In defense of biotechnology

Evan Witt | Class of 2016

When asked what they think is the most evil corporation in the world, many people immediately point to our very own Monsanto, a company which even has its name on a building on our campus. Amid growing support for organic agriculture, biotech companies such as Monsanto face a growing resentment, fueled by a public distrust of science. This distrust appears everywhere, from the anti-vaccine movement to climate change denial to homeopathic medicine. A growing number of scientific disciplines face a difficult challenge: explaining themselves to an audience that learns its science from blogs, Reddit and Huffington Post. Biologists are increasingly puzzled at the public’s lack of understanding of critical issues like genetic engineering.

Why don’t people trust genetically engineered foods? A review by researchers at the University of Perugia found 1,783 studies affirming that genetically modified (GM) foods pose no threat to the environment or human health (Nicolia et. al. 2013). They could not find a single peer-reviewed study that stated otherwise. However, this massive consensus among scientists is not shared by the public (an ABC poll found that 52 percent of the public believes that GM crops are unsafe). Sensationalist journalism has convinced the public that genetically modified foods can cause cancer, autism or even birth defects. Not a single peer-reviewed study supports any of these claims. Instead, scientists like Norman Borlaug point out that organic agriculture can feed a maximum of 4 billion people and its implementation worldwide would require massive deforestation.

Even when aware of this consensus, many people dismiss it, claiming that the studies in question were funded by biotech companies (in reality, only a select few were). The same crowd that gladly accepts the overwhelming consensus on climate change immediately changes its tune upon exposure to similar evidence about genetically modified organisms. Monsanto, through questionable business practices, has unintentionally convinced people that genetic engineering of any kind is harmful.

This disconnection between scientists and the public illustrates the need for young scientists to work harder to reach out to their constituents. Their audience is no longer fellow researchers. In order to inform the populace scientists need to be able to promote and explain their work to non-scientists. This is the goal of FameLab, an international competition of science ambassadors meant to promote science worldwide. Science doesn’t have to be dull and inaccessible, according to the project’s founders. It is the responsibility of scientists to communicate their work to the world in a way that inspires people to let them continue it. If scientists fail to do so, there will be disastrous consequences for human health and the environment.

  • Duke Steele

    Nice grouping of info Dan. I will add it to my file. The anti-GM folks will always use the “they have been bought off” reason to dismiss the science.

  • Duke Steele

    There is no such thing as superweeds. Resistance over time is expected, especially when overused. DDT resistance began in mosquitos with overuse. Overuse caused the banning DDT which was a shame and cost millions of lives from malaria in Africa since then.

  • clayton

    So even if this is true, you haven’t made a rebuttal to how GE Roundup Ready crops create superweeds.

  • Evan Witt

    I’m having a hard time believing that people aren’t messing with the vote system here.

  • dan

    Word, Evan. Here’s a great article from the NYTimes that discusses how public opinion is at complete odds with scientific evidence concerning the safety of food:

    It’s amazing how in the 21st century, the majority of people haven’t been taught how to be capable consumers of scientific content. There’s a lot of junk out there on the internet, and people slurp it up. People need to learn how to differentiate between reliable sources and malarkey. If you aren’t capable of digesting phd level biotechnology papers, i’m posting some credible sources (below) droppin some laymen knowledge on the subject: (and I’ve seen some comments here dismissing all of these sources because they are in some way related to the biotech industry – yah goons, what’s more likely, one of the biggest scientific conspiracies ever recorded, where the most prestigious scientific bodies in the world consisting of hundreds of thousands of independent scientists were independently duped/paid off??? or that you’re fwarqin wrong???)

    -The American Association for the Advancement of Science (the world’s largest and most prestigious general scientific society, publisher of Science, one of the world’s top scientific journals)

    “The World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the British Royal Society, and every other respected organization that has examined the evidence has come to the same conclusion: consuming foods containing ingredients derived from GM crops is no riskier than consuming the same foods containing ingredients from crop plants modified by conventional plant improvement techniques.”

    -The American Medical Association (largest association of MDs, DOs, and medical students in the US):

    “Bioengineered foods have been consumed for close to 20 years, and during that time, no overt consequences on human health have been reported and/or substantiated in the peer-reviewed literature.”

    “There is no scientific justification for special labeling of bioengineered foods, as a class, and that voluntary labeling is without value unless it is accompanied by focused consumer education”

    -The World Health Organization (WHO – UN Public Health organization):

    “No effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.”

    -The US National Academy of Sciences (the premier scientific body in the US):

    “no adverse health effects attributed to genetic engineering have been documented in the human population.”

    “Generally, GE (GMO) crops have had fewer adverse effects on the environment than non-GE crops produced conventionally.”

    -The Royal Society of Medicine (Britain’s equivalent of the AMA):

    “Foods derived from GM crops have been consumed by hundreds of millions of people across the world for more than 15 years, with no reported ill effects (or legal cases related to human health), despite many of the consumers coming from that most litigious of countries, the USA.”

    • AlohaAina

      Ok, we have to continue to bring this back over and over and over. Biotech is a loosing proposition as it is developing and recycling extremely toxic poisons which at the same time creates the problem of super weeds ,which in turn , gives them the excuse to launch even more toxic substances to the market. The attempt to use what is commonly known as agent orange ready crops is a perfect example of how out of control and absolutely illogical this is. It is a substandard technology designed to give more profits to the chem cartel, which members are notorious for their lack of ethics and the consistent lack of care for the health of their environment and people. Examples of this are abundant.

