[NAFEX] Fw: mychorizal fungal rip off?

Stephen Sadler Docshiva at Docshiva.org
Fri Mar 27 22:44:30 EDT 2009


We're pretty much in agreement.  Research that is done to show that a
particular food is good for you or bad for you is almost certainly funded by
producers of that food.  That's how we know fructose is good/bad for you, as
well as corn syrup, dietary fats, sugar, coffee, etc.  Another thing that
occurs is that supplement manufacturers will latch on to any study, no
matter how preliminary, whether in vitro or vivo, whether in humans or mice
or bacteria, and if they find a positive effect and low production cost -
voila! A new scientifically proven superfood!!

If you want to properly weight such things, one should look at who funds the
research.  The American Cancer Society has a different agenda than a
Cattlemen's Association, for instance.  It's also helpful if one has the
time background to read and critique the studies.  One study I read - the
only study at all that supported a supernutrient craze - was done on 10 mice
and was inconclusive.  Even when there are conflicting claims, someone
versed in the relevant studies should, I would hope, be able to reach a
clear conclusion of which, if any, side has made a plausible argument.

Or one can read glowing testimonials/reviews/ads with a skeptical point of
view.  Some use terms like "scientists say" "doctors agree" or toss in some
odd biobabble in a ludicrous yet often effective attempt at implying
legitimacy; yet there are zero studies cited.  More often than not, many
studies exist, but all are contrary to the marketing claims. 

I can't reach the conclusion that all, or even a majority of research is
commercially biased.  When I research any subject, I find many studies that
seem supported only by curiosity.  I'm not arguing whether altruism exists,
but some - many - studies occur just because the individual wants an answer.
The researcher may hope for a prize, tenure, continued employment, or just
the deep satisfaction from being the first to solve a particular puzzle.  

I've done that a few times in math.  Not to brag, but I get to if I want to
- I have pride.  The work has been obscure; one had a very practical
application, one contributed to a theory, and a couple have been
impractical.  They have all been deeply personally satisfying.  Had I the
patience and resources, I might well apply myself to something in my field,
working on harder problems and reaping greater rewards of personal
accomplishment.

Still, the stronger message is caveat emptor.  

What annoys me is that a lot of the research funded by whichever industry is
misused in their promotional efforts, and there's not much expert scientific
reporting to inform the public what the research actually means.  "Superfood
A leads to a long life!" may be the claim, but the research may say "if you
give a small sampling of mice this compound for half of their calories, they
get much less cancer than the small control sampling."  

Subtle difference....

~ Stephen

-----Original Message-----
From: nafex-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:nafex-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Max Robinson
Sent: Friday, March 27, 2009 5:41 PM
To: North American Fruit Explorers
Subject: Re: [NAFEX] Fw: mychorizal fungal rip off?

There is a great deal of deception in marketing products, but the faith that

I see in "scientific research" is more troubling to me. I worked for 12 
years as a Research Assistant at a Medical School, and before that 2 years 
as a Graduate Student. I confess that I am disillusioned. It's not that 
there is not great deal of important and reliable research out there, but 
the system is open to abuse, and the faith that we as a culture put in 
research makes it an attractive target for deception.

Research is usually very expensive, and researchers usually do not have 
funds given to them by their employer to undertake research on their own. So

they must become grant writers.

The entity that gives the grant controls the research, not directly, but in 
two important ways. First, they decide what questions get asked. If the 
researcher has a question of his own, he must find someone with money to be 
made from his question, or he is out of luck.

Second, the grantor retains the right to decide if, and where,  the results 
will be published. So trials that don't find a result that the money source 
is interested in never see the light of print.

This is even worsetham it sounds, becausse the way a researcher wins grants 
is by showing all the successful research he's done that has been published 
in the past. If his past few projects didn't find something that his grant 
source wanted to publish, he probably won't get any more grants, and his 
career grinds to a halt. There is tremendous pressure to make sure he 
designs his experiment to find a "good" result.

And even if his research finds something great, and it gets published, if 
someone doesn't pay to get it into the mass media, the public never knows 
about it.

I'm a blueberry grower. About 20 years ago, the large blueberry growers 
decided to "tax" themselves a small percent of every pound sold for research

and development. They paid several researchers to find something wonderful 
about blueberries, and several did (of course). These were published in 
scientific journals, and then millions of dollars were spent to get the news

into every possible outlet. And now we all know that blueberries have 
antioxidants, and hundreds of people show up at my farm to pick because 
they've been told that blueberries will add years to their lives.

I'm sure that blueberries are good for you, and we should eat more fresh 
fruit; but this process was not the finding of some independent, altruistic 
researcher; it was a very expensive, high-tech advertising ploy to rescue an

overproductive agricultural industry from price collapse. It worked, by the 
way. And most of the research that you see every day is part of the same 
process. Someone has an agenda.

