Academics Review meets Genetic Roulette

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m an Australian. But us Ozzies get to meet a lot of Americans.

American author of Seeds of Deception and public speaker Jeffrey Smith’s of Fairfield Iowa, first came to the attention of Australians when he was rolled out by the anti-GM activists to try and prevent Australian farmers being given the freedom of choice on crop technology in late 2007.  Fortunately this effort by the anti-technology lobby groups was unsuccessful.

At most meetings organized by these activists that I have attended since that time — and there have been quite a few — stacks of his more recent book Genetic Roulette book were available for purchase, and I snapped up one early on.

A brief perusal of the articles revealed the book was highly biased. Nowhere in the book was there a mention of any of the major good outcomes from GM technology—such as decreased risk of cancer from mycotoxins in moldy corm (see this link for Chassy and Tribe’s efforts on this important topic at Academics Review). On the topics that I was most familiar such as antibiotic resistance in bacteria, Genetic Roulette was deeply misleading and factually wrong.

I decided late 2007 to investigate its claims thoroughly, little knowing how huge the task would be because as it turned out every one of the 65 claims in it — better called myths– was distorted, misleading, plain wrong, or based on misrepresentation or misreading of the sources it quoted.

An early step in providing an antidote for this misadventure appeared in an Australian rural newspaper, which I happily reproduced on my website in November 2007. But that fine article only tackles a sampling of the 65 Smith myths. Other aspects of Jeffrey M Smith’s effort were tackled in other GMO Pundit posts.

Fortunately I was able to team up with Prof Bruce Chassy with University of Illinois and together work through a careful dissection of the book’s claims. We sent our efforts to many experts in particular areas to make sure we got as much rigorous peer review as possible. In some topics, Jeffrey Smith’s claims are based on such flimsy evidence that it was difficult to find experts to take them seriously enough to provide expert review – they were just dismissed as a waste of reviewers time.

The results of our efforts are now published on a special website called Academics Review which we hope will become a forum for a series of other critical reviews where peer-reviewed scientific evidence is brought to shine a light on the wide range of topics that are important for public health or for environmental management, or on any area where modern science can help us make better decisions.

Why write about 65 flimsy myths?

Several people have asked me why I tackled such a time-consuming task.  Now that we have the site finished, we can see the effectiveness and wide reach of internet publication. We can enjoy the splendid esthetic attractiveness of academicsreview.org (for which Bruce and I were mere by-standers while real graphic artists and programmers pitched in). And we are continuing to discover new bad outcomes fuelled by Jeffrey Smith’s misinformation — for example the recent disgraceful hold-up of insect protected eggplant (Bt-Brinjal) in India (see for example Seetharam 2010, Tribe 2009). Taking all this in, Bruce Chassy, myself, and our many valued collaborators and reviewers are very pleased (and relieved) to find it was time and effort well spent.

We are now taking pleasure in encouraging other scientists to join us as members on an internet platform designed to put scientific knowledge and expertise to the service of the broad community.

Go to Academics Review and check it out!

http://academicsreview.org/

References:

Sridevi Seetharam (2010).  Should the Bt Brinjal controversy concern healthcare professionals and bioethicists? Indian J Med Ethics.2010 Jan-Mar;7(1)

David Tribe (2009). Blog posting Jan 30 2009. GMO Pundit blog. Agbiotech Hoax Watch 2009 #4. Genetics “expert Prof ” Smith advises developing country about food policy.

David Tribe is an applied geneticist, teaching graduate/undergrad courses in food science, food safety, biotechnology and microbiology at the University of Melbourne.


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17 comments to Academics Review meets Genetic Roulette

  • Mike

    I read your GMO pundit page. The Academics you mention are funded by none other then the same industry who are passing this stuff on to Americans. It’s in their best interests to try to debunk anyone who might cause them to lose their funding and therefore their own paychecks.

    The major commercial food growers in this country are OWNED by the pharmaceutical companies(the same folks paying to spread disinformation studies that tell people eggs, vitamin E and raw milk are all bad for you) and so is the main stream media, who help perpetuate their lies. It’s in their best financial interests for people to get sick because then they have their American Medical Association trained doctors prescribe a little pill or pills (1000% cheaper to make then growing good food) to help them feel better.

