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Dances with Trolls

Social media can be quite a pox, but for the most part it is a great way to share good information, have a laugh, or connect with others.  The problem is that it also can be used by folks with unsavory interests as a tool for personal tear down. 

The unfortunately hostile nature of social media is what turns many away from participation in important conversations. This is especially true about conversations about vaccines, climate or genetic engineering. 

So how to fight back? 

I used to ignore, block or delete hostile trolls.  About two years ago I realized that I could take screenshots of their hate and actually use it to curry favor with those I sought to influence. In other words, by exposing their filth, I earned trust. 

It comes from a position of power. It shows that you are not going to succumb to being a victim, especially from anonymous troublemakers and slander bots.  It also suggests that the reason you are targeted is because you have something important to communicate. 

Examp…

Another Dose of Chemophobia -- This Time Orange Juice!

Is your orange juice full of weed killer? No. Who is making that claim, and should you be concerned? Five years ago we all were treated to data claiming that corn was not corn. More precisely, genetically engineered corn was actually a concoction of chemistry that it could not be remotely biological. According to the source, it was lacking carbon, but was packed full of glyphosate and formaldehyde (which are carbon based). It also had a substantially lower “cation exchange capacity” than its non-GMO equivalent, which is odd, because that’s a soil test, and not one done on corn. But it sure had it. Whatever it was. The data seemed weird because they were. They were fake. Manufactured. Pure bullshit.

From the people that make up data or don’t publish in real journals, more chemophobia.
The table was a soil test template festooned with made-up values by Moms Across America, a twisted group of food fearmongers that used the falsified data to stoke alarm among consumers. I debunked it here.

Dr. Don Huber - Time to Recant

Huber's Mystery Organism

In January of 2011 Dr. Don M. Huber, formerly of Purdue University, wrote a warning letter to US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.  He wrote of a dangerous organism, new to science, that had invaded U.S. agriculture.  It destroyed crops, killed livestock, and caused tremendous harm to human health. It was directly linked to genetically engineered crops and the herbicide Roundup.

In November of 2013 I watched him speak to an audience of concerned people that audibly gasped when he showed pictures of the organism's devastating effects. People shook their heads in disgust. 

At the same meeting I offered to sequence the DNA of the new organism he had isolated, only to have him say that it was already being done by collaborators in China and that it would be published shortly.  Then he said that it had no genetic material. 

He was not counting on someone to be in the audience that could call him on his bullshit. 




Almost eight years after his warning letter and …

3 Must-Do Tips for an Effective Doodle Poll

Misuse of scheduling tools leads to profound inefficiencies The first time I told a female co-worker that I needed her to respond to my Doodle Poll I was reported for harassment. Time would reveal that this hazardous homophone was simply an attempt at efficient time management. If I had a dollar for every Doodle Poll that I receive I’d probably get about six bucks a week. The email arrives inquiring about my availability, and then I click the link and hold my breath — will it be an efficient way of synchronizing a group meeting, or will I spend the next 30 minutes gazing at calendars and clicking on boxes?
For those of us that want to do our jobs, meetings can be a chore. Don’t use scheduling tools to make it a chore to schedule a chore.
The following are my tips for constructing an efficient Doodle Poll: Provide Just a Few Options. It is a nightmare to have to stare at a jillion poll options, scrolling from day to day, cross referencing against my calendar, and clicking the appropriate…

Response from Bertolli

After sending a complaint to Bertolli after putting their Non-GMO Olive Oil (all olive oil is non-GMO) back on the shelf, my friends at Bertolli kindly returned a message. 



It is all a marketing decision.  It is pandering to the lowest common intellectual denominator and driving sales with fear-based advertising.  

I won't be playing along.  Selling out honesty and ethics to take advantage of the chronically misinformed is not something I support, and not a company I will support with my dollars.

Bertolli and the Non-GMO Project

I ran out of olive oil.  I buy the stuff by the gallon usually, but my local grocery store had some 500 ml bottles on sale for $9.89, but buy-one-get-one-free, so 1 liter of olive oil for about ten bucks. Not too bad.

It was Bertolli brand.  I put it in my cart and then I saw it-- the Non-GMO Project label, the label that certified that no GMO olives were used in the preparation of the oil.  They are telling the truth because there are no genetically engineered olives, so all olive oil is "non-GMO"

So I put back the Bertolli product and instead got a liter of Colavita olive oil for about forty cents more. Neither features the butterfly of credulity. 