      • Evan Witt

        Thanks for your input. For now, lets pretend that the claim that glyphosphate is teratogenic is scientifically supported (and not based in dubious anecdotes). It’s still a herbicide, not a genetically modified crop, making it irrelevant to this discussion. My article talks about genetic engineering as a whole. Your claims about glyphosphate would be relevant if I were trying to argue that pesticides were completely safe. If you demonstrate that roundup ready crops are teratogenic WITHOUT the use of glyphosphate, THEN it becomes relevant to the genetic engineering debate. Glyphosphate is just another way to distract from the real issue of genetic engineering. It’s like arguing that we should ban all airplanes because sometimes people strap guns to them and use them for combat.

      • Gabe

        Agent Orange was an equal parts mixture of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D. 2,4,5-T is carcinogenic and is often contaminated with the highly carcinogenic TCDD. The evidence for the cancer risk of 2,4-D is small if any, but prolonged exposure does increase one’s risk for ALS. 1,4,5-T (the highly carcinogenic one) is no longer used while 2,4-D (the relatively safe one) is still commonly used as an herbicide. Agent Orange is not in use today.

  • Objective Data and Subjective Interpretation

    I am not nearly as well-versed in this stuff as most of the people who have commented here, but I have a hard time believing that, Pesticide Action Network, and GMO Free USA are equitably presenting both sides of the story. The fact that someone is a SCIENTIST does not make them right, and the fact the someone disagrees with you does not make them wrong.

    el3737: You might be right about GMO crops, but your ad hominem approach and personal shots at Evan are only hurting your argument. Let the evidence make your point for you and keep your personal feelings (and Nazi references) separate from the data.

    Diana Reeves: “Honey,” there is a decent chance that you’re right as well, but there’s a 100% chance that you’re being condescending. If the research really supports your claim, let it do so. While likely provides some valuable evidence, I can’t imagine that you consider it an unbiased source. I assume that, given the intensity of your feelings on this issue, you have also educated yourself on the evidence supporting GMO research. Maybe you could provide that evidence along side the articles and allow readers to interpret the results for themselves?

    Put simply, just because the author disagrees with you does not mean that he is misinformed or has neglected to read-up on the subject. Assess the context of the sources you site and consider the possible motivations behind an article’s interpretation of data. Statistics are easy to spin, and organizations that exist to combat GMO foods should not be assumed to be unbiased. Of course, this also applies to organizations in support of genetic modification. Take an objective look at the data before deciding where you stand on this issue and approach qualitative arguments with a healthy skepticism.

    • Evan Witt

      The problem with defending genetic engineering is that its opponents have an answer for everything you try and tell them, and their confirmation bias will cause them to disregard any data you show them. You suddenly find yourself having to defend Monsanto, glyphosphate, agribusiness, and everything biotech scientists have ever said even though it’s all beside the point. They’ve figured ot a very effective and intimidating way to distract from the real scientific issues, and I’ve realized that it’s very hard to sift through and respond to these walls of text filled with conspiracy theories and speculation. Thanks for your input.

    • el3737

      To No Name above: Have you ever seen the Sound Of Music? My reference to the Nazis was NOT about any political beliefs, but about the way they trained their youth to believe the party line above all else. Some of these German kids turned in their own parents out of loyalty to the party. (And Evan’s comment that the lab was amused lead me to believe he understood what I meant even if you did not.) When young scientists at a university with “our Monsanto building” start spouting the same propaganda I read in Monsanto publications, my first thought is that they are being carefully programmed whether they know it or not. I will not apologize for thinking this!

      Nor will I apologize for my style of writing. We humans all have different methods of expressing ourselves. Who are you to arrogantly set yourself up as a judge of other peoples’ styles of writing? Perhaps that is your “style” of expressing yourself, but I find it as offensive as you find what I have to say.

      Evan, you’ve been very nice in your comments and I’ve come to like you despite the condescending, superior attitude toward a supposedly-confused non-science public in your piece above (did you pick up these attitudes at your university?). We (the public) have legitimate concerns about “foods” genetically manipulated to absorb herbicides and produce internal pesticides that do not wash off. These food-like commodities were slipped into our food supply without our knowledge or consent. I consider that unAmerican and a violation of the Nuremberg Code. And I believe Americans are now unwitting subjects in the largest unmonitored, uncontrolled experiment in the history of humankind. I demand the right to know if I am eating novel GMO foods invented in the last fifty or so years of human existence; and I deeply resent the suggestion that I need re-education – something for which totalitarian governments are known and which Monsanto has made no secret they are aggressively trying to do.

      Well, that’s it, Evan. Good bye and best wishes for your future. If you now or someday have babies, please exercise the Precautionary Principle and don’t ever feed them GMOs! I will leave you with a TED talk by a former biotechnologist, Thierry Vrain of Canada. Hope you watch it. :)

      • Evan Witt

        Thanks again for your input, but I feel like you may have misinterpreted my original point. I believe that non-scientists are plenty smart enough to handle science, and it is the responsibility of scientists to convey their work in a compelling way (check out the new Cosmos, for example). I’m sure you can agree with that even if you don’t agree with my views on GE.

        • David

          I doubt reaching out to the public would do much. The ones who inform government policy (i.e. influence government) are corporations and other NGOs. The public has little to no input on the formation of public policy. But scientists–the ones with informed opinions on GMOs–do, and that’s what counts.

