Questions arise about upcoming “Factor GMO” study

posted in: News | 52
The Factor GMO logo
The Factor GMO logo

Last week, Henry Rowlands at Sustainable Pulse announced the upcoming launch of a study on genetically engineered crops, which was later picked up by GM Watch. At a staggering $25 million budget, it promises to be “the largest and most comprehensive long-term experiment ever conducted on a GM food and its associated pesticide.” The press release (PDF) also claimed that the scientists involved in the study would come from a “neutral” background and not be from the biotech industry or the anti-GMO movement either. This would be a promising development, however, the announcement was short on important details, specifically, the sponsors, funding sources, and scientific expertise. “Factor GMO” didn’t even show up in search engines. However, they did say that the announcement of some of these details would occur on November 11 at The Farmers Club in London, England. So I contacted the venue to see if I could find out more information – and that’s where it got interesting.

I promptly heard back from my initial inquiry, and Air Commodore Stephen Skinner, the Chief Executive of The Farmers Club was certain that what I had heard was incorrect. “We are a members club that is apolitical and non-lobbying,” he said.

farmersclub
The Farmers Club, London

I provided the link to the Sustainable Pulse story, thinking that maybe there was a miscommunication and that someone had booked a room without specifically saying ‘this is for a GM crop study announcement.’ Then I might still be able to get in touch with the organizers to find out more about it. And indeed I was correct – the event was going to take place at The Farmers Club – but without their knowledge that such a big media announcement was coming. Commodore Skinner said he would get back to me about how to get in touch with them. (The GM Watch article has one contact identified, but this article was not located until Monday.)

Over the weekend, however, both Sustainable Pulse and GM Watch reported that the venue for the Factor GMO study announcement was changing – and would no longer be held at The Farmers Club. Sustainable Pulse claimed that it was “due to the amount of interest.” On Monday, Commodore Skinner confirmed that the event would no longer be held at The Farmers Club. We had a brief and cordial conversation about it, and he expressed how The Farmers Club is certainly open to having events from multiple sides of this issue gather at their facilities. He was able to forward to me their press release and website so I could get in contact with the organizers. One organizer did not want to be named, which I will explore below.

elena sharoykina
Elena A Sharoykina

The website of the “Factor GMO” project contains only an image* advertising its future launch on the 11th, and a contact email. The domain is registered to  Elena A Sharoykina, who runs the National Association for Genetic Safety (NAGS) in Russia, an NGO that campaigns against GMOs.

The NAGS has a questionable history when it comes to scientific claims about genetically engineered crops. They organized the conference where Russian scientist Irina Ermakova publicized her heavily-criticized claims that rats fed genetically engineered soy were infertile. The NAGS is also the source for a second “study” (translated) claiming that hamsters had altered sex ratios and infertility. The second one was publicized by Jeffrey Smith, who said that they also found hair growing in the mouths of these hamsters. Neither study has ever been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, and the history of producing far-reaching claims based on these science-by-press-release studies does not inspire confidence.

Study previously proposed

Perhaps the NAGS has changed its approach since 2010. In 2012, following the now-retracted Seralini study, the NAGS announced that they planned to conduct a $1 million study that would be live-broadcasted and have a transparent study design to instill confidence in the approach and results. Here is what they proposed:

These researchers will install web cameras in the cages of four groups of rats.

  • Group 1 will be fed a diet high in GM soybeans and corn.
  • Group 2 will be fed a diet low in GM soybeans and corn.
  • Group 3 will be fed a diet with no GMOs.
  • Group 4 will be fed a diet with standard rat feed.

To ensure integrity in the experiment, individuals assigned to tend to the rats will not know what food they are feeding them.

“This is a unique experiment,” says project Elena Sharoykina, who is spearheading the project. “There hasn’t been anything like it before—open, public research by opponents and supporters of GMO.”

The study design publicized in 2012, though only basic in its description, has obvious confounding variables. Groups 1 and 2 would have been fed both transgenic corn and soy, which would be the result of two different genetic “events” – two unique changes to the two crops, and there would be no way to know if any possible changes would be due to one or the other. The idea of broadcasting the study may be an interesting and unique aspect for their proposed project, but a good study design should have come first.

A page on their website also gives some early musings on such a study, with a call for contributions. According to the Web Archive, this page has been up since at least 2007.

