Saturday, November 03, 2012

California Proposition 37: Capitalizing on Information Asymmetry and Government Regulation to Corner the Market on Sustainable Food

Proposition 37 is a crystal clear example of rent seeking in the food industry. Some natural and organic and other food special interests are utilizing this legislation to obtain market share that they otherwise would not be able to obtain through the marketplace.  To see this, its important to understand the dynamics of the market for sustainable ag products as it has evolved over the last 15 years.

In the last 10-15 years, modern agriculture utilizing advances in management, information technology, genetics, biotech, and pharmaceutical technologies has closed the sustainability gap between conventional and organic production. (see Modern Sustainable Agriculture). In terms of reduced chemical use, improved biodiversity, reduced pollution and carbon footprint, and overall safety, the biotech industry and modern Ag could pose steep competition for  some natural and organic food producers.

While most members of the agriculture industry don’t think the industry should be defined by an ‘us vs. them’ paradigm, some are willing to exploit consumer fears and asymmetric information by using the government’s regulatory apparatus to get a competitive edge. Some see modern ag as a competitor as opposed to a partner in an overall mission to provide the world with safe sustainable food. Consumer apathy also works against some promoting niche organic and natural markets. Uncaring customers represent lost revenue potential. A scary Hollywood horror movie label like ‘genetically modified’ may be enough to drum up business. How?

The Role of Information Asymmetry

Whenever one party has better information about their product or service than the buying public, information asymmetries may exist.  Proponents of proposition 37 claim that their initiative is to reduce information asymmetry and improve the functioning of markets, as stated in this recent Forbes article:

“Free markets only work when there is transparency and people are able to make decisions based on information, which does not exist in the case of GMOs. If Prop 37 is enacted, and, armed with this information, a significant enough number of consumers decide not to buy these products, the onus will be on the companies to conduct more research and produce better data.”

Will including the words ‘Genetically Modified’  on food labels really serve to inform the public or create more confusion? This form of labeling won’t do any thing to decrease information asymmetry in and of itself. The actual language in the law may in fact make it worse. This is made clear on page 10 of a report by  Northbridge Environmental  Management Consultants (The Genetically Engineered Foods Mandatory Labeling Initiative Overview of Anticipated Impacts and Estimated Costs to Consumers):

"The Genetically Engineered Foods Mandatory Labeling Initiative (A.G. File No. 11-0099 – hereinafter the Initiative) would have a substantial impact on California consumers. The Initiative would change how many of the foods they eat are produced and would make that food more expensive. At the same time, however, the Initiative would provide relative little by way of consistent and useful information to consumers because of the loopholes and exceptions in its language and the uneven ways in which it would apply to the same food consumed in different settings. "

 If informing consumers were the primary goal, then there are much more intelligent ways to do so, perhaps in the ingredients listing following industry standards (instead of using ‘genetically modified' if a product contains GMO corn, list instead ‘rCORN’, an idea I reluctantly entertain here) If it alarms otherwise apathetic consumers, are they really going to invest the time researching the safety of biotech foods  to close the information gap or are they going to turn to the unqualified opinions of celebrities like Dr. Oz or Oprah?  I would bet that the special interests are counting on consumers weighing heavily the opinions of celebrities and conspiracy theorists, and therefore letting the information asymmetries associated with biotech direct them to their own products.  In this way, Prop 37 is specially designed by special interests to take advantage of information asymmetries and exploit the fears of the public in an effort to drive market share.


Here is a link to a great interview from Berkeley professor of Molecular and Cell Biology Michael Eisen via the Foodstuff's FoodLink Food and Farm Podcast with Ray Bowman that highlights the information asymmetry, special interests, trivialization of science, and near conspiracy theory aspects of  Proposition 37. 

See also, Eisen's piece 'Prop 37 and the Right to Know Nothing.' 

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Monsanto Seed Patent Case Gets U.S. Supreme Court Review - Businessweek

The merits of the US IPR system are debatable, but that doesn't make Monsanto any different than Apple. Saved seed is genetically copied and freely distributed intellectual property. If its not OK to copy and distribute freely the iPad OS, then it's not OK to do it with Roundup Ready soybeans. You either accept IPR or not, which again is a debatable concept. But if you reject that IPR is really 'property' as some economists do, then your beef is with the US government, not specifically Monsanto. It just puts Monsanto and Apple in the same boat. Apple has the advantage that it's much harder to copy and distribute their OS than it is to copy the OS of a self pollinated plant, so enforcement costs illicit different tactics from different companies. i.e. Monsanto gets more attention from the far left as they hold hands with far right wing conspiracy theorist counterparts that have somehow convinced themselves that it is OK to restrict 'economic' freedom to promote 'food' freedom (i.e. prop 37, gmo bans, etc)

Monday, October 08, 2012

Food and Farm Freedom Q & A

Farm Food Freedom KY is a KY based interest group that has gotten some attention from a few of our lawmakers in Frankfort. But, are they really interested in economic freedom for all KY farmers?  Do they support the current heavy regulatory burden faced by most KY farmers? Would they actually support more interventions that would burden farmers and limit consumer choice? Why do they consider big government left wing special interests to be among their national allies? Well, let's ask and see. I contacted the administration at fffky and asked them the following questions: 

1) What is your definition/conception of 'food' freedom and how is it similar to or different from 'economic' freedom?

