Debunking “10 scientific studies proving GMOs can be harmful to human health”

I recently stumbled across an article titled “10 Scientific Studies Proving GMOs Can Be Harmful To Human Health.” This article was written by Collective Evolution, which is a site that is right up there with Natural News and for being unreliable and laughably inaccurate. Nevertheless, many people trust the information provided therein; therefore, I am going to carefully consider the 10 papers that they presented, and I will demonstrate that none of them actually prove that GMOs can be dangerous, and that, as usual, Collective Evolution has ignored the rules of logic and science, and has misconstrued the evidence to suit their preconceived biases. It’s always important to remember that not all peer-reviewed papers are trustworthy, and you should always critically evaluate them to make sure that they were done properly.

Note: Once I was almost done writing this, I discovered that the Genetic Literacy Project has also debunked Collective Evolution’s post, so please read their rebuttal if you are unsatisfied with mine.

1. “Multiple Toxins From GMOs Detected In Maternal and Fetal Blood” (Collective Evolution’s title)

This is a great example of anti-scientists abusing scientific results to suit their own needs. In short, this study (which is actually called “Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada“) tested the blood of pregnant women, non-pregnant women, and fetuses for the presence of chemicals associated with the pesticides and herbicides that are used on GMOs. Unsurprisingly, they found trace levels, but that does not in any way, shape, or form prove that GMOs are dangerous. Collective Evolution made the classic error of ignoring the fact that the dose makes the poison. Everything is toxic in a high enough dose, and everything is safe in a low enough dose. The doses found by this study were extremely tiny. For example, gluphosinate was only found in 18% of non-pregnant women (it was not found in any pregnant women or fetuses), and its highest concentration was 53.6 nanograms per milliliter (average 28.7). Let me try to explain just how tiny that is. A normal sized paper clip is roughly 1 gram. A nanogram is one billionth of a gram. So, take a paper clip and cut it into 1,000,000,000 pieces, then take 53 of those: that’s 53 nanograms. It’s an extremely, extremely small amount. Further, as the authors of the original paper note, the toxic effects for these chemicals were documented at much higher doses. For example, the study which documented negative effects of gluphosinate in mice used a concentration of 10,000 nanograms per milliliters (Watanabe and Iwasi 1996). In other words, it used a dose that was 186.6 times larger than the highest dose found in someone’s blood (348.4 times higher than the average). Further, the studies on gluphosinate toxicity (Watanabe and Iwasi 1996; Garcia et al. 1998) were on embryonic and congenital effects, but the GMO study did not find gluphosinate in pregnant women or fetuses, it only found it in non-pregnant women. Finally, let’s not forget that GMOs often require less pesticides than traditional crops, and even organic crops use chemicals that are toxic in high enough doses.

TL;DR This study found trace levels that are well below toxic levels. They did not document any harm.

2. “DNA From Genetically Modified Crops Can Be Transferred Into Humans Who Eat Them” (Collective Evolution’s title)

This study is actually called, “Complete Genes May Pass from Food to Human Blood,” and it is not about GMOs. What this study did, which is actually pretty cool, is looked for DNA fragments from our food in our blood stream. It succeed at finding food based DNA, which indicates that some DNA can survive digestion and be absorbed. How Collective Evolution managed to jump from that scientific conclusion to the conclusion that GMOs are dangerous baffles me. First, realize that the study did not document that the DNA in our blood stream was dangerous, it just documented that it was there. Second, the study wasn’t specifically looking at GMOs. Almost all of our food comes from living organisms, which means that essentially all of it has DNA. So it’s not that DNA from GMOs  can be transferred to humans, it’s simply that DNA from food can be transferred. This can happen regardless of whether or not the DNA came from a GMO. Therefore, the way that Collective Evolution framed this paper is exceedingly deceptive and dishonest. (It’s important to note that this study did not document that the genes were actually doing anything, they were not being incorporated into the human genome, they were simply floating in the blood stream.)