No word was heard about the NAGS (also calling itself the GSPA) conducting a study until the spring of this year, when Sharoykina mentioned it in an interview with Russia Today.

The GSPA director confesses it was a modest, underfunded experiment and a more serious and comprehensive one is needed and is going to be conducted in Russia. The NGO has already enrolled a team of researchers from the US, France, the UK, China and Russia and will make sure the experiment will comply with all international standards. It’s also going to be available for everyone to follow online.

The GSPA is raising funds from as many sources as possible for the experiment to come up to the group’s claims – the first-ever independent international research on GMO.

A Contribution to the Literature

GENERA Safety
Studies cataloged in GENERA that focus on the safety of GMOs for consumption, showing both industry-funded and independent studies.

Sustainable Pulse and the media advisory for the Factor GMO study both** claimed that this will be the first ever independent international study. Except that it is not the first. There are a great many international studies that have been conducted on genetically engineered crops, some of which you can currently find in our GENERA database. Collaborative, international research is a common feature, and studies that are independent of commercial conflicts of interest make up approximately half of the studies that we have surveyed. Independent research is more common than is often claimed, and anyone can see this for themselves.

Nevertheless, if they conduct the study and publish it in the peer-reviewed literature, it can make a contribution to the existing literature. They frame the need for this study by saying that “there has never been a scientific study that is comprehensive enough to give them a clear answer regarding the safety for human health of any one GM food – until now.” The study has not been done yet, so this is putting the cart before the horse. Lots of things can happen with the experiment, from accidents, to flaws in the study design and analysis that are later discovered. Clear answers to scientific questions are found through confirmation and repetition through multiple independent lines of evidence, rather than results of single studies.

The 2012 article indicated something interesting – the NAGS was proposing to have opponents and supporters of GMOs come together to collaborate on the study, which may help bridge the divide between the two camps. However in the media advisory, they indicate that the scientists involved have no history or affiliation with pro and anti-GMO movements, which would appear to be an abandonment of their earlier proposal. How were these scientists selected?

As for the organizers – here is the strange part. The individual who registered the space for the event at The Farmers Club wished to remain anonymous, and did not want his name to be published or publicly associated with the study. Why is someone who is involved with organizing this project trying to remain incognito? Why did the world first hear about this study from Sustainable Pulse, which runs sites that advertise the Seralini and Carman studies? Many questions arise about the details and organization of this study.

I sent an interview request to the Factor GMO media contacts, and today I heard back from them that they will be able to communicate with me… next week. Maybe then we might be able to find out more. But I think for now they need to find a new venue that can handle the interest the study has generated. Incidentally, I was invited to attend, but I’ll be 6 time zones too far away. Anyone local want to go?

*At the time that this was published, the Factor GMO website was inaccessible. A copy of the “coming soon” image was retrieved from the browser cache.

**This article incorrectly stated that the media advisory from Factor GMO claimed that this would be the first ever international study. However, it was only the Sustainable Pulse that seems to have made claims about it being the ‘first’ international study. Their Facebook post still hints at this claim: “The first ever long term internationally collaborated safety study on GMOs and the related pesticides.”

  • Chris Preston

    Karl, this is certainly strange and has overtones of the Judy Carman study that produced that terribly poor study published in the Journal of Organic Systems.

    Statements that a study will be done, with no hypothesis mentioned other than claims that proper studies have not previously been done. Secrecy over who will do the study and where it will be done. And science by press release.

    We will have to wait and see what the hypothesis is before being sure it has any likelihood of adding usefully to the scientific literature.

  • Ray E.

    Wouldn’t “standard rat feed” be primarily GM if it contains soy and corn?

    • https://plus.google.com/+MaryMangan/ MaryM

      Heh. I had exactly that thought too Ray. That’s some control.

  • https://plus.google.com/+MaryMangan/ MaryM

    Well, isn’t that all rather murky. How odd.

    Can we have Mark Lynas go on your ticket and write it up? Or maybe Myles Power could do it?

  • Eric Bjerregaard

    Sounds to me like you could have titled the article and said. They’ve been blowing smoke without a joint since 2007 about this one. I wonder if they wioll quits soon and take action. end of story.

