Do Gary Ruskin and Zen Honeycutt care about babies?

Large spray container and nozzle used for spraying chemicals

I care about babies.

Gary Ruskin, co-director of U.S. Right to Know (USRTK), and Zen Honeycutt, founder of Moms Across America (MAA) claim they care about babies, too.

They are both anti-GMO advocates, meaning they oppose oppose genetically modified organisms, typically agricultural plants. In particular, they oppose Monsanto seeds that have been genetically modified to survive treatment with the pesticide RoundUp (glyphosate) because they believe that glyphosphate can harm babies.

Indeed, MAA in conjunction with European anti-GMO group Sustainable Pulse published a “pilot study” claiming to show that the glyphosate can be found in human breastmilk, under the heading World’s Number 1 Herbicide Discovered in U.S. Mothers’ Breast Milk.

How does filing a FOIA request help mothers and babies?

Where was this study published? It wasn’t published in a peer review scientific journal at all.

Which scientists performed the study? To my knowledge, no scientists were involved.

How was the study conducted? When asked by lactation researcher Michelle (Shelley) McGuire, PhD, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at Washington State University, how the samples were collected, characteristics of the study subjects; and the analytical methods used, Honeycutt responded:

As this was not a scientific study we did not collect all the data you are hoping for. The testing was the best available method.

Nice to know that MAA recognizes that their data does not constitute a scientific study.

Prof. McGuire then proceeded to conduct an actual scientific study and presented the findings at Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology conference on Origins and Benefits of Biologically Active Components in Human Milk in mid-July.

According to a press release issued by WSU:

Washington State University scientists have found that glyphosate, the main ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, does not accumulate in mother’s breast milk.
Michelle McGuire, an associate professor in the WSU School of Biological Sciences, is the lead researcher of the study, which is the first to have its results independently verified by an accredited, outside organization.

Her findings, presented at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Conference on July 23 in Big Sky, Mont., show that glyphosate, the most used weed-killing chemical in the world, does not accumulate over time in human milk…

Analyses of the milk samples were conducted in Monsanto laboratories in St. Louis and independently verified at Wisconsin-based Covance Laboratories, which is not affiliated with the WSU/UI research team or Monsanto.

Whom should we believe, the MAA or a real lactation researcher? I’m dubious about claims made that rest on data acknowledged as “not a scientific study.” How about the claims of Dr. McGuire? Her bibliography is extensive, including a study I quoted in a recent piece about the immunological properties of breastmilk.

McGuire has, in the past, taken money from Monsanto for research and, as disclosed in the press release, Monsanto was involved in the initial testing of the breastmilk samples. Therefore, it’s worth taking a second look at Prof. McGuire’s research for insight into any conflict of interest. Her bibliography is quite extensive and includes papers like:

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in human plasma and lipid fractions and their relations with CLA intake. J Nutr, in press.

Human milk oligosaccharides promote the growth of staphylococci. Appl Environ Micro May 2012, doi: 10.1128/​AEM.00477-12.

Mastitis increases free fatty acids and markers of inflammation in human milk. J Breastfeed Med May 2012, doi:10.1089/bfm.2011.0141.

Characterization of the diversity and temporal stability of bacterial communities in human milk. PLoS ONE 6(6): e21313. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021313

Documentation of fatty acid profiles in lamb meat and lamb-based infant foods. J Food Sci. 76:H43-7.

On cursory inspection, I can’t find any evidence that McGuire has produced research beneficial to Monsanto. Nonetheless, we now have one organization claiming to have found RoundUp in breastmilk and a scientist claiming that she could not find RoundUp in breastmilk.

What should we do?

If we care about babies, we should commission a third, independent study to settle the question.

That’s not what Ruskin and his organization chose to do. They filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request demanding that McGuire turn over all emails linked to her research. FOIA requests certainly have their place in investigative journalism, but they can’t resolve scientific controversies. No matter what is contained in McGuire’s email, it can’t answer the question whether RoundUp sprayed on GMO crops ends up in breastmilk.

