Recently I came across an Article from Huffpost (12/6/2017) entitled “12 reasons to avoid GMOs” by Alberto Gonzalez (owner of the restaurant GustoOrganics). The article is absolutely misleading and the information provided is baseless, which is a cause for serious concern. Mr. Gonzalez has not listed a single source of peer reviewed publication in support of his claims.
Popular media channels drive incomplete and over-simplified knowledge to the masses, leading to fear and confusion. The relationship between GMO-Related Knowledge, Awareness, and Attitude is an area of widespread interest because this affects consumer opinions, stance, and behaviors.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) were introduced decades ago to increase crop yields in order to keep up with the increasing world population. However, consumer awareness and knowledge has not increased accordingly.
A recent survey by Rutgers University shows that consumers worldwide have limited understanding, misconceptions, and even unfamiliarity with GMO food products. Consumers have reported that they receive information about GMO food products from the media, Internet, and other news sources. These sources are less reliable, usually full of misinformation and written by people with little to no understanding of genetic engineering.
The article from Huffpost entitled “12 reasons to avoid GMOs” is doing exactly the same. It is ambiguous, has fabricated truth and is giving wrong impression to people world wide regarding genetic engineering (GMOs).
Therefore, I as a Medical Geneticist and a Molecular Biologist, am compelled to rectify this dangerous propaganda by Huffington Post. Of course, The Scrutinizer is providing Unbiased, Science-Based facts supported by Peer Reviewed Publications, in the hope of correcting this distorted truth before too much damage happens in the communities.
My goal is to:
1. Help individuals understand the real facts and truth about the GMOs
2. Empower them to take charge of their lives, and finally
3. Assist communities to make informed decisions in favor of their health
Moreover, targeting the wrong issues could have devastating effects on the progress science has made thus far to provide us with a comfortable and healthy life.
The author of the article from Huffpost says, “I do everything I can, at home and at my restaurant, to avoid GMOs. It’s not easy to do, since more than 80 percent of processed foods contain GMOs. Buying certified-organic food is the only way you can truly stay away from GMOs right now, since GMO foods are not labeled. But, honestly, the likelihood that GMO crops will cross-pollinate with organics gets higher every year as more and more GMOs are planted.”
The mere statement that ‘GustoOrganics’ (the restaurant owned by the writer of the Huffpost article) is providing GMO free food is far from the truth. A staple ingredient like ‘wheat‘ they likely use everyday is a GMO, as I’ve explained in my previous article:
“Scientists have been altering genomes of plants for centuries with a process called Selective Breeding: a natural way of making a genetically modified plant by cross-pollinating an inferior plant with another plant that carries the desired traits. Wheat was the first crop to be domesticated over 10,000 years ago. Since then it has been a human engineered plant, and cannot exist outside farms because its seeds don’t scatter.” Read more
Scientists have used genetic modification (also known as “mutagenic”) techniques for over 60 years to create strains of wheat, rice, common bean, millets, cotton etc. that have become staples of the human diet.
In addition, the corn and wheat we consume do not grow as a wild plant, they are cultivated in the care of humans. As I’ve mentioned in my previous article, an ear of corn (teosinte) was only 5 inches long with very few corn kernels on it: an extensively different miniature variety from the larger and more plentiful corn we know today. So, until and unless the author of the Huffpost article has actually backcrossed the vegetables and fruits to obtain that very Corn (teosinte), and other produce (shown in my previous article), he is deliberately misleading the community.
Although Huffpost article is advertising how GustoOrganics utilizes GMO free food, in fact ingredients in this restaurant are no different than what other restaurants/people are using. To prove my statement, I am providing the examples of Canola, Corn and Sugar, that are part of the staple diet all over the world, especially the USA (all three are GMOs):
Canola: A significant percentage of Canola produced in USA is genetically modified (a GMO) to provide resistance to herbicides like glyphosate or glufosinate, in addition to improving the oil composition.
Predominant use of Canola is to produce vegetable oil (which is ∼43 %). The rest is used as high quality animal feed. Canola oil is the third most widely consumed vegetable oil in the world. It is further processed by hydrogenation to produce margarine, and is thus sold to consumers as both margarine and cooking oil. It is a key ingredient in many foods and has many non-food uses, which includes making lipsticks.
Corn: Alcohol anyone? Maize, known as corn in the USA, was grown in the USA and Canada in 1997 and by 2010, 86% of corn in the USA was genetically modified (GMO). Furthermore, 32% of the worldwide Corn was a GMO in 2011. Cornmeal and dried maize are staples around the world.
