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Showing posts from May, 2016

Please Cook This (and be Thankful)

Today I submitted a manuscript for publication and another one is close.  It is Memorial Day, a holiday where we are not supposed to be at work, but I was so happy to spend my day in the office with people from my lab.  We also met with a prof from another department.  We might have a solution for those antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  You'll love this...  More to come. 

On my way home I stopped at the one big grocery store in town  and saw "Green Cooking Banana" in the produce section.  I've learned that 400 million people eat this every day.  When the guy at the checkout told me that the bananas were really small and hard, I told him, "That's just the way I want them."

His eyes rolled. I told him that "400 million people eat this every day." 

When I returned home I read horrible things about me on Twitter. Seems that Natural News has re-posted the garbage showing up on GM Watch last year. Again, it is designed to harm my reputation, and clutter …

My Real Job, My Needed Focus

Readers of this blog may think that my whole professional career is dedicated to debunking bad science and teaching about biotechnology.  The funny part is, that is probably 5-10% of what I do.  I'm the Chairman of a fruit/veg crops department that is among the world's best.  I lead a great research program in how light can make plants more nutritious and how different genes shape plant flavor.  I mentor postdocs, grad students and undergrads, along with many visiting scholars. 

This weekend five things happened:

1. Friday, another FOIA request for my emails. 
2.  A note that one of my former undergrads that she is now Chief Science Officer for a company in neurogenomics.
3.  A Facebook post from another former undergraduate that she has completed veterinary school.  
4.  A post from my current undergrad saying that she is heading off to Haiti to help run a youth leadership camp, and that she's doing a fundraiser. 
5.  An undergrad researcher in my lab stuck around for the summe…

Talking Biotech 38 GMO Cheese Enzymes, Nat'l Academies Review

In this week's Talking Biotech Podcast: Chipotle proudly serves it.  The Vermont GMO labeling rules exempt it. Still 95% of cheese is manufactured from enzymes created through recombinant DNA technology. These GMO-derived enzymes are tremendously beneficial to the process.  Young cow stomachs are not needed and the prices are lower because the enzymes are abundant.  Levi Gadye is a graduate student in neuroscience and science writer.  He recently wrote an article on cheese enzymes in Gizmodo, and joined us in talking about cheese.  Kavin Senapathy co-hosts. In the second part of the podcast I cover the continued FOIA requests for my emails and do a quick review of the National Academies of Science scholarly review of genetic engineering released last week.

Harassing Scientists- Coordinated Troll Attacks

Another often-used tactic to harass scientists is the creation of multiple accounts in social media by one person.  These are then used to create the illusion of multiple interests with a common theme of a unified argument against a scientist or idea. They are used to post defamatory and false information and propagate it using Twitter's powerful reach.

These highly coordinated troll attacks are likely orchestrated by a single person that creates a series of accounts that interact and reinforce each other.  It creates an illusion of a codified message, when it is just one nutcase stirring the pot. 

It happened before, and after years of abuse an internet sleuth figured out who it was.  She is a professional in California. When I was out there I met with her and she told me all about how it was a guy she was renting to that would use her computer. Sure. I've never posted her name or taken legal action.  Both are still on the table.

Stupid High Road. 

This week a whole new set of fa…

Catroversy

What started as a joke between friends has gone a little haywire.  SciBabe Yvette is a friend and she was shocked that her personal emails were being sought by The Food Babe Vani Hari. The idea was a simple one.  Florida has loose laws, so the FB wants to exploit that to get personal info on others, using me as the weak link. 

So when Yvette threatened to send me a cat picture every day I thought it was funny.  I sent one back to her.  If our personal emails are Public Records... 

This ended up being discussed elsewhere online.  Yvette and I had a short conversation about it on her Facebook page and then things sort of took off. 



It is good to share niceties with a friend.  Sad that they become part of a record handed to activists. 

I'm at a conference and have been barely present online.  Today I opened my emails to find hundreds of pictures of cats. 

