Skip to main content

Fake News-- Before It Was a Thing

Yesterday I was reading my Twitter feed and discovered that the story contrived by Alison Vuchnich at Global News Canada in December of 2015 was surfacing again.  Lately there is an uptick in anti-Folta chatter. 

Back before fake news was a thing, anti-GMO activists were creating false drama with the interest of harming me and my 30-year career as a public scientist, and at the very least destroying my credibility.  The story by Vuchnich was reasonably even handed in content, but the entire premise was, well, bullshit. 

The story was titled "Documents Reveal Canadian Teenager a Target of GMO Lobby" and claimed that I was a centerpiece in harassing Rachel Parent, a young woman that is quite vocal around issues in food and farming.  Unfortunately, she has ideas that are not consistent with science. 

Others have accused her as having motivated reasoning because her family owns a natural food monstrosity that benefits from denigrating conventional ag. However, I simply choose to note that her opinions reflect tired talking points that resonate only in the echo chamber and are not of interest to the scientific community. 

So what's the real story?  

I was in Washington DC and visiting the offices where the GMO Answers website is produced.  The website offers independent scholars and other experts a place to answer questions for the public regarding genetic engineering.  I'm glad to participate because concerned people go there looking for science-based answers. I have evidence-based answers. 

They asked me if I'd answer some questions on video, and I was glad to do that.  One was about Ms. Parent.  I certainly have an opinion about her, so I jotted a few notes and answered the question.

My answer was fair and reasonable.  Watch it here. 


This is the video from the GMO Answers website. (I always look like I just rolled out of bed) 

Now here is how the internet responds to that video:

1. On Global News Canada, Vuchnich places this video in the context of an unused donation to my extensive outreach program, the one that sends seeds to kids and teaches scientists how to talk to people.  She implies that the money was provided to harass Rachel. 

Did she even watch the video? How is Parent a "target"? 

2.  Others like GMO Inside called this video "Monsanto's attack dog"

There is no attack here. I'm quite gracious. 

3.  Even yesterday a guy on Twitter continues the "Monsanto mouthpiece" garbage and says I "hound" Rachel.  


Hounds?  If anything I was complimentary. And I have no relationship whatsoever with the Monsanto Company (I know people that work there, some friends).  


4.  And not to let an opportunity to be construed as a victim pass, Rachel herself repeats the false narrative that this was some sort of coordinated, personal attack. Sadly, she too fails to realize how propagating this story harms her brand, not mine. 


Because being a victim is more important than telling the truth, even if it hurts a public servant. 

The facts are very simple.  I'm a scientist that answers questions for the public in many areas of agriculture and science. It is part of my duty, my job, and something I enjoy.  I speak from the basis of a peer-reviewed literature.

I was in DC and asked if I could answer questions live. I was glad to do that. I was not paid, despite what others imply.  I was grateful for the forum, as always. 

I answered this question honestly.  I'm sad that a bright young woman would be swayed to not investigate evidence, at a time when we should be teaching STEM to kids, and encouraging more women to participate in science.  

Such a monster. 

But read the hateful responses and the false narrative (fake news) that surrounds them. These are people consumed in hate for scientists that speak truths they don't wish to hear.  

It is not about learning, listening and thinking-- it is about hurting the professional reputations those that they disagree with. 

The good news is that time has shown the story to hold no credibility. 

And of course, I always would welcome Rachel to reach out if she has questions.  I would be glad to answer them honestly and teach the science she should consider as part of her synthesis. 






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…