The human cost of the anti-GMO movement: Why one scientist is quitting GE crop research

A few weeks ago, like thousands of other scientists around the globe have done before, I stood up in front of a public audience and “defended” my PhD thesis to a jury of senior scientists.

The PhD defense is probably the single-most significant milestone in a career in science. It’s part examination and part ritual – PhD defenses in the Netherlands, for instance, feature a robed jury and a master of ceremonies with a ceremonial mace. In my university in Switzerland, tradition dictates that PhD students get whimsical “hats” made by fellow researchers which are donned just as the results (hopefully a pass) are announced. My hat featured (among several digs at my Twitter fixation) references to CRISPR technology and the several genetically-modified plants I worked on for my PhD.

You see, for the last four years I’ve been embedded in a Swiss research group that specializes in creating genetically modified organisms, or GMOs (scientists prefer to use the terms genetic engineered organisms or transgenics rather than GMO). And no, we are not funded by Monsanto, and our GMOs are largely patent-free.

massive logoNevertheless, my time in GMO research creating virus-resistant plants has meant dealing with the overwhelming negative responses the topic evokes in so many people. These range from daily conversations halting into awkward silence when the subject of my work crops up, to hateful Twitter trolls, and even the occasional fear that public protesters might destroy our research. Little wonder then, that having finished my PhD, I’m part-excited and part-relieved to move to a new lab and work on more fundamental questions in plant biology: how plants are able to control the levels at which their genes are active.

Unfortunately, I am not alone. The first commercially available GMO crops were first developed in the early 1990s in publicly funded labs in Europe and the US. In the years since, as many as a quarter of European universities have shut down their GMO research programs, some due to a loss of funding and others because scientists are leaving the GMO sphere, tired of the backlash and criticism.

My first experience of the intensity of anti-GMO belief occurred during a public panel discussion about patenting crops and GMOs organized by my colleagues. The panel was interrupted by a protestor shouting about how GM food was responsible for their American friends’ child’s autism. As the panelists tried to explain, there is no causal link between autism and GMOs (or vaccines for that matter) and GMOs have repeatedly been found to be perfectly safe for human consumption. But the protestor readily dismissed these arguments in favor for what can only be described as a fervently held, conspiracist belief. It really showed how futile researchers’ attempts at science communication can be.

Image credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Interactions like these – in person and over social media – happen all the time in discussions about GMOs and vaccines across the globe. There seems to be a constituency of aggrieved activists convinced that some scientists are out to harm their children, and nothing we can say will ever change their minds.

Personally, the thought that no matter what steps I take there’s always going to be people who think my research will harm them is profoundly distressing, and feels really unfair. Unfair because as GMO researchers, we are required to do the type of heavy lifting when it comes to arguing for science that I feel my colleagues in fundamental research never have to. For instance, one of my best friends works on a cure for a rare skin disorder. I’m fairly certain he has never had to deal with questions like, “is your research going to be patented?” or the evergreen accusations of being a shill for Big-Ag.

Apart from the sheer hate spewed by anti-GM activists both in person and online, I also find fault with my fellow scientists. Too often, other scientists ignore the issue of GMOs, or just treat it as a technology that we can do without (we can’t, by the way. Not if we want to feed 9 billion people by 2050). For example, it is an open-secret among the plant science community in Europe that GMO-research proposals have a very low chance of getting public funding. This is despite the fact that several European agenciesscientific societies, and publicly funded studies have deemed GMOs perfectly safe and even a valuable tool to fight world hunger.

One result of this demonization of GMOs, even in academia, is that researchers in a newer field of genetic engineering called synthetic biology now use the “GMO-case” as an example of bad science communication, and try to draw nonscientific boundaries between GMO crop research and their own, possibly in an attempt to escape the GMO tag.

