Advertisements

Posts Tagged With: reasearch

GMOs– A Study that is Harmful to Pigs

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.

GMOs-A study that is harmful to pigs {DaddysTractor.com}

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.

Advertisements
Categories: Science | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

My Meeting with Monsanto’s President

On Thursday of this past week my husband Brian and I had the opportunity to meet Monsanto’s President and CCO, Brett Begemann, as a part of the Agriculture Leaders of Tomorrow program.  We also toured the research facility in St. Louis, MO and got to take a peek behind the scenes at the greenhouses and test chambers.

My Meeting with Monsanto President

Mr. Begemann talked with us for a while about Monsanto’s acquisition of 20/20, the company that make the precision planting equipment you’ve seen us use on the blog.

If you are a regular follower I’d like to explain now that this post will take on a bit of a different flavor.  Usually I post information suitable for children—this might be information you as an adult read, then teach to the children in your life as you see fit.

Secondly, I’m writing this article to inform you.  You are free to believe anything you like.  If you disagree with me we don’t have to stop being friends.

AND I’m not being paid by anyone or any of that.  Soooo, let’s begin!

Thursday afternoon we toured the Monsanto research facility in St. Louis, MO.  In less than two hours we were briefed on the most advanced technology in the world.  It was amazing.  And yes, some of it was overwhelming.

It started with a basic understanding of DNA.  We’ve probably all seen pictures of the double helix strand.

My meeting with Monsanto President

All the information in a cell is recorded here in a code of ATs and GCs.   Its actually a lot like the binary system of 0s and 1s your computer understands.

In 2003 Scientists completed the Human Genome Project, which was a massive effort to read all these codes, record them, and share the information with the private sector.  This created a map of the ATs and GCs in human DNA.  The order of these codes determine what proteins are produced.  Each protein does a specific job, such as determining your eye color or hair texture.  Read this sort-of basic explanation of genetics from Wikipedia if you’d like more in-depth information!

Scientists have similarly mapped the DNA of some plants.  They have identified certain proteins and the jobs they do within the plant.  At the research facility we watched a presentation that explained the arrangement of proteins as a neighborhood.

My Meeting with Monsanto President

Each strand is a street and on each street are houses for the proteins.  Not every lot has a protein house, however.  Scientists used to think these were empty spaces and filled with “junk” but now they understand how much they don’t understand because the data in these empty lots seems to be very important to turning the proteins on and off.  For example, your DNA is the same in every cell.  But only the DNA that causes your eyes to be blue is actually “on” in your eyes.  Your skin is not blue, neither is your hair.  But that information is still in every skin cell, its just “off.”

So scientists know some proteins’ job is to control the yield of a plant.  If they can place this protein next to the correct empty house the yield of the plant increases!

The thing that struck me here was that DNA is different in every plant, just like it is in every person.  We all have a different combination of proteins that make us the different people we are.  At some point the DNA randomly goes together and you create an albino person.  At some point the DNA randomly goes together and my dark-haired husband and I have a red-haired son.  At some point the DNA can form a plant that yields like crazy.  But you really just have to get lucky.

Modifying the plant on purpose allows you to put proteins where you want them instead of waiting and hoping they will arrange themselves on accident.  

The odds of nature creating a seed with the exact combination you want are infinitesimal.  Just my opinion, but genetic modification doesn’t seem so scary when I realized it could have happened.   Not would have, but could have.  But I view this as learning from God’s design and using it to be better stewards of the land, better stewards of our money, and better human beings to the millions of starving people in this world.  But more on that later…

So some of our corn, soybeans, beets, etc., are modified for better yield, for stronger stalks that don’t fall down in a storm, for drought tolerance, and some are modified for herbicide tolerance.  That’s Round-Up.

My Meeting with Monsanto President

So here again our guide helped me understand what was really going on in a Round Up ready soybean.

The goal is to kill all plants in a field expect soybeans (or whatever you planted).  How do you kill a plant?  Well, Brett and I did an experiment on that back in our Plant Thematic Unit.  Plants need air, water, nutrients, and sunlight.  And while you can’t really control those in a field, sunlight is actually used for the process of photosynthesis which involves, you guessed it, proteins.  The chemicals in Round Up are so specifically designed that they can target the exact protein needed for photosynthesis.  (Actually its the messenger.  It kills the messenger.  I find this funny.  But irrelevant.  Right.)  The Round Up ready plant genes are relocated to new housing to protect their photosynthesis process.  Now farmers can plant more food in less space because instead of needing to drive equipment into the field to till the weeds under, they can spray Round Up.  Plus sensitive plants like corn produce lots more without the competition weeds provided.  And unless you have photosynthesizing genes in your DNA, Round Up isn’t a human problem.*

Furthermore, it is this amazing information about proteins that is being used to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, cancer, Asperger’s, so much more.  I find it interesting that we cheer these projects, yet decry GMOs.

Maybe it is because the effects of cancer are felt here, in our own backyard.  Hunger isn’t an issue we deal with in the US.  At least, it isn’t today.  Currently our own hunger needs stem more from a lack of money than a lack of food.  It just isn’t true everywhere you go.

But maybe we’ll be singing a different tune in another 30-40 years, because today’s population of 7 billion is expected to reach 9 billion in that short of a time frame.  In the next few decades farmers will need to produce more food than ever before.  They will do this with less land than we farm now and probably less water.  They will do this or we will be hungry.

 

 

**I welcome all comments, but please be courteous to all.  I will remove any rude or hurtful replies.  Also, this is a blog for children, so please keep it clean.

*I will be posting more about our meeting soon, but please understand there is SO MUCH to say about GMOs and Monsanto I could not possibly cover it all, especially in one post.   🙂

Categories: Science, Technology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.