Now, some people may be thinking, “fine, DNA can come from either type of food, but the DNA in GMOs is unnatural, so it must be more dangerous.” First, that is simply an appeal to nature fallacy, and it’s not logically valid. Second, realize that essentially all of our food (even organically grown food) contains genetic codes that aren’t found in nature. Third, it’s important to note that the majority of the genome in GMOs is left alone. Only a handful of genes are modified. So given the thousands of genes in an organism, the odds that your body would happen to uptake the modified region are very low. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, why would you assume that the modified region would be dangerous to you? Where is the justification for that assumption? Keep in mind that the altered genes are often pulled from other organisms. For example, at one point we experimented with putting a fish gene into a tomato (that product was never commercialized). So, according to the argument set forth by Collective Evolution, you should be concerned that your body will uptake that fish gene if you eat the tomato, but here is the important thing, your body could also uptake that gene if you eat a fish. Again, there is no reason to assume that the DNA in GMOs is more dangerous than the DNA in traditional foods.

TL;DR This study found that DNA from our food (including non-GMO food) can be absorbed into the blood stream. It was not about GMOs and it did not document harm.

3. “New Study Links GMOs To Gluten Disorders That Affect 18 Million Americans” (Collective Evolution’s title)

The “study” that is being referred to here, is a self-published, non-peer-reviewed article written by an activist with no scientific credentials and published by a leading source of misinformation (i.e., the Institute for Responsible Technology). You cannot characterize that as a scientific study. Its like claiming that an article written by Ken Ham and published by Answers in Genesis is a scientific study. There is a word for what Collective Evolution did here: its called lying.

organic food autism corrleation logical fallacy

Correlation does not equal causation. Organic food sales and autism rates are tightly correlated, but that does not mean that organic food causes autism. Image via the Genetic Literacy Project

Nevertheless, I looked at the “study” to see what it had to say. I was unsurprised to be greeted with the usual pseudo-scientific ramblings, anecdotes, and logical fallacies that I have come to expect from the anti-science movement. For example, there are numerous figures showing correlations between an increase in GMO consumption and an increase in digestive problems, but anyone who knows anything about statistics knows that correlation does not equal causation, and claiming that it does is a logical fallacy. After all, there is a very tight correlation between organic food sales and autism, yet I don’t see anyone claiming that organic food causes autism. Beyond that, I’m not going to bother going into the details of the “report” because it will take me an entire post to debunk all the nonsense contained in it, and the purpose of this post is to talk about the scientific papers which people attempt to use to against GMOs (also, several of its sections are on the actual papers that I talk about in this post). If there is a section of that report that you find particularly compelling, please let me know and I will explain the problems with it (though I’d appreciate it if you would save me the time and just fact check it yourself).

TL;DR This was a report published by an anti-GMO activists group, not a scientific study. It is riddled with untruths and logical fallacies.

4. “Study Links Genetically Modified Corn to Rat Tumors” (Collective Evolution’s title)

This study is probably the single most cited anti-GMO study ever published (cited among GMO activists that is). It is also one of the most seriously flawed publications. In fact, its methods were so horribly incorrect that it was retracted. Collective Evolution notes that it was retracted, but the way that they do so is interesting and, as always, misleading. So I want to go over their comments before I deal with the study itself. Collective Evolution makes the following statement:

This study has since been retracted, which is odd, because the journal it was published in is a very well known, reputable peer reviewed scientific journal. In order for a study to be published here it has to go through a rigorous review process.

There are several important things here. First, this is a misunderstanding of the scientific process. As I have explained before, the peer-review system is good, but admittedly imperfect. Sometimes, bad papers do get through, but the good thing about science is that it is self-correcting and the peer-review process never actually ends. Even after a paper is published, it gets scrutinized by the entire scientific community, and if they find significant flaws in it, the paper may be retracted. Therefore, retracting this paper is in no way, shape, or form odd or unprecedented. Rather, it is the scientific process working the way that it is supposed to.