Instead of a product that sports fear-based marketing to science-hostile interests, I bought a liter of general purpose olive oil for cooking and a liter of a higher quality oil for special applications.

It gets much worse.  The Bertolli website features six products under "olive oils". 


But wait!  Some of these must cont…

CHEMOPHOBIA FILES: LaCroix Water & Insecticide

In a campaign that The Food Babe would be proud of, a group of attorneys have filed a class action lawsuit against LaCroix.  The claim is that the ingredients are not natural and that they are components of roach killer. 

It is the 2018 equivalent to Vani Hari's misrepresentation that Subway's bread was made up of yoga mat chemicals. Remember that one?  Ah, simpler times. 

The ever-credulous media was quick to amplify the story. 



Without any critical analysis, the internet amplifies the sensational report.
The attorneys claim that LaCroix contains linalool and limonene, two components of "cockroach insecticide".   It does, and it is. 
But was is linalool?   It sounds like a medical tool on the Three Stooges, but it really is the characteristic flavor of Froot Loops cereal.  It is a naturally-occurring volatile compound in fruits that imparts a fruity, floral note in fruit aroma.  
What is Limonene?   It is abundant in citrus peel and is a component of citrus aroma. 
These t…

Schadenfreude Burrito

A few years ago Chipotle Mexican Grill used fear-based marketing to sell products.  They embarked on a "No GMOs in Our Food" policy that fueled a nationwide discussion, and delivered waves of customers wishing to trade their dollars for Americanized Mexican mediocrity. 

Back then the only thing Chipotle really had to change was corn tortillas and chips, sourcing them from non-GE sources.  Soy oil used in frying was replaced with non-GE equivalents.  Everything else in their menu was not GE.  Sort of.

The high fructose corn syrup or sugar in their sodas most certainly came from a GE plant, and the cheese was made enzymes obtained from GE microbes.  But the stuff with high margins was somehow okay. 


Chipotle's vapid campaign backfires as consumers and attorneys realize that there is money to be made in pointing out the inherent dishonesty in Chipotle's claims. 
Now Chipotle face a class action lawsuit because the stupid campaign failed to be completely honest, at least in …

The Mechanism of Thalidomide Action

How thalidomide created birth defects was a 60-year mystery.  Until now. New insight into its use in cancer therapies also. This week's podcast is a great interview with Dr. Kathleen Donovan from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. 


Fence Causes Cancer (only in California)

It is almost October in Florida, which means the brutal summer heat is almost over and we can plant the damn garden. Over my whole life I’ve found great solace in growing my own food, and in North-Central Florida you get two seasons to do it — fall and spring, two seasons separated by a freeze event or two that represents our tiny little microwinter. This year the garden is expanded to epic proportions and features a lot of climbing vegetables. Others, like tomatoes, grow better if tethered rather than using the flimsy tomato cages home improvement stores. This year I actually sprung for some new fencing — but the warning tag had me concerned.
I historically have used welded wire fence, the stuff with big 10 cm squares that allow me to reach through to pick fruit.  One year in Chicago I found a roll of road mesh (same concept used in reinforcing concrete) in front of a Mexican bakery.  It was there for a few days and then I brought it home in my 1984 Chevy Caprice decommissioned police c…

Banned By Biofortified.

You may be familiar with the issues with Biofortified.  Using anonymous public records requests they obtained internal, outside work documents from the University of Florida.  I was asked to lend my expertise as a subject matter expert (sort of like an Expert Witness, but it was not a trial) in mediating an issue between two organizations. I had to get approval to do this from University Administration, so I filled in the forms with details needed for them to make decisions on legality and appropriateness. 

They approved. I then signed a contract with the law firm representing one organization, stating that I'd keep all information confidential. I posted that I was retained by a law firm as a compensated subject matter expert in a private matter on vacation time, in full compliance with my university's disclosure guidance.

Biofortified obtained my private correspondence, and in a blindsided hit-- made all of the information public, and destroying the confidentiality I was sworn …

UCSF's War Against Scientists

The University of California at San Francisco is sponsoring, with taxpayer dollars, an assault on taxpayer funded scientists.  Not only have they created slanderous databases, they now are hosting public lectures where industry-sponsored activists are allowed to impeach established evidence and smear the reputations of actual public scientists.

