The Facts:An article written by astrophysicist Ethan Siegel Ph.D. in Forbes tells readers it is dangerous to do your own research on important topics of our time. He suggests we should only listen to experts.
Reflect On:Why do we hold on to ideas even when new evidence tells us it’s time to question? What state of being identifies so strongly with ideas of the mind that we think those ideas are our identity?
In a recent article out of Forbes, scientist Ethan Siegel suggests people should not “do their own research” on topics as they are not qualified to understand, and doing that research yourself could be dangerous. Throughout the article, Siegel cites the public health disaster that he believes ensued as a result of people questioning vaccines. He also points out that people doubt the validity of water fluoridation due to their dangerous research, and now there exists people who question water fluoridation when they shouldn’t.
To both vaccines and water fluoridation, Siegel believes there is scientific consensus on safety and effectiveness, and therefore anyone doing their own research must stop, and if they come to a different conclusion than the consensus, they must be unqualified.
This is where Siegel’s lack of digging and research is revealed. There is plenty of scientific evidence that would lead any functioning individual to question the safety of both vaccines and water fluoridation. In fact, the science is on the sides of both vaccines having inherent dangers we need to come to terms with, and water fluoridation having serious effects on brain function. Thousands of scientists see this. These are not rare, internet-driven realities, they are extremely well scientifically backed, and the only thing to points to them being untrue is unbacked mainstream scientific culture.
This is though, the natural progression of information. At first, it is ridiculed heavily, even when the evidence points to the fact that we are incorrect to ridicule. It’s odd because many scientists seem to throw the scientific method out when doing their work. “Once we know something, it cannot change, even when new research comes forth” This is the unscientific sentiment it appears many are operating from. But why? Why do we get so stuck in our ideas?To
Uncovered: Monsanto campaign to get Séralini study retracted
Documents released in US cancer litigation show Monsanto’s desperate attempts to suppress a study that showed adverse effects of Roundup herbicide – and that the editor of the journal that retracted the study had a contractual relationship with the company. Claire Robinson reports
Internal Monsanto documents released by attorneys leading US cancer litigation show that the company launched a concerted campaign to force the retraction of a study that revealed toxic effects of Roundup. The documents also show that the editor of the journal that first published the study entered into a contract with Monsanto in the period shortly before the retraction campaign began.
The study, led by Prof GE Séralini, showed that very low doses of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide had toxic effects on rats over a long-term period, including serious liver and kidney damage. Additional observations of increased tumour rates in treated rats would need to be confirmed in a larger-scale carcinogenicity study.
The newly released documents show that throughout the retraction campaign, Monsanto tried to cover its tracks to hide its involvement. Instead Monsanto scientist David Saltmiras admitted to orchestrating a “third party expert” campaign in which scientists who were apparently independent of Monsanto would bombard the editor-in-chief of the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT), A. Wallace Hayes, with letters demanding that he retract the study.
Use of “third party experts” is a classic public relations tactic perfected by the tobacco industry. It consists of putting industry-friendly messages into the mouths of supposedly “independent” experts, since no one would believe industry attempts to defend its own products. Back in 2012, GMWatch founder Jonathan Matthews exposed the industry links of the supposedly independent scientists who lobbied the journal editor to retract the Séralini paper. Now we have first-hand proof of Monsanto’s direct involvement.
In one document, Saltmiras reviews his own achievements within the company, boasting that he “Successfully facilitated numerous third party expert letters to the editor which were subsequently published, reflecting the numerous significant deficiencies, poor study design, biased reporting and selective statistics employed by Séralini. In addition, coauthored the Monsanto letter to the editor with [Monsanto employees] Dan Goldstein and Bruce Hammond.”
Saltmiras further writes of how “Throughout the late 2012 Séralini rat cancer publication and media campaign, I leveraged my relationship [with] the Editor i[n] Chief of the publishing journal… and was the single point of contact between Monsanto and the Journal.”