That's fine, but maybe cool it.  Most of all, please don't put nastygrams to VH in here.  Cats?  No big deal.  But please take …

Another Vani Hari FOIA Request

First, some rules.  Please do not retaliate or harass her.  Respect her privacy for one reason-- I can tell you personally how horrible it is to have someone not respect mine. I do not want her to feel the way I do, because of her.  There's some Sunday irony. Thanks.

On Friday afternoon most folks watch that clock as the minute hand clicks toward five o'clock.  Last Friday, I got the email that my university had filled another public records request, again from the Food Babe, Vani Hari, and spent the next few hours going through what they plan to send to her. 

Why is she going after me?  Did I say something wrong?  Is something in my publication record not panning out and she suspects undue influence? 
No.  This is a personal, malicious, expensive attack for one reason-- It is because I corrected her.  I stood up when she visited my campus and lied to the students I am responsible to teach. 
The most recent request includes names of friends like Kavin, Vance, Yvette and Joe. Mark …

TB#37 Gene-Edited, Virus-Resistant Pigs

This week's Talking Biotech Podcast... The African Swine Fever Virus is a devastating pathogen that leads to fatal disease in domesticated swine.  Scientists at the Roslin Institute led by Prof. Bruce Whitelaw have made an important advance for domestic pig health and welfare.  Wild African pigs like warthogs do not get the disease.  Researchers at Roslin have studied the genes associated with viral infection, and found what is likely a critical difference between the wild and domestic pigs.  Using new gene editing technology, the change in wild pigs has been created in domestic pigs, and they will be tested for resistance to the virus this year.  This example is one of may that is coming in animal, plant, and fungal genetic improvement through gene editing.

Standing With Hilborn through Manufactured Controversy

Ever since the brutal treatment I received last fall, and continue to receive, I have vowed to never let another researcher stand alone in fighting misplaced activism. Your public scientists are under ideological interrogation with personal attacks that seek to destroy reputations and careers. Here is the latest round in this fight of pseudo-religious-belief against the inconvenient truth offered by an independent, academic scientist. We must take control of this narrative. The truth must dominate this narrative. 

Greenpeace has waged a vicious attack on a leading researcher and environmental advocate.  Dr. Ray Hilborn, a University of Washington Professor and a recognized leader in fisheries conservation for decades, has drawn fire from this activist organization because he reported data that were incompatible with their agenda.  



A researcher does good research.  Activists don't like the outcome. They trash the researcher because industry funded work in his program. No evidence of…

What is Citrus? Can it be Saved With Breeding?

“Citrus” is a term applied to a variety of popular and nutritious fruits, including oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes.  Citrus breeders are tasked with improving the varieties, which takes decades.  Still, great progress has been made in fruit improvement.   However, over the last twenty years a disease called Huanglongbing, or “HLB” (also known as “citrus greening”) has emerged in the USA and threatens the citrus industry.  Today the focus is how to grow improved citrus varieties that can survive this insidious disease.  Dr. Fred Gmitter is a seasoned citrus breeder that has  produced improved fruit varieties, but also is working to identify new varieties to combat HLB.
Listen to this week's podcast here.


Sweet Irony: The Environmental Impacts Of GMO Sugar Science Denial

Several times a year I find myself exiting the Florida’s Turnpike at Yeehaw Junction and heading south.  When I get to the small town of Okeechobee I take a left and head down Route 98 through Florida’s extensive agricultural backyard.  Flanked by Lake Okeechobee on the west and the affluent cities of the Atlantic coast off to the east, the small towns nestled in this sliver of land support vibrant production of sweet corn, cattle, lettuce, and sugarcane. Cane-derived sugar ends up in many cupboards as table sugar, and also is found in many consumer products.  
As reported on NPR, candy companies are caving in to consumer demands that the sugar they consume does not come from a GMO plant.  To the scientist this is curious, because table sugar coming from sugarcane (which never was a GMO) is chemically identical to table sugar from GMO sources like sugar beets—it is sucrose.  
Sugarcane and sugar beets are partners in pleasure, together satisfying America’s sweet tooth. However, the dema…

Blowing the Lid off the Conspiracy

Last week I was spending a lot of time on flights, so I picked a few podcasts outside of my normal queue to fill my head with new ideas.  I read on Twitter about Take Out, a podcast hosted by Robyn O'Brien and Ashley Koff RD, so decided to give it a listen. One of the episodes features Carey Gillam. 

