aTitle: A review of core issues relating to the global adoption of genetically modified foods. As we are confronted by more and more information, it is of great importance that as global citizens we endeavour to form our own conclusions by thoroughly analysing factual data. Often information we are presented with can carry a vast undertone of additional, and usually bias information, which conveyed through language, body language, and even in extreme, but uncommon instances, subliminal messaging.
Professionals in environmental management must be able to efficiently draw unbiased conclusions by filtering large quantities of information and communicate their findings effectively. In environmental management, global issues typically generate the most controversy. Currently, a global movement to abolish genetically modified foods, is raging. As scientific evidence that challenges the safety of GMO’s mounts, global protests and national governments are rejecting genetically modified foods, in particular the notorious company Monsanto.
This assignment is aimed at evaluating key literature relating to the safety of GMO’s using the correct models developed in critical analysis for environmental management in hope that informative and unbiased conclusions can be drawn.
The Purpose of this table is to briefly summarise five sources of literature using methods gained in the course to aid in the development of a draft plan for assignment two. Reference/Source
Application of Course Concepts
Comments relevant to planning the draft review
Gilles-Eric Séralini, Emilie Clair, Robin Mesnage, Steeve Gress, Nicolas Defarge, Manuela Malatesta, Didier Hennequin, Joël Spiroux de Vendômois (2012) Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. Food and Chemical Toxicology 50. Pg4221-4231 Peer Reviewed Journal
This paper discusses the health effects of roundup tolerant genetically modified maize cultivated with roundup weedkiller on rats over two years.
The lead author on this paper is well known for his stance against genetically modified organisms and has published many papers in the past relating to the same topic. The paper is well referenced but sources many of the lead author’s previous papers, which gives the impression of being prejudiced. It stands alone today as the longest toxicity study of GM NK603 maize and the commercial herbicide it was designed to grow with.
The nature of this article is intended to target an audience of professionals and members of the industry alike. However, due to its controversial conclusions, it has attracted far more attention through the media. The paper claims to have evidence demonstrating that rats fed genetically modified maize cultivated with roundup were twice as more likely to suffer a premature death and 70% more likely in females over a two year period.
Since its release many have claimed it to be solid evidence of the negative effects of ingesting GMO’s, but it has come under equal fire from Monsanto and other scientific academies. They have claimed that flaws exist in the design of the experiment, its statistical analysis, and use of a rat species prone to tumour formation (MacKenzie 2012).
However the same species of rat was used in the Monsanto paper, which Seralini was challenging (Hammond et.al 2004). As the paper had attracted much attention, and there had been no protocols in place for studies of its kind, the European Food Safety Authority released its guidelines which generally validated the paper in question (EFSA 2013).
According to the results, the common time frame of 90 days is an insufficient time frame to thoroughly analyse the toxicity of GM foods as the first signs of tumours occurred between four to seven months into the study. A startling result shown in figure1 shows an increase in mortality rates in males per the concentration of roundup. However not much attention is drawn to this. Confronting photos of these rats clearly in significant pain with tumours equating to 25% of their body mass are then illustrated provoking an emotional response in the reader. Too few rats were also used in the control groups with only 10 of each sex.
This paper will be useful in demonstrating the extent of obvious bias seen across much of the research about GM foods. It was also purposely designed to mimic the methods used in Monsanto’s paper (Hammond et.al 2004). It claims to provide strong contradictory views that can be used in setting the context of the debate.
The flaws present in experimentation and obvious intention of generating publicity can be elaborated in assessing key elements of the controversy. B. Hammond, R. Dudek, J. Lemen, M. Nemeth. (2004) Results of a 13 week safety assurance study with rats fed grain from glyphosate tolerant corn. Food and Chemical Toxicology 42. Pg 1003-1014 Peer Reviewed Journal
All three authors of this paper are associated with Monsanto, who also provided the funding for the paper, making the paper extremely bias and leaving no room for alternate interpretations of findings. As the strain of maize had not been adopted worldwide it can be assumed that the authors were motivated publish data confirming the safety of the product. It thoroughly documents the study’s methodology and references a wide range of literature. A large number of test subjects were used in each group. Rigorous results are shown and are clear and easy to interpret.