2) Your page does a good job highlighting many food freedom related issues such as the regulations that hinder the sale of raw milk and other locally sourced food products.  However some of the tweets posted on the web page (which I assume @FarmFoodFreeKy is your official twitter account) are critical of GMO foods. Particularly one tweet states that the U.S. is behind with regard to a ban on GMO foods in France.  See . Other tweets also seem to support Proposition 37 in California, which seeks to require mandatory labeling of GMO foods.

a. Would you support a similar labeling requirement in KY similar to California's Proposition 37?
b. Do you feel we need less regulation of locally sourced foods (like raw milk, processed meat etc.) but more regulations or even bans on GMO foods?

3) Are you associated with the NoGMOKentucky Facebook page? Is that's official facebook page?

If so, the mission statement says:
"To stop GMOs from being planted or pursued in the great Commonwealth of Kentucky."
Is this mission primarily about consumer education and persuasion or would you consider legislative or regulatory approaches to reduce the planting of GMO crops in KY?
4) If you agree with the mission statement, how would a mission to stop GMOs in Kentucky be consistent with the food and economic freedoms of the many family farmers that rely on corn and soybeans that utilize this technology?
5) On the website, there is a section titled 'National Allies' and a link labeled 'like minded sites.' Among these include links to CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest), EWG, and HSUS. These groups have not historically been friendly to agriculture (i.e. CSPI supports NYC's soft drink regulations, EWG campaigns for less meat consumption, and HSUS supports initiatives to increase regulation of family owned livestock farms). 
Why do you consider these groups to be 'like minded' even though they support initiatives and regulations that limit consumer choice and economic freedom as it relates to food an agriculture?  

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Microsoft Word - Northbridge CA GMO Report 7-25.docx

From the introduction on p.10: 

"The Genetically Engineered Foods Mandatory Labeling Initiative (A.G. File No. 11-0099 – hereinafter the Initiative) would have a substantial impact on California consumers. The Initiative would change how many of the foods they eat are produced and would make that food more expensive. At the same time, however, the Initiative would provide relative little by way of consistent and useful information to consumers because of the loopholes and exceptions in its language and the uneven ways in which it would apply to the same food consumed in different settings. "

Oh the wonders and joys of rent seeking. 

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Rachel Carson's Deadly Fantasies - Forbes

"Carson exploited her reputation as a well-known nature writer to advocate and legitimatize "positions linked to a darker tradition in American environmental thinking....But the fears she raised were based on gross misrepresentations and scholarship so atrocious that, if Carson were an academic, she would be guilty of egregious academic misconduct."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

"Economics in Denial" by Howard Davies | Project Syndicate

"And painful experience tells us that economic agents may not behave as the models suppose they will."

Painful experience tells us that pool players don't actually carry slide rules and work out equations on chalkboards before taking shots.

Sent from my iPhone

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Elinor Ostrom on Defining Common Property

"Scholars who have designed taxonomies to point out the difference between open access arrangements and common property have sometimes distinguished four very general "types" of property: public, private, common and open access. This classification unfortunately creates the erroneous impression that common property is not private property and thus does not share in the desirable attributes of private property. It is crucial to recognize that common property is shared private property and should be considered alongside business partnerships, joint-stock corporations and cooperatives."

McKean, M. and E. Ostrom (1995) ‘Common Property Regimes in the Forest: Just a Relic from the
Past?’, Unasylva, 46 (180): 3-15;

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Biotechnology is the intersection of science and capitalism

And, how to ruin a good thing:

See also these links related to rent seeking and biotechnology.

 References: Matt Bogard. "Sustainable Agriculture Bibliography" 2010
Available at:

Friday, June 29, 2012

Affordable 'Car' Act

Pending Thursday's supreme court decision on the Affordable 'Care' Act, auto industry, labor, environmental, and banking related interests are swamping DC offices to encourage lawmakers to pass what they term The Affordable 'Car' Act. Supporters are calling this bill a win-win for consumers, labor, and the environment.

Under the proposed plan, auto owners will be required to own or purchase at least one hybrid powered vehicle. Failure to do so will result in a financial penalty yet to be determined. Supporters insist the penalty is not a tax, but the program will be administered and fines collected by the IRS, making the new law constitutional in light of the court's recent decision.

Revenues collected will be used to subsidize the purchase of hybrid cars (through loan guarantees) to help low income car owners make the switch. Additional funds will be allocated toward making autoworker pensions solvent, as well as funding R&D for additional hybrid technology research.

The Occupy Wall Street movement offers the follwing praise: "In a post Citizens United world, where we are used to victories for big business, bankers, and special interests, this is one for the people."

*FYI- this is satire

Monday, June 25, 2012

Just Label It! What's in a name? A free market perspective on labeling gentically modified foods

Is there justification for government intervention requiring labeling of GMO foods?

