Navigating the agricultural biotech minefield: When an MIT study is not an MIT study

Despite what you have read on the Internet, an MIT study has not shown that glyphosate, the herbicide used in conjunction with Monsanto’s line of Roundup Ready genetically modified seeds, is behind “most of the diseases and conditions associated with a Western diet,” including “gastrointestinal disorders, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.”

Last week, an overly credulous Reuters article summarizing a study by non-experts in a “pay for play” journal with no credibility among scientists quickly spread around the web, under headlines that almost invariably cited “an MIT study” and linked the herbicide and the biotech plants it is used with to a litany of diseases and disorders. Respected science journalists Keith Kloor and Paul Raeburn have written thorough take downs of the paper and Reuters article in question. In short: It’s not a study (no data is presented); the “MIT” comes from the fact that one of the researchers happens to be affiliated with the university in a way that has nothing to do with genetics or chemistry;  and shame on Reuters for propagating such sketchy journalism masquerading as “science.”

I should be used to credulous journalism and suspicious science; as someone with a background in evolutionary biology, I know the tactic of taking ideology, trussing it up like proper science by placing questionable articles in questionable journals and brandishing science-like jargon and parading it across the cultural stage—the folks behind Intelligent Design have been doing this for ages. Yet here I am, M.S. in science writing from MIT itself,  having been taken in—at least momentarily—by the shoddy work of two people who have at best produced a terrible effort at science and at worst an ideology-driven bit of scaremongering dressed up in science’s clothes.

I’m here not to trash the uncritical coverage or the paper itself but to offer some perspective on navigating the intellectual landscape of agricultural biotechnology which is full of well-hidden mines just like this one, primed to explode on well-meaning, intelligent, educated—and trusting—laypeople. I’m here to admit how difficult it can be, even for people with relevant training, to invest the time and mental energy required to calibrate their bullshit detectors. All the same, it is possible and necessary to separate science from pseudoscience. I want to walk you through my own process of evaluating the paper—not from a position of authority but from that of an educated person trying to muddle through.

Seth Mnookin, author of The Panic Virus and current member of the MIT graduate program in science faculty, offered his comments about the fiasco via email: “Anytime a study is claiming to have discovered the reason for a literal grab bag of diseases—in this case, everything from IBD and ADHD to autism and Alzheimer’s—huge, blaring alarm bells should go off. These are dramatically different diseases; presuming to find one cause doesn’t just stretch the imagination, it sounds insane.” Mnookin was one of several people who blasted Michael Pollan on Twitter for sharing a link to the Reuters report.

This is bullshit detection 101: If someone claims they’ve figured out everything that’s wrong with American politics and it’s all because there was a second shooter at JFK’s assassination, you would rightfully give them a sidelong look.

When alarm bells fire, it’s time to dig. Even if you lack formal scientific training, it’s good practice to call up a copy of the paper if you can (here’s the one we’re talking about). The abstract is almost always readable, and you can find out who the authors are and what sources they cite.

At a quick glance, this paper gives the impression of being a proper piece of scientific writing. It’s in what sounds like a reputable journal, Entropy, and formatted like other academic papers, with an interminable list of citations. You might laugh at the idea of being tricked by formatting, but the human brain is particularly good at recognizing patterns, and conscious or not we’re influenced by how “official” a document looks. Why else would a resume in comic sans evoke laughter?

Related article:  Will US cut off support for WHO's IARC over pilloried glyphosate cancer report?

However, from the first page, the report is riddled with danger signs. The two people listed as authors are an “independent scientist and consultant” and a member of MIT’s computer science and artificial intelligence laboratory – neither is a geneticist or biochemist or biologist or botanist or nutritionist or anything else that might lend them expertise in the matter of glyphosate’s effects on human health.

By the second page, despite those 280-odd citations, the authors have made a major claim without citing any evidence: “Research indicates that the new RNA and DNA present in genetically engineered plants … have not yet fully understood biological effects.” Given the impressive literature that exists documenting the safety of genetically engineered plants, it seems rather glib to hinge your entire argument on a premise without providing a single piece of supporting evidence. In fact, the biological effects of new RNA and DNA in genetically engineered plants has been widely studies in dozens of articles. With a few controversial exceptions, the overwhelming consensus of mainstream geneticists and major international science bodies is that the biological impacts of genetically modified crops are benign and GE foods are safe for human consumption.

The authors ignore 98% of the studies to focus on a single discredited one. The authors cite the now-infamous work of French scientist Gilles-Eric Seralini, whose deeply flawed study linking Roundup to cancer in rats has been roundly rejected by the scientific community. Not good.

The paper doesn’t get any better. The authors jump from unsupported conclusion to unsupported conclusion and from one disorder to another, daisy-chaining the supposed deleterious effects of glyphosate on our gut bacteria as a facile explanation for colitis and autism and obesity. At no point do they perform any original experiments or provide any direct evidence of the links between the various rungs in their daisy-chain of doom – it’s all couched in far-fetched plausibility-as-evidence.

Anyone with a clear head can tell you that just because something is remotely possible does not make it so. This entire paper is simply 30 pages of long-shot arguments for the plausibility of a too-bad-to-be-true story using the world’s most notorious herbicide to explain every ailment under the sun.

Even worse, they wave away all of the evidence of safety accumulated over glyphosate’s 30 years of use. It’s extensively tested and is known to be one of the mildest herbicides used in agriculture today—as much as 100 times less toxic than many commonly used agricultural chemicals. It is widely used for agriculture, horticulture, and silviculture purposes, as well as garden maintenance (including home use). The EPA considers glyphosate to be noncarcinogenic and relatively low in toxicity. It does not bioaccumulate and breaks down rapidly in the environment.

There are other factors pointed out to me by Mnookin, Kloor and Raeburn—including the fact that the journal Entropy requires authors to pay for publication, much like the vanity presses that churn out terrible books for the sake of author’s egos and a quick buck.

The fact remains that it took a few hours—and the help of more experienced journalists—for me to fully grasp the massive scale of flaws in this study; simple baseline skepticism wasn’t enough. That’s a huge amount of time that few people have at their disposal (especially folks who are not getting paid to look into these things).

Unfortunately, this is the state of affairs surrounding the trumped-up, histrionic and admittedly exhausting debate around the health and safety of genetic modification and agricultural biotechnology—it’s as rife with pseudoscience and misleading wooly-headed nonsense as discussions over Intelligent Design and the alleged dangers of vaccines (pet pseudosciences of the right and left, respectively). If you want to be involved in the discussion, or even just want to make informed decisions, though, wading through this mess is the price of entry.

Kenrick Vezina is Senior Editor for the Genetic Literacy Project and a freelance writer and educator based in the Greater Boston area.

158 thoughts on “Navigating the agricultural biotech minefield: When an MIT study is not an MIT study”

  1. I certainly acknowledge that this paper didn’t come from traditional scientists in biochemistry/ medicine, and is published via unconventional channels, but it still deserves a scientific evaluation.

    “The fact remains that it took a few hours—and the help of more experienced journalists”
    The fact remains that neither you, nor any journalist, have the biochemistry and medical clinical skills needed to comprehend a 40 page biochemistry paper citing 286 references on glyphosate’s effects in medicine. The easiest way to tell that is the absence of a single scientific citation referring to any specific substantive points discussed in the paper itself.

    A credible opinion I would take seriously would be from an independent internal medicine doctor educated in biochemistry, who writes a specific scientific analysis of the body of science in the paper, discrediting it point by point.

    Until such an opinion is written, this piece of journalism is just more of the same- a smear campaign and an attack on credibility of the source, known as an ad hominem, written by people who are scientifically unqualified to offer an educated opinion..

    • Did you read this entire article? Because this author does actually specifically and logically go through the entire paper and explain why the study’s authors’ conclusions are so questionable from a scientific standpoint. Anyone with any kind of science background would accept this article as a much more credible critique of the paper than the Reuters article.

  2. Censorship! how very nice…glad to have thought of capturing the image of my very long scientific and thus censored response.

    Rename the article: When you can’t argue science: the Illiteracy project

    ROFLMAO. Can’t wait to share :)

  3. I wish I knew a way to get people to *want* to make more informed decisions. So often ideology drives cognitive biases that ensure no contrary information can ever be given a fair hearing.

    The best resource I know of for serious thinkers is the Less Wrong wiki’s sequence “How to actually change your mind”. This week I’m on the article “Update Yourself Incrementally”.

    It does appear to me after inquiry that virtually every argument about health effects of GMO foods is suspect. There probably are other good arguments against some GMO implementations, and I plan to attend a local March Against Monsanto rally this weekend. But I don’t go with anger that Monsanto is somehow poisoning us, or at this point even that they’re wrecking the environment more than any other big chemical company. I don’t think they want to enslave humanity by controlling the food supply, but I do have concerns about some of their business practices and lobbying activities.

    I’d prefer we had the ability to do more polycultures. Fields of the same thing are economically efficient, but they are just asking for natural selection to fill the ecological vacuum they create. I also don’t know that alternative agriculture can feed the world to the same degree conventional can. I’m not sure anyone knows it because it hasn’t been tried large scale using more modern technologies. I believe GMO probably has a place in a more sustainable agricultural system and can’t reject it out of hand, as I did when I was younger.

    • Thank you for your contribution and participation. It is refreshing to read a comment from someone who was willing and able to review all of the evidence with an open mind and then adjust their position, based upon credible evidence.

  4. There is at least one criticism of the paper that is unfair : that the authors paid for publication, implying that therefore the paper is a crummy vanity paper.

    All open access journals practice this; someone has to pay for the publication, it is either us, the public or it is the author (or more probably the author’s research grant or the author’s institution).

    The journal Entropy where the paper was published seems to be a bona fide scientific journal, it is open access, it is peer-reviewed, it is indexed in the main scientific databases. It has a modest impact factor, but this can be due to the type of research published (theoretical and modelling vs experimental).

    • There is one additional irrelevant statement: that glyphosate is less toxic than other chemicals. The issue here is whether glyphosate can damage. It stands to reason that, when we step away from our nature-evolved environment and expose ourselves to man-made chemicals (or man-made dosage of nature-made chemicals), we will pay a price. But Americans need more time to figure this out. They think they can step away from our biology, and they have already made the world pay for this belief.

      • Are you familiar with the concept of “natural fallacy”.

        On top of that…. Toxicity is the degree to which a compound can harm an organism.

        If a compound is less toxic than salt… That means salt is more damaging to your body.

        Glyphosate is less toxic than salt.

        I am unsure about the other compounds found within Roundup though.

        • Yeah, I’m familiar with the naturalistic fallacy. For better or for worse, evolution has given us a biology which can live precariously within a given set of parameters. Did I say enough to deny you the naturalistic fallacy argument?

          Now, with this fine line that we’ve been given to walk by evolution (because evolution is a parvenu and doesn’t care to give us much leeway), are we to put more chemicals into our body than the ones that we can barely deal with already? Salt — we’ve lived with throughout our evolution. Have we lived with glyphosate? Salt has been around in the environment for millenia. Is the same true of glyphosate? How do you know how glyphosate biomagnifies or otherwise impacts our ecosystems?

          You’re right — it’s about more than glyphosate.

          We’re going to live with our biology for the foreseeable future. There’s no way you’re getting away from this thinking in the biological context. There’s a fine line between that and a naturalistic fallacy.

      • The question isn’t one of Americans but whether or not the SPECIFIC claims made in her paper and plausibly presented using scientific evidence or not and possibly whether these are actually true or provably false. Yes, there is a price associated with many human activities and lots of genuine science analysing it.

      • (I have no personal stake at this) but a quick surf shows controversy – but not more – about the publisher (MDPI), but not specifically about Entropy, a journal that appears (still) to be indexed in Scopus and Web of Science. Entropy seems to have a “record” of publishing controversial papers, but this is different from predation.

  5. A bit late perhaps but here’s my contribution to debunking a tiny fraction (a single sentence) of the Entropy paper. I originally posted this on the Biofortified forum ( ).

    The sentence in question (page 5 of the study) reads:

    “Pseudomonas spp. is an opportunistic pathogen and an antibiotic-resistant Gram-negative bacterium that has been shown to be able to break down glyphosate to produce usable phosphate and carbon for amino acid synthesis, but a toxic by-product of the reaction is formaldehyde [37], which is neurotoxic, and low levels of formaldehyde can induce amyloid-like misfolding of tau protein in neurons, forming protein aggregates similar to those observed in association with Alzheimer’s disease [38].”

    The two references cited by S & S are:

    37. Shinabarger, D.L.; Braymer, H.D. Glyphosate catabolism by Pseudomonas sp. strain PG2982. J. Bacteriol. 1986 , 168, 702–707. (freely available here )

    38. Nie, C.L.; Wang, X.S.; Liu, Y.; Perrett, S.; He, R.Q. Amyloid-like aggregates of neuronal tau induced by formaldehyde promote apoptosis of neuronal cells. BMC Neurosci. 2007, 8, 9. (freely available here )

    Ok. This sentence contains two main statements. (1) Pseudomonas bacteria produce formaldehyde as a byproduct of glyphosate catabolism. (2) Formaldehyde can induce tau protein aggregation in neurons reminiscent of Alzheimer’s disease. Both statements are true. But when you put them together in the same sentence, the authors are implying that glyphosate catabolism by soil-living Pseudomonas bacteria cause toxic formaldehyde emissions that may cause Alzheimer’s disease in farmers or others in the vicinity of a glyphosate-sprayed field. They don’t spell it out but you can bet that the non-specialist reader will. Now that would require some serious long-term safety studies, eh?

    As it happens my field of expertise is microbial metabolism, which is why this sentence stood out. Let’s have a closer look at just how Pseudomanas degrades glyphosate. According to the cited paper by Shinaberger & Braymer, Pseodomonas sp. PG2982 first cleaves the C-P bond of glyphosate producing phosphate and sarcosine – also known as N-methylglycine. This reaction is carried out by the enzyme C-P lyase, which was eventually cloned by Selvapandiyan and Bhatnagar ( ). The phosphate group gets assimilated as-is. That leaves the sarcosine molecule. If you demethylate its amine group you get glycine, which is one the 20 standard amino acids common to all living organisms. If necessary, glycine can be further metabolized to give glyoxylate (which can be assimilated as a carbon source) and ammonia (which is the starting point for nitrogen assimilation). This is where formaldehyde (HCHO) enters the picture. The enzyme that demethylates sarcosine to produce glycine is called sarcosine oxidase ( ). The methyl group (CH3) which is removed from the amine group of sarcosine gets converted into formaldehyde. So there’s the formaldehyde ready to give you Alzheimer’s! But it doesn’t end there. Formaldehyde is a very reactive molecule and therefore very toxic. A Pseudomonas bacterium chewing away on glyphosate would die very quickly if it allowed the concentration of formaldehyde to build up. So what does it do? Turns out that Pseudomonas bacteria have ways to detoxify formaldehyde ( ). The majority of cells (bacterial, animal etc) will convert formaldehyde to the much less toxic formic acid (HCOOH). Formic acid can then either be turned into carbon dioxide (which is what our cells do) or assimilated as a source of carbon or energy (which is what many microbes do).

    So, a field newly sprayed with glyphosate will NOT emit any significant amounts of formaldehyde. And even if it did, the formaldehyde molecule is so reactive that it would react with other compounds in the soil and not escape into the air.

    End of story? Not quite. Here’s the final point that emphasizes the intellectual dishonesty of that single sentence in the S & S paper – HUMAN CELLS ALSO PRODUCE FORMALDEHYDE BY DEMETHYLATING SARCOSINE INTO GLYCINE USING THE SAME ENZYME! ( ) That’s right. Our own cells are producing formaldehyde constantly. So why haven’t we all got Alzheimer’s yet? Because, just like Pseudomonas, our cells are able to detoxify formaldehyde. First the formaldehyde molecule reacts spontaneously with glutathione to produce S-formylglutathione. The enzyme S-formylglutathione hydrolase then cleaves off the former formaldehyde molecule but now in the form of formic acid. Finally formate dehydrogenase converts the formic acid into carbon dioxide and that’s it.

    So much disinformation in one pesky little sentence and so much specialist knowledge required to debunk it. Imagine how much there must be in the entire thing…

    • Tom, a bit late but EXTREMELY thorough. I am impressed. And it’s always nice to have someone with the relevant expertise step in and share it — much obliged.

    • I asked Dr. Seneff about this comment and she gave me permission to post her response here:

      —–Original Message—–

      From: Stephanie Seneff
      To: Menachem Mevashir
      Cc: info
      Sent: Thu, Mar 13, 2014 12:20 pm
      Subject: Re: article that attacks your credibility and credentials

      I don’t think he actually debunked what I wrote. He confirmed that what I said was true, actually!

      Formaldehyde can indeed be detoxified in the body, if it’s healthy. But formaldehyde detoxification requires glutathione (he said so himself) and glutathione requires methionine for its synthesis (methhionine -> cysteine -> glutathione). Studies have shown that glyphosate depletes glutathione in the liver. I should have added another sentence:

      “Detoxification of formaldehyde requires glutathione, which has been shown to be depleted by glyphosate in the liver (ref), as would be expected given that glyphosate depletes methionine (ref).”


      Stephanie Seneff
      Senior Research Scientist
      MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory

          • I have a BSc and PhD that says I am an expert in biochemistry, which is more than I can say for Dr Seneff. I have better things to do (i.e. real science) than waste my time arguing with charlatans. Why don’t you spend some of your own precious time looking into her long and distinguished career in toxicology and epidemiology? Show me some of her original research in the field rather than laughable reviews in predatory pay-to-publish journals with cherry-picked data to fit her conspiracy theories. Or even better, get your own degree in biochemistry so you can fully understand the dishonesty in her work.

