MercolaWatch:Supposed “report” comparing GMO and non-GMO corn

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, 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.

Update (5/5/2013)

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.

About Josh DeWald

I am a software engineer, husband and parent of two. I have been involved in the Skeptical movement for a few years now, especially since having children and so needing to fight pseudoscience related to parenting (vaccines, homeopathy, etc). I've been fortunate to attend TAM twice with my wife (who is also of a Skeptical bent). I also have a blog known as "What Does the Science Say?" (, where I have an odd habit of writing a lot about aspartame.
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43 Responses to MercolaWatch:Supposed “report” comparing GMO and non-GMO corn

  1. mud says:

    You know we empiricists must be stupid not to have noticed this bit about animals not eating GMO food in winter.

    Well, there goes our understanding of genetics. Guys, pack it up, close down the internet. We have been running on false pretenses for far too long.

    I have always been suspicious of science!

    Funny that a mantra such has that has been around since empiricism became the final arbiter in any argument for the last 2500 years.

    • For over 2 decades the cattle we raise have devoured the corn ensilage we feed them. The simple gene links keep 1 major pest out of the growing fields by way of insect, and another simple gene link gives resistance to a chemical that kills the main pest in any field-weeds. Much more focused than the “broad stroke” of hybridization, that has been producing plant changes for millenia, a new protien(one already availble in some natural plant) is inserted into a crop plant, such as corn. There has never been 1 bit of scientific evidence of a problem. In fact the dangerous poisons (acutely, especially for the farmer treating his crops) pesticide use has been reduced and consequently the residues, which the natualists decryed in the past. There is nothing, it seems , that will satisfy everybody…

  2. Your selection of quote leaves much out. I wrote: “In a study that Dr. Huber reported, on Elizabeth Dougherty’s Talk Radio, .97 ppm of formeldehyde showed to be toxic in ingestion to animals. This corn has 200X that! That is why the animals , given a choice will not eat it at all, they can smell the formeldehyde!”
    WHEN GIVEN a CHOICE animals won’t eat it. Pigs, cows, rats…all smarter than most humans!

    I was told I could post the report by the person who gave it to me and have never been contacted to remove it. The point is the information. Any other scrambling to attack my character is simply to deflect attention from the fact that this shows that GMO corn is toxic and explains why, when given a choice, animals will not eat it. Go ahead and continue to enjoy your GMO corn. I would guess however, that your mother would want you to err on the side of safety and eat something else instead.

    • Josh DeWald says:

      Firstly, I do not believe that I attacked your character at any point in my article. If you can point out instances of that, I will absolutely remove or reword them. I clearly have very strong disagreement with your views on this matter, but it is not my intent to attack *you*.

      Back to the matter of the animals. Perhaps it was not your intent, but the wording of your claim implies that even in the most desperate situation in the middle of winter, animals still will not eat GMO. Choice did not appear to be a factor in your claim, nor do I see how it would be relevant. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a way to link directly to your comment, but I do not believe that I took you out of context (, about the 3rd comment). In any case, citing a Talk Radio show is certainly not a source of evidence. Can Dr. Hubert provide a proper citation to this claim about pigs and cows “smell[ing] the formaldehyde”?

      This report in no sense demonstrates that GMO corn is toxic. It’s not peer-reviewed. We don’t know who actually performed it. We don’t know the methodology. We in fact know nothing about the report except for the images that you posted. The report is not even available on the site that is identified as the source. So I’m sure you can understand a certain amount of skepticism at the claims of your entry, which unfortunately Dr. Mercola then took as cited as if it were a genuine scientific study.

      There simply is no scientific evidence that GMO corn is (nutritionally) any different than non-GMO corn.

  3. mud says:

    I read it as an analysis of just another outburst in Mercola’s “inneffective science” series.

    Thank goodness people can now safely say they dont drive cars because of the risk. This should be cross linked with Eric’s paper on glyphosphate so folk can see that poor journal articles could be quoted as well as making things up on a web blog.

    My son is getting his head around analysing journal articles for university. We all have to bear in mind that sometimes the report content appears complex and just too difficult to assimilate on first read. He is finding this out right now.

    Things are different when you look back, you assume every one can do things you take for granted.

    Mercola should know better but his articles do not indicate that. The fact that he quotes non Journal literature just appears to be a cheap grab.

    I dont think the above person should feel slighted.

    But… as Brian found out in his Californian Licensing post, you really have to on the lookout for dodgy journals as well.

    What some people think is a good Journal can sometimes be a collection of science fantasy.

