or this one.

    With regard to your previous message, you say with respect to Seralini: “…… it is my understanding that the 2012 paper is fringe science. The conclusions in the paper are not supported by its data, and I am bummed that the papers authors did not come with super-strong data to back up their super-strong claims.” Who tells you that the conclusions are not supported by the data? Seralini has a very long list of scientists who are quite happy that the conclusions ARE supported by the data. Are all of those eminent scientists “fringe scientists” incapable of bringing their expertise to bear, and incapable of independent thought?

    Last point. Your uncertainty about whether there is a pro-GM movement. Let me give you some names. Bruce Chassy. Vivian Moses. Val Giddings. Alan McHughen. David Tribe. Henry Miller. CS Prakash. Florence Wambugu. Anthony Trewavas. Greg Conko. Dennis Avery. Ingo Potrykus. I am sure they are all perfectly nice people who love apple pie and grandmothers, but if you look up some of their pronouncements on GM issues over the years you will see no lack of emotion, and a sort of religious zealotry that is actually quite frightening.

    Don’t let me put you off your breakfast. Please enjoy it, as I enjoyed mine!

    • jytdog says:

      Hi Brian.

      I am glad you enjoyed your breakfast! (I generally skip it but thanks for the good wishes)

      I see what you are saying about Chasey et al. I do.

      Do they constitute a “movement” in the same way that I was using the term? I don’t think so. As far as I know there has never been a “March for Monsanto”, for example.

      When I talk about anti-GMO movement I am referring to content in websites like the ones below, and the people who create them and read them — and the people who came out to protest over the weekend:

      http://www.organicauthority.com/foodie-buzz/eight-reasons-gmos-are-bad-for-you.html
      http://www.refinery29.com/genetically-modified-food
      http://www.care2.com/greenliving/how-to-win-a-gmo-debate-top-10-facts-why-gm-food-is-bad.html
      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/heather-bauer-rd-cdn/avoid-gmos_b_3294564.html
      http://www.urbanorganicgardener.com/2012/02/gmo-basics-what-you-need-to-know/

      (Those are the results of a very scientific :) google search for “GMO bad”. ) I don’t find sites like this that are pro-GM. These sites urge people to get angry and take action. They make very general statements with a whole grab bag of reasons in support of their position, with varying levels of correspondence with reality and coherence. And as far as I can tell most are very grass-roots and amateur (although you find very polished ones too). And you have the marches over the weekend, the forces that organized on behalf of Prop 87, etc. That is what I mean by “movement”. It is pretty loose, organizationally, as far as I can tell, but there are lots of shared ideas and memes.

      And you have folks like Jeremy Rifkin and more recently,. Prof Seralini, who make their living off this movement.

      So what about the “pro GMO” side? When I think about that, I don’t find anything to compare with the anti-GMO movement. First of all, as far as I know, nobody is pro-any-GMO but lots of folks are anti-any-GMO. It is not symmetrical. (Nobody is pro-any-GMO. Ag biotech companies develop and test specific GM products that they think will be useful and will sell, and many potential products are thrown out along the way because they don’t work or have unforeseen toxicity (most famously, the pioneer brazil nut /soybean product that they killed when they learned the gene they spliced into the soybean coded for a previously unknown allergen, and the Australian transgenic pea that had a previously unknown allergen). And nobody would say it is would be great to make a potato for food that cranked out solanine.)

      But are there people who say the genetic engineering technology has a place in agriculture? For sure. And – and here is the biggest asymmetry — this is the mainstream. It is hard for me to call the “mainstream” a movement. We have laws and regulations worldwide to allow it; we have regulatory institutions with huge data sets and procedural guides to ensure that laws are followed for specific products, and we have a whole built up economy around GM crops – namely companies that generate and sell products and consumers (farmers) who buy them, and all the associated middlemen.

      As per our exchange above, the GM industry has lobbyists and PR people (the latter of which sure seem to do a bad job). With respect to the people you name there is a mix there. Some like Henry Miller run advocacy organizations paid for by industry to promote ag biotech. You have folks like David Tribe who is a university scientist who also runs a blog and has put himself out there to crankily defend genetic engineering as a technology. The first four were of course part of that atrociously handled hatchet job on Ermakova ( who was treated terribly); they have clearly put themselves out there as “defenders of biotechnology.”

      Anyway because of this asymmetry – -because genetic engineering is an established and mainstream technology for developing regulated and legal products, the nature of the forces that support and advocate for it are different from the nature and organization of those who want to change the status quo. So no, I would talk about a pro-GMO movement. I hope that makes sense.

  16. Christina Waldman says:

    I just learned Merck had significant financial ties to the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and the medical journal The Lancet. Does this help explain Brian Deer and Fiona Godlee’s arguably defamatory pieces about Andrew Wakefield in the BMJ on Jan. 6, 2011? Dr. Wakefield had spoken out about about MMR vaccine safety; Merck is a maker of the MMR.

    Dr. Wakefield is suing Deer, the BMJ, and Godlee in a Texas court of appeals for slander and defamation. They were in court May 22 on jurisdictional issues.

    http://www.ahrp.org/cms/content/view/766/9/ “BMJ and Lancet Wed to Merck CME Partnership,” 2/14/11. (CME is continuing medical education for doctors.) Essay by Martin Walker here and here http://www.ageofautism.com/2011/02/mercks-medical-media-empire.html. (These are from my comments posted at http://www.examiner.com/article/measles-scare-the-associated-press-due-to-upcoming-jurisdictional-appeal

    Documents related to Merck’s “doctor hit-list” re the Vioxx affair can be found here: ( list of twelve pdfs: Merck policy expressed in emails was to “neutralize” or “discredit” “critical researchers”) http://dida.library.ucsf.edu/search?query=Merck+neutralize&ct=1

  17. jytdog says:

    As per Phil’s comment, just wanted to step back and discuss the article.

    Some points.

    1) Dirty pool 1: The headline of the article, and (as pointed out above) questions like ”Does Monsanto now effectively decide which papers on biotechnology are published in FCT? And is this part of an attempt by Monsanto and the life science industry to seize control of science?”, and the statement, “Consequently, it is far from clear why FCT needs an “associate editor for biotechnology”, but it is clear why Monsanto would have an interest in ensuring that the “Séralini affair” is never repeated.”, are pretty much “Fox News” tactics that to me, are pretty distasteful. I don’t see anywhere in the article where there is evidence that Monsanto per se has interfered with publishing anything.

    2) Story of “Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine ” is dead on and usefully cautionary.

    3) Dirty Pool 2: Transitioning from that story, to FCT via Elsevier is dirty pool. The reader is meant to infer that Elsevier is corrupt and does bad things all the time. Right? Too big a conclusion from too little data and no mechanism of action. Much like what was done at point 1.

