What Did Monsanto’s Robb Fraley Really Learn From Bill Nye?

I read a piece by Robb Fraley, Monsanto’s Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, called “What I’ve Learned From Bill Nye” in the Huffington Post a few weeks ago. In it, Fraley wrote that he had Bill to thank for teaching him important lessons, the first of which is:

“When you’re not sure if you fully understand a topic you feel strongly about – and are able to recognize that you may be basing your opinion on ideology rather than data – it’s important to push yourself out of your comfort zone to research and learn more.”

Fred Gould, the chairman of the committee that put together the most recent National Academy of Sciences report on GMOs, is shown in the photo accompanying that HuffPost.

I therefore submitted a comment to Fraley’s post, on a topic I hypothesized he probably feels strongly about…Fred Gould’s opinion regarding a safety study on one of Monsanto’s genetically engineered (GE) crop/food products.

It’s been 2 1/2 weeks since I submitted my comment and, as I write this, it has still not been posted. Therefore, I am posting it herein below.

Comment submitted May 14, 2017, in response to “What I’ve Leaned from Bill Nye:”

Since you mention “retracted scientific studies regarding GMOs,” and Fred Gould, the chairman of the committee that put together the most recent National Academy of Sciences report on GMOs, is shown in the photo accompanying this post, I think you should know that Fred Gould believes that Eric Séralini’s study of the long-term effects on rats of eating your company’s genetically engineered (GE) NK603 corn and herbicide glyphosate should never have been retracted.

For those who may not know, that study, which was peer-reviewed and originally published in the respected international journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, was in print for more than a year when it—very unusually—underwent a thorough review by the journal’s editor-in-chief; he reviewed not only the submitted manuscript and all the reviewers’ comments, but also the raw scientific data from Séralini’s lab. That editor “unequivocally…found no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data” and deemed Séralini’s results “not incorrect” but “inconclusive.” And yet, despite the fact that inconclusiveness is not a benchmark for retraction of a scientific paper, he retracted the paper.

Fred Gould told me that Séralini’s paper should never have been retracted during an NSF-sponsored workshop on “Scientific Uncertainty and Professional Ethics: Getting from Strong Public Science to Sound Public Policy” held last December in Washington, D.C. Other scientists, environmental lawyers and journalists participating in the workshop agreed.

A lot of people feel strongly about this study. Unintended/off-target changes to crop plants can occur as a result of the genetic engineering process and it’s to look for such changes that GE crops/foods are fed to animals in these kinds of studies. In fact, scientists at your company have conducted very similar (although not as long-term) studies, with GE NK603 corn as well as other GE crop products.

Since Séralini’s results have been deemed inconclusive, we obviously don’t fully understand what may, or may not, be unintendedly going on with GE NK603 corn and glyphosate. So Séralini’s data suggest that you and your company may not “fully understand a topic you feel strongly about.”

Therefore, based on your Important Lesson #1, it is now “important to push yourself out of your comfort zone to research and learn more.” The proper scientific response to this situation is to repeat Séralini’s study, with additional control rats, in an effort to conclusively, one way or the other, establish the safety status of GE NK603 corn.

Choosing instead to declare the issue “debunked for years” not only would be unscientific but also could indicate that you are not “able to recognize that you may be basing your opinion on ideology rather than data.”

 

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4 Responses to What Did Monsanto’s Robb Fraley Really Learn From Bill Nye?

  1. Ed Regis says:

    If Seralini’s study is really that important, why have no other researchers tried to replicate it?

    • Belinda says:

      That’s a good question. Please see goodgirlroxie’s comment on this post for a possible explanation. I imagine most scientists would shy away from taking on Monsanto and the likely firestorm of controversy–like those which hit Seralini and his co-workers, and Losey, Pusztai, and others before them–that would accompany the publication of their results should those results have negative implications about Monsanto’s GE crop/food.
      That’s why I think the FDA should require Monsanto, the developer of NK603 and glyphosate, to follow up on Seralini’s findings; it seems a failure of the U.S. “coordinated framework for regulating GE crops/foods” that FDA has not done so.

  2. So what Fraley learned is that when you feel strongly about the products that your industry/company is marketing, then you need to develop a marketing strategy that attacks anyone who questions the safety & other claims you’re making about those products & your industry/company as being unwilling to push themselves out of their comfort zones about the safety & other claims you’re making about your products.

    I’m not a sociopath, but I know how they think.

    Sorry for the snark. I know you’re smarter than that. I’m not. So I’ll snark for you.

  3. Thanks Belinda. I wonder if HuffPost would be open to you submitting your own article, rather than a comment, as a response. I didn’t find any comments at all; my guess is they aren’t accepting any for Fraley’s post because it would probably draw too many trolls… I found this link on their website – maybe it’s worth a shot to reach out to them this way instead. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/contact/ …. Also, I saw your video on YouTube posted by GMO WTF! Great information. (Sorry to hear about the FOIA, sounds like pure harassment). For those interested, see “A History of GMO Commercialization” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUM6FReJdkE

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