Tag Archives: science

Goat Testicles Make Me Skeptical

In the early 1900s, there was a man named John Brinkley who implanted the testicular glands of goats in men to restore their virility.

People who fell for this raved about the procedure, because, after all, it was expensive and they wouldn’t want to be seen as fools.

Because of those reviews, he went on to do the transplants for other illnesses.

It wasn’t until people started dying that he was stopped.

The story sounds so absurd, right? I know most people today would roll their eyes at the obvious quackery.

Here’s the thing. Think about how absurd this sounds, then consider this…

When you tell me about the newest “natural” treatment you got from your naturopath or chiropractor, or the latest miracle diet, or some rare herbal supplement you have to import from another country, but it “works so well,” I want you to consider how you feel when you hear the goat testicle story and realize that’s exactly how I feel when you tell me about your own brand of nonsense.

Gilles-Eric Séralini Debunked

Canned Response

The Seralini study is commonly thrown into the discussion by anti-GMO activists who don’t understand basic science.

“The experiments reported last week show that he has crossed the line by committing gross scientific misconduct and attempted fraud.” – Academics Review

The study itself claimed to link Roundup with cancer through a rat feeding trial. Unfortunately, there was so much wrong with the study that it didn’t show anything beyond the lack of competence of Seralini.


The strain of rats used were bred to develop tumors as they age, something not disclosed in the study itself. Given the time-frame of the study, tumors were extremely likely. The rats used develop tumors at exactly the same rate as they did in his study.

Read on ncbi.​nlm.​nih.​gov

The control rats were smaller in size than they should be (only 20 of the 200) for the length of the study and were omitted from the results, though they also contained tumors. Not releasing that data is scientific misconduct.

Lack of statistical analysis.

Insufficient information on the composition of the diet.

Negative results omitted from the study.

Nodose-response – a critical comonent of demonstrating a toxic effect. (some rats fed higher doses did BETTER than the others)


No demonstrated mechanism.

Didn’t allow outside comment on the paper prior to publication and press release.

Major ethics violation in allowing the rats to suffer with growing tumors well beyond what is necessary.

Conflict of Interest: Seralini is the president of an anto-GMO NGO hosted by his laboratory. COI not disclosed in the study.

Moreover, the study used Sprague-Dawley rats, which both reviews note are prone to developing spontaneous tumours. Data provided to Nature by Harlan Laboratories, which supplied the rats in the study, show that only one-third of males, and less than one-half of females, live to 104 weeks. By comparison, its Han Wistar rats have greater than 70% survival at 104 weeks, and fewer tumours. OECD guidelines state that for two-year experiments, rats should have a survival rate of at least 50% at 104 weeks. If they do not, each treatment group should include even more animals — 65 or more of each sex.

Hyped GM maize study faces growing scrutiny

Food-safety bodies slam feeding study that claims increased cancer incidence in rats.Read on nature.​com

Even many who support GMO labeling criticized the poorly constructed study.

Does the Seralini Corn Study Fiasco Mark a Turning Point in the Debate Over GM Food?

Are anti-biotech campaigners the leftwing version of climate change deniers?Read on forbes.​com

In the end, the study is less than worthless. However, even if it were solid and well-constructed, a single study should never be used to base definitive conclusions on.

Unfortunately, since the methodology was flawed and so much was omitted, the study can’t be replicated, so those conclusions aren’t relevant or useful.

Full list of resources on Seralini

The Seralini Rule

If you cite this study as demonstrating any dangers in genetically modified food, you are either (a) so clueless as not to have spent 30 seconds checking to see if there are any reported problems in the study, or (b) so dishonest in citing a blatantly fraudulent study, that you are not worthy of any more serious consideration. You just lost the debate and you’re done. (Obviously you don’t lose the if you cite the study to demonstrate its flaws, only if you claim the study’s conclusions are valid.)

The Seralini Rule

I have a new rule for debating anti-GMO people: If you favorably cite the 2012 Séralini rats fed on …Read on skeptico.​blogs.​com

Scientists Smell A Rat In Fraudulent Study

“With this post we depart from our usual practice of restricting the scope of this site to peer review of unreviewed science claims and critical analysis of poorly peer-reviewed scientific papers to publish this editorial. The Editors of AcademicsReview.org (Tribe & Chassy) have taken this step in response to the gross violation not only of scientific standards (i.e., proper experimental design and analysis) but of scientific ethics, animal welfare standards, and journalistic ethics of which Seralini, his co-authors, the journal editors, and publisher are objectively guilty. The code of scientific ethics clearly states that scientists who do not report misconduct are guilty of misconduct. A peer reviewed analysis of the paper itself will be forthcoming.”