Most of us know not to trust advertising; we should also be skeptical of 
advertising with a Ph.D.

Max



----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Mark Angermayer" <hangermayer at isp.com>
To: "NAFEX" <nafex at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Thursday, March 26, 2009 3:55 PM
Subject: [NAFEX] Fw: mychorizal fungal rip off?


> Strangely, I find myself agreeing with both Bill and Donna, and thought 
> they
> both had some very good points, even though the points seemed somewhat
> conflicting.  On the one hand, black and white research has limitations
> because of statistical variance (it's sometimes amazing how conclusions 
> are
> drawn from such tiny samples), or not considering enough variables in
> setting up the research (i.e. testing mychorizal on numerous different 
> soil
> types).  Sometimes it seems research limitations are built in because 
> there
> is rarely enough funding to do exhaustive research.
>
> On the other hand, it is frustrating to sometimes see whole industries 
> built
> on nothing but anecdotal evidence.  Some industry selling foo foo powder
> will jerry rig their own research to support their conclusions.  Then, 
> when
> there is no MAINSTREAM research to support them, they claim the
> universities, corporations, doctors, government, etc. are being paid-off.
> Supposedly, it's all one big conspiracy. Our human mind is very tricky. 
> It
> will accept what we "want to believe" first, then rationalize the facts to
> fit, all the while fooling us into thinking we have found the truth of the
> matter.
>
> Mark
> KS
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "William C. Garthright" <>
> To: "North American Fruit Explorers" <nafex at lists.ibiblio.org>
> Sent: Thursday, March 26, 2009 8:39 AM
> Subject: Re: [NAFEX] mychorizal fungal rip off?
>
>
>>
>> > There have been discussions of foliar feeds on this group with many
>> > folks saying they do nothing.  Well, nothing compared to what?
>> > Nothing compared to a garden in Iowa soil I can understand.  But with
>> > worthless soil, anything a plant can get is noticeably helpful.
>>
>>
>> That's a very good point, Donna. Our situations are all different. But
>> one big problem with this kind of discussion, from my point of view, is
>> simply that anecdotes aren't evidence. Without peer-reviewed, duplicable
>> scientific research - with careful controls and, if possible,
>> double-blind precautions - it's really hard to know for sure what's real
>> and what's just an artifact of our expectations, beliefs, and hopes. And
>> I must add that much of what I hear about mycorrhizal fungi and foliar
>> sprays is from people who are selling the stuff (not that I think that
>> they're lying, only that it's even easier in such a case to fool
> ourselves).
>>
>> Let me be clear that I know NOTHING about mycorrhizal fungi (the
>> original topic here) myself. I did use it when I planted my fruit trees,
>> vines, and bushes in my backyard, because I figured that it couldn't
>> hurt. But I have no idea if it was a waste of money or not. So I am not
>> criticizing the practice. I just don't know.
>>
>> But I do know that I like the scientific approach at this Horticultural
>> Myths website:
>>
>>
>
http://www.puyallup.wsu.edu/~Linda%20Chalker-Scott/Horticultural%20Myths_fil
es/index.html
>>
>> or
>>
>> http://tinyurl.com/6d8ye6
>>
>> At a quick glance, I don't see any articles about mycorrhiza, but here's
>> a good example of an article about compost tea which clearly explains
>> about scientific research:
>>
>>
>
http://www.puyallup.wsu.edu/~Linda%20Chalker-Scott/Horticultural%20Myths_fil
es/Myths/magazine%20pdfs/CompostTea.pdf
>>
>> or
>>
>> http://tinyurl.com/ct8lmq
>>
>> I'm just trying to say - in my own long-winded way - that I'd prefer
>> scientific evidence, one way or another, about mycorrhizal fungi,
>> compost tea, and pretty much everything else that I might use in my
>> life. It's not always available, in which case we must do the best we
>> can. But there are always so many other factors that can affect personal
>> anecdotes - including our own individual situations, as you note, but
>> also our different levels of expertise, attention, expectations, and
>> even chance.
>>
>> Hmm,... maybe I'll send an email to Dr. Chalker-Scott requesting an
>> article about mycorrhizal fungi. I really would like to know what
>> scientific research there's been on adding it to new plantings. (As you
>> suggest, I suspect that it depends on WHERE you're doing the planting.)
>>
>> Bill
>> Lincoln, NE (zone 5)
>>
>> -- 
>> Last September I gave my Jack Russell terrier, Daisy, all of my money to
>> invest. She promptly dug a hole in my backyard and buried my entire nest
>> egg. Since then, I've beaten the S & P 500 by more than 50 percent. Now,
>> you're probably wondering, what if your dog isn't as smart as Daisy? No
>> worries. He's probably still smarter than you. - Andy Borowitz
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