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Monsanto Corn Causes Organ Damage? Not So.

By Dan Goldstein (aka Dr. Dan)

Recently, a paper was released claiming three Monsanto corn varieties cause organ damage in mammals. This simply isn’t true.

In the current paper (de Vendomois et al., 2009) as with the prior publication (Seralini et al, 2007), Seralini and his colleagues use non-traditional statistical methods to reassess toxicology data from studies conducted with MON 863, MON 810 and NK603 corn varieties, and reach unsubstantiated conclusions.

It is important to note that several groups of scientists have gone over the study, and refute the claims.

  • The French High Counsel on Biotechnology (HCB) has considered both the de Vendomois (2009) and Seralini (2007) papers and has found that these papers make no useful contribution to the safety assessment.
  • The Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) have also dismissed this study, stating, “Séralini and colleagues have distorted the toxicological significance of their results by placing undue emphasis on the statistical treatment of data, and failing to take other relevant factors into account.”
  • The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) also assessed the study and proclamed, “The GMO Panel
    concludes that the authors’ claims, regarding new side effects indicating kidney and liver toxicity, are
    not supported by the data provided in their paper.”

Statistical fluctuations occur commonly in any large study with many endpoints, and statistical significance alone does not determine when an observation can be translated into evidence of risk. Making this determination requires consideration of:

  • dose-related trends (higher dose should produce greater effect)
  • reproducibility
  • relationship to other findings such as abnormal organ appearance on pathology examinations
  • the magnitude of the differences and the relationship of the findings to the normal range of values
  • occurrence of a particular finding in both sexes (adjusting for known gender related differences in some tests)

When considered using proper statistical analysis in conjunction with these other criteria, the toxicology studies cited demonstrate no adverse effects of these products.

A more complete discussion of the issues related to this publication, as well as references to pertinent publications, is available on the Monsanto website: Monsanto Response: de Vendomois et al. 2009

Want to know more about how Monsanto seed gets tested and approved?

Biotechnology: The Regulatory Process

Are Biotech Products Safe?

Other information:

The Skinny on Seralini Safety Studies

For the Record: Food Safety

Dan is the Director of Medical Sciences and Outreach at Monsanto. He is a pediatrician, medical toxicologist, and clinical pharmacologist by training, and for the past 10 years his role at Monsanto has been devoted on human safety and health, with a focus on communications with the general public and with physicians, nutritionists, and other scientists both in the US and around the world. Dan received his undergraduate degree in Molecular Biology from the University of Wisconsin in 1976 and my MD degree from Johns Hopkins in 1981, followed by a residency in Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins and a fellowship in Clinical Pharmacology and Medical Toxicology at the University of Toronto. He is board certified by the American Boards of Pediatrics, Medical Toxicology, and Clinical Pharmacology, and by the Royal College of Physicians of Canada (Pediatrics).

Prior to Monsanto, Dan spent 10 years in private practice in Denver, Colorado, providing consultation in the area of Clinical, Occupational, Environmental and Forensic Toxicology. He joined Monsanto’s Medical Department in 1998, was appointed a Senior Science Fellow in 2002, and currently serves as Director of Medical Sciences and Outreach within Regulatory Affairs. Dr. Dan has been extensively involved in plant biotechnology, pesticide, and children’s environmental health issues, and served on the U.S. EPA’s Child Health Protection Advisory Committee, as a member of the EPA Science Advisory Board regarding the cancer risk assessment from early-life exposure to carcinogens, as an advisor to the NAFTA Commission for Environmental Cooperation regarding the development of international child health indicators, and as well as Board member for the American College of Medical Toxicology.

27 Responses to "Monsanto Corn Causes Organ Damage? Not So."

  1. Blah blah blah…none of your so called “research” changes the fact that feeding corn to cattle is completely unnatural. Cows are meant to digest GRASS (No, I’m not talking about the ‘GRAS’ you GMO bullies celebrate)…real grass. Corn diets lead to extreme digestive discomfort, including bloating to the point of potential suffocation, and weak immune systems. But I’m sure you already knew that. Who cares about the cows though, right? But seriously, how do you sleep at night knowing that feeding corn to cows also breeds bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics and digestive acids in humans? Corn production and waste from corn-fed animals are a huge source of greenhouse gas, water and air pollution. But hey, Dan…as long as they’re paying you good, right?

