On the International Monsanto Tribunal


These are the basics of Shiva's monologues.
In October 2016, the Monsanto Tribunal, to hold Monsanto accountable for human rights violations, crimes against humanity and ecocide, takes place in The Hague. That sounds scary and official, doesn't it?

The organic movement is organising a fake trial, set up deliberately so that people might take it seriously. For such weighty issues, it was announced early - more than a year before the event takes place. Even then, people got confused and needed to be explained that this was merely theatre

Their victims of course genuinely care for the future of humanity and the planet we inhabit. There is a rumour that the 'Modern Revolutionary' and 'Brilliant Scientist' Vandana Shiva is only asking for a first class flight and a 40 thousand speaking fee. A true bargain, and you can see how much she cares (source). The budget for the tribunal is 400 thousand euro (source) or 500 thousand euro (source), which makes you wonder what they want to use it for. Their budget is not at all transparent. 

A friend of mine, Anke Jaanen,  has compiled an analysis of the speakers for the fake tribunal. What I want to do here is to quickly discuss the speakers and rebuke their likely points. The fake tribunal is apparently split into four parts. These are the impact on human health, the impact on soil and plants, the impact on animal health and the impact on biodiversity.

I would like to point out that this is not an in-depth article. As such, in-depth discussion of claims is not going to happen. I am going to tell you why I do or do not deem a claim likely. I am not going to put down lists of individual studies.

Part I: Impact on Human Health

The first witness is Sabine Grataloup, who claims to be a victim of RoundUp/Glyphosate. Her son was born with esophageal atresia, a birth defect affecting the alimentary tract. The esophagus ends in a blind-ended pouch rather than connecting to the stomach. The defect occurs in approximately 1 of 2500 births (DOI: 10.1186/1750-1172-2-24). From what I can determine, the birth defect is caused by errors in embryonic development. It is rarely inherited, which seems to indicate that it is a mutation that happens during (pro-)embryonic development. Grataloup claims that she was spraying glyphosate-based herbicide in the third week of her pregnancy, without special protection because there was no indication she should have. 

The second witness, Maria Liz Robledo, has a similar claim. Her daughter was born with birth defects. Apparently, she had an agricultural chemical supply near her house during her pregnancy. 

A quick survey of the literature using Google Scholar shows that significant correlation between pesticide exposure and birth defects has not been found. I must also point out that Roundup interacts with the biochemistry found in plant life, not mammalian life. Given the lack of correlation and the lack of a mechanism, I must deem her claim unlikely.

The third witness is Christine Sheppard, who owned and operated a Hawaiian coffee farm. They applied RoundUp to their crops. Later, Sheppard was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer in the lymphocytes, a group of white blood cells part of the immune system.  

The fourth witness is Timothy Litzenburg. Litzenburg is a part of a law firm that sues on behalf of Roundup victims. Their website states very clearly that they do so, and they claim that glyphosate can cause non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma and multiple myeloma (i.e. blood cancers). Clearly, there are no conflicts of interest here.

Sheppard and Litzenburg's claims are easily deemed unlikely. Just recently, a bit of controversy happened when the IARC, the cancer branch of the WHO, said glyphosate was 'probably carcinogenic', despite the contrary scientific evidence and consensus. This was quickly rectified when the WHO, EPA and EFSA issued reports that state glyphosate is unlikely to be a carcinogen. The common preoccupation of the organic movement with Europe makes the EFSA statement the most pertinent:
"EFSA concluded that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans and the evidence does not support classification with regard to its carcinogenic potential".
The fifth witness is Klomon Saman, apparently a victim from Sri Lanka. While no more information could be found, we can take a guess. North Central Province in Sri Lanka has a pronounced form of chronic kidney disease. The cause is unknown, so that the literature refers to it as CKDu (Chronic Kidney Disease unknown). 

The sixth witness is Channa Jayasumana, a scientist from Sri Lanka that is investigating CKDu, so that we can feel confident in our guess that this is the topic of these two witnesses. Similarly, there is little doubt that the claim is that glyphosate is the culprit.

