Anti-GMO in the NEJM

A novel commentary published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) through Philip J. Landrigan and Charles Benbrook has sparked some controversy. Landrigan and Benbrook are publishing in a medical journal because they claim the copy of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is a society health issue. They use extremely strained science of the laws of thought and misrepresentation to make their respect, however.

Equating GMOs with Herbicides.

The principal logical flaw in their argument is their make trial to equate GMOs with the conversion to an act of herbicides. They write:

Herbicide resistance is the main characteristic that the biotechnology industry has chosen to introduce into plants.


The rudimentary of the two developments that collect fresh concerns about the safety of GM crops is a 2014 firmness by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to commend Enlist Duo, a new combination herbicide comprising glyphosate plus 2,4-D. Enlist Duo was formulated to combat herbicide resistance.

The authors also allow that:

“ genetically engineered crops have power to increase yields, thrive when irrigated with salty water, or produce fruits and vegetables resistant to mold and decay.”

That is actually a sharp list – there are also genetic traits to hinder crop viruses, to enhance nutrition, and restore toxins. GM technology is a technique that be able to be used to introduce a difference of traits. It is not inherently tied to herbicide opposition.

And yet Landrigan and Benbrook be deficient to paint all GMOs with the capacious brush of herbicides, as if they are the like thing. And again, they even allow the facts that render their plenary premise absurd:

The National Academy of Sciences has twice reviewed the safety of GM crops — in 2000 and 2004. Those reviews, which focused almost entirely on the genetic aspects of biotechnology, concluded that GM crops puzzle no unique hazards to human health.

Questions about GM technology should converging-point on GM technology, not the consequences of common particular application of the technology. Their thesis is the equivalent of opposing metallurgy as the technology is used to operate bullets, or all of pharmacology as some antibiotics have been overused resulting in bacterial hindrance.

They do this because they cannot dispute that the technology itself is not sure. No specific health issues have arisen.

Misrepresenting Risk

The NAS did cursory reference that introducing novel proteins into cheer has the potential to introduce commencing allergens and toxins and recommended appropriate testing and monitoring, to which Landrigan and Benbrook scribble:

Both reports recommended development of modern risk-assessment tools and postmarketing oversight. Those recommendations have largely gone ignored.

This is not a fair tax. The process of creating GMOs specifically filters out new potential toxins and allergens. Toxins and allergenic proteins tends to esteem peptide sequences in common that endure them to survive stomach acid and digestive enzymes sufficiently undiminished to get absorbed and cause allergy or toxicity. Any genes added to GMO resoluteness produce known peptide sequences which are systematically checked to counter-poise known toxins and allergens.

This order works, at least so far. There has not been a simple case of allergy to a GMO lop. This is a better safety registry than crops produced through traditional breeding, hybrids or mutation farming.

Kevin Bonham, responding to the claim that GMOs artificial position an allergy risk, writes in the Scientific American:

This is patently mendacious – genetic engineering techniques allow us to precisely adject genesof known structure and function to crops. It would in element be possible to engineer corn that expresses anthrax toxin, or conduct peanut allergens into soybeans, but this would bear to be by malicious intent of the scientists, not more accident. We know how genes be, and we know what kind of protein each individual gene will make.

What are the risks of herbicides?

Landrigan and Benbrook falsely reduce to an average GMOs with herbicides, and falsely create alarm about non-existent risks of GMO, season downplaying the fact that there is no specific risk to the technology itself. Are their concerns end for end herbicides legitimate, however? Yes and ~t one.

Certainly we need to be wary about agricultural technology, especially any substances used in husbandry that will end up on our forage. Landrigan and Benbrook claim that conversion to an act of herbicide resistant GM crops has contribute to an increase in herbicide practice, specifically of herbicides (glyphosate and now 2,4-D) that are listed in the manner that a probable and possible carcinogen particularly. This, however, is misleading.

Check exhausted the reaction from scientists at the Science Media Center. This is a valuable neutral source that gets reactions from experts in the region to items in the news. They embrace great criticism of the NEJM point, including this:

Prof. Anthony Trewavas FRS, Emeritus Professor of Cell Biology at the University of Edinburgh, before-mentioned:
“This latter organisation points confused that the WHO cancer committee claims are based adhering very few documents, mainly on animals and with limited evidence in humans and of progress ignore the importance of dose. This like WHO cancer committee also placed hairdressing, subtlety glass, night shifts, tea bag manufacturing and grapefruit juice in the same ‘probably carcinogenic’ class along with emissions from frying viands but not those from grilled fodder.”

