GMO pigs study – more junk science

When I saw on Twitter that a ‘major new peer-reviewed study’ was about to reveal serious health impacts from GMO corn and soya, I was intrigued to say the least. Would this be Seralini 2.0, a propaganda effort by anti-biotech campaigners masquerading as proper science, or something truly new and ground-breaking?

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence – and it would take a lot of extraordinary evidence to confound the hundreds of studies showing that GMO foods are just as safe as conventional, as summarised in this recent AAAS statement:

“The science is quite clear: crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe. The World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the British Royal Society, and every other respected organization that has examined the evidence has come to the same conclusion: consuming foods containing ingredients derived from GM crops is no riskier than consuming the same foods containing ingredients from crop plants modified by conventional plant improvement techniques.”

So when I found the paper, again via Twitter, I determined to read it as I would a climate ‘denier’ paper which aimed to overturn the scientific consensus in that area – with an open mind, but a sceptical one. I could see that it was already generating news, and the anti-GMO crowd on Twitter were also getting excited about some new grist to their ideological mill. Here’s what Reuters wrote:

“Pigs fed a diet of only genetically modified grain showed markedly higher stomach inflammation than pigs who dined on conventional feed, according to a new study by a team of Australian scientists and U.S. researchers.”

Really? Time to have a look at the study. It is by a Judy Carman and colleagues, entitled ‘A long-term toxicology study on pigs fed a combined genetically modified (GM) soy and GM maize diet’ and published in a minor Australian journal I have never heard of called ‘Journal of Organic Systems’. (This journal does not appear in PubMed, suggesting it is not taken very seriously in the scientific community. It only publishes about twice a year, mostly with research touting the benefits of organic agriculture.)

I skimmed the paper first, and the conclusions seemed doubtful enough (see below) to try to find out who was beind it. So I looked at the sponsors of this journal. They include the Organic Federation of Australia, which seemed odd for a journal presumably aiming to be independent. Imagine the hullaballoo if Nature Biotechnology was sponsored by Monsanto!

I also wondered who Judy Carman and her colleagues were. She turns out to be – as I feared – a long-time anti-biotech campaigner, with a website called ‘GMOJudyCarman‘, which says it is supported by She is a founding member, according to this website, of the scientific advisory council of the Sustainable Food Trust. The Sustainable Food Trust was the UK outfit set up by former organic lobbyist Patrick Holden which stage-managed the media release of the infamous Seralini GMO rats study to the Daily Mail and other credulous outlets.

What about the co-authors? One is a Howard Vlieger, who seems to have made some wild allegations about GMOs in the past if this source is to be believed. Vlieger is president and co-founder of Verity Farms, a US ‘natural foods’ outfit which markets non-GMO grain. Despite this, the paper declares that the authors have no conflicts of interest, although it seems to me that he would have a very clear commercial interest in scaring people about GMOs in order to drum up business of his GMO-free offerings.

What about funding? The paper states that funding came from Verity Farms, the natural product outfit mentioned above. Carman and her colleagues are also funded by and associated with the Institute of Health and Environmental Research, an Australian not-for-profit which seems to be entirely dedicated to anti-GMO activism. Recent activities have included opposing Bt brinjal in India and CSIRO’s GMO wheat in Australia. Funding sources are not disclosed, although donations are solicited. The paper’s acknowledgements are a veritable who’s who of anti-biotech activism, includin Jeffrey Smith, John Fagan and Arpad Pusztai.

So, that’s the context. Now let’s look at what raised my suspicions about the actual study. Well, Carman and colleagues claim significant differences in a long-term study of pigs fed GMO and non-GMO diets. But if you look at the data they present (and the data presentation is at least a step better than Seralini) there are obvious problems. Clearly all the animals were in very poor health – weaner mortality is reported as 13% and 14% in GM-fed and non-GM fed groups, which they claim is “within expected rates for US commercial piggeries”, a vague statement intended to justify what seem to have been inadequate husbandry standards.

This picture is even more stark in the data presented in Table 3. 15% of non-GM fed pigs had heart abnormalities, while only 6% of GM-fed pigs did so. Similarly, twice as many non-GM pigs as GM ones had liver problems. Why no headlines here? “Pigs fed non-GMO feed 100% more likely to develop heart and liver problems, study finds” – I can just see it in the Daily Mail. But of course negative results were not what Carman et al were looking for.

So we fast-forward to the stomach inflammations. This is where Carman et al got their headline. As Reuters reported:

“But those pigs that ate the GM diet had a higher rate of severe stomach inflammation – 32 percent of GM-fed pigs compared to 12 percent of non-GM-fed pigs. The inflammation was worse in GM-fed males compared to non-GM fed males by a factor of 4.0, and GM-fed females compared to non-GM-fed females by a factor of 2.2.”

This is statistical fishing of the most egregious sort, and I would put money on the Reuters summary above being lifted near-verbatim from a press release written by Carman et al. Table 3 actually shows that many more pigs fed non-GMO feed had stomach inflammations than those with GMO feed. So 31 non-GM pigs had ‘mild’ inflammation, while only 23 GM pigs had it. For ‘moderate’ inflammation, a GMO diet again seemed to be beneficial: 29 non-GM pigs had moderate inflammation of the stomach, while 18 had it. So that’s 40% vs 25%. Do Carman et al perform a test for statistical significance to see if GMO feed has a protective effect on pigs stomachs? Of course not – that’s not the result they are after. These findings are ignored.

Instead, it is the next line of data that they play up: for ‘severe’ inflammation 9 non-GM pigs were determined to have it, while 23 GM-fed pigs had it. Shock, horror. You can immediately see how the data is all over the place from the previous results, which also rule out any causal mechanism with GMO feed – if GMO feed is causing the severe inflammation, why is the non-GMO feed causing far more mild to moderate inflammation? It’s clearly just chance, and all the pigs are not doing well and suffering stomach problems: about 60% of both sets had stomach erosion.

Yet the paper slyly presents photographs of inflamed pigs stomachs, with non-inflamed and mildly inflamed from non-GM fed pigs, and moderate and severe inflammation presented from GM-fed pigs. Yet 38 of the non-GM pigs, more than half of the total of 73, were suffering moderate or severe inflammation – why not present photos of their stomachs? This is rather reminiscent of how Seralini presented shocking pictures of GM-fed rats with massive cancerous tumours, but did not present pictures of the control rats (non-GM fed) which also developed cancers.

Indeed, if you add together the ‘moderate’ and ‘extreme’ categories – which from the photos are not easy to tell apart, involving a value judgement on the part of the vets employed to do the post-mortems – then the non-GM fed pigs have 38 affected individuals (52% of the animals studied), while the GM-fed pigs have 41 affected individuals (56% of the total). Statistical significance? My ass. This is propaganda dressed up as science, which is why it didn’t make a proper peer-reviewed journal. (Update: Andrew Kniss makes this point better, using an appropriate statistical technique, here. Later update: A swine health specialist at the University of Guelph in Canada concludes that the redness observed by Carman et al is not even a reliable indicator of inflammation.)

My judgement is that, as with Seralini, this study subjects animals to inhumanely poor conditions resulting in health impacts which can then be data-mined to present ‘evidence’ against GMO feeds. Most damning of all, close to 60% of both sets of pigs were suffering from pneumonia at the time of slaughter – another classic indicator of bad husbandry. Had they not been slaughtered, all these pigs might well have died quickly anyway. No conclusions can be drawn from this study, except for one – that there should be tighter controls on experiments performed on animals by anti-biotech campaigners, for the sake of animal welfare.

Thanks are due to the numerous Twitter correspondents who provided insight and links which have been useful in this post. You know who you are.

Update: I received the following expert commentaries courtesy of the UK Science Media Centre:

Prof David Spiegelhalter, Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at the University of Cambridge, said:

“The study’s conclusions don’t really stand up to statistical scrutiny. The authors focus on ‘severe’ stomach inflammation but all the other inflammation categories actually favour the GM-diet. So this selective focus is scientifically inappropriate.
“When analysed using appropriate methods, the stomach inflammation data does not show a statistically statistical association with diet. There are also 19 other reported statistical tests, which means we would expect one significant association just by chance: and so the apparent difference in uterus weight is likely to be a false positive.”

Prof Patrick Wolfe, Professor of Statistics at University College London, said:

“I am not an expert on animal health, husbandry, toxicology etc, and therefore I cannot comment on these aspects of the study. As a statistical methodologist I can however comment on the data analysis undertaken and presented in the article.
“The biggest issue is that the study was not conducted to test any specific hypothesis. This means that the same sample (in this case nearly 150 pigs) is, in effect, being continually tested over and over for different findings.
“The statistical tests employed assume that a single test is done to test a single, pre-stated hypothesis; otherwise the significance levels stemming from the tests are just plain wrong, and can be vastly over-interpreted.
“Thus there is a higher-than-reported likelihood that the results are due purely to chance. The number of pigs being in the low hundreds (instead of, say, the thousands, as is often the case in large medical studies) can make this effect even more prominent.
“Bottom line: a better-designed study would have hypothesized a particular effect (such as changes in stomach size), and then applied a statistical test solely to check this hypothesis. Perhaps another independent team of researchers will go down this path. Until then, this study definitely does not show that GM-fed pigs are at any greater risks than non-GM fed pigs.”


  1. Robert Wager

    Well said.

    1. Mark Jones

      The “journal” in question.

      The Editor(s) welcome the submission of manuscripts for publication in this journal. Topics are to be consistent with current principles of organic farming and its associated industries

    2. Rich

      And, so the ignorance continues. I am strongly reminded of people’s reaction to buzz words, if you will forgive the expression. In that vein I am quickly reminded of the way people react to new technologies. I can think of two recent examples. I recall recently reading that electric utility companies had designed a successful and safe small neighborhood reactor system that would substantially reduce the cost of electric power. Of course if you tell the average person that nuclear power is providing the electricity to power their lights they will instantly turn everything of and stay up all night imaging that they are glowing in the dark. My second example is space science. As quick as you mention spending money on space research they will scream and cry the money should be spent here. This of course is a ridiculous argument since space research crates jobs here. Please forgive but sometimes people just frustrate me with their stupidity. Rich

    3. Scott

      Let me ask you a question. Converting to an organic or mostly organic system, either with or without GMO’s. The GMO thing is really a side issue because theoretically a GMO could be grown organically. So leave that aside.

      We know it is better for the land and ecology. The list of benefits is long there. We know there is a growing demand. That is also well proven. You may not agree, but it even produces more food per acre if using the most modern scientific organic methods. Cost is higher now, but the same economies of scale would drive down costs once the volume reaches a tipping point, same as it did for conventional.

      So really what it boils down to is the labor. ie production per farmer as opposed to production per acre.

      Now for the question. You mentioned “space research crates jobs here.” and I agree.

      Now for the question. Why is it that labor ie jobs is such a terrible thing in agriculture, but creating jobs is so crucial in other industries? There are plenty of organic models where a farmer can make more income on 200 acres than a conventional farmer makes on 2000. Joel Salatin was making 1/2 a million a year on 100 acres of pasture. But that was direct sales marketing. Even without higher priced direct sales a low 6 figure income could be done. I have read about specialty growers making 40,000 an acre. They couldn’t do that on 2000 because of the labor, but several farmers could all do the same on smaller plots. With all the associated benefits that any industry creating jobs shows. But that is seen as backwards? Really?

      Isn’t it really a question of artificially saving “Big Ag” for reasons not much different than the Luddites? Aren’t the people trying to save big ag and the conventional ag model actually the ones who are backwards and refusing to embrace all the creation of new jobs in an industry that is at the cutting edge of science and technology? Why are breakthroughs in soil science, biology, ecology and systems thinking somehow inferior to the other sciences and technologies? It provides jobs. It improves the environment. It restores ecological services. It sequesters carbon, reducing the harm of fossil fuel use. The food is healthier, reducing medical costs. I could go on and on. But the big thing people see as a negative is that it requires more “labor”. Well “labor” and “jobs” are really the same thing only with one having a bad connotation and the other a good connotation.

      Requires more labor—bad
      Provides more jobs—good


    4. Brian

      @Scott: The reason is that people do not want those jobs.

      My wife works in the ag industry and needed some diligent hard working people for seasonal field work for a month or two. She was offering over $10/hr plus overtime in Northwest Iowa where most people were at minimum wage. This was 10 years ago. She was only able to get high school kids to do the work. There were some migrant workers that she got one year but it wasn’t enough work to keep them busy so they didn’t come back the next year even though they told her that they liked the work and the pay. They said that they needed the whole summer.

      To recap, this was field research work that required great diligence. It was monotonous but very physically easy once you got past the fact that you had to be on your feet out of doors in the heat of summer. There was no heavy lifting or bending or stooping and yet, almost no takers.

  2. Madeleine Love

    “Imagine the hullaballoo if Nature Biotechnology was sponsored by Monsanto!”

    The Goodman Affair: Monsanto Targets the Heart of Science

    1. Karl Haro von Mogel

      Except that hit-piece is in no way equivalent.

    2. Madeleine Love

      Karl, can you expand on your statement implying substantial non-equivalence?

    3. Rat in the kitchen

      Madeleine, Monsanto (et al) have been corrupting science for YEARS:

      I haven’t once seen Mark condemn this.

      ” Unfortunately, it is impossible to verify that genetically modified crops perform as advertised. That is because agritech companies have given themselves veto power over the work of independent researchers….

      …But agritech companies such as Monsanto, Pioneer and Syngenta go further. For a decade their user agreements have explicitly forbidden the use of the seeds for any independent research. Under the threat of litigation, scientists cannot test a seed to explore the different conditions under which it thrives or fails. They cannot compare seeds from one company against those from another company. And perhaps most important, they cannot examine whether the genetically modified crops lead to unintended environmental side effects…

      Research on genetically modified seeds is still published, of course. But only studies that the seed companies have approved ever see the light of a peer-reviewed journal. In a number of cases, experiments that had the implicit go-ahead from the seed company were later blocked from publication because the results were not flattering. “It is important to understand that it is not always simply a matter of blanket denial of all research requests, which is bad enough,” wrote Elson J. Shields, an entomologist at Cornell University, in a letter to an official at the Environmental Protection Agency (the body tasked with regulating the environmental consequences of genetically modified crops), “but selective denials and permissions based on industry perceptions of how ‘friendly’ or ‘hostile’ a particular scientist may be toward [seed-enhancement] technology.”

      Shields is the spokesperson for a group of 24 corn insect scientists that opposes these practices. Because the scientists rely on the cooperation of the companies for their research—they must, after all, gain access to the seeds for studies—most have chosen to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals. The group has submitted a statement to the EPA protesting that “as a result of restricted access, no truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions regarding the technology.”
      – See more at:

    4. Karl Haro von Mogel

      Re: Madeline Love,

      I didn’t imply, I stated clearly.

    5. Madeleine Love

      @Karl That’s not an expansion.

    6. Clyde Davies

      Spared me from what, precisely?

      What I read into this study is that someone went on a fishing trip. They decided to take two groups of pigs, fed one of them on nothing but GM food but subjected both of them to poor conditions. Then they looked at all sorts of health issues, found one that happened to be more prevalent in the sample group (through poor chance), and titled the paper accordingly while ignoring all the other indications that supported a null hypothesis.