  • el3737

    Evan, the great unwashed, hysterical, science-hating public herd has learned from … oops! … SCIENTISTS like Dr. Charles Benbrook that GMOs have INCREASED, not decreased, pesticide use. You thoroughly rip apart SCIENTIST Seralini’s toxicology – not cancer – study for being “retracted from its journal for faulty statistics, improper controls and sample sizes, unsound protocols, and possibly some of the worst methodology I’ve ever seen.” This is your or your professors’ OPINION, Evan! According to publisher Elsevier, it was retracted for being “inconclusive” (an invalid reason not recognized by COPE ). Since the 2-year Seralini study with ten rats per group (ALL examined) was modeled after a short 90-day Monsanto Hammond study that cherry-picked ten out of 20 rats to examine, why aren’t you just as critical of the Monsanto study? You don’t even mention it!

    Below are articles all-but-one written by SCIENTISTS condemning the retraction. Perhaps now you’re beginning to see a problem in calling a public that learns of problems with GMOs from SCIENTISTS and watches those SCIENTISTS being attacked, vilified, and even retracted for invalid, trumped-up reasons…”anti-science”? Can you really think this all about a “disconnect…and a need to explain the work of scientists” to an ignorant public? OMG! Wake up, Evan!!!

    • Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. – the first sixteen years
    SCIENTIST Dr. Charles Benbrook
    • A sad day for science – Dr Nancy Swanson on the Seralini paper retraction
    • A SCIENTIST responds to criticism of the Séralini study
    • Dr. Michael HANSEN attacks scientific censorship
    • Séralini retraction is black mark on scientific publishing – Georgetown PROFESSORS
    • Did journal editor read the Séralini paper before retracting it?
    Elsevier: “…to be very clear, it is the entire paper, with the claim that there is a definitive link between GMO and cancer that is being retracted.”

    GMWatch: ‘BUT there is no claim or conclusion in the paper “that Roundup Ready maize NK603 and/or the Roundup herbicide have a link to cancer”; nor does the “entire paper” “claim that there is a definitive link between GMO and cancer”. IN FACT, THE ENTIRE SERALINI PAPER DOES NOT MENTION THE WORD “CANCER” ANYWHERE!

    This was a long term toxicity study – the clue is in the title: “Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize”. Seralini did not set out to look for carcinogenicity, or to conduct a carcinogenicity study. He has said he did not expect to find evidence of carcinogenicity, but he did find evidence of tumors in the treatment groups during the study, which he reported, as he should. Tumors unexpectedly found in a chronic toxicity study MUST be reported according to OECD452 chronic toxicity protocol.’

    • Evan Witt

      Thank you again for replying. If you give me some peer-reviewed data from a reputable journal, I would consider your claim credible. Right now, Seralini’s study shows that highly cancer prone rats may or may not get slightly more cancer when exposed to high levels of glyphosphate and/or GM corn. His results are statistically insignificant due to his small sample size(not an opinion, a statistical fact), and have a high probability of occurring by chance(again, not subjective). This is why you should never use Sprague-Dawley rats to determine carcinogenicity. If he were to repeat his study with appropriate animals, sample sizes, and controls, and corroborated his findings, his work would stand up to criticism and I would be concerned about this particular strain of corn.

      • Diana Reeves

        “This is why you should never use Sprague-Dawley rats to determine carcinogenicity. ” Really? Sprague Dawley rats are one of the two main subjects used in carcinogenicity studies. Even the National Toxicology Program uses Sprague Dawley Rats There are thousands of carcinogenicity studies that use Sprague Dawley rats. It will take you years to get them all retracted. Better get to work ;)

        • Evan Witt

          Thank you for pointing that out. That is a good point. It still doesn’t change the fact that Seralini’s results are statistically insignificant and are therefore of insufficient quality to serve as basis for legislation.

      • el3737

        Evan, Evan, Evan…
        That Nazi…er, biotech…youth training has really taken hold! I don’t think you read a single article I gave you which were mostly written by SCIENTISTS! Not the ignorant, Huffington Post-reading public so badly in need of your re-educating them, but real scientists!!! If you had, you would know that they say the Seralini study, entitled “Long term TOXICITY of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize” was a TOXICITY study, not a carcinogenicity study! To this you give the ludicrous, disconnected reply, “This is why you should never use Sprague-Dawley rats to determine carcinogenicity.” Huh??? Why are you telling us that about a toxicity study?
        You also don’t address why it was okay for Monsanto-Hammond to use the SAME rats (cherry-picking 10 out of 20 per group to examine) to determine “safety” in short 90-day testing, but not okay for Seralini to use them in his more detailed TOXICITY study that examined each and every one of 10 rats per group over 2 years. Thanks to Seralini, we now know what can become of those “not biologically significant” observations that Hammond made. WHOA!

        But I agree with you (progress!) that the Seralini study should now be repeated for carcinogencity with all the appropriate protocols for a carcinogenicity study.

        AND MONSANTO SHOULD PAY FOR IT (and otherwise stay completely out).
        And all GMOs should be pulled off the market until the study is complete and the results verified.

        …oh, and young scientist Evan, please resist that training that has you so firmly in its grip and read some of the material I gave you with an open mind. They’re written by scientists, Evan…real card-carrying scientists!