In a post from a few years back, I looked at the role of government with regard to smoking bans. I asked, when should personal decisions become government decisions? In order to decide this, I identified three questions that should be asked.

Is there an uncompensated harm?

Is there sufficient information so that citizens can recognize the potential harm?

Does the market provide a way to avoid the harm?

With regard to the first question, despite unsubstantiated claims about harming monarch butterflies, finding GMO toxins in pregnant women, or killing cattle, the science does not offer a strong or definitive case that biotechcrops pose environmental or healthrisks. In fact, the precision of biotechnology and the increased regulatory scrutiny that we put GMOs through makes these modern techniques safer than traditional methods.

“Characterisation of GM crops is a legal requirement, however. As a result GM crops are better characterised than ever before in the case of conventionally bred crops, including knowledge on the site and nature of the genetic modification.” (1)

So in terms of uncompensated harm, government intervention does not pass the first hurdle for justification.  Given that we can’t scientifically affirm that GMOs impose increased risks over traditional plant breeding methods, it may not be relevant to consider the next question. One might certainly argue that there is a degree of widespread ignorance related to the use of biotechnology in food production. It is a fact that 98% of all farms are family farms, and 70% or more of the corn and soybeans grown on these farms is of GMO origin. Perhaps more could be done to make consumers more aware of this fact, but it seems like it could be achieved very easily through marketing and consumer education without  government intervention. This brings us to the last question- does the market provide a way to avoid the harm? Again, without scientific evidence of harm, this question seems irrelevant. But if we want to assume that there is some remote chance of harm, the market has various mechanisms for avoiding GMO foods via organic and other branding options. Except for the most zealous advocates of government intervention in the market, it seems the case for it is quite weak.

What if people just want labels for other reasons? 

In some cases, people are not opposed to GMOs for just health reasons, but they don’t approve of the business practices of companies Monsanto. First off, labeling seems like a blunt tool to punish one company, as it could penalize the many companies in the biotech industry, as well as the family farms that overwhelmingly choose this preferred production method.  Secondly, the U.S. constitution and legal precedent may establish a role of government to establish weights and measures but this does not justify the use of labels on the basis of personal or political preferences. Personal food preferences should not be expressed in the voting booth, but through the market.

Could labeling do more harm than good?

Given the gate to plate nature of the agricultural industry, false consumer perceptions can actually do a great deal of harm to family farmers. For instance, misconceptions about finely textured beef lead to huge losses in cattle markets and 800 or more jobs in the beef industry. Or take the case of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Due partly in response to government intervention through sugar tariffs as well as technological advances, this new sweetener was produced by increasing fructose levels in corn syrup. The end product was technically higher in fructose compared to normal corn syrup, but it did not represent a ‘high fructose’ sweetener relative to other sweeteners such as ordinary table sugar. At the time listing the technical name ‘high fructose corn syrup’ in the ingredients of food products seemed harmless enough. However, recently many misconceptions about HFCS have made their way into the media, despite the evidence to the contrary. Similar to finely textured beef or HFCS, listing or labeling GMO ingredients could have a similar effect on consumer sentiment if this conveyed a false sense of risk or harm associated with GMO foods. This could not only have a negative impact on family farms that depend on this technology, but a government incentivized drop in consumer demand for GMOs  through labeling would also imply a loss of the actual environmental and safety benefits of this rather green technology. 

If government intervention to label GMOs were justified, how would we do it?

Playing devil's advocate, what kind of labeling would make sense? What about the current proposal in California?

“Commencing on July 1, 2014, any food offered for retail sale in California is misbranded if it is or may have been entirely or partially produced with genetic engineering and that fact is not disclosed . . . with the clear and conspicuous words Genetically Engineered on the front of the package.”

This seems to be the worst example of what would be an acceptable labeling initiative. First off, placing the words ‘Genetically Engineered’ on the front of the package seems a bit extreme, and could easily be used by anti-biotech factions as a marketing ploy to mislead consumers. The very thought of making it conspicuous is a blatant  indicator that this initiative is more about political and consumer manipulation and less about disclosure of information. If identification of GMO origin is to be noted on food packaging, the appropriate place would be more inconspicuous within the ingredients listing. GMO products are used widely in the pharmaceutical industry and they have already set a precedent for how these products could be labeled.

For example, pharmaceuticals produced via biotechnology follow a common naming convention: name (rDNA origin). The ‘rDNA origin' indicates that the drug was produced through recombinant DNA technology. Food products manufacturers could follow a similar protocol:


Bovine Somatotropin is a currently used biotech product used in dairy production, and is often simply referred to as rbST. Instead of following a biotech food ingredient with (rDNA origin) it may be simpler to just prefix the ingredient with an ‘r’ as such:


This approach would identify GMO food ingredients without explicitly creating unwarranted alarm or attention. Concerned consumers could simply read through the many ingredients listed and look for the 'r' ingredient prefix or  (rDNA origin) suffix.  However, this should still be approached with extreme caution, as simply agreeing to list GMO ingredients this way admits to some extent that GMO products merit some reason for being identified in food, which again the neither science nor libertarian principles for government intervention seem to justify.  As previously stated, with only a little consumer education, consumers could easily be made aware of the prevalence of GMO ingredients in food products without reading ingredients lists. Formally identifying these ingredients in any way would seem to only serve the political ends of manipulating the free choices of consumers and producers from gate to plate.

