Vandana Shiva, Anti-GMO Figurehead, Denounced By Over 50 Scientists, Scholars and Communicators

It’s 6 years since I last dabbled in the area of GMO research and thus came across this name. But Vandana Shiva has continued her war on all things GMO in the ensuing years, and as such, has caught the attention of a fairly large and very knowledgeable cohort.

Let’s dig in.

Vandana Shiva, an Indian activist philosopher who maintains the Green Revolution was a failure and promotes small-scale farming to address the growing global food needs, is speaking at the University of Missouri-Kansas City on October 7 as part of its “Social Justice” series. According to Shiva’s website, she is paid $100,000 plus business class travel reimbursement to advocate on behalf of the poor. A group of more than 50 scientists, scholars and communicators, including a Nobel Prize winner and a former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, have signed a joint letter addressed to the Chancellor outlining Shiva’s misrepresentations. 

Below is the letter, the response from the Chancellor, and a response to the Chancellor from Nobel Laureate Sir Richard Roberts:

Date: 28 September 2021

To:  C. Mauli Agrawal, Chancellor,

Cc: Sheri Gormley, Chief of Staff,; Andre Logan, Director of Strategic Initiatives,; Veronica C. Jackson, Senior Executive Assistant,

Ref.: University of Missouri-Kansas City Social Justice Book and Lecture Series on Oct. 7 with Dr. Vandana Shiva.

Dear Chancellor,

We are scholars of life sciences and social sciences who have published many scholarly papers and articles about agriculture, food and related biotechnologies; some of us are science communicators and agronomists.

Perhaps you are unaware of Dr. Vandana Shiva’s constant use of anti-scientific rhetoric to support unethical positions. We are surprised that any science-based and ethically inspired institution would invite her to speak.

Here are just a few examples of her prejudicial, anti-science, anti-social stances:

1. Her astonishing tendency to nonsense

See the absurd statement regarding the supposed functioning of the Genetic Use Restriction technology (GURT), from her book Stolen Harvest (p. 82-83):

Molecular biologists are examining the risk of the Terminator function escaping the genome of the crops into which it has been intentionally incorporated, and moving into surrounding open-pollinated crops or wild, related plants in fields nearby. Given Nature’s incredible adaptability and the fact that the technology has never been tested on a large scale, the possibility that the Terminator may spread to surrounding food crops or to the natural environment MUST be taken seriously. The gradual spread of sterility in seeding plants would result in a globalcatastrope that could eventually wipe out higher life forms, including humans, from the planet

She has repeatedly used the same words in other documents in her websites. One may need to read these statements twice, because they are too bewildering to be understood at first sight. In fact, she claims that sterile seeds – which of course cannot germinate – can spread sterility. A middle school student expressing such views would fail the biology exam.


Interestingly enough, I have heard this argument and precaution before. Not from Vandana herself (or in my research), but from my father, him being very much knowledgable of plants and horticulture (though not officially trained or employed in the field). That he would have come across this concern in his journeys online outlines the risk that such misinformation represents. When even people with some knowledge in the area can not tell the difference between science and propaganda, problems are bound to result.

Knowing how complex this entire field of study is to navigate (having done so myself in the past), I don’t blame my father (or anyone like him) for getting lost in the debate. It makes me really feel for the everyday laypeople in which people like Vandana Shiva are really targeting with this stuff. If people with knowledge can’t sort this stuff out, what hope does your grandmother or father have?!


2. Her stunning ignorance


Somebody should explain to her that Bt proteins are toxic to some clearly identified classes of insects (plant pests), but not to fish, birds, or mammals. See also the scientific papers quoted in response to her delusional Twitter post, in particular, the “classic” study by Ames et al. which clarifies that plants naturally produce substances to defend themselves from pests and 99.99% of pesticidal substances in food are natural – and harmless to humans.


I can also attest to this, having looked into this claim myself (Twice. 1 and 2). If I remember correctly, the toxin was activated in the stomach of insects attacking the corn by the alkaline content of their stomach, but it had no effect on humans since our stomachs are not alkaline. Our stomachs are acidic. Hence, stomach acid.

Let’s just do a quick check for ourselves.


Is Bt Safe for Humans to Eat?

Bt is a bacterium that is not toxic to humans or other mammals but is toxic to certain insects when ingested.

Bt works as an insecticide by producing a crystal-shaped protein (Cry toxin) that specifically kills certain

Bt is naturally found on leaves and in soil worldwide and has been used commercially both in organic and
conventional agriculture for over fifty years.

Most genetically engineered, insect-resistant crops express one or more Bt insecticidal Cry toxins.

Over two decades of review, the EPA and numerous scientific bodies have consistently found that Bt and
engineered Bt-crops are not harmful to humans.

What is Bt?

Bacillus thuringiensis (often referred to as simply “Bt”) is a common, naturally occurring bacterium found in soils and
on plant leaves worldwide. First discovered in 1901 in Japan, Bt has revolutionized how we stop insects from eating
our crops. For over fifty years, Bt has been applied directly to a variety of agricultural crops and plants in home gardens
as a living pesticide to control insect pests.

The secret to Bt’s success is a family of proteins that these bacteria produce that specifically target insect digestive
tracts. These proteins are shaped like crystals, so they are commonly called “Crystalline toxins” or “Cry toxins.” These
Cry toxins remain inactive until consumed by an insect. Once digested, the protein is activated and then binds to specif-
ic receptors in insect guts. Once bound, the Cry toxins pierce holes in the insect’s gut, ultimately causing the contents
to leak and the insect to starve. Importantly, humans do not have the same receptors or gut conditions as insects, which
means Cry toxins pass through us with no effect. Studies show that humans digest Cry toxins like any other protein that
would be ingested when eating foods like meat, beans, leafy greens, or tofu.

What are Bt-crops?

Crops that have been genetically engineered to produce Cry toxins are often described with the prefix “Bt” (such as Bt-cotton or Bt-corn), even
though they do not contain living Bt bacteria; rather, they contain genes from Bt for producing insect-specific toxins.

Click to access ESA-Factsheet-Bt.pdf


This abstract has a bit more explanation of the role of PH in bt activation.


In general, PFT producing-bacteria secrete their toxins and these toxins interact with specific receptors located on the host cell surface. In most cases, PFT are activated by host proteases after receptor binding inducing the formation of an oligomeric structure that is insertion competent. Finally, membrane insertion is triggered, in most cases, by a decrease in pH that induces a molten globule state of the protein ().

I am not a biologist, so most of that sentence (and that scientific paper) is WAY over my head. But decrease in PH tells me that I am not far off from the knowledge of the matter.

Speaking of things related to the BT corn conversation (but unrelated to the current post), it occurred to me years ago that the fear people had of BT corn (and of all corn-containing products) could potentially be causing another issue. The jist of the argument surrounds parents with children and corn-containing foods such as children’s snacks. Since people were freaked out about feeding any corn to themselves (let alone their children), the next most commonly available grain for children’s snacks tends to be rice. And true to that, some corn-fearing influencers (a name they didn’t have back in 2014/1015, but a name that seems to fit best now) listed rice products as a good alternative to corn.

This was a problem for me since much rice is known to contain some level of arsenic. These levels increase in processed rice foods (like chips or cereals). So known is the risk that governing bodies actually have maximum recommendations in terms of rice (in particular, of processed rice products).

Quoting myself:


Rice is known to often times have MEASURABLE amounts of arsenic. To the point where it is recommended to severely limit the intake of rice and processed rice foods for children. Because very little (particularly for processed foods) can put them at (or above) the recommended limit.

Though I am not 100% sure how the arsenic content of rice and rice based foods compares to the amount of genetically modified genes that constitutes 0.1% of an alfalfa shipment, im almost certain that were talking more then traces. Just by the measurements.

An entire shipping container, verses a bowl of cereal, a few rice cakes or a quart of rice milk.

As always, context is everything.

The 2015 Round Up Ready Alfalfa Disaster


Fortunately, someone was paying attention, which led to the publication of THIS ARTICLE later. Whether or not my critique had anything to do with its creation is debatable (my ego certainly would love to take credit!). Either way, it’s good to know that not everyone was blindly willing to trade a largely benign hazard for one that was very real. 

Anyway, back to why Vandana Shiva is an ideologically biased hack.


3. Her proclivity to outrage


She compares farmers, who grow crops which are scientifically and legally recognized as safe, to rapists! It’s a grotesque insult to millions of honest workers who use modern technologies to farm more sustainably and efficiently. Understandably, her outrageous abuse raised many angry reactions (see the replies to the same post).


Holy Guacamole!

I knew the woman was a nut, but god damn . . . this makes Oprah Winfrey’s feud with the meat industry back in the 90’s look tame.


The American cattle industry was already in the spotlight amid growing concerns of mad cow disease in England, but the queen of daytime talk shows ratcheted up the problems for US beef on a 1996 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show.

A discussion with animal rights activist Howard Lyman focusing on mad cow disease put the famous talk show host at odds with the American cattle industry.

With Lyman offering his prediction of widespread impact to American beef from the disease, Oprah declared that the conversation had, “stopped me cold from eating another burger.”


Don’t get me wrong, Oprah’s reason for causing that whole fiasco was largely irrational given the state of the beef industry at the time (no disease yet detected in North America). And there are plenty of reasons to adopt a diet with less beef. But fortunately, she rightfully won the lawsuit against her brought by the beef industry.

As irrational as the attitude was, it is in fact protected by free speech.

Either way, god damn . . . Vandana really went there. Despite being born in a  nation with a terrible rate of sexual assault, she actually degraded the term rapist.

Boy howdy.


4. Her rejection of technologies which help farmers (mostly women and children) to alleviate the painful, back-breaking labour of hand-weeding

Indian women selectively do weeding by hand, hereby preserving our biodiversity

(Photo and caption at p.21)

This is a preposterous statement; any act of weeding is exactly aimed at eliminating detrimental plant “biodiversity” which, in a field, stifles crops.


It is easy to speak from a pedestal when you are not actually doing the work, after all. Particularly when people are paying you thousands in endorsements for doing so. 

Check your privilege, Vandana!


5. As a final treat, a ridiculous statement

Fertilizer should never have been allowed in agriculture. I think it’s time to ban it. It’s a weapon of mass destruction. Its use is like in war, because it came from war.

From a speech in 2011 quoted in the New Yorker and in other websites.

Let us ask her if she is going to ban metallurgy, since it has been used to forge cannons.


This one is almost too idiotic to retort. Since there are probably several thousand ways to approach this, ill settle for 2.

1.) Airplanes (and in particular, jet engines) were also a product of war. This doesn’t stop Vandana from hopping on an airliner and flying to various venues to share her propaganda, however.

2.) Without fertilizer, MILLIONS of people in all areas of the globe would not be alive. I am almost certain that I would not exist without fertilizer. Though it is certainly a major containment in waterways when used improperly, that makes it no different than any other tool (when used improperly, the result may be less than desirable).

A hammer in the wrong hand can be a murder weapon. As such, should hammers not exist?


We would greatly value a point-by-point response to the important matters we raise. Here are some links to articles that contained reasoned criticism of Dr. Shiva’s untenable stances:

Who is Vandana Shiva and why is she saying such awful things about GMOs? (Reprinted in Forbes: Vandana Shiva, Anti-GMO Celebrity: ‘Eco Goddess’ Or Dangerous Fabulist?)
Vandana Shiva: ‘Rock Star’ of GMO protest movement has history of opposing Green Revolution and agricultural technological innovation
The GMO-Suicide Myth
Seeds of Doubt
Vandana Shiva Compares GMOs to Rape
Vandana Shiva’s Myth Busted: Monsanto Didn’t Cause Farmer Suicides In India
Counterview: In GMO debate, Vandana Shiva has chosen fear-mongering and denialism
Vandana Shiva: Fearmongering in Oregon
Lies, Lies And More Lies
Activism and the gift of delusion
Vandana Shiva is confusing ideology for science – and getting rational people to believe her
Viewpoint: GMO critic Vandana Shiva’s anti-modernity crusade threatens world’s poor
‘Social Justice Warrior’ Vandana Shiva Is A Poor Advocate For The Poor

Sincerely yours,

[Signatories in alphabetical order. Institutional affiliation is for identification purposes only and does not indicate institutional endorsement]

Philipp Aerni – University of Zurich, Switzerland, Director, Center for Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, Geography, Public Policy
Klaus Ammann – University of Bern, Switzerland, Professor Emeritus, expert in agri-food biotech regulation
David J. Bertioli – University of Georgia, USA, Georgia Research Alliance Distinguished Investigator and Professor, Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics
Giuseppe Bertoni – Università Cattolica, Piacenza, Italy, Professor Emeritus of Animal Husbandry
Peter Beyer – Albert-Ludwigs University Freiburg, Germany, Professor (retired). Co-inventor of the Golden Rice. Member of the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board
Borut Bohanec – University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, Biotechnical Faculty, Plant Biotechnology and Breeding
Ildebrando Bonacini – Agricultural organization manager, agri-food journalist, Cremona, Italy
Enrico Bucci – Temple University, Philadelphia, USA, Adjunct Professor in Systems Biology, Sbarro Health Research Organization
Trevor Charles – University of Waterloo, Canada, Professor in the Department of Biology, Director, Waterloo Centre for Microbial Research
Bruce M. Chassy – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA, Professor Emeritus, expert in agri-food biotech regulation
Felice Cervone – University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Italy, Full Professor, Dept of Biology and Biotechnologies, M.A.E. (Member of Academia Europaea)
Pellegrino Conte – University of Palermo, Italy, Full Professor, Agricultural Chemistry
Gilberto Corbellini – Italian National Research Council (CNR), Rome, Italy, Full Professor of Bioethics and History of Medicine, “Sapienza” University of Rome
Terry Daynard – Ontario Agricultural College, University of Guelph, Former Professor of Crop Science, former Associate Dean of Research and Innovation
Roberto Defez – Italian National Research Council (CNR), Naples, Italy, Senior Researcher, Microbial Biotechnology laboratory
Adrian Dubock – Former Global Head M&A, Ventures and Licensing, Syngenta, Switzerland (retired), Member & Executive Secretary, Golden Rice Humanitarian Board
Jon Entine – Genetic Literacy Project, Cincinnati, OH, USA, Executive Director
Edgardo Filippone – University of Naples “Federico II”, Italy, Full Professor, Department of Agricultural Sciences, Section of Plant Genetics and Biotechnology
Kevin Folta – University of Florida, Department of Horticultural Sciences, Professor
Corrado Lodovico Galli – University of Milan, Italy, Department of Pharmacological and Biomolecular Sciences
L. Val Giddings, PhD – PrometheusAB, Inc., USA, Expert in agri-food biotech regulation
Jonathan Gressel – Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel, Professor, Plant & Environmental Sciences
Alberto Guidorzi – Agronomist, Sermide Felonica (Mantua), Italy
Larson C. Hannah – University of Florida, Professor Emeritus, Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology & Horticultural Sciences
Klaus-Dieter Jany – Wadi International University, Syria, Vice-President for Teaching and Research
Jonathan D. G. Jones FRS – The Sainsbury Lab, Norwich, UK, Professor and Senior Group Leader
Drew L. Kershen – University of Oklahoma, USA, Earl Sneed Centennial Professor of Law Emeritus
Marcel Kuntz – University of Grenoble-Alpes, France, Director of Research at Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)
Christopher J. Leaver CBE FRS FRSE – University of Oxford, UK, Emeritus Professor of Plant Science
Michele Lodigiani – Agronomist, farmer, science communicator. Piacenza, Italy
Alan McHughen – University of California, Riverside, USA, Botany and Plant Sciences, expert in agri-food biotech regulation
Henry I. Miller, M.Sc., M.D. – Senior Fellow, Pacific Research Institute, San Francisco, USA, Founding director of the FDA’s Office of Biotechnology
Giovanni Molteni Tagliabue – Como (Italy), Independent researcher in philosophy of life sciences, political science
Eliano Morello – Agronomist, Padua, Italy
Piero Morandini – University of Milan, Italy, Researcher, Environmental Science and Policy Department
Jean-Paul Oury – Chief Editor of “The European Scientist” website, Paris, France, PhD in history of science and technology
Marco Aurelio Pasti – Agronomist, member of Accademia dei Georgofili, Venice, Italy
Deborah Piovan – Farmer and scientific communicator, Padua, Italy
Ingo Potrykus – ETH Zurich, Switzerland, Institute of Plant Sciences, Professor Emeritus, Co-inventor Golden Rice, Chair Golden Rice Humanitarian Board
Channa Prakash, Tuskegee University, USA, Dean, Arts & Sciences
Sir Richard John Roberts – Chief Scientific Officer, New England Biolabs, Ipswich, USA, 1993 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine
Daniele Rosellini – University of Perugia, Italy, Associate Professor of Agricultural Genetics
Eddo Rugini – Università della Tuscia, Italy, Past Full Professor in Fruit Tree Science and Biotechnology
Donatello Sandroni – PhD in Ecotoxicology, Journalist & Science communicator, Italy
Angelo Santino – Institute of Sciences of Food Production, National Research Council (CNR), Lecce, Italy, Senior Scientist
Giuseppe Sarasso – Agronomist, member of Accademia dei Georgofili and Accademia di Agricoltura of Turin, Italy
Teemu Teeri – University of Helsinki, Finland, Professor in Plant Breeding
Roberto Tuberosa – University of Bologna, Italy, Professor in Biotechnology Applied to Plant Breeding, Department of Agricultural and Food Sciences
Ignazio Verde – Council for Agricultural Research and Economics (CREA), Rome, Italy, Senior scientist on Plant Genetics and scientific advisor
Robert Wager – Vancouver Island University, Canada, Molecular biology, Biochemistry
Allan Wenck – BASF, Morrisville, NC, USA, PhD molecular, cell and developmental biology


The University of Missouri responded to the letter with this:

To which one signatory retorted with this:


Response from one of the signers, Sir Richard John Roberts:

Dear Chancellor Agrawal:

Frankly, I am appalled by your response (attached) to Dr. Giovanni Tagliabue and his colleagues. You seem to consider Vandana Shiva’s views as merely controversial, when she continuously spews lies and falsehoods to support her views. Has the University of Missouri lost faith in the value of the truth?