Scientists working with new breeding technologies do the very same thing. In an attempt to avoid the GMO label, they’ve begun to draw up, in my opinion, nonsensical distinctions between different types of genetic engineering products such as cisgenics and GMOs/transgenics (the former are plants which have been engineered to contain “genes” from the same or related species, instead of transgenics, which contain genes from a different species). This is a scientifically meaningless distinction created simply due to a fear of, again, the “GMO” label. With the advent of CRISPR, I have noticed the same phenomenon where scientists market their CRISPR products by proudly saying they’re “non-GMO,” even though they know that GMOs are just fine to consume and grow.

Related article:  UC Berkeley loses another round in legal dispute with Broad Institute over CRISPR patents

Another part of what makes science communication particularly difficult for GMO-researchers like me is the enormous gulf between anti-GM activists in the rich world and the farmers and consumers in the Global South for whom we conduct our science. As an Indian scientist working in Switzerland, I see this all the time at work. How am I supposed to explain the consequences of abandoning a technology that can help feed millions to Swiss students who enjoy the world’s highest standard of living? I have yet to find the answer, and I don’t think I ever will.

Beyond the issue of public acceptance and, frankly, a caving-in of many in the scientific community to pseudoscientific beliefs, I’m also glad to be moving away from transgenic research because anti-GMO activism over the last couple of decades has made a career in GMO research a risky proposition. The lab where I conducted my thesis research has a storied history in GMO science. It was in this Swiss lab (and with collaborators across the border in Germany) that Golden Rice was conceived and created. Golden Rice is a vitamin A-fortified rice developed specifically for Asian countries where it has the potential to alleviate the problem of vitamin-A deficiency (the leading cause of preventable blindness in children). The scientist behind the project, Ingo Potrykus, started the research in 1991 and produced the first Golden Rice plants in 1999 – a remarkable achievement that saw him grace the cover ofTime magazine. (Potrykus retired from my university that year.) Almost 20 years later, his creation, a plant variety that has repeatedly passed regulatory safety testing, is still not available to the children who need it most.

greenpeace activity
Image credit: Luis liwanag/Greenpeace

A couple of years ago, Potrykus (then 81), published an article in the journal The Annual Review of Plant Biology called, “From the Concept of Totipotency to Biofortified Cereals” – which unlike the very academic name suggests, is a fascinating autobiography of a “successful” GMO researcher. In the article, Potrykus presents a firsthand account of how the initial excitement of creating rice grains containing vitamin A slowly turned into a story of repeated disappointment. He recounts his joy at being able to present his astonishing findings at his retirement seminar at my university and then the slow deceleration of the project in the face of public opposition. From negative press driven by anti-GMO activists; regulatory blocks which slowed down the adoption of the technology into rice varieties used by Asian farmers; reluctance by public institutions to face down activist opposition; and a lack of funding for various experiments, the 20-year story of Golden Rice is one of continual despair.

Nevertheless, the Golden Rice project (and its more recent successes) has inspired several other European scientists to initiate publicly funded research into GMO-crops for noncommercial gain. Among these are my PhD supervisors, who have staked large portions of their careers on GMO-research.

However, to me, Potrykus’ autobiography reads like a cautionary tale for a young scientist. I just cannot find the kind of unreasonable optimism dosed with a spoonful of fatalism that GMO-research in the current climate of public opinion calls for. Potrykus himself says it best when reflecting on the Golden Rice story: “Although progress is slowly being made, had I known what this pursuit would entail, perhaps I would not have started. Hopefully Golden Rice will reach the needy during my lifetime.”

I have spent four-and-a-half very rewarding years working in the field of GMO research. My research has given me the opportunity to visit smallholder farms in two African countries, to teach a student from the Global South the kind of modern biological techniques that remain a dream for many in her country, and to make discoveries that might help with an important problem in food security in the tropics. As a result, yes, I do feel a measure of guilt at leaving this field of research, and quitting my lab’s quest to engineer better varieties of cassava for African and South Asian farmers halfway through the project.

