About those industry funded GMO studies…

Let’s talk about those industry funded studies. You know the ones. The ones you hear about from anti-GMO folks in the comment section of any story about GMOs. According to those folks, the whole scientific consensus on GMO safety is based on industry funded studies. They say that the only studies that show that GMOs pose no different risks than conventionally bred crops were all bought and paid for by Monsanto. That makes the consensus suspicious right? It would if there weren’t many independently funded studies with similar results.

Complaints about industry funded studies show an ignorance of the literature and may indicate a lazy desire to dismiss inconvenient evidence in order to preserve predetermined ideological commitments. It’s plain old confirmation bias and motivated reasoning run amok.

Monsanto is a medium sized company ($57.43B). Is it really possible that they’ve manipulated tens of thousands of scientists performing thousands of studies for three decades with no whistleblowers? Could Monsanto’s power have resulted in a scientific consensus that has been bent completely to their will? In comparison, fossil fuel behemoths Exxon Mobil ($394.83B), Chevron ($215.45B) and BP ($150.07B) (total: $760.35B) have been completely stymied in their efforts to buy a scientific consensus on climate change. Let’s put aside the fact that this line of thinking just doesn’t make sense. Instead, let’s take a look at the evidence and unravel some of the pretzeled logic often employed to dismiss the weight of that evidence in support of the scientific consensus on GMOs.

Let’s start with the European Union (EU). Politicians in the EU are generally not friendly to GMOs and they wanted to be very careful about them. So they ponied up €200 million over a decade to look into the matter. The resulting studies are neatly summarized in A Decade of EU Funded GMO Research [pdf].

This new publication presents the results of 50 projects, involving more than 400 research groups and representing European research grants of some EUR 200 million. This figure brings the total Commission funding of research on GMO safety to more than EUR 300 million since its inception in 1982 in the Biomolecular Engineering programme.

…The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies.

In addition to the EU studies, scientists around the world have been building on our knowledge of GMOs. Biofortified’s GENERA project (in progress) has amassed a list of over 1000 studies on the safety of biotechnology, about 1/3 of which have independent funding. Not all of the studies are supportive of the position that GMOs are no riskier than their conventionally bred counterparts, but the vast majority support that proposition.

Let’s look at a type of papers that are of particular value to non-scientists: literature reviews (video) and meta-analyses are a great way for getting a sense of the weight of the evidence on a given topic. They help us avoid single study syndrome and keep us from missing the forest for the trees. Here are four of these type of papers from the Biofortified list of studies with independent funding.

  1. Assessment of the health impact of GM plant diets in long-term and multigenerational animal feeding trials: A literature review

The aim of this systematic review was to collect data concerning the effects of diets containing GM maize, potato, soybean, rice, or triticale on animal health. We examined 12 long-term studies (of more than 90 days, up to 2 years in duration) and 12 multigenerational studies (from 2 to 5 generations). We referenced the 90-day studies on GM feed for which long-term or multigenerational study data were available. Many parameters have been examined using biochemical analyses, histological examination of specific organs, hematology and the detection of transgenic DNA. The statistical findings and methods have been considered from each study. Results from all the 24 studies do not suggest any health hazards and, in general, there were no statistically significant differences within parameters observed.

  1. A Meta-Analysis of Effects of Bt Crops on Honey Bees

Honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) are the most important pollinators of many agricultural crops worldwide and are a key test species used in the tiered safety assessment of genetically engineered insect-resistant crops. There is concern that widespread planting of these transgenic crops could harm honey bee populations. We conducted a meta-analysis of 25 studies that independently assessed potential effects of Bt Cry proteins on honey bee survival (or mortality). Our results show that Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) Cry proteins used in genetically modified crops commercialized for control of lepidopteran and coleopteran pests do not negatively affect the survival of either honey bee larvae or adults in laboratory settings. Although the additional stresses that honey bees face in the field could, in principle, modify their susceptibility to Cry proteins or lead to indirect effects, our findings support safety assessments that have not detected any direct negative effects of Bt crops for this vital insect pollinator.

