Don’t believe what Dr. Oz is saying about an agricultural herbicide

posted in: Science | 71
Dr+Oz+Wikipedia
Dr. Oz. Source: Wikipedia

Television personality Dr Oz has released a video which talks about an agricultural product called Enlist Duo.  Virtually nothing in this video is presented accurately.  It is a prime example of fear-mongering around the issues of “GMOs” and pesticides.  I’d like to respond, point by point, to what it says that is not true or misleading.  Dr Oz’s statements/image descriptions will be in red:

“The EPA is on the brink of approving a brand new toxic pesticide you don’t know about.”

The product in question, Enlist Duo is a combination of two very old herbicide products:  2,4-D and glyphosate. A great many consumers do know about these materials because they have been approved for homeowner use for decades and are common ingredients in products available at any neighborhood gardening center.  These chemicals are still approved for use in more than 70 countries around the world and for use in high exposure settings like lawns, parks, sports fields and gardens. They are still used this way because after multiple rounds of increasingly sophisticated scrutiny by regulators, they have been confirmed to be quite low in toxicity to humans and to the environment. This product is neither “brand new” nor is it notably “toxic.”

These products are for new GMO corn and soy crops that “survive even stronger pesticides.”

What does “stronger pesticide” mean?  The need for this mixture is that some weeds have evolved resistance to glyphosate. There is nothing unique about that associated with a biotech crop. Weeds have evolved resistance to all manner of control methods including mechanical tillage (some weeds like bindweed or Canada thistle are very well adapted to being chopped up and spread around a field by equipment).  The issue isn’t about something “stronger” but about something that is a mixture of two distinct “modes of action” which makes it harder for the weeds to adapt around the control.  The term “stronger” that Oz uses implies something about being more toxic or dangerous. That is not the case here.

This product includes “2,4-D  a chemical used in Agent Orange which the government banned during the Vietnam War.”  

As I have written before, this Agent Orange allusion is a callous exploitation of a real human tragedy.  The horrible health effects of that material were eventually found to have been caused by an unrecognized dioxin contaminant in one component of the herbicide mix, 2,4,5-T. It never was associated with the 2,4-D.  As you can imagine, while all of this was being sorted out, 2,4-D was intensively scrutinized.  The fact that it remains so widely approved around the world is only because its safety was confirmed in all these regulatory reviews.

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Dr. Oz manipulates with inaccurate, life-sized graphics. Not even the plant is right. (Ears grow on the side-shoots of corn plants, not the top.)

These GMO crops (resistant to both herbicides) are “ushering in a pesticide arms race and the health of your brain could be the casualty.”

Again, the people who have been growing food for millennia have been fighting weeds and their ability to adapt to whatever methods we use to control them. Unless Dr Oz has some alternative suggestion, perhaps he should leave the topic of weed control to people who actually do this for a living and for our benefit.  Now as for the “health of your brain…”

“More than 1/2 million people wrote to the EPA” about this pesticide approval “including a letter signed by 35 prominent doctors, scientists and researchers” who raised concerns about “non-hodgkins lymphoma, Alzheimers and Parkinson’s disease.”

When a regulatory agency like the EPA or USDA has an open comment period about a pending decision, what they are looking for are relevant issues from a science point of view.  Its not about numbers of comments or whether the submitters are “prominent.”  The “35 prominent” signatories Oz describes are well known, perennial anti-GMO advocates.  If they had raised real health issues, the agency would have responded, but repeated and detailed risk analysis has never established a connection between these herbicides and human health issues.

“How concerned should you be about this product that could come to a farm near you?”

The image during this part of the video is of bell peppers and other such crops which have never been contemplated for the use of this technology. Throughout the video the images are mostly of crops and foods that have nothing to do with this product. The crops in question (as Oz himself says earlier) are corn and soybeans – crops mainly grown in regions far removed from Dr. Oz’s viewer-base. Even so, the “crops” nearest most of this audience would be their own lawns or their neighbor’s lawns, or the neighborhood park or sports field. These chemicals have been used there for decades. This is in no way a new threat in the context of the average American life.

“70-80% of the food we eat today contain GMOs.”

“GMO” is a meaningless term because essentially all crops have been “genetically modified” in some way throughout human history. That is why most of them are suitable for human consumption. There are ingredients in something like 70% of processed foods which originate from crops that have been improved via biotechnology.  There is nothing in those ingredients that is dangerous and in most cases there is not even anything related to the one or two genes that were different in the source plant.  Animals around the world have been eating these crops for feed for nearly two decades without any ill effects. Oz clearly makes this statement to sound ominous – but there is no basis for such a concern.

If this product is approved, “70 to 100 million pounds of additional, highly toxic pesticides will be used.”

OK, lets put this in a little perspective. Between corn and soybeans there are more than 150 million acres in the US, so the number Oz throws out represents less than a pound per acre. Herbicides were used on these crops long before biotech so this use isn’t really “additional.” Also, the term “highly toxic” simply does not apply to these materials from a human perspective.

At the end of this video clip, Oz speaks with a “concerned mom” who gives an anecdote about the improved health of her children after she switched to a “GMO-free diet” and “organic to avoid pesticides.”