UPDATE: I highly recommend the following video that also makes a compelling case for libertarian and free market advocates to oppose mandatory GMO labeling.

1- European Commission (2010) A decade of EU-funded GMO research (2001–2010). Luxembourg, Belgium: Publications Office of the European Union.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Cyanide Producing Pasture Misreported as GMO

Recently CBS news reported that on a Texas ranch that GMO grass suddenly started producing cyanide and killing cattle. It turned out that this was actually non-GMO forage that had been produced using traditional methods of plant breeding. This adds to the list of false claims made about biotech foods from finding toxic Bt proteins from biotech corn in pregnant women to Bt killing monarch butterflies, not to mention the misinformation spread not long ago about finely textured beef via the explicative term 'pink slime' that cost family cattle farmers billions and 1000's of 'green' jobs at beef products international.

Hopefully this will not have any additional negative impacts. But one thing this brings to light are numerous amounts of research related to the potential dangers associated with natural plant biochemical processes and traditional  non GMO based plant breeding.

"Characterisation of GM crops is a legal requirement, however. As a result GM crops are better characterised than ever before in the case of conventionally bred crops, including knowledge on the site and nature of the genetic modification....molecular biology techniques are producing less side-effects than classically used techniques""

"Conventional breeding techniques, accepted as safe by all, cause much more genetic disruption than those introduced by genetic engineering, and the resulting plants are not tested extensively for genetic change nor for safety attributes using the rigorous standards applied to genetically engineered plants.”

And of course, under certain stress conditions, cyanide production is a perfectly natural plant process among many pasture plants.

See also: Research on Biotech Safety

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Biotechnology and Genetic Disruptions

From The Academics Review Criticism of 'Genetic Roulette'

 “It is certainly true that crop breeding changes DNA; in fact, that is the purpose of all breeding programs—to create differences in DNA.  Campaigners who are opposed to GM crops consistently point to the potential harmful effects of DNA inserts, and the potential presence of multiple fragments of new DNA in a transformed plant.  There are several problems with their assertions: 1) All plant chromosomes are repeatedly disrupted by many structural changes to DNA that have occurred in plants repeatedly over the course of recent history, and still occur today when plants are grown each season in the field; 2) All breeding technologies produce numerous changes and disruptions to the structure of plant chromosomes; 3) Conventional breeding techniques, accepted as safe by all, cause much more genetic disruption than those introduced by genetic engineering, and the resulting plants are not tested extensively for genetic change nor for safety attributes using the rigorous standards applied to genetically engineered plants.”
 “Indeed, the use of more precise technology and the greater regulatory scrutiny probably make them even safer than conventional plants and foods; and if there are unforeseen environmental effects – none have appeared as yet – these should be rapidly detected by our monitoring requirements. On the other hand, the benefits of these plants and products for human health and the environment become increasingly clear.” ( European Commission 2001)

Read the full analysis:


Batista R and others (2008). Microarray analyses reveal that plant mutagenesis may induce more transcriptomic changes than transgene insertion. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 105(9): 3640–3645
Baudo MM, Lyons R, Powers S, Pastori GM, Edwards KJ, Holdsworth MJ, Shewry PR. (2006). Transgenesis has less impact on the transcriptome of wheat grain than conventional breeding. Plant Biotechnol J. 2006 Jul;4(4):369-80

Bejarano ER and others (1996). Integration of multiple repeats of geminiviral DNA into the nuclear genome of tobacco during evolution. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 93:759– 764.

Dooner HK and Weil CF (2007). Give-and-take: interactions between DNA transposons and their host plant genomes.  Current Opinion in Genetics & Development 2007, 17:486–492.

European Commission (2001). Press Release of 8 October 2001, announcing the release of 15 year study incl 81 projects/70M euros, 400 teams. (European Commission (2001). Press Release of 8 October 2001, announcing the release of 15 year study incl 81 projects/70M euros, 400 teams. European Commission (2001). Press Release of 8 October 2001, announcing the release of 15 year study incl 81 projects/70M euros, 400 teams. and

Fedoroff NV (1989). Maize transposable elements. In Mobile DNA. Editors Douglas E Berg and Martha M Howe.  American Society for Microbiology

Harper G and others (2002). Review. Viral sequences integrated into plant genomes. Annual Review of Phytopathology 40:119–36.

Jiang N and others (2004) Pack-MULE transposable elements mediate gene evolution in plants. Nature 431, 569-573.

Kashkush K and others (2002). Gene loss, silencing and activation in a newly synthesised a wheat allotetraploid. Genetics 160:1651-1659.

