Skepti-Forum members Richard Green and Marc Brazeau have brought together prominent critics of genetically engineered crops to quickly highlight how these pillars of the anti-GMO movement all seem to have feet of clay.
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The GMO Rogues Gallery
by Richard Green & Marc Brazeau
When it comes to the topic of genetically engineered crops (GE-crops) there is a lot of misinformation. When sourcing the origins of the most common misconceptions a few names routinely come up. Lets take a brief look at the rogues in our gallery:
Gilles-Éric Séralini: He is active in research and is the author of the infamous rat study that was retracted and recently republished without critical review. His work is often shown to have poor methodology and analysis.
Charles Benbrook: Benbrook is an agricultural economist at Washington State University and science advisor for The Organic Center. He is the author of a widely panned study on pesticide use in GE crops.
Judy Carman: Another active researcher and the author of a study on pigs which were fed GE corn. The study was found to be lacking in many areas.
Stephanie Seneff and Anthony Samsel: These two are computer specialists that do not conduct research per se, but use algorithms to look for correlations. They typically engage in what we call reverse snake oil. Instead of a magic elixir curing unrelated conditions, they lay the blame for unrelated conditions on a single magical cause, usually glyphosate. They have the distinction of having a paper being used as a model for detecting a bogus scientific journal.
Vandana Shiva: Shiva is a philosopher who would like you to believe she is a physicist. A frequent claim is her rallying cry against “terminator genes/seeds”. These seeds are more of an idea than reality, as they never made it out of preliminary development. She is also fond of making outrageous claims with no supporting evidence.
David Suzuki: Suzuki was a zoologist/geneticist and retired in 2001. Now he is an environmentalist who accepts the global consensus on global warming but falls short on accepting the global consensus on GE-crops. His vague cautions against unknown risks apply equally to creating new crops from any form of plant breeding. The few times he has been confronted with hard questions have left him flummoxed.
Don Huber: Huber is a retired agricultural researcher from Purdue University who was well respected in his day. These days he claims the existence of a mysterious pathogen somehow associated with Roundup that only he can see…
Theirry Vrain: Vrain was a soil biologist and genetic scientist for the Agriculture department in Canada. As with others in the gallery, he makes poorly sourced claims to elicit fear. Unlike some of the others, he really doesn’t specialize, his is more of an all-purpose type of misinformation.
Jeffery Smith: Such a gallery would not be complete without Mr. Smith. He has no academic credentials. Not that credentials are needed to understand the science behind GE crops, but Mr. Smith has not made that effort. Like a lot of the rogues, he tours the paid lecture circuit making unfounded claims about the dangers of GE crops. His seminal work is the novel Genetic Roulette, which has been thoroughly debunked.
To sum up:
The active scientists in this group seem to start with the end point they want to reach and then try to manipulate enough variables to achieve their goals. That is the exact opposite of how to conduct a good experiment.
The non-scientists and retired scientists seem to be pushing an ideology instead of examining the current research.
View anything these folks have to say on agricultural topics with extreme caution.
Photo Credit: The Bothan Spy