Bad science in the paper ‘Hematotoxicity of Bacillus thuringiensis as Spore-crystal Strains Cry1Aa, Cry1Ab, Cry1Ac or Cry2Aa in Swiss Albino Mice’

 By: Myles Power Edited by: Peter & Hannah

I have recently published an article and video sceptical of the paper ‘Long-term Toxicity of a Roundup Herbicide and a Roundup-Tolerant Genetically Modified Maize‘. This paper claims to have shown a link between genetically modified (GM) maize tolerant to the roundup herbicide and an increased risk of developing tumours. Even though I discussed the problems with the paper’s experiment in detail, how the paper did not show any such link but did show a link between drinking roundup herbicide and increased life expectancy in men, and listed reliable sources to back up my claims, some people were still not happy with me. Not with what I was saying, but, bizarrely, with the time of the publication.

“haha haha why don’t you analyze the newest studies myles, why don’t you analyze the studies that sparked entire nations to ban GMOs?” – anonymous commenter

Ignoring the fact that I have previously written about the paper only five days after it was published and I am not sure how this invalidates anything I have said, I decided to take up this anonymous commenter’s challenge. Luckily another anonymous commenter sent me a link to the paper ‘Hematotoxicity of Bacillus thuringiensis as Spore-crystal Strains Cry1Aa, Cry1Ab, Cry1Ac or Cry2Aa in Swiss Albino Mice‘ along with the passive aggressive comment, “I surely hope you honor to your word, myles”. Little did he know but he had sent me one of the best examples of bad science I had ever seen; and a perfect example of the laziness of anti-genetical modified organism (GMO) groups.

Bt delta endotoxin

Before I sat down to read the paper I wanted to know what various anti-GMO groups were saying about it, because it was obvious that this anonymous commenter had copied and pasted it from one of their websites. According to the anti-GMO websites, the paper shows a link between GM food and blood cell disorders including, among other things, leukaemia. They also say that even at the lowest dose tested, the toxins were observed to induce damage to bone marrow cells and cause anaemia. It is important to note here that these websites are not saying that the specific GMOs mentioned in the paper (which produce bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) delta endotoxins) is causing health problems, but that all GMOs are; something that would be wrong even if the conclusion of the paper was correct.

I have to admit I was getting very excited to read the paper’s findings and discover just how Bt delta endotoxins expressing GMOs were causing so much damage. You can imagine my surprise when I found out that not only does the paper not show any link between the Bt delta endotoxin producing GMOs and any blood cell disorders, but it does not even investigate GM food in the first place! I am not joking! This is flat out embarrassing for every anti-GMO group and person pushing this paper as the proof of the dangers of GM food. The only reason I can see for how anyone could think this paper shows a link between GM food and blood disorders is if they haven’t even bothered to read it. In all honesty, I could finish the article here but I am just getting started at how mind-numbingly stupid this is.

hankgreen7

So if the paper does not investigate GM food, what does it investigate, I hear you ask. The paper looks into the toxicity of “Bt spore-crystals genetically modified to express individually Cry1Aa, Cry1Ab, Cry1Ac or Cry2A”, which is another way of saying that they are looking at the toxicity of the bacteria which produce the pesticide. Just to clarify, this paper is not investigating the Bt delta endotoxin producing GM food; nor the Bt delta endotoxin themselves; but the toxicity of Bt delta endotoxins producing bacteria. To understand why it is so hilarious that anti-GMO groups are pushing this research, we first need to talk about the Bt delta endotoxins.

The Bt delta endotoxins have been extensively investigated and are considered to be more selective and safer for humans and non target organisms than most conventional insecticides. This is because they target sites that are only found in a few groups of insects. The Bt delta endotoxin is a highly selective pore-forming toxin that binds to the gut epithelium of the insect, causing cell lysis by the formation of cation-selective channels. This leads to death from septicaemia, as normal gut bacteria invade the body cavity. Even though the toxin is so specific, some people seem to be under the impression that what kills one organism will kill another, but we all know this not to be true, otherwise we would not take penicillin to kill a bacterial infection, and we would have no problem feeding chocolate to our dogs. The Bt delta endotoxins are so non-toxic to mammals that when mice where fed 3,289mg/kg of one of them (CryIAb delta endotoxin) in a single dose, no adverse effects were recorded. To put that in context, that would be the equivalent of the average British man (who weights 84kg) eating 276.3g of the purified toxin and having no adverse effects.