Looking at the scientific literature, little indication of a pesticide connection is found (DOI: 10.1186/1471-2369-15-125). It seems that pesticides, including glyphosate, can be ruled out as a causative factor (3.5% of 57 CKDu cases, 10.1186/1471-2369-14-180). Nevertheless, their witness is a scientist investigating this case. What does he have to say?
"Although glyphosate alone does not cause an epidemic of chronic kidney disease, ..." (doi:10.3390/ijerph110202125)
I've read parts of that study, and it seems to me that these authors are elevating a minor correlation to the level of a major factor by means of an extremely speculative and spurious hypothesis.  The ellipsis in the quote above makes this clear: "it seems to have acquired the ability to...". Indeed, he might add, "Although unicorns have never been confirmed to exist, they seem to have acquired the ability to be invisible to humans". 

The seventh witness is Damian Verzenassi, a medical doctor that is convinced agricultural chemicals cause everything, including cancer, birth defects and miscarriages. He is involved in the organic movement, seems to be a firm believer of the Big Pharma conspiracy and so forth. Really, there is little in his profile that supports credibility. He apparently was a part of the "Physicians in the Crop Sprayed Towns" group (read more), which I find sufficient to deem this unlikely.

Finally, the eighth witness is Marcelo Firpo de Souza Porto. He is a signatory to a letter calling for a ban on Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs), a letter that uses glyphosate as an example of a HHP. However, Glyphosate has a LD50 of 4230 mg/kg (table 4, slightly hazardous) and is thus classified as slightly hazardous, which is the 2000-5000 range. This pronounced error is sufficient to deem his claims unlikely.

This concludes the Impact on human health segment. The summary is that bad things happen to people, so they blame Monsanto without evidence to support.

Part II: Impact on soil and plants

The first (part II) witness is Diego Fernandez, a GM farmer from Argentina. The only match we can find is a farmer visiting a conference where Verzenassi was present. In this article, Fernandez is only named because his back hurt. Given that Verzenassi is present, it is clear that this will be blamed on agricultural chemicals. 

The second witness is Don Huber, a former professor at Purdue University that now goes on publicity tours apparently sponsored by several anti-science groups. From a secondary source (Genetic Literacy Project) we find not only citations to establish his sponsors, but also several citations of severe criticism. One such criticism: "...  

He will not release it to the wider scientific community for further tests, even after eight years of no publications or any signs of progress. ..." (Dr. Kevin Folta's blog). It is apparently a DNA-lacking alien lifeform that he claims is a causal agent to many diseases and disorders in not only mammalian, but all earth-based life. Nevertheless, despite the claimed impact, importance and so forth he has not released it to the scientific community at large. It apparently thrives in agricultural chemicals and genetically modified life.

I'm going to keep referring to his life form as "alien". The reason for this is that all known lifeforms (at least to the scientific community at large) are DNA-based lifeforms. While other chemical backbones are possible (RNA, FANA, etc.) they are not used throughout Earth-based life. This indicates a singular proto-cell system evolving DNA and DNA-related cellular machinery before branching to the tree of life as we know it. There has been no evidence of any non-DNA lifeform presented to the scientific community. Thus, a non-DNA based lifeform is most likely alien. Additionally, origins of life research focusses almost exclusively on nucleic acids with some backbone (e.g. RNA hypothesis, but also FANA and other variants have been researched, as have hybrid backbones).

Surprisingly, this already concludes part II. The summary is that you cannot simply blame everything on GM and agricultural chemicals; extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. In this case, the evidence isn't extraordinary nor existent.

Part III: Impact on Animal Health

Which, for some reason, is seen as distinct from Human Health, even though we are mammals. This is often the case in policy, as most humans consider humans to matter more.