In other words, burdening Prof. McGuire with a FOIA request does NOTHING for babies or breastfeeding mothers. Ruskin and Honeycutt may be hoping to discredit McGuire, but that won’t transform MAA’s data — by Honeycutt’s own admission “not a scientific study” — into valid scientific evidence. I don’t know if they intend to intimidate McGuire or others who do research whose conclusions don’t support their claims, but that won’t help babies or breastfeeding mothers either.

Ironically, Honeycutt questioned McGuire’s concern for the well being of babies:

Moms Across America got nothing wrong. The results are what they are. In fact we clearly state in the report that while mother’s breast milk is the number one choice, we just suggest eating organic. Apparently eating organic, and not GMOs, is what you really have the problem with. I do not know how you sleep. Shame on you for contributing to more confusion, lies and protecting the profits of corporations rather than people and babies.

So here’s what I want to know:

Mr. Ruskin and Ms. Honeycutt, how does filing a FOIA request against Prof. McGuire help mothers and babies?

It doesn’t, does it?

Do you care about babies?

If you do, you will contribute funds toward an investigation conducted by an independent scientist that can tell us whether RoundUp can be passed to babies through breastmilk. But, as far as I can determine, you’ve said nothing about an independent investigation and certainly have not offered money to pay for one.

That suggests to me that this is not about what is good for babies, but is rather about what is good for your organizations.

I do not know how you sleep. Shame on you for contributing to more confusion and lies, rather than protecting mothers and babies.

  • ajwatter
  • Gatita
    • KeeperOfTheBooks

      I’m feeling the overwhelming urge to create about seventeen Disqus accounts just so I can like this more. 😀

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      You could add, “Used traditional Chinese medicine”

      I’ve pointed this out before – in early 20th century rural China, the place that would be the prime place for “traditional Chinese medicine”, the average life span was 25 for men and 24 for women. Women lived shorter lives because they died in childbirth.

  • Megan

    Totally OT but I was excited and wanted to share: Got the results Friday of our non-invasive prenatal testing and not only was the testing normal (yay for normal chromosomes!) but we found out we are having another girl! Looks like my daughter will have a sister very close in age.

    • Daleth

      Yay! Congrats!

    • demodocus

      congrats!

    • Angharad

      Congrats! How fun! Sisters are awesome!

    • Mishimoo

      Congratulations!! That is so great!

  • Sue
    • DaisyGrrl

      Good. That woman belongs in jail.

    • Daleth

      Yay. Jail, PLEASE.

    • Who?

      That’s a beginning, at least.

      Lots of publicity is a good thing in this space.

  • An Actual Attorney

    OT – really back to the discussion about what would actually be helpful for poor women and their babies (unlike sewing gowns or forcing BFing): http://www.dcdiaperbank.org/our-stone-soup-film/
    (have tissues when you watch the video)

    I love how the founder is honest about how the son who is the light of her life was also “the worst baby in the world,” and that instead of heading to woo-land, she started asking what other mothers needed.

    They just sent me an email about distributing their 2,000,000,000th diaper and reminded me how great they are.

    • KeeperOfTheBooks

      Wow!!! What a wonderful organization!
      What they had to say about feminine hygiene items reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend a few months ago. Said friend has lived rather hand-to-mouth for a long time, much of it not really her fault. She mentioned that for her and her boyfriend, their big treat every month was going to “dollar taco night” at a local place, and then taking home as many napkins as they could without being outrageous because they could use the napkins for toilet paper and, for her, in place of pads. She said that virtually no one ever donates pads or tampons to food pantries, and that since they’re not covered by food stamps, it makes it rather difficult to buy them because they’re a relatively expensive, one-time-use item.
      Do you know…I used to live pretty tightly indeed, though I never did have to accept food stamps (I didn’t have to, I could live on $15/week for groceries, so I didn’t), but I’d forgotten about that aspect of poverty. I once made myself some (rather lousy) cloth pads out of a ragged old towel. Took forever to hand-sew, but then I didn’t have to buy $5 worth of pads every month.
      *sigh* It’s hard out there for people near the poverty line, and far more so for parents. I’m so glad that organizations like the DC Diaper Bank exist!

