Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Another Six Degrees of Monsanto

When you are an academic scientist that interacts with the public there are a few that are gunning to discredit you at every turn.  The bottom line is, if you are out there communicating science effectively and they can't address your evidence, they have to engage an ad hominem critique of the scientist.

I've been through this before and described it here.

The Pending Onslaught

Last night I got a tweet from Christy Demuth, biotech opponent on Kauai.  She's always a delight.  She says that she's found the link between me and Monsanto.  All of the Tweets and Facebook pages have since been deleted, but have been captured here for your perusal.  There's a little something in the works...

"BINGO!" She exclaims.  At the bingo parlor she must raise her hand when she only gets the "G".
(Click to enlarge for easy reading)  

I click the link provided and am whisked to a Facebook page where she proudly posts the results of her sleuthing.  Actually, I'm kinda flattered that she's scouring the web looking for any tenuous link to discredit me.  I guess it is sort of a compliment for being incredibly untouchable with respect to BigAg collusion. 

The facebook page shows that she posts the information, then others chime in to delete the page and then do a little private messaging... hmmm.  Something's afoot! 

Wow!  Some expert web forensics for sure.  Industry funds science at major research universities! Unfortunately for me, I never see a dime of that money. 

The main use of this information will be to smear me in the eyes of the Kauai County Council that has contacted me numerous times as an independent public scientist.  I have no financial ties to any of the BigAg companies that make transgenic crops, including Monsanto. 

Six Degrees of Separation

A delusional biotech opponent seeking to harm the reputation of a public scientist at a major research institution will be only a few steps away from making some lame association.  Certainly Monsanto (and others) have funded work at my university.  Not my work.  

My funding is all transparent and comes from USDA, FDACS, NSF, Florida Strawberry Industry and another ag company that does not commercialize transgenics. 

There is one faculty member in my department, Dr. Mark Settles, that had his appointment funded by the Vasil-Monsanto Professorship.  That's probably what Christy's super sleuthing found.  Mark is a sharp guy, amazing scientist.  You can review his publications.  Nothing to do with GMO technology and not much (if any) of direct interest to Monsanto. 

The company was kind enough to fund a professor position. That's like funding a building or something. They help universities do the work they need to do.   That's a good thing. 

Eight Degrees of Separation

Last week someone dug through the background of everyone that ever worked in my lab.  They found that my technician once published a paper (in 1989) with an author that would later go work at Monsanto. There's a hot connection. 

How This Backfires

To those bent against biotech it is important to smear compelling scientists that communicate in the public domain.  The message of science harms their bankrupt illegitimate cause.  The attempts to discredit are torn from the pages of the anti-climate change movement, where they seek to harm independent scientists because they don't like the science. 

Here's the problem.  Public funding of science is declining, at least as balanced against inflation.  Grant funding is at an all time low percentage wise and the public perception of scientists is tainted by the discrediting fear that is promoted by the anti-GMO, anti-vaccination, anti-climate change and other movements.   Many see scientists as dupes of corporations, politicians, etc. 

Of course, nothing is farther from the truth.  We'd work for them and double our salaries. Furthermore, if we were to skew data to please corporate overlords we'd be caught in a heartbeat and lose our jobs. Plus, none of us would even consider that.  We studied for many years to do science, not to be pawns of some company. 

When the public even slightly shifts its opinions of science and scientists it does affect funding.  This means that we are forced to seek and accept private funding to keep our labs open and continue our missions to teach the next generation of scientists.  

Be careful. By ripping up good independent scientists you create an environment where big companies can fund them, and thrive off of their expertise. 


My record speaks for itself, it is all public, and there are no associations with Monsanto or Big Ag.  Sadly, these frail links will be broadcast and some will find them compelling, just as they are fooled by many brands of agenda-driven flimsy forensics.  

Again, it is a joy to think that I'm keeping people up at night googling into the depths of public records to poke me with their nerf accusations.  It would be more of a pleasure seeing their time and passions spent on helping others and raising awareness about facts on food, health and science. 


Mike Lewinski said...

"The message of science harms their bankrupt illegitimate cause."

The "follow the money" mentality held by activists is incredibly powerful. They believe that science actually vindicates them, and that yours is the bankrupt and illegitimate cause. It's a powerful emotional belief that isn't directly open to reason, but is guarded by a host of cognitive biases.

Most opponents are so certain of the righteousness of their cause that they cannot believe a logical person could come to a contrary opinion and that the only force more powerful than their logic is greed. You must be motivated by money if you take the wrong position on this issue and they will find the proof, not because they hope it exists to discredit you but because they are certain it does or you wouldn't hold the beliefs you do.

Ideologically, this is an easier way to exist in a very complicated world. You don't have to actually research the issues as much as survey the funding sources to know what is good or bad. If something profits Big Ag or Big Pharma, it is wrong (but if it profits the alt-med or local organic farmers, it is good because in this narrative, these are the honest practitioners/farmers who care about people more than money).

Chuck Lasker said...

I find it most interesting that they care at all to "find" a connection. They simply call you a paid shill anyway, and everyone in their cult simply accepts it. I posted a biofortified.org article about a peer reviewed study, and someone said, "come on, that's a pro GMO site, you gotta do better than that." With that mentality, all that we can do is expose and ridicule.

Michael said...

"A witch! Burn her!"

--Monty Python

TheOldTechnician said...

Mike, what you described is known as SAS, Shill Accusation Syndrome. It's been correlated to a lack of GMO's and an overabundanced of Organics in one's diet.

DMT GMO said...

Mike's comment above is certainly valid, but there is also, I believe, an underlying motive to defund independent science. I've been caught up in public controversies (unrelated to GMO) and the environmental and activist groups petitioned the university to prohibit my research - because it provided unbiased data that refuted their entirely fabricated allegations. They are more free to operate in an environment where there are no independent data.

Maybe off point, but a more troubling trend is that I see the media pillorying the right for their attacks on the science community, but, interestingly, I don't see the same defense coming from the media when those same kinds of attacks come from the left - this GMO controversy is one such example.

Bonnie Allen said...

I want to thank you for your calm and reasoned posts on a website promoting a Canadian study that found unbelievable differences between GMO corn and non-GMO corn (for instance, that non-GMO corn has 3,400 times the energy of GMO corn).

All of my friends are anti-GMO. Being a scientist myself and knowing a little bit about genetics, I've been puzzled at their claims. It seemed unreasonable that a bit of added DNA could have any effect on human health. I have done quite a bit of research investigating their claims. And I haven't found anything credible. I have been ridiculed for calling my friends science deniers (which I haven't), and I've lost a friend after repeatedly questioning her frankly dubious Facebook links. In the process, I've gone from being mildly anti-GMO (mainly for environmental reasons) to neutral, or even positive, in the case of golden rice.

The commenters on the above-mentioned website clearly support the sort of negative character assassination they accuse you of.

I am continually amazed that my friends who are so smart in other areas are utterly clueless about science. They all recognize climate change, yet they use the same tactics against genetic engineering as the climate-change deniers. Reasoned discussion with people I respect in so many other ways seems impossible. This is a growing problem.