    One of our current supreme court justices (Clarence Thomas)is a former board member and officer for Monsanto, the only provider of the vast majority of seeds (genetically modified terminator seeds) commercial farmers here in the United States have to use. For you to write about this just proves that you somehow are funded by the same people or benefit some how by the same industry and or are paid by them to spread the same disinformation to Aussies as is done here in the United States.

    You and the rest like you are the reason people all over are dying of diseases they should never have to suffer from. Most of Europe has rightly banned any type of GMO’s in their country with good reason. So how much did you get paid to sell out? Your smear campaign won’t work, people are waking up to what you and your profit cronies are trying to push on them, and thats because they are tired of being sick eating all the wonderfully engineered products you are telling them are safe. Go completely natural people and make sure you check where people like this are getting their paychecks from. Follow the money trail and find out to who they really owe their allegiance to.

    FACT: America, 5% of the world’s population, 85% of the worlds pharmaceuticals sold here. Now kids are diabetic, on high cholesterol and high blood pressure medication as well as every type of mood control and anti-depressant there is, and obesity is becoming a pandemic. Sure, trust what this guy and all the rest of the establishment say about how safe this stuff really is(n’t!)

    ‘Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.’ Romans 1:22

    Editor’s note: paragraph breaks added for readability. Nothing else was changed.

    • Michael Straus

      Mike – can you provide additional detail to your comment: “The Academics you mention are funded by none other then the same industry who are passing this stuff on to Americans” – which scientists are you referring to, and related links siting their funding sources. That would be very helpful, if available. Thanks. Michael

  • David Tribe

    What’s difficult to understand is why amidst all this conspiracy theory that raw milk is assumed to be safe.

  • Kyle

    Raw milk can be as safe, or as dangerous, as any other food. With proper attention given to care and health of animals, appropriate food (grass), proper handling of the milk after collection, appropriate inspection and testing along the way, raw milk can be very safe, and provide healthy benefits to consumers. Without appropriate care and attention, raw milk can be deadly – just as most other foods can be deadly if handled inappropriately. How many outbreaks of salmonella in the commercial meat supply have we had, for instance? Or mad cow disease? Like any food, raw milk should not be assumed to be safe, but neither should it be assumed to be hazardous.
    Scientists and health and nutrition professionals have done great works to reduce and eliminate many known hazards from our food supply over the years. But they are human, and not immune to their own blindnesses and false orthodoxies. Twenty years ago there was a great (and largely successful) campaign to remove saturated fats such as lard and tropical oils from commercial fried food preparation, replacing them with vegetable oil based trans fats. Today we know that trans fats are strongly associated with heart disease, and are quite possibly linked to cancer, diabetes, obesity and other health problems. Meanwhile there is an ongoing challenge and questioning of the lipid hypothesis that was the basis of the campaign against saturated fats. Further, some research and analysis now suggests that, rather than being unhealthy, saturated animal fats and (possibly especially) tropical oils may actually have a number of health benefits. And saturated fat’s supposed link to heart disease also appears to be in error.

    • Raw milk does not have a good track record of safety. While it may be possible to make it safe, even its most vocal supporters and producers won’t admit this. I don’t agree with your relativistic argument about food safety, and the benefits of raw milk versus pasteurized milk have not been demonstrated.

      • Jess

        Mr. Karl,
        “Raw milk does not have track record of safety” Yes you’re right, because you never lived nor haven’t heard of people in the 60′s and 70′s living on farms in other countries. I grew up in Central America and my family, a family of 7. My family along with the rest of our neighbors, row milk was a daily drink. Green pastures were the home for our priceless cows and goats. Free from fertilizers or what the industry tell you to use. Raw milk kept 98 year olds great-grandparents working 10 to 12 hours working in the fields along with the young. They were strong and so healthy.
        Anything that in not in its natural state is not natural anymore. Whatever the companies are doing to make you believe the opposite is call “marketing”, don’t forget about that. Would you really start a business just to give for free and not receive?

