Respectful Insolence

Well, Thanksgiving’s over, and the orgy of consumerism known as Black Friday is in full swing. Personally, I have to work, at least part of the day, and I don’t go anywhere near the stores on Black Friday anyway. I haven’t for years. So we might as well briefly discuss a bit of science today. It won’t be long (by Orac standards), but there was a tidbit of news that hit the blogosphere on Thanksgiving Day that caught my interest. Apparently the execrable study by Gilles Séralini on the effect of using feed made from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on rats is heading for retraction. You remember that study, don’t you? It’s one that I dissected in one of my usual 3,000+ word posts. If you want the details of why the study was such horrifically awful science, go there. In the meantime, let’s find out what’s happening, which was originally reported in the French press. Basically, the editor of the journal, A. Wallace Hayes, sent Séralini a letter on November 19 stating that the article would be retracted if Séralini didn’t agree to withdraw it.

Séralini, as you may recall, also tried to do an outrageous end run around the embargo system for pre-publication access of reporters to scientific papers to be published. Basically, he only showed the results to a carefully chosen group of reporters and insisted on a non-disclosure/confidentiality agreement that prevented them from discussing the findings with experts in the field or to get outside comments for use in their stories. From my perspective, this was about as unethical as it gets, a blatant attempt to control the initial press coverage and, as EmbargoWatch put it, “turn reporters into stenographers.” Fortunately, this effect was short-lived, and as soon as the study’s results claiming that long term feeding with GMO-feed led to large tumors growing on these rats were published, critical analysis began. Unfortunately, there was enough of a delay that all the usual suspects in the form of crank websites had free rein to use the study as “proof” of all their imagined evils of GMOs as pure poison.

Here’s the letter:

As you know, several months ago, we began a thorough examination of the data you provided to the journal. The panel looking at the data and its analysis sought to address the questions that had been raised in the Letters to the Editor received in response to your article.

The panel had many concerns about the quality of the data, and ultimately recommended that the article should be withdrawn. I have been trying to get in touch with you to discuss the specific reasons behind this recommendation. If you do not agree to withdraw the article, it will be retracted, and the following statement will be published it its place:

The journal Food and Chemical Toxicology retracts the article “Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize,”1 which was published in this journal in November 2012. This retraction comes after a thorough and time-consuming analysis of the published article and the data it reports, along with an investigation into the peer-review behind the article. The Editor in-Chief deferred making any public statements regarding this article until this investigation was complete, and the authors were notified of the findings.

Very shortly after the publication of this article, the journal received Letters to the Editor expressing concerns about the validity of the findings it described, the proper use of animals, and even allegations of fraud. Many of these letters called upon the editors of the journal to retract the paper. According to the journal’s standard practice, these letters, as well as the letters in support of the findings, were published along with a response from the authors.2 Due to the nature of the concerns raised about this paper, the Editor-in-Chief examined all aspects of the peer review process and requested permission from the corresponding author to review the raw data. The request to view raw data is not often made; however, it is in accordance with the journal’s policy that authors of submitted manuscripts must be willing to provide the original data if so requested.3 The corresponding author agreed and supplied all material that was requested by the Editor-in-Chief. The Editor-in-Chief wishes to acknowledge the co-operation of the corresponding author in this matter, and commends him for his commitment to the scientific process.

Unequivocally, the Editor-in-Chief found no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data. However, there is legitimate cause for concern regarding both the number of animals in each study group and the particular strain selected. The low number of animals had been identified as a cause for concern during the initial review process, but the peer review decision ultimately weighed that the work still had merit despite this limitation. A more in-depth look at the raw data revealed that no definitive conclusions can be reached with this small sample size regarding the role of either NK603 or glyphosate in regards to overall mortality or tumor incidence. Given the known high incidence of tumors in the Sprague-Dawley rat, normal variability cannot be excluded as the cause of the higher mortality and incidence observed in the treated groups.

Ultimately, the results presented (while not incorrect) are inconclusive, and therefore do not reach the threshold of publication for Food and Chemical Toxicology. The peer review process is not perfect, but it does work. The journal is committed to a fair, thorough, and timely peerreview process; sometimes expediency might be sacrificed in order to be as thorough as possible. The time-consuming nature is, at times, required in fairness to both the authors and readers. Likewise, the Letters to the Editor, both pro and con, serve as a post-publication peerreview. The back and forth between the readers and the author has a useful and valuable place in our scientific dialog.

The Editor-in-Chief again commends the corresponding author for his willingness and openness in participating in this dialog. The retraction is only on the inconclusiveness of this one paper. The journal’s editorial policy will continue to review all manuscripts no matter how controversial they may be. The editorial board will continue to use this case as a reminder to be as diligent as possible in the peer review process.

Please contact me as soon as possible to discuss the details of the analysis, and the procedures for withdrawing or retracting this article.

There are a few interesting and potentially controversial parts of this decision as described in the letter above. First, I tend to accept the editor’s assertion that there was no fraud here. What I found in my analysis looked far more like incompetence than fraud. It was basically an incompetence that led to the design of experiments virtually guaranteed to find “positive” results, using rats that are prone to developing tumors, inadequate control groups, large numbers of experimental groups that appeared not to have controls for multiple comparisons, and a very confusing and bizarrely counterintuitive way of presenting the evidence in the form of graphs whose results were nigh uninterpretable. In essence, the paper showed nothing, but the way the data were presented was with maximum spin to make it seem as though GMO feed led to horrific tumors in these rats.

I also agree that this paper should never have been published. Its scientific quality was so riddled with obvious problems and poor design that at the time I wondered how on earth such awful science was published, when it appeared to have been nothing more than a study designed to demonize GMOs. At that, it was quite successful. However, the question of what to do with it after it’s been published is a much less obvious question. Bad science is published all the time. So is science whose authors and their allies abuse it for political purposes, as Séralini’s allies (not to mention Séralini himself) did with gusto. Should all such science be retracted? This is not the same as the infamous case of Andrew Wakefield, where fraud was convincingly demonstrated through reports by investigative journalist Brian Deer. As Séralini himself cites, the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) states that the only grounds for retraction of a paper are:

  • Clear evidence that the findings are unreliable due to misconduct (eg data fabrication) or honest error.
  • Plagiarism or redundant publication.
  • Unethical research.

I think that a reasonable argument can be made for #1 in that Séralini’s research was clearly completely unreliable. Whether it is due to fraud or honest mistake doesn’t really matter; let’s assume it was due to honest error, given that the editor couldn’t find any evidence of fraud. It’s still a valid reason to retract Séralini’s paper. If Séralini had a whiff of scientific integrity, he would have withdrawn the paper himself, but he doesn’t, at least not on the issue of GMOs. Similarly, it could also be argued that #3 applies, that the research was unethical because of how the rats were treated, but this is a weaker argument because the use of an animal ethics committee like the ones used in the US gives Séralini cover. Even so, I can see an argument being made that this case isn’t clear enough. Moreover, the editor doesn’t help his case by stating that the data are “inconclusive.” So what? Inconclusive data are published all the time, as well they should be. Perhaps a better approach would have been to leave Séralini’s paper published, but with a disclaimer on the online version that reads much like the letter above, without the statement that the paper was being retracted. It could conclude with an admission and/or apology on the part of the editors that such a bad paper got through peer review.

Unfortunately (and predictably), in addition to his same tired responses to criticism of the paper, Séralini couldn’t resist invoking pharma shill gambit (or, in this case, Monsanto shill gambit) in his response to the retraction notice:

Hayes’ decision to retract the paper follows FCT’s [Food and Chemical Toxicity, the journal that published Séralini's paper] appointment of Richard E. Goodman, a former Monsanto scientist and an affiliate of the GMO industry-funded group, the International Life Sciences Institute, to the specially created post of associate editor for biotechnology at the journal, early this year.[10]

Goodman’s appointment in turn followed an orchestrated campaign by GMO supporters to persuade FCT to retract the study. Some critics even accused Prof Séralini of fraud, without presenting any evidence. Many of the critics had undeclared conflicts of interest with the GMO industry.[11]

After Goodman was installed, FCT withdrew a separate study by Brazilian researchers that also raised questions about GM crop safety. The study showed that Bt insecticidal toxins similar to those engineered into GM Bt crops were not broken down in digestion, as is claimed by the industry and regulators, but had toxic effects on the blood of mice. The Brazilian paper, like Prof Séralini’s, had been peer-reviewed and published by FCT prior to Goodman’s arrival. After Goodman’s arrival, the paper was withdrawn without explanation from FCT[12] – only to be immediately published in another journal.[13]

There is no proof that Goodman was responsible for the retraction of Prof Séralini’s study. But his appointment, coming so soon after the “Séralini affair”, along with FCT’s failure to list the interests of its editors, raises questions about corporate influence on the editorial board at the journal.

