I’ve been extremely critical of Vani Hari, aka “The Food
Babe”. She freely demonstrates, without
humility, her complete disregard for science and evidence when vilifying food,
chemistry and farming. She has amassed a substantial group of venomous followers
that subscribe to her leadership.
As we attempt to illuminate products,
technology and method to feed a growing population, Hari’s shameful resistance
to reality needs to be met. We've done that, and I'm proud of the push back from Steven Novella, Kavin Senapathy, John Coupland, David Gorski, The Chow Babe and the Food Hunk. Well done.
But when scientists take the time to show her errors, she lashes
back with a string of lies and allegations that are truly curious. She’s stated in her recent writings that I’m
just a pawn doing the bidding of corporate ag, which of course, is supported by
It turns into two groups. One that manufactures the trash, and another that points a finger at manufactured trash. Do we ever change anything?
What if the charismatic Hari could be convinced to teach the science of food and farming?
Could she be a powerful ally?
Conflict and debate are time consuming and they don’t change
true believers. Can we shift Vani Hari herself?
Instead of working against her, can we look at what she does well, and
maybe help her come to science?
Let’s say some good things about her. She’s clearly gifted at communicating a
message that resonates. She has a huge
following that hangs on her every word. She does a good presentation live, and can connect with an audience.
What if Hari were to take a long look in the mirror and
decide that while scaring people into boycotts and book buying pays the bills, the
legacy associated with it is embarrassing.
Time will frown on Hari, and it already is happening. While adored by internet fans, scientists,
physicians, the food industry, farmers and science fans see her clearly as the empty information vessel she
I’d welcome her change.
I’d be glad to help her with that change. Can we as a scientific
community reach out to Vani and welcome her into our fold? She’s got a lot of learning to do, but we’re
Recently I’ve given a number of talks and interviews where I’ve
been described as the “guy that stood up to the Food Babe”. While standing up for science is important, I’d
rather be described as the guy that changed her mind because I took the time to teach the facts.
We know that we’re not going to change hearts and minds pounding people with
the science fist. We need to share our
ideas, revise her way of thinking, and educate her about science.
She’s wrong, but I don’t think she’s stupid. She bought into her own mistakes and was
picked up by the momentum. Can we
#reachouttovani and build trust, teach science, and motivate her to work with
us to shape the future of food?
I started to think about the little bottle of shampoo that I'd get in a hotel. I'd use a little goob of it, but then would think about where the rest of the bottle would go next. Certainly they don't have people spending time on refilling them....
My guess was that they went in the garbage, an assumption confirmed by discussions with housekeeping. So I decided that I was going to cut my soap-suds footprint by taking the little bottles home and using them there.
Now a new first-world problem.... I accrue close to one-hundred little bottles.
So I decided to marry them into a common container, a strategic shampoo reserve. Here the many fragrances and colors combine into a delightful mixture that feels weird, smells awful, and doesn't work well.
An addition of Citron Essence hotel shampoo to the strategic shampoo reserve.
I'm glad to report that as of 12/7/2014 the reserve stands at about 120 ml, and with a spring of dense travel will probably reach close to 500 ml soon.
I'm also thinking that conditioner, mouthwash and hand moisturizer might have occasionally found their way into the mix too.
So if you are on a plane or in an elevator and smell citrus, hemp, basil, passion fruit, almond oil, green tea, avocado extract, saddlewood, musk and saskatoon berry mixed together in a twisted produce cocktail that's more like daiquiri vomit than an attractive essence of nature, look for me. You might be smelling my head.
Food Democracy Now quotes Dr. Huber about sacrificing our future and children.
He claims now for almost a decade to have an organism in his hands that contributes to a suite of human disease, illness and death.
He will not release it to the scientific community.
How many must die before he will stop sacrificing our children and our health? Dr Huber, when will you release information on the deadly pathogen? What are you waiting for?
One year ago on November 12, 2013, Dr. Don Huber, Emeritus Professor at Purdue University stood in front of an audience here in Gainesville, FL and told them about his research. He claimed to have isolated an organism, a new "entity" that exudes from GMO soybeans. It infects cows and causes abortions and causes many diseases in humans.
The audience gasped with every picture of dead calves. They were in shock about his findings. Dr. Huber had unveiled proof that the GMO industry and Monsanto were killing us all.
So they thought.
The whole story is here. After his talk, where I sat silently. Marty Mesh, the moderator, pointed me out in the crowd and said, "I know you disagree with everything he said, but we only have time for a question or two."
