Thursday, June 22, 2017

Dr Nestle, Cry Me a River

I don't like the vindictive feeling of saying, "Well there's karma coming back to say hello," or the whole eye-for-an-eye thing. Nobody ever should be maliciously misrepresented in media, and I'll always be critical of that. 

But it is important to point out amazing hypocrisy. Someone that claims to have been wronged is the exact same person that celebrated the harm of others, and promoted false information to hurt someone professionally and personally, and refused to discuss it or make corrections when kindly approached about it. 

The emails are all shown below.

Before September of 2015, I felt rather positive about Dr. Marion Nestle. I always appreciated her views and always took the time to consider them and understand where she was coming from even if I disagreed. In fact, we probably agree on food issues much more than we disagree. 

So in September of 2015 when she decided to unfairly amplify the retracted distortions of Paul Thacker and Charles Seife (that to this day remain on her popular blog without correction or apology), and then take a victory lap when Eric Lipton published his smear piece on me, I lost a lot of respect for her. 

You'd think that a fellow academic might pick up a phone and attempt to learn the facts before amplifying the nonsense, but even someone I thought of as an objective thinker succumbed to a sexy story that clicked her confirmation bias so hard that she could not help but shout it from the mountains and take a victory lap. 

It was amazingly hurtful and damaging at a bad time.  

Dr. Marion Nestle feels like she was taken out of context and misrepresented in a new film, yet she is quick to misrepresent others, impugn  their integrity, and then ignore their requests for corrections. 


She's claiming that her words were taken out of context in the new film, Food Evolution

She appears in a ten-second clip stating that genetic engineering technologies are known to be safe, during a part of the film where they were discussing safety.  That's how documentaries work. Tell the story through the words of the experts. 

But in her blog yesterday she called the film "GMO propaganda" and said that the quotation was taken out of context.  The general feel of the article is that she feels that the film misrepresented her sentiment. 

However, the words she expressed in the film were hers, and also are consistent with the vast scientific consensus, including a synthesis by the National Academies of Science.  Nobody will think less of her for her input here-- in fact she'll earn respect. 


So the idea that this is some sort of breach falls on deaf ears, especially because of what she wrote about me, as others took words in my personal emails out of context seeking character assassination.  While she didn't pull the trigger, she was thrilled to rub salt in the wounds, siding with lies and distortions to impeach my credibility and drive scientists into silence on key issues. 

Ultimately it is words like hers that will follow me to the grave in the internet age. Sadly, Nestle is one of the many that has led to the defamation that will ultimately affect my career advancement and other opportunities. It has already happened. 

Back in August of 2015 Paul Thacker and Charles Seife wrote a false and defamatory article about me based on emails obtained by US-RTK.  The emails were mine, the words were mine, but they were pulled from context and misrepresented, telling a narrative that was not true. 

Nestle was happy to publish this, and defend this, on her blog.  The story was false, it was retracted, and she seems almost annoyed that it was.  The words lifted from the "COALITION" email were words where I was cc'd-- I didn't even know the person that sent it. I didn't "advise" Monsanto. If you read the thread, you see that I told someone that worked there that their company was screwing up big time. Nestle and others bend that, claiming it is "advising Monsanto" when it was disagreeing with someone that worked there, in response to a private email that I was cc'd on.    

"Of all things" retracting false information about an academic scientist. "Of all things" doing what is right. 

I don't believe this was personal, I never met her and actually we'd probably talk all night if we did get the chance.  If she knew my research, the work I support, my outreach, and endless efforts to help others, I think she'd probably think I was an okay dude. 

But this story was red meat for the Contrived Monsanto Scandal Machine and  I was firmly lodged in the cogs, thanks to a well-coordinated, well-financed smear campaign.  Time has shown that, and will continue to show that. 

From Nestle's blog.  Organic Consumers Association is not really advocating for organics and sustainability.  That stuff is pretty lean on their website. They are an anti-biotech, anti-vaccine group that exploits the organic halo for profit and political gain. "Financial ties..." wow. Talk about grasping for straws.  


She also links to Latham's piece, an article that was an incredible distortion of the distortion.  A quick phone call would have been nice. But Latham's slander reinforced her bias, so the scientist (that to this day did nothing wrong or broke no rules) gets whacked. 