    Reply
    • 1. Neither modern day cows, nor modern day corn, exist in nature. Both have been subjected to significant genetic changes. Your argument that cows did not evolve to eat corn is specious.

      Man did not evolve to drink beer or wine either.

      Your statements about antibiotic resistance are not supported by science.

      I share your concerns with the impact of large scale livestock operations. This would be a problem no matter what we fed them. We eat too much meat and as such there is too much cow manure. I don’t think grass-fed cows poop any less or that their poop is any better for water or air quality than corn. The fault lies as much with the consumer as it is Monsanto, Cargill, etc.

      Attacking Dr. Goldstein for working for Monsanto is rather childish. If you can’t win your argument based on the merits of your logic and facts, its better not to post. At least he provided links to credible bodies to back up his arguments. Your time would be better spent finding credible bodies that support your argument than questioning Dr. Goldstein’s motivation or ethics, which you know nothing about.

      Reply
    • I don’t believe that any of the research was remotely slanted towards making any statement on whether or not feeding corn to cattle was natural or unnatural.

      Your disagreement with feeding corn to cattle would surely be better taken up with those who raise cattle, rather than those who sell corn seed – the Monsanto research points to the conclusion that there is no difference between feeding an animal non-GM or GM corn, not on the general acceptability of feeding corn to animals.

      (I did a brief look for any pertinent scientific data on the effects of corn diets on cattle, but predominantly it was comparisons of different mixes of corn/alfalfa or other similar studies – which at least suggests to me that the scenario you are bringing up, which appears to be feeding cattle a total corn diet, doesnt occur and is primarily pulled straight from Pollan)

      It would be interesting to see how easily the current US herd (dairy and meat) could actually be supported on a diet of grass however – I’m guessing that the numbers would be significantly lower (pushing up prices) and that the dispersal of the herd geographically would have massive impacts in terms of transportation costs (both real costs and the environmental impact of shipping (and the animal welfare impact of shipping)) also pushing up prices.

      Not to mention the impact on the rest of the agricultural industry – with all that land taken up to feed cattle (again, presuming more acreage required per head than utilizing current production methods) would there be enough left to supply all other markets with the crops they require? (I’m going to go ahead and guess no, there wouldn’t, therefore the actual solution to the issue is not to feed cows grass rather than corn, but to somehow persuade the population of the western world to give up meat and milk consumption, based on the assumption that non-existance is a preferable state of affairs for a cow than is living on a feed lot)

      Reply
    • Acutally, building on what Neela has replied, your time would be better spent researching peer reviewed sources then coming to a conclusion, rather than finding sources that already back up your preconceptions. That is how scientific consensus is built, fanatacism uses the opposite and cherry-picks its sources.

      Reply
  2. Please explain how Montsanto did their tests; number of subjects, duration, species and genotype of subjects used. Were long term tests
    performed, multi generational tests, and so on. if nothing else, larger scale testing will now be done in many locations in the US and Europe. Stat tuned for development, spring planting season will be interesting.

    Reply
    • All,

      I added two additional links to the bottom of Dr. Dan’s post that go into detail the testing and approval process Monsanto products go through. An additional fact: biotech crops undergo more testing and oversight before commercialization than any other agricultural products, including conventional crops.

      Reply
    • Exactly, Kathleen, because conventional crops are natural. Conventional crops (public seed) isn’t manufactured. Hmmm… that makes sense why they aren’t tested. Public seed doesn’t have strains of modified genetic code in them.

      Reply
  3. Monsanto,

    You can spin the statistical irregularity all you want – the public doesn’t believe you.

    When you finally want to come clean, please let us know. We’re waiting for corporate responsibility. If it doesn’t come soon enough, public uprising will surely lead to litigation against your company.

    Personally, I’ve had enough of your lies.

    Sara

    Reply
  4. Although I praise your company’s effort in having this public window the type of products it sells, for reasons that are mainly environmental (not to mention legal), without even entering the realm of human health, simply give Biotechnology a bad name and I am sorry that so many people confuse Monsanto with a branch of Science that will be so important in the future.

    Although I don’t wield immense influence over national scientific and agricultural panels worlwide I will vote with a ballot and with my wallet and encourage others to do the same.

    Thank you for the opportunity to adress you.

    Reply
    • Nuno

      which products that Monsanto sells exactly give biotechnology a bad name for environmental, or indeed any other reasons?

