Friday, November 7, 2014

You've Been Fooled, Science Center!

If you are planning to visit the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium, you might not see Jesus riding a T. rex,  or a model of the earth with expanding glaciers.  These are the things that crackpot pseudo-science museums might promote.  Nothing like that could happen here... or could it?

An event next week was brought to my attention.  The South Florida Science Center and Aquarium is sponsoring Science on Tap- GMOs Exposed!  

November 13th you can go hear about how GMOs are 'exposed', whatever that means... Maybe we should dig a little deeper...

The presenter is Michelle Parenti Lewis, a local RD.  So what can an apparently trained RD "expose"? 

A quick google search shows that the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium has been duped.  They have scheduled what will likely not be a scientific talk, but an activist parasite posing as science.  This is the most disgusting of all scams. And they fell for it.

A little poking around shows that Ms. Lewis is an anti-GMO advocate.  In a local promotion for the same event on they show the event's true colors: 

Blinded by Science?  But the $3 Irish Car Bombs will "kill any GMO in a radius of 17 feet from the food on your plate."  Science is awesome?  Sounds like something a Science Center might endorse? 

The promotion claims that Lewis will describe "their potentially harmful effects", which is code for "these have no documented health effects over 17 years, but that's not scary so we'll talk about potential effects". This sure looks like an activist rant posing as a scientific presentation. 

*** and alcohol kills 88,000 in the USA every year. That's exactly 88,000 more than GMOs in 17 years ***

There still is no hard evidence that this is a credulous activist talk posing as science.  It could be a typo, or the work of some intern that has been since fired for besmirching science. Or not.

It does not take too long to see that Ms. Lewis is steeped in naturalistic fallacy, and uses that platform to raise activist issues.  The website  cites the November 13th event and provides a brief dossier.  It seems reasonable at first, but then gets to "She is an advocate for locally sourced organic food production and the labeling of genetically engineered foods and cloned foods".  

Cloned foods?  I guess those organic bananas, strawberries, citrus, and dozens of other crops are off the table. 

A little more digging and it's clear that she's in cahoots with Food and Water Watch, an activist hive that spends a lot of time trashing sound transgenic technology.  She has spoken at several events in support of food labeling.  Read this and weep, science lovers:

Wow, same old junk.

And if you poke around more you can find even more evidence that the proposed speaker adheres to the naturalist fallacy, and therefore has to deny, and fight, the science of biotechnology. 

So congratulations South Florida Science Center and Aquarium, you've been bamboozled by activists posing as scientists.  You've been tricked by someone with a lot of letters after her name that chooses to ignore the scientific literature, and that should be frightening.  

I would strongly recommend canceling the event, or at least taking away your endorsement and leave that to the crystal rubbers and ear candlers. This is not science and you are being used. 

Of course, if you like this kind of thing I can get a Jesus on a T. rex stature for your foyer... 


Anonymous said...

Parent of a son w/ Aspergers? Why is that germane? (Please don't say it...pleease...)

Kevin M. Folta said...

Yes, they imply connections throughout the whole write up. Dietitian. I need a beer.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you can set up a "Take Action" (for actual scientists) section. It seems be popular on the anti-GMO sites. There is a whole list of staff/emails on their website and there's probably a FB page for the museum.

I was hoping there were some GM0-derived ingredients in the featured drink, but sounds like it's all Irish liquor. Although maybe the cattle feed for the cream in the Bailey's?

Belen said...

Hi Kevin! The intention of Science on Tap is to present different topics in a fun and informal setting so we definitely encourage both sides of the spectrum to share their points. This is a controversial issue, no doubt, and we hope the event provides a robust discussion on this issue. Pro or con, true or false, we invite everyone to attend, ask questions and hopefully learn something new.

Mary M said...

This happened at a "science center" near me too. But I couldn't attend that night because I was lecturing at a medical school out of town that day.

I complained, but couldn't be there in person. I hope someone can stand up for science there.

The other message may be that we should be sure to connect with our local science centers to make sure the quality of information is high.

Bill Price said...

No, the purpose is to present actual science in an informal setting. Pseudoscience and activism are not included.

So sad to see SoT go this way :(

Kevin M. Folta said...

Belen, Unfortunately the Science Center has a lot to learn about science and the scientific method.

There are not "two sides" to facts. By allowing someone with activist, anti-scientific leanings to pollute a dialog you harm science and confuse those coming to listen. You validate, as a Science Center, a non-scientific opinion with no evidence base.

This is so disturbing.

It is 5 hours away, I can't be there anyway, and even if I showed up, who's to say that I'd get to interrogate the claims of the speaker?

I don't know much about the South Florida Science Center. If you are a center for vaccine denial, climate denial and astrology we'll let this go. Have fun.

But if you for a second claim to represent science this will end badly. Science is not about viewpoints. It is about facts. You are about to make a very big mistake.

Anonymous said...

