A scientist’s scathing response to a journalist writing on the ‘dangers’ of GM foods

Something I spotted while doing some light reading into GM crops.

Column regarding genetically modified foods was one-sided and misinformed

Melissa Mastrogiovanni’s column on Genetically Modified (GM) foods  is a thinly-veiled hatchet job, repeating a mixture of half-truths, lies and grossly misinformed opinions about this technology. This was disappointing, as Ms. Mastrogiovanni interviewed me (I’m an “NIU Expert” on plant genetic engineering) at some length during the preparation of her column.

Judging from the content in her column, Ms. Mastrogiovanni came to this subject with a pre-formed agenda, and wasn’t interested in accuracy or real science. Let me be absolutely clear that I am not upset or concerned that Ms. Mastrogiovanni used little if any of the information she and I discussed. This was an opinion piece and she was perfectly within her rights to use or not use any information that I provided to her. I have no ego involved here.

What I found disappointing, however, is that Ms. Mastrogiovanni gave enormous credibility to anti-GMO advocates, when for the most part those opinions have little, if any, real scientific credibility.

When reporters are writing about science-related issues, whether that be GMOs, vaccines, Global Climate Change or E. coli from German organic farms that has recently killed at least 40 people, they have an obligation to do their best to understand the science and to realize that when experimental evidence is involved, not all opinions are equal.

I won’t post the whole item, but the link is in the title if you want to read it. It points out a few thing that often bug me about anti-GM pieces. In particular the lack of discrimination between good scientific sources and some crusty bloke who’s running a website. As the piece says, not all opinions are equal. I tracked down the original article here. One of the funnier bits is where Ms Mastrogiovanni names the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) as a quotable source (you can find it on Quackwatch). However, the author of the letter does a better hatchet job than I could ever hope to. Particularly on how she wrangled the comments of Dr Oz so she didn’t have to mention that he had pointed out  that overwhelmingly studies of GM food showed it to be safe.

I was also bemused how she attributed the rise in autoimmune diseases to GM. There are very strong statistical cases for allergies and asthma to be tied to the increase in childhood antibiotic exposure, smoking, NSAID’s and lower levels of pathogen exposure in childhood. Not GM.

And finally, I’d like to point out many naturally occurring foods and well accepted foods have their downsides. Corn syrup causes fatty liver, liquorice is mildly toxic, at least one vegetable from East Asia has a very high level of oxalixc acid (toxic when raw) and many pulses and beans are virtually indigestible when uncooked. Gluten containing grains can cause a lot of digestive discomfort and nutritional deficiencies, even going as far to cause cancer in some coeliac patients. And as for milk,  70% of the planet would get the runs if they drank a pint of it. So some sense of perspective is due when reading the studies in the press, and also an understanding that the studies results usually aren’t represented particularly accurately by journalists looking for a headline.

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Islamic extremists demand Sharia states in UK; a little perspective here.

Firstly, it’s a tiny organisation called ‘Muslims against crusades’ that are making any noise about this. Don’t get the impression that the UK Muslim population has risen up en masse demanding it. The Daily mail article here…

Dewsbury, Bradford and Tower Hamlets … where Islamic extremists want to establish independent states with sharia law

Islamic extremists have called on British Muslims to establish three independent states within the UK. The notorious Muslims Against the Crusades (MAC) group have named Yorkshire towns Bradford and Dewsbury and Tower Hamlets in East London as testbeds for blanket sharia rule. The medieval ‘emirates’ would operate entirely outside British law, according to a document on the MAC website.

Lets start with a little clarity on what British Muslims want. About 60% of them when polled in 2006 said, no Sharia. This percentage was a lot higher in the older Muslims, who presumably had actually had experience of Sharia before the came to the UK (83%).

So they are not in any danger of getting their own way through mass Muslim support. The real danger is that groups of the young men will decide to go out and start enforcing Sharia in their area, as has been happening in Tower Hamlets in the past few years. Hate crimes against gays, non-Muslims and Muslim women who don’t cover up are getting to be all too frequent. And they aren’t being put on the news, in an effort to downplay the problems. If we aren’t careful we are going to end up with Muslim no-go areas as has happened in France. This is a case for a police crackdown, not media panic mongering.

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Of mice and mankind : why dietary studies on mice have less than zero relevance to humans.