          • The greatest scientific breakthroughs always came from outsiders and mavericks. Only they are unencumbered by the prejudice and arrogance evinced in your comment.

            Where did Newton get his PhD? Or Einstein? Or Leibnitz? Nowhere, because they were autodidacts, their genius not confineable to some narrow and dogmatic institution with its pride and reputation to preserve and that hungers for honor more than for Truth.

            If you were really curious and not acting like you’re on MonSATANo’s payroll, you would simply write to her at the email address I kindly provided to you. But clearly learning new things seems to be beneath your dignity.

            And if you are such a biochemistry maven, please look at the links I published above on the foolish claims of the darwinists about how life automatically assembles itself from inanimate matter. This is wishful thinking: wishing that God would not exist that is.

            If someone were to kill you as the Rawandans got genocided, by hacking your body to pieces and leaving them on the most pristine soil in pristine climate conditions, would you expect to reassemble yourself in a million years? A billion? 16 billion?

            No, it is safe to say you would rot and putrify within 30 days and then reintegrate into the soil for eternity. (You certainly won’t be resurrected since you are an atheistic darwinistic satanist.)

            So ponder that before you jump on Dr. Seneff.

          • Uh, Menachem, dude, Leibniz and Newton didn’t have Ph.D’s because there was no such thing. Einstein got his Ph.D from the University of Zurich. He spent most of his time after that in the department of one or another major University. So much for outsiders.

          • He Worked in the patent office. The history of science is however littered with outsiders who did contribute. Crick and Watson were considered partial outsiders, despite working in a distinguished lab. Darwin was an outsider. The guy who discovered genetics was a monk.

          • Chopped up body parts in pristine soil?! You don’t believe in the evidence supporting evolution because they seem too far fetched. But you believe that there is a man in the sky who will help your sports team win the big game.?! You’re type is always so predictable, and petty.

          • Einstein got his PhD from the University of Zurich. His whole life was spent in academics. Newton had a masters, but he was also a lifelong academic, holding the same professorship after graduate school that Hawking does now at Cambridge. Leibniz, whose name you misspelled, had multiple conventional degrees, and his final doctorate was a JD. So I’m not sure what you intended to bring up with all of that..I am a science professional myself, and I have just enough of knowledge of the words in that field to publish something that would be popular on social media in a pay to publish journal and sound very believable to the layman. But I’d still be wrong. Wouldn’t keep my supporters from insisting they know better than an experience biochemist who tried to shoot it down though. Most breakthroughs are actually made through hard, tedious work by people who spend their lives studying in that field. Not very Hollywood, I know, but it’s reality.

        • Are you saying it doesn’t or simply that you don’t think she established that it does? I don’t have a PhD in anything but I was skeptical in a biochemical claim coming from a “MIT research scientist” when it turned out she was an expert in my field, not yours AND her association with MIT clearly isn’t based on her theoretical work in nutrition, biochemistry neuroscience or pathology.

  6. Does it perturb you that Monsanto is allowed to lie and misrepresent their designer seeds as resistant to pests when in fact they are resistant to pesticides?

    Does it concern you that GMOs require much greater amounts of pesticides and are responsible for accelerating the mutation of pesticide resistant bugs?

    Is any pesticide safe? Does the EPA even have the ability to test for such a claim?

    • What excellent points. But you should know, these are falling on deaf ears. These people don’t care. I had a debate at work about the use of chemicals in our society, and my colleague felt this was just a price to pay for progress. PCBs, carcinogens which now live in all humans, fish, meat, polar bears, are just the price to pay for… progress. How do you explain something to a person who defies logic? We’ve been shooting ourselves in the foot, we have precedents. How do you tell these people that next time we may shoot ourselves in the head, and that all the progress in the world is not worth it?

        • Suppose I don’t explain it. Does that diminish my case that the industry has put carcinogens in our bodies? Please, no more disingenuous questions.

          Now, suppose I explained it like this: the rate of cancer before the industrial revolution, or even before the agricultural revolution, might have been X. In the middle of the industrial revolution, it was Y. Now it is Z, with Z < Y.

          1. Z < Y? Citation needed.
          2. It may well be that X << Z < Y.

          • You haven’t made the case that industry puts carcinogens in our bodies.

            You could start there.

            Unfortunately we haven’t been tracking cancer on an age adjusted incidence basis that long.

            The main reason is that until relatively recently when people started living long enough and we came up for effective treatments of heart disease, CV disease, diabetes etc, people didn’t get cancer that often and even then when people died of it, it wasn’t always recognized as the cause of death.

            We do have statistics, but they are relatively new:

            For instance:

            SEER Cancer Statistics

            SEER 9 areas (San Francisco, Connecticut, Detroit, Hawaii, Iowa, New Mexico, Seattle, Utah, and Atlanta). Rates are per 100,000
            and are age-adjusted to the 2000 US Std Population

            Rank – Site – Rate per 100,000 in 1999 – Rate in 2011

            ALL SITES 490.5 ==> 453.6 (7.5% decline)

            Prostate 183.5 ==> 139.9

            Female Breast 141.5 ==> 129.6

            Lung and Bronchus 65.8 ==> 55.5

            Colon and Rectum 55.5 ==> 39.3

            Corpus and Uterus, NOS 25.3 ==> 27.05

            Urinary Bladder 21.8 ==> 20.1

            Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma 19.9 ==> 19.6

            Melanomas of the Skin 18.3 ==> 22.7

            Ovary 14.7 ==> 12.1

          • I’d be wary of “new” or “fresh” statistics. Why don’t you just look at [0]?

            Breast cancer is up [1]. Skin melanomas are up [2]. Thyroid is through the roof [3]. Leukemia is steady [4]. Pancreatic cancer is steady [5]. That last one is one of the most swift killers.

            Let me not be unfair to our debate: other cancers _are_ down: lung, prostate — see [0].

            By the way, the US is pretty high up in terms of cancer rates [6]. First world countries tend to be, due to obesity and sedentarism.

            Life expectancy in the US is dropping [7], and while we can’t unequivocally blame that on the US’s weak laws on its chemical industry, we can’t discount it either.

            I’m still waiting for the citations showing that I’m wrong about hunter-gatherers living 60-80 years.

            [7] — the article links to the OECD study

          • You are using the wrong data.

            To tell if the rate of cancer is going up or down, you can’t use the number of cases of breast cancer per 100,000 women, because we have an aging population, and as we age we are more susceptible to cancer. Thus I posted the AGE ADJUSTED rates.

            SEER Cancer Statistics

            SEER 9 areas (San Francisco, Connecticut, Detroit, Hawaii, Iowa, New Mexico, Seattle, Utah, and Atlanta). Rates are per 100,000
            and are age-adjusted to the 2000 US Std Population

            Rank – Site – Rate per 100,000 in 1999 – Rate in 2011

            ALL SITES 490.5 ==> 453.6 (7.5% decline)

            Prostate 183.5 ==> 139.9

            Female Breast 141.5 ==> 129.6

            Lung and Bronchus 65.8 ==> 55.5

            Colon and Rectum 55.5 ==> 39.3

            Corpus and Uterus, NOS 25.3 ==> 27.05

            Urinary Bladder 21.8 ==> 20.1

            Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma 19.9 ==> 19.6

            Melanomas of the Skin 18.3 ==> 22.7

            Ovary 14.7 ==> 12.1

            Yes Melanoma is up a tiny bit (~4 cases per 100,000 people), but then the Ozone layer is a tad thinner.

            And NO, your link does NOT claim that Life Expectancy is going down, indeed it states the EXACT opposite. From the article:

            This isn’t to say our life expectancy has gone down: Quite the opposite: you can actually expect to live about eight years longer in the United States right now than you would have in 1970.

            Big OOPS

          • Meh. Let’s not spend energy on this; it’s highly tangential to our topic, and even proving me wrong here will not prove me wrong elsewhere. I think you’re wrong, and here’s why.

            Age-adjusted statistics might be relevant if the life expectancy since 1990 hadn’t grown by only three years. Do you expect us to believe that those three years account for all the increases, and more, if we are to counter for the “decrease” in age-adjusted rates?

            Thyroid cancer — the rate of new cases has more than doubled. Looking forward for the data that shows how those new cases are clustered in the very old patients.

            For the third time, where is the study that disproves my claim about how long hunter-gatherers actually lived?

            When you’re ready to admit that hunter-gatherers lived longer than you thought, you will want to compare not with how long we live today, but with how long we live *healthy* lives today. That will still be an unfair comparison, but it will be less so. That is because hunter-gatherers had no access to advanced medical care. There are measures for healthy life, like healthy life expectancy at birth, where you can begin, if you care. If you don’t care, I won’t blame you. Not caring to displace a very entrenched belief is not uncommon. :D

            Yes, I misread the study about the life expectancies. We’re only falling behind other countries in terms of life expectancy — good to hear. But I’d be more curious to learn about healthy years of life; THAT is the true measure of the success of our way of life.

          • I’ve never tried to disprove your number about Hunter/Gathers, since we have no data to either support or refute it, so its not relevant to our discussion.

            Yes, Thyroid cancer is going up. Note in the data that it starts going up right after Chernobyl. Big surprise.

            Age Adjusted cancer statistics are the gold standard for measuring the incidence of cancer, its not based on life expectancy, its based on what percent of the population is in each age group.

            Compare our age distribution today


            With our distribution in 1981


            That’s why you have to adjust the data to a standard age profile, if you didn’t the simple fact that we have a far higher percent of older people would make it appear like the INCIDENCE of cancer was increasing, but when we adjust for the age of the population we see that its not.

            Yes we are living longer, and we are living better. The 70s are widely reported to be the new 60s.

            The number of Americans age 65 or older increased tenfold in the last century and the elderly are living longer, in more comfort and in better health than ever before, researchers report.


          • Did I not provide links to data showing hunter-gatherer life expectancies? Yes, I did.

            See my other reply, seconds old, about the caveats in your cancer data. It’s somewhere below this one.

    • Two problems…. Different modified seeds have different purposes. Some
      produce crops that are resistant to glyphosate, an herbicide. Others
      produce plants that contain a safe level of Bt, an organic insecticide
      that is safe for human consumption in the levels found.

      On top of that….. There have been numerous meta-analyses that show the opposite of what you claim. Nor would the claim make sense. Here is one such analysis.

      It is true that it has accelerated the mutation of pesticide resistant bugs in one part of the world. West India, I believe….

      Also, all compounds are safe in the right dosage. All compounds are unsafe in the wrong dosage. Even water and salt. One cannot truly test for safety either. Only for harm….

      When no harm can be found, safety is assumed.

      • You flaunt these words on safety like there’s no tomorrow, man. What is “safety” but a moving standard? Look at the history of lead safety. The EPA consistently dropped the ADI on it. Look at the BPA regulatory saga — a joke. The FDA in fact based their safety assessments on studies that the authors later clarified did not cover the whole spectrum of effects to be considered for a safety evaluation.

        You say things are safe in the right dosages. Who polices the use of those chemicals in the right dosages? That’s why atrazine is banned in Europe and should have been banned here: because noone can’t pull their sh*t together and police the proper dosages for these chemicals.

        But, listen, do you know who pays for this moving standard on “safety”? *You pay*, and your children pay. Did your wife and children live with PBDE-soaked mattresses, for example? Too bad, cause they inhaled or drank up some IQ lowering crap, because the EPA thought at the time it was “safe”.

        When no harm can be found, safety is assumed? Until the harm is found, you mean. And who’s the loser then? Folks like you, who practice the “innocent until proven guilty” game on shit that can damage us all.

        • Lets see, given the thousands of chemicals that the EPA deals with, we will find the one or two they may have missed and thus assume that all their work is flawed.

          Is that your logic, that everything should be rejected as being safe because the EPA is not perfect, even in the absence of any data showing it is unsafe?

          • Contrary to your claim, everyone, including industry and regulators, admits that the TSCA is a toothless law. They are just not seeing eye to eye on how to fix it, and in the meantime this toothless law owns the land… You’re doing it wrong!

            I’m sad to find that you didn’t know that, and what that tells me is that you’re talking about these things from a position of ignorance.

            While the article at [1] may sound alarmist and will definitely stress your confirmation biases, do try to give it a read to get an idea of the hiccups in the industry.

            Look. I can take one miss every 50 years. But there are dozens. That’s too much. These have no idea what they are doing. And they want to do more of it. I say no more. More caution is in order. We’re not in a hurry to go anywhere. I’m OK with giving up a bigger TV and the longer lasting apples if I have to.


          • It is alarmist.
            But you know that.

            The agency says it has taken the following actions to reduce exposure to the chemicals mentioned in Grandjean and Landrigan’s report:

            Chlorpyrifos: Banned all uses in and around homes

            Polybrominated diphenyl ethers: Reviewing all new uses, following a voluntary phase out by U.S. manufacturers

            Lead: Numerous federal regulations over the past few decades, leading to dramatically reduced childhood blood lead levels

            Methylmercury: Significant efforts to reduce exposure, including 2011 standards that reduce pollution from coal and oil-fired power plants

            Polychlorinated biphenyls:TSCA banned the manufacture and import of PCBs, and EPA is reassessing the largest remaining uses

            Arsenic: Banned some types of arsenic, restricted others

            Fluoride: Established safe drinking water standards and currently considering other revisions

            Not toothless.

          • So… are you saying that the law is meant to find those harmful chemicals AFTER we get sick from them, rather than BEFORE? Well, if that’s the case, then, I agree, that law is most definitely NOT toothless.


            Listen, you should contact the industry and the EPA and set the record straight, cause they seem to be under this horribly wrong impression that the law is toothless.

            Look, sire, this debate has just reached a threshold, as you’ve just made a blatantly ridiculous argument that is generally made only in bad faith. It is starting to look as though you are not being reasonable in your debates. Do you know what this means? It means that the opportunity of continuing a debate with _moi_ is quickly disappearing for you.

            Let us do a quick recap first though. Ignoring your sporadic comments, unbacked by citations, that I’m wrong, we have:
            1. I proved you wrong on life expectancies and cancer rates.
            2. I proved you wrong on genetic contamination.
            3. I proved you wrong on the status of PCB accumulation in humans.
            4. I proved you wrong on the status of exposure to carcinogens produced by the chemical industry. And I didn’t even talk about the other effects of those chemical substances on organisms.


          • Your recap is false.
            Life expectancy is rising and cancer rates are falling. I provided CDC and SEER data to prove that.
            You didn’t prove me wrong on genetic contamination, you proved your strawman wrong. We have no problem growing conventional, organic and GMO crops in the US, year after year with fresh uncontaminated seed, so this supposed SPREADING of contamination, which was your claim, is not a problem. Your proof, of someone who stole the trait and lost in court over it is laughable.

            I must have missed the citation on PCBs, I didn’t say it wasn’t accumulating since I have no evidence that it is or isn’t. It was your claim and all I did was ask you to provide a reference. Doing so after this post would show that you have one.

            This is what I easily found though:

            Humans may be exposed to PCBs by inhaling contaminated air and ingesting contaminated water and food.
            In 1978, the estimated dietary intake of PCBs by adults in the USA was 0.027 µg/kg body weight per day, but it declined to 0.0005 µg/kg body weight per day in 1982–1984, and that steep decline was but 6 years after they were banned.

            So how much was the intake in 1982?
            If you weighed 70 kgs (154 lbs) you would ingest but 0.035 of a microgram of them.

            Even the most deadly poison we know of isn’t toxic at 50 times that level.

            Not sure what you mean by proving me wrong on the status of exposure to carcinogens. Try quoting my position.

          • Re: cancer – you gave your links, I gave mine. Some cancers are on the rise, and you are trying to discount the chemical industry as a possible culprit by telling us about age and age-adjusted statistics. I’m saying it’s fair game. Let’s leave that aside, cause it will cost us much more to figure that out than is worth, and it is highly tangential.

            Yes, genetic contamination does occur, and I did prove you wrong. Fighting it successfully is a wet dream. Even if you instituted a futuristic model of seed quality control, you can’t control for the genes that go into wild varieties and that will then be borrowed by adjacent cultures all the time. Seed savers will always be faced with this problem. Please, don’t say we should stop seed saving practices.

            Re: carcinogens:
            * I have given you citations about the industry blanketing the Earth with carcinogens, by showing, at the very least, that they have done it with PCBs. I have also mentioned DDT, which is also a probable human carcinogen, and which also poses an ongoing environmental issue due to its persistence in the environment.
            * Please, don’t compare carcinogens with “the deadliest poison”; they don’t compare.
            * Here’s one more, straight from Monsanto’s lawyers, which perhaps will settle it about whether PCBs are everywhere:

            “The truth is that PCBs are everywhere. They are in meat, they are in everyone in the courtroom, they are everywhere and they have been for a long time, along with a host of other substances. The truth is that the men and women who have worked around PCBs the most over forty, fifty, sixty years, people in our plant, people in the electrical industry, have not experienced any significant health problems which can be associated or tied into or caused by PCBs other than a serious skin condition called chloracne, which is easily treatable.” [Trial Transcript, Owens v. Monsanto CV-96-J-440-E, (N.D. Alabama April 4, 2001), pg. 453, line 16]

            Psst… don’t believe them on the part about the significant health problems, or I’ve got a couple of links to the EPA website on PCBs for you, in case the ones that I already offered were not enough. ;)

          • Yes, but my links to cancer were reliable because they statistically corrected for population dynamics.