    4) Dirty Pool 3; Goodman used to work at Monsanto (for 7 years, 7 years ago) and has worked at a university for the last 7 years. During which time he has retained ties to ag biotech companies. So he is a zombie slave of Monsanto? Why do you ask the questions reference in 1) above, about Goodman’s work at the journal? (here is a more full bio of him btw – http://www.gmsafoodproject.eu/PartnerData.aspx?IdPartner=41) He sounds like an accomplished professional, with hands on experience getting products developed in compliance with regulations, and on to the market. That kind of experience is rare and valuable, in my book.

    5) Oddity. The link you provide to FCT website does not list Goodman as ” Associate Editor for biotechnology” . Where did you get that title? (NB – title has been picked up and is all over the internet on anti-GMO sites) Maybe FCT edited the linked-to page?

    6) Dirty Pool 4: No evidence in the article that you reached out to Elesvier or the Editor-in-Chief or the Managing Editors, or Goodman himself, to find out the story behind his appointment. That is hard to understand, especially when you feel free to draw all kinds of insinuations…. but what efforts did you make to find out what the actual facts of his appointment were, which you care so much about? What is your evidence that it was in any way “fast-tracked”? Much less, controlled by Monsanto? I just emailed the EiC and Goodman to ask if they would come here and explain, or issue a press release explaining. (probably will get no response but we will see!)

    7) Dirty Pool 5, and where I ran out of patience the first time I read the article – Description of ISLI – you write “In 2005 US-based non-profits and trade unions wrote to the World Health Organization (WHO) protesting against ILSI’s influence on international health standards protecting food and water supplies. As a result, the WHO barred ILSI from taking part in WHO activities setting safety standards, because of its funding sources. ”

    Follow the link you provided at “barred ISLI”…. look at the headline… Oh! It says “Policy: WHO/ILSI Affiliation Sustained” I am confused already. I keep reading – “the status of ILSI and other orgs was reviewed as part of a standard 3 year review” – oh! not reviewed in response to the letter.

    Back to linked article: “The National Resources Defense Council, an environmental action group, was calling for the WHO to sever its relationship with ILSI, based on the fact that ILSI’s membership includes representatives of major multinational corporations with a vested interest in public health matters.” Oh! This is a much stronger statement than was in this article.

    Back to linked article: “The board ultimately decided to maintain official relations with ILSI, describing its role as ‘a knowledge resource base for the application of leading-edge science and knowledge transfer in the fields of food and chemical safety.’ ILSI is therefore still permitted to attend WHO governing body meetings and make statements at these meetings. Although this presence does not come with voting privileges, it affords such an organization valuable ‘insider’ status.” Oh! So the WHO values the relationship with ILSI a lot (which the article does not say at all)

    back to linked article: now we finally match up: However, this latest decision by the Executive Board does exclude any collaboration by ILSI on normative activities, defined as ‘setting microbiological or chemical standards for food and water.’”

    back to article, however… : “According to Harvey Anderson, who chairs ILSI’s Board of Trustees, the organization has never taken part in such activities anyway.” oh! so this was actually no big deal, this dramatic “barring” described in the article. ILSI never did that anyway.

    Like I said, this is where i stopped reading the first time.

    This article is not “Independent Science News”. It is “Fox News.” While there are some real facts and good points sprinkled through, it is shot through with insinuation, it draws large conclusions from slim data, it boldly states half-truths, and it sullies the name of a man who appears to be an accomplished professional, and, in short, is “speech intended to persuade without regard for truth.”

    When I first came across this site, the title made me hopeful. I love Feynman, I love clear, independent thinking, and I like it when clear thinking is laid it out in longform, with nuance.

    I am disappointed again after having walked through this BS again.

    • jytdog says:

      Just following up on my remarks above. Jonathan and Claire – you all advocate for higher ethical standards and transparency, and good, solid science. I am disappointed that you have not responded to my remarks above. In my view, the Fox News journalism here is really reprehensible, and goes against all the integrity that you aspire to in setting up this website and the project. I believe that your intentions are good and that you aim high; so what is up with all this? I am interested in a response to everything there, but especially points 1 and 6 and the parallel I drew above to Fox News’ attack on President Obama on Benghazi. If you really stand by this article and its headline, I am interested to hear how you how justify them as being solid journalism that has integrity. If you cannot justify it, and are really just interested in broadcasting speech intended to persuade without regard for truth, well, there it is then. Maybe it is somewhere in the middle. I look forward to hearing from you.

      And an additional note for Brian. This article is a perfect example of what I meant about coming to articles by folks opposed to GMOs to learn, and being disappointed. I gave you a blow-by-blow of what happened when I read the part about ISLI, followed the link and read the whole thing, and came back and compared it to what it is here. The content here pretty dramatically misrepresents what actually happened. Misleading half-truths. How is this OK?

      There are valid reasons to oppose GMOs – why the BS? How is it helpful to anybody to blow smoke instead of casting light?

  18. Brian John says:

    Quote from Jytdog in reklation to the paper by Seralini et al (2012): “I would have loved it — loved it – had Seralini done his experiments with 65 or more rats per arm, so that we would have very solid data from which to draw conclusions. It is tragic to me that he that he spent two years gathering uninterpretable data. More tragic that he scared the pants off the public by claiming certainty where none can be had. I really do look forward to the day when a scientifically sound long term feeding study is done. I really don’t get why Seralini chose the design he did. After 6 years in the wilderness (since his first paper on this in 2007), he could have come out with rock solid data and blown his critics out of the water (or proved to himself that his hypothesis is incorrect). He didn’t. Terrible.”

    Another quote from Jytdog: ” …… it is my understanding that the 2012 paper is fringe science. The conclusions in the paper are not supported by its data, and I am bummed that the papers authors did not come with super-strong data to back up their super-strong claims.”

    i find these statements rather intriguing. First, I am more than a little amused by the presumption — implicit in the statements — that Jytdog knows more about toxicology and lab-based safety experiments than Professor Seralini does. Would Jytdog like to point us towards his body of published work, so that we can make some assessment of his academic expertise for ourselves?

    Second, where on earth does Jytdog get the idea from that Seralini has spent 6 years in the wilderness? Anybody who takes the trouble will discover that Seralini has been researching and publishing continuously, as well as supervising a very active team who have publications of their own. in France, out of sight and out of mind maybe…..

    Third, Jytdog seems to be blissfully ignorant of the conditions that prevail in the real world, where independent scientists may wish to conduct safety experiments on any product that comes from Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer or any of the other big biotechnology corporations. Does he think that they can just pop out a get as many sacks of NK603 meal as they need for feeding their animals, and carry on happily with their work as they would if they were examining the toxicity of foxgloves? Does he think that, in any privately-funded experiment such as this, cash, time and manpower are unlimited resources? How many rats would Jytdog have liked them to have had in each test group? A hundred? Two hundred? And how long should the experiment have run for? Five years? Ten?

