Monday, October 29, 2012

Leaving the Limbaughs of the Left: Parting Thoughts on Prop37

Over the last month I've had a lot to think about.  I visited several 3rd grade classes to teach kids about plant biology.  They all learned what makes plants unique from animals and how plants grow and develop.  In each class we did a simple experiment with two test tubes, two seeds, and two pieces of foil. Each tube contained a milliliter of water/agar. The kids would add one seed to each tube. They would wrap one in foil, leave the other uncovered, then scrunch up the other piece of foil as a base.

Thirty minutes, a few cents of science surplus, and a huge retreat from book science for the kids. The elegant simplicity of plant development. The happiness that comes when someone that is not their teacher brings them stuff!

They went nuts, as always. They loved the test tubes, the seeds, and any science stuff you could give them. They were all excited to participate in science. In third grade science is still cool.

Special guest talks at local schools remind me about how there still
are minds out there that are willing to think critically, consider evidence, and learn. Many adults need to learn from them.

Every single time, I leave the school feeling like I have relevance and impact, like I've contributed to changing minds.  I feel that I taught science to willing participants that longed to learn something new.

It is a great feeling to be welcomed for what I know and how I teach it.  It is great to be appreciated for what I voluntarily give and how it can shape future decisions in children, where STEM disciplines will be in high demand.

Too bad the world is not full of third graders.  Instead we have self-entitled whiners that have coalesced into a body of experts with expertise that no true expert can approach.

I'm out of the GMO/prop37 discussion.


Reaching Out to the Unreachable

After thousands of discussions on blogs and comments, emails and in-person talks, I'm hanging up my efforts.  After patience, kindness and reaching out, I'm now just reaching in. Why?  After all, I've studied the field for 25 years, I understand it and can communicate it.

It is because I am deflated by those I engage. I cannot teach the unteachable, and I've wondered why I even bother to try.  These are not wide-eyed and eager to learn third graders. These are angry ideologs, steeped in misinformation that reject expert testimony and informed discussion. They have made up their minds, and no amount of evidence will change that. Limbaughs, all.

Now maybe the insulting comments, nasty emails and even veiled death threats might stop.  I'll have more time to serve my real clients-- my students and postdocs in the lab, the students I serve as Graduate Coordinator, the students at UF, my colleagues, my field and growers in my state.  And of course, third graders.


Anti-Intellectualism Runs Wild

I don't really have any hard vested interest in GMO policy. I have no corporate licensing, no commercialized materials. Despite the unending accusations, I have no funding to lose.

My interest was to use the whole GMO discussion as a vehicle to teach science and the scientific method.  Pure and simple.  What is good evidence, what does the evidence tell us, and how should we react to it?  Over the years I've used climate change and vaccination as similar platforms to teach about science too, so it is not just GMO.

But in a world obsessed with "I have a right to __________.  I don't care what you say or what you know, I demand to have it my way", can education get any traction?  How can I change hearts and minds when hearts are hard and minds are locked? 

Everyone feels like their opinion needs to be honored, that they "have it right", that they know the facts.  It is wholesale anti-intellectualism at its finest.


Disappointed in the Lefties

In the last seven days I've been called everything from nazi, to a scumbag, to a criminal to a corporate shill.  I rode a bike with a guy and when he learned I was a professor he called me "another overpaid liberal".  I can't win!

I swing from left to right on issue to issue, so my political philosophies don't fit conveniently in a box.  However, I absolutely relate to a more left-leaning mindset, especially on social issues. It is a shame to witness the people I agree with on so many levels go completely off the deep end on the science of transgenic crops.  I expect this from the evolution hating, stem cell bashing, earth cooling goofballs on the right, but from those that allegedly embrace learning and education?

I've found many that oppose biotechnology to be some of the meanest, nastiest, narrow-minded people  I have ever encountered.  Those that say they honor nature, reason, and peace are such hypocrites. They too can be pointy, ignorant, arrogant and unchangable, anchored in the mud of lies and misinformation that they refuse to be pulled out of. They blatantly shun the lifeline of logic.

In many ways they are more bitter people than other science deniers. Back in May of 2009 when vaccination issues were hot I got a lot of angry emails for criticizing Oprah and Jenny McCarthy, but they were nowhere near as aggressive as the anti-GMO correspondences.


Not Quitting, Shifting

Rather than waste my time trying to influence those that have already made up their minds in the religion of GMO=bad, I'm going to invest my time where it can make a difference.  I cannot change the present-- that train has left the station.  I can influence the future. I'm going to put my two test tubes, seeds and foil in as many little fumbling hands as I can.  I'm going to start a YouTube video series on science fair projects. I'm going to teach science and reason to the willing, rather than beating my head against the wall against the inertia of belief in an anti-science fantasy.


Changing My Position-- Yes on 37!
I'm flipping on this issue and now fully support labeling.  I hope the initiative succeeds and that the labels are affixed, that the kind supporters of Prop37 put Seralini's rat tumor pics on every box, jar and can.  I hope they run a campaign of fear, steering consumer sentiment, collapsing current farming options for corn, soy and canola.  Let's switch to dangerous old herbicides, send those spray planes out in droves to dump their poisons and burn that fuel.  Make farmers pay more for fuel, labor, pesticides.  Hand those costs down to consumers and make the poorest of the poor even poorer with higher food prices.

