Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Door is Cracked Open, Jump Through Greenpeace!

This morning I was fortunate to have breakfast with Mark Lynas in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  He discussed his idea for a blog, based on the idea that 107 Nobel Laureates have asked Greenpeace to change their position on Golden Rice. He prepared a nice piece with a quick turnaround. It's here!

Go read that now if you haven't.  I'll wait. 

I could never put that so eloquently.  So instead, I'll focus on the idea that changing one's mind is not a bad thing, and maybe Greepeace should do that.  While politicians scream of "flip-flopping" and "waffling", in reality changing one's mind is an act of courage. It comes after a time evidence re-evaluation.  It is a sign of growth, a sign of personal improvement.  


Head toward the light!!

Greenpeace is in a difficult spot.  They do some things well and have a solid brand to inspire change.  However, they are not taken seriously because of their denial of fundamental science, and their trashing of scientists.  It is especially damaging when their science denial disadvantages those in impoverished nations that could benefit from the technology they block. 

For Greenpeace to be sustainable they must grow with the times and move with the evidence. 

Now is the time to do that. 

Imagine if they said, "The 107 Nobelians are correct, and we've been rethinking this position for a long time...  while we still do not agree with multinational companies and note clear ecological impacts of GM crops, we side with science in stating that there are no known health effects of these technologies, and that they may even be helpful in combating nutritional deficiency, land lost to changing climate, and in fighting ever changing pests and pathogens."

Imagine if they said that.  The world would give them a pass on the regressive former stance, and applaud their acceptance of science.  Their credibility would soar, and dollars would roll in, and their perception as an anti-science organization would dissipate a bit. 

The door is cracked open.  Jump through, Greenpeace.  The spotlight is on you, and what you choose to do in response to the 107 signatories may just re-define the trajectory of your organization. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Office Broken Into

Sometime early Sunday morning my office suite was broken into.  My office has two areas, my assistant's area, and then my office.  The two are connected by locking doors, and there are two keys to the offices, mine and my assistant's. Nobody has access to these areas because they contain sensitive personnel records and other student information.

My assistant came in at 7:30 on Monday morning to find coffee spilled everywhere, files a mess, and all of the drawers gone through. Someone was at the computer and records show an "unknown device" was hooked to her computer at 1AM on Sunday.  We do not know what was up- or downloaded.

We see how they broke in.  It was a rather simple move that probably took place during business hours.  They basically rigged the locking mechanism so that it would be easy to enter after hours. 

My office is an adjacent room, and there's no evidence yet that it was entered.  We're still examining the contents and computers.  It is not clear that they could easily breach the second door.

My interpretation is that this is someone searching for the smoking gun they are not getting via email inquisition.  I have been served, and filled, weekly FOIA requests and the critics do not have anything to go on.  

So whether they have directly commissioned a robbery or perhaps just inspired it, this is what happens when evil people make up false narratives about what I do. 

So thanks to USRTK, Vani Hari, Mike Adams, Brooke Borel, Eric Lipton, Paul Thacker, Charles Seife and the rest of those that failed to tell the truth of a scientist dedicated to public science and public education about science.  They have all written narratives that create false impressions, and sometimes outright dangerous lies. They have said made claims that I am an agent of Big Ag companies that can't be trusted to discuss science. They have painted me as a hated shill of a hated company, with no evidence that I ever broke a rule or did anything illegal. 


Yes, words do matter, and tragically false narratives can inspire harm those targeted. As planned. 


This is what happens when you treat a scientist like a villain. Whether financed by US-RTK, Organic Consumers Association or any of the other anti-science groups, or whether they are just lone-wolf losers looking to create problems, someone is carrying out their bidding.  This is why these are hate groups. They cannot accept the science, they hate scientists that teach it, and want us all to back down with this kind of intimidation. 

My wife says that this is going to far and I should quit. My assistant, a thirty-five year, loyal, dedicated, underpaid and overworked state employee, has never felt so violated. 

I feel quite differently. This kind of nonsense reminds us of who these people are. They have only heightened my resolve.  Education is winning.  People are changing.  Opinions are siding with the scientific like never before.  These are desperate times for these folks.  It is a pathetic turn on a sick story, and they are to blame for creating hate against a public scientist that does not deserve it. 