First of all, one could find any number of anecdotal examples of families (like mine) that never made such a dietary choice, yet who never experienced the sort of health issues this mother described.  Second, by choosing organic she was not avoiding pesticides at all.  There are pesticides legally used on organic crops and there are often residues of other pesticides there as well.  Abundant data demonstrates the fact that most Americans would be best off to eat more fruits and vegetables because the benefits vastly outweigh any potential risks associated with pesticides.

Dr Oz may be an entertainer, but he is also in the fear business and in the supplement business – either directly or based on the sponsorship he gets because he can find an audience for these messages.  Oz normally gets by with this; however, he has been called on the carpet by Congress for some of the magical claims he has supported for certain weight reduction supplements.  I’m sure that Oz will have successfully frightened a huge number of people with this video.  I’m sure that will help drive his viewership and thus his sponsorship income. Unfortunately, society as a whole is worse off for the spread of this sort of disinformation.

You are welcome to comment here and/or to email me at [email protected]

Follow Steve Savage:

Steve Savage is an agricultural scientist (plant pathology) with >30 years of experience in agricultural technology. He has worked for Colorado State University, DuPont (fungicide development), Mycogen (biocontrol development), and for the past 13 years as an independent. He also has a little vineyard in his back yard near San Diego. His speaking website is DrSteveSavage. His blogging website is Applied Mythology. You can follow him on Twitter @grapedoc

  • Tom

    I applaud Dr Oz’s courage!
    He demonstrated that he truly
    cares about people and future
    generations as well.
    Thank YOU Dr Oz 🙂

    • Laurie

      Actually I am shocked that Oz has finally come around, because back when Dr Mercola was fighting the GMO industry on Oz’s show, Dr Oz was favouring the GMO agenda….

      GMO Foods need to be labled as such…. end of argument…
      they have a duty to list Genetically modified ingredients, and I have the duty as a consumer to leave them on the shelf and buy real foods…

      • Elaine S

        Dr. Mercola’s lies about vaccines, if acted upon by parents, sickens and kills babies and children.

    • Courage? He is selling his own tv show. He is wrong on almost every count. Courage? The man is a fear-monger and a snake-oil salesman.

      • What about bt corn and soy, where they’ve spliced the genes of bug killing bacteria (it makes the stomachs of bugs burst to kill them) with the genes of corn, soy, and I’m sure various other foods. They’ve found that the gene survives the digestive process and is causing tiny ruptures in our stomachs and intestines. Google what happened to people in the UK. Smarten up.

        • No, Bt has not been found to do this to mammalian guts. It has been extensively tested on actual, live animals and is digested like any other protein. Instead, you may have heard about a tissue culture experiment by the Seralini group that said that they found harm in a petri dish, and there were issues with their protocol that meant that such broad conclusions could not be drawn. It was also an outlier.

          • André

            « Google what happened to people in the UK »?

            That’s a bit vague and unhelpful!

            Tissue culture experiments?

            It might be useful to say more about the protocol.

            What is the affirmative strength of an experiment in which you dip living, isolated, cells into a solution of, here, herbicide? Answer: predictably, the cells don’t like it and die quickly.

            This is particularly so when the solution is not just the active ingredient of the herbicide, but the whole herbicide with its additives, and again particularly with a surfactant. Cell membranes so to speak hate surfactants. Surfactants are found in many cleaning agents and personal care products. Seralini’s experiments would yield about the same result if RoundUp were replaced by, say, dishwashing powder or shampoo. And you are likely to absorb much more tensioactive compounds from these products than from agricultural products and produce.

            What is the predictive strength for what happens in the real world rather than on the lab bench in Petri dishes? Answer: for there to be any meaningful result, the herbicide (with its additive) would have to be present in the produce; to be absorbed (unchanged) by our digestive system; to reach the cells concerned; and to do all this in sufficient amounts to cause the effect observed in the Petri dish.

            To summarize: these tissue (cell) culture experiments furnish largely irrelevant information. Their exploitation to suggest risks in the real world and scaremonger is a fraud.

  • Agnes

    For many people the issue is – as with every other product we consumers purchase – is that we want these things labeled. We want to be in charge of what items we bring in our homes like we are with mattresses, like we are when we select clothing made of the many varieties of materials from wool, to polyester to cotton and more. We want to make our own choices without them being dictated by a web of corporations who keep saying we don’t NEED to know.

    That’s the bottom line.

    It is not ridiculous that among the range of many allergies people currently experience, that some of us might just be allergic to some of these pesticides. If they were not different from each other, there would be no need to change the formulations at all. The fact that yet another newer stronger one is being used on our food plants means that someone – somewhere WILL have a sensitivity to it.

    This is the issue Robyn O’brien talks about. This is the issue brought up by so many mothers of children with allergies, all kinds of gut and digestion issues and more are concerned with. Label these foods treated in this way so we can protect our families as some of us – a significant number – are discovering that something is radically different about food today versus food we ate growing up.

    We want to be able to know the difference in our grocery stores.

    • “some of us – a significant number – are discovering that something is radically different about food today versus food we ate growing up.”
      On closer examination, these differences tend to fall apart. Robyn O’brien does not have evidence for the claims that she is making. Some people are indeed having unknown reactions to foods, and they need help finding out what these reactions are – but they are not helped by people who throw everything against the wall to see what sticks.
      http://kfolta.blogspot.com/2012/03/ted-you-can-do-better.html
      http://kfolta.blogspot.com/2012/03/complete-insanity-in-theater-built-by.html

      • Agnes

        When I was 11 I would break out in acne on my chest and back in the winter… I figured out at that young age… that I was allergic to wool. A lot of people wear it with no problem. What worked for me was labeling. Wool clothing is labeled so I knew, by inference and trial and error what the problem was. I didn’t have to start a movement against the wool industry, and they have survived and thrived as an industry with me quietly just not buying wool.

