By Grant Jacobs 21/01/2016 34


On January 19th, the NZ Green Party pesticide policy for streets and city parks was announced. They’re touting it as evidence-based policy, pointing at a report commissioned by Steffan Browning.

It’s not.

The report is basically a bought opinion piece, that Steffan Browning knows ahead of time will agree with his views because he’s asked it to.

Extraordinarily (or extraordinarily stupidly), the NZ Green Party are presenting this as evidence-based policy.

I’ve previously written on the need for evidence-based policy; some are linked at the end of this post. I think it’s a principle most people can agree with but the ‘report’ the NZ Greens base this on is not evidence-based policy.

Similarly, I think everyone can agree that we’d like our streets and parks to be safe for our kids, but this report is unhelpful.

A common complaint in response to this announcement on the Green Party Facebook page was that Green supporters are tired of ‘evidence-based’ policy that is not.

What Steffan Browning asked for

Important in reports is how they are commissioned and how they are executed.

The report has Steffan Browning — he of homeopathy-can-treat-Ebola fame — asking someone who openly advocates for a position he likes to prepare something that supports his pre-held position — ignoring what does not.

Here’s what he calls for,

I have commissioned this report to bring together some of the peer-reviewed evidence available to support the call for glyphosate based herbicides to be removed from our immediate environment – reducing exposure in our communities, especially the vulnerable including our children.

Note he asks only for what might shore up his a priori conclusion. This is not what evidence-based policy is about.

Here is the Green Party of Aotearoa determined to say it’s evidence-based.

Greens-yes-this-is-evidence-based-623px

Evidence-based policy should start with defined questions to be addressed, obtain all evidence related to the questions, filter this evidence for relevance and quality, and finally determine what conclusions can be drawn. It needs to be done by someone with sufficient expertise to aweigh the evidence, and to assess the soundness and suitability of the research.

These have not been done.

The consultant is not a toxicologist

I hate addressing the people in these things, but it must be noted that the consultant is not a toxicologist. Her only qualification appears to be a BSc in Agribusiness.

Bruning-LinkedIn-Education-569px

Her only work experience that might be relevant appears to be her time as a member of a community group, the (overly grandly named) Toxic Agrichemical Advisory Forum. As far as I can make out, this is not a formal working party with specialist skills, as the name might imply, but a group of ‘interested persons’.

In addition to lacking the expertise to review the material, the consultant holds a biased view on the subject. The question here is not that she hold views, but that she holds them in ideological way.

The consultant is an advocate, as readily evidenced by her websites and twitter stream. She is also a contributor to GE Free Bay of Plenty –

Bruning-GE-Free-BoP-LinkedIn-595px

Evidence is not related to the question at hand

Most of the material presented is a grab-bag, with little or no effort to relate it to the question at hand.

Unsurprisingly this means much of the material is out-of-context or irrelevant.

For example, the report points to the possibility of glyphosate causing cancer. Following this, the NZ Green Party promotional material writes, “a substance that is probably carcinogenic” – but that is misleading on it’s own, as has widely been noted.

The group they refer to, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), only presents the strength of evidence for some level of risk for cancer, in some settings. The risk might be quite small or large. The setting might be quite specific, or general. You have to look at the specifics.

There is a widespread problem of the reports from IARC being incorrectly presented, and some of the blame must be laid with the how IARC describe their categories.

The Greens’ statement paints with a broad brush an implied position. Dr Kerry Harrington has related on NZ radio, the risk, if any, is likely to be to those doing the spraying day-in, day-out — that inspection of the specifics suggests the risk is likely not to the general public or the setting in question.

That’s basic stuff to omit. Of course, part of the problem here is what has been commissioned. Browning did not commission a review of the evidence, but a presentation supporting the position he wanted to advocate.

Sifting for quality

No effort has been made in the report to determine what studies are meaningful, or of sufficient standard to include. The effect is it includes studies that are widely criticised as poor.

It’s not that you can find something that supports you view, but that after checking it, it does. This includes eliminating poor science.

On page 12 of the report Bruning concludes a discussion of ‘The State of Science in 2015’ with,

It is the twenty first century, and regulatory dismissal of academic studies is not in accord with good and appropriate scientific practice.