Let's further empower the Big Ag corporations they hate by forcing them back into production of hybrid seeds, costing more, performing less, and still not able to be replanted in subsequent seasons.

I feel bad saying that, but let's use this opportunity to show the angry mobs that alter law by mass ignorance that there are consequences for their actions. Just like we are turning a blind eye on any real energy policy, let's just let the anti-GMO folks have their way and push their agenda to flip modern agriculture on its big dumb ass.  Yes on 37!

If you think it sucks to pay for foreign oil, wait until you get to pay for foreign food.


Stick a Fork In It. 

I'm about to say a selfish comment I never thought I'd say.  I just don't care anymore. Screw giving talks in public forums only to be shouted down as a "witch" or "corporate stooge".  Forget about providing facts and evidence to those that call me a liar. No more wasting my time with those that care only about a naturalistic fallacy, a narrow worldview that parallels the beliefs of creationists, climate deniers and birthers.

They cannot be changed.

Sadly I hope for the wheels to come off and for the worst possible outcomes from our ignorant anti-science decisions.  Let's heat up the planet until crops can't grow, people starve and there's no biotech solutions. Let's pay $21 for a tomato and $8 for an ear of corn.  I'm a freakin' cockroach, I'm remarkably low-maintenance, clever and resourceful.  I'll be just fine.

I just proofread that paragraph and I'm ashamed at what I've become.  I have to gracefully bow out of this conversation.


You Didn't Win
My retreat from this topic does not mean that the anti-GMO interests have won. In fact, they lost.  They lost a potentially powerful advocate when their interests are on the line, someone that can effectively oppose corporate science when appropriate.  Winners are those that respect my time and scientific ability, as now I can apply it to issues that matter most.


In Conclusion

Maybe it all needs to collapse before it will get better and we start to trust science and scientists again.  In the anti-GMO, pro-prop37 circles Seralini is a god and I'm a fool.  They can have him and his pseudoscience  to speed our slide into idiocracy.

I see why scientists don't engage the public.  The public is maybe not deserving of our time.  Public perception has kept science funding stagnant, as if we're viewed as flimsy frauds that will trade truth and integrity for a few shekels and Monsanto cap, nobody is going to demand we get more resources to do public science.  So we sit sequestered in our offices, pounding keyboards 80 hours a week, fighting for a few hyper-competitive grants and getting turned down 90% of the time if we are really good. If you think that's not the case, then why am I one of a sliver of scientists out pushing for public outreach and interaction?

There are people that do appreciate the effort, the folks in retirement communities, the interested students and of course the third graders. Maybe by teaching science earlier in a climate where science matters, where food is precious and increasingly rare, we'll start to welcome the informed thoughts of those that have them.

Thanks, I'll still be around. I'll answer questions at kevinfolta@gmail.com.  Always glad to help, but I'm not going to be Seralini-worshiping activist punching bag.  Done. It has been said that the only thing you get from arguing with an idiot is two idiots.  Time to excuse myself from this discussion.


Please click on this link and read the lyrics carefully.  It was written in 2002 in response to our nation's leadership at the time, but the lyrics apply to any situation where the least prepared to make decisions are making them. Read and think about scientists vs. prop37... 




Monday, October 15, 2012

Comments Blocked by the "Right to Know"

Awesome.  For the second time in as many days I have been blocked from providing scientific content to rants on YouTube regarding California Proposition 37.  After all, it is about the Right to Know, as long as it is something they want to hear!

The situation happened on a YouTube video "That Monsanto does not want you to see, Brought to you by Nutiva and Elevate".  It presents Danny DeVito, Bill (don't vaccinate your kids) Maher, and other Hollywood luminaries that I don't recognize.  They tell us that it is a 'right to know' what's in our food, a point I don't organically disagree with, yet maintain that prop37 is an inappropriate, highly flawed, vehicle.

So I begin to comment in the 'comments' section under the name "Swampwaffle".  You can see, my comments are scientific, concise, polite and engaging.  I invite opportunities to share evidence and partake in a scholarly discussion.  With one particularly energetic person who repeatedly called me a "shill", "Nazi" and told me "fuck off and die", I suggested that he come visit me and share the same bravado.  I'd let a little air out of his stupid balloon real quick. Actually, my heart goes out to the little bastard and if he showed up I'd buy him a beer and some deodorant, then talk about how wonderful science really is. That's how I roll.

The best part is, they removed my comments about Bill Maher believing that vaccination was evil.  Later, after several back-n-forths with various posters, the owner of the video has blocked me from posting!  So much for Right to Know!  More like right to know, as long as it is something we agree with.



The poster of a celebrity-studded Prop37 "Right to Know" video has blocked me
from commenting on the video.  Oh cruel irony! 


To me, I'll take this as a badge of honor.  A voice of scientific reason is polluting the retarded sea of contorted belief and fantasy.  This is the absolute perfect example of how this movement reeks of anti-science, anti-intellectualism and flawed logic.  They are little robots, filled with malice and no scientific training, hiding behind anonymous monikers, wielding empty threats and unsubstantiated claims. 

Welcome to the bankrupt logic and reasoning of the anti-GMO movement. 

Maybe you'll be compelled to waste some of your time informing the great throng of the unteachable. The video is here.  Hit mute first before loading.  On second thought, leave it on.  It is all about the Right to Know.