Environmentalists’ double standards

…So why has the environmental movement – which professes a deep attachment to science in other areas – refused to acknowledge that the world has moved on from the “Frankenfoods” scare?

….Another reason is the vested interests that have now emerged against GMOs. It is no accident that the millions of dollars of funding for pro-labelling campaigns in California and Washington State came from big organic foods interests and “natural health” internet sales quacks.

It is unlikely, therefore, that this opposition can be addressed with science or indeed rational debate at all. It is a values-level political denialist movement motivated by an implacable opposition to the acquisition and use of human knowledge in an important area of biology.

From a brief Cosmos essay by Mark Lynas. Read the whole thing


Kevin Folta: letter to the editor of Food and Chemical Toxicology re Seralini retraction

Dr. Folta’s letter has been published. Personally I think the letter makes it obvious that the Seralini paper was designed to deceive.

Dear Prof. Hayes,

I have been withholding comments to the journal for a long time. I regularly participate in biotechnology education. The Séralini et al. paper in your journal frequently is presented as evidence against GM crops. I am one of thousands of independent, public scientists worldwide that see this work as a manipulation of the scientific process to achieve activist gains. I firmly stand behind the journal’s decision to retract the work.

There are many appropriate criticisms, but the most severe is the absence of a control rat presented as part of Figure 3. In Figure 3, panels J, K, and L, we see three grotesque rats, suffering and tumor laden. No data can be obtained from this image. Worse, no control is presented, but Table 2 shows that control animals also developed tumors.

Also, it is important to note that the panels are labeled “GMO” rather than the actual trait.

These points suggest a motivation for the authors was to frighten people with images of tortured animals (linked to the word “GMO”), rather than provide data and appropriate controls. The figure is only frightening if the control is not shown. In my expert opinion it is somewhere between sloppy science and deliberate omission to skew perception.

I fully support retraction. I feel that this paper was about perpetuating fear with soft statistics and conclusions that overstep the data, rather than providing sound science. There are many examples, but Figure 3’s lack of agreement with Table 2, coupled to inhumane treatment of research animals substantiates my case.

Best wishes and I fully support a journal-initiated retraction.


The Trouble With ‘Scientific’ Research Today: A Lot That’s Published Is Junk

A number of empirical studies show that 80-90% of the claims coming from supposedly scientific studies in major journals fail to replicate.

Henry I. Miller surveys the wreckage of sloppy medical research.

…Another worrisome trend is the increasing publication of the results of flawed “advocacy research” that is actually designed to give a false result that provides propaganda value for activists and can be cited long after the findings have been discredited.

Dr. Miller is referring to the Gilles-Eric Séralini scandal:

(Séralini has made a specialty of methodologically flawed, irrelevant, uninterpretable — but over-interpreted — experiments intended to demonstrate harm from genetically engineered plants and the herbicide glyphosate in various highly contrived scenarios.)

Climate change will make it increasingly difficult to feed the world. GMOs could help

MIT Technology Review:

(…) One advantage of using genetic engineering to help crops adapt to these sudden changes is that new varieties can be created quickly. Creating a potato variety through conventional breeding, for example, takes at least 15 years; producing a genetically modified one takes less than six months. Genetic modification also allows plant breeders to make more precise changes and draw from a far greater variety of genes, gleaned from the plants’ wild relatives or from different types of organisms. Plant scientists are careful to note that no magical gene can be inserted into a crop to make it drought tolerant or to increase its yield—even resistance to a disease typically requires multiple genetic changes. But many of them say genetic engineering is a versatile and essential technique.

“It’s an overwhelmingly logical thing to do,” says Jonathan Jones, a scientist at the Sainsbury Laboratory in the U.K. and one of the world’s leading experts on plant diseases. The upcoming pressures on agricultural production, he says, “[are] real and will affect millions of people in poor countries.” He adds that it would be “perverse to spurn using genetic modification as a tool.”


EPA’s New Overseer Of ‘Scientific Integrity’: The Blind Leading The Blind

Henry Miller's UCS thumbnail is just perfect:

If you needed to hire a person to head the financial integrity division of the Securities and Exchange Commission, how about someone who had held that position in Bernie Madoff’s investment firm? In effect, that’s what EPA has done by choosing Francesca Grifo as its “scientific integrity official.”

