OpenEarth Anti-GM Paper

I really didn’t mean to get into the GM controversy.  I like the evolution controversy.  It’s fun.  The science is settled.

The issue of genetically modified food and organisms isn’t quite as settled.  And there’s a huge movement, based on belief, about it.

Here’s the deal.  I stand for science.  To date, in all of human history, the scientific method is the ONLY method that exists for gaining and verifying knowledge.  I don’t care whether GM-foods are safe or not.  If the science says they are safe, then I’m happy with that.  If the science says they are not safe, then I’m happy with that too.

I don’t have a horse in this race.  But I do insist that people using science to support their ideas use valid science.

I had this article posted for me today.

GMO Myths and Truths

It’s 123 pages.  Upon looking at it I was reminded of the Gish Gallop.  In fact, the anti-GM movement reminds me a lot of the creationist movement.  They know, for a fact, that they are right.  It’s just a matter of finding the support.

Unfortunately, that’s not how science is done.  And it leads to disastrous results (like Seralini’s paper.)

So, out of this 123 pages, I selected one at random.  Here’s what I found.

The one section I looked at because it seemed interesting to me was the “deaths from GM foods”… I was quite surprised to see the first entry wasn’t even a food, it was a supplement.  A company that used bacteria to create tryptophan, which was then collected and put into the supplement. There are 3 studies that show, that large doses (such as frequently caused by over-the-counter supplements) of tryptophan produce metabolites that inhibit the normal degradation of histamine, and excess histamine in turn has been proposed to cause EMS.  (see below)

So, again, there is no reason to assume that a bacteria that produces a chemical compound that can causes the disease is at fault. If the susceptible people ate lots of turkey every day, then they would have the exact same problem.

Failure to even mention papers that don’t support one’s own position is called “cherry-pciking” and is a logical fallacy. Submissions to scientific peer-review that do not include ALL relevant papers, whether they support the hypothesis or not, are not accepted.

This paper, seems to be a common tactic, used by creationists called The Gish Gallop. The basic premise in a debate is to throw so much crap out, that the opponent doesn’t have a prayer of answering every single line item. Since he doesn’t answer every single line item, then the person throwing all the crap wins. It would take me about a day to read this entire paper. It would take me another day (8 hours at least) to review each and every point and provide searches of relevant points.

I will further note that this paper was published in 2012, yet the references pertaining to this particular incident are all dated 1990-1994. Basically ignoring the last 18 years of research. That’s another common tactic from the creationist playbook. Use outdated sources. Back then we either didn’t know or couldn’t actually do certain kinds of research… now we can and since these papers have been published… the failure to include them either indicates sloppy research or a deliberate suppression of new findings. Either case bodes ill for the remainder of the paper.

Finally, these authors are not un-biased. At least they admitted it, unlike Seralini. Again, that doesn’t matter if they do good science and research.

It took me less than 10 minutes to debunk a random paragraph from this paper.

Again, I’m not saying that all GM-food is automatically safe. I’m saying that papers like Seralini and this one don’t show that GM-food isn’t safe. Twenty years, we’ve been eating GM food here in the US.

Another commonly used creationist tactic is the strawman.  This is where the debater attacks a position that the opponent doesn’t actually hold.  For example, the clown JoeG on this blog constantly refers to me supporting ‘my position’ and then he tells me what my position is, without regard for the fact that he doesn’t actually understand my position.

The first “myth” in this paper is “Genetic engineering is just an extension of natural breeding”.  I know no one who makes that argument on either side.  The processes of genetic manipulation are well understood and have been for decades.  The authors thinking that this is a myth may be due to misunderstandings from a layperson, but no one arguing with them holds this position.

I could go on, but I’m tired and this paper is just epic.  Maybe I’ll break it down, but I have a lot to do right now and this would basically result in a meta-analysis of the last 20 years of genetic research.  Anyone want to give me a grant to do this?


^ Shapiro S (1996). “Epidemiologic studies of the association of L-tryptophan with the eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome: a critique”. The Journal of rheumatology. Supplement 46: 44–58; discussion 58–9. PMID 8895181.
^ Horwitz RI, Daniels SR (1996). “Bias or biology: evaluating the epidemiologic studies of L-tryptophan and the eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome”. The Journal of rheumatology. Supplement 46: 60–72. PMID 8895182.
^ Smith MJ, Garrett RH (2005). “A heretofore undisclosed crux of eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome: compromised histamine degradation”. Inflamm. Res. 54 (11): 435–50. doi:10.1007/s00011-005-1380-7. PMID 16307217.

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1 Response to OpenEarth Anti-GM Paper

  1. Thanks – enjoyed your discussion of a (regrettably) familiar set of issues.

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