The paper claims to have found minimal changes in body weight, haematology and urine chemistry, and therefore deem these results to be insignificant as they fall within an average of ±2 standard deviations of the population of reference controls. A paper co-authored by Searlini analysed data of the paper in question, noticing a significant increase in effects with relation to the dosage of GM feed specifically the group fed a 33% concentration of NK603 Maize. Stating that the differences are of greater concern than suggested by Hammond (Spiroux et.al 2009).
Even though these differences are acknowledged in the papers discussion, thorough interpretation of their possible impacts over an extended period of time are not discussed. As the paper reflects the current standard of evidence used for the approval of GMOs, it can be used to demonstrate the many gaps in knowledge. This will help to reveal how despite having inconclusive results, it is still deemed to be thorough enough to approve GM foods for widespread consumption. This speaks to broader issues regarding insufficient regulatory systems.
It will also be used to specifically compare the findings of Seralini’s paper (Seralini et.al 2005). Judy A. Carman1, Howard R. Vlieger, Larry J. Ver Steeg, Verlyn E.Sneller, Garth W. Robinson, Catherine A. Clinch-Jones, Julie I. Haynes, John W. Edwards. A long-term toxicology study on pigs fed a combined genetically modified (GM) soy and
GM maize diet. Journal of organic systems. Pg38-55
Peer Reviewed Journal
A long-term toxicology study of 168 pigs carried out over 22.7 weeks (being the normal life span of a commercial pig from weaning to slaughter) in order to compare the effects of diets including mixed GM corn and soy and the commercial non-GM counterpart. The lead author has long been associated with anti GMO research and is the director for the Health and Environmental Research institute. The paper was published in the Journal of Organic Systems, a journal funded by the Organic Federation of Australia.
The paper itself was partly funded by the Government of Western Australia, who currently favours GM crops. The second co-author Howard Vlieger is a farmer that promotes organic food production and also provided funding towards the paper. The paper claims to have successfully created a real world experiment by using product acquired from commercial farmers in accordance with the USA piggery practice. It is clearly specified how the feed was prepared and administered but does not specify the exact conditions in which it was grown.
The results of their study are shown to indicate that there was no significant changes in total body weight and death rates were similar with 13% and 14% for the non-GM fed and GM fed groups respectively. But that significant changes in stomach inflammation and uterine weights were apparent and attributed to the difference in diet as other variables were controlled for. However, the study in question has its own shortcomings, and does include significant additional variables that damage the reputation of the paper. For example, the control group’s food source was contaminated with a median of 0.4% GM products in Maize and 1.6% in soy, a problematic technicality in a paper trying to prove negative effects in GM.
It is stated however that similar amounts of GM contamination occurs in non-GM material in the United States but does not reference this claim. Finally the GM feed contained four different varieties of feed increasing the variables and making it impossible to pin point an individual feed as causing harm.
The author is clearly trying to change the current dogma surrounding GMO’s by referring to multiple short term toxicity studies, criticising the test subject species, the way in which feed was administered, variables used to come to their conclusions and time-frame in which the studies were carried out. It is suggested that as the study utilised pigs instead of birds or fish that the data gained is more relevant to human consumption.
The lead author’s strong connection to the Seralini research team and fundamental flaws in experimentation can be emphasised in the context of the debate. Furthermore, as the paper has taken a different approach to setting up parameters, this can easily related to the commercial industry. It can then be concluded that the paper has particular agendas as the general public is a target audience is targeting the public audience and preaching to convert.
Aysun Kılıc, Turan Akay. (2007) A three generation study with genetically modified Bt corn in rats: Biochemical and histopathological investigation. Food and Chemical Toxicology 46. Pg1164-1170 Peer Reviewed Journal
The study was carried out across three generations of female Wistar Albino rats divided into three groups, with the third being fed a diet of BT transgenic corn. The lead author of this paper is an independent researcher from the university of Hacettepe in Turkey. She has published many papers on the subject of toxicity with relation to food additives and GMO’s. The nature of the paper is intended for an academic audience. The authors recognize the controversial nature surrounding the issue. Their results are approached in an entirely unbiased nature by stating they feel a substantiated answer to the safety of GM foods cannot be derived from the available literature.
