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Showing posts from 2015

Done

With a most heavy heart I have to report that the recent events have bled into this forum, and I have to suspend communication through this blog. 
I'm very touched by all of your interest and support.  Thank you.

Talking Biotech 023 Future Farm 2050

Professor Graeme Martin joins Talking Biotech Podcast to talk about the Future Farm 2050 Project. It is a series of innovative ideas to farm more sustainably, and a very interesting interview.

The Vern Blazek Science Power Hour

I've always been interested in science and communication, and as time went along always wondered how to meld the two in an interesting and entertaining way.  In fact, in my senior year in college I finished third in the nation in a forensics event-- something called After Dinner Speaking. Here you would convey a serious topic using humor as a vehicle.  I was pretty good at that. 

During grad school I was paid to write for stand-up comedians and even wrote greeting cards.  I self-published funny books on pranks and pseudoscience, and wrote a lot of clever work for "fanzines", the pre-internet alternative media. My stuff flew off the racks at a local place called Quimby's Queer Book Store.  Yes, there once were stores that sold books.  

As I moved through academic ranks from grad student to professor, my students' reviews always recognized how my use of humor was appropriate and helpful, and creative analogy and colorful tangents reinforced key scientific points.  

In…

Will Wild Animals Avoid GMO Corn?

7/12/2019 EDIT --  This was a good idea and was executed well.  Unfortunately the other organizers took umbrage to my repeated demands to complete the work and dismissed me from the project.  I did initiate drafts of the manuscript back in 2016.

It is part of a much bigger falling out.  These folks also decided to use FOIA to obtain internal university documents about confidential professional witness work I was doing for a law firm on my vacation time. They broke my confidentiality, revealing information that was not supposed to be public. It jeopardized my involvement in a private dispute between two parties, as well as the progression of the arbitration. They have certainly taken every opportunity to impugn my integrity and harm my career, in this and other ways. 

Please understand that if I had any pull in this situation I would do everything I could to complete the work as promised. It pains me to not deliver, but I have been dismissed from this project and have zero influence in i…

Talking Biotech #20 -- Citizen Science and Sugar Beet Breeding

This week's Talking Biotech features interviews with Dr. Karl Haro von Mogel and our interest in finding 1250 participants to test the hypothesis that wild animals will not eat genetically engineered corn. You can contribute to the effort and/or participate here!
The second part interviews Dr. Lee Panella about sugar beet breeding.  We don't think much about sugar beets, but they are important to sugar production and bring good value to farmers. 


Cherry Picking and "Return on Investment"

In a textbook case of cherry picking, one sentence keeps emerging in the activist trial-by-internet concerning the Monsanto donation to my science communication program.  The backstory is that my university received a donation from the company toward my outreach program, which covered the costs for me to travel and teach scientists how to talk about science. 

That was very nice of them, wonderful.  Having funds to rent a facility, travel to the location, buy coffee/doughnuts or subs for the workshop is a real help. Previously this was all funded personally buy taking monies offered to me as speaker fees and deferring them to the Talking Biotech program. 

I remain extremely grateful for their support, even after those funds have been allocated elsewhere by the university. 

I was so grateful, that I noted this in an email to the Monsanto Company.  That became a huge deal when 4600 pages of emails were seized by activists back in June. 

Out of the tens of thousands of sentences they focused …

Talking Biotech #17 -- Insects and Ag, Art & Science, McClintock on the $10

This week's Talking Biotech!!
This week we’re joined by Richard Levine, communications director for the Entomological Society of America.  We discuss bees, butterflies, insecticides and some of the current issues in crop protection from an entomological perspective.  We then turn to the idea of promoting artwork using a science podcast, and the important effort to get Dr. Barbara McClintock on the ten dollar bill, replacing some guy. We discuss the barriers to her participation in science, and describe why she would be such a fitting presence on our currency– not just because she was a woman, not just because she was a scientist, but because she broken down barriers.