Another Monsanto employee, Eric Sachs, writes in an email about his efforts to galvanize scientists in the letter-writing campaign. Sachs refers to Bruce Chassy, a scientist who runs the pro-GMO Academics Review website. Sachs writes: “I talked to Bruce Chassy and he will send his letter to Wally Hayes directly and notify other scientists that have sent letters to do the same. He understands the urgency… I remain adamant that Monsanto must not be put in the position of providing the critical analysis that leads the editors to retract the paper.”
In response to Monsanto’s request, Chassy urged Hayes to retract the Séralini paper: “My intent was to urge you to roll back the clock, retract the paper, and restart the review process.”
Chassy was also the first signatory of a petition demanding the retraction of the Séralini study and the co-author of a Forbes article accusing Séralini of fraud. In neither document does Chassy declare any link with Monsanto. But in 2016 he was exposed as having taken over $57,000 over less than two years from Monsanto to travel, write and speak about GMOs.
Sachs is keen to ensure that Monsanto is not publicly seen as attempting to get the paper retracted, even though that is precisely what it is doing. Sachs writes to Monsanto scientist William Heydens: “There is a difference between defending science and participating in a formal process to retract a publication that challenges the safety of our products. We should not provide ammunition for Séralini, GM critics and the media to charge that Monsanto used its might to get this paper retracted. The information that we provided clearly establishes the deficiencies in the study as reported and makes a strong case that the paper should not have passed peer review.”
Another example of Monsanto trying to cover up its involvement in the retraction campaign emerges from email correspondence between Monsanto employees Daniel Goldstein and Eric Sachs. Goldstein states: “I was uncomfortable even letting shareholders know we are aware of this LTE [GMW: probably “Letter to the Editor”]…. It implies we had something to do with it – otherwise how do we have knowledge of it? I could add ‘Aware of multiple letters to editor including one signed by 25 scientists from 14 countries’ if you both think this is OK.” Sachs responds: “We are ‘connected’ but did not write the letter or encourage anyone to sign it.”
A. Wallace Hayes was paid by Monsanto
The most shocking revelation of the disclosed documents is that the editor of Food and Chemical Toxicology, A. Wallace Hayes, entered into a consulting agreement with Monsanto in the period just before Hayes’s involvement in the retraction of the Séralini study. Clearly Hayes had a conflict of interest between his role as a consultant for Monsanto and his role as editor for a journal that retracted a study determining that glyphosate has toxic effects. The study was published on 19 September 2012; the consulting agreement between Hayes and Monsanto was dated 21 August 2012 and Hayes is contracted to provide his services beginning 7 September 2012.
The documents also reveal that Monsanto paid Hayes $400 per hour for his services and that in return Hayes was expected to “Assist in establishment of an expert network of toxicologists, epidemiologists, and other scientists in South America and participate on the initial meeting held within the region. Preparation and delivery of a seminar addressing relevant regional issues pertaining to glyphosate toxicology is a key deliverable for the inaugural meeting in 2013.”
Hayes should have recused himself from any involvement with the Séralini study from the time he signed this agreement. But he kept quiet. He went on to oversee a second “review” of the study by unnamed persons whose conflicts of interest, if any, were not declared – resulting in his decision to retract the study for the unprecedented reason that some of the results were “inconclusive”.
Hayes told the New York Times’s Danny Hakim in an interview that he had not been under contract with Monsanto at the time of the retraction and was paid only after he left the journal. He added that “Monsanto played no role whatsoever in the decision that was made to retract.” But since it took the journal over a year to retract the study after the months-long second review, which Hayes oversaw, it’s clear that he had an undisclosed conflict of interest from the time he entered into the contract with Monsanto and during the review process. He appears to be misleading the New York Times.
The timing of the contract also begs the question as to whether Monsanto knew the publication of the study was coming. If so, they may have been happy to initiate such a relationship with Hayes at just that time.
A Monsanto internal email confirms the company’s intimate relationship with Hayes. Saltmiras writes about the recently published Séralini study: “Wally Hayes, now FCT Editor in Chief for Vision and Strategy, sent me a courtesy email early this morning. Hopefully the two of us will have a follow up discussion soon to touch on whether FCT Vision and Strategy were front and center for this one passing through the peer review process.”
