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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Health derangement syndrome 1

If starving isn’t unhealthy, what does the word ‘unhealthy’ mean?

There are powerful persons who believe with fanatical conviction that (other) people should starve to death rather than eat something ‘unhealthy’.

As a result, millions are deprived of food.

Even Bill Gates protests about this state of affairs. We say ‘even Bill Gates’, because he usually goes along with the thinking of those who believe in government control of individual lives, aka socialists. (See in the quotation below a list of lefty organizations he supports.)  He doesn’t seem to realize that he is one of the greatest benefactors of mankind ever, through supplying billions of people with something they want: the products of Microsoft, which are put to trillions of productive uses throughout the world. Doing so –  as a model capitalist – has rightfully made him rich, and he has no moral obligation to redistribute his wealth in a secondary and much feebler attempt to do good. But he apparently thinks there is, perhaps out of some unwarranted feeling of guilt.

Whatever prompts him, he has undertaken to alleviate the chronic hunger of whole populations in Africa. And he has run into an impediment: the adoption, by stupid African rulers, of two Western ‘progressive’ notions: that people must be made to eat healthy food, and that genetically modified foods are unhealthy.

This article is from FrontPageMag:

The left-of-center philanthropist says starving Africans should be allowed to eat genetically modified foods.

Bill Gates took on the Famine Lobby while addressing a forum on the world food supply in Iowa. Speaking at the World Food Prize Symposium in Des Moines, Gates took aim at the chorus of environmental leftists and organic food advocates who believe Africans should starve rather than eat genetically modified (GM) foods. “Some voices are instantly hostile to any emphasis on productivity. They act as if there is no emergency, even though in the poorest, hungriest places on earth, population is growing faster than productivity,” he said.

The opposition is significant, because Gates is left-of-center himself. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with assets of $29 billion as of 2005, has focused on the “population” side of the “problem” in the past, sending billions of dollars in grants to such pro-abortion groups as Planned Parenthood; Population Action International, Population Services International, the Alan Guttmacher Institute, and the Population Resource Center. Gates has also financed such organizations as the [Soros supported] Tides Center, the Tides Foundation, the National Council of La Raza, and has supported a gun control initiative in Washington state.

However, Gates announced he will issue a $120 million grant to increase food productivity in sub-Saharan Africa through the planting of genetically modified seeds. In Des Moines, Gates cited a Stanford study from 2008 concluding African farmers will lose one-quarter of their productivity within 20 years if they continue to plant the same strains of corn. However, “If the seeds perform well, African farmers can expect to produce two-million more tons of maize in a year of moderate drought.” Radio Iowa reports Gates has “committed more than a billion dollars” in all.

In proposing this initiative, he is standing up to the Green Left, which has long favored environmental “purity” [over] human well-being. Greenpeace cooked up the term “Frankenfood” to demonize genetically modified foods a decade ago. …

Dire predictions aside, GM foods not only potentially increase food production but have replaced the need to spray crops with chemical pesticides, which sickened or killed Africans. Those farmers who spray can now streamline the process, saving them much time and money. The modified crops are more resistant to cold, drought, herbicides, pests, and disease. They also supplied nutritional gaps in the consumption patterns of the poor. For instance, so-called “golden rice” spliced Vitamin A into rice, which could stave off blindness among the world’s poor who eat little more than rice. …

Greenpeace has long claimed GM foods increase allergies; however, the World Health Organization – hardly a corporate, capitalist shill – concluded, “No allergic effects have been found relative to GM foods currently on the market.” Although six EU nations ban GM foods, Jaap Satter, a senior policy adviser at the Dutch Agriculture Ministry, has said, “You cannot say anymore that there is a scientific reason to be against genetic modification.” The National Research Council summed up the situation: “no conceptual distinction exists between generic modification of plants and microorganisms by classical methods or by molecular techniques that modify DNA and transfer genes.”