The second thing that I want to note is how totally disingenuous this comment is. Collective Evolution acts as if scientific journals like this are respectable and generally trustworthy (which they are), yet when those same journals publish papers saying that GMOs are safe, they ignore them or claim that fraud is involved. Further, they are saying that this journal is trustworthy and simultaneously saying that we shouldn’t trust their decision to retract the paper. Which is it? Are they trustworthy or aren’t they? This is a textbook example of inconsistent reasoning.

Next, Collective Evolution states:

It’s also important to note that hundreds of scientists from around the world have condemned the retraction of the study. This study was done by experts, and a correlation between GMOs and these tumors can’t be denied, something happened.

Finally, we get to the heart of the issue, namely the claim that there was a correlation between GMOs and tumors. This is yet another correlation fallacy (also note the blatant appeal to popularity fallacy and the appeal to authority fallacy). So, what actually happened in this study? It was really quite simple: they gave rats GMOs, and the rats developed tumors. The problem was that they used a very small sample size, and they used Sprague-Dawley rats. This strain is extremely prone to tumors. So, the tumor rates that they observed were normal for that strain of rats. In other words, you expect those rats to get tumors regardless of whether or not they ate GMOs. So the fact that they got tumors after eating GMOs is meaningless.

The most telling piece of information, however, is not the study itself, but rather the other studies which have looked at whether or not GMOs cause health problems. Remember, part of science is repeatability. If your results are correct, they should be repeatable. In other words, if GMOs actually caused the grotesque and frequent tumors reported by this paper, then all of the other feed studies should be finding them, but they aren’t. For example, a massive study which looked at livestock health both before and after the introduction of GMOs failed to find any significant health differences, even with a sample size of over 100 billion post-GMO animals. Remember that large sample sizes are very important in science, so if GMOs were actually dangerous, and actually caused these tumors, we would surely expect to see evidence of that in a sample of that size.

TL;DR This paper used small sample sizes and a strain of rats that is prone to cancer. Its methods were so flawed that the study was retracted, and its results have not been replicated by other studies.

Note: the original paper is called, “Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize.” Also, this paper was later republished, but in a very minor journal with a questionable reputation.

5. “Glyphosate Induces Human Breast Cancer Cells Growth via Estrogen Receptors” (actual title)

For once, Collective Evolution didn’t terribly misrepresent the study, but they did leave out some important information. Namely, they failed to mention that this was a cell study only, and they ignored all of the other scientific literature. When I say that this was a cell study, I mean that it was working with cells on a petri dish, not an entire living organism. There is certainly something to be said for a reductionist approach like this, and these sorts of studies do yield useful information, but they are also inherently problematic because living organisms are very complex. In other words, just because a chemical acts one way on an isolated plate of cells does not inherently mean that it will act that way on a living organism because there are so many other chemicals and tissues for it to interact with. Indeed, cell-based studies are at the very bottom of the hierarchy of evidence and are considered to be very weak evidence.

Because of that limitation, you have to couple cell-based studies with organism level studies to get a full picture of what is going on. This is where Collective Evolution gets into trouble. Claiming that this article is proof that GMOs are dangerous is a Texas sharpshooter fallacy because it ignores all of the other studies which have failed to find any evidence that glyphosate is dangerous. You always have to remember that sometimes you get erroneous results just by chance. This is one of the many reasons why scientists try to replicate each others’ work, and it is why systematic reviews (which compile the data from all available studies) are so powerful. In the case of glyphosate, this study is a clear outlier. Numerous other studies have confirmed that it is safe, and reviews of both cell and organism level studies have failed to find good evidence that it is dangerous (Mink et al. 2011; Williams et al. 2012; Keir and Kirkland 2013).

IL;DR This study used a very weak methodology that has limited applicability to humans. Further, it was cherry-picked. The vast majority of studies on glyphosate have found that it is safe.