      • An Actual Attorney

        It’s so easy for people not to think about. And so hard to live through.

        • KeeperOfTheBooks

          So true. The most basic things most of us take for granted aren’t so basic to a lot of people out there.

  • Angharad

    OT, my daughter had an allergist appointment yesterday. Her skin test was negative for everything! Should I report this to VAERS or is it because of the formula?
    Seriously, I’m still a little scared to introduce allergens into her diet, but we’re going to move ahead with it after a blood allergy test and in-office oral tolerance test confirm the results.

    • demodocus

      does she have a history of allergies?

      • Angharad

        Yes, she was previously diagnosed with allergies to eggs, nuts, dairy, and sesame. So it’s a big change if we’re not going to have to worry about everything she eats going forward.

        • Cobalt

          I’ve seen allergies to wheat, milk, and soy be outgrown. It’s possible. The new dietary freedom is AWESOME. I hope it works out that way for her.

          • Sue

            True – especially egg and milk. Egg allergy in particular is common in babies and children, but often outgrown.

          • RMY

            I think my little brother was allergic to chocolate briefly. He outgrew it.

        • Mishimoo

          That is such an awesome change!!

        • demodocus

          Whoo-hoo! I outgrew a strawberry allergy 🙂
          I’d guess you should just try 1 at a time, like with babies and keep a close eye on her.

    • swbarnes2

      If she had a vaccine, you might as well report to VAERS. It’s probably not related, but it’s not up to you or the doctors to determine that, it’s up to the biostatisticians, so let them do their job by giving them the data they need to do it.

  • ForeverMe

    Error: “No matter what is contained in McGuire’s email, it can’t answer the whether RoundUp sprayed on GMO crops ends up in breastmilk.”

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      Thanks! Fixed it.

  • PrimaryCareDoc

    Intimidation by FOIA demands in the way GMO activists roll. Just look at what they’ve done to Kevin Folta.

    They’re basically on their way to becoming like those terrorists who bomb labs that use animals for research.

  • demodocus

    When one thinks deeply about a subject, one needs to make sure one does not fall down the freaking rabbit hole.
    I had a class or two like that in college. sigh

  • Elisabetta Aurora

    Before you start criticizing the EU’s anti-GMO stance, I live in Germany. I come from Portland Oregon (a medium to expensive city surrounded by lush farmland) and now live in Frankfurt (one of the most expensive cities in Germany). Groceries are cheaper here. A lot cheaper. And they’re better quality. You can really taste the difference. We went from feeding a family of three for $700 a month down to 300 Euros a month even though we eat out a whole lot less in Europe than we did in the US (on account of having a docile baby turn into a food throwing, temper tantrum wheeling toddler) I looked at the national averages, and groceries in the EU are 30% cheaper than in the US. This is in spite of the fact that there is less farm land here per capita and the cost of fuel for transportation is higher.

    Milk is significantly less expensive and as a result formula is much more affordable. A package of formula in Germany runs about 3 to 7 euros (generic to name brand organic) whereas in the US a similar sized package of generic goes for about $14 and runs up to $35 for organic. Affordable formula is good for babies too.

    Here, you can buy certain American products at the grocery store such as Honey Smacks cereal and many others. One thing you’ll notice if you read the labels is that they don’t have any added ingredients. Honey Smacks contains only three ingredients: oats, sugar, and honey (don’t get me wrong, they aren’t healthy by any means at 50% oats, 49% sugar and 1% honey). It’s the same brand and the same packaging and it only costs 2 euros a box. That’s the part that kills me. As someone who used to support added ingredients in our foods as a way of driving down costs and making them more affordable to the public, I am now enraged that obviously the makers of Honey Smacks can afford to NOT add a bunch of crap to the food and STILL sell it for CHEAPER because they are doing it in other parts of the world, just not for Americans.

