Solid GMO scientific consensus – based on real science

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in May 2015. It has been completely revised and updated to include more comprehensive information, to improve readability and to add current research.

Over and over, I’ve read comments on the internet (obviously, my first mistake) that there is no scientific consensus about GMOs, or genetically modified organisms (generally crops or food), and their safety to humans and the environment.

There are even claims that GMOs are not necessarily productive or provide higher yields, and so called organic foods are healthier (they aren’t) and can lead to higher productivity.

Let’s look at anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change, since it also has this huge controversy over whether there’s a scientific consensus. Over 97% of published articles that expressed a conclusion about anthropogenic climate change endorsed human caused global warming. If that were a vote, it would be a landslide that would make dictators jealous.

According to Skeptical Science, it’s even more than that:

We should also consider official scientific bodies and what they think about climate change. There are no national or major scientific institutions anywhere in the world that dispute the theory of anthropogenic climate change. Not one.

The consensus is so clear, outside of vocal, loud and junk science pushing individuals and organizations, that many scientists call it the “Theory of anthropogenic climate change,” which would mean it’s at the pinnacle of scientific principles, essentially an unassailable fact. Continue reading Solid GMO scientific consensus – based on real science

Your one stop shop for real science and myth-debunking about Gardasil

Recently, I read a new article published in Pediatrics that described how educating either teenagers or their parents about HPV vaccinations had little effect on the overall vaccination rate for the vaccine. Essentially, the researchers found that it was a 50:50 probability that any teen would get the vaccine, regardless of their knowledge of HPV and the vaccine itself.

So I thought about why that Pediatrics study found that education about HPV and Gardasil didn’t move the needle on vaccination uptake. It’s possible that the benefits of the vaccine is overwhelmed by two factors–first, that there’s a disconnect between personal activities today vs. a disease that may or may not show up 20-30 years from now; and second, that the invented concerns about the HPV quadrivalent vaccine, promulgated by the usual suspects in the antivaccination world, makes people think that there is a clear risk from the vaccine which is not balanced by preventing cancer decades from now. It’s frustrating. Continue reading Your one stop shop for real science and myth-debunking about Gardasil

Gardasil DNA and aluminum – myth debunking time

Here we go again. Anti-Gardasil activists and other vaccine deniers are attempting, once again, to make specious claims about the HPV anti-cancer vaccine. This time claiming that Gardasil DNA and aluminum somehow interacted to kill a young child.

This time, it’s a claim filed in United States Court of Federal Claims Office of Special Masters, as a part of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP), that an injection of the Gardasil vaccine lead to the death of a young male the next day.

As tragic as that death is, and all children’s deaths are tragic, let’s take a look at the evidence being used here. Of course, I’m not a Special Master in the Federal Court System (admittedly, I want that title), I’m not an attorney (nor do I pretend to be one on the internet), and the NVICP has some complex rules and decisions processes. It’s never simple, and remember, the NVICP, or any court for that matter,  lacks the privilege of deciding what is good science.  Continue reading Gardasil DNA and aluminum – myth debunking time

Your one stop shop for GMO science facts

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs or GMs) are one of the most well studied areas of biological and agricultural research. However, one of the tactics of the GMO refusers is that “there’s no proof that GMOs are safe.” It’s time to look at the GMO science facts – examining myth from science.

Typically, in a debate, the side making the assertion (those that say GMOs are unsafe) are responsible for the evidence that supports their contention. But, the anti-GMO gang relies upon the argument from ignorance, trying to force the argument to “if you can’t prove that they’re safe, they must be unsafe.”

The anti-GMO forces also like to invoke the precautionary principle, which attempts to shift the burden of proof to those who are advocating GMOs (or any new technology) until the advocates “prove” that there are absolutely no negative consequences of using GMOs.

The principle is often cited by anti-science and/or environmental activists when there is a perceived lack of evidence showing that a technology is absolutely safe.

I’ve written numerous articles about GMOs, focusing on scientific evidence supported by high quality research. And more than a few articles debunked myths and bad research from the anti-GMO crowd. To assist those who are doing research on the topic, this article was created to be a one-stop shop for GMO science facts – and fiction.

Continue reading Your one stop shop for GMO science facts

Something’s fishy – GMO salmon is on its way

On 19 November 2015, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)  announced that a new GMO salmon, called AquAdvantage, is just as safe as any other salmon for consumption. The FDA based their decision on boatloads of data submitted by the company that developed the GMO salmon, Aqua Bounty Technologies, along with independent peer-reviewed data.

The approval process, taking nearly 20 years, for this transgenic salmon far exceeded the process required for pharmaceutical drug approval. The original application was filed in 1996, and data from 10 generations of the salmon had to be submitted to the FDA. It would be a ridiculous myth to claim that the FDA just bowed to the GMO salmon industry.

Of course, just like every other genetically-modified food ever developed, fear and loathing takes precedence over logic and scientific evidence. A major grocery store chain in the USA, Costco, has refused to market the fish, followed by other expensive grocery chains like Whole Foods, a promoter of pseudoscience in foods. A few countries have even written new regulations to block its import.

As can be expected, any group that doesn’t agree with the scientific evidence, turns to courts to help them out. Anti-vaccine and anti-climate change radicals love to do this, though they usually fail. In the case of the GMO salmon, the radical anti-GMO group, Center for Food Safety, has announced that they will proceed with a lawsuit to block introduction of this fish.  Once again, scientific evidence is ignored or cherry-picked in lieu of the pre-existing conclusion that GMO salmon is unsafe.