The first (Part III) witness is Art Dunham, an Iowa veterinarian. He believes that GMO crops are wreaking havoc with the health of animals. His daughter wrote a book on it, drawing on her father's notes and the work of 'scientists' like Don Huber. So we are back to the alien lifeform that is supposed to be the cause of nearly everything? Apparently (source), another claim is that glyphosate 'ties up' cobalt, manganese and other nutrients that should be present in animal feed. This claim is also propagated by Don Huber, so it appears Dunham and his daughter did not arrive at these conclusions independently. Either way, scientific literature does not back this claim (DOI: 10.1021/jf302436u): "... Our conclusions are that ... although there is conflicting literature on the effects of glyphosate on mineral nutrition on glyphosate-resistant (GR) crops, most of the literature indicates that mineral nutrition in GR crops is not affected by either the GR trait or by application of glyphosate ...".

The second witness is Monika Krüger, is a German scientist at the university of Leipzig. She apparently believes that glyphosate is responsible for so-called chronic botulism in cattle. It appears she is alone in this belief (secondary source, comment by schillipaeppa on May 29th). Looking at a study by Krüger in the Journal of Environmental & Analytical Toxicology, we see a citation of the now-famous Seralini Affair paper, retracted because they were reporting on the finding of hay in an oversized hay bale. The basic argument of the paper seems to be that glyphosate is bad and has been detected in cow urine (their experiment is measuring this). Well, glyphosate does not interact with mammalian enzymes; it interacts with a plant-specific enzyme. With the retraction of the Seralini Affair paper, their paper is reduced to the exciting message "stuff detected in cow urine". The German federal institute for Risk Assessment has declared glyphosate to be safe (source), as did the EFSA, WHO and others. Note that we return to Krüger's papers when discussing the third witness.

The third witness is Ib Borup Pedersen, another acolyte much like the first.  He wants to tell you what he has seen in his collaboration with Monika Krüger (source). He continues to refer to Don Huber and a number of other individuals that failed to present sufficient evidence to influence scientific consensus. When he read those individuals work, he saw the similarities with the pig-related problems on his farm, and sent them to Krüger. He then refers to their paper, in which they report finding glyphosate in all organs. He claims that they found a distinct correlation between glyphosate and rate of malformation. However, this is not a part of the study, which writes essentially that Pedersen reported these rates - that is not significant evidence. Honestly, I have sincere doubts with regards to the Journal of Environmental & Analytical Toxicology - this is not a paper. This is barely a first-year laboratory report. And upon further investigation, we find that "OMICS Publishing Group is a publisher of open access journals that is widely regarded as predatory." (Wiki, Beall's list).

In summary, we still can't blame random things on glyphosate.

Part IV: Impact on biodiversity

The first (part IV) witness is Feliciano Ucan Poot. He is joined by Angelica El Chanche, whom we can't find much information on. Additionally, he is joined by Maria Colin, Greenpeace Mexico's legal advisor. Poot is a member of the Beekeeper collective of Campeche, the region where he apparently lives. They protested against an governmental decision to introduce GE crops in state of Campeche, a region where indigenous communities (Maya) still live (source).

The judge ruled "The government secretariats of SAGARPA (Ministry of Agriculture) and SEMARNAT (Ministry of Environment) must guarantee that no genetically engineered (GE) soy will be grown in the state of Campeche starting from the 7th of March 2014". So, GM soy was not introduced despite the permit to introduce GM soy in Mexico. Despite that, reporting news sources go off on a tangent, discussing the impact of glyphosate (source). While some crops are indeed engineered to be resistant to RoundUp/glyphosate, this does not mean that you have to spray them. Indeed, it seems that they should've banned glyphosate if that is what you're concerned about. If you recall (old blog post), Monsanto also has a Lepidoptera resistant crop for sale; this does not involve glyphosate, but is just flat-out resistant to moths, butterflies and their larvae.

The beekeepers have a financial interest in honey exported to the European Union. The EU has ruled, in 2011, that honey containing GM derived pollen does constitute foodstuff containing ingredients (pollen) derived from GMOs within the meaning of the regulation. This is mostly a technical ruling whether or not pollen is regarded legally as an ingredient to honey, which would mean it falls under a regulation that requires foodstuff incorporating GM derived ingredients to be subject to an authorisation scheme before being allowed on the market. Allowing GM soybean to be grown throughout their farmland would certainly impede their export.