In practice, you should exclude studies that are of poor quality, unable to draw conclusions, or that on closer inspection are not addressing the specific questions the report aims to address. Not doing this is a sign of a lack of quality control.

This is part of what makes formal reviews challenging. They do need to examine the details and work through them and determine what is useful, and what is not. They are more than a list of references that on first appearance seem to support a particular viewpoint. (See also my next section.)

Not quoting sources of science summaries

At several points, a list of research papers (supposedly) supporting a claim are listed. Before each reference is emboldened text offering what reads as a Bruning offering a summary or key factoid believed to be of interest in the reference.

Checking a (small) sample of these statements, many look to be lightly edited versions of statements from various sources (including “anti-” websites rather than research sources).

At kindest this is sloppy or unprofessional. At worst it can be read as plagiarism.

If other sources are to be drawn from they ought to cited (even if they are paraphrased). Material that is substantially the same is best quoted with edits to remove any doubt.

This also suggests Bruning has not proceeded from a formal literature review, but from a open search for material that ‘fits’ the intended conclusion. (e.g. the example below clearly starts from the advocacy website, not the research literature.)

Bruning might have, for example, explained at the head of each list that she was to now proceed searching for what might support her claim from on-line material and their associated research publications, citing each. People would (correctly) point out that this is ‘evidence’ by google search, but at least it would be up-front.

A deeper issue is that this may reflect Bruning lacking of expertise to critique the research and draw out relevant findings, and is relying on other’s words.

This reduces much of the report to a list of “likely sounding things”, stuff found on the internet that “look like” they might support Browning’s cause.

As just one example Bruning’s report writes,

Roundup, at concentrations lower than presently used in agricultural applications, are capable of destroying food organisms widely used as starters in traditional and industrial dairy technologies, such as Geotrichum candidum, Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris and Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. Bulgaricus.

Activist Post has (identical words emphasised),

… that glyphosate formulations, at concentrations lower than presently used in agricultural applications, are capable of destroying food organisms widely used as starters in traditional and industrial dairy technologies, such as Geotrichum candidum, Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris and Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. Bulgaricus.[iii]

The grammarly.com plagiarism check reported “Significant plagiarism was detected”, as is readily seen by eye in this case. (Note also widening RoundUp, one formulation, to ‘glyphosate formulations’.)

There are other examples. I have not done an exhaustive study on this. The larger portions of text I checked look to be “borrowed” in this fashion. There are relatively few larger paragraphs; I have not tried many of the smaller paragraphs, as they are harder to verify, but it seems likely that a cut-paste-edit approach has been often used.

If readers choose to read this as plagiarism this would be a serious issue: passing off other’s words as your own is regarded as a form of fraud. I’ll choose to interpret with the benefit of doubt, but not quoting or citing the use of other sources is not suitable practice for a formal report intended to base political party policy on.

Existing reviews not used

The choice of literature for Bruning’s report is deliberately from one viewpoint. This means it leaves out useful reviews. As just one example from last year,

Crit Rev Toxicol. 2015 Mar;45(3):185-208. doi: 10.3109/10408444.2014.1003423. Epub 2015 Feb 26.

Evaluation of carcinogenic potential of the herbicide glyphosate, drawing on tumor incidence data from fourteen chronic/carcinogenicity rodent studies.

Greim H, Saltmiras D, Mostert V, Strupp C.

… There was no evidence of a carcinogenic effect related to glyphosate treatment. The lack of a plausible mechanism, along with published epidemiology studies, which fail to demonstrate clear, statistically significant, unbiased and non-confounded associations between glyphosate and cancer of any single etiology, and a compelling weight of evidence, support the conclusion that glyphosate does not present concern with respect to carcinogenic potential in humans.

The full abstract of this review can be found in the Footnotes.

Footnotes

IARC is the same regulatory group whose report on meat and cancer was widely misreported.

