My old friend Miro is a vegan juicer. He used to be 30 pounds heavier, sported a suite a health problems and now is healthy, fit and prescription free. I'm really proud of him and am glad he's well. He keeps a facebook page documenting his journey and has many visitors from vegan/vegetarian interests.
A few weeks ago I responded to a Facebook post about dangers of GM corn and glyphosate (always referred to to this as “Monsanto’s Roundup). I responded with a short, yet scientifically sound note to correct the record.
The commenter, sporting an ever-growing set of internet cojones, posts a link to the Seralini study. I discuss that paper, its errors and criticism in the scientific community.
The commenter posts a link to glyphosate and autism. I show that there is no such link scientifically vetted in PubMed. He posted evidence from Mercola and Jeffrey Smith, two insane advocates for bankrupt positions based on fear and emotion, not science.
The commenter posted that glyphosate is as deadly as DDT, and is used to sue small farmers, guns drawn, etc. Again I set the record straight with a scientific and evidence-based discussion.
It took almost 15 minutes, but then it hits, predictably as it can be…. It is time for Six Degrees of Monsanto.
Here's just the start of the lovely conversation, jacked full of bogus assertions.
It always is fun to be accused of an ad hominem attack while receiving one. The name has been omitted because it should be omitted from the whole web when connected to this logic.
Rather than look for real evidence to support his point, he scoured the web for the words “Monsanto” and “Folta”. Certainly an association in a Google search would be concrete evidence of collusion between me and the ag giant. You could almost see this loser with a cork board, yarn and index cards, constructing an intricate web of associations that would (in his mind) show that my knowledge of this subject comes from specially-tailored information fed to me from an agricultural company as talking points. For my loyalty I would be showered in, well, something I guess.
Brimming with pride, he posts results of his google search that irrefutably link me, my research and funding to Monsanto. Of course, none of this shows a link between me and the company-- just his fantasy of a conspiracy that somehow buys off all public scientists and anyone else that speaks facts.
For the record, I've never worked for Monsanto. I never got a dime from them. Even if I did, there is no company that could affect my thinking or scientific integrity. In fact, I’m more valuable to a company because I can’t be bent to data or interpretations that are not based on evidence from good experiments.
But that’s not the interest of the anti-GMO, anti-Folta forces. This guy posted a link between Monsanto and the University of Florida, my employer. He claimed that UF was in cahoots with Monsanto and therefore I receive research money from them. Actually it was a collaboration between someone in the Agronomy Department (not even my department) and Monsanto to develop computer software.
Not to be deterred, he finds the “Vasil-Monsanto Endowment” a position that funds a professorship in our department. A friend of mine is in that position, but he doesn’t even work on generating products or data that Monsanto would care about. He gets a few sheckels from the fellowship, but most of his funding comes from NSF, USDA, etc. The funny part is, if you told him that Monsanto influenced his research or results, he’d laugh you out of the room.
This has happened before. Others itchy to connect me to Monsanto posted about the ASHS conference in Hawaii. I headed the Biotechnology Working Group and there were two people from Monsanto in attendance. I didn’t even know that, but for this stooge it was again concrete evidence that I was in their back pocket.
They discovered that at the SIVB meeting in Seattle in 2012, I led a session on transgenic crops that was attended by two people from Monsanto. I was at a meeting in March to discuss food flavor and quality that was attended by a former Monsanto higher-up. One of my colleagues used to work for Monsanto in the 80’s and early 90’s. Another colleague has a licensing agreement with Monsanto, as they have rights to a gene if they ever care to use it. My former boss in 1990 worked for Monsanto before he took a job at Cargill. One scientist that co-authored the strawberry genome paper with me when he was at Rutgers, now is at Monsanto-- There's all the proof the needs-- gotcha! Facts out the window!
These are the points of evidence anti-science lunatics use to connect me to a company I have no connections with. None have any impact on me, my funding, or research program whatsoever.
One guy also noted that when I played little league baseball that I lived in Chicago and my number was 10, just like Ron Santo, and that if you replace the “R” and make it one word, is Monsanto. It does get a little tenuous.
It always breaks my heart to see discussion break down and focus shift to discrediting me, rather than talking to me about science. I can teach them if they were teachable. They know that in the eyes of other true believers that if they can even remotely link me to the company they hate, that all of my evidence carries less weight and is less likely to sway anyone to the truth. After all, to the anti-GMO true believers it is critical to hide from the truth that does not support the conclusion that transgenic technologies are deadly practices from the loins of satan himself.
I’ve been down this path before. Because I work for a world-class land-grant university we have agreements and licensing with many companies. I’ve been told that Pepsico must approve all of my work before it can be published. People are insane.
The best advice for anti-GMO types is to stick with the facts. Think of other disciplines like climate change, vaccination or evolution. A scientist does not have to be part of some elaborate disinformation conspiracy to hold ideas consistent with science and evidence.
Most of all it demonstrates one thing very clearly-- that anti-GMO interests are willing to just make shit up to make themselves feel better because they have no real evidence. That discredits them, not me, and ultimately is the undoing of their warped and baseless view of biotechnology.