Time to look at this story with a bit more of a critical, skeptical analysis.

Continue reading Something’s fishy – GMO salmon is on its way

MTHFR gene mutations are the root of all health problems

I have a love-hate relationship with the internet. I love that I can Google a question like “who was the second basemen for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1960 World Series?” It was Bill Mazeroski for those who care.

Although I think that Wikipedia needs to be used skeptically, it is a wonderful fountain of delicious knowledge. I sometimes just read random articles, and I enjoy the writing, scholarship and knowledge. Some articles, like World War II or the Roman Empire, are truly detailed pieces of scholarship.

But sometimes, the internet does a disservice to mankind, especially when medical information (or really disinformation) is presented as fact. Like vaccines cause autism. No, it doesn’t.

Or that chronic lyme disease actually exists. No it doesn’t.

Or that high fructose corn syrup causes obesity and diabetes. No it doesn’t (except that eating a lot of any sugar might do that).

But the newest one, at least for me, is that MTHFR gene mutations cause nearly every disease known to mankind. Seriously, apparently it is the root of all health evil, and the mutation is caused by…anything.

Continue reading MTHFR gene mutations are the root of all health problems

Racism sucks and isn’t scientific – opinion

This is part of my series of opinion pieces. As I’ve written, it is not meant to be supported by evidence or data – unless I link to evidence. Then it is. On the other hand, my opinions are based on tons of reading and data, so there’s that. Besides, racism sucks – obviously.

Racism or xenophobia has probably been around since humans first evolved 200,000 years ago. I’m sure Grunting Human 1 hated Grunting Human 2, because 2 had funny looking ears. Or something.

I’m sure some evolutionary biologist can explain why racism exists. It probably was a biologically favored behavioral strategy to protect one’s own group, because of access to resources. Or something like that.

But that still does not preclude the fact that racism sucks – it is dangerous, simple-minded thinking. Continue reading Racism sucks and isn’t scientific – opinion

Index of articles by guest author–Prof. Dorit Rubinstein Reiss

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss – Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA) – is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines (generally, but sometimes moving to other areas of medicine), social policy and the law. Her articles usually unwind the complexities of legal issues with vaccinations and legal policies, such as mandatory vaccination and exemptions, with facts and citations. I know a lot of writers out there will link to one of her articles here as a sort of primary source to tear down a bogus antivaccine message.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination–she really is a well-published expert in this area of vaccine policy, and doesn’t stand on the pulpit with a veneer of Argument from Authority, but is actually an authority. Additionally, Reiss is also member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

Below is a list of articles that she has written for this blog, organized into some arbitrary and somewhat broad categories for easy reference. Of course, she has written articles about vaccines and legal issues in other locations, which I intend to link here at a later date. This article will be updated as new articles from Dorit are added here.

Continue reading Index of articles by guest author–Prof. Dorit Rubinstein Reiss

Appeal to false authority – who is Tetyana Obukhanych

There are so many annoying issues about the antivaccination cult, that most of us can’t even keep up with it. If only they would provide evidence published in high quality, peer reviewed journals (yes, a high standard, but if we’re talking about public health, a high standard is required), the fake debate would move into a real scientific discussion.

One of the most irritating problems I have with the antivaccination movement  is their over-reliance on false authorities, where they trumpet the publications or commentary from someone who appears to have all of the credentials to be a part of the discussion on vaccines, but really doesn’t. Here’s the thing – it simply does not matter who the authority is or isn’t, all that matters is the evidence.

For example, Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic, two researchers in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of British Columbia, have, for all intents and purposes, sterling credentials in medicine and science. However, they publish nonsense research (usually filled with the weakest of epidemiology trying to show population level correlation between vaccines and adverse events) in low ranked scientific journals.

Now the antivaccination cult has a new hero – Tetyana Obukhanych. Continue reading Appeal to false authority – who is Tetyana Obukhanych

Identifying who is anti-vaccine

It’s natural and important to ask questions about vaccines, to have hesitations and doubts. Luckily, for pretty much every question parents ask there are reassuring answers. There is a reason the expert consensus – across countries, and at the local, national, and international level – supports vaccines so uniformly: the data is clear that the vaccines we give children have tremendous benefits that far outweigh their small, if real, risks.

In addition to the reliable information available, there is also extensive misinformation from anti-vaccine sites and people who promote an anti-vaccine agenda. And identifying who is anti-vaccine should be an important objective.

As pointed out by several bloggers, including and especially Orac in this post and in this one, those promoting anti-vaccine information rarely admit that they are anti-vaccine. The National Vaccine Information Center, America’s largest, oldest and probably most savvy anti-vaccine organization denies being anti vaccine. The Australian Vaccination Network, as it was then known, does the same.

Similarly,  individuals may deny they are anti-vaccine even when they are. This can be tricky, because people may sincerely believe they are not-anti-vaccine while actively promoting anti-vaccine claims.

It may be hard for those not constantly involved in the dialogue surrounding vaccines to identify who is, in fact, anti-vaccine. I previously found extremely useful Dr. David Gorski’s post on this issue where he addressed in detail several arguments that can help you identify someone as anti-vaccine. The problem is that Dr. Gorski’s article may be too long and complex for those wanting a quick way to identify whether their interlocutor is anti-vaccine – or those who want to point out to others that someone is anti-vaccine.

So, as a public service, here is a short checklist. I am including it as part of this post and also as a stand-alone handout (pdf) people can send to anyone who needs it or use themselves. Continue reading Identifying who is anti-vaccine

Stalking pseudoscience in the internet jungle

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