I love that last paragraph, which basically is a “just sayin’, ya know” kind of non-disclaimer. Basically, Séralini is insinuating that somehow Dr. Goodman had something to do with his paper’s threatened retraction because he used to work for Monsanto and is now affiliated with International Life Sciences Institute. Actually, ILSI appears to have a pretty comprehensive policy on conflicts of interest and transparency. Séralini needs more than just his insinuations to demonstrate a connection between Goodman’s appointment and his paper’s retraction, but he clearly doesn’t have it. It’s also questionable that one newly appointed associate editor would have the clout right out of the box to influence the editorial board to decide on such a high visibility retraction.

In the end, I remain a bit conflicted about FCT’s decision to retract this paper. There’s no doubt that the Séralini paper is a truly awful piece of agenda-driven science, every bit as bad as any number of papers I could cite from the antivaccine movement, which is why I explicitly compared anti-GMO fear mongering to the antivaccine movement. More recent anti-GMO “research” has been, if anything, even worse than last year’s paper by Séralini. It should never have been published. However, there are a lot of papers that should never have been published out there. Should they all be retracted? I agree with the folks over at Retraction Watch that post-publication peer review is very important, but the devil, as always, is in the details.

Comments

  1. #1 Eric Lund
    November 29, 2013

    Séralini needs more than just his insinuations to demonstrate a connection between Goodman’s appointment and his paper’s retraction, but he clearly doesn’t have it.

    Here in the rational world he does. Out in Conspiracy Land, he has all of the evidence he needs, and indeed this instance of the Corporate Shill gambit isn’t nearly as lame as most of the attempts I’ve seen in that direction (Séralini can at least show that Goodman has recently been paid directly by the company he’s allegedly shilling for; most who play the pharma shill gambit don’t bother with that step). True Believers, whatever they Believe in, aren’t interested in the relevant facts.

    But regardless of the employment history of the editorial board of the journal, it’s clear that the content is junk which should never have passed a review. The biggest issue, from what I have seen, is that the studies were so statistically underpowered that Séralini et al. could not claim any significance in their results.

    Papers are routinely retracted for honest error (there is no evidence or claim of fraud or plagiarism in this case), but most such retractions I have seen were agreed to, if not initiated by, the authors of the paper in question. There is an aspect of swatting a fly with a sledgehammer in imposing an editorial retraction in cases like this. But Séralini et al. is an especially large fly.

  2. #2 Kevin Folta
    United States
    November 29, 2013

    A good synthesis. I’m repeating my rant that I’ve stood upon from the beginning. There is clear omission of data from Figure 3. The three lumpy rats provide NO scientific data. However, if you are going to show these, you need to show a control. NO control is presented, even though in Table 2, the animals get tumors.

    Agenda driven, sure. But the omission of data from that figure was clearly a decision made by the authors. We always show a control. Period. If they show a control with no grotesque tumors, then they are questioned about why the selectively chose the rats from Table 2. They opted clearly for a middle ground.

    By my institute’s guidelines knowing omission of data to shape an experimental outcome is misconduct. Granted, the data are presented, in Table 2. However, the knowing omission of a control that is the basis of an iconic image in the antiGM movement should alone be a basis for retraction. My two cents.

  3. #3 Denice Walter
    November 29, 2013

    Seralini was just quoted in Null’s latest conspiracy rant ” The Invisible Hand” or “The Wanking Hand” or suchlike ( I noted it earlier @ the Antivaccinationts thread). Adams loves Seralini.

  4. #4 T.
    November 29, 2013

    Bad science is bad science. GMOs is a technology, and as such can be used well or misused. It is like nuclear technology or, I don’t know, metalworking in old time.

    I am strongly against some kind of GMOs (everything that has pesticide inside the seed is a bad idea, since it destroys useful insects as well as harmful one, for example. DDT docet) but I am strongly in favour of others.

    In the end it can’t be a decision solely based on “whatever eating GMOs harm people”. There are other issues at hand.

  5. #5 AdamG
    November 29, 2013

    everything that has pesticide inside the seed is a bad idea, since it destroys useful insects as well as harmful one, for example

    I have yet to see any credible evidence that supports this claim, despite its popularity.

  6. #6 Kevin Folta
    November 29, 2013

    T. — the beauty of the Bt protein being expressed in the cells is that it limits its application to the organisms that feed on corn and cotton. That CUTS broad spectrum flyovers and sprays with insecticides that kill everything. The Bt gene actually increases beneficials (Gatehouse, 2011).

    The science is really solid, these products have specific targets and that is what makes them so effective. Broad spectrum insecticide use is down hugely on corn and cotton. That’s a good thing!

  7. #7 ChrisP
    November 29, 2013

    At the institution where I work, Seralini et al.’s paper would classify as research misconduct. Researchers have an obligation to report research fully and accurately. This is something Seralini et al. failed to do.

    Indeed the design of the experiments in the paper would qualify as research misconduct, as would the literature review.

    Clearly the paper should have been retracted as soon as it was obvious that such misconduct had occurred. That is about 1 day after it was published.

    Seralini won’t care, as he will use the matyr’s defence – he is already using the Big Farmer Shill gambit. This episode and its handling will have a negative impact on the reputation of FCT.

  8. #8 The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge
    November 29, 2013

    Given the way their evidence was chosen and submitted, the Journal’s (and Orac’s) definition of “fraud” is considerably more tolerant than mine, but I’ll leave it at that.

    One small piece of somewhat off-topic good news: Here in the state of Washington, we defeated a very poorly-written labeling-requirement law for GMO foods in the last election. I was worried, because it was looking like it was going to pass, but it went down…well, 55/45, the last time I looked.

    The usual excuses: The GMO industry outspent them ten kajillion to one, blah, blah, blah…. All I can tell you is every other commercial for two months there was pro- or anti-, in pairs, so if Monsanto was spending that much, they got robbed!

    This is actually pretty encouraging, because they chose an off-year election where they could get the True Believers™ out disproportionally, plus Seattle, where most of the granola-crunchers live, was choosing a new mayor, in a very hard-fought contest I think this is the absolute best they could do, in Washington anyway—and it wasn’t good enough.

  9. #9 T.
    November 29, 2013

    AdamG, I have yet to find one macroeconomic good reason to pass from an -almost- perfect competition market to an oligarchic one, too. That does concern me, and it is not a strictly-speaking scientific reason (economic being a grey area).

    Kevin: my bad, I was confused with other things. My mistake, sorry :)

  10. #10 Lilly
    Victoria
    November 29, 2013

    I’m not a scientist but I’ve often wondered why the peer review process isn’t more fluid and ongoing. Why do journals consider peer review complete, barring any gross oversights like above, upon publication? Why isn’t the door left open to other peers to add to detract from what is published keeping the assessment of the data and the structure of the study current. A dialogue of expert opinions would seem to have more impact than a one time review from scientists who volunteer to do this. The initial volunteers for reviewing papers are gatekeepers to start but let’s face it, there’s a lot out there to review and perhaps we shouldn’t expect a thorough assessment in one round.
    My concern isn’t for the biased agendas because those are endemic to the system. It’s for the lack of dialogue in a structured manner (journals) that can address such studies.

  11. #11 Bob G
    Los Angeles
    November 29, 2013

    Not OT, since the subject is GMO foods. The local station KCET used to be PBS but went independent due to the high cost of staying with PBS. On one of their over the air digital channels, they ran a promotional show starring a woman who goes by the name JJ Virgin. She sells books including The Virgin Diet, and also markets some sort of dietary supplements. Apparently KCET uses shows like this to try to get donors.

    Anyway, JJ did the usual spiel where she leads the viewers on, explaining that there are 7 types of food that should be avoided if you want to feel better and lose weight. Eventually you find out what they are — they include soy, corn, dairy, peanuts, gluten, eggs, and sugar. One of the explanations she gives for avoiding corn is that it includes GMO product, and, she goes on to explain, that means that it has been sprayed with lots more pesticide and you will ingest it and etc etc.

    My understanding — correct me if I am wrong here — is that the Roundup Ready brand is designed to avoid excess spraying, particularly the pre-seeding use of herbicides that used to be common.

    The anti-GMO riff was just one of several, but it struck me as something to share here if the subject ever came up again. The audience seemed to accept that being anti-GMO is a given, and you are supposed to oppose these products the way you would anorexia or tobacco.