Hyped GM Maize Study Faces Growing Scrutiny

Gilles-Eric Séralini, a molecular biologist at the University of Caen, France, is under intense pressure to report the full data behind his team’s finding that rats fed for two years with Monsanto’s glyphosate-resistant NK603 maize (corn) developed many more tumours and died earlier than controls (see Nature 489, 484; 2012). The study, run in collaboration with the Paris-based Committee for Research and Independent Information on Genetic Engineering (CRIIGEN), also found that rats developed tumours when their drinking water was spiked with glyphosate, the herbicide that is used with the GM maize. The findings have had a huge public impact in Europe, empowering those opposed more broadly to GM foods, and leading some politicians to call for tighter regulations or outright bans of the maize.


EFSA Publishes Initial Review on GM Maize and Herbicide Study

The European Food Safety Authority has concluded that a recent paper raising concerns about the potential toxicity of genetically modified (GM) maize NK603 and of a herbicide containing glyphosate is of insufficient scientific quality to be considered as valid for risk assessment.

EFSA’s initial review found that the design, reporting and analysis of the study, as outlined in the paper, are inadequate. To enable the fullest understanding of the study the Authority has invited authors Séralini et al to share key additional information.


Review of the Seralini et al. (2012) Publication on a 2-year Rodent Feeding Study

On 19 September 2012, Séralini et al. published online in the scientific journal Food and Chemical Toxicology a publication describing a 2-year feeding study in rats investigating the health effects of genetically modified (GM) maize NK603 with and without Roundup WeatherMAX® and Roundup® GT Plus alone (both are glyphosate-containing plant protection products). EFSA was requested by the European Commission to review this publication and to identify whether clarifications are needed from the authors. EFSA notes that the Séralini et al. (2012) study has unclear objectives and is inadequately reported in the publication, with many key details of the design, conduct and analysis being omitted. Without such details it is impossible to give weight to the results. Conclusions cannot be drawn on the difference in tumour incidence between the treatment groups on the basis of the design, the analysis and the results as reported in the Séralini et al. (2012) publication. In particular, Séralini et al. (2012) draw conclusions on the incidence of tumours based on 10 rats per treatment per sex which is an insufficient number of animals to distinguish between specific treatment effects and chance occurrences of tumours in rats. Considering that the study as reported in the Séralini et al. (2012) publication is of inadequate design, analysis and reporting, EFSA finds that it is of insufficient scientific quality for safety assessment. Therefore EFSA, concludes that the Séralini et al. study as reported in the 2012 publication does not impact the ongoing re-evaluation of glyphosate, and does not see a need to reopen the existing safety evaluation of maize NK603 and its related stacks. EFSA will give the authors of the Séralini et al. (2012) publication the opportunity to provide further information on their study to EFSA.


Letter to Prof. Seralini Regarding EFSA’s Review of the Seralini et al. (2012) Publication on a 2-year Rodent Feeding Study


A study of the University of Caen neither constitutes a reason for a re-evaluation of genetically modified NK603 maize nor does it affect the renewal of the glyphosate approval

The authors’ conclusion that rats fed with genetically modified NK603 maize throughout their life have a shorter lifespan than animals fed with conventional maize is not sufficiently corroborated by experiments. This is the conclusion of an assessment conducted by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) following publication of the study “Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize” by Gilles-Eric Séralini and co-authors in the scientific journal “Food and Chemical Toxicology”. “The study shows both shortcomings in study design and in the presentation of the collected data. This means that the conclusions drawn by the authors are not supported by the available data”, says Professor Dr. Reiner Wittkowski, Vice President of the Federal Institute. Additionally to the statement on NK603 maize the autors concluded that the glyphosate-containing pesticide Roundup may lead to severe health problems and early death which is not sufficiently substantiated by the evidence in the report. In contrary to the authors conclusions, a number of long-term studies on glyphosate as an active substance in herbicides does not indicate any carcinogenic potential, increased mortality, or an impact on the hormonal system of the test animals. However, the BfR is aware of certain co-formulants, that might affect the toxicity of glyphosate containing herbicides.


Scientist Deconstructs Seralini’s PLOS GMO Study: ‘Failed Attempt At Redemption”

Gilles-Éric Séralini, a molecular biologist at the University of Caen in France, is hoping for redemption with a new paper about the effect of pesticides and genetically modified (GMO) feed on rats and mice. He hasn’t earned that redemption.