Kato A and others (2004). Chromosome painting using repetitive DNA sequences as probes for somatic chromosome identification in maize.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 101(37): 13554-13559

Kuiper HA, Kleter GA, Noteborn HPJM , and Kok EJ (2001). Assessment of the food safety issues relating to genetically modified food.The Plant Journal 27;6):503-526. Perhaps the best scientifically professional introduction to the topic of genetically modified food safety. Free access at

Leitch AR ,Leitch IJ (2008). Genome plasticity and the diversity of polyploid plants. Science 320:481-483.

Lisch D. (2005). Pack-MULEs: theft on a massive scale. Bioessays 27:353-355.
Lough A and others (2008) Mitochondrial DNA transfer to the nucleus generates extensive insertion site variation in maize. Genetics, 178: 47-55 doi:10.1534/genetics.107.079624

McHughen A (2000). A Consumer’s guide to GM food : From Green Genes to Red Herrings . (Published as Pandora’s Picnic Basket in the USA). Oxford. Arguably the best book for the general reader about whether it is safe to eat the GM food.

Ming R and others (2008). The draft genome of the transgenic tropical fruit tree papaya (Carica papaya Linnaeus). Nature 252:991-997

Rutgers University Press Release (4th Oct 2006). Genome archaeology illuminates the genetic engineering debate. accessed Dec 11 2008. A Summary of  Bruggmann and others Genome Research 16:1241-1251.

Shirley BW and others (1992). Effects of ionizing radiation on a plant genome: analysis of two Arabidopsis transparent testa mutations. The Plant Cell 4, 333-347.

Tanne E, Sela I (2005). Occurrence of a DNA sequence of a non-retro RNA virus in a host plant genome and its expression: evidence for recombination between viral and host RNAs.Virology.332(2):614-22.

Tribe D (2008). Blog posting. Gene-chips prove transgenes are clean genes.
Tribe D (2008 a). Blog posting. Safety, safety, safety, and more GM food safety. The Food and Chemical Toxicology Sextet.

Zabala G, Vodkin L.(2008). A putative autonomous 20.5 kb-CACTA transposon insertion in an F3′H allele identifies a new CACTA transposon subfamily in Glycine max. BMC Plant Biology. Research article Open Access

More on the Safety of Cry1Ab

HT: David Tribe

Excerpted from:

Alain de Weck *
* Emeritus Professor of Immunology, Institute of Immunology (University of Bern,
Switzerland), Department of Allergology (University of Navarra, Spain)

"In summary (25), Cry1Ab has no characteristics associated with toxins or food allergens, it has no peptide sequence homology with known allergens (26), it has no N-glycosylation sites for a secondary immunization, it is rapidly degraded by gastric and intestinal fluids, it has no side effects in mice force-fed orally at a dose of 5 g / kg. So there is a reasonable certainty and there is no documented adverse effects of the inclusion of Cry1Ab in the feed and food (25). In this context, the first actual assertion of such an absorption in humans  represent or actually the first one and should have made the Canadian authors particularly cautious, but this is clearly not the case."

(25) Xu W, Cao S, He X, Luo Y, Guo X, Yuan Y, Huang K Safety assessment of Cry1Ab/Ac fusion protein. Food Chem Toxicol. 2009; 47: 1459-65.

(26) Randhawa GJ, Singh M, Grover M. Bioinformatic analysis for allergenicity assessment of Bacillus thuringiensis Cry proteins expressed in insect-resistant food crops. Food Chem Toxicol. 2011; 49 ; 356-62.

Crticism of the ELISA Technique and Cry1Ab Detection

In ‘Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified Foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada’ the authors claim to have identified the toxin Cry1Ab in the blood of pregnant women.  Cry1Ab is a protein produced by the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that is toxic to certain insect pests. Cry1Ab is just one version (event) of this Bt toxin.  Bt toxins have been used extensively by organic farmers and biotechnology has enabled seed companies to develop corn plants that express Cry1Ab proteins giving them a built in defense mechanism against insects susceptible to the toxin, while preserving the biodiversity of friendly insects.  Bt genetics have also been incorporated into cotton. The economic, environmental, safety, and health benefits have made this a very popular  tool used by the majority of family farmers. 
One of the major criticisms of the article was the use of the test used to identify the Cry1Ab protein. In the article the authors state:

‘Cry1Ab protein levels were determined in blood using a commercially available double antibody sandwich(DAS)enzyme-linked immune sorbent assay.’

 There have been many criticisms of this article. Basic statistical techniques show that the ELISA test is one of the most unreliable methods for detecting Cry1Ab toxins.  Dr. David Tribe and Dr. Cami Ryan have done a great job discussing the underlying science and peer review of this article as well.  Digging into Dr. Tribe's commentary you can find a very well written peer review based criticism of this paper:

 Alain de Weck *
* Emeritus Professor of Immunology, Institute of Immunology (University of Bern,
Switzerland), Department of Allergology (University of Navarra, Spain)
Translation from:

