Stand with the #Science14

science14_2Biology Fortified is pleased to co-sponsor this important open letter with the Cornell Alliance for Science. I encourage academic scientists and anyone who values academic freedom to stand with the fourteen academic scientists and professors who have been targeted to turn over their correspondence.

Stop the next Climategate: Stand with public sector scientists and show them your support against agenda-driven bullying

It’s a tactic pulled straight from the climate change deniers’ playbook — and now an anti-science, agenda-driven organization is using it to bully another group of scientists.
In early February, 14 senior scientists at four U.S. universities received requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) to turn over three years worth of e-mail correspondence with a handful of agricultural companies, trade groups, and PR firms.
All of these scientists have proactively engaged with the public to raise scientific awareness about agricultural innovation and contributed to the scientific consensus about the safety of GMOs.
FoIA requests are a vital tool for a transparent democracy. However, this FoIA is clearly a last ditch witch-hunt by an anti-GMO group to mislead the public and keep scientists from doing their work.
We’ve seen this anti-science bullying tactic before in Climategate, where academic discussion was taken out of context to mislead the public.
Broad anti-science campaigns like this are hurting our society.
At a time when the world’s population is expected to rise to more than 9.5 billion by 2050, we need more science, not less, if we are to feed the world without destroying fragile ecosystems and driving more species to extinction.
These scientists need the support of allies like you to protect scientific freedom.
Please join the fight for academic freedom by signing our letter to support the scientists under attack and urging them to stand strong in the face of anti-science bullying.

Letter

Dear Science 14:
To the 14 public sector scientists who are being harassed by agenda-driven, anti-science FoIA requests, I stand with you.
This is a tactic taken directly from the climate deniers’ handbook: to mislead the public on an issue of clear scientific consensus with personal communications taken out of context.
You were targeted because of your engagement with the public on key scientific issues and I don’t want your voice to be silenced. This is the latest step in a broader anti-science campaign that is hurting our society.
The Freedom of Information Act is essential for a healthy democracy, but this request is not in the public interest. This request is clearly a witch-hunt by an anti-science organization with the goal of chilling academic discourse.
I stand with the 14 targeted scientists and urge them to stand up for academic freedom and the protection of scientific discourse.
I urge you to stay strong in the face of anti-science bullying and not compromise your important work.
Sincerely,
Go sign the letter! Send a message to these scientists that you stand with them against this attack, and that you stand for academic freedom in every field. Even if you disagree with any of their views – if you are an academic scientist you owe it to them and yourself to stick up for what is right. Because if the role of public scientists in society continues to become a target for private and political interests, you may be next.
Commentary, Updates
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Written by Karl Haro von Mogel

Karl Haro von Mogel serves as BFI’s Director of Science and Media and as Co-Executive Editor of the Biofortified Blog. He has a PhD in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics from UW-Madison with a minor in Life Sciences Communication. He is a Postdoctoral Scholar at UC Riverside and works on Citrus genetics.

34 comments

  1. It may well be the case that the proceedings described constitute an abuse of the FoI Act, but I’m agnostic on that, and I’m certainly not prepared to support any action that broadcasts the claim that anti-GMO activists are “anti-science” and pro-GMO activists are “pro-science”. To anyone who knows what real science is and does, such claims seem bizarre, for reasons I have suggested in my most recent blog post (and will elaborate in subsequent posts). I’d like to issue a challenge to anyone who claims that science is unequivocally on the pro-GMO side. It is twofold.
    1. Refute the arguments in Swanson et al (2014)
    2. Refute the arguments in two posts on smokinggmogun.blogspot.com:”‘Unsafe at Any Dose?” and “Causation IS Correlation”.
    I’m not an ideologue and I’m interested solely in finding out the truth.

  2. It is true that causation will have a correlative relationship.
    However this is a starting point for investigations. It’s a bloody stupid place to go after the science is settled. Safety studies have been done, when controlled experiments are done there are no ill effects of GMOs, glyphosate, etc which would suggest that correlations with the slew of issues Swanson brings to the table are anything but spurious.
    You make some pretty bold statements in your piece (statements that are actually wrong) –
    glyphosate has known toxicity – well, yes, in that it is known not to be all that toxic at all.
    “Not OK for organic food sales or organic food consumption–what do you suppose everyone was eating a couple of hundred years ago?”
    Not organic food… organic standards were not in place 200 years ago, nobody was using, for instance, sporulated bt to control insects. It appears clear that organic and natural foods have a higher rate of recalls (8x that of conventional) therefore one could quite obviously make the case (wrongly, in my opinion, but with far more of a sound footing than the toxicity of glyphosate) that the correlation is actually meaningful.

    I’m not an ideologue

    A perusal of your blog suggests otherwise.

  3. 1. The arguments of Nancy Swanson.
    Perhaps it is best to start with Figure 2. This purports to show amounts of glyphosate applied to soybean each year from USDA data. The trouble with this figure is that the USDA does not collect this data on crops every year – yet Swanson has included values (with error bars) for every year. She has simply made that data up. This is dishonest. And so it goes all the way to Figure 6.
    Next there a series of spurious correlations between disease and either amount of glyphosate applied to two specific crops or the percentage area grown to GM versions of two specific crops. The values are given variously as numbers, incidence or rates. If you find two things that go up together there will be a correlation regardless of whether there is any connection between them. And Swanson seems to have trawled through as many different ways of showing the data as possible to find one that fits. There are some major statistical issues with this as well as the problem of selective reporting. Swanson also completely neglects to mention that the underlying reasons for increases in a number of the conditions are actually well known and have to do with factors such as an aging population, diagnostic substitution, more intensive screening, and better means of detection. Not mentioning this is dishonest.
    So wrong and dishonest would seem to be a reasonable summary of Swanson et al. 2014.
    2. Your website.
    I read those. I am not sure what to say.

