While it may appear that I attack every article that Joe Mercola writes, his “newsletter” averages two articles every day except for Sunday (about the same volume as the Skeptoid group blog, except everything is published under his own name). So my once a week notes represent < 10% of what's available in a given week. Anyhow, Mercola.com articles will usually cite something that at least appears on quick glance to be actual research, but on deeper investigate will turn out not to be. But in a recent anti-GMO entry he did not even go that far, but actually simply used as a reference an entry on another blog site, which itself provided no reference. Even I was surprised about the low effort on this one.
The article in question is “Analysis Identifies Shocking Problems with Monsanto’s Genetically Engineered Corn“. His direct source is an entry entitled “Stunning Corn Comparison: GMO versus NON GMO” from a blog called “Moms Across America” (I’ll actually be focusing on his source in this article). I followed the link to the Moms Across America blog to find that the extent of the available “report” is really 2 IMAGES of a couple of tables of data. I wondered why there was no link to a PDF, Excel file, or really reference of any kind on specific methodology. Turns out if you go to the “ProfitPro” site (ProfitPro’s logo is contained in one of the images, and the blog author says to “call them” if anybody has questions) they have the following disclaimer:
This information was intended for our customers only.
ProfitPro did not give permission for any other web site to use or publish the study. Additional side-by-side studies will be conducted this coming year.
ProfitPro point out that this report was from a single client of theirs’ farm (who subsequently sold the non-GMO corn to the “major food company” that performed the analysis). Given that the study was apparently performed as part of a commercial transaction, has little to not methodological information other than the fields being “side by side”, it strikes me as irresponsible to use it as the source for an article that will potentially be read by thousands or hundreds of thousands of people. But I can guarantee you that people will cite the Mercola article as “proof” that GMO corn is inferior nutritionally (besides the other scare tactics in the article).
So despite the MAA authors’ claims about free speech and “right to know”, they really had no permission to publish the information. The comments of the blog offer some entertainment as the authors attempt to defend the information. One commenter pointed out that the bulk of the information is what you would find in a soil study, not something you would do directly on produce (I’m certainly not qualified to evaluate that).
But back to the report, if the numbers were actually true, and could be shown to be representative, and could be demonstrated to be meaningful (many comments on the article point out that the analysis is norm for soil, not produce), then it would be rather damning. For example, calcium ppm is 14 for GMO vs 6130 for non-GMO. Nearly all of the results are an order of magnitude difference, which seems unheard of.
Slightly tangentially, but worth calling out, in the comments on the MomsAcrossAmerica blog, the author of the entry makes the claim that “animals will NOT eat GMO corn even in the dead of winter”. Again if true, this would be rather remarkable information. But it looks to be one of those random Internet rumors “proved” by YouTube videos and the like. I will admit I cannot find any specific study proving that animals will eat GMO, but my hunch is that it’s because… they do. Its simply never come up as something to study. Feeding GMO to animals is part of the safety testing for GMO produce in the first place.
While this happens to be an outrageously glaring example of the poor quality of research Mercola uses as the jumping point for his articles, at least in this case, its obviously from an unreliable source. In many cases, it takes a few jumps (and sometimes lots of reading) to discover that the research (when it’s even that) is from a less-than-reliable source.
When I originally wrote this, my main goal was to point out at that this Moms Across America blog was a poor source, in general, for scientific references in the way that Mercola used them. I did not realize that the Moms Across America “report” article had already been making the rounds for a while until the Rbutr browser plugin lit up when I revisited the page. I wanted to link to some of the other sites that have dived deeper into the numbers of the “report”, which put it in an even worse light than I suspected initially. The main gist.. the report is most likely fraudulent. It seems that it was actually originally available on the ProfitProAG site, but they took it down and disavowed it after the backlash.
- Sleuth4Health: “Science Is Laughing At Us” – Remarkable article from someone who is anti-GMO but realized after this “report” went viral, that much of anti-GMO rhetoric simply is not based on any sort of science. She admits it’s a value judgement and hopes to find actual scientific support. Very encouraging.
- Illumination:Anti-GMO data stokes Alarm – Blog of a plant biologist who points out the absurdity of the fact that the report says that the corn contained only 3% organic matter (and yet it’s still claimed not to be a soil report).
- The Physics Police:Don’t eat soil” – Points out, among other things, the insane formaldehyde numbers.