    Jytdog need to be disabused of his fantasies. In the real world Monsanto will stop at nothing — and I use those words advisedly — to prevent experiments such as that of the Seralini team from taking place. Nobody is permitted to provide the raw materials required for the feeding trials. Pressure is exerted to block off the use of laboratory facilities. Participating personnel are targetted, threatened and vilified — and if the results (if the experimenters actually manage to get them into print) are not to the liking of Monsanto, then the vilification and victimisation is ratchetted up to a level which places intolerable strain on honest researchers and brings shame to the whole of the scientific community. What Claire Robinson and Jonathan Latham have done in the article above this correspondence is to highlight just one aspect of this ongoing campaign to stifle academic debate and to suppress independent scientific research.

    There is so much coverage in the literature on research blocking and the vilification of independent scientists that I don’t know where to start — and I am amazed that Jytdog is apparently unaware of it. Perhaps he should start with these:

    http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090902/full/461027a.html

    http://independentsciencenews.org/health/seralini-and-science-nk603-rat-study-roundup/

    http://www.gmfreecymru.org.uk/pivotal_papers/rottweiler.htm

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/20/business/20crop.html

    I am still not sure where Jytdog is coming from in his determination to denigrate Seralini and his research team — only he knows that. But maybe when he has gone away and done a little serious reading he will obtain a slightly more nuanced view of the research environment within which Seralini was forced to operate.

    • jytdog says:

      Hi brian

      “jytdog” has no body of published work, nor does the real world counterpart.

      As I wrote above, the “six years in the wilderness” refers to the time since 2007, during which Seralini has tried, via several publications, to show that the consensus methods for assaying toxicity of GM food is insufficient. Every paper he has published has been found “unhelpful” by regulators worldwide. This is indeed “the wilderness”.

      I imagine that he would be very happy if regulations were changed such that much longer studies were required to obtain approval to market GM foods. That, I believe, is his goal. Since that viewpoint is outside the consensus, he has a high barrier to cross, to overturn the consensus. His 2012 paper could have done it, had he come with extraordinary data. He did not – he used only 10 rats per arm. Had he used at least 65, had he controlled for and recorded the variables that critics have brought up, had he disclosed the underlying data — in other words – earnestly sought to make a compelling case that his experiments were designed to discover reality as best the scientific method can do that and that he indeed had made findings about reality that his data fully support — I truly believe that he could have changed the consensus. That the critics speaking today would have had nothing to say.. The truth will out. But the 2012 paper was nothing like that.

      I appreciate the ‘real world’ comment very much, Brian! I am not ignorant of the world, and am not as blissful nearly as often as I would like to be. Seralini made it clear that the work behind the 2012 paper cost 3M euros (the amount that journalists who breached his confidentiality agreement by getting other scientists’ opinions on the work) would have been liable to pay). If he had done 65 rats per arm, the study would have cost 19.5M euros. Huge. So if you are in that position – what do you? Do fewer arms (say only 2) but with an adequate number of rats per arm? Do you perhaps publicize that you intend to do the definitive study on the safety of GM corn and that you are seeking 20M euros in funding to conduct it, and run a fund raising campaign first? (with the number of people who are worried (which I grant is not insignificant!) I can only imagine this would have gone very well, and he may well have been able to get government funding for it) Do you pre-publicize your protocols to have a good faith discussion about what experimental design mainstream scientists would find acceptable, to eliminate that as a way to criticize the resulting data when you are done? He did none of those. And the result was another resounding failure to convince anybody in the mainstream — which was his goal – that he is right. I understand that anti-GM folks explain this as the result of a conspiracy. The much more simple explanation (Ockham’s razor) is that his data were indeed insufficient to support his conclusions and to overturn the consensus.

      I have no interest in vilifying Seralini or his team. I think he honestly believes that our methods for assessing GM food are not adequate, and he is worried that GM food on the market is harming people. These are important issues. I like iconoclasts. They often have great things to teach us, and humans in general are far too prone to living in bubbles and following habits of thought.

      However, to date, he has failed to make a compelling case that he is right and that the consensus should be overturned. Saying that, is not vilifying him in any way. I do think that he showed terrible judgement in the way he released the 2012 paper. I am far from alone in that. Criticizing that action is not vilifying him either.

      Thank you!

      • Brian John says:

        I fear that we are going nowhere in this discussion. Jytdog has admitted that he has no expertise in the area being discussed. He has no body of published work to encourage us to take his views seriously, and he will not even give us his name or his affiliation. So he is not very high on my list of credible correspondents.

        He also subscribes to the belief that “the truth is whatever I want it to be.” So Seralini is in the wilderness because Jytdog cannot be bothered to take his peer-reviewed papers from the last six or seven years seriously. The “mainstream” is whatever Jytdog wants it to be, and so is “the consensus.” He even seems to think that the regulators of GMOs are competent scientists who are immune from political and commercial pressures. If he can be bothered to dig a little deeper, he will discover that the regulators in Europe, India, Australia / NZ, and the US (and probably in most other places as well) exist for the most part to provide scientific justifications for predetermined political positions.

        In spite of my attempts to explain for him the manner in which the biotechnology industry seeks to marginalise and even destroy research which is not actually controlled and vetted by themselves, his understanding of the situation in which Seralini and his colleagues found themselves during their research project and at the time of publication is so biased and superficial that it is actually embarrassing. He pretends to have an utterly naive belief in the “good faith” of the scientific community which might be interested in the safety of GMOs, and pretends that Seralini might have discussed his experimental protocols before starting work. Then he criticises Seralini’s “terrible judgement in the way he released the 2012 paper.” However, I suspect he knows full well that that community (which he seems to call “the mainstream”) has very dirty habits, including the use of threats and vitriolic attacks on those who discover anything inconvenient about GMO safety or environmental impacts.

        And the thing that community hates most of all is verifiable and replicable science, conducted by scientists outside the direct control of the biotechnology industry.

        • jytdog says:

          Hi Brian

          I am sorry you are frustrated.

          We clearly see the world differently. If you do not wish to talk to me, please feel free to stop talking to me and about me. If you talk about me, of course I will respond.

          It is actually a fact that regulatory authorities have reviewed Seralini’s papers published on GM food since 2007 and responded to them as being unhelpful. That is all documented in the “background” Seralini Affair article in Wikipedia.

          I am sorry that you believe that our regulatory institutions are corrupt and staffed by incompetent scientists. The world must be pretty terrifying for you. I do not agree with this at all; we live in a pretty heavily regulated world, and while of course there are sometimes mistakes and even corruption, for the most part regulators do a great job and regulated products do what they are supposed to do and are not harmful when used as they are supposed to be used (Thalidomide is a great story of the bad side and the great side of regulation, I think)

          It is true that regulators enforce regulations, which come into existence under policy frameworks which in turn are established by legislative and executive branches. If you want to read a great history of the US policy framework for biotech regulation, please see this article: http://lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2236&context=bclr which I found very helpful.