  • http://www.wildernessvagabonds.com Mike Lewinski

    I don’t know anything about rat nutrition, but is it possible to feed them a soy/corn diet exclusively without causing harm simply due to nutrient deficiencies?

    • Chris Preston

      Hi Mike, no it is not. Which is one of the reasons why whole food feeding studies are problematic. It is simply not possible to feed the animals suffient of the food for the concentration of a single unknown compound in the food to be high enough to be sure to get an effect.

      Remember whole food feeding studies are essentially fishing expeditions with no formalized hypothesis: i.e. what component of the food is toxic? One of the problems that arises is that nutritional problems can be mistaken for an effect of the GM. For example Ewan and Puzstai really discovered that a diet of raw potatoes caused changes in the intestine of the rats.

      Due to their lack of power and lack of a formal hypothesis, I find them scientifically problematic and probably animal cruelty. A lot of animals have to die for no real benefit.

      • Ewan R

        Ewen and Puzstai.

        Very important distinction.

        For some of us.

        • Chris Preston

          Oops, autocorrect and failing to check.

    • https://plus.google.com/+MaryMangan/ MaryM

      Rodent diets are very carefully assembled and standardized. For folks who never looked at rat chow before, here are some examples. http://www.labdiet.com/Products/StandardDiets/

    • Craig

      The deficiency’s if any will show up on the control group also, so it won’t change the outcome of the study.

      • Chris Preston

        That statement is not correct, Craig.

        What happens is that you get effects across all groups more or less at random if there is no effect of the different feeds. It also means that if effects are happening with one diet, that reduces the ability to detect a difference between the feeds. For example, if feeding rats too much potato causes 80% mortality, then there is only the difference between 80% and 100% for a GM potato. To overcome this problem a much larger number of individuals would need to be treated. You would probably need 100 or more in each group, depending on the size of the difference you would want to detect if it was really there.

  • madkisson

    Looks like they spent plenty of time on the cool logo… so y’know, that.

  • Eric Bjerregaard

    Chris, Mike Mary, Several [?] years ago It was claimed that free range chicken was better for us nutritionally than CAFO chicken. Of course the CAFO folks screamed. About the time the furor calmed down I saw a paper that claimed that the difference wasn’t in the fresh air, sunlight, exercise , and freedom that the first group claimed. But rather in the food supplements the chickens were foraging for while out. Second article makes sense to me. You? btw we have a free range chicken business at our market and it seems to taste a little better and definitely has a different texture. Costs extra as well.

    • Chris Preston

      Hi Eric, yes the taste of animals can vary quite a lot depending on what their diet is. It is one of the reasons that certain weeds need to be controlled in pastures, because otherwise they will taint flesh or taint milk.

      Supermarkets and large food companies tend to want to provide consistency in flavour of their products. This has a tendency to result in a bit of blandness – at least in my opinion.

      • Eric Bjerregaard

        So, the wild garlic in the dairy cattle’s pasture isn’t always a good thing?

      • http://julianredrose.wordpress.com julianredrose

        “Supermarkets and large food companies tend to want to provide consistency in flavour of their products. This has a tendency to result in a bit of blandness – at least in my opinion.” Ha Ha! You said it! You can’t buy real food in supermarkets – full stop. They can only deal with mass produced, uniform, monocultural, sterile and vitamin depleted crap.. and then charge for it as though it was good for you!

        • Eric Bjerregaard

          Julian, While the systems that provided the foods I ate and continue to eat may not be perfect. The nutrition was “real” enough for me to grow to 6 feet and a football playing weight of about 195. Got enough nonsterile, [the seeds would germinate] mass produced, [economies of scale help feed poor folks] and non vitamin depleted food to be recruited by several colleges. Some of it must have been good for me. Please feel free to make more posts similar to today’s as I found yours entertaining.
          @ Mary, After that description. When will you be coming to research me?

    • https://plus.google.com/+MaryMangan/ MaryM

      Yeah, but sometimes you don’t just get bonus flavors:

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23933450 “Soil as a source of dioxin contamination in eggs from free-range hens on a Polish farm.”

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16676378 “Contamination of free-range chicken eggs with dioxins and dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls.”

      http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/06/18/us-dioxin-eggs-taiwan-idUSTRE65H15820100618 More dioxins found in Taiwan free-range eggs: study

      Huh, I wonder why controlling animal diets is a good idea….