A significant amount of the total harvested corn goes towards livestock feed including the distillers grains. The left over is used for production of ethanol (alcohol), high fructose corn syrup, cornstarch and export. It is also used to manufacture sweeteners, cornstarch, and human food/drinks.
Corn Oil: As the name suggests, this oil is extracted from Corn/Maize. It is used to make shortening and margarine and is also sold as pure cooking oil. In addition, it is used to make vitamin carrier, and as a source of lecithin (a fat consisting of Phospholipids and is linked to Choline. It is widely present in egg yolk and some higher plants). Lecithin is used as an ingredient in manufactured foods like mayonnaise, sauces and soups. It is further used to fry potato chips and French fries.
Cotton: Cottonseed oil is used both as a salad and cooking oil in industry and at homes. Nearly 93 % of the cotton crop in USA is a GMO.
Sugar: To give you a statistic, only 10% of sugar in the USA is imported from other countries, while 90% is extracted from sugar beets and sugarcanes. Basically, half of the sugar comes from beets and other half from sugarcanes. 95 % of sugar beet planted in the USA were cultivated with glyphosate-resistant seed. These herbicide tolerant sugar beets have also been approved to be grown in Australia, Canada, Colombia, EU, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Russian Federation, and Singapore.
Sugar or pure Sucrose as we know, and molasses are refined products of sugar beets, and remaining pulp is used as animal feed.
In summary, I am wondering how GustoOrganics claim to be using Non-GMO food/ingredients. This seems to be a case of false advertising.
The Huffpost article further states, ” But, honestly, the likelihood that GMO crops will cross-pollinate with organics get higher every year as more and more GMOs are planted“.
This statement shows inadequate knowledge on part of Alberto Gonzales (article from Huffpost) regarding GMO foods and crops. It is clear he is broadcasting his own fear and hatered of GMOs. Articles that contain deceptive and unsubstantiated information like the one under scrutiny, spread unjustifiable fear and negatively affect the attitude of consumers towards science/bioengineering/genetic engineering.
A very important distinction I would like to lay stress on is that GMOs can not convert an organic plant into non organic plant by cross-pollination. When a GMO cross-fertilizes with a plant that grows without any fertilizer or pesticides (Organic Farming), that does not make it ‘non-organic.’ Rather, the first transgenic crops (soybean, corn, cotton and rapeseed) offer benefits in terms of health, economy and environment.
In addition, organic produce does not mean that it is strictly grown without pesticides. Some Non-Synthetic pesticides (not made in a lab) have been classified as organic because they occur naturally. e.g. Rotenone is found in the seeds and stems of several plants, such as yam bean, and the roots of several members of Fabaceae. Once again, misinformed people think if something is Naturally Occurring, it is healthy. This thinking is far from the truth, Rotenone is more toxic than synthetic pesticides like Glyphosate.
The recent survey from the Rutgers and comments from individuals on my own previous article show inadequate knowledge and understanding regarding the GMOs. Significant number of individuals believe e.g.:
- an ordinary tomato does not contain any genes or DNA but a GMO tomato does.
- they also believe that their genes could be altered as a result of eating GMO foods.
It is an extreme misconception that these genes could get into a human’s reproductive cells and be passed to their offspring. As a gene therapist, I wish this was true because we would have cured all horrible diseases (like Alzheimers, Parkingson’s)just by consuming the desired gene.
A significant number of comments on my previous article show that people believe Salmon genes have been added to corn. First of all, this is not true, but for sake of the argument as if it was true, why are they afraid of Salmon genes in corn? They already have Salmon as part of their diet and consider it healthy to consume Salmon.
Why do they think Salmon genes won’t go into their DNA when they eat Salmon? However, if Salmon genes are present in the corn that would somehow have deleterious effects on their health. This goes to show that consumers are trying to make sense of this gene technology, and there is too much confusion regarding the topic.
The writer of the article from Huffpost states, “I came across a book called The World According to Monsanto, by Marie-Monique Robin, and it was true eye-opener for me. Then, I read The Wheel of Life, by Debbie Barker and I recommend this article to anyone who wants a deeper understanding of interconnectedness between food, climate, human rights, and economy.” He further lists “reasons for avoiding GMO foods because of their Health and Environmental Harms, that were compiled mostly from these two sources.”
It is very troubling to see that the author of the article from Huffpost states numerous harms of GMOs, however, does not provide a single peer-reviewed article in any scientific journal to prove his claims.