          That is different from saying that regulators “exist for the most part to provide scientific justifications for predetermined political positions.”

          I am also sorry that you are embarrassed for me. There is no need. I think I understand the situation clearly. I do understand that you and others see a conspiracy to vilify those who oppose GMOs.

          I respect good science and responsible conclusions drawn from it, where ever that science occurs. As do most scientists.

          Best regards

    • jytdog says:

      Brian, just wanted to say thanks for showing me the link to that Battlefield article in Nature. I had not seen that. http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090902/full/461027a.html

      It seems to provide a good, nuanced description and discussion of the problems and matches what I understand them to be. It paints a different picture than the one that you have so far described.

  19. Phil Bereano says:

    jytdog, you should read (or re-read) the classic on the sociology of science, Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” (1962) to understand why the rejection of seralini’s papers says nothing definitive about the truth or value of his work. Called by the Guardian “one of the most influential books of the 20th century” :

    “As philosopher Ian Hacking puts it in his terrific preface to the new edition of Structure: “Normal science does not aim at novelty but at clearing up the status quo. It tends to discover what it expects to discover.”

    “The trouble is that over longer periods unresolved anomalies accumulate and eventually get to the point where some scientists begin to question the paradigm itself. At this point, the discipline enters a period of crisis characterised by, in Kuhn’s words, “a proliferation of compelling articulations, the willingness to try anything, the expression of explicit discontent, the recourse to philosophy and to debate over fundamentals”. In the end, the crisis is resolved by a revolutionary change in world-view in which the now-deficient paradigm is replaced by a newer one. This is the paradigm shift of modern parlance and after it has happened the scientific field returns to normal science, based on the new framework. And so it goes on.”

    BTW, jytdog, can you identify yourself, like all the rest of us in this discussion have done? Why are you hiding behind a moniker?

    • jytdog says:

      Read it – great book!

      First, those who have succeeded in overturning the consensus did so with strong data, which Seralini nor others have brought yet. Yet~ He or others may well do.

      Second and more importantly, as I understand it (and I am open to correction here) Seralini has no new hypothesis (along the lines of say, Barbara McClintock and transposons) – rather, I would say that maximally he seems to believe that GM food is dangerous and that we need longer tox testing to uncover that; minimally, I would say that he believes in the precautionary principle and is demanding more rigorous testing to ensure that all risks are identified and that they are reasonably small enough. As far as I know, he has proposed no mechanism to explain why GM food is toxic — this mechanism would indeed be revolutionary, if identified and proven.

      Madelaine also asked me to identify myself; I replied to her above. If you are uncomfortable corresponding with me as an anonymous person I would fully understand the conversation stopping on your side. And, if Independent Science News has a policy requiring identification, I would be interested to see it and I would of course comply with it by ceasing to correspond here.

      Best regards!

      • Brian John says:

        I find myself becoming more and more incredulous when I try to understand the weird scientific universe inhabited by Jytdog. Now he criticises Seralini for not having a hypothesis! This is a criticism that has also been thrown at him by assorted GMO industry heavies. Seralini’s study was a straightforward toxicology study, undertaken to establish whether, in long-term feeding studies, toxic effects might be observed in one or more groups of animals whose diets contained things that might be toxic. If he had specified a clear working hypothesis at the outset, he would have been crucified for designing protocols and “fixing” results so as to conform the hypothesis.

        Professor Seralini may be affable and urbane, but he is also a very smart scientist, and he is not stupid.

        • jytdog says:

          What I said, was that as far as I know he has no hypothesis to explain why GM food, in general, is toxic. Nor why the GM maize that he tested in the 2012 paper is toxic.

          As I said, he clearly had a high level hypothesis – namely, “it is toxic”.

          I am sorry you misunderstood me.

          • jrlatham says:

            Dear All
            As curator of these pages I am finding this discussion interesting and frustrating at the same time. Thank you all for remaining calm, though I am not happy to see BS used, even as an ‘acronym’. What intrigues me most, however, is the repeated requests for jytdog to identify him/herself. Firstly, jytdog’s opinions are astonishingly lined up with industry talking points on multiple issues (re Seralini’s research, the existence of a consensus and a fringe, the absence of corruption and secret agenda’s in science, etc) and so the issue arises of whether jytdog is a science troll, paid for his/her opinions. It is true, as has been pointed out, that jytdog is alone of all commenters in concealing his/her identity and in this instance I see it as a problem. Much of jytdog’s points rely on a presumed authority/knowledge status (and not data) and they would be much more interesting and significant for readers if jytdog could reveal his/her identity. I don’t know any scientists with jytdog’s combination of views who isn’t also in some conflict of interest with the biotech industry. Other readers may have the same question: if jytdog is a troll, is this discussion worthless?

            It is also the case that anonymity allows jytdog, if he/she is a troll, to say essentially anything and slip away and make other points elsewhere or even come to this site under a different pseudonym and contradict and/or distract, at will. All the other participants in this discussion have the handicap of having to live with their statements (until the end of the internet-and perhaps beyond!). Consequently, I am tempted to have a policy, akin to a regular newspaper letters page, that requires users to identify themselves.

          • jrlatham says:

            Clarification: worthless on jytdog’s part.

          • Joel says:

            The hypotheses, concerning both the toxicity of GM food products in general as well as the toxicity of glyphosate and the negatively synergistic companion chemicals (which arre routinely added to the Roundup formulations), have been confirmed. They are no longer hypotheses. Both are damaging, short- and long-term, to human physiology and biochemistry. Not to worry though – I will not be lobbying to make it illegal for you to ingest all the GM food products you wish, including those marinated in Roundup.

          • August Pamplona says:

            Joel says:
            «The hypotheses, concerning both the toxicity of GM food products in general»

            And just what exactly is compositionally different about a GM food product?

            «as well as the toxicity of glyphosate and the negatively synergistic companion chemicals (which arre routinely added to the Roundup formulations), have been confirmed.»

            You have got to be kidding! Have you ever actually read the 2005 study from the Seralini lab? If you read that study with even a minimal background in cell culture and note the contortions they went to to try to produce effects, one’s conclusion can only be that glyphosate is remarkably and unexpectedly innocuous. Yes, Seralini actually managed to convince me that glyphosate is pretty harmless. How is that for irony?

            As for the companion chemicals, you probably use dishwashing detergent that is no less “toxic” than anything that Monsanto is putting into their RoundUp.

          • jrlatham says:

            August
            Perhaps you can make your criticisms of the Seralini Glyphosate study explict?

          • August Pamplona says:

            jrlatham says:
            «August
            Perhaps you can make your criticisms of the Seralini Glyphosate study explict?»

