Saturday, April 13, 2013

Moms (well) Mobs Across America- Follow the Money

The recent discussion of the data appearing on the Moms Across America have gone viral.  They have shown up across the interwebs.  Just google "stunning corn comparison" and you can see how the non-discriminating science palate of activist websites have bought the story as the highest scientific evidence of transgenic plant harm.  Even Natural News calls this made up data on a flyer a "paper" insinuating that it is some peer-reviewed work.

The readers of this blog have been wonderful in searching out reality.  Several have posted the original links to a pdf from a fertilizer company in Canada that subscribes to anti-transgenic crop nonsense.

Today I was directed to the Moms Across America again by blog reader Alun Salt.  It was the 'Moms' site that started the whole flap about how transgenic corn has no nutritional value but is loaded with glyphosate and formaldehyde.  The corn is rich in zinc an copper but has no calcium or carbon-- numbers that just don't fit with what we know about plant ion relations and metabolomics.

Now get this:

  • DeDell's Seed sells non-trangenic corn seeds.
  • DeDell's made at least one donation to Moms Across America.
  • The donation was made shortly before the "data" showing that GMO corn was poison with no nutritional value was posted. 



If you'd like your products and agenda spotlighted by an angry mob of non-critical thinkers, make a donation to Mobs Across America and send them some unvetted data to promote.  Make sure they are consistent with their agenda and not from scientists!


Can somebody say "conflict of interest" here?   The company that donates money gets their implausible, misrepresented (or possibly manufactured) data represented as actual science, when the company sells a product that competes with the product being criticized.  In other words, bash the competitor with bad information and pay a disinformation clearinghouse to promote the junk science. 

Bingo.  

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Gullible "Moms Across America"- A Post Mortem

A friend sent me a link to an alleged scientific report.  The "report", found here, claims to show the "stunning" nutrient content in GMO corn vs. non-GMO corn.  Mom's Across America, a website dedicated to fear mongering and cleansing of scientific input, posted this information and decorated it with a healthy sprinkling of non-critical thinking and logical fallacy. 

Unfortunately for them, the "report" has no source cited, no methods, no anything.  Definitions in the footnotes are wrong.  It appears to be a table of soil data (there is more zinc and copper than carbon present, etc) or is a complete fabrication. 

When corrected by scientists in the comments section, we were ripped apart by aggressive robot-like dogma that discredited us, slandered us and distorted our work. 

When we replied, many of the replies were censored from the website, allowing only the insane comments of bitter non-scientists to be presented.  As usual, if you can't discuss the facts, cleanse the facts so that the lies run unopposed. 

The best part is, Zen Honeycutt, the website administrator and attack dog, is one of the least scientific thinkers I ever have seen.  When you read her comments on her blog you'll see disdain and condescension for science and scientists. These folks are bitter and mean. 

Here is a sample of one of her (his) comments to justify her assault on science and scientists, and her rationale for silencing scientific discussion. You should look here to see all of it

Zen and her ilk stand by these data as legitimate.  She repeatedly bolsters their scientific validity as representing data from corn. Here's a little sample of the kookiness. (her comments in italic, my responses follow)
  
ZH: (GMO nurition) explains a lot…why animals will NOTeat GMO corn even in the dead of winter. 

KF: Cute anecdote.  Again, good at believing anti-scientific junk, not much of a science filter.

ZH:  (this is) Why human allergies have increased 400% since GMOs were introduced…why health issues have skyrocketed. 

KF: Again, someone that has no understanding of correlation vs. causation. 

ZH: Irregardless of this report, I have scores of Moms who have answered our health survey who repeatedly share that going off GMOs reduced, improved or dissappeared their children’s and their own health issues.

KF:  Aside from the use of "irregardless", this is frightening.  First, of course readers of her non-scientific website will fill out a poll saying that there are problems.  Second, her family members have health problems and she blames safe food. It is a lovely anecdote, not scientific, and when 70% of the food in this country contains transgenic ingredients and does not cause health effects, she clearly is barking up the wrong tree. Worse, her family members may have serious underlying medical problems that go untreated because a scapegoat product. 

