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Showing posts from March, 2015

Let's Drink Weed Killer, Not!

This week controversy ignited when Patrick Moore, a prominent advocate for Golden Rice, was interviewed on the French TV channel Canal+.  He correctly claimed that glyphosate was safe enough to drink and not likely causing alleged cancer outbreaks in Argentina.  When the host offered him a glass of Roundup herbicide he did not drink it and walked off the set. From the interwebs. Of course, twitter and other opinion outlets of the world's pseudoexperts exploded with the fact that Moore was forced to eat his words rather than drink weed killer.   And then the Big M felt compelled to remind everyone that weed killer is not a beverage and that Moore is not representing the company.  Once upon a time I did the demo, not hammering a glass of the stuff, but mixing a tablespoon of the working solution into diet Mountain Dew.  No big deal. Of course when you do a stunt like this everyone goes completely unhinged, screaming that a scientist endorses drinking weed kille

Link to Site Where Vandana Shiva Endorses Murder

This week I spoke at Iowa State University, a place where Dr. Vandana Shvia spoke earlier this month.  The audience included some of her supporters, and they were not terribly happy when I uploaded a photo of her along with Oz, Smith, Adams and Babe.  I also included a screen shot of her website Seed Freedom where she posted the article about the justification of murder for biotech supporters because they are "Monsanto Collaborators", including "scientists, journalists, politicians, (and) food companies".  The words on her site read, "(someone should)  document all the Monsanto collaborators  and make sure they are held accountable for their actions...  to hunt down and arrest Monsanto collaborators: the scientists, journalists, politicians, food companies and other ena blers...   teams of “Monsanto collaborator hunters” will likely be offered financial rewards for bringing these individuals to justice." A screenshot of Dr. Shiva's websi

The Deception is Clear- Stop Listening

This blog is a critical demonstration between what good science says, and how the anti-GM activists twist meanings beyond what the data say, even contradicting the authors' interpretations.  GMO-Free USA is an activist organization that does a great job blanketing the internet with false associations.  Their tactics are crystal-clear to scientists and to anyone that takes the time to look past their facade. Their recent attempt is the kind that upsets me most.  They use actual published science that looks decent, not a bad paper, and published in a peer-reviewed source.  However, they take the real data and sensationalize it with imagery that does not match the research findings. The work was performed by Dr. Fiona Young at Flinders University.  From her website, it is clear that she has expertise in reproductive toxicology, and studies the effect of potential environmental compounds on reproduction-relevant cell lines.  These efforts are important because they are the first

Response to the Food Babe. This is Boring.

Responding to the Food Babe is like telling a funny joke to my dog at a party.  Everyone there gets it-- except for the dog.  She just tilts her head to one side and looks at me like I'm stupid.  Last week the New York Times published an appropriately critical piece of Vani Hari, The Food Babe.  Writer Courtney Rubin included some of my sentiments, as I have been critical of Ms. Hari’s use of social media to force change through mobilizing group protests, that incite change through coercion and intimidation rather than through measured scientific reasoning. Festoon that attack on science with some kale leaves and a squash recipe and nobody seems to notice.  Ms. Hari fired back via her website, taking me head-on.  She didn’t approach my points, but instead took the opportunity to exercise a wonderfully textbook  ad hominem criticism of me. ******** Aside from the name and title, and the fact that I answer questions for GMO Answers, she doesn't get much cor

Complaint Department.

Don't take a number, don't write a nasty-gram, pick up a phone. Over the last year something happened that I didn't really expect.  Somehow the professional me, and the personal me, became the same dude, 24/7.   I suppose that is to be expected when you are someone that is excited about public interaction as part of your job. Part of the reason is that I don't think anyone actually reads this or follows anything I do on Twitter, Facebook, etc.  I participate in a conversation, have fun interacting with nice people, and not-so-nice people.  It is just a pleasure to have an efficient electronic medium to communicate with others, oftentimes sharing a joke or explanation of science. Don't waste your time penning lengthy nastygrams to my superiors-- Reach out the inferior!  Give me a call, we can work it out the easy way!  However, it becomes part of a publicly visible record, that now can be sifted to find gems of discontent, the times when I have cross