  1. A Meta-Analysis of Effects of Bt Cotton and Maize on Nontarget Invertebrates

Although scores of experiments have examined the ecological consequences of transgenic Bt crops, debates continue regarding the nontarget impacts of this technology. Quantitative reviews of existing studies are crucial for better gauging risks and improving future risk assessments. To encourage evidence-based risk analyses, we constructed a searchable database for nontarget effects of Bt crops. A meta-analysis of 42 field experiments indicates that nontarget invertebrates are generally more abundant in Bt cotton and Bt maize fields than in nontransgenic fields managed with insecticides. However, in comparison with insecticide-free control fields, certain nontarget taxa are less abundant in Bt fields.

There is one more literature review from the Biofortified list that I want to look at, but in the context of making an important point. There are lots of industry funded studies. The majority in fact. But there are also many independent studies. How can we judge if the industry funded studies are reliable? If the independent studies and the industry studies come to the same conclusions, then we can conclude that the industry studies are reliable. And that is exactly what we find.

Let’s parse out the findings of a 2007 literature review on human and animal toxicological/health risks studies for GM foods/plants and the 2011 follow up.

In is 2007 paper Toxicity studies of genetically modified plants: a review of the published literature, José Domingo found little to no evidence that genetically engineered crops posed significantly different risks than conventional crops, while sounding several cautious caveats and underlining that the body of literature seemed too scant for drawing confident conclusions. One statement of the abstract caught me eye. “Moreover, most published studies were not performed by the biotechnology companies that produce these products.”

The same author followed up in 2011 with a colleague and found a much larger number of studies, but also a shift in the proportion of industry funded studies. This wasn’t surprising since prior to 2006, companies hadn’t been publishing their test results (aside from in their patent applications) but an industry-wide push for transparency had changed that.

  1. A literature review on the safety assessment of genetically modified plants

The main goal of the present review was to assess the current state-of-the-art regarding the potential adverse effects/safety assessment of GM plants for human consumption. The number of citations found in databases (PubMed and Scopus) has dramatically increased since 2006. However, new information on products such as potatoes, cucumber, peas or tomatoes, among others was not available. Corn/maize, rice, and soybeans were included in the present review. An equilibrium in the number research groups suggesting, on the basis of their studies, that a number of varieties of GM products (mainly maize and soybeans) are as safe and nutritious as the respective conventional non-GM plant, and those raising still serious concerns, was currently observed. Nevertheless, it should be noted that most of these studies have been conducted by biotechnology companies responsible of commercializing these GM plants. These findings suggest a notable advance in comparison with the lack of studies published in recent years in scientific journals by those companies.

José Domingo and Jordi Giné Bordonaba are certainly no cheerleaders for biotech crops. Yet, despite the increase in industry funded studies between their reviews of the literature in 2007 and 2011, they still find plenty of evidence to affirm their cautious stance towards the technology.

An even more robust review of the total literature published in 2014 is more conclusive in their findings: “The scientific research conducted so far has not detected any significant hazards directly connected with the use of genetically engineered crops.” In An overview of the last 10 years of genetically engineered crop safety research, the authors collected and evaluated 1,783 research papers, reviews, relevant opinions, and reports published between 2002 and 2012, a process that took over 12 months to complete. The review was published in Critical Reviews in Biotechnology and covered all aspects of GM crop safety, from how the crops interact with the environment to how they could potentially affect the humans and animals who consume them. And their conclusion?

The lead author, Alessandro Nicolia, an applied biologist at the University of Perugia in Italy, said in an interview: “Our goal was to create a single document where interested people of all levels of expertise can get an overview on what has been done by scientists regarding GE crop safety. We tried to give a balanced view informing about what has been debated, the conclusions reached so far, and emerging issues.”

Looking at the scientific literature about GMO safety, we find little difference between the results of independent and industry funded studies. What if we were a little more rigorous in our scrutiny? Johan Diels of led a team that did exactly that. The results were interesting, but not without some problems.

Association of financial or professional conflict of interest to research outcomes on health risks or nutritional assessment studies of genetically modified products

In a study involving 94 articles selected through objective criteria, it was found that the existence of either financial or professional conflict of interest was associated to study outcomes that cast genetically modified products in a favorable light (p = 0.005). While financial conflict of interest alone did not correlate with research results (p = 0.631), a strong association was found between author affiliation to industry (professional conflict of interest) and study outcome (p < 0.001).