A few years ago, Séralini suffered the ultimate humiliation for a scientist. The Journal Food and Chemical Toxicology retracted his high-profile study. The editors reviewed the raw data and found the results were “inconclusive” and did not back the conclusions that were loudly trumpeted in media headlines. The authors themselves eventually conceded that the study had serious flaws, noting in a press release that “the data are inconclusive, due to the rat strain and the number of animals used.”


Monsanto Response

This study does not meet minimum acceptable standards for this type of scientific research, the findings are not supported by the data presented, and the conclusions are not relevant for the purpose of safety assessment. The study has been the subject of initial critical reviews by multiple regulatory agencies (links provided below). For example, the

Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) in Germany states that “the authors’ main statements are not sufficiently corroborated by experimental evidence, due to deficiencies in the study design and in the presentation and interpretation of the study results.”


The Gm Corn Rat Study

So – they presented their controversial findings, which they consider “alarming,” but prohibited journalists from doing their job before presenting the results. That’s more than suspicious – I think it’s unethical. Transparency in science is critical, especially when that research has immediate implications for public safety and can have a profound effect on public opinion.

It is much easier to provoke fear than to reassure with careful analysis. It’s almost as if the researchers wanted an undiluted initial shock reaction to their research before the careful analysis could even take place.


Anti-GMO study is appropriately dismissed as biased, poorly-performed

The anti-GMO study released late last week has raised so many bad science red flags that I’m losing count. Orac and Steve Novella have both discussed fatal flaws in the research, the New Scientist discussed the researchers’ historical behavior of inflating insignificant results to hysterical headlines. And all this new paper seems to be proof of is that these researchers have become more savvy at manipulating press coverage. The result of this clever manipulation of the press embargo and news-release stenography by the press is predictable. The internet food crackpot army has a bogus paper to flog eternally with Mike Adams predicting the end of humanity, and Joe Mercola hailing this as the bestest study of GMO Evar. Lefty publications that are susceptible to this nonsense like Mother Jones have largely uncritical coverage and repeat the researchers’ bogus talking points. It’s a wonder Mark Bittman, organic food booster and anti-GMO half-wit hasn’t used it for his assertion that the evidence against GMO is “damning”. He substantiates this claim, by the way, by linking an article without a single scientific citation, just links to crankier and crankier websites.

Anti-GMO study is appropriately dismissed as biased, poorly-performed

The anti-GMO study released late last week has raised so many bad science red flags that I’m losing …Read on scienceblogs.​com

GM Corn-Tumor Link Based on Poor Science

Opponents of genetically modified crops have jumped on the results of a new study, which claims to have linked the consumption of GM maize with the development of tumors in rats — despite widespread criticism of the research from independent scientists around the world.

GM Corn-Tumor Link Based on Poor Science

Criticisms trump the results of an alarming new study, which used questionable methods.Read on news.​discovery.​com

From Darwinius to GMOs: Journalists Should Not Let Themselves Be Played

I don’t like starting the weekend in a state of infuriation, but here we are.

On Wednesday, French scientists had a press conference to announce the publication of a study that they claimed showed that genetically modified food causes massive levels of cancer in rats.

The paper appeared in a peer-reviewed journal. That being said, outside experts quickly pointed out how flimsy it was, especially in its experimental design and its statistics. Scicurious has a good roundup of the problems at Discover’s The Crux.

From Darwinius to GMOs: Journalists Should Not Let Themselves Be Played – The Loom

I don’t like starting the weekend in a state of infuriation, but here we are. On Wednesday, French…Read on blogs.​discovermagazine.​com

Study Linking GM Crops and Cancer Questioned

Are the findings reliable?

There is little to suggest they are. Tom Sanders, head of nutritional research at King’s College London, says that the strain of rat the French team used gets breast tumours easily, especially when given unlimited food, or maize contaminated by a common fungus that causes hormone imbalance, or just allowed to age. There were no data on food intake or tests for fungus in the maize, so we don’t know whether this was a factor.

Study linking GM crops and cancer questioned

Rats fed modified maize are more likely to get large breast tumours and die early, says a new…Read on newscientist.​com

Scientists savage study purportedly showing health dangers of Monsanto’s GM corn

Are GM foods harmful or nutritionally less beneficial when compared to conventional or organic foods? Scientists and regulators almost universally say “no.” That’s why a study published this week claiming that GM corn causes cancer in rats is creating such a furor. What’s the story behind the story? Jon Entine, executive director of the Genetic Literacy Project, reports.