Controversy implies opposing interpretations of facts, not pitting facts against fabrications. By exposing your students to blatant lies and giving them equal credence with truth you do them a great disservice.

It is not too late to rescind your decision to invite her to speak.

Rich Roberts

Sir Richard J. Roberts Ph.D. F.R.S.
1993 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine
Chief Scientific Officer
New England Biolabs
240 County Road
Ipswich, MA 01938-2723 USA


To be honest, this letter (and most notably, the reply above) presents me with some internal conflict. It feels a bit Cancel Culture-esk. A phenomenon that I have no doubt Vandana Shiva would jump behind in a heartbeat if she thought it would help her get ahead. And in this climate of political discourse, there is no doubt that it would help.

Which makes this an interesting situation. While much of what Vandana spews is nonsense and at times propaganda, it’s not exactly hate speech. Though I have no doubt that she contributes to phenomenons that hold back biotechnology research (and arguably science in general), that is very different from speech that can be seen to incite. Which makes me hesitant to call for her removal from the roster of speakers at this event.

Having said that, I completely concur that her views should not be showcased to uneducated pupils of any age as though they are simply the flip side of some debate. Without context being made clear at the outset, I do not doubt that her views can result in people being dragged in the wrong direction. At the very least, the platform should allow for critiques (if not during, then directly afterward). This should ensure that most people viewing the presentation will also see the critique.

Her presentation should not be cancelled. However, it would indeed be doing the students of the University of Missouri a great disservice to have her presentation happen without any other context presented.


Note: As it turns out, I’m coming to this 3 days too late. I don’t know how the presentation turned out, but if it is posted online, I will link it below.

‘Guilty on All Counts!’: “In Historic Victory, Monsanto Ordered To Pay $289 Million In Roundup Cancer Lawsuit” – (Common Dreams)

Just in today, I may have fallen on the wrong side of this issue.

Sometime around 2015, the topic of GMO’s, pesticides and all things big biotech and big organic came onto my radar. This stuff came to be there after I just for the hell of it, decided to look into the background details and nuances of just one anti- GMO article that I had been regularly exposed to over the years due to a subscription to several ecologically oriented news publications. I was somewhat dumbfounded to find that not only was THAT article very misleading (to put it mildly), it was a common practice with these sorts of publications.

And it wasn’t just in the biased media platforms covering the stories (either side, really). Being that monied interests exist on BOTH sides of the aisle, EVERYONE has lobbyists and an interest in muddying the waters. And they are very successful.  When looking into these things, I learned to avoid pretty much ANY media coverage or sources regardless of their credentials. Even before this  Fake News non-sense was ratcheted up by Donald, people will almost always be tempted to write off the messenger. Which left trying to work with the scientific documentation, which was a giant pain in the rear. Likely for anyone, but certainly for a person outside of any involved fields.

Such was the state of information that it became difficult to even for ME to tell if I was truly being a useful arbiter of information, or if I was just a useful idiot of one side. Such was my confusion that I pretty much stopped covering these topics altogether for a good year or 2, before being brought back by the interesting new innovation that is lab-grown meat.

Back when the Monsanto lawsuit first came on my radar, my first thought was frankly, frivolous lawsuit. Having seen part of the documentary called Hot Coffee (and recognizing how embedded the wrongful tort trope is in our culture), I now realize that such a reaction was . . . unsurprising (Hello useful idiot me!). None the less, it seemed like the science (as seemingly confirmed by what I could find) spoke for itself.

Or not?

‘Guilty on All Counts!’: In Historic Victory, Monsanto Ordered to Pay $289 Million in Roundup Cancer Lawsuit

In an historic victory for those who have long sought to see agrochemical giant Monsanto held to account for the powerful company’s toxic and deadly legacy, a court in California on Friday found the corporation liable for damages suffered by a cancer patient who alleged his sickness was directly caused by exposure to the glyphosate-based herbicides, including the widely used weedkiller Roundup.

As Reuters reports:

The case of school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson was the first lawsuit alleging glyphosate causes cancer to go to trial.

Monsanto, a unit of Bayer AG following a $62.5 billion acquisition by the German conglomerate, faces more than 5,000 similar lawsuits across the United States. 

The jury at San Francisco’s Superior Court of California deliberated for three days before finding that Monsanto had failed to warn Johnson and other consumers of the cancer risks posed by its weed killers.  It awarded $39 million in compensatory and $250 million in punitive damages.

As Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a lawyer representing Johnson in the case, declared on Twitter, the court “awarded 200 million in punitive damages against Monsanto for ‘acting with malice and oppression.'”

I don’t like Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

The man’s stances on vaccination AT BEST, can be argued to be child abuse (forcing a child to potentially contract terrible illnesses that we CAN EASILY TREAT!), or at worst, threaten the whole of humanity. Epidemics and pandemics ARE a thing, and it’s only a matter of time before the big one is upon us. And if a huge cohort that CAN be immunized is irrationally afraid because of some deluded jackass Andrew Wakefield believer . . .

Either way, not a fan. Nor am I a fan of the way the Organic Consumers of America is jumping all over this news. It’s a lobby group, people!

None the less, if there was merit to the lawsuit, credit where credit is due. Keep fighting for the little guy.

I suppose we will see in the coming days and weeks, how this really played out. Whether it was indeed the facts that drove the decision. Or if Big Organic just made a better (to clarify, far more emotionally captivating) argument.

“Impossible Burger Executive Grilled at Sustainable Foods Summit” – (Ecowatch)

Today I have for you, an interesting piece. Normally when one see’s the source Ecowatch in any of my titles, it’s generally an investigation (or deep dive) of sorts. Today’s piece could end up following that trajectory. However, being that I am both ignorant and curious about the subject of lab-grown meat at present, there will also be some exploration on that front.

First, kudos to the author for the clever title to the article. Ingrid Newkirk would be amused.

Before now, I had heard of the phenomenon of lab-grown meat. A few years ago, I know it as an extremely expensive option that had much more progress to make before ever breaking the mainstream. More recently, it’s progressed enough to enable the start of conversations concerning its introduction into the food supply. And now it has come around enough to come on the radar of the anti-GMO brigade. An interesting development, since I didn’t even know the process involved genetic modification in the first place.

Right off the bat, this concerns me. Not the questioning of the safety of something brand new on the market. Healthy skepticism is a good thing, particularly where the free market is concerned. One can easily fill 50 books with examples of the damage that can be wrought when greed and/or pride cloud the judgment of budding or established entrepreneur.

My concern lies more in the worry that the anti-GMO forces are attempting to throw this idea out with the bathwater just on account to its mere basis on genetic modification. It would not be the first time that a good innovation ended up getting the ax on account to irrational fears. Golden rice, anyone?

Another thing I didn’t know was that this research (or at least the most popular variation of it) was being done by a private entity, Impossible Burger. That in itself introduces a bit of problem when it comes to the defense of the product. But more pertinent to this post is where my allegiances lie.
Businesses and private companies come and go.  However, pioneering science does not change. Hence, any defense you see is focused on the research angle, not on who is doing the work.

And so, onto the article.

Impossible Burger Executive Grilled at Sustainable Foods Summit

An executive from a company selling a genetically engineered meat alternative faced tough questions at the Sustainable Foods Summit held in San Francisco at the end of January.

Nick Halla, chief strategy officer of Impossible Foods, gave a presentation about his company’s Impossible Burger as a sustainable solution to the problems of industrial meat production. He claimed their lab-created burger uses about 74 percent less water, generates about 87 percent fewer greenhouse gases and requires around 95 percent less land than conventional ground beef from cows. Halla said the Impossible Burger is seeing rapid acceptance in the marketplace, sold in many restaurants and “better burger” chains.

Personally, I would love to try this meat out for myself. But it is a long way into the future at this point. Even when (if?) it does get approved by the CFIA, it will be a long time before it ever reaches this prairie surrounded backwater near the edge of civilization.

I am curious about the manufacturing and production aspect of this alt-meat. Actually, let’s go with faux-meat (nothing good can ever come from labeling anything alt these days).

I don’t doubt the claim that dozens of percent worth of greenhouse gas emissions can be saved in its manufacturing, compared to traditional meat agriculture. Which is likely one of the least efficient industries humans engage in (only rivaled in inefficiency by the rest of the worldwide food production and distribution system itself).

It is not all rosy, however.

Yeta 2015 life-cycle analysis of potential cultured meat production in the United States painted a less rosy picture if one includes the generation of electricity and heat required to grow the cells in a lab.

“It’s really too soon to say what the environmental impacts of the first cultured meat products will be,” says the lead author of that analysis, Carolyn Mattick, an environmental engineer at Arizona State University. “However, new technologies often come with trade-offs. Take automobiles, for example. They provided huge advantages over horses in the early 1900s, but all of the cars on the road today cumulatively emit a lot of carbon dioxide. That is not to say we should give up our cars or stop researching cultured meat, but rather that we should be prepared to manage the downsides.”

There is always a catch. But in this case, not necessarily.

Given the current mix of electricity production methods in North America and elsewhere, such processes will generate some amount of greenhouse gases (even if a mere fragment of the old way). But that can be mitigated with more research and implementation in the area of constant sustainable energy production. Just as electric vehicles should not be written off simply due to their longer tailpipe on the part of the infrastructure they need to utilize, neither should this new meat source.

Yet Mark Post, the Dutch scientist behind the 2013 cultured hamburger, believes the energy demands could be quite easily reduced. “One of the big energy expenditures is cleaning the tanks with heat, but simple soap might be very, very efficient,” he says.

Better yet.

In some aspects, researchers say, lab-grown meat might be better for us. Because cultured meats would be produced in sterile environments, they would be free of such dangerous bacteria. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that pathogens in conventional meat are the most common sources of fatal food-related infections.

And the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals — to fight disease and help the animals grow faster — has been identified as a source of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that is dangerous to humans. The Food and Drug Administration estimates that the sales of antibiotics for such usage has been going up — by about 23 percent between 2009 and 2014.

Both Memphis Meats and the Dutch team, which is trying to make the production of cultured beef more efficient, said they do not use antibiotics in their products because the sterile lab process does not require them. They also don’t use growth-promoting hormones, which commercial feedlots give to most cattle. According to a European Commission report, their adverse effects in humans may include “developmental, neurobiological, genotoxic and carcinogenic effects.” One of these hormones, estradiol, has been banned in farm animals in Europe since 2003 but is still in use in the United States.

So far so good. Well, but for that last part. That be almost enough to drive me to veganism.


As for lab-grown meat and cancer, the story gets complicated. Last October, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization, published a report that classified red meats as “probably carcinogenic to humans” and processed meats as “carcinogenic to humans.” And the head of the IARC suggested that people “further support public health recommendations to limit intake of meat.” Yet scientists aren’t sure which elements of conventional meat are responsible for its potential carcinogenic effects.

A couple of my past entries are applicable here.

First, are all those things on the probably carcinogenic to humans list, compiled on account to a past Ecowatch piece coving the Monsanto Glyphosate lawsuits.
I predicted (back in 2015) that they wouldn’t get anywhere, and at current it’s still up in the air, with the judge not moved by the evidence of either side (that article being only a week old as of today, March 20th, 2018).
I can’t say that I am surprised. With the number of interests that benefit from muddying of the water on both sides, it’s hard for most people to come to an informed conclusion (let alone a judge, tasked with coming to a just conclusion based on what information he has to work with).

The second entry is my look into acrylamide. I researched this on account to Dave Rubin, oddly enough. This was long before I seen through him for what he was (in a word, a moron).

“It wasn’t possible to disentangle the contribution of multiple components,” says Véronique Bouvard, one of the researchers responsible for the preparation of the WHO report.

There are a few substances that scientists suspect, though. Among them is heme iron, which is common in meat and is found almost exclusively in meat. This form of iron can cause DNA damage and induce formation of N-nitroso compounds, some of which are potent carcinogens.

A study that followed nearly 200,000 post-menopausal women found that the amount of heme iron in their diet was positively associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

Other studies show connections between heme iron intake and colon cancer.

Raises an eyebrow, indeed. But not just for faux-meat. Good argument for vegetarianism, it would seem.

Now, the flip side.

So here is the good news for lab-grown meat: According to its producers, lab-cultured beef or pork can be made completely free of heme iron. “I think that removing heme iron from meat would make for a colon-safer product,” says Graham Colditz, a cancer researcher at Washington University in St. Louis who has no association with the groups producing lab meat.

Another thing that might be removed from cultured meat, or significantly reduced, is saturated fat, which raises the level of bad cholesterol, increasing risk of stroke or heart disease. Healthier omega-3 fatty acids could take its place. “Stem cells are, in principle, capable of making omega-3 fatty acids. If we can tap into that machinery of the cell, then we could make healthier hamburgers,” says Post, who is working on the fat content of lab-grown beef.

The good.

Unfortunately, potentially carcinogenic compounds found would be harder to get rid of. Among them are nitrites and nitrates, preservatives that are commonly used in processed meats such as ham and bacon.

According to Post, because cultured meats are sterile, they would require much less nitrate to stay safe to eat. On the other hand, nitrites and nitrates are also used to prevent oxidation in products such as hot dogs, so that they don’t lose their appealing color. Lab-grown sausages and hams, Post says, would be “very similar to regular meat” because the compounds would still be needed to preserve the meat’s appearance.

Among other things that would stay in cultured meats are heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). According to the WHO report, these chemicals can cause DNA damage.

“To be honest, I wouldn’t know how to affect HAA and PAHs in cultured meat,” admits Post, who says he isn’t even sure he would “want to change that.” The reason? These substances are products of the Maillard reaction — the marriage between carbohydrates and amino acids in a slightly moist, hot environment (think grilling or roasting) that help give meat its enticing flavor.