Grifo previously oversaw the scientific integrity program at the Union of Concerned Scientists – an oxymoron if there ever was one. UCS is well known for exploiting every opportunity to distort science to further its radical, anti-technology agendas. In particular, the organization’s “experts” have been consistent, irresponsible and mendacious critics of genetic engineering and nuclear power, among other technologies; and they have been advocates for the kinds of shifts to “renewable energy” that would send energy costs to consumers and companies into the stratosphere.

UCS’ view of genetic engineering applied to agriculture is especially indefensible and hypocritical: “Genetic engineering in agriculture has failed to deliver on many of its promised benefits, and has produced some serious unintended consequences.” The facts argue otherwise. Because of its advantages – higher yields, less spraying of chemical pesticides, and greater food security and an improved bottom line for farmers — genetic engineering has been hugely successful and the most rapidly adopted agricultural technology in history. The major factor preventing the realization of even more of the “promised benefits” is the overregulation and nuisance lawsuits promoted by UCS and similar groups! UCS’s carping about lackluster progress is reminiscent of the story about the man who kills his parents and then begs the court for mercy because he’s an orphan.



The tarnishing of Golden Rice

A few ounces would ameliorate the ravages of vitamin A deficiency— Photo credit Getty Images

An editorial in Science magazine, a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said it eloquently: “If ever there was a clear-cut cause for outrage, it is the concerted campaign by Greenpeace and other nongovernmental organizations, as well as by individuals, against Golden Rice.”

Gilbert Ross wrote this op-ed for the Financial Post 

Golden Rice is a genetically-modified food (often referred to with the shorthand GMO). Although there is no reason to suspect that this process has any innate risk — quite the contrary in fact — there is a highly vocal activist movement staunchly opposed to GMO foods for various reasons, none of which have any scientific basis. Perhaps the most relentless of these groups is Greenpeace, always in the forefront of anti-science advocacy, using any and all means at their disposal.

GMO crops are grown in nearly every country in the Americas and in Asia. For reasons of consumer preference, there is no GMO wheat, nor — with the exception of Golden Rice — is there bioengineered rice. After billions of servings consumed worldwide there are no valid reports of harm to anyone attributable to the GMO itself.

All this evidence notwithstanding, the anti-technology activist groups, in league with the organic food lobby, have succeeded in scaring most members of the EU away from accepting these products: “Frankenfood, Non!” is their rallying cry.

A few ounces would ameliorate the ravages of vitamin A deficiency


Golden Rice detractors have managed to convince the media and the public that Golden Rice is some sort of money-maker for agribusiness. On the contrary, the developers of Golden Rice were and are in the public domain, and they have vowed to provide their miracle rice free of charge where it’s needed — pending regulatory approval, if ever that should come.

Make your opinion known to anyone with authority in this area.

Ross is Medical and Executive Director, The American Council on Science and Health.

The Greenpeace anti-humanity campaign will reverse only when and if the leadership calculates there is more money to be raised, and more status to be gained — by supporting GMO crops, by supporting modern agriculture in Africa, and by supporting the elimination of energy poverty (i.e., nuclear energy). Oh — and there is that Climate Change issue isn’t there?

I don’t know whether GMO labeling should be required

 Excerpted from a long essay by Adam Merberg:

That brings me to one reason I’m less than optimistic about the potential of labels to foster consumer acceptance of biotechnology. I think that the public discourse surrounding agricultural biotechnology is broken. Instead of discussing real issues, we talk about bogus health concerns or Indian farmer suicides. Fixing this will require moving beyond sound bites, and I find it hard to believe that dodging an honest conversation about real issues is a good way to start. Will eradicating one anti-GMO talking point really give us a more nuanced conversation?

Source: http://www.inexactchange.org/blog/2013/11/10/i-dont-know-whether-gmo-labeling-should-be-required/

Greenpeace Golden Rice stance baffling

The introductory paragraphs of an op-ed by Patrick Moore, the former head of Greenpeace:

It was 43 years ago when I boarded an old fishing boat named the Phyllis Cormack in Vancouver on the first Greenpeace campaign to stop nuclear testing in Alaska. 