        • Evan Witt

          Thanks again for replying. Unfortunately, you have eroded your own credibility through your walls of incomprehensible text, accusing me of nazi-ism, and your overuse of conspiracy theory websites (indicating confirmation bias). As I’ve said before, you can restore your credibility by providing PEER REVIEWED, politically unbiased, STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT and MECHANISTICALLY SUPPORTED data in a CREDIBLE ACADEMIC publication. Have a wonderful evening.

    • Evan Witt

      Also my lab had a good laugh at being called a Nazi Youth Program in your earlier comment.

  • Evan Witt

    Many commenters had questions about industry funded studies. This article explains it better than I can.

  • el3737

    Evan, you mention the Monsanto building on campus. There was no Monsanto building on my campus when I went to college. Do you ever wonder why there’s now one on yours? Perhaps you think the nice big company gave your U a grant out of the goodness of their hearts? Think again! Not that long ago, governments were the largest source of funding for universities and scientific research – and scientific findings were frequently shared. That all changed with the market crash a few years back. Governments were suddenly faced with underfunded pensions and generous spending enacted in better times – and they quickly cut purse strings; the money for public science dried up, Evan! Into this void stepped Monsanto offering generous grants…and needing to protect profits in a growing business in its patented technology (there was already strong pushback in Europe). Deans frantic to recover lost revenues scrambled for this new source of funding, but it came with strings attached. Researchers who made findings that might cast biotechnology in a bad light and threaten their university’s funding would soon learn that a team from Monsanto would pay their dean a visit! Not a good thing when you have a mortgage and kids! Is this how you pictured science, Evan? An endeavor for which you need to find “results” that please industry? To further muddy the waters, researchers these days may get in on lucrative patents and share in the profits. The incentives are all there for consistent pro-biotech findings and a strong pro-biotech university curriculum. Is it working? Read your own article suggesting that a public that isn’t on board with biotech is against SCIENCE ITSELF! What hogwash! You have been thoroughly indoctrinated, young scientist!

    To back up the points I just made, please consider the information in the following articles if you aren’t so far into your Nazi youth program – er, biotech training program – that you can’t consider any information that isn’t first fact-checked by Monsanto. You may also want to know what’s ahead for you, particularly if you plan to go into research. Good luck to you, sir!

    •Do Seed Companies Control GM Crop Research?
    •Major Universities Come Out in Support of Monsanto in Supreme Court Case
    •How Your College Is Selling Out to Big Ag
    •Public Research, Private Gain

  • 808hawaiiforeva

    Evan please watch a couple of these videos from GMO Ground Zero – maybe you’ll have a change of heart.

    One of the BIG problems with GMO is the massive pesticide use; they go hand in hand. You need to see what’s happening on the other islands. I hope you will educate yourself because these companies are a grave danger to Hawai’i and your island ohana.
    Please, please, at least watch the first video, so you understand what is at stake for Hawai’i.

    This is the one testimony that is burned in my brain and fuels my fire. I hope you will watch it.

    ***HERE: Father, Chad Pa’s testimony at the Kaua’i Council – IF this doesn’t make you nuts – nothing will.


    MUST WATCH!!! Molokai/Kaua’i GMO/Pesticides
    Kaua’i doctors, nurses, teachers, & parents testimony starts around 4min.

    Hawai’i’s Baby Arrow, was born with gastroschisis. (intestines outside of the baby’s body at birth) The family has had to uproot and move to Arizona for treatment of this condition that has, and will require, many more surgeries. Gastroschisis has been linked to atrazine in many professional articles. This family is friends with four other families on Kaua’i whose babies have this same devastating condition – through NO fault of their own.

    Since the State Dept. of Health has quit tracking birth defects on Kaua’i for nearly ten years, no one has any way of knowing if there are more than five cases of this defect happening. Five cases of gastroschisis on Kaua’i are too many and I hope this and other rare birth defects are investigated thoroughly… someday.
    Many think our health Dept./Ag Dept and legislators have fumbled this issue VERY badly and are justifiably angry that this issue is being ignored.

    Kaua’i is having an explosion of infant heart defects 10 times the national norm. At least 5 babies have been born with their intestines outside of their bodies on Kaua’i, (gastroschisis) and many other serious health issues are involved such as seizures, cancers, and respiratory problems linked to the massive use of pesticides from GMO fields. The Hawai’i Dept. of Health stopped collecting birth defects data on Kaua’i nearly 10 years ago! Field run off of pesticides is also suspected in the killing of fish and the reefs.

    Gary Hooser, Kaua’i County Council says these companies are spraying over 100 TONS of pesticides per year on their fields just on West Kaua’i , 16 times a day with 16 different chemical combinations that have never been studied – 240 days per year. One school even had to go to court to get a TRO against one company who had sent kids and teachers to the hospital several times – and refused to stop spraying so close to the school.

    These companies have donated over 1/2 a million to our legislature and have ‘infiltrated’ many state agencies, including our water board. They lease public ag land for as little as $50 per acre per year from our state Agribusiness Development Corporation and taxpayers are also forced to subsidize their infrastructure improvements to their businesses. We are being ‘had’.

    Great Video: Senate Hearing on Glyphosate/RoundUp 3/14/14
    Mahalo Sen. Green & Ruderman! The ONLY legislators who showed up to hear this important info!!!


    A friend in Lahaina who does not use these products, has never touched them, and eats organically just had a glyphosate/RoundUp urinalysis last week, which tested VERY high. (10.5 ppm)

    *MUST WATCH!!! Maui Health Dept., Dr. Lorrin Pang on unstudied ‘pesticide cocktails’.