Setting a New Standard in Science Transparency

Recent events have brought criticism that I believe can be addressed with more information.
The whole story is posted here on Huffington Post Blogs.
This story contains a link to PDFs that shows all of my outreach and extension activities, how much I was reimbursed, how much I was paid and what honoraria were received (and where they went).
This will be posted here at least bi-monthly, so bookmark this page.
The complete list of Kevin Folta outreach and extension activities:
July 2013-September 19, 2015

What are "Close Ties" to Monsanto? A FAQ.

FAQ

What exactly are "close ties"?  These claims were make by Keith Kloor in the August Nature article.  The same claims are now reiterated in following articles, without justification, simply based on that initial statement. Of course, I never claimed to have a working relationship with Monsanto, because I don't have one. But let's clarify what this relationship is once and for all.

What are "close ties"?  (Apologies to Keith Kloor, I did originally write this blog with "deep ties" and that's my mistake) Here is the extent of interaction with the Monsanto Corporation:

Are these close, personal or research ties I need to disclose at every research seminar?  You decide.  Tell me in the comments section. 


1. Donation to science outreach program that paid no salary or personal funds.  These (relatively small) funds were designed to cover a small projector, facility rental, plane tickets, rental cars/taxi costs, coffee-doughnuts-sandwiches for partici…

The FOIA Babe, and the New Abuse of Vanity Harassment

I’ve been a critic of the Food Babe for a long time.Actually, I’ve been the critic of anyone that attempts to manipulate the public perception of science, while presenting zero scientific evidence.Especially deplorable are those that use fear to force a message, and scare people about safe food while profiting in the process.
It’s an old story now, but when ‘Food Babe’ Vani Hari visited my university to sell her science-blind worldview I was not exactly thrilled.  We professors are tasked to teach from evidence, with foundation in a scholarly literature.  Why would we subject our students to the daft rants of a dim food activist that lines her pockets by frightening people away from safe food?
I have always been an appropriate critic.  I’ve addressed her specific points with evidence and even have been complimentary at times.  She certainly is a gifted communicator, and can mobilize the drones that exploit social media to blackmail corporations into aggressive change, not based on scie…

Cherry Picking to Harm Reputations

As a scientist that has only spoken facts and truths about biotechnology, I have become the enemy of those that want to propagate myth, and scare people away from safe food. I have been active in public education on the topic for 15 years.

In February the US Right to Know organization, backed by funding from the Organic Consumers Association, used public records laws to confiscate 5000 pages of email from me. 
When you turn over 5000 pages of email to people that want to harm you, guess what?  They will attempt to harm you. 
This is another perfect example of their best smoking gun, a pulled, out-of-context quotation that seeks to frame me as some sort of corporate lackey.  Here it is:



Sounds pretty insidious! 

But what does it really say in context? 

It starts with a hideous scare commercial that is aired by GMO labeling campaigns in Fall 2014. They show Ray Seidler holding conventional corn seeds along with a handful of untreated seeds.  The associated rhetoric is ominous and scary. The s…

Recent Events FAQ

1. What is your relationship with Monsanto?
I have no formal relationship with the company.  Friends, former students, colleagues from previous jobs work there.  They once made a relatively small donation to my university to cover travel/production costs of my science communication program in August of 2014.  The entire original amount was reallocated to a campus charity. Monsanto does not fund my research and never has. I have spoken at the company twice about science communication and enjoyed collegial hospitality.

As is clear by emails, I'm glad to share thoughts and opinions with them on science communication. I hold no formal capacity in this regard. I do this with any company and show no special favor to Monsanto.

2. What is your relationship with Ketchum?
Ketchum runs the GMO Answers website. As an educator, I’m always excited about new ways to communicate science, and am especially eager to harness the reach of well-designed and promoted electronic media. The GMO Answers we…

The Lobbyist of Love...

Lots has been said about me lately, and while it is tempting to respond, I have to retreat inside my own head.  I know what I've said, I know the facts, and it has always been the truth, and so time will be kind.  

Authors are looking for a story, and showing conspiracies and collusion always raises an eyebrow, so these folks are just out to make a splash at the expense of others, even if facts are thin and don't exactly mesh with reality.  Welcome to Journalism 2015.