I never dreamed that 43 years later, Greenpeace would be arriving in Vancouver on a $32 million ship, and that this time I would be going down to protest against them.

I’m still proud of the work Green-peace did during the 15 years I was in the leadership. I left because it had drifted from a humanitarian effort to save civilization from all-out nuclear war to an organization that sees humans as the enemies of the Earth. How else could it justify its opposition to Golden Rice?

Two humanitarian scientists, Ingo Potrykus and Peter Beyer, used their knowledge of genetics to create Golden Rice, a variety of rice that contains beta carotene, the essential nutrient that we make into vitamin A. 

They were aware that two million people, mostly young children, die each year from vitamin A deficiency. Most of them live in urban slums in Asia and Africa and eat little more than a cup of rice each day. 

Conventional rice contains no beta carotene, resulting in 250 million preschool children who have chronic vitamin A deficiency. Vitamin A is necessary for eyesight and the immune system. As many as 500,000 children go blind each year, half of whom die within a year of becoming blind, according to the World Health Organization.

Greenpeace has made a concerted effort to block Golden Rice’s introduction since it was announced in 2000. 

The organization has waged a campaign of misinformation, trashed the scientists who are working to bring Golden Rice to the people who need it and supported the violent destruction of Golden Rice field trials at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines.

How does Greenpeace justify this heartless behavior? 


The likely answer to Moore’s question is “Because we can raise more money by opposing than supporting GMO”. The Greenpeace advocacy will reverse when the leadership calculates there is more Greenpeace $$ and growth by supporting GMO (and nuclear, etc.)

Eleven top scientists: Standing Up for GMOs

On 8 August 2013, vandals destroyed a Philippine “Golden Rice” field trial. Officials and staff of the Philippine Department of Agriculture that conduct rice tests for the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) had gathered for a peaceful dialogue. They were taken by surprise when protesters invaded the compound, overwhelmed police and village security, and trampled the rice. Billed as an uprising of farmers, the destruction was actually carried out by protesters trucked in overnight in a dozen jeepneys.

The global scientific community has condemned the wanton destruction of these field trials, gathering thousands of supporting signatures in a matter of days.* If ever there was a clear-cut cause for outrage, it is the concerted campaign by Greenpeace and other nongovernmental organizations, as well as by individuals, against Golden Rice.


The eleven signatories to this AAAS Science bulletin are at the top of every relevant field and academy: 

Bruce Alberts is President Emeritus of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and former Editor-in-Chief of Science.

Roger Beachy is a Wolf Prize laureate; President Emeritus of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, St. Louis, MO, USA; and former director of the U.S. National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

David Baulcombe is a Wolf Prize laureate and Royal Society Professor in the Department of Plant Sciences of the University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK. He receives research funding from Syngenta and is a consultant for Syngenta.

Gunter Blobel is a Nobel laureate and the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Professor at the Rockefeller University, New York, NY, USA.

Swapan Datta is Deputy Director General (Crop Science) of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, New Delhi, India; the Rash Behari Ghosh Chair Professor at Calcutta University, India; and a former scientist at ETH-Zurich, Switzerland, and at IRRI, Philippines.

Nina Fedoroff is a National Medal of Science laureate; a Distinguished Professor at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia; an Evan Pugh Professor at Pennylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA; and former President of AAAS.

Donald Kennedy is President Emeritus of Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA, and former Editor-in-Chief of Science.

Gurdev S. Khush is a World Food Prize laureate, Japan Prize laureate, and former scientist at IRRI, Los Baños, Philippines.

Jim Peacock is a former Chief Scientist of Australia and former Chief of the Division of Plant Industry at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Canberra, Australia.

Martin Rees is President Emeritus of the Royal Society, Fellow of Trinity College, and Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.

Phillip Sharp is a Nobel laureate; an Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA; and President of AAAS.

Possibly they have just a bit more standing than Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, et al?

Are GMOs Safe? Global Independent Science Organizations Weigh In


Jon Entine at  the Genetic Literacy Project has released a very useful infographic on crop biotechnology safety. This is a summary of the unambiguous safety approvals of every national scientific academy on the planet.

This is the second inforgraphic from GLP. The first is also very useful, 10 reasons we need crop biotechnology