"In fact, a second category of doubts and questions arise in terms of immunological technique. Indeed, the only basis for the results presented is a double sandwich ELISA commercial test, decribed to be specifically for Cry1Ab (Agdia, Elkhart, IN, USA) (27). Many immunologists warn that such tests can yield not specifc results , especially in the presence of blood or serum proteins.  Various ELISA tests are unusable in serum, due to non-specific binding, [? and variability within samples?] and from one individual to another (28 and unpublished results). These results and signals from non-specific enzymatic variables give exactly the same type of results as those reported by Aris and Leblanc (1). In addition, peroxidase type enzyme conjugates , such as that used in the Agdiatest , are particularly sensitive to this type of non-specific effect, generating false positive  measurements(29). It has been made clear made clear by two users at least theAgdia test does not give reliable results in blood (16 33). Comparisons carried out by various authors between commercial sandwich ELISA (27,30,31) and various laboratory tests using anti-Cry1Ab polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies (32-36) demonstrate that the environmental tests of sandwich ELISA Cry1Ab to vary greatly in terms of sensitivity and specificity. Tests of this kind are particularly likely to yield non-specific false positive findings, especially in the presence of serum (37)."

(27) Agdia Bt-Cry1Ab/1Ac ELISA Kit -ELISA for the detection of Bt-Cry1Ab/1Ac proteins Catalog number: PSP 06200
(28) Furukawa K, Tengler R, de Weck AL, Maly FE. Simplified sulfidoleukotriene ELISA using LTD4-conjugated phosphatase for the study of allergen-induced leukotriene generation by isolated mononuclear cells and diluted whole blood. J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol. 1994; 4:110-5.

(29) Pino RM. Binding of Fab-horseradish peroxidase conjugates by charge and not by immunospecificity. J Histochem Cytochem. 1985 Jan;33(1):55-8.
(16) Chowdhury EH, Kuribara H, Hino A, Sultana P, Mikami O, Shimada N, Guruge KS, Saito M, Nakajima Y. Detection of corn intrinsic and recombinant DNA fragments and Cry1Ab protein in the gastrointestinal contents of pigs fed genetically modified corn Bt11. J Anim Sci. 2003; 81: 2546-51
(30) Envirologix.QualiPlate™ Combo Kit for Cry1Ab & Cry3Bb1 -Catalog Number: AP 039.

(31) Quantitative ELISA for Bt-Cry1Ab. Immunoassay for quantitative detection of Cry1Ab and Cry1Ac proteins in transgenic crops.

(32) Walschus U, Witt S, Wittmann C. Development of Monoclonal Antibodies Against Cry1Ab Protein from Bacillus thuringiensis and Their Application in an ELISA for Detection of Transgenic Bt-Maize . Food and Agricultural Immunology , 2002; 14 : 231-230

(33) Paul V, Steinke K, Meyer HD. Development and validation of a sensitive enzyme immunoassay for surveillance of Cry1Ab toxin in bovine blood plasma of cows fed Btmaize(MON810). Analytica Chimica Acta, 2008; 607 : 106-113

(34) Icoz I, Andow D, Zwahlen C, Stotzky G. Is the Cry1Ab protein from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) taken up by plants from soils previously planted with Bt corn and by carrot from hydroponic culture? Bull Environ Contam Toxicol. 2009; 83:48-58.

(35) Crespo LB , Spencer ZA, Nekl E, Pusztai-Carey M, Moar WJ, Blair D, Siegfried W. Comparison and Validation of Methods To Quantify Cry1Ab Toxin from Bacillus thuringiensis for Standardization of Insect Bioassays. Applied Environmental Microbiology , 2008; 74 :130–135

(36) Zhu X, Chen L, Shen P, Jia J, Zhang D, Yang L. High Sensitive Detection of Cry1Ab Protein Using a Quantum Dot-Based Fluorescence-Linked Immunosorbent Assay. J Agric Food Chemistry. 2011; 59 : 2184-9..

(37) Case JT, Ardans AA. Nonspecific reactions in an enzyme-l inked immunosorbent assay caused by binding of immunoglobulins in situ to egg-propagated infectious bronchitis virus. Avian Dis. 1986; 30: 149-53.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Crying about Statistics Class and Cry1Ab

Lots of times students complain that either their statistics classes used silly examples that were too simple to ever be realistic, or that their course was too complicated and thus they leave the class without the capability of  any practical application.  A recent study looking at the safety of GMO corn provides a great case study for the practical application of the coefficient of variation (CV).

read more at EconomicsPrinciplesandApplications.

Bt Corn and Monarch Butterflies

"There is no significant risk to monarch butterflies from environmental exposure to Bt corn, according to research conducted by a group of scientists coordinated by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), U.S. Department of Agriculture. This research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)."  Link


Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:
Monarch larvae sensitivity to Bacillus thuringiensis-purified proteins and pollen.
Richard L. Hellmich, Corn Insects and Crop Genetics Unit, Agricultural Research Service-U.S. Department of Agriculture, Ames, Iowa; (515) 294-9343, fax (515) 294-2268, e-mail

Impact of Bt corn pollen on monarch butterfly populations: A risk assessment.
Mark K. Sears, Department of Environmental Biology, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada; (519) 824-4120 ext. 3921, fax (519) 837-0442, e-mail

