Written by Kevin Folta
This is the beginning of the end of this particular sad tale of fear mongering and misinformation.
Anti-GMO darling Dr. Don M Huber is on a tour of the Sunshine State, giving two talks in Tallahassee and one in Gainesville. In Tallahassee he got a rock-star’s welcome with coverage on the news describing how dangerous GMO food is, and a meeting with politicians. On my calendar November 12 had a big red circle on it for some time. Huber was in town tonight to tell his story of poison food and deadly new organisms. I went with one of my favorite organic & sustainable extension/research faculty and had a GREAT time.
I never saw Huber’s whole shtick. It starts out about the failures of biotech and the crisis and danger from glyphosate. A lot more on the details of his talk later. Seriously, it was a science abortion.
A significant portion of the presentation addressed his mystery organism. He allegedly has identified this novel not-quite-a-virus, not-quite-a-fungus plant-animal kingdom-hopping pathogen in 2005, according to his slide. He attributes this organism to widespread plant harm, problems (like abortion) in cattle and a slide of disorders in humans. The audience was amazed, a new infectious agent, probably made in the Monsanto dungeon.
At the end of the talk I was identified in the room by Marty from Florida Organic Growers as someone in favor of biotech and we had a good smile and a certainly civil introduction. Marty and others don’t realize that I support all kinds of low-input ag and defend organic all the time. Still, all very nice.
He asked me if I had any questions for Dr. Huber. “I have a lot of questions,” I said, “But I want to start out with a kind offer.”
STOP HERE. ALL OF THIS CONVERSATION IS ON VIDEO AND AUDIO RECORDING. EVERYTHING HERE CAN BE VERIFIED.
Here’s what happened
“I offer to sequence the genome of the pathogen and identify what it is,” I said. “If Dr. Huber could kindly give me a small amount of the culture we could identify this new life form before Christmas.”
I’m not bluffing here. We could do that. I could pay to have the libraries made and get several lanes of Illumina sequencing done in a few weeks. We’d get several hundred million ‘reads’ (small bits of data) that could be computationally assembled into a whole genome of his novel organism, if it actually existed. If it was real, we could have 300-fold coverage of its sequence. Completely do-able, and I’d pay for it.
“So can you send me cultures?” I asked.
What do you think his answer was? After a ten minute talk about the organism and how it is killing cattle and causing problems he said he would not send it.
I said, “Don, you say this is a crisis, that a new pathogen is causing disease in humans and plants, and you won’t release it to the broader scientific community for eight years?”
He assured me that he had an international team working on it. When pressed for collaborator names he said he could not reveal them because they would be threatened.
I said, “But I can solve this mystery in a month. People are dying, kids are suffering… Let’s solve this mystery.”
He went on to say that if he relinquished the new pathogen that I’d be threatened and others would be too. I told him to meet me in a parking lot and hand me an unmarked tube, that I’d take the heat, that I am not afraid. If I was threatened, we’d blow the roof off of the conspiracy.
He shifted gears.
“You can culture it yourself very easily,” he said.
At this point people in the Huber-friendly audience were getting annoyed with his evasive nature. “Why can’t you just give it to him?” one person asked.
I asked him to send me the culture protocols and instructions on how to isolate it. He then said that I could probably not isolate it, that it is probably a prion.
THIS WENT ON AND ON FOR 15 MIN. He’s not sharing his finding with the broader scientific community. Period.
I was frustrated and all he did was deflect and misdirect. I offered again and again to sequence the organism. He went back and forth about whether it was even an organism, he said at one point that “it has no DNA”, said at another point that I could never culture it. It was 100% obfuscation.
Clearly the audience was seeing through his garbage at this point. I wish there were 1000 people there to see his slimy gymnastics. One farmer in attendance afterwards said, “If someone is at that put up or shut up point and they keep making excuses of why they can’t put up, you know something isn’t right.”
To add insult to injury I talked to Huber afterwards and asked him about the replication of the “Stunning Corn Comparison” that he finked out on with Vlieger and Ho, after I pressed them for an independent replicate.
“Go do it yourself!” he said as his handler walked him out the door.
The best part is that a room of interested and passionate people got to contrast how garbage science and real science behave in real time. I offer to do the work, my efforts are blocked with threats of threats, alleged technical impasses, and restricted distribution of the materials– materials he says cause disease and death.
In the early 1980’s a new disease called GRID was infecting many people, primarily IV drug users and men in the gay community. Scientists sprung to action to identify the source of this horrible pathogen. A few years later after hundreds of international efforts set out to identify the causal agent, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus was identified and published in Science by two independent groups. 1983. A couple of years, 30 years ago when we didn’t have nearly the tools we have today.
Within a few years we knew HIV’s epidemiology, the structure of the virus, the way it spread and evaded the immune system.
This is how science works.
Huber has a pathogen he says causes massive human disease and plant death. He will not release it to the wider scientific community for further tests, even after eight years of no publications or any signs of progress.
But he’ll jet set around the nation scaring people into believing his story. This should speak volumes. It did tonight, and in a room not usually warm to biotechnology.
What I saw him do tonight was scare people for two hours with frightening slides, no controls, speculation, outright bogus claims, flawed logic and straight-up fear. Concerned heads around me nodded in acceptance, taking his authority as a credible source of information. I was so mad watching him misrepresent science and flat out spread misinformation to an interested audience.
It stops here. I want to shine light on his false claims and starting with his pathogen is step one. I’m really angry about the distortion of science and the use of science to build fear. Here comes the science hammer.
Does glyphosate restrict crop mineral uptake?
Extraordinary claims… require extraordinary evidence.
Sign the Petition for Dr. Huber to release samples of his mystery microorganism
Written by Guest Expert
Kevin Folta has studied biology and agricultural biotechnology for over thirty years. His research examines the role of light in controlling plant traits, especially those relevant to agriculture. His group is known for using innovative genomics approaches to identify genes associated with fruit quality, especially flavors and aromas.
The anti-GMO crowd has read the creationist textbook and, for the most part, not making the same mistakes that the creationists have done. They are doing well, but they still can’t stand the light of science in the end.
Thanks for standing up for science again, Kevin.
His concern about death threats is priceless.
This is really sad to me, actually. To destroy any credibility that he had created in his career—with delusional parasitosis by proxy, or something??
I hadn’t actually heard about the Morgellon’s + muscle link before, but then I found it right on the I-sis nuttery site. Of course, most people who are aware of the literature will remember the outcome of the study, described by Orac here: Still more evidence that Morgellons disease is most likely delusional parasitosis, 2012 edition.
But if he’s going to use his career cred to make these wild claims, he’s gotta be called out by the scientific community I’m afraid. Nobody else would do it. Thanks for making the efforts here Kevin.
Oh look, the guy called out as a total phony throughout the entire debate (at least here… in further reading) turns out to be a total phony. Who would have guessed it. Oh that’s right. Everyone.
Good job Kevin (mostly for sitting through the talk without your small intestine leaping up through your mouth and strangling you to save itself from the scientific equivalent of Vogon poetry, but also for demonstrating that Huber and his ilk have absolutely no desire to be remotely scientific about anything.
Out of interest – is he hawking a book? Given the look of the venue it doesn’t really appear to be a lucrative enough gig to warrant such flagrant disregard for reality (One assumes he isn’t doing it because he believes in what he is saying, because if he believed in what he was saying he’d jump at the chance for scientific collaboration)
As far as I have seen, he doesn’t have a book or product to sell like others we know. He is probably getting a modest honorarium for his efforts by the groups that bring him in. He has moved around quite a bit (He’ll be in Boise tomorrow with other alternative luminaries, for example: http://idahocsa.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/ICSA-PROGRAM-final.pdf ). I’ve always gotten the feeling that, unlike other snake oil specialists, he has a sincere belief in his theory, although I’ll admit Kevin’s experience here has made me question that :-/
Kevin Folta burns another phony. Good job.
“the scientific equivalent of Vogon poetry” — Great use of a Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy reference. Nicely done!
I find that a day in which I can’t make a HHGttG reference or 3 is basically just wasted time. Everything else follows.
Don Huber is a disgrace to his profession. Thank you Kevin for calling him out. Many of us have tried to ignore his absurd circus act, thinking that it will go away, but sadly, he goes on deceiving and frightening people, apparently because he is enjoying some kind of sick buzz from his ill-gotten notoriety. I pity the unfortunate university that gave him his degree; it should be revoked.
Do you have a link to his presentation and your Q&A section with him on Youtube yet?
Usually such naked wingnuttery exists to service of some ideology. Anti-evolutionists have a 2,000-year-old literalistic biblical tradition to protect. Climate change deniers have laissez faire economics models to defend. What is this guy Huber’s story? Is he serving some ideology?
We all want the TRUTH about the safety/dangers of GMOs. I would be happy with biotechnology if there was a not a shadow of doubt, it was beneficial for our health, environment and agriculture.
