|Another day, another
fake GMO study.
One day, when I rule the world, or at least the education department, I’m going to make a class on “spotting the bad GMO studies” mandatory. That would save us all a lot of headache; right?
How about we make the media take this class now?
A couple Sundays ago, Fox News ran a segment about biotechnology which, quite frankly, contains more fiction than any other news clip I’ve ever seen in my life. Who did they have to speak about the issue? Of course, a super model and an organic freak. Journalistic integrity, my friends.
I’ll skip the tired old arguments of “GMOs are destroying the Earth” and “look at all these other studies that show GMOs hurt animals!” because you can find countless articles from me on those topics here.
Instead, I want to focus on a study that the Fox News “experts” cited. It comes out of Russia and, don’t worry, there’s no way for you to read a version of this study (unless you can read Russian, then click here). Essentially, the “study” suggests that when GMO soybeans are fed to hamsters for two generations, the second generation will become sterile. You can read a little more about it in this Russian publication here.
First, let’s talk about a little common sense — I find that’s usually a key aspect missing from the anti-GMO arguments.
Soybeans are a major source for animal feed. “Over half of the soybeans processed for livestock feed are fed to poultry, about one-quarter is fed to swine, and the rest is used for beef cattle, dairy cattle and petfood.” (Source: NCSoy) That means our animals, particularly our chickens and pigs, and maybe even your dog, are enjoying soybeans. Yes, that includes GMO soybeans.
I’m willing to be you’ve never heard of poultry and hog farmers complaining that they now have sterile animals. Why? Because they aren’t. Remember, baby chicks and baby piglets are still being born from mommy, who has no doubt consumed feed made from biotech soybeans. Here’s another fun fact: while the hamsters in the “study” were only the second generation, I guarantee you after 25 years of using GMO soybeans, our pigs and chickens are well beyond the second generation of GMO fed livestock.
Without even looking at the “study”, this whole Russian thing already smells funny.
So, who are the key players here? The “scientist” is Alexey V. Surov of the Institute of Ecological and Evolutional Problems, in conjunction with the National Association of Gene Security.
….and Jeffrey Smith. Remember Smith? I’ve posted about him before. He’s the quack that does the whole anti-GMO and anti-real-science thing for a living.
Now, there isn’t a whole lot out there about Surov, the Institute, or this National Association….which doesn’t really lend itself to their credibility. Surov, however, has been involved in another so-called study that *gasp* also shows GMOs have a negative side effect of making you sprout hair in your mouth. This was just a chance observation of an unrelated study (in other words, the study had nothing to do with biotech to begin with) and Surov just concluded that it was a result of consuming GMOs. Again, I’ll let you try and use your common sense on this one. More importantly, Surov obviously has some type of agenda.
Smith originally got a hold of Surov’s hamster study and basically said, “hey everyone, this study is going to be published soon that shows X. We all need to be really afraid of it.”
Of course, that was the problem — the study was never published! It has never been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Look, if you’re stuff isn’t getting published in a legitimate scientific journal, it isn’t legitimate. That’s how our scientific community works.
So, what else about the study is exceptionally and obviously false?
The sample size it the most obvious problem. From our Russian source, it states:
Originally, everything went smoothly. However, we noticed quite a serious effect when we selected new pairs from their cubs and continued to feed them as before. These pairs’ growth rate was slower and reached their sexual maturity slowly.
He selected new pairs from each group, which generated another 39 litters. There were 52 pups born to the control group and 78 to the non-GM soy group. In the GM soy group, however, only 40 pups were born. And of these, 25% died. This was a fivefold higher death rate than the 5% seen among the controls. Of the hamsters that ate high GM soy content, only a single female hamster gave birth. She had 16 pups; about 20% died.
Surov said “The low numbers in F2 [third generation] showed that many animals were sterile.
So, Surov had a study where he had one control group and one group fed GMO soybeans. Two groups of hamsters does not a study make. In fact, the second generation of hamsters — the ones supposedly showing how terrible the the soybeans were, only had 130 hamsters total.
Or, in more scientific language:
Imagine for a moment, that we took 4 groups of hamsters and simply proceeded to breed them within each group for several generations. The expected outcome would be that characteristics within each small population would become much more uniform and that the different populations would genetically drift apart over a large number of generations. This first point, increasing uniformity within the group is important for this study. It means that the standard deviation of characteristics within each group will always tend to shrink while the diversity between the groups remains constant or grows over time. Without even having done anything, this will yield statistically significant differences simply by decreasing the standard deviation being used to calculate the statistical significance.
While the researchers did manage to find statistically significant differences between the groups after a few generations they did not show that the groups fed GM-soy were significantly different from groups fed non-GM soy or no soy whatsoever since they only had a sample size of one for each diet. Had the researchers wanted to conduct such a test they would have needed several groups of hamsters on each diet.
(Source: Vegan Skeptic).
If you want to know more about the flaws of Surov’s study, check out this analysis here. It is in Russian, so you will have to use a browser to translate the article.
(By the way, funny how Smith latched onto a “study” where it would be so hard to find anything out about it…)
“So basically what we have here is an unpublished “study” performed by an anti-GE lobby group… hardly a smoking gun and definitely not something that should be cited as scientific evidence.” (Source: Skeptoid)
In other words, this study wasn’t really scientific because it didn’t meet the requirements of being scientific. Which, let’s be honest, is probably the reason it didn’t get published in a legitimate publication. It’s also the reason Smith touted it as support — because he has no real science to show GMOs are harmful. If the study isn’t scientific, then you cannot make scientific statements out of it. We cannot say that GMOs make mammals sterile.
Rather, the only thing this amounts to is a crazy anti-GMOer (Smith) who latched on to another fake biotech study and, before it was even peer-reviewed, started to promote the lies inherent in it. Just another bunch of baloney from the anti-science crowd.
The better study, which isn’t even a conducted study, is being accomplished in US livestock across the country. Our chickens and pigs, and our pets too, are eating GMO soybeans and not having a single problem with reproduction. After 25 years of GMOs, and certainly more than 2 generations into our GMO-fed livestock, we’re still having baby chicks and baby piglets.
Too bad I’m just a farmer’s daughter and not a super model (though some days I like to pretend I am). Maybe Fox News would consider hiring me to deliver the news. At least I wouldn’t be living in make-believe land….
(Thanks to Steve Savage for looking into some of this info for me! Check out his blog — he’s a real scientist!)
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.