            Honestly, while before reading this paper I assumed RoundUp was probably nowhere near as harmful as some portray it to be, I would not have thought of it as being remarkably innocuous which is the view I hold after reading this paper. People do try to kill themselves with Roundup and they rarely succeed. When they do succeed, it is because of the damage caused by swallowing concentrated detergent rather than from any effects of the glyphosate.

            In any event, under normal circumstances, my answer to you would be to say no because I’m just too lazy to write that much at the moment. However, given the fact that I am starting to show indicia of actually becoming sort of somewhat organized a decade or two into the future and I have actually found a reference to my quick and dirty observations on this and all it’s going to take is some cutting and pasting, I will say yes. It’s your lucky day! However, it might get long winded.

            First of all the obvious comments which can be made without going beyond the abstract. A detergent (used as a surfactant which I assume would be polyethoxylated tallow amine or POEA –but it’s not clear) and a mammalian cell culture do not mix. Try adding dish washing detergent to your cell cultures and see how they do! They won’t do well but that’s not because of any remarkable toxicity, it’s because you are treating naked cells with a detergent.

            However, I must admit that the concentrations of glyphosate are realistic in one scenario. That scenario would be a farmer parking his spraying rig with RoundUp mix at a hospital and a tech mistaking it for dialysate. The kidney dialysis patient being dialysed with this mix might end up with glyphosate levels in their bloodstream approaching the experimental condition in this study by Richard et al.

            If this paper were a legitimate study, I think it could even have been made into two papers: one exploring viability effects and one exploring effects on aromatase activity. I would even suggest that it would have been more appropriate to split it since putting the two issues together in one paper sort of implies a connection between the two which no one has made (it’s as if the authors know that the effect on viability is somehow mediated by a disruption of aromatase activity). Unfortunately, in my opinion, this paper as it stands should never have passed peer review.

            In any case, the study actually constitutes several separate experiments. The experiments explore: effects on cell viability, effects on aromatase activity measured in cell culture, effects on aromatase activity in microsomes, and effect on purified aromatase enzyme.

            ***********************************

            EFFECTS ON CELL VIABILITY.

            Here I start out with a question. Is the MTT assay used to measure cell viability an appropriate test to use in this context? I shall assume it is appropriate until someone who knows better tells me otherwise but I would have assumed some kind of a measurement counting cells stained with some sort of a vital stain would have been more appropriate. This is an honest question on my part and I would love it if someone with expertise would comment on this.

            Next I give you two quotes:

            «A 2% solution of Roundup and an equivalent solution of glyphosate were prepared in Eagle’s modified minimum essential medium (EMEM; Abcys, Paris, France), and the pH of glyphosate solution was adjusted to the pH of the 2% Roundup solution (~ pH 5.8 ).»

            «Acidity of the 2% Roundup or glyphosate solution (pH 5.80 ± 0.08 instead of pH 7.91 ± 0.16) reduced cell viability only 23% after 18 hr, and thus could not alone explain the 90% reduction of cell viability observed at this concentration.»

            Wow! Did anyone catch this? If I am understanding this paper, it sounds like they tried to grow these cells adjusting the pH to that of a solution of Roundup as would be used when spraying on an agricultural crop! That’s how you grow cells if you want them to die! This fact alone makes a joke out of this paper. I will repeat for emphasis, *this fact alone makes a joke out of this paper*. Though, of course, I cannot know this, I VERY strongly suspect that they initially did this the correct way and then repeated their experiments with a lower pH so as to produce more dramatic effects by using the ad hoc justification of being the pH one would find in a RoundUp mix at agricultural use concentrations. But perhaps I am ascribing too much competence to Seralini’s team.

            The passage also seems to be telling us that they used a control at that pH and that it had a 23% reduction in viability (I’m surprised it wasn’t more) and that as a result they concluded from that that most of the reductions in viability with the glyphosate and RoundUp runs were not due to a pH effect.

            Did you catch that? I shall make it clear to you. After inexplicably choosing to run with media at a pH of 5.8, they used a control at that pH and instead of including it in their graphs, they chose to give us *only a single datum point*. Apparently we are not supposed to care about what the rest of the control data looked like. I guess controls don’t matter (except for when Richard et all thinks they should matter).

            I repeat, they ran a control but decided they did not need to show us what it really looked like.

            I also find the graphs at figure 1 very peculiar. Instead of having different data series based on concentrations and graphing them as cell viability against time they chose to make different data series based on time points and graphed them as cell viability against concentration. I suspect manipulation of how the data is presented to produce a certain type of graph or to obfuscate features which might otherwise be apparent. We have seen strange choices in the presentation of the data in other studies from the Seralini team.

            To top it off, since the pH manipulations were apparently not nasty enough to be to their liking, they also tried to grow the cells in a serum free medium for other experiments illustrated in figure 2. If you look for the cell line they used at Sigma Aldrich, they say they should be grown on “EMEM (EBSS) + 2mM Glutamine + 1% Non Essential Amino Acids (NEAA) + 1mM Sodium Pyruvate (NaP) + 10% Foetal Bovine Serum (FBS).”. The FBS is not optional (in fact, one reason I am very skeptical of Sergey Brin’s test-tube hamburger is the fact that that team has yet to figure how to grow the muscle cells in a serum free medium). I suspect depriving them of serum is another manipulation to make cells die.

            Basically, one surprising effect of this paper is that it is convincing me that glyphosate is safer than I would have imagined. I can hardly believe that I’m being convinced of the safety of glyphosate by a Seralini authored paper! I guess it really pays to read beyond the abstracts!

            ***********************************
            EFFECTS ON AROMATASE ACTIVITY MEASURED IN CELL CULTURE.

            This is represented by figure 3. Here we are not told what hell brew they are using as a culture medium (are they following label directions for a change? Are they running at the required pH? Are they using FBS? It sounds like it might be serum free medium at a pH of 5.8 but we are not clearly told). Again, note the unusual presentation of the data on the graphs. Note that there’s no dose effect response except for RoundUp at 18 hours. The explanation for this with glyphosate alone is obvious as it appears to be having no noticeable effect on aromatase activity. A model which might account for the increased activity after one hour might be some sort of an all or nothing stress response brought on by exposure to relatively low concentrations to the surfactants (after all, it would not be so strange for such a response to ramp up expression of cytochromes). A model which would account for the lack of a dose-effect response at 18 hours would be that most cells are dying and dying cells are not terribly good at providing NADPH to aromatase (though this model might have trouble accountig for the effect happening at such a low concentration). The models I suggest would imply short term upregulation of mRNA followed by a dramatic decline but they only chose to graph mRNA expression at 18 hours so I can’t really tell whether I am full of shit on this notion of mine or not. They also do some replications keeping the glyphosate the same and adding small amounts of RoundUp which show increased effect. Any of this, if it is related to major cell disruption or death, may only be pointing to the (not surprising) toxicity of surfactants to naked cells (as well as to the relative harmlessness of glyphosate). They would claim that they are seeing such effects on aromatase activity at lower concentrations than those at which RoundUp is toxic but I am not convinced of this.