Unfortunately, that is not what consumers all over the world are hearing. If biotech corporations such as Monsanto have nothing to hide, WHY WON’T THEY ALLOW INDEPENDENT TESTING FROM SCIENTISTS????
Wouldn’t this end the controversy, once and for all?
The Union of Concerned Scientists also state 8 Ways Monsanto Fails at Sustainable Agriculture:
PROMOTING PESTICIDE RESISTANCE
On its website, Monsanto lists an impressive set of benefits for its Roundup Ready weed control technology: profitability, efficiency, convenience, and sustainability. The company even calls Roundup Ready “a perfect fit with the vision of sustainable agriculture and environmental protection,” claiming that it allows farmers to reduce overall herbicide use as well as fuel consumption and soil erosion. Enter the SUPER WEEDS.
INCREASING PEST HERBICIDE
Monsanto’s Roundup Ready system, which involves applying glyphosate (Roundup) herbicide to crops genetically engineered to tolerate it, was supposed to decrease overall herbicide use—and for a while, it did just that. However, this has changed drastically in recent years.
AND WHY THE NEED FOR 2,4 D (a major component of Agent Orange)??
Which is currently being tested on North Dakota farms in the U.S. by Monsanto AND UP FOR APPROVAL OF THE FDA.
SPREADING GENE CONTAMINATION
The history of genetically engineered crops shows that it is not a matter of whether they will contaminate other farmers’ crops, but when and how much. Monsanto jeopardizes the future of the fast-growing non-GE and organic food sectors—and the environmental benefits they provide—by threatening the purity of their products through gene contamination.
Many farmers are fighting with this issue. Their fields are being contaminated by GM crops. Perfect example: Steve Marsh: Help this farmer stop Monsanto’s GM canola
Monsanto’s emphasis on limited varieties of a few commodity crops contributes to reduced biodiversity and, as a consequence, to increased pesticide use and fertilizer pollution
Monsanto’s extensive advocacy of engineered crops marginalizes these approaches despite their lower cost for purchased inputs like fertilizer and pesticides and their often superior results. A recent industry-sponsored survey found that the average cost for developing a new engineered trait is about $136 million, while a typical classically-bred trait in corn has been estimated to cost just $1 million.
Monsanto and other companies use classical breeding as well as GE. But by suggesting that its patented genes GE have achieved higher crop yields and generated other benefits, when in fact classical breeding and improved farming techniques are primarily responsible for those gains, Monsanto obscures better choices farmers might otherwise make.
Lobbying and Advertising
Contributions to Politicians
Monsanto also wields influence on policy makers through campaign contributions. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the company consistently ranks among the top political check-writers in the agricultural services and products industry. Monsanto gave more than $420,000 in campaign gifts during the 2010 Congressional election cycle, and topped the half-million mark in 2012.
Monsanto outspends all other agribusinesses on efforts to persuade Congress and the public to maintain the industrial agriculture status quo.
Not to mention that many Monsanto employees also hold government positions.
By creating obstacles to independent research on its products, Monsanto makes it harder for farmers and policy makers to make informed decisions that can lead to more sustainable agriculture.
FALLING SHORT ON FEEDING THE WORLD
Monsanto contributes little to helping the world feed itself, and has failed to endorse science-backed solutions that don’t give its products a central role.
Backing Out on Science
Monsanto claims that its biotechnology products will be crucial to the success of this effort. Yet experts, such as the hundreds of international scientists that contributed to the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD)—a report supported and endorsed by several UN agencies, the World Bank, and dozens of countries—have said that non-GE approaches that cost less and are more effective should be prioritized.
With overuse of biotechnology, as we’ve already seen, comes resistance and related problems. Resistance of stem borer on Bt corn in South Africa has recently been reported. And in China, after initial reductions in insecticide use on Bt cotton, secondary pests not controlled by Bt have greatly increased, pushing chemical insecticide use back up. This has hurt income because farmers pay almost as much for insecticide—and a lot more for Bt cotton seed. In addition, Bt cotton may be contributing to increases in secondary pests moving from cotton to other fruit and vegetable crops, causing further damage.
As a scientist yourself, PERHAPS, YOU SHOULD PETITION MONSANTO AND OTHER BIOTECH CORPORATIONS FOR AN INDEPENDENT STUDY ON THE SAFETY OF GMOS?
For more information on the Union of Concerned Scientists
By the way, let’s see how far you get with your independent study on GMOs from these biotech corporations…..
Take the time to look at the Independent Funding portion of Genera:
Why do you believe a handful of scientists at the Union of Concerned Scientists, then ignore the tens of thousands in the Union of Unconcerned Scientists? Independent assessments of transgenic plants happen every day. Thousands of them. Maybe they are not all on food or food crops, but they certainly would identify deleterious effects of the technology. If it was truly harmful, it would be detected.
Could you please deMonsanto for a few minutes and provide a reflection of the peer-reviewed, reproduced evidence of harm? Thanks.
A hint of advice. When you simply parrot the talking points of organizations bound to skewed statistics and massaged interpretations it does not help you. We’re scientists here, independent public scientists for the most part. We know the real science, the journals and the products. Stick with interpretations in line with the consensus, as reflected by the National Academies of Science.
There is a tremendous amount of independent work done. If you feel that there is not enough, perhaps it is because the scientific community sees little excitement in showing that something harmless, is harmless.
In analyzing thousands of research plants down to the metabolic level I can tell you that we’ve never seen one sign of something harmful. If I did find it I’d publish it in a heartbeat and then get significant exposure for the work. Your points seriously just do not hold water.
Remind me again how resistance is a problem inherent to biotech, or why it is a problem if you aren’t using the biotech solutions offered?
Oh right… any system of control promotes evolution of resistance, and resistance to glyphosate is meaningless in a system which doesn’t use glyphosate.
I used to do as you are doing – parrot anti-GMO rhetoric as I heard it. I thought it was part of a great worldwide debate about GMOs and that I was on the cutting edge of something big. I have since found out there IS NO DEBATE and that I had been sucked into a movement based on psuedo-science and propaganda. The ‘debate’ about the safety of GMOs is manufactured by the anti-GMO movement and a handful of outspoken luminaries and scientists who don’t like the technology nor the biotech industry in general. They therefore invent things to discredit it – and they’re really good at it. The Jeffrey Smiths and the Vendana Shivas of the world publish a long litany of supposed talking points and objections to transgenic technology. But the truth is, this is FRINGE science at best – not reproduceable and highly questionable. Look a little deeper than easy click websites bound to, as Folta put it, “skewed statistics and massaged data”. It’s just sad that so many people are being duped by the allure of an easy scapegoat. Isn’t it just so convenient to blame all that’s wrong with food in America on GMOs? I challenge you to look deeper.
Open Letter from World Scientists to All Governments Concerning Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
The World Scientists Statement dates from 1999. It was superceded by the Independent Science Panel Report in 2003, and by the most recent report Ban GMOs Now in 2013.
They want more support on research and development of non-corporate, sustainable agriculture that can benefit family farmers all over the world.
The scientists are extremely concerned about the hazards of GMOs to biodiversity, food safety, human and animal health, and demand a moratorium on environmental releases in accordance with the precautionary principle.
• They are opposed to GM crops that will intensify corporate monopoly, exacerbate inequality and prevent the essential shift to sustainable agriculture that can provide food security and health around the world.
• They call for a ban on patents of life-forms and living processes which threaten food security, sanction biopiracy of indigenous knowledge and genetic resources and violate basic human rights and dignity.
Signed by 828 scientists from 84 different countries, including:
Dr. David Bellamy, Biologist and Broadcaster, London, UK
Prof. Liebe Cavalieri, Mathematical Ecologist, Univ. Minnesota, USA
Dr. Thomas S. Cox, Geneticist, US Dept. of Agriculture (retired), India
Dr. Tewolde Egziabher, Spokesperson for African Region, Ethiopia
Dr. David Ehrenfeld, Biologist/Ecologist, Rutgers University, USA
Dr. Vladimir Zajac, Oncovirologist, Genetisist, Cancer Reseach Inst, Czech Republic
Dr. Brian Hursey, ex FAO Senior Officer for Vector Borne Diseases, UK
Prof. Ruth Hubbard, Geneticist, Harvard University, USA
Prof. Jonathan King, Molecular Biologist, MIT, Cambridge, USA
Prof. Gilles-Eric Seralini, Laboratoire de Biochimie & Moleculaire, Univ. Caen, France
Dr. David Suzuki, Geneticist, David Suzuki Foundation, Univ. British Columbia, Canada
Dr. Vandana Shiva, Theoretical Physicist and Ecologist, India
Dr. George Woodwell, Director, Woods Hole Research Center, USA
Prof. Oscar B. Zamora, Agronomist, U. Philippines, Los Banos, Philippines
Would you like to debate this issue with more than 800 scientists who believe gmos are not safe?