6. “Glyphosate Linked To Birth Defects” (Collective Evolution’s title)

As with #3, this is not a scientific study! It was published in Earth Open Source (EOS), not a peer-reviewed journal. So again, it is downright dishonest for Collective Evolution to characterize this as a scientific study. Nevertheless, let’s look briefly at the report. It makes a number of remarkable claims about glyphosate being dangerous and the public being lied to (its actual title is, “Glyphosate and Birth Defects: Is the Public Being Kept in the Dark?”). It’s a lengthy report, so I am not going to go through it in detail, but I will direct you to a publication by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, which very carefully examined each of the claims in the report and compared them to the relevant literature (this is actually a really good source in general for understanding the papers which seem to show that GMOs are dangerous). In short, non-technical terms, it found that the report is full of crap. Basically, EOS cherry-picked the studies that seemed to support its position and totally ignored the ones that refuted it. Also, (like Collective Evolution), it ignored the fact that the dose makes the poison. In other words, many of the papers that it cited as evidence that Glyphosate is dangerous used a dose that was much higher than the one that humans are actually exposed to. It also cited several studies that used poor methodology and papers that used a model system that is not relevant to humans. I encourage you to read the full APVMA response for more details, but the core message is that the EOS report was extremely biased and agenda driven, and it terribly misrepresented the science.

TL;DR This is not a peer-reviewed study. It cherry-picked papers, ignored a massive body of literature, cited weak studies, and ignored the fact that the dose makes the poison.

7. “Study Links Glyphosate To Autism, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s” (Collective Evolution’s title)

This study is actually called, “Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases” and was published in Entropy. I had never heard of the journal Entropy before, which always makes me suspicious. In this particular case, my suspicions were extra high because entropy is a concept in physics, and indeed the journal claims to publish papers on “entropy and information systems.” What that has to do with glyphosate, microbiomes, and diseases is anyone’s guess. A quick internet search confirmed my suspicions and revealed that Entropy is likely a predatory journalPredatory journals are publications (usually for-hire) that masquerade as legitimate peer-reviewed journals. Most of them will publish just about anything if you are willing to pay your publication fee. So again, this isn’t really a proper scientific publication, and we cannot be sure that it went through the full review process.

Nevertheless, let’s look at the “paper.” I (and others) have previously explained that a good first order check is to see whether or not the claims being made about a product seem reasonable. This article absolutely fails that check. It claims that glyphosate causes:

“Most of the diseases and conditions associated with a Western diet, which include gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.”

That is an extraordinarily absurd claim. For one thing, autism, Alzheimer’s, infertility, most cancers, and most cases of depression are not linked to diet. Further, if glyphosate actually caused those, then surely we would see a massive spike in those disorders following its introduction, but no such spike exists. Also, note that the abstract is not written in the typical dispassionate language of science. That is another big clue that this is not a legitimate study. Finally, realize that if these claims were true, they would be front page news and this study would have been published in one of the world’s top journals, not some minor journal that I had to look up because I had never heard of it.

When I look at the actual paper (everything else was just from the abstract), my eyes were assaulted with numerous scientific inaccuracies, citations to poor studies, and unjustified speculation. For sake of time, I won’t go into the details since Skeptoid has already done that for me, but I do want to point out that this is not an experimental study. Rather, it pulled together tons of different studies and tried to mesh them into a hypothetical and convoluted pathway that leads from glyphosate to all the disorders listed. For that pathway to work, however, each step must work, and as Skeptoid explains, many of their steps are fundamentally flawed. Further, as Derek Lowe points out, the ability of glyphosate to inhibit cytrochrome P450 has been directly tested and it is a very poor inhibitor! In other words, the actual experimental evidence shows that this convoluted pathway is total crap.

TL;DR This is not a real study. It was published in a predatory pay-to-publish journal, rather than a legitimate peer-reviewed study. It does not test anything and merely proposes a hypothetical pathway, even though experimental studies discredit that pathway.