In other email correspondence between various Monsanto personnel, Daniel Goldstein writes the following with respect to the Séralini study: “Retraction – Both Dan Jenkins (US Government affairs) and Harvey Glick made a strong case for withdrawal of the paper if at all possible, both on the same basis – that publication will elevate the status of the paper, bring other papers in the journal into question, and allow Séralini much more freedom to operate. All of us are aware that the ultimate decision is up to the editor and the journal management, and that we may not have an opportunity for withdrawal in any event, but I felt it was worth reinforcing this request.”
Monsanto got its way, though the paper was subsequently republished by another journal with higher principles – and, presumably, with an editorial board that wasn’t under contract with Monsanto.
Why Monsanto had to kill the Séralini study
It’s obvious that it was in Monsanto’s interests to kill the Séralini study. The immediate reason was that it reported harmful effects from low doses of Roundup and a GM maize engineered to tolerate it. But the wider reason that emerges from the documents is that to admit that the study had any validity whatsoever would be to open the doors for regulators and others to demand other long-term studies on GM crops and their associated pesticides.
A related danger for Monsanto, pointed out by Goldstein, is that “a third party may procure funding to verify Séralini’s claims, either through a government agency or the anti-GMO/antl-pesticide financiers”.
The documents show that Monsanto held a number of international teleconferences to discuss how to pre-empt such hugely threatening developments.
Summing up the points from the teleconferences, Daniel Goldstein writes that “unfortunately”, three “potential issues regarding long term studies have now come up and will need some consideration and probably a white paper of some type (either internal or external)”. These are potential demands for
• 2 year rat/long-term cancer (and possibly reproductive toxicity) on GM crops
• 2 year/chronic studies on pesticide formulations, in addition to the studies on the active ingredient alone that are currently demanded by regulators, and
• 2 year rat/chronic studies of pesticide formulations on the GM crop.
In reply to the first point, Goldstein writes that the Séralini study “found nothing other than the usual variation in SD [Sprague-Dawley] rats, and as such there is no reason to question the recent EFSA guidance that such studies were not needed for substantially equivalent crops”. GMWatch readers will not be surprised to see Monsanto gaining support from EFSA in its opposition to carrying out long-term studies on GMOs.
In answer to the second point, Goldstein reiterates that the Séralini study “actually finds nothing – so there is no need to draw any conclusions from it – but the theoretical issue has been placed on the table. We need to be prepared with a well considered response.”
In answer to the third point, Goldstein ignores the radical nature of genetic engineering and argues pragmatically, if not scientifically, “This approach would suggest that the same issue arises for conventional crops and that every individual formulation would need a chronic study over every crop (at a minimum) and probably every variety of crop (since we know they have more genetic variation than GM vs conventional congener) and raises the possibility of an almost limitless number of tests.” But he adds, “We also need a coherent argument for this issue.”
EU regulators side with Monsanto
To the public’s detriment, some regulatory bodies have backed Monsanto rather than the public interest and have backed off the notion that long-term studies should be required for GM crops. In fact, the EU is considering doing awaywith even the short 90-day animal feeding studies currently required under European GMO legislation. This will be based in part on the results of the EU-funded GRACE animal feeding project, which has come under fire for the industry links of some of the scientists involved and for its alleged manipulation of findings of adverse effects on rats fed Monsanto’s GM MON810 maize.
A. Wallace Hayes is no longer the editor-in-chief of FCT but is named as an “emeritus editor”. Likewise, Richard E. Goodman, a former Monsanto employee who was parachuted onto the journal’s editorial board shortly after the publication of the Séralini study, is no longer at the journal.
But although they are sidelined or gone, their legacy lives on in the form of a gap in the history of the journal where Séralini’s paper belongs.