Most alarming is the recent evidence that in a widely grown genetically modified food crop – soybeans containing an alien gene for herbicide resistance – the transgenic host plant’s genome has itself been unwittingly altered. The Monsanto Company admitted in 2000 that its soybeans contained some extra fragments of the transferred gene, but nevertheless concluded that “no new proteins were expected or observed to be produced.” A year later, Belgian researchers discovered that a segment of the plant’s own DNA had been scrambled. The abnormal DNA was large enough to produce a new protein, a potentially harmful protein.
One way that such mystery DNA might arise is suggested by a recent study showing that in some plants carrying a bacterial gene, the plant ‘s enzymes that correct DNA replication errors rearrange the alien gene’s nucleotide sequence. The consequences of such changes cannot be foreseen. The likelihood in genetically engineered crops of even exceedingly rare, disruptive effects of gene transfer is greatly amplified by the billions of individual transgenic plants already being grown annually in the United States.
The degree to which such disruptions do occur in genetically modified crops is not known at present, because the biotechnology industry is not required to provide even the most basic information about the actual composition of the transgenic plants to the regulatory agencies.
No tests, for example, are required to show that the plant actually produces a protein with the same amino acid sequence as the original bacterial protein. Yet, this information is the only way to confirm that the transferred gene does in fact yield the theory-predicted product. Moreover, there are no required studies based on detailed analysis of the molecular structure and biochemical activity of the alien gene and its protein product in the transgenic commercial crop. Given that some unexpected effects may develop very slowly, crop plants should be monitored in successive generations as well.
None of these essential tests are being performed, and billions of transgenic plants are now being grown with only the most rudimentary knowledge about the resulting changes in their composition. Without detailed, ongoing analyses of the transgenic crops, there is no way of knowing if hazardous consequences might arise. Given the failure of the central dogma, there is no assurance that they will not. The genetically engineered crops now being grown represent a massive uncontrolled experiment whose outcome is inherently unpredictable. The results could be catastrophic.
Barry Commoner is senior scientist at the Center for Biology of Natural Systems at Queen’s College, City University of New York where he directs the Critical Genetics Project. Readers can obtain a list of references used as sources for this article by sending a request to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Such claims can certainly sound ominous that “a new protein, a potentially harmful protein” is produced. But that is no different from the dozens (hundreds? millions?) of “new” proteins that are in everything we eat: spontaneous mutations happen all the time, both somatic and germinal, and many of them don’t have a significant effect on the host (whether you, me, or corn or soy plants)(the majority of the others are obviously deleterious, leading to a failure of that seed to germinate, for example). So, even if you eat nothing but organic maize, your body is exposed to myriad “new” proteins.
It is enormously worse if you eat something that your ancestors never did, something that has many thousands of “new” proteins that your body cannot possibly have any experience with. Likely examples that come to mind are peanuts, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, oranges, sunflowers, soybeans, maize, brazil nuts, cocoanuts, chocolate, coffee, tea, and, as more recent (scarier?) examples, lychees, durians, avocados, kiwis, and macadamias. It is equally enormously worse if you eat anything developed by conventional breeding involving obscure or distant varieties or wild relatives. And what about things that were colonized/infected with novel mutant or new-arrived fungi, viruses or bacteria (citrus greening, apple mosaic, stem-rust, etc.)? In the face of all these thousands, millions, of “new” proteins, and secondary metabolites (including TOXINS), why would a the possible low-level production of a random miniscule protein fragment raise any concern?
This topic has been touched-on here before, repeatedly, often in the context of pointing-out that the Bt toxin itself is harmless to humans (and most other creatures), and to them, and us, is just another bit of nutrient to be digested, broken-down, and absorbed.
Incidentally, “that the transferred gene does in fact yield the theory-predicted product” is easily and definitively proven if the trait WORKS. If there were many differences in the product’s structure, it wouldn’t work. And, as long as it works, why any concern about the details of its structure (unless you intend to optimize it by re-engineering it)?
Much of what you wrote is rather hyperbolic catastrophization, and it reads like it is “talking points” intended to be used to rally activists, or at least donors, to a cause. Is that where it came from? If so, I think you should contact the source, and ask them to come here, and allow the folks here who DO know a lot more about this than me to explain it.
I can only say, from what I have read so far, it does not put GMOs in a positive light and that many studies done have only been short term. The whole world will continue debating this issue for many years to come.
If biotechnology can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that GMOs are safe, than all the power to you. If it can’t, than God Help Us All……..
Jacqueline, just cutting and pasting text from somewhere else is against our comment policy. Please state things in your own words, and point out where words are yours and words are someone else’s. Please read our comment policy before commenting further. You can make your own points and arguments.
Also, genes produce proteins according to the DNA sequence. That full sequences of trangenes inserted into crops have to be verified, so that will tell you the protein sequence.
There are many studies that are also long-term and multi-generational. The “short-term” studies you talk about, for 90 days, are a large part of the life of a mouse, and give us insight into years in people. They also eat a large part of their diet as GMOs – usually as much as is allowed for the type of food. The results from these studies are clear and in agreement that these foods are as safe as the foods they were made from.
What in your opinion, would be the exact study parameters, duration, and scope that would satisfy you as proving “beyond a shadow of a doubt” that GMOs are safe? It is easy to say that you don’t think there’s enough science, but I’m wondering if you know what would be enough in your opinion?
It is actually possible for GMO trains to enhance food safety. See http://graincrops.blogspot.com/2013/08/gmos-and-corn-mycotoxins.html.
The list of names Jacqueline provides appears to be impressive, but three things still leave me of the opinion that GMO technologies have a place in agriculture:
1. The supportive position statements on GMOs from many independent, credible scientific organizations;
2. The many thoughtful published scientific reviews that explore the legitimate concerns;
3. The strength of the numerous published scientific rebuttals to the occasional papers that raise health concerns relating to GMOs, like Seralini et al (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691512005637).
Publishing scientists such as myself must always remain open to the possibility of legitimate harm from GMO crops. However, claims such as these must be supported by a robust scientific process. This is where Dr. Huber has failed miserably. If GMO crops really represent the concern he says, then he must work closely and quickly with experts to really put his ideas to the test, and *now*, to avoid more harm of the type he claims. But until we see legitimate peer-reviewed evidence, we public scientists will do what we do–demand good evidence of one another. Dr. Huber is not exempt from this standard.
Let’s stick to the subject. With your calls for independent research, do you support Dr. Huber releasing this organism to the wider scientific community?
Also, your list of scientists is not terribly motivating. Dr. Vandana Shiva is not a scientist. Check the rest of the list carefully. Maybe check with other scientists. I can’t think of one scientist, of the thousands I know, that agrees with your assessment.
“They are opposed to GM crops that will intensify corporate monopoly, exacerbate inequality and prevent the essential shift to sustainable agriculture that can provide food security and health around the world.
• They call for a ban on patents of life-forms and living processes which threaten food security, sanction biopiracy of indigenous knowledge and genetic resources and violate basic human rights and dignity.”
The above have nothing to do with science and safety, nor has anyone actually explained the mechanisms by which GMO’s, in of itself being GMO’s, produce such outcomes. It’s indeed strange that they call for a ban on patents yet say that they sanction biopiracy. Laws against, “biopiracy”, act like open ended patents themselves. Real patents are time limited.
You also claim 800 scientists call GMO’s unsafe. Yet, if you look at the whole list, a great many aren’t even scientists. So, for the sake of argument you have a few hundred actual scientists against GMO’s. That compares to the tens of thousands of scientists that are of the opinion that GMO’s are safe for earth, man and beast. That’s a ratio of about 100 to 1. The very definition of consensus.
This thread is about Don Huber and his organism. It wasn’t clear to me–do you think he should share that information?
Barry Commoner was a faculty member at my alma mater in St. Louis and was rather prickly to a friend of mine once. He is also currently DEAD. That’s the risk of cutting and pasting.
Blah, blah, blah. The issue is why is Huber resisting a call to have someone else check his work? The issue is not biotech companies. If Huber has such explosive information why won’t he release it?
An independent scientist could get quite far, actually, in independent research on GMOs. See my comment to Tom where I posted links on how the gagging of independent research is a myth.
Your request that GMOs be studied by “independent” scientists raises some questions in my mind. In particular, how do you define “independent”. One possible definition is that if the scientist has a financial interest in the product, that he is not independent. So, all scientists working for a biotech firm would be unacceptable. However, I think it fair to point out that scientists such as Seralani, Judy Carmen, or Don Huber are hardly independent. They have established themselves as anti-GM activists, and have an interest trying to prove their point and convince others of their viewpoint.
So, who would you say is acceptable as an “independent” researcher”??
I would submit that we have a group of independent scientists who have already expressed their opinion. They are the members of the board of AAAS and AMA, and various other scientific organizations, who have released statements concerning the safety of GMOs and the necessity to label. Surely you would agree that these scientists do not have a financial interest, but are concerned only about the scientific facts. If you agree that they are “independent”, shouldn’t you accept their conclusions??