There have been quite a few studies on the effect of low carb diets on mice recently, and there has been quite a fuss with some (extremely stupid) journalists and researchers extrapolating that what is bad for mice is bad for people. There are a few things I should point out about mice and humans.

Mice eat a grain and seed based diet. They always have, and have done so for millions of generations. They do not, ever naturally, eat a high fat or protein diet. Humans however, evolved for the past few million years as stamina hunters, scavengers and foragers. Their diets were mainly made up of (drumroll) fat and protein. Hunter gatherers to this day eat a diet that is roughly two-thirds animal (see the work of Cordain on this). The swap over to an agrarian lifestyle high in carbs/grains is extremely recent for our species. It started about 20,000 years ago in the Levant when foragers swapped over to gathering wild grains as their main food source (the Kebaran Ohalo site), and didn’t start spreading to other populations until about 10,000 years ago. Northern Europe started eating a large amount of grains as little as 5,000 years ago, and other modern hunter gathers have never, ever, ever in their entire evolutionary history eaten a grain/carb based diet.

In fact, different human populations respond differently to different diets. East Asians and many others can’t digest milk, Pima Indians are massively insulin resistant and all almost entirely obese and diabetic in adulthood.

Which really demands the question; why the hell does anyone think the biological response of another species that evolved to eat a completely different diet to humans will be anything like our own?

Some prime examples of stupidity… all mouse based.

Atkins ‘affects conception chances’

Eating a high protein diet – such as Atkins – could reduce a woman’s chances of conceiving, researchers suggest.

I’d like to point out that low carb diets are well recognised as a treatment for Poly-Cystic Ovaries Syndrome, a common cause of fertility problems in women. This item is scientific crap.

High protein diets casue Alzheimer’s

Researchers found that mice fed meals similar to those of the original Atkin’s Diet had brains five per cent lighter than all the others.

Low-carbohydrate Atkins-style diets could increase risk of heart disease and stroke

Atkins diet potentially unhealthy, study finds.

And just for a laugh.

A High Fat, Low Carbohydrate Diet Improves Alzheimer’s Disease In Mice

ScienceDaily (Oct. 17, 2005) — Mice with the mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease show improvements in their condition when treated with a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet

Anyone curious about how HUMANS respond to low carb diets should check out the links below.

The effects of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet on the polycystic ovary syndrome: A pilot study

In this pilot study, a LCKD led to significant improvement in weight, percent free testosterone, LH/FSH ratio, and fasting insulin in women with obesity and PCOS over a 24 week period.

Low-Carbohydrate-Diet Score and the Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women

Our findings suggest that diets lower in carbohydrate and higher in protein and fat are not associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease in women. When vegetable sources of fat and protein are chosen, these diets may moderately reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

Low-Carb Diets and Heart Disease

Low-carb diets are better at boosting ‘good’ cholesterol than low-fat diets and the weight loss is the same, according to a new study.

The low-carb group had a substantially greater decrease in diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number that measures the heart at rest, in between heartbeats) than did the low-fat group at three and six months.The difference still remained after two years.The low-carb group also had greater increases in HDL cholesterol than the low-fat group throughout the study.

Restricted-carbohydrate diets in patients with type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis.

Abstract

Many current popular weight-loss diets advocate restricting carbohydrates, but risks and benefits of these diets for patients with diabetes is unclear. We searched for articles published in English between 1980 and April 2006 regarding carbohydrate-restricted diets that included and reported separate results for adult, nonpregnant patients with type 2 diabetes. Articles were limited to studies completed in the United States and Canada. Available data on study design; carbohydrate composition of diet; duration of diet; and the outcomes of weight, lipid levels (total, low-density lipoprotein and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and triglycerides), hemoglobin A1c percent and/or fasting glucose were extracted. A total of 56 studies or reviews were evaluated. Thirteen studies met our inclusion criteria. Meta-regression analyses show that hemoglobin A1c, fasting glucose, and some lipid fractions (triglycerides) improved with lower carbohydrate-content diets. Overall effect on weight was equivocal among the studies evaluated in this meta-analysis. Randomized, controlled studies of restricted-carbohydrate diets in patients with diabetes need to be conducted in order to evaluate the overall sustainability of outcomes and long-term safety.

So there you go. The studies on the mice actually seem to be the reverse of what you’d find in humans on the same diet. Less than zero relevance.

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Islamic homophobia in Tower Hamlets- what we aren’t seeing on TV.