      Roundup ready crops? Which reduce the environmental impact associated with herbicide spraying when compared to conventional herbicide regimes on non-RR crops?

      Bt containing crops? Which reduce the impact of insecticides used?

      Are you having to go back in time decades to pull out products with environmentally negative effects? Or is it simply involvement in agriculture at all which sounds the environmental alarm bells? (There’s no getting around the fact that any form of agriculture is not great on the environment – mitigating the effects as far as possible by reducing the Ag footprint is what is important here, and is something Monsanto actively works at doing on a global scale)

      I guess it is a good thing for your arguement that you do not enter into the realm of human health (again, unless we’re talking in terms of decades ago, rather than discussing biotech) as I’m pretty convinced that thousands of farmers, their families, and their communities have benefitted from a reduction in insecticide use across India and China as a result of Bt cotton – whereas adverse health effects caused by GM crops, or utilization of GM crops, are entirely contained within the imaginations of those who oppose GM technology in general.

      Reply
    • Ewan,
      Of the posts here, Nuno addressed you with a very calm and appreciative demeanor while expressing their views in regards to the blog put out here for people to view publicly.
      If you have a problem with that, take it down and only address Monsanto supporters.
      Most of these people who are referring to environmental impacts are relating Monsanto to nonconventional farming that has been termed ‘organic.’ The people who don’t want insecticides placed into the genome of the foods they eat usually do not wish to have it sprayed on the leaf either.
      Nonetheless, address Nuno with respect as they chose to address you. They told you what they believe and have researched as there is not much else available for them to do. If you hope for Monsanto’s name to be cleared, speaking on behalf of them with clear disrespect for its respectful opposition will not be the first step you should hope to take.

      Reply
    • Hello Ewan,

      Settle down, I didn’t mention any real or fabricated health effects of GMO’s on health nor do I need them to establish that the current products do nothing to improve our food system.

      Like you admitted, Monsanto products like the “round up ready” series not only establish dependency on pesticides, but they narrow it down to just one brand- the same as the seed seller. It’s a criative market innovation- to create your own exclusive public. I don’t know where you get the idea that I think conventional monoculture farming is better- it isn’t- but current GMO crops are just one more enabler of that system, who is constantly facing new challenges.

      The challenge now is the focus on health and sustainability- we can all pretend it’s not part of the mainstream now and try to fight it- but I assume a company like Monsanto has enough marketing experts working for them to know we are going down this path and that the company’s past record looks bad to say the least.

      So I take this opportunity to issue a challenge to Monsanto, since many commenters from the general public seem so in touch with the company’s environmental agenda:

      -produce a GMO crop that doesn’t need any pesticide and does not put biodiversity at stake while having a commercially viable productivity

      -produce a GMO crop that does not contaminate organic or conventional crops, which would avoid the legal problem I see in its invasive behaviour (which is non reciprocal) and would avoid Monsanto any further prosecution of farmers that have or have not participated in copyright infringment and correspondent costly legal settlements

      -produce a GMO crop with actual benefits for third world countries, such as higher drought or flood resistance

      -never produce GMO crops that only generate sterile seed, allow seed saving

      If you comply with all of these you will have products that have a more positive contribution to a sustainable agriculture and may represent real advantages, which is not case in your current range. It would represent an advancement in Biotechnology without “having to go back in time”- simplicity isn’t the same as backwardness!

      I also humbly offer a free simple advice to Monsanto if it aims to permanently eliminate any doubts about any health issues concerning GMO crops:

      Stop opposing the labelling of products that contain GMO traces, including meat products that has been fed with them. In fact, since Ewan and others are so positively sure of its environmental and health benefits why not actually advertise that they’re GMOS? Use your immense influence to put a “Guaranteed GMO” label on every product. Immediately lobby for more labelling and rigorous distinction for the “organic” products, which many proponents consider useless. This would help GMO supporters to have more easy access to their product of choice and would let the market decide.

      This certainty and pride with the current GMO products should be reflected on your fight to label all products that contain this miraculous achievement. So please stop fighting objective labelling in the US and Europe.

      Once again thank you.

      Reply
    • Nuno

      (reply going in here as the blog only seems to allow a reply thread of 3 depth…)

      Your implication seemed to be that the types of products monsanto sells have environmental effects and human health effects – and that the nature of these effects is such that they give biotechnology a bad name. This is what I was getting excited about.