I suspect that when the anti-GMO crowd calls for “independent” research, they are unwilling to accept any conclusion that is not
“They call for a ban on patents of life-forms and living processes which threaten food security, sanction biopiracy of indigenous knowledge and genetic resources and violate basic human rights and dignity.”
What is patented is the right to use the innovation of an induced beneficial trait made possible through the techniques of genetic engineering. The trait itself is not patented, nor is the plant or crop having the trait, i.e. no one owns the insecticidal cry proteins naturally produced by Bacillus thuringiensis (bt) soil organisms, nor do they own a patent to the bt soil organism itself or even the gene of the bt that cause the bt soil organism to produce the cry protein. They only own the patent to the innovation of enabling certain plants that do not normally express cry proteins to express the protein. Seed companies no more have a patent on naturally-occuring life forms or processes than an inventor of solor panels has a patent on sunshine.
I have to agree with you that what is “independent” is in the eye of the beholder. You have pointed out that it is equally difficult to rely on the objectivity of researchers like Seraline and Judy Carmen and others championed by those who are skeptical of the benefits and safety of genetic enhancements made possible through biotech methods. However, I would think that most of the scientific world can agree to what are good laboratory practices and experimental design, and provided that the documentation that these practices and design were followed by the researchers is available, then we could have some agreement that the research will produce valid data, whether the research was performed or funded by Monsanto, Greenpeace, or publicly funded and performed by a researcher employed or commissioned by the government.
I agree with your assessment of the scientific world. I work within that world. But I repeatedly see the call for independent research, and wonder if the activists, some of which have a poor science background, will be willing to accept results that run counter to their expectations.
Disclaimer: Note that I am not accusing all activists of being ignorant in science. Many have a science background and are merely arguing the scientific merits. But I have also been to websites in which the bloggers have a lot to learn.
It generally appears, at least so far as I see it, that in the eyes of many ardent anti-GMO folk “independent” research means one thing only. Research which finds that GMOs are bad.
You (they) can tell research on GMOs is not independent simply because it supports GMOs, thus it stands to reason that independent research would find the opposite. As not much research, and no good research, finds opposite to what industry wants (for the most part – they are tricksy and do downplay some of the stuff industry might want heard) it must all be being supressed.
Industry also has this horrible habit of like, funding scholarships and research (both for good will, and to attempt to make sure people with desired skill sets come through the system (and obviously to get some nice patentable action on some of the research)) which while awesome, does automatically taint the entire academic community in the eyes of some (one often wonders how many research programs and students would have to be sacrificed simply to remove this interdependency… likely too late now anyway, and not really worthwhile anyway (once something has been done apparently it cannot be undone, much like the perpetuation of the old contract law around testing on Monsanto traits – which has utterly changed, but still the old contract is touted as proof positive that industry mercilessly quashes all research))
)() (few extras thrown in there just incase I missed some)
Long story short: “A fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage”
I support you releasing the audio of the encounter. It has been over two weeks since you promised to do it.
To quote you:
“Put up or shut up.”
STOP HERE. ALL OF THIS CONVERSATION IS ON VIDEO AND AUDIO RECORDING. EVERYTHING HERE CAN BE VERIFIED.
Where is this video and audio recording?
I find it ironic that some so called “scientists” on this website are so adamant about defending a company that has manufactured and brought to market products such as DDT, PCB’s and even produced Agent Orange.
There is more than enough evidence to outright ban Bacillus Thuringiensis and Glyphosate.
Not only ban these products, but the conglomeration of powerful companies (Monsanto, Dow, Dupont, etc) that contain enough clout to manipulate our government, in particular the FDA, USDA, and EPA should also be banned, or at the very least, banned from lobbying and having former employees on government staff as their is conflict of interest. As hippy as it may sound, these companies simply DO NOT GIVE A FLYING FK about the health of the american citizen.
Assessments do not equal clinical feeding studies. how may people are aware of the 1992 federal policy change called “Substantial Equivalence”? The feds decided that GMO’s are substantially equivalent to non gmo’s therefore are subject to the same oversight….
That means no required clinical feeding studies on animals or humans. Assessments are required but assessments are not clinical feeding studies. Whenever I hear how GMO’s are the most studied foods, I can’t help but think that you are repeating biotech PR because you are uniformed or have a fincial benefit from keeping the status quo.
Let’s get real folks. No required indepdent clinical feeding studies means that people get away with saying “there are no studies that indicate any harm from GMO’s”.
This fascist (govt/corporate) pseudo science marketing scheme is surely to fail since it doesn’t have a real foundation to build its fantastic claims on. That is if we actually had media doing their homework instead of publishing biotech PR soundbytes and memes.
“I pity the unfortunate university that gave him his degree; it should be revoked.” His DEGREE!? NOWHERE on this page is it mentioned that Huber is Emeritus Professor of Plant Pathology, Purdue University. Why not Folta?
Where is your list of “the tens of thousands of scientists that are of the opinion that GMO’s are safe for earth, man and beast.”?
Here is a list of 230 MDs, PhDs and DVMs who are of the consensus that THERE IS NO CONSENSUS ON THE SAFETY OF GM FOOD — these are the signatories to the statement “There Is No Scientific Consensus On GMO Safety”, all two hundred and thirty international medical and science professionals:
A good write up on the statement:
ENNSSER is European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility
This is the outline of the statement. Each point is detailed at the links above:
1. There is no consensus on GM food safety.
2. There are no epidemiological studies investigating potential effects of GM food consumption on human health.
3. Claims that scientific and governmental bodies endorse GMO safety are exaggerated or inaccurate.
4. EU research project does not provide reliable evidence of GM food safety.
5. List of several hundred studies does not show GM food safety.
6. There is no consensus on the environmental risks of GM crops.
7. International agreements show widespread recognition of risks posed by GM foods and crops.
“90 days, are a large part of the life of a mouse” – Seralini’s study was two years. How is 90 days “a large part of” two years? The math I learned says it is 1/8 (one eigth) and that more than 1/2 (one half) is MINIMUM to appropriately use the loose phrase “large part”.
Kevin has a nice interview on this here:
Substantial Equivalence, you use the words, but I don’t think you know what they mean.
So I guess you also agree with Kevin that if this pathogen is causing harm that we should actually get it pinned down, and published in a peer-reviewed study, instead of gathering dust on Huber’s desk?
Funny that you are asking for evidence. Why don’t you ask that from Huber or any of the other cranks. I just claimed to have recorded this, which I did.
The Florida Organic Growers and Consumers had a video going the whole time, they turned it on me during the Q&A. You should ask them to post it. My guess is that that SD card got the business end of a lighter after the Huber debacle.
The truth is, I’m an advocate for science in my free time. I’m busy doing the work for the people and industries that support me- the fruit/veg crops of my state.
If you want proof and evidence, ask the person making the claims to “put up or shut up”.
I’ll get to it when I want to. I’m not lying to you. He is. I’ll post it when I get to it. Other work to do now.
The video was done by several in the room, including a woman sitting in front of me for the Florida Organic Growers and Consumers. My guess is that the video is not going to be widely distributed.
Audio– I have that. Will get to it. I’m really busy right now, better things to waste my time on then satisfying your request, which you won’t believe anyway.
I did meet with a huge anti-GM personality last night that said Huber was a joke and a huge harm to his message. Keep up the good work Gary. Keep on defending it.
The sales of Non-GMO Project Verified Products have gone from $0 in 2010 to $3.5 billion in just 3 short years. At the last count they had over 10,000 products with that label on it. With the failure of prop 37 and I-522, awareness has increased dramatically. The non-GMO Project has had an explosion in companies wanting to label their products. Companies have reported increased sales with the labels on their products. The Non-GMO supporters have lost 2 battles but they will win the war because that is what the consumer wants. The Pro-GMO supporters are losing the PR campaign big time. Give me a good reason I need to eat GMO’s. People use to sprinkle DDT on their pets because it was safe. We use to play with mercury in science class because it wouldn’t hurt you. Smoking didn’t cause cancer. Even off GMO’s are 100% safe the public will decide if they need them for their health.
So Joel, the sales of non-GMO Project verified products has gone from $0 to 3.5 billion in just three years. Is there any chance that that is the reason the anti-GMO folks are against GMOs? They know there is a buck in it for them.