Full abstract of Greim et al.,

Glyphosate, an herbicidal derivative of the amino acid glycine, was introduced to agriculture in the 1970s. Glyphosate targets and blocks a plant metabolic pathway not found in animals, the shikimate pathway, required for the synthesis of aromatic amino acids in plants. After almost forty years of commercial use, and multiple regulatory approvals including toxicology evaluations, literature reviews, and numerous human health risk assessments, the clear and consistent conclusions are that glyphosate is of low toxicological concern, and no concerns exist with respect to glyphosate use and cancer in humans. This manuscript discusses the basis for these conclusions. Most toxicological studies informing regulatory evaluations are of commercial interest and are proprietary in nature. Given the widespread attention to this molecule, the authors gained access to carcinogenicity data submitted to regulatory agencies and present overviews of each study, followed by a weight of evidence evaluation of tumor incidence data. Fourteen carcinogenicity studies (nine rat and five mouse) are evaluated for their individual reliability, and select neoplasms are identified for further evaluation across the data base. The original tumor incidence data from study reports are presented in the online data supplement. There was no evidence of a carcinogenic effect related to glyphosate treatment. The lack of a plausible mechanism, along with published epidemiology studies, which fail to demonstrate clear, statistically significant, unbiased and non-confounded associations between glyphosate and cancer of any single etiology, and a compelling weight of evidence, support the conclusion that glyphosate does not present concern with respect to carcinogenic potential in humans.

The full review is pay-walled. I have no read the full manuscript: my point here is that it was available but not used in the report.

Other articles on Code for life:

Putting government policy on trial

Gluckman on science in small countries

What do scientists want from politicians?

When is a scientific paper political campaigning?

Green Party GM policy and discussion about GE or GMOs


34 Responses to “NZ Green Party pesticide policy not evidence based but one-sided opinion piece”

    • You have presented a straw-man argument. As I noted to you earlier on twitter, I’m looked at how the report was commissioned and executed as in “Important in reports is how they are commissioned and how they are executed.”

      I set the direction early in the piece (“I’ve previously written on the need for evidence-based policy”). I never said I intended to review the science of glyphosate itself.

      After-the-fact “insisting” that it be about some list you make up is fallacious.

      Certainly someone might tackle your points. Maybe not on Sciblogs. You can’t “demand” people do! Either way, I’ve written about the commissioning and report. Perfectly reasonable thing to look at.

      Nor did I write ad hominem. You’re welcome to point out where you think I have. I focused on the report and it’s execution.

  • So, John, are you suggesting that it’s OK to commission a ‘review’ that looks only that some of the evidence, and only the evidence that supports a pre-existing point of view. If a student did that in a thesis I’d fail it. (In fact, Wollongong University is currently copping a lot of flack for awarding a degree for a thesis that did just that.)

  • Grants Jacobs comments regarding the Green party policy are unconvincing. Most of his comments endeavour to discredit the messengers by criticising their background rather than addressing the issues raised by research relating to pesticides.

    He neglected to mention that the study he cited is an industry-sponsored research.
    ‘Greim H, Saltmiras D, Mostert V, & Strupp C.’ (Evaluation of carcinogenic potential of the herbicide glyphosate…)
    Saltmiras works for Monsanto and two of the authors (Saltmiras, Strupp) are members of the’ Glyphosate Task Force’ http://www.glyphosatetaskforce.org/ which is a consortium of (agrichemical) companies ‘joining resources and efforts in order to renew the European glyphosate registration with a joint submission.’ Their works falls into the area of advocacy or ‘junk’ science promoted by companies with vested interests in pesticide use.

    There are numerous studies published in referred journals which raise valid concerns about glyphosate and agrichemical use. An example is shown below.

    Attempting to discredit serious concerns about pesticides and their use is not science journalism, it is political advocacy.

    Food Chem Toxicol. 2015 Oct;84:133-53. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2015.08.012. Epub 2015 Aug 14.
    Potential toxic effects of glyphosate and its commercial formulations below regulatory limits.
    Mesnage R1, Defarge N1, Spiroux de Vendômois J2, Séralini GE3.