    Oh yeah — for the physiologists and doctors here — she argued repeatedly about something she called “leaky gut,” which struck me as some sort of alt-nonsense. At least in her performance, just about everybody can (and probably does) have leaky gut unless you avoid the 7 deadly food groups etc etc. She gave a list of symptoms, from being a little tired to other feelings common to humans, and asked the audience to raise their hands if they had experienced any one of these. Not surprisingly, every hand went up in this obviously canned and captive audience. She laughed and pointed out how common leaky gut is. The idea that there could be some other cause for occasionally being tired didn’t come up.

  12. #12 The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge
    November 29, 2013

    Maybe I’m just unknowledgeable on the subject, but if your gut is ‘leaking” sufficiently to cause all these difficulties, wouldn’t some E. Coli “leak” out as well? If that were the case, wouldn’t you know about it more definitely than just being tired?

  13. #13 Darwy
    Røde grøde med fløde
    November 29, 2013

    I’ve always argued against Seralini’s paper simply because of the strain of rat used, and the fact that there wasn’t adequate controlling.

    If your data is unreliable, well, it sucks for you (and your funding) – but that’s no excuse to omit data or figures, period.

  14. #14 Shay
    In the middle of the upland corn prairie
    November 29, 2013

    Three Lumpy Rats would be an awesome name for a rock band.

  15. #15 AnObservingParty
    November 29, 2013

    My understanding of “leaky gut” is that is has become a layman’s term for a number of gut problems, some real, some not. I have an acquaintance with Crohn’s disease that will sometimes talk about her “leaky gut,” but really she means the inflammation that compromises proper absorption. I’ve also heard it discussed by an acquaintance who went to a naturopath–after many of us tried to talk her out of it–and she was diagnosed with candida overgrowth and a “leaky gut” based on a Galactomannan antigen test (yeah, Candidiasis from a test used for aspergillus with varying accuracy) and the fact that her tummy hurt a lot.

    I take the term with a grain of salt, like when someone says “stomach flu.” Gastroenteritis of some sort, with some misunderstanding on the side.

    As for Seralini, I wish I could say I was surprised. It seems more and more “bad science” is outright manipulation. I find it funny I read this the day after Thanksgiving, as I’m sure my feast contained some GMOs, despite my sister’s railing against them as she sucks on her Marlboro Light.

  16. #16 skeptiquette
    November 29, 2013

    @ AOP

    Yea, you are pretty much correct with regard to leaky gut… and yes, inflammation is fundamentally and functionally connected to leaky gut in that it increases the permeability of the gut (i.e. breakdown of the tight junctions that separate the luminal contents from the interstitium) Here is a recent paper that explains the underlying physiology and investigates the recent popularity of leaky gut and its connection to disease.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23851019

  17. #17 Roadstergal
    Lying on the couch with a broken collarbone
    November 29, 2013

    Our group sometimes uses the term ‘leaky gut’ as an offhand way to refer to a hypothesized increased distribution to the gastrointestinal tissue of certain large-molecule therapeutics in patients with UC or CD vs healthy controls, but I doubt the crunchy side would appreciate that use.

    BTW, this rat study was obliquely referred to in a Colbert Report segment where they were talking about GMOs – he mentioned in his satirical way that GMOs have only been proven to cause cancer in rats, so there’s no problem, and I wanted to throw something at the TV – I just knew this study is what the writers were referring to, and I am fairly sure they did not understand the study or its shortcomings.

  18. #18 Nicole
    November 29, 2013

    I’ve had death threats over publicly calling anti-GMO activists “tinfoil hat nutters”. For whatever reason they fail to understand how this proves my premise.

    Personally, I’m looking forward to the day they splice jellyfish genes into coconuts to make them glow in the dark.

  19. #19 Dangerous Bacon
    November 29, 2013

    It is disturbing that Food and Toxicology Review didn’t really address the defects in the peer review process that led to the Seralini paper being published.

    The reviewers themselves should respond and explain in the journal why they let this garbage through.

    And the explanation that “ambiguity” in the study findings is the reason it’s being retracted doesn’t wash.

    If a research study reports a positive finding, should followup studies be rejected for publication if they show inconclusive results? That information would be important to know.

    Wonder how long it’ll take Mercola and Mike Adams to start bleating about a corporate plot to suppress the brave maverick Seralini? I give NaturalNews no more than 48 hours to start churning out conspiracy theories.

    *and what is it with the software refusing to publish comments because I’m “posting too quickly”? This is the first comment I’ve submitted today.

  20. #20 AnObservingParty
    November 29, 2013

    I got it too, Dangerous Bacon. And I’m too lazy to retype. Needless to say, I’ll say 24 hours

    And yes, Skeptiquette. Something something real people with real problems something something quacks taking advantage to make money over nothing.

  21. #21 Vicki
    November 29, 2013

    @Rev. Battleax of Knowledge:

    In the final results (certified on November 26), initiative 522 passed, 59.55% to 40.45%.

    (Really OT: having moved to Washington in the spring, I’ve been fascinated by the shifts from election-night preliminary results to the final numbers three weeks later. The Stranger suggests that part of this is because ballots are counted in the order received, and older voters tend to send their ballots in sooner. This year went from an incumbent Seattle city council member giving a victory speech on election night, to his concession speech two weeks later.)

  22. #22 The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge
    November 29, 2013

    @ Vicki:

    You’re right, it narrowed quite a bit in the late count, but you’re way, way off on the result: it failed 48.91/51.09.

  23. #23 Bob G
    Los Angeles
    November 29, 2013

    Skeptiquette: Thanks for the link. The Pubmed page also links to some papers involving TNF, and the Chicago authors certainly offer up a lot of autoimmune disorder keywords. Interesting how a hypothetical condition that is under investigation by professionals is exploited this way.

    For those of you in search of a little amusement, check out this collection of nonsense, which promises, among other things, to increase stomach acid levels:

    http://www.jjvirginstore.com/extra-help-package

    Just what you need after the Thanksgiving holiday.

    And for Nicole: A political meeting I attended actually had a presentation by the people who believe that low level electromagnetic fields cause all manner of human misery. This group was concerned about fields in the UHF band, like the “smart meters” that the electric companies are thinking about installing. On the other hand, the guy who shot up the naval base in D.C. was concerned about low frequencies taking over his mind. I’ve gotten messages (by internet, not by low frequency emf taking over my brain) about how the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 was caused by aspirin, as part of a “vaccines don’t work” message.

  24. #24 Denice Walter
    November 29, 2013

    @ Bob G.:

    You are correct: she is quite amusing. What! Another collection of diet gimmickry.- she has several gimmicks.

    Seriously, people pay ‘experts’ like her, buy products or follow woo-meisters’ arcane plans when all you have to do is eat a little less and exercise a little more over time *et voila!* you lose some weight.

    Low carb or raw or paleo or vegan or intermittent fasts or protein shakes- all of them have you restrict particular foods so that -over all- you eat a little less.

    HOWEVER part of the sales plan is to pretend you have a magical formula.
    The problem is that most people can’t keep at these regimes for very long so it’s great if you want to lose a few pounds not a greater amount.

  25. #25 Chris,
    November 29, 2013

    The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge:

    You’re right, it narrowed quite a bit in the late count, but you’re way, way off on the result: it failed 48.91/51.09.

    Thank you TVRBoK. I thought I went more senile when I read Vicki saying “final results (certified on November 26), initiative 522 passed, 59.55% to 40.45%.” Because if that was true, I believe I would have read in the paper and heard it over and over and over again on the broadcast media. Not to mention reaction all over the Internets.

    I would love to know where Vicki got the “59.55% to 40.45%” numbers. I just checked the other two controversial votes in the area at King County’s election website and found:

    City of SeaTac’s Prop 1 for $15/hour minimum wage was:
    Yes
    50.64% – 3040 votes

    No
    49.36% – 2963 votes

    and City of Seattle Council Seat #1 was:
    Richard Conlin
    48.97% – 90531 votes

    Kshama Sawant
    50.67% – 93682 votes

    Those results have been in the local news, yet no one has mentioned state initiative 522 passed, especially with a 9% margin.

  26. #26 The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge
    November 29, 2013

    @ Chris: I thought maybe she had it mixed up with (and switched yes and no around on) Tim-Eyman’s “Give-me-two-years-to-collect-signatures-so-I-can-make-even-more-money-and-make-it-so-my-paid-signature-gatherers-can’t-be-kept-off-of-private-property” Initiative 517, but that went down 37.29/62.71. Thank doG!