To address this article from Huffpost, First I will list each reason in the author’s words, then provide my response underneath it.
1. Article from Huffpost: “GMOs are grown with toxic chemicals and resulting pesticide residues are known to be harmful to human health”.
Response from The Scrutinizer:
The author (Alberto Gonzalez) of the article from Huffpost has neglected to mention the names of toxic chemicals that he thinks are being used to grow GMOs, and result in pesticide residues.
If we had this technology where we can plant a GMO, add toxic chemicals and get a pesticide residue. Voila, there would be no need to synthesize pesticides. Secondly, these pesticide residues would be organic pesticides (only naturally occurring pesticides that are not synthesized in a lab are the ones approved for Organic Farming).
Secondly, a GMO plant does not need “toxic chemicals” to grow. In fact, they grow in the same soil as their non GMO counter parts. Rather, the GMO crops use significantly less pesticides/herbicides. Most of the corn, soybeans, cotton, sugar beets, and canola in the United States are genetically modified (GMOs). Therefore, the processed foods made from them are GMOs as well.
Furthermore, what about medications, or hormones and Insulin? Those are definitely the GMOs saving lives. Without the synthetic insulin (i.e. a GMO), we would not have enough insulin for diabetics even in the USA let alone the rest of the world. I am certain that individuals against GMOs and their research, would use the GMO insulin or medication to save their lives (kind of hippocracy, isn’t it?).
The concerns of the author of the article in question (Alberto Gonzales) have no foundation due to his lack of understanding in:
- how a pesticide works
- what a GMO is, or
- what the toxicity of a particular substance is.
Being concerned about your health is normal. However, being misled or deliberately mislead the communities due to one’s own lack of information would only hinder the advancement in science. Consequently, damage the agricultural and even the medical progress made so far by scientists.
Think about it: treatments that save our life from horrible diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease are due to gene manipulation (GMO technology) and advancements in science. Is the author of the Article from Huffpost saying that he does not seek any medical help for himself or his loved ones?
Facts are different than beliefs: All the incorrect beliefs and targeting wrong issues or trying to go back to ‘Natural’ could bring us all towards ancient times (Paleolithic era, anyone?). My previous article explains in detail the ‘All Natural’, Organic fruits and vegetables that were available to people in Paleolithic era (stone age). Most of which were either inedible or so small in size that there was never enough food for them. Just because something is ‘Natural’, that does not mean it is healthy or can sustain human life.
If we continue on this path of rebelling against science, soon the world/including The United States could fall short on food let alone medications, hormones, vaccinations that have increased the life span and quality of life of humans.
2. Article from Huffpost: “Research has shown that laboratory mammals fed GMOs suffer adverse effects that include damage to kidneys, liver, adrenal glands, spleen, and heart. Additionally, their immune systems were compromised and in some cases brain size was reduced.”
Response from The Scrutinizer:
The author is talking about research yet he has not listed any scientific reference. The main point here for us to think about is: Everyone in the world has been eating the GMO food from 60+ years. If GMO food really caused all the defects listed in the article from Huffpost, all of us would suffer from exactly the same disease. This is not what is being seen.
To present a list of severe adverse effects without the support of any scientific data is gross negligence on the author’s part (Article from Huffpost). Such narratives do nothing but spread unjustified fear, deception and distorted truth that leads to confusion.
I am providing very recent references to justify the truth:
- Detailed studies have been carried out in experimental animals like rats and mice, broiler chickens, catfish and dairy cows. No adverse effect was seen in all these studies due to consumption of GMO food Vs non GMO food.
- The growth, catfish fillet composition, broiler breast muscle, milk production, and digestibilities in cows were found to be similar for both GMO and non-GMO crop.
- Further Extensive studies were conducted to study the possible toxicity of Roundup Ready corn grain (GMO corn), soybeans, GM tomatoes. The results of all these studies showed no difference in overall health, body weight, blood chemistry, urinalysis, organ weights were similar between groups fed GMO diets and non GMO food.
- A feeding study was also conducted to establish the safety of GMO potatoes Vs Non GMO potatoes. Both the groups showed similar growth, blood cell count and composition and organ weights.
All these thorough studies confirm that GMO crop is as safe as the non-GMO crop. Furthermore, there were no abnormalities in organ systems like liver and kidney, unlike what the Article from Huffpost is reporting.
One of the fears of people against GMOs is that the genes from the crop they consume would be taken up by the bacteria in human gut, and that would be harmful. This was studied in human volunteers who were given GMO soy to eat.