Does the Seralini Corn Study Fiasco Mark a Turning Point in the Debate Over GM Food?

The study sparked an immediate furor among independent scientists, including those who support the labeling of GM foods but found Seralini’s research sloppy and poorly documented. Scientists have often responded forcefully after the release of poorly constructed studies. What’s unusual this time is that science journalists, who traditionally have given activist scientists and NGOs a free pass when they circulated questionable science about GM crops and food, are up in arms as well.


As Scientists Question New Rat Study, GMO Debate Rages On

The headlines on the press releases that started showing up yesterday, here at The Salt certainly got our attention. Just one sample: “BREAKING NEWS: New Study Links Genetically Engineered Food to Tumors.”

The reason for all the excitement was a study published this week in the well-respected journal Food and Chemical Toxicology. The French scientists who conducted the study basically concluded that rats fed a diet of genetically modified corn and small amounts of herbicides got sicker faster than their counterparts eating regular corn and no herbicides.

As Scientists Question New Rat Study, GMO Debate Rages On

Scientists question the methods and results of a new study showing harm to rats fed a diet of GMO…Read on npr.​org

Rats, Tumors and Critical Assessment of Science

My email box exploded with new messages. A flurry of notes contained a link to a new peer-reviewed paper, a work showing that rats fed “GMO” corn developed massive tumors and died early, compared to controls. Immediately I smelled a Seralini paper.

A click on the link did not disappoint– it’s Seralini again. I was electronically whisked to a PDF of the whole text and began to read. Within minutes I was blown away by the lack of rigor, poor experimental design, attention to controls and loose statistics. Most of all, I was blown away by the conclusions drawn by a study with tiny numbers of subjects in a rat line known to grow endochrine tumors.



Emergence of the Science Communicators

“We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.” – Carl Sagan

Today, as in his time, Carl Sagan’s words ring loud and clear to those of us on the forefront in the public discussion of science. Unlike in his day, however, scientific illiteracy today is not an epidemic. It’s a movement. Those who don’t understand science have banded together to ensure that others don’t understand it either. Lack of understanding and outright denialism has become a popular trend complete with celebrity endorsement and sponsors.

A group called U.S. Right to Know (USRTK) has been funded to the tune of $194,500 by the Organic Consumers Association to attack bioetch scientists using FOIA (freedom of information act) as a weapon. This has resulted in threats and harassment of scientists like Dr. Kevin Folta and others on the academic side of the science. They used the FOIA to gain large sets of data from emails so they could quote mine and try to find ways to discredit the scientists, since they couldn’t actually refute the science itself.

We’ve seen outbreaks of vaccine preventable illnesses such as measles and whooping cough thanks to an ever-growing movement that began with the fraudulent work of Andrew Wakefield. Now, with celebrities like Robert De Niro and doctors who know better, but are pandering to their ignorant fans, like Dr. Oz and struggling presidential candidate Ben Carson leading the charge against vaccines, we’re seeing more and more illness where there’s no scientifically-acceptable reason we should.

We even see science denialism along party lines with conservative think tanks built to politicize and propagandize a fundamental misunderstanding of climate change, often funded by oil interests for the sake of their bottom line.

With this rise in anti-science culture and funded science denialism, we’ve also seen something that gives a grain of hope against the rising tide: A movement out of the scientific skeptic community comprising people devoted to science communication and advocacy has arisen and is growing exponentially. This movement has created what amounts to a new professional field, or at least a newly revitalized and expanded one, that gives the scientifically literate communicator a real outlet.

We’ve seen viral successes such as SciBabe with her massively successful article on the Food Babe (aka Vani Hari, a computer consultant by trade with no formal dietary or nutrition training). From there, SciBabe has gained many new followers on social media and her YouTube channel, as well as radio and TV appearances, and even live speaking engagements to dispel myths and misconceptions about various scientific topics in the effort to help increase science literacy across demographics.

There are well-established and well-respected journalists like Kavin Senapathy who spend copious amounts of time writing about science and poking holes in pseudoscience proponents such as David Wolfe with the #DontCryWolfe campaign. All the while, Kavin remains very accessible engaging in outreach advocacy and discussions to help the general public understand the current issues and further science literacy.

With pages like Skeptical Raptor and Science-Based Medicine  have practically set the standard in science blogging. Sites like these have become convenient and credible resources on numerous scientific topics to serve as a resource to the many people that spend time and energy on activism within social media. These bolster the efforts of those engaging in the fight against spreading myths and misinformation to the public. With these resources, they’ve become well-equipped and effective. Even devout leaders in anti-science activism have changed their mind due to the efforts and outreach of science communicators.