        • Hi Jess,
          My grandparents lived even further back than the 60s and 70s, and no matter how far back you go you will not find a utopia where everyone lived forever – least of all due to (or in spite of) raw milk. The farther back in time you go, the earlier people died. Modern medicine, food safety, nutrition, etc have enabled people to live far longer on average than they ever did. Raw milk is not a magic elixir of life.
          The situation you describe, while anecdotal, does not argue against the situation I’m talking about. If you grew up on a farm, and drank milk that was fresh from a cow, goat, platypus, or whatever, you are at a low risk of catching disease, compared to a city-dweller far-removed from the farm who buys raw milk that has been bottled, shipped, handled, and stored long enough for any harmful bacteria, if present, to multiply to dangerous levels. Part of the problem with the raw milk food politics is that the strongest advocates are not the least bit interested in moving back to the farm to get nearer to the milk, and are demanding exemptions from reasonable risk reductions through pasteurization to capture that on-the-farm flavor, putting people at risk – and not just themselves.

          Strange that this is a page – of all pages – where raw milk advocates land after their google searches.

      • A Ellis

        Obviously, you have not lived in rural America and have not experience raw milk. We drank raw milk for years and no problems. The government regulates as they see fit to undermine individuals who take responsibility for their own life. The arguments pro and con keep the media in play. It is no different for the GMO’s. Look at the reality. People are displaying ill health effects at an amazing rate and diseases previously related to the aging population is main stream with youth. Keep your mind and eyes closed and be sucked in to the betrayal of this countries government. Stop and take a good look around you and then tell me there is nothing going on with a rampant onset of poor health in the people of the US. Now, we are pursuing the decline of global health with our “feed the world” exports of GM corn, wheat, and soy.

        • A Ellis, I’m glad to hear you have not had any problems drinking raw milk, but not everyone’s experience is your own.

          I seriously doubt that government wants to get into people’s lives merely to “undermine individuals who take responsibility for their own life.” I think you should probably separate your views of food from your views of the government.

          Your argument that genetic engineering is causing a nebulous unknown range of harms would be better made if you didn’t claim that genetically engineered wheat was a culprit – because there is none on the market.

  • Kyle

    Actually, vocal supporters DO argue raw milk can be made safe – and over the past 10 years or so in California that appears to prove out. Such few supposed illnesses (certainly no deaths) as were alleged here, in the end didn’t prove out. Safety does require constant monitoring and testing. And yes, there are plenty of examples from the past (and present elsewhere) of problems with raw milk, when such monitoring and testing was (or is) not done.
    As to scientifically demonstrating benefits of raw milk, like so MANY areas of health benefits in different foods, funding for the large scale studies to ask those questions and actually demonstrate or refute such benefits have not been forthcoming. But some smaller raw milk samplings within some other larger food studies have suggested such benefits. And separately some studies raised questions about possible health concerns with low fat and non fat milks (with similar concerns specifically not being associated with whole milk – pasteurized or raw). Just one of many examples of “further research needed”. To be accurate, benefits of raw milk vs pasteurized milk have been neither demonstrated nor refuted. Only suggested by some preliminary analyses.

    • Richard R

      http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/18/3/pdfs/11-1370.pdf

      2 deaths and a disproportionate number of illnesses compared does not seem like a good track record nationally.

    • I’m sorry, but raw milk in California does not have a good track record. Organic Pastures has not only been linked to more than one E. coli outbreak, but has also recalled its milk products because of confirmed Campylobacter contamination. That’s one dairy to start with.
      I urge people who are interested in reading about the track record of raw milks safety to go to http://www.realrawmilkfacts.com/
      They even have a state-by-state breakdown: http://www.realrawmilkfacts.com/raw-milk-regulations/state/california
      You describe the evidence for the health benefits as being “only suggested by some preliminary analyses” which is really not cause for all the hoopla about these purported benefits. My suggestion for the raw milk community is to focus on studying these purported benefits and publishing them in peer-reviewed journals, along with developing the appropriate equipment and regulations to make it safe for people to consume. Otherwise it is just hand-waving and politics.