      This isn’t bad science. It isn’t even dishonest science. It’s reprehensible science.

  3. Madeleine Love

    Re the logic of your paragraph on inflammation rates… It is difficult for the GM pigs to suffer from ‘mild’ or ‘moderate’ inflammation if they are suffering from the mutually exclusive condition of ‘extreme’ inflammation.

    The ‘non-GM’ feed was actually contaminated with GM. So this study was a dose study. That is, all the pigs suffered exposure to novel GM DNA, proteins (including GM insecticidal toxins) and pesticides. However the pigs with the higher doses of GM suffered more serious grades of inflammation, at statistically significant levels.

    From Carman et al, it seems chronic inflammation can be expected…
    “The pig industry uses finely-ground feed to maximise feed efficiency which can increase inflammation and ulceration of the stomach (Wolf, 2010). We therefore controlled the grind size, removing it as a confounder. Hence our results show that these GM crops were associated with stomach inflammation that was additional to any that may be caused by particle size.”

    1. Madeleine Love

      Oops… wrong term.. “severe” inflammation, not ‘extreme’.

    2. Clyde Davies

      If the non-GM feed was,as you claim, contaminated with GM feed, it doesn’t make the study a ‘dose study’. It makes it pretty much worthless as it makes a mockery of any control protocols. And where’s the dose-response correlation? Where’s the proper statistical analysis?

    3. Madeleine Love

      Not claiming, reading.

      Materials and Methods
      Animal feed
      “GM DNA analysis (Genetic ID, Fairfield, Iowa, US) confirmed [..] that the non-GM feed contained a median of 0.4% GM corn and that the non-GM soy contained a median of 1.6% GM soy. Such GM contamination of apparent non-GM material is common in the US.”

      It’s a dose response study. It’s a little bit of GM vs a lot more GM. This study reports that higher doses of GM had significantly adverse impact on stomach inflammation than the lower doses. Likewise there were significant differences in uterus weights. It would be interesting to see a comparative study with completely GM free feed.

    4. Clyde Davies

      “It’s a dose response study. It’s a little bit of GM vs a lot more GM. This study reports that higher doses of GM had significantly adverse impact on stomach inflammation than the lower doses.”
      No it doesn’t. It reports what it wants to report, as Mark has pointed out. Pigs with mild to moderate inflammation were MORE prevalent in the control group.

      So, really the *evidence* doesn’t tell us anything. If there was any causative correlation I would have expected an increase in inflammation at all levels All this seems to show is that the pigs weren’t particularly well cared for, period.

    5. Madeleine Love

      There were more non-GM fed pigs with mild and moderate inflammation than GM fed pigs because more of the GM fed pigs were ‘off sick’ with severe inflammation.

    6. Clyde Davies

      Oh for God’s sake; talk about constructing your own fantasy narrative to explain inconvenient evidence!

    7. Mary

      If there is a dose response–little GM vs lots–doesn’t that contradict the Seralini results? That’s not what they found if I recall. All doses had the same impact. And so did Roundup.

      So that’s another wrinkle–did they test any of these samples for pesticide residues?

    8. Madeleine Love

      @Mary The authors wrote that this was the first trial of its kind, and as such a direct comparison with the Seralini study might not have merit. I imagine they could point out that this wasn’t a trial of Mon810 – it was a stacked trial of 4 GM events – 3 maize and 1 soy – containing CP4EPSPS, Cry3Bb1, Cry1ab (mon 810), and the trial was in a commercial piggery with quite different conditions to bred mice in a lab.

      Re pesticide residues – would the authors cite typical FSANZ statements that they have approved the pesticides at the likely levels applied to the feed and that any effects from residues wouldn’t be biologically meaningful?

    9. Madeleine Love

      @Clyde Don’t let your rudeness make me tell you that I spared you.

  4. Madeleine Love

    Oops… wrong term.. “severe” inflammation, not ‘extreme’

  5. Alex

    So Madeleine Love, you are saying there was no control for the group. Sounds like a bullshit study to me. Also, the cherrypicking of the data as well as the selection of abnormal populations (I’m guessing, with such a high mortality) suggests a complete disregard for the scientific method.

    1. Madeleine Love

      If I was your mother I’d tell you not to swear on a blog.

  6. Alex

    Also, Madeleine, read the entire Séralini affair. His studies were not statistically significant and used improper statistical analysis. It was even published with an editors comment of how the study was severely lacking.

  7. Brandon

    @Madeleine with that accusation “‘non-GM’ feed was actually contaminated with GM” you are saying these researchers effectively lied in their set-up and design, were incompetent, and/or were both. Not to mention, they performed their experiment without any set of controls, which any novice researcher knows is a must. (It is an accusation without any proof.) Furthermore, if severe inflammation is observed at such a higher concentration in GM-fed pigs one would expect the observance of moderate and mild to be higher as well… Finally, the scoring system used to the best of my knowledge, is subjective and the photos given for reference are obvious… I’m guessing just like in disease scoring in plants like SDS in soybeans, the ranges of scoring aren’t so cut and dry and what may be scored as mild to me may be moderate to you or what may be severe to me may be moderate to you (or vice versa obviously)… so there is room for human influence. Now the paper says there was no conflicting interest or influence and the vets were unaware of GM vs non-GM, however, that’s very questionable as Mark points out in his post

    Also, your accusation doesn’t explain the increased incidence of heart and liver problems which show statistical significance in non-GMO fed pigs as well as account for the high mortality rate of the pigs,13-14% which is no where near the accepted amount around 2-5%. Which goes to Mark’s point about the welfare and health of those hogs.

    1. Madeleine Love

      “Accusation” ?Que? I quoted from the study.

      “Lied” No…?? Maybe you are unaware that the commercial “non-GM” category of feed in Australia can be contaminated to certain thresholds and still meet trade requirements. In Australia the term for feed that isn’t GM contaminated is “GM free”. Another category is “organic”, which is not only meant to be GM free but meet other standards.

      Re the inflammation – this seems to be a concept that isn’t being grasped and Mark may be at fault for this general misunderstanding. See my answers to Clyde. This is a trial where there are multiple categories of outcome for a single group being trialled, not a single outcome category for multiple trial groups.

      I don’t know pathology – there may be established criteria for nil/mild/moderate/severe stomach inflammation. One imagines some subjective elements to the on-the-day-decision, but the study said the vets were blind to the groups – in a fair trial it should fall either way. There is room for ‘human influence’, including those studies done by Monsanto et al. Science needs to be open, repeated and agreed upon, and there has been a problem for a long time with having access to GM materials for research. See “Under Wraps”, by Emily Waltz in Nature Biotechnology

      I don’t remember the authors reporting significant differences in heart variables. I remember reading a report of near-significance in a liver related variables. I’ll have to go back to it.

  8. Karl Haro von Mogel

    Good comments, Mark. To start off, so people know, the link to the list of studies in Mark’s post is currently broken, because we (at Biology Fortified, who maintain the list) are experiencing problems with our domain name transfer, which will resolve tomorrow. This link will take you to the page in the meantime:

    There are lots of studies done on pigs in this list, including this study which found no such differences.

    As for the statistics, Mark makes some good points about how these results were reported, interpreted, and spun. They did, however, present statistics for each parameter (heart, liver, kidney, stomach inflammation, etc), and gave p-values on the right. Almost every single one is statistically insignificant. Almost, except for one – the figure for severe inflammation is the only one in that table which was significantly different by the chi-squared test that they did. However, having one different in this table is expected due to chance alone.

    When you do multiple comparisons like this, you have to take into account that the more experiments you do, the higher the probability that a single one (or a few) will turn out to be different. Flip a coin ten times as an experiment, and count the number of times that you get heads and tails. Usually you will get in the 4-6 range. Maybe a few 3’s and 7’s. Occasionally 2’s and 8s, rarely 1 and 9, and very rarely 0 and 10, but it does happen. Most of the time, if you pick up a coin and flip it, you will not find a ratio that is significantly different from the expected 50% heads and 50% tails.

    But if you flip a coin ten times – and then repeat this experiment 20 times, then something really interesting happens with the statistics. You will actually expect to find, on average, one coin flipping experiment to be statistically different from 50/50 heads and tails! This is because the probability of getting one different is multiplied by the number of experiments you do. If you were to do a 95% confidence interval, which means that you are 95% certain that the true value falls within a particular range, 95% of your coin flip experiments will be in that range. If you do 20 experiments, then 1 out of 20 will be expected, on average, to fall outside that range.

    The same thing goes whether you are flipping a single coin, flipping different coins, or studying parameters of pigs or rats fed GMO and non-GMO foods. Table 3 has 18 comparisons, which is almost 20, and brings the likelihood of at least one parameter being different close to 1. They do not take this into account, which was precisely the same problem that has plagued Seralini for years. When you run multiple comparisons, you have to take into account the False Discovery Rate. Carman et al. did not apply any False Discovery Rate statistics.

    The funny thing is that XKCD made a comic on this, and it is spot-on, and hilarious if you understand statistics. Concluding from this study that GMOs cause harm is just like concluding that green jelly beans cause cancer.

    While the differences in heart conditions, etc, mentioned by Mark above were statistically insignificant, so too were the differences in uterine fluid, which was oddly a focus of attention in the paper. They actually discussed the biological meaning of statistically insignificant data! So this does open up the question of why they discussed the relevance of insignificant differences that were negative, and ignored insignificant differences that were positive? You can’t have it both ways. Insignificant results are just that – insignificant and indistinguishable from random noise.

    One of the biggest problems with this paper, besides ignoring multiple comparisons, was the source of feed for the diet. They acknowledged that the corn and soy used in the experiment were a mixture of different varieties, and they did not know how much of each. The corn and soy that they compared it to were completely different varieties – not isolines, which would be required in order to pin down any effect as being due to the genetically engineered trait. An isoline is a nearly genetically-identical variety that differs essentially only by the presence or absence of the gene engineered into the plant. There is enormous genetic diversity between different varieties of corn and soy, so they are not so much as testing the differences between GMO and non-GMO crops, but the many genetic and biochemical differences between different genetics that vary through breeding. It would be like comparing a GMO bulldog to a non-GMO poodle. Are the differences due to being GMO or not, or being a bulldog vs a poodle? Maybe there are some genes bred into high-yield varieties of corn that irritate pig stomachs, and this could be ground-breaking research that helps uncover that — but it’s not because they are also GMOs.

    Bottom line, the experiment was not set up to test the effects of GMOs versus non-GMOs. They did not address this shortcoming of their methodology in the discussion.

    Mark also brings up a good point about the maladies afflicting these pigs, like pneumonia. I would be interested to find out what the actual expected rates of these diseases are in commercial pig operations, and whether these pigs fared better or worse. Not keeping healthy conditions increases the variability in your data, not to mention the issues of animal welfare.

    So we’re left with an experiment that was not set up properly to test the effects of GMO vs nonGMO diets in pigs, and it found differences that were no greater than would be expected by chance.

    1. Mary

      I have to do a closer reading of it, but I wasn’t clear on how they scored the inflammation. First–is their scoring of the redness legit? Is that a quantifiable metric? Are there other issues that affect the lining color upon sacrifice? Having never killed pigs I just don’t know.

      Looking at their samples in the panels they provided it looked to me like the non-GMO was as red or more red than the GMO one below it. But it’s possible to score that kind of thing with image software so it’s not just someone guessing.

      And whether the weight of uterus is a useful metric isn’t clear to me either. Are there unrelated physiological parameters that might affect this? Some animals mature at different rates? I’ll have to check the literature to see if this is a valid pathology of some sort. I haven’t heard of that.

    2. Jason

      Actually, that is a very good question. There are potential explanations for the observed statistical differences in uterine weight. First, the authors indicate that one “extreme outlier” was removed from the statistical analysis, but do not provide information on which group (GM vs Non-GM) or in which direction (low or high) the outlier weight was. In that regard, one could potentially infer that a high value was excluded from the Non-GM group resulting in the statistical difference. Obviously, we don’t know, because the author conveniently did not include that information.

      Additionally, at least 2 animals were observed with clear fluid in the uterus (from the GM group). As these animals were reproductively intact, there is a potential that the stage of estrus (commonly known as “heat”) may have impacted the overall uterine weight. In order to conclude that organ weight differences were attributable to consumption of a specific diet, the estrus stage should have been considered in the evaluation of the uterine data. When an animal is in heat, there are changes in the uteri that make the animal ready for pregnancy, and these changes typically increase the size and water content, and would therefore increase the overall weight of the organ.

      Unrelated to the uterine findings, but there is evidence in the scientific literature that particle size of the feed can impact the overall irritation observed in the gastric compartment. The authors in this study did not report analysis of particle size distribution of the different diets. While they indicated that all grains were processed using equivalent specifications, there is also data in the literature that suggests equivalent processing of different hybrid varieties of corn can result in much different outcomes in terms of feed particle size. Additionally, there were differences in observed contaminants between the GM and non-GM feeds. Although binders were added to the diets to control for the contaminants, there is a potential that the higher level of some contaminants in the GM feeds contributed to the localized observations in the stomach. It should be noted, however, that there were no reported impacts on feed consumption, body weight gain or feed efficiency, suggesting that the ongoing inflammation in both non-GM and GM fed animals was not having an impact on the overall health of the animals in either group. Finally, there were several “phase” diets fed to these animals, and the phases were based on the animal’s body weight. Unfortunately, the authors used a pooled sample of all of the phase diets for each group (GM vs. Non-GM) for the contaminant analysis, so there is no way to effectively determine if one phase was more contaminated, or if contaminants grew on the later phase diets after they were initially analyzed and prior to being fed to the animals.

    3. First Officer

      Excellent stats lesson Karl ! Another quack study brought to it’s knees with basic statistical analysis.

    4. Mary

      If anyone is still interested, turns out that the redness level was not a legit metric, and the uterine weight similarly a bogus claim. Here’s a professor of swine health from Canada on the claims:

      I couldn’t figure out why they didn’t do other tests on the stomach tissues, and that was exactly what they should have done. Also he mentions the maturity issue.

    5. Scott

      The link you provided says, “The researchers should have included a veterinary pathologist on their team and this mistake would not have happened.”

      Well they did have vets in the study. But if you think you need a specific specialist in that particular sub group. Do the study again with that “veterinary pathologist” and falsify the findings. Until you do that, it is nothing but hot air what you are claiming.

    6. Mary

      @Scott: Can you tell me more about your grasp of pathology? Do you have evidence that redness is the right measure? Please provide the citations to support that.

  9. Fran Murrell

    So refreshing to have you commenting Madeleine.

    It is incredible to continually have people who refer to themselves as scientists closing their eyes to the mounting evidence that GM is not the same as ordinary breeding.This evidence is in scientific research,from farmers reporting their experience of harm from GM (super pests, superweeds, crop failure, plant and animal disease) and from people reporting health improvements when GM is removed from their diets.

    Apparently we are to ignore all this and trust the meagre and limited studies done by or on behalf of the GM companies. Why?

    1. Mike Bendzela

      Rather, “there is mounting evidence” that there is a whole boatload of activists out there masquerading as scientists.