On balance though, I am, somewhat selfishly, glad to move on to a field of research that does not come with the same public relations challenges and the same degree of relentless suspicion. But you never know – perhaps the developed world may yet give publicly developed GMO technology the chance it deserves at feeding our fellow humans, and I may still return to the fold.

Devang Mehta was a PhD candidate in plant biotechnology at ETH Zurich. Follow him on Twitter @_devangm

This article was originally published at Massive as “Why I’m quitting GMO research” and has been republished here with permission.

77 thoughts on “The human cost of the anti-GMO movement: Why one scientist is quitting GE crop research”

  1. Interesting but also a sad story.
    I think we must have a good debate on when GMO is useful and when it is unwanted or maybe harmful.
    I would like to pose that e.g. CRISPR Cas9 has huge potential to develop crops which are more able to resist changing climate conditions and disease.
    It would for example also be great if pesticides and fungicides can be past tense by these improvements.
    I think that GMO glyphosate resistant crops are a wrong development. What you introduce here is a potential risk for food safety and public and environmental health.

    A good thing about CRISPR is that it is (still) not monopolized by big companies.

    A lot of research and debate and maybe rven legislative boundaries is needed to find the right direction.
    People like Devang should be encouraged to continue to study this.

    • Marc, I have a profound disagreement with your statement about glyphosate resistant crops. I have not room, time, or patience to tell you in detail what I suspect you have heard before, and have rejected: glyphosate is a way better weed control solution than anything else we have.
      Now, that said, no farm operator wants to buy any chemical – chemicals cost money, they take time to apply, and they are a real pain to handle, and so on.
      We should “debate” GMO? I think you are about 80 years late. We started having crops developed in the 1930’s that contain artificially created genes – using near-lethal doses of nuclear radiation to damage and scramble the dna in the seeds of a living plant. Plants grown from those heavily radiated seeds sometimes were quite different than the parent plants, due to being unnaturally genetically modified. In all, thousands of plant species we have today, – many of our food crops – are thus as much or more “genetically modified” than any crop today that is so heavily demonized as “GMO”.
      Do you want to have NO crop protection chemicals used in food production? Do you want to absolutely minimize the amount of tractor fuel use to product your food? Do you want crops that grow the same or more food with less water? These are all things that can be enabled by embracing genetic engineering.
      These things are happening – there are now over 60 separate organizations, both profit and non-profit, that have obtained approvals for newly developed genetically engineered crops. There are now over 400 genetically engineered crops that have been approved in at least one country (most in many countries).
      So back off the criticism of glyphosate. Farm operators don’t like spending money on it or any other chemical, but if they want a crop they need to use some crop protection product.

  2. Unfortunately, stories like this are just going to embolden the violent activists to press even harder. I would hope that Dr. Mehta would move from his current location to a country that is much more receptive to modern biotechnology, and continue doing whatever science he loves to do.

    • If you read my comment you can see I am not against GMO in general.
      CRISPR gives us the opportunity to create crops resistant to pests so that farmers don’t need to use and pay for hazardous substances.

      I think it is NOT smart to develop (which we did) crops resistant to hazardous substances like glyphosate. There is mounting evidence that these substances destroy more than only weeds.
      Just one of the many recent papers:
      Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. 2018 Mar 15;156:216-222. doi: 10.1016/j.ecoenv.2018.02.075. [Epub ahead of print]
      Toxicity of atrazine- and glyphosate-based formulations on Caenorhabditis elegans.
      “Atrazine- and Glyphosate-containing herbicides induce dose-de- pendent toxic effects on C. elegans. The toxic response was evident in survival, locomotion, fertility, and changes in gene expression. Glyphosate-based formulation was proved to be more toxic than that with Atrazine, given the lower dose required to induce biological and biochemical changes. Interestingly, both pesticides induced some bio- logical changes at concentrations similar to those recommended by drinking water standards. Together, Atrazine and Glyphosate formula- tions work additively, mostly involving an oxidative stress-related mechanism of action.”

      For weed control more and more alternative and cost-effective methods become availble.

