Monday, October 25, 2021
Hey Goofballs, Science is Not a Popularity Contest
Thursday, October 21, 2021
Seed Sovereignty? Not So Fast Farmers...
For the last 25 years I've listened to the tired argument that Monsanto controls farmer seed choice. Over and over again. Even since the hated seed company has ceased to exist, I still hear the same boring trope.
This is the position of activist groups and their parrots, and others that never actually tried to tell a farmer what they would be allowed to grow on their space.
Farmers choose what is best for their land, their schedule, their budget, input availability, and dozens of other factors. Cotton, corn, soybean canola and sugarbeet growers oftentimes choose genetically engineered seeds containing the traits that serve their production system and support their bottom line.
Farmers control farmer seed choice.
Unless you are a corn farmer in Mexico that wishes to use traited seeds.
Activist groups have decided that Mexican farmers should not have access to the elite corn technology, lines that contain engineered traits to aid in limiting weed pressure and cutting insecticide sprays. Despite farmer demand, activists have now pressured the government into not allowing these resources to be utilized.
They claim that it is to protect native genetics near corn's center of diversification, but that's just not true.
Farmers will be allowed to use hybrid corn without the GE traits. Those lines are just as likely to outcross with indigenous resources as any GE crop. If you want to preserve indigenous maize genetics, you need to have special programs to do that, and such programs are in place.
This is nothing more than activist groups using pressure to limit the acreage of genetically engineered crops. If that means forcing farmers to choose non-GE hybrids, increasing insecticide use, and returning to aggressive top-soil-sacrificing techniques to manage weeds, that's where they'll be.
I don't ever want to hear any activists whine about companies limiting seed sovereignty.
They are the ones restricting farmer choice to use proven, safe, and efficient genetics to suit the needs of their farms.
Thursday, September 30, 2021
REPOST: A civil conversation about the future of food
The following article was printed April 7, 2015. It was written by Iowa State student Kelsey Faivre after she attended talks by Vandana Shiva and me, Kevin Folta.
Shiva was invited to Iowa State University by a student group. Fearing the usual barrage of bad information, another group on campus invited me to provide the scientific counterpoint. My whole presentation from 3/25/15 can be seen here.
Ms. Faivre captured the contrast between the two events well. Reprinted here without permission from Feedstuffs where it was originally printed and no longer available.
A civil conversation about the future of food
By Kelsey Faivre
DR. Kevin Folta, professor and chairman of the horticultural sciences department at the University of Florida, recently came to lecture at Iowa State University.
The subject of his lecture was transgenic crops (also known as genetically modified organisms GMOs) — what they are, what they can do and how to communicate about them. Folta, who uses transgenic crops for research in his lab, has firsthand knowledge.
The main points of Folta's lecture were that transgenic crops have been determined to present no more risk than conventionally bred crops, there is an important place for them in the future of agriculture and that the debate surrounding them is not a scientific one.
With a clear majority of scientists supporting the safety of transgenic crops, the debate surrounding these crops "is a social one fueled by fear and misinformation," he said. Folta used a fungus-resistant strawberry and a citrus tree resistant to citrus greening as examples of future applications of transgenic breeding.
Folta's lecture followed one by activist Dr. Vandana Shiva, which happened two weeks prior (Feedstuffs, March 23). Though the topic of Shiva's lecture was similar — she and Folta both discussed the impacts of transgenic crops — the two lectures could not have been more different. Not only did their content differ, but their communication methods and motives clearly were dissimilar.
Folta presented the scientific consensus regarding the safety of transgenic crops, explaining that plant breeding is inherently risky, but transgenic breeding methods present no more risk than conventional breeding.
Shiva rejected this consensus, claiming that there are health risks associated with GMOs despite the fact that no cases of GMO-related illnesses ever have been reported. In fact, Shiva supported her anti-GMO agenda with research that Folta noted was either discredited — like the work of Gilles Seralini — or distorted by the media — as in a study regarding placental cells and glyphosate.
