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Update to Boston Review Forum on GMOs

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Doug Gurian-Sherman at the Union of Concerned scientists wrote me a polite email yesterday. He protested that one of the sentences in my response to Margaret Mellon’s response to my recent Boston Review piece on “GMOs”, was “not professional and far from worthy of my typical efforts”.  I appreciate his candor and civility and have concluded that he is right - the sentence was overly harsh and not specific enough to be meaningful. How can UCS respond to such a broad attack?  For these reasons, please consider this sentence deleted:

“The three UCS pieces that Mellon cites have been widely discredited, but UCS keeps churning them out without critical review.”

and replaced with this:

“The UCS reports cited by Mellon were published and distributed without critical review. Since publication, several scientists have noted selective use of datasets and calculation errors in the initial report. Specifically, because the benefits of GE crops to neighboring farms, were not included in the UCS analysis, the conclusions of the report are not useful. Furthermore, the report focused only on corn and soybean in the US, omitting the extensive data available from cotton and canola in the US and abroad.   Finally, the UCS claim that GE crops on the market have “failed to yield”. This is highly misleading. One of the first GE traits developed, BT crops, was designed to guard the plants against insect damage and reduce the use of sprayed insecticides. A decade of peer-reviewed reports attests to the success of this approach in achieving these objectives. In addition, BT crops have reduced pesticide poisonings of farmers and their families and dramatically enhanced yields in developing countries.   Collectively, these omissions in the UCS report serve to distort the actual situation and confuse the public.”

The editors of the Boston Review have agreed to post this link at the end of my response on their website. I will also post this note in the BR comments section.

 

Pamela Ronald About the Author: Pamela Ronald is a Professor at the University of California, Davis where she studies how genes affect the plant’s response to environmental stress and disease. She is co-author of ‘Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics and the Future of Food”. Find her on the web at http://cropgeneticsinnovation.org/. Follow on Twitter @pcronald.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Comments 28 Comments

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  1. 1. hicks.daniel.j 5:53 pm 09/10/2013

    (If this comes off as too hostile, I apologize in advance — I’m a philosopher, and our normal tone is antagonistic.)

    Peer review doesn’t always provide a good reason to trust a source. I spent last Monday tracking down citations for a peer-reviewed publication that’s been cited by Monsanto to support the claim that GM crops have increased yields. For the developing world, the citations in this article were to papers that were more than 10 years old, statistically weak, published by individuals or organizations with biotechnology industry connections, or simply unavailable through standard academic channels. In addition, the article was written by consultants who have worked for Monsanto in the past, and this possible conflict of interest was not disclosed. You can read that post here:
    http://jefais.tumblr.com/post/60271855815/how-to-use-citations-to-create-ignorance

    I haven’t yet conducted a similar review of the citations in the Carpenter paper that you link under “peer-reviewed reports,” though I plan to do so in the next few weeks. I note, however, that Carpenter’s piece is designed to look like a meta-analysis, yet doesn’t include the methodological details that a meta-analysis should; uses an unusual and coarse statistical methodology; and the web version of Carpenter’s paper (N.B. not the published/PDF version) discloses that her research was supported by CropLife International, which is a biotechnology industry organization. For these reasons at least, critics of GM crops have reason not to take Carpenter’s findings at face value.

    Link to this
  2. 2. Doug Gurian-Sherman 6:58 pm 09/10/2013

    I appreciate Pam’s willingness to edit her original statement. However, there remain several inaccuracies or points of contention in her correction.

    First, she continues to refer to “the UCS reports cited by Mellon,” but her new critique focuses on only one of those reports, “Failure to Yield,” published in 2009. That report was followed by “No Sure Fix” in 2009, addressing the important environmental issue of whether GE was addressing nitrogen use and pollution, and “High and Dry,” published in 2012, about GE and drought tolerance (all linked in the “learn more” section here: http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/our-failing-food-system/genetic-engineering/ ).

    Together, these reports show that for these important traits GE has accomplished relatively little—and has produced no commercial traits for nitrogen efficiency in the US—where GE must compete with other advanced agricultural technologies and methods. GE has no commercial traits for drought tolerance or nitrogen use efficiency globally.