      To answer some of the other points in your post:-

      Creation of GMO which does not require pesticide – Bt crops, Drought tolerant crops, vistive gold (and previously visitive) soybeans, Omega-3 soybeans. None of these require pesticides.

      Production of a non-contaminating GMO – depending on what you consider contamination I don’t think this would be at all possible, especially considering your later demand that sterile seed is not generated – as well demand a hybrid which cannot contaminate other hybrids (or heirloom varieties) – in terms of reducing contamination to avoid legal conflict with farmers – Monsanto doesnt sue farmers with accidental levels of contamination.

      Produce a crop with benefit for the third world – check, drought tolerance. And to an extent Bt (the farmers in India who it has benefitted probably dont really qualify as 3rd world, although the conditions some may live in are probably a rough approximation thereof)

      Never utilize sterile seeds – havent yet, have stated that we won’t – although personally I think utilizing sterile seed technology in commercial seed stocks would kill two birds with one stone – you no longer have to worry about accumulation of GM in your seed stock, therefore no getting sued, as it is hard (or pointless) to save sterile seed, and you prevent any gene flow out of transgenic crops – it would be possible to utilize this strategy on commercial crops while not utilizing the tech on crops used for more humanitarian tasks thus allowing seed saving. Also keep in mind that commercial hybrids (without GM) are also not allowed to be saved.

      The statement that Monsanto’s current line of products offers no real advantages holds very little water:-

      30+% reduction in environmental impact of herbicide useage certainly seems like a real advantage to me.

      Massive reduction in insecticide useage certainly appears pretty advantageous.

      Massive yield gains for cotton in India (with a corresponding increase in average income for Indian cotton farmers) would certainly strike me as being advantageous.

      The reasons against labelling are already widely covered on the blog. Personally I’d be all for it, assuming everyone were at least vaguely on the same page as to the benefits, however with a massive campaign of invented harms caused by GMOs, I in the current climate, and ignoring all the logically sound reasons to only label according to what is an is not a potential danger, would be against the labelling of GMOs simply due to the inherent(illogical) market bias against them – although as a side note, I’d go out of my way to buy them just on principle, rather than being reduced to mumbling about where one might find the inorganic vegetables in grocery stores.

      Reply
    • Once again hello Ewan,

      Since you obviously know what you’re talking about I still don’t understand why the resistance to labelling:

      You either accept independent studies on GMO crops to confirm that they’re benign or to assess the improvements needed (nothing is ever perfect) and try to reverse what you call an unfair public bias against the product or you strongly reject labelling and more studies which makes no sense since you consider crystal clear that are only advantages to GMO’s.
      You can’t have both.

      Frankly I have no idea why on record Monsanto constantly advertises their environmental and nutrition efforts but refuses to capitalize on them by asking to feature those same achievements on the products that contain them. It doesn’t make sense from a marketing perspective. The fact is that avoiding labelling is exactly the main cause of the very same public suspicion you say you are victimized by!
      If the advantages are there let the independent confirmation begin, it would reverse the company’s public image.

      Example: Pepsi, a huge client for GMO corn derived products now has a non- HFCS product, despite the fact that it’s just as bad as the original version- why wasn’t the lobbying machine dispatched to make it assume the GMO origin of the sweet flavour, because of the environmental benefits that you mention?
      It sounds like a piece of cake compared to having Tom Vilsack be the Secretary of Agriculture and it would contribute to fighting the unfounded prejudice of the misinformed public.

      A lot of companies that also rely on patented products are able to protect their technology and achieve enormous profit, while being constantly scrutinized so I still don’t understand the problem.

      The check list for an ideal GMO crop was an ironic effort (I admit that I am awful at satire- no disrespect) to describe what would basically be an organic crop. Not that organic crops are ideal since they have some environmental impacts like the amount of land required and the much greater dependence on manual labour (things that may or may not become advantages in some contexts), failure in a crop is also devastating, requiring dedication by the farmer. But for me at least they seem comparatively better by a reasonable margin which is why Monsanto is thinking ahead and already establishing a monopoly on seeds.

      Have a nice weekend.

      ps. It’s much much easier to only eat food that comes from GMO’s than any other type of agriculture “on principle”: it’s basically present in almost all fries, beef and sugar drinks (the most important market for it) that you can conveniently purchase on every street corner of any industrialized country on the face of the earth. You may or may not subsist on this diet alone but I would advise against it.