The final decision by the judge was not primarily influenced by all of the above, according to the rather biased story in the Guardian. The Mexican constitution includes an obligation to fully consult indigenous communities before making major decisions about what happens on their territory, which includes what crops are planted. As a result, the permit issued without any consultation of these communities was unconstitutional and immediately revoked.

The second witness is Steve Marsh, an Australian organic farmer. The story is quite interesting. Steven Marsh's farm had a neighbouring farm, owned by Michael Baxter. Marsh was a certified organic farmer, while Baxter grew GM canola. Marsh sued his neighbour, Baxter, for contaminating his organic crops with GM material. Marsh claimed that he lost his organic certification for more than half of his property for almost three years.

The judge ruled that the implementation of GM crops by Baxter was entirely conventional, as was his harvest methodology. Marsh did not grow canola, so there could be no contamination of end products. Marsh attempted to get more than 80 thousand dollars in compensation. The costs of the process were to be paid by the losing party, Marsh (source).

In an amusing response, Baxter said (source):
He's an organic farmer, he can't spray, he can't use chemicals, you know he's got red mite, he's got aphids, he's got rust, he's got all the diseases in the world, does he worry about that? They blow over the fence, I get them all the time. Do I whinge, do I complain? No, not at all.
Marsh attempted to appeal for compensation of court costs, but here too he was denied. The rather clear statement was that he had put his land to abnormally sensitive use and could not unilaterally enlarge his own rights. This seems fair; his decision for organic certification should not place limits on his neighbours decision to grow GM crops.

The stress induced by Marsh on Baxter resulted in the breakup of the latter's marriage. The actions taken by Marsh seem even more extreme when you consider the following (source):
Marsh had never grown canola so there was no risk of a genetic transfer from Baxter’s GM plants. The so-called contamination consisted of “eight GM canola plants found to have grown up as self-sown volunteer plants”. That’s right – just eight plants, easily removed.
So, the two cases are interesting in that neither actually fits the topic: Impact on biodiversity. The first was a legal ruling regarding the rights to consult of indigenous communities, the second was a ruling regarding two farms. Neither involves biodiversity.

Part V: Impact on Farmers and the right to food

The first (part V) witness is Ousmane Tiendrebeogo. Tiendrebeogo is apparently a cotton farmer (source), and claims not only that GMO cause adverse health and environmental effects but also that they accentuate the impoverishment of farmers. Tiendrebeogo claims that GMO varieties such as Bt Cotton have higher seed costs and actually yield less product. This claim is easily shown to be false (Journal of Agrobiotechnology management and economics):
On average, Bt-adopting farmers realize pesticide reductions of roughly 40%, and yield advantages of 30-40%. Profit gains are at a magnitude of US $60 per acre. These benefits have been sustainable over time. Farmers' satisfaction is reflected in a high willingness to pay for Bt seeds.
Looking into the story, it's pretty simple. The cotton variety that was used to produce the genetically enhanced variant has a different fibre length than the cotton variety previously used in the region. As a result, cotton fiber length is different than what the buyers, the cotton companies, expected. Therefore, a new biofortified cotton strain based on the original variety is under development. (source1source2).