8. “Chronically Ill Humans Have Higher Glyphosate Levels Than Healthy Humans” (Collective Evolution’s title)

Unlike several of the other studies, I didn’t find any easily accessible refutations to this one on Google, so I will take the time to debunk it step by step myself, but for those of you who don’t want to read a lengthy discussion of statistics, here is the Cliff Notes version:

  1. It was published by a predatory journal, not a real peer-reviewed journal
  2. The experimental design was extremely flawed and didn’t use proper controls
  3. The statistical analyses are invalid
  4. The authors left out critical information
  5. At least one of the p values is impossible, indicating that the authors either lied or were very sloppy
  6. Even if the stats were good, they only show correlation, not causation
  7. Even if the reported levels of glyphosate are accurate, they are very low and are well below the levels that are known to be toxic (see paper #1)

Now, for those of you who would like more details, this paper (which is actually called “Detection of glyphosate residues in animals and humans”) was published in yet another predatory journal (see #7). So, once again, we cannot be at all confident that it went through a proper peer-review process, and, as such, it does not constitute a proper scientific publication.

There are also several clues in the paper itself which raise suspicion. For one thing, it cites the claims from studies like #7 (above), which suggests a lack of critical discernment on the part of the authors.  There are also editorial mistakes, such as a reference to “Figure 2” which should be “Figure 3.” It may seem like I am being nit-picky, but mistakes like that are actually a good sign that this paper wasn’t reviewed properly. When you are reading (and especially reviewing) a paper, and that paper makes a claim and directs you to a figure, you always go to that figure to make sure that the claim is valid. That is, in fact, how I found this mistake. So the presence of that error suggests that the editors and reviewers did a very poor job of making sure that the paper’s claims were substantiated (if there even were any reviewers, which is questionable from OMICS).

More importantly, the methodology and statistics of this paper are nonsense. For one thing, there is absolutely no evidence of any form of standardization. For example, they compared levels of glyphosate in the urine of 343 cows that were fed GMOs and 32 cows that were not, but that is all the information that we are given about those cows. Were they the same breed, sex, age, etc.? What were their diets like other than the GMO difference? What was their housing condition like? etc. For this to be a proper study, all of those things should be standardized, but there is no indication that the authors did that.

Similarly, the claim that Collective Evolution focuses on is the claim that sick people had higher glyphosate levels than healthy people, but the only information we are given about these people is, “a total of 102 and 199 urine samples were collected of healthy and chronically diseased humans.” That’s it. That is all that we are told about those people. For this study to work, they need to have the same age, sex, weight, etc., but none of that seems to have been standardized. Further, what do the authors mean by “chronically diseased”? What disease do they have? Do they all have the same disease? That is extremely important information that is totally lacking.

Further, the authors’ description of the statistics makes no sense whatsoever. All that we know about their statistics is the program that they used and, “Two-way analysis of variance followed by unpaired Student t-test was used to identify significant differences between means.” First off, following a two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) with a t-test is not statistically valid. That will inflate your type 1 error rate and give you false positives. The correct analysis is a post hoc test like Tukey’s test. If you are going to insist on using the t-tests, you have to run what is called a Bonferroni correction to control the family-wise error rate, which is something that the authors of this study did not do (I explained the statistical jargon in more detail here).

Additionally, the two-way ANOVA doesn’t make sense here. You use a two-way ANOVA when you have two variables operating. So, for example, let’s say that I was comparing the effects of GMOs on men and women. I would have two variables: sex and GMO consumption.  So I would have a group of males, half of whom ate GMOs and half of whom did not, and I would have a group of females, half of half of whom ate GMOs and half of whom did not. The test would then give me three P values. It would look for an overall effect of GMOs (what we call a main effect), an overall effect of sex, and and an interaction between them. When we look at the experiments described in this paper, however, none of them have two factors. For example, you have cows with conventional diets vs cows with GMO diets. That is just one factor (diet), not two, which means that you cannot use a two-way ANOVA. Similarly, we have healthy individuals vs. chronically ill individuals. That is one factor (health). So its not even possible to use a two-way ANOVA on these data, and I am left with no clue what they actually did with their data. This is another clear indication that this paper did not receive a proper review. One of the requirements of a real paper is that the statistics are described in enough detail that other researchers can assess and replicate what you did. That is clearly not the case with this paper.