Folta said he wanted to connect with people who are concerned about the safety of their food and are at risk of being swayed by activists who benefit from others' fear and mistrust. It was refreshing to hear from someone who is a primary source of information and is clearly passionate about delivering the facts.
After being in both audiences, I felt that there was a more obvious discontent with Folta's message. One gentleman in the crowd interrupted Folta twice — the second time proclaiming, "I think about 90% of what you've said could be proven false."
Despite this angry, cynical challenge, Folta remained calm and responded with grace and kindness. Folta then used the challenge to illustrate his point that anti-GMO activists sometimes make more noise than scientists and farmers and use fear to cover up facts.
After his lecture, Folta stayed for more than an hour to answer questions on topics ranging from the ethical issues surrounding transgenic crops to the research he is doing in his lab. When difficult questions came up, he agreed to look into things further and follow up with individuals, and in one case, he invited someone to participate in a study with him.
Folta set a great example of how we, in agriculture, can engage non-science audiences in conversation. One of his ideas on scientific communication is that we have to, as he said, "stop beating people over the head with science"; the public wants to hear the facts without needing a Ph.D. to understand them.
He also appealed to the values of every person in the room, acknowledging that "at the end of the day, we are all on the same page and want the same things; we just bring different toolboxes to the table."
Having listened to both Shiva and Folta, the biggest difference I could detect in their messages was the tone behind the messages. I fear that my fellow students left Shiva's lecture feeling scared, mistrustful and conflicted. I hope those who listened to Folta left knowing more about the science behind the technology and feeling more reassured about the future of food.
No matter how you feel about transgenic crops, one thing is certain: Using fear, blame and mistrust is not the way to start or end this conversation.
Folta and an audience member discussed her genuine concerns about transgenic crops for almost a half-hour, and it remained a conversation rather than devolving into a verbal battle. At the end of her questions, Folta asked if there were any type of transgenic crop she would accept. After several minutes of deliberation, she admitted that using a transgenic orange tree to stop citrus greening would be a good application. That is what I call a success.
In my opinion, Folta did an excellent job of delivering facts over fear while maintaining a civil, open and conversational atmosphere. That is something to be commended.
I left Folta's lecture feeling something I haven't felt in a while: hope. We can open up a civil conversation about the future of food. By sharing our agricultural and scientific stories, we have the opportunity to cast light on the facts of modern food production.
*Kelsey Faivre is a sophomore in agricultural communications at Iowa State University. She was raised on a row crop operation in DeKalb, Ill., and raises cattle.
Monday, September 27, 2021
Letter to the EU
The European Commission is taking public feedback on gene editing. I urge you to send your letter here:
If you need an idea of some aspects to emphasize, here are my comments:
Sustainable farming in the EU is critical; economic sustainability for EU farmers, and environmental sustainability for the limited agricultural land in the region. Keeping costs manageable for EU citizens and potentially bolstering agricultural exports or fostering less reliance on imports is important too. To meet these challenges, EU scientists should have full access to all technologies to produce safe and sustainable crops. As a scientist in the USA I have hosted dozens of EU scientists that are frustrated by policy that restricts their research and their ability to produce solutions for their home countries. The current restrictions are arbitrary, not science based, and reflect the whimsy of political/ideological views over a scientific consensus. My terminal degree is in molecular biology and I have followed genetic engineering since human insulin was created in microbes in the early 1980's. Gene editing, the process using sequence-directed nucleases, is a revolutionary technology that has already had tremendous positive impacts in agriculture and medicine. Briefly, in shaping a future EU policy the most important points to consider are: 1. Speed. Gene editing can often install the same genetic changes as plant breeding (making crosses), only it can be done on a scale of months rather than years/decades. 2. Precision. Gene editing can install genetic changes that underlie important traits (e.g. resistance to disease) that are known in plants broadly, but perhaps not present in that species. They would be impossible to incorporate with traditional breeding techniques. 