    Abstract
    Glyphosate-based herbicides (GlyBH), including Roundup, are the most widely used pesticides worldwide. Their uses have increased exponentially since their introduction on the market. Residue levels in food or water, as well as human exposures, are escalating. We have reviewed the toxic effects of GlyBH measured below regulatory limits by evaluating the published literature and regulatory reports. We reveal a coherent body of evidence indicating that GlyBH could be toxic below the regulatory lowest observed adverse effect level for chronic toxic effects. It includes teratogenic, tumorigenic and hepatorenal effects. They could be explained by endocrine disruption and oxidative stress, causing metabolic alterations, depending on dose and exposure time. Some effects were detected in the range of the recommended acceptable daily intake. Toxic effects of commercial formulations can also be explained by GlyBH adjuvants, which have their own toxicity, but also enhance glyphosate toxicity. These challenge the assumption of safety of GlyBH at the levels at which they contaminate food and the environment, albeit these levels may fall below regulatory thresholds. Neurodevelopmental, reproductive, and transgenerational effects of GlyBH must be revisited, since a growing body of knowledge suggests the predominance of endocrine disrupting mechanisms caused by environmentally relevant levels of exposure.

    • “Most of his comments endeavour to discredit the messengers by criticising their background”

      Actually I mostly write about the report, but I do have to raise background where it’s relevant to how the writer might execute the writing of the report. It’s normal to consider the expertise of the person who wrote the report, for example.

      “it is political advocacy”

      With all respect, that’s what Steffan Browning is doing. I’m not advocating a position, I’m looking at how a report was commissioned an executed.

  • Also, John, you seem to think that Grant’s talking about a petition. He’s not. He’s talking about the seriously flawed report that Browning commissioned to support the petition. There’s a big difference. It’s this woolly approach to science that makes it very hard for me to vote for the Greens.

  • Can I assume you are both supportive of evidence-based policy-making in NZ? If so, please kindly contribute your scientific expertise to the other six and a half points so we plebs have a better idea about the claims being made.

  • I do understand what you wrote Grant. I’m asking: is that all you’ve got? And it seems the answer is yes, no challenge to the other six 1/2 points.

    • John,

      If you don’t want to deal with the points I raise, that’s fine, but it’s wrong-headed to try hold me to things I wasn’t writing about.

      I never wrote about the petition: as I have already said, I wrote about *report* that underpins it.

      If that’s flawed, what follows is building on flawed foundations. More sensible to deal with the underlying thing first.

  • Thank you. This is a valuable contribution. Science being what it’s meant to be – intelligent discourse based on evidence. I think this is an excellent piece of writing and remain unconvinced by the rebuttals. That is not an anti Green statement. The Green political party has an important role for our society. They will go further if they don’t speak nonsense and accept science rather than ideology.

  • I have issues with each of your reasons for not supporting this research – there are holes in your holes. I will address each issue one by one.

    1. What Steffan Brown asked for. You wrote:

    “Evidence-based policy should start with defined questions to be addressed, obtain all evidence related to the questions, filter this evidence for relevance and quality, and finally determine what conclusions can be drawn. It needs to be done by someone with sufficient expertise to weigh the evidence, and to assess the soundness and suitability of the research.”
    These have not been done.”

    You claim this hasn’t been done, but what you really should have said is that you don’t think the RIGHT questions were asked. I think that in terms of policy process – yes this process you outlined has been done and come up with the research document that does indeed now exist.

    2. Researcher not being a toxicologist doesn’t necessarily mean that this person cannot review and evaluate scientific research. Are you yourself a toxicologist? If not, then you’d by your own point would not be able to review this report effectively either.

    3. Evidence is not related to the question at hand… what is the question at hand – from the report it says “published and peer reviewed literature that demonstrates there is no safe level of exposure to glyphosate or its formulations.” I think the literature supports that and the report covers exactly that. Maybe it doesn’t answer the question you want it to ask and answer.

    Further you write:

    “For example, the report points to the possibility of glyphosate causing cancer. Following this, the NZ Green Party promotional material writes, “a substance that is probably carcinogenic” ”

    The report says ‘probably’ and the quoted reports say ‘probably’. So there wasn’t a change from ‘possible’ to ‘probable’.

    Also you wrote:
    “The Greens’ statement paints with a broad brush an implied position. Dr Kerry Harrington has related on NZ radio, the risk, if any, is likely to be to those doing the spraying day-in, day-out — that inspection of the specifics suggests the risk is likely not to the general public or the setting in question.”

    In that link – the statement from him is written as:

    “But Massey University’s Dr Kerry Harrington said that classification doesn’t mean glyphosate causes cancer.”

