Signs, proofs, and green mischief 4

An angry commenter on our post below, The evil that Greenpeace does, raises two points in criticism of our and Paul Driessen’s accusations.

First, he declares that Greenpeace gets no government money. We are trying to find out if this is true. In the article we quote, Paul Driessen states that Greenpeace and other eco-activist organizations receive grants through Obama’s Climate Czar, Carol Browner. We have asked him for his source, and we will post what we learn if we get an answer.

Next the commenter defends Greenpeace’s attempts to embargo genetically modified grains by pointing to a recent study showing that certain modified seeds produced by Monsanto cause organ failure. There is such a study, and there is controversy over its conclusions.

Whatever the truth of these contentions turns out to be cannot modify our opinion that Greenpeace  is responsible for much suffering and death in the Third World, for instance by its all too successful opposition to the use of DDT which could protect millions from the killing disease of malaria.

From an article in Discover, January 13, 2010:

Few things bring out the hyperbole like genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and that was true again with a study making the rounds yesterday and today.

In the International Journal of Biological Studies, a team examined three genetically modified corn varieties created by Monsanto. The study’s authors say they see evidence of possible toxicity to the kidney and liver, “possibly due to the new pesticides specific to each GM corn.” However, the findings became over-hyped headlines like the Huffington Post’s “Monsanto GMO Corn Linked to Organ Failure, Study Reveals.”

That’s a pretty big leap from the not entirely convincing finding of a potentially questionable study. What actually happened is that the research team, led by Gilles-Eric Séralini, re-analyzed data from tests that Monsanto scientists themselves conducted on rats eating these three varieties of corn—data that, to be fair, the team had to scratch and claw and sue to get their hands on. In their statistical analysis, Séralini’s team says that Monsanto interpreted its own data incorrectly, and that its new analysis shows potential for toxicity.

But the scientists themselves give significant caveats that make such bold headlines a bit of a reach: “Clearly, the statistically significant effects observed here for all three GM maize varieties investigated are signs of toxicity rather than proofs of toxicity”—that is, the evidence isn’t rock solid, and not enough to warrant a bunch of alarmist headlines. The researchers argue that more research is necessary to settle the question either way: “In conclusion, our data presented here strongly recommend that additional long-term (up to 2 years) animal feeding studies be performed in at least three species, preferably also multi-generational, to provide true scientifically valid data on the acute and chronic toxic effects of GM crops, feed and foods.”

In addition, there are a couple issues that make the study itself seem a little fishy:

1. Funding. “Greenpeace contributed to the start of the investigations by funding first statistical analyses in 2006, the results were then processed further and evaluated independently by the authors,” the scientists write. Certainly one can’t oppose a huge corporation like Monsanto without funding, but drawing those funds from a political lightning rod like Greenpeace can paint conclusions in a bad light …

2. The journal: The International Journal of Biological Sciences is somewhat obscure, with an “unofficial”–that is, self-assigned–impact factor of 3.24. “In other words, it has not been assessed for impact or quality,” Ronald says. Again, that doesn’t mean Séralini’s team is wrong, but it suggests that jumping to conclusions would be unwise.

The actual data analysis of the paper has started an in-depth back-and-forth on the the statistical analysis. We’ll continue following this story to see how the analysis shakes out.

Posted under Commentary, Environmentalism, Health, Progressivism, Science by Jillian Becker on Sunday, January 17, 2010

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This post has 4 comments.

  • C. Gee


    Why do you comment on a site which you scorn for having no comments?
    Do your deposits here make us worthy of future ones ?

    Why do you wish to proselytize here for Greenpeace,? A brief visit to Greenpeace's web-site tells one what it is all about. It is not against government, only against government protection of free-markets, capital growth and industrial expansion.