      • mikeB

        This is one of those issues I believe I can comment on with some authority:

        We’ve raised Devon cattle for several years, simply as a hobby, and I’ve made yogurt and cheese and I’ve drunk their milk raw. I do this simply because I am lazy and do not feel like heating the milk to pasteurization temperatures before I drink it. Besides, it’s my cow’s milk and I know where it comes from. Any contamination is my own fault. I’ve had no incidents in five years.

        I would not recommend that people buy and consume raw milk, however. It’s clear that that risks–-however minute–-outweigh the benefits. There are no clear benefits to drinking raw milk, Weston Price foundation be damned.

        I do believe small farmers should be able to sell raw milk, as long as it is labeled as such and accompanied by appropriate warnings to the consumer to heat the milk when they get home-–same as meat labels recommend that people cook the meat appropriately.

  • Kyle

    In 2006 there was an Organic Pastures recall after 4 children got sick with E. coli, but inspections and testing at the dairy failed to turn up any pathogens.
    Of course 2006 was also the year of the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak attributed to packaged spinach – from a field adjacent to a cattle feed lot which had cows with the same serotype of E. coli (the likely ultimate source). 276 illnesses and 5 deaths were attributed to this source.
    Also in December 2006 an E. coli outbreak at Taco Bell restaurants in 5 Northeastern states was initially attributed to green onions, but ultimately traced to lettuce from (unspecified) farms in California’s Central Valley. Also December 2006 Iowa and Minnesota reported E. coli outbreaks at Taco John’s restaurants, also ultimately attributed to lettuce (from unspecified farms).

    Organic Pastures again was suspected in an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in November 2011 involving 5 children (based only on the fact that each had consumed Organic Pastures raw milk prior to getting sick), but after extended testing and inspections, including testing milk from the childrens’ various homes, no evidence was found showing the milk to be the source of the E. coli. Environmental samples with the same strain were ultimately collected from the dairy, but no contamination was documented in any milk products in this case.
    There were a total of 52 reported cases of E. coli in young children with onset of illness within that time period (November 2011), but only 5 of the 52 had any association with raw milk; the other 47 had no contact with any raw milk products. But all the news articles focused on the 5 attributed to raw milk – virtually nothing appears to have been said about the other 47 ill kids who had no possible contact with raw milk.

    In that same month (November 2011) there was a recall of bagged Romaine lettuce because of E. coli O157:H7 contamination, confirmed in at least one bag. Apparently no illnesses were attributed to the contaminated Romaine.

    Meanwhile, the “first” 2011 California ground beef recall for E. coli contamination occurred in early February (there had also been one on December 30, 2010). There were additional beef recalls in California throughout 2011, including late February (from a Mid-West source shipped to California), in September-October, and again in December (those are the ones I found).

    I note a recent study that found close to 80% of all retail chicken and turkey contaminated with E. coli, and nearly 60% of beef. Pork came in about 40%.
    http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/food-poisoning-resources/so-whats-in-your-chicken-turkey-beef-or-pork-salmonella-campylobacter-andor-e-coli/

    While Organic Pastures has not come close to killing anyone, the commercial chicken industry has killed people with E. coli; the commercial beef industry has killed people with E. coli. Even the commercial pasteurized dairy industry has killed people with E. coli. If we followed your standard we would be banning those industries.

    The Organic Pastures Campylobacter infection in 2012, was confirmed, but none of the 10 ill required any hospitalization – certainly nothing life-threatening.

    I’m not saying that raw milk cannot do major harm, or kill, but it does seem to receive an inordinate amount of attention given all the other sources of illness and contamination caused by foods.

  • Stephen

    Enough on raw milk. Let’s get back to the topic of this blog post, Genetic Roulette and the validity of its claims. I recently took a deep breath and watched the anti-GMO documentary of the same name, produced by Jeffrey Smith. Early on, the film asserted that Americans are sick and getting sicker.

    I could not independently verify this claim, but we certainly have a big supersized problem of obesity and a cluster of health problems associated with obesity. Based on input from various sources and my own thinking, the dietary cause for this is processed foods in general which includes increased levels of sugar across the board. Yes, the food industry does use genetically modified components like high fructose corn syrup made from GE corn. But obesity is also an epidemic in countries that only use non-GE cane sugar.