The paper is thoroughly referenced with a wide range of sources but makes no obvious mention to the source of funding. The paper came to the conclusion that no significant changes in body and organ weights were found, but minimal histopathological differences were noticed in the liver and kidneys as well as creatine, protein and globulin changes in a biochemical analysis. Test subjects were already 11 weeks old before GM feed was administered interfering with results.
The concentration of GM feed was 20% which is shown to have less of a measurable affect as suggested in Seralinis review paper (Spiroux et.al 2009). The paper notes the strain of GM maize used but provides little information for the GM free variety. Instead of utilising their available resources to test multiple variables the study uses two control groups and only one GM fed group.
This paper will provide a contrast to the other 3 papers sited as it holds no bias. Even though it has no pre-determined opinions, it still fails to provide definitive results, and the study itself has various shortcomings. This can again be used to show how a general lack of quality scientific research is a key factor in driving the ongoing debate regarding the safety of GM foods.
Public Attitudes towards biotechnology in Australia. Australian Government, Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research.
Results of an Australian survey of public attitudes from 2009-2010 with relation to the biotechnology industry. The paper thoroughly discusses the Australian public’s opinions regarding GMOs, also detailing its various other applications in the biotechnology industry. It concludes that 67% were accepting of GMOs as they realised its potential benefits. However it does show that support of GMOs has in fact decreased slightly since 2007, but that half of those opposed would change their position if long term evidence suggested GM food was safe. A further 45% of the opposed public would reconsider if detailed labelling explained what had been modified and why.
Yet despite the surveys thoroughness in many areas, there are still issues. The survey presents its findings in a way that suggests it is representative of opinions of the whole of Australia, but only 1,086 people were surveyed. There is also very little explanation of the methodologies used to attain the results, nor are any of the exact questions given to the participants provided. As such, there is potential bias as questions can be designed to give a particular response.
Furthermore, it is unclear as to what information about GMOs was provided to the participants, which could influence their opinions. This source will be used to summarise the effect the debate is having on the Australian public. The survey demonstrates that the controversy exists within both the scientific community and the public domain. It also helps to reveal the lack of clear information available for GMOs and how this affects consumers. This will help to confirm how divided opinions are in both the scientific and public arenas.
Literature Review draft outline
Upon researching the topic it became quickly apparent that even though GM technology is well established being utilised in countries over the globe, there is still vast amounts of doubt over its safety and economic value. Long term toxicity papers were the focus of the draft plan as they were the source for the majority of controversy. After inspecting the papers I noticed opinionated research and data analysis as well as a lack of experimental explanation and sly tactics. Section heading
Brief outline of content
The introduction will discuss the debate that is currently being waged about the safety of genetically modified crops. This is an issue that has divided scientists and consumers alike; on one hand many advocate for its safety and extensive benefits, while others are troubled by the lack of information regarding its long term health effects.
I will analyse several key studies which have all played a significant role in this debate and have endeavoured to provide studies that both support and refute the safety of GMOs. I will also outline other topics surrounding the controversy, such as the need for government authorities to more closely regulate GMOs, specifically the privatised biotechnology companies who are largely responsible for their production.
From here I will discuss the role Monsanto, an American biotech company, has played in the controversy, including information about Monsanto’s history, and their involvement in research and distribution of GM crops. An integral part of the analysis and discussion will focus on the current lack of reliable scientific data as nearly all research carried out about GMOs is plagued with inaccuracies and conflicts of interest. From a close analysis of all of these sources, it will ultimately be clear how the controversy is being largely fuelled by the lack of reliable scientific data. History of Monsanto (300)
This will elaborate on statements made in the introduction, and continues to assess the history and development of the issue. It will be necessary to discuss Monsanto’s belief that to account for the world’s growing population, new biotechnologies need to be developed. However, the trustworthiness of the company should be called into question given its extensive history that involves the development of such detrimental products as Agent Orange.
Furthermore, there are many instances where previous Monsanto employees have later been employed at various government agencies, such as the FDA, suggesting a possible conflict of interest. It will also be relevant to discuss the range of crops that are being modified, and their prevalence across the world today. What is driving the controversy (500)
This section will form arguments questioning ideas and methodology from the literature that have shaped the issue to date, such as: Conflicting results: Séralini’s paper shows an increase in mortality rates per roundup concentration, while Hammond’s paper disregards these findings as they fall within an average of ±2 standard deviations of the population reference controls. Increased variables due to poor experimentation: Kilic’s paper used 11 week old rats which had been consuming an unspecified feed before the experiment commenced.