    Importantly, the reports also show that breeding has, and continues to accomplish, much more in aggregate than GE for all of these traits (and others), and why this is not likely to change much in the in the next several years. The yield contribution of breeding and improved agronomy, for example, is higher than for GE in corn in the US (or soybeans). And breeding and agronomy have steadily improved drought tolerance and nitrogen use efficiency.

    It is important to understand that breeding has barely scratched the surface of its potential, as a recent review in the prestigious journal Nature pointed out (http://www.cenargen.embrapa.br/_comunicacao/2013/falaramdenos/0713_04_nature_Agriculture_Feedingthefuture%20_artigoGratapaglia.pdf and in this blog post: http://blog.ucsusa.org/genetic-technologys-answer-to-a-major-insect-pest-192 ). This is why it is critically important for public sector breeding, producing public crop varieties, to be better funded.

    Similarly, ecological farming methods can accomplish a huge amount of improvement in sustainability and crop resilience, as the reports also discuss.

    Second, Ronald incorrectly claims that the reports did not receive critical review. All UCS reports must be reviewed by outside expert reviewers, usually academic scientists, in relevant fields. There have been at least three for each of the above reports (see the acknowledgments sections), and all made critical suggestions for change that were largely incorporated.

    The reports did not go through the anonymous peer review used by science journals. But neither do reports from US government science agencies, and so on. Neither did Ronald’s own book, I assume (it would be virtually unheard of), which she actively promotes in the hope, I have to believe, of trying to influence the public debate on GE based on its ideas and science analysis. Most of the literature analyzed in my reports consists of peer-reviewed science journal articles.

    Journal peer review is an important process, but not the only one that produces important and legitimate science analysis. UCS reports or Ronald’s own book can be evaluated by scientists and anyone else for the quality and accuracy of their content, which is what should ultimately matter.

    More substantively, we could not really have omitted the area-wide (beyond those who use Bt) suppression of European corn borer data in our 2009 report, because the suppression data were not published at the time our report was released, so not readily available. However, it is an important piece of the yield puzzle. Because I used a conservative approach in my calculations, area-wide suppression should not make much difference. I assumed that virtually all acres that experienced heavy infestations of borer, based on historical data, would use Bt and would achieve 100 percent control. Only acres with lower borer infestations were likely omitted from my calculations. Data discussed in my report suggest that low to moderate infestation suffer no to small (a few percent) yield loss. So it is likely that the area-wide suppression of borer would only add a small amount to the yield above my calculations. In addition, the other Bt, for rootworm, achieves no area-wide suppression. Nonetheless, additional analysis of yield benefit since the report is needed to clarify and quantify this issue, and review other newer literature.

    The report did not claim that Bt failed to yield, as Ronald suggests. The content of the report showed modest yield benefit from Bt on corn. And the report was not misleading in not including data on things like chemical pesticide reduction in corn or other crops. All reports and papers (including those by Ronald) have limits on their extent and coverage. Our report was about one important parameter—crop productivity (and in fact we did acknowledge in the report that chemical pesticide reduction has been achieved in Bt corn and cotton, and is a good thing). Likewise we did not include cotton because we focused on food and feed crops. And both canola and cotton are minor crops in the US compared to soybeans and corn which we covered. Likewise yield in other parts of the world were simply beyond the scope of what we could cover with our resources. This is a complex question that is beyond what can be addressed here.

    Therefore the reports are neither distortions nor misleading. If read carefully (a reasonable expectation by an author) they add useful data and analysis to the debate about these crops. And if put into the context of the additional literature about other issues regarding GE crops, can be evaluated for their proper contribution along with other analyses about the other issues that Ronald raises.

    Link to this
  3. 3. Doug Gurian-Sherman 7:18 pm 09/10/2013

    In addition, Carpenter’s peer-reviewed surveys include many that did not control for important variables (by using isogenic controls, widely agreed upon by scientists) or use econometric methods that may sometimes compensate for the lack of such controls. Therefore, her data overall are questionable.

    In addition, her values for yield in Bt corn in the US in another peer-reviewed paper are close to mine. Yield benefit from herbicide tolerance has been shown to be very small (about 2 percent) in a recent paper that uses better methods and a more extensive dataset, though somewhat higher for Bt.