There are many other blunders that I could talk about (such as the fact that the sampling of cow organs was not done using a replicate design where one of each organ was taken from each individual and the individuals were included as a blocking variable in the statistics), but I am just going to focus on the result that chronically ill people supposedly have higher glyphosate levels. First, realize that even if that were actually true, it would simply be a correlation and would not indicate that glyphosate caused the illnesses (especially since we don’t even know what the illnesses are!). Second, realize that the test had a meager p value of 0.03. If the authors had actually controlled their type 1 error rate like they should have, that would not be a significant result. Further, that p value looked suspicious to me based on the data in Figure 3. The means are almost identical, and there is a massive overlap in the error bars, which generally indicates that there isn’t a significant difference. So, I pulled the data from the figure and ran the t-test, and I got a p value of 0.4786. To be fair, it can be difficult to accurately read numbers from a figure like that, so I tried again, and again, each time fudging the numbers in the direction that would help the authors. To get a p value less than 0.03 (which is what the authors report), I had to use 1.6 and 2.3 as the means, and there is no way that those are the actual means in that figure. So what does this mean? Either the authors were extremely sloppy or they were dishonest, because you cannot get the p value that they reported from the data that they presented (note: I assumed that the error bars were standard deviations, not standard errors [again, the authors failed to specify] but if they were standard errors, that only makes the result even more impossible).

There are many other blunders that I could have pointed out, but hopefully you get the picture. This study is absolutely horrible and should not be trusted.

TL;DR This is not a proper peer-reviewed study. It was published in a predatory journal. The statistics are a mess and the values in the text don’t match the figures. The experimental design is not explained in sufficient detail to make sure it was carried out correctly. Even if it was, it only documented correlation, not causation.

9. “Studies Link GMO Animal Feed to Severe Stomach Inflammation and Enlarged Uteri in Pigs” (Collective Evolution’s title)

This paper (which is actually called “A long-term toxicology study on pigs fed a combined genetically modified (GM) soy and GM maize diet”) is what we like to call a “statistical fishing trip.” I had a good laugh when I read it because the problem is blatantly obvious to anyone with a good understanding of statistics. As with several of the other papers that I have talked about in this post, the authors did not control the family-wise type 1 error rate. What they did was take a shot gun approach and measure lots and lots of different factors. The problem is that when you do that, you get multiple false positives just by chance, so you have to control the error rate so that you don’t get the false positives (I explained this in more detail here). The authors completely failed to do this, but we can actually do this retrospectively. For a given set of tests, we simply take the desired significance value (0.05), divide it by the number of tests, and that is our new alpha (significance level). So, for the results in table 2, the correct alpha is 0.006, for table 3 it is 0.003, for table 4 it is 0.006, and for table 5 it is 0.0029. When we compare the results with these correct significance levels, we find that there are no significant differences. So, rather than proving that GMOs are dangerous, this paper actually shows that they did not have a significant effect on the pigs health! That is why you have to understand statistics before you can assess scientific papers.

Having said that, I would never cite this paper as evidence that GMOs are safe because there are other problems with it. Some of them are described here and here, but I want to focus on another statistical problem. They state that they removed extreme outliers from their data, which is a huge problem and can majorly affect your results. They claim that this approach is, “well established,” but they don’t give any sources to back that up, and I don’t know of any times when it is OK to do that with the type of data that they were analyzing. In fact, several years ago at a conference, I saw a poor masters student state that she had removed outliers from her data, and she got chewed up during the Q&A session. Several scientists in the room were quick to point out that it was not acceptable to manipulate your data in that way. So this is yet another piece of evidence that this study was not conducted properly and shouldn’t be trusted.