            To discount that is to not debate honestly.

            The FACT is that the incidence of cancer is declining, with two clear exceptions, Thyroid Cancer which started going up after Chernobyl and Melanoma of the skin because of the decreasing Ozone layer.

            But the fact that the other cancers are going down shows that the environment is not filled with cancer causing chemicals.

          • We have some data on cancers that, age adjusted, shows them going down.

            We have data on some of the same cancers that shows them going up or staying steady.

            In order for cancers to go down in, say, youth, they would have to go up in a different age group in order for them to stay steady or grow overall.

            You’re asking me to believe that all the new cancer cases that account for that difference are occurring in a sliver of population at the very top of the age continuum?

            Say our life expectancy is growing by, I don’t know, .5 years per year? You’re saying that all new leukemia or pancreatic cancer cases that constitute the difference between data you supplied and data I supplied are attributable to those people between 75 and 75.5 years old, or whatever the top of the age group is?

            That is preposterous.

            More likely, there are variations in cancer rates that are not measured identically by the two sources.

            Certain cancer rates in Argentina are going up. We’re using some pesticides in Argentina. How can you come with a smile on your face and say that cancer rates are going down? And if cancer rates were going down globally, how does that excuse the American industry, which does not operate globally enough yet, thank God?

            And I must call out your closing claim as completely false and illogical. The fact that cancers are going down — assuming that they are — does not show that the environment is not filled with cancer causing chemicals. What line of reasoning have you used there?

          • The overall incidence of cancer in the US is declining at a decent pace.

            Argue all you want against the numbers, but they are what they are.

            People at birth today can expect to live to ~80+, that’s a CLEAR indication that the environment is not harmful to our health.

          • “People at birth today can expect to live to ~80+, that’s a CLEAR indication that the environment is not harmful to our health.”
            Worst line of argument I’ve heard in recent months. How does a supposed decline in cancer rates prove whether the environment is harmful to our health? You’ve got some logic fallacies going on there.

            If we ever want to focus on life expectancies as an indicator of health — but not to make ridiculous claims about how harmful the environment is — then tell me about healthy life expectancy at birth. I don’t look forward to living with cancer for any part of my life.

          • Why is it the worst line of argument?

            Your claim is we are being poisoned by the environment, but our life expectancy, which includes death from Accidents, Suicide, Homicides, Alcohol and Drug related deaths, has continued to climb.

            If you take care of yourself (moderate exercise, limited alcohol, don’t smoke, reasonable weight) you have a very good chance of living well beyond 80.

            If the environment was poisoning us, that wouldn’t be the case.

          • So true, back in the days of mostly Organic farming, life expectancy was about 30 years. Over 50% of children died before age 5.

          • I think you need to read your own stuff. Like maybe his part.

            Among traditional hunter-gatherers, the average life expectancy at birth varies from 21 to 37 years

          • Go ahead with your brain farting. Or, join the educated bunch and start talking about less biased measures of quality of life. Your call. I really don’t care either way, now that I’ve called you on it.

          • The misleading nature of focusing on life expectancy notwithstanding, you claim a causality relation between high infant mortality rates in hunter-gatherers and organic dieting. That is solid brain farting.

          • Because, at face value, there is no causality relationship between dropping rate of cancer and a non-poisoned environment. The industry can still be pumping carcinogens into the environment and other sources of cancer may have been removed. For example, we may be learning to eat healthier. You’re smart enough to realize that you found causality where causality was not due. Makes one wonder why you offered this explanation.

            Don’t twist my claims. I claimed that the industry has been and is pumping carcinogens into the environment.” If the environment was poisoning us” is a bit far out.

            “If you take care of yourself (moderate exercise, limited alcohol, don’t smoke, reasonable weight) you have a very good chance of living well beyond 80.”
            Citation needed.

            Like I said, if you want to introduce life expectancy into the debate, you should talk more about healthy life expectancy.

            When using numbers, you should stick to the more conservative values and see if they still support your case. The WHO claims that male life expectancy in the US is 76 years, with 8 years of healthy life lost. Female life expectancy is 81, with 10 years of healthy life lost [1]. If you segment the data further, you may have more surprises.


          • And Life Expectancy includes more than health issues. Look at Canada, they eat the same GMO foods we do (we have the same food supply) and they have males life expectancy at 80. Better than much of the EU where no GMOs are eaten.

            As to living better: People are living longer and living more of their life in better health than before,” said Richard Suzman, an expert at the National Institute on Aging, the lead agency in assembling the report.

      • There’s no such thing as “safe in the right dosage”. Well, there is such a thing as “safety in the right dosage”, but only as a platonic ideal. In practice, we don’t know what “the right dosage” is.

        Do you know why? Because the right dosage is dependent on observations that science is not yet equipped to make. We can’t look at the metabolome of a human across generations, nor can we look at the totality of effects of novel biological or chemical material on ecosystems. Maybe we could look if we took it slowly, but we’re not taking it that slowly, so, for all practical purposes, we can’t look.

        If you’re inclined to disagree, do know that there are precedents that agree with me. Look at how the ADI (acceptable daily intake) for lead has gone down half a dozen times over the years. Look at how BPA was assumed safe in infant bottles because FDA used the wrong studies in its safety assessments. Look at PCBs, DDTs, dioxin. There are cautionary tales in all of these.

        Look at how, when PCBs were banned, they started using another family of persistent organic pollutants as fire retardant, aptly named PBDEs.

        If you look hard enough, you’ll find good amounts of dirt in what we’ve been doing to our bodies and our ecosystem. ;)

  7. “it’s as rife with pseudoscience and misleading wooly-headed nonsense as
    discussions over Intelligent Design and the alleged dangers of vaccines
    (pet pseudosciences of the right and left, respectively).”

    I know a chiropractor who is part of the world’s largest chiropractor family (nine siblings practicing) who has never been vaccinated himself or vaccinated his children and they all enjoy near perfect health.


      15 loopholes in the evolutionary theory of the origin of life: Summary

      by Jonathan Sarfati

      Dr Sarfati, a Ph.D. chemist, explores some of the most-cited ‘explanations’ of biochemical evolution, and shows how they point to a Creator, not ‘time and chance’.

      An animation of the basics of a cell’s protein synthesis system. Origin-of-life scenarios need to explain how this came into existence without (supernatural) intelligent design (see points 14 and 15).

      There is almost universal agreement among specialists that earth’s primordial atmosphere contained no methane, ammonia or hydrogen — ‘reducing’ gases. Rather, most evolutionists now believe it contained carbon dioxide and nitrogen. Miller-type sparking experiments will not work with those gases in the absence of reducing gases. See The Primitive Atmosphere.

      The atmosphere contained free oxygen, which would destroy organic compounds. Oxygen would be produced by photodissociation of water vapour. Oxidized minerals such as
      hematite are found as early as 3.8 billion years old, almost as old as the earliest rocks, and 300 million older than the earliest life. There is also evidence for organisms complex enough to photosynthesize at 3.7 billion of years ago (Rosing, M.T. and Frei, R., U-rich Archaean sea-floor sediments from Greenland—indications of >3700 Ma oxygenic photosynthesis, Earth and Planetary Science Letters 217:237–244, 2004). Also, red jasper or hematite-rich chert cored from layers allegedly 3.46
      billion years old showed that ‘there had to be as much oxygen in the atmosphere 3.46 billion years ago as there is in today’s atmosphere. To have this amount of oxygen, the Earth must have had oxygen producing organisms like cyanobacteria actively producing it, placing these organisms much earlier in Earth’s history than previously thought.’ (Deep-sea rocks point to early oxygen on Earth, 24 March 2009) NB: these ‘dates’ are according to the evolutionary/uniformitarian framework, which I strongly reject on both biblical and scientific grounds — see How long were the days mentioned in the Biblical creation account? and
      Evidence for a Young World).

      Catch-22: if there was no oxygen there would be no ozone, so ultraviolet light would destroy biochemicals. Also, the hydrogen cyanide polymerization that is alleged to lead to adenine can occur only in the presence of oxygen (see Eastman et al., Exploring the Structure of a Hydrogen Cyanide Polymer by Electron Spin Resonance and Scanning Force Microscopy, Scanning 2:19–24, p. 20).

      All energy sources that produce the biochemicals destroy them even faster! The Miller–Urey experiments used strategically designed traps to isolate the biochemicals as soon as they were formed so the sparks/UV did not destroy them. Without the traps, even the tiny amounts obtained would not have been formed.

      Biochemicals would react with each other or with inorganic chemicals. Sugars (and other carbonyl (>C=O) compounds) react destructively with amino acids (and other amino (–NH2) compounds), but both must be present for a cell to form.

      Without enzymes from a living cell, formaldehyde (HCHO) reactions with hydrogen cyanide (HCN) are necessary for the formation of DNA and RNA bases, condensing agents, etc. But HCHO and especially HCN are deadly poisons — HCN
      was used in the Nazi gas chambers! They destroy vital proteins.

      Abundant Ca2+ ions would precipitate fatty acids (necessary for cell membranes) and phosphate (necessary for such vital compounds as DNA, RNA, ATP, etc.). Metal ions readily form complexes with amino acids, hindering them from more important reactions.

      No geological evidence has been found anywhere on earth for the alleged primordial soup. See Primeval soup — failed paradigm

      Depolymerisation is much faster than polymerisation. Water is a poor medium for condensation polymerisation. Polymers will hydrolyse in water over geological time. Condensing agents (water absorbing chemicals) require acid conditions and they could not accumulate in water. Heating to evaporate water tends to destroy some vital amino acids, racemise all the amino acids, and requires geologically unrealistic
      conditions. Besides, heating amino acids with other gunk produced by Miller experiments would destroy them. See Origin of Life: The Polymerization Problem.

      Polymerisation requires bifunctional molecules (can combine with two others), and is stopped by a small fraction of unifunctional molecules (can combine with only one other, thus blocking one end of the growing chain). Miller experiments produce five times more unifunctional molecules than bifunctional molecules. See Origin of Life: The Polymerization Problem.

      Sugars are destroyed quickly after the reaction (‘formose’) which is supposed to have formed them. Also, the alkaline conditions needed to form sugars are incompatible with acid conditions required to form polypeptides with condensing
      agents. See The RNA World: A Critique.

      Long time periods do not help the evolutionary theory if biochemicals are destroyed faster than they are formed (cf. points 4, 7, & 9).

      Not all of the necessary ‘building blocks’ are formed; e.g.
      ribose and cytosine are hard to form and are very unstable. See Origin of life: Instability of building blocks.

      Life requires homochiral polymers (all the same ‘handedness’) — proteins have only ‘left-handed’ amino acids, while DNA and RNA have only ‘right-handed’ sugars. Miller experiments produce racemates — equal mixtures of left and right handed molecules. A small fraction of wrong handed molecules terminates RNA replication, shortens
      polypeptides, and ruins enzymes. See Origin of Life: The Chirality Problem and Homochirality an unsolved problem (quote).

      Life requires catalysts which are specific for a single type of molecule. This requires specific amino acid sequences, which have extremely low probabilities (~10–650 for all the enzymes required). Prebiotic polymerisation simulations yield random sequences, not functional proteins or enzymes. See Proteins and Casket Draws, Could monkeys type the 23rd
      Psalm? and Cheating with Chance.

      The origin of coding system of proteins on DNA is an enigma. So is the origin of the message encoded, which is extraneous to the chemistry, as a printed message is to ink molecules. Code translation apparatus and replicating machinery are themselves encoded — a vicious circle. A code cannot self-organize. See Self-Replicating Enzymes?

      The origin of machines requires design, not random energy. E.g: the Nobel prize-winner Merrifield designed an automatic protein synthesiser. Each amino acid added to the polymer requires 90 steps. The amino acid sequence is determined by a program. A living cell is like a self-replicating Merrifield machine.

    • Menachem, thanks for showing us that you are not just mostly but completely silly. Your chiropractor story is worthless- if they live in a country of mostly vaccinated people, they have a pretty good chance of beating the odds. But only because the rest of us are vaccinated. At any rate, presenting a story like that as evidence of anything at all really shows that your thoughts on science are completely worthless. You just don’t get it. And yet you “know” that claims of evolution are “totally unfounded and bogus.”

    • As far as your mention of the chiro family goes, there may be something correct in the line of thinking that a body that is better aligned has optimal nerve function, circulation, hormonal balance etc. I tend to think so because I’ve had quite a few before/ after experiences with this myself. You might even be able to go further and say that the immune system of such a person functions better than one who hasn’t experienced these benefits on a regular, long term basis. But that’s not a large population. Everyone else chooses to rely on vaccinations to prevent common epidemic diseases form the past, and the effectiveness of vaccines isn’t called into question by the statement, “Having better spinal alignment has many really positive effects!” Sort of like saying, “DNA function argues against evolution”- right or wrong- therefor, “this paper’s attack on computer modeling isn’t germane. In the meantime, back to the subject at hand..

  8. Monsanto has a long history of concealing evidence and short sighted recklessness in pursuit of the profit motive. PCBs, dioxin, Kemner v Monsanto, Cate Jenkins, Owens v Monsanto. EPA has been proven to be dancing by Monsanto’s tune in the Cate Jenkins case. Therefore, we can’t discount the possibility that glyphosate and GMOs are dangerous, because those who would say “they’re safe” are tainted. We have precedents. So let’s cut the crap and admit that neither you nor I know just how safe these things really are. Then we can talk.

      • PCBs, the carcinogenic crap that has been shown to contaminate all living beings on Earth, from polar bears to birds feathers in museums to fish to people. That’s right. The doing of Monsanto and others. See the Chemical Industry Archives for edification.

        You can defecate your wisdom all you want, it ain’t gonna change any of that, now is it? You an amaze me with your best bard creations, it ain’t gonna change the fact that PCB is accumulating in your wise man body, eh?

        Why don’t you go get your collective head out of your arse and learn a thing or two from Europe, and maybe your runaway business class won’t destroy the whole world with its wonderful creations.

          • I cited the Chemical Industry Archives. What more citations do you need? And for which part?

            Polar bears, fish, bird feathers in museums, humans — PCB contamination was measured in all of them, decades after the pollution occurred, so let me tell you this: if you can’t be bothered to do a small search for this crazy fact that concerns you, then, I’m sorry to say, but you’ve got the wrong attitude. :D

            Besides, it’s kind of hard to paste URLs in here. I’ve been marked a spammer before for providing references.

          • I have given links a try more than once, and my comments were being consistently marked as spam at one point. I had to contact Disqus to undo the harm, minus deleted messages, which were gone. I’m not keen on trying that exercise again.

            The Chemical Industry Archives is currently down. I’ve just pointed that out to the EWG. In the meantime, you can browse it on the Web Archive at web dot archive dot org. Type in chemicalindustryarchives dot org.

            The Chemical Industry Archives is a useful tool for browsing internal Monsanto documents. For references concerning organic pollution with PCBs, you don’t need to go there. There are plenty of resources for that. You can start with Wikipedia.

          • Let me try that exercise now. See [1-3]. Closing paragraph of [2]:

            “PCBs have been one of the most heavily regulated chemicals in modern history. Production has been banned, and their distribution and use have been severely limited for more than twenty-five years. Nevertheless, PCBs continue to persist in the environment and we all must live with them. As a result of their long-term and, for many years, completely legal use, most people today bear some body burden of PCBs. It would be myopic to suggest that people will not be concerned about the potential harmful effects of PCBs still present in the environment. The weight of results from animal studies supports the conclusion that PCBs can cause cancer and other effects on the liver, blood, immune, reproductive, nervous, and other organ systems in animals. It is without question that acute exposure to unusually large amounts of PCBs can cause chloracne and eye problems. However, more studies are needed on chronic, low-level exposure risks, particularly involving PCBs in the food chain, and to determine if there is reason for continued concern regarding exposure at low levels from various environmental sources. Although PCBs may never entirely disappear from the environment, time and additional research may reduce the real or perceived threat associated with this once celebrated industrial miracle.”


          • From what I can tell, they were essentially never meant to be released into the environment.

            Their occurrence there would suggest inappropriate and/or illegal disposal, not planned releases.

            Physical and chemical properties of the Aroclors are summarized in Table 4-3. An important property of PCBs is their general inertness; they resist both acids and alkalis and have thermal stability. This made
            them useful in a wide variety of applications, including dielectric fluids in transformers and capacitors, heat transfer fluids, and lubricants (Afghan and Chau 1989). In

          • Arocolors are undoubtedly useful… but were they ever necessary? We need our biology; do we need aroclors?

            It’s naive to expect that we won’t release this or that compound into the environment beyond its envisioned usage. I’d rather we found compounds that have no environmental footprint, or put some work into robots to replace chemical processing with mechanical processing where possible, etc.

            There is also the orthogonal issue of whether the envisioned usage is correct: you think something is safe because you haven’t yet found an issue, and you use it at dosages consistent with current regulations. Then, new evidence comes in, and now you’re in the position of having used a substance in ways that it *is* (rather than *was*) not meant to be used. There are several high profile precedents that attest to that.

            It gets worse with GE: if you can’t figure it out with inert chemicals, how are you going to keep living organisms in check? The equations become infinitely harder.

          • In NY and PA, they are using chemical waste from oil operations on roads, to de-ice them. What kind of an idiocy is that? They are doing the same reckless, unproven stuff as we speak.