            ************************************

            AROMATASE ACTIVITY IN MICROSOMES

            They show that the inhibitory concentration of RoundUp is much smaller than the inhibitory concentration of glyphosate. One might expect partial denaturation of the enzyme in question from the surfactants. Additionally, given that it is a membrane bound enzyme, even disrupting the microsomes with detergents might change the structure & activity of the enzyme. How any of this would affect binding & binding specificity is anyone’s guess. I’m not sure what conclusions can be drawn from this. The simple story of competitive inhibition they are trying to promote might not be the correct explanation.

            *************************************
            EFFECT ON PURIFIED AROMATASE ENZYME

            This is being nitpicky but why are they grouping in figure 6 a graphic showing regarding the ‘aromatase activity in microsomes’ and a graphic regarding this section of ‘effect of purified aromatase enzyme’?

            Then there’s this:
            «We further purified the enzyme moieties from the aromatase-rich equine testis, giving better yields than placenta. The incubation with the herbicide demonstrated a direct interaction of glyphosate within the active site. We obtained spectral interactions between Roundup or glyphosate and the active site of the purified cytochrome P450 aromatase by measuring the absorbance of the preparations from 375 to 475 nm. A type II spectrum was observed (Figure 6B); it was characteristic of an interaction between a nitrogen atom of the molecule and the heme iron of the cytochrome. In addition, we tested the effect of the herbicide on the ubiquitous moiety of the aromatase, which is the electron donor reductase. NADPH-dependent reductase activity was determined by the measurement of the increasing absorbance of the preparation, corresponding to the reduction of the cytochrome C. Reductase is also directly affected after purification and incubation with Roundup, but to a lesser extent (IC50 5%) than the cytochrome P450 aromatase responsible for steroid binding and catalysis (Figure 7).»

            It seems like they are showing interaction between glyphosate and of the purified cytochrome P450 aromatase. It also seems like they’ve suddenly stopped making the comparison between Roundup and glyphosate only solutions (not that it ever made any sense). Figure 7 is interesting in that they actually work at a physiological pH (or close –what would intracellular pH be, anyway?) but then they decide to try with the absurd 5.8 pH that they use elsewhere. I suspect that the problem they are trying to address here by using the lower pH is the fact that there is zero detectable effect on aromatase activity at the 2% concentration of glyphosate (if anything, there’s a slight, unexplicable bump –but it’s not statistically significant) that they make a point elsewhere in this paper as the top of their range. In fact, they choose to extend their concentration range to sixfold (to about 12% glyphosate) and eightfold (to about 16% glyphosate) for the 5.8 and 7.4 pH values respectively.

            To me it seems like they are fishing for an effect and manipulating pH & concentration until they get one and hoping that the reviewers won’t notice (and the strategy apparently worked at Environmental Health Perspectives).

  20. jytdog says:

    quick note, in my reply to Madelaine’s comment made on May 29, 2013 at 2:08 pm I also replied to her comment made at May 29, 2013 at 10:34 am. Should have split those up, sorry.

  21. jytdog says:

    Jonathan

    I have said as much about me as I am comfortable revealing. There is also of course my wikipedia userpage http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Jytdog

    I came here looking to “cross bubbles” – clearly I do not share the world view of folks here, and I suppose my views on things line up more the biotech industry’s POV than some folks here. I have not hidden my POV or been even very gentle about it. My first extended post laid my position out starkly.

    (BTW I saw a guidance that some ag biotech PR firm put out and it was just stomach-turning, how fakey/glossy it was — it gave tricks on how to duck questions about glyphosate-resistant weeds and sort of thing. BS. I hope you are not hearing that sort of thing when I write.)

    But does my different perspective make me a “troll”? In the sense that conversations with me will not be “preaching to choir” heck yes. In the sense of me being a Monsanto zombie – I have already said no. I am my own thinker.

    If you do not want anonymous contributors, please say so, and I will go. If you are going to have them, have them.

    But please respect my desire to remain “jytdog”.

    Best regards

  22. jytdog says:

    Last note. I care about the integrity of “jytdog”. I plan to use this “nom de wikipedia” for a long time, and I am no hit-and-runner. So I am not going to say stupid things that I don’t care about. “jytdog” is not going to engage in speech intended to persuade without regard for truth. I may say of course say stupid things about things I do care about, which I will of course apologize for and correct.

  23. Thank you for your work. Are you available for a live radio interview on food freedom radio? We air live saturdays 8a to 9a on am950, the progressive voice of minnesota. Email me

  24. Bob Phelps says:

    A companion to corporate and media machinations … Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has a long-standing policy (reconfirmed from time to time) of not relying on the results of animal experiments in its assessments. Instead FSANZ assesses only data from chemical analyses of GM end products, supplied by the applicant.

    FSANZ does not specify in advance the values or selected parameters that will establish “substantial equivalence” so has approved every GM crop event application as a safe food. http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/F2012C00354/Download

    Without specified benchmarks or standards, there is no way to refute FSANZ’ conclusion that the product of a GM event is as safe as its conventional counterpart. Without a possibility of refutation, these assessments are not scientific. A measure of FSANZ’ blinkered view is its un-referenced rebuttal of peer-reviewed and published papers that may question its assumptions of safety here: http://archive.foodstandards.gov.au/consumerinformation/gmfoods/gmtableofstudies.cfm

    FSANZ cost recovers for its assessment services so it may not want to disappoint applicants?

  25. Madeleine Love says:

    I remembered when I was researching Goodman some time ago and reading into his research background that competing interests had been declared where the six major biotechs were sponsoring an allergen database at the University of Nebraska. I’ve taken the time to pull them up…

    Richard E Goodman
    Research Area:
    1) Refining methods and evaluation criteria for regulatory assessments of the potential allergenicity of genetically modified crops. 2) Identification of food allergens.
    http://foodsci.unl.edu/web/foodsci/goodman

    Peer Reviewer for the FAARP Allergen Online database at the University of Nebraska
    Sponsors include:
    ◾BASF Plant Science, LP
    ◾Bayer CropScience, AG
    ◾Dow AgroSciences, LLC
    ◾Monsanto Company
    ◾Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., A DuPont Business
    ◾Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC
    http://www.allergenonline.org/