The paper, however, is claiming that three mice of each sex fed on 27, 136, and 270 mg/kg of the Bt delta endotoxin producing bacterias were showing negative effects. It then goes on to blame the Bt delta endotoxin contained within the bacteria rather than the bacteria itself. This flat out contradicts over 100 years of research into the toxins, and is a very sloppy conclusion from what is a very poor experiment.

long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize

Just like so many other anti-GMO papers pushed by anti-GMO groups, the sample size is far too small. You cannot achieve a statistically significant set of results using only three mice of each sex for each group, especially considering the historical incidences of these blood disorders in the Swiss Albino Mice is not reported. Although the experiment had mice drinking water, there was no appropriate blank. If the paper truly wanted to investigate the Bt delta endotoxin contained within the bacteria then a blank of Bt bacteria incapable of expressing the toxin is required. If they wanted to show that the toxin produced by GM bacteria is the cause of the problem, then they should have run a blank using the wild type Bt bacteria. Either way you look at, it without the appropriate blank, the conclusion is unfounded and confusing. They also never address the fact that these negative effects could be a result from everything else that makes up the bacteria. This paper shows just as much evidence that lipids are responsible for the mice health deterioration as it does the toxin. And one last thing; if they wanted to investigate the toxicity of the Bt delta endotoxin, then they should have investigated the goddamn Bt delta endotoxin rather than the whole bacteria.

If we look past the painfully obvious and incompetent holes in the experiment and look at the data we can see just how bad this paper is. If the Bt delta endotoxin expressing bacteria did cause various blood disorders, then you would expect to see a relationship between the dose and the response, however we don’t see this in the paper. For example it reports a “U-shaped” dose response curve with high responses at both low and high levels of Cry1Ac after 24 hours. That the mice fed the low levels of Cry1Ab had the highest response, while all levels of Cry1Aa had the same response over a 24 hour period.

What Chan

At this point you probably feel as I do – embarrassed for the people who performed and wrote this paper. You are probably wondering who on earth would publish something like this. It was published in the Journal of Haematology & Thromboembolic Diseases, and don’t worry if you have never heard of it before because this paper was published in volume 1, issue 1, and by the looks of it page 1. The journal is published by OMICS Publishing Group who have come under immense criticism after publishing pseudoscientific articles, accepting research with little or no peer review and have mislead readers into thinking there was a connection between themselves and the National Institute of Health. Let’s not beat around the bush here – this journal is fake, and the “research” it contains is a joke and would have just as much scientific merit if it were written on the back of a pub toilet.

The thing that makes this whole story hilarious and shows the laziness of the anti-GMO lot is the implications if the paper was correct. For a second, let’s ignore all the problems with the experiment, the results that make no sense and the fake journal in which it is published. Let’s say that the people on the anti-GMO websites are correct and it does show a link between Bt delta endotoxins producing GM crop (even though it does not investigate GM crop) and blood disorders. Let’s say the endotoxins are responsible as the paper states and should be avoided in your diet. If this were true, then one type of GM crop would be removed from the market but most of the organic (non-GM) produce would have to be removed as well. This is because the Bt delta endotoxins are found in nature, and therefore can be used as pesticides in organic farming. According to the Organic Consumer Association, at least 57% of organic farmers in the US use it. Yep, the same websites that are telling you to not eat GM food and instead eat only organic food are promoting a paper that is telling the reader that if they do they may develop blood cell disorders including, among other things, leukaemia. THE STUPID…. IT BURRRRRRNS!!!!!!

