The war over GMO foods rages on, and it holds a lot of implications for salmon aquaculture.
The latest battleground is in California, where Proposition 37 proposes to slap labels on food which “has been produced entirely or in part through genetic engineering… Products from animals that may have consumed genetically engineered food but were not themselves genetically engineered would be exempt.”
The “pro” side latched on to a recent study which suggested that GMO foods cause cancer. In the study, rats fed genetically-modified corn developed huge tumours after two years.
Problem is, the study used a breed of rats which are highly prone to tumours, a breed in which 80 per cent develop tumours after two years no matter what they are fed.
This, and many other problems with the study and how it is being used, led LA Times columnist Michael Hiltzik to label it “weapons-grade junk science.”
He goes on to argue how this is a perfect case showing how science is hijacked, misused and manipulated for political use.
Public ignorance can be a powerful weapon in the hands of people brandishing research carrying the veneer of credibility. Yes, Seralini’s paper was published in a “peer-reviewed” journal, but that doesn’t make it indisputable. Peer reviews are known to fail, and it’s not uncommon — and becoming less uncommon — for published papers to be retracted when their data are shown to be unreliable.
Salmon farmers have been targeted by “weapons-grade junk science” for years. They have staved off attacks over supposedly science-backed claims of dyes in fish flesh (not true), unsafe levels of contaminants (unsafe only if you use a completely unrealistic criteria which NO government actually uses to set food safety requirements), and computer model predictions that suggested sea lice from farms would render wild salmon runs extinct (never happened, in fact, runs increased after this prediction was made).
This blog is all about combating the misconceptions and misinformation which have become commonplace because of those attacks, and we wholeheartedly agree with Hiltzik’s condemnation of how this study has been used as a weapon because we’ve seen it all before.
But where science is at the heart of a campaign, as it is for Proposition 37, the promotion of manifestly shoddy research is especially shameful. That goes double where multibillion-dollar industries, tens of thousands of jobs, and the health and well-being of millions of consumers are at stake.
Hear, hear. We close with a great quote from the article because it sums up how we feel, too. People must make an effort to understand the science when it becomes a public policy issue.
“The real danger,” says UC Berkeley biologist Michael B. Eisen, a crusader against junk science, “is the erosion of the idea that where public policy intersects with science, people have a responsibility to understand the science.”