Skip to main content

A True Story of Food and Family

The story is real.  The names have been changed to protect the innocent from frivolous public records requests.

I have a colleague that is one of the world’s experts in food safety.  He is an encyclopedia on foodborne disease.  He knows how to safely handle food.  He understands foodborne toxins. This guy knows about genetic engineering.  In short, if you want to understand food and food risk, you talk to this guy. We’ll call him “Steve”.

It was Thanksgiving, 2015, and Steve and his wife joined the family at her mother’s house for a traditional dinner.  Among the family members in attendance was his brother-in-law, an accomplished concert pianist who is widely recognized for his expertise. We’ll call him “Richard”.

As the family took their places at the table and began to pass the dishes, Richard took the opportunity to comment on the items on the table.

“That turkey is oozing with antibiotics and hormones, you’re crazy if you eat it,” Richard said.

Steve jumped in, “That’s not true, these birds are bred to grow rapidly so they don’t need such things.”

But Richard knew better.  “That’s not what I read online.”

His gazed moved to the sweet potatoes. “Those genetically-engineered sweet potatoes make deadly insecticides that are destroying our insides, just look at the rise in leaky gut!” he said.

Steve replied, “Richard, there are no genetically-engineered sweet potatoes, even though they contain natural transgenes, and there's no such thing as leaky gut.”

“That’s what Monsanto wants you to think,” Richard replied.

He then zeroed in on the corn.  “That stuff is soaked with roundup, and studies have shown it will give you cancer, Alzheimers, diabetes and Parkinson’s.”

Steve said, “You are reading too many websites, that’s just not based on any real evidence.”

Steve’s mother-in-law had enough.  She chimed in, “Look, can we stop talking about it and just enjoy our meal together?” 

Everyone nodded in agreement. 

"How 'bout them Bears?" someone yelled. 

***

After dinner Steve’s mother-in-law suggested that her son make his way to the piano and treat the family to a few songs. 

Richard stepped with authority to the family piano he learned on as a child decades before, and sat down like he had been doing it his entire life.  In fact, he had.

His fingers met the keyboard with a flurry, producing beautifully synchronized notes from a challenging classical piece.  The notes filled the room in beautiful harmony.

Steve yelled above the music, “STOP!”  

Richard looked surprised.

“You really hit that transition too soon, and the whole thing is too fast, not as the composer intended,” Steve said.

Richard stared a hole through Steve and didn’t say a word.  After a few seconds he started back to the keyboard, exploding back into the same number, maybe with a little more authority.

After about thirty seconds Steve yelled, “STOP!”

Richard banged the keyboard in disbelief.

Steve said, “There’s way too much sustain on your bass notes and you’ve completely misrepresented the feel of the piece.”

Richard took a deep breath.  “You have a lot of nerve to criticize my playing, you know nothing about this instrument, the songs I play or how I play them.  I have been educated in the finest schools and performed with the finest musicians.  What gives you the right to even criticize?”

Steve let a pause build.


“Let’s just say your expertise in piano is like my expertise in food. Aren't critics that know absolutely nothing annoying?"

Popular posts from this blog

Scientific American Destroys Public Trust in Science

This is a sad epitaph, parting words to an old friend that is now gone, leaving in a puff of bitter betrayal. 
When I was a kid it was common for my mom to buy me a magazine if I was sick and home from school.  I didn't want MAD Magazine or comic books.  I preferred Scientific American
The once stalwart publication held a unique spot at the science-public interface, bringing us interesting and diverse stories of scientific interest, long before the internet made such content instantly accessible.  It was our trusted pipeline to the new edges of scientific discovery, from the mantle of the earth to the reaches of space, and every critter in between.
But like so much of our trusted traditional science media, Scientific American has traded its credibility for the glitz of post-truth non-scientific beliefs and the profits of clickbait.The problem is that when a trusted source publishes false information (or worse, when it hijacked by activists) it destroys trust in science, trust in s…

Chipotle's Ag-vertising to Fix their Anti-Ag Image

After years of anti-farmer rhetoric, disgusting anti-agriculture videos, and trashing farmer seed choice, Chipotle now seems to have found a love for the American farmer that is as warm and inviting as the gooey core of a steak burrito.  Their new "Cultivate the Future of Farming" campaign raises awareness of the hardship being experienced in agriculture, and then offers their thoughts and some seed grants in order to reverse it. 

But are they solving a problem that they were instrumental in creating? 

The crisis in agriculture is real, with farmers suffering from low prices, astronomical costs, and strangling regulation.  Farmer suicides are a barometer of the crisis.  Farms, from commodity crops to dairies, are going out of business daily. It is good to see a company raising awareness. 


From Chipotle's website- The "challenge is real" and "It's a hard living"-- and companies like Chipotle were central in creating those problems. 

However, Chipotle&#…

Mangling Reality and Targeting Scientists

Welcome to 2019, and one thing that remains constant is that scientists engaging the public will continue to be targeted for harassment and attempted reputation harm.  

The good news is that it is not working as well as it used to.  People are disgusted by their tactics, and only a handful of true-believers acknowledge their sites as credible. 

But for those on the fence I thought it might be nice to post how a website like SourceWatch uses a Wikipedia-mimic interface to spread false and/or misleading information about public scientists. 

Don't get me wrong, this is not crying victim.  I'm actually is screaming empowerment.  I spent the time to correct the record, something anyone can check.  Please look into their allegations and mine, and see who has it right. 

This is published by the Center for Media and Democracy.  Sadly, such pages actually threaten democracy by providing a forum for false information that makes evidence-based decisions in policy issues more challenging.  It…