It really isn't a "controversial" issue, at least not amongst the scientifically-literate. Disappointing to see this from a science center.

Anonymous said...

"Presenting both sides of the issue" in this reference is freakin' nonsense in just about any discussion other than crank conspiracy theorist conferences. What's next? Are you willing to host 911 Truthers to debate the science of the NIST? Put up creationists lecturing about a young Earth?

Angela Jones said...

Activism and politics from a science center. Makes perfect sense. You are not encouraging a robust discussion, you are likely creating an impression on young minds. A misguided impression. I am kind of in shock, I expected more from a so called 'science' center.

Anonymous said...

Science Center I hope you stick with the program! As a Florida Dietitian myself, we are trained to look at the impact of food on human health. This is something that Kevin and his "friends" don't seem to understand. And yes there are tow dies. Do you think animal studies are enough? Health professionals do not. We have no long-term human studies so we really don't know what the impact will be for us down the line. Thanks for you good work and I hope to see you there!!

Anonymous said...

Opps tow dies = two sides! There are two side to the GMO debate. We really do not have the quality evidence we need, sorry to say.

Anonymous said...

The issue, is that Kevin fears that one side of this particular debate, more than the other, is likely to fall back on fallacies, scare tactics, undocumented opinion, and schills, and pretend that this is science, something they are already doing in their premotional material to some extent. Unfortuately, the format of Science on Tap allows people to present something they are interested in, have some strong opinions about, and have reserached. It would be much better if things worked the other way around, with impartial reseachers, forming opinions, and as a result coming to belive in something. Fanatics with ulterior motive have no place in science, and as mentioned, we are clearly dealing with someone does not intend to present some evidence that GMO is harmful, but mearly state that it is, because they wish it was, given that this would conform with their philosophical world view.

Kevin M. Folta said...


The only 'two sides' are those that don't understand science and science itself. Sorry, but there is no plausible risk and no evidence of risk from animal models, and clearly no indication of risk from epidemiological models in animals or humans after 17 years of use.

Fine, there are many that have the OPINION that they are uncomfortable with the products, mostly because they don't know the science, they choose to ignore data, or they have a special agenda. That is out there and thinks it has equal weight to hypothesis-derived evidence.

But it is not. If the Science Center lowers its standard to invite anyone with a gripe and a soap box to say vaccines don't work, the earth is flat, Obama's birth certificate is a fraud, yadda yadda yadda... then can we believe any science in that center?

This place is on the precipice of blowing its credibility. It is not about what we believe, it is about what we know, and that's a big difference.

MikeTheInfidel said...

If you think science is about opinion and public debate, not research and data, you're sorely mistaken. You're providing false balance between pseudoscientific bullshit and actual facts, and that's the *opposite* of promoting science.

Anonymous said...

That is saying that Climate Change is a hoax??? Everyone will have their opinions for what they believe is right on different topics. Kevin I don't think you bad-mouthing the Science Center is right, but I guess that is your option.

Anonymous said...

To the numerous "Anonymous" posts questioning Folta.

The person who called Folta a jerk. No, a dietician's specialty is nutrition. GMO technology concerns plants, which is Folta's specialty. Lewis has no place spreading conspiracy theories like this.

The person saying there are always two sides. Yes. Two sides to a story. You kinda cut that part off of the quote. There are never two sides to facts. Opinions, yes. Facts, no. Those fearful of GMO technology do not understand it. Learn about it or keep on believing in the goofy Monster-anto narrative.

Show one us a single scientifically sound, peer-reviewed study that shows any of the cray-cray the anti-GMO movement perpetuates. Just one. We'll show you the hundreds that have proven they are safe.

Any place that calls itself a science center should not be involved in hosting conspiracy theories. I know I use that term a lot, but that's all you guys are. You refuse to accept the vast body of knowledge that has shown, and has scientific consensus, that GM crops are absolutely safe for the environment and for consumption. If I have a belief that is overwhelmingly disproved by science, you know what I do? Abandon my belief.

Anonymous said...

Folta's specialty is plants? So that makes him an expert on GMO's? Please. We have more science on the antw-GMO side than the falsified "scientific" reports churned out by Big Ag. And the thing that amazes me is that you people are fighting so hard to protect something that is bad for all life on the planet.

Ben T. said...

"Folta's specialty is plants? So that makes him an expert on GMO's? Please."

Dr. Folta has a PHD in Molecular Biology, so yeah, that DOES make him an expert in this field.

"We have more science on the antw-GMO side than the falsified "scientific" reports churned out by Big Ag."

More science? What, like the lumpy rats or Dr. Don Huber's mysterious pathogen. You are truly clueless.

Kevin M. Folta said...

Here's my GMO cred.

I picked up my first book on recombinant DNA in 1978 or so and haven't looked back. I've read the papers, watched the discoveries and grew up with the discipline.

My Ph.D. is in molecular biology and the Chair of one of the countries largest fruit and veg crop departments.