Some environmentalists seem concerned the foods will be too successful at feeding the poor. Al Gore has worried, “The most lasting impact of biotechnology on the food supply may come not from something going wrong, but from all going right…we’re far more likely to accidentally drown ourselves in a sea of excess grain.” Given the environmentalist movement’s hatred of population – best exemplified by Obama Science Czar John Holdren’s justification of compulsory abortion in the United States – this may be the real locus of their disdain.

So deep is the Green Left’s hatred of GM foods that even an organization Gates founded has given genetically modified food a chilly reception. “The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa was established by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation” and the Rockefeller Foundation in 2006 “with the objective of improving agriculture in Africa.” However, its leader, former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, vowed in 2007: “We in the alliance will not incorporate GMOs [genetically modified organisms] in our programmes. We shall work with farmers using traditional seeds.”

The scare tactics and shunning of American and Euro-socialist leftists is theoretical and faulty – but their mania has reaped a deadly harvest among the world’s most vulnerable people.

In 2002, Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa refused to accept tons of U.S. food aid for his starving nation, because the aid contained genetically modified food (maize, specifically). “Simply because my people are hungry, that is no justification to give them poison, to give them food that is intrinsically dangerous to their health,” he said. The deluded president continued, “I will not allow Zambians to be turned into guinea pigs no matter the levels of hunger in the country.”

The levels of hunger were staggering. Nearly one-third of Zambia’s 10 million people faced famine. Some 14 million Africans faced starvation region-wide. Nonetheless, the president privately upbraided officials in the UN World Food Programme for distributing GM foods, which fed 125,000 people in five camps. The WFP reported some impoverished Zambians “resorted to eating little more than twigs and ash from the fire in a brown soupy concoction.” Desperate, rural villagers broke into the palace where the stockpiles were rotting and stole 2,000 bags of maize.

In response, the World Summit on Sustainable Development, held in Johannesburg in 2002, signed a “statement of solidarity” with Zambia. Charlie Kronick of Greenpeace went further, alleging the humanitarian aid constituted a sick capitalist ploy. “There is a constant drip of pressure from the U.S. government and biotech industry to make sure Africa is softened up for GM,” he theorized. “Europe is closed to them and they need a market for it.”

Others offered more than ideological support. Zimbabwe joined the boycott, preventing GM grain’s importation. Angola followed suit in 2004. Lesotho and Mozambique milled all such grain so it would not be planted and “infect” other crops.

Not all were limited to the EU and Africa. In 2004, Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez passed “possibly…the most sweeping restrictions on transgenic crops in the western hemisphere.”

At home, the opposition has been remarkably well-heeled. National Review’s Deroy Murdock found:

In 2001, the 30 leading anti-biotech groups…spent $341.4 million, including Greenpeace USA’s expenditure of $23,748,737, Environmental Defense’s $38,794,150 and the Natural Resources Defense Council’s $41,625,882. Between 1996 and 2001, this crusade’s lavish underwriters included the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation ($11,906,500), the Ford Foundation ($39,978,020) and the Pew Charitable Trusts ($130,996,900).

It also included a large portion of the organic food market. Somehow, this story of an industry trying to spike a competitor did not make MSNBC or the pages of Mother Jones.

Whatever the dangers, the prohibition of GM foods is a moral issue. As Velasio De Paolis of the Pontifical Urban University has said, it is “easy to say no to GM food if your stomach is full.” However misled he is on other issues, Bill Gates deserves credit for standing up against the Green Left on this point.

But on another, closely related, issue he has so far failed to take the right stand:

The question remains, will he do so on the issue that seems closest to his heart: the eradication of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa? In a recent speech on the topic Gates admitted, “two tools helped to bring the death rate down: One was killing the mosquitoes with DDT.” Before Rachel Carson’s crusade – based entirely on scientific theories that never panned out – DDT use had nearly eradicated malaria. Now, according to one report, “there are approximately 350 to 500 millions cases of malaria, killing close to one million people” annually. “Every day, malaria takes the lives of 2,000 children in Africa alone.” Yet instead of backing DDT use, Gates has sought to find a vaccine.

If Gates truly wants to put the well-being of Africans above political correctness, DDT is the best place to start.