        That is why this food needs to be labeled. If what you say is correct and GE food is not the problem, it will be really easy to figure this out.

        Just like I did at age 11 about wool. I don’t even think I mentioned it to my family or my mother or anyone. I just left it alone and got rid of my allergy problem.

        • Sorry, but if it doesn’t kill you it’s not an allergy, just merely an intolerance.

        • Robert Krampf

          But what if the label just said, “Warning. Contains fibers.” You would not know if it was wool, cotton, rayon, or some other fiber. It is the same with GMO labeling. Generic labeling does not tell you anything. I would be delighted if food labels told me that this product contains the 5-enolpyruvlyshikimate-3-phosphate synthase protein, in case I was allergic to it, but just saying that it has GMOs does not tell me any more than saying it was harvested on a Tuesday.

        • Gerry

          Labelling something as a GMO gives you no additional information about its health effects on you. It tells you nothing about one particular GMO product compared to another GMO product or another non-GMO product. Avoiding ALL GMO products because you happen to have a reaction to one product that happened to be labelled GMO doesn’t help you… And if you have a reaction to a non-GMO product, what do you do? Will you only eat GMO products then?

      • Agnes

        And the wool industry has not missed any of their market share.

    • Agnes, regarding the “allergies, all kinds of gut and digestion issues” that you mention, I find the evidence more compelling that these are related to the overuse of antibiotics.

      See http://www.npr.org/2014/04/14/302899093/modern-medicine-may-not-be-doing-your-microbiome-any-favors

      • Rob

        Interestingly enough, Andrew, glyphosate IS in fact patented as an antibiotic. (It’s also patented as a chelator and an herbicide.)

        • Not to mention that Round-up ready crops consistently contain measurable glyphosate residues (even non-gmo crops such as wheat where roundup is used as a pre harvest desiccant) . Monsanto petitioned in 2012 to raise acceptable limits on crops, which the EPA granted in 2013.

          This equates to historically increasing, chronic exposure of a patented antibiotic – which Andrew correctly points out is a risk factor in allergies, digestive disorders, and disrupted immune function.

        • Chris Preston

          Rob, glyphosate is not patented as an antibiotic. The patent is for the use of glyphosate as a potential agent against Apicomplexa protozoan parasites (such as malaria) as this group of parasites contains a vestigial chloroplast.

      • Laurie

        Antibiotics in foods like meat are directly related to animals fed a diet of Agricultural Grains and Corn …

    • André

      « For many people the issue is – as with every other product we consumers purchase – is that we want these things labeled. »

      You are damn right… except for the incidental…

      Let’s go back to basics. There are three succeeding scenarios.

      1.  Old (and still present to a limited extent): farmer grows a crop, say, corn. He must get rid of the weeds and uses herbicides rather than (or in combination with) the cumbersome mechanical methods. He could use glyphosate (RoundUp) before sowing and 2,4-D during the early stages of growth. Because 2,4-D is not effective against all weeds, he may use another herbicide in combination.

      Fact is, nobody cares!

      Except some believers in « organic » farming and produce.

      2.  Present: farmer still grows a crop, say, corn. He still must get rid of the weeds and still uses herbicides rather than (or perhaps in combination with) the cumbersome mechanical methods. But he grows an old (relative : « old » means here essentially less than two decades) herbicide-tolerant GM corn. The herbicide in question is glyphosate (RoundUp). He sows his corn and waits until the crop and the weeds are well established. And he uses glyphosate if – and only if – the weeds compete with his crop in an adverse manner.

      Fact is, nobody care in the USA!

      Except the believers in « organic » farming and produce, and anti-GM-minded people.

      3.  Future: farmer still grows a crop, say corn. His primary occupation still is to produce food, feed, fiber, raw materials. To many city-dwellers’ disappointment, he/she has not turned into a countryside manager. So he still grows corn, but the newest GM version. He will use, still if need be, a combination of glyphosate (largely uncontroversial in the US) and 2,4-D (largely uncontroversial in the US) to control all weeds and get a high assurance that, by using two herbicides with a different mode of action, he will not favor the emergence of herbicide-resistant weeds (as it happened with the inconsiderate overuse of glyphosate).

      Fact is, nobody should care!

      If you « want these things labeled », you should request that « all things » be labeled. Scenario 1 has multiple variants, with different herbicides. Herbicides whose toxicological and ecotoxicological is much less favorable. Crops would then have to be handled and processed separately. Your enchiladas would have to get a tailor-made packaging listing the various herbicides used for each ingredient. Concerned consumers would have to spend hours looking up the scaremongering websites – including « Dr » Oz’ – before putting a pack in their cart…

      « It is not ridiculous that […] some of us might just be allergic to some of these pesticides. » You got it right: « …might… some… ». Fact is that if you are plagued by an allergy, no specialist medic will test for a pesticide. Fact is, you are scaremongering. But you’re free to believe that the medics get handsome kickbacks from the seed industry…

      « The fact that yet another newer stronger one is being used… » The fact is that both have been around for decades and that they are even on sale for homeowners and garden amateurs.