“Maillard reactions are very important,” says Paul Breslin, a nutritional sciences professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey. “They are the flavor of cooking and give baked cookies, fresh-baked bread and grilled ribs their characteristic flavors, which we obviously love.”

And that’s the catch: If we remove too much fat, the meat will lose juiciness and texture. If we remove heme iron, it won’t be red but yellow — the color of the beef that Post is growing in his lab. If we add too much of the omega-3 fatty acids, the meat may get a fishy flavor.

The bad.

Though, again, not all bad, The main issues seem to stem from the processing of meat products (nitrites and nitrates). Therein seems to be your answer. Processed food is not known to be the best, to begin with (no matter what the origin ingredient), so if that is your concern, stay away from processed foods.

As for HAA and PAH’s, I can see there being varieties of each available down the road. One for the people that are willing to forgo the taste for the health benefit. And the other for those willing to roll the dice in exchange for mouth-watering goodness.

No need to commit either way.

Lab-grown meat may be better for the environment and improve on several health aspects of conventional meat. But for now, at least, it can’t be exactly like regular meat and have no potential health downsides whatsoever.

“We’re not there yet,” acknowledges Uma Valeti, a co-founder and the chief executive officer of Memphis Meats, “but in just a few years, we expect to be selling protein-packed pork, beef and chicken that tastes identical to conventionally raised meat but that is cleaner, safer and all-around better than meat from animals grown on farms.”

At that point we’ll be able to decide if it also tastes good.

Exactly. It is a work in progress.

So long as a gaggle of ideology-driven loudmouths doesn’t get in the way, the march toward sustainable meat protein will continue.

Back to the Ecowatch article.

But Halla’s PowerPoint slides didn’t mention that the Impossible Burger’s key ingredient is a genetically engineered protein called soy leghemoglobin or “heme.” The presentation also didn’t mention that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration told Impossible Foods that the company hadn’t demonstrated the safety of heme after it applied to the FDA seeking GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status. Despite FDA’s concerns, Impossible Foods sold its GMO-derived burger for public consumption anyway.

It should be noted that heme here is a slightly different beast than the heme as described before, in regular meat. Though both involve nitrogen, the heme, in this case, is normally associated with nitrogen feeding bacteria in the root of the soybean plants. Impossible Burger cultures the ingredient for use in its products.

Note the implications.

While it’s alright to question its usage (the FDA did indeed raise concerns about its safety, fearing it could be an allergen), this is only applicable to one proprietary product (Impossible Burger). I assume it is used due to its red color (so that the end product looks more like meat, as opposed to yellowish).

Impossible Foods produces soy leghemoglobin by genetically modifying yeast and using fermentation. The ingredient is key because it carries heme, an iron-rich molecule found in real meat.

The heme reacts (breaks down) in the same way as the heme in real meat, giving you similar results.

I encourage people to give the above article a view because it highlights another problem when it comes to this topic . . . too much private for-profit control. Much like the rest of the biotech world, even though the topic is in its infancy, it’s already looking like it will be dogged by the very issues faced by the rest of the biotech industry.

The company does not need FDA approval to sell its burger, but it still sought the agency’s safety designation of “generally recognized as safe.”

When the agency requested more data to determine factors such as whether or not its soy leghemoglobin was an allergen, the company rescinded its request for review.

Impossible Foods says its own testing shows the ingredient is not an allergen. But regulations don’t require the company to disclose those tests or even share them with the FDA.

The disagreement between the company and activists underscore the complexity of the debate over genetically modified food and the role federal regulators should play in policing new products.

The controversy comes at a time when more start-ups backed by some of the world’s richest investors are pouring resources into substitutes for meat, eggs and milk as a way of tackling industrial farming.

But these companies aren’t necessarily finding support with environmentalists eager to wean the world off its meat habit.

“The concern is that these biotech start-ups and these new companies using genetically engineered applications are rushing products to market inspired by investment and not public safety,” said Dana Perls, a senior policy analyst at Friends of the Earth.

Seeing any quote from someone affiliated with Friends Of The Earth or any similar organization does raise an eyebrow. But none the less, she has a point. It is very difficult to have proper scientific research happen if those funding it are in expectation of a return. It may not be stated explicitly, but they certainly are not doing it JUST for their health.

If even Golden Rice could not escape its bad reputation after all its patents were donated to a charity, then I fear that faux-meat may run the same risks. Too many monied interests on both sides. And this isn’t even considering a possible 3ed angle of attack, mounted by monied interests in the current status quo meat production industry.

Considering asbestos, fossil fuels, tobacco and other industries that enjoyed prolonged existence due to money spent in all the right places (more, on all the right people!), never underestimate the sting of an industry that knows it’s in its final days.

Now, back to the original article.

Several audience members took Halla to task over Impossible Foods marketing its burger despite FDA concerns, short-term feeding studies, and lack of transparency about the use of the GMO ingredient.

Mark Squire, owner and manager of Good Earth Natural Foods, said he read the FDA documents about Impossible Foods application for GRAS status and was “shocked that a company could come out with a new food additive and not have it subjected to government and long-term scrutiny.”

The main reason I brought this up was to showcase the business interests once again taking their seat at the table. What are the chances that this person would ever sell this meat in their store?

But I can’t overlook the pandering.
It’s still common and accepted that foods (and many consumer products, really) can be given a more green image by just including the word “Natural” somewhere on the packaging. Something that is nothing more than a marketing phrase, being that EVERYTHING is natural. The petroleum derived laptop of which I type this on is a natural product. Nothing is NOT a natural product!

So stop being a sheep and don’t get fleeced by this marketing jargon.

Pamm Larry, director of GMO-free California, asked Halla why his company had conducted such short, 14- and 28-day rat feeding studies of the product.

“Why did you do such short feeding studies when you know the minimum industry standard is 90 days?”

Ken Ross, board member of the ProTerra Foundation and a speaker at the conference, also said that the feeding studies are unacceptable.

“A 28-day feeding study is not impeccable science. You need a two-year feeding study,” he said.

That is indeed a good question.

Lack of Transparency, Product Rushed to Market

Larry said she spoke to several restaurants that serve the Impossible Burger but didn’t know it was GMO. She also asked if Impossible Foods labels their product as GMO. Halla said his company doesn’t label the product as GMO but that information about the use of genetic engineering is on the company’s website.

Squire said Impossible Foods was not being transparent. “I don’t think people selling burgers understand (Impossible Foods’) technology. There is no transparency; there is a huge information gap. Halla said ‘everything is on our website.’ But if you go to their website, there is very little there.”

Also a good line of inquiry. I find myself of 2 minds on this.

I didn’t know that this was a genetically modified product before this. Maybe that should have been apparent to me and others, but whatever. I am not a biologist by career. One could indeed look at this ambiguousness in the product description as hiding something.  Not disclosing pertinent information.

But on the other hand, with the bad press that the whole of the GMO foods debate has in the public sphere thanks to financed disinformation campaigns (Yes, GMO naysayers, it DOES go both ways!), it’s easy to see why any new entrant to the market would want to avoid that term. Genetic modification and GMO are both poisons from a marketing standpoint.

To tell your customers what it is by name is to run the risk of hitting the GMO brick wall. To have them write it off sight unseen out of often irrational fear. However, to play your cards close is to run the risk of being shown to be hiding something. Something that the GMO naysayers are sure to pick up on and exploit.

Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place.

Since it was brought up, let us ourselves, take a look at the Impossible Burger website. See how upfront they are about their product.

So far, I’ve learned that the closest place that I could try one of these faux-meat creations is Fargo, North Dakota. However, nothing exists on the main pages to tell a person that this is indeed a genetically modified product.

As I anticipated, however, this concern is covered on the FAQ page of the site:

Yes. We genetically engineer yeast to make a key ingredient: heme. The process allows us to produce the Impossible Burger at scale with the lowest achievable environmental impact.

We start with the gene for a protein called leghemoglobin, a heme protein that is naturally found in the root nodules of soy plants. Leghemoglobin is similar to myoglobin, the heme protein that is exceptionally abundant in animal muscles, binds oxygen and gives meat its unique flavor and aroma.

We add the soy leghemoglobin gene to a yeast strain, and grow the yeast via fermentation. Then we isolate the leghemoglobin, or heme, from the yeast. We add heme to the Impossible Burger to give it the intense, meaty flavor, aroma and cooking properties of animal meat.

By producing our heme in yeast, we avoid digging up soy plants to harvest the root nodules, which would promote erosion and release carbon stored in the soil. This enables us to produce heme sustainably at high volume and make plant-based meat for millions of people, offsetting the environmental impact of animal agriculture.

Interesting. I’de say that more than makes up for the void of the information elsewhere on the site.

So a drawback to this food is that without genetic modification, it’s ecological footprint rises exponentially. But I am not even sure that should be seen as a drawback. Those that are most likely to bring it up are likely just averse to GMO’s. And given the trajectory that climate change has us on (more and more food insecurity due to land loss and crop failure on a worldwide scale), I don’t know how much longer we will have the luxury of making that argument.

Some can of worms that I just opened up.

One thing I am curious about is if this product contains gluten. Being that it lists wheat, I air to the side of yes. But at the same time, it’s not directly listed, making me unsure. Though the segment for which this question applies to is fairly small, it’s very important to them none the less.

Squire said Impossible Foods was not being transparent. “I don’t think people selling burgers understand (Impossible Foods’) technology. There is no transparency; there is a huge information gap. Halla said ‘everything is on our website.’ But if you go to their website, there is very little there.”

Ross thought that Impossible Foods rushed the Impossible Burger to market due to pressure from investors.

“They call the shots and want to get the product commercialized and into the market and so they aren’t doing a 2-year feeding study and doing superficial short studies instead.”

Ross told Halla that—with its questionable feeding studies and lack of transparency—Impossible Foods is repeating the same deceptions that the biotech industry has done in the past.

“You’re speaking to an audience that has already been down that road,” he said.

Halla seemed surprised by the tough questions.

“He was clearly chastened by the reaction. I don’t think he thought he was coming into a hostile environment,” Ross said.

Amarjit Sahota, president and owner of Ecovia Intelligence, organizer of the Summit, acknowledged that Halla “received a lot of criticism after his seminar.”

“We believe the feedback and criticism Impossible Foods received will make them think twice about making claims in the future and make them more transparent about their ingredients,” Sahota said.

This surprises me a bit, him allegedly not knowing what he was stepping into. But who knows.

Look who is the source of this information.

Editor’s Note: I sent an email to Impossible Foods asking if Nick Halla could tell me his responses to the audience’s questions during the summit. I wanted to get his perspective. My email was answered by Rachel Konrad, Impossible Foods chief communications officer, who did not attend the summit.

In response to my question about Halla’s PowerPoint slides not mentioning Impossible Foods’ use of genetic engineering, Konrad wrote: “Nick talked specifically about the use of engineered yeast during his presentation.” Still, “genetic engineering” was not mentioned in any of his slides.

Regarding the short-term animal feeding study, Konrad wrote: “Our rat-feeding study was comprehensive and statistically valid; a panel of experts reviewed the study and unanimously agreed that soy leghemoglobin is safe.”

When asked about how employees at the burger restaurants don’t know that the Impossible Burger is genetically engineered, Konrad wrote that her company provides training sessions for chefs and kitchen staff: “In these sessions, we explain the ingredients—including how we produce heme through fermentation of a genetically modified yeast.”

Make what you will of that.

In conclusion, I am very curious about the progress of lab-grown or faux-meat in the future. Though many hurdles exist, this breakthrough has the potential to alleviate many of the problems that we will face in the near to distant future.

I am concerned, however, with the direction that we seem to be headed in at current. On one side, monied interests pursuing profits and market share. And on the other, ideological interests fleeing from a perceived nemesis (and some monied interests too. Don’t kid yourself). And just to make things even more interesting, an entire well-financed industry that will be rendered almost entirely redundant by the growth of this new competitor.

Interesting things are in store.

“Missouri Organic Family Farm Faces Ruin After Herbicide Drift” – (Ecowatch)

It has been some time since I have last peeled back the curtain on one of these articles to see what lies beneath.  This one seems to have all the hallmarks of one that is worth diving into.

So let us wait no longer.

Herbicide drift has been a major problem last year damaging millions of acres of crops in the U.S.

An organic farmer in Missouri has seen firsthand how destructive herbicide drift can be as it destroys his crops and threatens his livelihood and farm.

Mike Brabo and his wife Carol own Vesterbrook Farm in Clarksville, Missouri, about an hour north of St. Louis near the Mississippi River. The farm has been in Carol’s family for nearly a century. The couple and their two children have worked the farm since 2008 after Mike survived thyroid cancer.

At that time Mike gained an appreciation for organic foods but found it difficult to afford them. “It’s expensive to buy organic fruits and vegetables at Whole Foods,” he said.

Mike and Carol decided to grow their own. It wasn’t difficult to convert the farm to organic since no chemicals had been used on the land.

“There had been nothing grown on the farm but grass for 15 years,” Mike said.

Here, they have a photograph of the smiling, happy family. It’s a nice touch.

Sell Crops to 150-Member CSA

Over the years, the Brabos have grown their organic farm. A lot of vegetables can be grown on 24 acres, and the Brabos have planted more than 60 including lettuce, spinach, beets, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, peppers, squash and tomatoes, among others. Some vegetables are grown in four high tunnel greenhouses. They also planted an orchard with apple, peach, plum and cherry trees and fruit bushes such as raspberries. They also grow herbs such as sage, parsley and cilantro.

Vesterbrook Farm uses organic practices but is not certified through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program. Instead, Mike chose Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) as their certifier.

“Their standards meet or exceed the USDA’s,” he said. “CNG has a much greater emphasis on sustainability with planting areas that bring in wildlife and beneficial insects.”

The Brabos have seen growing success with their organic farm and CSA with sales increasing 10 percent per year.

I omitted a small part of the original text, not seeing it as necessary. But you get the pretty little picture. Things were going well, and life was good and bountiful.

Then came the menace.

Herbicides Damaged Crops, Loss of $300,000

That is until this year. In June, a conventional farmer neighbor sprayed his soybean field with herbicides. Wind blew the herbicides over the Brabos’ land.

This happened despite Mike having signs that say “Organic Farm, No Spray” signs and registering his farm with DriftWatch, a communication tool that enables farmers and pesticide applicators to work together to protect specialty crops using mapping programs.

The damage from the herbicide drift was total. “We found damage across our farm, which is 500 yards wide, including on the far north side of the property,” Mike said.

Crops damaged included peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, basil; fruit trees were also damaged. “Everything on the farm, even ornamental trees, was damaged,” Mike said.

The herbicides also killed half of the farm’s bees, an estimated loss of $12,000. Mike estimates the total loss at $300,000.

Tests revealed that the herbicides responsible for the damage were glufosinate, clethodim and metolachlor.

Their Certified Naturally Grown certification was suspended, and the Brabos must essentially start over to remove the herbicide contamination from their farm. It will take three years at an estimated cost of $1.6 million to remediate the damage and regain CNG certification. According to Mike, they will have to plant cover crops and replenish the soil with beneficial bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi.

First off, some herbicide research (since I have never heard of the 3 listed).


Though glufosinate looks to be naturally occurring by way of some bacteriums, companies (such as Bayer) appear to have synthesized it with ammonium for use in crops genetically engineered for coupled usage with the herbicide.

As for the specifics (as described by Glufosinate-Ammonium manufacturer Bayer):

The primary mode of action of Glufosinate-ammonium is the inhibition of the enzyme glutamine synthetase. This enzyme catalyzes the synthesis of glutamine from glutamate and ammonia and plays a central role in plant nitrogen metabolism


This one appears to be mostly used to keep annual and perennial grasses in check, primarily in broadleaf crops. Being a systemic herbicide, it works by moving through the structure of the plant. Though the exact mechanism is still a mystery to me.

Not for lack of digging, either.


This is an organic compound that is also used as a selective herbicide. Like Clethodim, it is a selective herbicide in that its also primarily used to control grasses.