No association was found between financial conflict of interest (COI) and article outcome. The authors did find a correlation between “industry affiliation” and favorable study outcome. But realize how far we have moved the goal posts. We started with the proposition that we couldn’t trust any of the research because it was it was all paid for by the industry. But we found that’s not true. Now we have researchers looking into the matter and they can’t find a relationship between industry funding and favorable study outcomes. And there’s no connection there. What’s left is griping about the industry ties of some of the researchers. Before looking a little closer at that, let’s get one thing out of the way. When a company pays for a study, they are paying because they want to find out something. Fudging the data does not help them in their business. Such data manipulation would be generally be counter productive. That’s why it didn’t show up in the data.

Now let’s focus on the association between professional COI and study outcome. There are a few things that might explain that correlation besides a lack of independence. Half the sample was undeclared regarding COIs, leaving a very small sample to examine. In the professional COI category nearly 10% of the sample size was categorized as undetermined. Moreover, while 43 authors had COIs, 28 of the studies were compositional studies. These are nearly always funded by the companies and they are close to always favorable since finding  substantial equivalence is very likely. Remove those 28 studies from the set of 43 with financial or professional COIs and the P values will shift towards insignificance.

Another thing to keep in mind, especially where compositional studies are concerned is that the company has already performed in-house studies. They are contracting independent scientists to confirm their findings. This is going to skew the results of the sample towards industry favorable study outcomes. This doesn’t mean the studies were suspect. They were just more likely to result in a favorable outcome to begin with. If the in-house study had an unfavorable outcome in compositional assessment or other tests, then that project would be stopped and it’s back to the drawing board for a new project. There is no need for follow up testing by outside independent researchers. That’s a big reason why so many studies in that sample will produce favorable results.

In written conversation, independent researcher and professor of horticultural sciences, Kevin Folta put it this way:

I think the other factor is that industry recruits independent experts to independently reproduce findings. They show in house that x+y=z. They then hand the test to a university, that finds x+y=z. If the test fails in-house, then it does not go for independent verification. That will skew statistics too, because the outcomes of the university-based tests have already been demonstrated. The reason the results frequently agree is because they are frequently correct.

On his blog, Folta looked at the question of industry funding at the University of Florida:

First, I went to an easy source at my university, the University of Florida. The Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) publishes their financials every year. You can find this online here.


How much Big Corporation money did we spend? Not that much. It is buried somewhere in that “other sponsored funds” piece of the money pie.

Now wait, I can hear critics already screaming that “other sponsored funds” is almost 10% of the research dollars spent, and that’s a significant amount at a place like the University of Florida. So let’s use the record to break that down:


Yikes. Corporate sponsorship is a pretty small sliver of that pie. So about two percent of our funds come from corporate interests. For the anti-scientific critics out there, that’s about two dollars out of every hundred.

If we are bought and paid for, we’re bought really cheap and not paid well.

Elsewhere in that conversation, Folta said,

The other important thing to remember is that almost no university researcher is going to commit career suicide by fudging data, especially for some damn company. That’s why companies come here. If the results don’t agree with what they found, it means that they are not reproducible. That’s the answer they NEED to know, and why they go independent in the first place!

…Even if a university gets a building, how does that make an individual researcher change research, essentially torpedo a career? Even if a company finances a lab (which is rare) they want the real answer, not some fabrication. To suggest that we’re all somehow sellouts is insane. Show me where my data do not hold up.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t pay attention to potential conflicts of interest or that we should take industry funded research at face value. What I am saying is that dismissing an entire body of research because it’s supposedly bought and paid for is foolish and lazy.

When you shout ‘Conflict of Interest’ before evaluating the evidence and analysis, it becomes an excuse for discounting inconvenient evidence. Asking about conflicts of interest should be a safeguard against getting snookered by weak evidence. Instead, it becomes an excuse for dismissing good evidence. Examining the soundness of the evidence must come first. Then you can decide whether questions of funding and loyalties are relevant. This is how you maintain a firm footing on solid ground. Use awareness of conflicts of interest to avoid motivated reasoning. Otherwise you are only fueling the fire of your own biases.

