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February 18, 2018

006 Misrepresenting Real Science; Carrots- Past and Future

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Several trends are present in the anti-ag-biotech literature.  First, many papers are poorly done, present opinion without data, or overstep the data accumulated. These papers appear in low-impact journals, oftentimes without peer review, and typically are experimental dead ends.  These works, and their authors, have limited credibility in the scientific community, yet are darlings of the activist movement.

Today a more disturbing trend is apparent.  Good science, performed correctly and rigorously, is misrepresented in the popular media.  A case is Dr. Fiona Young’s work published in Integrative Pharmacology, Toxicology and Genotoxicity. The work showed that glyphosate has little effect on tissue culture cells, but the formulation with surfactants (‘detergents’ that help penetrate cells) does kill cells at higher concentrations, likely due to the surfactant effects on membranes.  There was no evidence of endocrine disruption.

But an overzealous activist movement, including author Jeffery Smith, reads a title and spreads the message that Dr. Young’s group shows evidence of endocrine disruption.

In other words, they get it 100% backwards from what the report really says, and then they use this misrepresentation to generate fear around agricultural chemicals that people rarely encounter anyway.

In Questions and Answers:  A video spread like wildfire about a family and pesticides in their urine. What does it really mean?

In Amazing Crop History, Drs. Shelby Ellison and Philipp Simon talk about carrot’s evolutionary roots, where it came from, its interesting history, and the future of carrot in modern breeding efforts.

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8 Comments on 006 Misrepresenting Real Science; Carrots- Past and Future

  1. Another great episode, Dr. Folta. Both you and your guest brought up a great point of the limitation of the in-vitro studies. They have a lot of merit and allow us to progress in a systematic manner. However, I see a lot of folks who jump to conclusions based on an in-vitro test. I’ve seen it with the glyphosate meme, but I’ve also seen it with some “cancer cures” such as cannabis oils. I think it’s important for folks to know the difference between an in-vitro test and a comprehensive clinical trial.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Great points. These are starting points, they are necessary and important. Dr. Young does nice work, and I appreciate that she’s so good at articulating the results.

  2. Finally someone explains that cell culture is not your digestive tract. What a great discussion of the process of testing and the limits of conclusions from cells in a dish.

    And what a terrific idea–to talk to the researcher whose work was totally misused by folks who spread misinformation.

    Thanks for actually reaching out to get the backstory, Kevin. This will be very useful as a link when people peddle the misinformation in the future.

  3. Hey Kevin, I am wondering if you got around to finding any studies on the surfactant effect on the cell/membrane?
    00:27:00 minutes in the podcast.

    Love the podcast, keep it up!

    • Matt, I’ve done a little digging and have to get into the papers specifically. The main places where POEA has been examined are the effects on water organisms and aquatic communities. There are several papers on shrimp, daphnia, trout, etc. Detergents affect surface tension, and you can imagine how the thin membranes of gas-exchange surfaces could be affected.

      I’ve done a little poking around on the tissue culture angle and only find one paper that I’m not sure is agenda free. I’ll keep looking.

      I’ll probably answer this question on the podcast next week.


    • I wish the groups who test these things would also test Dawn dish detergent, or this herbicide treatment they love to push:

      I don’t doubt that disrupting membranes affects cells in dishes. But then we get back to the issue of this not being in a dish but in your digestive tract which is specifically designed to keep things out or to channel them properly for excretion.

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