Category Archives: Science

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

Séralini GMO article vindicated by courts – absolutely not

The infamous Gilles-Eric Séralini GMO article – which made baseless claims about GMO corn causing cancer, and which was subsequently retracted – is back in the news. The anti-science crowd is trumpeting a decision by a French court that decided that Séralini was libeled by Professor Marc Fellous, former chairman of the French Biomolecular Engineering Commission, for “forgery” and “the use of forgery.”

So let’s look at this carefully. Continue reading Séralini GMO article vindicated by courts – absolutely not

GMO dangers – another published paper retracted UPDATE

The science of GMO dangers has been seriously overblown by activists that really have no science behind their beliefs. The safety of GMOs has really reached the point that almost all of the scientific evidence is firmly on the side of the safety of GMO crops and, by extension, foods.

Beyond that, the scientific consensus of respected scientific organizations across the world have come to the conclusion that the body of evidence supports the safety of GMO foods. And that GMO crops, which have been around for 10,000 years, are necessary to feed the people of this planet.

Nevertheless, the activists who continue to push the GMO dangers trope continue with their bad science. A few years ago, an article by Gilles-Eric Séralini was published which trumpeted the belief that GMOs cause cancer.

That article was widely ridiculed and criticized by scientists across the world. Eventually, because of bad study design, terrible statistics, and harsh criticism of the conclusions, the journal that published the article retracted it.

It’s clear, at least to me, that when a side of a sociopolitical debate lacks scientific evidence, such as the anti-GMO side, they grab at anything, including Séralini’s retracted study, in an attempt to cherry-pick themselves into scientific legitimacy.  And it’s happened again.

Continue reading GMO dangers – another published paper retracted UPDATE

Séralini’s controversial GMOs cause cancer article retracted

In 2012, the interwebs exploded because of an article (pdf) published in Food and Chemical Toxicology by Gilles-Eric Séralini et al. that attempted to show that GMOs cause cancer in rats fed genetically modified corn which is resistant to the herbicide Roundup. They also found similar health problems in rats fed the herbicide alone (along with non-GM feed). The rodents experienced hormone imbalances, along with more and larger mammary tumors, earlier in life, than rats fed a non-GM diet. The authors claimed that the GM- or pesticide-fed rats also died earlier.

Séralini et al. stated that this is the first time GMO corn has been tested for toxicity throughout a rat’s lifespan even though this type of GM corn accounts for more than half of the US crop.

Séralini’s article could have been an important part of the discourse regarding the safety of GMOs – except for a few important problems. Scientists across the world criticized the study for its bad study design, bad statistics, and overhyping of the results.

I personally found the study lacking in basic toxicology methodology, like providing us with dose-response studies, that show us at what level of consumption of the GMO corn would have an effect (if there is one). Of course, Séralini used so few rats in his “study” that it would have been difficult if not possible to develop a dose response.

Continue reading Séralini’s controversial GMOs cause cancer article retracted

MSG myth – debunked with real science

Food additives are one of the most passionate issues amongst people who eat (which would be everyone). AspartameHigh fructose corn syrup. GMO‘s. Salt. Sugar. Trans fats. Polysorbate 80. But the MSG myth is one of the most pervasive.

Of course, some of the angst caused by these additives is that they have scary chemical names.

Obviously there is stuff, created by the beauty of natural sunlight and goddess blessed sweet waters from the alps, that is better than these man made evil chemicals. Well, no. Everything in nature is made up of “chemistry” –  25-hydroxyergocalciferol is a scary chemical name, right? Except it’s the metabolic product of the conversion of vitamin D in the human liver. It’s natural!

But let’s get back to MSG – how many times have you seen “No MSG” in a sign Chinese restaurant? Is it because China, who has been using MSG in their cuisine for centuries, has been conspiring against Americans since the first Chinese restaurant starting serving up kung pao chicken to unaware Americans?

It’s time to look at the MSG myth – is it real, or does it need a good debunking.

Continue reading MSG myth – debunked with real science

How to prevent cancer in 12 easy steps–OK, not that easy

I have railed against charlatans who claim that they have the easy way to prevent or cure cancer. Generally, these snake oil salesmen try to convince you that they have some miraculous food, supplement, spiritual energy, and on and on, that can either kill cancer in its tracks. Or keep them from even growing in your body. But their claims are nearly always absent real compelling scientific evidence.

Like the trope supplements preventing cancer. They don’t. And that’s been shown in study after study after study after study (yeah, I could go on for awhile).

Or like avoiding GMO containing foods prevents cancer. Again, studies show that GMO foods have no effect on cancers. Oh, one more thing–bananas don’t have tumor necrosis factor, and the yellow fruit can’t prevent or cure cancer (but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t delicious).

Despite the absolute lack of evidence that supplements, kale, bananas, or drinking the pure waters of a glacial fed stream (which may not be an option with climate change), there are some things that can be done to reduce your risk (see what I did there–no absolutes, just management of risks) of cancer.