    *North Shore VIDEO: GMO/Pesticides & Surfers:

    In Washington State, 3 tiny counties have had 23 babies born with no brain – atrazine is suspected, and these companies use a lot in Hawai’i!

    Wa. State: Yakima Valley – Sounds like OUR health dept. (Don’t look – Don’t find)

    There is something seriously wrong in the fertile Yakima Valley region of Washington. A surging number of babies are being born with major birth defects, and the reasons why are eluding state health officials. As reported by CNN, a nurse in the area, Sara Barron, was the first to report on a particularly horrifying condition: anencephaly — a condition in which babies are born without much of their brain and skull.

    *MUST WATCH!!! CNN Video :…/birth-defect-surge-in…/…


    in Agricultural Areas – Hawai’i & Washington



    In an open letter, (to the Hawai’i State Health Dept., Governor Abercrombie, and mayor of Kaua’i) Waimea Dr., Jim Raelson, discusses the remarkable incidence of certain rare birth defects- at a rate 10 times the national average- which he and Waimea Dr. Chatkupt have noted. In the letter he notes the fact that “there has been no active Hawaii Birth Defects surveillance since 2005″ by the Department of Health due to a “lapse of the registry”.

    The letter details the type and incidence of the birth defects concluding that “we don’t know for sure if we truly have a problem of true clusters because it has not been adequately studied but as clinicians we are seeing suspicious clusters of disease. We also don’t know about cause and effect but if we are seeing a true cluster of a disease that has been linked to low level exposure by good studies done elsewhere then that in itself is grounds for real concern that we are seeing serious health problems.”

    One of the things to advocate for is for CDC and DOH to do the unbiased epidemiology studies and to do bio-monitoring. As an example CDC recently did a study in central Washington of the birth defect anencephaly because they were seeing a fourfold increase in that defect over national data.

    Dr. Raelson and Nurse Practitioner Marghee Maupin of the Ho`ola Lahui Community Health Center in Waimea met with some council members to tell them of this.
    (This letter was MUCH longer)

    *GMOs in Kauai: Not Just Another Day in Paradise

    *Doctor’s orders: Kaua’i kids need better protections

    *Pesticide corporations bully Kaua’i | Pesticide Action Network

    *O’ahu – Pestcides ‘Ōlelo Community Media

    *Margaret Heffernan: The dangers of “willful blindness”

    Biotech Dangers from Open Air Experimentation of “GMO” Life Forms and Pesticide Combinations Force Maui County Citizens to Demand Hawaii State Constitutional Protection


    *To Help gather signatures go to !

    *Geneticist David Suzuki Says Humans “Are Part Of A Massive Experiment”

    This is all very real and Hawai’i families ARE suffering right now. If this doesn’t alarm you…. I just don’t know what to say….

    • Evan Witt

      Thank you for replying. One of the major aims of genetic engineering is to reduce the need for pesticides, something everyone can agree on. Pest-resistant crops will require fewer pesticides that you point out might be teratogenic. In addition, organic food uses pesticides too, and they’re not all friendly…

      • AlohaAina

        Aloha. Evan, this answer of yours concerns me. ” One of the major aims of genetic engineering is to reduce the need for pesticides, something everyone can agree on”. No, I can’t agree with that. I live in Kauai. And I POSITIVELY KNOW that based on public testimony by the head honchos of the chem cartel themselves and based on public records available through litigation against biotech, they are testing more poisons. Herbicides are also considered a pesticide. But besides that, what really saddens me and concerns me is the absolute lack of empathy for the civil casualties,the children,the people who live by the biotech testing fields.El3737 sent you plenty on links, and I assume you did not take the time to go through them thoroughly ,I hope, otherwise,one would have to assume that you need to add to your alma matter’s curriculum, Sensitivity and Empathy 101.But being that Monsanto has already permeated the college campus,that the sensitivity chip is missing is not surprise. I invite you to come here and talk to the mothers of the children waking up with blood soaked pillows, or to the man who can’t breath unless he leaves his childhood home to escape to the Canyon away from the fields,whose wife has now breast cancer, or the mother who has a child who was born with his intestines outside his body because of the exposure to the “superior technology” you have been sold on, please let’t not forget Paa, the little boy who has had more surgery that I can remember to try to mend his heart after being born with a very rare deformity that in Kauai has become horribly common.

  • Anonymous

    While I agree that we could all benefit from a deeper understanding of science, I disagree with your claim that people distrust Monsanto because they are not educated. First of all, your comparison between people who deny climate change and people who dislike Monsanto is misguiding. Those who dislike Monsanto are much more likely to be concerned about the environment, not to deny the facts of climate change in order to maintain the bliss of ignorance. Secondly, most opponents of Monsanto do not think genetic modification causes cancer or the other health problems you mentioned. The problem is that our natural species are being adapted to fit our desired rate of growth, rate of reproduction, etc. which may lead to problems down the road. Species must be allowed to adapt naturally so that they don’t become so detached from nature that they couldn’t survive on their own. Consider the meat industry, where chickens are bred to be so big that they cannot even walk. Furthermore, an inevitable result of genetic modification is a decrease in the genetic diversity within each species. This makes them vulnerable when new viruses, parasites, pesticides or whatever start attacking. Genetic uniformity undermines natural resilience. There are other issues that I don’t have time to explain fully (the monopolization of seed, the overuse of pesticides, etc.), but I hope I have made my point that opposition to Monsanto is not unfounded and that I am not the one who is uninformed.