Those companies are just responding to what the market wants-less GMO’s. The Non-GMO Project said that the companies that are contacting them to get labeled have been having consumers (like the 49% that didn’t listen to Monsanto’s etc. ads in CA & Washington) demanding labeled NON-GMO products. The companies are just making good business decisions and responding to the 49% that don’t want GMO’s. Just look at Whole Foods! They have responded to the consumer’s demands by telling all their suppliers to label their products in a few years. There is another grocery chain that is going to do the same thing. When those companies label their products it probably will be one label. So, their products will be labeled in all stores they sell to. These companies right now are starting to source NON-GMO products so they can change their labels to meet the consumer’s demands. As I said before, the pro-GMO advocates feel good now by winning 2 key battles (CA&WA) but they are losing the war. They have terrible PR. Monsanto has lost the consumer’s trust–DDT, Agent Orange, Monsantos lawyers infiltrating government for their own gain, threatening to sue farmers, etc. etc. they need to give the consumer a reason to buy their products without bullying. Farmers are getting fed up because their products are failing in the field more and more. DuPont, Syngenta etc. are in the same sinking boat. I don’t care what the pro-GMO scientists think, they will lose the war to the consumer in the end. The Non-GMO movement has gained momentum in CA and WA even with a narrow loss. They are contacting companies every day demanding non-GMO products. The companies are just responding to consumer’s demand so they can remain profitable. The small Non-GMO Project Verified label doesn’t cost, it pays off big for them.
Joel, I’d love to introduce you to a few farmers. Your quote, “Farmers are getting fed up because their (DuPont, Syngenta,etc) products are failing in the field more and more” is quite wrong. If they fail, farmers will not use them. Period.
Over the last few days there is beautiful news that a new GM-based therapy can give great outcomes for some with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. GE cells are installed back into the body and beat the disease. Will you denounce this medical advance please? It is GMO, a clear product of recombinant DNA technology.
I’ll bet that many anti-GMers will happily accept it when it is their butt on the line.
Non-GMO project- GREAT! Enjoy. If fear campaigns and activist lies can change the minds of the credulous to sell products- have at it. Someone had to buy the Kinoki Foot Pads too. I know at a person in one company that says they use the non-gmo sticker because they get more money. Period. It raises the perceived value of the product. One born every minute.
That’s great. The problem is when fear and ignorance set out to create new levels of bureaucracy. Don’t make public policy because some prefer to ignore science.
It sure sounds to me like you agree that there is big money involved in the anti-GMO side. Your last sentence stating is “pays off big for them” seems to be an admission to me. Apparently the profit motive is a definite factor in this debate.
Profit rather than science drives more than just anti-GMO. Consider the gluten free fad as discussed on Science2.0.
In the end, the anti-GMO and gluten-free campaigns share many characteristics in common, including their own profit motives.
How sad it is that we jump to conclusions from one interaction. Very few realize who Dr. Huber really is. Do any of you posting negative comments realize that he is the USA Department of Defense’s number one go to guy for biological terrorism threats? Dr. Huber has dedicated his life to keeping our country safe. I would challenge Mr. Folta in that before he condemns a man he needs to have the decency to research the facts. Look at the medical journals that have INDEPENDENT studies of glyphosate and GMO’s. You will find that most of these will be found in foreign journals as there are very, very few credible independent studies that have occurred in the USA.
It breaks my heart that you’re so stupid because you reflect millions of others’ ill-formed (devoid of logic) opinions. This is a real world reflection of the dumbing down of education in the last 2-3 generations.
The reason is that a growing percentage of the population does not want mutated food products, created by an infant technology for which there is NO consensus on safety, in their guts. Small fact: glyphosate is leukogenic, i.e., causes leukemia.
I’m sure your farmer friends are aware of the resistance problems with Cry 3B1 against corn rootworm (in continuous corn) and of weed (waterhemp, palmer amaranth, mares tale etc.)resistance problems with roundup. If they haven’t been using roundup several times every year at high rates (32oz/ac) and have rotated herbicides and use tillage then they are doing fine. If they use a soil insecticide along with a Bt for rootworm and they rotate they may be doing fine. If you rotate then you don’t need to buy the rootworm corn or the soil insecticide usually. The farmers that are notill and depend on roundup, and don’t rotate have or will have problems with weed escapes. They are also asking for problems if they don’t use a soil insecticide (Force, Lorsban, Aztec etc.) on continuous rootworm (cry 3B1) resistant corn. The reason you pay extra for the rootworm resistant corn is so you don’t have to use an insecticide. Ask the farmers in Western Ill this last year about rootworm resistance. Your farmers might be interested in the premiums they can receive from Non-GMO corn and soybeans if they are near a market.
Kansas Organic Producers may be starting to crush non-GMO soybeans in a plant in NE. They were approached by a company needing non-GMO soy oil and meal. This isn’t the only example.
Bottom line: the consumer is driving the demand for non-GMO and they are willing to pay more for it. There is a farmers market in our city. One farmer was selling organic produce and had a sign saying so. The other farmer didn’t. Guess which farmer had the most customers.
That was well said Joel! I second that.
Joel, I second that also!
Classy move, Joel
If you have a citation for glyphosate being leukogenic, I think all of us who read this website would be interested in seeing it. Citation Please.
Seems a lot of Scientific and governmental bodies DO endorce GMO safety.
Actually, if you read more closely, this is the result of two interactions spanning two year which back up the same thing – that Huber is unwilling to release this ‘organism’ to the scientific community, even though he called it an “Emergency.” Was he really their number one go-to guy?
Don Huber is Professor Emeritus of Plant Pathology, Purdue University.
New Study Links GMO Food To Leukemia
A Side of Leukemia with Your GMO Corn?
The Bt (Bacillus Thuringensis) toxin in Monsanto’s genetically modified corn and soy has been linked to organ failure in humans. It has turned up in the bloodstreams of pregnant women and their fetuses. Now, a study published in the Journal of Hematology & Thromboembolic Diseases suggests that some forms of the Bt toxin may also contribute to certain blood cancers, such as leukemia.
The study’s authors conclude: “Taking into account the increased risk of human and animal exposures to significant levels of these toxins, especially through diet, our results suggest that further studies are required . . . before concluding that these microbiological control agents are safe for mammals.”
[i] Bélin Poletto Mezzomo, Ana Luisa Miranda-Vilela, Ingrid de Souza Freire, Lilian Carla Pereira Barbosa, Flávia Arruda Portilho. Hematotoxicity of Bacillus thuringiensis as Spore-crystal Strains Cry1Aa, Cry1Ab, Cry1Ac or Cry2Aa in Swiss Albino Mice. Journal of Hematology and Thromboembolic Diseases. 2013
[ii] Lennart Hardell, Mikael Eriksson, Marie Nordstrom. “Exposure to pesticides as risk factor for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and hairy cell leukemia: pooled analysis of two Swedish case-control studies.” Leuk Lymphoma. 2002 May;43(5):1043-9. PMID: 12148884
Talk about a ship that’s already sailed.
Anybody can put a label on, Joel. What is your acceptable level (even Organic has an acceptable level of GMO material?) Are you looking into how reliable the testing actually is to make that claim? And how much will that add to the cost of the product, especially after a few lots fail and you have to go looking for another source to test. Has the FDA signed off on the testing facilities used to do this verification?
Welcome to the wonderful world of labelling!!
‘Talk about a ship that’s already sailed.’ Ya mean like the Titanic. Bt plants DON’T produce “spore-crystals” but the protoxin (I believe). The critiques I’ve read basically say this study can’t make the claim that Bt causes any kind of cancer.
Joel, you can be confident that some people will read your post, notice two references to scientific papers, but not bother to read them, and then think that you have some science on your side.
I’m as lazy as most of them, but I know the paper by Hardel, et al. It is not about leukemia at all, but about non-Hodgkins lymphoma (NHL). So you have misrepresented it as evidence of something that it does not say.
It does, however, have something to say about a relationship between glyphosate exposure and NHL. Perhaps you are pleased to use it as an indication that glyphosate causes something, even if it is not leukemia. But the paper doesn’t even do that. It says nothing about glyphosate being a cause of NHL. The authors report on studies in which some people who had NHL, and other people who did not have NHL, were asked if they had been exposed to any of a long list of agricultural chemicals. NHL was found to be more common among people exposed to glyphosate than among people not exposed to glyphosate. But the authors know perfectly well that most people who were exposed to glyphosate would also have been exposed to other agricultural chemicals, so they analyzed their data to account for that and found no specific association between NHL and glyphosate. They did find an association between NHL and exposure to herbicides, rather than to any specific herbicide.
In any case, their study was about the subjects’ exposure to agricultural chemicals directly, as for example by spraying, and had nothing whatever to do with exposure to chemical residues in their food.
Actually, we already looked at that “leukemia” paper here–Anastasia can ‘splain for you: https://biofortified.org/2013/05/leukemia/
And I’d like you to tell me how many GMOs there were in Sweden before 2002.
I hope your claim of the GM-leukemia link draws some self evaluation. Why do you think that GM and leukemia are linked? Is it:
1. Because you carefully evaluated the work and find the methods good, data robust and the interpretations consistent with the data presented?
2. Because you read it on a website?
Be honest. Clearly, if you knew anything about science and scientific publishing (don’t feel bad, not too many people do) you’d find the report behind this abomination is not credible science worth citing.