With this seemingly “rising force” of science communication occurring within, and even powered by, the the public sphere continuing to gain momentum and influence, the question now becomes “where do we go next?”

Well, the answer is as complicated as the question is simple, I think. More people with the knowledge and background to effectively educate the public in all branches of science need to step forward and take up the torch. Those who have been doing it can’t do it forever, and certainly can’t continue to do it alone. Journalistic publications need to go back to the days of having dedicated science writers who understand the topics they’re reporting on, and know how to fact check claims to avoid even the inadvertent spread of bad scientific information, and ultimately reinforce literacy and understanding for the general public to benefit just about any education levels.

It’s up to all of us, and you, to pave the way for a more literate and scientifically progressive future.


A while back, The Telegraph posted a story.

Fasting for three days can regenerate entire immune system, study finds

They make some pretty sensational claims in this article that go far beyond the data of the study that they forgot to cite.

“Fasting for as little as three days can regenerate the entire immune system, even in the elderly, scientists have found in a breakthrough described as “remarkable”.”

“Although fasting diets have been criticised by nutritionists for being unhealthy, new research suggests starving the body kick-starts stem cells into producing new white blood cells, which fight off infection.”

“The researchers say fasting “flips a regenerative switch” which prompts stem cells to create brand new white blood cells, essentially regenerating the entire immune system.”

The study they’re referring to, which, again, they never bothered to cite, is here.

Prolonged Fasting Reduces IGF-1/PKA to Promote Hematopoietic-Stem-Cell-Based Regeneration and Reverse Immunosuppression

And the case series report is here.

Fasting and cancer treatment in humans: A case series report

They appear to be quoting one of the scientists on the study by the name of Valter D. Longo. He appears to be fairly well respected, however, he also shows up more often than anyone should like in the “natural” community websites, being cited for various diet and nutrition claims. Now, whether that stems from him or from the sensationalism that comes from those “journalists,” I don’t know. He does, however, appear far too often to promote various alternative medical claims.

That said, let’s look at the study itself. The article really pushes the idea of this “breakthrough” that even treats the elderly and cancer patients! Wow. It must have been SOME study.

Nope. Not so much.

The study included 10 people. They had a median age of 61, ranging from 44-78 years of age. They were all receiving chemotherapy. There was no control.

If anything, this is a hugely preliminary study. There is no good way to account for noise.  Even then, the“even in the elderly” quote from the article, mentioned as an aside, and the chemotherapy patients, also as aside, as if the data points to ANY other person in any other situation is demonstrably false. This is the poorest kind of science reporting possible.

Now, let’s consider the findings. What if they do a larger, placebo controlled study, and find that the results show that it DOES help with immune function post chemotherapy? That would be fantastic, however, it should still be taken tentatively. Asking chemotherapy patients, who are already struggling for nutrition and energy, to fast for 2-5 days, is potentially dangerous. Even if we find the effect to be actually present, it would be far better to then work to replicate the effect with drugs, as opposed to fasting.

So, is it possible? Sure. Is it a miracle discovery? Not even close. It’s more of a “Let’s turn them off, then turn them back on again, and see if that works” type of idea.

Not matter how you look at it, though, whether the scientists are right, or the critics are right, I think we can all agree that The Telegraph is just…wrong.



“Big pharma is only out for profits and wants to keep us all sick.”


“Big agriculture is complete unregulated.”


“Big government is watching you.”


“You must be a shill for big….”

There’s a very distinct problem in the public discourse today in regards to larger industries or entities. The thought process seems to be that an industry is one singular being with evil in its heart and acts as one mind to make the world a terrible place.

This, of course, is absolute nonsense.

Earlier today, I saw this meme.

It really strikes at the conspiracy strings, doesn’t? The problem  is that the argument is complete garbage.

The main problem is representing the production cost of a pill as the only cost in creating a medicine. It ignores the huge amounts of money required to develop the technology, the medicine itself. It also contains zero sources for what medicine it’s referring to, because who cares, right? It only matters that the ambiguous “big pharma” is out to get us.

The reality is far more complex. There ARE problems in the pharmaceutical industry. In fact, there are problems is pretty much every single industry. Those problems SHOULD be discussed and addressed.

An industry, however, is populated by entities, people, and structures that are diverse. There are countless moving parts. While regulatory problems may affect more of an industry, most of the problems people categorize an industry with only affect a fraction.

Doing so by caricaturing an entire industry by those problems and using hyperbole and bad arguments is the absolute worst way to have that conversation.