      • Spot the problem in the first sentence of the abstract: “Atrazine and Glyphosate are herbicides massively used in agriculture for crop protection.” Italics added for emphasis. Hint: Does using up to 22 ounces of glyphosate concentrate per acre up to twice per year translate into anything close to massive exposure of C. elegans?
        This is an invitro study. The C. elegans was exposed in a petri dish in a lab, not real world conditions. We know glyphosate binds tightly to soil until it breaks down. What sort of dose, if any, would C. elegans actually be exposed to in the soil of a field sprayed with herbicide?
        The authors used the entire formulation of the herbicides, which can include surfactants. The article is behind a paywall. Did the authors do a control where the organisms were exposed to surfactant alone? Without such controls, it is impossible to know what compound of the formulation was harmful.
        C. elegans leaves E. coli behind as it tunnels through detritiis.
        Those bacteria grow into colonies which C. elegans consumes on a return pass. It is increasing the E. coli numbers in the soil as a source of food. Does it also increase the numbers of pathogenic E. coli in fields fertilized with manure that has not been properly processed to eliminate those pathogens? The presence of C. elegans could be increasing the bacteria that are a source of lethal contamination of our food.
        What is the journal impact factor? Do others in this field of study believe that articles in the journal are important?

        These are the sort of questions that you should ask yourself about any article.

        In this case, an invitro study published in a low impact journal is preliminary at best and has not been linked to what is actually going on in the soil of a field treated with herbicide.

          • The dietary limit, or acute reference dose (ARfD), for glyphosate in the EU is 0.5 mg/kg body weight per day. 2 mg/kg was the maximum amount of glyphosate found in one sampling of soil in that study. At 0.5 mg/kg, even a small child of 10 kg would be able to ingest up to 5 mg of glyphosate daily. At 2 mg/kg of soil, that child would have to ingest 2.5 kg of that particular soil to reach the daily safe limit of glyphosate ingestion. I’m afraid that child would be hospitalized for a medical emergency other than glyphosate exposure under those circumstances.
            Numbers must be put in the context to make them relevent. While you may think 2 mg/kg is some outrageously high number, the risk to humans is almost non-existent in terms of a safe dietary limit.

          • As an average consumer of pesticide laden grains and seeds that are exposed to large quantities of glyphoside in the dessication process I would like to know how anybody can honestly say what is the safe limit of glyphoside when we are exposed to it in the form of mixture with other pesticides. Fruit, vegetables, animal fat, oils all contain various amounts of chemicals used to improve profitability of food industry. Has anybody established experimentally what are the safe limits for pesticides of two or more combination? I don’t know of any. But we should have such guidelines otherwise the pesticide applications should be limited to one chemical. Reality is different we all know. The price is paid in form of ever increasing allergies, immune system dysfunction, cancer etc.

          • Well first off, the safe limits are determined as part of the chronic and acute toxicity testing. We actually have a very good idea what the safe limits are, and for the majority of the compounds we are exposed for, the base testing determines the LOAEL and NOAEL values experimentally, and the ADI is then usually set at about 1% of this level.

            Oh, and you’re referring to mixture toxicity studies.Cedergreen (2014) is a nice review article. Basic findings, by and large, synergistic effects, even under the worst conditions, still result in LOAEL limits well above the ADI.

            In other words, it’s not a significant risk factor.

            Secondly, the seed filling (or in this case grain filling) is long since finished when the desiccant is applied. So,if the plant isn’t actively transporting anything to the grain any longer, what does that mean for the levels of glyphosate?

            It means that they’re still going to be below the limits.

          • When used as a dessicant, Roundup is applied at the rate of 670 ml or 22 oz per acre. Imagine lining up as many people as an acre could hold and sharing out one bottle of wine between them all. Hardly laden, and as obfuscate99 pointed out, it is not taken up by the part of the plant that we consume.
            There was a recent study done in Denmark showing the risk of the total number of pesticides found in foods by analysis. The take-home message? The total risk from pesticides in the diet is equivalent to drinking one glass of wine every seven years.
            You should be far more concerned about your caffeine and ethanol consumption.