      Reply
  5. The problem is….even if you provide the scientific facts, folks like Nicky just dismiss them as Monsanto lies….there is no winning with some of these folks.

    Reply
    • Find me any one ‘scientific fact’ or admit there are none. Then I will begin to accept your comments as potential scientific evidence and no more as how you probably see Nicky’s comments – far from helpful. Because no information is worthless, but I have a tough time believing you have much to do with the science of these products due to the way you have addressed the topic. Nor do I, but I am not preaching ‘scientific facts’ either.

      Reply
  6. I think the title of this post could just as easily have been ‘Monsanto Crn Causes Organ Damage, Maybe Yes.’ I didn’t think that ‘unsubstantiated’ meant ‘not sI think the title of this post is misleading, it is spin.

    Reply
  7. I think the title of this post could just as easily have been ‘Monsanto Corn Causes Organ Damage, Maybe Yes.’ I don’t think that ‘unsubstantiated’ means ‘not so’, I think the title of this post is misleading, it is spin.

    Reply
  8. Going to just reply at the bottom of the posting here as the tiered system is giving me a headache….

    Nuno – I think I covered the two pronged reasoning behind not labelling (at least in a mandatory fashion) foods derived from GM sources – firstly, mandatory labels should probably only be used where there is a safety implication – ie where traces of nuts are possible, in cases where PKU sufferers have to avoid aspartame, etc – having mandatory labels for something which does not impact health leads to confusion. Secondly there is still a high level of misinformation and misunderstanding around GM crops (helped by nonsense like the study under discussion) which, in my mind, would lead to ‘contains GMO’ being seen as a negative label thus having a financial impact on those who utilize the technology – in an ideal world everyone would assess the data in the same way and come to the conclusion that GM was safe and great and then perhaps a voluntary labelling of ‘contains GMO’ would be a good sales pitch – which essentially is all labels such as ‘contains no HFCS’ are – there is no reason to avoid HFCS any more than there is to avoid any other empty calories (everything in moderation) but because there is a misconception that HFCS = evil labelling things as not containing it translates to $$ – the opposite effect one would see labelling GMOs.

    I don’t fully agree that your satire is based around an organic crop – organic crops still impact biodiversity (all agriculture does), they utilize pesticides (from a list of approved organic pesticides), seed saving rules for commercial hybrids are essentially the same as for transgenics in most cases, and as far as I am aware there aren’t specific organic crops which provide benefits above and beyond what conventional crops provide for the third world (and infact the major agricultural revolution of our time which provided maximum benefit in a 3rd/2nd world setting was essentially the complete opposite of organic – high input high yield agriculture with the capacity to feed the ever growing population, without approximately a billion more would likely be hungry today, or would already be dead from starvation).

    The comment on monopoly on seeds is also a tad confused – Monsanto broadly licenses its GM technology to seed providers across the industry, meaning that despite an approximate 90%+ penetration of the trait, Monsanto has about a 30% market share – which is not a monopoly by any standards – furthermore, as patents run out (first one due in the next couple of years) this illusory monopoly will become even more ridiculous (keep in mind that patent law is set in place essentially to provide a monopoly type situation for the inventor of a given technology, and that thus far it is the best system to foster innovation and knowledge sharing that has been developed)

    Katiie – the entire study being discussed is spin. The data show absolutely no evidence of biologically meaningful differences. Unless you go to absolute extremes of ‘well you can’t prove a negative’ the data categorically shows that there is no organ damage caused by monsanto corn in the study therefore it is fair, assuming you aren’t going to bizarre philosophical extremes, to say “Not so” as thus far all the scientific data point to no impact outside the normal biological variation one would expect in a study of this nature

    Reply
  9. Nuno,

    Hopefully you won’t mind holding two conversations at once. You mentioned Monsanto gives biotechnology a bad name. Time will ultimately answer that question. In the meantime, what are your hopes for biotechnology? What sorts of improvements would you like to see or do you expect to see from biotech?

    To address some of your other points: In a perfect world, you’d like to have a crop that will simply out-compete weeds for resources, taste bad to insects, good to people, and be hardy enough to withstand fugal, bacterial, and viral infections and bounce back, similar to the way humans can recover from a cold with no lasting effects. In short, acrop that woult require NO inputs of any sort and simply be a plant it, forget about it, and harvest it.