Corn pollen deposition on milkweeds in and near cornfields.
John M. Pleasants, Department of Zoology and Genetics, Iowa State University, Ames; (515) 294-7204, fax (515) 294-8457, e-mail
Assessing the impact of Cry1Ab-expressing corn pollen on monarch butterfly larvae in field studies.
Diane E. Stanley-Horn, Department of Environmental Biology, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada; (519) 824-4120 ext. 4847, fax (519) 837-0442, e-mail

Temporal and spatial overlap between monarch larvae and corn pollen.
Karen S. Oberhauser; Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota (612) 624-8706, fax (612) 624-6777, e-mail

Effects of exposure to event 176 Bacillus thuringiensis corn pollen on monarch and black swallowtail caterpillars under field conditions.
M. R. Berenbaum, Department of Entomology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illionois; (217) 333-7784, fax (217) 244-3499, e-mail

Monday, June 18, 2012

HFCS Nutrition and Health Bibliography

 See also: Is Corn A Greater Threat than Al Queda and "ose"gate

Sun SZ, Flickinger BD, Williamson-Hughes PS, Empie MW. 2010. Lack of association between dietary fructose and hyperuricemia risk in adults. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2010 Mar 1; 7:16. Free access to full article.

White JS. 2009. Misconceptions about High-Fructose Corn Syrup: Is It Uniquely Responsible for Obesity, Reactive Dicarbonyl Compounds, and Advanced Glycation Endproducts? J Nutr 139(6): 1219S-1227S. Free access to full article.

Fulgoni V. 2008. High-fructose corn syrup: everything you wanted to know, but were afraid to ask. Am J Clin Nutr 88(6):1715S. Free access to full article.

White JS. 2008. Straight talk about high-fructose corn syrup: what it is and what it ain't. Am J Clin Nutr 88(6):1716S-1721S. Free access to full article.

Melanson KJ, Angelopoulos TJ, Nguyen V, Zukley L, Lowndes J, Rippe JM. 2008. High-fructose corn syrup, energy intake, and appetite regulation. Am J Clin Nutr 88(6):1738S-1744S. Free access to full article.

Soenen S and Westerterp-Plantenga MS. 2007. No differences in satiety or energy intake after high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, or milk preloads. Am J Clin Nutr 86(6):1586-1594. Free access to full article.
  See also:  Is Corn a Greater Threat than Al Queda and "ose"gate
Akhavan T. and Anderson GH. 2007. Effects of glucose-to-fructose ratios in solutions on subjective satiety, food intake, and satiety hormones in young men. Am J Clin Nut 86(5) 1354-1363. Free access to full article.

Forshee RA, Storey ML, Allison DB, Glinsmann WH, Hein GL, Lineback DR, Miller SA, Nicklas TA, Weaver GA, White JS. 2007. A Critical Examination of the Evidence Relating High Fructose Corn Syrup and Weight Gain. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 47(6):561-582. Free access to full article.

Sun SZ, Empie MW. 2007. Lack of findings for the association between obesity risk and usual sugar-sweetened beverage consumption in adults - A primary analysis of databases of CSFII-1989-1991, CSFII-1994-1998, NHANES III, and combined
NHANES 1999-2002. Food Chem Toxicol 45(8):1523-1536. Free access to full article.

Monsivais P, Perrigue MM, Drewnowski A. 2007. Sugars and satiety: does the type of sweetener make a difference? Am J Clin Nutr 86(1):116-123. Free access to full article.

Lowndes J, et al. June 2007. The Effect of High-Fructose Corn Syrup on Uric Acid Levels in Normal Weight Women. Presented at the June 2007 meeting of The Endocrine Society. Program Abstract #P2-45. Abstract available.

Zukley L, et al. June 2007. The Effect of High Fructose Corn Syrup on Post-Prandial Lipemia in Normal Weight Females. Presented at the June 2007 meeting of The Endocrine Society. Program Abstract #P2-46. Abstract available.

Melanson KJ, Zukley L, Lowndes J, Nguyen V, Angelopoulos TJ, Rippe JM. 2007. Effects of high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose consumption on circulating glucose, insulin, leptin, and ghrelin and on appetite in normal-weight women. Nutrition 23(2):103-112. Free access to full article.

Schorin MD. 2006. High Fructose Corn Syrups, Part 2: Health Effects. Nutrition Today 41(2):70-77. Abstract available.
Schorin MD. 2005. High Fructose Corn Syrups, Part 1: Composition, Consumption, and Metabolism. Nutrition Today 40(6):248-252. Abstract available.

Hein GL, Storey ML, White JS, Lineback DR. 2005. Highs and Lows of High Fructose Corn Syrup: A Report from the Center for Food and Nutrition Policy and Its Ceres Workshop. Nutrition Today 40(6):253-256. Abstract available.

rbST Safety

Dairy Product Consumption and the Risk of Breast Cancer
Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 24, No. 6, 556S–568S (2005)
Published by the American College of Nutrition

"It has been suggested in some reports that dairy product consumption may increase the risk of breast cancer.This review gives a brief overview of the etiology of breast cancer and in particular the roles of fat, bovine growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor-1 and estrogens. Evidence from animal studies and epidemiology does not support a role for fat in the etiology of breast cancer. The daily intake of insulin-like growth factor-1 and biologically active estrogens from dairy products is minute in comparison to the daily endogenous secretion of these factors in women, whereas bovine growth hormone is biologically inactive in humans. On the other hand, milk contains rumenic acid, vaccenic acid, branched chain fatty acids, butyric acid, cysteine-rich whey proteins, calcium and vitamin D; components, which have the potential to help prevent breast cancer. Evidence from more than 40 case-control studies and 12 cohort studies does not support an association between dairy product consumption and the risk of breast cancer."