    Well actually the report the Greens put out doesn’t say it causes cancer either. It says it ‘probably causes cancer’, based on the evidence as referenced. Other than that Dr Kerry Harrington doesn’t provide any evidence or reference to studies that are evidence of his assertion of risk assessment.

    Your own insistence on evidence to the question at hand is severely lacking in the reference you chose to counter the report. An opinion without scientific evidence is just that – an opinion.

    4. Sifting for quality – you quote from the report

    “It is the twenty first century, and regulatory dismissal of academic studies is not in accord with good and appropriate scientific practice.”

    You go on to write
    “In practice, you should exclude studies that are of poor quality, unable to draw conclusions, or that on closer inspection are not addressing the specific questions the report aims to address. Not doing this is a sign of a lack of quality control.”

    You are suggesting that the research is not excluding studies when the context of this quote relates to how regulatory groups have dismissed research – in fact the previous line from the report, which is:

    “Therefore independent studies can result in far more meaningful results in terms of toxic effects from chemicals at real world levels of exposure. ”

    This is saying that independent studies are more valuable than research funded say by the company who produces a product (think tobacco companies and the like as examples) and dismissal of independent studies outright is not an effective way to get a balanced and true picture, and in this case to do with studies about how the effects as endocrine disruption had been dismissed by regulatory bodies. So using regulatory bodies statements saying glyphosate is safe isn’t necessary following ‘independent’ studies on the issue and therefore may not be accurate.

    5.Not quoting sources and science summaries. Actually the only example I could find that was not from the research itself was the one example that you listed. Other than that I found that most were from summaries/abstracts that were sourced directly afterwards. So given that the others that I checked were taken from the studies themselves, I suggest that perhaps in this one case, it too was taken from the full version of the research (of which I don’t have access), not just the abstract/summary and therefore it is likely that the other website also quoted the same from the study itself as similarly to the Green Party report, it referenced the study directly afterward.

    It appears you have found one example and extrapolated that out. This is pretty crappy extrapolation. If you are going to be critical of the study at least do your homework.

    6. Existing reviews not used:

    The study and abstract you quote (and has been previously commented on) is one that is a type of review that would/should NOT be used due to it’s non-independent nature. You yourself actually indicate that some research should not be accepted and this is an example of that.

    The abstract you quote states:

    “Most toxicological studies informing regulatory evaluations are of commercial interest and are proprietary in nature. ” explaining why the data is not readily available.

    This is problematic in two ways – one, commercial proprietary in nature implies that the researcher has vested interests in the research results and two if the data itself cannot be accessed then there is no full and open independent review of the data. Therefore this would be one of the studies that cannot be attributed independent on two counts no less and as such should not be part of the report. Which it isn’t.

    Therefore I find your evaluation of the report problematic. It seems that you have a view yourself about this issue and have tried to find holes in the document and followed a process to support your view.

    Is there any bias you have against either Steffan Browning or the Green Party that would have you work to discredit the report without acknowledging any of the evidence in the report?

    In fact a quick search suggests you are specifically interested in genetic modification and therefore you would not agree with Steffan or the Green Party on their GM policy. It might have been pertinent to outline your bias at the top of the article to ensure that any actual or perception of bias was at least accounted for and you were being transparent.

    Thanks, but no thanks for your opinion. But please don’t try to sugar coat this opinion piece as evidential and factual when you have not provided any proof of the opposite and in fact your own “review” started with a question and process to support your own hypothesis – something you yourself have done here and what you accused Steffan Browning of.

    • G Smith,

      Far too many things for me to address, sorry. With all respect, your “analysis” gets a lot wrong. Rather than tackle them all, I’ll cover just a few.

      Just one for now, as I have to get on to other things.

      re: (quoting you)

      Further you write:

      “For example, the report points to the possibility of glyphosate causing cancer. Following this, the NZ Green Party promotional material writes, “a substance that is probably carcinogenic” ”

      The report says ‘probably’ and the quoted reports say ‘probably’. So there wasn’t a change from ‘possible’ to ‘probable’.

      Nitpicking this misses the point.

      What I wrote was that IARC “only presents the strength of evidence for some level of risk for cancer, in some settings. The risk might be quite small or large. The setting might be quite specific, or general. You have to look at the specifics.”

      To expand the IARC statement out to a general risk is hearsay, yet that’s what the Greens are implying in their petition statement.