    • Evan Witt

      Hi! Allow me to clarify my position. People don’t like Monsanto for their business practices, which then influences perception of genetic engineering as a whole. As for natural adaptation, more genetic reshuffling happens in your average natural plant cross than an insert of a new gene. Since all of our crops these days are pretty much genetic monstrosities as a result of selective breeding (check out polyploid plants like bananas for example), genetic engineering is a much more careful way to obtain traits we want in plants. I completely agree that monocultures are bad ecology, but that was an issue before GMO’s. From an environmental standpoint, GM crops are an intriguing possibility because they allow us to grow more food on less land, decreasing the massive ecological damage caused by farming. 25 percent of the world’s land is cultivated, and unless we wise up about the way we farm, we’re gonna have very few natural resources left.

    • Gabe

      Anonymous, what do you mean by “species must be allowed to adapt naturally so that they don’t become so detached from nature that they couldn’t survive on their own” ? We aren’t genetically engineering balsas teosinte (the ancestor of maize) or wild rice, we’re engineering domesticated maize, rice, soybeans, etc. These crops have already been “detached from nature” in that all of them would do very poorly without human intervention. Plant domestication almost always decreases the fitness of plants in nature in that large heavy seeds and non-shattering rachi, which have evolved in all of our cereal grains, are incredibly non-adaptive traits outside of human contexts. They’re not supposed to survive on their own.

  • Diana Reeves

    Evan, honey, there is a massive list of studies that lead us to believe that GMOs are not safe. There is no scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs. Our youth is being brainwashed. This is not to say that some day there won’t be something safe developed with the use of biotechnology, but as of now we are being used as guinea pigs. And all is not well. America’s health rankings are poor and getting worse. Autism, autoimmune disease, cancer, allergies, inflammatory bowel disease… the list goes on. As long as there is no label on GMOs, there is no traceability, no accountability and no liability and that’s the way Monsanto likes it. Have you asked yourself why these agrichemical companies and their Big Food cohorts would collectively spend over $46 million on propaganda to defeat a single ballot initiative in California to label GMOs? Have you seen the GMO feeding study done on pigs in Iowa last year? The pigs that were fed a GMO diet had statistically significant higher levels of gut inflammation and the female pigs had uterine abnormalities. Is it wise to engineer our food to tolerate heavy dousing with toxic herbicides and to produce pesticides from inside every cell? What we should have done here is exercise the precautionary principle. History tells us what can happen when we don’t. Do you know anyone who smokes cigarettes? They won’t make you sick in 90 days either. Monsanto’s voluntary safety assessments are conducted on young adult rats for only 90 days. It took almost 50 years to get a warning label on cigarettes. For the sake of your generation and your children to come, I hope and pray that we can stop this insanity and put in place standards for rigorous and adequate safety testing. Please read some more about the lack of consensus on the safety of GMOs and a list over 1400 studies, surveys, and analyses that suggest various adverse impacts and potential adverse impacts of genetically engineered (GE/GMO) crops, foods and related pesticides. and All good scientists know that scientific skepticism is their best friend. Wishing you well.

    • Evan Witt

      Hi! Thank you for replying. I read the study about pigs fed a GE diet, and it was funded by a natural foods outfit and has several other conflicts of interest. It’s not published in a reputable journal In addition, it’s not peer reviewed their data and statistics don’t support their conclusions or provide a mechanism for their hypothesis. If you would like to read some independent, peer reviewed literature, here is a great link to 183 studies with no ties to biotech companies or the organic lobby In addition, here is a list of scientific associations that confirm the scientific consensus of GM safety This includes the AAAS, the AMA, the National Academy of science, and several other independent scientific bodies not funded by biotech companies. I agree that skepticism is very important here, which is why it took a lot of evidence to convince me that GE is a viable technology. Have a great day!

      • Diana Reeves

        This is really a case of, you haven’t actually read most of these studies! For example your “independent, peer reviewed literature, here is a great link to 183 studies with no ties to biotech companies or the organic lobby” isn’t what you claim. There are only 126 (actually 125 since #106 is the same as #1) not 183 and they certainly aren’t all, “independent” as you claim.

        For example read #94, “Competing interests: Two of the authors, Jian Duan and Joseph Huesing, are employed by Monsanto Company, which produces and markets Bt crops.”
        Pretty insane to claim, “no ties to biotech companies”.

        Why don’t you read #91 on that list, it states, “An equilibrium in the number research groups suggesting, on the basis of their studies, that a number of varieties of GM products (mainly maize and soybeans) are as safe and nutritious as the respective conventional non-GM plant, and those raising still serious concerns, was currently observed. Nevertheless, it should be noted that most of these studies have been conducted by biotechnology companies responsible of commercializing these GM plants.”
        Your own reference supports the claim that “the studies in question were funded by biotech companies”.

        I also find it a little strange that you posted a link you claim, “scientific associations that confirm the scientific consensus of GM safety” yet there are some fake claims on it. For example, it claims the Royal Society of Medicine made a claim that is really just from an article published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. The same journal published this, “‘GM crops consumed… with no reported ill effects’ – therefore they are safe. This statement is illogical and the conclusion is not valid. There is no assay and there is no epidemiology. If any GM food product did cause harm it would be impossible to pick up within the constant background of disease, particularly since in the USA, the biggest consumer, there are no labelling requirements.”
        Does this mean it is also the opinion of the Royal Society of Medicine or is it really just something published in the journal?