Let’s face it most British people only know what’s going on by what they read in the Sun and the news programs wrapped around their soaps. If it’s not on these then they aren’t going to hear about it. This is why the internet has become a vital service, publicising the cases that the mainstream media keep off our radar.

In reading through several posts on news sites, it’s become apparent that multiple individuals are posting incorrect information (or lying) claiming that it was NOT a Muslim that posted the ‘Gay free zone’ posters over Tower Hamlets. Well, it was. he was caught on CCTV and convicted for it. Bang to rights. He was  18-year-old Mohammed Hasnath (article here). Now that has been addressed:

We never heard a peep about two nasty homophobic incidents in Tower Hamlets. the first, the stabbing of  young  man, Oliver Hemsley, who was stabbed eight times in the torso (article here)after leaving a well known gay bar the George and Dragon, which received very little attention. This man is paralysed for life. He was attacked by a gang (although only one person was convicted). When this young man, Nazrul Islam was convicted, it was followed by an attack on the George and Dragon by a gang of Muslims who dragged the man out and beat them. Again, resounding silence (article here).

 ‘I was pouring a drink, then I turned round and there were 30 kids pouring into the pub. They began hitting everyone,’ says Richard Battye, manager of the pub, talking to Time Out about the incident. Although no one was hospitalised, the pub’s doorman was badly beaten.

It’s not that these crimes are being committed, it’s that nothing is being done about it. The police need to man up, grow a pair of balls between them and drag the offenders in and if necessary have the army on stand by to deal with rioting that would probably ensue at their temerity.

 

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Ten men arrested in Manchester/Salford for child sex trafficking- what we aren’t seeing on the media.

It was all over the news about the arrests, ten men arrested for plying underage girls with free food, drink, and then drugs so they and their mates could pimp them around. The men have been charged and now bailed but… No names in the media. Not one. Which is very unusual. And the reason is…  they are (yet again) Muslims (hence no published names, it would be sodding obvious since half of them would be called Mohammed). The mass silence over this in the media smacks of an enforced cover-up. However the Sun (which is barely more than a comic but at least has balls) decided to unsubtly mention the problem of Muslim men using non Muslim girls in the UK like meat in the same article, so people could figure it out. See below.

TEN men were arrested on suspicion of running a child sex trafficking ring after a series of dramatic dawn raids.

The suspects – aged 18 to 28 – are accused of exploiting teenage girls for sex parties.

It is believed the youngsters – as young as 14 – were given booze and drugs. Some 39 girls are currently involved in the investigation but cops are concentrating on a core group of six.

Vulnerable

Half of all the girls were living in care and their ordeals first came to light after victims confided in their carers.

The arrests across Manchester and Salford followed a three-month investigation by more than 100 police.

The swoop this morning came after two men were jailed for a total of 19 years in January for targeting underage girls.

Abid Saddique, 27, and Mohammed Liaqat, 28, toured Derby looking for vulnerable young girls.

At the time, former Home Secretary Jack Straw sparked a fierce political row when he said some Pakistani men in Britain see white girls as “easy meat”.

And last year a private schoolgirl from Rochdale, Greater Manchester, was rescued after a gang of Asian men forced her to act as a sex slave.

While the Sun doesn’t overtly say the men were Pakistani/ Muslim, some enterprising writer has tried to get around whatever restrictions have been put upon them (they did the same thing when a rape victim refused to publicly identify her attacker: they posted a picture of him interviewing her as a clue). Which makes me wonder, has someone slapped a court order or injunction on this? If so, and I suspect it is from the tone of the Sun item which is very cagey, why? It’s hardly news that Muslim men in the UK and all over Europe behave like this. People have a right to know.

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The starving future of Egypt.

It’s looking very much like Egypt is going bankrupt, and given about six months more will be unable to buy in any food (they recently import about half, too many people, not enough food). This will lead to 83 million Egyptians being chronically short of food, and I’d expect a mass emigration from the area by early winter if no-one sends them food aid (the Americans and others are proposing huge amounts of aid to prevent this population movement). While I’m not keen on handing over resources to fundamentalists who despise us, it’s better than having them trying to force their way North and starting WWIII in the process. Or trying to force their way south into the greener Sahel of Africa. Looking at it rationally, feeding them will be less expensive than a huge war or dealing with mass illegal immigration, and they might finally get the idea that they need to use birth control and improve their farming methods. And on an unpleasant (but valid) note; if they realise how dependant they are on us for their survival, they may tone done their aggression. It’s possible it would give us enough leverage to impose human rights/democracy etc in the country. On the upside, being that broke means that they could’t fund any kind of major war against Israel, which means all the current Muslim Brotherhood rhetoric will remain just that.

