Originally published November 7 2014
Newest pro-GMO study falls short of scientific standards; industry latches on to generalized conclusions claiming GMO safety
by David Gutierrez, staff writer
(NaturalNews) Proponents of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are trumpeting the results of a recent massive meta-analysis published in the Journal of Animal Science, claiming that it conclusively proves the safety of GMO foods. Yet, this supposedly conclusive study fails to meet basic scientific standards and is therefore unable to inform our knowledge about the safety of GMO foods.
According to Forbes columnist Jon Entine, the study by Alison Van Eenennaam (a former Monstanto employee) and Amy E. Young "reviewed 29 years of livestock productivity and health data... [representing] more than 100 billion animals covering a period before 1996 when animal feed was 100% non-GMO, and after its introduction when it jumped to 90% and more."
Yet, according to Claire Robinson of GMWatch, the analysis is flawed for the following reasons:
1. Failure to use proper controlsEenennaam and Young combine numerous studies into one massive data set, which they then exhibit in a table of livestock production statistics from 1983 to 2011. This supposedly shows that, over that time, animals' milk yields and weights at slaughter increased, and the percentage of animals condemned as unfit at slaughterhouses (due to illness) decreased.
As Robinson notes, this analysis fails to control for any non-GMO-related variables that could influence these outcomes, merely assuming that there has been no change between 1983 and 2011 -- even though many agricultural practices changed dramatically in that time.
2. Looking at the wrong variablesThe study ignores confounding variables such as antibiotic use, which can mask illness and other toxic effects. It also treats rejection at a slaughterhouse as the only relevant measure of animal illness. But slaughterhouses don't conduct toxicological tests; chronic health conditions could indeed be increasing undetected by them. In addition, many animals are simply never sent to slaughter, because they are too sick and farmers know that they would be rejected. Any change in these numbers would have been overlooked in Eenennam and Young's analysis.
3. Short-term analysisMost of the studies reviewed look only at animal production data, not toxicological effects. Yet most farm animals are slaughtered at a very young age, far before long-term health effects could emerge. For example, Eenennam and Young classify a 25-month study of dairy cows as "long-term," even though a cow's natural lifespan is about 20 years.
"If Entine is reassured by data such as this, he probably believes that smoking and asbestos are safe too," Robinson wrote.
4. Lack of quality controlMany of the studies included in the review suffered from serious methodological flaws, and should not have been included, Robinson says. Yet Eenennaam and Young actually single out one such study for praise.
This "lends a whiff of unscientific double standards to Table 5 in their review, which lists alleged shortcomings in studies that have found toxic effects from GMOs," Robinson wrote. "Incidentally, this table contains incorrect information."
5. Tainted by political lobbyingAs Robinson has previously noted, the scientific establishment exhibits a definite double standard when it comes to the evaluation of GMO safety studies -- with studies showing harm subjected to strict scrutiny and those indicating safety accepted without a second glance.
Highlighting this marriage of science and industry, the Eenennam and Young study is filled with overt endorsements of the GMO corporate agenda. The authors openly condemn the "trade disruptions" caused by stricter GMO approval standards in places such as China or the European Union. The paper also calls for those countries not to regulate organisms produced through newer genetic engineering techniques as GMOs -- even though they clearly are.
"The speed with which scientific standards are vanishing down the drain in the name of GMO promotion is matched by the synchronous rise of lobbying messages in peer-reviewed papers," Robinson wrote.
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