  27. #27 herr doktor bimler
    November 30, 2013

    Wonder how long it’ll take Mercola and Mike Adams to start bleating

    On that broader topic of “crazy dumb people who won’t shut up”, I googled lanza + medication + cover-up to see how well they were accepting the recent conclusion that Adam Lanza was *not* under the effects of medication when he went postal.
    The high-ranked Ghits are from April or May of this year, and were responding to the earlier news that no drugs or prescriptions or evidence of medication had been found at Lanza’s home. All the usual suspects had already determined 6 months ago that the absence of evidence was itself definitive proof of a cover-up, and were preparing their readers for the eventual negative report.

    I didn’t get the sense of an overwhelming interest in ‘reality’.

  28. #28 lilady
    November 30, 2013

    @ herr doktor bimler: Try “googling” Age of Autism+Adam Lanza.

    I’m glad that the Connecticut Division of Criminal Justice issued that report to satisfy the ghouls at AoA that Adam Lanza was a psychopathic mass murderer who was not under the influence of “teh ebil anti-psychotic drugs”.

  29. #29 Stagnant
    November 30, 2013

    I agree with others that the definition of fraud is a little too forgiving here. Shouldn’t it be obvious from the design of the experiment and the type of rat chosen that the results would be inconclusive at best? Shouldn’t the author have noticed that his charts were basically unreadable? And doesn’t the deflection and pharma shill gambit by the author kind of put a nail in that coffin?

  30. #30 Antaeus Feldspar
    November 30, 2013

    I recently had a very severe fight (nearly lost a friend of decades) over GMOs, so I don’t really like talking too much about GMOs.

    One thing that keeps getting me, though, is how badly the entire debate it framed. Talking about “GMOs” is like talking about “foreigners,” or “people born out of wedlock,” or “people conceived through IVF”, isn’t it? Why are we grouping and talking about organisms about how they got here, when the real concern is what they do once they’re here?

    There may be very real concerns about the things they do, but the way the entire debate is reduced to “pro-GMOs” and “anti-GMOs” makes me doubt we’ll get the discussion we need any time soon.

  31. #31 puppygod
    November 30, 2013

    I think that framing the debate into anti-GMO/pro-GMO positions is deliberate. Because when you admit that GMO technology isn’t inherently bad, then total ban is off the table.

    We don’t ban internal combustion engines. Sure, cars kill a lot of people and emit a lot of noxious substances, but we regulate specific applications of technology – not ban it altogheter. Similarly, when we admit that there are good applications of GMOs, then there is no need to ban them – just to regulate their safety, monitor ecological impact and so on.

    Anti-GMO people don’t want that. They want total ban. So they cannot allow the debate to be framed differently. Because when discussions would be about safe vs. unsafe applications of GMO, then they would have lost already.

  32. #32 Krebiozen
    November 30, 2013

    Antaeus,

    I recently had a very severe fight (nearly lost a friend of decades) over GMOs, so I don’t really like talking too much about GMOs.

    I have learned to avoid the subject with a number of people, including my spouse, sadly. I don’t really understand why some people get so angry when you point out that genetically modifying food organisms is not particularly different to what we have been doing for millennia in the form of selective breeding. We have also been using chemicals to produce polyploidal plants, and radioactivity to induce useful mutations, for several decades without anyone being particularly concerned.

    It particularly concerns me when people say they are concerned about effects on the environment. Here in Europe suspicion about the environmental effects of GMOs has undoubtedly led to far greater use of toxic pesticides and herbicides, and untold environmental damage as a result. Why anyone thinks that using neonicotinoids, for example, is better than using BT crop varieties beats me.

  33. #33 Bronze Dog
    November 30, 2013

    Well said, puppygod. It’s a common theme with a lot of other woo I’ve encountered. Absolutes and false dichotomies are easy, nuanced positions and case-by-case judgements are hard.

  34. #34 Denice Walter
    November 30, 2013

    Amongst those I survey, only an absolute ban will suffice.
    Adams has frequently featured Jeffrey Smith and promises that his new ‘forensic food lab will reveal startling facts about what people ingest so I imagine he’ll find a way to castigate GMO in his upcoming revelations.

    On a lighter note, for a true laugh-riot, fear mongering full length film see Gary Null Youtube, “The Seeds of Death”.

    -btw- weren’t they a Scottish band in the late ’70s?

  35. #35 Sarah A
    November 30, 2013

    @Antaeus Feldspar and puppygod

    Thank you! This is what I’ve been saying for years! The question shouldn’t be “are GMOs good or bad?” but “do the benefits outweigh the risks for this GMO for this application at this time and place?”

    As for mandatory labeling, it has nothing to do with the consumers’ “right to know” and everything to do with the multi-billion dollar organic foods industry getting taxpayers to do their advertising for them. It reminds me of this commercial – for dandruff shampoo, of all things.

  36. #36 Johanna
    San Francisco
    November 30, 2013

    @Denice

    I think “The Seeds of Death” was a classic Doctor Who story…

  37. #37 Denice Walter
    November 30, 2013

    @Sarah A.:

    Sure. All-or-nothing, black-and-white thinking is often shown in alt med/ woo: learning to discriminate subtle differences and weigh risks to benefits is apparently beyond many of these folks; I’ve heard a woo-meister rant that even 1/billionth of a part of a toxin ( Hg or something else) is enough to contaminate a vaccine, making it unacceptable.

    The abilities to consider more than one variable’s effect on outcomes, see shades of difference, balance negatives and positives and qualify statements are cognitive skills that kids develop usually prior to adolescence and formal operational thought. There are reasons other than age that contribute to people failing to acquire these skills.

  38. #38 Denice Walter
    November 30, 2013

    @ Johanna:

    I wouldn’t expect the idiot concerned to reference something as meaningful as Dr Who.
    More likely a pop culture, wide release movie or tired, dead, old quasi rock and roll.

  39. #39 Vicki
    November 30, 2013

    I was looking at King County results instead of the results for the state as a whole; sorry. (I was over there because I’d been mostly watching Seattle, Bellevue, and Sea-tac proposition 1.)

  40. #40 AnObservingParty
    November 30, 2013

    @ puppygod et al,

    WERD. Absolutely NOTHING exists in black and white, good and bad, and the arguments that set up the debates like that result in nothing more than scary buzzwords like “chemical,” “GMO,” “pharmaceutical,” etc, which means absolutely nothing when discussing things realistically. But reality isn’t a playground a lot of these people like to play in frequently.

    @ Denice

    I’ve heard a woo-meister rant that even 1/billionth of a part of a toxin ( Hg or something else) is enough to contaminate a vaccine, making it unacceptable.

    Even if it’s part of a compound, sadly. I’m going to start asking them if they eat salt. I mean, elemental Cl is certainly bad for a person…

  41. #41 The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge
    November 30, 2013

    @ Vicki:

    Aha! That explains it. I usually wish King County was its own state—when Gary Locke was running for Governor after being County Executive, he pointed out that KC had more people than 17 states (and more land area than 2), but this time it would have worked the wrong way.

  42. #42 Dorothy
    Oz
    November 30, 2013

    OT but HuffPo has an article on front page (right hand “gossip” column) about a little girl with a brain tumor trying to get permission to go the the BURZYNSKI CLINIC. Very poorly reported-all conspiracy and no science.

    Comments full of more conspiracy. A couple of people posting real story, but more needed. Mine are all being held in moderation thought they have no words that should trigger this.

  43. #43 palindrom
    November 30, 2013

    RED ALERT! Dorothy @42 has already posted this, but reinforcements are needed:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/27/child-cancer-patient-peti_n_4350984.html

  44. #44 Narad
    December 1, 2013

    OT but HuffPo has an article on front page…

    Jesus Christ, is that place prevented from collapsing into a singularity purely by crufton degeneracy pressure? Yah, I could use some new hardware, but 20 minutes seems like a bit much for a page load.

  45. #45 Alain
    December 1, 2013

    Somehow, I get the feeling that V8 should be ported to opencl to alleviate the slowness of some insanely scripted website but on the other hand, I’m not sure I want 236 windows open and 140 trojan downloaded in a split second because I typed the wrong address for memtest (which is memtest.org instead of memtest86….)

    Alain

  46. #46 lilady
    December 1, 2013

    I clicked on the petition on change.org that the young girl’s family is using to be sent to the FDA, HHS and to Congress, for a “compassionate use” waiver for the child to receive Burzynski’s antineoplaston therapy.