 

The hunger to come in Egypt
By Spengler

Egypt is running out of food, and, more gradually, running out of money with which to buy it. The most populous country in the Arab world shows all the symptoms of national bankruptcy – the kind that produced hyperinflation in several Latin American countries during the 1970s and 1980s – with a deadly difference: Egypt imports half its wheat, and the collapse of its external credit means starvation.

The civil violence we have seen over the past few days foreshadows far worse to come.

The Arab uprisings began against a background of food insecurity, as rising demand from Asia priced the Arab poor out of the grain market (Food and failed Arab states, Asia Times Online February 2, 2011). The chaotic political response, though, threatens to disrupt food supplies in the relative near term. Street violence will become the norm rather than the exception in Egyptian politics. All the discussion about Egypt’s future political model and its prospective relations with Israel will be overshadowed by the country’s inability to feed itself.

Egypt’s political problems – violence against Coptic Christians, the resurgence of Islamism, and saber-rattling at Israel, for example – are not symptoms of economic failure. They have a life of their own. But even Islamists have to eat, and whatever political scenarios that the radical wing of Egyptian politic might envision will be aborted by hunger.

The Ministry of Solidarity and Social Justice is already forming “revolutionary committees” to mete out street justice to bakeries, propane dealers and street vendors who “charge more than the price prescribed by law”, the Federation of Egyptian Radio and Television reported on May 3.

According to the ministry, “Thugs are in control of bread and butane prices” and “people’s committees” are required to stop them. Posters on Egyptian news sites report sharp increases in bread prices, far in excess of the 11.5% inflation reported for April by the country’s central bank. And increases in the price of bottled propane have made the cost of the most widely used cooking fuel prohibitive.

The collapse of Egypt’s credit standing, meanwhile, has shut down trade financing for food imports, according to the chairman of the country’s Food Industry Holding Company, Dr Ahmed al-Rakaibi, chairman of the Holding Company for Food Industries. Rakaibi warned of “an acute shortage in the production of food commodities manufactured locally, as well as a decline in imports of many goods, especially poultry, meats and oils”. According to the country’s statistics agency, only a month’s supply of rice is on hand, and four months’ supply of wheat.

The country’s foreign exchange reserves have fallen by US$13 billion, or roughly a third during the first three months of the year, Reuters reported on May 5. The country lost $6 billion of official and $7 billion of unofficial reserves, and had only $24.5 billion on hand at the end of April. Capital flight probably explains most of the rapid decline. Egypt’s currency has declined by only about 6% since January, despite substantial capital flight, due to market intervention by the central bank, but the rapid drawdown of reserves is unsustainable.

At this rate Egypt will be broke by September.

Egypt imported $55 billion worth of goods in 2009, but exported only $29 billion of goods. With the jump in food and energy prices, the same volume of imports would cost considerably more. Egypt closed the 2009 trade gap with about $15 billion in tourist revenues, and about $8 billion of remittances from Egyptian workers abroad. But tourism today is running at a fraction of last year’s levels, and remittances are down by around half due to expulsion of Egyptian workers from Libya. Even without capital flight, Egypt is short perhaps $25 billion a year.

The  full article is worth a read (link in title). Essentially if we don’t intervene financially, there will be millions of deaths among the poorer Egyptians, as well as a wave of humanity trying to escape Egypt. I’m predicting that the current wave of violence against the Copts (which is kept curiously quiet by the BBC) could escalate into full-blown genocide very quickly, as starving people get very aggressive and will try to get rid of any minority group to reduce competition for food. This is one of the few cases where I’m going to suggest a blanket granting of asylum to a large number of people (Copts), fairly shared between the developed nations. It will reduce the Egyptian population by about 10%. It will take a some stress off their limited food supplies, and prevent  the horrific annihilation of millions.

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All rapes in Oslo commited by immigrants

Although this doesn’t mention it directly, the vast majority of non Western immigrants in Oslo are mainly Muslim. The areas they come from are Pakistan, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Morocco and Somalia (mainly).

Andd they wonder why ‘white flight’ exists.

 

Edit: this should read ‘all assault rapes’, as this doesn’t include things like date rape (which isn’t in the original article).

 

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