Currently there are articles spreading across the internet stating that GMO food causes Leukemia. Unfortunately these claims are false. I understand the research is complicated and that many don’t understand it; I am one of you. The difference between you and me is that my wife is a molecular biologist so I have asked her to look over the article. There are a number of disturbing aspect to this article which everybody should know. Here is a link to the study.
First let’s examine the source
First when you look at the study paper take note that it is printed in Issue 1 Volume 1 of Journal of Hematology & Thromboembolic Diseases. My wife noticed this when looking into the journal itself to find an ‘impact factor’ which is a measure of how frequently a specific journal is cited. Impact Factor is basically a measure of how much the scientific community respects a journal. That led her to realize that this article is published in the very first Issue of the Journal of Hematology & Thromboembolic Diseases. This in itself is a very questionable finding.
Next looking into the journal more it was found that OMICS Publishing Group owns the journal. Apparently they own more than 250 journals but many contain no content. In fact the NIH (National Institutes of Health) will not accept OMICS papers on PubMed which is a very well respected database of scientific research. That is not a good sign, if the entire publishing group is not allowed on PubMed then that means scientific peers do not believe OMICS meets the standards of peer review.
Then guess what was found? The journal article was withdrawn from the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology. So the original publisher of the study later determined it was sufficiently flawed to remove it from the journal. That is major; journals don’t withdraw articles lightly. Functionally it involves the journal admitting that they should not have publish the articles in the first place due to the flaws in the article.
So right now before even examining the methodology of the study we know that the article was originally published in Food and Chemical Toxicology later to be withdrawn. Then it was published in the Journal of Hematology & Thromboembolic Diseases Issue 1 Volume 1 which is owned by a OMICS who are no longer allowed to submit papers to PubMed a well respected source of scientific literature.
Now let’s examine the study itself.
The study did not feed ANY GMO food to mice. NONE of the mice ate ANY GMO at all. Instead they fed the organism Bacillus thuringiensis to the mice. This is important since GMO involves introducing a single protein from Bacillus thuringiensis whereas the study fed mice the whole organism. That means that there was much more than the Bt protein being fed to the mice. So from that one aspect alone we know that the effects found were not due to GMO food, nor was it due to the Bt protein. Rather the effects were due to the entire Bacillus thuringiensis organism. Thus any effects found can’t be generalized to GMO food.
Next the study did not utilize proper controls. Some mice were give Bacillus thuringiensis in their water while others were given plain water. Instead the control should have been a Bacillus thuringiensis bacteria that does not express the Bt protein. The reason is that that ensures minimal differences between the groups and thus allows attribution of the results due to those differences. Simply put we don’t know the effect of the bacteria compared to the effect of the Bt protein. We only see the whole effect of the bacteria with Bt protein. A proper comparison would be between bacteria with and without the Bt protein so that we can say the protein had an effect as opposed to other things in the bacteria driving the effect.
Then consider that amount of Bt given to the mice. In the study the mice were given either 27mg/Kg, 136mg/Kg or 270mg/Kg. According to David Tribe “The amounts fed the mice do not reflect human dietary levels– they were some ~ 106 to 108 time higher than exposure from GM or organic crops ( as per Hammond, 2012)”. So the level of exposure was somewhere between 1 million and 100 million times the amount humans are exposed to through consumption. Just about anything is dangerous when consumed excessively. You can even die from drinking too much water or soy sauce. So it is no surprise that being exposed at that excessive level may show results.
Finally the sample size was small. The study used only 3 mice per sex per group. Such a small sample size makes it extremely difficult to demonstrate results with any confidence. When sample sizes are small it is very hard for statistics to identify any significant effects. Furthermore any random sampling error will have a greater effect when the sample size is small. That is sometimes even if a sample is properly selected there is a possibility that some in the sample are going to react differently than the norm. This is always a possibility in science. But when the sample is small if one mouse reacts differently than the norm it may skew the results leading researchers to believe that the anomalous reaction is the norm. This make generalizing ANY results from the study questionable until it can be repeated with a larger sample size.
The study is bunk.
Simply put the study is bunk, there are no two ways about it. The researchers did not give ANY animal ANY GMO food in the study. Thus they can’t generalize to GMO food. Also the researchers did not control their study properly and used to small a sample size. So they cannot generalize their results accurately to the world around us. On top of that the amount of Bt was more than a million times the exposure humans get from consuming GMO food. Since humans will not consume Bt at that level they can’t generalize the results to a more realistic level of consumption. Finally the study was withdrawn from the original journal only to show up in the first issues of a unknown journal.
Thus the study methodology is deeply flawed while at the same time the article and journal have been rejected by the scientific community. There is nothing of value that can be garnered from this study.