Survey of Retail Milk Composition as Affected by Label Claims Regarding Farm-Management

Journal of the AMERICAN DIETETIC ASSOCIATION © 2008 by the American Dietetic Association


"Conventionally labeled milk had the lowest (P 0.05) bacterial counts compared to either milk labeled rbST-free or organic; however, these differences were not biologically meaningful. In addition, conventionally labeled milk had significantly less (P 0.05) estradiol and progesterone than organic milk (4.97 vs 6.40 pg/mL"

 IGF-1 Fact Sheet :

Medical Associations and Scientific Societies Which Have Approved Human Safety of bST

National Institute of Health FAO/United Nations
American Medical Association Office of Technology Assessment
American Academy of Pediatrics American Dietetic Association
American Cancer Society American Society for Nutritional Scientists
Institute for Food Technologists American Dairy Science Association
Council of Agricultural Science and Technology American Society of Animal Science
American Society of Clinical Nutrition The Endocrine Society
US Department of Health and Human Services International Dairy Federation
US Surgeon General United Kingdom Medicines Commission
State Medical Associations Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada
World Health Organization American Council of Science & Health

Research on Biotech Safety

 Criticism of Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified Foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada:

 No More Crying About Your Stats Class and Cry1Ab: An Application of the Coefficient of Variation 

Crticism of the ELISA Technique and Cry1Ab Detection

More on the Safety of Cry1Ab

References Related to Cry1Ab Protein Toxicity and Absorption

Biotech in General:

Stop worrying; start growing EMBO Open Risk research on GM crops is a dead parrot: it is time to start reaping the benefits of GM
Torbjörn Fagerström, Christina Dixelius, Ulf Magnusson & Jens F Sundström
Science & Society  EMBO reports (2012) 13, 493 - 497 doi:10.1038/embor.2012.59

Published online: 11 May 2012

"In a report from 2010, the EC summarized the results of 130 research projects involving more than 500 independent research groups and concluded that biotechnology is not per se riskier than conventional plant breeding technologies [2]. Further support for this position comes from the UK Farm-Scale Evaluation (FSE), which studied the potential impact of herbicide-tolerant crops on farmland biodiversity [7]. One insight from the study is that overall changes in agricultural management determine the impact of a crop on biodiversity, rather than the technology or breeding behind the crop itself [8]."

Drilling into the report we can get some of their specific findings related to the relative risks of traditional plant breeding techniques and natural mutations vs. modern molecular approaches:

Traditional vs. GMO Crop Safety:

"The safety of conventionally bred crops is based on a history of safe use. However some extremely rare cases have been reported where unintended effects (DNA rearrangements) have given rise to safety concerns. These were only identified once the crop was already on the market. 


Characterisation of GM crops is a legal requirement, however. As a result GM crops are better characterised than ever before in the case of conventionally bred crops, including knowledge on the site and nature of the genetic modification."


"the extent of modification of the proteomic and transcriptomic profiles is always equal or more important in ‘classical mutants’ than in their GM counterparts. This result strongly suggests that the way modification has been produced may influence the transcription pattern, and that molecular biology techniques are producing less side-effects than classically used techniques"


See also:

  Safety, safety, safety, and more GM food safety. The Food and Chemical Toxicology Septet. - via David Tribe


  Genetic Roulette- Academics Review


"Genetic Roulette is Jeffrey Smith’s second book in which he makes unsubstantiated claims against biotechnology. In it, he details 65 separate claims that the technology causes harm in a variety of ways. On these pages each of those claims – addressed in the same eight “sections” that correspond directly with the book – are stacked up against peer-reviewed science."


Biotechnology and Genetic Disruptions  - Academics Review 

78 Independent Studies of GMO Safety- via David Tribe


440  Studies of Biotech Safety - via David Tribe

Safety of rbST

General Safety and Safety Assessment of Specific Genetically Modified Crops from Scientific Journal Articles

Peer Reviewed Publications on the Safety of GM Foods(link)
Results of a search of the PubMed database for publications on feeding studies for GM crops.

By Dr. Christopher Preston,
Senior Lecturer in Weed Management,
University of Adelaide;


"There are at least 42 publications extractable from the PubMed database that describe research reports of feeding studies of GM feed or food products derived from GM crops. The overwhelming majority of publications report that GM feed and food produced no significant differences in the test animals. The two studies reporting negative results were published in 1998 and 1999 and no confirmation of these effects have since been published. Many studies have been published since 2002 and all have reported no negative impact of feeding GM feed to the test species. "