Most of all I'm a scientist that can interpret scientific papers across disciplines.

The people questioning my qualifications usually think pretty highly of Smith, Shiva and Seneff.

-_-ALEX_THE_GREAT-_- said...

While GMO have been proven not to be dangerous overall, Monsanto and their prior history and agenda IS in question. Especially since glyphosate is no longer as effective as it once was (for the same reason that bacteria have gained immunity against many antibiotics and we need to get them out of our farms). Even GMO supporters see the dangers of a Monsanto monopoly, and want no part of it. I took this off of Monsanto's own website (dont they ever read?) while the article is pro GMO it does poke holes in Monsanto's propaganda that their products need less dangerous pesticides. As a matter of fact, Dow and Monsanto could have used much less dangerous pesticides than one of the two main ingredients of Agent Orange, but they chose to use the one they can make the most money from (patent):

But less than 20 years later, over a dozen weeds have developed resistance to glyphosate, meaning that farmers have to use more of it, as well as other more hazardous chemicals such as 2,4-D, a powerful herbicide linked to reproductive problems and birth defects, says Chuck Benbrook, PhD, a research professor at Washington State University's Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources. On the basis of 16 years of pesticide data, collected since GMOs were introduced, Benbrook predicts that use of 2,4-D will increase more than fourfold in the next decade, spurred by new GMO crops. "Twenty years from now we will look back and deeply regret the misuse and mismanagement of current-generation GMO technology," he says.

This is Agent Orange, the same carcinogen that Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, et. al, poisoned Vietnam and our soldiers with. Now they are trying to patent it as their new pesticide- this is the part everyone should be paying attention to

-_-ALEX_THE_GREAT-_- said...

Oh, and Kevin, environmental and consumer interests matter way more than farmer's interests do, please dont make it seem like you're getting paid on the side for your opinions. And this is all about politics, not science. Monsanto and Dow would do well to explain their usage of 2,4-D, but then again they do have a sordid history with pesticides dont they?

-_-ALEX_THE_GREAT-_- said...

and anyone who says GMO's are "safe" for the environment, either is incredibly naive, doesn't know Monsanto's history, doesn't know the pesticides they are using now, or is getting paid by them. It's good to see them running scared now though...... just like we took care of big tobacco's paid "doctor" claims, we'll take care of Monsanto too

-_-ALEX_THE_GREAT-_- said...

But critics of the products say that is not the last word on the issue.

Some international scientists are challenging the assertion and say many scientific studies show concerns with crops whose DNA has been spliced in ways not seen in nature.

On Tuesday, a group with backing from institutions in Russia, the United States and Europe said it would undertake the longest, largest and most definitive study of GMOs to date to try to settle the debate once and for all.

The $25 million study of 6,000 rats to be fed a GMO corn diet is designed as an independent examination of the health impacts of GMO corn and the herbicide used on it. The research is to be done in Russia and western Europe over two to three years. (

"The science on these GMOs is not settled by a long shot," said Bruce Blumberg, an endocrinology expert at the University of California, Irvine, who sits on the study review board. "Studies that were done by the manufacturers are the main ones showing safety, and those have an inherent conflict of interest."

-_-ALEX_THE_GREAT-_- said...

These are also interesting reads- illustrative of what may happen in the future

Note how scientists differed with Monsanto's assessments and guess who the "regulators" listened to (and you can probably guess why- conflict of interest when they are allowed to be on the regulatory agencies.)

Anonymous said...

Alex, what you say about the farm side simply isn't true. Resistance ("superweeds") and Pesticide usage are strengths of GMO's--not arguments against.

GMO herbicide chemicals do have resistance, but less resistance, less often.

Additionally, raw pesticide numbers say nothing about usage, but this is used all the time against GMO's when it is really a strength of GMO methods.

For example, in inflation corrected dollars, glyphosate is about 5-8% the '90's cost (not down 5%, down 95%). This means we are using glyphosate instead of fuel and iron to control weeds before planting--practices like this are better for the environment, but they also increases raw numbers of pesticide usage.

I'm not qualified to speak for the science side, but it is a bit discouraging to have so many people who understand practically nothing about farming tell everyone else falsehoods about how we farm.

Thank you.
Randall--a farmer.

-_-ALEX_THE_GREAT-_- said...

Randall, I appreciate your response..... based on what I have been reading, farmers in Georgia have found almost total resistance to Glyphosate? I've no problems with using Glyphosate as it's one of the least harmful pesticides to the environment, but 2,4-D is another matter entirely.

-_-ALEX_THE_GREAT-_- said...

note that I am only posting from what I consider to be legit sources, there are a lot of fearmongering sites out there, but the one's I've posted from seem to be very reasonable in their risk assessments.

-_-ALEX_THE_GREAT-_- said...

actually, as far as autism and ADHD are concerned, as per the most recent Stanford and Columbia studies, there's seems to be more of a connection to airborne pollutants (PAH's) than anything GMO related.

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