How Norway Became an Anti-GMO Powerhouse

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 Eight years, $3.6 million a year, 40 employees, zero knowledge back. This is the story of GenØk and the politicization of science in Norway.   

 

Guest Author: Øystein Heggdal and Liv Langberg

Norway has one of the world’s most restrictive set of regulations for genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Farmers are forbidden from cultivating biotech crops, biotech feed is prohibited for farm animals. Attitudes towards biotech are such that even though the salmon industry is allowed to use GMO soy as feed for production, they don’t do it because fear of public perception.

In that light, the lack of response in the wake of an popular Norwegian science program called “Folkeopplysningen (People’s Enlightenment) was quite surprising. Previously, they have made headlines debunking misconceptions around homeopathy, clairvoyance and super foods. In September they aired a show debunking the most common myths about GMOs, and there no public outcry afterwards. With one exception.

A small research team located 360 km north of the Arctic Circle, in the small city of Tromsø opined in a small note their dissent. They complained about the lack of nuance and balance in the program. The researchers work for GenØk – National Centre for Biosafety, and they think they should have been allowed to tell viewers that there is no scientific consensus regarding the health and environmental risks associated with GMOs.

I would like to believe that most people who escape ending up on the critical gaze of penetrating show like “Folkeopplysningen” would breathe a sigh of relief, but not GenØk. GenØk wanted to get in the ring. The producer of Folkeopplysningen, Lasse Nederhoed in Teddy TV, said to me; “If we were going to tackle GenØk, we would have to devote a whole program to them. Because there is something very strange going on there. ”

Strange indeed, because the scientific consensus regarding the biotech breeding techniques and biotech crops is broad and durable. The vast majority of scientists working in the relevant fields hold that biotech breeding produces no different set of risks than breeding by conventional means. Nor are there credible hypothesis as to why biotech breeding would produce a greater set of risks than conventional breeding techniques.

So, who is GenØk, and what are they doing?

screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-2-27-47-pmThe Norwegian Institute of Gene Ecology (GenØk) was founded in 1998 as an independent foundation and is located adjacent to the University of Tromsø. In 2006, they expanded their mandate when Kristin Halvorsen and the  Red-Green coalition government promoted them into a national center for biosafety. Their purported vision is the safe use of biotechnology.

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GenØk has largely limited themselves to biotechnology in agriculture, and from the beginning they have engaged fiercely in both in Norway and internationally in opposition to the use of genetically modified plants, warning that they could have unintended consequences for our health. As early as 1998 Terje Traavik, who eventually became Director of Research at GenØk, said the following to a local newspaper:

” We have no means to long-term test the consequences that could result from genetically modified foods. Some examples from abroad are very frightening. “

In the early years, GenØk mainly worked on two things; they organized big conferences on biosafety, and they traveled around the world promoting perceived risks associated with genetic engineering. In 2003 they organized a course with the bouncy title:

“Regulating a privatized genetic industry which has the potential to destroy the future.”

When they weren’t hosting conferences at home, they traveled the world in search of opportunities to spread their message. In 2002 Traavik & Co. traveled to Zambia, which was in the midst of a famine of biblical proportions. But hunger was not Traavik’s concern. He was concerned that aid coming from the United States contained genetically modified maize. He alerted Zambian researchers about “a long list of theoretical risks” linked to the American corn. This led to Zambian government to refuse the aid from the US. Meanwhile, Norwegian aid money was spent on Traavik and his team checking corn on the border to see if it contained GMOs.

Then GenØk traveled to the Philippines on a study expedition. Monsanto had been planting corn there that had been bred to be resistant to pest insects. The corn had a gene inserted encoding a Cry1Ab protein, otherwise referred to as Bt maize. The Cry1Ab protein comes from the soil bacterium bacillus thuringiensis or Bt. Bt has been used safely as an organic insecticide for decades and Cry1Ab protein can be considered the “active ingredient”. Cry proteins work as an insecticide by binding with a receptor in the gut of corn borers and similar pest and disrupting their digestive system. The protein is activated by the alkaline environment of the digestive system of these pests. In humans have an acidic digestive system and they are digested as any other protein would be. Nor do we have the specific receptors for the protein to bind to. This is why Bt is such a safe insecticide – it has a very specific and narrow “mode of action”.

Traavik was in the Philippines to collect samples of Bt corn so GenØk could do research on it. In this context, he discovered that a small village near where they grew Bt corn had suffered an outbreak of a  mysterious disease. People had come down with fever, breathing problems, diarrhea, nausea and skin irritations.