The latter 2 herbicides appear to be fairly benign, at least in their potential impact in this instance. Being that they are selective herbicides, their target organisms are fairly niche. In this case, mainly annual and perennial grass species. Not to mention that they have a fairly short half-life cycle in terms of residual activity in the soil.

The obvious culprit would seem to be the Glufosinate. Being a broad spectrum herbicide (like Glyphosate), it takes out everything. And being that it is a combination herbicide (to be used alongside glufosinate engineered crops!), the picture looks really bad. Logic seems to dictate that if it kills where it is supposed to, it will likely also kill where it shouldn’t be either.

But let us dig a little deeper.

“Worst Case Scenario is We Lose the Farm”

Mike could grow vegetables and sell them as conventional but he refuses for fear that a customer would become sick because of the herbicide contamination.

“As a cancer survivor I’m not going to be complicit in putting something in the food supply that could make someone sick,” he said.

Keyword there. Could.

Millions (me included) are purchasing vegetables that have been grown in the very same way. No one has yet been able to link any health issues to such vegetables. Not to mention that most of this issue can literally be washed away by simply washing fruits and vegetables before consuming them.

That should be a given. It’s not just scary chemicals that can hide in fresh produce. Do you know how many people exit public washrooms without washing their hands?

Consider that next time you are thumbing through pretty much any consumer product in any store, anywhere.

For now, the Brabos are out of business for three years. “We aren’t sure what we are going to do,” Mike said. “The worst case scenario is we lose the family farm.”

The Brabos are working with attorneys to reach a settlement with their neighbor’s insurance company.

“We just want to be rightly compensated to grow healthy food for ourselves and repairing the soil and ecosystem so we can grow food for the St. Louis community,” Mike said.

Taking into account both the situation as described and the chemicals involved, I find myself picturing a giant dead zone in and around this little plot of land. A place where not even a blade of grass was spared the burning death of the chemical herbicide. I would think that , though (not finding any photographs of the damage).

I don’t doubt that the farm may have sustained some damage due to herbicide drift. A particularly problematic set of events when it comes to an organic farm (depending on the residual half-life of the various herbicides, anyway). However, I do have a couple of criticisms.

One is how they handled informing the neighboring farms. It’s all well and good to have  big yellow DO NOT SPRAY signs around the perimeter of your property line. However, that only helps if they are seen. One would ASSUME they would be. But a safer bet would be to talk to your neighbors and community and give a heads up.

When it comes to awarding damages from insurance, that one is also questionable to me. If the sprays were applied in what could be deemed questionable conditions (such as during high winds), then yes. Though good luck proving it.

And also on the subject of damages, is the produce itself. Though the veggies are poisoned (as defined by the farmers and others of such a persuasion), they are perfectly good (and salable!) by conventional commercial standards. Even if the family does not want to sell them on principle, I don’t accept that as a good reason.
It’s not contaminated by petrochemicals or radioactivity. It’s got a small amount of herbicide.

If the farm were to go after the insurance company to make up for lost revenue in having to sell the produce as conventionally grown (as opposed to the more labor-intensive and profitable organic), I could see that. But wasting the produce was not necessary.

To close, this story was not what I suspected it was, for once (fortunately). It wouldn’t be the first time that I looked into one of these farmer as a victim articles, only to find questionable actions and narratives beneath (Monsanto suing over GMO crop drift, anyone?).

While I do have some criticism for the Brabos family, they do seem to be the victims of an unfortunate situation. And as such, I wish them all the best. One certainly shouldn’t lose their farm over holding to their personal principals.

Someone set up a crowdfunding campaign in benefit of the Farm. Do whatever you may with this link.


“Top 17 ​Health Problems That Improved In People Who Switched From GMO To Organic Diets” – (Ecowatch)

It has been awhile since I last looked into the material coming from Ecowatch. This seems as good a place to start as any. So away we go.

A peer-reviewed article released Tuesday in the International Journal of Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine and conducted by the Institute for Responsible Technology revealed that the health of all of the participants improved after switching to a non-GMO diet or simply reducing the amount of GMO foods they ate.

First off, sources.

The International Journal of Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine’s website does not say all that much at first glance. It seems like a legitimate journal to my eye. Though that is not saying much.
I know that many so-called scientific journals will publish almost anything if the price is right, so as such, I will for now remain neutral in opinion. If you have further information, I welcome it in the comment section.

As for the study’s conductor, the Institute for Responsible Technology, their bias is blatantly obvious at first glance.  The most notable part of the site is this article from July of this year, the organization (and the anti-GMO movement in general’s) get out of jail free card.
The allegation is that Monsanto has a paid Army of trolls who’s only job is to berate and otherwise harass scientists and ordinary people conversing about the dangers of GMO’s anywhere in the public sphere. It’s a bit like the phrase “FAKE NEWS!” to political ideologues. Even legitimate opposition does not have to be weighed. Because they (we!) are all being paid to suck the Monsanto dick.

Having picked apart a few questionable articles on this topic (out of curiosity initially!), this bothers me. I don’t overly care if individuals come here and copy paste some message identifying me as a Paid Troll. Be a full-blown ideologue all you want. I can’t be bothered to get my hands dirty in those pointless interactions anymore.

What IS bothersome, however, is how the paid lobbying from BOTH sides is muddying the water for the entire debate. Very likely whole point.
Big Biotech pours money into helping their wares (even if not the most efficient methodology!) keep their market share. Big Organic pours money into growing their share of the marketplace. At BEST, it is a case of many feeling that the ends justify the means.

What is left, is a tangled mess. You have two sides offering various flavors of The Truth for those inclined to absorb information with little critical analysis. But for those in the middle that often just want some semblance of unbiased nuance, it’s often difficult to come by. Short of learning how to comprehend complicated scientific documents.

Capitalism as the main driver to these areas is not helpful to anyone in neither the short or the long term. Indeed, no, that is not likely to change anytime soon. However, its always good to know where you stand.

Paid troll!”

Yeah . . . bye. Show me you used your brain, and I’ll use mine on your retort.

Anyhow, back to the article.

The results, from more than 3,250 people, mostly in the U.S., closely matched reports by physicians around the nation who have seen similar results when their patients change to largely non-GMO and organic diets.

Participants reported improvements in 28 conditions; digestive problems was the most often cited at 85.2 percent. The vast majority said their conditions were significantly improved, nearly gone or completely recovered.

Health problems that improved include:

1. Digestive: 85.2%

2. Fatigue, low energy: 60.4%

3. Overweight or obesity: 54.6%

4. Clouding of consciousness, “brain fog”: 51.7%

5. Food allergies or sensitivities: 50.2%

6. Mood problems, such as anxiety or depression: 51.1%

7. Memory, concentration: 48.1%

8. Joint pain: 47.5%

9. Seasonal allergies: 46.6%

10. Gluten sensitivities: 42.2%

11. Insomnia: 33.2%

12. Other skin conditions (not eczema): 30.9%

13. Hormonal problems: 30.4%

14. Musculoskeletal pain: 25.2%

15. Autoimmune disease: 21.4%

16. Eczema: 20.8%

17. Cardiovascular problems, including high blood pressure: 19.8%

This confirms the reports from hundreds of healthcare practitioners and thousands of individuals. When people from all walks of life eat less GMO foods, a significant percentage get better quickly.

Alright. This seems a good basis from which to start from.

Here is one source that seems to have a fairly balanced assessment of the pros and cons of an organic diet. It’s worth a read.
One common thread with this particular line of inquiry is the number of articles outlining consumer confusion in regards what constitutes healthy food in this day and age. I completely understand, being that I can generally recognize misinformation and propaganda (and otherwise bullshit), but still can get lost where this topic is concerned. 

Organic, non GMO and all natural are now big business


But (as I outlined earlier) I suspect it is all purposeful. Though there is mass consumer confusion, there is no shortage of sources of information that have all the answers you are looking for. It took some creative queries just to get past it all and actually find something for me to work with.

Little evidence of health benefits from organic foods, study finds


A team led by Bravata, a senior affiliate with Stanford’s Center for Health Policy, and Crystal Smith-Spangler, MD, MS, an instructor in the school’s Division of General Medical Disciplines and a physician-investigator at VA Palo Alto Health Care System, did the most comprehensive meta-analysis to date of existing studies comparing organic and conventional foods. They did not find strong evidence that organic foods are more nutritious or carry fewer health risks than conventional alternatives, though consumption of organic foods can reduce the risk of pesticide exposure.

The popularity of organic products, which are generally grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers or routine use of antibiotics or growth hormones, is skyrocketing in the United States. Between 1997 and 2011, U.S. sales of organic foods increased from $3.6 billion to $24.4 billion, and many consumers are willing to pay a premium for these products. Organic foods are often twice as expensive as their conventionally grown counterparts.

Although there is a common perception — perhaps based on price alone — that organic foods are better for you than non-organic ones, it remains an open question as to the health benefits. In fact, the Stanford study stemmed from Bravata’s patients asking her again and again about the benefits of organic products. She didn’t know how to advise them.

It reminds me a bit of the gluten-free craze. People assume a product is better just due to its price point and lack of a given ingredient, even though that is often times not the case. When it comes to food marketing, nothing surprises me anymore. Hence the common sense rule of thumb that we should all follow . . . READ THE LABEL!

I have even heard Dr. OZ admit to being fooled (live on his show!) due to not using this simple rule. He wondered why he couldn’t sleep very well for a few nights. He later figured out that he was drinking a vitamin water beverage which (unknowingly to him) contained caffeine.

That should tell you everything you need to know about the man.

For their study, the researchers sifted through thousands of papers and identified 237 of the most relevant to analyze. Those included 17 studies (six of which were randomized clinical trials) of populations consuming organic and conventional diets, and 223 studies that compared either the nutrient levels or the bacterial, fungal or pesticide contamination of various products (fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, milk, poultry, and eggs) grown organically and conventionally. There were no long-term studies of health outcomes of people consuming organic versus conventionally produced food; the duration of the studies involving human subjects ranged from two days to two years.

After analyzing the data, the researchers found little significant difference in health benefits between organic and conventional foods. No consistent differences were seen in the vitamin content of organic products, and only one nutrient — phosphorus — was significantly higher in organic versus conventionally grown produce (and the researchers note that because few people have phosphorous deficiency, this has little clinical significance). There was also no difference in protein or fat content between organic and conventional milk, though evidence from a limited number of studies suggested that organic milk may contain significantly higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

The researchers were also unable to identify specific fruits and vegetables for which organic appeared the consistently healthier choice, despite running what Bravata called “tons of analyses.”

“Some believe that organic food is always healthier and more nutritious,” said Smith-Spangler, who is also an instructor of medicine at the School of Medicine. “We were a little surprised that we didn’t find that.”

Having a medical school instructor say that is quite telling of the state of information with regard to this topic.

Another interesting finding:

The review yielded scant evidence that conventional foods posed greater health risks than organic products. While researchers found that organic produce had a 30 percent lower risk of pesticide contamination than conventional fruits and vegetables, organic foods are not necessarily 100 percent free of pesticides. What’s more, as the researchers noted, the pesticide levels of all foods generally fell within the allowable safety limits. Two studies of children consuming organic and conventional diets did find lower levels of pesticide residues in the urine of children on organic diets, though the significance of these findings on child health is unclear. Additionally, organic chicken and pork appeared to reduce exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, but the clinical significance of this is also unclear.

Despite these findings, they are clear about their intentions. The goal is less about dissuading people from purchasing organics than it is about educating the public. Along with a dash of common sense.

“Our goal was to shed light on what the evidence is,” said Smith-Spangler. “This is information that people can use to make their own decisions based on their level of concern about pesticides, their budget and other considerations.”

She also said that people should aim for healthier diets overall. She emphasized the importance of eating of fruits and vegetables, “however they are grown,” noting that most Americans don’t consume the recommended amount.

While that covered organics, it didn’t cover GMO’s.

So are GM foods safe?

I know you want to know — and I sympathize. GM ingredients and additives are used in so many of the foods we eat.

To begin with, there are 1500 published studies indicating that GM foods are safe. But I’m not going to rest a case on them. There are some animal studies that might raise red flags, but I won’t cite those, either.

Because here’s reality: While most scientists believe GM foods are probably safe, science will never prove it 100 percent unequivocally. 

The answer is much more complicated than “yes or no,” “pro- or anti-.” 

We need to get beyond that, to stop throwing studies at each other.

Nothing can be proved to be absolutely unequivocally safe. Pick anything, and somebody has died from it.

So let’s explore the grown-up questions and gray areas, and think about what trade-offs we’re willing to make, in a scientifically informed and literate way.

For instance:

  • What aspects of GM technology could be really good for the world? Why?
  • Which aspects should we be cautious about? Why?
  • What do we know to be true (or is probably true), and what is speculation? What’s the evidence?
  • How much is our discomfort with the unfamiliar driving the fears?
  • Are we correctly assessing risk and reward?
  • What’s an acceptable level of risk to get the benefits?

As a scientist, I would love people to embrace science, evidence, and the joy of discovery. Scientists grapple with some very difficult and complex questions. And most of them just want to make the world a better place.

What to do next

Short of going back to school for a Ph.D. in biology, what can you do right now?

1. Elevate your thinking game.

Almost no scientific question is about good versus evil. Even spacetime bends occasionally. Recognize that issues are complex.

2. Be a critical consumer, learner, and listener.

Contrary to what the mainstream media might lead you to believe, the biggest threats posed by GMO crops on the market today are not to your individual health, and they’re not even specific to GMOs.

Picking a side — and assuming the other side is unreasonable — makes real communication impossible. Scientific findings presented as the “final word” are probably being misinterpreted; be wary of anyone who tells you something is “100 percent true” about GMOs.

Even as sciencey folks ourselves, we’re not going to give you The Big Definitive Answer either. Because there isn’t one.

3. Address specific issues. Don’t mix them up.

With GMOs and other food safety and regulatory issues, it’s important to think critically about our concerns.

  • Are you against pesticides? Great! But that’s different from being against GMOs, and to focus on GMOs here is to ask the wrong questions.
  • Want GM foods to be labeled as such? Great! But the importance of food labeling goes way beyond GMOs.
  • Worried about large companies controlling our food? I get that. Be against Big Food, not GMOs.

Both conventional farming and GMOs use herbicides and pesticides, narrow the genetics pool, and increase the risk of catastrophic loss of crops. Conflating these issues means change will never happen.

4. Focus on the big picture and real-life priorities.

The fourth-largest cause of death in the United States is accidents. Wearing your seat belt will lower your risk of early death much more than worrying about GMOs. (And quit texting and driving. You know who you are.)

Other leading causes of death are largely due to the toxic combination of sedentary lifestyles, stress, and poor nutrition. Never mind GM vegetables — people aren’t eating vegetables, period.

That excerpt was written by Helen Killias, a scientist working for Precision Nutrition, a nutritional coaching company based in Toronto. While not the study or scientific paper that one would expect (or at least that I would normally cite), I have to agree with Helen with this.

Genetic modifications and Genetically Modified Organisms are not all Frankensteins and bad news. Somewhere within the simultaneous smoke screens created by vested interests in Big Biotech AND Big Organic (not to mention the mainstream food companies playing both fields) lies the truth. Though finding that truth in this debate can be a challenge for the best of us, it might not even be inherently necessary.

Knowing that much of this topic is often shrouded in grey (as often contrasted by the black and white representations of the fringes) is arguably half the battle. As is knowing that consuming a GMO food (or many, as is likely the case) is not the end of the world, by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, by being so paranoid of GMO’s, are you missing other potential threats?

Though this does not involve GMO’s, an example that comes to mind is A&W’s switch to hormone-free meat sources. Many people (including people I know) applauded the decision, even saying they would give them more business.

a.) People can eat where ever they want

b.) It IS a good thing on the part of A&W

I am not swayed much by this change, however. After all, fast food containing hormones and fast food containing no hormones is still fast food. I suspect the hormone aspect is negligible in comparison to the other nutritional factors at play.
Another example that I realized myself a couple years back, were problems with rice alternatives to GMO corn containing baby foods (arsenic). I wrote a piece criticizing another Ecowatch article for essentially scaremongering mothers. Though I didn’t mention it in the baby food piece, it came to mind last year when writing this one about China rejecting tons of Alfalfa due to literally TRACES of a GMO variety being found within it.