Like me.

US-Right to Know has a clear agenda, and scientists that teach information that is counter to that agenda are systematically dismantled using a series of well-established techniques, which include selective publication and interpretation of public records requests, defamatory websites, and manipulation of journalists to tell their crooked story. 

Now they have a patsy on the inside of UCSF, someone that is complicit in furthering their smear campaign.  I've already written about the Chemical Industry Documents library, where my conversations with other academics about lavaliere microphones and  private conversations with newly arrived…

Three Years after The Food Babe's Request for My Personal Emails...

Nothing. 

Three years ago the Food Babe, Vani Hari, submitted a public records request to my university.  I have always been a vocal about Hari, both in her egregious errors as well as her talents as a motivational pre-Goop peddler of generally poor advice. Of course, a blind squirrel does find a nut here and there, so I agree with her on some facets about food and farming. 

But Hari was convinced that my criticisms were being dictated by the Biotech Industry Mothership, and that an independent scientist could not possibly find flaw with her analyses and recommendations. 



This is the text from her blog about the need to file the request. She wanted to unveil how the "food industry" used me to "control science and deliver their PR and lobbying messaging." She got a big fat goose egg.
She exploited transparency laws and requested tens of thousands of pages of my personal emails.  They were delivered to her promptly and at great taxpayer expense.  

And three years later th…

More Bullying Scientists

Cameron English just published an outstanding article over on Genetic Literacy Project.  If there's one thing you read today, please make sure this is it.  The story is about lactation specialist Dr. Shelley McGuire.  She tested for glyphosate in breast milk and didn't find it. What happened next is about intimidation, hacking, and abuse by a corrupt movement. 


Please read and share the story.

Balancing Transparency and Confidentiality, Again

Today I found another sterling example of how academic researchers find a challenging predicament when honoring both transparency and confidentiality at the same time.

I recently reviewed a grant proposal for the USDA.  We agree to keep this information confidential, yet the proposals and our review travel by university email.  It would be easy to harvest the proposal and my evaluation using FOIA. 

But the USDA makes me sign an agreement that I will keep the information confidential and cannot provide the information via FOIA.  My institution didn't sign off on this, just me.  Would the USDA, the researchers, and my private correspondence be protected?  Probably not. 


The USDA says that it is their job to determine if the materials are to be distributed.  If the university receives a request, they don't reach out to those involved and ask for permission. They fill the request.
So if Karl Haro von Mogel asks me questions about the review, who's lab it was or what the project wa…

The Peril of Non-Disclosable Details in COI's

The last part of my discussion in Conflicts of Interest (COI) and balancing transparency versus confidentiality.  

The conversation started when I had outside work, meaning nothing to do with my university appointment. I was asked to review data for a law firm as a subject matter expert.  It was not a trial, but a private mediation between parties. It was agreed that all information, including the players involved, would be kept confidential.  I agreed with that.

Vague (and approved) verbiage was provided on my website that I was working as an expert for a law firm outside of my job and I was compensated for it. 



What I didn't realize at the time was how this kind of non-disclosable COI is perceived.  To most of us that have such arrangements with companies that fund a trial, share a collaboration, and wish their association to remain confidential, it poses a tremendously dangerous place for loss of public trust. 

What can he possibly be hiding? 

Again, this never crossed my mind becau…

Transparency's Edge

I'm thinking about next Monday.  Labor Day.  While it is a holiday for most, I'll be on a conference call at 7 AM-- one steeped in mystery. 

While transparency is critical to trust in public science, are there times when it is not warranted?  I never even thought about this until today after going under the bus by the folks at Biofortified for taking on a confidential,vacation-time paid assignment with a law firm. They felt that they should know everything I do on my off time in a private arbitration. 

We (scientists and companies) sometimes work under Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs). Me, not so much. But this is very common in all research institutions. 



My lab has expertise in narrow-bandwidth lighting solutions for plant growth environments. Should have to disclose all of our findings in development in the name of transparency? 

When a company wants to discuss research or potential funding, it is customary for both parties to sign an NDA.  It means that nothing that is discuss…