Wednesday, December 4, 2013

GMOs and the Censorship of Science



A 2012 study, published in the journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology, reported some unsettling results regarding genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Researchers found that rats fed Roundup-resistant, genetically modified corn experienced higher rates of adverse health complications, compared to rats fed non-GMO corn. These adverse health complications included: large mammary tumors, alterations in pituitary gland function, liver necrosis, kidney damage, and early death. The researchers suggested that these results may have been caused by the endocrine-disrupting effects of Roundup (1).

Actual photos from the study.

Roundup is a weed-killer made by Monsanto, which is a multi-national chemical and agricultural biotechnology company. Not coincidently, Monsanto also produces and sells genetically modified seeds of Roundup-resistant crops, such as the corn used in this study.

When studies publish unfavorable results regarding GMOs, companies that produce and sell GMOs, like Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta AG, Dow Agrosciences, and Bayer, are less than thrilled. Associating GMOs with negative health complications, even in rats, could raise concerns among an already wary general public. So what do these large companies do when unfavorable study results are published? They have their scientists, and scientists with a direct finical interest, write in complaints.

After this study, titled Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize, was published, a quick and harsh backlash was brought upon the journal that had originally published it. Scientists from across the world wrote letters to the Editor-in-Chief of Food and Chemical Toxicology questioning the study's validity. They questioned everything, including the number and type of rats used, and even went as far as to accuse the original researchers of fraud (2). 

In response to these accusations the Editor-in-Chief of Food and Chemical Toxicology reviewed the study, but found "no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of data". Yet the study was retracted from the journal because it "did not meet the threshold for publication" (3). Funny how that works: a study is published showing unfavorable results towards GMOs, there is a rapid backlash from numerous scientists questioning the study's validity, the Editor-in-Chief reviews the study finding nothing wrong, yet the study is sill retracted. Who were these scientists that found the study results to be so offensive? Could they potentially have a conflict of interest? Time to name names

Here is a list of some of the authors, along with their affiliations, that criticized the GMO study:

  • Lucia de Souza - National Biosafety Association of Brazil (ANBio). Coincidentally, ANBio receives funds from Monsanto, Bayer, Cargill, DuPont, and Pioneer (4).    
  • Collin Berry - "He presently consults for a number of major agrochemical and food companies on matters relating to toxicological pathology" (5). 
  • Anthony Trewavas - "One of the United Kingdom's strongest supporters of GMO food crops" (6).
  • Sophien Kamoun and Dale Sanders - Both work with, or for, the Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council, which receives "significant contributions" from agricultural, food, chemical and pharmaceutical sectors (7)
  • Frederic Schorsch - Works at Bayer CropScience, a producer of GMOs (8).
  • David Tribe - Member of Biology Fortified, an organization who's mission is to "strengthen the public discussion on issues of genetic engineering in agriculture" (9).  
  • Erio Barale-Thomas - Scientist at Janssen Biotech and formerly a pathologist at Bayer CropScience, a producer of GMOs (10).  

It's not surprising that those who criticized this study, eventually forcing it to be retracted, had affiliations with companies that either produce, or profit from GMOs. These giant agrochemical businesses have a lot of money and power, so when things don't go their way they flex their muscle. This retraction directly benefits these companies, but is not in the best interest of the general public.

Scientific research has uncovered much of what we know about health, wellness, and disease. When it comes to GMOs, it is the general public's right to know what's in their food and how it was produced. Suppressing studies because of private financial interests, at the general public's expense, is unethical, wrong, and a slap in the face to the scientific community. Instead of censoring information, GMO-producing companies should conduct independent, unbiased, research on their products to establish their safety. Until then, let's say "no" to GMO food - and we won't be the only ones. Most developed countries have GMO bans, restriction, and/or required labeling in place. Why hasn't the United States followed suit? 


GMO-producing companies have infiltrated Washington and lobby extensively to ensure that GMO restrictions remain nonexistent. In 2007 President Obama promised that he would have GMO food labeled, yet we've been left waiting. I say we take matters into our own hands and use our purchasing-power to show that GMOs should be considered guilty until proven innocent. 

Unfortunately this is easier said than done, as most packaged food sold at restaurants and grocery stores contains GMOs. The best way to avoid GMO food is to buy organic and support local famers who abstain from using GMOs (here are three more reasons to buy organic). 

It is my professional and personal opinion that we be wary and concerned about GMO food. There is currently insufficient evidence proving it's long-term safety. The best way to avoid GMOs is buy organic and/or local, and to cook meals at home as often as possible. Humans should not be the guinea pigs in an agrochemical businesses' experiment. Heck, guinea pigs should not be the guinea pigs in this experiment either. Instead, they should serve genetically modified food at Monsanto's corporate headquarters. Oh wait, they serve mostly organic food there. What a joke. 




References:
1. Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize
2. Food and Chemical Toxicology
3. Elsevier Announces Article Retraction from Journal Food and Chemical Toxicology
4. Lucia de Souza
5. Collin Berry
6. Anthony Trewavas
7. Sophien Kamoun and Dale Sanders
8. Frederic Schorsch
9. David Tribe
10. Erio Barale-Thomas

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