A previous version of this article appeared on REALFOOD.ORG on 13 February 2014.

Budding food writer with previous careers as a union organizer and chef.

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38 comments to About those industry funded GMO studies…

  • The most glaring example of Conflict of Interest comes of course from the anti-GMO organic activists. They run phony, tax-funded “research” schemes that are nothing more than marketing campaigns designed to “characterize” the organic movement. Yeah, real objective.

    I’m a huge supporter of the organic movement. But I wish it would drop the false indignation over GMOs and the companies that create them. In fact, it’s time for the organic movement to embrace GMOs as President Clinton wanted back in 1997!

    • Brandie

      Mishca do you not realize that GMO is not allowed to be certified organic? In the rules for organic growers they are not allowed to use GMO seeds and if they are contaminated they can no longer sell their crops as organic. In Australia Steve Marsh has lost his organic certification due to the contamination of his field by his neighbor. Your pipe dream of Organic growers “embracing” GMO’s would mean the end of organics. So to make that comment I am thinking you are not for organics the way you say you are.

      • Brandie, please read the standards. Yes, you’re correct that organic growers are not allowed to USE GMO seeds, exactly as they’re not allowed to use prohibited pesticides. But if prohibited pesticides drift onto an organic field, that field is not de-certified. Far from it. In fact, small amounts of spray drift are EXPECTED under organic standards. Likewise, small amounts of GMO pollen drift are also expected, and this does not prevent an organic farmer from selling a crop as organic. Never has, never will.

        • Brandie Harrop

          No offence Mischa but people who don’t want to consume GMO’s for what ever reason are depending on the organic label to not contain them and the organic industry knows that. If it becomes a regular thing they will lose business and people will just grow their own food. That is what I have done. And as for farmers embracing the technology I do not agree. I have spent the last year interviewing farmers because I wanted to get the story from them instead of the propaganda machine on the internet (both sides) I have heard from them things like “my field just keeps getting contaminated anyways so I gave in” “there are no other seeds available” “we can not get the man power on the farm to grow differently” “We can not find staff that wants to work so we have to grow in ways that doesn’t need staff” “with the subsidies we are making a fortune growing it” But interestingly enough there is one question I have asked of all the conventional and GMO farmers and all of them have the same reply.
          I ask what kind of food do you eat? Do you eat conventional and GMO? Please keep in mind this reply is their words not mine “I am not eating that poisonous s**t!! I eat organic! I mean come on I see what I spray on that crap” So now if you think I am a hysterical crazy lunatic because I only want to eat uncontaminated organic food you can see I have a very real reason for feeling that way. the farmers know the food the best and they know the chemicals. If THEY don’t consider the food that they are growing safe why would I? Right now I know of lots of farmers that are starting to slowly change over their fields because they not only don’t feel the food is safe but they don’t like the way they feel about serving that up to the rest of their fellow Canadians. Now this is not to say that there isn’t some farmers out there that really like them, Just this is the story that I have gotten from all the farmers that I have talked to.
          I have also talked to some really old school farmers that don’t call them self organic but grow that way just because that is the way they have always grown. They have taken the time to explain to me how they farm and how GMO is completely unnecessary. One farm family that has been farming for 160 years going on 5th generation explained to me how they handled all pests and weeds that these GMO’s were created around. And it honestly makes a lot of sense. The GMO’s are not needed at all. Another farmer whose family has been farming the land for 130 years told me he hates the way he is farming. They grow one GMO crop and 3 conventional crops. He said he would LOVE to switch but the soil is so damaged from all the chemicals that it is overwhelming. Our conversation was really interesting. He said that farmers don’t even need to know how to farm. The chemical companies give them a schedule to follow. Between this date and this date is fertilizer season, this date to this date is pesticide season, this date to this date is fungicide season etc and they list what they need to spray. He is one of the farmers that is going to changing over his land one section at a time and ditching the GMO’s all together. There is this super sweet old guy that hangs out at one of the farmers markets I go to. He is a retired farmer. I have sat and talked to him for hours. He is disgusted and horrified by the way people are farming now a days.
          Any ways I am sure you don’t want to hear me recount all my interviews as I am at over 50 of them now. I really don’t want to hear propaganda from either side any more. I have gone right to the farmers and no offence but I believe them, they are the one’s out in the field day after day year after year. They are the one’s growing the food and harvesting and dealing with the soil. If anyone is going to know the truth it is them.