          • I’m surprised that I missed that article from FCT. It’s definitely getting a read first thing in the morning.

            It’s always just a bit distressing that, even after all this time, far too many laymen are ignorant as to the effect of dose when determining if a compound is dangerous.

          • Between the two of us, I’m not going he one who should be concerned here.

            I have both the education and primary research experience…you do not.

            Do not delude yourself by thinking othrwise unless you are willing to prove it.

            BTW “proving it” will retire you explaining the helerochronatin changes seen during epigenetic reasponsr to horse hston

            Do not make light or this unless you desire to be made a fool of.

          • You don’t know you don’t know my experience.
            You say you have education and primary research experience but you use an alias….poor evidence of that.
            For a ‘researcher’ you seem to jump to conclusions very fast.
            Calling someone a fool, ignorant and layman is I think a wrong way to kill a debate.

          • It’s good that this isn’t a debate then. Your opinions are not supported by the literature, and you are utterly ignorant on accepted GLP in relation to the work that has been done.

            I will call it as I see it.

          • layman…ignorant….?

            Yes and yes. That shouldn’t be taken as an insult, though. Less than 2% of our population is involved in agriculture and because of that, 98% are laymen and somewhat ignorant to the practices and effects. Likely even less are involved in toxicology. And because of that almost everyone is a layman and ignorant on this issue.

          • Come on …that is really a strange way to discuss. Is it not about arguments and the evidence you come up with?

          • Is it not about arguments and the evidence you come up with?

            It should be. However lay people are not particularly well trained at spotting nonsense and sifting the chaff from the grain. That makes them very susceptible to misinformation. They also tend to grab onto anything that supports their preconceptions even though it contradicts the large body of preexisiting information.

          • And you consider yourself as the one who knows who is lay and who isn’t?
            You use it only as an argument to say that you know better. I think that is not a way to debate, that is just arrogant.

          • No. I do not consider myself as “the one”. But as someone whose been in agriculture for 20 something years, I do consider myself someone who’s often able to spot people that aren’t particularly well educated on this issue. Again… most people aren’t.

            For example… if you were you wouldn’t be offering up Giles Seralini as evidence of anything because it immediately disqualies any sort of scientific argument you’re trying to make. That’s not me making that decision. That’s Giles Seralini who made that decision…over & over.

          • Twenty years in agriculture does not make you an expert in the possible detrimental effects of a herbicide.
            You probably are very good at what you do in agriculture….but did you investigate for twenty years the biodiversity in the soil?

            There are more studies done by others as well in other organisms (zebrafish, C. elegans etc.) indicating detrimental effects.

          • I didn’t say it did. I said it makes me able to spot people who don’t know what they’re talking about.

            …but did you investigate for twenty years the biodiversity in the soil?

            I don’t know what you mean by this. Biodiversity is a buzz word that has no real implications good or bad. If you are asking about soil health, then of course. That is of the utmost importance to anyone who makes a living in agriculture.

            There are more studies done by others as well in other organisms (zebrafish, C. elegans etc.) indicating detrimental effects.

            And yet, every safety assessment ever conducted in its 40+ year existence has concluded the product to be safe as used. Strange.

          • What is most worrisome to me is that this constant sharing of pesticide misinformation like the “dirty dozen” list is that people who stand to gain the most from increasing fruit and veggies in their diet are staying away from buying any fruit and veggies because they can’t affort what is hyped as the only safe stuff.

          • When dealing with a public where the scientific literacy level is so poor, there’s not much that can be done.

            In the absence of actual knowledge, they are easily manipulated by fear, and that’s exactly what the anti-GMO/ant-corporate activists do.

            It’s the same almost everywhere, and individuals like Mike Adams have learned to use that fear to great effect. It doesn’t matter that the bunk he’s selling has no evidence that it works, so long as the public is unable to distinguish between good studies, and utter tripe, there’s no way to counter a message wrapped in fear.

