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Oblivious To Science?

September 1, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 35

Lawrence Mayhew asserts that he is not antiscience because he is dubious about genetic modification in agriculture (C&EN, June 23, page 2). However, his statements raise questions for me, including, “But the manufacturers of GE [genetically engineered] crops have steadfastly refused to allow independent research.” I want to know how that is possible. Then he refers to “numerous animal studies,” and since I am not conversant with all the literature in the field, it might be useful if some references to peer-reviewed science were furnished. Then we might have a constructive debate, or simply be educated.

I am happy to learn that Mayhew’s overall health matches mine, devoid of pharmaceuticals, cancer, etc. I scarf down all the stuff he eschews, and I am 10 years older, so while we’re swapping anecdotes, let’s not pretend it’s science.

William Eykamp
Arlington, Mass.

Mayhew’s letter that is critical of Rudy Baum’s May 12 editorial (page 3) ascribes the letter writer’s good health, at age 68, to avoidance of foods that are inflammatory and negatively affect the gut microbiome. I suggest, however, that together with a prudent diet (low cholesterol, salt, and fat), heredity and family history play a significant role in determining longevity and good health rather than any implied link to avoidance of genetically modified (GM) foods.

In addition, the letter writer cites the presence of “numerous” articles detailing the adverse effects of GM foods. However, I find in a casual search that many of these articles have not been published in peer-reviewed journals and have been subsequently discredited by organizations that have no industrial affiliation. Moreover, several Wikipedia articles provide references to numerous studies that show no adverse effects from the consumption of GM foods and conclude, “There is broad scientific consensus that food on the market derived from GM crops poses no greater risk to human health than conventional food” (

Food safety is not to be taken lightly, and any new addition to our diet has to be examined carefully on a continuing basis. But in this case, science has spoken concerning current GM food, so to ignore a large body of work suggests the deniers are, in Baum’s words, “pretty much immune to rational thinking.”

John Campbell
Putnam Station, N.Y.



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