          • Organic crops that come into contact in some way, shape or form with GMOs do not contain GMOs.

            It’s the same with pesticides that are prohibited in organic production. Just because the edge of a certified-organic crop is touched by spray drifting over the fence line, it does not follow that that organic crop now contains that pesticide.

            In any case, if the leadership of the organic industry thought that mere contact from neighboring GMO crops posed a risk to a certified-organic crop, they would have written a standard reflecting this. As it stands, organic farmers are merely prevented from USING GMOs themselves, and that is all.

            You could try to rewrite the organic standards.

            • Dawson Darling

              And indeed I’m surprised people don’t make more of a Hub-bub about the pesticide seepage than GMO pollen contamination. Seems the pesticides are far more likely to be harmful to people. But no, the reverse is true… >.<

              • Quite right Dawson! Anyone who subscribes to an organic philosophy should indeed be much, much, MUCH more concerned with pesticide contamination than the phony phantom-menace of GMO “contamination.” Sadly, the organic movement seems to have lost its way.

      • Brandie, a little history is in order. Organic farmers are not allowed to use GMO seeds because they (or their organizations) decided not to allow it. They could have decided that it was OK. In act, at one point the US government proposed a standard for what would be required to label a food product organic and it did not exclude GMO seeds, but the organic organizations orchestrated a huge outcry and forced the government to change.

        With that history, complaints that GMO seeds are contaminating organic crops is like the story of the man who murdered his parents and wanted leniency because he was an orphan.

        • “The man who murdered his parents and wanted leniency because he was an orphan.” That’s a good one c rader.

          Yes, it’s true, the self-appointed, mostly URBAN leadership of the organic movement did indeed orchestrate an outcry against the possibility of including GMO seed in organic production. They packed up their toys, one could say, and left the sandbox, convinced by their own propaganda that GMO crops would self-implode, forcing farmers to reject them.

          But now, almost 2 decades later, GMO crops have done nothing but grow in acceptance by farmers. So the self-appointed urban leadership have decided to start pretending GMO crops “contaminate” organic fields. Only one small problem; they forgot to write anything to that effect into their organic standards.

          And so it is that GMO pollen drift is no worse than a modicum of pesticide drift onto an organic field. Not ideal perhaps, but perfectly acceptable according to the activists’ own rules.

          How deliciously ironic. Pun intended.

      • Daryl

        Brandie, as additional support to Mischa and c radar, see the comments by Scott Mundell on the webpage http://gmoanswers.com/ask/i-am-unconvinced-gmo-crops-can-be-contained-when-it-comes-cross-pollination-surrounding-crops. Mr Mundell indicates that a low level of GM material in organic crops does not violate the Organics Standards. So, if the organic crop is being rejected due to GM contamination, it is because (as Mr Rader points out) of rejection by organic organizations rather than the standards.

        • Quite right Daryl. Any organic crop being rejected due to GM “contamination” is being rejected due to a misreading of organic standards, standards which the organic industry literally wrote for itself!

      • It’s an unfortunate bit of political history that GMOs were excluded from the Organic standards. There is nothing about Bt traited crops, Golden Rice or Rainbow Papaya that is inconsistent with the original principles and insights of organic founders like Howard and Rodale.

        • Quite right Marc! GMO Bt crops are a natural fit for the organic industry.
          In fact, I was within the “inner circle” of organic activists who decided to exclude GMOs from America’s organic standards back in 1997/98. And it was precisely BECAUSE GMOs achieve many, if not all, the goals of the organic movement that these activists decided they had to be excluded.
          Self preservation is always counterproductive to humankind’s larger goals.

      • Ewan R

        It is worth noting here, I think, that the Australian standards that Marsh was decertified from, and USDA organic standards, are entirely different (if somewhat overlapping) sets of standards.

