Monday, May 9, 2016

Done with VH.

She has my emails, I held up my end of the deal in full transparency and compliance. It is in her court. Will she do the right thing?  One follower over on Facebook does not think so, and provided the most eloquent statement about the situation. I'm done now.

Let's focus on science. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

My Letter to Vani Hari

Public records requests are an important tool for journalists and other investigators to obtain information to check public employees' for episodes of wrongdoing.  Today there are two alarming trends. 

1. Politicians with deep pockets and plenty of attorneys find ways to make sure the records are not made public.

2. Scientists that do not have deep pockets and attorneys are seeing abuse of the system for elaborate witch hunts, expeditions that find no evidence of wrongdoing, yet result in potentially career-damaging manufactured narratives.  In other words, when you teach a scientific topic or do research that some find objectionable, your records can be used to harm your career. It has been seen by researchers in climate, vaccines, animal research, genetic engineering, and most recently, fisheries.  

Last year my institution received a Public Records Request from Vani Hari, The Food Babe.  It was indeed curious, and it didn't take long to realize that this was retaliation for my scientific assessment and criticisms of her claims. On her website, she states that she feels Monsanto compelled my speech. She also publishes false information about me and my statements about a relationship with that company. 

Mega-extreme narcissism alert!  When a scientist objects to you lying to students at his university--- it must have been because he was paid off by a company.  Makes perfect sense. 

When offered an opportunity to win public sentiment, will she choose the path of harassment and slander, or use her talents in concert with the scientific community? 

My university compiled 2707 pages of my private email, redacting anything that had student information or proprietary information. She requested we search "Food" "Babe" and "Food Babe", "Vani" "Hari" and "Vani Hari" among other terms. 

No Monsanto smoking gun, because there was no gun to smoke. I just saw many private conversations that had nothing to do with her, but mentioned one of these terms. Consistent with the law, all of them are included. 

I read through them before our university lawyers did.  Nothing there. So I thought that I might do a test, extend a gluten-free olive branch to Ms. Hari. 

I sent her a letter telling here there was nothing to see, and suggested she repeal the request before it cost the public a small fortune.  That's a good gamble.  She'd be viewed favorably, win back some of the middle that sees her as a bully, and maybe ingratiate a scientific community that sees her as an annoying loon.

If she decided to proceed, and there's nothing to reveal (which there isn't), she just confirms everyone's beliefs that she's a profit-driven narcissist happy to waste public money because she knows more than scientists.  

Worse, if the records are released and she proceeds to fabricate stories like Thacker, Lipton and others did-- she'll look awful. 

I gave her a choice and welcomed her to embrace science. 

No response. I emailed it to the same email address where the record were delivered, so it was a legitimate email address. 

Here is the letter I sent. 

The disparity between my "1100 records" and the actual 2707 is because the university conducted their own search of my records. I did not include the full attachments, which are talks available on Slideshare, and other redundant documents. The university gives everything!

It is quite a concept.  Unfortunately the desire to push forward with the fishing expedition tells me that I best brace for Round II of manufactured, damaging claims. 

My letter was sincere. If she were to step to the science side, her star would rise to amazing heights.  She could be a science communicator rather than a shill for her own image and endorsements.

It will be an interesting couple of weeks. 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

TB35 Jayson Lusk and Unnaturally Delicious

This week's Talking Biotech Podcast features Dr. Jayson Lusk. We discuss his new book, Unnaturally Delicious and cover a huge range of topics from what "natural" means to GMO labeling.

Friday, May 6, 2016

The First Seized Emails- Your Tax Dollars at Work

I was not going to post any of the emails sent to Vani Hari, but I changed my mind.  Here is the first one.  It shows how screwed up this process is and how wide my personal correspondences are turned over to others, just because we had to search, at taxpayer expense, and turn over all emails with the word "babe".

This is number 1 of 2707. 

The BABE 2014 Conference looks like a hoot. Bioavailability and Bioequivalence!

Email 2 of 2707 was from a woman I never met. She sent me an unsolicited email looking for a position in my lab.  In her CV she shows that her MS advisor's name, and his first name is "Hari".  Her CV, her interest in my program, is now part of an email sweep that will be turned over to someone hostile to science. 