ZH: Not eating something that has this many toxins in it would for sure be a factor in an improvement in health. 

KF:  Sure, if it had toxins in it.

ZH:  I have also been told that this report looks like a soil report because, yes, this usually is the kind of test done on soil. The people who took it ran this panel of tests because they wanted to test for mineral and toxins usually on found in soil, NOT on food, so that was the closest test to run. 

KF: Somehow she knows the people that did the work, but does not post that information.  That's a red flag to me.  Perhaps someone manufactured the information and used her website as a conduit.

ZH: Chris (a commenter on the website), just because it looks like a soil report, does not mean it is, if it says corn report, at some point, unless you have another agenda, the public needs to take things at face value…juts like I am sure your field would appreciate any study that you do and title it as you see fit, to read it and take it as you say.

KF: Chris posted that it was a soil report.  Again, Zen deflects scientific inquiry to an underlying conspiracy and agenda.  She says, "The public needs to take things at face value".   I have a UFO in Rosewell to sell her.

ZH:  I respectfully ask you Chris to use your intellect to create something useful and please stop posting on this website. We have heard your point, get your stand for honesty, and thank you for please moving on. Thank you.

KF: And then Chris is asked to move along and not comment again

That truth, reason and critical thinking are not allowed on Moms Across America!  If you dare to discuss science, you are asked to not comment.  If you continue to do so (or even if you're not) your comments are expunged.

This whole situation should be extremely meaningful to the anti-GMO movement.  Here a report, with no source in the real literature is distributed as gospel and defended rabidly. Scientists are trashed and science ignored.  It could be fake data from an anti-anti-GMO interest too, and that would be really interesting to see...  

----------------
Post-Mortem

So what is this report?  It comes from a PDF from a company called Profit Pro (ironically, as transgenic technology opponents claim that transgenics are only about profit) and their newsletter. Some good sleuthing by readers of this blog shows that Profit Pro's December 2012 and January 2013  newsletter present this table. They don't even know what Brix is. 

They have a product they want to sell, they show a bogus comparison, and scare the pants off non-critical readers.  

A quick look at the website's "articles" shows a credulous subscription to nonsense, faux scientific articles that fool readers. Same old crap.  

PLUS!!  Natural News has picked up on this garbage, calling it a "breakthrough report" and a "paper".  The best part is that the title starts with "Biotech Lies".


Please think for a minute.  Who is really misrepresenting science here?  If all of this does not demonstrate the clear agenda and lack of scientific thinking in the anti-GMO movement, what does? 




Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Blocked from Commenting- for Exposing Facts

Last week I pointed out that some data pitched as the dangers of GM corn were actually not from corn, but from soil itself. I found the root of the problem on Moms Across America a website desiring to stoke fear of biotechnology-- even if it means lying to readers and silencing critics that dare to talk science.

Moms Across America- Keeping Children Safe from Critical Thinking Since (at least) 2013

To recap, they posted a table of data allegedly comparing GM to non-GM corn.  The whole story is here. The conclusion from their side is that GM corn contains more zinc and copper than carbon and is loaded with glyphosate and formaldehyde.  My conclusion was that they were fooled with soil data, which is obviously the case.

When I called out the bogus information the followers of the site immediately jumped to diffuse-and-attack mode.  The comments below show this beautifully.  Not only do they try to link me to Big Corporate Ag (predictably), they also move the goalpost--   since they have been caught red handed either lying or spreading bad information unknowingly... the focus changes from the food, to the soil.  Typical.

I'm even reminded hat I'm not a soil scientist.  It is all about tearing me down, not supporting their information and providing a source or additional evidence about this magic GMO high-zinc corn.

In the same passage  I was criticized by others on that site, again connected to  Monsanto (this time because I did a video for Biofortified.org and they were apparently noted by Monsanto as a good source of biotech information (talk about six degrees of Monsanto separation!)).  You can read it all in the comments section of the website, or in a nugget like this one:



Gemma tells me of my close affiliation with Monsanto.  Wow!  I'm almost president of the company! 


