Monsanto CTO Awarded World Food Prize

An executive at Monsanto (NYSE: MON  ) has won a prestigious award for aiding the global food supply. Chief Technology Officer Robert Fraley was one of three people to receive the World Food Prize.

Fraley and fellow food scientists Marc Van Montagu and Mary-Dell Chilton will share the $250,000 award for their "groundbreaking" research into methods for using plant bacterium to insert genes from another organism into plant cells.

The World Food Prize is an annual honor bestowed on a person or people who, in the words of the organization conferring the award, "have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world." It was conceived by Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug, and first awarded in 1987.

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  • Report this Comment On June 19, 2013, at 7:53 PM, Farmhound wrote:

    Good for them. Were not going to feed the world fertilizing with animal waste and pulling weeds.

  • Report this Comment On June 20, 2013, at 9:57 AM, eyeknonothing wrote:

    they should be forced to eat their "invention".

  • Report this Comment On June 20, 2013, at 10:12 AM, eyeknonothing wrote:

    This is a response to this article.

    His first quote says, “no adverse health effects attributed to genetic engineering have been documented in the human population.” However, the WHO states that post market studies are not conducted so it is hard to find something that people aren't looking for.


    He references the National Academy of Sciences who are not free from bias. The report states, "However, glyphosate is often applied in higher doses and with greater frequency than the herbicides it replaced. Thus, the actual amount of active ingredi-ents (glyphosate and other herbicides) applied per acre actually increased from 1996 to 2007 in soybean (Figure 2-1) and cotton (Figure 2-2) but decreased over the same period in corn (Figure 2-3)." Clearly they are saying that overall herbicide use has increased. They make several claims such as, "It binds to soil rapidly (preventing leaching), it is biodegraded by soil bacteria, and it has a very low toxicity to mammals, birds, and fish (Malik et al., 1989)." This is the only reference they provide forthis claim and this was conducted by Monsanto. I can continue but this report has many of these type of references by biased sources. To counter this claim there are several studies suggesting glyphosate does leach and can even be found in drinking water in some areas at levels as high as 95ppb with some averages as high as 18.75ppb. Keep in mind that the EU limit for glyphosate in drinking water is .1ppb What they are not considering is that dose makes the poison, they are also only considering glyphosate and not the use of glyphosate formulations such as Roundup. While the Monsanto study claims, "it has a very low toxicity to mammals, birds, and fish" other studies suggest differently. For example, “The objective of this study was to evaluate the genotoxic effect that the herbicide Roundup(®) (at a concentration of 6.67 μg/L, corresponding to 3.20 μg/L glyphosate) can have on the fish Corydoras paleatus.””the comet assay showed a high rate of DNA damage in group exposed to Roundup(®) for all treatment times, both for blood and hepatic cells. We conclude that for the low concentration used in this research, the herbicide shows potential genotoxic effects.” Keep in mind this dose of 3.2ppb glyphosate is significantly lower than some drinking water levels in the U.S. so obviously studies not conducted by Monsanto often have very different results.


    His next reference is AAAS. First let me point out that the president of AAAS is a biotechnologist who has formerly worked for the biotech company Evogene. However, his reference says, "The EU, for example, has invested more than €300 million in research on the biosafety of GMOs. Its recent report1 states: “The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se more risky than e.g. conventional plant breed- ing technologies.” This report does not represent the EU since it clearly states, "The views expressed in this publication are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Commission." The report also states, "Expert contention that a 100 % GM variety approved for commercialisation is neither more nor less of a health or environmental problem than its parent crop will not answer the question." so the report is saying the opinion of the few authors involved in this report doesn't answer the question of whether or not GE foods are safe.