    Link to this
  4. 4. Robert Wager 8:48 pm 09/10/2013

    Doug
    How does glyphosate compare (EIQ)to the compounds it replaced?

    Link to this
  5. 5. Madeleine Love 9:53 pm 09/10/2013

    Robert,
    I’ve wondered about that in these evaluations but the EIQ variables for a product such as glyphosate are still being discovered. The EIQ seems slightly inadequate in that it has no time-related component related to impact discovery. The micronutrient drag in glyphosate treated crops, or even from glyphosate chelation in soils, may have a long term chronic impact on health that is yet to be fully quantified.

    Link to this
  6. 6. Doug Gurian-Sherman 11:18 pm 09/10/2013

    I appreciate Pam’s willingness to edit her original statement. However, there remain several inaccuracies or points of contention in her correction.

    First, she continues to refer to “the UCS reports cited by Mellon,” but her new critique focuses on only one of those reports, “Failure to Yield,” published in 2009. That report was followed by “No Sure Fix” in 2009, addressing the important environmental issue of whether GE was addressing nitrogen use and pollution, and “High and Dry,” published in 2012, about GE and drought tolerance (all linked in the “learn more” section here: http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/our-failing-food-system/genetic-engineering/ ).

    Together, these reports show that for these important traits GE has accomplished relatively little—and has produced no commercial traits for nitrogen efficiency in the US—where GE must compete with other advanced agricultural technologies and methods. GE has no commercial traits for drought tolerance or nitrogen use efficiency globally.

    Importantly, the reports also show that breeding has, and continues to accomplish, much more in aggregate than GE for all of these traits (and others), and why this is not likely to change much in the in the next several years. The yield contribution of breeding and improved agronomy, for example, is higher than for GE in corn (or soybeans). And breeding and agronomy have steadily improved drought tolerance and nitrogen use efficiency.

    It is important to understand that breeding has barely scratched the surface of its potential, as a recent review in the prestigious journal Nature pointed out (http://www.cenargen.embrapa.br/_comunicacao/2013/falaramdenos/0713_04_nature_Agriculture_Feedingthefuture%20_artigoGratapaglia.pdf and in this blog post: http://blog.ucsusa.org/genetic-technologys-answer-to-a-major-insect-pest-192 ). This is why it is critically important for public sector breeding, producing public crop varieties, to be better funded.

    Similarly, ecological farming methods can accomplish a huge amount of improvement in sustainability and crop resilience, as the reports also discuss.

    Second, Ronald incorrectly claims that the reports did not receive critical review. All UCS reports must be reviewed by outside expert reviewers, usually academic scientists, in relevant fields. There have been at least three for each of the above reports (see the acknowledgments sections), and all made critical suggestions for change that were largely incorporated. The reports did not go through the anonymous peer review used by science journals. But neither do reports from US government science agencies, and so on. Neither did Ronald’s own book, I assume (it would be virtually unheard of), which she actively promotes in the hope, I have to believe, of trying to influence the public debate on GE based on its ideas and science analysis. Most of the literature analyzed in my reports consists of peer-reviewed science journal articles.

    Journal peer review is an important process, but not the only one that produces important and legitimate science analysis. UCS reports or Ronald’s own book can be evaluated by scientists and anyone else for the quality and accuracy of their content, which is what should ultimately matter.

    More substantively, we could not really have omitted the area-wide (beyond those who use Bt) suppression of European corn borer data in our 2009 report, because the suppression data were not published at the time our report was released, so not readily avaiable. However, it is an important piece of the yield puzzle. Because I used a conservative approach in my calculations, area-wide suppressions should not make much difference. I assumed that virtually all acres that experienced heavy infestations of borer, based on historical data, would use Bt and would achieve 100 percent control. Only acres with lower borer infestations were likely omitted from my calculations. Data discussed in my report suggest that low to moderate infestation suffer no to small (a few percent) yield loss. So it is likely that the area-wide suppression of borer would only add a small amount to the yield above my calculations. In addition, the other Bt, for rootworm, achieves no area-wide suppression. Nonetheless, additional analysis of yield benefit since the report is needed to clarify and quantify this issue, and review other newer literature.