Ms. Gillam works for US-RTK, the activist organization claiming to be looking for crimes and collusion between Big Ag and university scientists, while they really are a well-financed front group for Organic Consumer Association that is out to facilitate the libeling of scientists that teach about evidence-based food technology. While serving on the activist payroll, she writes for several outlets trashing scientists and technology, ironically, calling them paid shills. 

She's been especially harsh on me, reiterating especially Eric Lipton's lies from his article.  But that will be fixed with time.  Let's see what's up here... 



The Take Out podcast makes claims designed to…

Done with VH.

She has my emails, I held up my end of the deal in full transparency and compliance. It is in her court. Will she do the right thing?  One follower over on Facebook does not think so, and provided the most eloquent statement about the situation. I'm done now.

Let's focus on science. 



My Letter to Vani Hari

Public records requests are an important tool for journalists and other investigators to obtain information to check public employees' for episodes of wrongdoing.  Today there are two alarming trends. 

1. Politicians with deep pockets and plenty of attorneys find ways to make sure the records are not made public.
2. Scientists that do not have deep pockets and attorneys are seeing abuse of the system for elaborate witch hunts, expeditions that find no evidence of wrongdoing, yet result in potentially career-damaging manufactured narratives.  In other words, when you teach a scientific topic or do research that some find objectionable, your records can be used to harm your career. It has been seen by researchers in climate, vaccines, animal research, genetic engineering, and most recently, fisheries.  
Last year my institution received a Public Records Request from Vani Hari, The Food Babe.  It was indeed curious, and it didn't take long to realize that this was retaliation for my

TB35 Jayson Lusk and Unnaturally Delicious

This week's Talking Biotech Podcast features Dr. Jayson Lusk. We discuss his new book, Unnaturally Delicious and cover a huge range of topics from what "natural" means to GMO labeling.



The First Seized Emails- Your Tax Dollars at Work

I was not going to post any of the emails sent to Vani Hari, but I changed my mind.  Here is the first one.  It shows how screwed up this process is and how wide my personal correspondences are turned over to others, just because we had to search, at taxpayer expense, and turn over all emails with the word "babe".

This is number 1 of 2707. 


The BABE 2014 Conference looks like a hoot. Bioavailability and Bioequivalence!


Email 2 of 2707 was from a woman I never met. She sent me an unsolicited email looking for a position in my lab.  In her CV she shows that her MS advisor's name, and his first name is "Hari".  Her CV, her interest in my program, is now part of an email sweep that will be turned over to someone hostile to science. 


These are the first two.  Your dollars at work to satisfy nuisance, vanity requests-- because it is easier than discussing the science. 

My Email Goes Off to Vani Hari

IMPORTANT.  I was reluctant to make this information public because I do not want anyone to harass, intimidate, troll, or give any grief to Ms. Hari.  That's her game.  Those who condemn her tactics are not to use them.  We must define the high road.

I provide the information in this blog because I want everyone to understand the ongoing abuse of public records laws at incredible public expense.  I want everyone to see the scope of innocent people that will be potentially affected if/when she makes this information public. There are consequences of handing over 2707 pages of private correspondence to someone that has a goal to destroy you-- because you dared to challenge her with science and evidence. 
Share the story.  Don't flame her or her followers.  Share it with science journalists, science enthusiasts. Let others know that this is happening, but NO RETALIATION, NO ABUSIVE COMMENTS, please LET HER CONTINUE TO SINK ON HER OWN.


Today at 9AM EST over 257 MB of PDF, containing …