Scientific consensus on GMO safety and climate change

scientific consensus on GMO

A scientific consensus is one of the most powerful principles in science, sitting just below the predictive power of a scientific theory. In general, a scientific consensus is the collective opinion and judgement of scientists in a particular field of study. This consensus implies general agreement, and disagreement is limited (sometimes from individuals who are not experts in the field) and considered insignificant.

This lead me to a search for the prevailing scientific consensus on GMO safety and climate change.

For clarity, the major difference between a scientific theory and a scientific consensus is that a theory is essentially considered a fact. The theory of gravity is a fact. The theory of evolution is a fact. A theory is so predictive, it is supported by so much evidence, and it is so well accepted, it would take an incredible amount of data to refute it.

The only thing that matters in forming a scientific consensus or theory is evidence. Not rhetoric. Not debate. Not opinion. Not political expediency. Not logical fallacies. Just evidence.

I’ve written about the scientific consensus on GMOs, and it is clear that nearly every independent scientific organization across the world agrees that GMOs are safe for humans and/or the environment. Moreover, most of these same organizations provide a similar consensus about climate change–ironically, there is a significant portion of people who deny one consensus but accept the other, despite the fact that the consensus for both scientific principles are based on nearly overwhelming evidence.

On the next page, I will review the statements of seven prestigious scientific organizations across the world for the scientific consensus on GMO safety and on climate change.

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Developing and supporting a scientific consensus

In my writing, I often refer to the scientific consensus, which is the collective opinion and judgement of scientists in a particular field of study. This consensus implies general agreement, though disagreement is limited and generally insignificant.

The major difference between a scientific theory and a scientific consensus is that the theory is essentially fact. It is so predictive, it is supported by so much evidence, and it is so well accepted, it takes an almost ridiculous amount of data to refute it, though it is possible.

In the hierarchy of scientific principles, we often mention scientific theories which “are large bodies of work that are a culmination or a composite of the products of many contributors over time and are substantiated by vast bodies of converging evidence. They unify and synchronize the scientific community’s view and approach to a particular scientific field.” A scientific theory is not a wild and arbitrary guess, but it is built upon a foundation of scientific knowledge that itself is based on evidence accumulated from data that resulted from scientific experimentation.

We want to focus on the scientific consensus, describing what it is. Take a deep breath, because this is a complicated one.

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High fructose corn syrup and cancer – are they related?

high fructose corn syrup and cancer

I’ve written boatloads of articles about cancer, most of which say “this or that doesn’t cause cancer,” and that “there’s only a handful of good ways to prevent it.” To be honest, if I see any news report that makes a claim that something prevents or causes cancer, I’m immediately going into full skeptic mode. Recently, I’ve seen a few stories that claim that there is a link between high fructose corn syrup and cancer, so I thought I’d dig into the science

Honestly, I don’t get the issues with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Part of my brain thinks that, as we’ve seen with monosodium glutamate (MSG), people just get scared of a chemical name, rather than making an evidence-based analysis of what we’re really eating. For example, “high fructose” sounds like there’s too much of evil fructose, and it will certainly cause some health problem. It must! Except, the evidence says otherwise.

I think an article by the loathsome and much ridiculed David “Avocado” Wolfe perfectly summarizes some of the pseudoscience surrounding HFCS and cancer – apparently converting corn syrup into high fructose corn syrup magically turns it into a cancer-causing poison. Now most of you will just ignore what Wolfe says about anything because he lacks any science knowledge in his writing – but maybe I reach a couple of people who saw that article and want more scientific evidence about it. Let’s look into it.

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High fructose corn syrup – don’t be afraid, it’s just sugar

high fructose corn syrup

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 any 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. And so it is with high fructose corn syrup.

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.

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Girl Scout cookies and GMO – subtly pushing an anti-science agenda

Girl Scout cookies and GMO

Of all the icons of American life, buying Girl Scout cookies is one of the annual obligations of life. Americans buy these cookies from parents selling for their daughters, from uniformed Girl Scouts in front of the grocery store, or from a family member. I can’t wait for my annual infusion of Samoas, the Girl Scout’s take on the macaroon. Caramel and coconut – how could we go wrong? Well, apparently, I need to spend more time to consider the issue of Girl Scout cookies and GMO ingredients.

To be honest, I’m more concerned about the calories in each. But here we are.

Late last year, The Girl Scouts of the USA made an announcement in regarding Girl Scout cookies and GMO products:

At the current time, there are genetically modified agricultural crops (GMOs) in some Girl Scout Cookies based on a range of market-related factors and depending on specific cookie recipes. In some markets, the specialty-ingredient Girl Scout S’mores sandwich cookie baked by Little Brownie Bakers is made with ingredients that are verified as not containing genetically modified organisms. Girl Scouts recognizes that many people have concerns regarding GMO ingredients, and we monitor member and consumer opinion on this matter while simultaneously addressing industry trends, scientific trends, and, of course, consumer preference.