Here she repeats Lipton's lies.  I never was funded by Monsanto to testify on the company's behalf. That's absurd.  All of my funding is public record and this is easily verifiable. It is a lie to make me look bad, a deliberate misstatement to harm an academic that is willing to enter a public discussion about biotech crops. 


I find that people that believe this are the people that are easily bought off.  Nobody buys my words, and nobody has ever identified one thing I have said or done that is not in agreement with the published scientific consensus. When I've made mistakes, I've corrected them. For her to suggest that I have no integrity and will do what a sponsor says is basically libelous. 


Back in September of 2015, I was disappointed with her response, so I wrote her a nice email asking her to correct the record. 

My email to Dr. Nestle in response to her misinformation-soaked blog. 


The response-- Put your corrections in the comments (in the toilet of troll space).  The truth is not important to her, even if she hurts an academic scientist that broke no rules and only spoke about science.  


In an an interview with Joe Mercola she takes the opportunity to stab me through the heart again, and then impugn my integrity with zero evidence of wrongdoing. 

"...any effect on his conduct or research or his opinion."   There is zero evidence that my research or opinions were affected by a contribution to a science communication program that was never used.  Very sad.  I've always represented a perspective consistent with the published literature, as long as I've been working with public audiences. 


 Here's my reply requesting that she substantiate her claims that I'd sell out my integrity. 


I decided to let this go.  Sure it was disappointing that another academic decided to spread the false information that I had "sold out" and that I was some sort of industry lackey-- with no information to support that allegation.

So this is why I her claims of being unfairly misrepresented and taken out of context in Food Evolution fall on my deaf ears.  She certainly didn't care when she basically libeled me, and then harmed me more by spreading nonsense, reveling in the situation.

And rather than picking up a phone and calling me-- she continues attacking my integrity for Mercola's website. 

This is where I lost all respect for her.  And you should too. 

At least her ten seconds in Food Evolution are pretty benign. She won't get death threats and have her career permanently limited, her family doxxed and her information hacked (the stuff I endured because of the information she amplified) because she made a true statement about the safety of genetic engineering. 

Then again, those sentiments about science don't always sit well with some folks.

Cry me a river Dr. Nestle. I'm still waiting for your apology. 


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Food Evolution -- The Movie

The discussion of genetic technologies in food has been an asymmetrical fear fest dominated by misinformation.  The bad information has penetrated social ranks through the internet, but also through art and film. 

Scott Hamilton Kennedy and Trace Sheehan shatter this trend with a fact-based response to the avalanche of misinformation. In true documentary style they allow the story, the circumstances and the personalities to tell the story. 

You can listen to the an interview with the Food Evolution Director, Producer and a scientist in the film. 

The film is only somewhat about technology or "GMO".  It is really about science, experts, belief, and hypocrisy.  Why do you believe what you do?  Who is trying to fool you?

Jeffery Smith, Chuck Benbrook, Zen Honeycutt and "Food Babe" Vani Hari make appearances.  Their words are their own-- and it is refreshing to find a film that holds them somewhat accountable simply by letting them speak.

Critics of technology have already screamed that this is just corporate propaganda. Judge for yourself. Ask what corporation if profiting from resistant bananas in Africa or papayas in Hawaii. 

Please make a point to see this film, write reviews, schedule showings.  The penetration of the message is in the hands of those that stand up for science and reason. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Life on a Planet Without Patricia Moreira Cali

Today was her memorial service. We knew this day would come someday, but took a long time to get here in some ways, and it still in others it came way too soon. 

The reason I'm writing this is because she deserves another permanent memorial, this time on the internet. I can share another viewpoint with readers interested in seeking more about her and her mission. 

I've known Patricia probably for twelve years. For the last four she lived with leiomyosarcoma, an aggressive, rare, and unusual cancer. This disease took a beautiful and vibrant person from all of us, way too soon. 

I would like to use this opportunity to share some of the highlights of her brief time on this planet, as some of the things she did for others that were truly remarkable.  

Patricia Moreira Cali and I stopped for some Southern delicacies on a ride home from a chemo treatment in Jacksonville. 

