Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Scientific Research, differences in academic, pure science and commercial research

I loved academic life, I really did. So much cool equipment to play with, spending time making electron micrographs for truly important research. Well, and coeds, halter tops and shorty shorts, I was an American guy, of course I loved the academic life. But then reality overtook the fantasy world and marriage, home, family all became more important than impressing buxom coeds with statistical analysis of their, well, never mind that. And my life went in a different direction. Now, in the winter of my life, I find myself going back to those carefree days, not so much for the attraction of the opposite sex, but to learn as much as I can. The internet is an amazing thing, so much knowledge, so much research and so much information is out there, available for us to utilize with just a few quick keystrokes and in many instances (and for the very best info) membership in the elite consortium of humans that are rightfully allowed to place initials after their names. It's there that a major portion of published articles written by researchers, grad students and paid minions of the corporate world are available to be used as reference work and for the enlightenment of all. Well again, all that have initials after their name and the annual fee to allow access. It's here within these convocations of knowledge that we find the true plethora of information. We also find tons of stuff that makes us scratch our heads and go "What the Fuck?" Stuff like the thesis on the Pet Rock phenomena and the effect on society. Sheesh.

To begin, on September 17, Forbes magazine published an article that stated that the controversy over Genetically Modified Food is finally over and that there is a definitive report published in the Journal of Animal Science (Everything is wondrous report) that states that out of trillions of meals consisting of GM crops eaten by humans and production feed animals, no one anywhere has ever died or gotten sick from the Genetically Modified food. The conclusion, Genetically Modified Food is perfectly safe. That sort of thinking seems to me to be very similar to the Dr. Seuss method of logic. However, there are other indicators that for many people the GM food controversy is over, the Genetic Literacy Project (GLP site) claims that there are over 2000 scientific studies done on Genetically Modified food crops and that GM foods are the most studied, most tested, most researched products in human history. 2000 studies, and every single one concludes that the technology behind the creation of new life forms is infallible. The Genetic Food industry pays them to tell us that. Plus just the mere fact that trillions of meals consisting of GM foods have been consumed without any deaths or serious illnesses by animals and humans proves conclusively that GM foods are safe. Let me just start with this quote,
"It is often claimed that “trillions of GM meals” have been eaten in the US with no ill effects. However, no epidemiological studies in human populations have been carried out to establish whether there are any health effects associated with GM food consumption. As GM foods are not labelled in North America, a major producer and consumer of GM crops, it is scientifically impossible to trace, let alone study, patterns of consumption and their impacts. Therefore, claims that GM foods are safe for human health based on the experience of North American populations have no scientific basis."  Yeah, that's from the European Network of Scientists (ENSSER.org) It isn't proof, it is merely logic.

However, let's take this assumption a step further, and look at the health of Americans. I've been told that Americans live longer, and are healthier than ever before in the history of this country. And that probably is true, and it's also true that Americans eat more Genetically Modified food products and more meat produced via the method for meat production of feeding animals Genetically Modified food products than any other country. So with our high standard of living, why are Americans when compared to the rest of the world, only 18th in life expectancy? And why don't Americans have the lowest infant mortality in the world instead of being 34th in infant mortality? There are no clear cut answers to those questions, and even I admit that no clear definitive conclusions can be drawn from those three facts, amount of consumption and rates of death for adults and infants. It is not clear, it is simply logic. Bright glaring logic.

So now we get back to those two thousand studies showing that GM foods are safe. There's a website you can go to, (GENERA) which was built for the express purpose of cataloguing all of the research done on Genetically Engineered Organisms, a sort of repository of triumphant bravado for those scientists performing the miracles of creating new life forms. And as a big publicity notch in the belt of the GM industry, anyone can go there, anyone can get the information. It's just a little hard to utilize their search format and there is no actual "LIST" per se for anyone to just look at, and count. So I went to the FASS list which gives us one thousand seven hundred and sixty research papers about Genetically Modified crops. Now comes the tough part, none of that research has anything to do with human health. It seems that 62% are all about environmental impacts. 37% are all about actual production data for the business side of using GM feed, meaning that the reports are all about how much milk dairy cows gave depending on the percentage of GM feed is one example. Literally, there are hundreds of research papers about how little difference there is in meat, milk and egg production when feeding GM feed as opposed to feeding non-GM feeds. The actual fact is that none of those animals used for production of those products live very long. And the animals that are raised strictly for meat, live even shorter lives. So, with that in mind, less than one percent (27) are about doing specific health related studies with histopathological investigations of subject animals to determine any detrimental effects of having a GM feed diet. The scary part of this information is that over half of this small group of studies were published, in one case nine years, after the USDA approval for the GM crop was given. None were studies for longer than ninety days. The reality is that the USDA has given approval for commercial use of 47 different GM crops. Studies for nine of those crops can be found on the internet within these 27 studies. None of the feeding studies done by the corporations seeking approval of their newest creations are available to the public or to scientists anywhere in the world for any kind of systematic review. That is, if they were actually done, we don't know, we aren't allowed to see them. So what about those 27 studies, do they definitely prove one way or another the viability of using GM crops for food production or to actually feed to humans? Well no, not really. But here is what some researchers for the Elsevier Ltd group wrote about 21 of the studies. (Elsevier) It's not pretty.

This is from their conclusions,"The majority of studies reviewed lacked a unified approach in their methodology and results making it impossible to properly review or repeat these studies. Furthermore such lack of detail makes it difficult to generate evidence based guidelines to aid in the delivery of an optimum safety assessment for GM crops for animal and human consumption."

I don't know, I like the Elsevier Group, somewhere back in the dark and dusty annals of their archives is a little read (and rarely purchased) copy of a thesis about mushroom substrate alkalinity for which the publishing of gave to one internet blogger the ability to put two initials after his name. And access to a lot of information as well. But, that aside done, we need to address the statement from the beginning of this bit of drivel. What is the the basis for scientific research? There are three types of research, academic, research done by geeks that is generally about getting grants from corporations and done to further a career of get those initials after your name. Like the stuff I did. Pure theoretical science, stuff like delving into the make up of atoms at Cern. Or like the stuff those guys on The Big Bang Theory TV show do, although that might be classed as academic as well. And then there is Commercial research. This is stuff done at labs owned by corporations or contracted out to private labs by corporations and pretty much all of it is done for the express purpose of achieving regulatory approval for a specific thing, be it crops, drugs or food additives. Virtually all commercial research is done knowing what the results are going to be even before the research starts. Academic research is done generally with the intent to gain new knowledge. Both cost a lot of money.

What is the true basis of scientific research? Science, research, is all about getting money to pay the bills. Yeah, draw your own conclusions about that from the available data and what you personally believe people will do for money. Me, I believe in the reality of greed. This is a very different aspect of research, but the big drug companies have been in hot water with the FDA to the tune of 30 billion dollars in fines for among other things, the falsifying of data in their research; just since 2000. I'm not really sure that sort of blatant greed is limited to the pharmacology industry. Not when the manufacturers of GM crops spend millions and millions of dollars to sway the voters to stop labeling of their products. But ultimately it's up to each of us individually to believe what we feel is right for ourselves.

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