Thirty nine blood samples were taken from villagers, and sent to GenØk’s lab in Tromsø to be analyzed for antibodies against the Bt toxin. They found antibodies in their blood that may or may not have been traceable back to pollen the villagers inhaled from Bt corn plants. They could also have got there in a whole host of other ways. But that did not stop Traavik from venturing forth with the unpublished results to a biotechnology conference in Malaysia and creating hysteria in the Philippines. Criticism of Traavik and GenØk may never have been sharper than this, delivered by a group of American scientists:

“There are guidelines for the responsible conduct of science. Your turn has come to follow them yourself. Note that failure to release your data and methodology immediately will prevent any and all legitimate scientists and health authorities from taking your claims seriously. “

That was was in 2004. In 2006, the GenØk gang obtained status from the coalition government as the National Center for Biosecurity. One wonders what conclusions the government expected from them.

This is when GenØk really got rolling. Until then, they had not published any basic research which could indicate that genetically modified plants constituted an elevated risk to the environment or human and animal health. 2006 marks the point at which Thomas Bøhn, Marek Cuhra and quite a few water fleas entered the picture.

Water flea (Daphnia pulex)
Water flea (Daphnia pulex)

Water fleas are used as a model organism to test whether a drug can be toxic or harmful to aquatic organisms. They have short lifespans, so that multiple generations can be quickly observed, they are genetically very similar to one another, and they are easy to handle and maintain. The first of GenØk’s water flea studies was published in 2008. I expect champagne corks hit the roof up in Tromsø right around that time.

After ten years of having warned us that we didn’t have good enough studies on the long-term effects of feeding animals genetically modified crops, GenØk had now produced research that showed that water fleas receiving Bt maize died earlier than water fleas fed conventional corn. Or had they?

screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-2-29-13-pm
Thomas Bøhn

Bøhn and company had produced a science experiment that was more a textbook case of “How Not To Do Science” than a demonstration of health risks presented by the Bt corn. Bøhn and his team had failed to control for multiple variables rendering their feeding trial useless. They had fed the water fleas corn that had been grown at Elizabeth Cruzara a village near Iloilo City in the Philippines in 2003. The problem is that they had not analyzed the two maize types for nutritional content, or noted other external conditions such as soil, weed spraying or crop quantity; all of which would affect the results. We can see that there are even visible differences between the two maize types. So there is a plethora of variables that could have affected the result, but GenØk concludes that the genetic modification must be the reason why those water fleas did not live as long.

In 2010, they performed a similar study on the same corn, again without controlling for any of the obvious variables that could affect the outcome; again they came to the same conclusion: Bt corn is dangerous to water fleas. Criticism of their work from the scientific community was massive.

In 2014, GenØk took on a new task. They analyzed the nutritional content of soybeans and glyphosate residues taken from thirty one farms in Iowa USA. Eleven of them organic, ten conventional and ten genetically engineered soy varieties.

The trial was designed to show residues on soybeans of glyphosate.  Glyphosate is the herbicide sold under the trade name RoundUp which the biotech soybeans had been bred to be paired with. The soybeans are able to survive an application of RoundUp while the weeds are around them are destroyed, allowing for easier weed management.  Unsurprisingly, Bøhn’s team found glyphosate residues on soybeans that had been grown in fields sprayed with glyphosate, while glyphosate residues were significantly lower in the non-GMO and organic fields. What was notable was that they failed to test for the residue of other herbicides. The non-GMO fields were almost certainly treated with herbicides other than glyphosate – most of which are considered somewhat greater in environmental impact and health risks (but have the advantage of being all but ignored by anti-GMO activists because, while their environmental impact may be greater they aren’t tied to a biotech crop, so their use has not been politicized), but we have no way of knowing because they only tested for glyphosate. Nor did they test for other pesticides – insecticides, fungicides, etc. Of course the organic fields had lower glyphosate residues, but were they lower in total pesticide residue?  Maybe / Maybe not. We don’t know because they only tested for glyphosate. So was this about measuring environmental impacts, or coming to a predetermined finding that could be used to generate headlines? GenØk wanted to find RoundUp, and they certainly did that.

Bøhn’s team also looked at the nutritional composition of the soybeaqns and found that the organic soybeans came out the best. The problem is once again that factors such as the variety of soybean, soil, fertilization scheme, any organic spraying, crop yield and harvest date are not included in the report.

