Showing posts from March, 2016

Vrain's Talk Underwhelmed; Claims of "Fascism"

The story was a simple one.  A Houston museum's credibility was on the line when an employee booked an anti-GMO activist to come speak about "Poison in your food."  Decades ago Dr. Theirry Vrain used to publish papers on nematology and relationship to DNA restriction-length polymorphisms (good times in the 80's!), among other work. He's been out of hard science for some time now.   Since, he uses that credibility to be one of a handful of credentialed scientists that makes the rounds spreading false information about food, farming and associated technologies.  In short, I wrote an article about "Pseudoscience Creep," the phenomenon where poor-quality activist claims are weasling their way into our conferences, museums and other reputable forums. The idea is to steal the credibility of the venue and promote activist positions.  Museum officials and others asked me about Vrain's claims that there is poison in the food. I explained USDA crop-residu

Why Every Idea Does Not Deserve to be Heard

Tonight a known anti-GMO activist will assume the credible podium as a "Distinguished Lecturer" at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.  Dr. Thierry Vrain has long been recognized by scientists for his outdated rants against genetic technology, leveraging his credentials in science to promote a science-less position that this technology is harmful. Of course, this means he's embraced by the industry and individuals that seek to vilify technology. He says what the activists want to hear.  His tired and fact-less statements are counter to what the broad science consensus knows. Just fact-check these statements against the literature! I've enjoyed private conversations with scientists at the museum, and as anticipated, they are disgusted. However, there are others inside the organization that feel an anti-scientific talk is appropriate, and that the job of a museum is to provide a platform for anyone with an idea.  Creationists, moon landing deniers, cl

Pseudoscience to Shine at Houston Museum

Houston, we have a problem .  Well, you have a problem.  The Houston Museum of Natural Science (Twitter: @HMNS) is sponsoring an event that slams science, denigrates technology, and lends its credibility to a non-scientific movement. HMNS is now an accessory to a disturbing trend.  Activist-inspired pseudoscientific nonsense is creeping into legitimate scientific forums.  Reputable museums, conferences , and science centers are cleverly co-opted into hosting or sponsoring non-scientific events, typically as part of an otherwise scientific program.  Activists do it for one reason-- to steal the credibility of the event or institution, exploiting its scientific reputation to add a patina of legitimacy to a non-scientific agenda. The false claims of a crooked movement have now infected the Houston Museum of Natural History . On March 29, 2016 they will host Dr. TheirryVrain , a former molecular biologist that hung up the lab coat for speaking junkets in an intense mission of

Thoughts on My TEDx Talk

Tonight I'll deliver a TEDx talk at the University of Florida.  I've never taken part in this forum, and in fact I've been critical of the crackpot topics that TEDx accepts.   Like this one .   And this one.  However, I see my contribution to a durable time capsule.  I see this effort as a chance to push back against the credulous information that haunts the internet.  It is a chance to speak about science and truth, evidence and reason.  It is a time to put information out there that appeals to the many people that are simply concerned about genetic engineering.   I'm grateful for this platform, to help people understand the technology that they don't like, even though it could do wonderful things for issues we all care about.   The public has been misinformed.  They have been lied to.  They need to understand the science and stop listening to activists with foul messages.  That's why I'm so excited.   And somewhere 5, 10, 20 years from now w

Campbell's Label- Brilliant Strategy

Many of the folks excited about food labels that indicate ingredients produced by a genetically engineered plants are taking a victory lap.  We've seen the tweets about Campbell's decision, and it makes me genuinely curious.  Why are they so excited?  This is not a mandatory label.  This is a voluntary label, something I've always supported, and think is the best solution.  "Partially produced with genetic engineering." I can live with that, which is why I don't think the activists will.   Campbell's is rather brilliant.  They did this for one reason, and that's to do the experiment.     Now that Campbell's has satisfied the "right to know" will that be sufficient?  Will there now be calls to ban or boycott Campbell's products? Essentially they must have drawn the short straw at the Grocery Manufacturers of America Secret Conspiracy Meeting and they get to take the first step.  If nothing changes, then the act

Talking Biotech #27 - Cherry Breeding and Herbicide Brews!

This week's Talking Biotech Podcast with Kevin Folta discusses tart- and sweet-cherry breeding and domestication.  Dr. Iezzoni is a professor at Michigan State University specializing in cherry breeding and biology, and leads major research initiatives withing the Rosaceae family, the plants like cherry, apple, strawberry, rose, raspberry and almond, among many others. In part two, Kevin discusses the recent claims of glyphosate being detected in everything from beer to breastmilk to Germans.  What do the data really say?