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Month: September 2012

The anti-GMO crowd is a danger to progress

The anti-GMO crowd is a danger to progress

By all accounts, the lies and misinformation spread by the anti-GMO activists in California will win out. Proposition 37 will coast to victory. That is a sad state of affairs for progress.

I don’t want to paint a doom and gloom picture, but an anti-GMO win in California could have repercussions as to how people view bio-technology.  By tying it to the bad business practices of corporations and creating a guilt by association, the anti-science activists have pretty much accomplished their goal.

The belief that biotechnology is some scary business dreamed up by evil corporations will not only have a negative impact for the future of food, it will also create questions about its use in all of science.

Biotech has been instrumental in making advances in medicine. Regeneration of nerves, insulin, analgesics and stem cell therapies are all possible due to biotechnology.

It has also created new possibilities in agriculture and to help save various crops from disease. A classic example of this is the Hawaiian papaya industry. In the 1990s, the papaya industry was on the verge of collapse due to a virulent disease, papaya ring spot virus. Nothing could eliminate or contain it. Enter Dr. Dennis Gonsalves, retired Professor Emeritus of Plant Pathology at Cornell and now the director of the USDA’s Pacific Basin Agricultural Center. He developed a genetically modified disease resistant papaya and gave it to the growers.  It is now sold to growers by the industry at cost.

The papaya problem also raises the issue of corporate control of the seed supply. Ironically, it is the very strict rules and regulations in the GMO approval process that keeps the tech in the hands of big business. I’ve written about this before. Universities and small biotech companies have seeds literally sitting on their shelves because they can’t afford the lengthy and expensive process of getting the seeds approved.

The biotech community has been lobbying the U.S. Government to relax the rules to create competition. But the anti-GMO lobby is apparently much stronger.

The anti-GMO crowd claims non-GMO methods can be developed to help crops in trouble. Well, maybe they can, maybe they can’t. The papaya problem is a case in point. They tried every non-GMO method possible and nothing worked

Then there was the plumpox virus which was devastating the plum crops in the Adams County, Pa. a few years ago. In order to contain the virus and keep it from spreading across the U.S., the only method to stop it was to pull up the trees and bulldoze them before the disease spread.

The U.S Government stepped in. In 2010, government biotech scientists created the “Honeysweet,” a disease resistant plum that solved the problem. Should they have waited for a “natural” method? Should they have let the virus spread to the rest of the U.S and South America?

The anti-GMO folks subscribe to the precautionary principle. That principle one that says if something has a suspected risk of causing harm due to the absence of a scientific consensus, it shouldn’t be implemented. The problem here is there is a scientific consensus, but the anti-GMO crowd refuses to believe it. Monsanto used GE so GE must be bad. It is also stifling progress.

Polls have shown that the majority of Americans support stem cell research. When Bush II put limits on government funding, progressives rightly complained. Yet, on the biotech issue of food, they take the opposite view. Why the disconnect?

The answer might lie in what American Association of Advancement of Science (AAAS) President Nina V.Fedoroff said at a recent conference.

“The explanation probably lies in our own psychology. Belief systems, especially if they are tinged with fear, are not easily dismantled with facts. This isn’t a new problem but it’s an urgent and growing problem.”

Pamela Ronald, professor of plant pathology at the University of California, Davis wrote in Seed Magazine

“My overwhelming sense is that public skepticism about GM crops, and the foods derived from them, is not about the science—it is about US corporations. Some consumers have not forgotten that Monsanto was a producer of Agent Orange for the US military during the Vietnam War. Others worry that corporations will control the global seed supply.

Still, consumers—whether in Davis or Düsseldorf—need to distinguish between a scientific process (genetic engineering) and corporations.”

I think they are both right.

While claiming to be the pro-science side, Democrats and the liberal left seem only to be pro-science when it fits their worldview.  They buy into bogus claims of the anti-science crowd and keep repeating the bogus information on liberal/left activist websites.  The recently debunked Seralini  GM corn study is still being cited on websites and blogs. As I write this an email arrived from the activist website, Nation of Change which is still touting the discredited study:

“It all started with the monumental French study finding a serious link between the consumption of Monsanto’s Roundup-drenched GMOs and massive tumors. Being called the ‘most thorough’ research ever published on the real health effects of GMOs, the study led to even larger victories.”

It’s absurd.  Progressives activists have become the FoxNews of the Left.  The Seralini study has been covered extensively and scientists from all over the world have weighed in on the  reasons the study doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

So the question is, if and when Prop. 37 wins, what will  the anti-science crowd target next and will they be able to hornswaggle the liberal left as they did with this issue?