Then my comments were removed, censored, because science does not mesh with their delusion.

Unfortunately I didn't get screen caps of my comments, but they all have been removed.  You can tell where they were by reading the comments section.


You can see here in Gemma Starr's comments that she really respects scientists. She was responding to my gentle and kind educational comments meant to guide and teach.  Glad she can "LOL" at the people that speak from science-based evidence.


Censored.  Nice job Moms Across America.  You are absolutely the crappiest moms I can imagine-- insulate people, including children, from the truth you find inconvenient to your cause.  Shame on you.  Teach your children to think critically and understand reality from fantasy.  That's the best gift you can give them.

THE BEST PART is that the woman at Moms Across America was happy to put a lame and rambling (borderline insane) comment on this Illumination blog.  Talk about internet balls!  Distills facts from her website that I present, but then wants her insanity represented on a scientific site!

I'm happy to leave her comments on my site.  She makes my point impeccably.


Here's what you get from Moms Across America: 

--Publication of a bogus report, or at least misrepresentation of real data

-- Discrediting scientific credentials of a helpful scientist

-- Development of tenuous links to try to show conflict of interest, again to discredit good scientific evidence

-- A desire to be heard on a reciprocal platform.  Good Ol' Zen Honeycutt wants to be heard here on Illumination, but my comments are no allowed on Moms Across America!   They want to give the illusion of a debate on my site, but a "no room for other thoughts" approach on theirs.


-- ULTIMATELY, they censor a scientist providing helpful guidance because it does not support their inconvenient interpretations and threatens their religion of "science/scientists=liars"  

To those on the fence on this issue, this behavior should be extremely telling.

The insanity continues.  Soil data are shown as corn nutritional data and the credulous keep on believing it, defending it, and teaching it to a new generation of suckers.  Just more work for me and the world's thousands of independent, academic scientists to clean up later.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

An Anti-Intellectual Attack Against Young Women

A petition has gone viral.   Spawned from an ambitious, maybe eight year old girl Alicia Serratos of Orange County, CA, a petition has been launched on Change.org to persuade the Girl Scouts of America to remove transgenic (GMO) ingredients from girl scout cookies.  Alicia claims (well, her parents claim) that "GMOs studies (sic) (in animals) have linked them to infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system."


The page from Alica's anti-GMO cookie petition.  It is hard to get a hunger for cookies when you have been fed full of deception. 



Of course, there is no real evidence to support her claims of health problems that is accepted by the scientific community.  Scientific consensus is that transgenic crops have an outstanding safety record and have no plausible mechanism of harm.

While her parents should be congratulated about raising a daughter that is inspired to take action and create change, they should be harshly criticized for perpetuating the mis-truths of activists that want to instill fear. Her parents provide a conduit to push the agenda of the deceptive.  It does not teach Alicia critical thinking, how to evaluate science, and how to identify real experts to help her address her concerns. THESE are the processes we should be teaching our daughters!

Instead, little Alicia will be taught to criticize good technology, demonize scientists, and parrot contrived messages of fear. She'll develop the credulity that leaves her vulnerable to those that wish to take advantage of her.  She won't question the reality of a claim, a dangerous place to be as a young woman getting ready to take on life.

Everyone agrees that we need to be teaching young women STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects and developing their interest in these areas.  Here, Alicia is being taught that scientists are unreliable and that technology is dangerous.

It also potentially tarnishes the Girl Scouts of the USA brand, and affects fundraising for an organization that does good things for young women with the money.

To raise a generation of strong and competent women we need to teach them facts, not use them as pawns to reinforce a misguided parental agenda.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Never Agree to Disagree in Science

Every now and then I'll be in a discussion with someone on a scientific topic.  There are three conversation enders that I abhor. 

1.  "You are just a shill for (insert company, political party, etc here), how much are they paying you?"  Read about that one here. 


2.   "What-ever."  Which is code for "I got nuthin'" 


3.  "We'll just have to agree to disagree." 