    I’m aware that there are likely many factors that go into why our food is so much more expensive than the food in the EU, but the main argument for why Americans should support GMOs is because it will make food more affordable is simply not the case. It doesn’t make food more affordable, it just puts more profit in the pockets of food manufacturers and that IS bad for babies as well as every other member of society.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      I’m not sure how point 1 gets you to point 2. I’m in Germany at the moment too and definitely enjoy having local foods available (partly because I live right on the outskirts of a smallish town that has fields right next door) and like the often simpler ingredients in German food. But I don’t see why that means that banning GMOs is a good idea. I’d like to have some intelligently designed food that wasn’t created by randomly exposing plants or animals to radiation or other mutagens. I’d like to see the development of plants that grow under more adverse circumstances–we’re going to need those if we want to keep eating as global warming gets worse.

      Heck, I’m also more fond of modern herbicides and pesticides than I am of some of the “organic” pesticides and herbicides. Yes, organic food is sprayed. It’s just that it’s sprayed with older, “natural” pesticides and herbicides–substances that are more likely to be biologically active in mammals and that don’t break down as readily as modern pest management products. Rule of thumb for me with “organics”: If the bugs didn’t want it, I don’t want it either. I’ll eat truly organic products that have the occasional hole in them where bugs got them, but not perfect appearing “organic” food that has who knows what ancient pesticide sprayed on it.

      BTW, the way they afford lower cost food with often higher quality: Subsidies. Lots and lots of farm subsidies. Higher taxes can be your friend.

      • Elisabetta Aurora

        1.) There’s a false dichotomy in the US that GMOs equal cheaper, higher quality food and no GMOs equal higher cost, lower quality. As we can learn from the EU, this is not the case. The cost and quality of groceries depends on a host of other things, namely where we allocate funding. The US also subsidizes crops heavily. It’s just that the US is doing it wrong and the wrong people are benefiting when farmers are going bankrupt and more and more American families are having a harder time being able to feed themselves and when food companies like Con Agra have some of the most powerful lobbyists in Washington. We should be spending our energy fixing this and not on debating the validity of GMOs.

        2.) There is a straw man argument circulating that people who oppose GMOs do so because they are crunchy dumb hippies who don’t understand science. Yes, such people exist, but they don’t account for the world’s majority. In reality, the EU has its concerns mainly from a financial perspective and a lot of that has been validated by what is already happening in the US.

        • The Computer Ate My Nym

          The US subsidizes big ag heavily. They subsidize things like corn being grown for fuel, which is neither carbon nor cost efficient. The EU seems to have done better in focusing on subsidizing small farmers and actual food, rather than underwriting yet another major company that wants to keep gains private and losses public.

          I think I may not be following your argument about GMOs correctly, though. Is the concern health or financial? If the latter, what specific issues are of concern? I tend to think that new GMOs should be examined carefully for food safety reasons, much like I’d like new drugs, new “natural” treatments, new agricultural methods, and new food crops developed by traditional methods examined before they come into general use because I want the question “did you do it right?” answered before the public is exposed to the substance. The mad cow issue in England demonstrates that traditional farming methods can get you into a heck of a lot of trouble, very quickly, if the health and safety standards of farmers are not carefully overseen. I don’t think GMO is any different in that way. Careful oversight is needed for food safety, GMO or non. (But I strongly suspect that I’m off topic for your point.)

          • Elisabetta Aurora

            Yes, I agree with you on health issues. I hold no illusions that natural is always better. Case in point, pasteurization- a brilliant invention.

            We also seem to agree that the US has been funding the wrong people and it hasn’t benefited farmers or average Americans.

            I’m sorry I’m not doing a good job of voicing my concerns. What I’m trying to say is that GMOs are being marketed as a solution to global hunger, harsh pesticides/fertilizers, and disappearing topsoil. While GMOs may or may not technically have the capacity of solving these problems, in places where they have been introduced they have not been successful. They do not help farmers or third world countries when the seeds are unaffordable. And in the end they do more to enlarge the profits of companies that are already rich. The second point is that the EU gets a lot of flack for being anti-GMO when in reality they are doing a far better job of keeping their farmers in business and feeding their population. They don’t want them because they don’t need them.