          • Very awkward comparison.
            Coffee and alcohol consumption are first of all choices and of course a lot of people should consume less.

            In fact you are telling that because there are other things that kill us (e.g. car accidents) we should not worry about unwillingly consuming pollutants?

            This study for example indicates at least that there are potential risks:

            “Our results suggest that chronic exposure to a GBH in an established laboratory animal toxicity model system at an ultra-low, environmental dose can result in liver and kidney damage with potential significant health implications for animal and human populations.”

          • Seems like the message was that we willingly consume things that are far, FAR more risky because we accept that the risk is extremely small.

            The risk from pesticides is many times smaller and the benefit many times larger.

          • Awkward comparison? What is awkward is torturing the English language by using overblown verbiage like laden, drenched, soaked and saturated to describe such a small amount of product used.
            Many people are so obsessed by miniscule risks like parts per billion of a chemical in a vaccine that they leave their own children vulnerable to death by whooping menigitis, tetanus, diphtheria, measles and other vaccine preventable diseases. When emotions and fervently held beliefs are involved, humans can be tragically bad at evaluating risk.
            The risks of exposure to glyphosate, to humans, to the environment and other species has been studied for over 20 years. A few badly designed studies does not change the risk evaluations from all over the world that concur that glyphosate has minimal risk when used as directed.

          • Yet you are cherrypicking bad science in support of your fervently held beliefs in the adverse effects of pesticides. That is no different from the cherrypicking of bad evidence to support the denial of vaccine safety, anthropomorphic climate change and evolution through natural selection.
            Did you look at the author affiliations in your citation? Two of the authors list themselves as formerly of an institution. The corresponding author has a google mail account. That hardly supports trust in their professional opinions.
            Then I looked at the citations. Seralini was bad enough, but Samsel and Seneff, Seneff and Swanson? Even members of the Seralini group, Mesnage and Antoniou, can’t seem to distance themselves far enough from their nonsense.
            “This misrepresentation of glyphosate’s toxicity could waste a large amount of time on the part of regulators, industry, and the concerned public, tying up resources that should be used to follow up more solidly based lines of investigation as previously suggested.”
            Ironically, that is the concluding statement about Seneff from two of the authors from a number of Seralini studies. Studies that poured a Roundup formulation including surfactants over tissue culture cells. Studies that then pointed out the changes in the cells as being due to glyphosate without bothering to do the controls using a surfactant alone to exclude the known deleterious effects of exposing tissue culture cells to surfactants and detergents.

          • It is clear to me that those levels (and lower levels) do effect bio-diversity (life) in top-soils negatively.
            The risk for humans is scientifically unclear yet. But should the human risk be the only reference to use or allow substances?

            Would you really dare to consume 0,5 mg/kg of your body weight per day?
            I wouldn’t.

          • Would you really dare to consume 0,5 mg/kg of your body weight per day?

            Of course. Why not? Limits are set hundreds of time below the level that would actually harm anyone.

          • Are you aware that this never has been tested on humans with that amounts before?
            So you would volunteer to be the first probant (guinnea pig)?

          • Of course it hasn’t. Toxicology testing on humans is immoral and illegal. However, I also realize that 0.5 mg/kg is somewhere around 0.0014 ounces and I’m quite certain that will not hurt me. Or you.

            I also realize that it has been extensively tested on many other types of mammals that have a pretty good track record of predicting toxicology in humans.

          • Indeed it has been tested on mammals e.g. in this study with rats with very low dosages:

            “Conclusions: Our results suggest that chronic exposure to a GBH in an established laboratory animal toxicity model system at an ultra-low, environmental dose can result in liver and kidney damage with potential significant health implications for animal and human populations.”

          • Ah, yes…. Giles Seralini. Let’s just say that he doesn’t exactly have a glowing reputation for producing sound, reliable science. That’s the nice way of putting it. The more accurate way of putting it would be to say that he’s a joke.