This study proved that the GMOs did not survive the passage through the gastrointestinal tract. Basically, this means no DNA from the GMOs reached the bacteria in the gut.
Hundreds of millions of people across the globe have consumed foods derived from the GMO crops, for more than 15 years. There have been absolutely no reports on ill effects or even law suits despite the fact that USA is the most litigious of countries. Finally, thousands of independent studies on safety of GMOs, have proven that GMOs are perfectly safe to eat.
In the light of above findings, an important question to ask yourself is: Is there any a priori reason to believe that GMO crops are harmful when consumed? The foreign DNA sequences in food do not present any internal risk to human health on consumption. If this were true, then people who eat meat would have all sorts of foreign genes in their bodies.
I would like to assure the skeptic/misinformed people that there is tight regulation of GMO crops by several government associations:
(1) In Europe: Detailed requirements for a full risk assessment of GMO plants, food derived from them and the feed have been in place by The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and each individual member state;
(2) In the USA: Regulatory processes for the GMO crop approval is controlled by all of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services like the Food and Drug Agency (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the US Department of Agriculture.
As a result, the GMO plants undergo elaborate and thorough safety testing before they can be commercialized.
Lastly, here is a dreary thought everyone (especially individuals against the GMOs) should ponder over with a clear head and an open mind:
The GMOs go through rigorous analysis before commercialization as I explained above. This means if some of the GMO crops are defected (e.g. presence of an allergen), those GMO crops NEVER see the market and are discarded.
However, if the same aim was being carried out by conventional plant breeding (to add the desired trait), there would be no requirement to evaluate that crop in vivo. This defective crop would make it to the consumers with dire consequences.
An example is the white potato crop that was created by conventional breeding, to add more flavor to it. However, the resulting crop had high quantities of glycoalkaloids that are toxic to humans.
Since, in conventional breeding we do not have any control over which genes are exchanged, and we do not even know which genes crossed over, this toxic potato was marketed and then recalled after major consequences.
3. Article from Huffpost: “GMO crops require huge amounts of chemicals that are harmful to soil, water, the atmosphere, and creatures. Although they are promoted as a technology to reduce pesticide usage, GM crops in the U.S. used greater than 26 percent more pesticides per acre in 2008 than non-GMO crops, based on U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data.”
Response from The Scrutinizer:
First of all GMO crops do not require “huge amounts of chemicals“. The whole idea to generate GMOs was and is to reduce the use of pesticides. Until now genetically modified (GMO) products have enabled increased yields and reduced pesticide usage.
Dr. Andrew Kniss (Associate Professor of Weed Ecology and Management at the University of Wyoming), did his own analysis on the issue of increased pesticide usage and plant resistance to pesticides. He explained the results in a lecture delivered to the Cornell Alliance for Science Global Leadership Fellows. In his words:
- “Toxicity is not the same between different compounds”. Secondly, toxicity is not the same for all organisms. e.g. some products are more toxic to aquatic animals than mammals. However, humans favor products that are best for their own personal health, thus leading to judgements
- “Both herbicide-resistant (HR) crops and glyphosate-tolerant weeds had evolved much before the GMOs were adopted. Furthermore, farmers were using herbicides on soy, maize and other crops long before the GM varieties were introduced.”
- “Acute toxicity has decreased in all crops, whether they’re GMO or not. “If we had not had the GMO crops, chronic toxicity would have increased even more. Glyphosate represents 70 percent of the herbicide used in these crops, but it barely registers as a [toxicity] impact.”
On the whole, GMO crops are now grown on 181.5 million hectares of land, which is 100 times the area cultivated with GMOs in 1996.
Currently, the United States is the lead producer of genetically engineered produce (GMOs), contributing 73.1 million hectares of land and accounting for 40% of global GMO crops. This is followed by Brazil (42.2 million hectares), Argentina (24.3 million hectares), India (11.6 million hectares), and Canada (11.6 million hectares).
In 2014, twenty eight countries grew GMO crops in 2014, out of which 20 are developing countries. They rely on the ability of GMO crops to increase yields.
Glyphosate resistant weeds have evolved due to no tillage and sole reliance of farmers on this herbicide immediately after the commercialization of the HR crops (herbicide resistant GMO crops). Unlike the other classes of herbicides, Glyphosate kills most broad leaf plants without substantial adverse effects on animals or on soil and water quality.