            The US is already using GMOs and we aren’t benefiting. So why do we need more? What we (or rather Americans living in America since I bought an apartment here and won’t be leaving any time soon) really need is an overhaul in the way we are supporting farmers and grocers. The increasing cost of food and decreasing topsoil aren’t going to be solved with more gimmicks, they’re going to be solved with smaller farms, rotating crops, and subsidies that go to farms that are producing foods people actually eat and not mono crops.

            Also, as a disclaimer, I am fully aware that I am in no way an expert on the situation and these opinions are based on my personal shopping experience, conversations with my European family and friends, and what I read (mostly in Spiegel). I’m open to other opinions and well-formulated arguments.

          • The Computer Ate My Nym


            While GMOs may or may not technically have the capacity of solving these
            problems, in places where they have been introduced they have not been
            successful.

            I would tentatively argue that this is more a problem with Monsanto et al than with GMOs per se. Much like HIV therapy has the possibility of much prolonging life and health for people with HIV and preventing transmission of HIV but it failed to do either in most of the world until various less developed countries started demanding that the medications be sold to them at an affordable price. Similarly, if GMOs are going to be helpful in preventing starvation, they’re only going to be so if they are available to those who need them at an affordable price. A product that can grow in salt water or in a drought doesn’t help if people who live in areas where the sea is encroaching or that are prone to droughts can’t afford it.

          • Cobalt

            Maybe if people/companies/countries who could afford to pay full price for new technologies did so (instead of banning them), the tech could be offered at a heavily subsidized price to those who truly can’t afford it.

            Consider medications. In order to afford sending them to the third world for a third world price, the cost difference is made up in sales to rich areas. As the rich areas that pay into this subsidization drop out, costs go even higher for those who remain. So when the EU says they only allow meds just above cost, either Americans pay higher prices or funding for giving meds to the needy falls.

          • Bog

            What are you talking about? Gmos have greatly helped developing world farmers. There are special licensing agreements so that they are available inexpensively. This is just one little list of field stories, but there are thousands more. Just because it doesn’t show up in facebook posts doesn’t mean people aren’t being helped tremendously by gmo technology in developing countries.

            http://www.aatf-africa.org/field-stories

          • Francesca Violi

            In Italy the farmers’ association also have another concern: according to them a turn toward GMO would end up impoverishing the diversity of our local products. The excellence of italian food is tightly connected to the fact that each territory has its own typical products, and GMOs (their point is) would result in homogenisation of products and flavours. This would impact negatively our own lifestyle (we would have worse food) but also would jeopardize a fundamental branch of our economy, making the “made in italy” brand less valuable.

          • The Computer Ate My Nym

            Again, I’m not sure that this is a problem with GMOs per se, but rather with corporatization. If the universities or small companies of various regions in Italy* made their own genetically modified foods, you’d end up with an even more diverse and tasty set of foods than you have now. The problem comes when an overwhelmingly large company comes in and demands you use this specific GMO, just like everyone else. Or this particular non-GMO crop. It’s not like the vast majority of crops in the US aren’t conventionally derived and yet bland and generic due to the fact that we’ve got about 3 major ag companies that all use the same (mostly non-GMO) seeds.

            *Or for that matter, farmers. Every farmer has a tractor and a computer. Maybe every farmer should have a PCR machine and cell culture incubator as well.

          • Francesca Violi

            I agree with you… GMO could be a resource, whereas to give it up a priori like this means to surrender it totally in the hands of big corporations which are by definition profit-led.

        • Amy M

          How are GMOs bad for babies, though? (you said that in your earlier post up-thread)

          • anotheramy

            After I re-read her post, I believe she meant higher prices of food (formula) so food manufacturers get bigger profits is bad for babies.

    • PrimaryCareDoc

      I don’t understand why you are conflating GMOs with the cost of food in the US vs Germany. It has more to do with government subsidies than GMOs.

      • Daleth

        I think the point is that GMOs do not lead to less expensive food, as demonstrated by the fact that food is less expensive in Europe, where GMOs are banned.