3. Accountable effects. While gene editing is highly precise, it is prone to errors and off-target effects. However, our ability to sequence genomes provides a means to inventory the associated changes and assess them for risk, if they occur. 4. Sovereignty. The technology is simple and can stimulate new industry around regional crops, giving power to smaller EU companies and expanding seed invention/production away from a small, consolidated handful of multinational corporations. 5. Adaptability. Gene-trait associations are known to help plants mitigate the effects of temperature stress, salinity, flooding, etc. Being able to install these traits into established regional crop varieties will likely provide a rapid means to approach issues caused by climate change. 6. Rapid response. The emergence of new pests and pathogens requires a rapid means to adapt to new threats that cannot be achieved by traditional plant breeding. 7. Minimal risk. Gene editing techniques are much more precise than the well-accepted mutagenesis techniques currently allowed by the EU, and it can be done without introduction of foreign DNA, such as in the production of transgenic plants. The EU has unique challenges that demand that all tools be considered in meeting future food security needs. To hamper the hands of the EU's best scientists with arbitrary, emotional, non-evidence-based policy is a travesty, and will affect EU sustainability and seed choice in the near future. It is critical to allow European scientists access to the same tools to genetically improve crops that other countries have available. I'm very happy to answer your questions. Kevin M. Folta Ph.D. Professor University of Florida
Wednesday, September 8, 2021
Talking Biotech 308 - The Origins of GMO Disinformation
Sunday, August 29, 2021
Talking Biotech 307 - Glyphosate Residues and Dietary Exposures
Friday, August 27, 2021
Report on the Problem You Create- The Rise of Cyclical Sensationalism
The next day the reporter's headline reads, "Customer Dies on Mall Stairs."
The same reporter repeats the assassination ritual a few more times and shares the story of a negligent staircase widely on social media. he also cites his own article from the previous week, giving the impression of an epidemic of dangerous stairs. From there it spreads among local mall patrons.
The next week the reporter's headline reads, "Customers Concerned about Staircase Safety at Mall."
A visible trend is emerging in crank journalism and slimy activism-- reporting on the significance of a problem that they themselves created.
For unethical "journalists" it is a way to create "evidence" that their errant or malicious position actually has support. First they produce media or messaging that makes a bogus claim. Next, they cite their own media source to create the perception that their bad claim has wide support. In other words, they strategically place the banana peel and shockingly report when someone slips on it.
I call this cyclical sensationalism. It is a case where maliciously motivated can create faux news to fool the reader into believing a false claim is legitimate. This tactic is used for several reasons:
1. To harm the credibility and trust in legitimate scientists.
One especially egregious violator of ethical standards uses cyclical sensationalism as a mainstay. Paul Thacker foists the patina of a legitimate journalist, but in my estimate he's a stooge working for the anti-GMO, anti-5G, anti-scientist interests like US-RTK.
He started writing fallacious stories about me in 2014, and trolls my social media accounts with regularity. Some of his work has been retracted by ethical journals. Other stories he has written appear in Grist and The Progressive, and all target me unfairly and inaccurately. Both Grist and The Progressive failed to take action when I notified them.
The Progressive did offer me a 250 word rebuttal to the 10,000 word hit piece. I declined.
The point is, he is one of very few writers that seem to scam publication outlets into publishing his filth. So he writes new hate pieces and then links to his own old work citing the name of the source (e.g. The Progressive) rather than the author (him). The goal is to trick the reader into believing that there are independent, legitimate voices that agree with his claims, and that he's not a lone goof libeling scientists.
I complained to Grist about the piece they hosted. In the article Thacker states without question that my research can't be trusted because it is compromised by corporate influence, which is absolutely not true. As I stated in my letter:
"... he (Thacker) does the execution, leaves the shotgun in your closet, and then uses social media to say, “Hey, look who Grist just killed.”
I'm not the only one. He's done this to other scientists like Dr. David Gorski, and good journalists like Keith Kloor and Tamar Haspel. The list is reasonably long, but he has a special eerie tumescence for me.
2. Amplification with cyclical self-sharing.
Retweets and shares come from linked accounts held by the same person, or within a tight network of cronies, provides a false sense of legitimacy or consensus to poor scientific ideas.