Now that Monsanto’s involvement in the retraction of the Séralini paper is out in the open, FCT and Hayes should do the decent thing and issue a formal apology to Prof Séralini and his team. FCT cannot and should not reinstate the paper, because it is now published by another journal. But it needs to draw a line under this shameful episode, admit that it handled it badly, and declare its support for scientific independence and objectivity.
NASA Studying Ways to Make ‘Tractor Beams’ a Reality
ScienceDaily (Nov. 3, 2011) — Tractor beams — the ability to trap and move objects using laser light — are the stuff of science fiction, but a team of NASA scientists has won funding to study the concept for remotely capturing planetary or atmospheric particles and delivering them to a robotic rover or orbiting spacecraft for analysis.
Goddard laser experts (from left to right) Barry Coyle, Paul Stysley, and Demetrios Poulios have won NASA funding to study advanced technologies for collecting extraterrestrial particle samples. (Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Debora McCallum)
The NASA Office of the Chief Technologist (OCT) has awarded Principal Investigator Paul Stysley and team members Demetrios Poulios and Barry Coyle at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., $100,000 to study three experimental methods for corralling particles and transporting them via laser light to an instrument — akin to a vacuum using suction to collect and transport dirt to a canister or bag. Once delivered, an instrument would then characterize their composition.
“Though a mainstay in science fiction, and Star Trek in particular, laser-based trapping isn’t fanciful or beyond current technological know-how,” Stysley said. The team has identified three different approaches for transporting particles, as well as single molecules, viruses, ribonucleic acid, and fully functioning cells, using the power of light.
“The original thought was that we could use tractor beams for cleaning up orbital debris,” Stysley said. “But to pull something that huge would be almost impossible — at least now. That’s when it bubbled up that perhaps we could use the same approach for sample collection.”
With the Phase-1 funding from OCT’s recently reestablished NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program designed to spur the development of “revolutionary” space technologies, the team will study the state of the technology to determine which of the three techniques would apply best to sample collection. OCT received hundreds of proposals, ultimately selecting only 30 for initial funding.
Replace Current Sample-Collection Methods
Currently, NASA uses a variety of techniques to collect extraterrestrial samples. With Stardust, a space probe launched in 1999, the Agency used aerogel to gather samples as it flew through the coma of comet Wild 2. A capsule returned the samples in 2006. NASA’s next rover to Mars, Curiosity, will drill and scoop samples from the Martian surface and then carry out detailed analyses of the materials with one of the rover’s many onboard instruments, including the Goddard-built Sample Analysis at Mars instrument suite.
“These techniques have proven to be largely successful, but they are limited by high costs and limited range and sample rate,” Stysley said. “An optical-trapping system, on the other hand, could grab desired molecules from the upper atmosphere on an orbiting spacecraft or trap them from the ground or lower atmosphere from a lander. In other words, they could continuously and remotely capture particles over a longer period of time, which would enhance science goals and reduce mission risk.”
Team to Study Three Approaches
One experimental approach the team plans to study — the optical vortex or “optical tweezers” method — involves the use of two counter-propagating beams of light. The resulting ring-like geometry confines particles to the dark core of the overlapping beams. By alternately strengthening or weakening the intensity of one of the light beams — in effect heating the air around the trapped particle — researchers have shown in laboratory testing that they can move the particle along the ring’s center. This technique, however, requires the presence of an atmosphere.
Another technique employs optical solenoid beams — those whose intensity peaks spiral around the axis of propagation. Testing has shown that the approach can trap and exert a force that drives particles in the opposite direction of the light-beam source. In other words, the particulate matter is pulled back along the entire beam of light. Unlike the optical vortex method, this technique relies solely on electromagnetic effects and could operate in a space vacuum, making it ideal for studying the composition of materials on one of the airless planetary moons, for example.
The third technique exists only on paper and has never been demonstrated in the laboratory, Poulios said. It involves the use of a Bessel beam. Normal laser beams when shined against a wall appear as a small point. With Bessel beams, however, rings of light surround the central dot. In other words, when seen straight on, the Bessel beam looks like the ripples surrounding a pebble dropped in a pond. According to theory, the laser beam could induce electric and magnetic fields in the path of an object. The spray of light scattered forward by these fields could pull the object backward, against the movement of the beam itself.