I didn't have a question, but instead an offer. Huber claims to have cultured the organism to purity. He says it obeys Koch's postulates. Still, its identity is unknown.
I simply said, "Dr. Huber, I would be glad to help you by sequencing the DNA of your culture. I could tell you exactly what the organism is by the New Year (it was Nov 12)".
(all of this was recorded, without his knowledge)
I continued, "You get all the credit, we solve this problem, and we end GMO agriculture-- All data will be open access-- public data. Can I count on you to share the culture? "
He then spent 15 minutes telling us why the culture could not be DNA sequenced, and that the organism has no DNA.
This is quite a departure from his position on Genetic Roulette where he claims to have isolated DNA from the organism and it is being sequenced.
That's a screenshot from Genetic Roulette. New Organism.
When I ask to help sequence it, he claims no DNA!!!
My kind offer was turned away. No DNA. He then moved the goalpost to a "prion" or "biomatrix" in subsequent talks, both which could still be sequenced using proteomic and protein-sequencing methods.
His facade is crumbling.
Huber Tries to Get Me Fired
A few days later he objects to my request and sends a scathing letter full of lies to my boss, the Senior Vice President at the university I work at. You can read Huber's allegations against me here.
He made claims that were not true, that my recordings showed where not true, and were 100% legally actionable!
I chose not to go after him for libel and trying to get me fired with lies. I'm bigger than he is. It is better to let him twist in the wind of his own lies. If I sue him, I'm a bully. If time goes by and we just remind the world that he is letting people, plants and animals die for his own gratification, then that's even better.
Such a great reputation too. Everyone wonders what happened to him. Many of my colleagues had him as a teacher and now wonder why he's just gone goofy. Some have said, "He always was nuts".
What Does the CDC Say?
The Centers for Disease Control would certainly be aware of a novel infectious agent that was killing humans, cattle and plants. I submitted a question about it to the CDC website. I only got a generic auto reply.
I then submitted a paper letter via certified mail. I got this email response:
Well the CDC has no record of Huber's deadly agent either.
Somehow he knows more than the folks that know everything about infectious diseases.
So Huber is going around talking about this deadly infectious agent that is killing people, livestock and plants, and it is a threat to food security-- BUT he has kept it from the CDC? He claims, on recording, to have exported it to China and other countries.
When does this guy stop being an anti-GMO hero and start being held accountable as a terrorist, or even more, someone that is letting people and animals die, and endangering our food supply, because he has some ego issue? He obviously does not want us to know what his organism is!
Did he create it? Is he going to hold the world hostage with it? When will others start to get upset?
People scream for justice against Monsanto for no confirmed deaths. Huber claims an organism that is killing people and animals daily, and jeopardizes our food supply.... for the last ten years! When can we decide that he needs to seek additional scientific assistance to end this problem?
Or maybe, when will his supporters and the anti-GMO community decide to hold him accountable for his charade?
I'm not holding my breath. As long as he says something they find palatable, they won't ask for evidence. Sad that a credentialed academic went this direction.
My hope is that he'll come clean. It never is too late to grow, and his legacy as a decent scientist has been overstepped by him being a footnote in a joke book, claiming harm from a fictional being, and trying to punish the scientists that only ask for him to show evidence. Shame.
I was really excited to watch the Intelligence Squared debate. I've been looking forward to it for seemingly ages.
Bottom line-- it was as predicted. Fear, questions, and magical thinking against science, reason and evidence. And science won. Not only did science win, the fear-based empty fact-free claims from the other side are permanently stored online for everyone to enjoy forever.
I'm not going into too much post-event analysis, but I will take the time to point out some of the major things we all need to take note of.
Mellon has no clue. Here's someone that is so out of her league. Her antiquated talking points are no match for reality. She did a nice slam on conventional breeders, people that are working very hard to improve crops using cross breeding-- and she seems to believe they are not doing a very good job.
She also seems to think that Europe is this wonderful place that has ag all figured out. Of course, they import massive amounts of food from the USA, Brazil and Argentina because they are not self sustaining! Here's a nice article by Steve Savage on those not-European-food eaters.
And she keeps saying how the technology has not lived up to its promise. No kidding. If people like her were not standing in the way of every innovation, blocking every life-saving potential breakthrough, and tarnishing the reputation of every scientific technique-- maybe the technology would exceed expectations!