A really good example is US-RTK, the science hate group that seeks to harm reputations of scientists on behalf of the industries that pay their bills. Gary Ruskin and Carrie Gillam retweet Stacy Malkin's posts (both US-RTK employees), then US-RTK retweets their retweets. Usually it does not go much farther than that.
3. To give the perception of mass interest in a non-problem that they describe as a risk.
A recent tweet by the Non-GMO Report claims that 49% of US adults... you can read it!
Of course, Twitter sets them straight:
These are just three ways that self-citation and near-network amplification spreads misinformation. It is cyclical sensationalism, and is becoming more common as crank claims and pseudoscience become more prominent through the limited filters of social media.
Tuesday, August 10, 2021
Dissecting the Dr. Dan Stock Video
One video I was sent by FOUR separate people is at the Mt. Vernon, Indiana school board meeting. A guy dressed like John Boy Walton introduces himself as Dr. Dan Stock, expert in "functional medicine".
Fact- viral particles are highest in the fine particles that come from deep in the lungs. They are smaller than 5 um and most projected from taking, singing, yelling (Coleman et al., 2021). These are significantly attenuated by an N95 mask and even a basic surgical facial covering (Leung et al., 2020).
Fact- Flu and SARS-CoV2 are very different viruses. Influenza viruses undergo genomic shuffling to vary their genetics and presentation to the immune system. While SARS-CoV2 variants exist, they are slow to emerge and evade vaccines, which work quite well and were very effective against the original variants. He talks about respiratory scintitial virus (RSV) as being zoonotic, when there is no evidence for that.
There is also ZERO evidence of antibody dependent enhancement (ADE) with respect to SARS-CoV2, the phenomenon where vaccination leads to worse symptoms upon actual infection. It is a real problem with some vaccinations, like the early versions of Respiratory Scintitial Virus (RSV) vaccine. It has never been an issue with others, like measles. Clearly the least vaccinated counties have the highest incidence of symptoms/disease, the exact opposite of if there was ADE.
Claim 6 - "No vaccine prevents you from getting infection"
Fact- the CDC has looked at this (Cavanaugh et al, 2021) and there is significant reductions in reinfection after vaccination following natural infection.
Tuesday, July 13, 2021
The Massive COVID19 Gain-of-Function Experiment - Are You Part of It?
Critics of SARS-CoV2 research decry the use of the gain-of-function experiments used to study viruses. Such experiments are designed to test how changes in DNA sequence relate to enhanced activity of a gene product on biology, or in this case, the function of a virus. Mutation of viral DNA may lead to enhanced transmissibility, infectivity, pathogenesis, or lethality, among other effects.
That is exactly why researchers perform gain-of-function experiments in the safety of a laboratory setting. By understanding the biology in controlled circumstances scientists can better prepare to address the virus if it naturally becomes problematic in a population.
Yet critics of gain-of-function research say it is dangerous and unnecessary.
And the same critics are also the least likely to be vaccinated.
The unvaccinated say they don’t want to be part of an experiment.
By failing to be vaccinated, they have become an experiment.
This is the profound irony. Those that refuse vaccination are the most likely to sequester in small towns, churches and political rallies. They participate in work and social functions as though the virus is not a threat. Few masks, little distance, limited isolation, life as usual. They are a gain-of- function experiment, a spawning ground to test effects of new mutations.
In the lab, prescribed changes may be made in DNA precisely, and the effects can be followed in laboratory animals.
Outside the lab, the virus replicates furiously in the body. The body produces hundreds of billions of viral particles. Each round of replication is slightly imprecise, potentially introducing random errors into the newly-produced virus. Most mutations have no effect. Others negatively affect the virus, its transmissibility, infectivity, or pathogenesis. We don't ever see these viruses in populations because they are a biological dead end.
But occasionally a mutation arises that bestows gain-of-function. When that newly-enabled virus escapes containment in that first breath, it may gain a foothold in a population, and become a new "variant of concern".