ASA in Final Preparations for Nov. 8 Asteroid Flyby
This radar image of asteroid 2005 YU55 was generated from data taken in April 2010 by the Arecibo Radar Telescope in Puerto Rico. Image credit: NASA/Cornell/Arecibo
Animation of the trajectory for asteroid 2005 YU55 – November 8-9, 2011. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA scientists will be tracking asteroid 2005 YU55 with antennas of the agency’s Deep Space Network at Goldstone, Calif., as the space rock safely flies past Earth slightly closer than the moon’s orbit on Nov. 8. Scientists are treating the flyby of the 1,300-foot-wide (400-meter) asteroid as a science target of opportunity – allowing instruments on “spacecraft Earth” to scan it during the close pass.
Tracking of the aircraft carrier-sized asteroid will begin at 9:30 a.m. local time (PDT) on Nov. 4, using the massive 70-meter (230-foot) Deep Space Network antenna, and last for about two hours. The asteroid will continue to be tracked by Goldstone for at least four hours each day from Nov. 6 through Nov. 10. Radar observations from the Arecibo Planetary Radar Facility in Puerto Rico will begin on Nov. 8, the same day the asteroid will make its closest approach to Earth at 3:28 p.m. PST.
The trajectory of asteroid 2005 YU55 is well understood. At the point of closest approach, it will be no closer than 201,700 miles (324,600 kilometers) or 0.85 the distance from the moon to Earth. The gravitational influence of the asteroid will have no detectable effect on anything here on Earth, including our planet’s tides or tectonic plates. Although 2005 YU55 is in an orbit that regularly brings it to the vicinity of Earth (and Venus and Mars), the 2011 encounter with Earth is the closest this space rock has come for at least the last 200 years.
During tracking, scientists will use the Goldstone and Arecibo antennas to bounce radio waves off the space rock. Radar echoes returned from 2005 YU55 will be collected and analyzed. NASA scientists hope to obtain images of the asteroid from Goldstone as fine as about 7 feet (2 meters) per pixel. This should reveal a wealth of detail about the asteroid’s surface features, shape, dimensions and other physical properties (see “Radar Love” –http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2006-00a).
Arecibo radar observations of asteroid 2005 YU55 made in 2010 show it to be approximately spherical in shape. It is slowly spinning, with a rotation period of about 18 hours. The asteroid’s surface is darker than charcoal at optical wavelengths. Amateur astronomers who want to get a glimpse at YU55 will need a telescope with an aperture of 6 inches (15 centimeters) or larger.
The last time a space rock as big came as close to Earth was in 1976, although astronomers did not know about the flyby at the time. The next known approach of an asteroid this large will be in 2028.
NASA detects, tracks and characterizes asteroids and comets passing close to Earth using both ground- and space-based telescopes. The Near-Earth Object Observations Program, commonly called “Spaceguard,” discovers these objects, characterizes a subset of them, and plots their orbits to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the Near-Earth Object Program Office for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
Biggest Ever Study Shows No Link Between Mobile Phone Use and Tumors
ScienceDaily (Oct. 20, 2011) — There is no link between long-term use of mobile phones and tumours of the brain or central nervous system, finds new research published online in the British Medical Journal
In what is described as the largest study on the subject to date, Danish researchers found no evidence that the risk of brain tumours was raised among 358,403 mobile phone subscribers over an 18-year period.
The number of people using mobile phones is constantly rising with more than five billion subscriptions worldwide in 2010. This has led to concerns about potential adverse health effects, particularly tumours of the central nervous system.
Previous studies on a possible link between phone use and tumours have been inconclusive particularly on long-term use of mobile phones. Some of this earlier work took the form of case control studies involving small numbers of long-term users and were shown to be prone to error and bias. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recently classified radio frequency electromagnetic fields, as emitted by mobile phones, as possibly carcinogenic to humans.