Researchers at The Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO) criticized them for concluding that the organic soybeans had the best composition of nutrients, when it simply does not match the figures in the survey:

“ It is thus very surprising to us that a product with the highest concentrations of sugar, Zn and Ba, and lowest concentrations of Se and fibre is described as having the healthiest nutritional profile. Experts on human nutrition rarely consider enhanced sugar levels in food to be beneficial, and both Zn and Ba may be highly toxic to humans.”

After this experiment, which really shows nothing other than that different soybean varieties grown under different conditions will have different compositions of nutrients, the GenØk team pressed on with three feeding trials on water fleas.

In all water flea experiments in 2014, 2015 and 2016, the fleas were fed with the soy from 2014. Once again, the experiments show that water fleas react differently to different soy varieties and varying nutritional composition, but that obviously didn’t prevent GenØk researchers from concluding that RoundUp was the reason why water fleas died more quickly rather than any of the variables they had failed to control for.

In 2016,  their last attempt to date, the water fleas are fed with purified Cry1Ab and Cry2Aa proteins in addition to the RoundUp. The trial was meant to show that the water fleas fed the most toxins die first. This time one would think that several environmental factors had been cleared away, but as EFSA writes in its response, GenØk have used doses of these toxins that one would never find in water near fields where genetically modified crops are cultivated. So, they can kill water fleas with doses that are not field realistic. Congratulations. In addition, the test ran for 78 days as opposed to the 21 days the OECD recommend for water flea tests. Thus, they introduce sufficient statistical noise to draw whichever conclusions they want.

In the EU, it is the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that considers whether genetically engineered plants are approved as being as safe as conventional plants. Because of the chronically poor design of GenØk’s trials, it is impossible to draw any conclusions from their research. Thus, the EFSA has not included any of their studies as basis of the approval process.

Read that sentence again. None of the trials are viewed as good enough. Seven studies, eight years, $3.6 million per year, 40 employees – and we’ve gotten zero knowledge back.

Worse, it is actually not zero knowledge, it’s “anti knowledge”. GenØk has, ever since they were founded 18 years ago, written page after page about how we don’t have enough knowledge of the long term effects of releasing genetically modified organisms into the environment. The problem is that GenØk does not help to close these gaps. They just contribute to further confusion. And there are many who listen to them.

In Norway we have what is called Bioteknologirådet (Biotechnology council) which was first established in 1992 and has since then been a consultative body for the government and parliament on both ethical and environmental concerns related to genetically engineered crops for import. Bioteknologirådet has yet to recommend importing even a single genetically engineered food crop (Oddly, they made an exception for one variety of carnation flower, of all things). That is unsurprising when one looks at how tight the bonds are between the Council and GenØk.

Former Director of Bioteknologirådet, Sissel Rogne, sat simultaneously on the Board of GenØk. The current leader of Bioteknologirådet is Kristin Halvorsen. Back in 2003, she suggested making GenØk the National Center for Biosafety, and she carried it through when she entered the coalition government in 2006. Terje Traavik has been both the research director at GenØk and a member of Bioteknologirådet. The densest coupling, however, is Aina Bartmann. She was a member of Bioteknologirådet from 2000 to 2008 while chair of GenØk in the years 2005 to 2011. She is currently the coordinator of the organization Network for GMO-Free Food and Feed (No GMO Norway). One can imagine the outcry if it had been if a former chairman of Norway’s Center for International Climate and Environmental institute had been transferred to a job in the Climate Skeptics. When it comes to opposition to biotech, these guys do not even have to hide their activism.

 

For not only do they perform badly designed water flea studies – they also bring conflicts of interest to the table; in two papers, one in 2014 and one in 2016, John Fagan is listed as co-author. Fagan is a known anti-GMO activist. In addition to his activism, in 1996 founded the company Genetic ID which provides technology to analyze foods to detect whether the DNA has been altered by genetic engineering. Under “Conflicts of interests”, where normal (ethical) scientists would have mentioned that one of the authors has a financial interest in a company that makes money from the controversy surrounding biotechnology, they declared no conflicts.