          • Going to have to provide a source for that.
            Seems putting oil on roads is not a good idea, ever.

          • Ah, so there is no oil in it.
            Just SALTY WASTE WATER.

            Not really much different that spreading salt from salt trucks is it?

          • Just read the article, Arthur. A few snippets for your convenience:

            “The wastewater spread on roads comes from oil and gas wells. To drill, production companies send large volumes of water down the well shaft. The water rises back to the surface as a brine laden with chloride (a salt) as well as a number of other constituents like radium and barium, which are radioactive. The brine used on roads comes from conventional oil and gas production, not hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.””

            “But according to Duke University geochemist Avner Vengosh, the conventional drilling waste is nearly identical in many of its most toxic components to the highly controversial fracking waste. Vengosh says the levels of radioactive material found in conventional brine samples taken from New York are equal to levels he has seen in fracking brine, for example.

            What’s more, a study Vengosh and his colleagues published last month in the journal Environmental Science & Technology found that brine being discharged, untreated, into Pennsylvania’s waterways—the same liquid that is spread on roads—also contained significant concentrations of ammonium, iodide and bromide. Each of these chemicals can be toxic to living creatures.

            Ammonium, when dissolved in water, is highly toxic to aquatic life. It showed up in samples from discharge sites at levels more than 50 times the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s water-quality threshold, according to the study. In other words, as of late summer 2014, when the sampling took place, there was way too much ammonium entering the state’s water bodies.”

          • I read it.

            It provided ZIP details to support its case.

            Wonder why?

            For instance it says: other constituents like radium and barium, which are radioactive

            But why not give the AMOUNT of radiation detected?
            That’s the real issue, not just that its present.

            The dose makes the poison, even in radioactivity.

          • A. Did the article about the wastewater on roads say, or did it not say, that a Duke scientist found the barium and radium levels in wastewater equivalent to those in fracking wastewater? If you don’t believe the claims of the article, say so, and maybe we’ll contact the Duke fellow to confirm.

            B. Was fracking banned in New York in part due to scientific opinions that fracking waste can contaminate aquifers with radioactive waste? Again, if you don’t believe this claim, maybe we can all start combing through the details for clarification.

            From (A) and (B), it would follow immediately that the levels of barium and radium in the brine being sprayed on roads meets concern levels, even without invoking the precautionary principle.

            But wait, that’s not all:
            1. We don’t have good numbers on bio-accumulation and bio-magnification, and
            2. We don’t have enough data to know how these substances impact other parts of the ecosystem. Knowing the impact of a chemical cocktail on ecosystems is just as important as knowing its impact on humans.

          • There was no evidence provided in the New York decision…none..that fracking waste has been shown to contaminate aquifers with radioactive waste. Precautionary concerns were raised, which can always be the case, but no evidence to support that was documented. In fact the entire decision was precautionary and not based on evidence, and no cost-benefit analysis was done either of environmental impact of not transitioning to more natural gas (from oil and coal) versus enviro impact of transitioning. If that had been done then there would be no ban, as others have done sustainability cost-benefits and the transition is well worth it.

          • It is entirely possible that NYS has not used science in its decision, although I find that unlikely. Using the precautionary principle when the science doesn’t have enough information *is* a way of using science to make decisions — a sane way at it.

            That aside, it remains that a Duke scientist has found levels of radioactive radium and barium which he finds concerning. That warrants my concern and attention. Let’s put that on the back burner for a second.

            You claim that, had they used the science, NY would have found the fracking waste safe to be produced as part of the respective process. Citation needed.

            Moving on, any concerns about the ammonium mentioned in that article? And please, in Bejeezus’s name, don’t ask me to prove that the amount of ammonium entering the NY aquifers is unsafe — you prove that it is safe. It is guilty until proven innocent, not the other way around.

            Might I note that, by making me pull your tongue for each point of concern mentioned in an article, you ask the passive observers who are reading this from the sidelines to question your open-mindedness and unbiased evaluation of the claims laid out before you.

          • Let’s face it you are an anti-GMO and dare I should write anti-science troll. I’ve seen your posts supporting junk science like the Seralini and Carman studies, and even half-brained critique of GMOs. On this issue, the precautionary notion is not a science principle, it is a political/ethical/religious position that has nothing to do with science itself.

            let’s not kid ourselves, however, the PP is not evidence’s a political concept cooked up by environmentalists in the 1980s.

            Also nothing in science can be PROVEN–you do not understand the basic fundamentals of science if that’s your position. We cannot even PROVE that evolution is “true” or that gravity “exists”. Those are consensus hypotheses based on overwhelming evidence–just as powerful as the consensus evidence behind the relative safety of GM foods as compared to organics or other conventional foods.

          • They probably saved many thousands of lives and millions of dollars in property damage replacing the mineral oil used in transformers, that when they blew often started horrendously intense fires, nearly impossible to put out.

            Similarly DDT saved many hundreds of millions of lives, and it isn’t really associated with any significant environmental damage, particularly considering the huge quantities of it that we used year after year after year.

            What we learned from DDT is that we had to pay attention not only to the toxicity of a pesticide (DDT is not very toxic to most animals) but we had to make sure the half life was low enough that it wouldn’t persist in the environment.

            DDT had a half life of nearly 15 years in the soil. The pesticides that replaced it were measured in days or weeks.

          • You’re comparing to an alternative in which we did nothing but keep the status quo. But assuming that the difference is on the order of thousands of lives, now we’ve got these chemicals accumulating in all of us so that a few thousands of lives could have been saved.

            And you’re silent about the role of this tale as a dangerous precedent. Should we risk disease on the whole world to save a few more thousands of lives with some other wonder formula?

          • The chemicals aren’t “accumulating in all of us”, where did you come up with that idea?

            Everything we do that is new has risks.
            We could have stayed in the caves, but the majority of us decided that it was worth taking risks, to advance.

            Which is why the average life expectancy is 80+ years today and in the 50s was only 60 years.

          • PCBs, for example, are accumulating in all of us. Did I talk past you these last few comments?

            Indeed, everything we do has new risks, some larger, some smaller, but when you say that it was worth blanketing the Earth with PCBs to save a few thousand lives, I find that you’re terribly uncalibrated. Some risks are not worth taking in the name of this progress that you talk about.

            The picture you paint about life expectancy is misleading. If we were to extrapolate from your depiction, we’d assume that hunter gatherers lived only 30 years or less. Of course, by some measure, they did (average life expectancy is pulled down considerably by their high infant mortality rate, right to 30), but their modal age at death was more 60-80 years [1]. A bit like ours. One might argue that we haven’t achieved that much in terms of life expectancy. Worse, if they achieved that longevity with virtually no health care, we should be achieving much higher ages with our modern health care system if we’re to claim any advances in life expectancy. When we adjust our life expectancy for our advanced health care, we probably have to adjust it down.

            I find it misplaced that you should paint my position as that of someone suggesting we stay in caves. I’ve said it once, and I will say it again: not taking risks by using novel chemicals at scale does not mean that humanity stagnates. It means that it advances more sanely and more cautiously. By all probabilities, we are now using better chemicals than PCBs in transformers. Why didn’t we use those to begin with, at the cost of slower advancements?

            The question you should ask yourself is this: could we have gotten where we are without all the pollutants at the cost of a slower pace? And then let an honest answer inform our choices for the future. Cause there’s no contest to win here at full speed.


          • You have not shown any support for your claim that “PCBs are accumulating in all of us”. Provide some support for that and then we can see if the amounts are of real concern.

            Your mortality statements are clearly false. Its clear as we look at people’s systems in their mid 90s that we are near the maximum age we can live, so having our AVERAGE longevity at birth being 80, when that figure includes the high impact of infant mortality, all accidents, all homicides, all deaths from smoking, drinking, drugs/HIV and suicide, is a testament to the fact that we are suffering very little negative impact from environmental factors.

            Note: Each year about 480,000 people in the United States die from illnesses related to tobacco use. Smoking cigarettes kills more Americans than alcohol, car accidents, suicide, AIDS, homicide, and illegal drugs combined and cigarette smoking accounts for at least 30% of all cancer deaths.

            Just get rid of cigarettes and our live expectancy would go up quite a few years.

            Why didn’t we use better chemicals than PCBs? Because they didn’t exist then, but the clear and immediate danger to the use of existing chemicals in transformers and capacitors did.

            Using your metric, we would always wait and wait and wait for solutions to existing problems because there is invariably always a better solution to be found than the one you have found.

          • You know, Arthur, you keep asking me for references, and you keep countering my claims (although not all of them; some you just ignore), but you don’t back your own counter arguments with references in turn.

            PCBs have been accumulating in all of us, and are here to stay for generations. (If I said otherwise, pardon me. Whether they are still accumulating may or may not be true — I have not checked for that claim.) I have already backed this claim with references. Please read them if you really need them provided as you claim. Or provide evidence to the contrary.

            If my claims about hunter-gatherer longevity are false, why don’t you show me the weight of evidence proving that? That’s right, let’s turn the tables a bit and put *you* on the spot for a change.

            Many folks don’t use cigarettes, don’t do second hand smoking, and yet get cancers and die before their time. Have you considered PCBs? DDTs? Dioxin? PBDEs? VOCs? Industrial miracles? Many are fair game — nobody knows.

            Using my metric, time proven technologies would continue to be used and improved while technologies like PCBs would be tested thoroughly in a lab, in laboratory conditions representing various environments, then slowly for cross-generational effects *on volunteers*, and only then would they be used. Harness your imagination, Arthur. Yes, I know that these approaches are more expensive, but some things are worth paying for. This is one of them. Economic concerns must be low on the list. People can work less on software and more on biology-preserving technologies for all I care. I’m ready to do that — are you?

          • Nope your claim, that “PCBs, for example, are accumulating in all of us.”, so your burden of proof.

            Asking me to prove they are not is asking to prove a negative. A true fools errand.

            Using your metric people would have continued to die from exploding transformers filled with mineral oil.

            No thanks.

            You see, staying with current technology has drawbacks.

            Have we ever made a mistake?
            Of course.
            But the overwhelming evidence suggests that our regulatory bodies, FDA, USDA, CDC, NRC, EPA etc that we formed in the 50s, 60s and 70s are doing their jobs.

          • Turtles all the way down? My metric requires that there be no exploding transformers filled with mineral oil in the first place. Which readily obsoletes your comparison. ;)

            The regulatory bodies are supposed to prevent these things from happening, not to prevent in excess of X% of them from happening. This is not a game of economic efficiency or ratios. It’s about health and about human life and environment quality. When you look at it that way, the regulatory bodies have not been doing their jobs. BPA, PBDE, PCB, DDT, dioxins, etc. Make your pick.

            Since I don’t care to look for newer studies, let me adjust my claim as follows: PCBs *have been accumulating* in all of us as of 2008. I don’t know the rate at which they still accumulate *today*, but as of 6 years ago, decades after being banned, they were still bio-accumulating. I hope this will settle this ridiculous back and forth in which you’re sitting back and demanding proof already.

            Here are some more references for this claim: [1-4]. Enjoy the CDC toxicological report at [4], but no cherry-picking, please!

            From [1]:
            “PCB bioaccumulation in humans is known to occur via partitioning of PCBs from air and water into terrestrial plants and aquatic autotrophs and invertebrates of the lowest trophic levels, followed by transfer through the food webs (Schwarzenbach et al., 2003). Although it has long been assumed to be insignificant compared to dietary exposure, little is known about the relative importance of PCB inhalation. In studying PCB congener patterns in human serum, indications were found of exposure to PCBs of atmospheric origin (DeCaprio et al., 2005). Recently it was estimated that inhalation of PCBs can make an important contribution to the accumulation of PCBs in humans (Harrad et al., 2006). This is more likely to be the case in populations where fish consumption is low and airborne PCB concentrations are high and for occupational exposure (ATSDR, 2000).”


          • No your metric would have prevented electricity entirely. We used mineral oil because that’s the only way we could build those large transformers needed to step down the current. The fires from them were still less than the fires from the oil lamps and the candles the light bulbs replaced.

            We haven’t been doing what we are doing today for the last 100 years.

            We only formed the EPA in 1970

            So you are just scaremongering, and pretending that today’s agencies are like it was in 1915.

            Its not.

            Its not even like it was in 1980

            Principal air pollutants

            Millions of Tons Per Year

            1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010

            Carbon Monoxide (CO) 178 170 144 120 102 81 57

            Lead 0.074 0.023 0.005 0.004 0.003 0.002 0.002

            Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) 27 26 25 25 22 19 13

            Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) 30 27 23 22 17 18 11

            Particulate Matter (PM)

            PM10 …. 6 4 3 2 2 1

            PM2.5 …. na na 2 2 1 0.9

            Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) 26 23 23 19 16 15 8.

          • [Citation needed] “We used mineral oil because that’s the only way we could build those large transformers needed to step down the current.”

            You can turn it whatever which way you like, but at the end of the day we did blanket the Earth with PCBs, and we’re still ingesting and breathing them in. And telling us that we just had to do it this way because we did it this way is in poor taste. Tell me a better story than that.

            Having formed the EPA only in 1970 is not an excuse. It’s horrible that we did that. A mindset just like yours and reckless use of the term “progress” is what allowed for that delay.

          • No its not horrible that we did that, that pattern was pretty much the same all over the world.

            Don’t need a citation for the mineral oil claim. We weren’t yet making any of the chemicals that subsequently replaced mineral oil at the time, thus at the time it was the only way we could make those transformers. Since we knew that when they failed they could cause fires, the chemical engineers were always on the lookout for something that could replace mineral oil and reduce the fire hazard, and until PCBs were invented, none were found.

            You still have failed to show that PCBs are accumulating in us, or now that we have “blanketed the world” with them, or that we are still ingesting them at any level that would be a concern.

            What I found about PCBs since you won’t cite a source:

            Table 7: Estimated daily dietary intake of PCBs in the USA

            Year Dietary intake (µg/kg body weight per day) from ATSDR (2000)

            1982–1984 0.0005 µg/kg

            1981–1982 0.003 µg/kg

            1980 – 0.008 µg/kg

            1979 – 0.014 µg/kg

            1978 – 0.027 µg/kg

            That top number was from 30 years ago, but only 6 years after they were banned, showing the STEEP decline in ingestion levels to less than 1/50th of the level it was in 1978, which at its peak was less than 2/1000ths of a milligram for an adult.

          • You are pretty much claiming here that human innovation could not have produced safer alternatives if environmental concerns were put before economic concerns. You most certainly require a citation for that. :D

            Would you stop with the numbers on PCBs? We have PCBs in us; can you get that, or not? We don’t understand their effects fully yet, so the “safe” intake limits are not known.

            Straight from Monsanto’s lawyers:
            “The truth is that PCBs are everywhere. They are in meat, they are in everyone in the courtroom, they are everywhere and they have been for a long time, along with a host of other substances. The truth is that the men and women who have worked around PCBs the most over forty, fifty, sixty years, people in our plant, people in the electrical industry, have not experienced any significant health problems which can be associated or tied into or caused by PCBs other than a serious skin condition called chloracne, which is easily treatable.” [Trial Transcript,Owens v. Monsanto CV-96-J-440-E, (N.D. Alabama April 4, 2001), pg. 453, line 16]

            Go to the Chemical Industry Archives to see what Monsanto knew about PCB toxicity. The website is now up. :D

          • No, I won’t stop with the numbers.

            They are quite clear and show that PCBs RAPIDLY declined in the environment.

            So much so they can no longer measure them. Which is why the numbers STOP in 1984, 30 years ago.

            Do you not see how fast the levels dropped?

            Do you not realize how, even 30 years ago, how incredibly tiny an amount, 0.0005 µg/kg is?

            Table 7: Estimated daily dietary intake of PCBs in the USA
            Year Dietary intake (µg/kg body weight per day) from ATSDR (2000)

            1982–1984 0.0005 µg/kg
            1981–1982 0.003 µg/kg
            1980 – 0.008 µg/kg
            1979 – 0.014 µg/kg
            1978 – 0.027 µg/kg

            As to Safer vs Environmental. They are both important. People at the time, looking at all they knew, chose to use a more toxic compound to prevent fires that were being caused by these transformers. We can only do what appears to be right at the time, and this did. From what I can tell, the savings of lives was clear and immediate, the environmental damage from PCBs used in transformers was minor and short lived. Of course one of the things that also happened is, as a nation, we have got much better at controlling disposal of hazardous wastes and waste management in general, though we still have a good ways to go on that issue.

          • Another straw man, Arthur Doucette? Who said anything about whether PCBs did or did not decline in the environment? Mine is a qualitative argument, and yours is a quantitative one. You’re talking past me with all these silly numbers. PCBs accumulate in human fat tissues even today.

            Do you know how many malignant cancer cells it takes to kill an organism? Do you not realize how incredibly tiny that number is?

            But you say that PCBs have declined in the environment so much so that we can no longer measure them? Why, go pay a visit to the Hudson River and do a deep dive there. It will take them another decade to get all that PCB scooped up from the bottom of the river. Dang, Arthur, the more you argue, the worse your argument is getting.

            The estimated dietary intake that you provide has problems: it is an average, it is an estimate, it is a dietary intake, and it does not account for PCB bioaccumulation. In short, it says nothing about how much PCB there is in humans.

            No, Arthur, the environmental damage of PCBs is neither minor nor is it short lived. PCBs are still there and need to be cleaned up with tons of pain. Cleanup will be imperfect, PCBs will be released again, and in the meantime a lot of freedom loss (“don’t eat that fish”) and the looming uncertainty of cancer will persist.