        From what I have heard (and I haven’t perused the court documents on the matter yet) in the Marsh case an inspector for the organization which certified Marsh overstepped the bounds when decertifying Marsh (reading their guidelines (something I have done!) rather paints a picture that some presence of GMO plants on an operators fields wouldn’t necessarily be a problem so long as the operator was not responsible for them being there and had personally done enough to keep them away (the wording is horribly vague, likely part of what led to removal of certification))

        In my opinion the certifying authority got things wrong (likely both in training employees and in poorly wording their requirements), the certifying agent got things wrong, Marsh got things wrong by taking legal action against his neighbor… but we can’t then turn around and use USDA requirements to argue for or against anything… the Australian requirements are far more vague, it is nigh on impossible to read into them exactly what would constitute allowable co-mingling of GM and non-GM (although I’d have to imagine that even the nuttiest of nuts would find something off in decertifying someone due to the presence of a handful of plants of a species which weren’t certified on that farm in the first place)

        • I’m not holding Mr. Marsh to America’s organic standards. According to Australia’s organic standards – which are not vague – there was no basis whatsoever to de-certify Mr. Marsh’s fields. Australia’s standards are clear, pollen drifting from a GMO crop is NOT a basis to decertify a crop or a field.

          • Ewan R

            Pollen drift had nothing to do with it though.

            Perhaps we read different documents, or perhaps I’m missing something but…


            Section 3.2.1

            “The deliberate use and or the negligent introduction of genetically engineered organisms
            or their derivatives to organic farming systems or products are prohibited. This includes,
            but is not limited to:
            • seed
            • feed
            • propagation material
            • farm inputs such as fertilisers and compost
            • vaccines
            • crop protection materials”

            Could quite easily pertain to pollen drift *if the inspector wanted it to* because it does not limit the list.

            3.2.3 could have been applied (very badly) to Marsh, as GMO plants were growing on his farm (arguably they were not a crop, as they were there by accident and not actually a crop he was growing)

            3.2.5 could have applied against him in terms of pollen drift, accidental presence etc if he knew but didn’t make sufficient (vague!) effort to prevent exposure.

            3.2.7 however clearly puts the onus on the certifyee to have sufficient buffers (something Marsh then went to court over to have his neighbor increase their buffers)

            3.2.9 could well include pollen drift, or accidental presence of Canola, but only, one feels when at liberty to take advantage of the vague wording of the piece. (what is an unacceptable risk of contamination – this is vague, regardless of your statement that it isn’t)

            Nowhere in all of 3.2 can I see support for either of the following:-

            Organic standards not being vague.

            The standards are clear that pollen is not basis to decertify. (If you can point me to anything in the standard that makes this clear I’d appreciate it, from my reading the following suggest that dependent on how one decides to read it presence of even pollen (which wasn’t the issue with Marsh anyway) would indeed be sufficient):-

            Quote above (emphasis on non-exhaustive nature of list)

            “The certification of organic crops will be withdrawn where genetically engineered crops
            are grown on the same farm.”

            This was Marsh’s issue, he had GMO plants on his farm (arguably they aren’t crops however)

            “Operators must not knowingly permit exposure or fail to take action against the application of or exposure to GMOs.”

            Based on non exhaustive list knowing exposure to GM pollen, or GM material at all (seeds, in marsh’s case – although one assumes also the swathed canola that could blow over from neighboring farms) would warrant decertification.

            all of 3.2.7

            3.2.9 in the case where pollen is considered part of the non-exhaustive list in 3.2.1

            3.2.11 absolutely allows for decertification if contamination (level not mentioned anywhere, thus both vague and applicable to pollen) occurs even where the applicant has no control.

            3.2.12 would totally decertify products which cross pollinated during drift – no special cases are made.

            All this, of course, applies only to the listed document, if I’m erroneously narrowing my search to a non exhaustive rules list then mea culpa.

            • It’s very simple Ewan.

              Australia’s organic standards prevent organic farmers from USING prohibited substances like GMOs and synthetic chemicals. To wit:

              3.1.5 The use of products comprised of or derived from genetic engineering is prohibited.
              3.1.6 The use of pesticides produced from synthetic chemicals is prohibited.


              But Australia’s organic standards do not pass judgment on organic farmers whose crops might come into contact with prohibited substances.

              If the mere presence of GMOs – whether resulting from pollen drift, seed drift, or GMO plant-material entering an organic field by any means – was enough to decertify an organic crop or field, then you can see by the two adjacent clauses quoted above that organic certifiers in Australia would also have to decertify every organic farm in the land that was touched by synthetic chemical drift.