Her Mission to Help Children

Patricia was a world traveler.  She was originally from Brazil, and worked in Gainesville, FL as a dietitian.  She loved travel and would move around the globe with her family, sometimes by herself, to learn more about people and their cultures.

While traveling in the villages deep off the beaten path in Brazil, she came across a girl named Ivanilda.  Ivanilda was 13 years old or so, and suffered from cancer. Treatments caused her to lose a leg. 

Patricia looked into the cost of a prosthetic, and was amazed that the cost of the replacement in Brazil was a fraction of what it would cost in the States. She came home and with her friends they started Helping Children Heal, a charity that would perform local fundraisers to help specific cases like Ivanilda. 

The idea was that there were cases where a relatively small investment in U.S. dollars could have a huge impact in the life of a child. Her motto was, we can change the world, One Child At a Time.

A short time later, Helping Children Heal raised enough money and Ivanilda had her new artificial leg. This once bedridden girl was now empowered to live the rest of her life closer to that as a normally-mobile individual. 

Patricia traveled to Nepal and found herself in an orphanage that was desperately in need.  She used funds from the tiny charity to buy substantial amounts of food and medicine for the children in need. 

"One of the greatest gifts I have gained from traveling to the developing world is the opportunity to re-examine my own life and be appreciative for all that I and my family are fortunate to have. I also see my travels as an opportunity to engage in some sort of activity with the potential to lead to positive change in that particular society. I try my best to minimize my impact on the culture and environment, although I understand that none is impossible, to respect the customs, and to contribute a little, in particular to organizations helping impoverished children." - Patricia Moreira Cali

Soon she would travel to Bali where she would meet a tiny, disfigured child named Komang. Komang suffered from a rare genetic disorder that caused his skin to thicken into tough scales that made it painful to even move. The diagnosis was Harlequin Ichthyosis, and he never saw a physician.  The cost was prohibitive, ten U.S. dollars. 

Patricia used her charity to provide funds to bring medical attention to Komang, buying necessary medications and simple ointments to easy his pain. Most of all she was able to provide food for his tiny, malnourished body.  She bought probably 50 lbs of soybeans and chickens to lay eggs, along with lots of other food.  Even a simple tube of vaseline was a tremendous relief, and she made sure he had it. 

There were many other stories about assisting children, but these were the ones she shared with me the most.  Her sentiment was that although aid organizations existed they were too scarce on resources and penetration into many areas. Her feeling is that we could make a difference by helping children, one child at a time. 

I don't know this for sure, but I believe that while her charity covered the costs for the treatments and food, she bore the cost of travel personally.  She literally did the hard part, generating the resources to address a critical need, and then delivering them personally. 

Teaching the Rest of Us

Her diagnosis with leiomyosarcoma (LMS) came about four years ago.  It is a rare and aggressive cancer of the soft tissue, with a typically dark prognosis.  Because it is a rare cancer the experts, resources and treatments are limited.  She'd joke that is she was going to have cancer, she'd do it big.

Patricia and me in 2011
I'd meet her occasionally for coffee and to talk. Each time a funny thing would happen. I'd see her, usually dressed in a flowing grown and showing off her bald head when she decided to not wear a wig. She never looked ill. She'd smile like during any normal encounter, and I'd break down crying. 

Of course, she was solid as a rock.  

It happened every time, mostly because I thought that she was suffering with managing a disease and treatments.  It was an outpouring of empathy, being sad for her pain.  I had it completely wrong. 

Patricia was at peace and was living within her reality.  I was the one that didn't deal with it properly.  We'd talk about family and friends, about travels and dreams, about our next ambitions to scatter over the next one, five, ten years.  She never once planned to not be here. 

It was that spirit that taught me a huge lesson.  If there was someone on the planet that had a right to complain about a situation it would be her.  But she didn't complain.  I'd be belly-aching about too much work to do, jet lag, and needing to get a haircut, the fact that the coffee was way to hot and the place was too crowded. 

I had nothing to complain about. 

Once she needed a ride to an experimental treatment so we spent the day together in Jacksonville, FL.  It was a wonderful ride in the car with a friend, a two hour trip that would fly by-- hardly a drive to find life-saving medical intervention for a critically-ill woman. 

