Going Overboard with Paul Tukey

According to a post by Paul Tukey on safelawns.blog, a recent French study which was published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology shows that corn which has been genetically modified to produce the caterpillar toxin Bt is poisonous to humans.  Furthermore, so is roundup.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we’re screwed.

The rapture is coming.  The true believers who shun conventionally produced food and eat only organic, non-GMO will be saved.  Those who don’t, well, they’re all as good as dead so don’t even bother worrying about ‘em.  Brothers and Sisters, change your ways now while there’s still time!

The end will come, not in the form of fire or water, but instead kidney failure and it will come as punishment for playing with Nature.  By messing around with that which Nature has wrought we have inadvertently created a subtle beast that now lies quietly in our bloodstream poised to destroy us.  We are the architects of our own doom and can only hope that those who survive the destruction mend their ways to bring this world back to its GMO and pesticide-free ways.  It’s our only hope.  

OK, the above statement is more than a little over the top.  Hopefully you realized that as you were reading it.  Here’s the real story.  Let me start with Paul Tukey.

I’ve read a lot of what Paul Tukey has written.  He’s a guy who’s very concerned about the amount of poison that we spray on our crops and our lawns and, to be honest, I admire his resolve, and I agree that we overuse pesticides – and to go a step further it’s people like him who are going to get people excited about reducing pesticide use and are going to make a difference in the backyards of America.    

BUT (you knew there would be a but didn’t you?) he has a habit of over-interpreting what the studies say and/or passing along information that does the same.  Usually it’s not too bad.  For example, this article about Round-up is a bit over the top and is based more on the beliefs of one scientist who is considered an extremist rather than on our best scientific data, but at least it acknowledges the fact it might be wrong.  It’s the kind of article that I don’t like, but not one I’m going to get up in arms about because then I’d be constantly up in arms and probably end up suffering from chronic migraines – there’s just too many articles like this for me to worry about all of them.

The article that I began this post discussing is different because it says, and I quote “genetically modified corn containing the genes for Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is toxic to humans” and then goes on to say the same thing about Round-up.  The implication is that the study which was conducted shows without the shadow of a doubt that we’re killing ourselves by eating genetically modified crops which have the Bt toxin and/or have Round-up used around them – at least I think that’s the implication.  If any of you think I read it wrong please let me know.

The idea that this study shows that we’re hurting ourselves with genetically modified crops is ridiculous (please be aware that I’m talking about this particular study — there certainly could be others in the future that change my mind).  Why you ask?  Let me count the ways.

  1. We eat Bacillus thuringiensis all the time.  It’s a naturally occurring bacterium which is often present in food and is cultured as an organic pesticide which is likely to be present at some concentration in organically produced crops sprayed with it.  If you think that avoiding genetically modified foods will keep you away from it you’re sadly mistaken.
  2. This study tested the effects of Bt and Round-up on a strain of kidney cells.  Hardly any Bt and Round-up gets to kidney cells even if you eat or drink them – there are just too many barriers to cross before reaching the blood stream (But it is important to note that some certainly does – just very, very little – One article I found showed a level of about 0.2 nanograms Bt/milliliter blood and about 75 nanograms Round-up/milliliter blood in a population in Canada). 
  3. This study artificially placed Bt and Round-up in with kidney cells in a test tube.  Obviously nothing like a natural environment.  Try the same thing with coffee or dish soap at the same concentration and I bet you’ll see worse damage to the cells.         
  4. Just to get picky, kidney cell line 293 was used.  Look it up on Wikipedia (look up HEK 293) this IS NOT an appropriate cell line to be testing poisons on.

Long story short — the article cited really doesn’t reveal much abo
ut how safe or dangerous genetically modified crops are.

4 thoughts on “Going Overboard with Paul Tukey”

  1. That’s a rather silly analogy there Kenny, don’t you think? You can drink your Round Up (just don’t go “excessive”). I’ll drink my water.

  2. Thanks for bringing these topics to our attention AND being the voice of reason. I believe we need watchdogs overlooking new technology, but I also hate when data are misinterpreted by alarmists (although I do enjoy the Don Huber claims of finding entirely new life forms due to GMO’s!)

  3. I think the real issue underlying both your defense and Paul’s extremism is that we really have no idea what we’re doing and what the long term effects will be on ourselves and the environment. That seem pretty damn scary. We leap before looking–our tech is always far ahead of our morals and ethics.

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