        • PrimaryCareDoc

          But there is no evidence to support that assertion. It’s the old “correlation does not mean causation. “

          • Sue

            Yep. The retail cost of food bears little relation to production costs. The EU has very distorting subsidies to primary producers.

    • KeeperOfTheBooks

      My DH and I spent a week in Paris last year. I was stunned by both the availability and cheapness of fruits and vegetables there, even in what we Americans would think of as a convenience store. (Except tomatoes…I’m still confused by why tomatoes would cost upwards of six euros a pound…) When I mentioned this to DH, though, he explained that farms in France are heavily subsidized, so basically you’re paying out the front end for the food via taxes and such. Which is an interesting idea, and one not imitated here, but I suspect it goes further to explain why things there are so much cheaper than in the US than GMOs vs non-GMOs.

    • indigosky

      But what are you paying in taxes? That’s why your food is so much cheaper, because your taxes are going to make it cheaper. Taxes are outrageous there. So your argument in invalid.

      • Elisabetta Aurora

        Thanks for asking this. People from the states are usually surprised to find out that our taxes are virtually the same as they were in America. I stay at home and my husband is the sole breadwinner. We have one child and he makes around 120k. He worked for the same company in the US, which is a German owned company. In the US we were taxed only by the US and not Germany and vice versa here in Germany. It looks a little different, however. We have a slightly higher tax, but when you add the Kindergeld back in (which all families with children receive, not just the poor) it breaks about even. Rich singletons do get taxed more, but middle class families with children in both countries pay about the same.

      • Daleth

        Everybody thinks that (“omg they have such high taxes in Europe”) but nobody actually pays attention to the facts.

        If you earn $50k/year, will you pay higher taxes in Europe? No, not in most European countries–you’ll pay lower taxes than you do here.

        If you earn $150k/year, will you pay higher taxes in Europe? You’ll pay higher income taxes, although depending on your lifestyle probably not that much higher, because the difference in tax rates and brackets is in part made up for by deductions we don’t have here (e.g., much higher per-child deductions–they want to encourage a higher birth rate, and that’s one way they do it).

        And it’s further made up for by the fact that you will probably pay lower–much lower, in many countries–property taxes.

        And on top of that, they get things in return for their taxes that we don’t get–instead, we have to pay for them on top of our taxes. The biggest two: health insurance and college tuition. For instance, everyone there has health insurance and a year of college costs about $300 in France, $0 in Germany, $600 in Switzerland, a few grand in the UK.

        So, woohoo, we have lower income taxes… but higher property taxes, lower income tax deductions, and higher expenses overall, since we have to pay for stuff that their taxes cover.

        Just thought I’d point this out. Just because everyone thinks something is true (“omg high taxes in Europe! Breast is best! Home birth is safe for low-risk moms!” etc.) doesn’t mean it actually is.

        • Elisabetta Aurora

          Yes! Exactly.

        • indigosky

          Um, I lived in Sweden for eight years. I was making less money and paying more in taxes all around. I’m making nearly twice as much now in the US and paying a ton less in taxes and that is with me owning two properties in the Los Angeles area.

          Don’t paint me with a stereotyping brush. I lived it, I can do math. I can see the difference between my income and taxes there as opposed to here.

          • Elisabetta Aurora

            Did you have dependents in Sweden?

          • indigosky

            Yes, I already had my one child before we moved there. I still have only one child. Nothing about my family dynamics has changed – still married to the same man and only one child.

            Any other foolish questions?

          • Elisabetta Aurora

            There was nothing foolish about that question. Nice try.

            You told me that my experience was invalid because I am paying outrages taxes and I pointed out that my tax rate was not different. Of course Sweden and Germany are two completely different nations, but other people are capable of doing math too.

            Enjoy LA.

          • Daleth

            “Um,” I also lived in Europe (two different EU countries) for nearly a decade. Neither of them was Sweden, so maybe you’ve found an exception there.