          • We don’t get food out of the Hudson, so NOT an issue.

            PCBs have long ago stopped being a concern to our health.

            But this is all a RED HERRING since it has NOTHING to do with Glyphosate.

            You are welcome to your PARANOIA.

            You are not welcome to try to spread that paranoia with out any basis for it.

          • “We don’t get food out of the Hudson, so NOT an issue.”
            We don’t get food out of the Hudson because it’s full of PCBs.

            “PCBs have long ago stopped being a concern to our health.”
            Citation needed.

            “But this is all a RED HERRING since it has NOTHING to do with Glyphosate.”
            Noone suggested a link between PCBs and glyphosate. Another straw man, Arthur.

          • I’m still looking forward for citations supporting the claim that my statements are false. It’s only fair that you should provide some, after prompting me to do so.

          • Concerning DDT’s toxicity, DDT was recently found to increase the rate of obesity in non-exposed grandchildren of exposed rats [1]. That is, the exposure stopped, but the effects did not. When gametes fuse, there is transfer not only of genetic material, but also of epigenetic material into the zygote.

            DDT is furthermore linked to a host of health issues in humans [2, 3].

            All you’ve done in talking about DDT’s toxicity is echo the level of ignorance of science at the time you took the pulse of the DDT situation. Well, you should know that that is a moving standard, like everything else.


          • Yes, they were incredibly useful. Indeed your own quote refers to them as “this once celebrated industrial miracle.”

            That’s MIRACLE.

            We use mercury in our CFLs, because we save lots of energy over incandescents, but we know that most of that mercury in those bulbs will get into the environment. There are always trade offs.

            Dosages don’t apply to GMOs.

            We have no problem keeping Corn, Soy, Canola, Cotton and Sugar Beets in check.

            Indeed, no big Ag crop that I’m aware of has ever become a pest, seems like you are making up a problem where none has ever existed.

          • If we want to argue semantics, aroclor was never a miracle, because of its negative characteristics. It was merely perceived to be a miracle. Unless we’re talking about miracles that make us sick.

            Aroclors are useful, but not necessary. And the alternative to aroclors is not the status quo, but some other product or process that perhaps was never discovered because of aroclors occupying its niche. That’s why I’m reluctant to entertain the argument that aroclors saved thousands of lives.

            We don’t fully know the impact of PCBs on organisms. That’s another reason why I’m reluctant to entertain the argument that aroclors saved thousands of lives. Who knows how many they damaged in turn? We simply don’t know, and the EPA acknowledges that much.

            We use mercury? Too bad. In my assignment of weights to the variables, using mercury doesn’t compute.

            I haven’t set out to prove that Ag monocultures have become a pest, like you claim I do.

            Rather, I pointed out that controlling GE organisms is intractable, more so than controlling inert chemicals, because the former multiply even as you try to control them. GM crops have a better chance of becoming a pest than inert chemicals.

            I thought we had documented cases of contamination with GM corn in Mexico, and elsewhere. There was a high profile case in Canada a few years back, involving contamination of a farmer’s field with soybeans. Contamination of crops with GM varieties is a routine occurrence in the news, I thought. They don’t really sit where you put them, Arthur. :)

          • Nope, the cases in Mexico turned out to be false. Don’t know about that Canada’s farmer.
            You really need to provide links

          • Obviously, the plants resulting from the seeds in circulation today are not sterile. If you’ve been near a farm, or know some basic plant biology, you know that plants often release seed in their vicinity, through natural forces. It’s no rocket science to acknowledge that, barring technological restraints, seeds spread beyond any confinement. Are you aware of any such restraints?

            I didn’t know that the Mexico account was proven false. Could you provide a link? It seems to me like it was the Mexican government that complained about GM corn contamination [1]. That’s a pretty high profile situation to be faking.

            Regarding the farmer, his name is Schmeiser. The Wikipedia article on the topic [2] is terribly biased, which makes me doubt its value. Compare that with [3], concerning a different case.


          • Schmeiser lost his case in Canada’s Supreme court. He did have contamination on the borders of his property. He sowed that seed and sprayed the resulting crop with Round-Up such that only Round-Up resistant plants survived. He used that 2nd year crop to plant his next crop, which is stealing, which is why he lost. This of course is not how farmers normally get next year’s seeds. They normally buy them from seed dealers, so any cross contamination between neighboring crops doesn’t persist, its simply an annual event along the borders of two fields growing the same crop.

            But here’s the thing, of course hybrids of corn mix, all do. You have to be careful if you are growing sweet corn next to field corn, or your crop will be a mix (and field corn is not at all as tasty as sweet corn, far less sugar), but guess what? Over 50 years we have had no problem growing sweet corn and field corn without worrying about them mixing. There are no wild corn plants we have to be concerned with.

            From: Wayne Parrott
            Re: Contaminated Corn Crop

            With the issue of Bt corn and Monarch Butterflies apparently settled
            in favor of their happy coexistence, the journal Nature has tackled
            biotechnology-derived corn yet again [29 November 2001 issue (Vol.
            414, pp. 541-543)]. In another letter to Nature, researchers try to
            make the case that “Introgression” of transgenic DNA into Mexican
            landraces has already occurred.

            Mexico and Central America have a tremendous number of land races.
            These come in a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes, and are
            maintained because each variety has its own set of uses, as
            determined by color, taste, dough-making ability, etc. The various
            landraces have been cultivated next to each other for centuries, and
            the numerous landraces have not lost their integrity. Furthermore, US
            hybrid corn has been imported for decades, and yet the landraces have
            lost neither their identity nor their diversity. Yet,
            cross-pollination is taking place between the numerous local
            landraces and between North American hybrids and local landraces.

            There are probably biological reasons why the various landraces have
            not succumbed to centuries of gene flow. There are cultural reasons
            as well. As a key part of their local culture, corn farmers select
            for desirable plants and seeds each harvest season, thus ensuring
            that each landrace maintains its integrity from generation to

            Regardless of the Nature letter’s title, the authors may have shown
            the presence of transgenic corn, but they are a long way away from
            proving introgression. Introgression has very definite meaning in
            plant breeding. It means much more than that a first generation cross
            has taken place. It means that gene is still around in advanced
            generations. As is, absolutely nothing in this paper can support the
            authors’ premise that “the transgenic DNA constructs are probably
            maintained in the population from one generation to the next.”

            Crossing between transgenic hybrids and local landraces of corn will
            probably occur sooner or later, if it hasn’t happened already. After
            all, corns have crossed with each other since time immemorial. Such
            gene flow -by chance or intent -has given rise to a large amount of
            biodiversity, which is balanced as farmers select for specific
            characteristics that make each local corn variety unique. To imply
            that this age-old system will now be disrupted and that sustainable
            food production will be imperiled is indefensible, unduly alarmist,
            and irresponsible.

            Wayne Parrott
            Department of Crop & Soil Sciences, University of Georgia, Athens, GA


            Mexican Gov’t Statement On Transgenic Maize

            – CINVESTAV Unit at Irapuato, November 29, 2001 (Frorm Agnet)

            Irapuato, Guanajuato.– As regards the news report recently released
            in the Nature magazine on the presence of transgenic maize in the
            Sierra of Oaxaca, Mr. Luis Herrera Estrella, PhD, Director of
            CINVESTAV Irapuato, commented that “there is no evidence that this
            represents a threaten for maize biodiversity in Mexico.”

            This week, several communication media worldwide have made a large
            spreading on such matter, since our country is the center of origin
            and diversification place of such an important crop. Far from
            contributing with elements from a solid scientific research, however,
            such publication has turned into a tool for the groups challenging
            agricultural biotechnology.

            Dr. Herrera Estrella says in his comments that “for decades, maize
            landraces have lived together with commercial varieties, including
            hybrids from multi-national firms, and such fact has not caused their
            disappearance, and in most of the cases not even their replacement by
            small growers.” Likewise, he assured that “During all this period of
            time, our maize landraces, and materials enhanced through
            conventional techniques have had the chance to exchange genes, and
            such fact, far from eliminating our domestic materials biodiversity,
            have rather enriched them, and the small grower has incorporated
            genes allowing him to obtain the native materials best suited for his
            region, and which allow him for getting what suffices for his

            About the publication, Herrera Estrella stated that “it is not
            surprising that if someone planted transgenic maize, their genes had
            been transferred to traditional maize landraces through natural
            pollination processes. On the other hand, since the farmlands closest
            to the areas where contamination was found are 100 kilometers away,
            one of the critical questions is about the source of the pollen that
            “contaminated” the domestic varieties of such maize. In addition, the
            statements as to the negative consequences for biodiversity are
            groundless speculations, since there are no experimental data to that
            respect. It is very difficult to figure out that the presence of one
            or two new genes in maize landraces might bring about their

          • I want to thank you for acknowledging my point in both instances.

            Regarding Schmeiser, you acknowledge therefore that contamination did occur in his field. I never set out to prove anything else concerning him.

            Regarding the Mexican government’s stance with regard to GM contamination of corn and maize varieties, the quote that you provided also proves my point. There is no question, reading that news release, that contamination has occurred in Mexico. What the news release says is that the government is not concerned with it at this time.

            You are correct that farmers can slow down the spread of a gene in the gene pool of the cultures that they control. That follows from the fact that anthropic selection constitutes a stronger force than natural selection, and as such the search for desirable traits is much more enhanced and direct. But that search is not perfect, and farmers constantly fight contamination of the traits that they can and want to control, and, let’s face it, they do nothing about contamination with genes that control phenotype that they are not interested in or phenotype that they can’t even gauge.

            That’s why I believe that you are thoroughly incorrect to claim that farmers can prevent contamination in any meaningful way — they can only slow it down. Genes, whether GE or from natural varieties, will slowly creep into a genome at rates that are invisible to the naked eye. As farmers carefully repeat the harvesting and seed collection cycle, there are ever so few traits from wild varieties that make it into the offspring genotype. The only way that farmers can prevent that is through complete isolation of a breeding phenotype and controlling its pollination, and we both know that farmers have not been doing that (not exclusively) and cannot be expected to do so only to prevent contamination. That is the stuff of expensive breeding techniques that we can’t hold farmers to just to prevent contamination with biotech genes.

            In short, contamination will happen convincingly and inexorably.

            In a June 2013 ruling in a trial against Monsanto, the US Washington Circuit Court of Appeals admitted that much, siding with the plaintiffs’ claims that contamination does occur, and siding with the defendant based on the defendant’s binding assurances that it would not sue farmers who have been accidentally contaminated [1] (sorry that I didn’t spend time to go to the ruling itself, but I’ve got plenty of things to do beyond hunting down references. ;)).

            With the above, I’d argue that your case that contamination does not and cannot occur is solidly weak.


          • I never said contamination can’t occur.
            That’s a strawman.
            It that were an issue, it would be the exact same issue with any new variety.
            But it isn’t


            Because our seed producers produce new seed every year that breeds true.

            Your fear is unsubstantiated.

          • It sure looks like you did say exactly that.

            In reply to my claim that you controlling genetic contamination is more intractable than controlling inert chemicals, you said: “We have no problem keeping Corn, Soy, Canola, Cotton and Sugar Beets in check”. You then said “Indeed, no big Ag crop that I’m aware of has ever become a pest, seems like you are making up a problem where none has ever existed”.

            I said “I thought we had documented cases of contamination with GM corn in Mexico, and elsewhere.”, to which you said “Nope, the cases in Mexico turned out to be false”.

            You then went on to talk about how farmers might carefully control for genetic contamination, claiming that they have been preventing mixing with wild varieties.

            Haven’t you said all that? Why not own up to it? We’re here to learn truths; I’m not here to make points off of you. It’s OK to be wrong. It’s when you’re never wrong that we’ve got a problem. ;)

            What fear are you talking about? We’re ascertaining facts, not expressing fears. As of a message ago, we were still debating whether contamination can occur, so let’s leave the question of what contamination might mean to the crops for some other time. That will be a case by case discussion.

            (I will give you a hint of possible generic objections, though: transgenesis is a slingshot for foreign genes to jump into a genotype at very high speed. Where genes have been working with genotypes for millennia, the genes have had time to work out wrinkles. Where you quickly bring a gene from a different organism having a different chemistry into a genotype, well, you’re bypassing much of that selection game. But seriously, let’s not open this can of worms here. Let’s figure out a way to discuss this by e-mail, if you are interested, cause there are interesting arguments on both sides. For instance, HGT may be happening in nature at a higher rate than we think. That’s right, science doesn’t know the exact rate just yet.)

          • Contamination of adjacent fields occurs today with non-GMO crops, but each year farmers buy new seed, so NO, the “contamination doesn’t spread” which was your claim.

          • I own up to all I post, but what I posted doesn’t show I’m wrong. We have proven that we have no problem controlling the spread of genes from our GMO crops. If we couldn’t control them, then we wouldn’t be able to sell crops labeled as Organic (no GMO allowed) nor would we be able to export huge amounts of our corn and soy as not all varieties are allowed. We deal with the minimal cross field contamination by starting each year with fresh seed. Its sort of like a reset button. There is no similar reset button for chemicals released into the environment.

          • Could you own up to it and admit that you contradicted yourself on whether contamination does occur? You did say “contamination does not occur”, as per the quotes in my recap.

            No, you have not even proven that “we have no problem controlling the spread of genes from our GMO crops”. Genes from GMO crops do contaminate non-GMO crops; that I have proven with links. “Control” is a matter of perspective. If GMO crops do contaminate non-GMO crops, then what are you controlling really? Did you mean to say that we can slow it down? That may be true, but that’s not “controlling” it.

            If you test for GMOs judiciously, you can cheerfully select the seeds, breed them in a tightly controlled environment to get many more of them from the offspring, and then sell millions of seeds to thousands of farmers. If you do that continuously and in perpetuity, then you can achieve this goal of controlling contamination.

            But that is a ridiculous setup. You can’t expect organic crops to be produced in this manner. In the real life, farmers save and reuse their seed. That ability is sacred. Those farmers don’t have access to gene testing tools, nor do they have phenotypic signals to select against GM genes; consequently, GE genes do spread into their crops.

            Then there are the wild varieties, which can borrow and retain the GM genes for ages — or tell me how you can control for that — and they will be there to always lend them to the farmers’ crops.

            It’s a losing battle, and a silly one for you to propose. :)

          • I’ve already responded to this: Contamination of adjacent fields occurs today with non-GMO crops, but because the GMO crops are our big Ag crops, normally each year farmers buy new seed, so NO, the “contamination doesn’t spread” which was your claim. And NO, even when/if GMO varieties of vegetables start coming out in quantity, that still doesn’t prevent farmers from saving seed. But if you DO save seed, you have to do it correctly, for instance if you grow multiple varieties of Tomatoes, you have to hand fertilize specific tomatoes, and mark them if you want them to breed true. If you are growing Sweet corn next to a farm that is growing Dent corn (starchy) you can’t save the seeds from the corn plants within ~15 ft of the other field, and better yet, you should cut off the pollen filled tassles from corn in the middle of your field and hand pollinate the silks to ensure you get the seeds you want. Every crop is different, and the techniques vary, but farmers have been saving seeds for specific hybrids of all these plants for a LONG time, and almost all of them will cross pollinate with members of the same family and even close cousins. Introduction of GMO hasn’t changed a thing about this.

          • “If you do save seed, you have to do it correctly.”

            Firstly, I reject your claim that hand fertilizing is the correct way to save seed. Folks used to not have to hand fertilize, when I used to spend time in the country side. It was a choice.

            Secondly, it should not have to be imposed on farmers in order to prevent GMO contamination. Anything less than a choice counts as yet another freedom removed from them.

            And what a freedom to remove. We can’t expect farmers to save seed the way that you want them to. That simply is not realistic. With transgenes having the potential to await in perpetuity at the edges of the farmers’ fields for a chance to jump in, you are expecting a silly and unrealistic imposition on farmers everywhere in order to avoid GE contamination. Let them let the guard down once, and they risk incorporating a gene that likely has no visible phenotypic expression.

            You’re living in a wet dream if you expect things to work that way.

          • Too bad that saving seed to replant takes expertise.

            It does.

            Which is why farmers have been buying seed for decades.

            You want to go back to poor germination and resulting poor yields, then do it.

            But farmers, who do this for a living aren’t that stupid. They buy certified seed, coated and with guaranteed germination rates.

          • It seems we’re starting to get somewhere, if only accidentally. I’m sure you didn’t actually intend to contradict your earlier claims.

            But, anyway… you agree, then, that saving seed “correctly” [that is, the way you want it done] is a wet dream. Farmers can’t be expected to do it “correctly”, and so contamination with genes from wild varieties that thrive at the borders of cultures can’t reasonably be prevented. That includes genes introduced through GE.

            Smart farmers buy seed, you say? Yeah, well, that’s just, like, your opinion, man. I know plenty of very smart farmers who do the exact opposite, and they have tastier produce than whatever the heck ends up on supermarket shelves.

            Poor germination? Poor yields? I’d like to hear someone talk about taste and nutrients for once. Everyone’s up in arms about economic concerns. We can get fewer people off the TV and onto the farm if manpower is your concern. All it takes is education. Optimizing away taste in the name of efficiency is bull. And let’s face it: vegetables these days taste like F-ing cardboard!

            You say “guaranteed germination rates”.
            We all learned in biology class that a plant is the product of genetics and environmental factors. That realization extends to processes within the plant, including germination rates. Guaranteed germination rates is a wild term for what is probably a confidence interval.