  4. I apologize for accusing you of not having discussed this paper. I read your other comment before reading this none.
    By all means begin with Figure 2. You will note that there are only five years out of the fourteen years covered where data is lacking, and you should have noted that if you simply removed the “made up” years it would not alter the trend line based on the years for which there WAS data. And the authors tell you they have done this, so to call it “dishonest” is itself dishonest. Similar arguments apply “all the way up to Table 6”–the trend lines would be virtually identical even if data for the missing years was left out.
    Similarly, to call correlations “spurious” without explaining why they are spurious is, to put it mildly, disingenuous.
    Certainly, alternating between numbers, incidence and rates is not, in and of itself, any way to demonstrate spuriousness. To do that you would have to produce, say, a case where only incidence was reported where rates would have given a significantly different answer. Otherwise you have no valid empirical grounds for saying that S. “seems to have trawled through the data to find one (sic) that fits”.
    As for the third “dishonesty”, nowhere is it suggested that GMOs/glyphosate are the ONLY cause of the conditions discussed. That they are not is obvious in those figures (10 through 15, 24, 26) where in every case except 14 the trend line is shown as rising BEFORE the introduction of GMOs/glyphosate. What is striking about these figures is that in all the other figures the trend line steepens its climb just after the introduction of GMOs/glyphosate. Coincidence? I suppose it could be, but the onus is on critics of the paper to show that, not vice versa. Besides, while “coincidence” is plausible in one or two cases, it starts to shrink as the cases mount up. Moreover, there are cases where the magnitude of the increase defies any of the “diagnostic substitution, more intensive screening, and better means of detection”. Take autism, which has increased by more than two orders of magnitude since the 1970s, but “experts” still try and fob us off with these placebos.
    I have said it before and I will say it again. Swanson et al. does NOT say that GMOs/glyphosate are the cause of any of these conditions, they merely state that their data constitute a case for further investigation. A case significantly strengthened by the latest UC Davis CHARGE study suggesting that nicotinoid pesticide spraying has resulted in a 60% increase in autism among births in high-spraying areas, btw.
    You say you read my posts but are not sure what to say. I can’t respond to that, but you’re welcome to try any time.

  5. Mary, instead of attempting to be witty, wouldn’t it be better to seriously READ “Causation IS Correlation” first? I’d love to read something substantive from yoy

  6. By all means begin with Figure 2. You will note that there are only five years out of the fourteen years covered where data is lacking, and you should have noted that if you simply removed the “made up” years it would not alter the trend line based on the years for which there WAS data.
    Making up data in publications is research misconduct. It is fabrication. It matters not a jot whether the end result would be the same or different. It is dishonest.
    As for the third “dishonesty”, nowhere is it suggested that GMOs/glyphosate are the ONLY cause of the conditions discussed.
    Failing to mention that there are other well documented reasons for the increases provides a false impression of the importance of the correlations. It is falsification of interpretation. As such it is dishonest.
    A case significantly strengthened by the latest UC Davis CHARGE study suggesting that nicotinoid pesticide spraying has resulted in a 60% increase in autism among births in high-spraying areas, btw.
    Sadly your website is full of rubbish like this. The 60% increase was for organophosphate insecticides. http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1307044/?utm_source=rss#tab1 Neonicotiniod insecticides have different chemistry and behaviour. In any event, both are insecticides, glyphosate is a herbicide.

  7. >>>Making up data in publications is research misconduct. It is fabrication. It matters not a jot whether the end result would be the same or different. It is dishonest<<>>Failing to mention that there are other well documented reasons for the increases provides a false impression of the importance of the correlations. It is falsification of interpretation. As such it is dishonest.<<>>Sadly your website is full of rubbish like this. The 60% increase was for organophosphate insecticides. http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1307044/?utm_source=rss#tab1 Neonicotiniod insecticides have different chemistry and behaviour. In any event, both are insecticides, glyphosate is a herbicide.<<<
    Full of rubbish, is it? OK, let's have chapter and verse for what is rubbish on my website or you can take those words back. On my site I take the time to be rational. Answering pro-GMO propaganda, I do it fast, I have a life if some people don't and I'd rather get on with it. So in haste I misspoke–big deal! Read my blog and you'll see I'm perfectly well aware that glyphosate is an organophosphate and indeed I discuss exactly what this means. If you want to criticize my stuff why don't you go to my site and deal with what is there where it is? Or do you "not know what to say"?

  8. Further to my comment just posted, I would like to know why your site omitted the answers to the first two of the three quotes following each quote just as the third one did, although they were clearly written and demarcated from the quotes by line gaps. What I said about the first quote from you was that arguing something was dishonest was simply deflection due to inability to answer that data and arguments under discussion, given that the “dishonesty” consisted in an action that did not change anything significant and was openly announced by the authors (I don’t know why they did it but I’ll find out and tell you) and what I said about the second was that that too was deflection with a similar cause.