              Thankfully this is not the case. And there’s nothing ambiguous or vague about it.

              To repeat, organic farmers are not allowed to USE GMOs, and the mere presence of GMOs is not grounds for decertification.

              These standards were written BY the organic industry FOR the organic industry in Australia. They were not written by anyone in the biotech or synthetic chemical sectors.

  • April Reeves

    The health effects of GM are pale in comparison to the environmental hazards and the corporate control of the food supply. Not everyone is concerned about their health, but everyone is concerned about their freedoms.

    It doesn’t matter what science does. What matters is that more and more people are moving into GE free foods, for many reasons. You can call them crazy or beat them up all you want, but the end result for YOU is more and more will move over to GMO free, because even the simplest of minds can realize that if you have to defend your product with bullying and antagonistic means, there is something systemically wrong with what you are doing. Good luck….

  • Cristine

    If gmos are great and you are proud label them

    • The are proudly labeled for the farmers who buy those seeds.

      • Again, great point Marc! (Geez, people are going to think we’re friends or something.) GMOs are indeed clearly labelled for the people who matter most: farmers!
        For everyone else, there’s already a perfectly effective label on the market that guarantees the GMO-free status of your food: it’s the certified-organic label.
        Creating a THIRD label in between regular food and certified-organic food will only serve to dilute the certified-organic label.
        Leave well enough alone!

        • Destiny Richardson

          “…clearly labelled for the people who matter most: farmers!” Well, this sums up the attitude perfectly – thank you very much for clarifying. The people who have to eat it don’t matter and shouldn’t matter; they should have no choice about what foods they are eating and, even more importantly, should have no means by which to access the knowledge necessary for making that choice. The consumer should not matter at all because, after all, he or she is the one consuming the food – it’s only important that the farmer, the one profiting from these foods, be informed. Because the money is what matters, not the possible consequences of consumption. I’m so glad to have been set straight on this issue.

          • Eric Bjerregaard

            Bottom line Destiny is that you have failed to comprehend the main point. Which is that the oft used claim that industry funded studies are highly biased is a lot of bohunkadahoolia. Also no where did Mischa’s post indicate that consumers do not matter or that they should be kept in ignorance. And, heavens to murgatroyd, farmers sometimes actually profit enough to earn a living. I know it’s just hideous, but profit by farmers makes it possible for you to eat.

    • HI Christine, if you would like to talk about labels, please start a conversation in the Forum. This post is about bias and funding in science.

  • Moderation note: A few comments went off the beaten path and ventured into a discussion of personal theological views that was not being constructive for anyone involved, and so this short thread has been removed. Please keep in mind how people’s perspectives on these issues differ, and if you want to start an independent and focused discussion about religious issues, please do so in the forum. Thank you, and please continue to discuss the post!

  • Eric Bjerregaard

    I have often wondered if some of the organic standards folks are attempting to ban G.E. farms by use of unreasonable standards. Opinions please. Also, I fail to see any logic in decertifying Marsh’s oats because of canola weeds. Safety was clearly not an issue with this. Also I read the preliminary hearing post and, if I remember correctly, Marsh decided to go organic after neighbors had already been using G.E. crops. Thus he is contending that his neighbors must behave in a manner that may raise their expenses. I see no reason why Baxter should be able to demand this.

    • That is precisely what anti-GMO organic activists are trying to do Eric.

      They had the opportunity to unite with the fledgling biotech industry – on a case-by-case basis – back in 1997/98, but chose to go on the attack instead. The only problem is, they failed to write organic standards that actually make it a “crime” (so to speak) for an organic crop to become contaminated by GMOs. There is, in other words, no such thing as “contamination” of an organic crop by a GMO crop in Australia, the United States or Canada.

      So yes, Marsh’s case in Australia against his GMO neighbor is completely without basis, and he and his certifier know it.