While there, she introduced me to others participating in the study. April was a beautiful woman in her mid-20's, a marathoner that had developed a rare cancer. She wore a dark pink wig. Patricia introduced me to others too.  

But the most important part was Patricia's role in the group. She was a spiritual leader.  She was not the patient-- she was more the healer. She gave long hugs and warm smiles, listening to others and sharing details of their treatments. You would never know that she was probably standing in front of a bigger challenge than any of the others. 

That was her role.  With me and everyone else she came in contact with she was strong and well. While her body was not cooperating, her soul was strong, her desire to live tremendous, and her impact on others extreme.  That's the stuff of spirit, the part that touched and changed many, and the part of her that will always be with us. 


In my brief times with Patricia I learned a lot from her, mostly that when your time is limited you focus on the good, on people, and on changing the world in as much time as you have left-- whether that's five days or fifty years.  

In the bigger picture we are all racing toward that same end.  She reminded me to denounce the trivial, focus on people, be kind to others, and take on small challenges to change the world. Today at her service her daughter said, "Create the change you want to see," and that was a perfect description of Patricia's mission. 

The passing of Patricia Moreira Cali leaves a gap for all of us to step into.  Whether it is a simple smile to a stranger, or hiking up the hill to the Tibetan temple to bring food to the children, there is one less person with us to carry that mantle.  In her honor, we can all reflect on and continue her mission, and take simple steps to continue to change the world that benefited from her brief time here. 

Patricia Moreira Cali, 1962-2017


Patricia also authored the book, My Journey with the Purple Dragon:  Living with Leiomyosarcoma, a Rare and Aggressive Cancer. You can purchase it on Amazon here

If you can't afford the book and want a copy for someone with LMS, send me a note. I bought a small pile of them that are signed, and I'll send them to those in need of the inspirational story of Patricia's journey. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Glyphosate Regulatory Evaluation and the IARC Decision

To listen to this week's podcast, click here

  Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, has been used as a non-selective (kills all plants) herbicide since 1970.  It blocks a necessary step in plant metabolism and the plant dies, yet it has lower acute toxicity than table salt to animals. It is inexpensive, and a small amount works well, with rapid turnover in the environment. For this reason it has been widely used in municipal, agricultural and residential applications for decades.  Glyphosate sales increased upon the advent of genetically engineered crops. Some of these crops were engineered with a gene that circumvents the toxic effects of glyphosate on the plant, so the herbicide kills weeds but not the plant itself. The technology has been widely adopted and is popular with farmers.  The chemical has been tested and approved but government agencies all over the globe.  Hundreds of studies have concluded that it is extremely safe when used as directed.  However, there is a movement afoot that has targeted this compound with misinformation, including the claim that it causes cancer.  This is almost exclusively predicated on the decision of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that described glyphosate as a "probable carcinogen" based on a few barely significant data points, while ignoring higher-quality data.  Dr. Len Ritter is a Fellow of the Academy of Toxicological Sciences and an Professor Emeritus at the University of Guelph. He is an expert in human toxicology and has followed the glyphosate story for decades.  In this episode of Talking Biotech we discuss the historical assessments of glyphosate safety, the well-described risks, and the IARC decision.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Uptick in Troll Chatter

Everybody asks me, "Have things finally settled down for you?"

They never settle down, the hassles just take on different forms.  I've been watching daily defamation for years now, and long enough to note when there is a curious and concerning uptick in troll chatter. 

Dozens of sock puppets, likely representing one single person, follow mentions of me online and then write nasty comments in the comments sections. Usually this happens a few times a week, but over the last week activity is high. 

Somewhat flattering? 

The fact that someone has a job to follow me and my mentions around the internet is oddly creepy.  Ena Valikov has been doing it for years. This could be her, but I suspect it isn't.  I have some good guesses.

The main vehicle appears to be Disqus and Google Alerts.  When I post or something is posted about me on a Disqus-enabled website he/she must get an alert, because there always is a multi-sock puppet convergence right after. 

Why this is a problem

We have been making a lot of progress in science communication. We have been getting closer to mastering messaging. We are recruiting new, effective voices, and changing hearts and minds on a daily basis. 