            I do agree with your past statement that contamination is ever-present whether or not we use GE. But that’s not the same as claiming that contamination with GE is unlikely. It’s very likely, and it’s slowly happening. And we can’t stop it with any tools that we can conceivably build in the foreseeable future.

          • See, you switched from the Big Ag crops which are GMO to PRODUCE.

            Produce isn’t what we are discussing.

            The seeds from a few pepper pods are enough for a small farm, Seeds from a few tomatoes would cover an acre, but when you are doing our big FIELD crops, corn, soy, cotton, canola, which are the ones that are GMO, you don’t save seed.

            And YES, when you are planting 100 million acres of Corn and 80 Million acres of Soy, germination rate (which is based on quality of seed production, storage and coatings), is a KEY value for farmers. They want to plant 30,000 corn plants per acre, and they don’t want to plant 10% more seed to accomplish that.

            Oh, and these crops are grown for nutrition, they are the basis of food for our livestock.

            We eat these crops mainly as OILS and SUGARS, not like we do fresh produce.

          • What is that supposed to mean, I switched? It’s all together. There is GMO produce for human consumption on the shelves, isn’t there? With more to come, as soon as they find a way to pluck the genes into more species of plants.

            The conversation about livestock feed is interesting in its own right, but not what we’re focused on. Let’s not change subject like that. I’ll just dare this piece of thought about it: if they can’t be bothered to make tasty food for people, then I’m afraid to wonder what it is they do to livestock feed. (Actually, I know a few things about that. See [1], which surely puts your claim of “crops grown for nutrition” in a, well… healthy perspective.)


          • The only produce on the shelves is some sweet corn and summer squash.

            We were discussing saving seed today, but you went right to: “I know plenty of very smart farmers who do the exact opposite, and they have tastier produce than whatever the heck ends up on supermarket shelves.

            That’s seed for PRODUCE.

            Which is NOT GMO.

            See you are railing against the use of hybrids used for mass production of produce, that pick well and ship well, vs better tasting, but more fragile varieties from a local farmers market. Again a totally different discussion and NOTHING to do with GMO.

          • Just because it seems like this Mihai is a stickler, there’s also rainbow papaya in some markets. It seems like he would take an innocent omission like that and contort it into you being a liar.

            And I’m not even sure if Seminis is still producing the virus resistant summer squash. Hyperzombie indicated that he doesn’t think they are in a different thread, I vaguely recall him saying he was going to get a hold of someone at seminis to ask and I imagine he did. But your point still stands that the amount of genetically engineered produce is trivial. Which is a tragedy because our citrus growers need an answer to greening disease and bananas are beleaguered by a whole host of pathogens that biotechnology can help to address.

          • Thanks Dominick.
            I think the entire issue is silly.
            How long have we had Big Boy tomatoes, Blue Lake green beans, Calif Wonder Peppers, Danvers Half long Carrots, Detroit Red Beets, Straight Eight Cucumbers, Silver Queen corn etc etc etc? Preserving hybrids is one thing we clearly know how to do. My Territorial Seed catalog is 176 pages and has maybe a dozen or more different hybrids per page, including many “heirloom” varieties if that is your thing.

          • Dafuq is going on here?

            We talked about the plausibility of GM contamination of crops.
            We talked about saving seed.
            And then we talked about the supposed merits of optimizing yield.

            Those are three different topics.

            It is in the context of the last topic that I mentioned the quality of produce. The argument was that optimizing for economic factors before optimizing for taste and nutritional value is idiotic. Look at what we’ve done to the taste of tomatoes, which now taste like cardboard because we’ve optimized for economic factors [1]. WELL DONE, YA SHEEPLY CONSUMERS! Have a bite of that bigger TV set!

            => Importantly, that stuff is tangential to our talk about saving seed.

            Most GMOs grown today are meant to feed our cattle? Fine, I can agree with that. But not *all* GMOs; and more are down the pipeline. The same objections to buying seed, concerning quality of produce, apply anyway. On top of that, you can’t expect all the farmers who feed people, or cattle, to buy their seed. That is a wet dream.

            Plus, when we talk about contamination, we don’t care whether the crop goes to cattle or humans. Contamination is contamination regardless of the ultimate consumer.

            Bring some compelling evidence to counter this, and I’m all ears. But so far you’ve been dabbling in twisting my claim, which is rather simple: farmers don’t save seeds the way you want them, nor can they be expected to unequivocally buy their seeds, whether their crops are for people or cattle or what have you. That means contamination is real. I’ve even provided references for documented cases of contamination, so what the heck are we debating here? Obvious-as-the-light-of-day facts?

            I have separate objections to mass production of any kind of crops, primarily of an ecological nature, but those are orthogonal to the topic, and so let’s not dabble in them, or we’d be confusing this debate even more.


          • Sorry, but you are still missing the point.

            If a farmer wants to save his seed, and the neighboring farm is growing a strain he doesn’t want, then he won’t save seed from the edges of his field.

            You don’t need but 25 lbs of corn to plant an acre, and that’s about half a bushel. So if you are going to plant 350 acres of corn, you would save the seed from ~1 acre of corn, and you would do that from the acre in the MIDDLE of your field and that would NOT be contaminated from your neighbor’s field.

            Corn has very heavy pollen and doesn’t travel far, so pollination by neighboring farms is an easily solved issue (Corn only gets pollinated over a very short time frame, so just staggering your planting a week is sufficient to avoid it from the field just one road over).

            Soybeans are mostly self pollinated, and again a SMALL distance is sufficient to prevent cross pollination. In open field tests, cross-pollination rates ranged from 0.41% at 0.9 m from the pollen source to 0.03% at 5.4 m from the pollen source. So just 20 feet of separation is all that is required to virtually eliminate the issue.

            Most Canola grown is self pollinated.

            For Sugar beets, we eat the tuber so it doesn’t matter.

            Umbeck et al. measured pollen transfer to non-transgenic rows of cotton in Arizona, Arkansas, Mississippi, and North Carolina showed that pollen-mediated gene flow (PGF) decreased exponentially with increasing distance from the pollen source and was below 1% beyond 10 m at all locations.

            Your strawman issue has no legs.

          • Dude, I like you. I really do. I appreciate the time you take to explain your point of view. And while I don’t feel swayed by your arguments so far — they are very specific, and might not apply to the next GMO — they are interesting. Why don’t we talk more over a faster medium? I’m at [email protected]. Leave a phone number, or some such thing, and I will call you. I want to understand the realities more than I want to show the world how right I am.

            So let’s find a better communication channel, and then maybe we can distill the contents on here for folks who care.

          • I must add that there exist documented cases of contamination with GMOs. That trumps the theory behind any claims to the contrary.

          • Mkay, so you’re saying in effect that contamination of corn is not possible because corn pollen is heavy? Why, if only you had said so before!

            (I hope it’s heavy enough that birds, bees, and gusts of wind can’t pick it up.)

            But what if corn contamination had in fact occurred? What would that mean for your case? It would mean you’re f-ing high, that’s what it would mean.

            Corn contamination HAS occurred [1, 2].

            The study at [1] is particularly telling, as it found clear contamination:

            “Instead of seeing a decrease in cross-pollination with distance from the GE source as we did in 1999, we found low generalized cross-pollination across all sampling sites.”

            “From the 1999 data, we concluded that organic producers concerned about cross-pollination could possibly reduce this threat by not harvesting the outer 3 to 4 m of the cornfield. Beyond this point, the amount of cross-pollination was minimal. However, our 2000 data did not support this.”

            So why don’t you quit smoking the sh*t you’re smoking, man.


          • Did you bother to read the study?

            They specifically planted corn that had the same growth rate, at the same time, and then planted it just 90 ft downwind of the target crop. In other words, they did the OPPOSITE of what farmers would do to prevent cross pollination.

            As the study said, “Pollen shed generally occurs over the course of a week, … a majority of the pollen will be shed around the third day,”

            So simply staggering planting by one week will virtually eliminate cross pollination. Which is why the USDA recommends this for Organic growers. Also planting a short hedgerow between your field and your neighbor’s field will cut it down significantly.

            Third they stated: “Cross-pollination of GE corn with traditional corn hybrids was demonstrated in this study, but only with a low rate of occurrence. Even with the RR pollen source as close as 30 m away and a wind direction generally favorable for cross-pollination, the amount of cross-pollination was low”

            Now had they taken SIMPLE measures like staggering the planting of their crop by a week, it would have gone to vanishingly small if not zero. Secondly, if you are saving seed, you do stagger your crop and you don’t harvest it from the rows within 200 ft of your neighbors crop.

            Not an issue.

            Indeed, I’ve got a seed catalog from Territorial Seed company, its nearly 200 pages and FILLED with seed for an amazing variety of crops. Since cross pollination is an issue between any two crops, how do you think they manage this, year after year after year?

            Why can we still buy Big Boy hybrids or Early Girl Tomatoes?

            Because Seed producers aren’t constrained by your lack of imagination.

          • You know, Arthur, your assumptions and restrictions are piling up so fast that it amazes me you haven’t reevaluated the troubles of your case.

            Listen to yourself. “If only they had done things properly”. It reminds me of your reaction to my pointers to PCB contamination: “well, but it wasn’t legal that they dumped those PCBs”.

            Did you miss the memo, Arthur? People don’t do things “properly”. Can we acknowledge that reality and the resulting conclusions?

            You’re really stuck on this idea of how farmers ought to do things. You are likely projecting the way of doing things that you have grown to know onto the rest of us. You should travel the world — we don’t all do things your way, and your way isn’t the right way. You don’t get to introduce novel genes into species and then slap the rest of us on the wrist for not doing extra time to make sure they don’t get into our crops; for not doing things your way. Wake up from this dream of self-importance.

            And I’m glad we don’t all do things your way. The power of survival stems from a species’s ability to hedge its bets. I salute doing things in various ways. Uniformity not only sucks, but, in this context, it can also be dangerous to our survival.

            But let me point out some problems that even your “perfect” farmers will have to deal with in relation to this technique of staggering pollination:

            1. It assumes that the farmer is in the business of tightly controlling the pollination time of their crop. This further assumes some sort of dependence on some seed provider, or some very tight selection practices (both of which can fail). I deeply question not only the value, but the feasibility of that proposition.

            2. It assumes that all neighboring GM crops pollinate at times that don’t overlap with the pollination rate chosen by the farmer at #1. Imagine the farmer communicating with the farms within “wind distance” from him to try to figure out when their crops pollinate.

            3. It fails to take into account what is in fact the Achilles’s heel of this solution: the wild varieties, with their own wildly varying pollination times. If a GE gene flows into the wild and we later find it to be a pest, the farmers of tomorrow will be in a constant fight to prevent genetic material from entering their crops.

            So where does that net us out?

            The idea of doing things by buying seed built in a lab is not the way farmers must do things. We don’t get to deny the power of genes to contaminate by pushing farmers to do things that way. Farmers don’t do that, and they shouldn’t have to.

            We also know that contamination has occurred.

            I feel that, although we have been able to maintain a generally decent debate, we’re not making much progress on this front. And I’m understanding where you’re coming from (you’re being naive and idealistic, I might add), but at the same time I find that you’re set in your ideas. Even in the face of prior contamination, you continue to deny the reality of contamination, apparently by hoping that the world will align to a strict model of producing crops.

            My advice to you is this: you should acknowledge the obvious, but work to clarify for the layman that contamination needn’t have negative connotations; genetic contamination routinely occurs in farming already. Then see if you can use the rates of natural HGT to defend transgenesis (anthropic HGT), assuming the rates are comparable. If they are not comparable, then there are novel risks to be acknowledged there… sorry. It is what it is, and I feel it my duty to be vocal about this reality.

            If you want this part of the debate to have a future, then acknowledge that the world doesn’t work in this perfect way that you had planned for it, and then you can easily produce the requisite corollaries. One of those shall be that we have got to plan for ubiquity of transgenes that can only temporarily and proactively be kept away from our food supply should they need to be kept away. This projected ubiquity dwarfs the ubiquity of chemical pollutants, and it gets to be kept in check only through permanent, strict controls which will not be in place in time (and some people, myself included, believe those controls should not be imposed on farmers everywhere in the first place).

          • From the USDA

            This is the thirteenth installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

            The use of genetic engineering, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs), is prohibited in organic products. This means an organic farmer can’t plant GMO seeds, an organic cow can’t eat GMO alfalfa or corn, and an organic soup producer can’t use any GMO ingredients. To meet the USDA organic regulations, farmers and processors must show they aren’t using GMOs and that they are protecting their products from contact with prohibited substances, such as GMOs, from farm to table.

            Organic operations implement preventive practices based on site-specific risk factors, such as neighboring conventional farms or shared farm equipment or processing facilities. For example, some farmers plant their seeds early or late to avoid organic and GMO crops flowering at the same time (which can cause cross-pollination). Others harvest crops prior to flowering or sign cooperative agreements with neighboring farms to avoid planting GMO crops next to organic ones. Farmers also designate the edges of their land as a buffer zone where the land is managed organically, but the crops aren’t sold as organic. Any shared farm or processing equipment must be thoroughly cleaned to prevent unintended exposure to GMOs or prohibited substances.

            All of these measures are documented in the organic farmer’s organic system plan. This written plan describes the substances and practices to be used, including physical barriers to prevent contact of organic crops with prohibited substances or the products of “excluded methods” such as GMOs. On-site inspections and records verify that farmers are following their organic system plan. Additionally, certifying agents conduct residue testing to determine if these preventive practices are adequate to avoid contact with substances such as prohibited pesticides, antibiotics, and GMOs.

            Any certified organic operation found to use prohibited substances or GMOs may face enforcement actions, including loss of certification and financial penalties. However, unlike many pesticides, there aren’t specific tolerance levels in the USDA organic regulations for GMOs. As such, National Organic Program policy states that trace amounts of GMOs don’t automatically mean the farm is in violation of the USDA organic regulations. In these cases, the certifying agent will investigate how the inadvertent presence occurred and recommend how it can be better prevented in the future. For example, they may require a larger buffer zone

            So this isn’t something I’m suggesting, its what the USDA is promoting.

            The FACT is, if you are in the seed business, producing uncontaminated seed is what you do and you know how to do it, so its not an issue. That’s why I have many seed catalogs with thousands of varieties of veggies/fruits/berries/nuts/legumes available to me.

            If you are a farmer who wants to save and replant seed (and can do so legally) then you have to do some of the same things seed producers do to insure your seed is not cross pollinated. Its NOT rocket science though.

            Your example of the genes flowing into the wild and then becoming a pest is interesting. Do you have ANY example of this EVER happening, because it certainly wouldn’t be a unique problem to GMO crops.

            GMO seeds for farmers aren’t made in a lab, they are grown in fields, HUGE fields. The ~82 Million acres of GMO corn we grew last year required over a million tons of seed.

            You may feel it is “your duty” to be vocal about this issue, but since 90+% of the Corn, Soy, Cotton, Canola and Sugar Beet grown in the US and Canada are now GMO, its clear the farmers in the US/Canada and the seed growers don’t share your concern. It is their business, not yours, so I tend to trust their view over yours.

          • “You may feel it is “your duty” to be vocal about this issue, but since 90+% of the Corn, Soy, Cotton, Canola and Sugar Beet grown in the US and Canada are now GMO, its clear the farmers in the US/Canada and the seed growers don’t share your concern.”

            If 90% of those crops are GMO, that doesn’t mean that 90% of the farmers grow GMO crops. This means that your subsequent statement “farmers in US/Canada don’t share your concern” does not follow from your premise. I’m not saying it isn’t true, and I’m not saying it isn’t false. Just that it doesn’t follow.

            So, could you argue that again, but without looking at crop quantities, and counting each agribusiness as one farmer? Is it still clear that the farmers don’t share my concern? Cause the media channels that I like to tune into say otherwise, and I’m sure I could do some deeper research of this issue.

            “It is their business, not yours, so I tend to trust their view over yours.”

            Playing with PCBs around the Hudson was GE’s business, not mine. And letting people use PCBs when the carcinogenic effects were known to Monsanto was Monsanto’s business, not mine. The salient point is this: whose business it is has no bearing on the validity of one’s argument. You’re invoking the logical fallacy formally known as “appeal to authority”. I don’t blame you; I sometimes do the same, as we all do; we have limited resources and we have to default to someone’s opinion at some point. (And then there’s all the complication of confirmation biases that must be fed and cared for.) But, here, we’re trying to surface the premises of our arguments, so we can do better than to default to the opinion of some group of people or another.

            “Your example of the genes flowing into the wild and then becoming a pest is interesting. Do you have ANY example of this EVER happening, because it certainly wouldn’t be a unique problem to GMO crops?”

            I agree, as stated previously, that this is not a problem unique to GM crops. All I’m looking is for you to acknowledge that GM genes can flow pretty much freely, given, let’s say, a couple of decades, into any and all interfertile species. In other words, that contamination is real and unstoppable. I’m not looking to paint contamination as a devil; how bad it is is orthogonal.

            To that end, will an example of transgenes flowing in all directions, as well as a 101 on how genes always flow in all directions in interfertile species, be sufficient? If so, look at [1]. This report clearly states:

            “4. Transgenes have entered some landraces of maize in Mexico. This finding was confirmed by scientific studies sponsored by the Mexican
            government. However, no peer-reviewed summaries of this work have been published and information released to the public has been vague. In any event, there is no doubt that transgenes will spread in Mexican maize, and that they are present now.

            (It says that there are no peer-reviewed summaries of the work, not that the work is not peer-reviewed.)