  • Eric Bjerregaard

    Mary, Interesting. Wasn’t aware of all the soil contamination. Raises the obvious question. How do you find all this stuff?

    • https://plus.google.com/+MaryMangan/ MaryM

      Heh. I was actually considering backyard chickens, like a lot of urban hipsters near me. But I also know our soil is full of lead, which worried me. So I went looking for information about soil effects. And I came across this literature. I also found out about how salmonella was becoming a problem too (and Salmonella-tainted backyard chickens sicken 60 in latest outbreak). And how chickens were being abandoned to shelters. I decided overall it was a bad idea for me.

      I research everything. I can’t help myself.

      But if that was a more general question about how you find out if your free-range eggs have this stuff, I don’t know. I just avoid them because of what I know.

      • Eric Bjerregaard

        Hi Mary, Your answer was a good one and helped me to realize just how low risk our local producer is. Her farm is in a rural are of a rural county. She eats her own girds, a good sign of cleanliness, And her kids are still alive. There is and never has been much industry to have messed with her soils. Which is a very well drained sand.

  • Chuck

    As for Mr. Anonymous, just speculation, but Peter Kindersley always comes to mind when the subject of anti-GMO benefactors in the UK comes up.

  • https://plus.google.com/+MaryMangan/ MaryM

    After the Guardian wrote up the launch, I got in to the comments (yeah, you are shocked, I know). Someone was complaining about long term studies. So I helpfully pointed out the fact that every research animal in the US and probably the EU ate GMOs all day long, every generation now, for a really long time.

    So the person comes back: “Are these research animals human?”

    Of course, I point out that neither are the ones in this study. But then it struck me–if the big missing piece they all want is human studies, why didn’t this group choose to do a human study with all this money?

  • Mlema

    GENERA is starting to become an example of how social media can affect popular belief about science. It’s a random collection of studies (although chosen by actual humans) that is purported to show all kinds of things that the reviewers at Biofortified say it does. There has been no peer review to comment on whether or not the way in which Biofortified has characterized and categorized these studies has any scientific validity at all. It’s not difficult to find examples of poorly evaluated papers which have been used in “charts” to paint a picture of the research that’s unrealistic and biased.

    The graphic created by the Genetic Literacy Project is an example of how science becomes propaganda in the hands of industry proponents. Viewing the graphic, one might easily believe that there are nearly 200 studies on the safety of GM food for human consumption. One wouldn’t realize that headlines like “GM food is safe according to independent studies” have no basis in scientific fact, and that nothing can be said about GM food as a whole with regard to safety for human consumption. What started out as an attempt to educate the public about how science works, has become an attempt to advocate for expansion of GE crop development, regardless of where we stand with regard to our knowledge on a number of issues: environmental, regulatory, etc.

    I’d like to see a grain of skepticism added to Biofortified, so that press releases like: “New resources shows that half of all research in independent” would lead to a discussion of what independent means in the current climate of corporate influence in academia (as well as a 3rd party examination of how independence was determined). And if the collection is random, what value are these conclusions? But again, it’s the method of evaluation and labeling used which seems most troubling to me. GENERA is a resource, but it’s being used as a tool of advocacy, thanks to the biased analysis of biofortified.

    Lists and collections of studies have to be carefully analyzed in order for one to determine what they say as a whole. A collection of studies related to GMOs, no matter how tangentially, says little about any individual GMO – let alone the safety for consumption of any and every GMO. And subjectively determining which categories any given study will be determined to reflect on, and how it reflects on that category, has caused a misleading presentation of the literature. Biofortified can’t justify some of the labels it’s attached to some studies, or the fact that each study isn’t analyzed as to how it reflects on every category they’ve created. This leaves an incomplete and slanted analysis of the whole. Graphics like the one on this page from GLP have no meaning and are a disingenuous attempt to portray the research as something that it’s not.

    Here is a thorough metastudy, peer-reviewed, which might be a good place for those who are interested in examining the research to begin.

    http://gaiapresse.ca/images/nouvelles/28563.pdf

    It doesn’t appear in GENERA, although two earlier studies by this scientist do.