  9. I don’t know how much more clearly I can write this. Adding data with error bars to a graph when that data does not exist is fabrication. Fabricating data in publications counts as research misconduct, because it is dishonest.
    Failing to provide salient information to the reader that has the result of leading to a different interpretation of the data presented counts as falsification. Knowingly falsifying information or interpretation in a research paper counts as research misconduct, because it is dishonest.
    There is no deflection involved here. These are examples of dishonesty and as such should make all the other material in the paper suspect. In fact the paper should be retracted by the journal. However, I doubt it will be given this is one of those journals where authors pay to get their work published.

  10. TImes that your blog is quite patently spouting rubbish…

    They’d never say “A consensus of scientific opinion shows that GMOs are perfectly safe, so the opposition to GMOs is anti-science”. Why not? For at least three reasons. One, science is not a democracy. You don’t decide issues by vote. Two, nothing is ever final in science. Three, the last and most important reason: science lives by overthrowing consensus and dies if consensus smothers it.

    1. The notion of consensus in science relates not to a voting type process, but to consensus of data. The bulk of the data on GMO safety points to GMOs being equivalently safe to their non-GMO counterparts.
    2. I suppose then that it is not final that the earth is an oblate spheroid orbiting the sun, perhaps it is infact flat and the sun is orbiting it?
    3. Not even remotely, if science lived by overthrowing consensus then we’d be utterly buggered in many areas. Evolutionary biology would be at a standstill, relegated to a mere sidenote in things that used to be science but are no longer. Aerodynamics likewise, astrophysics likewise… infact, in almost every area of science the real reason science lives is the expansion of human knowledge within an empirically testable framework – on occasion a consensus may be overthrown, but mostly science is more about going “hey guys, I figured out how this little bit of the universe works, isn’t it awesome – at which point everyone high fives and tries to replicate the same to maintain that it is.
    “Hayflick’s work was criticized and he was ridiculed.”
    “They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown”
    Because some scientists were ridiculed doesn’t mean all discoveries are, the vast bulk of correct science is simply accepted. Most science that is ridiculed categorically is wrong, being ridiculed is no indicator of whether or not ones science is nobel worthy or not.
    Next post…

    A plausible mechanism between cause and effect. (OK for Swanson: glyphosate has known toxicity. Not OK for organic food sales or organic food consumption–what do you suppose everyone was eating a couple of hundred years ago?)

    As stated above – Not organic food… organic standards were not in place 200 years ago, nobody was using, for instance, sporulated bt to control insects. It appears clear that organic and natural foods have a higher rate of recalls (8x that of conventional) therefore one could quite obviously make the case (wrongly, in my opinion, but with far more of a sound footing than the toxicity of glyphosate) that the correlation is actually meaningful.
    Another post – you attempt to make the claim that glyphosate is an organophosphate
    An organophosphate should contain a P bound to 4 O atoms, one of which bonds should be a double bond.
    Glyphosate has a P bound to 3 O atoms and one N atom.
    As such it is not at all an organophosphate, it is ridiculous to suggest otherwise.
    In the piece you jump from discussing organophosphates to organophosphorous willy nilly, which is not something you can do – I may as well go from discussing Sodium Chloride to Sodium Chlorate and confound the effects of each. This would be deeply misinformed and wrong headed. Very basic chemistry. (interestingly DNA and RNA are both actual organophosphates, and are present in all our food, so fearmongering about organophosphates in general is bloody absurd anyway – if the thing doesn’t meet the toxicological criterion then one probably need not worry anyway…)
    You continue with this muddled opinion that glyphosate is an organophosphate in a whole slew of ramblings about autism. However given that glyphosate isn’t by any definition an organophosphate you should, perhaps, consider redacting or appending these pieces to indicate to your readership that you were mistaken. As they stand they’re junk.
    You go on, in another post, to make a big deal of Vandenberg bringing up glyphosate in a piece about low dose effects. Turns out there is one mention of glyphosate in a single table, and the reference goes back to Seralini. Seralini’s work has been discussed ad infinitum and is quite simply bad work, thus, even if the rest of the Vandenberg paper holds true, one can toss the glyphosate reference out because the science it is based on is bunk. (one notes that in your opening Salvo you defend Seralini and Seneff as being just fine, despite their obvious shortcomings (science by press release, bad experimental design and statistical fishing trips by Seralini, science by not actually doing any science by Seneff)
    You also make claims of taking down Jon Entine by challenging his assertion that Shiva charges $40,000 per appearance. Oddly a 5 minute google search shows that the source of this figure is a piece by Keith Kloor in Discover magazine where an email from Shiva’s agent plainly states
    “her current speaking fee is $40,000 plus business class travel from New Delhi”
    But yeah, other than that, totally not junk at all.
    However, one can assume you’ll classify this all as a monsantoite pile-on, because obviously when you come take a steaming dump in someone’s living room it’s totally unexpected that everyone regularly present will call you on it.