          • Oh ….I come up with a peer reviewed paper with some indicative evidence and the only thing you do is argue the reputation of the author and say he is a joke? So the other researchers are jokes to? The paper and the journal are a joke also?

            Very strange…

          • I don’t know the other researchers. But I do know that Seralini has an extensive track record of producing bad science and intepreting it with bad statistical analysts. It’s, quite literally, the reputation he has built for himself.

            When someone produces results that are in stark contrast to the volume of preexisting information, your first response ought to be skepticism rather than holding it up as proof. Now…. if others are able to recreate those results, then you’ll have a different situation. But strangely, no one has….. I wonder why?

          • No retractions found under his name (I checked). He also wasn’t first author.
            Very easy to (try to) disqualify every researcher or commenter who does not comply to your vision or ideas.

            If this was the only paper I could find I could agree…but that is not the case.

          • You couldn’t find any retractions? Are you serious? He has one of the most notorious retractions is science history! His lumpy rat study is a real piece of work. The study you posted was simply cherry picked data from that very study! It’s the very definition of a scientific fishing expedition.

            And I don’t need to disqualify every researcher. You have chosen to hold one up who has disqualified himself. Don’t blame me.

            Again… when others start to reproduce his results, you’ll have an argument. Until then, the overwhelming weight of the evidence disagrees with your premise.

          • It was republished in a pay to publish journal where the only criteria are whether or not you can afford the publication fee. Hardly anything to hang your hat on.

            You are free to choose the source you want to rely on. Just don’t be surprised at the push-back you get if you choose poorly.

          • Well, one of your studies is about disease resistance in crops. You ought to read before you post.

            Regardless… I’m not sure what you’re trying to do here. Glyphosate is the most studied herbicide in the history of mankind. As with any topic that’s had that much scrutiny, one can cherry pick a study here or there that will have negative outcomes. That’s why researchers & regulators rely on volumes of data to come to a consensus. And in every single risk assessment ever, the conclusions have been that it presents very low risk as used. No amount of study cherry picking is going to make that go away.

          • Jason stop feeding the troll. His life position is fundamentally never to learn from anyone who knows better, because he knows it all already. Ignore him.

          • Go check the impact score of the journal if was republished in. It was not peer-reviewed, despite claims to the contrary, and they never addressed the flaws and questions pointed out during the first review. It was a horribly designed experiment, and the results do not match the conclusions made by the authors.

            By the way, how lumpy are the control rats?

          • This is one of the reasons lay people are not qualified to interpret primary research papers. You are very likely to walk away with the wrong conclusions. This is not being arrogant or insulting; just a simple fact.

          • And what is your takeaway on the significance of this single study?

            Here’s some context:

            The current U.S. EPA cRfD is 1.75 mg of glyphosate per kilogram body weight per day (mg/kg/day). The E.U. ADI is much lower, at 0.3 mg/kg/day. The doses used on the rats in this study was 200 mg/kg/day, equivalent to a 180 lb person consuming 16 *grams* per day for a week. This might be of concern to industrial workers who are exposed to much higher levels, but without much more relevant data, I wouldn’t be too concerned by this.

          • The study gives evidence that glyphosate does effect more pathways than previously suggested.

          • I’m not sure anyone is surprised that glyphosate will exhibit toxicity at such high doses. It can possibly help to either confirm or force adjustments to the recommended cRfD, but certainly not based on that study. At best it is “hypothesis generating.”

          • From your previous citation on mapping of the proteome.
            “We show that glyphosate is metabolized in vivo to a reactive metabolite, glyoxylate, at high doses in mice, where it reacts with many protein targets.”
            Bold mine for emphasis. Why do you think the authors put in that qualifying phrase? It means that their results only pertain to mice and at high doses. They cannot state that this occurs in any other species, or with anything but high doses because they only have their evidence to go on.
            Even water in high doses leads to hyponatremia. If someone drinks water more quickly than their kidneys can turn into urine, excess water dilutes out the sodium in the bloodstream causing osmotic problems at the cellular level with swelling of cells. That swelling can prove fatal. Does this mean we shouldn’t drink water because you can overdose on it? No. Like the results in the mice, if you overwhelm the systems in the body that deal with more than normal amounts of water or glyphosate, you risk adverse effects.