          • Inmara

            Sweden is famous with its high taxes compared to other European countries. This is great source for such comparisons https://www.compareyourcountry.org/taxing-wages

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      What about the VAT. Isn’t that a major source of taxation?

      • Elisabetta Aurora

        My understanding of VAT is that it’s just another way of doing a sales tax. My home state of Oregon didn’t have a sales tax at all. The tax in Germany is included in the price. So right now apples are on sale for 99 cents a kilo, and when you get to the register, that’s what you pay. Unlike say, in California, where the tax was added at the register, the tax is included in the price tag and so it isn’t something I think too much about.

        Is that what you are asking about?

        • fiftyfifty1

          Does food get taxed in California?

          • Elisabetta Aurora

            I have no idea. Does it? I think Washington state doesn’t tax groceries.

          • Elisabetta Aurora

            A quick google says that only restaurant food is taxed in CA.

            I also don’t know if groceries are taxed in Germany or not. All sales taxes are included in the sale price of any items so it’s hard to tell what is taxed and what isn’t.

          • Inmara

            VAT applies to almost all goods and services in EU, there just can be different rates for specific groups. You can check it in receipts, taxes are usually indicated there.

  • Sullivan ThePoop

    I have been upset with harassing FOIA filings since Kevin Folta was so obviously a victim of one, but the fact that Monsanto had a hand in any of these studies is reason for an independent study.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      I tend to agree, but if you want an independent study then you have to be ready to pay for it. The only organization likely to be able to do this sort of study independently and right is the US government. How much are you willing to have your taxes go up to pay for more research? (Personally, I’d be willing to take a significant increase if it went to research, but I have a conflict of interest.)

      • Roadstergal

        Funding for research in the US is really at crisis levels. It’s bad for everyone.

        (Except if you’re in physics and can get your research funded by the DOD, like a friend of mine.)

    • Amy M

      A lot of private companies fund studies—many studies wouldn’t be done otherwise. If the company is only funding a study if the scientists “find” the results the company wants, that’s shady and wrong. However, academic researchers, with a little extra funding, might have more time and (non-monetary) resources to get the study done correctly and robustly. In that case, the academic researcher gets to publish, and the company gets some data that may be helpful in developing a new product or in improving an older one.

      I work in the R&D department of a pharma company. The kind of studies I do are to support potential drugs. We look (in cells and mice) at efficacy, safety, target engagement, and other stuff. If the compound gets past all of that, it goes to clinical research and will be tested in people. To become a drug, the FDA and other organizations will review the data and decide if more testing is warranted, if the drug can be marketed or if they think it should be scrapped. Up to that point, the research was done either internally, or by contractors paid by the company. Is that a conflict of interest? If so, who should do the research on potential drugs?

      Any drug that gets manufactured and ends up in the public domain will then be tested in a variety of scenarios by other (academic) researchers, but until that point, the internal data is confidential, to protect the property of the company. I get that Monsanto isn’t making drugs for people, but they must be subject to their own rules about testing and research and it is not shady for them to run studies (or contract out studies) on their own products. I could agree that at some point, a third party should be running some studies for confirmation and to ensure that the studies were run correctly.

      All that said, maybe I am misunderstanding what you mean?

      • Roadstergal

        I work in DevSci as well, and we do a lot of collaborations with external researchers – because they have expertise, reagents, bandwidth, samples, etc. We don’t do it to get the news that we’re awesome, we do it because we need the data. I’d expect anybody looking at that data to give it a little extra scrutiny, considering the source. I wouldn’t expect anyone to dismiss it out of hand based just on the source, because that would be silly.

        • Amy M

          Thank you Roadstergal, you’ve have said what I was trying to say, much more succinctly. I need to work on my communication in writing skills.

      • Sullivan ThePoop

        I am not sure why you are telling a researcher about research or what it has to do with my post.

        • Amy M

          Mostly because I saw the word “Monsanto” and I know a lot of people (I guess not you) associate them with the devil and think everything they do is wrong, evil and/or suspect. And I didn’t know YOU were a researcher, I posted for the general discussion, going with the independent study theme you introduced.