    The first concern is “if this stuff grows so well, can we keep it controlled and contained?” The only plant I can immediately think of that’s close to that is Kudzu. It’s a very useful plant, good for lots of stuff. And it’s eating the southeastern US and parts of Australia. Now corn doesn’t propagate by vine, so it should be a lot more manageable, but I’ve seen plenty of stray corn kernals in fields after the combine has been through. You’ll always have some spillage. There could certainly be ways around that, but it’s a concern to keep in mind.

    It’s also going to be pretty difficult. Arguably, the bt trait makes crops taste bad to instects. Then there are the drought-tolerant corn varieties Monsanto is devloping and plenty of other traits I’m sure can’t be discussed.

    One way to think of it is that Roundup Ready technology was the first step toward that ultimate goal of a perfect crop. Having zero inputs just isn’t a realistic goal to start with, but reducing inputs certainly is.

    One way to reduce inputs is to make the crop resistant to the most broad sprectrum, potent, and safe herbicide available, which happens to be Roundup. It so happened Monsanto had Roundup already in it’s portfolio. I’ll admit, that was probably a pretty good motivator to make the technology work.

    Hopefully this has given you some food for thought.

    Reply
  10. I will be honest, I do not like what I have researched about Monsanto.

    Past notwithstanding, Present Monsanto seems to do a lot in the name of profit, and takes all things contrary to that goal as a personal attack. They’re responses do all seem like spins, because in reality that is what the public faces of companies do.. they try and put the best face on they’re transactions. The business person in me understands that; all large corporations are, by definition, in it for the money; all to a certain degree effect the social and political climate around them. (In this respect, I find that Monsanto has a bit too much of a say in US Politics; it makes me uneasy when any company has the level of power and control in policy making that you do.)
    Personally, though, no one, I think, likes to be spoken down to; as one of your employees called people such as I on the “why I work for Monsanto” entry… I am not a “small-person” just because I have qualms about GM crops, and your business practices in general.
    The scientist in me has perused many sources of information on GM crops, from Monsanto or Monsanto friendly sources, as well as from your ‘opposition…’ and what I have found concerns me. From none of the studies can I discern whether or not GM food is safe for consumption or use. Safe is a hard word to define, though… I guess it makes me uncomfortable that producers of GM crops assume that they understand the complexities of life well enough to mess around with it and assume it’s as good as, or better than, what nature (or in some people’s cases, god) produced. Humans make mistakes, and so does (and has) Monsanto. So you can see how this “Playing God” could rub some of us the wrong way? Especially since the seeds produced can effect other plants/choices in such a way that in the future there may not be a choice? Just because you believe that your way is the right way shouldn’t mean others have to conform.

    In respects to the idea behind GM seed production, I question why should we just try to patch a failing system? Why not just begin anew? What I mean by this is that GM crops seem to be, in my interpretation of Monsanto’s description, a way to patch the failing system of Mono-cropping. I know that not all can do this, but I manage to grow most of what I need in my own garden, or I can exchange my excesses for those of my neighbors. Most would say that this takes too much time (or money) and that it’s not possible for XX% of the population; but question this, what do you do with your time? Do you spend it all in your office working for the money to buy your food and your excesses? Do you spend it watching one mindless TV show after another? Or blogging? (I assure you I have some of those (bad) habits) But why do you spend your time that way? I assure you that feeding yourself isn’t as time consuming, complex, or difficult as you have been led to believe.. and at the scale of my garden, weeds, pests, and the like aren’t a problem if properly managed. Adding complexity to an already complex (and failing) system doesn’t eliminate it’s issues, it worsens them.

    So why does Monsanto perpetuate a flawed system? I can understand that you’re just like all the other corporations out there, perpetuating this flawed system, but there is a certain amount of distrust, for very understandable reasons, when a corporation touts being a conscientious company, while wielding (in my opinion) too much power in government policy, and using what George Orwell called “superfluous words to say superfluous things”.. (which I’m fast approaching…) If you really want the public on your side, use simple words to convey direct ideas, get your ass out of the oval office and back into the board room, and try and realize that GM crops do eliminate choice for those of us who don’t want to eat them.

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  11. Time will tell whether proper and unbiased individual scientific testing proves the IJBS claims to be true. You only need to look at a company’s previous record to know whether they can be trusted and 100 years or so worth is a pretty good indicator.

    Reply
    • Karly – I’d argue that looking over 100 years likely gives a pretty poor, and temporally biased, view of how a company can be trusted. Particularly a company which has been merged into, and then spun out of another company within the last 1/5th of this timescale.