    Look at who I found who signed that petition and left this message:

    Eric Merola WINSTON, NC
    12 days ago
    Liked 10

    Because Antineoplastons are the ONLY medicines in history to cure a DIPG – even the National Cancer Institute acknowledges it. From the NCI’s website: “A phase II study also conducted by the developer and his associates at his clinic reported on 12 patients with recurrent and diffuse intrinsic brain stem glioma. Of the ten patients who were evaluable, two achieved complete tumor response, three had partial tumor response, three had stable disease, and two had progressive disease. Patients ranged in age from 4 to 29 years. Treatment with escalating intravenous bolus injections of antineoplastons A10 and AS2-1 continued for 6 months. The average dose of A10 was 11.3 g/kg daily, and the average dose of AS2-1 was 0.4 g/kg daily.”

    Peer-reviewed DIPG and ANP: (notice page 172): http://www.burzynskiclinic.com/images/stories/Publications/1252.pdf

  47. #47 lilady
    December 1, 2013

    I just posted a comment on the Ho-Po, carefully avoiding any links…yet still got stuck “in moderation”.

    I also located this article on Medscape, with some interesting comments about Burzynski’s operation.

    http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/814806

  48. #48 herr doktor bimler
    December 1, 2013

    Why are we grouping and talking about organisms about how they got here, when the real concern is what they do once they’re here?

    But Purity of Bloodline! Purity of Essence!

  49. #49 Narad
    December 1, 2013

    Oh, dear, it turns out that somebody has taken the trouble to come up with more stupid names for anteneoplastinoids: “A10,” “Atengenal” is also “Cenegal,” and “AS2-1,” “Astugenal,” is “Fengenal.” I can imagine quasi-etymological reasoning that could produce the former embarassment, but “fen-” remains a head-scratcher as a change of direction in this case. Is a modicum of consistency too much to ask?

  50. #50 Narad
    December 1, 2013

    ^ “Cengenal,” that is.

  51. #51 Narad
    December 1, 2013

    Somebody might want to tidy this mess up, as well.

  52. #52 jane
    December 1, 2013

    I’m coming late to the discussion of the original subject, but: According to my values, it’s as ethically essential to publish all animal studies, whether positive, negative or inconclusive, as human trials. A bunch of animals lived their whole lives in cages, were often tortured, and ultimately died for each study. All results should be published so researchers don’t endlessly repeat the same needless or underpowered studies at the cost of innocent lives. So the paper should, IMHO, have been published with accurate stats and acknowledgement of limitations no matter what its results.

    Usually, when a statistic is wrongly given in a paper, the whole paper is not retracted; a one-line correction is published. If there are demonstrable errors in the stats, I’d like to see a correction, if the authors will cooperate, or otherwise a corrective editorial or short rebuttal paper, e.g., “The authors claimed the numerical trend observed to be statistically significant at p=.02 using statistic X, but Authoritative Reference Y says that they should have used a more conservative measure such as statistic Z, which returns a nonsignificant p=.07.”

    For that matter, why can’t the retraction letter say that? If they’ve looked at the data and determined that the stats are actually wrong, why can’t they give corrected stats or at least say how they know the stats are wrong? Utilizing cancer-plagued Sprague-Dawley rats cannot be an adequate reason to retract a paper – I just looked up “Sprague-Dawley” on PubMed and got over 250,000 hits. People who are trying to generate statistically significant numbers of cancers typically use highly cancer-prone animals.

    So it does make me wonder whether the journal has objective grounds for a forced retraction, especially when the paper authors say that a paper reporting toxicity from Bt corn was also retracted and immediately accepted by another journal (an unusual fate for a retracted paper). If explicit evidence supporting retraction is not given, readers might reasonably wonder whether a desire not to offend industry could be playing a role.

    Orac, you think it would be shameful to suggest that a former Monsanto staffer in a specially created editorial post might be influencing such decisions. Indeed, there’s no published evidence of that. OTOH, you yourself a couple of weeks ago demonized some guy by noting that he’d been in a room with Dean Ornish, who was demonized for [virtually curing some people's atherosclerosis and] having been in a room with Deepak Chopra, and so forth. If guilt by association is okay for them, why is it also not okay for people who have spent a lot of time in rooms with Monsanto execs?

  53. #53 Darwy
    Røde grøde med fløde
    December 1, 2013

    Utilizing cancer-plagued Sprague-Dawley rats cannot be an adequate reason to retract a paper – I just looked up “Sprague-Dawley” on PubMed and got over 250,000 hits. People who are trying to generate statistically significant numbers of cancers typically use highly cancer-prone animals

    Well, this study wasn’t trying to generate statistically significant numbers of cancers.

    It was trying to find the harm in GMO food (ie: do they cause cancer?) – as such, you would not want to use an animal model which is known to spontaneously develop tumors coupled with inadequate controlling.

    In Seralini’s case, with the lack of proper controls, his data is essentially meaningless.

  54. #54 Dangerous Bacon
    December 1, 2013

    “you yourself a couple of weeks ago demonized some guy by noting that he’d been in a room with Dean Ornish”

    UNCLEAN!!!!!

  55. #55 Narad
    December 1, 2013

    Utilizing cancer-plagued Sprague-Dawley rats cannot be an adequate reason to retract a paper – I just looked up “Sprague-Dawley” on PubMed and got over 250,000 hits.

    Yah, but “Sprague-Dawley” and “acupuncture” gets you 716.

  56. #56 herr doktor bimler
    December 1, 2013

    If they’ve looked at the data and determined that the stats are actually wrong, why can’t they give corrected stats or at least say how they know the stats are wrong?

    The problem is not so much the incorrectness of stats, but their absence. How the paper was ever published at all without any analysis of significance can only be a matter of conjecture.

    PZ Myers gives a summary of the issues, at non-Oracian length. The comment thread at Retraction Watch is less one-sided, with defenses of Seralini as well as detraction.

  57. #57 herr doktor bimler
    December 1, 2013

    Utilizing cancer-plagued Sprague-Dawley rats cannot be an adequate reason to retract a paper – I just looked up “Sprague-Dawley” on PubMed and got over 250,000 hits.

    Very true. The editors were disingenuous to the point of dishonesty in their explanations of the retraction. The Retraction Watch thread cites similar studies which did use Sprague-Dawley — though they began with enough rats in each group to be sure that any results would have some statistical power, and they euthanased the rats when they developed tumours rather than hanging on to them to grow the carcinomas and make more grotesque, media-friendly photographs.

    But there was nothing wrong with the paper that wasn’t already evident to the reviewers and the editors when they decided to publish it. The retraction, and the specious reasons the editor provides, are just evasions of responsibility.

  58. #58 ChrisP
    December 1, 2013

    Jane wrote:

    According to my values, it’s as ethically essential to publish all animal studies, whether positive, negative or inconclusive, as human trials.

    I take a different view on the ethics of this. In my view it is ethically essential to conduct a sufficiently well-powered experiment whenever working with animals. My reasoning is the same as you mentioned. This particular experiment was so obviously underpowered that it should never have been approved by the institutional animal ethics committee.

    So the paper should, IMHO, have been published with accurate stats and acknowledgement of limitations no matter what its results.

    This was more than a case of inaccurate statistics. No statistics were performed on the data in Figure 1. Had such statistics been performed, it would have shown no significant difference. A lack of significant difference meant that all the authors’ conclusions in the paper are wrong. Not only should the stats have been accurate, but the whole paper should have been written differently.

    For Table 3, not only did the authors use an inappropriate statistical test, they failed to disclose to the reader what the control values were. This makes it impossible for the reader to make any sense of Table 3 and impossible to determine whether the authors’ claims are correct.

    Usually, when a statistic is wrongly given in a paper, the whole paper is not retracted; a one-line correction is published. If there are demonstrable errors in the stats, I’d like to see a correction, if the authors will cooperate, or otherwise a corrective editorial or short rebuttal paper…

    It is tough to provide a corrective editorial about the statistics when the authors’ failed to do any or used an inappropriate test. In any case, the problems with the paper are far deeper than an argument over statistics.

    Utilizing cancer-plagued Sprague-Dawley rats cannot be an adequate reason to retract a paper – I just looked up “Sprague-Dawley” on PubMed and got over 250,000 hits. People who are trying to generate statistically significant numbers of cancers typically use highly cancer-prone animals.

    The fact that these rats were used is in itself not really a problem. The problems are that 1) the authors of the paper failed to tell their readers that these rats got cancers at high frequencies with age and failed to cite any of the appropriate research on the topic and 2) as these rats get high numbers of cancers with age, large numbers of rats are required to have sufficient power to see an effect.

    I might add that the reason the journal gave for the retraction is also not a sufficient reason for retracting a paper.