    We all know; E.E. “Doc” Smith is far better and more established science fantasy

    • Josh DeWald says:

      Yeah, I think a fundamental problem is that it can be quite easy to identify many studies and sources that are not good science (especially when cited by Mercola). But I don’t think it’s possible to detect *all* instances… I’m always wary of getting “tricked” into thinking something is from a legit journal or otherwise solid science because I’m just not aware of the particular journal or author. Compare scientists “testing” the paranormal that get fooled because they don’t have James Randi’s, or other magicians, skillset.

      The recent list of poor journals ( is a big help, because the names can sound just like real journals. Again, the reference in question for this blog post wouldn’t even be in the game obviously :)

      As best I can tell, Mercola at least doesn’t himself engage in outright making things up (though occasionally he’ll cite his own “years of experience”).

      • Mud, bereft of facebook.... says:

        Josh there are innumerable poor studies written by the publish or perish set.

        It takes a teensy bit of stats to work out if the reults are valid.

        I’ll take the german acupunture trials as an example..The trial versus acupuncture shams produced lower back relief equal to the sham placebo. The sham placebo was renamed Tradiitional..

        I don’t mind that as since 2006, the woo admits than prodding, poking pinching or sticking anywhere is just as effective..

        I’ll leave you to find that and be exposed to the endless poor math trials that pervade the literature under the name of “good” EB.

        That and I avoid “lookey see posts” like the plague. Its your blog not mine.

  4. Julee K says:

    Plant biologists and geneticists have laughed that corn table off of the paper its written on. I’m not a scientist but I’ve read/talked to enough of them lately to know that, if you look at even just the carbon count on that table, whether GM or not, it could not POSSIBLY be corn, or probably any organic matter. I’ve also read comments to the effect of… anyone who passed organic chem 101 would see right through this misleading data. And yet, this stupid little report has circled the blogosphere, still is, and then ends up on Mercola’s site which sadly MANY people read and accept as the gospel truth. Mercola had to take organic chem in med school. It’s so irresponsible and downright fraudulent for him to post that, or let it be posted. Really irritates me.

    • Josh DeWald says:

      I knew it was nonsense but certainly wasn’t qualified to make specific comments except to note that an order of magnitude difference (sometimes even more) seemed highly improbable. One has to wonder exactly where the numbers *did* come from (if not soil samples, which they explicitly claim it’s not).

      Mercola picking things up is the real danger as he has quite a bit of influence. Not only are most of his articles published on itself, but they seem to be “syndicated” to quite a few other sites.

  5. Julee K says:

    The numbers could be soil… that’s what they look most like according to the biologist/ag crowd. They could also all be fabricated. It could be a hoax. We just don’t know. No peer review. No source. The company who ordered the “study” is a non-GMO seed company so obviously they had a monetary stake in this data. And yet as loosy goosy as it is, it has been regurgitated by every anti-GMO blog worldwide and then it ends up on Mercola. I used to like at least some of Mercola’s stuff because he’s not wrong about everything but this is so irresponsible of him to allow this complete nonsense on his site. Good for you for calling him out. Keep up the good work!

    • Josh DeWald says:

      Julee – I’ve actually just linked to your Sleuth4Health article in an update to this post. I really appreciated what you had to say about how this report opened your eyes about the current approach the anti-GMO movement has been taking and hope to do better (I hope that’s a fair paraphrase).

      • Julee K says:

        That’s great, people, especially scientists and farmers have really responded to my “conversion” as of late. I’ve met lots of them online and chatted and exchanged comments. My way of thinking has gone through a fundamental shift and yes, it was that ridiculous so-called corn data that did it! I realized how gullible the just plain stupid the movement was getting to be and I just couldn’t align myself with it anymore. Now I’m writing more evidence based stuff and trying to expose that mainstream science is fine with GMOs and there really isn’t even a debate going on within those circles.

  6. Mud, bereft of facebook.... says:

    Julee is not only right but clearly from the chart, the corn strips very lttle from the soil nutrients..

    This is about the most ecofriendly crop I have ever considered..

    You sure they arent measuring corn against runoff algae? Certainly looks like it..

    Something clearly has been botched in the analysis or Moms across america should be marching to demand such corn on sustainabiity grounds..

    Blog tables are easy to remove..

  7. Karolyn says:

    Dr. Mercola has been extremely important to me for health info and keeping myself healthy for 12 years. I don’t like to hear things like this; however, it will not shake my faith in Mercola. He does far too much good. I’d like to ask if anybody has an answer to the question “Why are so many countries banning GMOs?”

    • Eric Hall says:

      I would be interested to know what Mercola has said *specifically* that hashelped you be more healthy. Because he does occasionally offer generic information like exercise more, get proper amounts of sleep, eat a balanced diet – which is information you can get from any doctor that won’t peddle crap as well. The problem with Mercola is he continues to push unhealthy practices such as not vaccinating. He also sells (for profit) total nonsense such as “grounding” and mega-dosing vitamins (also potentially harmful).