The only cohort study investigating mobile phone use and cancer to date is a Danish nationwide study comparing cancer risk of all 420,095 Danish mobile phone subscribers from 1982 until 1995, with the corresponding risk in the rest of the adult population with follow-up to 1996 and then 2002. This study found no evidence of any increased risk of brain or nervous system tumours or any cancer among mobile phone subscribers.
So researchers, led by the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology in Copenhagen, continued this study up to 2007.
They studied data on the whole Danish population aged 30 and over and born in Denmark after 1925, subdivided into subscribers and non-subscribers of mobile phones before 1995. Information was gathered from the Danish phone network operators and from the Danish Cancer Register.
Overall, 10,729 central nervous system tumours occurred in the study period 1990-2007.
When the figures were restricted to people with the longest mobile phone use — 13 years or more — cancer rates were almost the same in both long-term users and non-subscribers of mobile phones.
The researchers say they observed no overall increased risk for tumours of the central nervous system or for all cancers combined in mobile phone users.
They conclude: “The extended follow-up allowed us to investigate effects in people who had used mobile phones for 10 years or more, and this long-term use was not associated with higher risks of cancer.
“However, as a small to moderate increase in risk for subgroups of heavy users or after even longer induction periods than 10-15 years cannot be ruled out, further studies with large study populations, where the potential for misclassification of exposure and selection bias is minimised, are warranted.”
– Todd Rider, a senior staff scientist in Lincoln Laboratory’s Chemical, Biological, and Nanoscale Technologies Group
Most bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics such as penicillin, discovered decades ago. However, such drugs are useless against viral infections, including influenza, the common cold, and deadly hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola.
Now, in a development that could transform how viral infections are treated, a team of researchers at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory has designed a drug that can identify cells that have been infected by any type of virus, then kill those cells to terminate the infection.
In a paper published July 27 in the journal PLoS One, the researchers tested their drug against 15 viruses, and found it was effective against all of them – including rhinoviruses that cause the common cold, H1N1 influenza, a stomach virus, a polio virus, dengue fever and several other types of hemorrhaggic fever.
“This Week in Psychedelics” is a Reality Sandwich column that follows the multifaceted media appearances of this class of chemicals and their effects in popular culture.
A Johns Hopkins study suggests that “magic mushcrooms” can reliably induce transcendental experiences, offering long-lasting psychological growth without negative effect. (Time)
A sold-out panel at the Los Angeles Public Library discusses Aldous Huxley’s relationship to psychedelics. (LA Times)
An article suggests that psychedelic drugs could become prescription medications within 10 years. (AlterNet)
Portugal celebrates its 10 year anniversary of decriminalizing drugs, which has resulted in “decreased youth drug use, falling overdose and HIV/AIDS rates, less crime, reduced criminal justice expenditures, greater access to drug treatment, and safer and healthier communities.” (AlterNet)
Study demonstrates that a nonhallucinogenic analog of LSD alleviates cluster headaches. (Science)
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration released a decision claiming that marijuana has no medical uses. (NY Magazine)
Author of The End of Faith, discussing drugs and the meaning of life, argues that “[o]ne of the great responsibilities we have as a society is to educate ourselves…about which substances are worth ingesting, and for what purpose, and which are not.” (Huffington Post)
Buyers raced to purchase synthetic substances that mimic marijuana and LSD before a Minnesota ban went into effect. (Star Tribune)
An opinion piece warns that the current generation of teenagers lacks knowledge about the risks of LSD, “mak[ing] them vulnerable if the drug returns to popularity.” (New Brunswick Patch)
Leaf Fielding’s memoir, To Live Outside the Law, discusses LSD dealing in Britain in the 1970s. (Independent)
Former mob boss Whitey Bulger is arrested after an extensive FBI search; defense might link killings to LSD tests performed on Bulger by the CIA. (Boston Herald; Modern Times
Marijuana, mushrooms, LSD, and ecstasy are confiscated from suspects headed toward the Electric Forest Music Festival. (Holland Sentinel)