    My point is that if conditions like intestinal permeability (leaky gut syndrome) are on the rise, as claimed in Genetic Roulette, why not look at processed foods in general. In fact, here is a peer reviewed study that supports this point: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2898551/

  • jimmy deen

    Ya Stephen I always find it kinda funny that so little outrage is directed to something so obvious. Its this big over reaching conspiracy, its this deadly technology, its the government! The corporations! etc etc. Imagine the economic, health, and redistribution of vested interest if the standard North American diet was enjoyed say once a week, people got some exercise, and didn`t base there diet solely around processed foods. I love a big mac and a coke but once a weekish. salad, vegetable juice, plants; they don`t taste the best but they make me feel the best.

    Unpasteurized milk is not the secret to health. Its just a cause for moon bats and people who sell that most special product; identity. Every nation needs its beliefs and has its villains. Whether it is the yuppies, The commies, or the evil corporations its all the same non-sense. “I get to feel like I am part of this and against that and it gives me purpose” etc etc.

    I mean talk about bias? The scientist doing the studies are biased? Somewhat, its human nature but here we have a technology in its not even able to walk infancy and already:
    -Saved the Hawaiian papaya industry, mmmm papayas. But off course that just gets twisted around. You know I actively seek out the gmo papaya, it tastes the same and is a quarter of the price. Id like to do a documentary where I eat nothing but healthy food for 6 months and gmo when possible. point being, stop worrying about the stuff that does`t matter and worry about stuff that does. Hey maybe id even get to be ‘paid by the evil corporations’!
    -insulin, the first major recumbent technology, this is the human insulin gene transplanted and transcribed in an e-coli bacteria, before that it had to be extracted from pigs, yeah! nope, its all bad
    -myristinin a, the most effective anti-malaria drug available can now be made with an artificial created biologically engineered pathway. This is a drug that stops malaria dead in its tracks and is expensive to produce chemically. But its all bad and dangerous and no we shouldn’t mess around with the sacred earth code embedded in the mana etc etc. Chemtrails!
    -Golden rice, WTF! somehow it is more desirable to fight and win the war on poverty (cause thats going to happen? And you know it’s the evil corporations fault that some people are so unfortunate) than to plant a genetically modified rice (already made but mired in controversy) that will eliminate vitamin A deficiency and childhood blindness. Imagine being the mother of a child that has gone blind from vitamin A deficiency and listening to some hopped up charlatan like jeffery smith. yes he is a hopped up charlatan. Yes he can swing dance, no he can not levitate while he meditates.
    -Taxol, guess what genetic engineering, yew tree was in serious trouble till this was cracked.
    -infact 50 percent of drugs (biologics) used today come from straight up, satanic, evil GE technology. Would we need this many drugs if we didn`t eat such crap? No. Is it there fault we ARE getting sick? Oh yes most definitely and obviously! Cearly autism and allergies and leaky gut, and I don`t feel so normal syndrome are all caused by GE technology. Just drink unpasteurized milk, and give your child bleach enemas and they`ll be fine!

    Yes some nutritional value might be lost if milk is heated and cooled; it also kills all the bacteria in it! Thanks Louis! You can`t flash pasteurize lettuce, nor should you eat meats without properly cooking them. As far as I know the e-coli outbreaks got serious coverage as the news tells everybody not to eat the lettuce; as I remember anyway. Also a lot more people are eating raw lettuce than they are raw milk, also milk is a perfect growing medium for bacteria, also if you want to ship the stuff and bring it to market its nice when it does`t go bad right away.

    I would`t drink raw milk anymore than i`d eat raw chicken. Cause its dumb. I get that my ancestors drank raw milk, I am Dutch, I get that, its in blue and white everywhere. We drank a lot of raw milk, right, got it. While it may provide some types of people comfort, and may somehow be the basis of an argument, that it is in someway, healthier to do things like they did 300 years ago (mindlessness), I can understand why an authority who’s mandate is to protect as much public health as possible would not be comfortable with the general population getting their milk any old way from anywhere. I can also understand why that same authority would not ban raw lettuce.

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