    • There isn’t a single label law proposed anywhere that says anything about which pesticides are used. In fact, that’s part of the reason they are so terrible. They are completely uninformative.

      • André

        Indeed.

        But the lady wants « to be able to know the difference in our grocery stores » on account of the (alleged) fact that « among the range of many allergies people currently experience, […] some of us might just be allergic to some of these pesticides. »

        The request for labeling does not respond to the concern.

        And if there is a concern about pesticides, it should have been proven justified long time ago.

  • Agnes

    You can listen to Ms. Obrien in many you tube videos. Here is one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWXrRftyOMY

  • Karen Stoute

    I knew this writer had an agenda when he wrote that we have been eating GMO foods for centuries. Does he think we are all stupid. There is a big difference between selective breeding and GMO. Selective breeding is taking 2 members from the same species and cross breeding them to get desirable traits in future crops. GMO is when you inject a foreign DNA from one specie and injected it into a completely different specie DNA. This can only happen in the laboratory. For example scientists have tried injecting the DNA of fish into a tomatoes DNA. Can this happen in the field? I think not. Can anything good from that ? Have we truly tested to see the ramifications of this technology before we use the population as guinea pigs? Of course not, it’s all about show me the money.
    I am so sick of tired of trying to equate selective breeding with GMO. Be honest with want you are doing

    • Steve did not argue that they were the same. He also did not say we’ve been eating GMO foods for centuries. Instead, he questioned the differentiation between the different methods of genetic modification. You perceive that moving genes between species is radically different from what happens in nature, when in fact it is done with a naturally-occurring organism that makes a living transferring DNA between species.
      The human population is not being treated as guinea pigs.

      • Rob

        You’re right Karl. What Steve did was conflate and confuse the two. Unfortunately, this kind of conflation and confusion does not help. When people speak of their concerns about genetic engineering (ie, the insertion of genetic material from one species into another, completely unrelated species) they are not raising concerns about selective breeding. There is clearly a HUGE difference between the two. So, in fact, if the genetically engineered food we have been eating IS in fact substantially different from non-engineered foods, then humans are definitely being treated as guinea pigs.

        • Hi Rob, thanks for chiming in. There is a perception that the genetics of crop plants are not modified at all – that they exist today much as they existed thousands of years ago. I have had many people ask: why breed crops at all? So when I give talks about the different breeding methods I start with the reason why we breed crops. Then I talk about the different methods of genetic modification. Then I have people guess which ones are organic or “natural,” and which ones are not. No one has guessed correctly. Many people do not know about the continuum of plant genetic modification techniques, of which transgenics (inserting a gene from another organism) is one of the newest.

          I agree that there is a huge difference in how breeding and genetic engineering is perceived but I also question how much of a difference there is in scientific terms. I talked to a scientist who worked on bananas to look at genetic engineering to develop resistance to Bunchy Top virus. When they engineered a piece of the viral genome into the plant to develop resistance, and checked whether it was in there, they got back lots of positive signals all over the place. It turns out that the bananas had lots of Bunchy Top virus genes all over in the genome which were inserted into the plant due to infection, and were inherited by future generations (or cuttings). Viral infection is a pre-genetic-engineering method of creating genetic variation in crop plants for breeding and research. What if one of those natural insertions happened to create resistance to Bunchy Top virus, and it was used to breed or clone (through cuttings) plantations of resistant trees? How does that compare to human-induced genetic engineering using the same genes that achieves the same result? How would it compare to a scientist repeatedly infecting banana tissue with the virus to duplicate what happened in nature?

          Now think about the other claims that you just made for this Bunchy Top virus example. Would the “natural” virus-resistant trees utilizing viral DNA require a label? Would that make it substantially different from the non-resistant bananas? Would eating these bananas make humans guinea pigs? If your answer to any of these questions is “no” then you need to reconsider your reasoning about genetic engineering. If your answer to any of them is “yes” then you’ve got a problem with how plant breeding itself works.

          This is why scientists talk about the many different methods that have been used to modify the genetics of plants, because when you think about genetic engineering in that context, it is not as hugely different as it seems at first.

          Finally, there is no such thing as a “completely unrelated species” – all species share a common ancestor, and it is that shared genetic heritage that makes it possible for genetic engineering to work in the first place.

          • Mlema

            “If your answer to any of these questions is “no” then you need to reconsider your reasoning about genetic engineering.”

            Or at least that one form of genetic engineering used in those bananas.

            I think to draw conclusions about the equivalency between these various forms of breeding, you’d have to then compare the banana to a bt crop (which would be unlikely to exist through any means other than GE). The NAS has shown that the distance between species, as well as the techniques used to breed, are both factors in the degree of risk of unintended changes in the resultant plant. The greater the distance, the higher the risk.
            So, I would have to agree with the person who says it’s wrong to equate genetic engineering with selective breeding. GE can be relatively low-risk, but it depends on a number of variables. We can’t make generalizations either way.

    • grapedoc

      Karl has answered many of these questions in detail. I’d just like to say that I don’t assume or even think that readers are “stupid” which is why I try to make connections to things they know. The point I’m trying to make is that we all enjoy/depend on food crops that are genetically quite dramatically different from whatever wild plant they came from. Most of those changes in genetics were accomplished by people long before they ever knew what genes were.

