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    Believe Science, not Headlines - It facilitates better discussions

    As much of us in the #ag community are aware, #GMO 's and #Monsanto are making headlines again. A study published by the International Journal of Biological Sciences stated that 3 maize GMO varieties MAY be toxic to the liver and kidneys in humans. 

    To GM or not to GM

    Oh boy, let the good times roll.....




    Given the simple fact that Monsanto is involved and more and more consumers are paying attention to #food, the headlines played to both these. And did it ever get circulated, and fast. Here are a couple for your viewing pleasure:


    Monsanto’s GMO Corn can lead to Organ Failure

    http://blog.friendseat.com/monsantos-gmo-corn-can-lead-to-organ-failure/


    Monsanto's GMO Corn Linked To Organ Failure, Study Reveals
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/12/monsantos-gmo-corn-linked_n_420365.html


    And here is a blog post that shares another POV.


    http://blogs.riverfronttimes.com/dailyrft/2010/01/touting_gmo_corn_research_critique_changeorg_gets_all_up_in_monsantos_face.php


    There is one distinct piece of information that I agree with. More testing should be done as we in the agricultural industry try to deliver on our promise to provide safe, healthy food for all.

    I understand the strong feelings, but let's not let feelings guide us. Science should be our guide so we should all work towards strong, science based, statistically relevant studies.

    There are positives and negatives to any approach, in any industry. Put aside your personal feelings for an entity. We should not disregard the potential of a technological advancement based on "your" (speaking generally) disdain of a publicly traded company. In order to keep companies from becoming to powerful, let's be sure that we utilize the existing system to increase competition in the marketplace. As is evident from this anti-trust workshop article, the system is doing what it is supposed to. I, for one, believe competition is critical as it keeps companies in check and allows farmers to strengthen their business based on how they operate their business. And whether you want to accept it or not, Monsanto does provide a great deal to research and development efforts, and not only to further their cause. I am not going to dig into policy as that is for another posting, but welcome any feedback on this point.

    We should all keep interacting and providing facts, and yes opinions also. We are not all going to agree on everything - this is healthy and needed. We do not progress when all "speak to the choir". Let's continue to keep interacting both professionally and personally. Engage one another and agree to disagree on some issues. We can all learn if we remain civil with one another and not take media headlines as gospel.

    Here is an example for you: After the study was published, @jambutter sent me this tweet:

    Jambutter 
    @natejtaylor Happy New Year (belated) Nate. Curious about your thoughts on negative #GMO maize research findings.


    That is a very fair question and prompted this blog post. Rob actually has a pretty good idea where I stand on #GMO 's. But, to be clear, my personal (can't stress that enough) opinion is that they are going to play a part in #agriculture as we move forward. That does not mean I think more testing shouldn't take place. It certainly should, by independent third parties, industry, and other groups. We, as consumers can take in all the data from all the sources and make a choice. 


    I welcome any and all feedback. If you have any relevant articles, input, studies, etc..pass them on. I truly love data. Data collection and analysis is how you "get to the other side of complexity."

    7 comments:

    1. I plant GMO crops and am under the impression that it is a safe product. I also feel independent third party testing using sound science methods should be used in approving a product. I also feel that the same sound science and independent third party testing should be used to pull a product that isn't safe.

    1. As I was expecting @jambutter responded to this post, not through comments, as one would expect, but through short tweets. Why there is no response here so a fruitful discussion can develop is a mystery.

      Anyhow, I will focus on a couple of tweets from Rob (maybe he will even respond with comments here):

      @natejtaylor You repeatedly suggest "feelings" are behind reaction to #Monsanto #GMO maize health concerns when it was science and data.

      Yes I do, the reaction from the media and all other activists has been leveraging the strong feelings the general public holds in regards to a certain publicly traded company. Please do not mis-interpret my position on being an activist. I am also an activist when it comes to matters that are very near and dear to me like agriculture, food policy, legislation, and local politics. I am very active in all of these and hope other people get active in what they are passionate about. Back to the study. Here is a quote taken directly from the scientist that performed the study:

      “Clearly, the statistically significant effects observed here for all three GM maize varieties investigated are signs of toxicity rather than proofs of toxicity”.

      Big leap from that to the headlines we, as consumers read. The scientist also stated this:

      In conclusion, our data presented here strongly recommend that additional long-term (up to 2 years) animal feeding studies be performed in at least three species, preferably also multi-generational, to provide true scientifically valid data on the acute and chronic toxic effects of GM crops, feed and foods.”