The second witness is Kishan Bir Chaudhary, joined by Ashvani Mahajani. They claim that the change to Bt cotton was a total failure, causing severe losses for Indian cotton farmers. That the loss combined with a "debt trap" forced thousands of growers to commit suicide. However, Bt cotton has been very effective overall and there has been no resurgence of farmer suicides (doi: 10.1080/00220388.2010.492863). Yields have improved by 18% overall, while insecticide volume sprayed dropped by 55% (doi: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2010.09.008). The story was high-profile, and eventually turned up in Nature News:
... It can be hard to see where scientific evidence ends and dogma and speculation begin...During an interview in March, Vandana Shiva, an environmental and feminist activist from India, repeated an alarming statistic: “270,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide since Monsanto entered the Indian seed market,” she said. “It’s a genocide.” ... Although financial hardship is a driving factor in suicide among Indian farmers, there has been essentially no change in the suicide rate for farmers since the introduction of Bt cotton. ... In a study of 533 cotton-farming households in central and southern India, Qaim found that yields grew by 24% per acre between 2002 and 2008, owing to reduced losses from pest attacks. Farmers’ profits rose by an average of 50% over the same period, owing mainly to yield gains.
 The third witness is Farida Akther. Some Bangladeshi farmers are part of a pilot scheme by a research institute, testing a GM Eggplant that modified with the Bt gene, producing a protein (cry1Ac) against some pests. Akhter claims that, despite the utter lack of evidence for any health problems due to this protein, and despite the lack of any problematic findings in this particular Pilot, long term health problems cannot be ruled out. This is the common evasion tactic of the anti-GM movement, where they overuse the precautionary principle. In this case, the scientific evidence is long since clear; Bt and the produced protein are safe. The burden of proof lies firmly with the anti-GM movement.

The fourth and final witness for this part is Percy Schmeiser. Schmeiser apparently claims that he was just using conventional breeding for his Canola crop, attempting to grow a variety well-suited to the prairies environment. In 1998, he received a lawsuit notice from Monsanto. Monsanto claimed that they had been growing Roundup Ready Canola, without a Monsanto license. Schmeiser claims that the reason this happened is because in 1996, their neighbour started to grow these GM crops and that this contaminated their crop. In 2004, the Supreme Court for the Parliament of Canada ruled that, because Schmeiser had not used the GM-traits of the plants he had no monetary benefit. As such, he owed Monsanto no money. Both had to pay their own legal costs (source). Despite the monetary aspects, it remains a violation of patent law (source). The other claims are mostly against the current patent law systems implemented throughout the world.

Monsanto tells the story very, very differently (source). They did try to settle the matter out-of-court, but Schmeiser claimed they grew there by accident. Schmeiser might tell a nice story, but he is just a patent infringer. He saved Monsanto seed; he deliberately used Roundup to select those plants resistant in his fields, then saved these seeds. He also had the seeds treated, indicating that he was fully aware of the GM-traits. Tests revealed that 95-98% of Schmeisers plants were Roundup Ready plants, which means that "contamination" does not explain the utter dominance of the GM traits. The Supreme Court found that they actively cultivated Roundup Ready Canola (source). However, Monsanto sought accounting of profits. Because Schmeiser did not make more profit than he would have using non-GM Canola, there were no profits due to the patent infringement. This primarily tells you something about Schmeiser's qualities as a farmer. Additionally, the court ruled that the plant could not be patented itself; in my view, a failure of acknowledging genetic inheritance. Either way, a contractual obligation (prohibition on saving seeds) is sufficient to protect Monsanto's (or any companies) interest in their product.

To summarise Part V, GM plants promise improved yields and reduced pesticide applications (in a full growing cycle). 

Part VI: Pressures on stakeholders and institutions

The first (Part VI) witness is Pedro Pablo Mutumbajoy, who is apparently claiming to be a victim of Plan Colombia. Plan Colombia is a US military and diplomatic aid initiative aimed at combating Colombian drug cartels and insurgent groups in Colombian territory (source). Apparently, as a part of this initiative the US policymakers bought massive amounts of RoundUp Ultra to spray on drug crops.  I am not sure if Mutumbajoy is a part of the drug cartels. Given that they are "trying Monsanto for crimes against Humanity", it is clear that this story is not relevant. Selling pesticide to the US is hardly a crime; their questionable use of it is a question that US and Colombia voters should ask themselves. It seems likely that Mutumbajoy claims to be a victim of Plan Colombia in the sense that the Aerial Eradication initiative sprayed over his farmland. While this is conceivably possible, the program claims to target illicit crops. However, it seems that a variety of skin, respiratory and other ailments is present in spray zones. Some claim this is the result of the sprayed glyphosate, while the US claims it is the agricultural chemicals they themselves use. I find the second scenario more likely; we have already discussed how glyphosate works and that it is inert in humans.