      As for whether I have an “agenda,” I absolutely do have one. My goal is to counter to what small degree I can the massive amount of disinformation that is out there about food and agriculture. There are many things that Oz says in his video that are false but for which he could have gotten the truth in a 5 minute Wikipedia search. There are lots of information resources on these issues from the EPA. There are tons of qualified experts Oz could have interviewed. He chose to go with the emotive version of things uninformed by any of these resources. The number of people who will ever hear “the other side” of this is tiny compared to how many people will hear Oz’s message. Still, even if it is “tilting at windmills” I have an agenda to try to put some facts into the discussion

  • Agnes

    Labeling. People want it. Millions are being spent to keep labeling GMO foods. After 20 years of them sneaking it into our food supply you would think that if these genetically engineered foods had ONE great benefit, like lowering cholesterol, or ending diabetes that these companies would instead be WANTING it labeled and would spend money to advertise their greatness…

    Nobody believes that any good can come of these artificial, horizontal gene transfers that are changing the nature of our food supply.

    Especially in light of these issues of rising health problems. Add to that the list of countries around the world that have banned it or severely limited GE foods in their countries and it isn’t just a silly supposition that something’s not right about them.

    If they were seriously good for you, any company that makes them would be ridiculous for not insisting on making this stand out and they would be paying for letting more people know.

    It goes against any business concept to hide your greatness — unless what you have is not really good.

    • Rob

      I agree whole-heartedly, Agnes. I find it quite mind boggling that one the one hand, biotech companies insist that GE foods are “substantially equivalent” to non GE foods, and therefore do not require any further testing or labeling. On the other hand, they are substantially different enough that they can be patented, and that any infringement on that patent justifies legal action. How can they be the same and yet so different at the same time?

      • Rob, I’m so glad that you brought up the “different enough to patent, but not different enough to label” argument. Did you know that plants have been patented in various forms since 1930? Or how about that the kind of patents – utility patents – that are applied to GE crops are also increasingly being found applied to non-GE conventionally-bred crops? Since you have established that a patent means you consider it different enough to require a label, do you then agree that these non-GE conventionally-bred crops should be labeled because they are also patented? Do you believe that when a patent runs out on a GE crop or if it is not patented or not considered patentable (repeating the same trait, not novel) do you believe that no labels are required?
        The argument falls apart because the purpose of a patent is to encourage the development of a unique and useful invention. In the case of the current generation of GE crops, they do not change the composition of the crop and thus are not themselves different in terms of nutrition and their status as a food. Thus, the FDA considers there to be no need for a label. This doesn’t negate the usefulness of the invention applied to the crops.

      • First Officer

        They patented in the same manner that a new fastener may be patented. But because the fastener serves the same purpose as the previous design, to equivalent specs, the car company who uses need not label their cars as, “made with mechanically modified fasteners”. I have yet to see apple juice be required to label the particular strain of apples used.

      • I’ve seen this argument – substantially equivalent but different enough to be patented – numerous times. It’s based on a misunderstanding of what can be patented.

        I happen to be the co-holder of a patent – nothing to do with biotechnology. It’s for how to make medical ultrasound images. The images it makes are essentially identical to medical ultrasound images made with the previously best technology, but the new method disclosed in my patent is better. It can be instantiated in a machine the size of a laptop computer, not a machine the size of a refrigerator. It can be made and sold for about $12,000, not a quarter of a million dollars. The patent has to do with the method of making the ultrasound images.

        Nobody has ever suggested that my patent is invalid because the images it produces are substantially equivalent to the images made by the big and expensive machines.

        • Interesting – and a good analogy! This argument could make a great topic for a post.

    • A major reason for the opposition of consumers to GMO (transgenic for you Steve) is that the consumer was never a part of the decision to add them to the food supply. No attempts to educate, no public debate, no polling for acceptance. In the US, GMO technology was purposely kept under the radar to avoid public scrutiny, with the intent to saturate the food suppy before the public caught on. It was an incredible success, but now we see the blowback from a population angry they were not informed of the historical precedent of GMO (transgenic) products for human consumption .

      • This lack of debate in the beginning also explains the rush to ‘create a dialog’ we’re now seeing with sites such as GMOanswers and here at Biofortified. Such outreach was completely absent during the introduction of GMOs (transgenics) into the food supply and any criticism was simply ignored.

        • “rush to create a dialog”? We’ve been around for almost six years, now. We do it because we love talking about the science we know. 🙂

        • grapedoc

          Boss260,
          I was someone who was in an an aware observer mode just before and during the introduction of biotech crops. There was a great deal of outreach and public engagement by the communication standards of the day. The criticism was not ignored, but the responses to that criticism were and still are ignored. There does not seem to be any “statute of limitations” on saying the sky is falling when it comes to GMO crops

      • That’s an interesting tale of secrecy, but it is not true. The first GE product in the U.S. was the Flavr-Savr tomato, and it was advertised and out in the open. It didn’t work out as a commercial product, though. There were many attempts to educate and engage, however, I will agree with you that they were not enough, and they were in obscure places like USDA comment periods and meetings, etc. The biotech companies focused on their customers, the farmers, and did not focus on the general public. But I’d hardly call that “purposefully kept under the radar,” and based on the numerous surveys and polls conducted scientifically and published in the literature, the “blowback” you describe is not universally shared by the population, but is instead an activity of a vocal minority. Most people are largely undecided on genetically engineered crops, and opinions haven’t changed much essentially because it hasn’t been on people’s radar and there hasn’t been a reason for people to want to learn more about it.