    The relationship between Greenpeace and the federal US government, through its own anti-industry organ, the EPA, is a symbiotic one. An example. The EPA gives grants to encourage activism against industry through its Environmental Justice program. The grantees call in Greenpeace or other “networking” campaign noise-makers to help their cause – which is blocking the building of factories or energy plants – on the grounds that the plant will disparately impact minorities if built at that location. Greenpeace's job is to find a scientific pretext – no matter how thin – to scare people into believing they will be poisoned were the plant to be built. Greenpeace is the PR wing of the burgeoning anti-free market bureaucracy, of which is the EPA is merely the most obvious part. Greenpeace has both lobbied for, and sued for the enforcement of, legislation and rules that further the anti-capitalist march. Not for amusement does Greenpeace recommend Alinsky's Rules for Radicals to its student activist trainees.

    By the way, Greenpeace is not above forming what it calls “partnerships” with private (or government subsidized) energy corporations (wind farms, for example). It is keeping up with the global warming times . The possibilities for scare-mongering and regulation on a planetary scale are now vast. CO2 is potentially much, much scarier than plastic, DDT, or any other industrial chemical. It is a Franken-gas, like GM crops are Franken-foods – but it is all around us. ( And if the US branch is not working on Franken-food, its European parent and sibling organizations certainly are).

    This is not the forum to air your Franken-science. Anybody interested in the politicization of science will know the gist of it.

    May I suggest that you look for hospitality from a host blog you do not despise ?

  • philabor

    So why would the anti's stop jumping to conclusions? They killed BPA containing polycarbonate drinking bottles based on tenuous research that said there may be a slight health risk for adults, and based on Canada's ban on polycarb baby bottles which may have been more of a risk to infants and was probably justified on preemptive grounds. The silicone implant business was destroyed without scientific evidence demonstrating any increased level of disease or other problems.

    It's all about publicity and public opinion, they trump science.

  • maxblaushild

    PS do you even know what Greenpeace does? The US branch literally does no work on GMOs.

  • maxblaushild

    Greenpeace is by definition a non-governmental organization. I don't get why that alludes you. They've been audited twice by recommendations from the Heartland Institute (which is 100% funded by Exxon Mobil), and have passed squeaky clean both times.
    If Greenpeace was in bed with the government, why is Greenpeace constantly lobbying the government to take action? Why would the government give Greenpeace money to have it lobby against itself? Common sense.

    And the push for the ban of DDT began many years before Greenpeace was even founded. And DDT is banned in most developed countries and mitigated in the rest of them for a good reason. Reducing malaria incidences is not worth completely destroying the sustainability of the local ecosystems that native Africans are COMPLETELY reliant on. PLUS better alternatives have since been developed and are being employed. If you haven't noticed, we still use a lot of pesticides in the states even though DDT is gone. PLUS the DDT ban is voluntary in the developing world because they don't want to be dependent on a chemical that the first world is selling them. PLUS Greenpeace USA hasn't touched the DDT issue in decades, and doesn't even have an agricultural department open now.
    If you're concerned about DDT, you should probably take it up with the EPA first, then the Congress second, then the Science Academy third, then the world bank fourth, and then maybe, if you haven't taken enough rejection by that point, take it up with Greenpeace fifth. They will probably laugh in your face. Greenpeace usually doesn't deal with issues with which their is international consensus (Stockholm Agreement) besides the few Wall Street Journal conservative wingbats.

    GMO opposition comes from a variety of different of angles. Mostly, it comes from the simple bioloigical fact that there is a direct correlation between energy input and energy output in organisms. If you increase the yield of a crop, you likewise increase the start-up nutrient demands. High nitrogen soils are created through an incredibly energy intensive process that requires the use of a shitton of oil, so all we are doing by increasing our dependence on GMO crops in increasing our dependence on foreign oil. Soil doesn't magically replenish itself. Natural growth cycles (nitrogen fixation cycles) usually replenish the soil, but GMO crops are so nitrogen intensive that farming becomes an energy guzzling affair. GMOs will only be able to feed millions of starving people IF we had an infinite supply of abundant oil, and we have neither of those, so more responsible, sustainable avenues must be taken. If we build an infrastructure around GMOs, then what will we do in 50 some years when the world's oil supplies run out? Starve. There are several more reasons why GMOs are not viable, but you'll probably run into them yourself through your “research” and ignore them in favor of information gathered from fringe right-wing media sources and zero-comment conservative blogs.