We are learning about enhanced viral function by studying the new variants now circulating in populations.
There is no question that vaccine denial follows political and regional trends. These areas are the breeding grounds for new variants. It is the most extensive viral gain-of-function experiment ever performed.
And remarkably people are willing to participate.
Please get vaccinated.
Sunday, July 11, 2021
Gyphosate, Autism, and Goal Posts
Dr. Stephanie Seneff has polluted the scientific conversation about the health effects of the herbicide glyphosate for over a decade. This latest volley is the waving tip of a white flag, as time is not supporting her alarmist claims.
She does not run a research program on glyphosate or its effects on humans. What she does do is use the title of "Senior Research Scientist at MIT" as cred to be able to push underpowered hypotheses that are framed as legitimate empirical research.
The outcome is a slate of less-than-scholarly review articles, almost invariably in low-impact journals, that decry the dangers of herbicides and vaccines. They are give some credibility because of her title, and at least one journal has published a warning label that the work is suspect.
How are the papers constructed? In short, they are sculpted narratives of cherry picked data and pushing correlations as causation. These are crafted into what are best hypotheses not supported by the preponderance of he evidence.
Like this one in the journal Entropy. The unknowing actually think it is scholarly research. The journal even notes the authors' bias in not presenting the breadth of the research (a.k.a. 'Cherry Picking').
One famous one was the claim that due to glyphosate use, half of all children would be autistic by 2025. This is conclusion is an extrapolation of trends of glyphosate use and autism prevalence, as she described in this logical-fallacy strewn wreck of a paper.
Apparently now that landmark 50% rate appears to have shifted, apparently to 2032. We're not using less glyphosate, so I wonder why autism rates now won't hit half of kids until seven years later?
The real reason the claim was pushed back was much more practical. 2025 is the year after the year after the year after next year. If you're going to revise your bogus claim you have to do it early.
Friday, June 11, 2021
Coordinated Disinformation Campaigns on Twitter
Today on twitter I kept seeing the same message coming up, over and over again. What the heck is going on?
The link goes to the Center for Food Safety, an organization that really isn't that is much more of an anti-technology club than a food safety concern. They speak out against any application of biotechnology, such as the release of the disease-suppressing GE mosquitoes in the Florida Keys.
Somehow when CFS launches a twitter campaign they plaster the Tweet Stream with the exact same message over and over again. My feeling is that they do this to create the impression of a mass consensus, a movement to essentially bully retailers and restaurants.
In this case it is the AquaAdvantage Salmon, a fish grown in inland tanks in Indiana. First invented in 1989, the salmon has had a rocky road to market, despite the magic of growing to market size in half the time and on a fraction of the food and other resources.
It has been shown to be equivalent to regular salmon and safe as can be. It is not a threat to natural populations because the fish are genetically sterile and a long flop to any place where they could cause ecological problems.
While technophiles argue that this innovation takes pressure off of natural populations and can provide fresh fish at a better price point, those opposed to biotechnology in any form push back.
The Tweet above is just one of hundreds. Literally, hundreds. All exactly the same, cookie-cutter tweets. The information is false, as they imply risk to public health, oceans, and wild salmon populations. It is total disinformation.
They spam popular restaurant chains and hotels, folding them in to tweet after tweet. What gives?
I've heard of tweet-storms before, campaigns to start hashtags trending around a given topic. When spawned organically this is probably a good way to get an issue noticed.
But the identical nature of these tweets is highly suspect. They are not retweets, they appear to be original work of real people. But are they?
I thought they were bots, and remain to be convinced otherwise. Are there services out there that create hundreds of bogus accounts that appear real, simply for these applications?
I reached out to some of the tweeters, asking if there is a message they received or some script they copied. I received one reply that said, "Go to the (CFS) website".
I went to the website and there was simply a petition to sign. No twitter script.
Meanwhile they accumulate by the hundreds.
(To be continued)
Wednesday, June 2, 2021
Are You Harming Your Best Advocate?