Office Broken Into

Sometime early Sunday morning my office suite was broken into.  My office has two areas, my assistant's area, and then my office.  The two are connected by locking doors, and there are two keys to the offices, mine and my assistant's. Nobody has access to these areas because they contain sensitive personnel records and other student information.

My assistant came in at 7:30 on Monday morning to find coffee spilled everywhere, files a mess, and all of the drawers gone through. Someone was at the computer and records show an "unknown device" was hooked to her computer at 1AM on Sunday.  We do not know what was up- or downloaded.

We see how they broke in.  It was a rather simple move that probably took place during business hours.  They basically rigged the locking mechanism so that it would be easy to enter after hours. 

My office is an adjacent room, and there's no evidence yet that it was entered.  We're still examining the contents and computers.  It is not clear that they could easily breach the second door.

My interpretation is that this is someone searching for the smoking gun they are not getting via email inquisition.  I have been served, and filled, weekly FOIA requests and the critics do not have anything to go on.  

So whether they have directly commissioned a robbery or perhaps just inspired it, this is what happens when evil people make up false narratives about what I do. 

So thanks to USRTK, Vani Hari, Mike Adams, Brooke Borel, Eric Lipton, Paul Thacker, Charles Seife and the rest of those that failed to tell the truth of a scientist dedicated to public science and public education about science.  They have all written narratives that create false impressions, and sometimes outright dangerous lies. They have said made claims that I am an agent of Big Ag companies that can't be trusted to discuss science. They have painted me as a hated shill of a hated company, with no evidence that I ever broke a rule or did anything illegal. 


Yes, words do matter, and tragically false narratives can inspire harm those targeted. As planned. 

From Twitter:  "The extremists don't burn the witch, they just pass out the torches."


This is what happens when you treat a scientist like a villain. Whether financed by US-RTK, Organic Consumers Association or any of the other anti-science groups, or whether they are just lone-wolf losers looking to create problems, someone is carrying out their bidding.  This is why these are hate groups. They cannot accept the science, they hate scientists that teach it, and want us all to back down with this kind of intimidation. 

My wife says that this is going to far and I should quit. My assistant, a thirty-five year, loyal, dedicated, underpaid and overworked state employee, has never felt so violated. 

I feel quite differently. This kind of nonsense reminds us of who these people are. They have only heightened my resolve.  Education is winning.  People are changing.  Opinions are siding with the scientific like never before.  These are desperate times for these folks.  It is a pathetic turn on a sick story, and they are to blame for creating hate against a public scientist that does not deserve it. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Talking Biotech #41- Innovative Breeding to Save Citrus


This week's Talking Biotech Podcast interviews Dr. Jude Grosser.   If there ever was a wizard of science, Dr. Grosser might just be it.  For 30 years he's used the most cutting-edge techniques in an attempt to improve citrus trees, not an easy feat.  Trees grow slowly, and genetic changes are difficult.  Dr. Grosser uses non-"GMO" methods as well as genetic engineering to produce new trees that just may save the industry from citrus disease. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Tayler Gray as a Symptom of the "Selfies"

In a news cycle starved for any hint of controversy, an Allentown, PA's high-school student's tacky and disrespectful middle finger to her peers grabbed headlines. Tayler Gray, graduating senior, has been lauded by the media and thousands of social media supporters for her courageous act-- to receive her diploma and then walk right out of the auditorium.


"I got mine, so long suckas"

The sad news about such widespread attention is that her 15 seconds of fame will inevitably lead to an unsatisfying lifetime of hardship. 

When we can witness such cold narcissism in action, it tells us a lot about the person, her parents, and the values she holds.  Apparently she is an aspiring ultrasound technician.  I would not let her perform any medical procedure on me. The last thing I need as a patient is a procedure conducted by someone that believes she's more important than the rest of us.

If I was the principal, I'd ask for the diploma back until she apologized to her class.  If I was her parent, I would demand that she apologize to her class publicly, then spend the summer conducting community service. My guess is that her parent(s) applaud her bravado. 

Tayler is a snapshot of a sad population within the Millennials that I like to call the "selfies".  While I'm inspired by so many high school and college students that seem to have a fresh genuine concern about people and planet, there is a sub-population that has an enormous sense of self-entitlement, narcissistic focus, and worse, are proud to give a big F-U to the rest of us. 

In my workplace we thrive as a team.  We care for each other, celebrate each others' success, and solve problems by leveraging our strengths.  Tayler would never be welcome on that team.  