I hope you consider this a turning point. I’d urge you to look at GMOanswers via this link.
I did a complete dissection of that garbage article and the junk journal that published it. Please take a look.
I hope that this is a huge eye opener for you about how you have been fooled by the antiGM movement. Their lies and deception corral people like you- you clearly are interested and engaged. It is easy to let the fear rule over hard science.
Check out that review of the work by Mezzomo et al. If you ahve questions you can find me here or by email.
THis is a great watershed. You should realize that a scientist is taking his time to help you understand how this paper is a complete failure and that the results in no way support an interpretation of GMO leads to leukemia. You may also take the time to google “GMO and leukemia” and look at the websites and people that are lying to you.
On the other hand, you may conclude that the work is outstanding science, that the results are conclusive, the websites are honest and that I don’t know what I’m talking about.
That’s good too, but I would appreciate how you’d address my critical points on GMOanswers. Let’s have a dialog on this paper. It was your evidence of harm. I hope that you can take this opportunity to defend it, and teach us something about science and transgenic technology. Thanks.
There is no point in my repeating the comments that the others have made here. So, I will just point out that there are simple questions that you can ask yourself to detect BS. In this case, you should ask yourself if the leukemia (or any other cancer for that matter) has exploded in incidence since the introduction of GM food. Obviously if it were as conclusive as you suggest, this should have occurred. But even without checking the data on leukemia incidence, you could simply ask yourself, why isn’t this being reported in the press. If Leukemia rates were exploding, the Doctors would be up in arms about the situation, and no conspiracy to squash the truth would prevent the press from reporting it. And what about animals. Bt-corn has been consumed by animals in feedlots for years. Shouldn’t there be an explosion of cancer in farm animals? And if so, why are the veterinarians not reporting problems?
We are in fact all concerned about the safety of the food supply. But, our choices must be based on evidence, not the propaganda found on many webpage. Hopefully, you will consider these comments.
Gabe, I only know one Gabe Brown and he has been an inspiration to thousands of farmers. Gabe has proven farmers don’t need GMO’s and pesticides, especially roundup if they rotate, use cover crop cocktails and animals. Are you that Gabe brown? Are you going to be in Salina again in January?
If they are trusting Huber for terrorism advice then we’re screwed. The man is out promoting biological terror, stating that continued use of conventional farming will kill us all. He’s using emotion, no evidence and fear to motivate response. That’s terrorism!
Can you point me to ‘independent research from medical journals’ on glyphosate that substantiates any of Huber’s claims? Especially, how is it that it does not inhibit EPSPS and simply functions as a chelator? Love to know! That does not fit with all over evidence. Thanks.
And of course, when Huber publishes his magic “micro-fungus” I’ll eat my words, hire a plane to sky-write an apology to Huber and then I’ll hand deliver a home-made Edible Arrangement. He’s the one making crazy claims without evidence.
Kevin: I am having a back and forth with a good friend, who has read smith, ronald, federoff, both sides of the GE debate, and is quite knowledgeable about biology, though he’s a physicist by training.
His strongest anti GE argument flows from presumed corporate domination over the testing process and his sense that biological complexity somehow facilitates extreme versions of the precautionary principle. While he is generally very astute about the uses fear rhetoric to blind people to the science, in my opinion, he utilizes the same rhetoric when discussing GE (we both study this same rhetoric in the context of debates around nuclear power). I think he also finds the “unintended consequences” argument to be particularly applicable to GE as opposed to non GE technologies (I fail to understand his point here). He quotes Commoner:
The degree to which such disruptions do occur in genetically modified crops is not known at present, because the biotechnology industry is not required to provide even the most basic information about the actual composition of the transgenic plants to the regulatory agencies. No tests, for example, are required to show that the plant actually produces a protein with the same amino acid sequence as the original bacterial protein. Yet, this information is the only way to confirm that the transferred gene does in fact yield the theory-predicted product. Moreover, there are no required studies based on detailed analysis of the molecular structure and biochemical activity of the alien gene and its protein product in the transgenic commercial crop. Given that some unexpected effects may develop very slowly, crop plants should be monitored in successive generations as well. None of these essential tests are being performed, and billions of transgenic plants are now being grown with only the most rudimentary knowledge about the resulting changes in their composition. Without detailed, ongoing analyses of the transgenic crops, there is no way of knowing if hazardous consequences might arise. Given the failure of the central dogma, there is no assurance that they will not. The genetically engineered crops now being grown represent a massive uncontrolled experiment whose outcome is inherently unpredictable. The results could be catastrophic.
Now, Kevin, my deep respect for my pal aside, I find this quote pretty repellent, even though I share Commoner’s distrust of corporations. I am especially chagrined at the idea that GE scientists are stuck in the one gene one protein dogma. I know this is not the case from conversations with Mary at this site. So I would be interested in your response to commoner’s scare rhetoric. and I could really use your email. I’d like to involve you in discussion with Bill: who is extremely reasonable. which is why I want to work this out.
I’ll leave the rest of the answer for Kevin. But in case he doesn’t get to it soon, you can see Kevin’s email on twitter. He gives it out all the time in the interest of conversation: https://twitter.com/kevinfolta/status/410018886356979712
But the central dogma claim makes me laugh every time I see it. You should read what Crick (of the original central dogma) had to say about that. He was wrong–and everyone in biology knew that decades ago. When team anti-GMO flogs it, it just demonstrates how out-of-touch they are.
hey mary: you cited this to me back in august along with other comments. back then, I raised the same issue with you.
It did not convince my pal, and I’m trying to get him to engage here. I’m trying to figure out the anti gmo upshot of their assertion about one gene one protein. apart from the fact that you guys know that the dogma or hypothesis is not true since there are way more proteins than genes in the human genome, etc., I still don’t really get the anti gmo claim: how does the presumed adherence to the presumed dogma distort the scientific process in ways that could lead to the various “catastrophes” continually posited by anti gmo forces? thanks for kevin’s email.
No tests, for example, are required to show that the plant actually produces a protein with the same amino acid sequence as the original bacterial protein. Yet, this information is the only way to confirm that the transferred gene does in fact yield the theory-predicted product.
Referring to commoner’s quote above:
Is commoner’s quote true? if true, is it misleading? when GE experiments fail, why do they fail (the experiment does not produce the “theory predicted product?” It does but the product does not perform as expected?)? Do the predictions depend upon the “central dogma”? Do anti gmo people assume that “failure” leads straight to catastrophe? One would think that when GE experiments fail, they…fail, just like conventional breeding experiments fail. Is there any reason to think that again there’s something specific about GE failures that could produce the fearsome unintended consequences mentioned ad infinitum in anti GE material?
Mary and Kevin: the claim that GE is underwritten by the “central dogma” is based in part on this comment by commoner:
That the industry is guided by the central dogma was made explicit by Ralph W.F. Hardy, president of the National Agricultural Biotechnology Council and formerly director of life sciences at DuPont, a major producer of genetically engineered seeds. In 1999, in Senate testimony, he succinctly described the industry’s guiding theory this way: “DNA (top management molecules) directs RNA formation (middle management molecules) directs protein formation (worker molecules).”
presumably the idea is that this hypothesis, while sometimes true (leaving out the management stuff in parenthesis), to the extent it does not hold, opens us all up to horrifying consequences. comments?
When I saw the original Commoner article (in Atlantic, I think), my immediate reaction was – “Dr. Commoner, who do you think discovered introns?” It was the people doing experiments about how genes specify proteins. To assume that the genetic engineers are ignorant of this is just silly.
Well, taking a sentence out of a longer piece of Senate testimony makes it hard to know what the full context was.
In fact–that’s exactly the problem with this bizarre focus on the “central dogma”–a term that we know Crick laughed at himself.
DNA does contain code that specifies an RNA transcript and a subsequent protein. In some cases that’s its job. The Bt trait works this way. So that premise is not incorrect. It’s just only part of the context. Other parts of the DNA do other things–regulatory, structural, and so on. None of which are either horrifying or surprising. Unless you went to sleep in the 1960s and just woke up now, I guess.
Look at the transgenic papaya. It uses an anti-sense nucleotide code molecule to squelch the virus. This works great. It’s not scary at all. Quite effective, in fact. And we’ve had this now for a couple of decades, right?
I really don’t understand what “does not hold” and how this is even remotely horrifying. Honestly–fundamentally–I don’t understand what that even means. Or how to help someone through that if they are going to ignore decades of work in the interim.