the stupid it burns

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20 thoughts on “Bad science in the paper ‘Hematotoxicity of Bacillus thuringiensis as Spore-crystal Strains Cry1Aa, Cry1Ab, Cry1Ac or Cry2Aa in Swiss Albino Mice’

  1. This is why people should investigate the claims they hear instead of just trusting that what people say is true. Keep up the good work, and if you have any tips for dealing with pissed off conspiracy theorists, I would love to hear them. :-)

  2. Monsanto admitted at the beginning of this year they were launching a PR campaign to counter all the ‘bad press’ on GMO’s. are you aware of how the world works? how powerful rich lobbyists are in science and politics alike. there are plenty of sound scientifc studies that indicate adverse effects from GMO fed animals…they just get ripped to shreds by paid mouthpieces and those that fear appearing ‘wrong’ in the face of ‘academic’ peer pressure. This is done picking by shaking faith in the entire experimential basis for the results, by picking pedantic holes in methodology which could equally be applied to the Monsanto’s lab studies. Although it may be the popular scientifc narrative of our time it in no way means it is correct. i know you believe all journalism is sensationalist but at times journalists are the frontline of an information war waged by massive corporate interests. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/sep/28/study-gm-maize-cancer

    • That’s funny, I could have sworn Myles made two posts about that paper right here: http://mylespower.co.uk/2012/09/23/bad-science-in-long-term-toxicity-of-a-roundup-herbicide-and-a-roundup-tolerant-genetically-modi%EF%AC%81ed-maize/ http://mylespower.co.uk/2013/06/29/drinking-roundup-herbicide-makes-men-live-longer/ and he made a video about it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWQON4FzQo4&feature=c4-overview&list=UUS_H_4AmsqC705DObesZIIg . It’s not like you could have known that though, he did only mention it in the first sentence of the first paragraph of this post.

    • Ummm, don’t you think that if Monsanto was going to pay anyone off it would be those with far greater reaches than guys like Myles, Mark Lynas et al? I like Mark, Myles, and many other skeptic rationalists but for the most part they end up preaching to the choir. Wouldn’t the ‘massive corporate interests’ prefer and be able to afford paid mouthpieces that speak to larger and more broad audiences like the Guardian and other media outlets?

      Go ahead and be anti-corporate, but trashing the legitimate science that they use to further anti corporate ends is absurd. Organic has turned into a huge business too, you don’t think they have lobby groups and are ALWAYS operating above board? Take a look at the funding for the dubious Seralini study and you will find out the answer to that one.

      PS: Instead of claiming Monsanto’s lab studies have methodological errors and that there are these paid academic shills, how about some evidence (I would bold that last word if I could). Myles gave you lots, even though judging by your comments you didn’t even read the articles. How about some of your evidence, and I don’t mean a link to some cut and paste anti-GM website that only references other anti-GM websites. Give me a scientist not named Seralini or Carman and not linked to organic farming or anti-GM who has picked apart the methodology of the massive amount of studies accepted by agricultural, food and health organizations the world over.

  3. Pingback: Yes on Proposition 37 to Label Genetically Engineered Food? | Myles Power (powerm1985)

  4. I try to make an attempt at balance in all my videos, but there’s always one side that manages to come across as very unsavory or uneducated on every topic, and I gradually drift to the opposite pole.

    On the topic of GMO, there are really valid scientific concerns.
    1. These are germline modifications.
    2. There’s no way to contain the spread of a plasmid-friendly construct.
    3. They create an artificial selection for resistance.
    4. The primary applications exist to create greater profits for technology rich agritech countries.
    5. The scientific and commercial effect of gene patenting, litigious biotechs, and international trade.
    6. The modifications encourage monocropping of select American-specific crops.

    Do the anti-GMO activists discuss these points thoughtfully, with examples and a willingness to defend their position with rational debate? Have they read any papers, or at least executive summaries for laypeople?

    Heck, no. It’s all “Frankenfoods cause cancer!!!” and “Amoral scientists playing god!!!” and “Round Up in our food supply!!1!”