    • http://www.inoculatedmind.com Karl Haro von Mogel

      MLema, I am continually intrigued by your creativity in coming up with non-substantive criticisms of the GENERA project. First you suggest that the studies were not randomly selected (chosen by humans), then you question the value of random selection (hint: reduces investigator bias in study selection). Besides putting words in our mouths and claiming advocacy, you invent odd demands:

      “Biofortified can’t justify some of the labels it’s attached to some studies, or the fact that each study isn’t analyzed as to how it reflects on every category they’ve created.”

      The first part of this question is false, as we have responded to your questions, and the second one is just bizarre. You are asking us to review how a study reflects on issues that it did not study? What does a study on feeding Bt corn to rats tell us about the environmental impact of Bt in the farm environment, or the efficacy of Bt in protecting against the Corn Borer? Nothing. Maybe if it was a study on GE maize that is designed to reduce the environmental impact of hog farming and the authors state a conclusion to that effect based on the data from their feeding study, it will reflect on one of those other categories.

      The Domingo 2011 paper is in our study library already, but didn’t end up in the 400 studies in the Atlas… due to random chance. It has been two months, and you haven’t taken advantage of the space we created in the Forum to discuss studies, protocols, analyses, etc. http://www.biofortified.org/community/forum/genera-group11/

      • Mlema

        Karl, I’m sorry, but you never did respond to my criticisms. I will eventually post in the forum. I’m posting here because the GLP graphic is appearing again here. I don’t want to re-state everything I’ve already said about the categories you’ve created, and the characterizations you’ve attempted to apply to every category in the same way. I think you’ve probably done that in order to make charts, but how do categories like positive, negative, mixed and no effect all apply to something like equivalence? You’ve had to make the definitions a bit wacky in order to have consistency from one category (like environment) to another (like equivalence or safety for consumption). And as far as not labelling all the studies under all the categories, here’s the deal:
        It’s the same problem you’ve tried to solve by making four characterizations under every category. Unless you label every study with every category (even if it requires you to have a “not applicable” characterization), your conclusions can’t be used to make generalizations about the whole of GENERA.

        I’m convinced that the reason you still don’t understand these problems is because I’m not explaining them well, even though I wrote a very lengthy description, complete with examples, to you personally. I will continue to try to make clear what I’m saying when I post in the forum. For now, again, I’m commenting in response to the re-appearance of the GLP graphic.

        • http://www.inoculatedmind.com Karl Haro von Mogel

          Mlema:

          Karl, I’m sorry, but you never did respond to my criticisms.

          Many have been answered but you keep moving the goalposts.

          I will eventually post in the forum. I’m posting here because the GLP graphic is appearing again here. I don’t want to re-state everything I’ve already said about the categories you’ve created, and the characterizations you’ve attempted to apply to every category in the same way. I think you’ve probably done that in order to make charts, but how do categories like positive, negative, mixed and no effect all apply to something like equivalence?

          We wanted a similarity in terminology, yes, but the definition is explained in the glossary. The terms were not used in order to make charts, those were a feature that we added long after the categorizations were determined and being applied to the studies.

          You’ve had to make the definitions a bit wacky in order to have consistency from one category (like environment) to another (like equivalence or safety for consumption). And as far as not labelling all the studies under all the categories, here’s the deal:
          It’s the same problem you’ve tried to solve by making four characterizations under every category. Unless you label every study with every category (even if it requires you to have a “not applicable” characterization), your conclusions can’t be used to make generalizations about the whole of GENERA.

          So you are saying we should clutter up the sidebar to point out that not every study covers every topic category? You seem to think that we are making generalizations about 400 studies when only X number are in each category, but we are not. You are building a straw man and knocking it down. You are then saying that we need to make changes that you think will prevent the straw man from being set up again.

          I’m convinced that the reason you still don’t understand these problems is because I’m not explaining them well, even though I wrote a very lengthy description, complete with examples, to you personally. I will continue to try to make clear what I’m saying when I post in the forum. For now, again, I’m commenting in response to the re-appearance of the GLP graphic.

          I think if you stepped back and understood and acknowledged what you have invented to criticize this project, it would go along way toward communicating.

          • Mlema

            Karl, I’m beginning to suspect that neither one of us trusts the other. You seem to think I’m creating bogus criticism, and I think you’re purposefully trying to slant the analysis. Is it possible we’re both operating in good faith but really not understanding each other and operating in animosity we both should acknowledge and move past?