    2. Clyde Davies

      “This evidence is in scientific research,from farmers reporting their experience of harm from GM (super pests, superweeds, crop failure, plant and animal disease) and from people reporting health improvements when GM is removed from their diets.”

      What evidence? Where’s it published and in what journals? How were the studies conducted? What statistical analyses did they use? Was there any blinding or double blinding?

    3. Fran Murrell

      No, there is a whole lot of mounting evidence. Watch “Argentina’s Bad Seeds” to show the destruction of the lives of people in Argentina due to GM soy.
      It is multi-factoral. The GM soy is sprayed with Roundup that is causing birth defects. See Andres Carasco’s research into the science of how this is occurring.

      Then there research on the damage that GM crops and herbicides do to the soil. Try looking at Don Huber’s research into Roundup/glyphosate.

      Research is now showing how Roundup damages beneficial gut bacteria, allowing pathogens to flourish. Watch the video of a chicken farmer saying how the health of chickens improved after switching to non-GM feed

      Mothers in the US are speaking out about how the health of their families improve when GM food is removed from the diet.

      So there is a convergence of the science, farmers and mothers experiences regarding GM food and crops.

      Finally Argentina’s Bad Seeds story shows the power of the GM soy industry. It colludes with government and this protection allows them to throw people off their land, using arson, water poisoning and murder.

      Mark Lynas picking holes in the latest study cannot detract from the growing evidence that GM is a very ugly technology. Why is he (or anyone) supporting it?

    4. Clyde Davies

      Well done: you’ve posted as ‘evidence’ links to four anti-GMO campaigning websites and one from Al-Jazeera. This is not evidence. This is propaganda, that’s all.

    5. Fran Murrell

      You say I’ve linked to 4 anti-GM campaigning sites and Al Jazeera and so no information in them can be trusted. This is called playing the man not the ball. The research on the sites is peer reviewed and published. It is done by scientists. To my mind that makes it science that should be considered. Just because sites on the internet link to it does not invalidate the studies done.

      Al Jazeera is a news organisation. Are you saying they invented what is happening in Argentina? If so please provide evidence for your claims. You might also like to provide them for “Poison on the Pampas” which is a 2010 report on the same issue from Argentina

      Re ‘anti-GM websites’ what are you implying? That none of what they report is valid? Why? Should we take the same approach to Monsanto’s website? How do you choose which information you consider valid?

    6. Clyde Davies

      “You say I’ve linked to 4 anti-GM campaigning sites and Al Jazeera and so no information in them can be trusted. This is called playing the man not the ball. The research on the sites is peer reviewed and published. It is done by scientists. To my mind that makes it science that should be considered. Just because sites on the internet link to it does not invalidate the studies done.”

      The only studies worth paying any attention to are those published in reputable peer reviewed journals and which have withstood everything the critics can throw at them. That’s the kind of material that I take seriously, not diatribes by anti-GMO groups.

      You see, I don’t take *anything* at face value. So I decided to do some digging about one of your stories: about the assertion that Roundup causes birth defects. What I found was that in the study that has been quoted, the Roundup was *injected directly* into chicken embryos. Lots of chemicals will cause defects under such extreme circumstances, even caffeine. Moreover, Roundup does not persist in the environment and is quickly broken down and so is very unlikely to be a significant contaminant of any food crop.

      The rest of your ‘evidence’ is simply anecdote dressed up as fact. Where are the controlled studies? Take for instance the allegations by Huber that glyphosate damages the soil. You can read reams of contrary rebuttals at

      This just tells me what I have know for years now: people who have set their minds against a particular idea will gladly latch onto sensationalist stories that seem to justify their prejudices. They feel the outrage first and then have to go grubbing around for spurious justifications.

      And before you go on to accuse me of being a ‘corporate shill’, I should make a declaration of non-interest here. I have no interest in the biotech industry or famrming of any sort. I’m not even *pro-GM*. I’m just rabidly anti-ideology and anti-propagandist, and I like to see science being used properly to help everyone. Your ‘evidence’, Fran, is a complete and utter load of garbage.

  10. Madeleine Love

    This article seems to be working to establish a case for author bias in the Carman et al study, though I’m not sure what type, nor whether the case will prove to be valid.

    Nonetheless, this concern for bias has the coincident effect of drawing a spotlight onto the Monsanto et al studies submitted to food regulators for approval of their GM crops, often as the sole source of evidence about an experimental crop, for which there are clear financial and professional biases.

    If we dismiss studies with a case for bias, it seems to follow that we should dismiss the Monsanto studies, withdraw the GM crops, until such time as their safety has been independently demonstrated.

    1. Clyde Davies

      And what about all the *independent* studies and meta analyses (referenced on the Biofortified website) which show that there is NO aggerate effect by GMOs upon human or animal health? Or are going to to conveniently ignore those findings and just act on the ones that support your agenda?

    2. Madeleine Love

      Clyde, If we are talking about the same Big List of studies that are on David Tribe’s GMOpundit website, it isn’t a list of studies showing that GM is safe, though that is how it is being promoted. It’s just a big collection on the general topic – this can be mostly worked out by reading through the titles can show you this. There are studies on the list that report finding of harm, or suggestions of harm, or differences in response to GM or isogenic line. There also studies on the list that make findings that are antithetical to the claims of the GM industry, its promoters and food regulators that approve the crops. There are also studies on the list that build on GM crop development knowledge and outcome. Many are studies of the GM industry, a small number are independent of commercial, professional or financial interest. Some are studies on crops that will not be commercialized because they caused problems or reported pleiotropic effects.

    3. Clyde Davies

      I don’t know if it’s the same list. All I know is that the rigorous studies that I have read – and the metanalyses of these studies – show that GM foodstuffs are no more harmful than non GM.

      Show me one substantiated case of harm – that has been proven in *court* – to humans or animals as a result of eating GM feed. Just ONE. After three trillion meals eaten in the most litigious country on Earth, against a backdrop of multimilliondollar lawsuits and fines against pharmaceutical companies, I’d expect just one, wouldn’t you?

    4. Madeleine Love

      @Clyde The last time I looked at reviews of GM feeding studies, we wrote “The latest review of GM safety studies noted their limited number, that most reporting favourable findings had been conducted by the GM companies, and that the debate remains undecided at all levels. (Domingo 2011)
      “A literature review on the safety assessment of genetically modified plants”; José L. Domingo and Jordi Giné Bordonaba; Environment International Volume 37, Issue 4, May 2011, Pages 734-742

      José L. Domingo:
      He is one of four senior editors of the journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology.

      I don’t know what meta-analysis reviews you’ve read – maybe link some?

      The claims about “no evidence of harm” are without basis in science. There haven’t been any post-marketing studies looking to see if GM food has been safe to eat or not. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

      You say something may have emerged that would be visible by now. I’ve been watching and monitoring hospital stats for a while now. There are profound changes in hospital separations in some categories – diagnoses in relation to the digestive tract have accelerated. How many decades did it take for the first asbestos compensation? How long to notice Monsanto’s PCB’s?

      Australian children shouldn’t have to be the victims that provide the “evidence of harm” to prove that GM foods should never have been released in the absence of appropriate independent safety studies. Proof before Profit, and not the other way around.

    5. Clyde Davies

      “There are profound changes in hospital separations in some categories – diagnoses in relation to the digestive tract have accelerated. How many decades did it take for the first asbestos compensation?”

      Hmm….you could just as easily correlate this rise with the rise of consumption of organic food. More likely it’s due to the sort of stuff we get in processed foods nowadays, such as buckwheat, pine nuts, lupin flour etc.

    6. Clyde Davies

      Tell you what, in spite of all this ‘puzzlin’ evidence’, I’ve decided to come up with my own little heuristic. You see, there’s a statistical maxim: the ‘rule of three’. This says that after n doses of a drug, if a particular side effect hasn’t been observed, then the *maximum* risk of that side effect is 3/n. Now, there have been over three trillion GM meals eaten over two decades. Since people who think like you do lump all GM foods together as intrinsically harmful, then I’ve decide to lump all these meals together as one dose of one compound. Result: a one in a trillion risk of harm ensuing.

      I have more chance of being killed by driving my car every day, yet I don’t see people campaigning against car manufacturers: mainly because the benefits of having a car vastly outweigh the risks, in most people’s minds. Neither do I see them expressing the same hostility towards crops where the risks are much more significant, well-known and fully quantified. Such as tobacco.

      So, before you open your mouth again on the safety or otherwise of these crops, then go and tear up a few tobacco plantations first, and I might begin to treat you as less of a blowhard. You’ll be doing us and the world a favour: although it’s too late for people like my father.

  11. Whelkface

    “EuropaBio’s members read like a who’s who of multinational pesticide and biotech corporations notorious for endangering human health, polluting the environment and deceiving the public. Members include Monsanto, Bayer, Dow, BASF, Eli Lilly, and Dupont. According to the leaked documents, Mark Lynas was one of the biotech industry’s most sought after “ambassadors” (i.e. undercover spokespeople).

    The lobby group’s plan was to recruit high-profile, non-affiliated, “ambassadors” like Lynas to lobby European leaders to adopt more GE-friendly policies. Designated spokespeople would have bestowed upon them an undeserved aura of independence and objectivity.”

    1. Clyde Davies

      Yup, play the man instead of the ball.

    2. Whelkface

      Clyde Davis, I guess including the quote “They include the Organic Federation of Australia, which seemed odd for a journal presumably aiming to be independent.” isn’t playing the ball, as you put it.

    3. Clyde Davies

      And this is relevant to Mark’s criticism of the study in what way?

  12. procon

    Hold on Karl von statistics. You claim that the authors did not take into account False Discovery Rate Statistics which you claim will surely create a statistically significant erroneous finding as the sample size begins to approach 20. Yet in almost the same breath you say that over 100 previous studies on the topic produced no such evidence.
    Why wouldn’t by chance those 100+ studies have produced at least one, and perhaps 5, significant findings of harm by chance alone? Unless of course they were:
    1. not relevant to the topic at hand (e.g., studies in your list about where GM DNA is found are not safety studies relevant to stomach inflammation. I can’t find a single study that lists the same combination of corn and soy of the Carman et al study. without that, then you are ‘cherry picking’ studies that come to your preferred conclusion. Yours is a pretty poor meta-analysis.)
    2. they or are large subset were manipulated for the outcome, so much so (I think Freakonomics might argue) that they defy a reasonable false positive expectation and thus convict themselves by being too perfect
    3. you’re talkin crap.

    1. Karl Haro von Mogel

      Re: procon,

      “Yet in almost the same breath you say that over 100 previous studies on the topic produced no such evidence.
      Why wouldn’t by chance those 100+ studies have produced at least one, and perhaps 5, significant findings of harm by chance alone?”

      I didn’t say that 100 studies provided no such claims. Our GENERA project, which includes now more than 600 studies, is intended to be comprehensive and include all relevant studies. There are a few that claim detrimental effects (and Madeline Love above seems to not understand why we would include all such studies and not make it a one-sided database), and you are right that they should be taken into account – and their low number tells us something about the safety of the genetic engineering process in general. You are exactly right that as the number of studies goes up, the likelihood of finding a study that finds differences due to chance alone goes up. And scientists and other scholarly individuals need to be aware of this and make sure that they don’t ignore the vast majority of them, and instead focus only on those few. So I’m not sure where we disagree at all, except that you don’t like my conclusion somehow.
      “Karl von Statistics”

    2. Madeleine Love

      I understand the list of studies and I’m very grateful for it. I accessed it to my advantage the other day to find animal feeding studies on Monsanto’s contaminating GM wheat – there were concerning differences in the animals fed on the GM wheat.

      What I object to is your group ‘selling’ it as ‘a list of safety studies’ as though it is a list of studies that demonstrate that GM crops are generically safe to eat. And you’ve done this false advertising so well (slow hand clap) that I’m am called to repeatedly inform people about the nature of the list (see this blog, and every other blog).

    3. Sarah

      I thought the blog post was pretty good but will quibble on this one point while you’re on the topic of stats:

      The toxicology studies required by the FDA and the European Union to establish the safety of GM foods are systematically and grossly underpowered. The FDA requirements use on the order of 15 rats per group in short term studies. They can adequately detect something like a doubling of chance at getting cancer. They just flat out cannot detect something like a 5% increase in cancer rates.

      This study in pigs, as poorly designed as it is, actually may be more informative than the ones used for the FDA approval process, though it seems that its results are unclear. The distributions of inflammation seem different, suggesting they need more pigs to discern what, if anything, is going on.

      There are no required tests for toxicology in humans, primarily a reliance on substantial equivalence.

      While post-market epidemiological studies with huge numbers are generally difficult the lack of labeling in the US makes this even more difficult.

      To say that there is a consistent lack of evidence of harm, by yourself or the AAAS, is disingenuous if it does not address the fact that there have been a dearth of adequately powered studies to detect harm.

    4. Karl Haro von Mogel

      Re: Madeline,

      You said:
      “What I object to is your group ‘selling’ it as ‘a list of safety studies’ as though it is a list of studies that demonstrate that GM crops are generically safe to eat. And you’ve done this false advertising so well (slow hand clap) that I’m am called to repeatedly inform people about the nature of the list (see this blog, and every other blog).”

      No one is more careful than I about characterizing our database project. So when you say that I have mischaracterized it you are just plain wrong. We are far more careful and specific about what it represents than anyone else. I’m glad you have found it of use, so I ask that if you use it for research that you let people know that you use it. Later this summer it will be a lot more user-friendly and searchable, and include much more than the mere 600 studies currently listed.

      “I understand the list of studies and I’m very grateful for it. I accessed it to my advantage the other day to find animal feeding studies on Monsanto’s contaminating GM wheat – there were concerning differences in the animals fed on the GM wheat.”

      Unfortunately, you can bring a horse to water… but you can’t make an activist keep themselves from cherry-picking their science. Science is concerned with repeatable, testable differences that have biological meaning. But perhaps once the project is more complete, we might discover something that has gone unnoticed? Some risk or benefit that comes out through a more thorough meta-analysis of the literature? We could be famous if we discover it together. Until then, I guess we can keep to the ankle-biting comments you usually make, unless you’re done with posturing.

    5. Madeleine Love

      @Karl, You might call it cherry picking, but in respect of the contaminating GM Wheat I think I’ve taken the whole orchard. There should’ve been more before those experimental crops were planted in the fields.
      Must leave, people to see, things to do, nice talking.

      PS to new players: The “Big List” can be a helpful resource but it is not at all comprehensive. Search as usual.

  13. Geert De Jaeger

    They did not use isogenic lines according to the methods, so that’s a big flaw.
    In top journals of plant molecular genetics, referees demand that you use isogenic lines to proof that the phenotypic change you observe is due to the transgenic event. Isogenic lines are the result of Mendelian outcrossing from the transgenic population, so this is the closest you can get in genetic terms to your transgenic line and as such the most optimal control situation. Simply using wild type of the same cultivar is not accepted in the science community because during the experiment additional mutations can happen that you cannot control for when you use simple wild type. Here they do not specify what the genetic background is of the control feed, given the enormous amount of cultivars available, the genetic difference between the control and transgenic line is far more than the transgene itself.
    Hence, impossible to conclude that any statistical difference is due to the transgenic event or the transgenes itself. Period.