    If explicit evidence supporting retraction is not given, readers might reasonably wonder whether a desire not to offend industry could be playing a role.

    Well readers might do all sorts of things. However, they would be wrong to think this. The wording of the editorial notice is, in my opinion, disingenuous and designed to protect the editors and/or authors. Seralini has threatened to sue the journal, although on what grounds I am unsure, so perhaps the editor of the journal made the correct decision in publishing such a mealy-mouthed rationale for the retraction.

  59. #59 herr doktor bimler
    December 1, 2013

    Various people weigh into the Retraction Watch comment thread to offer a range of rationales for Seralini et al.’s study design and ethics… not all mutually compatible. We learn, for instance, that they were originally looking at toxicology — for which the small number of rats would (allegedly) have been quite adequate — and were completely taken by surprise by the carcinogenic properties of the GMO corn, forcing them to publish, despite the low significance. That commenter failed to explain why Seralini deliberately chose to work with rats which would get cancer.

  60. #60 Denice Walter
    December 1, 2013

    @ herr doktor:

    And for unfathomable reasons, woo-meisters/ alt media barkers who write or speak about Seralini never mention about the rats being cancer prone but ONLY rag on about how the GMOs caused *horrible* cancers.

    The latest I”ve heard ( via PRN) is that the industry’s studies stopped at 90 days whilst Sersalini continued beyond and reported the cancers’ growth.
    Did the corporations *know* that the rats would get cancer ((shudder))?
    Why, yes I suppose they did.

  61. #61 ChrisP
    December 1, 2013

    At Retraction Watch there is a group trotting out all the arguments that were put up by GMWatch when the study was first criticised. The one about this being really a toxicity study that found carcinogenicity is discussed in detail in the comments section here http://weedcontrolfreaks.com/2012/09/why-i-think-the-seralini-gm-feeding-trial-is-bogus/comment-page-1/#comments for those who are interested in the statistical niceties.

    Basically, the number of rats used did not conform to guidelines for toxicity studies, which require at least 20 animals for each of the control and treatment arms.

  62. #62 herr doktor bimler
    December 1, 2013

    The one about this being really a toxicity study that found carcinogenicity is discussed in detail in the comments section here

    Even without the statistical FAIL, Seralini et al. were clearly bullsh1tting about only intending to study long-term toxicity when they chose to work with a strain of rats which they knew would mostly die prematurely.

  63. #63 herr doktor bimler
    December 1, 2013

    guidelines for toxicity studies, which require at least 20 animals for each of the control and treatment arms

    65 animals in each group if they are not expected to reach normal life expectancy; e.g. if they are Sprague-Dawley rats.

  64. #64 Narad
    December 1, 2013

    Did the corporations *know* that the rats would get cancer ((shudder))?

    Where are Bengston’s mice, anyway? I mean, one might suppose that miraculous quantum cures would deserve some sort of extended follow-up rather than prompt cervical dislocation.

  65. #65 Sarah A
    December 1, 2013

    Regarding the repeated question of how this paper ever got through peer review – I’m only a very novice researcher as of yet, but I think that part of the problem is that peer review was never intended to be some sort of ultimate stamp of scientific authenticity. Before the days of internet access and science by press conference, a paper like this would likely only be read by other scientists in the same field, who would be equipped to understand its significance (or lack thereof.) Over time, unsound studies that can’t be replicated or integrated into a larger theoretical framework simply fade into obscurity while more fruitful lines of inquiry expand. At least, that’s the theory.

    I suspect that the editors and reviewers didn’t realize that the mere fact that they allowed this paper to be published was going to be (mis)interpreted as some sort of official certification that the results were sound, and now they’re feeling a much greater burden of responsibility than peer review should, or can, entail.

  66. #66 herr doktor bimler
    December 2, 2013

    It could well be that Bengston’s mice survived the attempts to kill them with injectable cancer cells simply because they were transferring health from Seralini’s mice, in some form of trans-temporal quantum coupling bafflegab.

  67. #67 herr doktor bimler
    December 2, 2013

    The ‘retraction’ has not yet filtered down to Elsevier’s various outlets, which are still providing the paper without any indication that it has been unpublished:

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691512005637

    The latest I”ve heard ( via PRN) is that the industry’s studies stopped at 90 days

    Seralini’s claim to be the first investigation of long-term effects turns out to be fiction, with a literature going back to 2003.
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691511006399

  68. #68 Dangerous Bacon
    December 2, 2013

    ” I think that part of the problem is that peer review was never intended to be some sort of ultimate stamp of scientific authenticity. Before the days of internet access and science by press conference, a paper like this would likely only be read by other scientists in the same field, who would be equipped to understand its significance (or lack thereof.) Over time, unsound studies that can’t be replicated or integrated into a larger theoretical framework simply fade into obscurity while more fruitful lines of inquiry expand. At least, that’s the theory.”

    I have to disagree. Well before the Internet era, it was understood that peer review was supposed to pick up on glaring study faults like those of Seralini et al. Conscientous reviewers at a minimum would have called for larger (and more equivalent) study groups to achieve statistical significance.
    This is a major black eye for the journal.

    Someone was asleep at the switch, or conveniently ignored problems because they sympathized with the anti-GM viewpoint of the investigators.

  69. #69 Denice Walter
    December 2, 2013

    @ Narad:

    The idiot suggests that the GMO-producing corporations *knew* that the rats would develop horrendous tumours after 4 months- caused by the poisonous feed- so they stopped their own studies at 3 months to cover-up their crimes while the brave, solitary Seralini extended his studies to show what havoc GMO wraught upon the poor rattehs. People, you’re next if you eat the evil seed of Monsanto!

    HOWEVER neither he nor the other arse say anything about which *particular* breed of rat was used. Both used photos of the cancer-plagued rats in articles and films.

  70. #70 Denice Walter
    December 2, 2013

    @ herr doktor:

    Well, about the various sinkholes I wade through word is that GMOs cause nasty cancers, heart-rendingly illustrated with images of those rats.

    The newest PRN screed is called ” The Hidden Hand: Who Really Holds Power?” – read aloud Wednesday- they haven’t put the article up yet. GMO-sculduggery is only a minute facet of this glittering gem.

  71. #71 Krebiozen
    December 2, 2013

    Denice,

    Both used photos of the cancer-plagued rats in articles and films.

    Ironically, I am quite sure those rats would have developed exactly the same tumors if fed on the finest anti-cancer diet the Health DeRanger himself could formulate.

  72. #72 Calli Arcale
    http://fractalwonder.wordpress.com
    December 2, 2013

    T:

    I am strongly against some kind of GMOs (everything that has pesticide inside the seed is a bad idea, since it destroys useful insects as well as harmful one, for example. DDT docet) but I am strongly in favour of others.

    Then you really have a much bigger beef with Mother Nature than you do with Monsanto et al. Tobacco plants didn’t develop nicotine to please humans. They did it to kill insects that were trying to eat their leaves.

    Antaeus:

    One thing that keeps getting me, though, is how badly the entire debate it framed. Talking about “GMOs” is like talking about “foreigners,” or “people born out of wedlock,” or “people conceived through IVF”, isn’t it? Why are we grouping and talking about organisms about how they got here, when the real concern is what they do once they’re here?

    You win the Internet. That’s probably the most insightful summary of a problem I’ve read in a very long time.

    Denice:

    On a lighter note, for a true laugh-riot, fear mongering full length film see Gary Null Youtube, “The Seeds of Death”.

    I prefer the Doctor Who version, with alien seed pods that land in Antarctica and then take over humans in their quest to replace the world with pure vegetable matter. (Not clear what they expect to do for food at that point, since they’re carnivorous.) It does include one of the most gruesome deaths to occur on the series, though blessedly out of the camera’s frame. Like what happened to Steve Buscemi in “Fargo”, but while still alive and conscious…and screaming….

  73. #73 Calli Arcale
    December 2, 2013

    Ack, correction, I get those two mixed up all the time. I was thinking of Seeds of Doom, with the Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane. Seeds of *Death* was the second appearance of the Ice Warriors, with the Second Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe. They invaded the T-mat station on the Moon which controlled all of the T-mats around Earth and which had become absolutely vital for commerce and transport of food and such. After interrupting service long enough to cause panic, they turned the system back on to send Martian seed pods through, which released deadly clouds of carbon dioxide, with the idea of killing off the humans and, well, Mars-forming (Areforming?) the Earth to make it more hospitable to Ice Warriors.

