Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Girl Scouts- Standing Up for Science

Two years ago I wrote a blog about an eight-year-old California girl that started an online petition to remove transgenic-crop-based ingredients from Girl Scout cookies. Again, I admired her drive and interest, but was appropriately critical of her surfacy scientific understanding. She claimed 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."

It could be an honest third-grade interpretation of the scholarly literature.  Probably not. 

More likely she was simply a pawn of flimsy parents that paid good money for an anti-GMO book at Whole Foods, only to have their food fears reinforced by a popular TV doctor, leading to the de-education of their daughter.  


That's something I'm firmly against, as I want young women to be excited about science, not taught to fear it because parents are twits. 

I wrote a blog about Girl Scout anti-science activism and ticked off a few parents.  You'd think they'd be thanking me. 

That day I received a prickly email from her furious mother, angry that I’d criticize her daughter and her anti-GMO mission.  Kindly, I offered to travel to her daughter’s school, at my personal expense, to talk to her class about crop biotechnology.  I never heard back from that irate mom. Seems that facts incompatible with her narrow worldview is not welcome.


Every year activists pressure the Girl Scouts to use non-transgenic-plant-based ingredients in their cookies.  You can find dozens of websites and Facebook pages with demanding such ingredients be removed-- or feel the wrath of the Brownies.  

Their Facebook page pushes the anti-scientific agenda that harms young women.  I've been preemptively blocked from commenting

But so far the Girl Scouts have stood firm with science, and this year made a strong statement that they would side with science before folding to a handful of activist mothers, whose arguments are as thin as their mints. 

Excerpted from the Girl Scout's statement.  This is how you build strong women-- Teach them to think critically and to embrace science. 

We need to build the next generation of strong women by teaching how to use all tools, including biotechnology, as mechanisms to help solve at least some of the world’s grandest challenges. Girls need to be excited to participate in science, and visualize how to use it to help the environment, serve the hungry, and drive sustainable agriculture. They are the next generation of leaders that will actually get to deploy the molecular toolbox that four decades of scientists (molecular biology is about 50% women) created.

To teach girls to fear science, or to fight against science, is incredibly damaging. I'll go so far as to say it is even child abuse. It instantly eliminates options from their futures, and sets them up to be easily manipulated by others. 

Furthermore, to inform young women that science is the zone of liars, conspiracy, and company-owned sellouts is a tremendous harm that only pushes them away from the future’s most promising careers.  Women are central to driving the new technology that will frame the future of food. Biotechnology, with its benefits and limitations, will be at least part of that future.

Instead of enlisting girls into internet campaigns designed to coerce removal of safe ingredients from luxury foods, let’s have an honest conversation about what biotechnology can do to help farmers, the environment, the consumer, and the developing world.  Let’s talk about how girls can grow up to lead positions in agricultural science, biotechnology, bioinformatics, Big Data, and the highest paying jobs of the future that have deliciously wonderful human benefits and sweet environmental impacts. 

Somewhere out there there’s a girl by a card table full of cookies that just might grow up to solve some of our world’s most pressing problems. She’s sharp, inspired, and poised to make a difference. That is, if we support her development in critical thinking and STEM-- and steer her away from the misgivings of parents that place a broken political motivation above teaching their daughters to integrate with reality. 




Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Johnson's Fights Chemophobia

While other companies roll over and reformulate ancient recipes when Food Babe Vani Hari comes to town, Johnson's is fighting back.  Clearly influenced by Hari's inane claims that "if you can't pronounce it, it is bad for you", Johnson and Johnson have produced a video for the Carah's Life series.  Here Carah (a mom with a You Tube channel documenting her experiences) addresses the concerns of chemicals in baby products, reminding us that everything is made up of chemicals. 

My new hero.  Carah Amelie speaks of chemicals, and those long science-sounding words that freak out Food Babes.

Carah is exactly what we need.  She's slick but unpolished, articulate but clunky, beautiful and plain. She's any of us.  We believe her.  She conjures credibility and trust.  She knows what she's talking about.

Johnson's, I'm going to go buy some baby shampoo and give it to someone with a dirty baby, just because you hired Carah and made this video.

And huge cred to J&J for not capitulating to the nonsense, to standing up for science, and teaching rather than frightening. 


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Never Met a "Merv" I Didn't Like

The folks over at Safe Affordable Food retweeted one of my recent articles on the cost of activism.

A guy named Merv was not very happy about that, nor very congenial. 

I was nice. 


Friday, December 12, 2014

The Value of Vani

Can she be an ally?

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 zero evidence.

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 truly is. 

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 good teachers.

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?


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Status of the Strategic Shampoo Reserve

I hate waste. I like clean hair.

I also travel.  A lot.

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.


Friday, December 5, 2014

Don Huber's Mystery Organism- One Year Later


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.

Shame. 










Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Thank God It's On the Internet FOREVER.

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.

That would be worth watching!