4. Article from Huffpost: “GMOs are actually increasing the need for stronger and more poisonous pesticides. For example, one agrochemical company is awaiting USDA approval of corn and soybeans resistant to 2, 4-D, a chemical related to Agent Orange.”
Response from The Scrutinizer:
How toxic is it?
In humans, 2,4-D is not absorbed via skin or lungs, but if you drink it then of course it is absorbed in the body. Pure 2,4-D is very low in toxicity even if eaten. Animals can only be affected if they eat leaves that are wet from 2,4-D.
5. Article from Huffpost: GMOs are causing a growing epidemic of “superweeds.“ These massive weeds have evolved a resistance to glyphosate, a chemical used on GM crops. Stronger toxic chemicals and soil-eroding tillage operations are required in order to eliminate superweeds.
Response from The Scrutinizer:
As I explained above (#3), and am elaborating again that GMOs have nothing to do with Super weeds. Both herbicide-resistant (HR) crops and glyphosate-tolerant weeds had evolved much before the GMOs were adopted. Furthermore, farmers were using herbicides on soy, maize and other crops long before the GMO varieties were introduced.
Glyphosate resistant super weeds evolved due to sole reliance of farmers on glyphosate, no tillage and no crop rotation immediately after the commercialization of the HR crops (herbicide resistant GMO crops). Thus, in a way they were not following the good farming practices to reduce their work. Crop rotation is an integral part in preventing super weeds and resistance of weeds to pesticides.
6. Article from Huffpost: “GMOs contribute to global warming: GM crops require synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, which are responsible for approximately 60 percent of total emissions of nitrous oxide (a greenhouse gas nearly 300 times more potent than CO2). GM crops use high amounts of fossil fuels through the production of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers.”
Response from The Scrutinizer:
Once again GMOs do not require any fertilizer that is different from the one needed by non GMO plants. Rather GMOs could lessen the need for nitrogen fertilizers.
Shuichi Yanagisawa of Okayama University in Japan has engineered a strain of Arabidopsis plants that carry an additional gene called Dof1. The modified plants (GMO plants, containing Dof1) showed:
- they contained more carbon, amino acids and about 30 percent more nitrogen than control plants did.
- they grew well in soil containing one tenth the amount of nitrogen that normal shrubs needed to flourish.
This technique has been tried on potato plants with the same success.
Furthermore, the adoption of GMOs (insect resistant and herbicide tolerant crops) has in fact reduced pesticide spraying by 618.7 million kg (18.1%). As a result, the environmental impact associated with herbicide and insecticide use on these crops decreased by 18.6% (as measured by the indicator called Environmental Impact Quotient, EIQ).
In addition, use of GMOs led to a decrease in the use of fuel due to tillage changes. This significantly reduced the release of greenhouse gas emissions from the areas where GMOs were cultivated. This was same as removing 11.9 million cars from the streets in 2015.
I would say that is quite a feat. Once again, it is very hard to comprehend how the author of the Article from Huffpost, came to the conclusions he has broadcasted with such conviction.
The Scrutinizer is truly surprised to see that a reputed publication like Huffington Post can really print an article with absolutely no foundation.
7. Article from Huffpost: “GMO practices contaminate our organic and local food systems. A report titled, Gone to Seed, found that 50 percent or more of non-GMO corn, canola, and soybean seed have been contaminated with GM genes.”
Response from The Scrutinizer:
As I explained in previous article GMOs and Organic food are two completely separate entities. Organic crop means the crop grown without fertilizer and synthetic pesticides. GMO means a crop in which, a gene with desired trait has been introduced .
I don’t know what the author of the Article from Huffpost means by saying “50 percent or more of non-GMO corn, canola, and soybean seed have been contaminated with GM genes.”
At least 86-93% Corn, Canola and Soybean, Cotton have been genetically modified since at least 2010. It is no secret and has been published in reputable scientific journals.
8. Article from Huffpost: “Beneficial insects can be harmed. A Cornell University study showed that monarch butterflies suffered higher mortality rates when consuming milkweed leaves dusted with the Bt toxin associated with GM crops. And recently, pesticides called neonicotinoids have been blamed for the collapsing bee populations.”
Response from The Scrutinizer:
The study that Article from Huffpost is talking about was a preliminary study carried out in 1990. This study is the cause of Anti GMO movement. However, one of the most reputed Journals called ‘Nature’ published a plethora of articles that showed Monarch Butterflies are safe from Bt.