  11. Chris, you made yourself perfectly clear from he beginning. But repeating a falsehood does not make it true. So I’ll repeat the truth. Fabricating data is wrong, but giving an estimate of data where data is absent, where the authors clearly state what they are doing and why, and where the estimated data do not in any way distort the result, is NOT fabricating data and no unbiased person would think it was. “Fabricating data” is reporting data that does not exist in order to reach a different result from the result you would have had to reach if you had reported the real data.
    And merely failing to state the obvious–that nothing in the universe has a single cause–is not falsification, and again, no unbiased person would think it was.
    Your suggestion that the paper should be retracted is sheer nonsense. If papers had to be retracted for stuff like this, all journals would be at least half empty. What your remarks provide is a convenient excuse for not having to deal with the real data and arguments that Swanson et al. present. If you don’t deal with them, then many of your readers may conclude that you don’t deal with them because you CAN’T deal with them. And I’m sure you don’t want them to think that.
    Meanwhile, you still have to justify or retract the extremely offensive remark you made about my website–“You website is full of rubbish”. If you can’t or won’t do either, you readers will, again, draw the inevitable conclusion.

  12. Hey folks,
    Let’s tone down the discussion a little bit. For one thing, this is way off-topic and has nothing to do with the petition above. Derek, in the future if you want to bring up a new topic I would recommend starting a discussion in the Forum. Check our comment policy for more information about how we do things here. It’s getting a little heated up in this discussion, and it doesn’t need to be.
    http://people.csail.mit.edu/seneff/Swanson_et_al_2014.pdf
    That being said, there are fundamental errors of logic and evidence that are being made in the Swanson et al 2014 paper. It really isn’t worth it to delve into every claim and every detail of the paper, and I’m sure Derek that you came here with the belief that this paper shows evidence of causation, however it does not. I will demonstrate by pointing out the details of one figure.
    Figure 7 purports to show a correlation between liver cancer and glyphosate use on corn and soy. Let’s ignore the manipulation of the Y axes on the left and right, including the laughable -25% acreage planted with GMOs that the Y axis on the right goes to. Don’t look at those. Instead, look at what is happening in 1991, where the red line begins. The authors project a trendline based on previous years in green. They are trying to suggest that anything above this line could be attributed to glyphosate use. However, this data, if accurate, shows nothing of the sort. What happens to the liver cancer rate in 1991? It goes up substantially from 1990, which also went up substantially from 1989. What does the glyphosate data show? almost zero application rate, if not zero. How does almost a zero application rate cause such a large rise in liver cancer incidence, while much larger increases in glyphosate seem to cause the same, or sometimes very little increase at all (1997-2002)? This is silly. But you don’t have to go as far as evaluating this data in this fashion to know that they are doing this wrong. The premise fails basic logic.
    Let’s think about biology for a moment. You’re looking at a graph showing some numbers, but these numbers are supposed to reflect a biological system. And it is the way that biological system works that tells us that this analysis falls flat on its face. Let’s think about the life cycle of glyphosate and the crops being sprayed with it, the food supply, and how cancer works.
    Let’s call the year that you spray a crop with glyphosate year 1. Where does that crop go when it is harvested? It goes to a silo, grain elevator, a truck and/or train, and gets shipped off to where it will be processed into food and feed. In year 2, it will be primarily fed to cattle, but perhaps some will be used for making human food. These foods will then go to the store, and in the case of cattle, if we’re talking about meat then they won’t be slaughtered until much later. We’re at least in year 2 before a person could reasonably be expected to eat a product derived from these crops. If it were acutely toxic, there would be a lag time of a year at least for someone to drop dead. So if you were to hypothesize that a spray of almost zero glyphosate on any of these crops in 1991 could possibly in any way affect the health of human beings, you would not see any such affect with these commodity crops until 1992. There is a lag time here that is not being considered, and it gets worse.
    Cancer takes a LONG time to develop, in fact Hepatitis-related liver cancer takes about 30 years to show up in people after infection. There are other risk factors for this disease such as cirrhosis, and fungal mycotoxins in food, but in any case if would take years for any of these factors, if suddenly increased for a person, to give rise to liver cancer. Add several more years to decades onto your minimum lag time from exposure to glyphosate and an observable rise in liver cancer diagnoses.
    Now let’s take the relative frequency of glyphosate sprays and GE crops into account. GE soy was not introduced until 1996, and the frequency of plantings rose dramatically in 1998. If you were looking for a time when exposure was significant and new, this would be the earliest you could reasonably expect to have a measurable effect. Before 1996 you are talking about next to no glyphosate use. But by 1996 there was already a large rise in liver cancer incidence that could not be attributed to glyphosate or GE crops. Once you add the multi-year lag time for developing liver cancer after exposure, plus at least one year to go from farm to fork for commodity crops, then you would not expect to see a rise in liver cancer due to this change for many year after that. Probably even years after the data set that they are using.
    You have to consider the biology that is going on here. Liver cancer cannot be instantaneously caused in the general population by farmers who are planting the crops the same year. This is what the paper is claiming to show with this correlation, and because they are searching for correlations without considering the biology involved then their analysis is useless. This is junk science.
    Moreover, liver cancer is known to be caused by fungal mycotoxins – and there is very strong evidence that GE Bt corn reduces the incidence of mycotoxins in grain. If anything, GE may be helping to prevent liver cancer.
    You can find a lot of papers on this topic here: http://genera.biofortified.org

