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Showing posts from July, 2017

Hey Gary, Here's How University Funding Works

Last week the New York Times' Stephanie Strom published a report that there were meaningless levels of the herbicide glyphosate identified in ice cream-- Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream. Turns out that the organization that paid for the tests, Organic Consumers Association (OCA), has been trying to "force" (their word) Ben and Jerry's to source organic milk for some time to no avail.   I reported here that such pronouncements are counter to the accepted methods of scientific publication, and that in absence of methods, replication and statistical treatments no sound conclusion could be made.   I hypothesized that the report might be payback for not sourcing organic milk.  To the casual bystander this is rather low, and it is not looking good for the Organic Consumers Association. OCA is a relentless science-free religion exploiting the organic halo and all of its innocent presumptions.  OCA does not support organic production or farmers directly, they simply despis

Ben and Jerry's Roundup- A synopsis of this week's story

This week's podcast covers the Ben and Jerry's controversy spawned by a non-peer-reviewed report in the New York Times. Is this extortion for failure to play by activist rules?   Listen here.  

Interview with Health Files Podcast

I do a few podcast interviews, but this one with Ania Kay was strangely important.  This episode of the Health Files Podcast was recorded in April, long before the discussions of genetic engineering as an agent of good, as shown in the film Food Evolution .  I think this is one of my favorite interviews so far.  As readers of this blog know, the movie Food Evolution spurred a sharply polarized response. Scientists are excited to have benevolent use of technology highlighted, while others call it "propaganda" , suggesting that it is disingenuous to not talk enough about the downsides of technology.  In this podcast I do just that-- strengths, weaknesses, limits, risks, and benefits. This is how I believe most scientists discuss the topic, as science! I think this would be a good one to listen to for anyone formulating their opinion on the topic, as it reflects a range of issues and evidence that underlies them. 

Grad Students Off Limits- Even if they are wrong

The boring saga of the Berkeley 45 continues , as several more have now emerged to ensure that their denial of fundamental science and deep scientific consensus is codified in the archives of time. At the same time, those on the science side of the discussion make a critical mistake-- piling on to a grad student, presumably the one that led the charge.  Grad students make mistakes, we all do.  Our job as leaders should be to reach out, help them correct, and at worst, simply inspire their elevated thinking by doing the right thing.  Unfortunately lots of folks have fallen into the trap of an eye for an eye.  She stuck her neck out in a poorly-advised way and now is being singled out and pummeled on blogs and in the Twittersphere in a way that could ultimately affect her long-term career options. Some think that this is appropriate, that if she is going to make claims that run counter to science and besmirches the credibility of scientists she disagrees with, then she des

Fixing The Tragic Mess of the Berkeley 45

The release of the documentary Food Evolution was lauded by scientists and folks in agriculture, as finally someone attempted to generate a factual account of biotechnology.  But the film's release did not sit well with everyone, especially those that hold deep beliefs against technology, those that loathe seed companies, and those that make a living manufacturing and selling fear. Will the real propaganda please stand up? One group of 45 faculty and students, most at UC Berkeley, were held up as "experts" that claimed the film to simply be a "slick piece of agrichemical industry propaganda," which seemed strange because so little of the film dealt with any agrichemical anything. Summarizing current events: 1. I invited the group to join a discussion on my weekly podcast, but none accepted, and a spokesman for the group, Prof. Miguel Altieri, sent an email stating that they would not take advantage of the opportunity.  Worse, Altieri s

Serious Ethical Fail of the Berkeley 45

Last week I seriously questioned those that were writing off a new food/farming/science documentary as "agrichemical industry propaganda".  It seemed like a bad move to refer to proven and effective science as propaganda, and I was especially surprised that a group of 45 scientists would write a letter stating that conclusion. When I approached them and asked them to help me understand their interpretation, I was shot down and told that I have no credibility.  No discussion, no words. My request for collegial scholarly discourse was denied.   That's really low. But it gets lower.  Let me remind you of the title of the article in Munchies that projected the claims of the Berkeley 45.  And this is on Alex Swerdloff.  He either failed to do due diligence on who these "experts" were, or realized they were ideologically entrenched anti-biotech interests and did it anyway.  He certainly didn't reach out to level-headed, strengths/weaknesses, actual

The Damage of Misplaced Activism

Today's Haiti Sentinel features an article by Editor-in-Chief Samuel Maxime.  He tells the scandalous tale of 150 tons of "genetically modified corn seeds" sent to Haiti from Mexico by CIMMYT-- a place sponsored by the likes of Bill Gates and other "Clinton confidants".  Oh no! Seeds shipped for humanitarian aid! The atrocity must stop! But wait, are they really even GMO seeds? Samuel is clearly displeased.  As he states, the seeds were sent to jumpstart the Hatian farming economy as part of a partnership between CIMMYT, USAID, and Feed the Future.  Seems like a great idea, but he's not too happy about this. Why?  His next paragraph summarizes it well. Apparently the seeds create drug addicted soils and make farmers poor.  Samuel also contends that these organizations are giving away seeds because their top priority is profit, which seems like a really lousy business model.  Here it is, right from the Editor-in-Chief: And of co

45 Scholars Defend Propaganda Claim

Well, not really.  In fact, they basically told me to pound sand through one of the professors serving as a spokesperson.  I emailed an invitation to discuss the claim that the movie Food Evolution fit the criteria of propaganda, a claim that they made in a signed, public letter that has garnered much attention . Coverage of the letter describes the 45 signatories as "experts" and "prominent scientists, academics, and writers—many from UC Berkeley".   I personally have a problem with referring to science as propaganda, and in today's contentious climate around climate, vaccines, and genetically engineered crops (the GMO story), dropping the word "propaganda" does three things. 1.  It invalidates the content as authentic representation of science.  2.  It impugns the integrity of the scientists that participated. 3.  It harms application of technologies that could be helpful to people and environment.  The Film The film Food Evolution