How to prevent cancer has been codified byThe World Health Organization (WHO) into 12 steps (no, not that debunked one) that is called the European Code Against Cancer.

Let’s take a look at cancer and the evidence-based ideas about cancer prevention.

Continue reading How to prevent cancer in 12 easy steps–OK, not that easy

GMO genes transfer to humans – debunking a myth

A pseudoscience pushing website (which occasionally tosses in stories about real science) is trumpeting a primary research study (published several months ago) that may, or really may not, indicate that plant GMO genes transfer to humans. They claim that DNA may survive intact in the digestive tract and show up in the bloodstream.

In case you’ve ignored this area of false controversy, genetically modified crops are foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Of course, all types of agricultural breeding induces genetic modification, but in general, GMO usually implies actual manipulation of the genes.

Based on some of  the worst science available, the anti-GMO activists have condemned GMO foods as being dangerous. Unfortunately for the anti-science side, there is actually no science supporting these anti-GMO claims, and the vast scientific consensus says that GMO foods are safe to humans, animals and the environment. Continue reading GMO genes transfer to humans – debunking a myth

Flu vaccine ingredients – not so scary using simple math

This article is #2 of the 12 most popular posts on Skeptical Raptor during 2015. This article dismisses the tropes about those scary flu vaccine ingredients – all with simple math.

When dealing with those pushing pseudoscience, like the antivaccination cult, the most frustrating thing is that they tend to ignore and deny the most basic tenets of science. If denying the fact of gravity would further their goals of “proving” vaccines are neither effective nor safe, they would do so. For all I know, they have.

Sam Harris, who has a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA (which is ironic), and is one of leading science philosophers of our generation, says this about those who cling to pseudoscience:

Water is two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. What if someone says, “Well, that’s not how I choose to think about water.”? All we can do is appeal to scientific values. And if he doesn’t share those values, the conversation is over. If someone doesn’t value evidence, what evidence are you going to provide to prove they should value it? If someone doesn’t value logic, what logical argument could you provide to show the importance of logic?

If the antivaccination movement didn’t lead to epidemics of long-gone diseases, which can harm and kill children, the conversation would be over. I would just put the vaccine deniers in the same group as evolution deniers (creationists) or gravity deniers (there has to be some, somewhere). I would mock their pseudoscience, and move on. Of course, their denialism does lead to deaths of children, so we have to do what is right, and stop their lies, misinformation and ignorance in every forum we can.

We have to appeal to scientific values, and despite the fact that antivaccination pushers don’t share those values, we must continue to try. I have gotten enough emails and comments from people that they have started to vaccinate because of what I have written, so maybe some child’s life is better because all of us who support vaccines are heard.

Continue reading Flu vaccine ingredients – not so scary using simple math

Science deniers use false equivalence to create fake debates

This article is #3 of the 12 most popular posts on Skeptical Raptor during 2015. This article discusses how science deniers employ false equivalence to create fake debates.

If you read a news article, Google a scientific topic, or watch TV, you’d think that some scientific principles were actually being debated by scientists. The unfiltered information about important scientific subjects allows the science deniers to use a false equivalence to make it appear that the often minority, and scientifically unsupported viewpoint is equivalent to the scientific consensus which is based on huge amounts of published evidence.

From listening to the screaming and yelling, you would think that scientists aren’t sure about evolution, vaccines, global warming, and the age of the earth (or even the age of the universe). There are even those who think there’s a debate that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS. It’s because some news sources think there’s a debate, so bring one person to represent one side, and one for the other, and the person screams the loudest often wins.

Continue reading Science deniers use false equivalence to create fake debates

High fructose corn syrup – it’s just sugar

This article is #10 of the 12 most popular posts on Skeptical Raptor during 2015. Stay tuned, I’ll be reposting the rest of them through New Year’s Day.

One of the most frustrating things I’ve observed in nearly six years of writing (here and in other locations), is that those who want to create a negative myth about a new technology (especially in food or medicine), one of the best ways to do it is mention “chemicals.”

And if the chemical sounds unnatural, the assumption is that it is unsafe. The so-called Food Babe has made a lot of money endorsing a belief that all chemicals are evil, ignoring the fact that all life, the air, and water are made of chemicals.

People have demonized monosodium glutamate (MSG), a food additive that makes people run away in terror if a Chinese restaurant doesn’t have a huge flashing sign in neon that says “NO MSG.” Of course, in just about every randomized study about MSG, researchers find no difference in the effects of MSG and non-MSG foods on a random population.

Another current satanic chemical is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which has evolved into one of the the most “chemicals” of the food industry. Even the name sounds a bit chemical, unnatural, dangerous. But is it?

That’s where we need to look at the science, because the answers to the questions are quite complicated and quite simple.

Continue reading High fructose corn syrup – it’s just sugar