Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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Yet another weird SF fan

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Has This Been Replicated?

No, it's not embryonic stem cells this time.

Irina Ermakova, a scientist at the Russian Academy of Sciences tried testing a common GMO, Roundup Ready soybeans, on pregnant rats and found they apparently damaged the rats offspring:

Ermakova’s first surprise came when her pregnant rats started giving birth. Some pups from GM-fed mothers were quite a bit smaller. After 2 weeks, 36% of them weighed less than 20 grams, compared to about 6% from the other groups (see photo).

But the real shock came when the rats started dying. Within three weeks, 25 of the 45 (55.6%) rats from the GM soy group died, compared to only 3 of 33 (9%) from the non-GM soy group and 3 of 44 (6.8%) from the non-soy controls.

I have a few questions:
  • Has this been replicated? Some of the embryonic stem-cell results were just made up.

  • Have there been any similar experiments?

  • Was this a matter of random variation? If scientists try testing something a few hundred times, some of the results will be apparently improbable.

  • Was this a matter of systematic error? Was the cage with the rats fed Roundup Ready soybeans cleaned properly?

  • What did the rats who weren't fed soybeans eat?

  • In the unlikely event there is something to this, could it be that Roundup Ready soybeans lack a vital nutrient? That would explain why they're deadly in an artificial environment but have not been associated with any birth-defect epidemic in the United States. The hypothetical nutrient might be common in other foods.

  • If there's nothing to this, will Project Censored acknowledge that?

While I was reading about the above, I noticed an alleged fact that is fascinating, if true:

… Even the DNA in the mother’s food may be a factor. German scientists found fragments of DNA fed to pregnant mice in the brains of their newborn[1].


[1] Doerfler W; Schubbert R, “Uptake of foreign DNA from the environment: the gastrointestinal tract and the placenta as portals of entry,” Journal of molecular genetics and genetics Vol 242: 495-504, 1994

This might be the start of a new version of the Nobel Prize sperm bank.


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