      Like with anything, I always look at the sum of someone’s work. I don’t expect anyone to be right all the time, nor for me to agree with someone all the time. But in Mercola’s case, there is so much more bad than good, I do not consider him a good source of health information, and in fact, I am concerned his actions result in harm.

      • Karolyn says:

        I was diagnosed in 2001 with Heptatis C, and because of what I learned from Dr. M. and others, i refused treatment, which would have seriously disrupted my life and probably made me sick (which I wasn’t) with side effecs and other long-term problems. I cannot possibly list all I’ve learned from Mercola. the importance of Vitamin D-3 is a biggie. I NEVER get sick, and I attribute it to the vitamins I do take, like 4000 iu of D3 and 3000 mg. of C every day. I do not eat that well, am 66 years olf and in excellent health! Never get a flu shot either, and that is due primarily to Mercola.

        • Eric Hall says:

          Well Karolyn, by not getting a flu shot, you put all of us at risk for getting the flu. Mercola’s anti-vaccine campaign is not just dangerous for you, but affects the herd immunity. Because the flu shot in particular has a lower overall effectiveness in preventing the flu, herd immunity is even more important.

          Unless you are diagnosed with a deficiency due to some disease, taking excess vitamins simply makes expensive urine. Dr. Mercola is very careful to pick those vitamins which have the lowest possibility of toxicity when taking excess amounts. There is some risk to vitamin D however, so one should be careful in supplementing it (or any vitamin) to excess.

          You also point out you don’t eat well – which goes against Mercola’s advice. So, if you aren’t following his plan, how do you know it is due to his advice you are healthy? Do you get regular physicals to ensure you are healthy? I ask these questions only to point out you “feeling good” is anecdotal evidence. Without a better measure of your health, it is hard to determine if you “feeling good” is due to Mercola’s advice – or if it is something for which we do not know about.

          • Karolyn says:

            I see the doctor once a year for bloodwork and a checkup. Most people do not believe I’m 66 years old. I don’t eat well because at the moment I cannot afford to; however, what I do eat does not include preservatives or artificial ingredients. Actually, rather than saying I don’t eat “well”; I should say that I eat very simply, but do not eat all the vegetables I should.

            I never said Mercola was my only source of info. I have done extensive online research over the past 12 years. I might also add that should I be diagnosed with cancer, I would either opt for alternate means of treatment or death by my own hand if it got that bad.

            All the people I know who are of like mind and do not get flu shots do not get the flu. Waste of money and more chemicals into the body. Every year there’s the big flu scare, which translates to nothing. Prior to taking charge of my own body, I cannot remember how long ago it was that I had the flu. I would get at least one cold every winter. I have not had a cold in about five years; and rather than getting more infirm with age, I’m getting healthier!

            It kills me all the people who are on so many medications. When I go to the doctor, I’m almost a paradox to them because I’m not on anything.

            What’s wrong with death anyway? There has to be death. A certain number of people have to die to make room. What difference does it make what we die from?

          • Eric Hall says:

            Here’s a question I always like to ask – if you were exposed to rabies, would you get the vaccine?

  8. Mud says:

    If you have to hold Mercola at a faith level, I’d recommend a new faith..

  9. Julee K says:

    Mercola is right about a lot of things and I have followed him too. But he should do quality control on what he publishes and make sure the stuff is correct or at least not blatantly false.

  10. Eric Hall says:

    Let me just repeat my earlier statement – I think anyone’s expertise needs to be weighed as a sum of their person, not just cherry-picked advice. For example, I am pretty good at physics because my degree is in physics. I didn’t get every single problem right on every test I took as a student, but I can be trusted overall as a source of physics knowledge. However, if I were to get 50, 60, 70% of physics questions wrong, one might need to question if I am an expert. I might get 30, 40, 50% right, but you’d probably be better off getting your advice elsewhere. Would you want me planning a controlled explosion if I am only right half the time?

    I wouldn’t use Mercola as a source because I would need to recheck all of his advice anyway – because he is wrong so often. It is worse because some of his advice has potential for harm. Any doctor who is against vaccines in all cases cannot be trusted to provide science-based advice. That alone shows how anti-science he is. He continues to advocate against the HPV vaccine, though studies already show it is reducing the incidence of genital warts in teens – which will likely reduce future cancer rates in those teens as well. His advocacy against that vaccine could be connected to future deaths via cancer – something unforgivable – he could do just as much harm advocating against chemotherapy for a person with cancer.