    From letter to Nature back in 2008, a declaration of competing interests…
    Declaration of competing financial interests
    From the following article
    Reply to Allergenicity testing of GM crops
    Nature Biotechnology 26, 1071 – 1072 (2008)
    doi:10.1038/nbt1008-1071
    “Declaration: As indicated in the primary manuscript, the described work was funded in part by the Univ. of Nebraska, ARS (USDA) as well as through the Food Allergy Research and Resource program at the Univ. of Nebraska. R.E. Goodman received grant support from Bayer CropScience for work on endogenous allergenicity comparisons. S. Vieths acknowledged Monsanto for funding to support research on soybean allergen varietal comparisons. The AllergenOnline database at the Univ. of Nebraska is funded under contracts with six international agricultural biotechnology companies (BASF, Bayer, Dow, DuPont/Pioneer, Monsanto and Syngenta).”
    http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v26/n10/box/nbt1008-1071_audecl.html

    From a 2011 open access study:
    “Disclosure Dr. Goodman has received grant support from and had travel/accommodations expenses covered or reimbursed by the US Environmental Protection Agency, the US Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service, BASF Plant Science, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, Monsanto Co., Pioneer Hi-Bred International, and Syngenta Plant Protection and has received consulting fees/honoraria from Bayer CropScience, the Institute of Food Technologists, CropLife International, the Institute of Life Sciences, Cargill, and PepsiCo.Dr. Tetteh has received grant support from the US Environmental Protection Agency.”
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3130127/

  26. Charlie Blumer says:

    JYTDOG, whoever they (singular or plural) are, appear(s) to have commandeered the debate, and to have made much of it about them and their views on GMOs. We should not be distracted from the real issue.

    The results obtained by Seralini (and his colleagues) are extremely important. Given the context of debate, with the sudden elevation of Goodman to a senior editorial position at Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT) we should feel most fortunate that Seralini’s results have seen the light of published day.

    Reading more widely around Seralini’s methods it should be appreciated that the design of his experiments has closely followed those used by Monsanto’s researchers themselves. Both methods, in turn, flow from fairly standard methods of toxicological research. The crucial difference, though, is that Seralini followed up his animals for longer, for ninety days instead of thirty (Editor: I think you mean 2 yrs not Monsanto’s ninety days?).

    For so many criticisms to have been made of Seralini’s experimental design (eg the strain of rats, the size of the experimental groups, the observations made et cetera, et cetera) and results obtained, it should not be forgotten that these are the same methods that were used by Monsanto to gain regulatory approval for their GM products in the first place.

    If the regulatory bodies cannot stomach Seralini’s results, as they have so far appeared to do, surely this is strong argument that they should move to suspend approval of Monsanto’s products: Against Seralini’s work, the original trials were also either flawed or inadequate. More severe judgements might be made.

    The efforts made to stifle Seralini’s results illustrate further abuses of scientific process. Until his work, other workers have found it near impossible to independently replicate the original Monsanto trials because they have been unable to obtain the GM material. In effect, we, through our accommodating regulatory agencies, have heard only the voice of Monsanto assuring us that these products are safe. I beg to differ. Until demonstrably independent scientists have been able to access GM material and show a level of safety I see no reason to change my thinking. The question remains, if the product is safe why should Monsanto not want to see this independently verified?

    Science is about healthy debate. Uncertainty is resolved by evidence, collected independently and in different ways, and all of which is allowed to stand and to be considered by all comers. Not so for Monsanto. The evidence they have submitted in support of their application for regulatory approval has been hidden away from public view, and only some has become recently available through Freedom of Information requests. Now, with the unfavourable results obtained by Seralini, his findings have been comprehensively dismissed, his reputation slandered, and every effort made to denigrate his work.

    Surely the civilized, and scientific, response now should be to open up the debate. At the very least, the experiments should be repeated to confirm the findings. Where uncertainty exists, perform the experiments in different ways and with different methods so that light can be shone where it is needed. Some might argue that this is an idealistic point of view. Against that ideal, though, the behaviour of Monsanto and its shills in seeking to close down debate, and to dismiss and belittle people with differing points of view, has been monstrous.

    This brings us back to the present debate and the article that has generated it. Mentioned earlier in the debate was the ‘unavailability’ of certain documents. This is one more telling example. We can be sure that the new editor at FCT has not been put there to encourage wider debate about GM products, or to smell the roses, and the event should be seen for what it is.

    • jytdog says:

      Hi Charlie – sorry for my late response. I have not checked in here for a while, as the conversation died out. I am guessing that folks elected to stop talking to me! But here is my response

      I did not intend to commandeer the debate. I just started writing and people responded. I am responding to you too, which you can choose to respond to, or not.

      The key difference between Seralnii’s studies and those of others, is exactly the length of time. Sprague-Dawley rats have a very high rate of getting cancer — something like 60% of them get cancer during their lifespan, which is about 2 years.

      It is just common sense (as well as statistically sound experimental design, and most importantly, clearly defined in OECD guidelines) that if you are doing a lifetime study in an animal model with such a high cancer rate, that you have to use many many more animals in order to get adequate signal to noise – in order to get results that are statistically meaningful, and are not just noise. The OECD regs call for 65 per study arm. Seralini used 10 per arm.

      Again, it is not the choice of rat per se, nor the length of time per se, nor the number of rats per arm per se — but all three together, the whole experimental design, that is flawed. Same rat, same number per arm, for 90 days, you can get interpretable results. Same rats, same length of time, 65 rats per arm, you can get interpretable results. Seralini’s study — uninterpretable results.

      Therefore, it is not a matter of regulators not being able to “stomach” the results; it is that the results have no meaning – they are not interpretable.

      I would love to see the lifetime study done properly.

      But based on the experiments that Seralini actually did and the results he actually brought, the most that anybody can say with scientific integrity, is that it would be great to see his study done properly. And a lot of folks and official bodies, including the Belgian food safety group and the letter from French scientists expressing abhorrence for the vitriol, have said the same.

      Best regards

      jytdog

    • Michael Cooper says:

      You really need to read the scientific critiques of that work.

      http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/121128.htm

      http://www.nature.com/news/hyped-gm-maize-study-faces-growing-scrutiny-1.11566

      There are just a couple.

  27. Charlie Blumer says:

    Yes of course to your editorial correction on the lengths of the respective studies. Thank you.

  28. Pete Halwell-Jones says:

    I’ve just learned from an email that the person who replaced “runjonrun” Jon Entine on the libellous Wikipedia page, “The Seralini affair”, vandalising out the balancing comments that were supportive of Seralini’s study, was none other than Jytdog. Readers can check this out by going into the history of that page.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=S%C3%A9ralini_affair&action=history

    I regret that honest members of the public have had to entertain his views here, assuming that this is the same person. Clearly he is not interested in any balancing evidence regarding the Seralini study.

    I suppose one constructive lesson to draw from this ‘coincidence’ is that the number of people who are keenly defending GM crop technology against all the evidence building against it appears to be very small indeed.