MARY: thanks for the reply. I’m trying to get at the underlying anti GMO claim. and my intuition is that it’s nonsense, in just the way you say, but I don’t know enough to confirm this. that’s why I am asking you guys!!
the argument seems to be that GE scientists are “reductionists,” (one gene one protein), and this reductionism has especially dangerous consequences when it comes specifically to its application to GE, more than in other domains. although i’ve seen the form of this argument applied to the testing of new chemicals. I think there is a catch 22 that the greens (and I consider myself a real green, not a green dogmatist) constantly risk: on the one hand, they call for real testing (while running like hell from it when bluff is called); on the other hand, they use the reductionist argument to suggest that the world is too complex to test in the first place and so on precautionary grounds, we should just not do GE or not introduce drugs at all. Do you see what I’m trying to get at? I agree with all you say above.
btw, can anyone track down that original hardy quote from commoner? I assume the parenthetical material is added by commoner as editorial comment. but maybe not.
not that it matters all that much. curious.
mary: the taking the sentence out of context comes from commoner. I suspect it’s the main sin of bad argument. cherry picking. the thing is, cherry pickers are good at accusing others of cherry picking, so there’s no gotcha moment coming from the criticism. it all comes down to having the time to weigh evidence, and ordinary people don’t have the time, and the issues raised are urgent so people rely on their shorthands, which are in fact non reliable and when they are questioned, often they just fall back on “corporate shill,” “communist,” “this denier,” “that denier.” etc.
Yeah, I hear the “reductionist” claim a lot. Generally from people who haven’t take the same classes we have. I don’t know how to make them understand that we know more biology than they do. Not sure what it would take.
I hear that biologists don’t understand plenty of aspects of a system. But, in fact, we really have to look at the larger context for things. When we write a specific paper or run a specific experiment we are required to focus on smaller nuggets of the problem. But that doesn’t mean we don’t look at or understand the wider context.
We have to take a wide range of classes to get a degree. And we have to keep reading lots of papers afterwards. And we specifically have to address cases where the outcome or claims disagree with ours (unless you are Seralini–where you just ignore all the other work).
hey mary: to be fair, some of the critics are actually biologists. it’s not just holist cranks, right? that’s why kevin’s examples are so interesting. Huber is a biologist, so is Mae Wan Ho.
Richard Lewontin is a renowned geneticist (he has not written all that much negative on GE); I own a genetics textbook he coauthors.
Yeah, I know it came from Commoner. But what was that Senate testimony? What was that about?
I’ve been trying to think of a non-science way to think about the “central dogma” from the 1960s. I’m gonna try this–I don’t know if it will work.
So in the 1500s, Shakespeare wrote stuff. He wrote it in the language of the time, right? That language is fun to look at–say here: http://nfs.sparknotes.com/errors/page_8.html . And some of it gives us enough similar verbiage that you can get a sense of what he was getting at.
But we don’t read that text today. Because language has changed, and our understanding of other details of the period (then) and our world today need to influence our grasp of the action.
Looking at the “central dogma” from the 1960s is like reading the original Shakespeare. It’s not wrong (or a “failure”) and some of it still holds without further explanation, but stuff has changed in the meantime that affects how much we should rely on that original text.
Separately, I thought maybe it would be useful to understand the context of Commoner better. I remembered his obit, so I thought I’d look at that. This quote made me laugh: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/02/us/barry-commoner-dies-at-95.html?_r=0
So he was saying simplified things, leaving out a lot of messy details. And there are times that works fine. But it may not be your best bet for a real understanding of a situation. And by the time he took GMOs on, his distance from the actual science was significant, I’m afraid. But like a lot of activists, he plugged in some beliefs into his existing framework and sloganeered it seems.
So yeah–he’s a major player in creating the shorthands. Whether this is helpful or not, you can decide.
mary: thanks for the obit. it’s really useful, reinforcing my view of the tendency among a certain green strand to make nearly identical bad (fear based, but sounding complexier than thou) arguments against both GE and nuclear power.
This Mae Wan Ho? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mae-Wan_Ho
Sure there are some people who had biology training in the past that have taken some curious paths since. I know some MDs turn to “wellness” treatments. Some engineers become “troofers”. Some of the best physics cranks have a great deal of physical science and engineering training. This is a fun talk that looks at some of this: http://boingboing.net/2013/07/01/amateur-scientists-vs-cranks.html
I don’t know what makes some of these people disconnect from the mainstream, ignored bodies of evidence, and take up with some curious and untethered ideas. But it reminds me of something I heard Ben Goldacre say a while back. It was about homeopathy, but you could substitute any fringy ideas on other topics:
“Just because there are flaws in aircraft doesn’t mean flying carpets work.”
commoner did not pay attention enough to the consequences of foregoing certain technologies without adequate sense of alternatives. so he’s big on some consequences and not on others.
I like his commitment to “connection”: “environmental pollution, war, and racial and sexual inequality needed to be addressed as related issues of a central problem.”
The problem is that this requires enormous amounts of knowledge. Shorthands are dangerous here, aren’t they? if narrow specialization has its costs (and benefits), so does “holism.”
“And by the time he took GMOs on, his distance from the actual science was significant, I’m afraid.”
Mary, do you think the same can be said for Thierry Vrain and David Suzuki, among others?
lol. I guess you haven’t been to the AcresUSA conference then. Lots of anti-GMOers. Not so many reading the “creationist textbook”–whatever that is.
I’m not pro- or anti-GMO, but I really don’t appreciate frauds on either side. In my opinion, Don Huber is letting his celebrity status go to his head. He did very good work on plant nutrition and disease, but this recent scare-mongering is NOT a way to end a distinguished career. It’s even more sad that people who pride themselves on ultimate understanding of ecology and biology are buying this CRAP.
In short, if GM crops are not benefiting growers’ bottom lines, they should be discontinued or improved. But it should be decided by the free market–not activists with a personal vendetta. Just my $0.02.
I am wondering how do you culture a prion?
Feed it to a cow. Wait until cow develops BSE. Grind up brain of said cow. Feed ground up brain matter to next cow. Repeat.
Sounds like tedious (and expensive) work.
General Mills is going to start labeling Cheerios as Non-GMO with other products to possibly follow. They have listened to consumers. The dominos (or an avalanche) are starting to fall. They already label their Cheerios as non-GMO in Europe so it is no big deal to label it they said.
Joel, Cheerios now, before they change it, has only two ingredients that bother the anti-GMO community. One is sugar. The other is starch. General MIlls promises to get these two ingredients from plants that have not been genetically modified. Big deal! Sugar is chemically identical whether it comes from a GMO sugar beet or from sugar cane, or for that matter from a chemistry set. Same for starch. The new Cheerios and the old Cheerios will be indistinguishable from one another. The biggest difference will be the meaningless label on the package.
You may think this is a great victory. I think it is very sad that General Mills, which clearly knows this, would cave into such propaganda pressure to adopt deceptive labeling.
I don’t have time for the multiplicity of fraud and/or delusions (I’m not sure which) you’re offering to share. For now, let’s just be clear by example what “deceptive labeling” is without quibbling about molecular biology dogma that is either provable or disprovable.
Example 1-Someone you are familiar with is right now lobbying for a bill to legally allow the adjective “Natural” to be imprinted on labels of food products that contain genetically modified ingredients, or ingredients sourced from GM ingredients . That’s willful, deceptive labeling right out of a George Orwell novel. Someone you know is pushing that, right now. Admittedly, “Natural” already means virtually nothing but the lawyers want to cover their a$$.
Example 2-To label food products that contain genetically modified ingredients with the label “May contain genetically modified ingredients”. This is your example of deceptive labeling.
Another big announcement will come out the middle of January, it may be Kelloggs. The insider I talked to is sourcing the non-GMO supplies of grains and other ingredients. Other announcements will follow. He told me in his words ” the revolution has begun and Monsanto can’t do anything about it”. The consumer will decide, not you or Monsanto etc.
Joel, I am really struggling to figure out the rationale for your philosophy. Tell me, do you think that plant breeding has contributed anything to civilization? And if the answer is yes, then why do you fear new technological approaches to problem solving?
The problem of the “consumer will decide” is that the consumer is basing their demand based on nonsense and not science. The pie in the sky thinking that somehow this will destroy Monsanto is laughable. What is not laughable is that because of willful scientific ignorance, a beneficial technology could possibly be hobbled through unfounded fear.
You can laugh all you want at the creationists,but on this issue the anti-gmo crowd are soul mates in that they refuse to acknowledge accepted science.
“… do you think that plant breeding has contributed anything to civilization?”
Sure it has-the overall process (plants + human cross-breeding, culling, branch cloning, etc), is sometimes referred to as co-evolution. The film “The Botany of Desire” is illustrative of this concept and of what you’re referring to. On the other hand and radically different, “Genetic Engineering”, (as well as “Geo-Engineering” and “Nuclear Engineering”) is an infant technology as witnessed by (likely irreversible) disruption and harm already done. “New technological approaches” are fine IN THE LAB, not to be brought OUT of the lab or out of strict containment before they are fully developed. For purposes of this chat “fully developed” means “under control”. To ignore the Precautionary Principle (or get it backwards), ignore the lesson of Pandora’s Box and display an obliviousnes to co-evoloution are signs of shallow thinking combined with hubristic delusions of CONTROL. These technologies are not under control. The biotech industry is using your gut as their laboratory. Do you blithly eat anything, whether GMO or not? No, I mean you, the personal you who’s typing these messages … what’s your general dietary scenario?