      What this means to me is exactly what I stated in this post, MORE TESTING needs to be done, not feelings and gotcha based studies. (NOTE: Do not take that last sentence as a statement that the recent Greenpeace funded study was based on that. It looks and reads scientifically sound, at least from a ludites point of view). The point is we need more longer studies, a point everyone can agree on.

      Another interaction from Rob:

      @Jambutter and how would U know there wasn't pre-conceived notions? No offense, but R u able to know diff in re-ass & re-int of science?
      @natejtaylor I've worked at for-profit, monopolistic, intellectual property based business, so I've seen these things first hand. You?

      Well, his response shows that he has vast experience in the business world, but still doesn't answer my question of whether or not he is able to determine if pre-conceived notions were in play based on an understanding of the data presented. Here is my tweet in response:

      @Jambutter I sure wasn't so I asked 3 diff scientist. Also, I am skeptical of ALL "studies". I need more than 1 for findings to be valuable.

      It seems to me that is EXACTLY what the scientist stated in their conclusions. To answer your question Rob, yes I have worked in a variety of businesses both private and government based. I have not worked at a non-profit. I still suggest that having business acumen is not the same as being a scientist.

      At the end of the day, I appreciate the interactions with Rob. He is passionate about #food and is looking to make an impact. I understand and relate.

      I want to address one more tweet from Rob:
      @natejtaylor It took court case just to get #Monsanto to release research data. Doesn't that tell you something? If not, open your eyes.

      I have to agree with that statement. It is unfortunate that it takes court cases to open up research data. I am in no position to determine why this is the case, and for that matter neither is Rob. I believe that our system of checks and balances will sort through that and if Monsanto is hiding, the truth will come out. The same type of thing took place with Microsoft, and now Google is increasingly coming under scrutiny. I am speaking of anti-trust. Remember, right or wrong, they are protecting their Intellectual Property like any other company.

    1. Good summary, Nate.

      Next time, I'll bring my thoughts to the comment section of your blog post, and point to it via Twitter. Maybe I can give your blog a bump in visitors!

      Probably the biggest problem with Monsanto is that virtually no one but them can do the type of badly needed research on the human health impacts of the genetically engineered seeds it sells.

      That's not an "emotional" problem of activists. It's a problem for every single person on the planet that is currently taking a leap of faith that over 70% of the food sold in supermarkets containing GMO ingredients are not making them sick.

      As I've said before, I believe Monsanto and those in power in Washington that are allowing this to continue should (and likely will) face civil/criminal charges.

    1. Definitely more independent testing needs to be done. And it needs to be done before the seeds are released to farmers for planting. We cannot continue to allow Monsanto et. al. to use human beings as guinea pigs.
      Duane Marcus
      @leekfixer on twitter

    1. Rob,

      Appreciate that! Much more conducive to talking when we have more than 140. I would say that I would do the same for you but alas, my presence would most likely not end up helping your blog traffic any..

      All kidding aside though...

      I fully support more studies and focusing activities on policy is one way for consumers to make their voice heard.

    1. The GMO issue needs to be adequately covered as regards health. There is an assunption that because a gene does something in one species, that when transferred it will do the same. yes, often it does produce the same protein molecule, however, it does not necessarily make one that is identical. This is where problems seems to lie, the molecule shape is slightly altered and this may be where different physiological reactions spring from.
      Genes do not necessarily have only one action, this needs to be taken into account when assessing the potential(probably unlikely)for allergic or toxic reactions of GMO products. Monsanto(and others) is not interested in finding negative results in tests. All results must be made known, and comparative studies between GMOs and tradtionally bred varieties allowed.
      I am biology PhD grad student.

    1. Hello Mark,

      Thanks for reading. I appreciate it. I agree that all testing results, ALL, should be made public. Hopefully other bodies and students will be learning more and more as science progresses. If you are on twitter, look me up @natejtaylor and @zedxinc. I am always talking about agriculture and welcome someone with your knowledge base to interact with. Thanks again for reading

      Best,
      NJT

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    Agriculture passionado! I lead GeoVantage's Sales, Marketing, and Business Development activities. If you haven't explored the benefit of remote sensing for production agriculture, now is the time! Not one to rest, I am also a part of the Memes Associates team where we focus on assisting large companies in the agriculture space to "re-discover their inner entrepreneur" through the introduction of market disrupting technology(s) and services.  

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