To quote me:

Rice is known to often times have MEASURABLE amounts of arsenic. To the point where it is recommended to severely limit the intake of rice and processed rice foods for children. Because very little (particularly for processed foods) can put them at (or above) the recommended limit. 

Though I am not 100% sure how the arsenic content of rice and rice based foods compares to the amount of genetically modified genes that constitutes 0.1% of an alfalfa shipment, im almost certain that were talking more then traces. Just by the measurements.

An entire shipping container, verses a bowl of cereal, a few rice cakes or a quart of rice milk.

As always, context is everything.



“Is This Nuclear Plant To Blame For Soaring Thyroid Cancer Rates In New York?” – (Ecowatch)

I came across this article rather alarming headline today. I figure it deserves some attention. So here goes.

In the late 1970s, the rate of new thyroid cancer cases in four counties just north of New York City—Westchester, Rockland, Orange and Putnam counties—was 22 percent below the U.S. rate.

First off, some graphic representation. Since I and most others are likely unfamiliar with the layout of New York State.

Above is a map of NY counties and districts (click to enlarge if necessary). You can see the 5 boroughs of New York City at the very bottom of the map (in pink). The 4 counties noted are just above on the mainland (the lower part of the red section).

The following is a map of where Indian Point is in relation to these counties (and New York City). The source bias is blatantly apparent, but none the less, it does the trick.

In the past (around 2011 to be precise) I had worried about this plant and its proximity to one of the biggest cities in the world. For an obvious reason (the worlds worst nuclear accident following Chernobyl had just occurred). But it’s been awhile since it’s been on my radar.

However, looks like it won’t be an issue (well, at least a continually operational issue) for much longer. More on that later.

Today, it has soared to 53 percent above the national rate. New cases jumped from 51 to 412 per year. Large increases in thyroid cancer occurred for both males and females in each county.

That’s according to a new study I co-authored which was published in the Journal of Environmental Protection and presented at Columbia University.

This change may be a result of airborne emissions of radioactive iodine from the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which is located at the crossroads of those four counties and has been operating since the mid-’70s.

Exposure to radioactivity is the only known cause of thyroid cancer. Indian Point routinely releases more than 100 radioactive chemicals into the environment. These chemicals enter human bodies through breathing and the food chain, harming and killing healthy cells. One of these chemicals is radioactive iodine, which attacks and kills cells in the thyroid gland, raising the risk of cancer.

The first thing I was curious about was wind patterns in New York State.  I got some prevailing wind information from a National Centers For Environmental Information PDF outlining the climate of New York in detail. The PDF can be found HERE, on page 7.

The prevailing wind is generally from the west in New York State. A southwest component
becomes evident in winds during the warmer
months while a northwest component is
characteristic of the colder half of the year.
Occasionally, well-developed storm systems moving
across the continent or along the Atlantic coas
t are accompanied by very strong winds, which
cause considerable property damage over wide areas of the State. A unique effect of strong
cyclonic winds from the southwest is the rise
of water to abnormally high levels at the
northeastern end of Lake Erie.

This information seemed important since it should give us a general idea of where any released radioactive particles are likely to end up.  Though 2 of the counties seem to match up, the 2 westernmost counties (Orange and Putnam) seem like outliers, being UPWIND for the majority of the time. Of course, I am not a climatologist. There may be other factors at work that I am not considering.

One thing that does occur to me, however, is that radioactive fallout releases have a tendency of traveling LONG distances from their point of origin. Chernobyl was famously discovered when workers at a Sweedish Nuclear plant were found to be bringing radioactive contamination INTO the plant from outside.
And even this year, something similar happened (with many also suspecting the origin being somewhere in Russia or Kazakstan). Either would make perfect sense, being that:

1.) It’s Russia.

If they accidentally created a black hole that slowly swallowed the world, we wouldn’t find out until large portions of their nation and population start mysteriously vanishing into the abyss

2.) Kazakstan (among other former Soviet satellite states) holds a lot of the legacy technology from that Era. Not to mention that I wouldn’t be surprised if Big Red still has a lot of influence over affairs. Particularly these days, with the west being increasingly undermined by its own shortcomings.

Either way, to bring it back, these releases tend to go a long way. Given the typical wind patterns, I would suspect releases (and thus, cancer rates) would not just be picked up in neighboring counties, but also in New York City, New Jersey, Long Island, and other downwind sections of the NY tristate area.

While again just speculation, I think it is built on a solid foundation of past anecdotes and incidents.

I next want to focus on one sentence of the article that sticks out.

Exposure to radioactivity is the only known cause of thyroid cancer

This one has to be highlighted because it is somewhat disingenuous.

While most sources outline symptoms and causes (explanations of the medical jargon), few give much insight into what could be driving those changes. Possibly because so little is known (it’s better not to speculate). Web MD has this to say.

Experts don’t know what causes thyroid cancer. But like other cancers, changes in the DNA of your cells seem to play a role. These DNA changes may include changes that are inherited as well as those that happen as you get older.

People who have been exposed to a lot of radiation have a greater chance of getting thyroidcancer.

A dental X-ray now and then will not increase your chance of getting thyroid cancer. But past radiation treatment of your head, neck, or chest (especially during childhood) can put you at risk of getting thyroid cancer. 

The Mayo Clinic explanation seems more or less in agreement.

Factors that may increase the risk of thyroid cancer include:

  • Female sex. Thyroid cancer occurs more often in women than in men.
  • Exposure to high levels of radiation. Examples of exposure to high levels of radiation include radiation treatments to the head and neck and fallout from sources such as nuclear power plant accidents or weapons testing.
  • Certain inherited genetic syndromes. Genetic syndromes that increase the risk of thyroid cancer include familial medullary thyroid cancer and multiple endocrine neoplasia.

Also in the explanation from the Mayo clinic is this.

Although thyroid cancer isn’t common in the United States, rates seem to be increasing. Doctors think this is because new technology is allowing them to find small thyroid cancers that may not have been found in the past.

Maybe a factor in the overall picture? I guess we will see.

Let’s bring it back to upstate New York and the 4 counties in question. The Ecowatch article is based on a study (co-founded by the author of the article) that claims an increase in cancer cases both above background and taking the rising national average into consideration. Here is the abstract of the study itself:

Thyroid cancer incidence has risen steadily in the US for several decades. While any cause of this trend has yet to be clearly identified, most analyses have concluded that there are factors other than improved detection accounting for the increase. Since exposure to radioactive iodine is the only acknowledged root cause of thyroid cancer, a review of temporal trends in incidence since the late 1970s near the Indian Point nuclear power plant, just 23 miles from the New York City border, was conducted. Rates in the four counties closest to Indian Point, where virtually the entire population resides within 20 miles of the plant, were compared with national trends in the US. The relative ratio in the local area was 0.778 in the period 1976-1981, or 22.2 percent lower than the national rate. This ratio increased steadily, to 1.579 (57.9 percent greater than the US) by the period 2000-2004, which slightly declined to 1.515 (51.5 percent greater) in the latest period available (2010-2014). Significant increases occurred for both males and females, and in each of the four counties. Annual new cases diagnosed among residents of the four counties increased from 51 to 412 between 1976-1981 and 2010-2014. Because the two large reactors at Indian Point began operations in 1973 and 1976, and exposures to radioiodine isotopes can manifest as cancer from five years to several decades after exposure, iodine emissions from Indian Point emissions should be considered as a potential factor in these trends. More studies near Indian Point and other nuclear installations should be conducted to further explore this potential association.

One thing that comes to mind is how the numbers compare to cancer in populations around other nuclear plants.

According to this paper (see page 26), many studies of this type of risk have been done in many countries involving many different types of population density and types of nuclear facilities, with all of them coming back with many different conclusions. Some found positive correlations to being in proximity to said facilities, though none were ever linked directly to the facilities. I am not surprised by this since the cancer variant is so misunderstood, to begin with.

Another interesting set of statistics to consider (also from the paper cited previously):

  • Approximately 1 million people lived within 5 miles of operating nuclear plants in 2010; over 45 million people lived within 30 miles.
  • Approximately 116,000 people lived within 5 miles of USNRC-licensed operating fuel-cycle facilities in 2010; over 2 million people lived within 30 miles.
  • Approximately 210 people lived within 5 miles of a USNRC-licensed operating in situ recovery or conventional uranium mill recovery facility in 2010; about 11,000 lived within 30 miles.

Millions live within a stone’s throw of such facilities. Do you?
That is just generalized stats. Maybe there is something wrong with this plant itself which would make it an outlier of sorts.

It looks like the plant does indeed have a bit of a troubled history, particularly since 2012.

The plant has had 40 “safety events”, “operational events”, and shutdowns since 2012. The shutdowns have exposed apparent fragility in the nuclear facility’s workings: in December 2015 the plant was shut down for three days after droppings from a “large bird” caused an arc between power lines and a transmission tower. In April 2016, Entergy admitted it had found that bolts holding together the interior of one of Indian Point’s reactors were damaged and, in some cases, missing.

Ah, humans. If greed isn’t what gets us, then it will be laziness. Also worth noting was some drama over the possibility of running natural gas lines on land very close to the facility.

Entergy also came under fire in 2016 after the Guardian published a safety assessment of proposed natural gas pipelines to be built by energy pipeline company Spectra on Indian Point property. The assessment, provided to the Guardian by engineer Paul Blanch and obtained through a freedom of information act (Foia), was partly hand-drawn and did not adequately account for the damage to the plant that could result from a breach of the lines.

One would think we would have been beyond such oversights with Fukushima in our rearview. But then again . . . humans.

The last part, however, brings to mind another possibility. Maybe the days of nuclear (like the days of this plant’s operations) are numbered.
Nuclear has always been a nemesis, but Fukushima certainly didn’t do the industry any favors. Though the plant does not seem to have any major infractions associated with it, just having such a facility so close to so much population is problematic on its own, even without the operational history. I suspect a combination of the increasing costs of running such a facility (particularly in the face of cheaper alternatives like natural gas and renewables) and bad public image of both the plant and nuclear energy in general as the deciding factors here. Having uncontrolled releases into groundwater sources nearby certainly didn’t help things either.

Either way, I wandered somewhat from the outset of this piece. That said, there is not much more to say on the topic. Did the plant result in a spike in the cancer rates in close proximity?

I don’t know. However, correlation does not necessarily mean causation. Though the authors of the study (and the article) claim legitimacy, I can’t help but question the bias. I will not disagree, however, that more studies can’t hurt. The more information that is available, the better off everyone is.

In conclusion, overall, I am not a big fan of nuclear energy.

In its favor, it is carbon neutral (or very close, anyhow). And it may function as a good stepping stone between the age of fossil fuels and renewables (since uranium is also finite).
That being said, it could also be seen as insanity, being the risk involved. Indeed, meltdowns and accidents are fairly few and far between. But we still have not figured out a permanent solution to radioactive wastes that will long outlive our civilizations.

Fortunately, the fact that these things are prohibitively expensive to build and operate will deter many new installations.  But those that do should consider the consequences.

Imagine a world with half the overall population (say a pandemic wiped us out), but the same number of nuclear facilities to oversee. Without constant inputs and attention, spent fuel ponds run the risk of going dry and dumping massive amounts of radioactivity into the enviroment.

Not something I considered during my freakout in 2010, or even 2011 (when the nuclear industry had the world on edge). Though possibly a good thing.

I may not have ever slept again.

“Is GMO Corn Safe To Eat?” – (Ecowatch)

​Straight to the point with this title. Though authored in the very first days of the year, this stuff does not have an expiration date (unlike the millions of pounds of food our civilization wastes annually). So lets begin.

2016 yielded yet another study on genetically modified corn. Or more accurately, Monsanto’s NK603.

Lets see what the findings are now. Even before I start, I bet I know their answer to the question posed by the title of the article.

Hint: BOO!

A unique new study published in December 2016 in the scientific journal Nature has used molecular profiles to reveal major differences in composition between a GMO corn and its non-GMO parent. These findings question industry and regulatory position of “substantial equivalence” and have serious safety implications.

The peer-reviewed study led by Dr. Michael Antoniou at King’s College London describes the effects of the process of genetic engineering on the composition of a genetically modified Roundup-resistant GMO corn variety, NK603.

“Our study clearly shows that the GM transformation process results in profound compositional differences in NK603, demonstrating that this GMO corn is not substantially equivalent to its non-GMO counterpart,” Dr. Antoniou said. “The marked increase in putrescine and especially cadaverine is a concern since these substances are potentially toxic, being reported as enhancers of the effects of histamine, thus heightening allergic reactions and both have been implicated in the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines with nitrite in meat products. Our results call for a more thorough evaluation of the safety of NK603 corn consumption on a long-term basis.”

Overall, the findings of this study disprove industry and regulatory agency claims that NK603 is “substantially equivalent” to its non-GMO counterpart and suggest that a more thorough evaluation of the safety of consuming products derived from this GMO corn on a long term basis should be undertaken.

First off, some chemistry.

Putrescine (butane-1,4-diamine) and cadaverine (pentane-1,5-diamine) are foul-smelling compounds produced when amino acids decompose in decaying animals. They are also found in small amounts in living cells. Putrescine is formed by the decarboxylation of ornithine and arginine; cadaverine by the decarboxylation of lysine

Putrescine is a four carbon diamine produced during tissue decomposition by the decarboxylation of amino acids. Polyamines, including putrescine, may act as growth factors that promote cell division; however, putrescine is toxic at high doses.

Already, 2 things are clear. Its apparent why these 2 chemicals could be useful in the context of bio engineering. But it is also apparent why they have a significant “BOO!” factor attached to them.

On that “Boo!” factor . . .

Biogenic amines and polyamines have been reported in variety of foods, such as fish, meat, cheese, vegetables, and wines, and are described as organic bases with aliphatic, aromatic, and heterocyclic structures (Lorenzo and others 2007).

Polyamines, such as putrescine, cadaverine, agmatine, spermine, and spermidine, are naturally present in food and are involved in growth and cell proliferation (Hernandez-Jover and others 1997; Kalac 2009; Kim and others 2009). These amines in the presence of nitrites can be potential carcinogens when converted to nitrosamines (Kim and others 2009). Nitrosamines from polyamines may not necessarily pose a health risk as toxicity is reached only after consumption of large amounts, more than expected in a daily meal (Kalac 2009).

The aromatic biogenic amines, tyramine, and 2-phenylethylamine have been reported to be initiators of dietary-induced migraine and hypertensive crisis (Stratton and others 1991). Tyramine, 2- phenylethylamine, and putrescine are versoactive amines and increase blood pressure that can lead to heart failure or brain hemorrhage (Til and others 1997; Kalac 2009; Mohan and others 2009).

Boo indeed. Ill never eat anything again.

Oral toxicity levels for putrescine, spermine, and spermidine are 2000, 600, and 600 ppm, respectively. The acute toxicity level for tyramine and cadaverine is greater than 2000 ppm. The no observed adverse effect level (NOAEL) is 2000 ppm for tyramine, putrescine, and cadaverine; 1000 ppm for spermidine; and 200 ppm for spermine (Til and others 1997). Tyramine alone at high levels can cause an intoxication known as the cheese reaction, which has similar symptoms to histamine poisoning.

Fortunately for us (at least in the developed world), this is primarily a problem of food spoilage (and as such, can be kept generally at bay with careful food handling procedures).

The formation of biogenic amines is associated with food spoilage, suggests poor hygienic practices, and may therefore indicate other food safety issues. Any attempts to control biogenic amines must take into account the factors leading to the formation of the biogenic amine and ensure other food safety issues are not being overlooked.

Now, onto the research itself.