          As I said at the bottom, I could have (and evidently did) misunderstand what you were trying to say about Monsanto and independent studies. This is the way I interpreted it: Monsanto is evil and everything they do should be audited by a 3rd party because we can’t trust any of their in-house research. My post was a response to that, evidently incorrect, interpretation. I apologize for offending you, as that wasn’t my intent.

  • Nick Sanders

    FOIA trolling seems to be the new standard weapon of anti-GMO activists.

    • Mel

      But not reading MSDS sheets apparently.

      Oral toxicity (in adult rats) is 5,000mg/kg or 5g/kg. If the average human baby weighs 2.5kg (or 5.5lbs), that means LD50 is around 12.5g of glycophosphate.

      Since the density of glycophosphate is around 1.2g/mL, that’s around 10mL of glycophosphate.

      There are no known carcinogens or mutagenic properties and I’m pretty sure we’d of noticed by now if it accumulates in people.

      So, I guess if a nursing woman accidentally got exposed to a mouthful of glycophosphate, she might swallow 50mL. If her breasts are great at pulling glycophophate from the blood system, she should probably pump and dump for a few days to be on the safe side.

      If this is involving residual glycophosphate on fruits and veggies, there is no way a baby could take in 10 mL of glycophosphate from breast milk.

      Added safety feature: glycophosphate has a distinctive smell and gross taste. (My father-in-law got a large exposure that he swallowed one time. Poison control told him that there have been no known glycophosphate poisoning fatalities in humans, but he may want to stock up on Imodium…..) Pretty sure glycophosphate infused breast milk would bring on a major nursing strike.

      • Nick Sanders

        Sadly, LD50 data is only useful for the people who say things like, “It’s a poison, and we shouldn’t be eating ANY poisons!”, because then you can point out that Vitamin D has a lower LD50. Sadly, most of the current wave of claims are about chronic toxicity, and LD50 only relates to acute effects.

        And I agree there is nothing conclusive, or even particularly suggestive, indicating chronic toxicity, except that “maybe, if you are a person who handles large quantities of it on a regular basis, you might possibly be at some level of increased risk of a handful of cancers, maybe, we can’t totally be sure”. Which of course they read as “OMG, if it touches you, you’re totally gonna die of all the cancers!”. And then you’re stuck trying to how the IARC scale actually works, and the difficulty of proving a negative, especially since no experimental method that amounts to “Hi, we’d like to soak you in this chemical twice a week for the next twenty years to see if it gives you cancer,” is ever making it past any ethics board outside of fiction.

        • Mel

          The fact is that there is a reasonable control and experimental group that currently exist. Most farmers – soybeans stick out in my mind, but many crops are Round-Up ready – will be exposing themselves to low, but constant doses of Round-Up for decades at a time. You can pull a well-matched control group of farmers who use similar conventional agricultural methods, but don’t use Round-Up ready crops. Since farmers in the USA are creepily homogeneous (older white men with between HS-BS educational degrees, match use of tobacco and drinking…..), this shouldn’t be to hard to run on paper.

          Farmers tend to be willing to join these studies, too. The study that linked a change in advertising goods (seed companies starting giving out baseball caps which caused farmers to wear hats that didn’t shade their ears and necks while in the fields) to increased melanomas in the ears and neck has saved many lives.

          • Nick Sanders

            That’s pretty interesting, thank you for telling me.

          • Roadstergal

            Upvoting because it’s a good idea, and also for the phrase “creepily homogeneous.”

            (Grand-daughter of a white male soybean farmer.)

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    • Adrian Thomson

      They are following the lead of the climate change deniers and the tobacco companies.

  • Trixie

    Has MAA proposed any mechanism by which measurable amounts of Roundup could end up in the breastmilk of your average American? It seems very implausible.

  • Cobalt

    I’d say “shocking”, but this is far from the first time anti-GMO nescientists have lied about research and bullied those who are more concerned with being scientifically factual than being ideologically correct.

    What matters, ideological purity based on beliefs, or actual infant health and informed consent?