Be careful when you take action to eliminate an informed voice from a conversation. In the days of the internet such cancellation can be permanent, and if you remove someone that has a clue, it might just come back to work against your best interests later on.
Throughout the 2000's and most of all in 2015 and to this day, there have been activist groups and unhinged individuals that wanted me silent. Whether it is weird professional jealousy, the fact that I run a highly-rated biotech podcast, or the fact that I am a trusted source of scientific information, I attract vicious critics.
But I'm consistent about two things:
1. Speaking from the evidence and the data.
2. Admitting when I'm incorrect and adjusting.
When critics use sharp and defamatory means to destroy trust and remove their target from a scientific conversation, they run the risk of removing them from all scientific conversations.
In 2015 I was targeted by USRTK, Paul Thacker, Charles Seife, Organic Consumers Association and dozens of other anti-biotech activists. Food Babe Vani Hari joined in. Journalists like Eric Lipton at the New York Times and freelance writer Brooke Borel took hard and visible shots that today clearly stand as well-orchestrated hit pieces.
Other folks added their interpretations of emails, professional actions and even crept eerily into my personal life. Gross.
The defamation for teaching science remains permanent on the internet to this day.
Why does it matter?
Because it forever serves as a touchstone for those that reject the science I teach, it is a get-out-of-science-jail-free card to those that want to debate climate change, vaccination, genetic engineering or evolution, but rely on bad evidence and conspiracy to fortify their bankrupt positions.
Case in point. Last night I had a pleasant conversation on Twitter with someone (now going by "Fauci is Mengele" that was certain he was correct. He was not. He drew a chorus of supporters that chimed in about the COVID19 vaccine that was untested, experimental, dangerous, and blah, blah, blah.
Painted into a corner with evidence to counter his anti-vax claims, he "did research" on me and posted this:
Monday, May 24, 2021
Creating False Consensus with Bots
Sunday, May 23, 2021
Allegations of Threats
Over the last week the trolls are back, and polluting social media with more anti-Folta nonsense.
I won't even touch on it. Nobody has looked at it, nobody really cares. It gets few likes, retweets, etc., and those that do show some love to the filth are in the defamation network. It's dead.
But sadly I need to always play defense. Now that these allegations are forever placed in findable space, I must reluctantly respond. I teach students, I work with kids, I lead community initiatives, and when someone claims that I'm issuing "threats" I unfortunately have to provide my perspective.
First, Carey Gillam. She tweeted this, this week:
Over the last decade she has trashed my work, made false claims about me and my motivations, and has been generally horrible. She is paid by USRTK, the organization sponsored by industry to endlessly harass me, so she gets a paycheck to post defamation like the above. That's her job.
If she had "bizarre and oddly threatening emails" from me she would have posted them, or paraded them around the internet.
I simply told him, we can discuss this privately, or make it public, you pick. That's not a threat. This is me kindly offering to work it out together privately, rather than having it blow up publicly and have to explain it, like is happening here. I don't want to wreck the guy's future like he wants to wreck mine.
Keep in mind that this was several years ago. I just learned of this complaint last week (5/2021) when it went public, and if it didn't go internet-wide I would never have said anything publicly. They guy has enough problems and could still sort it out and be a good contributor.
If it is false, then we can talk about it and sort it out. It was his refusal to discuss this important issue, and my need to get to the bottom of it that prompted my response. It was not "social blackmail", as proven by the fact that he did not discuss it with me and I kept quiet-- I never made it public until now, when his complaint became public.
And now this long-forgotten annoyance has become very public, not by me, I'm busy working and teaching science.
Which means I now need to work even harder at producing good media and better outreach. Good. I needed a little fire to refocus my efforts in positive ways.
Friday, May 21, 2021
Hang It Up Stacy
In 2015 the anti-science, scientist slander machine called US-RTK provided my emails and a story to New York Times reporter Eric Lipton. As stated by Lipton on the 9/17/2015 Kojo Nnamdi Show on NPR, (USRTK leader) "Gary Ruskin handed me a story and wanted me to publish it."