A Petty Stance Against Student Progress

Last fall a student walked into my office. She wanted to survey public opinion about genetic crop improvement.  What are the triggers that excite or scare the public about how crops are changed by breeding, mutagenesis or other genetic techniques?  I thought it was rather brilliant and solicited the assistance of Dr. Thomas Colquhoun, a friend that has mastered the use of Ideamap-based survey algorithms to gauge sentiment on a given topic.  This is the approach used by many agencies, from food manufacturers to governments, to learn about how the public really feels about a topic.  We structured the study and hired a firm to obtain survey information from  over 450 random people across all demographic groups. The data are astounding.  Lots of time to carry a sign, but can't muster a few minutes to help an aspiring young woman scientist. I thought we could add an interesting  highly biased  layer by applying the same survey instrument to traditionally "pro-GMO&qu

When I Was a Waiter- My Brush with Celebrity Greatness

Tonight I was reflecting back on times when I was a waiter.  It was back in the late 1980's when I was in college in DeKalb, Illinois .  DeKalb was about 70 miles west of Chicago, and probably still is, but I haven’t measured it in about 30 years. I was in college at Northern Illinois University.  In fall of 1985 I kept a job from 8PM-3AM working for Domino’s Pizza.  It was good money, not great, but I got to meet every crackpot, stoner, and whackjob in DeKalb, as well as was invited to lots of parties after the shift. Good times. It was fun for about two semesters.  I moved back to my parents' place and worked the summer at Domino's near their home. That same summer I found a job shuffling Mexican food to tables at Annie’s Santa Fe in Oakbrook Center , and arranged to work there during the school year.  This place was an hour drive, but I could make real money working Wednesday night 5 to close, and 10AM to 11PM on Saturday.  It was in the ritzy end of Chicago&#

Shiva: "Screw All Ya'll Florida Farmers!"

I get rather irritated when I listen to Vandana Shiva, mostly because her ideas are rooted in a place of environmentalism, something we both agree upon.  The problem is that she is touted as an expert in science and transgenic (GMO) organisms, and she is absolutely clueless.  Couple this to an anti-corporate agenda, and this seemingly kind person with concerns for the planet and people is a fountain of bad information. She puts her anti-corporate agenda ahead of the needs of those that desperately need technology, and Florida farms are a great example. She describes herself as a physicist, carrying an undergraduate degree in that discipline.  I know dozens of people with undergrad degrees in psychology. That does not make them psychologists.  Then she comes to a state in an agricultural crisis, and then trashes the leading solution.  The first word is "physicist", as they try to build her credibility as a scientist. She is an activist wtih a narrow and clear age

One Sentence Tells Us About Truthiness

Recently the Organic Consumers Association has gone ballistic, even more unhinged than usual.  GMO provided a proposal to convene a panel in Austin at the SxSW Festival this month. Cathy Enright was going to represent the scientific side that transgenic crops pose no special risk over traditional breeding, and offer more rapid means to genetically improve food.  A representative from Ben and Jerry's with a less favorable view on the technology will also serve on the panel.  Apparently OCA felt that they were invited, and then un-invited . Only two people know the actual conversation, the two that were on the phone together.  Both have published accounts of the discussion. How do we know what to believe? For me it is relatively simple, as we can we learn from the meta-information about truthiness. What can we learn from manipulative language to gauge trustworthiness? It is important to pay close attention to words that are used and their intent to mislead.  Once we u

Sad from Their Rage

Last week a video circulated that my family, friends, students and colleagues found deeply disturbing.  The Moms Across America shared a weekly recorded meeting with Stacy Malkan from US-Right to Know, the organization demanding my email records because I volunteered time to answer questions on the website. From the beginning, the women were ecstatic about voyeuristically probing into my private correspondences, one stating, “I’m just crazy you are going after him.” They also make many claims about me that are simply not true, even showing a picture of me with “Monsanto Owned” written across it in “Welcome Back Kotter” font.  The joy in their voices of defaming a public scientist is just a rallying cry for science and reason. While those that know me are angry, maybe disturbed, I feel sad for Zen, Kathleen and the other one I can't remember.  It must be difficult to live with such baseless rage. I also have deep empathy for their situati

The Apple Technology Paradox

US-RTK and Intimidation

I've heard a lot about how public records requests can be used to intimidate and harass scientists.  I know that the documents requested from me will likely be used to harm my reputation, as I see things that will be taken from context and used to attack my credibility. It is not a question of if, it is a question of when.  A twitter post circulated yesterday where scientists are living in fear of a few that are agents of the "biotech/chemical industry" that successfully intimidate others, forcing them to shun their morals, ethics and responsibility and "look the other way".  This is how you are being painted by a registered dietitian, a person most likely dispensing food and health advice to paying customers.   Hey you, flimsy university scientist... You're either a bully or a spineless twit, either way playing perfectly into the hands of the chemical industry. I present this because this is the perception.  This is what people in heal