    In addition, Carpenter’s peer-reviewed surveys, relied on by Ronald, include many that did not control for important variables (by using isogenic controls, widely agreed upon as important by scientists) or use econometric methods that may sometimes compensate for the lack of such controls. Therefore, her data overall are questionable.

    In addition, her values for yield in Bt corn in the US in another peer-reviewed paper are close to mine. Yield benefit from herbicide tolerance has been shown to be very small (about 2 percent) in a recent paper that uses better methods and a more extensive dataset, though somewhat higher than my valuesfor Bt. The basic points of my report remain valid.

    The report did not claim that Bt failed to yield, as Ronald suggests. The content of the report showed modest yield benefit from Bt on corn. And the report was not misleading in not including data on things like chemical pesticide reduction in corn or other crops. All reports and papers (including those by Ronald) have limits on their extent and coverage. Our report was about one important parameter—crop productivity (and in fact we did acknowledge in the report that chemical pesticide reduction has been achieved in Bt corn and cotton, and is a good thing). Likewise we did not include cotton because we focused on food and feed crops. And both canola and cotton are minor crops in the US compared to soybeans and corn which we covered. Likewise yield in other parts of the world were simply beyond the scope of what we could cover with our resources. This is a complex question that is beyond what can be addressed here.

    Therefore the reports are neither distortions nor misleading. If read carefully (a reasonable expectation by an author) they add useful data and analysis to the debate about these crops. And if put into the context of the additional literature about other issues regarding GE crops, can be evaluated for their proper contribution along with other analyses about the other issues that Ronald raises.

    Link to this
  7. 7. pcronald 3:32 pm 09/11/2013

    I appreciate that Doug Gurian-Sherman has taken time to respond. His response is quite lengthy so I will summarize my understanding here of the UCS position (based on Mellon and Gurian-Sherman’s responses):
    UCS concurs with the broad scientific consensus (see main article for citations) that:
    1. Each GE crop must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
    2. In the case of GE cotton, the technology has enhanced yields in many parts of the world.
    3. The planting of GE cotton has reduced the use of sprayed insecticides
    4. GE papaya has enhanced yields
    5. GE crops currently on the market are safe to eat and safe for the environment
    6. GE crops are just one of the many tools that can be used to enhance the sustainability of farms.
    7. Enhanced public funding for breeding is needed
    8. The planting of GE corn in the US has benefited growers of non-GE corn
    9. The technology of GE has not solved all agricultural problems. But we should not throw out the technology for that reason. (Just as we do not consider vaccination as a technological failure because there are still diseases for which we don’t yet have vaccines)
    I am glad to see that UCS has come forward to support these points. If there is any disagreement on these 9 points, I hope UCS will respond concisely (e.g. Simply indicate which of the 9 points are not supported).
    The other points that Gurian-Sherman raises (e.g. the relevance of peer review, the relative merits of breeding and GE to address diverse agricultural problems etc.) will be taken up in a discussion on the blog biofortifed.org in the near future.

    Link to this
  8. 8. Doug Gurian-Sherman 6:11 pm 09/11/2013

    Pam Ronald’s statements above do not represent positions of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
    If anyone wants to know our views about agriculture, we urge them to read our blogs, our website and our reports.
    Margaret Mellon and Doug Gurian-Sherman

    Link to this
  9. 9. Doug Gurian-Sherman 6:27 pm 09/11/2013

    We do support increased funding for public breeding programs. But on other points, as noted above, please see our web pages and reports.