TL;DR They didn’t use the correct statistics, and applying the correct statistics reveals no significant patterns. There are also several other methodological problems.

10. “GMO risk assessment is based on very little scientific evidence in the sense that the testing methods recommended are not adequate to ensure safety” (Collective Evolution’s title)

Collective Evolution actually lists three papers here (apparently they can’t count). The papers are Schubert 2002, Freese and Schubert 2004, and Magaña-Gómez and Calderón de la Barca 2009. By this point, I am tired of writing and I’m sure that you all are tired of reading, so I’ll try to be brief. First, remember that Collective Evolution’s claim was that they were going to provide papers which “prove that GMOs can be dangerous” (my emphasis). None of these papers present hard evidence that GMOs are dangerous, rather they all basically state that we need more research and there may be health impacts that we haven’t anticipated. There are several problems here.

First, realize that just because someone says something isn’t well studied doesn’t mean that it isn’t well studied. For example, Schubert (who is an author on two of the three papers) is a well known anti-GMO activist. So the fact that he claims that we need more research does not constitute actual evidence that we need more research (one of those papers is simply an opinion piece, it’s not even a review). Also, realize that both of his papers were from over a decade ago. A huge number of studies have been conducted since then, so a paper from over 10 years ago saying that we need more research isn’t relevant since tons of research has happened in the intervening years.

This leaves us with but one paper. That paper doesn’t actually state that GMOs are dangerous or that they haven’t been tested. Rather, it states that we need to start standardizing our tests across crops, species, etc., (i.e., all studies should follow the same protocol). That is all well and good. I’m all for standardizing future tests, but it is utterly dishonest to characterize that as a statement that the safety of GMOs hasn’t been well tested or that GMOs are dangerous.

TL;DR These papers do not present any evidence that GMOs are dangerous. They simply say we need more studies.


Collective Evolution claimed that it was going to provide 10 scientific studies which proved that GMOs can be harmful to humans, but of the 12 studies that it produced, 2 were not actually peer-reviewed studies, 2 were from predatory journals, and 2 were fundamentally flawed (one so much so that it was retracted). Of the remaining six, three of them simply claimed that we need more studies (rather than providing proof that GMOs are dangerous), and two of those papers were very outdated. This leaves us with only three actual experimental scientific studies, but all of those were terribly misconstrued and Collective Evolution reached conclusions that were not warranted by those papers (one of the papers wasn’t even about GMOs). So, in summary, Collective Evolution has utterly failed to provide even one paper which proves that GMOs can be dangerous, let alone 10. In contrast, I can provide you with papers which demonstrate that GMOs are safe (we don’t like the word “proof” in science). For example, here is a massive review which looked at over 1,700 publications and found that, “the scientific research conducted so far has not detected any significant hazard directly connected with the use of GM crops” (Nicolia et al. 2014).

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2 Responses to Debunking “10 scientific studies proving GMOs can be harmful to human health”

  1. Robert L Bell says:

    Seneff and her trawling through the databases has caused no end of mischief. You know and I know that a correlation is the starting place for an investigation, not a proof of anything, and that the multiple comparisons issue guarantees that most if not all of her correlations will turn out to be worthless.

    But most people don’t know that. They trust the “MIT Scientist” label, which galls me with its spectacular dishonesty, and they feel punched in the gut by their fears of Parkinson’s and autism and Celiac’s. That leaves the real scientists fighting ghosts, trying to dispel the fears of people who treasure their fears.

    I think it all boils down to trust. A lot of people seem to feel that their trust in Science has been violated, and once an existing trust has been lost it is hard to recover. Instruction works well for people who want to be instructed, but what can we do about the people who are provably wrong yet happy in their beliefs? That is an important problem, but a tough nut to crack.


  2. Cleon W. ross says:

    This is a really good report. I am copying it and hope to remember to use it in rebuttals to the anti-science people I hear from too often. Thanks for your work and expertise.


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