Natural Products Association opposes Prop. 37

Natural Products Association opposes Prop. 37

With all the finger-pointing at the groups who oppose Prop. 37, one group seems to have escaped the wrath of the anti-GMO crowd, The Natural Products Association (NPA).

The NPA is the trade and lobbying group for makers of natural products. They have come out against the law.  They state they like the idea of the law, but have a problem with the enforcement provisions, the very same provisions the other opposition forces dislike.

NPA is very concerned with the enforcement provision as well as the limited definition of natural included in the language. Proposition 37 places every supplier, manufacturer, and retailer of food products at risk of unreasonable and frivolous litigation. We are concerned the restrictions on natural foods in the proposition language could create a difficult business environment in California and further hinder the ability of our members to sell natural products.”

It’s interesting to note that at least two of the supporters of Prop.37, Nature’s Path and our old buddy Mercola are members of the NPA.

The NPA also has a problem with what is considered not natural under the law.  For example, the simple act of making apple sauce would  not be considered natural under the new law.  Support of this law may have unintended consequences for the those companies who cater to the natural foods consumer.

In an opinion piece on the website Natural Products Insider, John Shaw, executive director and CEO of the NPA writes:

How will manufacturers prove their products don’t contain GE material? They have to gather affidavits from each link in the supply chain for every ingredient certifying, to the best of their knowledge, that each ingredient is not GE. However, this exemption would be difficult for manufacturers to comply with, and if it broke down in just one spot, the product would need to be labeled. I foresee problems with getting all ingredient suppliers to provide an affidavit. If manufacturers cannot prove, without a shred of doubt, that their product is free of GE material, they’ll have to label their products.

All polls lead to passage of this inane law. We can expect that right after it passes,  the legal challenges will begin. I’m not the best prognosticator, but my hunch is that it will eventually be struck down as a bad law. Even the Analysis by the California Secretary of State’s Legislative analyst paints a bad picture:

Increased annual state costs ranging from a few hundred thousand dollars to over $1 million to regulate the labeling of genetically engineered foods.

Potential, but likely not significant, costs to state and local governments due to litigation resulting from possible violations of the requirements of this measure. Some of these costs would be supported by court filing fees that the parties involved in each legal case would be required to pay under existing law.

Contrary’s New Look

Contrary’s New Look

I decided that I didn’t like the old look  for this blog, so I changed it. Hopefully you guys will like the new, simpler look.  If you have any complaints, let me know. Or as they used to say, “If you’re pleased tell others. If not tell us.”  

Everybody Panic: GMOs and vaccines are the new Zyklon B

Everybody Panic: GMOs and vaccines are the new Zyklon B

“If Hitler had GMO technology, he would have fed GM corn to the Jews and not even bothered with the trouble of constructing gas chambers. He could have disguised it as a “government assistance” program, offering free food to all those of Jewish ancestry. Oh yes, and free vaccines, too. The combination of vaccine chemicals and GMO toxins would have accomplished much the same thing as Zyklon B, but instead of being perceived as an evil monster, Hitler could have been heralded as the hero of the Jewish people for giving them “free food and medicine!”

This is from an article by full on freak, Mike Adams. Adams is the owner of the website naturalnews.com. He is known as the Health Ranger.

In the bad pre-internet old days, guys like Adams would be in his basement, churning out mimeographed newsletters for maybe a few hundred subscribers. Today he has a worldwide audience, thanks to the internet.

Now, you’re saying to yourself, “So, he’s a nut? So what?” I’ll tell you what. His articles are popping up on liberal anti-GMO websites and blogs. He’s treated credibly by the liberal/left.

Maybe it’s his alternative health guise that lulls people into accepting his dangerous nonsense. After all, the liberal/left are big fans of alternative health scams.

Confirmation bias is one thing, but this is getting ridiculous. Progressives, in their search for confirmation of their anti-GMO views are seeking out any and all crazy evidence to back up their beliefs. They are embracing the worst of the anti-science crowd.  The crazies.

What the hell happened? When did progressives lose their critical thinking skills?

Oh, Adams is also convinced that the Aurora Colorado shootings were a mind control psyop by Obama.

Everybody Panic! Eating GM wheat will destroy your liver!

Everybody Panic! Eating GM wheat will destroy your liver!

On comment boards across the vast interwebs, people swear they suffered from all kinds of physical ills until they gave up eating GMO foods, more often than not, it’s genetically modified wheat. There’s only one problem, there is no genetically modified wheat on the market.

Therein lies another problem with the anti-GMO crowd. They ascribe all kinds of disease and physical ills with the introduction of GMO foods.  It’s what is called a logical fallacy.