        Next your reference claims the European Commission said something, but the report actually states, “The views expressed in this publication are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Commission.” the authors include people such as Marc Van Montagu who has an obvious conflict of interest considering he founded two biotech companies, Plant Genetic Systems Inc. and CropDesign and makes millions from GMO’s since he invented the Agrobacterium method.

        The AAAS president at the time of this statement was a biotechnologist who has formerly worked for the biotech companies Evogene as well as Sigma-Aldrich

        NAS quote is from a summary of a 2000 report. Page R5 of the Full Report states, “Michael Phillips was involved with this study until 7/13/99 and is currently employed with the Biotechnology Industry Organization” Biotechnology Industry Organization members include just about every major biotech company. Page R6 lists the BOARD ON AGRICULTURE AND NATURAL RESOURCES which includes, “ROBERT T. FRALEY, Monsanto Company” and, “THOMAS N. URBAN,Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc.”

        The AMA bases their report on the NAS 1987 report which was co-wrote by the same AAAS president mentioned above and their report uses primarily biotech funded studies.
        For the Union of German Academies of Science and Humanity, the names at the bottom of the report here are all biotechnologists with a professional conflict of interest and as far as I can tell no real health background.

        That covers the groups at the top of the link, I’m not even going to bother to read the bottom since it is obvious you didn’t even try to fact check your own reference. I suggest you read that list of 1400 references posted above and I also encourage you to read the references you posted as well since you were obviously convinced by references you obviously didn’t read. You should have been skeptical as soon as your reference said, “consensus”.

        “Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.” Looks like you have some more homework to do!

        • Evan Witt

          Hi again! I agree that the list of studies I pointed to is perhaps a tad out of date, which is why I prefer the one in my main article. It’s a well-researched review. However, I would hardly consider your original list of studies to be completely sound. It includes the Seralini study, one of the most famously debunked papers of all time. Retracted from its journal for faulty statistics, improper controls and sample sizes, unsound protocols, and possibly some of the worst methodology I’ve ever seen, it’s hardly a case of sound science. In addition, the list includes studies that have nothing to do with genetic engineering, like this one Others are about glyphosphate, which is an herbicide, not a genetically modified organism. This article is slightly better but its sample sizes are too small to yield meaningful results. It’s also erroneous to use salmon metabolism as a human analog. However, that’s not the point.
          In the end, it’s not about who can amass a bigger list of random studies. It’s about the science. Right now there exists no plausible mechanism by which transgenic DNA or their gene products could possibly be teratogenic, mutagenic, cytotoxic (to humans), carcinogenic, or cause autism. Of course we should continue extensive testing on GM crops to confirm that they cause no danger. But blindly calling for a sweeping ban with no legitimate scientific evidence is blatantly unscientific and a disservice to the millions of the world’s poor and malnourished who could benefit from such technology. Thank you for replying!

        • Evan Witt

          You also raise an interesting point about consensus. You are correct that by no means is the consensus always right. There is always more work to be done. But I personally believe that if I think I know more about climate/plant/vaccine science than 97 percent of PhD’s in the field, I’d better have some solid, peer reviewed studies in reputable journals to back me up. Assuming that consensus arises from a conspiracy is a hallmark of pseudoscience.

        • Evan Witt

          Furthermore, here’s an interesting statemen by the AAAS board of directors. In addition, just because the president was a biotechnologist doesn’t automatically discredit the entire organization. Also, here’s a policy document by the Royal Society of medicine . You’ve also discovered something interesting: many of the people who know the most about biotechnology have been employed by biotech companies. Does this automatically discredit their testimony? Or does it indicate that the biotech companies tend to hire good scientists? Either way, the idea that any self-respecting scientist would falsify data to appease his or her evil biotech overlords is invalid when considering that the studies the author carefully document their evidence. This is also the function of peer review: to confirm that the original results weren’t falsified as a result of bias.

          • Evan Witt

            *edit: the studies THEY author, not THE*

          • Diana Reeves

            You obviously didn’t read, “the one in my main article” either since the same, “Seralini study” is #1466 on your initial list! So your claim that, “1,783 studies affirming that genetically modified (GM) foods pose no threat to the environment or human health (Nicolia et. al. 2013). They could not find a single peer-reviewed study that stated otherwise” is bogus! Once again you didn’t read your own reference! By your own admission, your statement, “I would hardly consider your original list of studies to be completely sound.” applies to your list as well for including the, “Seralini study.” There aren’t even 1783, “studies” on the list which further shows you didn’t read it. There are hundreds of articles, letters to the editor, etc. that are not studies. You are just claiming they are, “studies” because Jon Entine said so, had you even read the study itself you would see they never claim they reviewed 1783, “studies”. What you claim is a well researched review was conducted by 3 genetic engineers who make GE plants(obvious conflict of interest) and one soil scientist, so why weren’t toxicologists, etc. included in a review that included health? Why weren’t ecologists included in a review that included environmental impact? They were obviously biased in favor of GE before this review, and they didn’t need toxicologists or ecologists involved if they were just going to pretend they didn’t see any problems.

            As for the 2,4-D studies, there are 2,4-D tolerant GE crops pending deregulation so this is certainly relevant for currently existing and almost deregulated crops.