  13. Karl, next time I certainly will start a new discussion—I’m new here, as you know, and I wasn’t sure how to do that. If things got heated it certainly wasn’t by me—I wasn’t the one who started by calling what is in fact a standard procedure in statistics “dishonesty”, or continued by claiming with zero supporting evidence that my website was “full of rubbish”—a highly offensive remark which I am sure you would not condone but for which I am still awaiting an apology.
    You talk about the “the laughable -25% acreage planted with GMOs that the Y axis on the right goes to”. You should look again. It doesn’t say that.
    You say that “They are trying to suggest that anything above this line could be attributed to glyphosate use. ” They themselves say quite explicitly, in their conclusion to the paper, “We are not implying that all of these diseases have a single cause as there are many toxic substances and pathogens that can contribute”.
    With regard to the biology issue, you may have a point there. It’s only fair to give the authors an opportunity to respond, so I shall pass your comments on to them and see how they respond. For the present I would simply say that you cannot pick out one condition from all the conditions they discuss and dismiss the rest on that basis. The Pearson coefficients are such– > p 0.95 in most cases–that they would normally indicate strong causation, and the authors are careful to state that they are NOT claiming GMOs/glyphosate are causing ANYTHING. In their own words (at the end of the abstract) they state clearly their position: “The significance and strength of the correlations show that the effects of glyphosate and GE crops on human health should be further investigated.”
    SHOULD BE FURTHER INVESTIGATED. That’s all, no more than that. What’s there to make GMO supporters so upset? This demonizing of anyone who says a word against GMOs can only backfire against them. And it does not constitute the kind of civil discourse that I am sure you want to propagate.

  14. Derek, you really haven’t grasped any of this.
    What Nancy Swanson has done is not a standard procedure in statistics. There is a standard method of interpolating data. You fit the data to a model with biological or physical meaning and use that to estimate what the missing values might be. You do not put data points with fake error bars on a figure. Statistically it gets worse than that for Swanson, because she then uses those estimated values as real data to both determine the correlation coefficient for the curves and within the statistical correlations between the amount of glyphosate applied and the diseases. This artificially inflates the correlation coefficients obtained. If the correlations were done only using the real data they would be a lot less impressive than Swanson claims.
    It gets even worse, because Swanson has added the amount of glyphosate applied to corn and soy together – as if this even makes any sort of sense – and those data are available for a single year after 2002. So six of the last seven data points in the correlation have been invented.
    Anyone looking at any of the figures from Figure 7 on can see that the Y axes have been deliberately selected to make the correlations look visually appealing. -40% of the area treatment makes no biological or physical sense, so should never be used as a starting point on an axis.
    I have stated that your website was full of rubbish, because that is a true statement. Ewan has given a perfect example of the rubbish above. Your claim that glyphosate is an organophosphate. It is not. It doesn’t even contain a phosphate group it is a phosphonmethyl. Even if it was an organophosphate, it would be meaningless to group it with insecticides. ATP is an organophosphate molecule. You have it inside you and would die without it. Then there is your silliness over dose response curves. The fact that non-monotonic responses can occur in theory, doesn’t mean they occur with every molecule. In fact, other than the J-shaped curve, I can’t think of a single example where the data strongly supports any of the other shapes. For a molecule like glyphosate where response curves have been done conducted over a very wide range of doses it is nonsense to decide some other sort of curve would fit the data better.

  15. I put this up yesterday–I wonder why it didn’t appear?
    I thought that after Karl’s intervention this debate might continue on a more civil level. I was wrong. Instead of apologizing for his offensive remarks, Chris Preston doubled down on them. However, I shall refrain from using terms like “silly” and “rubbish”, even where, as here, Chris has amply merited them.
    Chris, you seem to think that chemicals come in separate, neatly classified and labeled little containers like in a high-school chemistry lab. As you must surely know, in the real world the same substance is often classified in different ways for different purposes. No two substances are identical in their composition (if they were they wouldn’t be two substances, duh) and generalizations like “organophosphate” are just that, broad and convenient general terms for groups of chemicals that share a number of properties. It’s context-dependent. If you want to talk about a pesticide from a toxicological point of view, then you talk about the way in which it functions as a toxic substance. Glyphosate functions as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor (see Menéndez-Helman, R. J., Ferreyroa, G. V., dos Santos Afonso, M., & Salibián, A. (2012). Glyphosate as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor in Cnesterodon decemmaculatus. Bulletin of environmental contamination and toxicology, 88(1), 6-9; Sandrini, J. Z., Rola, R. C., Lopes, F. M., Buffon, H. F., Freitas, M. M., Martins, C. D. M. G., & da Rosa, C. E. (2013). Effects of glyphosate on cholinesterase activity of the mussel Perna perna and the fish Danio rerio and Jenynsia multidentata: In vitro studies. Aquatic Toxicology, 130, 171-173, etc.). “Two groups of compounds, organophosphates and carbamates, share the same mechanism of action—inhibition of acetylcholinesterase “, Merck Veterinary Manual. So regardless of whether you classify glyphosate as an organophosphate or not, it behaves the same insofar as it interferes with the normal functioning of the nervous system (see Extoxnet on line, the Cholinesterase Inhibition page for detailed treatment of how it does this). You cannot talk about these issues in terms of “herbicides” and “insecticides”, because these are pre-scientific lay terms for what humans happen to use some chemicals for, without reference to either their composition or their functions.
    As for NMDRCs, I need do no more than point out that what is known as the “argument from personal ignorance”—“I can’t think of a single example…”—has been ridiculed by philosophers and logicians for decades. But let me as a professional linguist congratulate you at least on your masterly command of Black American English—“response curves have been done conducted…”—unusual indeed in an Australian lecturer in Weed Science, but highly appropriate here, since the construction is used in emphatic statements to convey one’s utter conviction of the statement’s veracity. Just what you needed here in the complete absence of supporting citations!
    If you regard my website as “silly” and “rubbish”, you are welcome to visit it freely at any time and make whatever criticisms you wish, provided you can bring with you a higher level of civility that you have shown here. Frankly I have neither the time nor the patience to continue discussion on a website that claims to foster civil discourse but repeatedly permits the exact opposite.