    Link to this
  10. 10. pcronald 7:43 pm 09/11/2013

    Doug, over the last few days, you and Mardi made essentially these exact statements on public forums and at other times.

    yesterday Mardi corrected point #5, which is helpful. She concurred with the statement that

    GE crops currently on the market are safe to eat

    Therefore I have amended the list to read:

    UCS concurs with the broad scientific consensus (see main article for citations) that:

    1. Each GE crop must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

    2. In the case of GE cotton, the technology has enhanced yields in many parts of the world.

    3. The planting of GE cotton has reduced the use of sprayed insecticides

    4. GE papaya has enhanced yields

    5. GE crops currently on the market are safe to eat.

    6. The GE crops themselves that currently on the market are safe for the environment. However overuse of herbicides on farms (GE or nonGE) leads to herbicide resistant weeds

    7. GE crops are just one of the many tools that can be used to enhance the sustainability of farms.

    8. Enhanced public funding for breeding is needed

    9. The planting of GE corn in the US has benefited growers of non-GE corn

    10. The technology of GE has not solved all agricultural problems. But we should not throw out the technology for that reason. (Just as we do not consider vaccination as a technological failure because there are still diseases for which we don’t yet have vaccines)

    It important for the public to not know whether or not you agree with the broad scientific consensus on these points. Obviously you have other points to make but it is all but impossible for the public to glean the position of UCS on these issues from your website or your reports.

    There are 10 simple, specific points. Are you now saying that you have changed your positions on all the points except for #7? That you refute the scientific consensus on all these issues?

    Link to this
  11. 11. First Officer 11:02 pm 09/11/2013

    Considering that over 80% of all US corn grown is GM and that US corn yields have continued to increase tremendously from the onset of GM corn to the present, with normal fluctuations due to weather conditions, how could it be said that GE has not contributed significantly to real world yields of corn?

    http://www.agry.purdue.edu/ext/corn/news/timeless/YieldTrends.html

    There also seems to be a disconnect between what UCS is saying and what farmers find. Why would farmers continue to first adopt and then continue to buy GM seed in ever greater quantities and numbers if they didn’t get some significant benefit from them either through increased real world yield, reduced use of inputs or both?

    Link to this
  12. 12. hicks.daniel.j 7:46 am 09/12/2013

    First Officer, that’s a very rough inference — there are plenty of other things (like improvements due to conventional breeding) that could explain those increases.

    In the scientific literature, yield increases are usually measured relatively, i.e., as an annual change percentage. An increase of about 1.9 bu/ac per year, on fields producing upwards of 120 bu/ac, is an increase of less than 1% per year. Proponents of GM crops often claim increases of 5-7% for corn in core countries, like the US, and 10-20% increases in semiperiphery countries, like South Africa and Colombia.

    Link to this
  13. 13. First Officer 1:00 pm 09/12/2013

    Daniel, let’s go by your numbers (corrected for 1.9/120 = 1.58%).

    Over a period of just a few years (let’s say 5) that does amount to over 8% increase and the GE game has not even begun to play itself out. So, i think proponents are quoting the overall gain from other techniques alone. But, if you take that developed GM corn to areas where they are still using 10 year old strains, then, indeed, they would see a a 10-20% increase. It should also be said that a 1% gain per year above and beyond the baseline gain per year results in overall gain differences that can be quite significant over several years.

    Link to this
  14. 14. marclevesque 6:17 pm 09/12/2013

    pcronald,

    I see you are not responding to the points raised in comments by Doug Gurian-Sherman.

    Doug Gurian-Sherman,

    I’m happy see your comments.

    Link to this
  15. 15. Dr. Strangelove 11:34 pm 09/12/2013

    UCS has no credibility because it is an advocacy group whose objective is to promote anti-GMO, anti-nuclear, anti-military science and technology. The public should take UCS pronouncements and reports with suspicion and skepticism. It’s like a barber telling the customer he needs a haircut. The public is advised to listen instead to the scientific reports of scientific institutions like the US Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society of London, UN Food and Agriculture Organization, University of California (Davies), etc. These reputable institutions, among others, endorse GMOs.

    Pam, keep up the good work!

    Link to this
  16. 16. Dr. Strangelove 2:16 am 09/13/2013

    Sherman doesn’t do any real research on GMOs. He merely rely on what he had read on popular books and magazines. His papers are based on anecdotes, hearsay and his personal opinion. It’s best to just ignore him.

    Link to this
  17. 17. marclevesque 10:21 am 09/13/2013

    Dr. Strangelove 11:34 pm 09/12/2013,

    “UCS has no credibility because it is an advocacy group whose objective is to promote anti-GMO, anti-nuclear, anti-military science and technology.”