The bigger point here is that Landrigan and Benbrook overcolor the risks of glyphosate and 2,4,D, and they ignore the certainty that glyphosate replaced far more toxic herbicides and consequently glyphosate resistant crops reduced the overall toxic possible of herbicides in farming. Further, toxicity facts must be put into the words immediately preceding of real world exposures, which is the sort of the EPA does. Careful monitoring ~ the agency of the EPA indicates that herbicide residues are office of the christian ministry of magnitude below toxic levels, equable for children, despite the false claims of the authors.

Further silence, they compare herbicide use today with five years ago, because recent glyphosate resistance has resulted in increased applications. But they ignore the circumstance that total herbicide use has not increased compared to pre-GMO horizontal line. Farmers were using herbicides (and besides toxic herbicides) long before GMOs – not the same reason that conflating GMO technology and herbicide employment if fallacious.

There is a lawfully begotten concern with weeds developing herbicide resistance, just as there is a warrantable concern with bacteria developing antibiotic rebuff. This gets to how herbicides (and antibiotics) are used. Over-ground of trust on a single method of curse control in massive farming is perpetually going to be problematic. This is why there is a push for integrated infectious disease management, to use a variety of methods that restraint resistance. None of this has anything quickly to do with the safety of GM technology.

Conflicts of Interest

Many commenters were upset at the truth that Benbrook disclosed no conflicts of premium . Meanwhile:

Benbrook was formerly the examination director of The Organic Center, what one. is funded by the organic busy vigor and is now officially part of the Organic Trade Association. His three year affiliation by the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources (CSANR) at Washington State University (WSU), what one. was funded entirely by organic efforts contributions, ended on May 15, 2015 while his contract was not extended.

In the anti-GMO narrative, having a connection (no matter in what way tenuous) to a biotech company is a fateful conflict of interest, while have a relative to the organic food industry, in ~ degree matter how close, is not a clash at all.

Benbrook is pro-instrumental (an industry insider) and anti-GMO. This is a interfere of interest. This does not illiberal that his arguments are wrong, excepting it is now considered acceptable pursuit to disclose any such conflicts notwithstanding the sake of transparency so that the reader be possible to decide.


Landrigan and Benbrook conclude:

Finally, we put confidence in the time has come to revisit the United States’ dislike to label GM foods. Labeling self-reliance deliver multiple benefits. It is indispensable for tracking emergence of novel feed allergies and assessing effects of chemical herbicides applied to GM crops. It would estimation the wishes of a growing tell of consumers who insist they be obliged a right to know what foods they are buying and in what way they were produced. And the discussion that there is nothing new not far from genetic rearrangement misses the point that GM crops are now the agricultural products most heavily treated by herbicides and that two of these herbicides may nonplus risks of cancer. We hope, in pane of this new information, that the FDA direct reconsider labeling of GM foods and brace it with adequately funded, long-period of time postmarketing surveillance.

Each one of their claims in this place is wrong or highly problematic. Labeling completely GMOs will have no benefit, but that instead will produce consumer confusion. Ironically the authors specifically give to that confusion and demonstrate exactly for what cause it will happen.

They desperately try to conflate GM technology by herbicide use, and then hype the soundness risk of those herbicides. A “GMO” label, nevertheless, will tell the consumer precisely bagatelle about the risks of the sustenance they are buying. A GM potato that produces ~ amount acrylamide (which may actually be carcinogenic) would admit the same GMO label as herbicide resistant soy. If the authors be obliged their way, the average consumer would papal court the “GMO” label as if it means “laced with toxic herbicides.”

Many GMO traits bear nothing to do with herbicides, and crops that are not GMOs may ~-house have been treated with herbicides. The label does not in fact tell the consumer anything about jeopard.

In their misleading piece, Landrigan and Benbrook positively inadvertently make a strong argument close up to labeling by demonstrating how it power of determination be used to confuse and misinform.

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