The card got a good beating! I think I did hear Benbrook say "antibiotic resistance" and we came close on Starlink!
Chuck Benbrook really started to unwind in his final statement. Defeated and called on his own errors, he spent the last 2 minute conclusion time on glyphosate. Not GM crops, not technology, but the herbicide. He made the claim that "its in our blood and in our hair", and I think we need to demand some evidence for that. Earlier we exchanged a pointy tweet about umbilical cords, or else he might have rolled that out too.
As usual, he combines pesticides as herbcides and insecticides. It is the only way to massage the statistics to get the conclusion he wants. Clearly these products cut insecticides, and yes, herbicide use is up, but glyphosate has much lower impact on health and environment. Shame.
Most importantly the results show what we know. Most people that are undecided will gravitate toward science when they are offered facts over fear.
I also hope they do this again, only next time it should be Alison and Robb against Jeffrey Smith and Stephanie Seneff.
I received an email yesterday from someone I had not spoken two in probably six months.
Back in April I gave a presentation to the postdocs at the University of Florida. It was advice about communicating their science, sharing their science, and thoughts on job interviews.
Such things are sorely needed. We produce way more Ph.D.s than the number of jobs to support them, so we end up with a large number of postdocs in circulation. These folks are professional scientists, as good as they get.
We just don't have enough jobs for all of them, so it is not unusual for a Ph.D. scientist to be making $35,000 a year, six years after the degree is over, with no hard promise of a job. Interviews are ultra competitive and skilled scientists often fail at that last critical moment-- impress the committee on paper and get the interview, but fall short in person and don't land the job.
After the seminar I was approached by a 5th year postdoc. We can call him Dr. S, since he has a very distinct name and I don't want to embarrass him. He said that he has a great record on paper, that he gets interviewed for every job he applies to, but never gets selected for the position.
Clearly, Dr. S has some academic firepower but was lacking tools and coaching on how to communicate his science.
We spent three sessions going through his job talk. The first one revealed why he was never chosen. He talked over my head, lost me in the first slide, and his entire presentation was good, but didn't connect. I didn't fall in love with his science and didn't imagine him as a good colleague.
Over two more sessions we adjusted the talk. We changed his approach to the talk, developed a sense of audience, helped him connect as a person, built a new philosophy toward the interview, and talked about how to answer questions.
I received this yesterday:
One of the many days lately where I need a science kleenex.
This is just a reminder that science needs to flow in order to work. How many talented scientists are trapped in jobs they don't want because they simply lack the courage and training to tell others about their passions and ideas in a human way? How many could land the job if they realized that a job seminar is not about beating scientists to death with data-- they want a clever colleague, a friend, a solution maker, someone to complement their department's expertise.
It is a classic case of forgetting why you are doing a job talk and who the audience is. They want you to succeed, they want a new colleague, they asked you to try out for that part! Rather than blinding them with brilliance and science-- simply share the work you care about.
Don't be the unreachable scientist on a stage. Be the clever friend down the hall.
It worked for Dr. S, and maybe it was just his time and had nothing to do with my help. However, I was grateful for the letter. It turns out to be probably the best three hours I invested in 2014.
A few weeks ago I wrote a note to Bill Nye about his incorrect opinions on transgenic technology. No response. Sort of.
I got an email and was told I could share the content, but not the name, and no screen shots or direct quotes. Apparently this is someone that knows about Bill Nye, his production group and his handlers. The feeling is that it is from someone close to him, or someone on his team. It could be completely false too. I'm about 50/50 on authenticity.
I would just post the whole thing. But, he said I could use only paraphrased information in a blog, and asked me to not use his name, so I won't. The note says that if I play by these rules maybe I'll get more info, and that as a science fan he's hoping for the debate. Weird.
The note said that Nye's associates seek to use him as a political wedge, and that Nye himself is right on board. It is apparently a transition of Nye from a media science communicator to a political figure to work against right-leaning causes like creationism and climate change denial. Those are his new political issues.
This note also told me that his group is a cluster of Hollywood advisors that have strong feelings about GMOs and actually have encouraged him to speak out for labeling and against the technology.
According to the short note, Nye does what his people tell him to do, and that is defusing climate and creationism. They want the GMO issue to go away fast. Apparently he will not make public comments on this going forward, even though a complete ban is what his handlers want.
So there you go. It may be complete crap, but let's see what the next communication looks like. No news from Nye's camp, so the thoughts in the email are consistent with what is unfolding.