Gilles-Éric Séralini
Gilles-Éric Séralini

GenØk has also supported other activist scientists and dubious science from other organizations as well. They were supportive of Gilles-Éric Séralini at the University of Caen in France. In 2013 he published his infamous rat study. Séralini used a special kind of rats often used in researching carcogenicity because they easily develop cancer so impacts of carcinogens are more easily detected. He conducted a feeding study on genetically engineered corn – “NK603”, bred to withstand being treated with the herbicide RoundUp. The rats fed NK603 developed tumors, pictures of which were featured in that episode of “Enlightenment”. However, the rats in the control group also developed tumors – they just weren’t featured in photos in the paper Séralini published – a major ethical lapse. The paper was also widely criticized for the small number of rats in the control group, as well as a litany of other design flaws.  As one of the only research centers in the world, GenØk came out and declared publicly that this miserably designed study somehow showed that there are unknown dangers with the use of GMOs. The study has been withdrawn from the scientific journal where it was first published. Meanwhile, Gilles-Éric Séralini sells homeopathic medicine to detox the body from “GMO poisons”.

Up there in Tromsø, they like to watch movies, and when the documentary OMG GMO came out in 2013, GenØk researcher Anne Ingeborg Myhr said in an article on Forskning.no (Research.no):

“A new film attracts attention and debate.” GMO OMG “sets a startlingly critical eye on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Hopefully the film will lead to raised awareness in all who today have no understanding of how modern genetic engineering challenge nature. “

“GMO OMG” provides insights and razor-sharp analysis of genetic modification along the lines of “Loose Change”, the conspiracy laden documentary the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It is a pure and simple activist film that has nothing scientific to offer. Reading critics tear it to shreds in pages of The New Yorker and Scientific American is better entertainment than watching the film.

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It’s not just GenØk who thinks Hollywood might help us understand the complex connections in gene technology. When Sissel Rogne was the leader of Bioteknologinemda and on the board of GenØk, she traveled around the country and to high schools lecturing for teachers and students. Included in these seminars were two hours set aside to watch the 1997 film Gattaca. The film is a dystopian fable featuring Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman living in a society where everything is determined by genetics, and only those with the best genes have the opportunity to live a worthy life. Now, if they absolutely wanted to show propaganda films to scare young people, why couldn’t they have shown Jurassic Park instead? It is a better film. And it has dinosaurs.

Not only youth were to be indoctrinated in how murky gene technology supposedly is, kids should also experience it. In 2008, kids who visited GenØk’s stand in the Research park in Tromso would meet the mad professor Kazoo, and his five legged chicken. Instead of using genetic engineering to do something useful, Kazoo bred a monstrous five legged chicken to create an artificial cautionary tale to scare school children visiting GenØk. Marek Cuhra would tell UiT:

“Unfortunately, we have seen that when laboratory adjust some genes, it may result in unforeseen consequences.”

So this is what we get for around $3.6 million a year.

So, what they’re doing up there in Tromsø? Because it is not science. The French science communicator Marcel Kuntz calls it “parallel science”. Political parties and NGOs are very fond of science that confirms what they promote. Greenpeace wag their finger and tell us that there is scientific consensus that climate change is man-made. When it comes to the consensus that genetic engineering is as safe as traditional breeding, it is as strong, if not stronger, than the consensus on climate change. But then Greenpeace and political groups cherry pick marginalized research and individual researchers who believe things radically different from consensus. In 2006, when the political platform of Norway’s coalition government stated that GMOs were dangerous, they started shopping for researchers who could corroborate what they had already decided.

They were unable to find those researchers among the heaviest and oldest plant research center in Norway,based at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU). At NMBU, they don’t sway with alternating ideologies or fashions among politicians in Oslo. So the coalition government instead found a marginalized foundation up at the ice edge. This is how Norway has become an anti scientific superpower in the field  of biotech and GMOs.

It is now time that our current government ends this charade in Tromsø. It has lasted long enough. Dr. Kazoo et. al should hang up their lab coats, and we should move everything related to biosecurity and GMO research down to the grown ups at NMBU at Ås.

________

Øystein Heggdal is a Norwegian agronomist. He holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and natural resources. He is currently working as an journalist for a Norwegian farming magazine.

Liv Landberg is a social worker and cognitive therapist. She has studied biology and has a diploma in agronomy. Back in the day, she tried her hand at organic agriculture, so she knows a thing or two about cow dung (BS).

A version of this story previously appeared in Dagbladet. Translation by Øystein Heggdal and Marc Brazeau.

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96 Comments

  1. This article is very much what the GM industry, and the scientists whose careers and funding depend on it, say and want everyone to believe. It is not a coincidence that the majority of scientists supporting GM (especially those who are most vociferous) are working in GM, while few, if any, scientists who have neither career nor financial interests in GM support this technology for agriculture. GM disrupts the genome in unpredictable ways, and even the new ‘precise’ methods are precise only at one step in the whole process; so they too are prone to unexpected consequences.