Chipotle is committed to switching to all non-GMO ingredients “as quickly as possible” in it restaurants because of consumer demands.
Joel, I have really tried to understand what you mean, and I just can’t figure it out.
You say that my post contains a multiplicity of fraud and delusions but you don’t have time to counter them, which you say would be quibbling about molecular biology dogma that is either provable or disprovable. I think you owe me some explanation when you make such an insulting statement. About the closest I got to fraudulent was in oversimplifying the chemistry of starch, which is a mixture of several different carbohydrates. I thought the simplification was justified because the anti-GMO propaganda gives the false impression that starch from a GMO source might contain some novel ingredient that is not present in pre-GMO foods.
You also seem to be upset with my choice of the words deceptive labeling. General Mills will be selling a product identical with what it now sells, but implying that it is different. I think that’s deceptive and apparently you don’t. Do you at least agree that I have explained why and how it is deceptive? Instead you only give the example of another labeling you consider deceptive, namely calling a food natural when it contains a GMO-derived ingredint. Then you criticize your own example by saying that “natural” is meaningless.
As to your example 2, I’m completely mystified. What label do you want?
Do you mean the restaurant chain that uses illegal immigrant labor and will be raising prices due to the change?
Your acceptance of some plant breeding technology is irrational to your position. Conventional plant breeders are constantly putting new genes into crops. There is little or no testing of the safety of these products. Yet they pose risk as well. Under your precautionary principle, these genes should also be tested. In an earlier post, you stated that maybe GMOs would be acceptable after 50 years of safety testing. Should every new gene inserted by conventional techniques be tested for 50 years? And if so, how do we solve problems that exist at present? Do we tell farmers that we will release a disease resistant cultivar in 50 years? The whole process of plant breeding would be destroyed. If you think my line of reasoning here is an exaggeration, I would note Dr William Davis, who blames conventional wheat breeding for the obesity crisis and his call for the return to gliadin proteins found in heirloom cultivars.
Second, concerning my general dietary scenario, there is risk in everything we do. There is risk with organic foods as well. While there is always a small amount of risk, the evidence that our food supply is unsafe is not there.
Chipotle’s stock jumps 15% after it’s announcement in October to an all time high.
Joe, the CMG rose on strong Q3 earnings (they had a better than expected negative surprise with strong growth), on the upgrade from Baird and they intend to raise prices. Not because they announced no GMO’s. I don’t know if you noticed but both MON and DD have been rising steadily since.
Time will tell.
Does anybody know how I can view a copy of this alleged exchange with Huber?
But resistance is an issue with a system that does use glyphosate because ever increasing amoounts are required. This is why Monsanto got approval from the FDA to increase the maximum allowable amount of glophosate in the Roundup ready plants. This is why Monsanto is trying to get approval for 2,4-D another herbicide and get on the same treadmill of resistance and increasing use of herbicides.
We didn’t get any good responses about the video, but we do have an audio version and are working on transcribing part of it. It will be published later this month.
Yes, resistance is an issue within the system. Nobody denies this. It is, infact, the achilles heel of any individual herbicide used – resistance will arise, eventually – one cannot circumvent evolution – one can slow down the speed at which resistance arises however, and one can develop new methods for dealing with weeds.
Resistance, however, doesn’t lead to ever increasing amounts being required (once a plant is properly resistant to glyphosate the amount applied matters not) nor does it necessarily lead to increasing use of herbicides (by any measure you use)
The switch to roundup resulted in an increase net quantity of herbicide use (lbs/active ingredient) but a decrease in the environmental impact of the herbicide used. A switch to 2,4-D may (I haven’t looked at the data, so I can’t say which way it will go) swing either of these metrics in either direction, a switch to glufosinate resistance will, if I remember the math right, reduce both the quantity used and the environmental impact. (as far as I know though it’s DOW who just got approval for 2,4-D Corn and Soybeans, so credit where credit is due)
If GM crops are not benefiting growers’ bottom lines, you should let them know. If you would like, I could put you in touch with a few dozen of them. They would appreciate that you know more than they do about their hard work and their bottom lines. Since you know they are not benefiting, their little rural brains would really benefit your informed input.
“There are many studies that are also long-term and multi-generational.”
But even meta-analysis can’t provide relevant feeding safety trials for more than a few crops. Certainly not enough to support humans eating them wholesale. Can you list two studies on RR soy that would support the safety of human consumption?
Kevin, using medical GMO to defend ag GMO is silly if you think about it. Medical GMO is strictly controlled and regulated.
Not really. See, the anti-GM folks will tell you that just the process of recombinant DNA makes the product unsafe. Huber will tell you that. After all, we’ve only been using GMO medicines for 20 years, and we just don’t know. Right?
Ag GMO is just as precise, just as controlled and regulated. If you don’t believe me come on over sometime and I’ll show you my APHIS applications just to be able to do tests on transgenic plants. Insane. I can’t even send seeds for experimental-only plants without a big hassle.
Grape nuts is now non-GMO, other announcements to follow. My sources were correct in saying another big announcement would come mid-January. My sources said there are other announcements to follow. The easiest cereals to convert will be first.
Yes Joel, but keep in mind that just because you get a label on it does not mean it is a scientific or moral victory. We used to label water fountains too.
We will see what happens to sales. Does the consumer want non GMO products?
Yes, but the consumer also wanted pet rocks, cheeze in a can, Justin Bieber and the Thighmaster. There’s science and there’s junk. Should we sit silently by and let the companies profit from the scientifically illiterate? I guess I don’t like lotteries and such things that prey on those with no handle on stats, so I’m being consistent.
Great. P.T. Barnum said it best, there’s one born every minute.
I’m getting all pithy and that’s not good. Companies will do whatever it takes to get your money. If it means playing into the deception, I don’t like that so much. I’d rather help educate everyone on making better decisions, based on science.
But hey, have at it. I hope you enjoy your grape nuts. The ingredients are “Whole Grain Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Salt, Dried Yeast.” Nothing in there GM anyway.
Non-GMO crops are more profitable. http://www.offthegridnews.com/2014/01/06/farmers-abandoning-gmo-seeds-and-the-reason-will-surprise-you/
Kevin you forgot about soy protein in grape nuts. Now it will be non-GMO soy protein. In case you didn’t know.
Off The Grid News. Hmm. Lets see. On the main page today, under the natural health category, the top story is “5 reasons water fluoridation is unethical and unhealthy”. Something to consider.
the benefit is in the ease of operations as control of in crop pests is easy… just send the sprayer!!! Dr. Huber ONLY presents information that he is 100% sure of. his information is dependable and it hurts people to see the truth. the annoyance that people get is because of the refusal to give information that needs to be done scientifically to make a true scientifically correct study.
If he only presents information that he is 100% sure of, then how come his story has kept changing over time? He told me it is a micro-fungus that sporulates and can be grown in pure culture. Now it is a Prion which is a completely different thing! (Also cannot be grown in pure culture.) Does 100% not mean the same thing for both of us?
To Daryl: I have two questions-
Are you are implying that water fluoridation is ethical and healthy and that is what you believe?
Then if you are claiming water fluoridation is ETHICAL and HEALTHY, you make a veiled smear that automatically discredits another article (this one) that is UNRELATED. Am I inferring incorrectly, because I can’t think of anything else to “consider”?
Dr. Huber is a smart guy. I certainly won’t be putting GMO into my body until it has been properly researched by credible sources. GMO is on its way out because we are now recognizing the damage they are doing to people’s health and the environment. In this era, information distribution and sources are key, and the only people who will live long, healthy lifestyles are the ones who are most informed. That means finding your way through all the propaganda. It’s too bad Monsanto, Syngenta and their ilk went about it the wrong way – they were more interested in profits than people’s health, and in turn they have lied through their teeth in pushing GMO. We dont need GMO, and the consensus is telling us that people don’t want GMO. We have survived very well on organic farming practices for thousands of years and that is not going to change.
Belinda Martineau Ph.D. developed the flavr Savr tomato and has since become a GMO skeptic. She has a blog at biotechsalon.com . I’m sure Kevin Folta would Demonize her also. She has raised more than a few questions about GMO’s.
Joel, no need to demonize. Don’t be so dramatic. She makes statements that could be true, but in 17 years of use and 30 years of study simply are not supported by data. She sort of demonizes herself by using fear to motivate, rather than evidence. That’s not how science works.
STOP HERE. ALL OF THIS CONVERSATION IS ON VIDEO AND AUDIO RECORDING. EVERYTHING HERE CAN BE VERIFIED. Do you a link to the video?
No, the people who recorded the video have not released it. We think that they might have thought it was too embarrassing to release (or they just forgot/didn’t care). I have listened to the audio myself, and it confirms what Kevin reported.
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