Thursday, October 18, 2012

Dr. Oz endorsing GMO labeling and Bruce Chassy's attack

Dr. Oz has done a good thing by endorsing labeling of GMOs.

Bruce Chassy, PhD does not think so. According to him, Dr. Oz has breached medical bioethics protocol. Is Dr. Oz really a rogue pseudo-doctor recklessly abusing his power and creating controversy over issues he knows nothing about?
I agree with Bruce Chassy that Dr. Oz may not have been wise to use Jeffery Smith as an opponent to genetic engineering. But this should not be allowed to obscure the larger good of Dr. Oz's courageous stance.

Whether or not Jeffery Smith is a credible source is not relevant. I agree that many of his points simply establish correlation not causation. However, the right to know if a food is genetically engineered goes far beyond currently established health claims.

Genetic engineering necessarily causes unintended side effects and all geneticists know this. Bruce Chassy presents himself as a public sector scientist, and he may well be, but he has received multiple research grants from biotech companies, including Monsanto. Nevertheless, even Bruce Chassy knows in his heart that genetic engineering necessarily causes unintended side effects.


Because genes do not operate in isolation to one another. How a gene behaves depends on its neighbors in the genetic code. Proteins expressed by a gene have regulatory functions that turn off, turn on, promote, or inhibit the genes around it. These effects feed back and affect the gene in turn. The vast recursive complexity of the code makes it a marvel of biological evolution no less wonderful than the interconnectedness of ecological systems.

Genetic engineers shoot genes randomly into DNA. The genes may land anywhere in the code. But where they land matters. The gene becomes a part of a genetic network and its specific role in the genetic network depends on where it lands. Bruce Chassy knows this. Monsanto knows this.

But they do not tell this.

Instead, they project the idea that genetic engineering is a cool, calculated science that is precisely controlled and that anyone who opposes it is an irrational Luddhite. This does a disservice to the spirit of science and free inquiry.

It is completely reasonable, indeed scientific, to demand that an analysis of network interactions be done comprehensively to assess physiological and biochemical effects. Unfortunately, many genes operate differently in different environmental contexts, based on stresses and other factors, and the short-term studies of biotech companies could never establish the type of "substantive equivalence" that the biotech industry wants the public to believe it has acquired. It would require multi-generational studies over widely different environmental contexts.

Given the lax regulation of the FDA, labeling is the minimum practice for good science. We need to monitor effects of different groups in long term studies and will not be able to do that if we don't know who is eating what.

Label them, and I, for one, will certainly be a part of the control group!


  1. Mr. Affifi,
    Your description of how genes behave and interact is a very concise and well written definition of "Epi-genetics". When we understand that this is ACTUALLY how genes behave and interact then it becomes clearer that genetic engineering is pure folly and Frankenstein science.
    Well put!

    Richard Vuksinic, ND

  2. Thank you Farmer ND! I've written some more stuff about this issue... see the post called "The anti-science of genetic engineering" and "why so many unintended side effects with genetic engineering?"

    I really believe that we have to try to understand the science of genetics as much as possible to denote the industry's misleading arguments.

  3. ...I meant to say "detonate" not denote...

  4. Two words: Intellectual honesty!

    "I heard that maybe Bill 2491 might cause people to lose their jobs. So I decided that if I am going to support a bill that actually effects the lives of my neighbors, not just faceless corporations, then I should learn what the heck I’m talking about. A friend talked about “intellectual honesty,” and that motivated me, too, to be sure I’m not just repeating bad information. I was lucky in that I didn’t have a lot invested in being anti-GMO, unlike many activists who see it as their life’s purpose, or who’s entire social network is based on the anti-GMO cause. Changing sides in their case is just too psychologically costly." Chuck Lasker

    Anti-GMO proponents are just like 15th century people arguing against the earth being round and revolving around the sun...