They will give just anyone a blog. Believe me. So I’m giving you the moral of today’s post now. Don’t believe everything you read.
I’m writing this in response to comments made back when I first brought up the topic of Monsanto, so my same disclaimers apply. And like before, I’ll try to be as unemotional as I can be, but I warn you now, I’m going to vent just a little.
Back when I first posted about my meeting with Monsanto’s President several people sent me links. Studies, news reports, websites, blogs– all citing the dangers of GMOs. Because I like to know all sides of a story I clicked on all of them. I read several twice. Then I did something a little crazy. I checked for sources.
I was amazed at how many articles had no sources. At all. Other sources I questioned because I couldn’t be sure, based on the report, if I was getting all of the information. And despite these scientific inadequacies, people are reading them. Reposting them. Believing them.
Here’s an example so you can see what I mean.
This headline appeared on the Chicago Tribune website on June 11. “Scientists say new study shows pig health hurt by GMO feed.” It begins by listing the qualifications of the study– a good first step. It tells us which scientific journal published the findings, who did the study, how many pigs were in the study, and what they did to the pigs. It then publishes a whole paragraph of ratios comparing stomach inflammation of two groups of pigs. So far so good.
But then the problems begin. The only links are by Google and AdChoice. I had to go elsewhere to find the actual report. And yes, I really read it. Um, most of it.
Here’s what I found. 168 pigs were divided into two groups. One group was fed GMO feed, the other non-GMO feed. When they were market size they were slaughtered and their organs were examined.
There was no difference in the size or health of the living animals. The study states that the only difference at all was in the size of the uterus and the amount of stomach inflammation. One veterinarian looked at all the stomachs of the pigs and gave them ratings of nil, mild, moderate, or severe stomach inflammation.
In the category of severe stomach inflammation there were 9 non GM fed pigs and 23 GM fed pigs. That’s pretty bad and is obviously the biases for the article. However, if you keep going you will see that there are 29 non GM pigs in the moderate category and only 18 GM pigs. Now its 38-41 with some kind of inflammation. Lets add in the mild category with 31 non and 23 GM and you have totals of 69 to 64 and there are actually more sick non pigs than GM pigs. Finally, the nil category with 4 non and 8 GM, with grand totals of 73 non and 72 GM.
And then lets look at a few other categories. 11 non GM fed pigs had heart abnormalities, and only 5 GM fed pigs had them. So where is the headline “GMOs prevent heart problems”? 6 non GM pigs had liver abnormalities and only 3 GM pigs did. Still no headline. And 3 non vs. 2 GM pigs had spleen abnormalities. (Whatever that is.)
But here’s where my emotional neutrality will end– what in the world did the scientists do that made all these pigs so sick?! 168 pigs and 145 had inflammation?! 16 had heart abnormalities?! They had a mortality rate of 13-14% overall, which they try to say is “normal” but my farm friends tell me 3-6% is more like it. This sounds like horrible treatment of animals in my opinion!
Back to calm.
I also found an article (the author is sarcastic, but generally reasonable) which explains the authors, funding, and other behind the scene details. He writes that while the study specifically states that there are no conflicts of interest, one of the authors sells non-GMO grain.
I am not a scientist. I’m guessing most of you aren’t either. Neither are the journalists for the Chicago Tribune. However, it looks to me as if someone, somewhere along the way, wanted headlines. Negative headlines. Maybe because negative headlines sell? or because they want GMOs to be bad? or they want to sell non GMO grain? Not sure. But after reading the study I believe you would have to be looking for that headline before you could find it.
This isn’t the only out-of-proportion article I’ve read.
But there are hundreds of studies you’ve likely never heard of. GENERA, a project to catalog properly peer-reviewed, legitimately published, scientific studies about genetically engineered plants, lists more than 600 independent studies. And no, I didn’t read them all. Not even mostly. You could, if you’d like, read each one to see how GMOs have been shown to be safe. Over and over and over again.
Don’t bother writing about it though. It doesn’t make good headlines.
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As a farmers wife and mother of the 5th generation farmer of our family farm and mother to a student studying Plant Science to help farmers with producing better seeds, Thank You!! I get so tired of defending “feeding the world”! Thank you for your wonderful comments!
Good Job, Kelly, Don’t leave out the fact that the non-GMO corn also had mold, which may have contributed to the results. Blake
I agree with the need to come to an independent opinion based on one’s own research of the purported research. There is a lot of this going around with respect to childhood immunizations and other things. I’m not condemning those positions but I too would want to decide for myself by researching the “research”.
By the way, I value your profession because it feeds my family. Thanks!
Just found your blog, via Mascara comments! Loved reading, as a fellow wife of a wheat farmer I agree, it’s hard to talk about without getting emotional!