    • jytdog says:

      I am absolutely not Jon Entine. You have no evidence for this. And by the way, all that the link to the history shows is my edits – it cannot prove or disprove your speculation. How in the world can you justify leaping to “lessons” based on a speculation that is in turn based on no evidence? Crazy.

      • Pete Halwell-Jones says:

        Please read my post again. I did not say you were Jon Entine, nor have I ever thought you were. I said you replaced Jon Entine (“runjonrun”) as the Wiki User who deleted balancing comments on the “Seralini affair” wiki article. My phrase “the same person” refers to the jytdog that “edited” the Wiki page on Seralini.

        • jytdog says:

          Pete, I apologize for misunderstanding you! Yes, Brian already mentioned that above, and I confirmed it, which is why it wasn’t even in my mind that you were treating this old information as something new. Sorry again. ~~~~

          • jytdog says:

            Quick additional note — if you actually follow the series of edits on that page, you will see that I was far from alone in asserting the scientific consensus. It is not accurate to say that “jytdog replaced Jon Entine” in any sense of the word “replace”. I don’t know the guy, and I have no idea what motivated him with respect to the edits he made. It’s not like we “tag-teamed” this in any sense. I have already said here that I think it is unfortunate that the article was created – I don’t much like scandal and don’t like that Seralini conducted himself as he did, nor that the response in some quarters was so vitriolic. I don’t like it that the science around GMOs has become so politicized, so that even scientists now are acting and speaking politically. My only concern in doing the edits was to accurately describe the background, what happened, and how the scientific community reacted to the scandal of that paper and importantly – how it was released. As I have also said here a bunch of times, there may one day be solid evidence that currently marketed food from GMOs is somehow more dangerous than food from conventional organisms, and a mechanism for that toxicity may be understood. We are not there yet on either front and anybody who claims that we are, is not thinking straight, or is speaking out of ideology, not science.

  29. Pete Halwell-Jones says:

    There is no such thing as “the scientific community”, when it comes to responding to Seralini or anything else much. Scientists are individual in their thinking and I’ve heard as many views on the Seralini study as scientists I’ve asked. Most scientists have both positive and negative comments to make, but this is common to all studies: every scientist who looks at a paper will see things that they would have done differently.

    Seralini received a huge amount of support from scientists for his study, as is detailed on the gmoseralini.org website and on this website too (where an open letter was signed by many scientists). So there is certainly no “consensus” that it was a bad study.

    I have tracked the edits on the Wiki page, ‘The Seralini affair’ carefully and I can confirm that the edits I am referring to by Wiki Users jytdog and runjonrun were an attempt to remove balance from the page by removing any information in support of the study. It was vandalism on a determined and massive scale.

    If we believe that comments on Seralini’s study published in lay articles in the media and from scientists associated with various regulatory bodies deserve reproduction on a Wiki page, then it is only fair to reproduce those comments supportive of the study as well as those critical of the study.

    The history of this Wiki page is a sign of how desperate the pro-GM lobby is to control public opinion.

    • jytdog says:

      Hi Pete – you can see all the contributors to the article here: http://toolserver.org/~daniel/WikiSense/Contributors.php?wikilang=en&wikifam=.wikipedia.org&grouped=on&page=S%C3%A9ralini_affair You will see that there are 6 editors with over 10 edits. Dusha was decided pro-Seralini; Mr Stradivarius was mostly concerned to make the article comply with Wikipedia polices against original research (took out content from Dusha as well as others); the rest of those editors, including me, worked to make the article comply with Wikipedia’s policies and guidelines to have it accurately reflect mainstream perspectives.

      Seralini actually received very little support for his conclusions, which were way too strong, based on his data. He did receive support in the sense that many scientists wanted to turn down the volume on the dispute — but that includes him, since he announced his findings with such bizarrely flashy showmanship and legal skullduggery.

      There is nothing “desperate” here — as I said, I wish that the article had not been created at all. And I am not part of any “lobby.”

  30. jytdog says:

    Quick question re independent science on GMOs.

    Are you all familiar with the GRACE project going on in Europe?
    http://www.grace-fp7.eu/content/grace-brief

    I would be interested in hearing whether folks who are concerned that currently marketed food from GMOs is not safe, believe that this project is likely to provide useful data to answer questions you have.

    Thanks!

    jytdog

    • Claire Robinson says:

      Jytdog (and I am sure many supporters of GMOs) would like to know if the EU’s GRACE project will provide any useful answers about the safety of GM foods. The short answer is “no”. The long answer is here:
      http://www.testbiotech.de/sites/default/files/TBT%20Background%20GRACE_final_0.pdf

      No animal feeding studies will be carried out for longer than 90 days, which carefully avoids opening up any can of worms similar to that opened by the Seralini study.

      There is concern that the participants in this project have a history of downloading public funds to promote GM crops. Many have undisclosed links to the biotech industry and industry-backed lobby networks. Details are in the Testbiotech report linked to above.

      • jytdog says:

        Thanks for your reply! Too bad. I would like there to be a set of definitive animal studies that would lay these questions to rest.

        • jytdog says:

          I thought about this for a while and emailed the GRACE project, linking to this page and pointing to your response to my question, and asking them the following:

          “How about changing direction and opening up GRACE to scientists who are opposed to food from GMOs (or at least very suspicious of them) and really laying this to rest? It would be incredibly hard, I know, but it would be an even greater public service. Key thing is to get both “sides” together and agree on an experimental design that everybody finds acceptable, and agree on how results will be analyzed, so that only cranks can later point to the design and analysis and criticize the conclusions based on unacceptable design and analysis, and then do it, together.”

          All in public and transparently, of course.

          I received a nice reply acknowledging my email. We’ll see if anything more comes of it.

          Why people, especially scientists, don’t talk to each other instead of just blasting missives into the ethernet, is beyond me. Too much BS and smoke flying around, I suppose.

  31. My father and the scientists he’s worked with on a GM fed pig study are currently dealing with a lot of the same comments and attacks that Seralini did for releasing their peer reviewed paper on a very independent, not at all corporately controlled, science journal.

    http://gmojudycarman.org/

    • Michael Cooper says:

      Journal of Organic Systems is a scientific journal?

      Why can’t I find an impact factor for it?

      Which journals are “corporately controlled”?

  32. August Pamplona says:

    Sarah Vlieger’s dad is actually one of the clowns behind the ‘GMO has no nutrients’ report at Moms Across America (see http://www.momsacrossamerica.com/stunning_corn_comparison_gmo_versus_non_gmo ).

    Even minimal research would inform a reader that those are not data from plant tissue. It’s absolutely laughable.

  33. tony says:

    Do you have the Goodman’s mixed up ? Prof at Nebraska versus a VP for some other company

  34. Greenearth says:

    As a three times breast cancer survivor I watch in horror at Monsanto’s callous indifference to how its products impact people’s lives. What mindsets act with such uncaring towards the consequences of their actions and products.

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