            I think that perhaps the idea of attempting to categorize and characterize these hundreds of studies into four categories with four characterizations under each one (and the same four to boot) is simply a herculean task and isn’t going to be right right off the bat. So, let’s respect each other’s intentions and give each other the benefit of the doubt.

  • orchidgrowinman

    That sounds like moving the goalposts.
    The studies are made available, answering the often-made demand that peer-reviewed evidence should be provided, and suddenly the issue was never about the studies, but rather that the ‘there has been no peer review to comment on whether or not the way in which Biofortified has characterized and categorized these studies has any scientific validity at all.”
    Should someone provide a meta-analysis of the analyses and synopses provided, I have no doubt that would be criticized (whether or not it concluded that the synopses were fair?) as lacking peer review. Remember, there is never a “missing link” discovered: each time that goal is reached, it turns-out that the two new “gaps” were always what the game was about.

    • Chris Preston

      This sort of goalpost moving has characterised Mlema’s comments on Genera.

    • Mlema

      orchidgrowinman,
      I admire and commend the effort and diligence in collecting the studies of GENERA, and in seeking to sort out what species, events, funders, etc, each study pertains to. The problem I’m pointing out is: biofortified has gone further than objectively sorting this data for us. It has added rather arbitrary and subjective categories like: safety for consumption, equivalence, environment, etc. and then characterized each study (and not in each one of the created categories, but only those it feels are pertinent in its judgement). And those characterizations aren’t consistent from one category to the next. And even if I acknowledge the expertise of those doing the characterizations, I see error in these chracterizations in several studies I’ve identified. I will post a longer explanation on the forum at some point. But since the graphic from GLP has again appeared here on biofortified I feel I must point out that it has no validity in representing the literature. It appears instead to be a misrepresentation of some of the categorizations and characterizations done by biofortified on GENERA (those “metrics” which have allowed for “charting” within GENERA)

      The moment that biofortified decided to move from collecting and objectively sorting the studies in GENERA (a randomly collected portion of the literature) to characterizing them as reflecting positively or negatively on various aspects of GMOs (that biofortified has defined for themselves) it moved from an impartial tool to one of advocacy.

      It’s not a metastudy of the analyses I’m asking for. Perhaps I didn’t communicate that very well. If you look at the GENERA glossary:
      http://genera.biofortified.org/wp/how-to-use-genera/glossary-of-terms
      you’ll see that the entire first portion of the page covers objective data we can gain from the GENERA database. However, when you reach RESULTS – you’ll see that biofortified has created categories into which it has individually determined it may sort the studies. Not every study is labelled for each category (which might then show some studies as not relevant to some categories, so as to at least give an accurate representation of the whole vs. the parts of the collection). Then, under each category, the studies are characterized as “positive, negative, etc. . And the meaning of those characterizations isn’t consistent from one category to the next. So, when extracting data for graphics like the one created by GLP, we are mixing inconsistent meanings of the labels, and we can claim a search result shows that 197 studies pertain to safety for human consumption.

      I’m simply saying that GENERA has over-reached in attempting to read the literature “so you don’t have to”. I don’t doubt that the goal is an honorable one: seeking to help the layman understand what the literature reveals as a whole. But this is a faulty way of doing it and has resulted in inaccurate assessment of the research.

      • http://www.inoculatedmind.com Karl Haro von Mogel

        Mlema, you are completely, and 100% wrong in this statement:
        “So, when extracting data for graphics like the one created by GLP, we are mixing inconsistent meanings of the labels, and we can claim a search result shows that 197 studies pertain to safety for human consumption.”

        The graphic contains only data from one category, not a mix of categories. This has been explained. You are making this up.

        • Mlema

          So, you stand behind the graphic’s conclusion that there are 197 studies in GENERA on the safety of GMOs for human consumption, and that fully 172 of those show that GMOs are either: healthier or safer than conventionally grown foods or no different from conventional?

          It’s a yes or no question you’ve so far refused to answer. Hint: GENERA doesn’t even have a category for safety for human consumption, and has no qualifications to determine how the research reflects on safety for human consumption. And it doesn’t include any safety studies on bt sweet corn, which is the only GMO anybody would be eating as a whole food in the US.