    It’s a shame people are like this. Simple causes with sound bites are easier to get behind. It makes us easy to manipulate. The best I can do is look for the signs of this behavior in myself.

    Miles and Co.: You make great videos, and the blog is very nice, too. I wish you every success.

    • One last comment! Bt has been in use since the 1910′s, sprayed on as active bacteria, along with a sticky starch solution to help it adhere to leaves. Your great-grandparents probably ate Bt-sprayed crops at every meal.

      The agritechs developing Bt transgenics was very low hanging fruit for them: this was one of the first biological pesticides, so it was just natural to make it a GM once the technology progressed.

      The “RoundupReady” GM which confers glyphosate resistance was found in an Agrobacter soil bacterium, and the plant gene modified already existed. Essentially, they “broke” a protein already in the crop to make it glyphosate resistant, they didn’t introduce any new genes. This is often lost on anti-GMO activists who are convinced that RoundupReady means glyphosate made inside the plant cells. *headdesk*

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  6. you either have not read it or did not get it.
    in section materials and methods, just underneath it there is a part about bt spore-crystal toxins. read it carefully please.
    then in the next section, there is the methodology of the assay, which says there were spore-crystals used and all binary combinations of cry genes toxins as well. read it again. every combination was tested on 6 mices.
    shame on you.

  7. Natural Bt toxins are absolutely different from Bt toxins produced by Bt crops. Many scientific papers proved it. Natural Bt toxins are biodegradable and can be washed off unlike toxins in Bt crops, which are continuously produced. Amount toxins in Bt crops is thousand times higher than in dosages used by Bt sprays. Natural Bt toxins are protoxins, which must be activated. It is not true for Bt toxins in Bt crops. And so on…

  8. Thanks! A friend posted an anti-GMO meme about how Pringles are owned by Kellogg (a company that makes grain products and cereals, which is now, apparently, the target of anti-GMO activists… http://www.bakeryandsnacks.com/Regulation-Safety/Kellogg-and-General-Mills-defend-themselves-against-January-anti-GMO-campaign) is only 42% potato and causes the red blood cells in mice to “rupture” and “pop”. She linked to that paper as support. You’re doing good work. Keep it up!

    Expose that bad science! Teach others how to do the same!

  9. Pingback: Bad science in the paper ‘Hematotoxicity of Bacillus thuringiensis as Spore-crystal Blah Blah Blah’ | Myles Power (powerm1985)

  10. Myles,

    You make three main points that I think are valid about the Mezzomo et al. paper:
    1. The paper does not use GM food
    2. Six mice are not enough to reach any statistically significant conclusions about safety
    3. If you want to investigate the toxicity of Cry1A(x), study Cry1A(x), not Bacillus thuringiensis containing Cry1A(x)

    But rather than compare this paper to some hypothetical ideal study, it’s informative to compare it to the study that claims to show Cry1A toxin expressed in corn is safe (the EPA registration document you cite).

    Mezzomo et al. Ciba-Geigy
    Test substance Bt spores Cry1A toxin core from E. coli
    Sample size 6 – 180 10
    Dose 0. 3 – 3 mg 35 mg
    Time frame 1 – 7 days 14 days
    Survival 100% 100%
    Other effects sub-lethal haemotoxicity -
    1. Uses GM food NO NO
    2. Uses adequate sample size NO NO
    3. Uses purified Cry1A(x) NO NO

    Each of your objections to Mezzomo can also be made to the Ciba-Geigy study. However inadequate Mezzomo may be, it provides as much support for its conclusions as the Ciba-Geigy study. There is no contradiction between the two studies, and certainly no reason to accept one and reject the other. I agree with you that a lot more work needs to be done before I would accept the Mezzomo results. But I would also need to see long-term feeding studies with 1) the form of toxin expressed in corn, 2) many more samples and 3) looking at sub-lethal health effects before I would accept the EPA conclusion that consumption of Bt Corn at typical corn consumption levels (~100 g/day for 70 years) is without deleterious effect.

    Jeff

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