Entomologist Mark Sears of the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada states “The impact of this technology (Bt) on monarchs is negligible.” Researchers including the authors of the original study, have done a large-scale study in field and in the lab that addresses:
- the toxicity of Bt pollen
- its release into the environment, and
- the risk it poses to monarchs.
I would like to emphasize that this investigation was funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the agricultural biotechnology industry, NOT Monsanto.
The findings of this research show:
- the varieties of Bt corn most commonly grown in the United States do not contain enough toxin to harm monarchs
- the crop is not grown widely enough to pose a significant risk
- According to the EPA, about 19 per cent of corn in North America contains the Bt gene
Effect of Neonicotinoids on bees
Neonicotinoids are the youngest class of neuroactive insecticides worldwide. There are three widely used Neonicotinoids: Thiamethoxam (THI), Clothianidin (CLO), and Imidacloprid (IMD), especially in Canadian Praries.
Neonicotinoids are mainly used as prophylactic seed treatment. From the seed, they are taken up into the growing plant tissues, where they have a broad, long-term toxicity to various insect pests that feed on these plants.
Mode of Action of Neonicotinoids (Neo)
- They have high affinity to the post synaptic Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors (nAChRs).
- When the insect comes to feed on the plant, Neonicotinoids bind tightly and specifically to the nAChRs in the central nervous system of these insect pests.
- This binding is irreversible and cumulative.
- As soon as Neo binds to the insect brain, an excitatory depolarization of post synaptic neurons takes place in an uncontrolled manner.
The Neonicotinoids have a negatively charged Cyano group which lowers the affinity of these pesticides for mammalian nAChR receptors. Hence, they have negligible toxicity to humans and animals.Therefore, these pesticides are a great choice as they are toxic to the insect and safe for mammals, thus considered safe and widely used.
Article from Huffpost states, “recently, pesticides called neonicotinoids have been blamed for the collapsing bee populations.”
Response from The Scrutinizer:
As usual, the author of the Article from Huffpost misrepresents the truth in favor of his own beliefs. Once again, he is reporting a deceptive and baseless statement without even attempting to look for the truth.
In contrast, it is a prerequisite for The Scrutinizer to have scientific reasoning and data on my side before I make any statements. At the same time, I deliver the truth while remaining absolutely unbiased and a trusted source of information.
To answer the author and provide him with facts, I performed a thorough literature search on the topic of bees and Neonicotinoids. I selected 100+ peer reviewed publications in reputed journals. The whole idea is to perform a meta-analysis on the collected literature to find the correct answer (Truth is out there!!).
If Huffpost wanted to know the genuine answer rather than deceive their own readers, the author would have had either tried to find the data or refrained from publishing such baseless articles.
Right now, the research on the topic of bees is surrounded by controversy due to the presence of too many parameters (variables) involved. Data needs to be collected on all the variables in order to be able to reach a firm consensus.
From the 100+ references I collected and read, the data were scattered with no common ground. I am listing the factors I believe should be studied and pooled, to get a solid comprehensive statistical analysis.
A few factors that need to be studied are:
(i) Various concentrations of the pesticides LD50 or lower than LD50 and the doses in between
(ii) Results vary according to the species of the bees, so here the effect of the each of the three pesticides need to be thoroughly studied for the different species of the bees
(iii) Country or region of the bees plays a major role on the data. Therefore, as many parameters that can be studied in each region should be included
(iv) All three Neonicotinoids need to be studied to find out which is more or less or at all toxic to the bees in their normal surroundings
(v) Various crops need to be included in all the regions
(vi) Same methodological approaches need to be studied in different regions, so that there are data with same approach from different regions, areas etc.
(vii) Need data on biological levels, from the sub-individual to the population level
Mainly, the idea is that if scientists from various regions can coordinate their efforts, then a comprehensive data can be obtained. This might take some time but the results obtained would give us a definitive answer as to why the Bee collapse is happening and who or what is responsible.
Based on my own systematic literature review process, I can safely conclude that at this time,
- Scientists have really made pain staking research efforts and are continuing to do so
- there are still significant knowledge gaps concerning the impacts of neonicotinoids on bees.
- no deduction can be made in regard to the cause of bee collapse at this time
- the data is not even close to let anyone interpret whether
- Neonicotinoids play a role or not in the diminishing bee population
- if they do then which one, or all of them
I am really struggling to reach a decision from all the literature I studied (as described above).