Activists rely on correlation=causation; the idea that because two things happen at roughly the same time there is a cause-and-effect relationship.

The activists claim since the introduction of GMO food, there has been a rise in asthma, allergies and all kinds of scary diseases. So, using their logic we can conclude that organic food may be causing these things. After all, the rise of the organic food movement pretty much parallels the rise of asthma, allergies etc.

It’s simplistic, non-critical thinking. It’s a cognitive bias that results in confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias is a “tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions” and to dismiss any information that contradicts that preconception. We see this all over the place in regards to GMOS. The comment sections are rife with it.

Any information that doesn’t paint GMOs in a negative light is suspect, worse if it attempts to correct misconceptions about GMOs. Commenters will refuse to entertain the idea that they may be wrong. They will never accept contrary evidence. They respond with claims of bias and the ever popular meme, “How much is Monsanto paying you?” The confirmation bias on this issue is so deep it’s almost pathological. It’s like arguing with a creationist.

This is one of the reasons I have a problem with modern-day progressives. Somewhere along the line, the anti-technology, anti-progress mentality of the hippie got cross-pollinated with the progressive mentality of the political left and created a progressive imbecile hybrid. And I should note this happened conventionally and not through genetic engineering.

The problem is, for the most part, this hybrid isn’t stupid. They may be imbeciles, but they’re not stupid. In fact, I would venture to guess that most of them are well-educated.

What’s even more depressing is they’ve wittingly, or unwittingly aligned themselves with fringe nut jobs like conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and fellow traveler, alternative health freak Mike Adams.  Both of these crazies are on the anti-GMO bandwagon. Both think the Aurora shootings were a black psyop by Obama.

They believe wackos and dismiss actual experts on the issue since they have convinced themselves that worldwide, every biotech scientist, scientific organization and writer who doesn’t blast GMOs has been bought off. I knew Monsanto was rich, but to have the wherewithal to buy off thousands of scientists, their organizations, government agencies and journalists is quite a feat.

Yet, they don’t stop and think how absurd that is when they say it.

Progressives need to be even more skeptical of activists on their side than they do of corporations. It’s a given that corporations are weasly and only in it for the money.

Yes, Monsanto is bad, but you have to separate the tech from the corporation that uses it. Again, here’s bad logical thinking. Monsanto is bad. Monsanto uses biotech. Therefore, biotech is bad. I now that’s a logical fallacy but I can’t think of what it’s called at the moment. Any reader know?

Before jumping on a bandwagon, progressives should stop and think, “Who’s pushing this agenda? Why are they pushing this agenda? Most importantly, don’t accept anything simply because it fits your worldview. Ask, is it true? It’s okay to be wrong. It happens.

The idiot left and GMOs

The idiot left and GMOs

All rights reserved by hdoug50

“The reason I am occupying Monsanto and willing to put myself at risk of arrest is because Monsanto has genetically engineered food crops to contain novel untested compounds that result in more weed killer sprayed on our food, without informing consumers.”—Genetic Crimes Unit member, Ariel Vegosen

Ariel is a moron, an imbecile and an idiot.

Credits: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

According to Reuters,  Opponents of genetically engineered foods on Wednesday blocked shipments and deliveries at Monsanto Co’s vegetable seed company in California that developed a new genetically modified sweet corn that will hit stores this fall.

This is anti-science idiocy at work. Hazmat suits? Is this the work of some cuckoo right wing group? Nope.

Unfortunately, I’m ensconced in the urban confines of NYC where I don’t have ready access to these kinds of protests. I would love to. I would love to question these maroons on what they actually know about the technology of GMOs.

Of course, I know the answers I would get. They would parrot all the bogus science they’ve read on activist websites, mostly spread by that brilliant hustler, Jeffrey Smith.  You know him? He’s the one who has no science background and  is a graduate of the Maharishi University and thinks the solution to crime is yogic dancing.

Monsanto may be an evil corporation, but that’s no excuse for not knowing the facts about what you’re protesting against.  It’s flawed logic. Monsanto is an evil corporation. Monsanto uses GE.  So, because Monsanto is evil and uses GE, GE is bad. So, let’s dress up in Hazmats suits.

Another flawed GMO study, again

Another flawed GMO study, again

Gilles-Eric Seralini is back in the news again. He’s released yet another study that shows Monsanto’s Bt corn causes tumors and multiple organ damage. Seralini has done this study twice before and both times they were discredited as majorly flawed. The reactions to this one has met with the same reactions.