    Links please, because for example:

    “Scientific Integrity: Let Science Do Its Job. Our civilization is built on a foundation of science. Life as we know it is the result of a remarkable series of technological advances over the past few centuries—advances largely driven by partnerships between science and government.”
    http://www.ucsusa.org/scientific_integrity/

    “Nuclear power is an inherently hazardous technology; there’s no way to make it perfectly safe. But we can make it safer. UCS has released a list of safety and security recommendations for nuclear power plants in the U.S., outlining steps the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and other government agencies can take to make a nuclear disaster less likely and reduce the damage if one does occur.”
    http://www.ucsusa.org/nuclear_power/

    Link to this
  18. 18. marclevesque 6:19 pm 09/13/2013

    @First Officer 11:02 pm 09/11/2013,

    Your link does not support your claim that GMOs have significantly affected yield increases:

    “The adoption of hybrid corn by growers after the Dust Bowl years resulted in the first significant improvement in corn productivity and led to an annual rate of yield improvement of about 0.8 bu/ac/year from about 1937 through about 1955 (Fig. 1). A second significant shift in the annual rate of yield improvement occurred in the mid-1950′s due to a combination of improved genetics, availability of N fertilizer and chemical pesticides, and mechanization (Fig. 1). Since 1955, corn grain yields in the U.S. have increased at a fairly constant 1.9 bushels per acre per year primarily due to sustained improvements in genetics and production technologies (Fig. 1). Some question whether the yield trend line has shifted again in recent years due to the advent of transgenic hybrid technology in the mid-1990′s, but the data show little evidence that a third significant shift in corn productivity has occurred (Fig. 1).”

    The yearly improvement in yield has remained about constant from 1955 to today, the introduction of GMO corn in the mid-1990′s does not appear to have affected the upward trend.

    Link to this
  19. 19. First Officer 8:02 pm 09/13/2013

    @marclevesque

    However, the yield increases from 1996 on are at least partially the result of GE. We incorporated a new technology to maintain the yield increases that we enjoyed before 1996. It’s like Moore’s law with computers, to wit, the power of computers will roughly double every 18 months. However, when Moore’s Law was first formulated, the technology used in chip production and computer architecture was vastly different than the technology used today.

    Your claim that GE added no yield because the yield curve remained roughly the same is like saying X-ray and electron lithography added no chip circuit density over visible light lithography simply because the computer power yield curve remained roughly the same.

    Link to this
  20. 20. Madeleine Love 9:43 pm 09/13/2013

    Despite the fact that it may be puzzling to Pamela Ronald, the response from Doug Gurian-Sherman does imply that she has misrepresented the UCS on 9 out of 10 points. I wonder if she will be thus led to the conclusion, as others have learnt in their humiliation, that it is best to allow such an organisation to speak for itself, rather than attempt to pen its views for it.

    Regarding Ronald’s second attempt to speak for Mellon on this blog with a brief unqualified statement, I would like to note that in the absence of any data statements about the safety of existing GM food crops are assumption based and not definitive.

    There have been no epidemiological studies that have looked to see if GM food (of any single or combined exposures to GM lines, approved or rogue) has been safe to eat. Not one. Indeed our food regulator here in Australia, FSANZ, has actually given the responsibility of post-marketing studies to the patent holders of the GM crops, Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta et al. Given that such a study would prove their own liability, I’m not expecting one soon.

    With a work history in actuarial science I am accustomed to reviewing databases of experience. I see the dramatic escalation in our hospital databases of life threatening allergy, immune and gastrointestinal disorders beginning in the mid 1990′s commensurate with an assumed contamination of the global trade lines with increasing GM production, and unlabelled in food products.

    I see no reason to adopt an entirely unquantified risk with no established benefits other than the enrichment of GM company profits.

    Link to this
  21. 21. Dr. Strangelove 11:22 pm 09/13/2013

    marclevesque must be from UCS. Talk is cheap. Actions speak louder than words. Any organization asking money from the public will say they are good, reasonable, have integrity, want safety, etc., etc. But do they contribute anything to the nuclear industry? Do nuclear companies recognize them, seek their help and advice? Have they contributed anything to feed the poor people in the world? Or just rants that nuclear is bad, GMO is bad, government is bad, big companies are bad, bad, bad?