      IARC ranks the “evidence level” for some claim of cancer risk, but that risk can be tiny or large, be general or to a very small subset of people with particular roles.

      The evidence level, not cancer risk, for glyphosate causing cancer is ‘probable’. Got that? That’s the level of evidence, not the cancer risk.

      It’s saying there is a possibility that glyphosate causes cancer, that it needs to be confirmed.

      It’s same level of evidence as (from memory) hair dressing, lighting a fire and so on.

      The NZ Greens used an open-ended statement: “The World Health Organisation classified it as “probably carcinogenic” to humans” — but did not make any effort to say if that’s a tiny risk, or, what people it might apply to. They didn’t even clarify if the risk (if any) applies to the circumstance they are looking at (parks and sidewalks) or to some other setting. They didn’t mention that there is a risk at all is disputed.

      They have this vague open statement implying the risk is large and applies to most people. It’s at best scare mongering. (At worse it’s lying by omission.)

      In practice the risk is small, with some (most) saying there is no risk to the general public.

      I also mentioned that IARC reports are widely misrepresented in media (and that part of the blame for that must rest with IARC’s descriptions of it’s categories). I can somewhat understand someone without training getting it wrong, but you’d wish government-level policy would take more care.

    • A quick point that covers several things you say. I reviewed the process of doing the report, not the research literature. (You have crossed the two over at several points.)

      Anyone paying attention to detail could review the process of doing the report.

      It’s easy to see it’s unsound.

      That the report is one-sided is not just my opinion. It’s what Steffan Browning asked the report to be. His letter with this is included near the top of the report; I quoted the relevant paragraph.

      It was set up to be a sham from the onset by Browning. The Green Party ought to be quite embarrassed for holding it up, never mind accepting to present this as a policy idea on the basis of this report.

      The report did not start with defined questions to be addressed. It did not obtain all relevant evidence. (It also doesn’t say how it selected what was used.) It did not filter what was selected for relevance and quality. The author did not determine what conclusions could be drawn: it reads that way, but the summaries do not appear to be hers (see my section checking for plagiarism). It’s not helped by being done by someone without sufficient expertise to weigh the evidence, and to assess the soundness and suitability of the research.

      Some of the papers cited are atrocious. Some of them are not relevant. Those asking for me to review them (others writing in these comments) are ironically acknowledging that the report hasn’t done this and should have — but are asking that someone else should take up what it didn’t cover. I haven’t time & it wasn’t my point. I started with the first things first. First up was how the report was executed. If that’s not good, the rest won’t be either. (Having Seneff and Séralini’s papers listed is a quick indication of a poor evidence base. Even a hurried screen for poor papers would remove them.)

  • G.Smith has written a fairly lengthy comment but I’m going to address this statement from it:

    Evidence is not related to the question at hand… what is the question at hand – from the report it says “published and peer reviewed literature that demonstrates there is no safe level of exposure to glyphosate or its formulations.” I think the literature supports that and the report covers exactly that. Maybe it doesn’t answer the question you want it to ask and answer.

    The key thing here is that the report parameters are such that it was only ever going to deliver the answer that Browning wanted ie “that there is no safe level of exposure to glyphosate”. This is not a full review of the literature but essentially cherry-picking to select the bits that fit that pre-existing narrative.

  • What amazes me is that these self-declared “science communicators” (Grant & Alison) aren’t tackling the science. To take just the most obvious example, do they dispute the proposition that “there is no safe level of exposure to glyphosate” or not?

  • John,

    Browning requested only the science that supports his viewpoint.

    Grant and Alison are asking to see the rest of the science, including the bits that don’t support Browning’s viewpoint.

    There’s no dispute here, just incomplete evidence.

    Until ALL of the science is available to everybody the proposition is neither proven nor disproven.

  • “Asking to see the rest of the science”? Are there some barriers to Grant & Alison locating science that contradicts the central proposition Alison has highlights? Surely Alison has access to the Waikato Uni library network.

  • Let’s be honest: we all have prior views on this topic. The intellectually honest approach is to weigh new information against your prior view in an learning/updating process.

    Grant & Alison are only challenging this policy & petition because they hold very different prior views on the central proposition to the Greens. Unless they’re just into arguing for its own sake, which I doubt.