The big question many are asking about this study is this: If after 16 years GM corn being on the market, why haven’t we seen people “dropping like flies,”  from eating the corn?

Reuters has a good article which seeks out other expert opinion on the study.

Mark Tester, a research professor at the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics at the University of Adelaide, said the study’s findings raised the question of why no previous studies have flagged up similar concerns.

“If the effects are as big as purported, and if the work really is relevant to humans, why aren’t the North Americans dropping like flies? GM has been in the food chain for over a decade over there – and longevity continues to increase inexorably,” he said in an emailed comment.

David Spiegelhalter of the University of Cambridge said the methods, statistics and reporting of results were all below standard. He added that the study’s untreated control arm comprised only 10 rats of each sex, most of which also got tumours.

This new study will be sure to be added to the bad and anti-scientific arsenal of the anti-GM crowd. Will the anti-GMO crowd notice the skepticism of other experts? Yes, but they will ignore it and ask, “How much is Monsanto paying them?”

Update: The Huffington Post re-posted the Reuters article but left out the criticisms from the above scientists.

Update:  8:16PM EDT: The HuffPost has responded to me and said they would update the article to include the criticisms.

Also, here are more quotes about the study (thanks to Hank Campbell at Science2.0) Link

Biggest donor to Prop 37 in trouble with the FDA over misleading claims

Biggest donor to Prop 37 in trouble with the FDA over misleading claims

I’ve written on this blog before about internet quack Dr. Mercola who hawks questionable supplements on his website. He is for labeling of GMOs but not his products. He spreads disinformation about GMOs and is the biggest donor to the GMO labeling law in California. He also has trouble with the FDA who have sent him several cease and desist letters telling him to stop making misleading claims about his products.

Here are two excerpts from FDA letters to Mercola with links to the full text of the letters. From what I can gather he has ignored these demands.

Dr. Joseph Mercola
Dr. Mercola’s Natural Health Center
Thermography Diagnostics Centers
3200 W Higgins Road
Hoffman Estates, IL 60169

Re: Meditherm Med2000 Infrared cameras

Dear Dr. Mercola:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has learned that you are marketing the Meditherm Med2000 Telethermographic camera at your Thermography facility in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, and endorse for other thermography centers outside of Illinois for uses that have not received marketing clearance or approval, in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act).  Link

The above, in my opinion, is when alternative health goes from being just loopy to downright dangerous and a menace to public health.

September 26, 2006:

These products are also misbranded within the meaning of Section 502(f)(1) of the Act, in that the labeling for these drugs fails to bear adequate directions for use [21 U.S.C. 352(f)(1)].

Please note that similar therapeutic claims on you web site were brought to your attention in a letter from FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition dated February 16, 2005. In that letter, we notified you that claims for several of your firm’s products, including chlorella and coconut oil products, caused those products to be unapproved new drugs within the meaning of the Act.  Link

You can say what you want about Monsanto. I’m no fan either, but I think supporters of the labeling law have to question who is behind the law and why?

“Natural” health supplements pose bigger real world dangers than GMOs

“Natural” health supplements pose bigger real world dangers than GMOs

Back in July, I wrote about how the biggest contributor to the label GMOs law, Dr. Mercola is a health supplement maker who is against labeling of his products. In the September issue of Consumer Reports, they publish an article which points out the dangers that supplements could pose to human health: 10 surprising dangers of vitamins and supplements.

Among their findings:

1. Supplements are not risk-free

More than 6,300 reports of serious adverse events associated with dietary supplements, including vitamins and herbs, streamed into the FDA from supplement companies, consumers, health-care providers, and others between 2007 and mid-April of 2012. …The reports described more than 10,300 serious outcomes (some included more than one), including 115 deaths and more than 2,100 hospitalizations, 1,000 serious injuries or illnesses, 900 emergency-room visits, and some 4,000 other important medical events.

After looking at 233 products, all purchased online or in stores in the New York City metropolitan area in the spring of 2012, we can report that the only thing consistent about the labels is their lack of consistency.

The article addresses some specific supplements which you see being touted on labels all over the place.  Consumer Reports writes they might be not be as good for you as the claims suggest. In fact, they might be harmful. For instance, antioxidants: Far from reducing cancer risk, as a lot of people believe, high doses of some antioxidant supplements may actually increase it, evidence suggests.

Omega-3 fish oil. The widely held view that fish-oil pills help prevent cardiovascular disease hit a snag when a study of 12,500 people with diabetes or prediabetes and a high risk of heart attack or stroke found no difference in the death rate from cardiovascular disease or other outcomes between those given a 1-gram fish-oil pill every day and those given a placebo…

 

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