The objective of this investigation was to obtain a deeper understanding of the biology of the NK603 GM maize by molecular profiling (proteomics and metabolomics) in order to gain insight into its substantial equivalence classification. We began by undertaking an unsupervised exploratory analysis of variance structure. We integrated metabolome and proteome profiles of the NK603, cultivated either with or without Roundup, and its isogenic counterpart, into a two-step multiple co-inertia analysis (MCIA) process.

The transgenic feed samples NK603 and NK603+Roundup are separated from the non-transgenic control (Isogenic) along the first component (horizontal axis). This clustering accounts for most of the variation (percentage of explained variance of 56.7%). The NK603 maize sprayed with Roundup separates from the unsprayed NK603 maize on the second component (vertical axis, percentage of explained variance of 16.6%).

I feel ya.

I know this is pertinent. I want to understand. But all that comes to mind is . . . meta-prota-WHAT?!

Fortunately for scientific illiterates like me, the study authors are merciful. They provided a diagram. We may not be able to comprehend it, but at least we can see it!

(A) The first two axes of MCIA represent metabolome and proteomic datasets. Different shapes represent the different variables which are connected by lines, the length of these lines is proportional to the divergence between the data. Lines for each sample are joined at a common point at which the covariance derived from the MCIA analysis is maximal. (B) Pseudo-eigenvalue space showing the percentage of variance explained by each of the MCIA component. Each barplot represents the absolute eigenvalues. (C) Protein or metabolites (colored dots) are projected on a 2-dimensional space. In this panel, a protein or a metabolite that is particularly highly expressed in a maize variety will be located on the direction of this variety. (D) Pseudo-eigenvalues space of all datasets, indicating how much variance of an eigenvalue is contributed by the proteome or the metabolome for cultivations 1 and 2.

What comes next is a little bit more clear cut (a little . . .) , and another graph.

We next conducted a statistical evaluation of the biological differences resulting from the GM transformation process, as well as from the spraying of Roundup, by pairwise comparisons in order to identify proteins and metabolites associated with possible metabolic alterations. The list of proteins and metabolites having their levels significantly disturbed is given in Additional files 5 and 6, respectively. Figure 3 shows the statistical significance of differential protein/metabolite levels by volcano plots along with respective fold changes. While only one protein is newly produced as a result of the transgene insertion, a total of 117 proteins and 91 metabolites have been altered in maize by the genetic transformation process and insertion of the EPSPS-CP4 cassette (Isogenic vs NK603 panel, Fig. 3). One protein (B4G0K5) and 31 metabolites had their expression significantly altered by the spraying of the Roundup pesticide (NK603 vs NK603+Roundup (R) panel, Fig. 3).

Volcano plots show the log 2 fold changes and the −log10 adjusted p-values in protein or metabolite level induced by the GM transformation process (isogenic vs NK603, isogenic vs NK603 + R) or by the pesticide spraying (NK603 vs NK603 + R). Data were selected at the cut off values adj-p < 0.05 and fold change >1.5. Red dots represent protein or metabolites having their level significantly altered in the different samples.

And next, the the meat. Or Corn, as is stands.

The most pronounced differences between the NK603 GM maize and its isogenic counterpart mostly consisted of an increase in the amounts of numerous polyamines. The levels of N-acetyl-cadaverine (2.9-fold), N-acetylputrescine (1.8-fold), putrescine (2.7-fold) and cadaverine (28-fold) were increased in NK603. The metabolome profile also highlighted an impairment of energy metabolism. While metabolites from the first part of the TCA cycle had their levels increased (α-ketoglutarate by 1.65-fold and citrate by 1.49-fold), metabolites from the second part of the TCA cycle had their levels decreased (malate by 0.59-fold, fumarate by 0.60-fold, succinate by 0.80-fold). Additionally, while proteins associated with glycolysis were overexpressed, carbohydrate metabolism is depleted in several metabolites (glucuronate by 0.63-fold, glucose 1-phosphate by 0.56-fold, maltohexaose by 0.28-fold, maltopentaose by 0.51-fold). Differences due to the pesticide spray were subtle: phenylpropanoid such as 4-hydroxycinnamate (0.63-fold), ferulate (0.59-fold) and sinapate (2.9-fold) were significantly changed. While alterations of the shikimate pathway were not detected, intermediates from aromatic amino acid metabolism (PEP derived) had their level increased (phenyllactate by 1.60-fold, phenylpyruvate by 2.71-fold, N-acetylphenylalanine by 2.24-fold and xanthurenate by 1.82-fold).

And the part that has the Eco-based fake news sites in a gay ole tizzy.

In this report we present the first multi-omics analysis of GM NK603 maize compared to a near isogenic non-GM counterpart. Based on analysis conducted by the developer Monsanto Company, NK603 maize was scored as ‘substantially equivalent’ to its isogenic control, which was a major contributor to this product being granted market approval for animal and human consumption in the European Union, United States, Brazil and several other nations. Although NK603 had comparable nutritional and compositional profiles when originally accessed by the developer company upon registration of their product, our analysis at a detailed, in-depth molecular profiling level shows that NK603 grains, with or without Roundup spraying during cultivation, are not equivalent to isogenic non-transgenic control samples.

The concept of substantial equivalence has long being used in safety testing of GMO crops, but the term and the concept has no clear definition35. In 1993 the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) stated that the “concept of substantial equivalence embodies the idea that existing organisms used as food, or as a source of food, can be used as the basis for comparison when assessing the safety of human consumption of a food or food component that has been modified or is new36. The vagueness of this term generates conflict among stakeholders to determine which compositional differences are sufficient to declare a GMO as non-substantially equivalent. However, the Codex Alimentarius Commission37 makes it clear that a safety assessment of a new food based on the concept of substantial equivalence “does not imply absolute safety of the new product; rather, it focuses on assessing the safety of any identified differences so that the safety of the new product can be considered relative to its conventional counterpart.” Thus, the concept of substantial equivalence should not be used as a proof of safety.

Keep going.

However, it could be used as a first tier in risk assessment to detect any unintended effects of the GM transformation process. Unintended effects can be understood as the effects that go beyond the primary expected effects of the genetic modification, and represent statistically significant differences in the GMO compared with an appropriate control38. Unintended effects during transgenesis include rearrangements, insertion, or deletions during the genetic transformation or during the tissue culture stages of GMO development39,40. A comprehensive characterization of the GM plant at the molecular level could facilitate identification of unintended effects in GMO crops and could be used as a complementary analytical tool to existing safety assessment procedures41,42,43,44.

In general, our study design further highlights the importance of restricting comparison to the GMO crop and non-GMO isogenic comparator and cultivation of the two at the same location and season when the objective is to evaluate the effect of the GM transformation process. This is obligatory in order to reduce effects on plant metabolism arising from differing environmental conditions, which can make it difficult to attribute differences that are observed to the procedure of transgenesis.

In general, our study design further highlights the importance of restricting comparison to the GMO crop and non-GMO isogenic comparator and cultivation of the two at the same location and season when the objective is to evaluate the effect of the GM transformation process. This is obligatory in order to reduce effects on plant metabolism arising from differing environmental conditions, which can make it difficult to attribute differences that are observed to the procedure of transgenesis. However, even though our experimental design takes into account the effect of the growing season, further experiments made under different environmental conditions would be needed to determine the full range of effects of the GM transformation process on NK603 phenotype. Indeed, virtually all traits are influenced by genotype–environment interactions. Neither genetic differences nor environmental variations alone can account for the production of a particular phenotypic variation.

Going back to the original article that brought me here, there is not much else really to cover (its essentially an overview of the study. AKA what I just finished plowing though). But there is one thing that sticks out. Both in its absence from the paper I just finished with, and in the familiarity of the name associated with it.

5. Rats fed this GMO corn over 2 years presented signs of a higher incidence of liver and kidney damage (Séralini et al., Environmental Sciences Europe, 26:14) compared with controls.

Ah yes, this asshole. Gilles-Eric Séralini.

Bowing to scientists’ near-universal scorn, the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology today fulfilled its threat to retract a controversial paper claiming that a genetically modified (GM) maize causes serious disease in rats, after the authors refused to withdraw it.

The paper, from a research group led by Gilles-Eric Séralini, a molecular biologist at the University of Caen, France, and published in 20121, showed “no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data”, said a statement from Elsevier, which publishes the journal. But the small number and type of animals used in the study mean that “no definitive conclusions can be reached”. The known high incidence of tumours in the Sprague–Dawley strain of rat ”cannot be excluded as the cause of the higher mortality and incidence observed in the treated groups”, it added.

Today’s move came as no surprise. Earlier this month, the journal’s editor-in-chief Wallace Hayes threatened retraction if Séralini refused to withdraw the paper. Elsevier retracted the paper shortly after a press conference in Brussels this morning, in which Séralini protested his innocence.

And there is more. Butthurt brings out the tinfoil.

He and his team stand by their results, and allege that the retraction derives from the journal’s editorial appointment of biologist Richard Goodman, who previously worked for biotechnology giant Monsanto for seven years.

“The magazine reviewed our paper more than any other,” says co-author and physician Joël Spiroux de Vendômois, who is also president of the Paris-based Committee for Research and Independent Information on Genetic Engineering (CRIIGEN), which collaborated in the study. The retraction is “a public-health scandal”, he says.

The study found that rats fed for two years with Monsanto’s glyphosate-resistant NK603 maize (corn) developed many more tumours and died earlier than controls. It also found that the rats developed tumours when glyphosate (Roundup), the herbicide used with GM maize, was added to their drinking water. (See ‘Rat study sparks GM furore‘).

And now, why it matters.

At the 28 November press conference, Corinne Lepage, a Member of the European Parliament and former French environment minister, said that Séralini’s paper asked “good questions about the long-term toxicity of GMOs [GM organisms] and the Roundup herbicide”. Retraction of the paper “will not make these questions disappear”, added Lepage, who is also a co-founder of CRIIGEN.

To conclude, this article is not bad, considering the source and the topic. Not entirely fake news. However, the rat part was an interesting addition. One that was not utilized in the main referenced study. Because it was debunked.

I agree that these findings should indeed trigger more study. Study of these things should be constant anyways (if for nothing else, to try and calm the GMO hysteria).

Could One Man Bring Monsanto To Its Knees?

That seems to be a claim of of few linked articles which I have recently come across. The link trail started though a Truthdig newsletter link to this story, which then links off to this piece from the progressive radio network, which links off to this article on a website called “Earth. We Are One”.

What the articles are raving about appears to be a new form of mushroom (or fungi) patented by a man named Paul Stamets. This fungi apparently has the ability to consume pesky crop-attacking insects without releasing spores (thus avoiding problems related to mass self propagation). It is said to control over 200,000 different species of insects. I am currently unsure if having this plant nearby, or if having it in a pesticide solution, is the application method. Nor am I sure if it also harms the bees, the species that Monsanto is most notorious for killing with their products.

An except from the article:

If there’s anything you read – or share – let this be it. The content of this article has potential to radically shift the world in a variety of positive ways.

And as Monsanto would love for this article to not go viral, all we can ask is that youshare, share, share the information being presented so that it can reach as many people as possible.

Well that didn’t take long. Barley into the article and the persecution complex shows itself.

But moving on . . .

In 2006, a patent was granted to a man named Paul Stamets. Though Paul is the world’s leading mycologist, his patent has received very little attention and exposure. Why is that? Stated by executives in the pesticide industry, this patent represents “the most disruptive technology we have ever witnessed.” And when the executives say disruptive, they are referring to it being disruptive to the chemical pesticides industry.

What has Paul discovered? The mycologist has figured out how to use mother nature’s own creations to keep insects from destroying crops. It’s what is being called SMART pesticides. These pesticides provide safe & nearly permanent solution for controlling over 200,000 species of insects – and all thanks to the ‘magic’ of mushrooms.

Paul does this by taking entomopathogenic Fungi (fungi that destroys insects) and morphs it so it does not produce spores. In turn, this actually attracts the insects who then eat and turn into fungi from the inside out!

The first paragraph has a few bold claims right off the bat. But we will go into those a little later. I am curious to learn more about this SMART pesticide. Namely, if bees are outside of the 200,000 species its apparently suitable against.

This patent has potential to revolutionize the way humans grow crops – if it can be allowed to reach mass exposure.

To tolerate the use of pesticides in modern agriculture is to deny evidence proving its detrimental effects against the environment. Such ignorance really can no longer be tolerated. For example, can you imagine a world without bees? Monsanto’s chemical concoctions which are being sprayed all over farmers’ fields around the world are attributed to the large-scale bee die off. While a growing number of countries are banning Monsanto, it’s still being used in  in nations who should  be aware of its dangers. To say that  new methods  need to be implemented before it is too late is an understatement.

Monsanto presently generates $16 billion dollars per year (as reported in 2014), therefore you can be certain they do not want anything interrupting that flow of revenue. Such income gives them nearly limitless resources and abilities to suppress information that may be damaging their reputation.

Well that was unsatisfying. Get me going with information about this new and exciting innovation, then destroy the climax by not telling me about it.

But by becoming educated on the benefits of growing sustainable, organic, and bio-dynamic food, sharing articles like this, and boycotting GMO & herbicide-sprayed crops, the corporate demon may soon get the message.

Seeing this under a picture of a dead and upside-down bee pretty much exposes the bias of this page. But lets do out own research.

Having searched the term Entomopathogenic Fungi, this was one of the results. People have already been looking into this.

Many insect pathogenic fungus based bio-insecticides have been produced and commercially manufactured so far.Though, a number of studies have been done for the improvements in production, pesticide formulation and practical application, even then many improvements are required to search and study, and implementation.Improvement in strains by the use of guides and selections will be a best strategy in the future. The use of microbialinsecticides should be a contribution towards all fields of agriculture, sustainable agriculture, forestry andhorticulture. It should be cared that the Entomopathogenic fungus should not destroy beneficial natural fauna in theenvironment. Strategies should be made at small and large levels for the mass production of conidia. Use of insect pathogenic fungus is unavoidable as it is an integral part of integrated pest management programs in manyecological zones.

So its a field that needs more study, but it has potential. Understandable. However, “Many insect pathogenic fungus based bio-insecticides have been produced and commercially manufactured so far” seems to indicate some dishonesty in the previous progressive sourced articles I checked. Can’t say I am all that surprised.

And here are the conclusions of another academically sourced pdf on the subject. Though it seems to be sourced from the same study, it goes a bit more in depth then then previous. Including telling us that direct comparison to chemical herbicides is inappropriate.


The application of entomopathogenic fungi in biological control is increasing largely because of greater environmental awareness, food safety concerns and the failure of conventional chemicals due to an increasing number of insecticide resistant species. In determining whether the use of entomopathogenic fungi has been successful in pest management, it is necessary to consider each case individually, and direct comparisons with chemical insecticides are usually inappropriate. Gelernter and Lomer (2000) concluded that for any microbial control agent to be successful, technical efficacy was essential but had to be combined with at least two other criteria from the following: practical efficacy (easy and cheap uptake), commercial viability (profitability), sustainability (long-term control) and/or public benefit (safety). The safety of entomopathogenic fungi for humans, the environment and non-target organisms is clearly an important criterion for consideration and each insect–fungus system must again be considered on a case-by-case basis. However, existing research suggests that there are minimal effects of entomopathogenic fungi on non-targets, and they offer a safer alternative for use in integrated pest management (IPM) than chemical insecticides (Goettel and Hajek, 2000; Pell et al., 2001). Successes with these fungi are often based on considerable, multidisciplinary financial investments in research and development from industry, aid agencies and governments. When commercial interests are absent, especially in the development of classical, inoculative and conservation strategies, then long-term government support is essential (Gelernter and Lomer, 2000). Most entomopathogenic fungi are best used when total eradication of a pest is not required; instead, insect populations are controlled below an economic threshold, with some crop damage considered as acceptable. In addition, entomopathogenic fungi have an essential role in IPM if they can be used in conjunction with other strategies for sustainable pest control.

Judging by this, again, we conclude that the research has a ways to go. Though not directly comparable to typical chemical pesticides, there is evidence of less toxicity on other biological targets when compared to chemical pesticides.