  • Eric Bjerregaard

    Mischa, be careful, by agreeing with me you are in effect disagreeing with the many in the sustainable ag “discussion group” They consider me to be evil incarnate and I may hold the record for most variations of the “coporate shill” accusation. They attempt to use the all industry studies must be biased argument all the time. And because I’m not quite as dumb as I look, contended a while back that it would be foolish from an efficiency and P.R. standpoint for biotech companies to publish biased studies. I was not cheered. When I posted this blog. The silence was deafening. These people have refused to disclaim the criminal activities such as the crop destruction of golden rice plots in P.I. Try googling ‘war on gmos’ and look at the stuff you will find. When I went into this group. I was slightly against gmos because I could not comprehend that so many of my fellow farmers, colleagues, and intelligent friends could be so wrong. Now I know that some just don’t have the guts to speak up. Some have little or no integrity and some have no clue and don’t want any. This whole thing is a mess.

    • Yes Eric, the war on GMOs provides an amazing case study in psychology for future generations. What’s most amazing is the destruction of GMO test plots which takes place at the same time as anti-GMO organic activists claim there hasn’t been enough testing of GMOs to ensure they’re safe.

      • Destiny Richardson

        The so-called “war on GMOs” could be effectively ended if the industry would stop pouring millions into blocking labeling efforts. If you don’t understand the psychology behind people wanting to be informed as to what they put in their bodies, then it may be best for you to stay off the topic of psychology altogether.

        • Eric Bjerregaard

          Another way to end the war on gmos would be for folks like Destiny to learn the truth, read the comment that specifically mentioned a way for those who are ignorant of the safety to avoid the gmo foods. Again rewarding the spread of lies and disinformation by allowing labelling,Which would be manipulated into a “warning” is to reward dishonesty. Wake up Destinuy and give up the double dealing hypocrisy when what you really are is anticapitalist. See the money and profit remarks in her other comment.

  • Eric Bjerregaard


  • Mark Wilson

    Regarding the Diels et al 2011 paper, in which they allege a conflict of interest. The table that is cited by anti-GMO folks is Table 2. In Table 2, they state that in 51 papers from authors with no industry affiliation, the papers found unfavorable results in 12 cases, but in 41 papers from authors with industry affiliation, there were no unfavorable results. When Hansen presented this (at Humboldt State University, Sept. 2014), he claimed that the 12 papers showed evidence of harm. But that’s not what the authors say. The authors say ‘unfavorable’ is
    (a) Absence of expected beneficial health effects.
    (b) Adverse health effects.
    (c) Lower nutritional value of the GM product when compared
    to the non-GM reference line.
    (d) Equal nutritional value of the GM product, when compared
    to the non-GM reference line, if the GM product was developed
    with the aim to increase nutritional value.
    Thus, some of these papers, or all of the papers, might be as benign as ‘a’ or ‘d’, in which ‘unfavorable’ means identical to isogenic. I wanted to figure out which of these the twelve papers were, but I was surprised that there was no list of the papers in a supplement.

    **I emailed the corresponding author – and got a reply that the list of papers had been lost and was unrecoverable, and there was no way of regenerating it.**

    For all we know that group of twelve papers contains papers that were retracted…or that found results identical to isogenic, or identical to isogenic in some ways but superior in others.

  • Sue

    Just curious, Marc, did you read the actual studies, or are you simply going off of the Abstracts? I know you’re no scientist, and I haven’t read the studies myself; but have known individuals who base their entire argument on an abstract. An abstract that doesn’t go into details about what is meant by “no statistically significant differences within the parameters observed.” That statement can have a lot of different meanings, and is not evidence of GMO crops being harmless. What about the parameters that weren’t observed? Or the statistically INsignificant differences? Just curious, is all..

  • […] tuloksiin ja niiden itsenäisyyden vaarantumiseen. Biofortifiedin kirjoittaja Marc Brazeau näkee tilanteen hieman laajempana: tutkimuksen otoskoko pienenee kun tarkastellaan ainoastaan relevantteja ammattieturistiriitoja. […]

  • […] Biofortified.org is a good web site to reference. Biology Fortified, Inc. is an independent, non-profit organization devoted to providing factual information and fostering discussion about issues in biology, with a particular emphasis on plant genetics and genetic engineering in agriculture. They list GMO research studies, including independent studies. And let me just state that not all the studies are positive to GMO, although the majority are. Here is a good synopsis article about these studies. […]

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