        So I’m a little confused – you seem to be complaining about a lack of communication, but have also complained about the “rush to create a dialog.” Are you happy that there are scientists and others trying to educate and engage with people on this topic today, or not?

      • First Officer

        The best way to keep things under the radar to avoid public scrutiny is always to but it on the cover of Time magazine

        http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,997586,00.html

      • First Officer

        Here’s yet another, even earlier attempt ( 7/20/1999) to hide it from the public by publishing it in a major newspaper.

        http://www.nytimes.com/1999/07/20/science/stalked-by-deadly-virus-papaya-lives-to-breed-again.html

        Fiendish !

    • Daryl Klindworth

      Agnes – you state that “It is not ridiculous that among the range of many allergies people currently experience, that some of us might just be allergic to some of these pesticides”. However if pesticides were allergens then there is a group of people for whom we should be seeing allergy problems. Farmers and pesticide applicators. These people are exposed to these chemicals at far higher rates than the consumer. If there were a problem, we would see it in these populations. I have not heard of any such problems among them.

      • Cheyne H

        Daryl makes a great point, Agnus. Even taking into perspective the vast difference in ratio of Farmer/Applicators, to Consumers of grown food(lol), we should still see some evidence….ever…that there should be an allergen concern.
        Sounding more and more, like more…fear mongering.

    • grapedoc

      Agnes,
      Do you know what sort of labeling I would like as an ag saavy person?

      I’d like a label that said, “grown with the use of composted animal excrement” so that I could avoid those products (think vegetables), or maybe a voluntary “not grown with…” label.

      I’d like a label that said, “grown in ways and post-harvest tested to prevent mycotoxin contamination” so that I could buy that product and avoid any that don’t say that (think peanuts, almonds, pistachios…)

      I’d like a label that said “uses ingredients grown in China” so that I could avoid the product if that was the case (think organic products using non-perishable ingredients like grains, fruit juice concentrates, milk products…. )

      • Mlema

        We all want different labels for different reasons. I too like the “country of origin” labels. And the composted animal excrement would be a good label – but for me it would have to go further. For instance, I would prefer animal excrement to “biosolids” (sewer sludge, which includes heavy metals like cadmium) – but I don’t want animal excrement from an industrial animal farm that uses a lot of antibiotics.

        Wow – this is quite a big topic. I think we could make use of all kinds of labels on foods. Bring it on labelers! 🙂

  • Benjamin Edge

    Agnes said: “Nobody believes that any good can come of these artificial, horizontal gene transfers that are changing the nature of our food supply.”

    I believe good can come from these artificial, horizontal gene transfers. I guess that blows your argument right there. Seed companies do label their products, for the farmer. After that, other than restricting their use as seed, the seed company has no control over what happens to the crop that comes from that seed. If people would quit objecting to the Arctic Apple, you might soon see a GM product on the market with labeling.

    • First Officer

      Well maybe you are just a one off. Wait, i believe good can and do come from that too ! Now its a trend. 🙂

  • charlotte lawrence

    Oh, so you work for DuPont, huh. Yeah. If you change jobs at some point, you might work for Monsanto? Just speculating. I think I’m sticking with Doc Oz on this one. We had the most beautiful ORGANIC garden this year. We use NO pesticides. The abundance was overwhelming and our food is healthy and delicious from our garden. Our pesticide free beehives (as free of pesticides as we can keep them, thanks to all these horrific products out there that other people use) not only yielded us an abundant crop of raw honey, but our bees pollinated our hives to the max. Like I said, I’m sticking with Doc Oz on this. You can go eat the pesticide laden crops if you want to.

    • Farmers grow food for people who do not have the luxury of growing a big garden. Your comment was mean-spirited and classist.

      I’m a beekeeper and I have to say it makes no sense to say your bees yielded a crop of raw honey – it’s all “raw” until you cook it. And there’s no health benefit to eating it “raw” – it’s mostly sugar. C’mon, it’s honey.

      • First Officer

        I always wondered what people living in Starrett City (Bronx, NY) take on growing your own food. Would the neighbors below complain much about their root cellar? I also wonder if she’s enjoying herd or isolation immunity from her neighbors?

    • grapedoc

      Charlotte,
      I worked for DuPont from 1982 to 1989. After that I worked for a biocontrol and natural product company called Mycogen until 1996. We made many products that fit the organic market, but I learned some interesting things about it during that time. For instance we had a herbicide product based on a naturally occurring and super safe fatty acid. We thought the organic folks would love it because they had no such options and had to get an exemption to continue the use of the short handled hoe by farm workers (something that is terrible for their health). It was rejected by the organic purists because it was made by splitting a different naturally occurring fatty acid in half. Commercial organic farmers absolutely use pesticides and not all of them are even very nice by modern standards (e.g. copper sulfate and other copper salts). Organic is not what most people believe it is. If you or others want to spend the money that is fine, but there are lots of moms in particular who feel guilty for no good reason if they don’t buy organic. That is not OK

  • Eric Bjerregaard

    And the rose pineapple, that I really hope has no flavor associated with the tangerine gene that will be used to enhance nutrition. But why does Agnes want to change the subject from oz’s incorrect information to g.e. labeling?