The result was a gross misrepresentation of me and my motivations to teach science. To them, it was all part of a corporate cabal to misinform the public in exchange for grant money.
Time has shown that none of it was true. Still the story lives on the internet, forever attached to me in a Google search.
And folks from USRTK keep it alive and well. Last week Stacy Malkan, a USRTK henchtwit, continued to post links to the Lipton story, at least to the documents that supported it, plucked from their context for easy re-interpretation.
Their recent attacks on Dr. Peter Dadzyk brought them sharp rebuke by social media, and their website visits plummeted.
While I'm not speaking at conferences as much and have been living through the other hassles of hard defamation, things are going generally very well. Research is fun, teaching is going great, and I'm investing time in other community leadership efforts. All good.
The Talking Biotech Podcast is entering its 7th year, approaching 1.5 million downloads and 300 episodes.
When you are a hate group that targets scientists the world will catch up, and you will lose relevance. When you do good work that grows with time, you gain relevance.
Why do they beat a tired old story from 2015 that they created? It got them what they wanted at the time, but in the rear view mirror of time it is clear that it was a targeted hit piece that ultimately proved to be bullshit.
And their defamation page on me is alive and well. My students visit it and laugh. They know me, and that's not me.
In a world of important problems, why not focus energy and time on solving them? What dig the heels into defamation of public scientists working for the good of others?
It is a failed formula. Stacy doesn't get that. Maybe she will when USRTK is out of business. Coming soon.
Thursday, April 15, 2021
Consumer Advocates or Anti-Biotech in Disguise?
Wolves in sheep's clothing? It is an interesting question because I've never seen a sheep wearing clothes. I guess what it really means is that if a wolf could skin a sheep and wear the wool to basically be a trojan horse. Something like Silence of the Lambs.
I've always suspected that a number of apparent "good guys" of consumer advocacy are really just anti-biotechnology interests. Their recent activities have confirmed my suspicions.
Over the years I have watch the Organic Consumers Association and the Center for Food Safety rail against biotechnology as it applied to crops. They falsify evidence, bend the truth, and vilify scientists. You can go to their pages and read that I'm a booze-swillin', wife-beatin', child harassin', drunk-drivin' a-hole that is paid by Monsanto to lie about science.
Because I teach science.
Now that their nemesis Monsanto is no longer a thing, these groups must be falling on hard times. Their most recent targets? Biotech mosquitoes.
The genetically engineered mosquitoes by Oxitec are a modern version of sterile insect technique, a method to rapidly suppress mosquito numbers that has been used for over half a century. Its modern form is much more precise. Briefly, male mosquitoes contain a larvae-lethal gene. The gene is turned off in the lab, but then it is activated upon release. The males mate with local female pests, and the next generation of larvae are inviable. Mosquito populations crash. The target is a non-native invasive mosquito so it poses no threat to natural ecosystems.
These disease-transmitting mosquitoes are clearly the most lethal animal on the planet. With Zika, Dengue, chikungunya, malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases on the rise, these tools could have great human health implications. They are to be released in the Florida Keys shortly.
Now technically birds eat mosquitoes, so the Center for (Bird) Food Safety might have a point. But the Organic Consumers Association? I haven't been to Whole Foods in a long time, but maybe they are selling mosquito larvae for $40 a pound.
Not to be outdone, the Center for Food Safety also is in the anti-biotech mosquito game. Recently they were bragging about their new billboard on Twitter. Yes, the Center for Food Safety spends their budget on expensive billboards that oppose human health initiatives.
In social media, OCA has bots that spam the interwebs, blasting a common, repeated message over and over again. The goal? To make it look like there is widespread concern about a safe and effective strategy to limit numbers of disease-causing mosquitoes.
This is likely one of the worst papers ever to be published. However, to some, it is stellar evidence. Here's one website ...
It was 6:30 pm in the lab and I was just thinking about the last things I'd need to get done before I could go home. Typical night. Us...
Today on twitter I kept seeing the same message coming up, over and over again. What the heck is going on? Mia's mom wants major rest...