Sadly, the Girl Scouts have decided to cave in to the demands of certain groups that GMOs bring some sort of harm to consumers. Of course, the usual anti-science groups jumped into the fray. March Against Monsanto, a group that ticks off the most of the junk science checklist with their anti-GMO, anti-vaccine, and anti-fluoridated water arguments, were ecstatic with the announcement. They chimed in that,

There was a time recently in the United States when Non-GMO and organic packaged foods were surprisingly rare, so much so that choice was a virtual non-entity and entire communities of people have no access to non-GMO options.

But now, non-GMO has officially gone mainstream: one of the country’s most recognized institutions, the Girl Scouts of the USA (formerly known as America) has announced its first-ever (officially speaking, anyway) non-GMO cookie.

You can almost see the glee dripping from the announcement. Once again, let’s take a look at Girl Scout cookies and GMO safety. This change happened because of a lot of noise that signified nothing. Time to examine it again.

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Turkey and tryptophan – let’s science the shit out of this

turkey and tryptophan

A tiny handful of countries, most notably the US and Canada, celebrate a holiday called Thanksgiving. In the USA, the holiday is held on the fourth Thursday in November and more or less starts the so called holiday season which ends with New Year. In most of Canada (excluding the Atlantic provinces), the holiday is held on the second Monday in October. Invariably, there are stories about turkey and tryptophan, making you just want to take a nap hearing about it.

For trivia purposes only, the other places that celebrate a similar Thanksgiving to the USA and Canada are Liberia (which is populated by descendants of freed slaves who returned to Africa from the US), Grenada (a small English-speaking island in the Caribbean), Puerto Rico (a Spanish-speaking territory of the USA), and Norfolk Island Australia. Australia? I have no clue if they all talk about turkey and tryptophan over dinner.

Generally, the holiday celebrates white English settlers arriving in North America. The tales usually include some peaceful sharing of food between the white settlers and native Americans (a nice myth without much actual historical support) prior to the first winter. Canada’s backstory on Thanksgiving is much more complicated, including ships getting stuck in ice and other legends – it is very Canadian.

In both Canada and the USA, the celebration includes tons of food (per person) usually including a roast turkey. Other foods may include mashed potatoes, yams (sweet potatoes), other meats, pies, corn, stuffing, and more food. It is a high calorie meal of epic portions!

There’s a legend that eating this meal, specifically the turkey, fills your body with tryptophan, and you fall asleep.

Nice story, but the science of eating, sleeping, turkey and tryptophan doesn’t support this myth. Not even close. Continue reading “Turkey and tryptophan – let’s science the shit out of this”

GMO dangers – another published paper retracted UPDATE

GMO dangers

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 cancerThat 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.

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Anti-GMO articles retracted – shocking news

Anti-GMO articles retracted

I’ve written this about 1 million times online (give or take 990,000) – the only thing that matters in science is evidence. Not opinion, not anecdotes, not bad research. The science that supports the safety and productivity of GMO crops is overwhelming, while one more of the anti-GMO articles has been retracted.

Science wins. And I guess lies and manufactured data don’t.

If this sounds familiar, it is. I wrote about a few weeks ago, discussing  a paper, by Federico Infascelli and other colleagues, an animal nutrition researcher at the University of Naples in Italy, who attempted to show that GMO soybeans consumed by female goats could pass modified genes into the blood and organs of baby goats.

According to an article in Retraction Watch, there was a lot more going on. The good people at Retraction Watch translated an article in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, which claimed that “an investigation suggests that Infascelli has manipulated images to suggest GMOs are harmful. He could face fines and be suspended from the university.”

Retraction Watch also  that La Repubblica “also reported that a committee appointed by the rector of the university, Gaetano Manfredi, found errors in Infascelli’s data that suggested he had manipulated the results to show GMOs were harmful.”

And Infascelli’s research improprieties continue to grow.

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Something’s fishy – GMO salmon is on its way

AquAdvantage GMO salmon

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.

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California eggs are more expensive – thank pseudoscience

There are lots of things that annoy scientists. Creationists. Climate change deniers. The antivaccination horde. GMO haters. The list really is quite long.

I talk about most of them quite a bit, because they are so fun to mock. And their denial can be harmful to our society and many species (including our own, humans). And these anti-science groups seem to ignore the consequences of their denialism.

One day I was grocery shopping, and I noticed that my California eggs are more expensive – why? Then I investigated it, and found out there were two reasons: first our massive drought. Not much we can do about that, except glare at the climate change deniers.

But the second reason troubled me quite a bit. And that’s the point of this article.

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