Showing posts from August, 2015

Bringing My Dead Mother to their Disgusting Cause

Just when you thought they could not get any lower.  Now someone is posting truly evil information on the Gainesville, FL Craigslist page.   Tomorrow would be my mother's birthday, she'd be 69 years old, if she was still alive.  She died a few years ago, way too young, and we all still miss her tremendously.  So imagine my joy when someone directed me to this on the local Craigslist:  To call these people scum is an insult to scum. It is bad enough that they are posting personal information online, but now they are sifting through my history.  It is a sick kind of stalking that shows the delinquency of this movement. Shame.  And if Ginnie was here right now she'd tell you that she wished I worked for one of those companies, that I would make "real money", work 40 hour weeks, and stop wasting my time around universities.  She never really understood what I did or why I did it.   But she would absolutely be amazed at the hate I endu

Now Posting in Craiglist

Now there are messages showing up on Craigslist.  They are false and defamatory and foment local fervor that could translate to physical harm to my family, home or laboratory.  These people are scum.  Please share this post EVERYWHERE.  We need to expose the heinous tactics of the anti-GMO movement.  This shows their disgusting approach to harm those that simply teach science.  This has been reported to Craigslist.  (and note how they don't really get the science terribly correct either)

Retraction and Apology. Do the Right Thing.

I'm furious about the false and defamatory statements made by Paul Thacker and Charles Seife in this August 13, 2015 article on PLoS Blogs. There are several key take-home points: 1.  While they have since tacked on a clarification in a footnote, it was not complete. Thacker and Seife's allegation implication that I was a paid advsor to the Monsanto Company to defeat California Proposition 37 still stands, and has been cited elsewhere. The anemic correction leaves false statements available for maximum damage. Mission Accomplished. 2.  USRTK claimed that the FOIA request was to test relationships for why I, and other authors, answered questions for individuals on The article by Thacker and Seife shows that this is not the real intention. The email released has nothing to do with  Plus, why would a hostile activist-funded organization release that resource to authors unless it was to advance reputation damage to those communicating science?

Transparency Weaponized Against Scientists

(re-published from Science 2.0)     How could you destroy someone with their own words, if their words present no evidence of wrongdoing?  It actually is amazingly simple, and illustrates the danger of limitless access to personal emails through public records requests.  In this post I will show how two writers for a   PLoS One Blog*   blatantly misrepresent content obtained through such a request. This is how scandals are manufactured from nothing. They fail to fact-check information with a non-opaque effort to harm the reputation of a public scientist.     I know, because that scientist is me.  Here’s the story.     Back in February I received a Public Records Request from a California activist group that demanded my emails back to 2012.  This was the first time I ever heard of such things.  After 27 years in public science I’d never thought that my emails were anyone’s property other than my own.  I had to comply, and did. The story has been covered   here   and   here .

Trottier Symposium Abstract

I'm speaking at the Trottier Symposium in Montreal and was asked to submit an abstract. The symposium topic is "Trusting Science- Do You" So I prepared this: Marketing a Mistrust of the Safest Food Supply in History Breakthroughs in breeding and genetics have radically improved plants and animals used for food. Introduction of modern technology to production practices makes farming more efficient.    Improved chemistries allow us to produce more with less, with greater sensitivity to the environment. However, in the midst of the safest, most abundant and most diverse food supply in human history, there is a rising perception of its danger.    The suspicion has not been driven by science. Instead it is a well-funded marketing ploy to push food dollars to boutique choices, and sell lifestyle-oriented selections that promise, but don’t necessarily deliver, improved health and performance.    A multi-billion dollar industry has emerged to provide these higher- cos

The Radical Activist Attack on a Teacher

You'd swear by the hate-filled rhetoric that I just threw a pillowcase of kittens and an Ivory-Billed Woodpecker into a wood chipper.  Why?  A scientific paper with manipulated data?   No. A public presentation with information contrary to the scientific literature?   No.   Statements to the media that are untrue?   No.   What did I do to earn their ire?   I found some funds to teach science.  For the last 12 years science communication has run parallel to my research and teaching.  Every year I provide a talk to our grad students about how to not just do science, but then how to share science.  In 2012 I was traveling to quite a few places and answering lots of questions.  I was turning down lots of gigs because I had no budget to do it.  So when a group would offer an honorarium (big organizations can afford to do), I would not accept it personally.  Instead it would go into an outreach account to pay for future outreach opportunities.  When asked about my speak

Silencing Inconvenient Science -- Vavilov

After yesterday's interactions there is no question that the recent events by USRTK and activist groups are simply a drive to fight scientific literacy, and dissuade students and newly minted academics from entering the discussion.  The libel, defamation and reputation harm we endure, along with veiled threats and undue criticism, stand to repel scientists from simply teaching science, and most of all, from participating in a public dialog.  Facts sometimes can be inconvenient to activist agendas, so they must eliminate or marginalize the teachers.  Here on a sunny Sunday, I present a story you may not know... but it has eerie parallels to today's discussion about the attacks on science and reason.  Nikolai Vavilov was a brilliant scientist and gifted geneticist, years before genetics was even a discipline.  His tireless collections of plant species, incredible observations and excellent science were decades before his time.  His collections of seeds are among the world’s

A Crisis Building

I just received this from an undergraduate student at University of Arizona.  I redacted the specifics about her research work as an undergrad, but I will add that she's a Hispanic female interested in graduate school in my lab. This is the saddest damn thing I've read in a long time, and a symptom of what comes from Ruskin's digital McCarthyism.  Dear Dr. Folta,  I recently saw your AMA on reddit concerning the USRTK group, and how their obtaining of your personal and private communications has begun to influence your life, and the narrative that has been developed by them concerning your work. Being somewhat familiar with your work, it was shocking to hear the lengths that any group would go to in order to give your work a bad name.... this was the part about her research, so I'll omit that for her privacy.  ....Your experiences that you have shared make me worry for the future of this area of science. I think that outreach and public education in scientif

Contributions, Funding and Outreach

Over the last few years, in addition to my job as a researcher and a department chair, I have been fumbling through the Talking Biotech science communication program .  It started as a series of talks to "teach the teachers" designed to help students, faculty and staff become conversant in how to talk about, and teach, biotechnology concepts. The program used to be called Bio Talknowledgey, but I had to ditch that name because I could never remember how to spell it and sent people the wrong URL all the time. But as time went on, this has evolved into a slick, effective and well in-demand program that is a lot of fun to deliver.  It is not just biotech, as the same concepts have been applied to other areas as well, such as climate, vaccines and even evolution. The program is expanding to cover other aspects of communication training too. The program and its funding were discussed in Nature today , by Keith Kloor, and I felt that some additional clarification might be

Talking Biotech 011: Good Science Spun Bad; Bad Science Spun Gold

This week’s podcast is an important analysis of two published reports. First, the results from the famous Rothamstead wheat trial show that their transgene does not confer resistance to aphids, inconsistent with their laboratory findings.  While this outcome was considered to be a successful, reliable answer, it was billed as an abject failure on anti-biotech activist websites. Today we revisit the issues of publication and peer-review, and the story of the threats of vandalism against the experiment.  We then will speak with Prof. John Pickett from Rothamstead Research Institute. We’ll discuss the lab work the trials, and future directions. The second part of the podcast discusses the recent publication from Adyydurai et al that claims transgenic soy produces abnormal amounts of formaldehyde, relative to non-transgenic controls.  The conclusion comes from a computational approach that was never experimentally validated.  Since, I have extended an offer to test their hypothesis,