Carmen’s paper showed that trace amounts of GM feed had contaminated control groups. Overall this shows how a lack of consensus about studies findings, and problematic data continues to fuel the controversy. This is where I will site the survey conducted by the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research.
Implications of the
The ongoing debate surrounding the safety of GM crops has many varied and significant implications, particularly for consumers. Given the quagmire of conflicting evidence, it becomes extremely difficult for consumers to make informed decisions about the products they buy. It is also necessary to discuss how inaccessible much of the available data is for the general public as vast majority of studies released are targeted to other scientists.
These studies consist of extensive graphs and complex tables that are nearly impossible for the everyday person to decipher. This then leads to the public having to upon others to interpret the research, which can be informed by personal bias, creating misinformation and further confusion about the topic. Broad interpretation of the issue/consider other
In this section I will broaden the scope and refer to other aspects of the GMO debate. It is important to discuss the widespread environmental effects herbicides used on GMO crops have, especially on bee populations. As an integral part of our ecosystem, a significant decline in bee populations can have disastrous effects across the globe. There have also been various instances where GM crops have been unintentionally cross-contaminated with non GM crops.
This gives rise to a myriad of issues from lawsuits between Monsanto and farmers, and for organic farmers such contamination can mean they are discredited, and many other issues besides. There are also other problems regarding Monsanto’s reluctance to release its scientific data for independent researchers to interpret.
Conclusion (250 to
From an analysis inclusive of all significant aspects of the GMO debate, it will be clear that it is the lack of sufficient data and consensus about potential health effects that continue to fuel the controversy. Because there have been no rigorous long term studies conducted about health effects GM foods may have, it is impossible to definitively say one way or the other whether they are safe for us to eat, or not.
This creates a situation where bias and conflict of interest is rife as each side of the debate has the opportunity to continue to argue for their respective beliefs. In a broader social context, this creates much confusion as the everyday consumer has no reliable information to make decisions by, and is thus susceptible to misinformation. Given the prevalence of GM foods and that we consume them over the course of a lifetime, consumers concerns are wholly justified, and until conclusive and unbiased data is released, the debate will continue.
Key Word Search/Database
1. Debora MacKenzie. (2012). Study linking GM crops and cancer questioned. Available: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn22287-study-linking-gm-crops-and-cancer-questioned.html?full=true#.UhQOP94_7IU. Last accessed 25th aug 2012. 2. Aysun Kılıc, Turan Akay. (2007) A three generation study with genetically modified Bt corn in rats: Biochemical and histopathological investigation.
Food and Chemical Toxicology 46. Pg1164-1170 3. B Hammond, R Dudekb, J Lemena, M Nemetha. (2004). Results of a 13 week safety assurance study with rats fed grain from glyphosate tolerant corn. Food and Chemical Toxicology. 45 (1), 1003-1014 4. European Food Safety Authority. (2013). Considerations on the applicability of OECD TG 453 to whole food/feed testing. EFSA Journal. 11 (7), 33-47. 5. Flachowsky G, Chesson A, Aulrich K. (2005).
Animal nutrition with feeds from genetically modified plants. Arch Anim\Nutr 59:1 – 40. 6. Joël Spiroux de Vendômois, François Roullier, Dominique Cellier,Gilles-Eric Séralini. (2009). A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health . International Journal of Environmental Sciences. 5 (7), 706-726. 7. Gilles-Eric Séralini, Emilie Clair, Robin Mesnage, Steeve Gress, Nicolas Defarge, Manuela Malatesta, Didier Hennequin, Joël Spiroux de Vendômois (2012) Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize.
Food and Chemical Toxicology 50. Pg4221-4231 8. Judy A. Carman1, Howard R. Vlieger, Larry J. Ver Steeg, Verlyn E.Sneller, Garth W. Robinson, Catherine A. Clinch-Jones, Julie I. Haynes, John W. Edwards. A long-term toxicology study on pigs fed a combined genetically modified (GM) soy and GM maize diet. Journal of organic systems. Pg38-55 9. IPSOS-Eureka Social Research Institute (2010) Public Attitudes towards Biotechnology Australia, Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research