  • Why does Dr Oz keep talking about “pesticides”, when the product in question is a herbicide? Is he sufficiently lacking in intellect as to not be able to understand the difference?

    • Pesticides include herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides. I think you may be confusing insecticides with pesticides, which is a common misunderstanding.

  • 3xmommo

    Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Very funny! Look at them back on their heels. I LOVE this. GO Dr. Oz!!! Dow’s Enlist Duo IS INDEED a brand new product. No mixture like this has ever been produced. It is the strongest mixture that they can come up with, because even the powerful 2,4-D alone cannot kill the super weeds the GMO technology has wrought. Sure, there has been a bit of weed resistance in the past, but NOTHING like what they have created today. Thanks to Roundup Ready and other GMO farming practices, super weeds now cover over 50% of all US farmland, and super weeds are rampant world-wide. The super weeds have developed as a result of the mandatory and frequent sprayings of pesticides in GMO crops. GM crops are made to be “herbicide tolerant” AND to actually BE insecticides. They are made by the chemical industry- and they sure have been selling lots and lots of product. Good for them, bad for us and the environment. We, for one family, are sick of eating it. Literally. Our health improved when we dropped GMOs, which makes sense. I mean, eating less pesticide is better for you. Obvious. Sure, they have been using 2,4-D here and there, and it has been used in the past. But those uses are NOTHING next to the TSUNAMI of pesticide we are about to face with the introduction of Dow’s new Duo Enlist. There were warnings from smart scientists before GM farming was introduced. They said, with Darwinism, weeds and pests will develop resistance. If you have herbicide and insecticides out there constantly, you will see resistant weeds and pests on a massive scale. They were right! Oddly enough (yet predictably), the chemical industry’s answer to the weed resistance that is a result of using too many chemicals out there is more chemicals! Of course… OR we could go back to the good old fashioned (and higher yielding) practices of rotating crops, using cover crops, etc. to control pests (only using chemicals as needed). I vote for the latter.

    • I think if you exaggerated less and didn’t post a wall of text you might convince more people.

      • Hi karl
        some people maybe interested in 3xmommo wall of text if he is making valid points. Monsanto main claim to fame was with agent orange. I think most people on this blog know about agent orange and I dont have to go into details. Now this no morals, greedy company is in the food business. And once again, Monsanto products is doing more harm to society. Monsanto created a seed that is made to terminate so that farmers will keep coming back to them over and over and over. good for nothing company.

        whether its herbicide or pesticide they risk outweigh what benefit we get from them. I may have my beef with Dr Oz but I hope he keeps harping on this whole GMO industry. The FDA has fail to do they of protecting us but we all know why that is. Its a nasty revolving door between people working for the FDA, USDA ,EPA and Monsanto. I say bring it on Dr OZ. I want to see the demise of Monsanto for the good of us all.

        now that is my wall of text. take it or leave it

        • Monsanto’s claim to fame was not Agent Orange, although a division of the company was one of the many manufacturers of it for the Federal government (according to federally-mandated procedures). Read their wikipedia page if you want to read about the company’s history. The reason why I point this out is that Agent Orange is being used by opponents of GE to characterize an entire company just to scare people about GE crops. And the ‘revolving door’ has similarly been exaggerated out of proportion. Federal employees are screened and held to rigid COI standards while they do their work, and from what I hear from members of industry – they sure don’t seem to think that they control the FDA, USDA, and EPA…

          A “wall of text” is a block of text with no paragraph delineations. Yours was appropriately punctuated. 🙂

        • grapedoc

          Ksuzannes,
          Also, Monsanto did not “create a seed that is made to terminate…” Some USDA researchers attempted to develop such a seed with the intention that if they could make protein pharmaceutical products in crop plants, they would have a fail-safe way to insure that they didn’t end up in the food supply. In fact their system didn’t work and the idea of making drugs in plants in the field was abandoned for several good reasons.

          The USDA patent was joint with the cotton seed company Delta Pine and when that was acquired by Monsanto so did ownership of the patent. It was actually of no value and Monsanto made it clear from the beginning that they had no intention of doing anything with it. The fact that the “terminator gene” story persists simply demonstrates the fact that in the internet age myths can almost never be debunked.

          Also I’d second what Karl said about regulatory agencies. I’ve worked for industries regulated by EPA and USDA since 1983 and I can tell you they were in no way “in our pocket.” I’d have to say that the individual regulators I met were solid, science-based thinkers but they also rigorously enforce all the rules. I think it is sad that the conspiracy theory is so widely accepted that these health and environmental regulations are not working. Of course there are lots of players like Oz making good money exploiting public fear around this question so they are unlikely to stop.

    • Kent Wagoner

      “No mixture like this has ever been produced.” Of course, farmers have been tank-mixing glyphosate and 2,4-D for decades to use in non-crop areas like fencelines and ditchbanks. But that doesn’t count, right? Because the pesticide manufacturer didn’t do it.