The second witness is Paul Francois. He claims neurological damages after inhaling Lasso, a trademark pesticide owned by Monsanto (source). While the French courts did assign damages to Francois, the primary reason was not literally stating the need for a respiratory protection mask. The label did note the need for appropriate protective clothing, including gloves and protective equipment for the eyes and face (Monsanto). The decision is not yet final.  I must admit I find this surprising; protective equipment for eyes and face includes, in my view, respiratory protection. Either way, damages are assigned for a technical reason and not because of anything weird. The pesticide is not approved in the EU (source).

The third witness is Juan Ignacio Pereyra. Pereyra is another lawyer representing the "victims". The clearest document we can find is quite literally a local version of the Monsanto Tribunal (source). For instance, the first presentation is Verzenassi. Either way, we have already discussed the health impact of glyphosate (none), so it is hard to see how there can be any victims. Some pesticides, certainly, can have negative impacts if inhaled (as we saw just now). The larger question is whether if it constitutes inappropriate usage. If I misuse a product, then I am the one responsible - not the manufacturer. If you drive your car into another car, you ought not be able to sue and win the manufacturer of either car.

The fourth witness is Miguel Lovera. Lovera is from Paraguay, a country involved in quite extensive land right issues (source). Apparently, about 85% of Paraguay land is controlled by 2.6% of the population, while a third of the rural population lives in extreme poverty. This is a legacy of a 35-year dictatorship of General Alfredo Stroessner. During the past decade, Paraguay's soya land coverage and exports have doubled. It is clear that the 1.6% has a strong interest in agriculture. A previous president (Lugo) apparently tried to fight the wealth gap by tightening regulation of soybean production (source). This is where Miguel Lovera comes in; he was appointed as the head of the National Service for Quality and Health of Vegetables and Seeds (SENEVA). He was accused of incompetency and corruption, with several of the nation's media asking for his resignation (source), and the next president (Franco) replaced and persecuted all civil servants appointed by Lugo, including Lovera. It is not at all clear how Monsanto features in this story; I would surmise that Monsanto, as an agricultural company, is blamed for (part of) the conflict in this country. However, I must point out that selling GM seeds and pesticides is not a crime; in this context, it has little to do with anything. The Monsanto Tribunal has listed him as a health expert; there seems to be no support for this description.

The fifth witness is Gilles Eric Seralini. He is among the most well-known figures in the anti-GM movement. The Seralini affair has led to a situation where Seralini's name on a paper,or citing him in any context other than utterly rebuking him are sufficient reason for zero credibility. Rather than explaining the situation again,  I would refer you to other sources (examples: source1source2source3source4source5).

The sixth witness is Shiv Chopra. Chopra worked at Health Canada when he testified to the Canadian Senate that he was pressured by senior supervisors to approve multiple drugs of questionable safety, among which Bovine Growth Hormone and Baytril. Bovine Growth Hormone (BST) is a peptide hormone produced by cows. It was synthesised using recombinant DNA technology to create recombinant BST, developed by four large pharmaceutical companies. Monsanto was the first of these to receive approval in the US and other countries. The FDA, WHO and National Institutes of Health have independently stated that dairy products and meat from (r)BST-treated cows is safe for human consumption. However, the EU report states that its use often results in "suffering and distress" for cows (wiki). The EU and numerous other countries have (rightfully) banned both (r)BST treatment.

Chopra testified or became a whistleblower to the Canadian Senate (source), which concluded that the presented scientific evidence does not lead directly to the conclusion that rBST residues are unsafe. They recommend that the manufacturer submits the long-term studies identified as missing data from the submission for approval. Missing data, however, is not the same as unsafety. Recent studies still clearly state that rBST is safe (doi: 10.2527/jas2013-7383) - animal rights/welfare issues are a separate story. However, whistleblowing on a Monsanto chemical makes a nice story for the Tribunal. Despite the above and the publically available minutes of his testimony, Chopra is still telling people that the EU banned rBST because of questions regarding its safety and similar ill-sounding phrases (source).