I just hate that last one, and it is the typical refuge of someone intelligent that has walled off their desire, but not ability, to learn about a given topic. 


For me, I can't "Agree to Disagree" about a scientific topic. If I'm wrong, please show me the evidence-- convince me. If you're wrong, it is important that I show you my evidence and convince you. 



Open hearts and minds can agree to find Truth, 
and discussion of evidence is the first step.  Scientists and
teachers are, by nature, compelled to do this  


Hair combing poster child Albert Einstein once said, "I'm not interested in being right, I am only concerned with whether I am or not.".  


This sentiment encapsulates the approach of most scientists.  Being right is not our job.  Testing a hypothesis and finding support for it, or evidence against it, is our job.  Our goal is to be right or wrong, just not somewhere in between.


As teachers we synthesize the information we have, distill patterns and form interpretations and conclusions.  This is what we teach, it is "right" until someone shows us otherwise. As a teacher, I care too much to let you be wrong, so on subjects where I am an authority I feel a sense of duty to add my thoughts.  In subjects where I am not an authority I feel a need to learn. 


When discussing a topic with a scientist bring real evidence, not bluster, accusations or finger pointing.  Leave anecdotes, hearsay and flimsy evidence at home.  Disagree on leaving the topic open ended.  Agree to civil discussion and learning.  Agree on seeking the truth, as the truth has no agenda. 


We never have to agree to disagree if we both agree on the Truth.





Monday, October 29, 2012

Leaving the Limbaughs of the Left: Parting Thoughts on Prop37

Over the last month I've had a lot to think about.  I visited several 3rd grade classes to teach kids about plant biology.  They all learned what makes plants unique from animals and how plants grow and develop.  In each class we did a simple experiment with two test tubes, two seeds, and two pieces of foil. Each tube contained a milliliter of water/agar. The kids would add one seed to each tube. They would wrap one in foil, leave the other uncovered, then scrunch up the other piece of foil as a base.

Thirty minutes, a few cents of science surplus, and a huge retreat from book science for the kids. The elegant simplicity of plant development. The happiness that comes when someone that is not their teacher brings them stuff!

They went nuts, as always. They loved the test tubes, the seeds, and any science stuff you could give them. They were all excited to participate in science. In third grade science is still cool.

Special guest talks at local schools remind me about how there still
are minds out there that are willing to think critically, consider evidence, and learn. Many adults need to learn from them.

Every single time, I leave the school feeling like I have relevance and impact, like I've contributed to changing minds.  I feel that I taught science to willing participants that longed to learn something new.

It is a great feeling to be welcomed for what I know and how I teach it.  It is great to be appreciated for what I voluntarily give and how it can shape future decisions in children, where STEM disciplines will be in high demand.

Too bad the world is not full of third graders.  Instead we have self-entitled whiners that have coalesced into a body of experts with expertise that no true expert can approach.

I'm out of the GMO/prop37 discussion.


Reaching Out to the Unreachable

After thousands of discussions on blogs and comments, emails and in-person talks, I'm hanging up my efforts.  After patience, kindness and reaching out, I'm now just reaching in. Why?  After all, I've studied the field for 25 years, I understand it and can communicate it.

It is because I am deflated by those I engage. I cannot teach the unteachable, and I've wondered why I even bother to try.  These are not wide-eyed and eager to learn third graders. These are angry ideologs, steeped in misinformation that reject expert testimony and informed discussion. They have made up their minds, and no amount of evidence will change that. Limbaughs, all.

Now maybe the insulting comments, nasty emails and even veiled death threats might stop.  I'll have more time to serve my real clients-- my students and postdocs in the lab, the students I serve as Graduate Coordinator, the students at UF, my colleagues, my field and growers in my state.  And of course, third graders.


Anti-Intellectualism Runs Wild

I don't really have any hard vested interest in GMO policy. I have no corporate licensing, no commercialized materials. Despite the unending accusations, I have no funding to lose.

My interest was to use the whole GMO discussion as a vehicle to teach science and the scientific method.  Pure and simple.  What is good evidence, what does the evidence tell us, and how should we react to it?  Over the years I've used climate change and vaccination as similar platforms to teach about science too, so it is not just GMO.