    The next reference is about the AMA but it is written by David Tribe who has several Pro-GMO websites including one he shares with Bruce Chassey who conducts seminars for Monsanto. Since I have read the AMA report I would rather respond to that than David Tribe's article. To begin with the AMA report mostly references studies conducted by Monsanto and other biotech companies. The report also has so many flaws I don't even know where to begin. For example, it states, "Other studies have examined potential toxicity of transgenic crops. In one, mice fed Roundup Ready soybeans had modifications in the nuclei of hepatocytes, suggesting that bioengineered soybeans are able to modify the metabolic activities of hepatocytes.22 In another, results suggested that bioengineered soybeans can influence the function of pancreatic acinar cells in mice.23 However, these studies too have been criticized as being tainted by important flaws. 11 In contrast, other groups have demonstrated that neither Roundup Ready soybeans nor Bt corn (expressing a transgene that acts as an insecticide) have any negative effects in mice. 24,25 The same is true for several other transgenic varieties of soybeans and corn fed to rats. 25-30" When you look at the AMA report you can see they mostly looked at industry funded science and ignored the flaws found in other studies. For example in the toxicity section of the AMA report it claims Malatesta 2002(#22) and 2003(#23) have flaws. Their reference(Batista 2009 #11) suggests that one study(Brake 2004) did not find any potential adverse health effects. However there is no mention of the numerous flaws in the Brake study. For example, 3 mice were killed on each of these days 8, 16, 26, 32, 63 and 87 so only 3 examined animals were allowed to live to 87 days from the second generation. There is no data regarding the animals that were not sacrificed except the litter size. Only one dose level of the GE soy was used, there was no isogenic line used and only male mice were investigated. The study also does not state what glyphosate based herbicide or what dose was used on the GE soy.The AMA report next states, "In contrast, other groups have demonstrated that neither Roundup Ready soybeans nor Bt corn (expressing a transgene that acts as an insecticide) have any negative effects in mice". Their first reference is a Brake 2004 study which used Bt corn and not RR soy, their second reference is Snell 2011(#25). However Snell 2011 did review other studies suggesting Roundup Ready soybeans had negative effects in mice. In fact every long term study reviewed using mice and Roundup Ready soybeans suggested negative effects(Malatesta 2002a, 2002b, 2003, 2004, Vecchio 2004) except Brake 2004. The AMA report then states, "The same is true for several other transgenic varieties of soybeans and corn fed to rats.". They give 5 references(Hammond 1996 , 2006, Doull 2007, MacKenzie 2007, Shroder 2007) and of those references 3 were conducted or funded by Monsanto(Hammond 1996, 2006, Doull 2007) 1 was funded by Dupont(MacKenzie 2007) and the last study(Shroder 2007) states, "Nevertheless the experiences from this study lead to the overall conclusion that safety assessment for unintended effects of a GM crop cannot be done without additional test group(s)."OK, so let's look at the studies they claim refute those with potential adverse health effects from RR soy, #24 is a study using Bt corn looking at the testes. What? That is a strawman argument, the studies suggesting potential adverse health effects used glyphosate tolerant soy. #25 is the same Snell 2011 review which reviewed several studies suggesting potential adverse health effects. #26 is a Monsanto study #27 is a Monsanto study #28 Funded by Monsanto #29 A DuPont study #30 didn't use glyphosate tolerant soy either but it says, "Nevertheless the experiences from this study lead to the overall conclusion that safety assessment for unintended effects of a GM crop cannot be done without additional test group(s)." So, to counter the potential adverse health effects for glyphosate tolerant soy the AMA uses studies that have nothing to do with the glyphosate tolerant soy and/or were conducted or funded by biotech companies and/or admit they were inadequate to suggest safety.


    His next reference is the same report I have responded to already by a few authors in the EU that the AAAS referenced.


    Next he posts this quote, “Foods derived from GM crops have been consumed by hundreds of millions of people across the world for more than 15 years, with no reported ill effects (or legal cases related to human health), despite many of the consumers coming from that most litigious of countries, the USA.” As I stated before the WHO states there are no post market studies and since the U.S. has no labels on GE foods epidemiological studies cannot really be conducted therefore it is hard to find something that isn't being looked for. To quote Lawrence Kushi, associate director and nutritional epidemiologist at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif. “Part of the problem from an epidemiological perspective is that it’s difficult to actually study this question because people don’t know whether they’ve actually consumed [GMOs].”