            As for studies on glyphosate, Roundup Ready crops are the most used GE crops, so studies on glyphosate based herbicides are definitely relevant!

            You state, “It’s also erroneous to use salmon metabolism as a human analog” While I agree that salmon are not the best subject to study human health, there are many references on your own cherry picked list that use salmon such as #1298, but strangely the study mentioned is not included on your reference list.

            There certainly are proposed mechanisms for various adverse health effects from GE crop consumption, you would know this if you actually read the references on the 1400 list. However, keep in mind that observation often precedes a known mechanism. You are one of the people who would have denied the Earth revolves around the Sun as presented by people such as Galileo, because it was based on observation without a known mechanism.

            I should also point out that the GMO Free USA website states, “GMO Free USA’s mission is to harness education, advocacy, and bold action to foster consumer rejection of genetically modified organisms, until they are proven safe.” Notice the words, “until they are proven safe”? Introducing GE crops without conducting the testing required to suggest safety is unscientific and unethical. Even drugs which require at least minimal safety testing(a standard which no GE food on the market has met) are often recalled during post market evaluation. It is unethical and unscientific not to label GE foods to monitor potential adverse effects. Introducing GE crops and food that have not been adequately studied an given to an often unknowing and unwilling population is blatantly unscientific and unethical, and a disservice to the millions of people who could be potentially harmed from such crops or food.

          • Diana Reeves

            AAS has been heavily criticized for their position paper full of misinformation. Many AAAS members are opposed to the report.
            AAAS position on GM foods could backfire.

            Their position paper is ridiculous. It says crazy things like, “The EU, for example, has invested more than €300 million in research on the biosafety of GMOs. Its recent report states: “The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se more risky than e.g. conventional plant breed- ing technologies.”

            This report does not represent the whole EU, it doesn’t even represent the EC since it clearly states, “The views expressed in this publication are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Commission.”

            These are the types of fake claims you are defending.

            Do you know the difference between the Royal Society and the Royal Society of Medicine? You do realize they are not the same, yes? Not everything that says Royal Society is the same.

            For example the Royal Society of Canada says, “The Panel recommends that approval of new transgenic organisms for environmental release, and for use as food or feed, should be based on rigorous scientific assessment of their potential for causing harm to the environment or to human health. Such testing should replace the current regulatory reliance on ‘substantial equivalence’ as a decision threshold. The Panel recommends the precautionary regulatory assumption that, in general, new technologies should not be presumed safe unless there is a reliable scientific basis for considering them safe. The Panel rejects the use of “substantial equivalence” as a decision threshold to exempt new GM products from rigorous safety assessments on the basis of superficial similarities because such a regulatory procedure is not a precautionary assignment of the burden of proof.”

            By your logic the Royal Society of Medicine must have said this too, lol. Do a logic check here… you must admit that your source falsely attributed statements to groups that never made them.

            I must admit that I am deeply saddened by some of the comments here that aim to deflect from the issue at hand and use tactics such as the strawman fallacy. Evan, I commend you for trying to do a good job with this debate. I only hope that you will read, objectively, what has been sent. People are sick and they are linking their illnesses to eating GMOs. Do you know anyone with inflammatory bowel disease, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, food or seasonal allergies? I happen to know a bunch. After removing GMOs from their diets, they have seen major improvements in their health. Now you can claim all you want that there are no peer reviewed studies to prove it but elimination diets don’t lie. Keep your scientific skepticism close at hand while you navigate your college years and your career. Hugs to you, kiddo, from Mama Reeves.

      • Joanna Wheeler

        I personally met the two men in charge of those organizations you are getting data from. They work for biotech and were in Kauai to try to stop bill 2491 ,which was basically about disclosing GMO poisons and protecting kids from being sprayed in their schools. Jon Entine also writes articles to discredit people who do not support the industry.He wrote a piece attacking Tyrone Hayes after he I told the world about his discoveries about Atrazine, and now,court documents are vindicating him. Mr Entine makes a living supporting polluting industries. this is him defending fracking .This is him.

        • Joanna Wheeler

          Oops.this was supposed to be a reply for Evan on his post quoting the Genetic Literacy and Biofortified info.

    • Evan Witt

      Also, sorry for the typos in my last comment. I may have been a bit rushed.

    • Anonymous

      “Precautionary principle” here means wildly calling for a ban on a technology you don’t understand with no evidence whatsoever.

    • Anonymous

      Your paranoid conspiracy theories are really hilarious, but are not grounded in science. Nice try. Also I wonder how your comment got so many upvotes so fast when no one really reads this paper… ;)

      • Diana Reeves

        Focus your young mind on the science. Deflection is a tactic well practiced and taught by agrichemical industry shills.

        • Anonymous

          I mean, have you read the stuff you write? You obviously have no idea what you’re talking about. Guess what: being a mom doesn’t automatically bestow a biology degree.

    • Jerry Albino

      I’m sorry, I’m not familiar with GMO Free USA Inc. Do they have an office? Employees? Any research departments or scientists employed by them? Near as I can tell it is one woman running the operation from her home.

      Thanks for trying, but one moms skepticism does not call into doubt actual research by actual biologists.

      • AlohaAina

        Thank you for providing a perfect example of the kind of disrespectful condescending attitude towards people who do not buy the cheap propaganda pushing GMO/poison ridden foods. Defending a pseudo science similar to the one utilized by Big Tobacco to push their cancer causing products.