Skepchick Quickies 12.30


Amanda works in healthcare, is a loudmouthed feminist, and proud supporter of the Oxford comma.

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  1. I don’t see the “Ethnic Studies” ruling as a big deal. All the history and sociology I learned before college was “White People Studies” it just wasn’t called that. Just rename the courses “Cultural Influences in South America” and similarly bland titles and Bob’s your uncle.

  2. You know, it would be awesome to actually see the program in question. For example, what part of the program “promotes activism against white people”? Ah well.

    As a former nursing mom, I find the comment typical for the NASCAR crowd. Boobs are only for sex. He was not seeing boobs in a sexual context, and it upset his delicately-balanced double standard. Now, that being said, I did try to cover up, mostly so I wouldn’t be leered at, but my daughter was highly insistent about not being covered.

    I refuse to comment on Snooki. It only encourages.

  3. Here’s the important part, right up in the abstract: “We conclude that these data highlight signs of hepatorenal toxicity, possibly due to the new pesticides specific to each GM corn. In addition, unintended direct or indirect metabolic consequences of the genetic modification cannot be excluded.”

    So the likely cause is the stuff sprayed on the corn, enabled by the GM, not necessarily the GM itself.

  4. Also from the abstract: “MON 810 and MON 863 are engineered to synthesize two different Bt toxins used as insecticides.”

    In other words, the corn is genetically modified to produce insecticide.

  5. the pesticides are *in* the corn. That is what they have been genetically modified to do: produce pesticides themselves, so they don’t have to be sprayed.

  6. @ SaraDee: It’s not that simple. This study focused on 3 different varieties of GM maize: one, NK 603, resistant the pesticide RoundUp, and two, MON 810 and MON 863, which produce themselves Bt (Bacillus thunringiensis) toxins.

    The article makes the hypothesis the toxicity from NK 603 could indeed be from residues from the RoundUp used in maize cultivation.

    On the other hands, Bt toxins are also the natural defences of a soil bacterium and have been in use as a biological pesticide since the 1920s, because they are highly specific for certain common crop parasites. Previous studies have shown them to have very little toxicity to mammals and to pollinating insects, thus being safer than broad spectre pesticides.

  7. I have a comment awaiting approval on the topic of the GM crop study (probably because of the presence of a hyperlink), but here’s a few more things to ponder.

    I followed the link to the original study posted by Amanda, and noticed immediately the name of the last authors: Gilles-Eric Séralini. He is well known here in France (this paper was the work of French biology researchers and funded in large part by local public organisations) as an dedicated anti-GMO activist!

    In addition, all four authors of the paper are affiliated with the CRIIGEN, an NGO that could be qualified as the main anti-GMO lobby in France. Two of these authors, G. E. Séralini and J. S. de Vendômois, are currently members of the CRIIGEN board. (It’s easy to confirm by googling CRIIGEN and looking at the English-language “About us” pages.)

    I could also mention that the study has received some funds from Greenpeace, whose anti-GMO stance is well-known, but it’s probably not the main influence on its conclusions. In this light, the statement that none of the authors had any conflict of interest was… well, interesting!

    If we look at this study in more details (sections titled “Results” and “Discussion”), we see that even its authors caution that the effect observed is small (a “sign of toxicity”, not a “toxic effect”) and that this is just one experiment, warranting replication before jumping to alarmist conclusions.

    Sadly, it’s not surprising that media outlets such as the Huffington Post did jump to conclusions despite these cold-headed reservations.

  8. I really am having a lot of trouble figuring out just WHAT they actually did in that study.

    There is this:
    “The three animal feeding studies were conducted in two different laboratories and at two different dates; at Monsanto (Missouri, USA) for NK 603 and MON 810 (June 7, 2000) and at Covance Laboratories Inc. (Virginia, USA) for MON 863 (March 14, 2001) on behalf of Monsanto. ”

    So, they requested the data via court order? And then analyzed it post hoc, specifically looking for problems?
    That is not a good way to do science. The graphics they have provided are useless, since they are plain lines with no error, and no individual points. Is it just two points? Week 5 and week 14?
    I would not have approved this paper as a reviewer.

    1. Thanks bug_girl, I was wondering that myself.
      So when is an independent study an independent study. If these people are expert scientists in this field surely they already have a dog in this fight, or do they sit in some cone-of-silence lab waiting to be summoned to give their opinion.
      I scrolled straight to the conclusion, then went back to see the evidence.

      “In conclusion, our data presented here strongly recommend that additional long-term (up to 2 years) animal feeding studies be performed in at least three species, preferably also multi-generational, to provide true scientifically valid data on the acute and chronic toxic effects of GM crops, feed and foods. Our analysis highlights that the kidneys and liver as particularly important on which to focus such research as there was a clear negative impact on the function of these organs in rats consuming GM maize varieties for just 90 days.”

      Why didn’t they just say THAT..then take the money and run.

    2. Yes, it was a meta study where they took Monsanto’s data and redid the stats.

      Many of the faults were therefore faults in Monsanto’s original experimental design.

      For instance there were indeed only two points at weeks 5 and 14.

      Frankly I agree with the conclusion that there MAY be signs of hepatorenal toxicity.

      A full liver or renal panel of tests was not done; for instance, there should have been measurements of GGT ALT AST and LDH.

      I am appalled at how crude the original study was and agree with the authors that further studies are needed.

      Sorry if I differ from the rest of you.

      1. Correction, they did measure ALT and AST – buried in the appendix.

        But not GGT at 14 weeks – that is the enzyme that is induced by drugs – particularly important in the context of synthetic contaminants in food.

        Do you know what really pisses me off? The modern trend to compensate for crap experimental design with ultra sophisticated statistical analysis.

        All the wondrous stats were done on just 10 lousy test rats per GMO!

        1. //The modern trend to compensate for crap experimental design with ultra sophisticated statistical analysis.//

          That’s because there are a lot of statistical devices you can use and you can cook them to make them say what you want. It doesn’t always stand up to peer review, but that doesn’t stop a media outlet or some special interest group from broadcasting it as fact (which is what happened here).

  9. Unfortunately, those who don’t like GM unfortunately resort to pseudo-scientific claims about it’s affect on health to attack it.

    If there’s anything wrong with GM, it’s that it’s often hailed as the wonder-drug that will end hunger problems across the world and blindly thrown at hunger crisis areas as the solution. The problem with this approach is that it often fails to take into account local culture/customs or WHY people are actually going hungry.

    Depending on the situation, the application of GM foods can be useful (reduces pesticide use) or it can be harmful (bad food-aid policy). However, it would be nice if people would honestly address the issues instead of trying to attack it with false claims.

  10. thanks Irene – I know what Bt is (my undergrad in agroecology was not that long ago), I had missed that one of the varieties was Roundup Ready, not Bt when skimming down to the methods.

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