          As long as the graphic continues to appear on biofortified, I will feel compelled to point out that it’s misleading and has no scientific validity, even as an interpretation of GENERA’s studies. Sorry, I know you feel like I’m a pain in the ass, but I feel strongly about misleading graphics. I communicate medical and biological information for a living. I have advanced training in representing complex scientific and medical information in understandable ways. Data, procedural, conceptual, etc. I pronounce: bad graphic.

          • http://www.inoculatedmind.com Karl Haro von Mogel

            Two comments: The studies that have outcomes coded for “safety for consumption” include animal and human studies and have made conclusions about said safety. Their results reflect on the relative safety/risk of animals and humans eating the GMOs that have been examined in those studies. So therefore, the numbers accurately reflect the current state of the BETA version of the database and the coding of the studies contained therein. The GLP chose the wording for their graphic. As for the actual numbers, there are a lot more, they’re just not in the place where you can see them yet.

            And it doesn’t include any safety studies on bt sweet corn, which is the only GMO anybody would be eating as a whole food in the US.

            The Bts in bt sweet corn are the same Bts that are found in field corn, therefore, the studies done on eating Bt field corn are applicable to sweet corn. I’ve already explained many of the different ways that people directly eat GMOs, for many of the crops covered. And will someone please send Mlema a Hawaiian Papaya?
            (I just ate one for dinner. Minimally processed with a knife)

            • Mlema

              Karl, The bts are the same, but that doesn’t mean the plants/foods are equivalent in healthfulness or safety. And I don’t mean to suggest that bt sweet corn isn’t safe to eat – I’m just saying there aren’t any studies on it that I can find. And since it’s one of the whole foods we might be eating I think it would be important to establish equivalency through a more thorough examination than seems to be typical of new bt crops. I think to the average person who might be looking at GENERA these are the kinds of questions that might come up. What GMO am I eating and where is the research that says it’s safe? The vast majority of feeding studies are for animal feed.

              And, I will be happy to accept a Hawaiian papaya should anyone send it to me. Thank you. :)

            • Mlema

              Karl,

              The GLP graphic on this page above (enlarged here):
              http://i0.wp.com/www.biofortified.org/wp-content/uploads//2014/08/GENERA-Safety.jpg
              makes a very clear implication that 197 studies in GENERA address the safety of GMOs for human consumption. GLP was very careful not to explicitly state that the studies ARE safety studies for human consumption. But the title and largest font on the page says:
              The scientific literature on GMO safety for human consumption, Are GMOs safe to eat and is the research only funded by the industry?

              Viewers are meant to see the diagram below that title as an answer to that question. And the diagram says that 172 studies in GENERA show that GMOs are healthier or safer, or not different from conventional food. The graphic has also emphasized that government-funded studies make up the biggest sub-group of positive studies (not positive as in the GENERA glossary, but positive as in: safe), while de-emphasizing the fact that 41 of the positive studies had no funding information. (accomplished with with a number of visual cues)

              This graphic has all the hallmarks of being an attempt to influence the viewer’s interpretation of the numbers extracted from GENERA, instead of being an attempt to accurately portray anything about the actual research GENERA represents.

              GENERA has attempted to qualify and quantify the results of 402 studies, but GLP is using the numbers extracted from that analysis to misrepresented the literature to the viewer of this graphic. I’ve attempted to explain how (partly) I think this is happening – please see my forum post here (first comment):
              http://www.biofortified.org/community/forum/genera-group11/suggestions-forum36/an-attempt-to-communicate-some-criticisms-of-genera-thread468.0/#postid-2830

              Thank you

              • http://www.inoculatedmind.com Karl Haro von Mogel

                Let’s take the discussion to the forum, as this is a post about the Factor GMO study.

  • orchidgrowinman

    So you feel that the personal evaluations of the studies reflect the personal evaluations of the reviewers? Then I suggest you provide your own evaluations.

    • Mlema

      There’s no way for me to do that. I’m only able to offer my criticism with the hope that whoever is in authority over the categorization and characterization of each study will consider what I’m saying.

