Science “Journalism” Continues To Be A Mess

Headline: Many GMO studies have financial conflicts of interest.

Opening Paragraph:

Financial conflicts of interest were found in 40 percent of published research articles on the genetically modified crops, also known as GMO crops, French researchers said this week.

OMG, it’s a science apocalypse. Now I’ve noted before, one should fully expect that companies will promote ideas and opinions that benefit them. Marketplace of ideas and all that. But the article waits until paragraph five to note this:

The study focused on articles about the efficacy and durability of crops that are modified to be pest resistant with a toxin called Bacillus thuringiensis

Oh, so the articles focused on the efficacy and durability of a type of modification, and you’re surprised companies making those modifications would be the ones funding and publishing the research? Exactly who else did you expect to be doing it? Random people with tons of cash and mere curiosity?

Obviously a competing company has an incentive to test (and knock down) a competitor’s product. So I went to the actual article to look at how they used their definitions:

The outcomes of the 920 articles retained for the analysis were classified as ‘favorable’, ‘neutral’ or ‘unfavorable’ to the financial interests of at least one GM crop company.

Oh, just one company? Well then 100 articles calling DuPont’s line a piece of shit, while hailing Monsanto’s would be classified as….favorable I guess? Or did you find 0 articles with head to head comparison? Given that you have no “conflicting” I’m guessing you didn’t. (They do list all 677 articles included in a supplemental excel file, but it’d be very hard for me to go through them in my free time.)

The final conclusion is beyond absurd:

One way of combining the possibility of GM crop company funding with an absence of professional and funding COIs would be a system of indirect financial support for research from the industry: GM crop companies and other stakeholders (governments, NGOs) would make a financial contribution to a common pot managed by an independent agency. This agency would launch and fund calls for proposals developed by researchers and stakeholders, to which researchers could respond. Projects would be accepted or rejected by a scientific committee independent of the stakeholders and as free from COIs as possible.

So you want to create an independent organization that would manage a huge pot of money, but for some reason you think it would be immune to Conflicts of Interest? That’s insane. If anything it would be riddled in conflicts if not outright corrupted by some ancillary agenda.

 

Someone has to fund research and whoever that is will, inevitably, have an agenda. That’s just human nature. Conflicts of interest are inevitable. The solution is a critical eye on all science and the spontaneous order of the marketplace of ideas.

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