            “5. Transgenes, like other alleles from modern varieties, are expected to enter local landraces once they have been introduced into a given region. Whether novel alleles (transgenic or not) eventually increase or decrease in frequency will depend on a variety of factors
            (see below).” [2]

            Please no cherry-picking. There will be things you can pull out of context to feed confirmation biases, but these folks stated pretty unequivocally (and mater-of-factually) not only that maize species are interfertile and that gene migration in all directions is as real as the light of day, but also that GM contamination is a fact.

            “From the USDA”
            What the USDA proposes is a darn expensive and unrealistic model of operation for non-GM farmers, unreasonably placing the impossible burden of controlling gene flow on them. No wonder organic farmers complain about how expensive is to get organic certification. But do you know why? Because that is the only way GM farming can exist. To put the burden on the GM farmers would have meant to give *them* the intractable issue, forcing them to shut down their operation one by one.

            Even the USDA acknowledges that trace amounts of GM contamination cannot be prevented in organic crops, and so they allow for it. Otherwise, we would have put the term “organic crop” in a museum by now.

            The USDA knows well enough that the ability of species to share genes is an unstoppable force. I’m surprised you aren’t feeling it, given your apparently decent knowledge of genetics and biology.

            I repeat, once again, my plea to you: diversity is good for the planet. I didn’t make that up; nature has. Don’t expect — or, rather, don’t hope for — the world to do things the way envisioned for them by the USDA, where farmers have to constrain themselves to draconian measures for preventing GM gene flow. Those approaches have their applicability and they can give us fairly good genes where genome probing is available, but they are not realistic for the whole world, which is what enables contamination to be a fact.

            Anyway, I feel we should consider ramping this down a bit, as composing the content for these debates has been taking a lot of my limited time.


            [2] See [1], page 16.

          • Again you utterly fail in your argument.

            I’ve NEVER said contamination of nearby crops can’t happen, just that it ISN’T A PROBLEM when it does.

            Every year farmers plant new seed and they know how to keep their seed from being cross pollinated.

            You have shown NOTHING to suggest other wise.

            You have shown NOTHING to suggest that GMOs are reducing genetic diversity.

            You have shown NOTHING to suggest that the vast majority of Organic crops are not contaminated with GMO genes.

            Everything is conceivable, even flying pigs, but that doesn’t mean they exist.

            As none of the problems you allude to, exist.

            As to the Mexican Corn Issue. It would help if you read your sources. They presented NO EVIDENCE that any transgenes had been found, but they did say this quite clearly:

            There is no reason to expect that a transgene would have any greater or lesser effect on the genetic diversity of landraces
            or teosinte than other genes from similarly used modern cultivars. The scientific definition of genetic diversity is the sum of all of the variants of each gene in the gene pool of a given population, variety, or species. The maize gene pool represents tens of thousands of genes, many of which vary within and among populations.

            Transgenes are unlikely to displace more than a tiny fraction of the native gene pool,
            if any, because maize is an outcrossing plant with very high rates of genetic recombination. Instead, transgenes would be added to the dynamic mix of genes that are already present in landraces, including conventional genes from modern cultivars. Thus, the introgression of a few individual transgenes is unlikely to have any major biological effect on genetic diversity in maize landraces.

            So essentially they TOTALLY disagree with you.

            the introgression of a few individual transgenes is unlikely to have any major biological effect on genetic diversity in maize landraces.

          • “I’ve NEVER said contamination of nearby crops can’t happen.”

            On March 5, at 3:16pm, according to my Disqus record, you stated, in response to my claim that genes are more intractable than inert chemicals: “GE plants reproduce, but still they don’t “spread like wild fire”. Ever seen Corn or Soy running out of a farmer’s field?”

            On the same day, at 6:39pm, you stated, in response to my reference to contamination of corn with GM genes in Mexico:
            “Nope, the cases in Mexico turned out to be false. Don’t know about that Canada’s farmer. You really need to provide links”

            This is the second time that I have to resort to quoting you in order to point out false claims on your behalf at the end of a tedious debate. “I never argued that”, you went once before. In the future, you should gracefully acknowledge when you are wrong.

            BTW, If you’re in this business, I shouldn’t need to provide you with links, unless you don’t have the most honest intentions at heart. There have been high profile cases of GMO contamination of organic crops here, in the US, cases that have gone to court. You should know about that, given your apparent interests. Genes flow like wildfire, my man.

            I don’t care what you or your other farmer friends think is safe and isn’t safe, or how you think farming needs to be done.

            Nor should anyone else. To defer to your opinions, or, indeed, to the opinions of our regulators that have shown their impotence through ugly precedents, is a logical fallacy aptly called “appeal to authority”.

            With that, and since you have finally conceded that contamination is real, I rest my case. Thanks for playing.

          • Except that wasn’t your claim and nobody ever disputed that contamination could occur.

            Just that it wasn’t the problem you were claiming it was.

            Going back to the top, and reproducing the key parts of this debate will show that you are simply creating a strawman.

            MD ==>GE organisms can reproduce and spread like wildfire, and you can never undo that.

            AD ==>GE plants reproduce, but still they don’t “spread like wild fire”. Ever seen Corn or Soy running out of a farmer’s field?

            MD ==>I pointed out that controlling GE organisms is intractable, more so than controlling inert chemicals, because the former multiply even as you try to control them. GM crops have a better chance of becoming a pest than inert chemicals.

            I thought we had documented cases of contamination with GM corn in Mexico, and elsewhere. There was a high profile case in Canada a few years back, involving contamination of a farmer’s field with soybeans. Contamination of crops with GM varieties is a routine occurrence in the news,

            Comment ==> Notice, you are NOT supporting your ORIGNIAL claim that GE crops can spread like Wildfire. You have now simply said that they can become a PEST. You then bring up two issues, Contamination of Corn in Mexico and Percy Schmeiser I gave two references (both from 2001) that said that the contamination was not proven, but that’s 14 years ago, if you think there WAS contamination in Mexico and it is “spreading like Wildfire”, please present a CURRENT article lamenting this issue.

            As to Percy, its quite clear that he took advantage of minor cross pollination on the edges of his field, and then using Round-Up as a selection agent concentrated that seed until it was 98% Round-Up Ready. This was a deliberate act, which is why he lost in court, and not an example that supports your argument.

            MD==>plants often release seed in their vicinity, through natural forces. It’s no rocket science to acknowledge that, barring technological restraints, seeds spread beyond any confinement.

            AD==>of course hybrids of corn mix, all do. You have to be careful if you are growing sweet corn next to field corn, or your crop will be a mix (and field corn is not at all as tasty as sweet corn, far less sugar), but guess what? Over 50 years we have had no problem growing sweet corn and field corn without worrying about them mixing. There are no wild corn plants we have to be concerned with.

            Comment==> So after 50 years we know we can grow Sweet Corn and Field Corn and we can do it in adjacent fields and though there is a bit of mixing, no corn seeds are spreading beyond any confinement.

            MD==>The only way that farmers can prevent that is through complete isolation of a breeding phenotype and controlling its pollination, and we both know that farmers have not been doing that (not exclusively) and cannot be expected to do so only to prevent contamination. That is the stuff of expensive breeding techniques that we can’t hold farmers to just to prevent contamination with biotech genes.

            In short, contamination will happen convincingly and inexorably.

            With the above, I’d argue that your case that contamination does not and cannot occur is solidly weak.

            Comment==>So now we see that YOU made up that claim. Never once did I say that contamination “does not and cannot occur”. That’s a figment of your imagination. The original issue was your claim that GE crops could spread “like wildfire” and we could never undo that. You have presented nothing to support that claim.

            Trying to change my arguments to suit your needs is pointless.

            I’ve NEVER said contamination of nearby crops can’t happen, just that it ISN’T A PROBLEM when it does.

            Every year farmers plant new seed and they know how to keep their seed from being cross pollinated.

            You have shown NOTHING to suggest other wise.

            You have shown NOTHING to suggest that GMOs are reducing genetic diversity.

            You have shown NOTHING to suggest that the vast majority of Organic crops are not contaminated with GMO genes.

            Everything is conceivable, but that doesn’t mean the problem exists.

            As none of the problems you allude to, exist.

            As to the Mexican Corn Issue. It would help if you read your sources. They presented NO EVIDENCE that any transgenes had been found, but they did say this quite clearly:

            There is no reason to expect that a transgene would have any greater or lesser effect on the genetic diversity of landraces or teosinte than other genes from similarly used modern cultivars. The scientific definition of genetic diversity is the sum of all of the variants of each gene in the gene pool of a given population, variety, or species. The maize gene pool represents tens of thousands of genes, many of which vary within and among populations.

            Transgenes are unlikely to displace more than a tiny fraction of the native gene pool,
            if any, because maize is an outcrossing plant with very high rates of genetic recombination. Instead, transgenes would be added to the dynamic mix of genes that are already present in landraces, including conventional genes from modern cultivars. Thus, the introgression of a few individual transgenes is unlikely to have any major biological effect on genetic diversity in maize landraces.

          • Alright, I’ll offer you one other reply. Then you can have the last word and amaze me with your stubborn ignorance.

            So… When I said that genes will spread “like wildfire”, you thought I meant that literally. That’s why you replied with the piece of wisdom “ever seen a GM plant run into another crop”, right?

            When I said that controlling living organisms is intractable, you thought I meant it in relation to farms with a draconian modus operandi, rather that in relation to our entire ecosystem.

            It’s not a big deal that you meant that at the time, but then I thought we had gone over the whole thing and clarified it. But no — you still insist that I’m wrong about this intractability, because you’re stuck with your idea of farming in which happy farmers constantly fight GE genes with “expertise”, as if that’s the way it was always meant to be.

            That’s short-sighted, embarrassing, and it is ultimately your fault for not listening.

            Your timeline is cherry-picked. When I said that there were cases of corn contamination if Mexico, you replied in the manner in which _I_ pointed out two messages ago, not in the way in which you claim. You stated: “Nope, the cases in Mexico turned out to be false. Don’t know about that Canada’s farmer. You really need to provide links”. In fact, I had specifically stated, in that same comment: “I haven’t set out to prove that Ag monocultures have become a pest, like you claim I do.”

            Having wrapped up your version of the timeline, you turn back to your business of erecting straw men. I’ve stated clearly from the beginning *and subsequently reiterated* the fact that our debate is about whether contamination with GE genes DOES occur, and not about its *impact*. The latter, as I said, is its own conversation, best left for another time. And yet, you come back and slap me on the wrist for not having proven to you that GE reduces genetic diversity, which is all about about the impact of GE. I’ve never set out to prove that.

            You wrap up with a quote about the GM corn contamination in Mexico, quote which supports your counterpoint that GE genes are not expected to reduce genetic diversity. That, too, being about *impact*, is besides the point.

            You’ve wasted my precious time!

            There’s one more thing. You say you never denied that contamination CAN occur, and were only arguing about how much of a problem it is. Let’s set some facts straight: ***Up until a few messages ago, all throughout the ~50 exchanges on this topic, you denied that contamination DOES occur.***

            How did you deny it? At first, you outright denied that my examples of contamination in Mexico were real. Then, you constantly debated the mechanisms of the contamination with me, never actually acknowledging that contamination does occur. Up until very recently. And now you say you never did deny it.

            You also denied that the problem of containing genes is more intractable than the problem of containing inert chemicals. In doing so, you compared apples and oranges. You talked about genes on farms that take draconian measures to prevent contamination and about inert chemicals in the wild. You should talk about genes on farms and inert chemicals on farms, or about genes in the wild and inert chemicals in the wild. When you compare apples to apples, the gene always comes out victorious in terms of persistence.

            You also denied that genes spread “like wildfire”, although there I’ll give you a reprieve because I used a metaphor open to interpretation. I should not give you a reprieve for still debating that point, now that it has been amply clarified.

            Did you say that contamination is “not a problem”? You may well have. But that is about *impact* of contamination. I’m not debating that with you. That is an even harder debate, and we’re still having trouble establishing the basic facts.

          • Nope, never denied that contamination can occur. Stated clearly that it can occur, but also pointed out why it isn’t a problem. On a SPECIFIC case, related to transgenic corn in Mexico, I said the contamination that was reported, was subsequently found to not have occurred, but you can’t extend the comment about a specific case to be the same as a global statement. The only one wasting anyone’s time is you, for creating strawmen, and then arguing about them. The only reason you brought it up originally was to claim it was a problem, as in: MD => GE organisms can reproduce and spread like wildfire, and you can never undo that.
            MD ==>I pointed out that controlling GE organisms is intractable,

            But you have failed to provide convincing evidence for either case, and we’ve been growing them for over 2 decades and over 200 million acres worth in the US and Canada without a problem.

          • “Nope, never denied that contamination can occur.”
            Straw man. We’re talking about whether contamination DOES occur.

            “On a SPECIFIC case, related to transgenic corn in Mexico, I said the contamination that was reported, was subsequently found to not have occurred”
            CITATION NEEDED.

            “The only reason you brought it up originally was to claim it was a problem, as in: MD => GE organisms can reproduce and spread like wildfire, and you can never undo that.”

            “A problem” is vague and subjective. Next time, stick to what was said, which is nothing more or less than what you quoted.

            Please, describe for the rest of us how you will cause a transgene to disappear from the environment if we find latent harm in it.

            “But you have failed to provide convincing evidence for either case.”

            False. I have provided sufficient evidence, in the form of links to studies about contamination of Mexican corn with GE genes, and to studies of contamination of Mexican maize with GE genes. But, apparently, you can’t be swayed by facts.

          • The journal Nature has disowned a paper that it published last year, which suggested that transgenic DNA from genetically modified (GM) maize had been found in wild varieties of the crop in Mexico.

            In a statement released on 4 April, the journal said that “in the light of the criticisms and advice from referees, Nature has concluded that the evidence available is not sufficient to justify its publication of the original paper.”

            The research, published in November and written by David Quist and Ignacio Chapela from the University of California, Berkeley, had heightened concerns over the potential effects of transgenic crops on plant diversity, considered essential for global food security.

            But, according to two letters published on Nature’s website yesterday, the study was flawed and the authors had misinterpreted their results.

            “Transgenic corn may be being grown illegally in Mexico, but Quist and Chapela’s claim that these transgenes have pervaded the entire native maize genome is unfounded,” say Nick Kaplinsky and colleagues, also from the University of California.

            Now this is OVER 10 years ago.

            Since then NADA.

          • More straw men.

            The paper that was disowned discussed *impact* of contamination, not reality thereof. The fact that a paper that debates a topic orthogonal to ours has been disowned, even without looking at the merits of that, is beside the point.

            Now what is Nick Kaplinsky saying here? That transgenes from corn weren’t found in maize? Utterly uninteresting. They are saying that there has the study does not show HGT from corn to maize. Again, totally unrelated to our subject matter. Unless someone made a typo.

            Where is the disownment of the findings that transgenes move unrestricted between interfertile species? The organization set up by NAFTA, who are more in your camp than mine, agreed that contamination is real. Let that sink in, and maybe you’ll quit with this juvenile crap. :)

          • This was a over a decade ago. If it is a problem, you should be able to find a current reference to a study of the problem. Good luck.

          • Man, you don’t know when to quit.

            A few possible answers to your conundrum:

            1. You made a similar argument once before, when you said that the EPA data I had offered on PCB carcinogenicity was old. At that time, I offered a pertinent rebuttal: once you found that PCB is carcinogenic, the data doesn’t become outdated, so there’s no need to run additional studies to confirm it. PCB is forever carcinogenic to humans. I offer the same rebuttal now: once NAFTA saw that the study that they commissioned shows that contamination is not only possible, but factual (and EXPECTED), there was no need for follow-up studies. What else was there left to study?

            2. If attempts to repeat the measurements were made in the ten years since then, and the attempts were flawed, that doesn’t prove that contamination didn’t occur. At best, it proves that proper measurements need to be made. The only thing that can disprove NAFTA’s findings is a non-flawed study that shows contamination to be non-existent in Mexico where the NAFTA-commissioned study found otherwise. Do you have such a credible study?

            3. There are many battles to fight, and re-measuring something that is EXPECTED is probably not at the top of many lists.

          • As I said, the study that NAFTA referred to was subsequently retracted by the publisher.

            Transgenic Research 11: iii�v, 2002.
            By Paul Christou (on behalf of the Editorial Board)

            Because maize and its progenitor are wind-pollinated and capable of outcrossing, the eventual introgression of transgenes from commercial hybrids into landraces and wild relatives is likely should they be grown in close proximity. On 14th November 2001, a paper was published in the journal Nature which claimed for the first time to present evidence that transgene DNA had introgressed from commercially-released transgenic maize varieties into traditional landraces. It is not surprising that a scientific paper with such a strong claim in the title would be seized upon by the media and the public, including those who have been working with transgenic plants for many years. What is very surprising, however, is that a manuscript with so many fundamental flaws was published in a scientific journal that normally has very stringent criteria for accepting manuscripts for publication. Members of the Editorial Board of Transgenic Research, and a number of other scientists with many decades of experience in the area of transgenics, have provided comments that indeed demonstrate that the data presented in the published article are mere artifacts resulting from poor experimental design and practices. Consequently, this editorial focuses strictly on a purely scientific analysis of the data presented in the manuscript. We will not address implications or consequences if such an event had actually happened, as this is beyond the scope of this analysis. Our conclusion following detailed analysis of the results presented in this paper is that no credible scientific evidence is presented in the paper to support claims made by the authors that gene flow between transgenic maize and traditional maize landraces has taken place.