    1. Madeleine Love

      As the authors wrote…

      “The GM soy and corn used in this study have been determined to be
      compositionally and substantially equivalent to non-GM varieties of soy and corn by government regulators (ANZFA, 2002, NDa, NDb; FSANZ, 2003, 2006) which indicates that there should be no phenotypical variation between the GM and non-GM varieties used in this study that could influence the outcomes measured in this study.”

      The crop developers and ANZFA/FSANZ used quite broad ranges of crops to come to that conclusion.

    2. Geert De Jaeger

      Madeleine Love’s rebuttal of my statement refers to the statement in the paper as recapitulated below.

      “The GM soy and corn used in this study have been determined to be
      compositionally and substantially equivalent to non-GM varieties of soy and corn by government regulators (ANZFA, 2002, NDa, NDb; FSANZ, 2003, 2006) which indicates that there should be no phenotypical variation between the GM and non-GM varieties used in this study that could influence the outcomes measured in this study.”

      Now, this argument of the authors is a flaw argument on itself, particularly in the light of what they want to proof. They want to proof that the observations they make in the animals fed with the GM soy is due to the transgenic event or the transgenic construct. Compositionally and substantially equivalent means: ‘To decide if a modified product is substantially equivalent, the product is tested by the manufacturer for unexpected changes in a limited set of components such as toxins, nutrients, or allergens that are present in the unmodified food.’ So substantial equivalence does not mean that any two varieties (for instance the GM and non-GM used here) are the same, far from that. Now, if you want to proof a hard statement that the GM soy leads to statistically significant higher inflammation in the stomach of these pigs due to the fact that it is GM, you need a solid experimental set up that makes sure that the difference is only the GM event. With isogenic lines you have the control you need. Numerous food safety testing studies have been published with isogenic lines as control, so what I am demanding is not exceptional, on the contrary. Hard statements, need hard data. Hard data you get from solid experimental set up that can falsify your hypothesis. This is the core of science Madeleine!!!!!! Therefore, the experimental data do not support the conclusions made in the paper that the GM event or transgene is the cause of the bigger uterus and higher inflammation.

    3. Madeleine Love

      @Geert Read the GM company dossiers and FSANZ’s ‘assessments’. You will find that if significant differences in composition are found between the GM line and the isogenic line (which doesn’t serve the ‘substantial equivalence’ claim very well), Monsanto will bring in a wide range of crops as comparators so that the variation can be defined as being within the ‘normal range’ of same ancient crop relative :). FSANZ joins in with this logic charade. Monsanto does this in their animal feeding studies as well, bringing in 6 (or possibly more) lines, cynically, to normalise differences between the GM and isogenic line that should not, by the claim of substantial equivalence, be there.

    4. Geert De Jaeger

      Well indeed Madeleine, this sounds very logic, but in that order of course. The first test you should do is the isogenic line. If a difference, then the critical scientist would say: well how do related soy lines behave in this test. If it falls within that range the conclusion is that the effect you see is not more harmful then the conventional stuff that animals are eating.
      Point me to the irrational reasoning… I dont see it.

    5. Madeleine Love

      It’s irrational if regulation is claiming to follow a standard of substantial equivalence with an isogenic line. The exercise of checking nutritional and compositional differences allows one to determine whether there were unintended effects of the GM event. When the comparisons are made, and there is a ‘substantial difference’ it is very disingenuous to step aside from further investigation, and construct an equivalence instead to an entirely different cropline.

    6. Geert De Jaeger

      There is nothing irrational to that. The goal of these feeding tests is to evaluate whether it is safe enough to launch the new line on the market. If observations fall within the margins of lines previously launched, what argument you can bring in to block this?
      What the people in this paper want to proof is something different: the question here is whether the observed effects on the animals are due to the GM event or transgene. If you want to proof that you have to make sure that there is only one difference between the analysed line and the control, being the trangene. It is not, so the conclusions are rubish, the observations may not.

  14. William Hughes-Games

    An interesting aside on conventional crop improving techniques, the green revolution of 1960 and following led to an increase, by some estimates, of three times the yields for some major grain crops. However, the mineral and vitamin content of the new grain was the same per area grown as before. In other words, KG per KG, the grain was nutrient poor. This led to nutrient deficiencies in the people who consumed this grain. The need for high levels of pesticide and fertilizers not only led to increased cancers but also to small farmers getting into debt to pay off the loans they took and being forced off the land. It also eliminated huge amounts of genetic variability as farmers abandoned their own grain and used the GM variety. It is estimated that due to the green revolution there are 700m more people on the planet today than otherwise would have been. How much worse will it be with GM crops.

    1. Foster Boondoggle

      Uh huh. In spite of this horror of poor nutrition and uncontrolled population growth due to that evil Borlaug, the average Indian or Chinese person is far healthier and wealthier than in 1960. And the female fertility rate has dropped enormously in that part of the world. What a terrible thing, that Green Revolution. (Incidentally, GMOs didn’t come along until the ’90s. They have nothing to do with the vast increase in yields in the 1960s.)

  15. Rat in the kitchen

    Mark, still waiting for you to retract your lie about thousands dying from famine in Zambia in 2002. Any chance you’ll do that?

    You also lied about the Irish potato trial. How many lies to you propose to tell? Any chance you’ll retract them publicly?

  16. Rurik B Halaby

    Great column, Mark. I encourage you and people like you to spend time and energy spreading the message to Main Street/High Street. Too much of the debate has been monopolized by the New Age False Prophets, here in the US led by the likes of Michael Pollan, his tail Mark Bittman, and their legion of Whole Foods Malcontents. If you ever come to the US I will enjoy meeting you. For the Malcontents reading this, I am the founder and Chairman of an investment bank that works exclusively in agribusiness. Over the past 30 years I have had the pleasure of working with over 400 agribusiness companies globally. These are the people who feed the billions and billions, under increasingly difficult conditions.

    1. Justin Horn

      Problem is, this fight isn’t executives / high rollers vs the dirty hippies. This is not Occupy Wall Street, in which there was no real theme.

      This movement against Monsanto and GMOs is being waged by the average, educated consumer, as well as many countries around the world.

      The only people not arguing against Monsanto are people that are not able to easily obtain information or don’t have access to the same education as others and people with money to lose, like yourself (follow the money).

    2. Rurik B Halaby

      Justin Horn: You are obviously passionate about the subject, but I honestly think you are misinformed. If I may make a constructive suggestion, please read the book ‘Hybrid the History and Science of Plant Breeding,’ by Noel Kingsbury. It is available at Amazon. The title is fearsome but the book is written for the intelligent layman. It basically tells the story of how food has developed over the millennia, from the day agriculture was born 10,000 years ago to the present. Cheers, Rurik Halaby

    3. Justin Horn

      First, thanks for the polite, not regular Internet reply.

      Where I draw the line is not with traditional “genetic engineering” that has been going on for thousands of years. It’s when you start doing stuff that could only be accomplished in a lab. Like injecting DNA from a fish into the plants DNA.

      Besides that, my main concern isn’t just directly with the GMO plants themselves, but all the extra chemicals that are sprayed on them now. The amount of “roundup” being sprayed has more than doubled since GMOs hit the market.

      Whether you are for or against GMOs, how can you be for doubling the spraying of chemicals on plants (unless you own stock in someone selling said chemicals)? Short cuts always seem great at first, but a lot of the time short cuts come with unseen consequences elsewhere.

  17. Robert Hewitt

    I’d just like to know what their Animal Care and Ethics Committee had to say about the adverse event of 13 & 14 % of their pigs dying during the experiment.

    On a different matter the dietary treatments were applied to the pen, not the individual animal – last point of feed measurement. That means n=6 in the early part and then n=2 in the finisher phase. All other data should have been pooled back to these smaller number of replicates. The interactions that take place between pigs within a group are thus accounted for.

  18. Robert Hewitt

    A further point about the health of these pigs. Average daily gain over the growing period in this study was 593 g/d in the control pigs. Intervention levels in commercial herds, ie the levels where you go, hang on something is wrong here let’s call in the Vet and Nutritionist, are when wean to finish growth rates fall below a 700 g/d average.

  19. Sgarre

    I’m not concerned with putative health effects of GMO crops. As a geneticist, I am concerned about unintended consequences. From zombie wheat to the planting of second hand seed, Monsanto et al hold massive financial sway over farmers by suing them into oblivion for growing gmo products unwittingly or without a license agreement. I’m also concerned about the impact on agriculturally proximal flora and fauna. Some gmo allow farmers to use less insecticide or fungicide, which is great. However, round up ready crops lead farmers to overuse roundup leading to round up resistant weeds that ultimately endanger crops in the future by competition for nutrients etc. and by requiring ever higher doses to treat crops. Glyphosate is deleterious to plants and animals and may be responsible for global declines in pollinators. It’s not as if there is no force of science behind these ideas. Google scholar search, NCBI search, springer query…there are thousands of papers documenting these processes. Even the USDA is concerned about glyphosate resistant weeds

    1. Tom

      But herbicide-resistant weeds are not exclusive to GM crops. And glyphosate resistance has not increased since the commercial planting started of GM crops ( As a geneticist myself (yeast) I’m curious, what is your area of research?

    2. Tom

      CORRECTION: The RATE of glyphosate resistance has not increased.

  20. Luke Weston

    Once again we see anti-GMO pseudoscience that is clearly linked to the commercial “natural”/”organic” food industry.

    There’s an obvious commercial motive here… it’s like homoeopaths investigating pharmacology. Don’t use that horrible evil poison… here, use our magic beans instead! Only $49.95!

    These same people would be up in arms if anyone associated with the biotechnology or pharma corporations was involved with the publication of studies relating to agricultural biotechnology or drugs or vaccines… so why the double standard?

    The “organic food” industry is essentially founded completely on pseudoscience, selling incredibly expensive products to relatively rich Western consumers, pitched as a luxury premium product whilst offering absolutely no difference (beyond the placebo effect) in terms of health or dietary benefits, land use or any other metric of environmental footprint.

    Obviously there is big money to be made, and publishing “studies” that claim that the cheaper regular competing product is going to kill you but there’s a big secret conspiracy keep it quiet” are good for business too.

  21. Brandie

    I am so tired of seeing every single study that is not in Biotech’s favor being called junk science. How about if you head a study, make it long term, and get us what you would consider to be the true findings then. When I look at all the negative studies I am thinking in the very least it warrants enough concern to do a study NOT funded by industry. Why is the government no stepping up to do this. I also don’t like the way it feels to know that my breakfast lunch and dinner is BANNED in over 30 countries due to health concerns and labeled in many others so that people may have the option while here it is all slipped in on the sly. Why?? If they are so great and so safe why not just label them and give the public their human right of choice! Why is my right to choose being denied?

  22. Mike Luque

    But what about the entire root of GMO crops. Why do they exist at all??

    To sell more poisons. To sell more herbicides and pesticides.

    That’s it, folks. Monstanto doesn’t care about you, your health or the world. They want to increase the profits for their shareholders. How do you do that? Increase sales. Of their main products… herbicides and pesticides. They are a company that makes poisonous products and uses GMO crops to sell even more.

    Is anyone going to argue the fact that increased use of pesticides and herbicides, along with the monoculture such farming induces, is bad for the environment??

    Well… are you??

    1. Justin Horn

      So true! This is one of the easiest arguments for people to understand I think. Even if you assume GMO plants themselves are safe, even the ones with built in pesticides, the bulk of GMO is to allow plants to be sprayed with more and more pesticides and herbicides.

      So it’s not just the GMO side of it, it’s the roundup as well. No thank you!

    2. Jason

      Actually, by expressing small amounts of very potent and specific insecticidal proteins in the plant, this is intended to reduce the amount of non-specific (i.e. organophosphate, etc…) pesticide chemicals required to be applied during the growing period, and also reduces the exposure of humans and livestock to residues of these potentially harmful pesticides in the food stream. It should be noted that pests will also attack non-GM plants, so elimination of GM technology from the food stream has the potential to increase the application of petroleum-based organic pesticides while in turn reducing the yield per acre of important commodity grains and livestock feed inputs.

      It is true that herbicide tolerance genes are designed to allow plants to tolerate herbicidal chemicals like glyphosate, but it is important not to confuse the two different applications.

      As an aside: this blog post is about a study conducted in pigs that reports potential hazardous effects of consumption of diets containing GM materials. When criticism is expressed for the science in question, many folks in the comments thread defaulted to other arguments unrelated to the health and safety claims purported by the authors:

      – overuse of chemicals
      – weed/insect tolerance
      – environmental impact
      – legal decisions by the companies who produce and sell these products

      While those are relevant points to make, and likely deserve some consideration when evaluating potential benefits vs. detriments of GM technology, to me they seem a bit outside of the current discussion of the pig feeding study…

    3. Justin Horn

      Yes, my comments (and others) might be outside the scope, but at the same time, the author set a tone of “you people afraid of GMOs are all crazy”. So I felt it fair to highlight the other obvious reasons why GMOs are not safe for humans, humans food, or the environment, beyond this one study.

      Also, the amount of Roundup has increased significantly since the introduction of GMO plants. So your whole argument that GMOs will help reduce the use of external chemicals, is flawed.

    4. Jason

      What I was trying to state, albeit obviously not very well, is that your risk of having a serious health issue (crash) when in a car is much greater than any risk from consumption of foods containing GM materials. For me, it helps to put it into context of what is likely to actually have an impact on my health. But your points about the environmental consequences of the automobile culture are just as valid, and you didn’t even touch on the industrial waste that is created when a car reached the end of it’s life and is scrapped. It just seems strange to me that there is this general vehemence about GM foods, when there are so many other chemicals and situations that humans expose themselves to, that are much more risky. That’s all I was getting at. Sorry if it was a poor example.

      I don’t agree with you that one company has taken over the market for seeds. Several major companies sell GM and non-GM seeds, and non-GM seeds are readily available.

      As for dogfooding (I had to look up what that meant). I feel this is a red herring argument. First, because of the lack of labeling (at least in the US), how would an employee know which foods do and don’t contain GM input materials and therefore avoid them? The commodity grain is not segregated on the basis of GM vs. non-GM, so the GM corn and soybean (and related processed fractions) can theoretically be in any food. And, although the common rally cry is that these greedy companies are just out to make a bunch of money, this doesn’t hold as much weight when you consider that companies are made of people, and most people aren’t getting extremely wealthy from these products. Also, this argument basically assumes that anyone with a scientific background who works in the industry forgoes their ethics and training in the scientific method in an effort to force dangerous goods into the marketplace. Scientists at these companies are also consumers, so it makes little to no sense to me for these scientists to deliberately expose themselves, or their families and friends to something dangerous. Also, there seems to be a plausibility issue, because hundreds and thousands of scientists and other support personnel are involved in generating the data that go into GM crop dossiers. It would take an extremely coordinated effort on the part of any company to silence all of those people and prevent just one person from leaking information that suggests nefarious activity. In that regard, you were correct again; sometimes the simplest answer is the correct one.