But work needs to be done for further targeting of certain insect species, as well as on efficiency (these types of pesticides are more for pest control then pest elimination, though they can be combined with other methods).

I think I have seen enough when it comes to the field of research to know that this is a fairly well researched area (Entomopathogenic Fungi). Enough to know that this Paul Stamets is not the only one looking into it. Though that was not explicitly stated, it seemed to be implied.
Which brings me to the question, who is this fellow?
The initial article calls him the worlds leading micologist. But I am curious for more.

It appears that he has done a TED talk some time ago.

The video seems to focus more on his work repairing the worlds collapsing bee presence, but its a good starting point.
When it comes to the pesticide thing, Stamets does appear to hold a number of patents pertaining to various areas of his work. However, its the first time that I had really ever heard of any of them (with the exception of 2). Those 2 being:

Application number: 20080046277
Abstract: Compositions, methods and business applications of using new and recycled cardboard infused with a plurality of saprophytic (including endophytic) and mycorrhizal fungi matched with seeds of plants (including trees, vegetables, herbs and grasses) whereby the cardboard can be sprouted by end-users to start ecosystems. Such containers may have carbon-credit value for companies and consumers when planted and grown as a carbon sink or carbon offset for the photosynthetic and mycelial sequestration of carbon dioxide. The relative weight of the Life Box’s added seeds and spores does not significantly affect the total weight of the infused cardboard, thus not increasing transportation costs.
Type: Application
Filed: September 6, 2007
Issued: February 21, 2008
Inventor: Paul Stamets
Application number: 20080005046
Abstract: Compositions, methods and business applications of using new and recycled cardboard infused with a plurality of saprophytic (including endophytic) and mycorrhizal fungi matched with seeds of plants (including trees, vegetables, herbs and grasses) whereby the cardboard can be sprouted by end-users to start ecosystems. Such containers may have carbon-credit value for companies and consumers when planted and grown as a carbon sink or carbon offset for the photosynthetic and mycelial sequestration of carbon dioxide. The relative weight of the Life Box’s added seeds and spores does not significantly affect the total weight of the infused cardboard, thus not increasing transportation costs.
Type: Application
Filed: September 6, 2007
Issued: January 3, 2008
Inventor: Paul Stamets

I recall this from a few years back because I thought it was hardly a good invention. That was because I seen that it mostly utilized in fast food paper coffee (and other beverage) cups. Sure, they will “contribute” to the ecosystem if planted (or littered). But its overlooking the whole problem of there being so many cups to dispose of in the first place. A bit like the 30% planet based planet bottle utilized by a certain multi-national distributer of bottled water. Its not only still an extra piece of waste, but also one with all the proprieties of plastic. Throw it into an oceanic gyre, and it will photo degrade like any other petroleum based PET bottle.

As for the patents that would appear to coincide with  usage in a pesticide formulation, they were registered as early as 2011 and issued around a year later. Though around for awhile, apparently not well promoted by Paul.
But to his credit, it does not seem to be him that is pushing the whole “Monsanto persecution” thing (or at least I cant seem to find him saying it anywhere).
There are many different variations on the theme of the headlines ,”The Invention That Monsanto Does Not Want You To Know About!” and “This Could Destroy Monsanto!” being the most common. But most of the published articles themselves (including the initial piece) appear to be pretty much carbon copies of one another. Some of them do not even bother using original text, instead just copying from another source (the initial piece seeming to be the “original”).

When it comes to the science behind the whole claim, it would appear to be verified. Though patented by Stamets, its verification appears to have come out of a university in Pakistan, by a team which may or may not have had any communication or relationship with Stemets.

As for the recent resurgence of the idea and the whole Monsanto persecution thing, I am unsure if Stemets is even voluntarily a part of it. If I had to guess, I would assume that those headlines and additions to the narrative were added just for extra click bait.
I even searched “the most disruptive technology we have ever witnessed” (allegedly spoken by executives of Monsanto, or another Bio-tech Firm). A query that brought up pretty much the same results as “Paul Stamets – Monsanto“. Can’t say im all that surprised.

So at the end of all this, I can say that there is something to this field of study. But I have my doubts that evil Big Ag is out to get Paul Stamets or any of his mycelium based innovations of various varieties. Show me some evidence of trickery and I may have a different opinion.

One thing that makes me curious however, is the whole “patents” thing. Since a patented product or technology can not be used without consent, it seems a bit hypocritical for the alternative media to come out against Big Biotech for with accusations of censorship. Even if they wanted to do anything with any of his formulations, they can’t, legally.
And if Stamets is holding on to the invention in the name of profit, how is that any better then what many accuse Big Biotech of currently doing?
I am not saying that this is Paul’s Agenda. I am just telling all the Monsanto haters to get their story straight.

When it comes to a similar situation, Tesla comes to mind. They came up with a product with a lot of future green potential. But rather then hold on to it (and all its profits), they opened up the patent to anyone who wants to (in good faith) work with it.

I am unsure of the situation here (as pertaining to Paul).

However, it would seem to me that reaching out for a partnership is more productive then just holding out in the shadows. After all, if the innovation is as provable as many seem to think, it be against Big Biotech’s  own interests to NOT to get on board.

“Women And Biodiversity Feed The World” – Feminism Meets Environmentalism

The title of this entry is a part of the title of a piece published on Common Dreams ( Women And Biodiversity Feed The World, Not Corporations And GMO’S ). Though published 3 days ago, I could not pass this one up.

Surprisingly, I do not find anything much disagreeable in the first 7 paragraphs. Just an explanation of how the corporate profit driven industrial monoculture methodology of agriculture is affecting both the environment at large, and us. And of course, a dose of GMO precaution. This is the alternative media, after all.

Then there is this claim:

Secondly, monocultures undermine nutrition by displacing the biodiversity that provides nourishment and the diversity of nutrients our body needs. Herbicides like Roundup do not just kill the milkweed on which the monarch Butterfly larvae feed, they kill sources of nutrition for humans – the amaranth, the “bathua,” and the mixed cropping that produces more “Nutrition per Acre” than industrial monocultures (see Navdanya’s report on Health per Acre).

I have never heard of this before. Thank *Insert Deity Here* for the internet!

It seems that Amaranth and  Bathua (Chenopodium Album) are both considered weeds (at least in North America).  I guess the argument is that the nutritional value is diminished when such “weeds” are eliminated from a given monocultual crop.
I can understand the argument. But at the same time, its still up to the farmer if he wants to focus all his nutrients on a given crop, or a variety of others. It be  nice to have such a “mixed” harvest. But would it be salable on the open market?

That is, quite literally, the million dollar question.

Having destroyed our sources of nutrition by destroying biodiversity—and creating vitamin A, iron and other deficiencies—the same companies who created the crisis are promising a miracle solution: GMOs. Genetically engineered Golden Rice and GMO Bananas are being proposed by corporations hiding behind the cloak of academia as a solution to hunger and malnutrition in the Global South. But these are false miracles.

I again, don’t have much knowledge of either of these products. But lets have a look around.

Golden Rice is a strain of rice that was modified to biosynthesize beta-carotene into the edible parts of the plant. Being a precursor to vitamin A, it helps to alleviate the affects of deficiencies of the mineral in the diet of many in the developing world.

Many organizations (such as Greenpeace) are against the release and use of this crop, claiming affects to both health and environment (such as contamination into other rice crops).
As far as I can tell, there is nothing to back up this claim. Though it is a product of the  Syngenta laboratories, the company handed all the financial interests of the rice to a non-profit organization (in the name of removing much of the opposition of the rice). Which leaves the reasoning of the opposition (if not based on misinformation of ownership) simply on the fact that is is a product of genetic engineering.

You know what else has beta-carotene?

Carrots. How is eating this rice any different then eating a bowl of white rice, with some sliced carrots?

As for GMO Bananas, this one is amusing right off the bat. Like 95%+ percent of everything else in the first world supermarket, those yellow bananas we eat are not a “natural” variety. They are specially tailored just for us, with little or no seeds and a bulk of size. They are so much a product of human engineering, that they will likely go extinct along with us.

As for the “GMO bananas” in question, they also had beta-carotene added into the fruit (though from another banana variety, as opposed to from a carrot). Though the species of banana which is heavy in beta-carotene is available in many places, it is often to sweet for local populations taste. The new strain being developed however is less sweet and more suitable to the typical pallet of many locales.

But again, there is resistance. Because of the GMO aspect.

I am all for openness and learning all the facts before going full into something, but come on. BETA-CAROTENE!

Do these people opposing these feats of human engineering also stay away from carrots in their diet? I really hope so.
Because if they don’t, then I have to wonder why the the FUCK they are helping prevent this excellent nutritional tool from reaching the planets most needy.

Indigenous biodiverse varieties of food grown by women provide far more nutrition than the commodities produced by industrial agriculture. Since 1985 the false miracle of Golden Rice is being offered as a solution to vitamin A deficiency. But Golden rice is still under development. Billions of dollars have been wasted on a hoax.

This is certainly an interesting twist.  How can you make a fairly common sense ecological point/argument better (aka more progressive friendly)?  Throw in a dose of feminism.

Also, yes, golden rise is still under development. The newer version has the potential of biosynthesizing even more beta-carotene then its parent variety. That is called progress. Not a hoax.

On 20th of April, the White house gave an award to Syngenta which had tried to pirate India’s rice diversity, and owns most of the 80 patents related to Golden Rice. This is reminiscient of the Emperor who had no clothes. Golden Rice is 350% less efficient in providing vitanim A than the biodiversity alternatives that women grow.

Yep, you read that correctly. The author has gone beyond toeing the line of truth and fact, and burst onto the side of bullshit.

GMO ‘iron-rich’ Bananas have 3000% less iron than turmeric and 2000% less iron than amchur (mango powder).

How do they compare to regular bananas?

Or (for a more realistic comparison) to bananas available in the local areas where these bananas will be distributed?

Comparing the fruit to 2 different spices is the equivalent of comparing ANY banana to an orange, then dismissing the banana because it lacks the characteristics of the orange (such as high Vitamin C and citric acid content).

Apart from being nutritionally empty, GMOs are part of an industrial system of agriculture that is destroying the planet, depleting our water sources, increasing green houses gases, and driving farmers into debt and suicide through a greater dependence on chemical inputs.

1.) As shown before, at least the 2 GMO varieties in question (Bananas and Golden Rice) are far from “nutritionally empty”. Which is the whole point of distributing them to the worlds least nutritionally served!

2.) The parts about the harm of industrial agriculture is true, but that is not just GMO crops. Even feeding 7 billion people an all organic vegan diet will cause problems.

3.) The suicide thing is, a half truth at best. Many farmers in India are committing suicide, but not entirely due to reasons specified. Monsanto has a page devoted to the topic, but they are not the only source. Check out this excerpt from a piece on .

The larger picture is not so rosy. India’s agricultural sector, which contributes only 21% of the country’s gross domestic product, is highly inefficient, wasteful, and hobbled by inconsistent government policies that, as The Economist pointed out several years ago, “still fixes prices and subsidizes inputs, when public money would be far better spent on infrastructure and research.” Lack of mechanization and irrigation, for example, are two key shortcomings. Many Indian farmers depend on erratic monsoonal rains.

As in much of the developing world, small-holder Indian farmers (those with less than two hectares of land) are most vulnerable to the vagaries of weather and climate change. They also have little access to institutional credit. As the World Bank has noted: “While India has a wide network of rural finance institutions, many of the rural poor remain excluded, due to inefficiencies in the formal finance institutions, the weak regulatory framework, high transaction costs, and risks associated with lending to agriculture.” Consequently, when purchasing seed, fertilizer, and other crop-related items, poor farmers often turn to private money lenders who charge high loan rates.

This financial burden is commonly cited for the wave of farmer suicides that the media—particularly in India—have been reporting the past decade. However, researchers studying the phenomenon also note that it has struck unevenly in cotton-growing regions of central and southern India, where the social and economic stressors vary. For example, a 2012 paper inThe Lancet that surveyed India’s suicide mortality rate noted: “Studies from south India have shown that the most common contributors to suicide are a combination of social problems, such as interpersonal and family problems and financial difficulties, and pre-existing mental illness.”

Still, this much is known: More than 270,000 Indian farmers have taken their own lives since the mid-1990s, according to India’s National Crime Records Bureau. And that number is believed to be higher, although firm data is hard to come by. These deaths are real and they are tragic for the surviving families.

In April of 2013, I attended a conference at Cornell (which Herring helped to organize) on Indian agricultural issues. Several of the panels examined the phenomenon of Indian farmer suicides, and one of them specifically addressed the question, “What do we know about the incidence, distribution, and causes of the personal tragedies?”

What we know is that many of the farmer suicides have been concentrated in five of India’s 28 states. (Anti-GMO activists call this the “suicide belt.”) At the conference, Anoop Sadanadan, a political economist at Syracuse University, identified the role of Indian banking policies, rather than the alleged GMO crop failure, in contributing to the suicides. In a paper forthcoming in the Journal of Developing Areas, he argues that “the increase in suicides among Indian farmers is an unanticipated consequence of the bank reforms the country undertook since the early-1990s. In particular, the entry of foreign and new generation private banks has made banking in India competitive and led to fewer loans to agriculture and farmers. With increased competition, banks saw lending to the farm sector as unprofitable and unreliable.”

Banking practices vary across India. Sadanadan found that states with the highest incidence of farmer suicides were those that offered the least institutional credit to farmers. This forced small farmers into the hands of private lenders who charge exorbitant interest rates (as high as 45%). In those states where farmers had better access to institutional credit and farm insurance, there were markedly fewer suicides. Indian banks also offer credit to farmers with irrigated land, as this makes farming more viable. “Irrigation does drive bank lending,” Sadanadan said at the panel. “In states where there is greater irrigation, they [banks] lend money to the farmer.”

In his upcoming paper, Sadanadan writes that he also found “no evidence to suggest that the cultivation of a particular crop was related to suicides in India.” Some states with high agrarian suicide rates do not include cotton farmers. “Further, cotton was cultivated in some 10 other states that did not witness high incidence of farmer suicides,” he writes.

I asked Sadanadan if there are sociocultural factors that might also explain why Indian farmers have taken their own lives? “So farmers have a choice,” he responded. “In America, a farmer could just default on a loan and say, ‘come after me.’ But in India, they commit suicide. Why? There has to be something cultural there. Is it shame?” But the proximate cause of many suicides, he reiterated, is the “debt burden” associated with the loan sharks, especially in states where farmer credit is tight.

There is also a larger context to the tragedy of these farmer suicides. Nearly 1 million people are reported to take their own lives each year worldwide. China and India account for almost half that total. According to Chinese government statistics, 80% of the 280,000 annual suicides in China occur in rural areas. Some of the main causes include social isolation, lack of economic opportunity, and inadequate access to mental health services.

There is almost always more then what meets the eye. But with this claim, I have to give a bit of leeway. Even such organizations as RT and Al Jazzera (among others) have referenced this myth in the past. Though I would hope that any journalist would have better standards then to make such a mistake, it can happen. Sometimes its hard to hear over the loudest voices within an issue (the Rolling Stone UVA scandal is an excellent example of this phenomenon).

Biodiverse ecological agriculture in women’s hands is a solution not just to the malnutrition crisis, but also the climate crisis.

Women have been the primary growers of food and nutrition throughout history, but today, food is being taken out of our hands and substituted for toxic commodities controlled by global corporations. Monoculture industrial farming has taken the quality, taste and nutrition out of our food.

It is true that the monocultures of recent times produce a food supply that is as bland and unflavored as many of the urban areas that said food is consumed in. My father has a green thumb and is an avid gardener, so I can tell you definitively that there is a HUGE difference between your average store bought vegetable, and  vegetables grown at home. Tomatoes imported to a restaurant I used to work at from California or Florida (though a food service vender) were nothing to the garden variety.

Despite this, I question how turning this into a feminist issue does anything to HELP the cause. Also, do I detect a hint of misandry?