    He also claims, "England’s top medical society, the equivalent of the United State’s American Medical Association" however this is just a report in a journal published by the Royal Society of Medicine and does not necessarily mean this is their opinion. If we look at other reports such as one done for the British Medical Association we see they state, "there should be a ban on the use of antibiotic resistance marker genes in GM food, as the risk to human health from antibiotic resistance developing in micro-organisms is one of the major public health threats that will be faced in the 21st Century" Since many GE foods that have been approved for human consumption have contained antibiotic resistant markers such as T14 and T25 this would suggest there is a greater risk from many GE foods than there is from their conventional counterparts. Similar statements have been made by the Royal Society, "The use of antibiotic resistance genes as a marker for selection of GM plants has resulted in the concern that genes may be transferred into the bacteria present in the stomach of the consumer; this would make the bacteria resistant to antibiotics. This was discussed in the Royal Society 1998 report, where we supported the Government’s advisory bodies in their conclusion that such markers should not continue to be used in the human or animal food chain." As well as the FAO, "antibiotic resistance genes used in food production that encode resistance to clinically important antibiotics should not be present in widely disseminated genetically modified organism or foods and food ingredients." While not all GE foods have ARM's those that do would seem to have a greater risk than their conventional counterparts according to many reports.


    The next reference is from the French Supreme court and if we are using courts as references then consider this from a U.S. court regarding rbST, "a compositional difference does exist between milk from untreated cows and conventional milk ("conventional milk," as used throughout this opinion, refers to milk from cows treated with rbST). As detailed by the amici parties seeking to strike down the Rule, the use of rbST in milk production has been shown to elevate the levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), a naturally-occurring hormone that in high levels is linked to several types of cancers, among other things. The amici also point to certain studies indicating that rbST use induces an unnatural period of milk production during a cow's "negative energy phase." According to these studies, milk produced during this[ 622 F.3d 637 ] stage is considered to be low quality due to its increased fat content and its decreased level of proteins. The amici further note that milk from treated cows contains higher somatic cell counts, which makes the milk turn sour more quickly and is another indicator of poor milk quality."


    The next statement is completely inaccurate, it states, "The only studies that have found that genetically modified foods harm animals (the ones quoted as saying that they cause cancer and infertility) all come from one laboratory, that of Giles Eric Seralini in France." There are numerous studies suggesting adverse health effects in animals consuming certain GE foods that were not conducted by Seralini. I already referenced several but for the sake of refuting this claim that none exist I will post a few. 2004 Ultrastructural analysis of testes from mice fed on genetically modified soybean., "GM-fed mice of all ages considered, the number of perichromatin granules is higher and the nuclear pore density lower.""we found enlargements in the smooth endoplasmic reticulum in GM-fed mice Sertoli cells."­157182132002 Ultrastructural morphometrical and immunocytochemical analyses of hepatocyte nuclei from mice fed on genetically modified soybean., "our data suggest that GM soybean intake can influence hepatocyte nuclear features in young and adult mice"­124416512008 A long-term study on female mice fed on a genetically modified soybean: effects on liver ageing., "Several proteins belonging to hepatocyte metabolism, stress response, calcium signalling and mitochondria were differentially expressed in GM-fed mice, indicating a more marked expression of senescence markers in comparison to controls. Moreover, hepatocytes of GM-fed mice showed mitochondrial and nuclear modifications indicative of reduced metabolic rate. This study demonstrates that GM soybean intake can influence some liver features" are many more but this sample refutes the claim that none exist. The next claim is, "All together, the scientific consensus around the safety of genetically modified foods is as strong as the scientific consensus around climate change. These foods have been studied more than any other, and everything tells us that they’re safe." I already provided studies refuting the claim that, "everything tells us that they’re safe" so for the claim of a scientific consensus, here is what the UN report IAASTD by over 400 scientists states, "The concepts and techniques used for evaluating food and feed safety have been outlined (WHO, 2005b), but the approval process of GM crops is considered inadequate (Spök et al., 2004). Under current practice, data are provided by the companies owning the genetic materials, making independent verification difficult or impossible." consensus here seems to be that there is not enough evidence to suggest safety. This is also seems to be the case for ecological aspects with a survey stating, "Scientists in factor 1 had a moderately negative attitude to GM crops and emphasised the uncertainty and ignorance involved, while scientists in factor 2 had a positive attitude to GM crops and emphasised that GM crops are useful and do not represent any unique risks compared to conventional crops. Funding had a significant effect on the perspective held by the scientists in this study. No ecologists were associated with factor 2, while all the scientists employed in the GM-industry were associated with this factor. The strong effects of training and funding might justify certain institutional changes concerning how we organise science and how we make public decisions when new technologies are to be evaluated."

  • Report this Comment On June 20, 2013, at 4:13 PM, Devholmes wrote:

    Worldwide protests?

    Bad PR?

    No problem!

    Buy an award!

    Now you are righteous!

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