    Link to this
  22. 22. First Officer 11:40 pm 09/13/2013

    Interesting, Ms. Love. Australia seems at the moment to ony grow GM cotton and canola, the latter starting around 2008. And, while GM grains, etc. may be imported, there doesn’t seem to be much of a volume actually coming into Australia. Only soybeans show a steady import increase.

    http://www.indexmundi.com/agriculture/?country=au&commodity=corn&graph=ty-imports

    Are you sure there is even a correlation, much less a causation?

    However, there is one food phenomenon that has a very good correlation to that of autism and diabetes:

    http://kfolta.blogspot.com/2013/02/organic-food-causes-autism.html

    Link to this
  23. 23. Dr. Strangelove 11:41 pm 09/13/2013

    “I would like to note that in the absence of any data statements about the safety of existing GM food crops are assumption based and not definitive.”

    Ask FAO and NAS for data. Billions are people worldwide are eating GM foods for two decades. Where are the mass poisonings? The danger of GM food is your wishful thinking. You’re praying that they are deadly and millions of people will die.

    “With a work history in actuarial science I am accustomed to reviewing databases of experience.”

    I see you believe your knowledge in statistics makes you more qualified than Prof. Pam Ronald to make contrary pronouncements on the danger of GMOs. Nevermind that genetic scientists and biotechnologists have been studying GMOs for decades and say they are safe. We should believe you because you studied statistics.

    Link to this
  24. 24. Madeleine Love 4:36 am 09/14/2013

    I wouldn’t be looking to a not-disinterested plant biologist as an authority on epidemiological population health.

    Link to this
  25. 25. marclevesque 10:04 am 09/14/2013

    @First Officer 8:02 pm 09/13/2013,

    GMO crops may have contributed to the trend but by how much is in question.

    “the yield increases from 1996 on are at least partially the result of GE”

    That is a possibility and another study may address that question but as the author stated the data sets they are reporting on do not appear to lead to any conclusion on the level of contribution of GMO crops to yield increases.

    Of course speculations on how much GMO crops have contributed to yield increases and on the reasons they could have contributed anywhere from 0% to 100% of the stable trend in yearly yield increases are not without merit.

    Link to this
  26. 26. marclevesque 10:15 am 09/14/2013

    @Dr. Strangelove 11:22 pm 09/13/2013,

    “Have they [UCS] contributed anything to feed the poor people in the world? Or just rants that nuclear is bad, GMO is bad, government is bad, big companies are bad, bad, bad?”

    : )

    Link to this
  27. 27. First Officer 11:04 am 09/14/2013

    marclevesque, i think it could be fairly easily determined. Grow, for example, BT corn right next to it’s strain that is identical to it except for the BT trait. Apply equal amounts of fertilizer, insecticides, etc. Also, apply to both fields, the corn borer. Obviously, non-BT corn would perform similarly to BT corn if there were no attacking insects around. There would have to be two experiments (plus controls) done with concern to insecticides. One, with insecticides known to attack the corn borer, and one without.

    Link to this
  28. 28. Dr. Strangelove 9:38 pm 09/15/2013

    @marclevesque

    “I wouldn’t be looking to a not-disinterested plant biologist as an authority on epidemiological population health.”

    Of course plant geneticists know more about GM crops than epidemiologists. The former directly studies the cause, the latter studies the assumed effects.

    From Wikipedia:

    “many epidemiology studies conducted cause false or misinterpreted information to circulate the public… most studies biased or inconclusive or false, most discovered true associations are inflated, fear and panic inducing rather than helpful; media-induced panic, cannot detect small effects”

    “Although epidemiology is sometimes viewed as a collection of statistical tools used to elucidate the associations of exposures to health outcomes, a deeper understanding of this science is that of discovering causal relationships.”

    “Correlation does not imply causation” is a common theme for much of the epidemiological literature.”

    Geneticists are the expert on the cause – GMOs. BTW epidemiologists and medical associations do not assert that GM food is dangerous to health.

    Link to this

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