Danger! Science ahead!

[EDIT:

Since I wrote this article the research paper that the article is about has come under serious scientific criticism.

Unfortunately, I have been unable to find out whether the allegations of Monsanto deliberately altering their research design during testing is true or not. For me this is one of the most important questions because it’s one of the traditional ‘smoking guns’ of pseudoscience.

Secondly, the criticism of this one paper does not deal with many of the other problems with GMOs that are not directly related to toxicity.

And it doesn’t cover Monsanto’s heavy-handedness, intimidation tactics, and irrational use of patenting law.

However, since I’ve been unable to get reliable sources on how the key issues relate to the article in question I am withdrawing this blog post.

It will stay up for historical purposes, but I can no longer claim that it is sufficiently reliable to be, you know, relied on.

/EDIT]

 

There has been a lot of debate about the dangers of Genetically Modified foods. Those who are against GM foods say that genetic modification of food stuffs is dangerous because there is no way to know how new genes will behave in a living organism and also because every time humans try to modify an environment we tend to fuck up quite badly (rabbits in Australia, killer bees in the US etc.).

Those in favour of GM products counter by saying that humans have been altering the genes of our food through selective breeding for millennia. For example wild bananas have huge seeds that make them hard to eat, it was only through breeding that we made them as wonderfully handy as they are. And think about the humble carrot; there is a theory that it’s only orange because it was bred to be orange as a happy birthday to the Dutch royal family.

Sceptics counter by pointing out that those processes were merely a development of natural evolution whereas genetic engineering can create things that would never occur naturally, like those monkeys that glow in the dark, or those pigs that fart less than usual.

GM praise singers then respond that this is actually a good thing, because it will enable us to engineer foods that contain life-saving vaccines that will save millions of lives. They also point out that Norman Borlaug saved the lives of over 30 MILLION people by using crops he created to save them from starvation (making him, without any doubt, the most awesome person in the history of ever).

There is huge debate over how many lives he saved. But no debate on how awesome he is.

Critics respond by pointing out that even though this is true that doesn’t mean we should just accept any new product that comes along, because there is still no way of knowing whether GM foods are dangerous. Cyanide is made from apple seeds. What if someone accidentally increases the level of cyanide in our apples so that they become toxic?

GM supporters then point out that all GM crops go through a rigorous safety-testing cycle, similar to the one that all medicines must undergo before they are deemed fit for human consumption. “Surely,” they argue, “if there was anything wrong with GM foods the government agencies that are responsible for protecting us would have said something?”

Critics respond by saying “but the process for assessing the dangers of GM crops is heavily influenced by the pharmaceutical and agricultural companies that make them, it isn’t good science”.

GMers then ask “can you prove that?”

And that was where the debate got stuck. Until now.

The study at the end of that link proves, beyond any doubt, that Monsanto’s methods for assessing the toxicity of their GM corn are completely inaccurate and inadequate. It also suggests that Monsanto might be doing this deliberately, and then working very hard to cover it up.

(Continued on Page 2)

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