So, I’ve been reading some things lately, and I’ve got something to say, and I remembered that I had this blog …
I caught sight of a news story a week or so ago about the impending FDA approval of genetically-modified salmon. And, of course, the organic / all-natural / Whole Foods crowd is up in arms about it. GM foodstuffs is one of those things that gets people plenty scared, plenty angry, and plenty capable of spreading half-truths across the Internet faster than you can say “scientific evidence.”
I’ll be honest, GM foods is not a subject I’m terribly well-versed in. I don’t fret about it much, and I’ve never known a single person to have been made ill by them, and I’ve never been made ill by them, so … whatever, right? But every time a GM food story hits the media, people in my social and political circles (I’m a progressive, a liberal, a Leftie, what have you) start screaming about the supposed dangers. And so when this salmon story started making the rounds, the same claims started cropping up: GMOs are dangers, GMOs will make you sick, we need to ban GMOs!
One other thing I am, though, is a skeptic. Or Skeptic. Is it a proper noun? Whatever. I like to look at the science, see what the evidence is, make these sorts of decisions based on rational self-interest rather than emotional reaction.So, I started reading stuff.
No, I haven’t found “the Answers” yet. But what I have found is a lot of really bad scaremongering and truth-twisting, usually from the anti-GMO folks. And this one example just absolutely prompted my to post.
Here’s what the Organic Consumers Association says as part of their article “Spilling the Beans: Unintended GMO Health Risks.” They’re talking about GMO soybeans, and after asserting that allergy rates skyrocketed in the UK after GMO soy was introduced, they offer up this nugget of “fact”:
A human subject showed a skin prick allergic-type reaction to GM soy, but not to natural soy.
They actually cite their source, a scientific study from 2005 published in Allergy and Asthma Proceedings. The article’s not online, but the PubMed abstract is. Here’s what the abstract says — the relevant line [bolded], plus the lines around it for context:
The skin test results of 49 patients showed 13 positive results to wild soybeans and 8 positive results to GMO soybeans. One patient had a positive skin test result to GMO soybeans only. Sera from nine patients with positive skin tests to the crude extract and a positive capsulated allergen product test to the soybean antigen were used for the immunoblotting of GMO and wild soybeans. GMO soybeans revealed a unique strong immunoglobulin E binding band at 25 kDa in some patients and wild soybeans showed a strong immunoglobulin E binding band at 30-36 kDa. To assess the allergenicity of GMO food, more research, including a selection of controlled sample materials and immunoassays of qualified sera, is needed.
Things that absolutely need pointing out here:
- One patient out of 49 had the reaction that the OCA is warning about.
- On the other hand, the sentence before notes that more patients (13) had reactions to wild soybeans than had reactions to GMO soybeans (8).
- That means that OMG WILD SOYBEANS ARE DANGEROUS DEAR GAWD LET’S BAN THEM NOW WHY ISN’T THE GOVERNMENT DOING SOMETHING?!?!?!?
No, wait, of course it doesn’t. But isn’t it interesting how the OCA has taken that one person out-of-context to try and scare you, while conveniently ignoring the five people who reacted to wild soybeans only? They’re citing this in support of the idea that GMO soy lead to more allergic reactions, when anyone actually reading the article will see that (1) it says no such thing, and (2) NO, SERIOUSLY, IT SAYS NO SUCH THING.
This is why I am a progressive, a liberal, a Leftie, what have you … but I am also a skeptic. Because even my fellow peeps can be intellectually dodgy sometimes. Look at the evidence, folks. It’s the only rational thing to do.