Showing posts from August, 2018

Transparency's Edge

I'm thinking about next Monday.  Labor Day.  While it is a holiday for most, I'll be on a conference call at 7 AM-- one steeped in mystery.  While transparency is critical to trust in public science, are there times when it is not warranted?  I never even thought about this until today after going under the bus by the folks at Biofortified for taking on a confidential,vacation-time paid assignment with a law firm. They felt that they should know everything I do on my off time in a private arbitration.  We (scientists and companies) sometimes work under Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs). Me, not so much. But this is very common in all research institutions.  My lab has expertise in narrow-bandwidth lighting solutions for plant growth environments. Should have to disclose all of our findings in development in the name of transparency?    When a company wants to discuss research or potential funding, it is customary for both parties to sign an NDA.  It means that no

Revising History: Removed from the GMO Corn Experiment

Revision of history is a dangerous game, especially when you denounce the intellectual and material contributions of others-- like they never even happened.  I have been advised that I no longer am involved in a project associated with Biofortified (Biology Fortified Inc.)-- the now mummified GMO Corn Project .  Karl Haro von Mogel and Anastasia Bodnar's unilateral action is not only disappointing, it calls into question their ethics and trustworthiness, as it was their glacial pace that has dragged this simple project out for almost three years.   Yesterday they outed my confidential, non-work participation as a subject matter expert in a private arbitration. I was retained by a law firm to provide my insights and analyze some old data in an ancient matter.  My participation as a compensated expert in outside work with a law firm is clearly delineated on my website, to the extent that I can provide details under my confidentiality agreement. Karl and Anastasia decided it wa

Biofortified: Write First, Ask Questions Later

This blog post is a revision of a yesterday's that you can read here.  At the time I was amazingly  disappointed, betrayed and angry.  It provoked an overly emotional response that I don't like in retrospect.  I leave it here in the interest of transparency.  Today's article on Biofortified makes a number of false claims, and they have made a tremendous mistake.  They made a very public admonishment of me and alleged conflicts of interest that they construe as  ethical misconduct.  However, a simple analysis of the facts provides a very different view.  Sadly, we live in an age where the first response is to erect a punishing website, rather than reach out and have a discussion about the situation.  Karl Haro von Mogel and Anastasia Bodnar really missed an opportunity to raise a higher discussion about the fine line between commitment to transparency and the commitment to confidentiality.  Here are the facts: 1.  In May of 2017 a law firm contacted me and asked

Anonymous Public Records Requests for Harassment

I've written a lot about public records requests, which ultimately are a good thing and ensure transparency in public servants.  However, I do believe that the current rules far overstep their original spirit, and the process is massively abused at massive taxpayer expense-- with the intention of harassing and harming public employees.   When you have access to all of someone's email, you can cherry pick the message you'd like to tell.  The internet loves sensationalism and scandal, and is not so excited about the boring realities.  The Latest Batches Over the last month my institution has produced about 50 MB of my email and other docs as PDFs.  It is a substantial number of pages, most of it going to author and documentarian Jeffrey Smith. But there have been anonymous requests as well .  Yes, you do not even need to say who you are or what you seek to peek voyeuristically into the private conversations of academic professors that just want teach and do research. 

Environmental Working Group -- Cereal Killers or Food Terrorists

Just because an organization creates a report does not mean the report should be considered seriously.  In fact, it should be reviewed with a keen eye and great skepticism. This is not a blog about glyphosate, the active ingredient in herbicides (including "Roundup" for example).   It is a blog about how fear mongers work, and strive to harm trust in perfectly good food. It is about Food Terrorism.  Food Terrorism I wrote about this in my Foreword to the book The Fear Babe . While many object to the use of the word terrorism , it is a perfect moniker for what is happening around us.   Terrorism is defined as coercion or intimidation to achieve political or ideological gains.  This is exactly what the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is doing.  Again.  Deliberately deceiving the public to advance their agenda.  The timing was perfectly coordinated to fit with the widely-publicized jury verdict in California.  Bogus Standards The EWG claims to have found the herbi

When Robots Attack, You've Lost the Debate

I enjoy a spirited discussion.  But how do you do that with a robot? What if the robot is doing the dirty work of a corrupt activist organization and you are the topic du jour ?  As a 30-year public scientist I’ve enjoyed educating the public on the science of genetic engineering. That raises the ire of those sworn against the technology. As their arguments continue to crumble and time shows that they have been deceiving the public for decades, their numbers thin. So now they have employed robots for scientific slander.   Such is the case over on Twitter, where an account named @NoGMOVerified spews vitriol, seemingly pulling stories from a substantial archive and pumping them into tweet space. The majority of their messages are just the usual drivel, but it gets personal.  This account exists solely to spread false information, including a daily dose of smear about Yours Truly. Is it ethical for Twitter to allow continued, targeted harassment?   I've reported the &q