      The temporal bias is probably one of the biggest issues here – I think it would be hard to find a major player in the chemical/manufacturing industry with a 100 year history that did not have some (by current standards) history of polluting, underhand play or such like – however applying modern judgement over these acts is akin to applying modern moral judgement over literature (or indeed science) from the 1800’s and early 1900’s – doing so essentially portrays all players in a far worse light than is true in terms of the social and cultural (and in terms of alleged industrial malfeasiance safety – an area which has undergone such massive change in all areas of chemical useage in the past couple of decades that practices in about any laboratory or manufacturing plant pre 1980 would likely seem practically barbaric by modern standards) norms of the time.

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  12. C.M.

    Admittedly Monsanto, like all succesful corporations, does a lot in the name of profit – I don’t however see that they take all things contrary to that as a personal attack – they are supportive of non-profit research in GM, they are supportive of utilization of their technology in non-profit areas (WEMA for instance), there probably is a degree of truth behind Monsanto, and their individual employees, seeing some of what is said as an attack (I know I am guilty of this most of the time – because most of the anti-monsanto stuff that gets tossed about generally amounts to nothing more than a made up attack (farmer suicides, health risks of GM, controlling the food supply, being ‘satan'(another gem from the ‘why I work at monsanto posting)) – an also, because most people who work at Monsanto are actually genuinely passionate about what we do (and while I’d really enjoy a 6 figure salary and a nice tidy nest egg when I finally come to retirement, it isn’t this which motivates me to do what I do – although it wouldnt hurt!) rather than being the mercenaries we are often portrayed as.

    I’m also somewhat confused about how much sway you actually feel Monsanto has in US politics – my personal feel on this is that it cannot really be that much, GM alfalfa and GM sugar beets are both being held up, the regulatory process for GM crop approval costs Monsanto massive amounts of money which one would assume would be number one on the list of things to get the government to cut back on. Certainly Monsanto spends money on lobbying (it is sadly part of the political system that every company has to do this – if Monsanto were to not lobby for its interests it would be sunk by the counter-lobbying of anti-Monsanto interests) and certainly it cannot be ignored that people who have worked for Monsanto go on to work for the FDA and USDA (and vice-versa) although I’d argue that this is simply a function of people qualified in a given area moving about within their sphere of expertise – why employ people with no idea about regulatory science in positions of power within regulatory science – at a personal level it seems somewhat laughable that loyalty to a past employer would be such that one would jeapordize a current (better) job simply to further the interests of your past employer (although this may simply be that I’ve only ever existed towards the start of the food chain where your loyalty is generally as strong as your last pay check)

    When you say that the scientist in you has perused many sources of information on GM crops do you not find that the vast bulk of the actual scientific evidence points to there being no discernible safety risks whatsoever with current GM crops – no feeding studies show adverse effects, 10+ years of GMOs in the food supply show absolutely no linkage to any health risk, any studies which have claimed to show effects are generally weak (such as the study under discussion in this blog) at best, anecdotal data about the health effects of GM crops are clearly overblown and ludicrous (such as the cattle dying upon eating GM cotton plants – something occuring on such a massive scale and with such a massively obvious end result would surely be easily repeatible in any number of scientific studies) – this also begs the question, what would be enough evidence, in your scientific opinion, to show that GM foods were as safe as non-GM foods for consumption (in my own opinion 15 years of data showing absolutely no significant difference is more than enough, it would however be interesting to see what those who remain opposed to some degree or another would accept above and beyond what is already out there).

    Are you equally uncomfortable about the efforts of plant breeders globally – daily they mess around with the complexities of life in the hope that they will make something better (and as time progresses and technology gets better and better the dividing line between targetted genetic modification and breeding will become blurry and eventually essentially disappear) – something which has been succesfully done for over 10,000 years now – practically nothing agriculturally produced is ‘natural’ – it is all the result of people tinkering with the complexities of life (and arguably with utterly no clue whatsoever what they were messing with for 95%+ of this timespan – without any major catastrophes) and hoping to make something better. What I (and I guess others like me) don’t understand is why going in and engineering a single (or a handful) of genes in a relatively controlled manner with full knowledge of what you are doing, and with a regulatory burden of tens of millions of dollars to make sure that what you did was what you were trying to do, is seen as ‘playing god’ (whatever that means) whereas the entire process of agricultural development, from the very start, is not, despite having drastically altered wild species in most cases completely beyond recognition to create what we eat today. I can agree that just because we believe our way is right others should not have to conform. I would hope that you can see however that this is (or should be) a two way street – Just because you believe that your way is right does not mean that we should have to conform. There should be a middle ground. There should be discussion. There is no reason that GM crops cannot exist in a world with organic/home grown crops, and vice versa.