    • I am a geneticist/synthetic biologist at Stanford University. What you are saying is factually incorrect. I have absolutely no funding from the “GM industry,” nor do any of my peers that I know of. We all support GM crops. If you look at a survey of scientists done by PEW there is actually a higher consensus among scientists to the safety of GMO crops than there is for human caused climate change. http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/01/29/public-and-scientists-views-on-science-and-society/ Just as it’s not ok or scientifically correct for conservatives to claim climate change is a liberal conspiracy, it is factually incorrect, harmful, and misleading to say the stuff you (and many liberals believe) are saying here. Traditional methods (ie using radiation) disrupt the genome in unpredictable ways. In traditional methods you are literally disrupting thousands of genes randomly. GM methods are much more precise and allow us to disrupt a single site in the genome, especially with new CRISPR technologies. Please don’t spread misleading and factually incorrect information like you do in this post. – Dr. Justin Smith

      • Does Stanford get any funding from the GM industry? You give yourself away as a typical pro-GMOer with an agenda to mislead the public when you bring climate change into the conversation.

          • That is clearly not what the scientific community has concluded. I’m sure you heard about the large group of nobel laureates fighting for science against the misinformation spread by greenpeace. http://www.forbes.com/sites/curtissilver/2016/07/04/nobel-laureates-line-up-to-support-gmos-and-push-back-greenpeace/#381a0c22631e These are some of the best scientists in the world. I can’t comprehend how you assume they and other scientists are all liars. It just isn’t a logical conclusion to make.

          • Another Monsanto meme. Those scientists were not genetics experts and science is not done with voting.
            SHAME.

          • I am a genetics expert. I have a PhD from the genetics department at Stanford University. I took a list at the signatures. So you are saying James Watson (discovered DNA structure), Sydney Brenner (Discovered how the genetic code worked), and the long list of other people with Nobel Prizes in medicine, many of the others who were foundational in the field of genetics, are not geneticist. But you, random person on the internet who has not provided credentials, somehow knows more. Additionally, science in a way is done by voting. It’s called peer review. It is not exactly voting in that we critically evaluate the evidence other scientists present to see if it’s accurate or not. The very very few anti-GMO articles ever published were either published in non-mainstream on non-peer reviewed journals or later retracted. It is absurd that you assume all these famous geneticists know less about genetics than anti-GMO alarmists, most of whom have no scientific training.

          • You have no idea about the credentials of the person you are talking to here. For all we know your ego wall is as phony as the way you try and replace intelligent dialog with your self important claims about your so called “credentials” Get over yourself and post something besides egocentric self congratualtory BS.

          • My point was more that I spent more than 10 years of hard work becoming an expert in the area (Bachelors+PhD+Post Doc). Other scientists I know and I are not high paid. I don’t understand why people think we are somehow paid off, etc. I also would claim I have tried quite hard here to provide evidence for my argument. The fact that the overwhelming majority of biologists agree with me (ie people who have similar training and have evaluated the evidence) is not an invalid argument. If you don’t believe my qualifications then what about the nobel prize winners who signed that letter to Green Peace? We are all just part of some giant conspiracy? Do you honestly believe that literally all the scientists I know at Stanford is part of some conspiracy? It just sounds so absurd that people actually believe that to me. I care about science. Whether your pet pseudoscience is creationism, climate denial, anti-GMO, or anti-vax, homeopathy, etc I feel some degree of responsibility to fight against such misinformation.

          • Nobody is saying you are paid off. Nobody knows anything about the real situation of any poster on disqus. Your ego wall won’t buy you any slack here. Show us the actual science.

          • People were arguing that earlier, but ok. This came out last year for example: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonentine/2014/09/17/the-debate-about-gmo-safety-is-over-thanks-to-a-new-trillion-meal-study/?utm_source=alertsnewcomment&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20161011#269842c4ca93

            As well as this: http://nas-sites.org/ge-crops/ .A A video summarizing the conclusions as well as other information can be seen here: http://nas-sites.org/ge-crops/2016/04/27/report-release/ . Cornell also has a piece discussing it here: here: http://allianceforscience.cornell.edu/blog/mark-lynas/gmo-safety-debate-over

            Of course in addition to this there are many many articles pointing to their safety. You speak of cherry picking but there are so few papers that have ever been published showing that GMOs are not safe (most of which were later retracted) that it seems the problem is much larger from the other side. I need to get back to actual lab work now. This has majorly distracted me. But I urge you to look at the data. Also, why do you believe there would be such a large scientific consensus if the data did not support it? To a scientist, proving other scientists wrong is a goal. It get’s you cred basically and high impact publications. If scientists were able to show evidence to the contrary they would but there is not really any to be found.