          • Did you see the huge dose injected into these mice?

            There are traces of glyphosate in a variety of foods, such as wheat. In this study, the dose used on mice corresponds very roughly to humans eating over one ton of wheat every day. I can almost guarantee that there are a huge number of natural substance in any food that would be toxic when it was eaten at 10,000-fold higher levels than normal.

            The authors focus on the glyphosate metabolite, glyoxylate, as a substance that can react with some proteins. However, cells already contain glyoxylate, and it’s extremely hard to believe that normal trace exposure to glyphosate could significantly change this endogenous level.

            (Thanks for the link, though.)

          • He is not a joke. He is a fraud. As Verna already mentioned sample size is everything when assessing the statistical power of a test such as his and his sample size was much too small, I personally think he designed it that way to mislead.

          • Hmmm. I wonder if Seralini also knew that exposing tissue culture cells to detergents was a bad thing before he decided to dump the entire Roundup formulation, surfactants and all, on his cell cultures.

          • …Look up the protocol for the OECD 453 study that Seralini claimed to have followed. It’s a combined Combined Chronic Toxicity/Carcinogenicity Study, and consists of two parts (from paragraph 14):

            The study design consists of two parallel phases, a chronic phase and a carcinogenicity phase (for duration see paragraphs 34 and 35, respectively).

            Now let’s take a look at Seralini’s garbage pile…I mean study.

            Wait, there’s no carcinogenicity test at all…but he kept the reduced sample size for the chronic toxicity study (10 rats per treatment per sex). That’s particularly unfortunate as the protocol directly states in paragraph 19:

            Each dose group (asoutlined in paragraph 22) and concurrent control group intended for the chronic toxicity phase of thestudy should contain at least 10 animals of each sex, in the case of rodents. It should be noted that thisnumber is lower than in the chronic toxicity study TG 452. The interpretation of the data from thereduced number of animals per group in the chronic toxicity phase of this combined study willhowever be supported by the data from the larger number of animals in the carcinogenicity phase of the study.

            So somehow, Seralini managed to miss the obvious instructions for how to run the study, in addition to the sample size modifications outlines in Guidance Document No. 116. At a minimum, he should have used OECD 452 as a basis, using at least 50 rats per treatment per sex as a result of the 2 year duration he went with.

            Yeah…using anything from that study is the scientific equivalent to the fruit of the poisonous tree metaphor used in the legal world.

            These design and power of analysis issues are particularly moronic when one considered that glyphosate has been tested quite a few times using a properly designed OECD 453 method.

            A small sampling:

            – Cheminova, 1993
            – Feinchemie Schwebda, 1996
            – Excel, 1997
            – Arysta Life Sciences 1997
            – Chruscielska et al. 2000
            – Syngenta, 2001
            – Nufarm, 2008

            Additionally, the Cheminova (1993), Feinchemie Schwebda (1996), Arysta Life Sciences
            (1997), Syngenta (2001), and Nufarm (2008) studies, were all rated with a
            Klimisch score of 1, indicating that the methods and data can be used without reservation.

            That particular designation doesn’t seem to happen on your side of the issue. Why is that?

          • Those samples were saved from the original retracted Seralini rat study from 2012. Even IARC refused to use the republished data as any sort of support for carcinogenicity of glyphosate because the study was “inadequate for evaluation because the number of animals per group was small.”
            That critique also applies to using frozen samples from a small number of animals from that badly designed experiment. Additionally, only some female rat samples were chosen and no controls were done to evaluate what changes may have occurred by being in a frozen state for years. Bad experimental design and cherrypicking samples to test does not make this paper adequate, let alone definitive.

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