To be characterized as a lobbyist is rather laughable, and as such makes this a non-issue.  Here's something to think about-- if scientists are not supposed to be speaking to politicians, farmers, companies and the public about science, then who should? 

I'm doing my job, and doing it well, and I don't have a budget for travel.  If politicians and companies want to hear about the science, they should at least get me a plane ticket to come talk about it.

Speaking of which, back in October I was asked to go…

Bringing My Dead Mother to their Disgusting Cause

Just when you thought they could not get any lower. 

Now someone is posting truly evil information on the Gainesville, FL Craigslist page.  

Tomorrow would be my mother's birthday, she'd be 69 years old, if she was still alive.  She died a few years ago, way too young, and we all still miss her tremendously. 

So imagine my joy when someone directed me to this on the local Craigslist: 



To call these people scum is an insult to scum.
It is bad enough that they are posting personal information online, but now they are sifting through my history.  It is a sick kind of stalking that shows the delinquency of this movement.
Shame. 
And if Ginnie was here right now she'd tell you that she wished I worked for one of those companies, that I would make "real money", work 40 hour weeks, and stop wasting my time around universities. 
She never really understood what I did or why I did it.  
But she would absolutely be amazed at the hate I endure to be an interpreter of science, and th…

Now Posting in Craiglist

Now there are messages showing up on Craigslist.  They are false and defamatory and foment local fervor that could translate to physical harm to my family, home or laboratory. 

These people are scum. 

Please share this post EVERYWHERE.  We need to expose the heinous tactics of the anti-GMO movement.  This shows their disgusting approach to harm those that simply teach science. 

This has been reported to Craigslist. 

(and note how they don't really get the science terribly correct either)




Retraction and Apology. Do the Right Thing.

I'm furious about the false and defamatory statements made by Paul Thacker and Charles Seife in this August 13, 2015 article on PLoS Blogs. There are several key take-home points:

1.  While they have since tacked on a clarification in a footnote, it was not complete. Thacker and Seife's allegation implication that I was a paid advsor to the Monsanto Company to defeat California Proposition 37 still stands, and has been cited elsewhere. The anemic correction leaves false statements available for maximum damage. Mission Accomplished.

2.  USRTK claimed that the FOIA request was to test relationships for why I, and other authors, answered questions for individuals on GMOAnswers.com. The article by Thacker and Seife shows that this is not the real intention. The email released has nothing to do with GMOAnswers.com.  Plus, why would a hostile activist-funded organization release that resource to authors unless it was to advance reputation damage to those communicating science?

These ar…

Transparency Weaponized Against Scientists

(re-published from Science 2.0)
    How could you destroy someone with their own words, if their words present no evidence of wrongdoing?  It actually is amazingly simple, and illustrates the danger of limitless access to personal emails through public records requests.  In this post I will show how two writers for aPLoS One Blog*blatantly misrepresent content obtained through such a request. This is how scandals are manufactured from nothing. They fail to fact-check information with a non-opaque effort to harm the reputation of a public scientist.     I know, because that scientist is me.  Here’s the story.     Back in February I received a Public Records Request from a California activist group that demanded my emails back to 2012.  This was the first time I ever heard of such things.  After 27 years in public science I’d never thought that my emails were anyone’s property other than my own.  I had to comply, and did. The story has been coveredhereandhere.     My central fear was not re…

Trottier Symposium Abstract

I'm speaking at the Trottier Symposium in Montreal and was asked to submit an abstract. The symposium topic is "Trusting Science- Do You"

So I prepared this:



Marketing a Mistrust of the Safest Food Supply in History

Breakthroughs in breeding and genetics have radically improved plants and animals used for food. Introduction of modern technology to production practices makes farming more efficient. Improved chemistries allow us to produce more with less, with greater sensitivity to the environment. However, in the midst of the safest, most abundant and most diverse food supply in human history, there is a rising perception of its danger. The suspicion has not been driven by science. Instead it is a well-funded marketing ploy to push food dollars to boutique choices, and sell lifestyle-oriented selections that promise, but don’t necessarily deliver, improved health and performance. A multi-billion dollar industry has emerged to provide these higher- cost, health-halo alterna…