      Regarding your question about my diet, the short answer is I don’t differentiate between foods containing GM and non-GM inputs. The data show that there are no significant compositional differences between GM and non-GM corn. They have similar nutritive properties and provide similar amounts of essential dietary components. Other than the expressed GM trait, these plants are essentially the same to me, so I don’t spend my time worrying about it. The longer answer is that there are definite issues with the current human diet, and we rely too heavily on highly processed and refined foods that contribute to obesity and other health issues (cardiovascular, diabetes, etc…). Personally, I try to keep the food supply chain as short as possible, grow my own fruits and veggies when I can, and minimize consumption of processed foods. That said, there is something very appealing and refreshing about an ice-cold Pepsi once in a while, or a fatty burger from any number of fast food joints. I just take issue with the conflation of an unhealthy human diet and GM crops. In my mind, they aren’t the same thing…

    5. Justin Horn

      Jason, some valid points, I just happen to disagree with you. As long as you aren’t against labeling of GMOs, I have no problem with your line of thought. Let everyone choose for themselves.

      “It just seems strange to me that there is this general vehemence about GM foods”

      1) Because we are not given a choice. You have a choice to buy an electric, hybrid, or gas car. You have a choice to get in it and drive on dangerous highways. Monsanto has spent millions of dollars buying the US government off and paying for anti GMO labeling propaganda. So not only do I not want to eat their GMO for safety reasons, I don’t want to support a “1984” company, trying to control the free flow of information. Monsanto’s biggest downfall so far was letting people know they exist.

      2) Because this is something we are putting directly into our bodies. There is nothing else so personal. The next closest thing I would be air, then skin.

      “I don’t agree with you that one company has taken over the market for seeds. Several major companies sell GM and non-GM seeds, and non-GM seeds are readily available.”

      Monsanto owns like 80%+ of all GMO seeds in the world and are making it harder and harder for farmers to source and use regular seeds. Whether or not you think GMOs will kill you, Monsanto is an evil corporation…like Google 🙂

      Yes, LOL, dogfooding is a new one for me, but now I can’t stop using it! I do think it’s very possible for someone to create something that makes them profit while causing harm to others. Happens all the time. It’s a sad part of human nature. And for some, it’s not huge wealth, but a job. Which is sad in a different way.

      “It would take an extremely coordinated effort on the part of any company to silence all of those people and prevent just one person from leaking information that suggests nefarious activity.”

      Not that hard when you are taking in like 2 billion in profit a year. You just buy the US government and others will follow. I guess the US dollar isn’t good enough to buy off other countries though. Follow the money.

      Your Diet
      Finally, we kind of agree on something. Not on the GM and NonGM being the same for our stomachs, but on the fact that processed food is the king of all the health problems.

      I no longer drink soda, so many chemicals and so much sugar! Diet soda is even worse! I have been soda free for over 6 months!! I do love organic grass fed burgers though. Beef when fed grass is actually very healthy for you, along with all the fresh veggies of course. Never would buy one from a fast food place, because there is so much extra stuff added in that you don’t need. Look at the ingredients for a McD burger and bun. There should not be over 100 of them, but there is. Gross!

      It’s this bad science that the US government started 30 years ago saying FAT = BAD, Carbs / Sugar = Sure, why not. Only now are doctors starting to come out and speak against this and not look like crazy people, like Dr. Atkins did at the time (I thought he was crazy too, because I was so brainwashed into thinking steak bad, pasta good)

    6. Mark Jones

      Yes Monsanto just wants to kill everyone including themselves.

      Just say no to the slippery slope of hyperbole or risk sounding just like people who believe in chemtrails, and all the other extremely stupid conspiracy theories.

      More logic less emotion.

    7. Luke Weston

      Crops with recombinant glyphosate resistance are resistant to any generic brand of glyphosate from any manufacturer – it’s got nothing to do specifically with Monsanto Roundup-brand glyphosate. (For that reason I don’t really like using the name “Roundup Ready”, as it tends to mislead people into thinking that it specifically applies only to Roundup-brand glyphosate, which it doesn’t.)

      Many, many farmers today use cheap generic brands of widely used, well understood, off-patent chemicals such as glyphosate that have been in use for quite a while.

      If you plant a glyphosate-resistant crop, you’re perfectly free to manage weeds using exactly the same herbicides that you’d otherwise use on a non-resistant crop if you want to – selective herbicides such as atrazine or acetochlor or whatever it is you’re using. The effect of these herbicides on the non-target crop is absolutely no different in the case of a glyphosate-resistant crop. And obviously the choice of the recombinant crop has absolutely no connection to the response of target weeds to the herbicide.

      So, claims that it’s all just a big herbicide sales conspiracy just don’t make any sense.

      Have we seen an increase in glyphosate use over the last decade?
      If so, why? The expiration of Monsanto glyphosate patents and the emergence of cheap generic competitors is probably influential in this regard.

      Are we seeing an overall increase in herbicide use with this supposed increase in glyphosate use, or are we seeing a change in herbicide choices – a move away from the traditionally used selective herbicides such as atrazine and their replacement with glyphosate and glyphosate-resistant crops?

      Contrary to anti-glyphosate pseudoscience invented as a way to attack GMOs, glyphosate is an extremely safe herbicide, with a very short half-life in the soil, no environmental persistence, and no scientifically legitimate toxicological concerns in insects or animals. Toxicologically and environmentally it is a very safe herbicide, and the use of glyphosate to replace other herbicides such as atrazine which are associated with much more substantial, legitimate environmental concerns is a very environmentally friendly choice.

      A good little review of the basic properties, history and use of glyphosate is here:

    8. Scott

      “Toxicologically and environmentally it is a very safe herbicide, and the use of glyphosate to replace other herbicides such as atrazine which are associated with much more substantial, legitimate environmental concerns is a very environmentally friendly choice.”

      Environmentally friendly? It’s a joke? The stuff is designed to kill every plant in an entire ecosystem. Which of course also kills every other life form depending on those dead plants. Which severely damages all the ecosystem services provided by that whole system! A system which we humans try to pretend we are not a part…….but we are a part.

      In a pigs eye glyphosate is “environmentally friendly.” It is incredibly harmful.

      It like saying a hand grenade is “friendly” because it is so much smaller than a nuke. Only in a completely warped insane world is glyphosate “ecologically friendly” LOLZ

    9. Clyde Davies

      “Environmentally friendly? It’s a joke? The stuff is designed to kill every plant in an entire ecosystem. Which of course also kills every other life form depending on those dead plants. Which severely damages all the ecosystem services provided by that whole system! A system which we humans try to pretend we are not a part…….but we are a part.”

      This is a *stupid* argument. Anything used indiscriminately is dangerous. All you can really ask of a herbicide is that it doesn’t kill things it isn’t aimed at, and that’s more true for glyphosate than any of the alternatives.

      And don’t try to make otu that herbicides are dispensable. They aren’t, especially where I come from.

    10. Scott

      No it is not a “stupid argument”. It is the truth. You just refuse to see the truth because your simple mind can’t see beyond what is familiar to you.

      What is a “stupid” argument is thinking that herbicides sprayed on an entire field killing everything is the only way it can be done, “especially where you come from.”

      Herbicides were not even invented until 1941 and not even used in agriculture until 1946. And now it is impossible not to use them? Really? I haven’t used a herbicide in growing crops for over 30 years! So I guess I am doing the impossible? The world record rice production was grown without herbicides. I guess he did the impossible too?

      What a simple minded person you turned out to be. And here I was gaining a sort of affection and quiet respect for you…until you said that. Not only below the belt but unequivocally wrong.

    11. Justin Horn

      Ignorance is bliss I guess. I’d rather not be ignorant though. Just give me a choice. Does that sound like a crazy request? Am a crazy dirty hippie conspiracy theorist because I’d like to know if I’m eating a monanto licence crop?

    12. Clyde Davies

      Scott: like it as not, conventional farmers will use herbicides. They will either use nasty herbicides or comparatively benign herbicides. Nasty herbicides are stuff like atrazine. Comparatively benign herbicides are stuff like Roundup.

      Now, I’m no great fan of pesticides being sprayed willy-nilly all over the place but unless you have a lot of labour to hand to do the hand pulling of weeds then you are going to end up with them contaminating your crop. And even as a non-farmer I know that some of them are really quite nasty, such as ragwort. I would much rather see glyphosate being used than atrazine as it has much less significant effect on the environment.

      So yes, your argument is a stupid one (note that I did not call *you* stupid). It is ‘the best being the enemy of the good’: you assume that unless we can eliminated pesticides entirely then we can make no worthwhile impact whatsoever on the environmental consequences of farming. I’d much rather seem *some* progress towards a better world. And if that makes me ‘simple minded’, well, so it does every other pragmatist walking the planet.

    13. Scott

      You said precisely “And don’t try to make out that herbicides are dispensable”

      Which means you don’t want me to mention alternatives. Sorry. But there are alternatives. It is the simple truth. There are alternatives. Some of the alternatives are good and some are bad. But there most definitely are alternatives. I will say it again to get really redundant since you have closed your mind to the thought and don’t want people even mentioning it or trying to mention it. There are alternatives.

      The biggest and most beneficial alternative is to stop raising all that livestock feed (corn soy wheat etc..) and put the animals on the land and have those weeds you think you must spray with herbicides be eaten by the animals!

      Bingo. More productivity per acre and no need for herbicides. Not only that but it sequesters carbon too! When grass is grazed it auto prunes its own roots to balance the foliage with the root mass. That decays in the soil producing humus which sequester carbon!

      Want to stop global warming? Dramatically reduce pesticide use? Restore damaged farmland? Reduce the need for haber process nitrogen? Clean and replenish our water? Reduce erosion? Moderate temperatures and global weather patterns? Improve the health of the population?

      Close every single CAFO world wide tomorrow, and stop growing all that excess livestock feed.

      There is no down side at all. It might put Monsanto out of business, or at least their agricultural division, but most people would call that a good thing. 😉

      Close down every CAFO world wide.

    14. Clyde Davies

      I haven’t closed my mind at all, Scott. I’m no ideologue: if the science says we should go organic, we go organic. But what are you going to to about the need for much more manual labour, given that most people don’t want to work on the land? What are you going to do about noxious and toxic weeds like ragwort, which cannot be grazed by animals?

      And outside the sphere of agriculture, what are people going to do about situations like this in my home city: ? An alien invasion has almost totally taken over, and without glyphosate we’d be screwed.

      By all means let’s eliminate herbicide if we can. I think that would be a very good idea. But where that’s not practical, let’s not demonise people who *do* resort to this kind of technique, and let’s encourage them to use it in a more responsible way, shall we? You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, I find.

    15. Scott

      All I can say about knotweed is that if it was on my land (and it isn’t) I would pull out the goats. Turn it into a profit. 😉 Much like we do here with Kudzu. There are even businesses that rent their sheep and goats out for Kudzu control. They make really good money because not only do they make money on their animal products, instead of having to pay for feed, they get paid for their animals to eat! When was the last time you got paid to eat at the restaurant? hahahaha

      The only problem is after several years of good forage, eventually it dies out and it is back to just eating grass again. 🙁 But it is extra good profits while it lasts! 😉

    16. Clyde Davies

      Well, that’s an interesting example of biological control. Somehow I can’t see the good citizens of Swansea putting up with herds of goats roaming the streets, all the same. Don’t they get poisoned by oxalic acid when they eat knotweed? It’s in the rhubarb family after all.

    17. Scott

      You don’t let them wander willy nilly, you control their movements with portable electric feathernet fencing and once one area is eaten down you move them to the next section.

      Again, this isn’t about some primitive subsistence type solution. It is the appropriate integration of modern space age technology and systems thinking, to make a model using biomimicry.

      Don’t feel bad. The vast majority of people can’t get their head wrapped around the concept. You are not alone in that.

      All our life we are taught that overgrazing destroys land. So we are taught that taking those animals off the land and reducing overgrazing and improving productivity is a good thing. But they are wrong. Animals are a key factor in all ecosystems. What causes over grazing is not too many animals, it is the behavior of those animals. So you use systems thinking to modify the behavior. Sounds complicated, but it is fairly easy. With modern technology we can control the movement of animals with cheap lightweight portable electric fencing. If we want to “kill” and invasive we purposely leave then there longer so they “overgraze” that one spot. On a pasture with natives we want to improve, we graze it a short time, move them to a new spot, and don’t allow them to overgraze. In old times this was done by an experienced shepherd, herding dogs and is labor intensive. But now we can do it with cheap new space age technology. The effect? The same pasture produces up to 500%+ the usable forage, making it actually far more productive than raising grain to feed animals in warehouses. It also restores the ecosystem services to the land. INCLUDING sequestering ALL the carbon emitted by fossil fuels. Or in the case of invasives, we can use the technique in reverse to “overgraze” the invasives.

      That frees up millions and millions of acres of land that is now used to grow livestock feed. You can do whatever you want with that freed up land. Plant an orchard or food forest, restore a rain forest, plant veggies, whatever is appropriate for the location.

    18. Clyde Davies

      Oh I don’t feel bad. I can get my head around the principles perfectly well. It’s the *detail* that I was hazy about.

      I am sure that what you are saying makes perfect sense. The electric fencing idea is a very interesting one.

  23. Justin Horn

    While I do see your stance on this specific report and agree it seems a biased (just as all the reports sponsored by Monsanto), I don’t believe any reports can show 100% that GMOs are safe.

    The real test is happening right now on millions of dollar signs, errr, I mean American people. Maybe there are no conclusive test either way, but my gut is telling me it will not be good for Monsanto. I also would prefer not to be an unwitting test subject. At least let me opt in to the test people!!!

    1. Jason

      You are absolutely right! Safety cannot be conclusively proven. It is possible to make statements and draw conclusions regarding risk of harm. Risk is estimated by evaluating both hazard potential AND exposure.

      All deregulated (approved) GMO products currently marketed in the US and other geographies have undergone significant testing for both hazard and exposure, and the reviewers of these data have concluded that the risks of harm from a health effects perspective are minimal.

      Consumption of high volumes of water can cause dilution of electrolytes in the blood and result in cardiac arrhythmia and even death. Similarly, prolonged exposure to high concentrations of pure oxygen can result in significant pulmonary effects, including death. Does this mean that water and oxygen are not safe? There needs to be some context provided, and anyone who explicitly states that anything is “safe” doesn’t understand the technical and scientific considerations of risk in a regulated world.

      And as an aside, in the world of regulatory science, there is no room for a “gut feel”. There are data that either support or refute low or high risk of harm. That is why, when science like this is published, it is a good idea to critically evaluate the results and conclusions to ensure that the information being used to estimate risk has good quality. Judging by the overwhelming criticism of this article, it seems there are enough questionable issues to reduce the impact of these data in terms of hazard assessment.

    2. Justin Horn

      Problem with science is, it is no longer pure. It’s bought and paid for. Just like the US government.

      By saying “my gut” (trying to be punny), I was merely stating the common sense argument. Follow the money. A lot of times the simple answer is the right one.

    3. Jason

      Out of curiosity, how does your gut feel about riding in or driving an automobile? If you do that, you are increasing your risk of an adverse health effect exponentially above any putative risk of consuming foods that are prepared with GM inputs.

      And I’m also curious about what is the simple answer here? And how does one justify that the simple answer is the correct answer? When there are dichotomous data, and the potential for bias in either direction, how does one wade through it to come to a simple answer that is also right?