The seventh witness is Claire Robinson. Robinson holds a Master's degree in Philosophy, and actually has papers to her name. The first is in Environmental Research, but the second I checked was in a journal by OMICS, which we discussed for Krüger - a predatory publisher. Robinson is an editor at GMWatch, a heavily criticised pseudoscientific organisation (example).  As a good example, her common anti-GM arguments have been wrecked by William Selatan (source). Robinson co-authored a book that, among things, claims that "conventional breeding continues to outstrip GM in developing crops that deliver high yields, better nutrition and tolerance to extreme weather conditions and poor soils(source). We've discussed a few examples of this before, and it is clear that these promises have been met by GM technology (secondary source).

The eighth and final witness is Peter Clausing. He was an expert in non-rodent toxicology at a research-driven pharmaceutical company (his linkedin), and is now at the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC). This is a private, non-profit organisation that accredits institutions for achieving their standards outlined in the Guide for Care and use of laboratory Animals. PETA disagrees with the effectiveness of this accreditation (source). Clausing is also associated with the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) in Germany. Clausing has called into question the EFSA verdict on glyphosate (source) and wants the world to farm organic (source). Clausing has also defended the Seralini Affair paper ((source). A quick survey of his published work (researchgate) - which came to a stop after 2001 - shows that he has nothing to do with pesticide safety evaluation and has no published work that supports opposition to positive pesticide safety assessments.

Clausing's critique of the EFSA safety assessment is essentially critique of the response written by EFSA's chief executive to the open letter by Portier. However, the critique is rather empty. The PAN's press release notes that Clausing says that the response arguments have no scientific basis and that EFSA takes refuge behind a requirement of methodology. The response by EFSA does not seem to do this in my opinion. For instance, in annex 2b of the response letter the EFSA responds to Portier's letter. Portier notes that you need to 'properly weigh studies' in an interpretation of findings, and states that the IARC did this but EFSA did not. However, IARC was widely regarded to give inappropriate weight to small-sample studies with weak methodology. EFSA gave these studies a more appropriate weight, and compared them to other studies with superior sample size. This is not hiding behind methodological concerns, but simply a proper weighting of large versus small sample size studies. Smaller studies are, amongst other concerns, more susceptible to sampling bias. Selecting 20 swans from Australia could lead one to the conclusion that all swans are black; however, in the rest of the world they are white. (Nobody would claim all swans are all white. This is an illustration of sampling bias.)

To summarise, the connections to their topic continues and increases to be very bad. Furthermore, the witnesses in this segment are relatively unknown characters with very tedious and tentative claims. The essence remains the same; blame everything on Monsanto with a complete and utter lack of science to back it up.


As expected, the entire Fake Tribunal is a theatre. This is not a scientific conference, nor a court of law. It is quite literally a gathering of people that use pseudo-science to promote "natural" and "organic" alternatives to conventional and contemporary agriculture. Their most important part is in no way their data, their science, or the interests they represent; rather, it is their ability to form incomprehensive gish gallop combined with fear-mongering.

By doing so, they cast doubt on the credibility of science and technology. Worse, they negatively influence public opinion on contemporary agricultural technology that has the potential to greatly improve upon agricultural practises, in ways that benefit health through nutrition (e.g. Golden Rice), reduce pesticide usage (e.g. Bt Crops, Lepidoptera-resistant crops) and improve farm life.

The intense negative feedback they generate is truly horrifying. This YouTube video illustrates it nicely; look, especially, at the scientist Dr. Kevin Folta responding to a tweet (around 4 min).

I would much rather be talking about the prospects of an exciting technology with the potential to adapt our agriculture to climate change, lessen environmental impact and improve yield. A technology that can improve the areas of the world living in poverty by the simple prospect of sustained yield.

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