I would like to use this opportunity to explain to the author and the rest of the science skeptics that no decision can be made just from one study. The answer is not always black or white. In order to really know the truth, we need to have the answers from all parameters involved.
e.g. Most of the studies showed no harm on the buzzing of the bees and their ability to collect honey, in the presence of sub-lethal doses of the neonicotinoids. However, this is not a confirmatory answer because the rest of the above parameters still need to be addressed if we really want to derive a true answer.
It seems individuals do not realize reaching wrong conclusion based on their beliefs or liking could be catastrophic. e.g. in the case of bees that we are discussing:
1. the insecticide would be banned thus causing harm to the quantity of the available food, and 2. The bees would still die
I hope the readers of this post can see why it is so important to have all the facts to make the right conclusions.
Since bees are very important for our crops and ecosystem, and so are the neonicotinoids (because of their selective toxicity to insects and negligible effect on the rest of the life forms), a lot of effort towards research needs to be diverted.
This would still take significant amount of time, but the future research needs to clarify the cause of bee decline. The data obtained would enable the scientists to come up with new solutions to save both the bees and crops.
9. Article from Huffpost: “GMOs are promoted as way to feed the world and mitigate hunger; however, numerous studies demonstrate that the GM crops do not produce higher yields as claimed. As one example, a USDA publication reports that “GM crops do not increase the yield potential.”
Response from The Scrutinizer:
A large study from the National Academy of Sciences, and plenty of other studies have confirmed that GMOs have significantly increased farm yields while decreasing pesticide use and soil erosion.
A meta-analysis of 147 research studies looking at GMO soybeans, maize and cotton (world’s biggest GM commodity crops) found that GM technology increased crop yields by 22 percent, reduced pesticide use by 37 percent, and raised farmer profits by 68 percent. This study was done by agricultural economists at University of Göttingen (Germany).
10. Article from Huffpost: “GMOs lead to corporate control over seed and food: Today only one company controls about 95 percent of GM seeds. This limits access to seeds, which are the center of food and life.”
Response from The Scrutinizer:
The truth is that most farmers from in the U.S. and Europe were buying seeds from older seed companies, long before the advent of Monsanto. For example, Corn farmers, who have relied exclusively on commercial hybrids for more than half a century (long before Monsanto came into business). Even the soybean and cotton farmers (who do not grow hybrids) were purchasing seed from the seed companies.
Obviously, the shift started with growth of the commercial seed companies. Genetic engineering had nothing to do with it. Of course, Monsanto certainly enhanced this trend significantly, when they came up with with their first GMO crop about 20 years ago.
Monsanto no longer controls the GMO seed.
Since 2012, Monsanto’s patents started to expire. The same year, Jack Kloppenberg (a sociologist at the University of Wisconsin) helped to start the Open Seed Initiative.
For the first time there are generic GMOs, meaning off patent seeds that cost half of what they used to cost, and farmers are free to save the seeds and replant. Seed dealers like Maddox (from Arkansas) collected thousands of bags of Glyphosate Resistant Seeds. In his own words, “we cleaned it, bagged it and sold it. I tried making little bit of money. The farmers would save money if they buy seeds from me.”
This generic GMO strain, called UA5414RR, was developed at the University of Arkansas by the plant breeder Pengyin Chen. Mr. Chen spent several years mating these plants to move the glyphosate resistance gene and converted Monsanto seeds into different variety of soybeans. The University of Missouri, in backyard of Monsanto also prepared 4 knockoffs to sell that year.
This development from the Universities got the farmers out of the “Monopolistic Practices” of the big seed firms.
The reason that the writer of the Article from Huffpost, gives is not the reason to avoid GMOs. Looking for solutions (like what the Universities did) is a smart resolution of the problem. Nothing in agriculture is just black and white and we have to weigh the net benefit Vs harm.
11. Article from Huffpost:”These large agri-corporations do not let farmers save seeds, a basic practice that has continued for centuries to ensure food security.”
Response from The Scrutinizer:
It was wrong of the large agri-corporations to not let the farmers save seeds. However, the main reason that farmers buy the seed every year rather than planting the seed from the previous harvest is that when a hybrid seed is replanted, a mix of inferior quality plants is produced. The farmers themselves do not take that chance and thus buy the hybrid seeds every year.
Even the soybean and cotton farmers (who do not grow hybrids) were purchasing seed from the seed companies. As I explained above, most farmers from in the U.S. and Europe were buying seeds from older seed companies, long before the advent of Monsanto. For example, Corn farmers, who have relied exclusively on commercial hybrids for more than half a century (long before Monsanto came into business).