  • christopher antee

    Okay, you want things labeled, but don’t want to obtain a degree in chemistry or horticulture. So why label them? I could easily give you the chemical analysis of most food’s and it would be an alien language to you. The likelihood that you’ll look up EPA finding’s is low instead you’ll click the first Google link that you trust ( whether it’s accurate or not) . That alone means that labeling is highly unrecommended. Secondly most of these herbicides are completely synthetic, therefore allergic reaction is almost impossible. Your body doesn’t do anything with them. Your immune system is built to deal with natural invader’s not synthetic one’s. Hence plastic’s and synthetic rubber being more widely used than latex rubber now due to allergy. Wool is natural it’s animal fur. Polyester is synthetic. I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll find no one allergic to it if undyed and in that case they’re allergic to the natural dye not the cloth.

  • BBBlue

    Not only have these two herbicides been around for a while,they have been used in combination ever since glyphosate was registered for use. The tank mixing of pesticides is a common practice and is done to extend the spectrum of pests controlled, increase efficacy, increase the duration of control, manage resistance, reduce application costs (fewer trips across the field, less fuel burned) and in many cases, the synergy between two compounds results in lower use rates relative to what would be needed to produce the same result if each were applied alone.

    Combining two active ingredients in the same formulation is more a matter of convenience, marketing, and it sometimes allows for new uses as it represents a new label and registration. The only thing that is really new in all of this is the approval of 2,4-D resistant varieties.

    If you want to know what pesticide residues may be in your food, you will find regulated tolerances in CFR Title 40, Chapter I, Subchapter E, Part 180, Subpart C. If a tolerance is established for a pesticide, there is a chance that it may be found in the specified commodity, although there are usually many more pesticides listed for a particular commodity than are actually applied.

    http://bit.ly/1mJ5wWd

    If you want to know what has actually been found in agricultural commodities, the USDA Pesticide Data Program is the best source of information. You will find that the number of individual pesticides detected on agricultural commodities is far fewer than the number registered for use, and more often than not, the amount of residue found on a commodity is far less than the allowed tolerance, if any is found at all.

    http://1.usa.gov/1mJ6xxz

  • Mike

    Here is a link to a Washinton Post Food article that is complementary to your blog and GENERA. I am glad that your blog is becoming more well known outside of academia.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/unearthed-are-patents-the-problem/2014/09/28/9bd5ca90-4440-11e4-9a15-137aa0153527_story.html

    “Biology Fortified, an independent nonprofit organization, is cataloging GMO research and is 400 studies into a database that eventually will hold more than 1,000. The database, GENERA, shows that, of those 400, more than half report receiving no industry funding.”

  • “… Unless Dr Oz has some alternative suggestion …” Well, fear-mongering makes some TV programs pay. Everyone’s in it for the money. However, I do have a suggestion: so far, all herbicides affect plants in a general way. some more, others less. Intensive farming does have a problem that way. It loses top soil and it sheds fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides into rivers and finally oceans. The Mycene as well as the Roman cultures collapsed shortly after forming similar top soil deposits in their estuaries as we can now see forming in the Gulf of Mexico. We should seriously consider if another doubling of world population can be fed that way, i.e. by perfecting the current top-soil-depleting and overfishing methods. No matter how much propaganda is leveled at e.g. glyphosphate, this is a discussion that detracts from the real problems.

  • Ray Kinney

    Wow! Quite the dialogue! It does seem that we really don’t know very much about what we are doing. Wild claims for and against, flying every direction. everyone patting themselves on the back for besting the others with their particular agendas and knowledge bases. None of this seems very intelligent to me.
    I mean, we ALL want to eat food that is as healthy for us as we can, and we also all want to keep from going hungry. We also, presumably want our great great grandchildren to have those same benefits when they grow. We need enough food, and we need good quality. After reading thousands of papers on agricultural and toxicologic science, and having absolutly no formal qualifications… I don’t pat myself on the back, and it’s my humble opinion that anyone that does pat themselves on the back because they think they know enough about the subject matters involved to feel ‘educated’… i think that we are all crazy, largely uneducated, AND, all unqualified to be doing the work that we are doing. We are ALL also unqualified to advocate for or against… without having a sense of profound fear that we may be tragically WRONG, and are guiding societal wellbeing down the ‘freakin drain’.

    • Chris Preston

      I humbly suggest that I have both the education and experience to know what I am talking about and do the work that I do.

  • Ray Kinney

    From either side. Pro current -AG has not shown adequate freedom from profound need for this fear! Anti ‘GMO’ advocates have NOT been shown to have adequate understanding either. The ‘science’, so touted as definitive argument for food safety or danger, seems most often to not even hold to trying to utilize the whole scientific method that it claims to be based on. How can adequate science come out of lack of adequate use of the ‘Scientific Method’? Danger abounds, we have introduced 85K new chemicals (mostly, effectively ‘new’ to our world, to produce our products… and to degrade as pollution. We do not know nearly enough not to have profound fear… just enough to realize that we should have fear! We had better be ‘crackin’ out better science FAST… or we are doomed. we don’t know $#@!.

  • Ray Kinney

    The science of epigenetics is very young, and just skimming the surface. Already, it has been demonstrating that toxic effects in rats can pass to unexposed offspring, and to their unexposed grandchildren. If this has any validity at all, even if it is just a distinct possibility, we need a whole lot more good science to clarify these potential risks. There has been enough study already to have great concern. If we can’t admit that it might be possible that we are too quick to jump to conclusion of safety, we just might be screwing up in a very big way.