GMOs are safe, says NAS

The National Academy of Sciences has published a report – Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects:

Human Health Effects:
GE crops and foods derived from them are tested in three ways: animal testing, compositional analysis, and aller-genicity testing and prediction. Although the design and analysis of many animal-feeding studies were not optimal, the many available animal experimental studies taken together provided reasonable evidence that animals were not harmed by eating foods derived from GE crops. Data on the nutrient and chemical composition of a GE plant compared to a similar non-GE variety of the crop some-times show statistically significant differences in nutrient and chemical composition, but the differences have been considered to fall within the range of naturally occurring variation found in currently available non-GE crops.
Many people are concerned that GE food consumption may lead to higher incidence of specific health problems including cancer, obesity, gastrointestinal tract illnesses, kidney disease, and disorders such as autism spectrum and allergies. In the absence of long-term, case-controlled studies to examine some hypotheses, the committee examined epidemiological datasets over time from the United States and Canada, where GE food has been consumed since the late 1990s, and similar datasets from the United Kingdom and western Europe, where GE food is not widely consumed. No pattern of differences was found among countries in specific health problems after the introduction of GE foods in the 1990s.

Glyphosate does not cause cancer (so far as we know)

Derek Lowe – Glyphosate and Cancer:

I went into one of those in detail here, and after looking into the case that it makes, I am willing to dismiss out of hand anything else Seneff has to say on the subject. It’s that bad. You will hear that “MIT researchers” have “proven” that glyphosate does X and Y and Z, and that this work is “published in peer-reviewed journals”, but nothing like that is true. Seneff has done no actual studies on glyphosate; she doesn’t work in a lab. Those papers are rehashes of stuff from the literature, piles of speculation and dot-connecting, and they’re invariably published in low-quality pay-to-play journals that do little or no actual refereeing of their contents. And their content is yet another problem – as shown in that link above, the paper that goes on and on about glyphosate’s effect on gut bacteria does not manage to cite any of the papers that have studied. . .glyphosate effects on bacteria. It not only doesn’t cite them, it seems to pretend that this research does not even exist, probably because all these papers contradict the fundamental ideas that Seneff’s tower of speculation is built on. She’s going around now saying that half of all children are going to be autistic (because of glyphosate), and that it’s also a root cause of not only cancer, but Alzheimer’s and a whole list of other diseases. If your knowledge of glyphosate’s toxicology comes only from reading the Seneff papers, I feel pity for you, because you have a lot of work ahead of you if you want to actually understand anything about it.


In considering the risk of cancer due to glyphosate, he compares it to the recent articles on bacon/cured meats and risks of cancer:

…that’s basically what happened recently with the IARC and its announcement on bacon being a cause of cancer. Under real-world conditions, eating a normal amount of bacon raise your risk of colorectal cancer by an amount too small to consider. But it does appear to be raising it by a reproducible, measurable amount, and therefore bacon (and other processed meats) are in the IARC’s category 1

And the conclusion:

So that’s the state of the art: there is, from what I can see, nothing very clearly linking glyphosate to human cancer. There’s certainly room for more evidence to come in, though, and it looks like we’re going to need it, because this is a topic that’s never going to go away until we have more data.

Bees and colony collapse disorder

Elina L. Niño – Deciphering the mysterious decline of honey bees:

Scientists now agree that CCD was likely caused by a combination of environmental and biological factors, but nothing specific has been confirmed or proven. CCD is no longer causing large-scale colony death in North America, but beekeepers all over the United States are still reporting troubling colony losses – as high as 45 percent annually.
I repeat, nothing specific has been confirmed or proven.

Many people who are not beekeepers or growers want to know how they can help. One easy step is to grow forage plants, especially varieties that bloom at different times during the year. For suggestions, see our Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven Plant List.

Second, reduce your pesticide use for gardening and landscaping, and follow guidelines to reduce bee exposure. Finally, you can support local by buying their honey.

Ultimately, however, making our society more pollinator-friendly will likely require some drastic and long-term changes in our environmental and agricultural practices.

Good points. We definitely need to plant more forage plants in our yard.

The EWG’s dirty dozen

I’m not sure what to make of the dirty dozen list of fruits and vegetables tested to have the highest level of pesticides, as reported by the Environmental Working Group. Certainly there needs to be constant monitoring of the industry and the products to ensure their safety. But I’m a bit skeptical of their presentation.

From the EWG FAQ:

Shouldn’t I try to buy everything organic?

EWG recommends buying organic whenever possible. Not only is it smart to reduce your exposure to pesticides, but buying organic sends a message that you support environmentally-friendly farming practices that minimize soil erosion, safeguard workers and protect water quality and wildlife.

However, we know that organics are not accessible or affordable for everyone, so we created the EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ to help consumers make the healthiest choices given their circumstances.

EWG always recommends eating fruits and vegetables, even conventionally grown, over processed foods and other less healthy alternatives.

Don’t organic food producers use pesticides as well? Do they use less pesticides than conventional food producers?


Do we know enough about the effects of pesticide on people?

No. Americans are likely polluted with far more pesticides than current studies report. Agribusiness and pesticide companies are not required to determine whether their chemicals are present in people, not even for compounds that widely contaminate the food supply. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national biomonitoring program has likely only scratched the surface in its efforts to determine the human body burden of pesticides.

“likely”. Yes, it’s worth being skeptical about the use of pesticides. But the EWG report does not give any information about the tested levels found in produce, nor how it compares to the limits for human consumption.

The US EPA provides some information on the human health risk assessment they perform on pesticides.


Junk food for plants

Anne Biklé and David R. Montgomery at Nautilus – When Good Plants Eat Junk:

It’s undeniable that crops raised on fertilizers have produced historical yields. After all, the key ingredients of most fertilizers—nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K)—make plants grow faster and bigger. And popular insecticides and herbicides knock back plant enemies. From 1960 to 2000, a time when the world’s population doubled, global grain production rose even more quickly. It tripled.1

But there is a trade-off. High-yielding crops raised on a steady diet of fertilizers appear to have lower levels of certain minerals and nutrients. The diet our crops eat influences what gets into our food, and what we get—or don’t get—out of these foods when we eat them.

Not good seafood

A great investigative series by AP reporters – Seafood from slaves:

Over the course of eighteen months, four journalists with The Associated Press tracked ships, located slaves and stalked refrigerated trucks to expose the abusive practices of the fishing industry in Southeast Asia. The investigation has led to the release of more than 2,000 slaves, and the immediate reaction of major retailers and the Indonesian government.

And listen to the story of how the reporting came to be on the KCRW Good Food show:

Martha Mendoza, a national writer for the AP, takes us back to the moment when she and her colleagues decided to focus their collective investigative reporting lens on the Thai shrimp industry.

Pig farming and transportation

On CBC’s The Sunday Edition – Is it a crime to give a pig water on a hot day?:

When the thermometer hit 28 degrees last summer, Anita Krajnc pushed a water bottle into a truck-load of pigs on their way to slaughter. Krajnc was charged with criminal mischief. Public outrage and concern over animal welfare blew up, and Krajnc became an international hero.

Sustainability and the Senate report on Obesity in Canada

Good point on sustainability from Food Secure Canada:

Yet what is missing from the Senate’s report is the integration of a key tenet of Brazil’s guidelines – healthy diets are not only about food choices, but also derive from socially and environmentally sustainable food systems. Since our health is intimately linked to the environment, we need to improve the sustainability of food systems and redefine healthy food as going beyond its nutritional qualities alone.

I need to take a look at the new Brazil food guide.