    I reckon that the truth or falsity of the Greens substantive arguments are more important than debating whether or not this is evidence-based policy, and (ironically) Grant & Alison actually *need* to focus on the substantive arguments to prove their own point (second-order though it is).

    Somehow though, I doubt that Grant & Alison are up for an actual public discussion of the substantive issues. I’d love to be proven wrong, but my guess is they’ll stick to the peripheries of the issues: they’ll be examining the entrails of what’s been said rather than admitting they have different prior views testing those views against the available evidence.

  • Grant & Alison are only challenging this policy & petition because they hold very different prior views on the central proposition to the Greens.
    You appear to be hard of reading. We are pointing out that the ‘review’ on which the petition is based is on relying on a sub-sample of the available data. It does not follow from this that either of us then needs to go & provide them (or you) with the rest.

  • “Grant and Alison are only challenging the policy and petition because they hold very different prior views …”

    NO. The central question is measurable. What is the risk of using Roundup? On the balance of evidence from people with the experience to know, the answer is “no”. See for example (http://www.sciencemediacentre.co.nz/2016/01/20/glyphosate-weedkiller-whats-the-risk-expert-reaction/). As the evidence changes that may change. A cherry picked position piece written for the Greens (Or a similar on written for Federated Farmers) does not change that.

    The world views of scientists have nothing to do with it. Just the balance of evidence.

  • For the record, I’m not asking for Grant or Alison to review papers cited in the report.

    Instead, I was hoping they’d be able to tackle the substantive issues around urban glyphosate. After all, they are “science communicators” who are attempting to influence public policy (by attacking this one). The least they could do is share their underlying scientific rationale.

    Prediction: crashing silence on the substance & heaps of rhetoric.

  • “John” For the record Grant has already answered your question. That is not the purpose of his blog; and your question has already been answered many times. See the above link above for example.

    Of course, if you are really interested in an answer you could approach The Royal Society or ESR to have a professionally researched and peer reviewed report prepared. Which is what the Green Party should have done in the first place.

  • John, as Maurice has noted – since the report on which the petition is based is clearly flawed, it’s of little relevance to discuss the petition itself. The fact that you insist on trying to divert attention to the latter, rather than addressing the flaws in the former, doesn’t actually reflect well on you. You seem happy to accept a report that was specificaly asked to assess only one side of an issue – why is this?

  • I’ve yet to listen this myself, but Nine to Noon on Radio NZ ran a session they’ve titled ‘Should glyphosate weedkiller be banned in NZ ?’ this morning:

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/201786959/should-glyphosate-weedkiller-be-banned-in-nz

    Dr Kerry Harrington who I cited in my piece is one of those interviewed, the other is Dr Chris Portier. The difference between risk and hazard noted in the text is important.

    “the EU ‘s food regulator” is the EFSA, who reported:

    “Regarding carcinogenicity, the EFSA assessment focused on the pesticide active substance and considered in a weight of evidence all available information. In contrast to the IARC evaluation, the EU peer review experts, with only one exception, concluded that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans and the evidence does not support classification with regard to its carcinogenic potential according to Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 on classification, labelling and packaging (CLP Regulation).”

    Their full report is ‘fairly’ bureaucratic (heh! what you expect…!) and nitpicks all sorts ‘data gaps’, but comes out pretty firmly on the lack of human cancer risk. They look at glyphosate, not the full formulations.

  • Gosh. I now suspect that Grant & Alison haven’t actually read the report underlying the Greens’ proposal & petition. That seems a pretty poor show for self-proclaimed “science communicators”. Mind you, this wouldn’t be the first time Grant has not read relevant links before attacking, so maybe that’s the problem here? He’s gone after the people involved, but hasn’t actually read the report, even though it is there for all to see:

    https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/beachheroes/pages/1997/attachments/original/1453071975/Glyphosate-paper-formatted.pdf

  • Hi John,

    A few words here; please read carefully.

    1. Please lift your standards. A lot. Sciblogs expects better than gutter-sniping. You haven’t once addressed anything about the post itself, only your own tangential “interests”. You can see my thoughts on comments in the section “Comment policy” of this post: https://sciblogs.co.nz/code-for-life/2015/09/09/about-code-for-life/ The main thing I ask is that people respect others, but your accusations here are increasingly wild and you are persistently trying to slight me rather than talk on the subject of my post. (Not some thing that interests you: my post.)