12. Article from Huffpost: “GMO agriculture is an extension of current industrial-farming practices that have resulted in the loss of family farms and farmer livelihoods around the globe.”
Response from The Scrutinizer:
Peer reviewed analyses on farm income effects (both large commercial and small scale subsistence) due to GMOs have been published since 1996-2015. By 2015, the global planted area of GMO crops was about 172 million hectares. 2015 is an important year as it marks the twentieth year of wide-spread cultivation of GM Crops (GMOs).
The analyses since 1996 until 2015 shows very significant net economic benefits at the farm level amounting to $18.8 billion in 2012; and $116.6 billion for the 17-year period (in nominal terms). These economic gains are roughly 50% in farmers from developed and developing countries.
Graham Brookes and Peter Dorchester (2017) from UK have accumulated and updated studies since 2005 to provide an accurate and up to date assessment of economic impacts associated with the adoption of GMO crops globally.
Their pain-staking analyses provide a better understanding of the impact of GMO agriculture to people around the world. Furthermore, their comprehensive peer reviewed publication has helped in making decisions regarding GMO crops especially in countries where crop biotechnology is not permitted.
Hence, if the Author of the Article from Huffpost had made an effort to look for truth and facts on GMO and farming, he would not have made the above bizzarre statements.
The Scrutinizer is responding with solid, scientific and economic facts. By 2015, the use of crop biotechnology (GMO crops) had been adopted by 18 million farmers worldwide. This technology has delivered higher income to these farmers by: improved yield and lower costs of production (less expenditure on insecticides) of the crop.
In South America, the GMO technology has also facilitated the change from conventional farming to low or no-tillage production systems by shortening the production cycle for soybeans. This has enabled farmers to plant a second crop of soybeans right after wheat in the same season. In addition, the second generation GMO soybeans are now being widely used in North America, and are delivering higher yields than before.
Overall, there is a considerable body of evidence in peer reviewed literature that enumerates the positive economic impacts of crop biotechnology. The analyses from the past 17 years therefore provides insights into the reasons why so many farmers around the world have adopted and continue to use the GMO technology.
Finally, in the words of ‘The Farmer’s Daughter USA‘, Amanda who is an attorney and is passionate about farming:
“Unfortunately, the typical fear-mongers have attempted to twist the practice of seed treatments into something dangerous. Among the worst offenders is the Oregon ballot proposal campaign to require mandatory GMO labels. A commercial produced by the labeling initiative’s supporters claims the seed treatment is some type of freaky toxins that are put on GMO crops and hurt consumers.”
- After 20 years of overwhelming evidence in favor of GMO crops, it would be safe to conclude that genetic engineering (GMO technology) is less disruptive in comparison to traditional breeding.
- GMOs have certainly increased the production of food globally.
- In the developing world, approximately, 1.3 billion people live on less than US$1/day . Many of these are rural farmers and depend entirely on small-scale agriculture to make their living. They would benefit from GMO crop farming.
- In the next 40 years, world’s population is predicted to double, with more than 95% of the individuals being born in developing countries. To keep up with this increasing population, our food production needs to increase by 40% as well.
Potential of GMOs to meet some extreme challenges for the 21st century
- GM sweet potato (GMOs) resistant to a virus that could destroy most of the African harvest
- GM technology offers a way to alleviate some of the malnutrition conditions
- Rice with increased iron and vitamins could end the chronic malnutrition in Asian countries
- Every year 2 million children die of Vitamin A deficiency in the developing world. GMO technology makes it possible to synthesize Vitamin A, which is found in many plants but not cereal grains
- GMO plants that can survive weather extremes
Non-food applications for GM plants
- GM Bananas that produce human vaccines against hepatitis B
- Plants that produce new plastics with unique properties
- Use of GM plants for production of recombinant pharmaceuticals
- In 1990, full-size native human recombinant PDP (human serum albumin) was produced
- Since then antibodies, blood products, hormones and vaccines have all been expressed in plants
- Plant tissue expressing edible vaccines
It is disconcerting to see that the general public remains unaware of
- what a GM plant (or a GMO) actually is
- how a GMO can help the world
- advantages and disadvantages of this technology
- range of applications for which they can be used
In the end, I would hold Huffpost responsible for publishing misleading article (“12 reasons to avoid GMOs”) and spreading unjustifiedfear regarding science and technology. At least their editor-in-chief should have made sure of validity of the article before publishing it. The whole article is written as a personal opinion but is being portrayed as a factual report.