  16. Derek, I have not made any offensive remarks about you. I have disagreed with what you have written and pointed out why I have disagreed, with examples.
    The fact that you think disagreement with what you write counts as offensive remarks says a lot more about you than it does about me. It also means there is no real point in discussing these things with you, because your mind is closed to any idea or concept you disagree with.

  17. “but let me as a professional linguist congratulate you at least on your masterly command of Black American English—“response curves have been done conducted…”
    One could cast an odd racial wossname, or one could assume that this is just an editing issue. (Response curves have been done, corrected partially to response curves have been conducted, but then forgetting to remove the conducted (or indeed vice versa) seems far more likely than your proposed.
    However, amusingly enough, speaking of undue certainty… after a bit of digging around I have discovered that a goodly part of my own rant is indeed utterly unwarranted, and for that I can but apologize.
    It would appear that my rigid adherence to the meaning of organophosphate is, infact, unwarranted in toxicological discussion as the paper “Common Mechanism of Toxicity: A Case Study
    of Organophosphorus Pesticides” clearly lays out that in toxicological terms an OP can be…

    OP compounds are a structurally diverse group of chemicals,
    and OP pesticides may be classified based on any number of
    structural similarities and differences. The classification system
    adopted here is a method commonly used, based on the
    identity of the atoms bound to the phosphorus atom (P) (Holmstedt,
    1959, 1963; Ballantyne and Marrs, 1992; Chambers,
    1992). Other classification systems are based on the characteristics
    of the side chains attached to the P (Gallo and Lawryk,
    1991). The P of OP pesticides is pentavalent and tetracoordinate.
    Three of the substituents are bound to the P by single
    bonds, and the bond between the P and the fourth substituent is
    usually represented as a double bond (actually, a coordinate
    covalent bond; Chambers, 1992). The phosphates have four
    oxygen atoms bound to the P. Examples of phosphate pesticides
    include mevinphos and naled. Many OP pesticides in use
    today belong to the phosphorothionate group, in which P is
    bound to three oxygens and one sulfur (the double bond).
    Phosphorothionates include chlorpyrifos, parathion, and
    tebupirimphos. Compounds in the phosphorodithioate group
    are like the phosphorothionates but with one of the oxygens
    replaced by sulfur. Phosphorodithioates include malathion, disulfoton,
    azinphos-methyl, sulprofos, and dimethoate. The atoms
    bound to the P of phosphoroamidothiolates are nitrogen,
    sulfur, and two oxygens; the double bond is to an oxygen.
    Examples of phosphoroamidothiolates are acephate and methamidophos

    Which does, indeed, qualify glyphosate. Indeed, not a paragraph later one finds the following –

    There are a few OP pesticides that do not
    inhibit AChE or produce cholinergic signs of toxicity, including
    the fungicide fosetyl-Al, the plant growth regulator ethephon,
    and some herbicides including glyphosate.

    Which is, one would imagine, pertinent. (I also made a rather erroneous claim that the O was bound to an N, when it was infact to a C (excusable one hopes through lack of caffeine (another AChE inhbitor))
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1382668914000921
    also appears pertinent in the debate, being a very recent article illustrating that expected environmental exposure levels to glyphosate do not have a significant impact on human AChE.

  18. Chris, Karl, and Ewan, I applaud you for you efforts to debunk this nonsense. I wish I had more patience to deal with people like Derek, but alas, patience is not my virtue.
    And a perusal of Derek’s blog impresses me. I’m impressed that it can use so many scientific terms, yet present information that is so clearly wrong all at once. I’m impressed that Derek can use impressive language and charts to explain the very things that he then fails to show.
    It doesn’t take a PhD to see through papers like Swanson and Seralini, anyone with a reasonable amount of biology and stats training (think stats for bio majors) should be able to see through with a little thought. But therein lies the problem, the average person falls FAR below this meager standard, and thus is vulnerable to impressive-looking, well written (but wrong) pages such as Derek’s. It is the lack of critical thinking skills and science education in the general public that makes agenda-driven anti-science successful.
    And again, it is the patience of people like Chris, Karl and Ewan that inject a thread of sanity into the utter ridiculousness that has become the GMO “debate.” Thanks guys.

  19. Dr. Bickerton has raised some interesting points,here and on his blog and he deserves to be taken seriously. Perhaps Biofortified should offer him the space to present his views on this blog. Then a useful discussion could ensue. Other wise it looks like he is being harassed off this site.