Most of all, we've been able to neutralize the hostile attacks on science and scientists, and even their most crafted messages just don't matter.  The messages of fear are stale and never come true. They have been exposed as industry insiders, financed to misinform. The public does not trust activist claims.  

We have earned that trust  

On the other hand, scientists are gaining credibility and visibility.  The average science enthusiast is pushing back, and fighting to correct what used to be unopposed false information. 

Scientists are communicating well and making a difference.  We are getting a wider audience.  

Backed into a corner

I've been a bit on alert about this because the major organizations opposing crop biotech are getting desperate.  Like a crazed badger backed into a corner, they are getting more desperate. 

As we've seen, they are not interested in facts, but simply putting information into the public space to erode trust in public scientists. 

This is particularly a problem because it appears as though they are manufacturing new narratives.  One said, "We know all about the prostitutes."  I'm taking that as a warning shot at the next claims they will make. 

They post on websites that feature my work, even in the comments section of my own podcast.  The great irony here is that they refer to protecting developing-world consumers from potent carcinogens as "propaganda"

Cut and Paste Attacks

I know this is one person, maybe two.  How?  Because when I block certain trolls other ones show up. I've shown how these coordinated troll infestations happened before.  

They also cut/paste from their own text.  Not only are they wrong and evil, they are lazy. 

A google search of their claims shows that their rants are cut and pasted from other troll accounts, supporting the hypothesis that these are really just one person. 


Now is not the time to dial it down. Now is the time to increase our good work and take the highest road we can take in communicating science.  Recruit new voices.  Write daily.  Their ship is sinking and showing scary hints of desperation.  

Science communicators and science enthusiasts are shifting this conversation.  Continue to win the trust of people that are simply concerned about their food. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

An "A" for Consistency...

Once again, the we see the familiar rejection of the old axiom, "You can't polish a turd," as apparently you can. 

The Florida Department of Education posted their results from last year and pointed out that "Science performance remained consistent."

That's great because consistent means the same level of achievement as in recent times.  Must be pretty good, right?  A quick look at the numbers shows that this science glass is half empty, not half full. 

"Consistent" performance isn't such a good thing if it is consistently awful. 

What does "consistent" mean?  Let's look at the numbers from the standardized FCAT exam that all students need to take:

The FCAT is a standardized exam students take in 5th and 8th grade.

In a sense we can wipe our collective educational brow, as "consistent" means it isn't getting worse.  At the same time it shows that half the students do not pass the exam. Half!  By Florida math that's like almost fifty percent.

To add insult to insult, it is not that fifty percent did well-- it is that fifty percent achieved enough to pass.  Pass usually means seventy percent. This likely translates to a vast minority of students exhibiting mastery of scientific topics. 

The correct statement from the Florida Department of Education should not be that science performance remained consistent. 

The statement should be, Science performance is unacceptable, and inconsistent with the need to train a future workforce prepared to pursue opportunities in the leading areas of technology.

I don't suspect Florida is alone. When consistent failure is the standard it is no wonder why our nation is falling behind, losing our technological edge. 

It also is little wonder as to why we still have tired discussions of climate change, vaccines and genetic engineering.  A population that fails to learn science is likely to subscribe to motivated reasoning, gravitating to conspiracy and distraction instead of science and reason. 

A solution?  That's tough.  Teachers I know are deeply invested in student scientific development.  An interest in these areas must be fostered beyond the classroom, and resources in the classroom improved.  That could be helpful.

In Georgia, they took a different approach.  They just put an ardent KKK defender on the Georgia Education Board, apparently to clean up education in civics. 

We have plunged headlong into bizarre race to the bottom, when mediocrity is the accepted norm and disconnected from the realities of the future.   

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Talking Biotech Podcast 85 - Biotech, Forest Restoration and Conservation

There are many threats to forests, including unprecedented challenges by pests, pathogens and climate change. This week's podcast discusses how biotechnology may be applied to forest restoration & conservation. With Dr. Ellen Crocker, postdoctoral researcher from University of Kentucky.

 Follow her on twitter @evcrocker

Glyphosate and School Lunches