Debunking Denialism

Fighting pseudoscience and quackery with reason and evidence.

Tag Archives: contamination

PureCare Herbal Cream Found Contaminated by Prescription Steroids

PureCare Herbal Cream

PureCare Herbal Cream with the current label (Health Canada).

Real medicine has to be researched and tested for many years before reaching approval by the regulatory agencies. It usually starts with biochemical research measuring different chemical parameters of a substance or selecting agents based on already known parameter data. It then moves on to cell and tissue cultures and if they are still considered promising, it can move on to animal testing.

If it passes that hurdle, it can move on to testing on humans in different stages. All relevant documents should be submitted to regulators that then scrutinize the findings. If found to be safe and effective, the product can be approved. Despite approval, research still continues to ensure that the treatment continues to be safe after approval. If something happens, regulators can recall the product. For supplements, complementary and alternative medicine (SCAMs), the story is very different.

Often, they do not need any evidence for efficacy, but may need evidence for safety depending on the country. In some countries, it is enough that they contain substances that are generally regarded as safe. Usually, quacks are not allowed to make radical health claims on their products implying that it treats or cures things that it does not actually work for, but they try to get around that by using weasel words or different kinds of warnings.

However, because SCAMs are often produced by unscrupulous manufacturers and pushed by equally uncaring sellers, it is not unusual for them to be contaminated or contain very different amounts of ingredients than declared on the label. Their products typically have no evidence for efficacy and do not work. Read more of this post

Why Rachel Parent is Wrong About Genetically Modified Foods

Rachel Parent

Rachel Parent is a Canadian 15-year-old anti-GM activist who wants GM foods to be labelled. In an independently organized TEDx event at Toronto, she held a talk regurgitating almost all popular anti-GM claims in under 15 minutes. She claims to have been interested in GM crops since she was 12, yet the “research” she did involved reading anti-GM websites, not scientific papers. It is great that young women are getting increasingly interested in science and scientific research, but deceptive misinformation is a poor substitute for scientific integrity. In reality, all of her claims are either wrong or misleading: BT is safe for humans and have been used in organic farming, all plants contain their own “bug killers”, GM technology has been used to save the papaya and make rice prevent vitamin A deficiency, GM crops does increase total yield, is associated with less usage of dangerous pesticides, GM crops do not harm beneficial insects, farmers are not sued by accidental cross-pollination and GM crops are as safe as conventional crops. Even the paper she cites as evidence for GMOs causing allergies does not even mention GM crops. This post goes into detail in explaining why Parent is mistaken.

BT toxin is safe for humans and has been extensively in organic farming

BT toxin is a substance that is produced by bacteria and is only dangerous to a certain group of insect pests. This is because of its high specificity: it requires an alkaline stomach environment (humans and other mammals have acidic), a specific protease that cleaves the inactive precursor into the active toxin, a specific receptor on the gut surface that triggers the rupturing of the stomach lining.

It has been used extensively in both conventional and organic farming for many decades by spraying bacterial spores on the plants surface. However, with the help of recombinant DNA technology, scientists have been able to insert the gene that produces this toxin into the plant itself. It is a method that we know is safe and that we know work.

Plants cannot run, therefore they contain their own bug killers

Although it might seem odd at first that plants contain their own bug killers. However, this is actually very common. Most plants are stationary with roots into the ground and so they are not able to run away from their predators. Instead, they have evolved means of protecting themselves by using poisonous secondary metabolites. Among these are the solanine in conventional potatoes, spinasterol in spinach and coumarin in carrots. These can have neurotoxic effects, interfere with hormonal signaling and cross-links DNA. So far from being weird, plants making their own bug killers is the norm. These substances, like BT, occur in very small concentrations of course, so they are not dangerous to humans.

GM technology as been used to save papaya and to prevent deadly vitamin A deficiency

Parent focus exclusively on the two most common GM applications in agriculture: herbicide resistance and insect resistance. However, she does not bother to discuss other applications, such as virus-resistant papaya or rice that have more vitamin A.

The papaya ringspot virus (PRSV) almost exterminated papaya farming in Hawaii, which represented the vast majority of papaya production in the world. Researchers were able to genetically modify those papayas to make them resistant, and thus prevent the papaya production from collapsing. In other words, one of the reason that we still have papayas today is because of GM technology.

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