    2. “Gosh. I now suspect that Grant & Alison haven’t actually read the report underlying the Greens’ proposal & petition.” — silly. I link to the report in the first paragraph. I quote from it throughout the post. I subjected many of the “research summary” statements to searches and plagiarism tests see if the author presenting those without quotes or citations was a pattern rather than a one-off error. (See my remarks about plagiarism.) And so on.

    3. Your blog post made a mistake, thinking I was addressing the petition, not the report. That’s been explained to you (many times). It happens. But you haven’t corrected that or apologised for that or accusing my writing of being mostly ad hominem – which is self-evidently false. (It’s normal to consider the background of the report author.) You have further made loose accusations on twitter and other forums. I could go on. Lift your standards please.

    4. You have since shifted stance to make it that I “must” address the petition points. However that doesn’t work either.

    Firstly it evokes a basic logical error – trying to shift the burden of proof. The claims in the petition are the Green’s, not mine. They are for them to defend and justify. Others are not “obliged” to counter them.

    Ask the Greens what they justify those points with. You’re on Facebook and the Green Party page is open for anyone to write to.

    If what they justify their policy/petition with proves to be the report I‘ve looked at, then their policy/petition points rest on junk – the report is a sham. (And not just my opinion: Browning asked that the report be one-sided to serve his cause.)

    But – look at the Facebook screen-shot in my post under “Here is the Green Party of Aotearoa determined to say it’s evidence-based.” – it’s near the top. It has the Green Party pointing to the report as the basis of their policy & petition.

    It makes no sense saying I “must” address the points in the petition if I‘ve already addressed the thing that the Greens are using to justify those points with (the report) and found that to be a sham.

    It would be asking to further break down something that already been shown to be broken. I could, but it’s redundant, not needed.

    5. “Mind you, this wouldn’t be the first time Grant has not read relevant links before attacking, so maybe that’s the problem here?” — eh, that’s dishonest of you. ’Nuff said.

    6. “He’s gone after the people involved,” — no, and this has been explained to you before. (But maybe not on this forum.) My post deals with the report. It’s normal to looks at the author’s background in the light of what they’ve been asked to do.

  • Grant,

    You attacked the policy/petition without considering the science supporting 6 and 1/2 of the 7 main points – undeniable.

    You remain happy to ignore the scientific basis for these 7 policies – undeniable.

    Your sole figleaf is ad hominem.

    If I’d painted myself into such a corner I’d feel to obliged to respond substantively to the science.

  • Grant
    Good on you for having the courage to call out what is real rubbish. There is certainly no science behind it.
    When the data for the 2A rating was drilled down further, it appears that only one relatively rare cancer was involved
    http://weedcontrolfreaks.com/2015/03/glyphosate-and-cancer-what-does-the-data-say/
    The links within the links in the article are very interesting in themselves
    To rubbish G Smith, here is what one toxicologist (Prof. Tony Dayan,) wrote:
    “The new assessment by IARC continues their practice of making a comprehensive review of published information about each compound. Its assessments have always tended to be influenced more by laboratory toxicity data from rigorously controlled experiments than by reports of human experience, with its common problems of poor reproducibility and the well-known problems of trying to combine analyses of disparate clinical reports in which it is difficult to distinguish the possible effects of the compound in question and the many other substances and factors to which we are exposed in ordinary life.
    “In the present report the classification of glyphosate and malathion as carrying a Class IIA risk of causing cancer in humans reflects a variety of laboratory results with a small number of studies in man of varied quality and mixed conclusions. Detailed analysis of the nature and quality of the evidence overall does not support such a high level classification, which at the most should be Class IIB.”
    But then, I’m just a denier.

    • Thanks Chris. Just so you know: now your first comment has been approved, you can comment at will.

      More later. (Provided I don’t get side-tracked into writing a new post!)

  • I’m not sure I’d use the term “denier” Chris but you seem to hold very strong priors and have a correspondingly low tolerance for new information.

  • No John – I just happen to actually read the scientific articles and know enough about maths and statistics to know when I’m reading shit.