But in a world obsessed with "I have a right to __________.  I don't care what you say or what you know, I demand to have it my way", can education get any traction?  How can I change hearts and minds when hearts are hard and minds are locked? 

Everyone feels like their opinion needs to be honored, that they "have it right", that they know the facts.  It is wholesale anti-intellectualism at its finest.


Disappointed in the Lefties

In the last seven days I've been called everything from nazi, to a scumbag, to a criminal to a corporate shill.  I rode a bike with a guy and when he learned I was a professor he called me "another overpaid liberal".  I can't win!

I swing from left to right on issue to issue, so my political philosophies don't fit conveniently in a box.  However, I absolutely relate to a more left-leaning mindset, especially on social issues. It is a shame to witness the people I agree with on so many levels go completely off the deep end on the science of transgenic crops.  I expect this from the evolution hating, stem cell bashing, earth cooling goofballs on the right, but from those that allegedly embrace learning and education?

I've found many that oppose biotechnology to be some of the meanest, nastiest, narrow-minded people  I have ever encountered.  Those that say they honor nature, reason, and peace are such hypocrites. They too can be pointy, ignorant, arrogant and unchangable, anchored in the mud of lies and misinformation that they refuse to be pulled out of. They blatantly shun the lifeline of logic.

In many ways they are more bitter people than other science deniers. Back in May of 2009 when vaccination issues were hot I got a lot of angry emails for criticizing Oprah and Jenny McCarthy, but they were nowhere near as aggressive as the anti-GMO correspondences.


Not Quitting, Shifting

Rather than waste my time trying to influence those that have already made up their minds in the religion of GMO=bad, I'm going to invest my time where it can make a difference.  I cannot change the present-- that train has left the station.  I can influence the future. I'm going to put my two test tubes, seeds and foil in as many little fumbling hands as I can.  I'm going to start a YouTube video series on science fair projects. I'm going to teach science and reason to the willing, rather than beating my head against the wall against the inertia of belief in an anti-science fantasy.


Changing My Position-- Yes on 37!
I'm flipping on this issue and now fully support labeling.  I hope the initiative succeeds and that the labels are affixed, that the kind supporters of Prop37 put Seralini's rat tumor pics on every box, jar and can.  I hope they run a campaign of fear, steering consumer sentiment, collapsing current farming options for corn, soy and canola.  Let's switch to dangerous old herbicides, send those spray planes out in droves to dump their poisons and burn that fuel.  Make farmers pay more for fuel, labor, pesticides.  Hand those costs down to consumers and make the poorest of the poor even poorer with higher food prices.

Let's further empower the Big Ag corporations they hate by forcing them back into production of hybrid seeds, costing more, performing less, and still not able to be replanted in subsequent seasons.

I feel bad saying that, but let's use this opportunity to show the angry mobs that alter law by mass ignorance that there are consequences for their actions. Just like we are turning a blind eye on any real energy policy, let's just let the anti-GMO folks have their way and push their agenda to flip modern agriculture on its big dumb ass.  Yes on 37!

If you think it sucks to pay for foreign oil, wait until you get to pay for foreign food.


Stick a Fork In It. 

I'm about to say a selfish comment I never thought I'd say.  I just don't care anymore. Screw giving talks in public forums only to be shouted down as a "witch" or "corporate stooge".  Forget about providing facts and evidence to those that call me a liar. No more wasting my time with those that care only about a naturalistic fallacy, a narrow worldview that parallels the beliefs of creationists, climate deniers and birthers.

They cannot be changed.

Sadly I hope for the wheels to come off and for the worst possible outcomes from our ignorant anti-science decisions.  Let's heat up the planet until crops can't grow, people starve and there's no biotech solutions. Let's pay $21 for a tomato and $8 for an ear of corn.  I'm a freakin' cockroach, I'm remarkably low-maintenance, clever and resourceful.  I'll be just fine.