            A careful analysis of the data presented in the paper strongly suggest the following:

            * Sample contamination is the most likely explanation for the observed results.

            * Rather than rely on questionable PCR results, plants that were alleged to contain introgressed DNA should have been grown out and subjected to more reliable confirming studies.

            * The inverse PCR results are technically flawed.

            * Cross pollination and introgression would not produce these results.


          • I’m thoroughly unimpressed by this insipid show of retractions and silly games. The NAFTA report came in 2004 and referred to multiple studies. The study you refer to was retracted from Nature in 2002, before the NAFTA report, so the report authors no doubt knew about that. If they used the study, they must have evaluated it as not flawed. Which brings me to the fact that retraction from Nature doesn’t imply that a study is flawed. It only implies that someone at Nature thought it was flawed. The retraction of the study is full of weasel words, like “suggests the following”, “this is more likely than that”, etc.

            Speaking of incidence of cancers, which you had something to say earlier on, the WHO and the UN environment programme think that global rates of endocrine-related cancers (breast, endometrial, ovarian, prostate, testicular, thyroid) have been increasing over the past 50 years [1]. In their comprehensive 2012 report on the state of the science of endocrine disruptors (which produce not only cancers, but diabetes, neurobehavioral disorders, sexual disorders) they further state the following:
            “The speed with which the increases in disease incidence have occurred in recent decades rules out genetic factors as the sole plausible explanation. Environmental and other non-genetic factors, including nutrition, age of mother, viral diseases and chemical exposures, are also at play, but are difficult to identify.”

            Speaking of how inept the US regulatory agencies are and have been, why don’t you go and do this thorough reading from the bosom of the EPA, documenting how Monsanto lied about the carcinogenicity of dioxin (the references point to Kemner v Monsanto) and how the EPA was kissing Monsanto’s ass all throughout [2].

            On all of the above topics, we’ve only scratched the surface. The ineptitude of the regulatory agencies is well documented by now.

            As more and more institutions join the voice that says that our industry is constantly messing up, you and your clique are slowly finding yourselves in a smaller and smaller corner. We will reach a point where it will be you and your industry friends in that one corner, and the rest of the world in the other. And, judging by the bubble you’re in, you will continue to say that everyone but your industry studies is wrong; you will bash not only at universities and institutes from around the world, but also at MIT, Berkeley, Stanford, the WHO, EFSA, NAFTA, and so on and so forth. My only hope is that, once we set the record straight, the retaliation will be with a vengeance, for, oh boy, do you deserve it. I, for one, will get the popcorn ready.

            [1] Page viii, bullet point 1, bullet subpoint 5 at

          • In the study on the Rats and Obesity, the females were administered daily intraperitoneal injections of DDT (either 50 or 25 mg/kg BW/day). Are you kidding me? That’s not how we get DDT into our bodies, and that’s a huge dose of the stuff. Typical allowed pesticide residues on produce are in the range of a fraction of a mg/kg per day. This was clearly a fishing trip to find some level of administration, regardless of route, that would cause an effect. This one bypassed the entire digestive system. No attempt to explore effects related to actual levels ingested by humans in the 50s.

            Your second article is by Mr. Head, an attorney with Balch & Bingham LLP Not surprisingly their site claims; • Toxic Torts – With the increase of this litigation nationwide, the practice group has developed expertise in certain specialized cases and the science behind these claims. The attorneys have managed hundreds of toxic exposure matters for the firm’s clients. For example, the group has handled or is currently handling claims for lead-based paint; mercury; asbestos; mold; PCBs; silica, industrial waste products; pesticides; Tordon; and electric and magnetic fields.

            Your third article is on PCBs. And as the paper says: Because of their inflammability, chemical stability, and insulating properties, commercial PCB mixtures had been used in many industrial applications, especially in capacitors, transformers, and other electrical equipment. They were not supposed to be released into the environment, so the issue here is not the chemical itself, but failure of our Waste treatment processes. We deal with many toxic chemicals and so waste treatment is critical to ensure that doesn’t happen. All you are doing is picking on one of the earliest toxic chemicals that we developed in quantity and didn’t manage well. The issue is not how poorly we did, but how are we doing NOW.

          • This is Re: doses in the DDT study.

            Yeah, right? Awful that these scientists are looking to make a buck by using these unrealistic concentrations.

            But, you haven’t read the study. See [1]. These concentrations have been found in animals in the wild. One was found in samples from birds in a Long Island estuary. Makes you wonder what kind of doses those birds must have ingested for so much of it to make it into their blood from their digestive system.

            To blame for this is the phenomenon of bio-magnification. More on that, as well as the situation with the birds, is documented in the CDC toxicological profile at [2].

            In a nutshell, it looks like the concentrations used in the study were realistic, or at least not exaggerated that much, considering that they were found in nature.

            Assuming that the doses had been exaggerated, and maybe humans can hope to stay away from DDT more if they choose the birds they eat conscientiously (which is a stupid thing to have to do anyway), that is not a reason to discredit the study. Toxicity is not a step function. It’s a sigmoid. If they found effects cross generations, that is news worthy of our attention.

            Haha, you are starting to amaze me with your ad hominem. The article that you say is biased because it’s from Balch and Bingham is a chronicle of PCB toxicity. I did give you a link to the EPA site on PCBs. Go there and ENJOY! And stop denying the known facts: PCBs are persistent organic pollutants that accumulate in fatty tissue in most mammals and many other pluricellular organisms. I’m gonna refer you to the EPA website again, where they say just that: [3].

            Listen to me, Arthur: if you lie here in this thread, you’ll only be lying to yourself. Not to me. Get rid of those confirmation biases and start reading.

            [1] See “Discussion” at
            [2], page 235, central paragraph.

          • Show me a study that shows humans have 50 mg/kg circulating in their peritoneal cavity.

            A 70 kg woman would have to have 3.5 grams of DDT in her abdominal cavity to reach that level.


          • Why should I show you such a study? Are you saying that, because this study used this specific concentrations, other concentrations are not significant? If nothing else, follow-ups to the study are needed. The study is relevant and concerning. You’ve got the wrong attitude there, Arthur.

            Further, you should not ask about the concentration in people today, but rather about the concentration in our grandparents. If you recall, the study showed that it is the grandchildren of exposed rats that developed a tendency for obesity.

            You should also wonder whether the quantity of DDT needed to produce effects, in either rats or humans, is much less than the one used in the study. The important point is that DDT produces trans-generational effects. The immediate follow-ups are “what else can produce these effects”, and “what are the doses and mechanisms”, not “show me the same dose in a human”.

            The study at [1] measured DDT concentrations in females for breast cancer research. These women “were under 14 years of age in 1945, when DDT came into widespread use, and mostly under 20 years as DDT use peaked”. The blood samples were taken between 1959 and 1967, which is to say between 8 and 16 years after peak use.

            The concentrations found by the study were about an order of magnitude less than those used in the cross-generational study (see [2], last two columns). Obviously, the concentration would have been higher 8-16 years earlier during peak DDT use, but I leave the extrapolation game to you.

            (BTW, did you notice that they found a correlation between DDT and cancer? Earlier, you denied that DDT was toxic.)

            So, what do you think? Are you going to paint yourself in a corner by continuing to ask for specific numbers, or are you going to admit that this study is relevant, and that more science is needed?

            And are you going to graduate from your corner by admitting DDT’s carcinogenity? The EPA has admitted that much: probable human carcinogen [3]. ;)

            Also consider this: as you go up the food chain, POP concentrations increase. This means that it’s easier for humans to concentrate DDT than it is for birds from Long Island estuaries. It’s anybody’s guess what concentrations the folks who may eat those birds, or fish that the birds themselves eat, could have in their body fat.

            [3], Paragraph 3

          • Because that was the dose they used to get those effects and that’s how it was administered. You know so it would be right on the ovaries. Again, not relevant to human exposure unless you can come up with a study to support that contention.

            I can’t find this same graph for the US, but we banned it at approx the same time:



            Clearly no longer an issue.

            What I said was it was not very toxic.

            And it isn’t at doses we would normally ingest. At those doses it is not a carcinogen.

            What I also said was we don’t use it, not because it was overly toxic but because it persists in the environment for so long.

            But we still do use it to save millions of lives each year.

            But we understand how to use it so as not to be poisoned by it.

            The normal method today is to spray window screens, doorways and ceilings in mosquito prone areas. It is not only very toxic to mosquitoes in their normal daytime resting places, but it acts as a repellent, keeping the indoor population of mosquitoes very low.

          • Why are you showing me current DDT exposures? That is not relevant to our DDT debate. What matters is the levels of DDT exposure in our grandparents.

            The study is among the first of its kind, if not the first. You can’t expect the first study on cross-generational DDT effects to give you irrefutable evidence. A study always requires subsequent studies.

            Regarding your objections to the dosage, you probably didn’t know that large doses have been used before in studies, including studies used by the FDA and the EPA in their regulatory process, because increasing the dosage allows studies to expose problems more directly. When a high dosage study finds problems, the scientific interpretation of the study is not to discount it on the basis of the dosage, but to have follow-up studies. That is because the findings of the study make it more probable that a problem does exist with the substance under scrutiny.

            DDT is toxic, and I have offered references showing that. I agree with you, that toxicity is directly proportional to concentration. I also agree with you that there exist more toxic substances than DDT. But I don’t agree with your original claim that “DDT is not toxic to humans because we banned it due to environmental accumulation”. That _was_ your original claim, was it not?

            Perhaps DDT was not banned because of toxicity, but because of environmental accumulation. That fact does not constitute proof that DDT is not very toxic. We happened to learn about its toxicity through later studies, because it stayed in the environment and its continued study was relevant. I can illustrate this situation as follows. Suppose the brakes in your car stop working, and you take your car to a mechanic. The mechanic later finds a problem with the steering. You can say the reason you stopped driving the car and took her to a mechanic is the brakes, but that does not diminish the fact that the car had a steering problem as well. Finding out about problems, like toxicity, post factum, does not diminish the relevancy of those problems.

            I’m glad they have imposed severe restrictions on DDT use. They should do more, educating the people exposed to malaria as to DDT’s exposure, so they may make their own informed choice between two evils. But let’s be clear on something: spraying DDT like crazy did not have to happen, contrary to your consistent claims. Just because history unfolded a certain way doesn’t mean that that was the way for it to unfold. Don’t confuse the chosen path to progress with the best path to progress.

          • Actually we did do tests using volunteers with DDT that showed, as I said that it was almost non-toxic to humans: There was no
            correlation between DDT exposure and neurological effects in workers whose estimated exposure, based on DDA excretion data, was approximately 14–42 mg/person/day (Ortelee 1958). Occupational exposure involved all possible routes of exposure, but most of the intake is considered to be from the oral route.
            Inhaled dusts are poorly absorbed because of size, but they are cleared by the mucociliary mechanisms and a fair portion is then ingested. None of the subjects had any evidence of hyperexcitability, and the results of the neurological examinations were normal.

            No neurological effects related to DDT were noted in volunteers who ingested 3.5 or 35 mg DDT/day (0.05–0.05 or 0.36–0.5 mg/kg/day) for 12–18 months
            (Hayes et al. 1956).

            The subjects displayed no loss of coordination and there was no indication of tremors. Other tests (over 20) were negative and showed no peripheral neuropathy or central nervous system functional deficits. Background DDT levels in food of both controls and test subjects were
            0.0021–0.0038 mg DDT/kg/day.

            And of course multi-generational reproductive studies have been done, but they didn’t INJECT the DDT in large doses such that the rat’s ovaries were bathed in the stuff.

            Reproductive studies of chronic dietary DDT exposure or multigeneration studies have not generally indicated reproductive toxicity. However, the doses used were sufficiently low so that tremors, convulsions, and death would not be a confounding factor. Keplinger et al. (1970) conducted a six generation
            dietary study in mice with two matings per generation; mice in all generations were mated at 4 months of age. No effects were observed at 5 mg/kg/day; 20 mg/kg/day caused decreased fertility evidenced by decreased viability and lactation indices,

            We used DDT because it saved lives and our tests, and we did a lot of them including mult-generational studies, showed that even when humans ingested large quantities, daily for a year and a half, it wasn’t toxic.

            Because it was our first synthetic pesticide we did underestimate how much would be used and at the time we didn’t realize the implications of its long half life in the environment coupled with bioamplification in some food chains. Saying we could do better is simply saying we should do a better job of projecting all outcomes. We do now, and half-life in the environment is a key factor that determines the suitability of any pesticide and we also impose much stricter definitions of Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) allowed.

            The MRLs are based on the Reference dose, and the Reference dose is set based on tests where the amount tested is doubled in each test across a wide number of species. They then take the level below which, in the most sensitive species tested, the first observable effects are seen, and use that level. The first observable effects (which include blood samples and tissue analysis) are typically very mild, for instance loose stools, or slight decrease in weight. They then they divide that level by 100 to get the Acceptable Daily Intake level (ADI) which provides a large margin of safety over the NOEL limit. Then the MRLs for our food are set to insure you can’t possibly consume more than the ADI by assuming that ALL of the food a person eats in their lifetime will come from food which is at the MRL.

          • You cherry-picked a study that fits your narrative. Congratulations on the effort! But had I not already offered a link to the EPA website in which they admit that DDT is toxic to humans?

            Quoting the EPA here, Arthur:

            Probable human carcinogen
            Damages the liver
            Temporarily damages the nervous system
            Reduces reproductive success
            Can cause liver cancer
            Damages reproductive system
            ” [1]

            “Fish consumption advisories are in effect for DDT in many waterways including the Great Lakes ecosystem. ”

            I already know why you bothered even after I gave you the link to the EPA website. You’re not here to debate reasonably and be swayed by evidence, are you now? From over here, you’re beginning to sound more and more like that Entine fellow. ;)


          • Did you not note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.

            More recent data, on a survey of over 76,000 lakes in the US, 1.7% of the sampled population of lakes had DDT tissue concentrations that exceeded the 69 ppb human health Screening Value, which represents a total of 1,329 lakes.


            Note, Screening Value is the level below which there is no concern, so all this means is a tiny percent of lakes have levels which are slightly above that level. Not that eating fish from them would be harmful.

            That data is over a decade old however.

            You can use this to look at active advisories.
            You can then select by state.
            You can then select by pollutant.
            If DDT isn’t listed as a selection criteria then there are no advisories for DDT in that state.


            I didn’t check every state, but in the Great Lakes area, the only advisory I could find was on Lake Michigan and then it only listed large Sturgeon as restricted because of DDT, all other fish were fine.

          • Look, if the EPA said a decade ago that DDT is toxic to humans, then it is STILL toxic to humans. Substances never go from being found toxic to being found non-toxic. So DDT is still toxic, and we’ve got the EPA to prove it, if you didn’t care to look for other sources.

            But, you’re right, the EPA no longer updates data on DDT and PCBs; not as they should. But both are still qualified as “probable” in their respective areas of concern. Where universities study them, they are still learning about their actual effects.

            So what does that really tell you?

            When you read the EPA website, might I recommend that you do it as follows:
            1. If the EPA states concern over something, take it for granted.
            2. If the EPA states it is not concerned about something, take it with a grain of salt.

            Those folks err on the wrong side of caution, which makes the above the only sane approach to interpreting their findings.

  9. To wade in with a quick observation: the second author (to whom correspondence is to be addressed) is in computer science and artificial intelligence. I would expect this to be part of a project in computer generated papers (this is something that some artificial intelligence researches play with) and gauging what effect arises if it is published in a pay-to-play journal, or something like that. I seriously doubt that the two authors hand wrote this paper. The latter may be the interest of the first author in publishing this. I hope sometime in the future a back-story of how the paper was written and why will emerge.

  10. I agree that their “study” is questionable and has been turned into click-bait. I do think the effect of Glyphosate on gut bacteria is worth studying even as a new credible study has just demonstrated the effect on gut bacteria by artificial sweeteners may contribute to glucose intolerance

    I do take exception to your statement
    “With a few controversial exceptions, the overwhelming consensus of mainstream geneticists and major international science bodies is that the biological impacts of genetically modified crops are benign and GE foods are safe for human consumption.”

    GE technology is a tool and a blanket statement regarding the safety of whatever is created by that tool is unsupportable. It’s quite possible to create toxic foods by GE technology. The toxic Lenape potato was even created using hybridization. Many chemicals may be safe, but CFCs and asbestos later turned out, after many years, to not be safe.
    When attempting to discredit something, best to stick to credible arguments.

    • My question to you is, what do we do to prevent stories like DDTs, PCBs, you know, the works, from happening again. I’m not convinced that we’re doing anything better in terms of quality control. Are you?

      We’d better be convinced, because harm from GE can strike much worse than harm from chemicals. GE organisms can reproduce and spread like wildfire, and you can never undo that. Look at PCBs or DDTs — those are inert, and we’re not even able to get rid of those.

      I don’t think we’re in a hurry to win any contests — do you? Then why don’t we take it easy and let a future generation try some of these experiments, when they’ve learned more. We can live without GE, but we can’t live with a compromised environment or biology. And the precedents show we’re not in a position to foresee potential damaging large scale problems stemming from these experiments of ours.

      • Being inert is why they persist.
        We haven’t manufactured either DDT or PCBs for about 4 decades.
        Clearly science has improved from the 60s and 70s.

        GE plants reproduce, but still they don’t “spread like wild fire”. Ever seen Corn or Soy running out of a farmer’s field?


        Never will.

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