  20. Attempted to post this earlier, but had not logged in so it was held in moderation. I think it is important enough that I at least attempt to get it out sooner rather than later, so I went to the trouble of remembering my login…
    “but let me as a professional linguist congratulate you at least on your masterly command of Black American English—“response curves have been done conducted…”
    One could cast an odd racial wossname, or one could assume that this is just an editing issue. (Response curves have been done, corrected partially to response curves have been conducted, but then forgetting to remove the conducted (or indeed vice versa) seems far more likely than your proposed.
    However, amusingly enough, speaking of undue certainty… after a bit of digging around I have discovered that a goodly part of my own rant is indeed utterly unwarranted, and for that I can but apologize.
    It would appear that my rigid adherence to the meaning of organophosphate is, infact, unwarranted in toxicological discussion as the paper “Common Mechanism of Toxicity: A Case Study
    of Organophosphorus Pesticides” clearly lays out that in toxicological terms an OP can be…
    OP compounds are a structurally diverse group of chemicals,
    and OP pesticides may be classified based on any number of
    structural similarities and differences. The classification system
    adopted here is a method commonly used, based on the
    identity of the atoms bound to the phosphorus atom (P) (Holmstedt,
    1959, 1963; Ballantyne and Marrs, 1992; Chambers,
    1992). Other classification systems are based on the characteristics
    of the side chains attached to the P (Gallo and Lawryk,
    1991). The P of OP pesticides is pentavalent and tetracoordinate.
    Three of the substituents are bound to the P by single
    bonds, and the bond between the P and the fourth substituent is
    usually represented as a double bond (actually, a coordinate
    covalent bond; Chambers, 1992). The phosphates have four
    oxygen atoms bound to the P. Examples of phosphate pesticides
    include mevinphos and naled. Many OP pesticides in use
    today belong to the phosphorothionate group, in which P is
    bound to three oxygens and one sulfur (the double bond).
    Phosphorothionates include chlorpyrifos, parathion, and
    tebupirimphos. Compounds in the phosphorodithioate group
    are like the phosphorothionates but with one of the oxygens
    replaced by sulfur. Phosphorodithioates include malathion, disulfoton,
    azinphos-methyl, sulprofos, and dimethoate. The atoms
    bound to the P of phosphoroamidothiolates are nitrogen,
    sulfur, and two oxygens; the double bond is to an oxygen.
    Examples of phosphoroamidothiolates are acephate and methamidophos
    Which does, indeed, qualify glyphosate. Indeed, not a paragraph later one finds the following –
    There are a few OP pesticides that do not
    inhibit AChE or produce cholinergic signs of toxicity, including
    the fungicide fosetyl-Al, the plant growth regulator ethephon,
    and some herbicides including glyphosate.
    Which is, one would imagine, pertinent. (I also made a rather erroneous claim that the O was bound to an N, when it was infact to a C (excusable one hopes through lack of caffeine (another AChE inhbitor))
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1382668914000921
    also appears pertinent in the debate, being a very recent article illustrating that expected environmental exposure levels to glyphosate do not have a significant impact on human AChE.

  21. Ewan, I swore I was out of here, but when somebody goes from talking about steaming piles of dung to apologizing for inadvertently misinforming people, you have to love him. How rare that kind of thing is nowadays. Well, your apology is certainly accepted by yt, but there’s still an issue or two. Did you not look at the two papers I cited pointing out that glysophate IS an AChE inhibitor (not the only ones, btw)? You proGMO guys don’t seem to be aware that while you always get just one answer in a science textbook, in Real Science you can get two or more answers for almost any issue you raise.
    And re that, I had a look at your Science Direct reference and here’s the evidence on which it’s based:
    The erythrocytes were incubated with xenobiotics at concentrations range from 0.01 to 5 mM for 1 and 4 h. Statistically significant decrease in AChE activity (about 20%) was observed only at high concentrations of the compounds (0.25–5 mM), which enter body only as a result of acute poisoning. There were no statistically significant differences in the effect of the investigated compounds, while the changes caused by them were similar after 1 and 4 h incubation.
    One to four HOURS? Come on! As evidence for processes that take many months if not years? You gave Seralini a hard time for far more trivial reasons than this!

  22. Correlation is a necessary but insufficient condition of causation. Commonly, woefully so.

  23. I think the -25 is not laughable, either, but for quite a different reason. It’s an attempt to fool the eye into thinking that the Glyphosate application rates were already substantial at the beginning of their data points. Thanks for pointing out that sleight of hand of the graphs. I didn’t see it straight away.

  24. Editor’s note: We welcome everyone to view our guidelines for Guest Posts and consider contacting us if they would like to submit a post. https://biofortified.org/blog/write-for-biofortified/
    We encourage potential authors to view our FAQs, especially this text: “keep in mind that we are interested in a fact-based discussion. All contributors need to fully reference any claims you make. Be sure to differentiate between established fact and your opinions. We are interested in promoting civil discussion, so opinion posts that are original and interesting may be accepted to be published on the blog, provided they meet our other requirements.”

  25. Thanks, Edouard and Anastasia, for your good attitude. Although Ewan disputed the fact that I’m not an ideologue, he’s wrong in my case, though he’d be right in many more–on both sides! (No, I DON’T think all proGMO people are paid by Monsanto!). I therefore welcome the suggestion that I should submit a post–I’m pretty busy right now, due to some wholly unrelated affairs that have come up, but I’ll definitely take you up on this in the near future.

  26. Weird. I put up a reply, and then it suddenly vanished.
    Anyway, all I said was to thank Edouard and Anastasia for their kind suggestion and say that yes, in the near future I’ll almost certainly take them up on it.