    Let me ask this – why is it he trusts science in some cases (high-intensity exercise) – but in other cases he doesn’t (vaccines)?

  11. Julee K says:

    @ Karolyn. Here is a link to an article about banned GMOs in other countries

  12. An interesting question nobody seems to ask about this study (and the flawed study that just came out regarding pigs and GMO feed): we’ve seen the ghastly pictures of the GMO-fed rats and their horrific tumors, right? Where are the pictures from that study of the non-GMO-fed rats? Shouldn’t they not have horrific tumors? Why do we never see them?

  13. Jan says:

    My goats, yea goats, chow down and love their food. They gobble food every time I fed them. After the GM Alfalfa was released for seed, the next year, bought some broker purchased bales of alfalfa, my goats didn’t rush the food feeder filled with that alfalfa that I bought that was trucked into our area. What I experienced feeding this alfalfa– The goats lost weight; they had a rough coat: their coat went lighter (a symptom lack of minerals in the Toggenburg goat breed). I don’t care if you want to say about equivalency. I found a local farmer who won’t use GM seed and bought his alfalfa. Goats’ coats are back to shiny; the coats are darker, and they have gained back the weight. Of course, this is anecdotal evidence, not a scientific study. nor can I prove what I bought was GMO alfalfa. However, as a consumer, I’ve decided that I don’t need to buy it. People say if like if you don’t like GMOs, don’t buy it. Well, I don’t. I have opted out of the scientific community’s experiment. Someone else can find out and be science’s guinea pig. From 1950′s tonsil removal as the norm, to the myth that smoking and transfats were good for you that it’s ok to feed slaughter house wastes to herbivores as our country refuses to test Alzheimer’s for Mad Cow disease, yes, others can be used to discover the truth.

  14. Jan says:

    Magnanamous protist, be you gymnodinoid, suessoid, gonyaulacoid-peridinioid, nannoceratopsioid, dinophysioid or prorocentroid, oh silly one, I bow to your infinite wisdom.

  15. Aileen Reid says:

    Its definitely a soil analysis, that’s why it quote % exchangeable cations eg Mg Na, Ca etc. And chloride never tests at zero. As far as I’m concerned its spurious to say the least.

  16. TB says:

    and here’s the report:

    Conclusion: Patho-physiological profiles are unique for each GM crop/food, underlining the necessity for a case-by-case evaluation of their safety, as is largely admitted and agreed by regulators. It is not possible to make comments concerning any general, similar subchronic toxic effect for all GM foods. However, in the three GM maize varieties that formed the basis of this investigation, new side effects linked to the consumption of these cereals were revealed, which were sex- and often dose-dependent. Effects were mostly concentrated in kidney and liver function, the two major diet detoxification organs, but in detail differed with each GM type. In addition, some effects on heart, adrenal, spleen and blood cells were also frequently noted. As there normally exists sex differences in liver and kidney metabolism, the highly statistically significant disturbances in the function of these organs, seen between male and female rats, cannot be dismissed as biologically insignificant as has been proposed by others [4]. We therefore conclude that our data strongly suggests that these GM maize varieties induce a state of hepatorenal toxicity. This can be due to the new pesticides (herbicide or insecticide) present specifically in each type of GM maize, although unintended metabolic effects due to the mutagenic properties of the GM transformation process cannot be excluded [42]. All three GM maize varieties contain a distinctly different pesticide residue associated with their particular GM event (glyphosate and AMPA in NK 603, modified Cry1Ab in MON 810, modified Cry3Bb1 in MON 863). These substances have never before been an integral part of the human or animal diet and therefore their health consequences for those who consume them, especially over long time periods are currently unknown. Furthermore, any side effect linked to the GM event will be unique in each case as the site of transgene insertion and the spectrum of genome wide mutations will differ between the three modified maize types. In conclusion, our data presented here strongly recommend that additional long-term (up to 2 years) animal feeding studies be performed in at least three species, preferably also multi-generational, to provide true scientifically valid data on the acute and chronic toxic effects of GM crops, feed and foods. Our analysis highlights that the kidneys and liver as particularly important on which to focus such research as there was a clear negative impact on the function of these organs in rats consuming GM maize varieties for just 90 days.

    • Eric Hall says:

      I couldn’t find any place where this study was repeated. It is highly suspect in the way it is written – most of the paper is spent on anti-Monsanto writing and not on the study itself. They admit the study isn’t large enough – then claim it is valid later on. They also declare no conflict of interest – but then talk about being funded by greenpeace.

      Looking at the statistics themselves – They really really were grasping at straws and did a bit of a dance to find significance.

      It isn’t that I don’t think we shouldn’t continue to study GM food – but these studies designed like this are not helpful in any way.

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