These are the first two.  Your dollars at work to satisfy nuisance, vanity requests-- because it is easier than discussing the science. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

My Email Goes Off to Vani Hari

IMPORTANT.  I was reluctant to make this information public because I do not want anyone to harass, intimidate, troll, or give any grief to Ms. Hari.  That's her game.  Those who condemn her tactics are not to use them.  We must define the high road. 

I provide the information in this blog because I want everyone to understand the ongoing abuse of public records laws at incredible public expense.  I want everyone to see the scope of innocent people that will be potentially affected if/when she makes this information public. There are consequences of handing over 2707 pages of private correspondence to someone that has a goal to destroy you-- because you dared to challenge her with science and evidence. 

Share the story.  Don't flame her or her followers.  Share it with science journalists, science enthusiasts. Let others know that this is happening, but NO RETALIATION, NO ABUSIVE COMMENTS, please LET HER CONTINUE TO SINK ON HER OWN.

Today at 9AM EST over 257 MB of PDF, containing 2700+ pages of my personal email, goes to Vani Hari, aka The Food Babe.  

I was reluctant to write about this or even pay it a second thought. She is a small annoyance and has been a willing participant in propagating vicious lies about me. What do we expect?  I'm costing her lots of money!  When we talk about what science is, how technology works, and what chemistry does, her fear-based message becomes less influential.  Viva Educacion! 

But it is important to make this invasion of my privacy public.  Here's why. 

The Food Babe, Vani Hari, is convinced that I work for Monsanto.  She only has to check my statements against a scientific record, a scientific consensus, then check a mirror, and she'd see who really is making mountains of money from false claims.

I've dreaded today. I've been disturbed coming up to it.  The anxiety I experienced before is back, I'm on the edge of breaking down when I talk to people about it.  

Because I did nothing wrong.  

I did my job.

I helped people understand science and decipher popular web-driven myth, perpetuated in part by Hari. 

The huge stack of emails shows nothing inappropriate, nothing breaking rules, nothing breaking laws.  Nothing harming others.

But if history is a lesson, when you provide thousands of personal emails to people that want to destroy your three-decade career-- they will find a way to manufacture a narrative that is not true, purely to destroy you. 

One thing is for sure.  There's little about her, other than my discussions with reporters looking for a scientific perspective on her claims.  She was mentioned often, but nobody really cares about her personally.  But what will she turn it into in retaliation for my criticisms?

Here are some nuggets:

Prepping Fraley. 

For instance, there is email in there about Dr. Robb Fraley, Monsanto Chief Technical Officer, coming to deliver a public seminar on my campus. I was appointed to be the host.

That alone will be portrayed as high collusion between me and Monsanto.  

While he was here he was prepping for the Intelligence Squared Debate, and asked me if I knew the points that Chuck Benbrook (another debater) usually makes.  I did know.  I sat in two events with Benbrook in the previous few months and knew exactly what points he raised.  He has made many claims without any data (such as how "new science" says GE crops causing autism, food allergies, ADHD and asthma) I disagreed with him, but found him personally quite a nice guy.

I did refer to him and Margarent Mellon as "cold fish", speaking to their combined charisma and likability, which eventually played out true to prediction. 

So I gave Fraley a note on the things he might hear (you'll see it was not a priority, as they badgered me to send it for weeks).  That will be portrayed as additional evidence of my "strategic position as a key advisor to Monsanto's highest executives" if her previous posts about me are any guide.

Work-Related Discussion

The vast-vast majority of this stuff has nothing to do with her.  There are discussions between me and others about important personal issues, employee problems, or work related to my job as a Department Chair.  At the end of that business, someone would chime in with something like, "Read your note on that Subway-Food Babe thing, wow is she clueless..." 

That whole conversation, not about her, is now in her hands.

I had a discussion with a dean about a faculty member we were hiring and were trying to determine what the salary might be.  It's all in there!  Why?  My dean included a link to an article about Vani Hari at the end of one of the emails. 

That entire email is now going to her.  She may decide to make the personal info public to harm this other scientist or the dean for criticizing her. She may write to the new faculty member about how his salary was determined.  She has their names, their email addresses and phone numbers. They may even be subject to FOIA investigations. 