  74. #74 Sarah A
    December 2, 2013

    @Dangerous Bacon

    You’re right – now that I re-read my post, it looks like I’m letting the reviewers off the hook, which wasn’t my intention at all. I think Orac and others have amply demonstrated why this particular paper should never have been published in the first place. But not all papers are going to be as demonstrably incompetent as this one, and even legitimate research is expected to occasionally find non-existent correlations simply by chance. And, of course, there’s always the possibility of deliberate fraud, which peer review isn’t really set up to detect. That’s why I think its so important that people understand that peer review doesn’t guarantee that a paper’s conclusions are correct. I suppose that goes without saying for most of the regulars here, but you see a lot of science-denial groups responding to skeptics by touting a ridiculously small number of “peer-reviewed studies” that are often poorly done or only tangentially related to their claim. It works because most laypeople aren’t equipped to evaluate the quality or relevance of these studies to the claims being made, but many of them have heard (or read) the term “peer review” being bandied about as if it was some sort of infallible stamp of authenticity.

  75. #75 Jean Charcot
    Minnesota
    December 2, 2013

    That’s funny…..the anti-vaccination people are often quite explicit about their mistrust of GMOs as well.

    Check out this from Kelly Brogan MD:
    GMOs and Vaccines: Shared Paths
    http://kellybroganmd.com/article/gmos-and-vaccines/

  76. #76 Denice Walter
    December 2, 2013

    Brogan contributes to MacNeil’s and Habakus’ latest venture, the weekly”Fearless Parent Radio” @ PRN and FP website.

  77. #77 Jean Charcot
    Minnesota
    December 2, 2013

    Ironic that it is called “fearless” since she seems to fear those things which are actually quite safe.

  78. #78 Grant
    http://sciblogs.co.nz/code-for-life/2013/12/03/peer-review-extra-ordinary-claims/
    December 2, 2013

    @Sarah A, @Dangerous Bacon:

    “You’re right – now that I re-read my post, it looks like I’m letting the reviewers off the hook, which wasn’t my intention at all. I think Orac and others have amply demonstrated why this particular paper should never have been published in the first place.”

    I’ve just written a small piece on peer review (see location) and whatnot. Reading your discussion I may have accidentally conveyed a similar thought. An addendum may be in order… sigh. Thanks for bringing it up.

  79. #79 Dangerous Bacon
    December 2, 2013

    Speaking of the antivaccine movement, hilarity ensues on AoA today, thanks to Dachel’s interview with Dr. Mitchell Fleisher, a guy who is heavily into the woo (to supplement his MD degree he is identified as having graduated from two separate homeopathic institutions, promotes bioidentical hormones etc. and of course is antivaccine).

    The part I loved is his denunciation of Paul Offit:

    “Offit is a perfect example of the unconscionable arrogance, avarice, hypocrisy, ignorance, and deceit of the stereotypical, “insider” cronies of the multinational, pharmaceutical corporate complex. He is a highly paid consultant for big pharma, personally profits from the sale of the vaccines that he pushes on the public”.

    Irony meters blew sky-high over that one, seeing that Fleisher is the “Medical Director” of Progressive Laboratories, a supplement company which sells homeopathic and detox glop among other useless garbage.

    https://www.progressivelabs.com/product.php?productid=17134

    So let’s see, what’s worse – making money from an effective life-saving vaccine, or profiting by helping push useless and potentially harmful supplements?*

    https://www.progressivelabs.com/product.php?productid=17134

    *I did not see anything about Fleisher’s commercial affiliation in the Dachel interview text. Maybe he forgot to mention it.

  80. #80 herr doktor bimler
    December 2, 2013

    Maybe he forgot to mention it
    The guy needs to take more gingko.

  81. #81 Pareidolius
    December 3, 2013

    Well, everybody doesn’t like something, but nobody doesn’t like Seralini. And you kids, look it up.

  82. #82 Denice Walter
    December 3, 2013

    And as predicted:
    Natural News ‘Buzz’ informs us that-

    ‘Scientific journal unethically decides to retract Seralini’s GMO study’

    telling us that the study was
    “controversial because it was the first to examine long term effects of consuming Monsanto’s NK603 Roundup tolerant corn”.
    The EFSA criticised the study for using the “wrong rats, not enough rats and that the statistical analysis was inadequate”.

    It seems that the journal ” caved under pressure from biotech”

    -btw- the journal, published by Elsevier, is run by “former Monsanto employee and pro-GMO lobbyist, Richard Goodman”.

    In other NN news:
    Mikey poses in his Forensic Food lab with its very expensive equipment.

  83. #83 Sian Williams
    December 4, 2013

    @Denice

    A small bench top centrifuge and a peristaltic pump? Not all that expensive, though he claims there’s something “worth more than a Lamborghini” off camera.

    Anyone know where this setup is located? I’m curious to know if he has the proper waste handling permits. And PPE training, as he thinks a lab coat is too cumbersome.

  84. #84 Krebiozen
    December 4, 2013

    Sian Williams,

    A small bench top centrifuge and a peristaltic pump?

    These are both potentially dangerous pieces of equipment, and Mikey could do himself some serious damage that even his miracle products might have trouble putting right (I wouldn’t wish that even on him).

    If you haven’t been in a room with a wildly off-balance centrifuge you haven’t lived – it’s terrifying and very dangerous, since the things jumps around like a bucking bronco and can even explode.

    Also, I have a memory of a colleague bending over a peristaltic pump and his necktie getting caught in the rollers. It’s funny how difficult it is to remember where an off switch is when someone is turning blue before your eyes…

    I remain full of antici……….pation*.

    * It is Rocky Horror reference day, isn’t it?

  85. #85 Lawrence
    December 4, 2013

    Centrifuges have a tendency (when they explode) to act exactly like a shotgun at close range…..not a good time, not at all….

  86. #86 AnObservingParty
    December 4, 2013

    Anyone know where this setup is located? I’m curious to know if he has the proper waste handling permits. And PPE training, as he thinks a lab coat is too cumbersome.

    Yes, anyone know? Our OSHA rep could get this ball rolling….

  87. #87 Krebiozen
    December 4, 2013

    Lawrence,

    Centrifuges have a tendency (when they explode) to act exactly like a shotgun at close range…..not a good time, not at all….

    That’s especially fun when they are full of blood tubes potentially infected with HIV and hepatitis of assorted varieties, or (more frequently a couple of decades ago) radioactive materials. As I recall the health and safety directive is to exit the room, close the door and wait for at least half an hour to allow any aerosols to settle.

    The large floor-standing centrifuges are the most dangerous, but even a little benchtop one used for spinning those little conical eppendorf tubes, like the one Mikey has behind him, can do a lot of damage, especially to someone who wears their safety specs on the top of their head. Some of those I have used in the past didn’t lock effectively when spinning, which meant an unwary person could reach into it when it’s going, with unpleasant consequences.

    The machine at far right of the photo looks like an HPLC rig to me, judging by the tubes that lead to it, but it could be an atomic absorption spectrophotometer, which would fit with the ISEs he mentions. I also see, I think, a couple of blue-topped tubes, with their lids off, that are normally used to collect blood for trace metal measurements. I don’t recognize the green-topped tubes (if that’s what they are), they aren’t in general use in the UK.

  88. #88 Denice Walter
    December 4, 2013

    Mikey currently lives on his folksy, rustic ranch just outside Austin, Texas.Close enough to go food shopping in the city.

    and Sian, doesn’t just about *everyone* has something *worth more than a Lamborghini* off camera?
    I know I do.

  89. #89 Denice Walter
    December 4, 2013

    @ Krebiozen:

    You’re correct about the HPLC-he wrote about that and a polarograph earlier. Supposedly, he got these goodies dirt cheap at university lab surplus websites.

  90. #90 Denice Walter
    December 4, 2013

    At any rate, here’s what I can put together so far:

    - he constantly squawks about non-organic, GMO-tainted foods, poor quality and contaminated supplements ( vitamins, herbs), fast foods
    - he despises anything from China ( he has interests in Taiwan)
    - he believes that governmental agencies responsible for food and drug safety in the US and Europe are corrupt and compromised- their information is not to be trusted
    - he believes that most corporations- esp food producers and drug manufacturers- are corrupt and compromised
    - he believes that medical associations give worthless information
    - you can’t trust what you buy over the internet ( @ Amazon)
    - he sells various foods and supplements

    I imagine he will use his toys to show how bad standard products and information are ( he said- food labels are used to “hide” what’s in the food) and how exceedingly fabulous his own creations are-
    just loaded with life energy, high ORAC, lots of love and no nasty industrial waste
    ( see his ad for “clean Chlorella”- it isn’t grown in contaminated, toxic wasteland China)

  91. #91 AnObservingParty
    December 4, 2013

    @ Kreb

    Greens in the US usually contain heparin…I think blood chemistries like urea levels… I think.