The rest of the piece is about how going back to our roots in organic farming would be beneficial to not just our health and the health of the environment, but also in fighting the climate crisis (by helping to remove a lot of carbon  from the air and transferring it into the soil). This is something I can agree with.

Even though this piece seems to have been written for a good reason, I still can not overlook the half truths and flat out bullshit contained within. Particularly the false criticism of Golden Rice and Bananna’s.

The sprinkling of feminism in this article is out of place and unnecessary, but is nothing to dwell on (but a product of the fever pitch of feminism in todays culture).  But the propaganda about GMO’s is dangerous, and is not accomplishing anything more then actually HARMING the very cause that the author is apparently championing.

I can see how someone could come to such a conclusion. In the search results of many of my queries related to this piece, the various anti-GMO sources far out numbered the other side. And those on the flip side are not necessarily pro-GMO sources either. A source providing information backed up by facts is no more pro-GMO then a school text book explaining the process of reproduction is anti-Christian.

While I can appreciate that the author likely had only the best of intentions, I wish they would be a little more careful.

Bill Nye Changes His Stance On GMO Foods – Was He Paid Off?

It seems like not a week goes by in which I do not come across the term “GMO food” somewhere in my online travels. Normally these stories are on environmentally oriented  news sites such as Ecowatch, and are about some new genetically modified crop that has been approved for human consumption (most recently a variety of apple and potato) along with various other  “cautionary” articles on the subject. Its a subject that I had wanted to tackle here at some point, but one I have avoided due to the massive undertaking required. But this Nye story I could not pass up.

Truth be told, before the news came out that Bill had changed his views on the subject, I did not even know he had any public views on the topic. I have heard people such as Bill Maher and Neil Degrasse Tyson address it, but not Nye. But apparently he did on an episode of his show back in his days as Americas favorite “Science Guy”.

And he has also taken on the subject fairly recently, as stated by a few articles I found below).

However, as stated by the title, he has recently changed his views on the subject of GMO foods. Previously a skeptic on the subject, he did a 360 and is now in favor of GMOs (interestingly, after visiting and interacting with scientists at monsanto).

The first thing I have to say, is that the title is not reflective of my personal viewpoint. However, it is fitting to one I seen coming from the anti-GMO crowd when THIS Ecowatch piece was published on March 9th. And now, someone has pretty much come out and insinuated it (March 23ed). Below is my favorite part of the piece:

We’ll never know what actually went down during Nye’s visit, as Tom Philpott at Mother Jones notes, but we do know that Monsanto has poured millions of dollars into public relation efforts to sell the public on GMOs. Because that’s what you do when you are a corporation with deep coffers and a product that the public is wisely skeptical of.

9/11 was CLEARLY an inside job. Its was an obvious example of insurance fraud. The biggest case of insurance fraud in American history (involving 2 airlines and one billionaire landlord).
It also served as a great excuse to justify the American government entry into 2 nations, giving them a place to build up and secretly test various substances for the purpose of population manipulation and control.
It is not in your best interest to assume your government as being incapable of being your biggest menace. People are absolutely right to be skeptical of the official explanation of 9/11.

Companies like Monsanto hope that casting doubt on the GMO labeling debate will cause us to get caught up in the proverbial weeds of the issue. So let’s get something straight: the debate over GMOs isn’t just about GMOs. It’s about the current and future state of our food system—who grows and sells our food, how it’s marketed, and what technologies were used to produce it. By selling seeds to farmers, peddling pesticides, forming corporate monopolies and funding academic research on GMOs, agribusiness giants like Monsanto have one goal in mind: controlling the food system.

I can agree with this, to a degree. Having gigantic entities exerting monopoly or duopoly control over a majority of the worlds food supply is, not a good thing for anyone. Big companies are in the business of making sales and being as efficient as possible, so this will almost always prevail even in the case of ecological degradation (unless mandated by law). The above article comes off as (again) border line conspiratorial, when the bigger factor seems to be the money. They are out for more sales, market domination is just an unfortunate by-product of this.

It does not matter the logo. You can almost always find the reason, if you follow the money.

The millions of people calling for labeling of GMO foods have a problem with that. Furthermore, it is disappointing to see such beloved science advocates as Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson being captured by the industry.

Well first of all, millions of people also believe in various versions of 9/11 conspiracy theory, that one of the founding fathers of the United States was Jesus and who knows how many other claims without strong evidence. Though many people often THINK of themselves as skeptical, many still take seriously claims (particularly scary, or unprovable ones) without much thought.
And many people will not budge in terms of their conclusions, no matter what the subject matter. Though mildly irritating on topics such as conspiracy theory and religion, it can be flat out harmful on some subjects such as GMO’s.
I have a friend who was afraid to eat corn for a whole year after watching some garbage GMO corn documentary on youtube. Only one of many similar instances (such as avoiding garlic because it “kills brain cells”, and not eating iron fortified cereals because they contain “iron filings you can move with a magnet”). No, I am not kidding.

As for Bill Nye and Neil Degrasse Tyson “being captured by the industry”, again, stop with the conspiratorial talk.
Both may share a viewpoint that happens to be beneficial to companies like Monsanto. But both share something else. That is, they both have a background in SCIENCE. I hypothesize that both used their skills to look at the data that was available on the subject, and then came up with a conclusion.
Bill Nye at first came to the table with a differing conclusion then Neil Degrasse Tyson. But like any human does (or SHOULD DO), he apparently altered those previous conclusions with the introduction of new information.
Yes, he went to Monsanto and spoke to Monsanto scientists. But I hypothesize that the meeting was more a conversation and presentation between scientists then a bribery session.

Just because the industry has launched a charm offensive in the media when it comes to GMOs doesn’t change the basic facts: GMOs are largely untested, and their long-term effects on our health and our planet are still unknown; they promote the use of dangerous chemicals, and they pose a significant threat to organic agriculture. What’s more, consumers should absolutely get to decide whether the food they are buying carries these unknown risks or supports this system; GMO foods must be labeled.

Its always amusing that “they are untested” is almost always used as a negative in terms of anti-GMO conversations. All it means is that right now, there is no real data in terms of long term affects on health, ecology and other aspects.
Painting a void of data in a negative strikes me as the anti-GMO version of pascals wager. There is no long term data to show that this corn will make your dick fall off, but do you REALLY want to chance it???

The funny thing about what was written just previously, is that was the stance that I was writing this piece from, and arguably the stance I had largely taken on the subject. That the science was unproven.
I had finished and was in the editing stage, when I happened to start listening to a video linked further in the post. Though I linked it for another reason, the beginning effectively challenged my whole starting viewpoint, and thus, my whole grasp of the topic.

Which forced me to call myself out, and admit here that I was wrong. Not only was I wrong, but I was also writing this from a quite typical anti-GMO viewpoint.
And so I educated myself to the thousands of studies that prove the safety of genetically modified foods. Studies that have occurred over a long term periods of time.

Studies that exemplify yet another reason why such articles as those shown here (published by  Ecowatch and others) are garbage.

As for “promoting dangerous chemicals” and “putting organic agriculture at risk”,  I can understand this.
The reason why many of these crops are on peoples radar, is because they are often modified by way of having a bit of herbicide and/or insecticide within its gene structure. The herbicides/insecticides and the seeds are propitiatory and are most effective in combination, so that is normally how they are utilized.
I agree that does not exactly sound, halal or kosher. But it does not really change my viewpoint, since this has been studied. Repeatedly. No evidence is not negative evidence.

I am somewhat in agreement that this stuff may make organic farming more difficult. But this is another area that, is muddied by mis and disinformation from the anti-GMO side.

I am in agreement that organic farming is likely affected due to the widespread usage of these chemicals. For large organic farming operations, I can see the task of STAYING organic being incredibly difficult whilst in amongst many non-organic farming operations. One aspect is the aerial spraying of herbicides and pesticides, which can ride the winds onto organic plants. Then there is the water supply (if the chemicals are entering into water supplies upstream of organic operations). And I suppose insects (such as bees in the process of pollination) and other animals (even the wind and rain) can do it to, spreading non-organic containments and seeds into organic operations.

However, this one needs to have an asterisk, because its also commonly utilized in an exaggerated to flat out fear-mongering fashion by the anti-GMO side (particularly by the many documentarys you may come across on Youtube or Netflix). And in its not even as much about the phenomenon, as it is the reaction of “evil” corporate entities towards little farmers. The portrayal of them being persecuted because some nearby farmers patented seeds happened to blow over and germinate on the poor farmers property.

I will let Dusty Smith take care of this one.

Moving on, we come to the GMO labeling question (should genetically modified products be labeled?). Advocates within the anti-GMO movement think that the food should be clearly labeled, making the consumer fully aware of what they are purchasing. And in a sense, I agree.

Of course! I don’t like corporations (or anyone else) hiding ingredients within common consumer items anymore then the next guy.

However, I am hesitant to just say “Yes! Its just common sense!” because of the state of  public awareness on this topic. There is a lot of “information” available, but a whole lot  of it is mis or disinformation. And many people do not bother to find out if there is more to the story then what is said on the Netflix documentary or the Youtube video. Though there is a lot of nuance in terms of genetic modification aside from the dangerous, many people ONLY see the dangerous, and react to that.

Lets take the example of a banana. The yellow musa × paradisiaca variety that you are used to seeing in the store is a product of genetic modification. As is, almost every other fruit, vegetable and food we consume today.
Many on the anti-GMO side will hesitate to use the term “genetically modified” in these cases, favoring  “selective breeding” instead. Its a way to keep you associating the term in your mind with the image of some evil person in a lab coat.
However, in the grand scheme of things, they are both forms of genetic engineering. So a law requiring the labeling of genetically modified foods and/or organisms would also theoretically have to cover these foods. Even though this is an entirely differing (and hardly scary) process in reality thats been ongoing for as long as agriculture itself, all the anti-crowd sees is the scary person in the lab coat.
This is the risk of thrusting mandatory genetic modification labels on an ignorant and largely misinformed populace.

However, unlike Dusty and others, I am not exactly ANTI-labeling. However, if it were to become a reality, it needs to be accompanied by  some sort of MASSIVE (likely world wide) education campaign designed to inform the public on the subject.
If such a campaign does not happen, then I suspect that literally TONS of foods will end up needlessly in landfills in regions of GMO labeling, simply because consumers don’t understand the nuances.

Another thing I suspect will happen is some companies will benefit financially from this ignorance, should they cash in on the trend at the right time. Or more importantly, the consumer will end up with an unnecessarily inflated grocery bill.

I do not have a problem with companies stepping in to fill a void in the market. However, being that I currently work in the grocery industry, I know that all of those specialty products (Organic, non GMO, gluten free) cost significantly more then their normally processed or “genetically modified” counterparts. Sometimes the prices can differ by 2 to 4 dollars (if not more!) just for a box of cereal or granola bars. Not even considering fruits and vegetables, and other foods.

Though it IS in a sense the fault of the consumer for not bothering to become educated enough to realize that they are being duped for nothing, it does bother me to see one entity benefit due to ignorance. Even if someone is an idiot, it be unfortunate to see them neglect other areas of family life (recreation? children’s activities?) just to make room for the higher food bill.
Yes, most people that jump onto food fads are likely in upper income brackets that allow for higher costs of food. But unlike gluten free and (to a degree) organic, the internet (and thus this GMO fear mongering) crosses all  socio-economic lines. As such, even if lower classes are not as likely to come on board just due to economic reasons, its not unreasonable to think some could.

And yes, I do call it a fad, because even if labeling becomes a mandatory reality, I don’t see this lasting much longer then maybe a couple of years (if even). I come to this conclusion due to both of the cost of such foods, and because most people will find something else to fixate on after while (“Why am I buying this $6 box of granola?! That other one is $3!”).

For this, I again reference my career in the grocery industry.

One aspect of my job (that annoys some people, me included at times) is the watching of best before dates on the products in the store. Stuff that goes beyond best before/sell by/expiration (etc) dates is pulled and either trashed or returned to the manufacturers (I imagine they do the same with said items).
Though I at times find whole cases of outdated (apparently unpopular) items across all categories of labeling (gluten free, organic, non GMO or no special labeling), the vast majority of the cases of food I pull is within the organic/gluten free/non GMO categories.
It is an unfortunate thing, not just on account to the lost revenue (particularly because I work for a co-operative), but also on account of all the preparation and distribution carbon emitted on account to those foods.  Not to mention the stupidity that is laws preventing such non-perishables from going to charities (if recipients of such foods get sick, the source would likely be held responsible, thus making donations of outdated non-perishables a legal liability).

However, what is important here, is the fact that these foods are currently available for the consumers who want them. And I do in fact hear a whole lot of discourse in the public domain about concern about what is in their foods (organics!), about the presence of gluten in much of everything (gluten free!) and of course about the GMOs in the food supply (non GMOs!).

Yet despite all the rhetoric, I still discard a whole lot of niche marketed products that fit such wants. And I see a whole lot of products that fall outside of such categories, move every day. Take good ole Corn Flakes cereal (not just what is sold under the brand name, but all others, such as store brands).
I have never found an outdated box of name or store branded corn flakes. Yet every few months I seem to find the non-modified stuff (usually whole cases). Selling one or 2 packages of non-GMO (verses who knows how many of the regular variety) certainly does not match with the public discourse.  Even amongst the people I know who are anti-GMO fanatics, they still don’t purchase organic and non-GMO. They just avoid an ever growing (and evolving) list of “scary” foods.

I have to also take into consideration that the experiences I have in the store I work in, and the community I live in, all amount to nothing more then anecdotal material.
I live in a relatively small city of just over 45,000, which is primarily agriculturally based. Most residents I would say are moderate income earners. The majority of consumers in the city tend to be moderate earning, no-nonsense conservatives who dislike change. And we also get a lot of farmers from outlying areas and communities.
As such, this community is not exactly the target market for many of the products listed (unlike say, Calgary or Toronto. Maybe even Winnipeg).

But none the less, I still believe that past behavior is a good indication of future behavior, particularly in terms of behaviors of the masses. There have been many food fads (and other fads) in the past, and there will be many more. I don’t see this anti-GMO thing as being a whole lot different, when all is said and done.

If I were to tell you my opinion on genetically modified foods, honestly I am unsure I have one. Okay, this whole piece says different. But I do not have a solidified opinion. Because at the moment,  I do not feel that there is enough scientific data available to make such a position possible.

Of course,  there will be hordes that will disagree with such views. However, many reference pseudo-science, debunked studies, or just conspiracy.  Even otherwise good ecologically oriented online publications are guilty of this.

So when it comes to genetically modified organisms, I guess you could say that I am cautious of some aspects, but otherwise I have no opinion (yet). When it comes to problems with the western worlds food supply (which is being increasingly exported elsewhere), I am more concerned about the mass availability of cheap but unhealthy foods, and also the high sugar content of much of it. Read some labels, and keep in mind that 4 grams of sugar equals to a tablespoon.
This strikes me as more urgent then, a problem that may not even exist.


One thing that we should keep our eyes on, is a new study put out by the World Health Organization’s International Agency For Research On Cancer. It allegedly  finds Monsanto’s flagship herbicide Roundup (well, its active ingredient glyphosate) problematic enough to upgrade its status to “probably carcinogenic to humans” (the next up is “carcinogenic to humans”).
How this turns out will be especially interesting, being that the herbicide is not only the most commonly used in the world, but also unanimously deemed safe by pretty much all of the worlds governments.

I have not come to any solid conclusions yet (though I know many are saying “SEE!! WE WERE RIGHT!! MONSANTO IS EVIL!!”).

The first thing that I have to acknowledge, is the fact that this is but a single study. A single study being an out lier amongst potentially hundreds of others, does not make it automatically flawed or misleading. But it also does not prove that all the previous studies as being flawed or misleading (not to mention the conspiratorial baggage that is often attached to such views).

All it means, is that the study needs more evaluation. And that is what the scientific community will do over time. If it is correct, then we will work from there. If it proves to be incorrect, then we know and move on.
As such, I don’t think that anyone should take this study alone as a verification of their previously held conclusions. Anyone that has any respect for the ways of the scientific method that is.