It was a beautiful Saturday to drive to Ocala and see the Marion County Master Gardener's garden show. It was even sweeter because I was on the schedule to talk about GMO Technology: Coming to a Garden Near You, a provocative title for sure.
You may have already read some of the grief the organizers received for having me come give a science talk. Chatter on their Facebook page concerned the organizers that there would be trouble brewing, such as violent protests and angry throngs. They emailed me and let me know that there would be police present and they'd be checking the room.
Of course, I sent a note back that it was completely unnecessary, that there's no problem and that such things didn't concern me. They don't. It does give you a sense of what happens when we even dare to discuss science. What would Galileo do?
The audience was small and everyone was attentive and interested. There were a few people that clearly disagreed with the technology and we shared a reasonable dialog. The major points were right from the GMO Bingo card, with some new ones, including allegations of nefarious use of aluminum tolerance genes so that plants could survive spraying with chemtrails.
The saddest part is that some members of the audience knew every cent that Monsanto and the tree company ArborGen contributed to researchers or programs at the University of Florida. Of course, none of this gets to me or just about any specific researchers. They go to a scientist to answer a question. We're experts in what we do. Companies want to pay for that expertise.
Overall, it was a good time. One woman there told me that the last time I spoke there it changed her mind 100%. That makes it worth it.
Information and links from the talk:
1. It was suggested that Japan does not accept Hawaiian papayas. I indicated that the policy had changed that the point was disputed by an audience member.
-- After a quick check, it turns out that Japan does accept Hawaiian GM papayas as of December 1, 2011. Link
2. The Indian suicide issue. Here are some resources regarding that allegation.
-- Here are great posts on the myth click here and here!
-- Here is a link to an entry-level dissection of the issue by Dr. Ronald Herring of Cornell, the political science expert that has studied the dynamics of cotton farming and its impacts.
-- And GM cotton makes farming profitable. A link from PNAS, one of our most prestigious journals, points to "large and sustainable benefits, which contribute to positive economic and social development in India."
3. A vague point was made about GM bacteria leading to the "deaths of 37 Americans" and many others made ill... that was all I had to go with, but assumed it was the trypophan issue. Years ago a Japanese supplement company made tryptophan as a dietary supplement and didn't purify it correctly, many people developed a disease known as EMS. Anti-GM folks point to this as a fault of GM, when it was a fault of manufacturing. A full discussion is here.
4. As always, I'm accused of having no professional integrity and judgement because of the claim that scientists are all bought and paid for stooges for Monsanto. The claim came up again today, and I can direct you to my feelings on the subject here and here.