Students' Requests for Assistance

But the worst part-- students.  I received many emails from students after her talk here at my school. They were redacted if they were from my university, and there are many blacked out pages.  But if you were a student from Purdue, Berkeley, or University of Arizona (yes all of you, and many others), I'm so sorry to report-- you are in there. 

You must have mentioned her, like "Thank you for standing up to people like the Food Babe."

Your email address, your name and other personal information are now in her hands.  

I'm hoping she will defer to her higher angels.  

It is bad because with a posting on her website you may be harassed and taunted by the Food Babe Army.  She may smear you the way she did me-- all I did was criticize her too. 

But there's another problem.  I pride myself on being a professor that reaches beyond my university. I've offered career advice to thousands of students, just to respond to an email. I give career advice and guidance. 

If you were a student, and wanted help from Prof Kevin Folta, would you dare ask him, knowing your personal information will now be handed to those that want to destroy scientists? 

I think that is a problem. 

Discussing Books and Interviews

I saw a friend that works for Springer Publishing and he asked me if I had any good book ideas.  I told him that I had a manuscript started for Al Quesadilla- The Rise of Food Terrorism and that part of it was about Vani Hari.  He asked me for a proposal.  You'll see that. I didn't have time, so I never did it.  I used part of it for the work with Kavin Senapathy et al's book Fear Babe.  I also was in in places where I could stop in and talk about food, technology and farming and be a guest on radio, TV, podcasts, etc.  I always check if there's an interest to talk.  Some of those are in there too. 

My guess is that these will be described as some desperate attempt to market Monsanto lies for profit, if the past is a guide. 

Other gems in the pile--

Not much, pretty much nothing.  However, you'll see me use unbecoming language and other things that are not consistent with my usual professional demeanor, but are lapses I have when shooting a note to a friend. 

So here we go.  What do you think will happen?  Another Eric Lipton smear piece that can be twisted into visible claims of corporate fraud and collusion... or will she just read it and say, "This guy's a good dude"? 

Time will tell.  But if my blood pressure, heart rate and headache are any indication, I'm expecting the former.  Fight or flight has kicked in, and I'm afraid that because I spoke scientifically against a charlatan, I will be punished, hard.  

I don't want to go through that again. 

Perhaps I won't have to.  She may receive this package, look through it, see there's nothing there and toss it in the trash. However, her current website suggests that this will be a retaliation for speaking science and criticizing her.  I will be happily surprised and grateful if she opts to do the right thing, and will thank her accordingly.  

Based on her rationale and endless smear of me, I'm not holding my breath.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Science March- A Stage for the Illegitimate

I've taken a lot of heat for my criticism of the planned Science Marches. Getting scientists to coalesce around anything is a rather monumental task akin to herding cats-- if cats were on Segways programmed to move randomly at high speed. Taking a united stand against the erosion of science funding and science standards is a good thing. 

But as I mentioned earlier, is this the best investment of our energy?  Maybe, and we should probably do it.  But let's do two other things:

1.  Stand up for science by making a commitment to durable, sustained efforts to fight science illiteracy and teach the wonders of our physical world. 

2.  We must label, criticize, ostracize and shame the pseudoscientific organizations that will co-opt the Science Marches nationwide. 

"Partner Organizations" contain some great organizations, but also a few that actively fight against science they find inconvenient or helpful in fundraising. 

A Mess on the Horizon

I can see this shaping up to be a stage for anti-Vaxers, March Against Monsanto, and creationists.  

They don't need a lab or peer-review to legitimize their science-- all they need is a stage and a camera and someone claiming the dangers of vaccines, glyphosate or GE corn has as much instant social media cred as Paul Offit or Norman Borlaug. 

There clearly will be an element of Trojan Horse, as these organizations are poised to potentially be a bigger presence than the scientists themselves. Remember, they have time and money, things scientists don't have. 

Already On the Inside

Organizations that espouse less-than-scientific positions have already permeated the organization. They are riding the credibility and visibility of this event to advance their own causes, 

Environmental Voter Project- Not sure what they actually do, they seem to be interested in climate, but have Annie Leonard from Greenpeace Executive Director featured as "Leader"

Please Watch This Video

Please watch this and share widely.

The journey is quite a story.