    I would also disagree that modern agriculture is a failing system. Modern agriculture is the foundation of society as we know it today, short of returning to a hunter gatherer lifestyle, or at least to a subsistence lifestyle of probably 500+ years ago, the system cannot just be reset – there is absolutely no way that individuals could grow what they need to survive, and for society to carry on as it is (or even as it was 50 years ago – 500 perhaps) without the kinds of outputs modern agriculture offers today, and without increasing these outputs over coming years to meet increased global demand for sustenance.

    Most of the population of the world cannot grow what they need in their own garden. I would hazard a guess that the vast majority of urban US residents couldnt, it may be possible that suburban US residents who happen to live in areas where the growing season is long enough may be able to put a significant dent in domestic consumption by utilizing the millions of acres of wasted lawn (and wasted fertilizer, water etc for said lawn) however the demand for meat is unlikely to fall in the US, and the growing demand for meat globally requires attention (because food is going to go where the money is until capitalism is no more, and the money is where people can afford meat)

    I also dont agree that GM tech adds complexity to a complex system – it may seem that way, but one of the major factors behind the success of RR technology is that it vastly reduces the complexity of the agricultural system (likewise, although to a lesser extent, Bt) – indeed this is often touted as a bad point to RR tech – it apparently makes farming too easy – I would imagine all the farmers who have more time to spend with their families (or time to spend working another job, or to blog, or play video games, or whatever it is they do with the extra time not spent battling weeds) are horrified that something came along which made their lives a little easier.

    So, why perpetuate a flawed system? Well, it’s the system that works, it’s the system that built the world to a level where we can have this discussion on a blog rather than having never encountered each other because we’re too busy trying to eke out an existence on our own little patch of land with none of the modern conveniences allowed to us by the freeing up of millions from food production – we’re working to improve the system, to reduce its environmental impact, to reduce the workload required to produce the food needed to keep the world going. The system you propose may work fine for a handful of people who have the the resources in terms of land, climate and time – however it is a system which has been tried, and found wanting, one which would have absolutely no chance supporting the global population as it was 30 years ago, nevermind as it will be in 30 years time.

    In terms of GM crops eliminating choice – how so exactly? You claim that you can grow what you need in your own garden – surely your choice comes from here. There is an arguement that the presence of GM crops in the market is actually a boon to the organic industry (see previous blogs) – generating extra choice rather than removing choice. The arguement also falls rather flat in that it appears to demand a removal of GM crops from the system altogether, which seems rather unfair, as that is eliminating the choice for those of us who do want to eat them, or for those of us who do want to eat cheaply, or for farmers who do not want to travel back in time 15 years in terms of technology available – why should it be that the choice of the few (basing this on the recent USDA data that ~1% of US agriculture is organic) outweighs the choice of the many?

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  13. The fact of the matter is that the studies don’t matter. Scientists can go back and forth until the cows come home. What does matter is that Monsanto engages in blatant anti-social behavior in its pursuit of the domination of the world’s food sources. The idea that they feel they have the right to sue any farmer whose crops have been contaminated by their product is the height of arrogance and in fact will be their downfall. They should be sued by the farmers because of Monsanto’s gross negligence with their own product, and in many cases, deliberate actions to contaminate said fields. In doing so they are engaging in extortion.

    The actions of Monsanto actually could be prosecuted under the RICO Act and in the future I’m betting they will. The politicians that they’d bought off will be of no use to them.

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  14. If one were to take some slimy, disgusting fungus that grows on rotting food and in water-damaged buildings… And if one were to isolate the poisons with which that fungus wages war on other microbes as revolting and noxious as itself… And if one were to propose to inject those poisons into sick children who had no way of defending themselves… One would likely get a very chilly reception from most uninformed people. And yet, that’s exactly what penicillin is.

    Ideas that are really new, as opposed to fads such as blue hair or Lady Gaga’s latest costume, often meet resistance simply because they are new. I wish Monsanto luck with its attempts to improve agriculture and pest control using genetic engineering.

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