Graduations are not about you.  Graduations are about us.  I already have a high school degree and three college degrees, but as a professor I still show up at graduation to celebrate the successes of my students and to honor the institution that provided the mechanism of their minting. 

I do it for my students, I do it for the school, but I also do it for me.

See Tayler, it is possible to derive enormous satisfaction from the joy of others, from service, from being part of something much bigger than ourselves.  I know you were in a hurry to leave, beat the traffic, maybe grab lunch with your family.  Think about how little those events are in the big scheme of things.

Congratulations on being a hero to those with the blinders that only allow them to see the mirror.  You are a snapshot of what is wrong with people today, and a poster child for something we desperately need to change. 

Graduations are referred to as Commencements, an initiation or a start, a seemingly strange term for a convocation at the end of an academic endeavor.  But it fits perfectly because it is a new beginning-- this is the start of your life.

In your first steps into life, you demonstrated your conceit to the world.  Maybe it is a good time to check that ego, think outside yourself, and experience the satisfaction that comes when we put others and our togetherness ahead of ourselves. 

Saturday, June 4, 2016

FitBit or TwitBit? Bad Science that Hurts Family Farmers

I'm always sensitive to which food and fitness companies abandon science and peddle woo.  I'm sad to say that FitBit has a blog post that promotes the Environmental Working Groups "Dirty Dozen".  The "Dirty Dozen" is this activist group's annual attack on specific fruit and vegetable industries, perpetrated to scare people into organic produce. 

FitBit nutrition editor Becky Duffett completely drops the ball on this one and makes an indictment of an industry based on a fancy activist website, and ignores simple facts.  Instead of consulting scientists and farmers that work with strawberry and know the facts, she takes an activist group's word that conventional strawberries are toxic nuggets of death and should never be eaten. 


FitBit falls for the "Dirty Dozen" ruse without any critical analysis, making statements that harm American specialty crop farmers. 


The author reiterates the EWG claim that, "98 percent (of strawberries) had detectable pesticide residues, 40 percent had residues from 10 or more pesticides and some had residues from up to 17 different pesticides."

First of all, what does "detected" mean?  We can measure levels that are tens of thousands, millions, billions of times below any toxicity thresholds.  Just because it is there on the edge of detection does not mean it is harmful. 

Furthermore, strawberry farmers do not use ten, let alone seventeen different pesticides. A phone call to a strawberry farmer, grower organization, or university plant pathologist would have sorted that out. 

You can listen to my interview with Dr. Natalia Peres on this very topic here. (starts at 30 minutes) 

The bottom line is that while strawberries are a fungicide-intensive crop, they are applied at safe levels for human consumption and are used sparingly.  The Agroclimate.org website advises farmers when conditions are most conducive to fungal outbreaks and they apply fungicides only at those times.  Thanks to such tools fungicide use is extremely low.  Ag chemicals are expensive, and farmers use them only to save a crop from a pathogen. 

I eat them right out of the field without even washing them. Of course, you always should wash your produce.  Sometimes you're in the middle of the field, the aroma is awesome, and you just gotta...

And the article discusses the other "dirty" eleven, and in fairness does mention what EWG considers "clean".  What a crock. 

This is troublesome because FitBit produces fitness tools that should be science based.  When they promote bogus claims about health and food, it gives me pause that I can trust any of their concepts or products.

For the record, I did once own a FitBit.  The band was trash, I lost it, and bought a Garmin that I really like. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Please Support The Haiti Young Leaders Conference

Hi Everybody,

My student, Kiona is a senior in the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida.  She is deeply committed to science and does beautiful work in the lab.

But what makes her extra special is her commitment to sharing science, and even more, her commitment to becoming a leader in global food security and her interests in leadership development in young people worldwide. 

Kiona will be taking part in the Haiti Young Leaders Conference in a few weeks, and her team is currently running a fundraiser to help defray costs. She explains more about it here: 




  Again, the link is here.

I adore having the opportunity to work with students like Kiona.  One of the reasons is that I actually learn as much as I teach.  She reminds me that there is always time to reach out and share our time and talents with others, and that that simple investment can change the world.

Think about helping her team with a donation.  Even a few bucks here can make a big difference in their mission, and ever cent will be used wisely.  Thank you for supporting an amazing young woman and outstanding scholar.