      Criticism from others outside this site hasn’t been directly as helpfully (in my opinion). For instance, this article from Food and Water Watch discusses possible problems with how GENERA characterizes research funding:

      http://www.donotlink.com/buqk

      • Eric Bjerregaard

        I read the link. It appears to be a slick, slyly written version of the shill accusation. http://www.biofortified.org/2014/02/industry-funded-gmo-studies/ Why would any company fund a study with phony results that folks who dislike the company could use as ammo?b

      • http://www.inoculatedmind.com Karl Haro von Mogel

        The Food and Water Watch article was originally published claiming that our project was funded by Monsanto. We welcome their input in helping to improve GENERA, however, they have too active of a trigger finger for calling everything paid for by the industry. They provided new information about one – and only one – study, and after speaking with them on the phone and by email, they had no more evidence to provide. We’ll have more to say on the matter in the future.

  • Mlema

    edit “hasn’t been directly as helpfully” s/b hasn’t been directed as helpfully

  • Mlema

    also – that wouldn’t solve the problem. If GENERA is meant to present the research objectively, then only objective elements of each study should be used to label and sort studies. The significance of each study to GE as a whole is something that would need to be determined by cooperative analysis by experts in pertinent fields – a research subject in itself. I don’t think biofortified is claiming to be doing a scholarly meta-study of all this research. And yet it has offered its conclusions as if that were the case. I don’t want to say any more because I’ve been reprimanded for long comments which stray from the original topic. Again, my gripe here is with the GLP graphic which has appeared on this site before. But I have to explain the problems with GENERA in order to explain the problem with the graphic. thank you

  • Mlema

    I’m not so fond of the article myself as far as the way it’s written. I think that article has some of its own problems in how it draws conclusions on some of the things it says. But what I thought notable was the following:

    1) 83 of the 400 studies in GENERA don’t list a funding source, so, they may have been independently funded or they may not have been independently funded – and 25% of all the studies is enough to tip the scales considerably
    http://documents.foodandwaterwatch.org/doc/PDF_2….Monsanto_Largest_Funder.pdf#_ga=1.39251811.172006417.1413822799

    2) some number of studies labelled as independently funded have mixed funding, but that’s not noted by GENERA (the following study says funding type is NGO independent – how many studies represented in the chart above are also funded by Monsanto or another biotech corporation, but don’t display as being so funded?)
    http://genera.biofortified.org/view/Brown2003

    3) some NGOs are funded by industry, but that’s not reflected in the way funding is assessed in GENERA Food and Water watch mentions the American Society of Nutrition as receiving funding from Monsanto.

    • Mlema

      the chart didn’t link properly:
      http://documents.foodandwaterwatch.org/doc/PDF_2….Monsanto_Largest_Funder.pdf

      • Mlema

        ok, still not working. Search GENERA with document type being “journal article” [pubtype=Journal article]
        then chart “funding source”

    • http://www.inoculatedmind.com Karl Haro von Mogel

      Mlema, I was going to respond to several more of your comments, but in this comment, you have completely misrepresented it again:

      2) some number of studies labelled as independently funded have mixed funding, but that’s not noted by GENERA (the following study says funding type is NGO independent – how many studies represented in the chart above are also funded by Monsanto or another biotech corporation, but don’t display as being so funded?)

      http://genera.biofortified.org/view/Brown2003
      The study in question indicates that it was funded by an independent NGO and by a member of the same industry. You said that mixed funding was not noted by GENERA. It shows the two funding sources right there. Nowhere have we stated that the funding of this study was only independent. Before you comment further, you need to be honest and own up to misrepresenting what is plain as day before you. This is a consistent pattern that you are displaying.

  • http://www.inoculatedmind.com Karl Haro von Mogel

    Try unchecking the box on the left under the charting feature that says “use alternate categorization.” That will make the numbers match up. This was explained in the tutorial page. We’ve provided two ways of looking at it: displaying the total number of times a funding source shows up in the database, and displaying the funding sources for each study individually.

  • Mlema

    Karl, please delete the comment made Nove 18 3:57. It originally went into moderation and then disappeared altogether. Thank you. And thank you for pointing out the problem with charting funds. I will learn more.

    • http://www.inoculatedmind.com Karl Haro von Mogel

      Very well, done.
      I looked at the comment history for both the comments you left in the afternoon on the 18th, and they do not indicate anything other than that they were cleared by the spam filter and automatically moderated. I don’t know why they didn’t show up then, but thank you for letting me know.