    4. Justin Horn

      What adverse health effects are you referring to? I’m more concerned about the damage I do to the environment driving my car and if I had the money would buy a new electric car (yes yes, I know batteries are bad too, but it a step in the right direction)

      Simple Answer
      The simple answer is, this argument could go either way. The general data shows that things were better off before one company took over all the seeds in the US for corn, soy, etc.

      I believe the test is still ongoing on a mass scale and would rather not be a part of it. I think that is my choice and the fact that Monsanto doesn’t want that leads me to believe they are hiding something. Again, the simple answer always leads back to human greed and money.

      I also would like to know how many people that work for Monsonto participate in dogfooding. I bet it’s less than you think.

      Let me ask you a question
      If given GMO corn or organic corn, which would you choose considering all other variables are equal?

    5. Clyde Davies

      You can’t prove anything is totally safe. That would be akin to proving that something – in this case a toxic effect – does not exist, and we all know that maxim about absence of evidence and all that.

      All you can do is look at the risks of following a course of action versus the risks of not doing so. In certain cases, the latter kind of risks are translating into very real consequences, for people who eat most rice, for example. They can’t get enough vitamin A in their diet, and the risks from growing a GM variety of rice are practically non-existent.

  24. Mark

    When it comes down to it, I don’t want GMO crops because:
    1.) I don’t like someone holding a patent on my food. I dare you to come on my land and tell me I can’t save seeds
    2.) I don’t really trust Monsanto or any other biotech company to have my best interests at heart unless they coincidentally coincide with that of their shareholders and profits.
    3.) Ditto for the US Government and their idea of “oversight”, which is laughable at best
    4.) There’s nothing wrong with how things are naturally designed. Most of these GMO crops are manufactured to do things like withstand dousing them with chemicals like glyphosate which is NOT something that is safe or that I want to be eating. Just look at the rise of birth defects in Argentina that has accompanied the rise of GMO soy. It’s not the soy causing the problem but the pesticides dumped on it.
    5.) If it is so safe, why fight labeling it? Tyranny and ignorance go hand in hand:
    “Withholding information is the essence of tyranny. Control of the flow of information is the tool of the dictatorship.”
    ― Bruce Coville
    6.) It is laughable to have anyone say that they can 100% claim that GMO products are safe. No one understands the complexity of nature and how things are interdependent, how species may mutate, etc. Just like the whole idea of NPK fertilizer turned out to be a case of shortsighted gain while destroying soil fertility in the long term, who knows how this will play out? I’d rather err on the side of caution.

    1. Justin Horn

      Yes, that ^^^

    2. Foster Boondoggle

      1.) You can save any seeds you want, as long as you didn’t start by buying them from Monsanto or another patent holder. There are plenty of non-patented “heirloom” varieties of corn, etc. out there that you’re free to grow and replant. I’m guessing that you’re not a farmer or even a backyard grower, or you’d know this.

      2.) You don’t have to, which is what the FDA, EPA and USDA are for.

      3.) Well, now you’re getting into tinfoil hat land. Still, the US gov’t won’t stop you from buying a few acres somewhere and living off the land, free from interference by Monsanto.

      4.) “There’s nothing wrong with how things are naturally designed.” What a tired and meaningless sentiment. The “natural” corn, wheat, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, etc. that you hold in high esteem have been bred by humans for millennia. Surely you know this. There’s nothing “natural” about them, any more than there is about a house. As to being bred to withstand “dousing with chemicals” — are you OK with plants bred to withstand herbicides if it’s done “naturally”? i.e., with ionizing radiation or mutagenic chemicals? Because those wouldn’t be GMOs and could be labeled “organic”.

      5.) For the same reason that we don’t let every special interest group demand their own special labeling. If some white supremacists come along and demand labeling based on the race of the farmer, should that be mandated?

      6.) “No one understands the complexity of nature”. Well, you’ve certainly made that clear about yourself.

      “Just like the whole idea of NPK fertilizer turned out to be a case of shortsighted gain while destroying soil fertility in the long term…” Ummm, you base this on what? Something like 80% of the bound nitrogen in human bodies now comes from synthetic NPK fertilizer. Are you suggesting that 4/5 of humanity should die so that we can return to your eden?

    3. Scott

      “Something like 80% of the bound nitrogen in human bodies now comes from synthetic NPK fertilizer. Are you suggesting that 4/5 of humanity should die so that we can return to your eden?”

      Logic fallacy. It only points out how bad the system is worldwide.

    4. Justin Horn


      1.) I’m not a farmer, but I have a feeling when 90% of corn is GMO, it’s easier said then done growing non GMO corn and finding seeds.

      2.) LOL, the FDA and USDA are pretty much useless. Monsanto owns those guys.

      3.) See #2

      4.) I dare you to find one person that would prefer to eat a fruit or veggie that has been dumped on with Roundup vs one that has had none.

      5.) Your response to this is laughable. I feel sorry for you on this one. This is completely different. That’s like saying, should we label what ingredients are in the products you buy from the store? Should we put how many calories? You are just ridiculous. I can understand some people are on the side that GMO is fine, but to have a problem with labeling so those that want to opt out of the human testing trial, then you are an

      6.) Some really smart people thought it would be a good idea to put canals through the everglades. Now many many years later they are trying to put it back the way it was because of all the damage that caused. While you laugh at Mark’s point here, you really shouldn’t.

    5. Rurik B Halaby

      Good job, Foster. Have you read ‘Hybrid’ by Noel Kingsbury? I am an investment banker who works exclusively in agribusiness. I am privileged to be in this sector and if I have one criticism of the sector it is that the players don’t do enough to educate the public about the amazing working of the food chain.

    6. Justin Horn

      They don’t educated the public because the public would be disgusted with some of the stuff they do. Their best play was to stay hidden. Like I said before Monsanto being a household name is not going to be good for them in the long run.

    7. sammyd

      I see quite a few people here who are rabidly anti-GMO yet seem to have no idea how things work and seem to be basing their hatred off of falsehoods and misinformation.
      Of course that is par for the course, it is far easier to disturb folks using emotion rather than facts.

      Large farmers do not save their own seed. I have farmed in one way or another since 1969 and have yet to save any of my crops for planting next year.
      When I planted GMO corn a few years back I signed a contract that said I couldn’t save seed. Anybody who plants GMO seeds will sign the same thing, no one is making them do it.

      Since then I have planted non GMO and guess what, there was no shortage of non GMO varieties for me to choose from.
      Many dealers offer many different types. GMO isn’t pushing them out of the picture.

      As for GMO producing a plant that withstands “dousing” with chemicals, let’s look at conventional corn which withstands spraying with Atrazine, which is a far more powerful and longer lasting chemical than glyphosate could ever hope to be.
      And the whole food doused with chemicals thing is another falsehood anyway…When my corn is sprayed the plants are around 5 inches tall. There is no “food” anywhere around and there won’t be for some time. And using a quart or so an acre is hardly dousing.

      The whole idea of NPK fertilizer was wrong? LOL you have a lot to learn about how stuff works.

    8. Justin Horn

      So why not just let me buy stuff that isn’t GMO? Why is that so wrong? Oh right, because then Monsanto will wind up losing money when demand switches.

      It’s all about the bottom line, nothing less, nothing more. So whether or not you agree with me on GMOs being harmful (it’s obvious you’ve already made up your mind), you should agree with me that it is my choice to participate in the current human trial.

    9. Clyde Davies

      As I thought, when it comes down to the crunch, you really don’t have the guts to follow through, do you? Either you really don’t believe what you’re saying, or you want to move the goalposts to allow any old claim in your favour.

      The law courts are where this kind of issue eventually gets settled. Plenty of drugs companies have fallen foul of this issue and been caught out: just see the Vioxx scandal.

      So, seeing as you won’t put up, I wonder if you’re going to shut up, or still spout the same old b/s that I’ve heard up to now? Or don’t you have anything new to add? I’d bet on the last outcome…were I a gambling man.

    10. Justin Horn

      Clyde, you are douche, I will not shut up, but I will stop responding to your dumb ass. I don’t want to waste anymore time than the 30 seconds it took to write this last comment. Arguing with kids / teenagers on the Internet is so silly.

  25. Rat in the kitchen

    Just posting so I get follow-up comments by email!

  26. Scott

    It doesn’t take a new study to prove the way we raise pigs in CAFO’s is both unhealthy for us and the pigs. The irony is that pigs are tortured every day. You don’t need to have a study on GMO’s to know that.

  27. Nate Brown

    A quick google search of Mark Lynas says he’s a biotech supporter. I guess we are only supposed to believe the studies Monsanto does in support of biotech. WHAT A JOKE THIS GUY IS!

    1. Mark Jones

      The biotech haters are no different than climate change deniers. They all rush to embrace without question, anything that supports their confirmation bias. Attacking any scientist who points out the issues with the claims from the GM crops equals extinction of mankind hyperbole. This is no different than American Republicans latching onto every meteorologist that says climate change is a hoax.

      Explain the dichotomy please. Climate scientists good. Biotechnology scientists bad.

      “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”
      ― Neil deGrasse Tyson

    2. Scott

      “Our principles must not be myths, legends, assumptions, theories or dogmas, nor a combination of them. They must constitute more than a staunch conviction or a popular belief. They must be true; if they are not true, they cannot serve as a valid foundation upon which to build a true way of life.” Dr. Herbert Shelton

    3. Justin Horn

      The good thing about science is it’s always evolving and changing. So what is believed to be true now may not be so next year. Remember how crazy it was growing up when people started saying the earth was spherical and not flat.

      Man, those spheries sure were dumb!!! Oh wait.

    4. Clyde Davies

      I will get up in the morning, and tomorrow the earth will still be spherical, plants will still photosynthesise, the fine structure constant will still be 1/137 and natural selection will still be creating change in plants and animals.

      If there is any consensus about the safety of GM foodstuffs it is that they are pretty harmless to both the environment and the consumer. This doesn’t look to be changing any time soon.

    5. Justin Horn

      You are wrong. Not much else I can say. Try using history as a guide. Otherwise you can continue bathing in your ignorance.

    6. Justin Horn

      How many times has something been approved by the FDA, to later, sometimes much later, be banned. Like some food dyes.

      The earth being round was an extreme example to show you things are not always as they appear. GMOs have only been around for just over 15 years, the earth has been round much longer.

    7. Clyde Davies

      There have been three trillion GM meals eaten, most of them in the most litigious country on Earth. Not one case of harm has been substantiated.

      Show me a proven case of harm resulting from the food stuff in question being GM and I’ll happily change my opinion. Note: my standard of proof is a good deal more stringent than a link to a website.

    8. Justin Horn

      “There have been three trillion GM meals eaten, most of them in the most litigious country on Earth. Not one case of harm has been substantiated”

      It’s just because those smart doctor people have not yet linked GMO, herbicides, pesticides, to other diseases. They are getting close though, basically everything coming back to a central source of inflammation. Just give it 5 more years, then you’ll stop eating that crap.

    9. Clyde Davies

      Five more years? OK, put your money where your mouth is. I’ll bet you, say £50, that in five years there will be no substantiated case of harm as a result of ingestion of GMOs, proven in a court of law either in Europe or the US.

      So, it’s time to put up, or shut up.

    10. Justin Horn

      First, LOL @ the Internet. Yeah, let me place a $80 bet with some random jackass on the Internet via the comment section on a little blog I’ve never heard of before and will not be visiting again.

      Think it’s time to put your e-penis back in your pants.

      Second, court of law? Yeah, that’s where I want this to be “proved”. You are a joke!

      Third, you’ll be dead before it comes time to pay me from you eating all that poison.

    11. Clyde Davies

      As I thought, when it comes down to the crunch, you really don’t have the guts to follow through, do you? Either you really don’t believe what you’re saying, or you want to move the goalposts to allow any old claim in your favour.

      The law courts are where this kind of issue eventually gets settled. Plenty of drugs companies have fallen foul of this issue and been caught out: just see the Vioxx scandal.

      So, seeing as you won’t put up, I wonder if you’re going to shut up, or still spout the same old b/s that I’ve heard up to now? I’d bet on the last outcome…were I a gambling man.

  28. most

    Thanks for article, I will translate it and post on my site (with the source links, of course). Greetings from Poland, Marcin (biotech PhD candidate => Devil’s Servant)

  29. J.B.

    What a thorough critique of the Authors, their affiliations, and any possible conflicts of interests!

    I wish Lynas would apply such a skeptical eye towards the many industry funded, pro-Biotech scientists’ studies each and every time they are published.
    The immediate and rabid attacks of any research which presents questionable results towards transgenics, with complete dismisal of any unfavorable findings without call for more thorough assessment, while holding any and all studies that paint transgencis favorably as rock solid ‘science’ just reeks of hyprocracy.

    Time to get off this site, the stench is almost unbearable.

    1. Clyde Davies

      Nobody’s making any ‘ immediate and rabid attacks of any research which presents questionable results towards transgenics’. There are plenty of opinions on both sides of the argument here. Scientists who actually deserve to be so called will point you at the list of studies at Biofortified’s website: a small percentage of these are negative. However, one has to look at the whole picture, and also whether any study has been conducted rigorously enough.

      The two recent studies that have attracted most attention on this site have been this one and the Seralini study. Both have been heavily criticised, but not because of their findings, more because of the sloppy methodology involved. I would hope that if any similarly sloppy studies that trumpeted the opposite to these would also get a mauling, if only because the main casualty of sloppy science ON BOTH SIDES happens to be science itself.

    2. Scott

      I agree and pointed out on an earlier thread. All other points aside. If you really want to refute this or the Seralini study, you have to do it again with the flaws you think are there removed.

      I haven’t seen Seralini study redone with 50 instead of 10 rats..or with any of the other so called “flaws” removed. Somehow people think it is acceptable to refute them with words alone. It isn’t. You can use words and analysis to criticize a study you think is flawed, but until you back up those words with falsification, it is nothing but hot air. IMHO

    3. Jason

      A “bad” study doesn’t become a better study simply because there is no “good” study in existence, and the lack of valid data shouldn’t be a reason to consider invalid data to be acceptable. The Seralini study, as many have pointed out, was not fit-for-purpose and the design was not amenable to the author’s conclusions. Additionally, the raw data were not published; just the selective results of an unconventional statistical analysis that is not common in the assessment of substances for potential adverse health effects including carcinogenicity. When asked to provide the raw data for additional review and analysis, the author refused. All this study demonstrated was that Sprague Dawley rats get mammary tumors when allowed to live their lives on unrestricted laboratory-based natural food diets. That has been known for years and is well documented in the scientific literature.

      The reason that GMOs have not been tested for carcinogenicity is because there is no bioinformatic or molecular evidence suggestive of a mechanism of action that results in carcinogenesis. In fact, there is very little evidence at all that specific proteins (and the majority of GM plants are normal corn or soybean genetics that express very specific transgenic proteins) are carcinogenic. You can bet the industry goes to great lengths to ensure that the proteins being expressed in GM plants are not similar in sequence, structure or activity to known protein toxins.

    4. Scott

      Like I said. Just hot air. Until you do the study in a way you think is acceptable and could falsify the conclusions in this study you are just talking in the wind.

