Tag Archives: Scientific American

DEFRA Minister Paterson: note ill-health & lower life expectancy in GM-consuming America

13 Nov

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration conducts no scientific tests on any GMOs, yet declares them safe

phil bereanoLast week, Philip Bereano, Professor Emeritus in the field of Technology and Public Policy at the University of Washington in Seattle, felt impelled to protest at misleading statements repeated in the Seattle Times. Its editorial had repeated a statement from the Scientific American that “the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has tested all the GMOs on the market” to determine safety.

Prof. Bereano described this statement as untrue, because the FDA only receives summary information from the company concerned, “consults” with the company if there is indication of a problem (which there never is — the industry only submits dossiers that appear clean) and then rubberstamps the “application.” The agency itself does no actual assessment. His letter to the editor may be read here.

A day earlier a contributor to the Scientific American, who saw no point in labelling GM foods, declared, “The scientific evidence suggests that genetically engineered foods (at least those currently on the market) are safe for consumption”.

Yes – but the evidence is given to the FDA by the company’s own employees.

Is it a coincidence that ill-health and obesity has increased in America, where the commercial sale of genetically modified foods began in 1994, almost 20 years ago?

US OECD life expectancyThe Economist reports new research by Dr Christopher Murray and his team from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (University of Washington). This was published in Journal of the American Medical Association and presented to government officials at a White House event hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama. The research published data showing that both sexes have longer periods of illness in later life and a lower life expectancy than their peers in the OECD – parts of West Virginia and Mississippi faring worse than Bangladesh and Algeria. Alzheimer’s disease, liver cancer, Parkinson’s and kidney cancer were on the upswing, accounting for a significant increase in premature deaths in the U.S.

Has the drive for profits by the GM and junk food corporations contributed to this increase?


‘Mandatory labels for GM foods are a bad idea’

30 Sep

As public pressure for labelling America’s GM foods increases, pro-industry propaganda is going full swing with considerable assistance from the Scientific American’s un-named editors: ‘Mandatory labels for genetically modified foods are a bad idea’.

ferris jabrJournalist Ferris Jabr cites this article, explaining that people who oppose GMOs in California, Maine, Connecticut and other states have demanded mandatory labels on foods containing ingredients from genetically engineered crops because, they say, they want to know what they are eating. He declares that such labels will not help people understand the advantages and risks of GMOs or help them make smarter dietary choices or even explain what a GMO is.

The point is that many want the labelling so as to avoid the products, not to learn from text on the labels.

The latest example favouring the GM industry comes from the pen of Ferris Jabr who is ‘focusing on neuroscience and psychology’.and has an MA in science, health and environmental reporting and a BSc in psychology and English literature.

He reviews Jeremy Seifert’s new documentary film “GMO OMG” which starts showing on September 13th, authoritatively endorsing the advantages of genetically modified crops despite having no relevant qualifications.

A ‘hatchet job’ on Seifert

  • a series of maudlin pastoral scenes
  • using his children like marionettes for ludicrous theatrics
  • his naivete is a charade – not a genuine search for knowledge by for affirmation of preconceived concerns.
  • he is content to parrot numerous misconceptions spread by people who fiercely oppose genetic modification.
  • he acts as though all of Big Ag is unwilling to interact with journalists because Monsanto denies his feeble and unprofessional requests for an interview and turns him away when he drops by unannounced.
  • His conclusion that the “science is still out” on genetically modified organisms is completely misleading.

Mitigating comments

 As the (un-named) editors wrote in the September issue of Scientific American: “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has tested all the GMOs on the market to determine whether they are toxic or allergenic. They are not.”

He admits there are legitimate concerns about how GM crops inadvertently imbalance insect ecosystems and accelerate weeds’ resistance to herbicides.

Recent studies indicate that in a few rare cases they may inadvertently kill butterflies, ladybugs and other harmless or helpful insects, although so far there is no solid evidence that they poison bees.

Even more concerning, agricultural pests can, will and have become resistant to Bt crops, just as they inevitably develop immunity to any form of pest control.

If biotech companies prematurely release new Bt varieties without proper testing or farmers do not take adequate precautions when growing them, Bt crops ultimately fail and, ironically, encourage the use of chemical pesticides they were meant to replace.

Jabr’s conclusion

Honestly, if you really want to understand GMOs, I think it’s best to stay away from Seifert’s new documentary altogether. There are many books and articles on the subject much more deserving of your time and attention.

STOP PRESS: GM Education (produced by Lawrence Woodward and Megan Noble) tell us that recently Monsanto donated $4.6 million to the campaign for a ‘No’ vote, followed closely by DuPont Pioneer; which stumped up another $3.2 million


http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3575226/ – Jeremy Seifert

Our heartless and unethical old acquaintance, the ‘acceptable risk’

18 Sep

sellafield (2)Demolition has begun this month on the Sellafield chimney, damaged by fire in 1957, releasing contamination into the atmosphere.

Site managers say the radioactivity has now decayed to ‘safe enough levels to work in’.

The BBC reports that the latest research findings are that children living near nuclear power plants do not have an increased risk of developing leukaemia.


Even a glance at the abstract shows that its finding is: “Our results show little (ie some) evidence of an increase in risk

How many research scientists and MPs live near nuclear power plants?

The study was published in the British Journal of Cancer which is owned by Cancer Research UK and published by the Nature Publishing Group which also publishes the Scientific American. Both journals have given consolation to the nuclear and biotech industries of late. Our next post will refer to the latter.



Leukaemia in young children in the vicinity of British nuclear power plants: a case–control study: J F Bithell, M F G Murphy, C A Stiller, E Toumpakari, T Vincent and R Wakeford

Concern about the risk of leukaemia in children living near nuclear power plants (NPPs) persists. Previous British analyses have been area based and consequently thought to be less effective than case–control studies.

Cases of childhood leukaemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (LNHL) born and diagnosed in Great Britain between 1962 and 2007, with matched cancer-free controls, were analysed by logistic regression to estimate the risk of residential proximity at birth and diagnosis to the nearest NPP, adjusting for relevant variables.

For 9821 children with LNHL under the age of 5 years, the estimated extra risk associated with residential proximity to an NPP at birth was negative—interpolated Odds Ratio (OR) at 5 km was 0.86 (0.49–1.52). The comparison of 10 618 children with LNHL under five with 16 760 similarly aged children with other cancers also gave a negative estimate of the extra risk of residential proximity at diagnosis—interpolated OR at 5 km was 0.86 (0.62–1.18).


Our results show little evidence of an increase in risk of LNHL to children aged under 5 years from living in the vicinity of an NPP. Risk estimates are incompatible with comparable ones published in a recent German case–control study.

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