I just proofread that paragraph and I'm ashamed at what I've become.  I have to gracefully bow out of this conversation.


You Didn't Win
My retreat from this topic does not mean that the anti-GMO interests have won. In fact, they lost.  They lost a potentially powerful advocate when their interests are on the line, someone that can effectively oppose corporate science when appropriate.  Winners are those that respect my time and scientific ability, as now I can apply it to issues that matter most.


In Conclusion

Maybe it all needs to collapse before it will get better and we start to trust science and scientists again.  In the anti-GMO, pro-prop37 circles Seralini is a god and I'm a fool.  They can have him and his pseudoscience  to speed our slide into idiocracy.

I see why scientists don't engage the public.  The public is maybe not deserving of our time.  Public perception has kept science funding stagnant, as if we're viewed as flimsy frauds that will trade truth and integrity for a few shekels and Monsanto cap, nobody is going to demand we get more resources to do public science.  So we sit sequestered in our offices, pounding keyboards 80 hours a week, fighting for a few hyper-competitive grants and getting turned down 90% of the time if we are really good. If you think that's not the case, then why am I one of a sliver of scientists out pushing for public outreach and interaction?

There are people that do appreciate the effort, the folks in retirement communities, the interested students and of course the third graders. Maybe by teaching science earlier in a climate where science matters, where food is precious and increasingly rare, we'll start to welcome the informed thoughts of those that have them.

Thanks, I'll still be around. I'll answer questions at kevinfolta@gmail.com.  Always glad to help, but I'm not going to be Seralini-worshiping activist punching bag.  Done. It has been said that the only thing you get from arguing with an idiot is two idiots.  Time to excuse myself from this discussion.


Please click on this link and read the lyrics carefully.  It was written in 2002 in response to our nation's leadership at the time, but the lyrics apply to any situation where the least prepared to make decisions are making them. Read and think about scientists vs. prop37... 




Monday, October 15, 2012

Comments Blocked by the "Right to Know"

Awesome.  For the second time in as many days I have been blocked from providing scientific content to rants on YouTube regarding California Proposition 37.  After all, it is about the Right to Know, as long as it is something they want to hear!

The situation happened on a YouTube video "That Monsanto does not want you to see, Brought to you by Nutiva and Elevate".  It presents Danny DeVito, Bill (don't vaccinate your kids) Maher, and other Hollywood luminaries that I don't recognize.  They tell us that it is a 'right to know' what's in our food, a point I don't organically disagree with, yet maintain that prop37 is an inappropriate, highly flawed, vehicle.

So I begin to comment in the 'comments' section under the name "Swampwaffle".  You can see, my comments are scientific, concise, polite and engaging.  I invite opportunities to share evidence and partake in a scholarly discussion.  With one particularly energetic person who repeatedly called me a "shill", "Nazi" and told me "fuck off and die", I suggested that he come visit me and share the same bravado.  I'd let a little air out of his stupid balloon real quick. Actually, my heart goes out to the little bastard and if he showed up I'd buy him a beer and some deodorant, then talk about how wonderful science really is. That's how I roll.

The best part is, they removed my comments about Bill Maher believing that vaccination was evil.  Later, after several back-n-forths with various posters, the owner of the video has blocked me from posting!  So much for Right to Know!  More like right to know, as long as it is something we agree with.



The poster of a celebrity-studded Prop37 "Right to Know" video has blocked me
from commenting on the video.  Oh cruel irony! 


To me, I'll take this as a badge of honor.  A voice of scientific reason is polluting the retarded sea of contorted belief and fantasy.  This is the absolute perfect example of how this movement reeks of anti-science, anti-intellectualism and flawed logic.  They are little robots, filled with malice and no scientific training, hiding behind anonymous monikers, wielding empty threats and unsubstantiated claims. 

Welcome to the bankrupt logic and reasoning of the anti-GMO movement. 

Maybe you'll be compelled to waste some of your time informing the great throng of the unteachable. The video is here.  Hit mute first before loading.  On second thought, leave it on.  It is all about the Right to Know. 

A Response to Carey Gillam