          • You have to be kidding. You have linked to an article by well know industry propagandist Jon Entine. He is not well respected for honesty or ethics and has been openly accused of unethical behavior by other GMO pesticide industry propagandists.

            He is talking about the the bogus PR based study done by a Monsanto pseudo-scientist who has assigned patents to Monsanto, and peer reviewed by Monsanto controlled pseudo-scientist, and published in a Monsanto controlled publication.

            Not only that most of the 100 billion animals were broiler chickens who are slaughtered at 49 days of age, long before many health issues with GMOs show up. The study body didn’t even agree with the executive summary.

            This bogus PR exercise was designed to mislead the public into thinking it had proved safety when all it did was show the depth of the corrupt duplicity being used by Monsanto to try and put lipstick of the festering pig of the GMO pesticide industry agenda.

            This study does not prove anything about safety of long term consumption of pesticide laden GMOs on human health.

            Then you mention the infamous Cornell Alliance for Science which is funded and paid for by a 5+ Million dollar grant from the GMO pesticide promoting Gates Foundation. The AFS is nothing but a pro industry propaganda organization.

            When you get rid of the industry propaganda and show us some science we can then decide if you are for rea or another industry troll on the make.

          • Hello Cletus

            I’ve read this whole string and I would like to recommend you study some genetics. Its a very interesting and solid field of science. The field is not loaded with shills. I know its hard to separate strongly held beliefs but society moves when its members can navigate a hierarchy of evidence and then negotiate the values societies want. Conflating the two leads to very poor societal outcomes and wasting peoples time.

          • I can’t speak for Cletus, but you did post dubious industry astroturf sources to try and support your claims. This does not impress us with your ability to navigate a hierarchy of evidence and then negotiate the values societies want.

            Maybe it is you that needs to get some education which might improve your ability to discern propaganda from real authentic honest science.

          • You are entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.

            Do you have some specific comments about the facts around what I’ve posted or are you just trying to divert from the issues with your time wasting opinions?

          • Dear Cletus,

            I am new to these forums so perhaps a little naive. The previous commenters have presented ample evidence from very good sources. It seemed redundant to add more. Your previous statements are from poorer sources (blogs, etc).
            I was trying to neutrally promote a path for future positive engagement into the topic for you. Something soft like a mooc to help build up a level of competency in the field and then discern basic evidence from advocacy groups. It would help you build stronger arguments and more productive engagements with people who have a greater depth of subject knowledge. I failed.
            I am bowing out of this discussion now. Better things to do – I am taking my kids into the mountains walking, nature is awesome and the genetics underneath it fascinating. I wish you well and apologise if it seemed hurtful. It was not my intent.

          • I have found that most industry operatives have problems with my sources too. Most of my sources represent the views of independent scientists and other who are not connected to the GMO pesticide industry disinformation echo chamber PR efforts.

            I find irony in the fact that my comments on this thread contained no sources. I did, however, provide factual information about the industry echo chamber sources used by Justin to try and make his case.

          • And you don’t seem to believe genetics experts either. If they don’t support your dogma, they must be shills.

            There isn’t really anyone or anything that could convince you. We are dealing with facts and science. While you are

            distracted by ideology.

          • You are right. Science is not done by a vote–which is why you are wrong about GMOs. The science has clearly shown it is safe.

          • “The laureates’ letter relies for its impact entirely on the supposed authority of the signatories. Unfortunately, however, none appear to have relevant expertise, as some commentators were quick to point out. Philip Stark, associate dean, division of mathematical and physical sciences and professor of statistics at the University of California,
            Berkeley, revealed on Twitter his own analysis of the expertise of the signatories: ‘1 peace prize, 8 economists, 24 physicists, 33 chemists, 41 doctors’. He added that science is ‘about evidence not authority. What do they know of agriculture? Done relevant research? Science is supposed to be “show me”, not “trust me”… Nobel prize or not.’”
            http://gmwatch.org/news/latest-news/17077