  92. #92 Nick Theodorakis
    December 4, 2013

    I’ve noticed over the years that lab equipment has got less dangerous and more idiot proof. The old Sorvall RC-2B floor standing centrifuges that used used to be the workhorse of a biochem lab could actually be operated with the lid open, which you can’t do with newer models. In the old days, I used to do a procedure in which there were several spins with a very heavy fixed angle rotor that took forever to stop, but it was common practice in that lab to “hand brake” it when the run was done if you didn’t want to be there all night. And even newer microcentrifuges won’t open until the rotor has stopped (unless [cough] you bypass the safety lock by jamming the end of a plastic pipet tip in there — or so I’ve heard). And don’t even get me started about old home-made (or rather, university shop-made) high voltage electrophoresis units that could electrocute an unwary researcher.

    Of course, if someone is setting up a “home lab” by buying used equipment they are more likely to end up with the older, less safe units.

  93. #93 Sian Williams
    December 4, 2013

    @Krebiozen
    #84:I have, and I watched an inattentive coworker nearly loose a finger on a peristaltic pump. I was commenting on price, not safety.
    #87: Those blue topped tunes look like small (25 mL or so) conical tubes to me, but it’s early and I’m viewing the photo on my phone.

    @Denice #88:
    I know Houston more or less doesn’t care how waste gets disposed of (at least at the industrial scale), I hope Austin is more stringent.

  94. #94 AnObservingParty
    December 4, 2013

    # 93 Sian,

    Where’s the link, for the life of me can’t find it in the thread? They aren’t blue-topped vacutainers? If they’re blue-topped conicals, that’s just basic centrifuge equipment I thought? Like basic-basic.

  95. #95 Sian Williams
    December 4, 2013

    @AnObservingParty
    It wasn’t posted, I had to go to his website (ugh) and find it. http://m.naturalnews.com/news/043112_Health_Ranger_food_science_research_atomic_spectroscopy.html

    Sorry, it’s for the mobile version, I can’t figure out how to get to the desktop version.

  96. #96 AnObservingParty
    December 4, 2013

    Thanks, it opened! And *vomit* I was hoping to avoid going there, thanks for taking one for the team.

    Zooming in, I don’t think any of them are vacutainers, just different color caps for conical centrifuge tubes. Too bulky. Maybe he’s gonna spin the fat out of KFC chicken skin.

  97. #97 Sarah A
    December 4, 2013

    Aww, he’s so cute, like a kid with his first chemistry set. One could almost forget that he’s actually a profiteering conspiracy mongerer who disseminates misinformation that endangers the life and heatlh of anyone gullible enough to listen to him. Almost.

  98. #98 jane
    December 4, 2013

    Ew, I wish I hadn’t followed the posted link to the paper during lunch. I’m no statistician – I wouldn’t have a clue what to do with ten or twenty treatment groups, beyond a simple chi-square – but even I can see that their stats are incomplete and crummy. But if their statement of 30% vs. 50% to 80% with tumors is true, and I have no reason to doubt it as the journal reviewed the original data, that just might be statistically significant. I just don’t know. Yes, the peer reviewers should have complained about this, but now that the problem’s noticed, someone really should take the raw data, redo all the math and post the right answers, no matter whether the authors will be vindicated or humiliated.

  99. #99 mika.zika.011
    Belgrade
    December 4, 2013

    The whole discussion on Séralini paper show that current academic science is not in a great shape. There are two main points.
    First one is that his findings cannot be generalized to all GMOs. His research is relevant for a single GMO and Roundup. This is very specific combination, and it is not in any way applicable to other GMOs (“golden rice” e.g.).
    Another problem is much more important, and that is problem of reproducible research. Methodology Séralini used was heavily criticized. Therefore, his experiment should be reproduced, with improved methodology. However, research reproducibility is a common problem (see Ioannidis).

  100. #100 herr doktor bimler
    December 4, 2013

    someone really should take the raw data, redo all the math and post the right answers

    Now that the paper in question has reverted to the status of “unpublished manuscript”, there is nothing to stop Séralini &c from amplifying it with the missing statistics and re-submitting it for publication somewhere else. Of course in the uncharitable interpretation that they were primarily after a press conference, with the paper merely serving as a means to that end, they might not bother.

    Could anyone else analyse what are now unpublished data? I know, the figures are freely available, but they no longer have any official existence, or the imprimatur of publication. If someone were to analyze the data properly, what journal would publish the results when there is no recognized provenance, not even the status of “private correspondence”?

  101. #102 Krebiozen
    December 4, 2013

    Link works, despite closure fail.

  102. #103 Ewan R
    December 5, 2013

    His research is relevant for a single GMO and Roundup.

    If it were designed correctly it would be. As things stand his research is relevant for nothing.

    omeone really should take the raw data, redo all the math and post the right answers

    The issue is, in this case, that given the experimental design the raw data cannot give right answers. It is simply too noisy, and not the sort of noise you can get rid of.

    It is, however, exactly the sort of noise you’d be perfectly happy to get in order to “find” differences between diets (statistical significance doesn’t mean that something is real – noisy data will throw out a whole ton of false positives, which one assumes is exactly why Seralini went with the experimental design)

    Methodology Séralini used was heavily criticized. Therefore, his experiment should be reproduced, with improved methodology.

    Not really, nothing in the literature suggests that either roundup or the specific trait under examination have carcinogenic effects. The toxicity profile of roundup is spectacularly well understood. There is no plausible mechanism for toxicity of the trait, and vast swathes of evidence to support the hypothesis that no such toxicity exists (both in the literature, and in the sheer fact the stuff has been used for nigh on 2 decades with no evidence of adverse effects).

    One does not, for instance, go and do a well designed clinical trial of a homeopathic remedy because some hack managed to get a poorly designed experiment through peer review. Neither does one waste time and money researching questions that have already been answered, although what scientist wouldn’t be totally excited to pointlessly kill hundreds of research animals and waste 2 years of their life running a study the results of which are bloody obvious and utterly unexciting.

  103. #104 herr doktor bimler
    December 5, 2013

    Methodology Séralini used was heavily criticized. Therefore, his experiment should be reproduced, with improved methodology

    What? It was crap research therefore it should be repeated?

  104. #105 herr doktor bimler
    December 8, 2013

    Someone really should take the raw data, redo all the math and post the right answers

    My helpful response to Séralini et al is now on line.

  105. #106 Krebiozen
    December 8, 2013

    Ewan R,

    The toxicity profile of roundup is spectacularly well understood.

    Indeed. Safety studies of Roundup found that the detergent it contains (to ensure it coats the leaves of plants) is more toxic than the active ingredient (glyphosate), and several of the in vitro studies looking at Roundup appear to be simply rediscovering that surfactants are good at disrupting cell membranes – add a tiny drop of dish washing liquid to a suspension of red blood cells in saline and they will instantly burst. No one is panicking about dish washing liquid because of this, to my knowledge.

    Roundup works by inhibiting an enzyme that only exists in plants and microorganisms so we would expect it to be of low toxicity to other organisms, and that is exactly what we see. If you look at the various claims that Roundup is toxic, you almost always find that they used high concentrations. For example in this study they found that 20 mg/L (20 µg/ml ) glyphosate in vitro inhibits steroid hormone synthesis, with no effects seen at 10 mg/L.

    The EPA maximum legal glyphosate residue level in food for human consumption is 0.2 mg/L (0.2 ppm), 100 times lower than the lowest concentration that had any effects, so I’m not too worried. That doesn’t stop people from using this study to attack Roundup.

    Since the only difference in Roundup Ready plants is that they produce a version of this enzyme that is not inhibited by glyphosate, and all this enzyme does is synthesize amino acids, I struggle to think of even a wildly improbable way in which Roundup resistance in a plant could adversely affect a mammal that ingested that plant.

    It is true that Roundup Ready plants have led to increased pesticide, but since most of that increase is in the use of Roundup, which has far lower toxicity than the weedkillers it has replaced, that would seem to me to be a good thing.

    Really, when I look at the literature on Roundup and Roundup Ready plants, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that much of it is simply flinging mud in the hope that some of it sticks.

  106. #107 Krebiozen
    December 8, 2013

    Error – for “increased pesticide” read “increased herbicide use”.

  107. #108 Narad
    December 8, 2013

    Public Radio International’s “Living on Earth” lets its Freak Flag fly on the subject this week.

    And it makes me wonder, are we in the Soviet era, and people are trying to rewrite history?