      You know Mendel’s original experiments on genetics were flawed. Seriously. Look it up. And Mendel’s work was rejected at first. It was not until the early 20th century, long after his death, that the importance of Mendel’s ideas was realized.

      “You can bet the industry goes to great lengths to ensure that the proteins being expressed in GM plants are not similar in sequence, structure or activity to known protein toxins”

      And apparently goes to great lengths to make sure they don’t find out either. After all, once it is known, they no longer have that excuse. Easier to claim they didn’t know by dismissing and finding fault with anything possibly indicating some new unknown and unexpected effect is occurring. Not so much different than what happened with Transfats.

    5. Clyde Davies

      Scott, you say :”. If you really want to refute this or the Seralini study, you have to do it again with the flaws you think are there removed.

      I haven’t seen Seralini study redone with 50 instead of 10 rats..or with any of the other so called “flaws” removed.”

      It’s not the job of a detractor to make up for a bad job. If I go to a restaurant and am served with badly-cooked food, then I can simply send it back with a good reason. I don’t have to give the sous chef a lesson on how to cook. It’s simply enough to point out why the meal has to go back to the kitchen.

      What is most irksome about this study is that it is very plain that this was a fishing trip. I read a comment in another blog about it where the p-values (lower=better) were calculated for the observed harmful effect. The p-values ended up being of the order of 0.5, which is an order of magnitude bigger than that required for us to be able to dismiss it as a pure chance effect. If there was a suspicion of a real effect on stomach inflammation then they should have followed it up with a properly conducted, double blinded study, using assessment methods that removed subjectivity (I can show you how this is done if you like). And they should have treated the pigs better.

    6. Scott

      Why is it irksome to you that the study was a “fishing trip”? Isn’t that the basic root basis of science? A route or method of discovery of the unknown?

      If you don’t go “fishing” for unknown possibilities then how will you ever discover them?

      What is irksome to me is that the vast majority of the science on GMOs is NOT a “fishing trip” and because it is NOT a “fishing trip” there is no possibility of discovering if the GMO’s are really safe or not.

      It’s like they actually are hoping they don’t discover anything!

      That isn’t science. That is simply trying to justify a product for market.

      The first step in science is always the fishing trip! THEN after you find something unknown and unexpected, you use reductionism to find causality. Then last of all you use holism to see if there are any emergent properties not explained by the components, but found in the complete system.

    7. Clyde Davies

      Yes, it was a fishing trip, but the ‘catch’ in this case was on the whole thrown over the side, just like trawlermen do now in the EU. There was a vast load of results which were just as positive as their findings were negative, and they were glossed over because they didn’t suit the narrative.

      If they real feel that they’ve caught something valuable, then they ought to run a proper, double blinded trial with a quantitative analysis. My suspicion is that they won’t do this, because they know it won’t find anything. They’ll just latch onto a statistically insignificant result and claim it proves something, just as climate sceptics do with little vingnettes of data sets.

    8. Scott

      I respectfully disagree Clyde. First of all the opposite is happening here. The results were statistically significant. and it is the “vast load of results” that they threw out that are not statistically significant. That’s why they threw them out. They didn’t throw them out because they were positive, they threw them out because they were statistically insignificant.

      Non-GM-fed 86.3 %
      GM-fed 80.6 %

      A positive result that is statistically insignificant on a trial of that size.

      Severe stomach inflammation
      32% of GM-fed pigs
      12% of non-GM-fed pigs

      A negative result that is statistically significant (p=0.004).

      I agree you have to now run a proper, double blinded trial with a quantitative analysis specifically directed at those results that were found to be statistically significant. Maybe even more analysis after that to find causation, if it also proves to be positive. But dismissing the results just because you don’t like them is improper. You start with the “shotgun” or “fishing trip”, then you use reductionism to reduce it to its specific components, then you look for causation. Oh and BTW the causation might not be the GM grain. It might be a bacteria or even lack of a beneficial bacteria. There is a multitude of possibilities. Whenever you radically change the ecosystem a plant grows in, you can effect the plant itself indirectly and everything surrounding that plant. So even if the mutagen doesn’t cause harm, the glyphosate might set up a chain reaction that ultimately affects the grain indirectly. Or the Bt might not affect a healthy pig, but once it has inflammation from another unrelated issue, that inflamed tissue may be more susceptible to becoming more severe. Who knows? Until you test it, you can’t know.

      If I were to just guess. It is likely not the genes or the proteins produced by the genes. It is most likely an unexpected emergent effect of the whole system.

    9. Clyde Davies

      Well, not being a statistician myself, I respectfully agree with the expert opinions expressed at the bottom of Mark’s original posting. Both of them are pretty damning of the trial methodology.

      I think that it’s also wrong to focus on one sloppy trial and ignore the rest of the evidence out there that suggests that animals fed on GM maize do now worse than those fed on conventional CAFO diets. Now, whether they *should* be kept in such conditions is worthy of further exploration, but a separate question altogether.

  30. Justin Horn

    2 simple question.

    1) For those of you who think GMOs are safe and would feed them to your children (or future children)…

    Are you okay with them being labeled so those that don’t want to participate in the only 15 year old human trial can opt out?

    If no, why not?

    2) Are you okay with the amount of pesticides being used more than doubling in the last decade? GMO related or not, do you honestly think this is safe for us and the environment?

    1. J.B.

      To expand on Justin’s questions, one more:

      What exactly is sustainable about encouraging Petro-chemical Industrial Agriculture?

      What will happen to an industry that relies on cheap petroleum to produce the fertilizers, the required pesticides, fuel for farm equipment, and fuel for transportation to buyers going to be when the non-renewable resource it depends upon being supplied at a low cost is no longer available?

      It will collapse, thats what. Meanwhile, local small-scale food production will keep right on growing, just as it has for thousands of years.

    2. Clyde Davies

      I think that GM food should be labelled. I can see nothing to be gained from keeping people in the dark about what they’re eating, and a refusal to label will only convince some people that the food suppliers have something to hide. Public trust in the food industry will be damaged even more (if that’s possible)

  31. Eric Bischoff

    I know, the earth is flat and smoking does not cause cancer!

    We are rapidly destroying the earth’s topsoil through current unsustainable chemical fertilizer farming methods.

    We have over pumped the aquifers and are running out of water for irrigation.

    Cancer rates are going up not down.

    And you are arguing the benefits of a product that has only one purpose and that is to make money regardless of the dangers.

    I suppose you also think the rising suicide rates of Indian farmers by drinking Round-up because their GMO crops didn’t work and bankrupted them is a joke because it’s unscientific.

    I’ll tell you what! You can eat that crap all you want. Personally I just want the choice to stay away from it. So please stand by your product proudly and label it where ever it is found.

    1. sammyd

      You seem to be in the wrong decade.
      Using herbicides and the occasional insecticide has allowed many farmers to practice no-till farming which raises the amount of organic matter in the soil and greatly reduces the amount of erosion vs old style farming practices which rely on tillage to keep weeds at bay, keeping the soil bare and prime for both wind and water erosion.

      The India farmer thing is a crock GMO had little to do with it, but adding that they committed suicide by drinking roundup is a nice touch.

  32. keith

    Mr. Lynas, what is your response to the response at ?

    “Prominent pro-GM activist, Mark Lynas has, as expected, attacked the study by Dr Judy Carman and her colleagues for their recent work titled, “A long-term toxicology study on pigs fed a combined genetically modified (GM) soy and GM maize diet.”

    ML: The authors are GM activists/campaigners and their results shouldn’t be trusted.

    Answer Summary: The authors are not GM activists; they are highly credentialed experts.

    Detailed Answer: Two authors are Associate Professors in Health and the Environment, School of the Environment, Flinders University in South Australia. Another is a Senior Lecturer at Adelaide University in South Australia. Two are veterinarians, one is a medical doctor, and two are farm experts. The authors have over 60 years of combined experience and expertise in medicine, animal husbandry, animal nutrition, animal health, veterinary science, biochemistry, toxicology, medical research, histology, risk assessment, epidemiology and statistics.

    ML: The paper’s acknowledgements are a veritable who’s who of anti-biotech activism, including Jeffrey Smith, John Fagan and Arpad Pusztai.

    Answer Summary: Two of these individuals are scientists with serious qualifications (qualifications Mr. Lynas does not possess). Mr. Smith’s acknowledgement derives from his role in fostering the international collaborations that were necessary part of the study’s completion.

    Detailed Answer: There were 38 people in the acknowledgement section, including an ex government Minister, an ex Chief of Staff to the Govt Minister and an ex member of the Board of Australia’s food regulator, as well as numerous scientists with more qualifications than Mr. Lynas has (as author, advisor, and speaker) and numerous farmers who were involved in the research.

    Mr. Lynas has picked out three people in that list of 38 and alleged that they are anti-GM activists. This is not the case. In fact two of them are scientists with serious qualifications, qualifications that he doesn’t have.

    The only anti-GM activist, Jeffrey Smith, is acknowledged simply because he suggested that Howard, who was seeing these effects in pigs and wanted to determine if they were scientifically real, should contact Judy who had the scientific expertise to conduct the study. That simple and singular action resulted in discussions between Howard and Judy which resulted in this research. This starting point was rightfully acknowledged, but importantly, the research was conducted entirely independently of all three people Mr. Lynas mentions.

    ML: Funding for the research was derived from anti-GM advocates and therefore biases the results.

    Answer Summary: Funding for the study was actually derived from a current supporter of GM technologies.

    Detailed answer: It is clearly stated in the paper that the major funder of IHER’s involvement in the study is the Government of Western Australia, and the current government is a supporter of GM crops.

    With regard to IHER’s previous work in opposing Bt brinjal in India and CSIRO’s GM wheat in Australia, IHER conducted a thorough review of the evidence presented and concluded that there were serious safety concerns about GM brinjal and CSIRO’s GM wheat. The organization opposed the release of these based on a review of the evidence, not on ideology.

    ML: All the animals were in very poor health. Weaner mortality rates indicate inadequate husbandry standards, and higher rates of abnormalities of the heart and liver in non-GM fed pigs were conveniently ignored.

    Answer Summary: Mr. Lynas does not appreciate the role of statistics in ascertaining scientific certainty.

    Detailed answer: Mr. Lynas is incorrect. These are not the mortality rates for weaners. The rates presented are for the entire lifespan of the animal. Furthermore, animal husbandry was the same for both the GM and non-GM fed groups. This effect has been randomised-out as an effect on the results. Therefore, animal husbandry is not a factor in the difference between GM and non-GM-fed pigs.

    There are hundreds of numbers in the paper. Mr. Lynas has “cherry-picked” a few of these numbers that were not statistically significant and tried to allege that they are. Carman et al only discuss statistically significant findings because this is the scientifically credible approach. GM-fed animals had smaller livers, more pneumonia and more abnormal lymph nodes, but the researchers did not make any statements about these findings because they were not statistically significantly different when compared to non-GM fed animals.

    ML: The authors used “statistical fishing” in their interpretation of the results, clearly attempting to skew or exaggerate their findings. What visual evidence is presented is done so to justify this statistical fishing experiment.

    Summary: The authors executed careful and comprehensive statistical analysis to answer two hypotheses that had been generated by previous observations by the researchers in the U.S. piggeries.

    Detailed answer: The authors performed statistical tests on all of the parameters that Mr. Lynas mentions, and none of them were found to be statistically significantly different. These analyses are clearly presented in the paper. Mr. Lynas either did not read the paper well enough or saw the analysis but did not understand them.

    The counter argument from supporters of Mr. Lynas suggests that the study was not designed to test and statistically evaluate a sole hypothesis. If the authors had measured just the variables associated with the hypotheses being specifically tested (stomach inflammation and reproductive problems) and nothing else, few statistical tests would have been done and little to no statistical adjustment would have been suggested. The significant results that the authors found around the hypotheses that were tested should not be made invalid simply because the authors took some other measurements.

    Furthermore, the level of inflammation in the non-GM fed group was concentrated in the mild to moderate range of inflammation. Feeding GM crops boosted that to severe inflammation, and this was a significant finding. Importantly, inflammation is a graded variable; the more inflammation, the more biologically impactful it can be to the animal. So, you cannot equalize the biological consequence of nil or mild inflammation to severe inflammation. Doing so goes against scientific knowledge on the effects of inflammation.

    ML: This study subjects animals to inhumanely poor conditions.

    Summary: The pigs in both groups were treated equally, humanely and within commercial piggery standards. Any assumption otherwise would be contesting the standards of the U.S. government and should be directed as a complaint to U.S. legislators.

    Detailed answer: Pigs in commercial piggeries are not like laboratory animals that are raised and housed in specific-pathogen-free environments, sometimes only one animal to a cage. On the contrary, pigs in commercial piggeries are part of an industrialised food chain. Pigs are born in commercial farrowing facilities housing many sows at a time. Once weaned, pigs are housed communally in large pens. The result is a real-world experiment that is closer to the interactive, infectious-disease-transmitting and messy school yard than than the more controlled environment of a laboratory animal house. Commercial pigs can and do get infectious diseases and there are indeed a number of infectious diseases that tend to occur in US commercial piggeries. Furthermore, pigs fight, bite and harass each other. As a result, some pigs, particularly runts, can, and do, die. Piggery owners expect some pigs to die and they factor this into their financial returns. Indeed, if no pigs had died in this study, many US piggery owners would have found our results rather incredible.

    The number of pigs was essentially the same between the GM-fed and non-GM-fed pigs.

    All pigs that died underwent autopsies. In all cases, death was found to be due to things such as infectious diseases, ie things that were piggery-related. At no time did any pig handler or veterinarian note, or autopsy indicate, that there was anything treatment-related associated with any pig’s death, including intestinal or stomach problems. Moreover, the number of deaths were the same between groups, which adds weight to the evidence that there was no treatment-related aspect to these deaths.

    All pigs, regardless of dietary group, were fed and treated the same way by experienced pig handlers that were blinded as to the dietary group of the pig so that any differences between the two dietary groups can only reasonably be due to the effect of the GM component of the diet.

  33. Justin Horn

    Love to prove you all wrong in the end, but you’ll already be dead. I’ll just save this link and hope the hosting company forgets to shut down this blog and I’ll post my I told you so here.

  34. Tom Bleakley

    An item of concern to me is the statistically significant increased uterine weights in the exposed group. At the very least, this result should be considered a hypothesis-generating event triggering further research on the long term effects of GMO material on the mammalian (including human) female reproductive system. With safety a concern for a lot of well-meaning people (including me) for products generated by American big business, it would seem prudent to ask why the industry has not undertaken such studies. Endocrine disruptors are present throughout our environment and the data presented suggests that the GMO products used in the study should be added to the list. I would appreciate receiving any comments, pro or con, on this observation.

    1. Tom

      If the paper had been published in a standard toxicology journal or equivalent and if it hadn’t been so obviously flawed (faulty statistics, improper calling of inflammation etc), then maybe other scientists would care to look. There was a number of recent publications (listed here: ) by the Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre in Cork, Ireland, where they looked at pigs fed Bt maize and found nothing alarming. Nine separate peer-reviewed publications in five different journals.

    2. Tom

      There is also some suspicion that the pigs used in the Carman study may have been given moldy feed, which would explain some of the pathologies they observed (see ). There has also been some discussion about the high overall mortality rate in the Carman study irrespective of whether the feed was GM or not.