        • We are not a very agricultural school. I don’t know anyone getting funding from the GM industry but the question is a bit ridiculous. If Stanford did get funding from any GM companies it wouldn’t change the nature of the independent research. CRISPR is substantially more precise than technologies used to create crops in traditional breeding. That said crops produced with CRISPR aren’t considered GMOs so that is a bit besides the point I suppose. The consensus among scientists in the biological sciences is even higher than the scientific field I suspect given that I have never met a anti-GMO geneticist. Once you understand the science it ceases to be scary. I really don’t understand why so many people don’t trust the scientific consensus and are so quick to assume scientists have some sort of agenda. My agenda is only to fight pseudoscience which I find harmful to the world. GM technologies have a lot to offer regarding conservation by producing more food on less land and helping reduce the use of pesticides and other agricultural chemicals. I think most of those who opposes them are just as misguided as climate change deniers.

      • You missed the part of Dr Eva’s post that said “scientists who have neither career nor financial interests in GM” and you only denied funding from the GM industry. Obviously you have career interests. By the way, the PEW survey you cite is meaningless, most of the scientists in that survey are not GMO experts.

        • It’s quite clear that a lot of these grad students have no experience outside of thier classroom and have been brainwashed and hypnotized buy the latest cool technology.

          • And your credentials are? Somehow some of the the smartest, most critical, most educated minds in the world are the ones you assume are brainwashed. All my colleagues at Stanford are brain washed, as well as all the scientists I know from other universities. This is absurd.

          • Justin, you will find arguing with some of these people frustrating and usually pointless. One way to decide whether or not to engage is to look at their Disqus profiles. If they are set to private and contain hundreds or (typically) thousands of comments, you might consider doing some least-favorite chore you’ve been putting off instead.

          • Had assumed from LinkedIn you’d been at UCSD. Prof. Estelle was my thesis advisor near the beginning of his career. Great guy.
            Cheers

          • I feel sorry for you. You fell into a common trap for a new person to these discussion boards–talking to Ted. See this guy uses multiple usernames to basically back himself up. He makes it seem like there are many different people who have all come to the same conclusion independently. But make no mistake about it, everyone of these anti-gmoers are the same person. He is just trying to bash you over the head and make it seem to the outside reader that you are in the minority. You are not, he is one person.

            I hope you don’t fall into this trap again. I used to argue endlessly with Ted, before it was proved to me that his many usernames are the same person.

        • Yes science is about data. There is something called a meta-analysis which is a type of paper looking at the work of many scientisits. Here is one such example: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111629 . The scientific consensus around GMOs, much like the consensus around climate change, are due to the overwhelming evidence to their safety. What would convince you and the others debating me on here of this? There is a mountain of evidence on my side but for those unwilling to accept it there is not much I can do.

          • So you saying we should except reviews of cherry picked studies instead of actual science based on the real world application.

          • Sweet, so data collected from feeding billions of farm animals over the course of almost two decades are “cherry picked studies” while Seralini´s 10 rats study is “actual science based on the real world application”. I am afraid that our definition of sound science are quite different.

          • Look, anyone can do an analysis of cherry picked studies they know will support their agenda.

            There are other studies that show different outcomes. How come none of these are ever included in your industry’s reviews?

    • You sound exactly like the climate change denialists, who complain that all the people supporting the scientific consensus on the topic work in involved fields. Of course they do! The scientists who are experts on the subjects would have to work in fields covering the subject!

      As for your ridiculous claim about it “disrupting the genome”, please do tell me the exact genetic mechanism in how that occurs, “Dr.”.

        • By “known operative”, do you mean someone who has a degree in biology and thus actually knows about the science involving genetics?

          • I mean someone who is PAID to spew Big-GMO disinformation.
            SHAME on you.
            As is your buddy hyperzombie.

          • If that person had bothered to read the rules of engagement at the top of the comment section, it clearly says:

            2. No name calling. (calling someone any version of shill or a kook will get you bounced without warning.)

          • Here here. My PhD in Genetics makes me more knowledgeable than random people who read conspiracy theories about “Big-GMO” on the internet. It makes me so sad that I can spend a decade getting an education on how genetics actually works which also puts me in a position to critically evaluate the claims of those scared of GMOs and people just ignore me or write me off. You know PostDoc make pretty pathetic incomes given our level of education. Yet somehow you think we are all paid off by big this or big that. It’s absurd. If we wanted to make money we would have become lawyers, MBAs, or medical doctors . . . or maybe become “alternative medicine/organic/homeopath,etc” scam artists, we wouldn’t have gone into science. Science is a career you pursue for passion, not for $$$.