  27. To Edouard and Anatasia: thanks for your helpful suggestion. I shall take you up on it in the near future

  28. Sorry. The confusion was mine. I was trying to answer several comments at the same time! It would be a good idea if you guys put in a means by which one could delete things like the three comments above AFTER posting as well as before.
    OK Finally, to First Officer. Did I ever say anything different? If so, please say where. Just read my blog post “Causation IS Correlation” if you want to know what I really think.

  29. Raising this from the dead to add some recent stuff I’ve dug up on the Swanson paper (mostly this is reposted from Derek’s blog, although all in one spot here as the wordpress API seems a bit more character limit forgiving…)
    First and foremost (and only coming to my attention today) is the egregious error in the introduction to Swanson’s paper.

    Within the last 20 years there has been an alarming increase in serious illnesses in the US, along with a marked decrease in life expectancy (Bezruchka, 2012)

    This is categorically a lie. The Bezruchka paper says no such thing about life expectancy. How such citation abuse got through peer review is beyond me (the claim that life expectancy is decreasing should be controversial enough to at least take a look at the cited article and assess the claim). The Bezruchka paper illustrates that US life expectancy ranking has decreased compared to other nations, and that this is due to a lower rate of life expectancy increase in the US compared to other nations – allowing other nations to overtake the US.
    Then, to cover the various diseases etc in the Swanson paper… (and here everything becomes a repost of stuff from over on Derek’s blog)
    Median time from diagnosis to death from alzheimers is about 8 years. If increases in glyphosate use increased the rate of alzheimers (and this the death rate ~8 years later) then one would expect an approximate 8 year lag period between the adoption of GM crops and a spike in alzheimers deaths.
    Diagnosis generally currently only occurs once dementia has set in, but scientists have been able to detect the signs of alzheimers up to 20 years before the disease is detectable. Even if we give a conservative figure of 2-3 years of non-symptomatic disease presence this would still throw a further wrench into the hypothesis (you have to add 2-3 years to the jump for the correlation to mean anything, whereas in the correlation as shown in the paper there is essentially a direct correlation rather than a time lag correlation)
    The Swanson paper admits that Alzheimers shows a big jump due to coding changes, the paper also shows a leveling off of alzheimer’s deaths just as one would expect (given an 8-12 year median onset to death figure) them to be taking off (1996+8 to 12 = 2004-2008 – where the graph in the Swanson paper plateuas)
    There are similar issues with many of the correlations Swanson brings – Parkinsons for instance has a 10 year average survival rate from diagnosis. Swanson paper shows death rate leveling at around 2006 – 2006 bang on 10 years after the introduction of glyphosate resistant crops, so anyone whose Parkinsons was caused in 1996 by something, and immediately diagnosed (which seems unlikely given the progressive nature of the disease) would expect, on average, to live to 2006.
    Autism numbers are equally out of whack. It is widely recognized that autism is caused/detectable during early development in utero. So causative factors would have to be minimally at around this time. Swanson data looks at 6-21 year olds enrolled in IDEA – so you have to offset the numbers *minimally* by 6 years (ie autism caused by something in 1996 wouldn’t turn up in these numbers until 2002 – so any rise between 1996 and 2002 categorically cannot be attributed to increased glyphosate use due to GM crops.
    Obesity too seems an odd one – people don’t just suddenly become obese, obesity takes time, so there should be a significant lag period between a causative agent and onset of obesity, and certainly a significant lag period between causative agent and death from obesity (one has to, I would imagine, be obese for quite some time before it actually kills you (if one were being cynical one might suggest that there is a significant correlation between obesity and many of the diseases covered….
    Diabetes – check
    Pancreatic cancer – check
    Bile duct cancer – check
    Renal pelvis cancer – check
    Bladder cancer – check
    Thyroid cancer – check
    Hypertension – check
    Stroke – check
    Renal disease – check
    Crohn’s and UC – check (this one surprised me somewhat, I cannot fathom having active crohns and maintaining weight at all, but then the period prior to going active is what is important…)
    So all these diseases that show a correlation with glyphosate use in general have also been shown, specifically, in epidemiological studies, to correlate to obesity. Obesity clearly takes time to manifest and thus cannot be attributed to glyphosate (according to the CDC http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/Pages/overweight-obesity-statistics.aspx obesity rates essentially went haywire in the 80’s and subsequently leveled off – one would of course expect a lag period between onset of obesity and diseases related to obesity… which is precisely what one sees (unlike the reported association with glyphosate where the effects are immediate or in the cases illustrated above actually predate the glyphosate use…))

  30. Thanks, Mlema, for pointing this out. But life expectancy hasn’t gone down yet, and indeed the statement that U.S. life expectancy is decreasing was not made by by Bezrucha or any official data source and is incorrect. I took this up with Nancy Swanson and she admitted the error–what she had intended to say was that U.S. life expectancy was declining RELATIVE TO THAT OF OTHER COUNTRIES. And this is certainly true: although US life expectancy has continued to creep up, the U.S. has fallen behind countries many of which it led for decades in this respect.
    The time-lag issue Ewan raised is an interesting one, and I will provide a full answer in my next post on smokinggmogun.blogspot.com. entitled “Who’s Got the Science? An Answer to Mike and Ewan”.

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