      Here are some general source material on the safety assessment of GM foods that you might find useful:

    3. John Fryer

      Hi Tom

      Your refs to the science academy and toxicology testing of GMO food are excellent resources but horrifyingly lack elementary science and this from a top USA science body!

      Why? Because they accept substantial equivalence and forget that gene insertion by GMO involves the use of bacteria, virus and antibiotic markers.

      They also ignore the occasional misreading frame when cross species coupling is involved ie splicing animal genes with plant genes and vice versa.

      GMO crops are a completely new technolgy commencing in 1971 or thereabouts and after more than 40 years with no current advantages for the consumer and only risk as shown by Carman and many others the advantages lie only with industry, short term gains for the large farmer and the unknown reason why USA had the best health in the world in 1971 and today comes last out of many modern nations. GMO effects of course do not explain all of this fall in health and may not explain any but it would be nice to know what is the cause for this undisputed decline in health.

    4. Scott

      Hi John,
      “but it would be nice to know what is the cause for this undisputed decline in health.”

      Pretty easy actually. Factory farming and industrial food production of both plants and animals. The VERY simplified explanation is “empty calories”. ie food that is not as nutritionally dense as it used to be, due to either processing, or the way it is grown or both.

      I actually doubt it is the GMOs, although they may play a small part.

    5. John Fryer

      Hi Tom

      Your reference to fusarium harm is relevant but it is also an argument against the use of GMO food growing and the use of glyphosate.

      Fusarium is again an undisputed side effect of the use of GMO technology et al and this once rare pathogen is now something all farmers especially GMO gorowers need to be aware of but not the only problem of this new technology.

      If this pathogen came into the feeding experiments despite the tests to show it was not there then it is also an ever present problem for humans when eating GMO food.

      Carmans research may not be academic science but is relevant science for the consumer who wants to know real risks and not some academic risk-benefit analysis with novel foods with piggy in the middle.

  35. Alicia Sterbakov

    Monsanto is responsible for Agent Orange & PCBs, both having HUGE negative environmental impacts & devastating consequences for humans. Perhaps GMO in & of themselves (grown organically) are not in the least harmful. But when a chemical company turns “agri” company is producing the crops and smothering them with THEIR own manufactured chemical ( GLYPHOSATE), then that’s ENOUGH FOR ME to steer clear of any of their GMO seeded crops & BOYCOTT any products containing them! I don’t need a gosh damn 30 year study conducted by PhD carrying scientist proving to me that they are dangerous, poisonous & toxic because I have God given COMMON SENSE & LOGIC to know they are & to avoid them at all costs!!! THE END!

    1. Justin Horn


    2. Clyde Davies

      ” I don’t need a gosh damn 30 year study conducted by PhD carrying scientist proving to me that they are dangerous, poisonous & toxic because I have God given COMMON SENSE & LOGIC to know they are & to avoid them at all costs!!! ”

      No, let’s not let science and evidence get in the way of making snap judgements at any cost, shall we?

    3. Alicia Sterbakov

      Who said ANYTHING about “snap judgement”?!! Oh right, your judgmental ass did. I am making a CHOICE based on my own research & reason. What I was saying, that you completely chose to ignore, is that I don’t NEED to wait for a 30 yr study to make a choice! I am perfectly capable of making a decision NOW based on my own reasoning skills & common sense!! And I CERTAINLY do NOT need a PhD or permission from a PhD scientist that generated “results”, telling me it’s ok to consume weed killer!!!

      Are you seriously THAT arrogant & that much of a douche-copter?

      What I DO need is clear LABELS to make it easier for me to make that choice! But Monsanto and the companies using their crops to produce food items, fight against labeling! And why is that? Because they know DAMN WELL that if there was a clear label that stated the obvious “Contains GMOs and the chemical Glyphosate found in Round-up Weed Killer”, that millions, maybe billions of people would CHOOSE not to purchase & eat that food product. And I guarantee they wouldn’t even require a fancy degree to make that wise choice!

      And why is that?

      Because human beings are NOT science experiments!!!


      You evil f*ck!

      Go rush to your own “snap judgement” and eat Glyphosate laden GMOs to your hearts content! No one is stopping freakin you!!!!

      Please allot the same consideration to those who choose NOT to eat them!

      K? Thanks!

    4. Clyde Davies

      Dear oh dear. And this is typical of the level of anti-GMO argument, is it?

  36. magufo

    Please read at James Randi* (Quackbuster and fraud magician):

    *James Randi is a ex-member of CIA in the 80´s decade. Randi as a fraudulent program Horizon in the ABC/BBC for homeopathy. Randi and James Randi forum is a quackery.

    1. Clyde Davies

      What on Earth does this have to do with the topic?

    2. magufo

      -Lynas is a CSICOP (CSI) member. Does “extraordinary claims requires extraordinary evidence” a normal phrase in science divulgation? The answer is negative.
      -CSICOP is a pro-GMO organization.
      -Sense About Science is an ONG, this is funded by many industries pharmaceutical, trasngenics, telecommunications and petroleum.
      -Sense About Science i directrly related with CSICOP and James Randi Educational Foundation.

      Therefore, Lynas is like Edzard Ernst or Susan Blackmore of GMO.

    3. Clyde Davies

      Bollocks. Lynas should be assessed on his arguments, nothing more, nothing less. The fact he’s changed his mind on this topic tells me that he’s now just doing what any scientist worthy of the title would do: he’s modified his position on the basis of the evidence.

  37. magufo

    Mark Lynas says “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”, is typical pharse of pseudoskeptikal organizations. See at Rational Wiki (web from CSICOP and Randi´s propagandists):

    And Gilles Séralini page with typical acussations of “conspirancy”:

  38. Geoff Russell

    More later, but google “sow replacement rate” if you want to find out a little about pig health in intensive systems. It’s globally and generally dismal. Who cares? It’s all about finding the profitable “sweet” point as mortality increases and welfare decreases.

  39. John Fryer

    The Carman study shows that harm is clearly seen from a short term feeding experiment using GMO food fed to pigs.

    This is a worrying finding given that GMO has been with us for more than 40 years and we still cant find one GMO food clearly better than a non-GMO alternative. Enhanced rice still not approved or existing?

    Carman invite criticism as they report results showing many non-significant effects or comparisons but choosing to emphasise the only two results that show harm (lesions or severe damage to the gut system – particularly the stomach and possible but not proven harm to sexual organs).

    Monsanto promote other researchers work on pigs and the effects of GMO food where organ damage et al is found but they (the researchers) conclude finally by stating that all is well and ignore or excuse the harm they found.

    No study shows a clear advantage for the feeding animal from GMO food, so the advantage to date rests solely for the industry and the farmer.

    Personally I would like to avoid any GMO food but with up to 70 per cent of the food market with some GMO and its presence now even in organic food and even wheat where no allowed GMO trait has been approved, this is now an expensive and only partial avoidance policy to prevent my perceived past GMO related illnesses related to exactly that found by Carman.

    The only good news is that by avoiding most GMO foods this health problem is no longer apparent in me for over five years. (Possible Bt GMO problems to gut system harm)

    With regard to GMO effects on animals has anyone noted black bones and blackened meat around the bones of chickens when not organic? This trait for chickens was unknown to me for decades but seems prevalent in the cheap chickens I no longer buy. It may be completely non-GMO cause but the presence of decayed black bones seems to be accepted as normal!

    Apart from any adverse health effects from GMO it has (GMO food avoidance) personally driven up the price of my food enormously. Hardly a benefit for the poor of the world unless they have no issues with GMO food?

    Theoretical harm from the necessary mix of viruses, bacteria and antibiotic markers never seems to get a mention in any GMO debate. (Use of E Coli, Bt, SV40, mosaic virus etc etc).

  40. Geoff Russell

    Let me get this straight … people are worried about the health impacts of GMO feed on pigs that they want to eat. Right? Pig meat, particularly processed meat in various sausages, causes bowel cancer. This was nailed down in 2007 by the equivalent of the IPCC in the cancer field (the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research report … issued about once per decade).

    Generally speaking processed meat is about 3 times more carcinogenic than fresh red meat … so the relative risk ratios for processed meat are generally similar to those of fresh red meat despite the former being usually quoted per 30g while fresh red meat risks are quoted per 100g. Risk ratios of 1.1 to 1.5 are common … which means that people in the highest meat intake group have a bowel cancer rate 10-50% higher than those in the lowest intake category (no, these are not vegans, but just “normal” people who don’t eat much red meat.).

    What could anybody possible do to pig meat to make it more unhealthy than it already is? If you are concerned with health then you don’t eat red meat at all, particular processed meat (which is usually pig meat). If you are concerned about pain and suffering, then you don’t eat pig meat at all. So what precisely are the concerns of the study authors.

    1. Scott


      1) That is not what the study is about. They simply were using the pigs like lab rats. If the GM grain causes problems for pigs, then that would indicate a possible line of risk if GM grain were to be used in human food. Not proof mind you, but a place to start doing research to find a possible causality with further studies.

      2) ALL CAFO meat is unfit for human consumption. Pig, chicken, cow, you name it. But that is a completely separate issue than this study. Once you confine the animals in small filthy inhumane conditions the disease and nutrient profile of the meat radically changes making it unfit to eat. IMHO. Of course that is even more controversial than GMOs.

      3) The reason CAFO meat is unfit to eat is very likely unrelated to GMOs. I have seen no study even hinting that. In fact I have seen studies showing no difference in the meat product between being fed organic grains and GMO grains. The reason CAFO meat is unfit to eat is the unnatural feed (cows eat grass not grain. Chickens eat bugs grass and grain, not grain only etc) and filthy living conditions producing huge risk for pathogens.

    2. Geoff Russell

      Hi Scott. regarding 1) if the pigs were just being used as lab rats then why not feed them diets a little closer to human diets … with and without a GM component?

      As for 2) and 3) … I’m vegan, and know of more than a little evidence for the ill-effects of animal products, but even I don’t know of any evidence that CAFO meat is any worse than any other meat for human consumption. But agree entirely that there is plenty of evidence for CAFOs working as breeding grounds for new or more virulent pathogens.

      Australian domestic beef is almost entirely grass fed (we export most feedlot beef), but our bowel cancer rates lead the world. Over a million of todays 22 million Australians will get it. Our pig and chicken production is mostly CAFO, but our high levels of bowel cancer and heart disease go back much further … well before the CAFO revolution … we had them back when most of our meat was from sheep and cattle and we had no chicken industry at all. In fact, our heart disease rates have declined considerably thanks to the substitution of tortured CAFO chicken for free range sheep/lamb meat and the modification of milk to reduce the saturated fat.

    3. Scott

      Hi Geoff,
      First off I want to say I have nothing against vegetarians in general. Even I prefer to eat meat on average less than 1 serving a week. I do have a few crazy vegan stalkers that follow and harass me from forum to forum because I advocate healing the land with animals and organic permaculture methods, but I understand that extremists like that can be found in any group of people. As a general rule MOST vegetarians are decent people. After all, they are smart and compassionate enough to see the unethical inhumane nature of CAFOs. So I consider myself basically “on your side”. Although I will never be a dogmatic vegan. I go by the philosophy that if the only meat you can get is CAFO meat, don’t eat any meat. If it was somehow proven to be healthier (it isn’t) I still wouldn’t because it is unethical to torture animals like that.

      Now for your statement, “but even I don’t know of any evidence that CAFO meat is any worse than any other meat for human consumption. But agree entirely that there is plenty of evidence for CAFOs working as breeding grounds for new or more virulent pathogens.”

      Well pathogens certainly are a major part of it! Kinda weird that you don’t know of any evidence , but then give evidence? But I am assuming you mean nutrition? Well you may not have known it, and both vegan advocates and meat industry advocates try to avoid it (although for different reasons) The nutritional profile for CAFO animals is radically different than pastured animals due to their diet being radically different. In fact the difference is so radically different that you can usually visually see the difference before you even run the tests. For example : take a grass fed free range egg and look at the yolk. It is a vivid dark orange color instead of pale yellow due to all the extra beta carotene (precursor to vitamin A). In fact one of the major industrial CAFO giants in the USA started feeding their poultry marigolds to cover up how pale and sickly their broilers were! They’ll do ANYTHING to avoid actually having to raise a truly healthy nutritious bird!

      As far as your evidence that somehow “substitution of tortured CAFO chicken” made society heart disease better. It is a non-causal correlation that is seen because other important dietary, lifestyle, and medical technology changes happened at the same time. You could call it a “false positive”.

  41. Bert Guy

    The referenced paper about GM food causing gastric inflammation in pigs is totally bogus. They don’t even look at the tissue under a microscope! I know for a fact that you can’t assess inflammation in human stomachs by simply looking at an excised stomach with the naked eye. And the color of a gross stomach is easily manipulated by fixatives; if you fix it in formalin, it will be grey, and if you take that grey formalin fixed tissue and soak it in alcohol, it will be more pink. Also, its counter-intuitive that food causes inflammation. The most common causes of gastric inflammation in humans are bacteria, drug/chemo agents, & toxins. This study is total pig manure.

    1. Bert Guy

      On second thought there could possibly be an antibody mediated gastritis, similar to gluten enteropathy in the small intestine (‘sprue’), but I don’t know about such a condition in the stomach. And in any event, you would need a microscopic exam to even suggest it.

    2. keith

      Bert Guy,

      Do you understand gross pathology? The study employed two qualified, blinded veterinarians to undertake a proper gross pathology (ie, macroscopic) assessment related to the authors’ hypotheses. This study is very much an observational, hypothesis-generating project. Further work on assessing gastric inflammation and reproductive infractions in the animals and humans who consume genetically modified crops is now warranted.

    3. Bert Guy

      Yes I do understand gross pathology. There are inflammations of the GI tract that can only be seen under the microscope- i.e. so called ‘microscopic colitis’. The fact that this study did not do microscopy on the autopsy material is telling. It has been routine to study autopsy material under the microscope since 1890. Gross only examination of post-mortem material is state-of-the-art science1853 a la Carl Rokitansky. Macroscopic examination of live stomach by endoscopy would yield more information, and you could take biopsies of areas of interest.

  42. John Fryer

    For your education:


    After 25 years with the same publishing agent the editor found that his MONSANTO FILES had been totally shredded by his not so loyal publisher.

    The power of MONSANTO continues to this day but the internet allows us to now see what Monsanto were so keen to get shredded.

    I fail to see why people in 2013 seek to uphold this GMO technology proven harmful at the outset unless they get some of the tens of millions of payments given out by Monsanto;

    Doll’s rate was 1 500 pounds a day for life.

    GMO – The worlds most dangerous experiment, an 1971 estimate from Robert Pollack an expert on the retrovirus used to GMO plants.

    In 1998 the information sought to made public brought a total veto by force from Monsanto..

    The Carman study again shows exactly the same harm we knew of 15 years ago and 40 years ago.

    Like many damning health findings it is unlikely to be repeated by anyone unless done without asking for Monsanto’s permission.

    What they did in 1998 to the ECOLOGIST is similar to what they are doing to the Carman study – they want it SHREDDED!

    With a little help from paid friends and unpaid people taken in by them.

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