          • Of course that is what he means. Anyone that has any kind of expertise, or even a simple understanding, of the subject matter disagrees with him–and they are all “operatives.”

    • No. They just have vested interests in their Maharishi cult and their labs detecting GMOs for Non GMO Project. Stop lying to yourself, we have read the GMOList emails.

    • Hardly.
      The European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) report says GMO crops are safe for people and the environment.

      The study came as a blow to activists opposing GMOs as it received backing from the national science academies of all EU member states, plus Norway and Switzerland.

      The EU’s chief scientific advisor, Anne Glover, described it as “an authoritative, joint statement of the national science academies in the EU member states.”

      “The conclusions of the report are based on the best possible evidence and I endorse its conclusions whole-heartedly,” Glover told EurActiv in an interview.

      “The scientific literature shows no compelling evidence to associate such crops, now cultivated worldwide for more than 15 years, with risks to the environment or with safety hazards for food,” the EASAC report states.

    • Now with the same face, go and tell that same speech to researchers in Bangladesh, Kenya, Tanzania and Cuba. I forgot, you are able to eat every meal you can, while in those countries they struggle. Easy to say any comment when you never have starved.

  2. Following GenØk’s research does give the impression that they were an early member of a movement to generate research that supported their political position. It is not only the (mostly) poor quality of the research they do produce, but their comments on other research, such as that of Seralini.

    As pointed out in article, one of the most ironic activities of GenØk has been their insistence that research on the health effects of GM crops is insufficient, yet rather than do anything about this, they conduct these uninformative studies with incorrect or insufficient controls and completely unrealistic exposures. It is baffling from a scientific point of view, but obvious from a political one.

  3. Everyone, whether pro- or con-GM, can profit from reading a book (see later) written by three authors, of whom two are geneticists of long standing. One of them abandoned his research when he realised the implications of his work. The other is still a practicing genetic engineer holding a prestigious position in medical applications of the technology (in which only one individual at a time is affected if something goes wrong, not a whole population that is eating food that can cause illness. In the US, some doctors are already curing patients with a recommendation to avoid any food or its derivative that could be GM). The book is the 3rd edition (2015), very much condensed and also updated from the 2nd edition (2014). The title is ‘GMO Myths and Truths’ and the authors, in alphabetical order, are Dr Michael Antoniou, Dr John Fagan and Claire Robinson. Their facts are fully documented with published scientific references.

    The article above, which initiated all our comments, fails to mention that the retracted paper of Seralini et al. was republished in another journal and that it had passed not only the pre-publication peer review but also, following criticisms, a second peer review including a review of the raw data. In the words of the retracting Editor, “Ultimately, the results presented (while not incorrect) are inconclusive, … The retraction is only on the inconclusiveness of this one paper.” Inconclusiveness is an unprecedented, unrecognised reason for retraction. Very few papers would be published if they had to be conclusive. Several people on the Editorial Board had conflicts of interest.

  4. What’s hilarious about the GenØk folks, though, is that they are like the Keystone Cops of anti-GMO. They keep publishing stuff that fails to make their case. It’s bizarre, really.

    For years, I laughed at this article: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17961488 No matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t get DNA into gut bacteria.

    So yesterday I was looking for their more recent work. Here they tried to show the Bt protein was allergenic: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27141950 Nope.

    And I linked over to this other one that came up as a related paper: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25564738 Nope.

    It’s kind of strange. They can’t prove their own claims, but it’s handy to have the evidence that they keep failing.

    • The allergenic one is so stupid. What would they do if they did “prove” it? Wouldn’t that mean all Bt application is allergenic, including its heavy usage in organic farming?

    • Great references, mem.
      The second paper included the following sentence:

      “The present study does not indicate adverse health effects of trypCry1Ab in terms of immunogenic, allergenic or adjuvant properties, however, there are several experimental limitations that should be considered.”

      In other words, the authors didn’t get the result that they wanted, so they then proceeded to try to come up with possible explanations to invalidate the design of their own study!

  5. Testing crops for nutrition has many factors.

    In my conditions, a manure-based fertilizer will increase the protein of oats and triticale taken as forage.

    With some crops, a lower, slower growing crop will test better on nutrition tests, with other crops, a faster, higher-yielding crop will test better on nutrition tests.

    What inputs, including land, did it take to get the total output? (gross yield/acre weighted for nutrition content)

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