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Showing posts from May, 2015

Scaring People with False Information

The trend continues.  Organizations committed to ending the use of genetically modified seeds and their associated products continue to fabricate misinformation solely with the intent of misleading consumers.   Today's example is an inflammatory meme posted by the Cornucopia Institute.  It makes five statements, none that are true, and solely broadcast with an intent to spread fear and misinformation.  "5 Disgusting Facts" are really five disgusting lies.  Blatant misrepresentation of information purely designed to spread fear and misinformation. Why do people believe such nonsense? The beauty of this kind of communication is that it does show the clear intentions of the author, in this case the Cornucopia Institute. It shows they are not committed to the truth, but instead are a depot for rhetoric designed to mislead consumers, and frighten them to affect their attitudes toward biotechnology and farming.  It is amazing to me that people can be so easily

Stats Manipulated to Scare

Grandpappy Folta once said, "When someone gives you an opportunity to see what they are about, pay attention."  He was right. The true measurement of character and someone's real agenda oftentimes are presented at shimmering moments that reveal quite a bit.  Such is the case of the Huffington Post article by Michael Hansen.  For those that don't know Dr. Hansen, he's a guy with a science background that works for the Consumer's Union, and never has much nice to say about biotech.  I actually got to meet him a few years ago at the Hofstra Pride and Purpose debate , and we had a nice dinner together. I felt bad for him in that he seems to have a stick-to script and a deep self deception that makes him immune to actual scientific discussion of data. Watch the debate. You'll see it oozing everywhere.  He sounds more a politician than a scientist, as you can see by his manipulation of pseudo facts and dodging questions. Here's the part that anyone on

MAMyths: Standing Up for Science

When I heard about a counter protest for March Against Monsanto, my eyes kind of glazed over and I didn't think it was the best use of time.  After all, providing a counter to something that makes no sense sometimes can lend a hint of legitimacy to a bogus cause.  Plus, my grass is 3 feet tall, and I've slept in my own bed 50% of the nights this year. While a science outreach trip to Chicago would allow me to visit my dad and hang with science friends, I thought this issue was best dealt with from Gainesville, FL with a good internet connection and a pitcher of scotch.  I'm glad to report, that I made the wrong choice.  This makes me happy as a scientist, as these folks will squarely land on the right side of history. The pictures from the scenes across the nation showed small clusters of MAMyths supporters out with signs, standing up for science.  The best part was their apparent softness, the repeated theme, "Ask me about GMOs."  These were scientist

The Causes and Cures of Autism, at Autism One

The Autism One conference is taking place this weekend in Chicago, IL.  From reading the titles and abstracts, this is best described as an autism conference that caters to practical advice about management, treating and living with the disorder. Many of the talks would probably be very useful to those on, or with loved ones on, the autism spectrum.  However, there is no question that the majority of the information appears to be non-scientific, emotional quackery. Autism One conference is clearly the exploitation of a disorder to make a buck and/or force an agenda.  It is a place where you can cherry pick your own causes and cures, with claims coming from self-appointed experts to MDs.  They forbid photos, video or audio, in the sessions or anywhere in the meeting.  They control who can register, and remove anyone that even begins to raise their suspicions of not being part of the club.  Looks like fun, cannabis and homeopathy targeted to treat autism.  In the past they

Analysis of Ronnie Cummin's Conspiratorial Rant

It has been exciting watching the media place a blazing spotlight on Chipotle's decision to cash in on fear and ignorance.  The company claiming its foundation of "integrity" makes a move to seize profit while ignoring facts, capitalizing on misinformation to capture market share.  Heck, if you can't get them to eat your food because it is good, maybe you can get them to eat it because you can scare them away from everything else.  The media has been stellar in pointing out this most salient scientific FAIL .  However, USA Today published two opposing opinions, one critical of Chipotle, and the other... well it is Ronnie Cummins, Director of the Organic Consumers Association.  You know the activist organization that wouldn't know science if it hit it in its ear candle.  So let's look at Cummin's claims, and add my science-based commentary (in red).  Click to enbiggen. The defenders of bad science use tired arguments and baseless rhetoric to

Why Is MIT Hiding This Breakthrough?

Universities are quick to shout discoveries and breakthroughs from the highest mountaintops. When big news comes from the lab, a communications department springs to action, broadcasting the breakthrough throughout the public media. Autism is a series of disorders affecting many children and adults. Over the years the numbers of those diagnosed with autism have increased.  Many feel that this is due to increased surveillance and inclusion of additional sympomology under the title of "autism". Precise causes of autism spectral disorders remain elusive, and there is no cure.  Unless you are Stephanie Seneff, described as a " Research scientist"  " of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a widely published author on topics ranging from Azlheimer’s Disease to autism and cardiovascular disease."     Why the silence from MIT?   Seneff not only knows the cause of autism, she knows the cure.  So why is this expert on autism and cardi

A Note From Up Top

This is an except from the UF Senior Vice President's (my boss) newsletter.  Glad I work for a place that gets it.  My answers to the last questions are "yes-yes" and "That's what I'm trying to figure out . "

The Dorito Effect -- Book Review

My lab is interested in fruit flavors, mostly strawberry.  Traditional breeding has made fruits and vegetables bigger, helped them ship better and last longer.  Those are the priorities of the modern food-to-market chain.   In the process, flavors have been relegated to a genetic afterthought.  Acceptable flavor is all that's required if a piece of fruit looks nice and is cheap to produce, and this is why fruits and veggies lack sensory attributes. Today my lab is using genomics approaches to aid marker-assisted breeding to reverse that trend.  My lab's efforts are just one little offshoot of research endeavors in the Plant Innovation Center at UF.  There are many faculty interested in how to improve sensory content of fruits and vegetables, so a book on the role of flavor and aroma is always of prime interest.  So when I received a copy of The Dorito Effect by Mark Schatzker, I was excited to dig in.  The Dorito Effect uses the disappearance of flavor as a central hy