Tuesday, October 31, 2017

TB106- Food Security, Africa, Biotech and NGOs.


In this week's podcast we speak with science journalist and author Mark Lynas.  Mark has been a central figure in the discussion of biotechnology, particularly in regard to its role in ensuring food security in the Developing World.  In the 1990’s and early 2000’s you could find Mark destroying test plots of genetically engineered crops.  Later he would reconsider his view, and support the technology, especially as it can be applied to help issues of food security.  Mark discusses the situation on the ground in Africa, the various threats to production, the innovations that can address them, and the resistance toward adoption of new technology. 

Follow Mark Lynas at @mark_lynas

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Addressing Claims of Herbicide in Orange Juice

Moms Across America turns their slander machine on orange juice producers, seeking to harm an industry that it currently fighting for its survival.  Here's how farmers, scientists and concerned citizens can counter that information. The article appears in Citrus Industry


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Amazon Deletes Review, Protects Bottom Line

I used to really trust Amazon.  Product reviews were important because you could see who was a verified purchaser, and then use their guidance to aid in decisions.  Not anymore. 

Amazon is now in the business of deleting reviews that could affect their corporate bottom line.  This sort of smacks of conspiracy, but it makes sense. 

The book "Whitewash" by Carey Gillam was released last week. Gillam is a vicious anti-biotech activist that has distorted the truth and outright lied about science for over a decade.  I have not read the book, but I will.  I suspect it is more of her nonsense. 



I don't agree with everything Stephan Niedenbach says and does, but this review is consistent with the science behind the chemistry, and the track record of Carey Gillam. It was removed from Amazon's reviews of the book to ensure the slander of conventional farming and more profits for Whole Foods/Amazon.




In summary:

1. A middle-school teacher from Maryland buys a copy, reads it, and writes a review.  It compliments Gillam on her writing and then is scientifically critical of the content, providing point-by-point analysis. 

 2.  Gillam rebuts his comments, says that he just works for Monsanto.

3.  Amazon pulls the review. 

Backstory:

1.  Gillam writes for the activist organization US-RTK. She also writes this book. 

2.  Glowing reviews of the book by her US-RTK employers remain on the website without disclosure. 

3.  US-RTK is financed by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), a morally bankrupt anti-biotech organization that finances US-RTK, who pays Gillam, who trashes conventional farming. 

4.  If OCA, RTK, Gillam can manipulate the public into fearing conventional farming, interest in Whole Foods goes up. 

5.  Whole Foods is owned by Amazon. 

6.  So Amazon profits from censoring objective, scientific reviews of non-scientific claims. 

I don't normally think conspiratorially, but consider that Gillam and US-RTK have hammered me and other scientists for tenuous, non-financial relationships with [Big Corporation].  Here industry groups pay her via USRTK to publish weak claims (actually since this book was in development the wheels of many arguments have come off) that target conventional farming.  

Who are the real paid industry shills? 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Moms Against America Targets OJ

For several years now I've discussed why you should never trust Moms Against America. The organization is run by Zen Honeycutt, someone with zero scientific training that makes a living by harming farmers and indicting scientists that work for public good. She also is against vaccination and raises money to fund billboards mom-shaming parents into buying organic food. 

Now she has set her target on orange producers, and I'm officially abandoning my gentle persuasion and as we say in the hockey arena, I'm "dropping the gloves". 

This report is inexcusable, it is disgusting and it harms an industry that is already collapsing. What is she trying to do? 




From her comfortable well-appointed home in California, Zen Honeycutt, someone demonstrated to lie about science, attacks an industry that is taking a beating from disease and hurricanes

 Zen Honeycutt has a history of falsifying information to advance her agenda of scaring parents away from food. In the past she has promoted knowingly forged data on residues on corn and also promoted highly suspect data about glyphosate in breast milk, a claim that was shown to not be supported by scientists that study contents of breast milk. 

 She now targets orange juice, a key component of the American diet, a much needed daily serving of fruit in a world of caffeinated energy drinks. 

 A Fruit Crop is Dying 

 Aside from the shift away from fruit juice due to market forces and cultural trends, the Florida citrus crop is dying from citrus greening, a disease driving the industry into ruin. Production is at 50% of what it was a short time ago. Solutions are in the works at many levels. 

 Then Hurricane Irma then stripped the trees of a lot of what was left. his was a devastating year for our growers. 

 So here Zen Honeycutt takes on an industry that is supplying an important fruit serving. The crop is dying, the situation is critical, and she screams that a "probable carcinogen" is in your OJ. 

 FIRST. 

  •  The weed killer glyphosate is used to clear space around trees and in row middles-- because it is safe. 
  •  It is a foliar herbicide, meaning it must be applied to leaves to work.  It is not well take up by roots. 
  • If it was taken up by the tree, the tree would die.  
  • For over 30 years glyphosate has been a safe way to manage weeds that compete for limited water and nutrients. It still works great in orange groves. 

 Carcinogen? 

 Honeycutt certainly accepts the lone IARC decision of "probable carcinogen" ignoring the dozens of independent evaluations by many countries, and the scientific literature that says there is no strong evidence for carcinogenicty. 

The lead scientist in this determination was paid $160,000 and hired lawyers to start suing the manufacturer of Roundup before the decision was even rendered, so this looks like a clear pay-to-smear set of allegations. 

 The IARC decision is counter to every other government, company (many companies manufacture it, each has done their own tests), and academic assessment of glyphosate, they did not find reason for concern. (and FYI, the IARC says alcohol and grilled meat are known carcinogens) 

 Claimed Levels? 

 The numbers they present, if true, which they likely are not based on Honeycutt's trend of presenting false data, are far below any risky levels. 5 parts per billion is five seconds in 32 years.

 Methods? 

 They also don't show a non-glyphosate control. There are plenty of places growing OJ without glyphosate. While the claimed LC/MS-MS method is a good way to measure glyphosate, what is the background level in non-glyphosate treated plants? What else elutes at the same time? No controls, just numbers to scare. Claims in the MAM Article The verbiage presented around the claimed presence is a sick distortion of the scientific literature. 

Not only is the work cited typically suspect (it appears she's resting on the highly criticized work by Kruger and Seneff), other conclusions are twisted. For instance she claims, "1 part per trillion has been shown to stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells." She neglects to mention that this is in a Petri dish. Glyphosate is a water-soluble molecule. It is applied in parts per million and even if you consumed it, it would move through the body in stools and urine. I discussed glyphosate pharmacokinetics with a toxicologist/physician on my podcast. 

 The Lab that Did the Work 

 And the work was done by John Fagan (signed off on the bottom) long time anti-GMO crusader. Independent lab? Hardly. Fagan is recognized as a Raja of the Global Country of World Peace with Global Responsibility for Food Purity and Invincibility and Minister of Agriculture in the Maharishi Movement.

 How he fits that on a business card I'll never know. 



Fagan has a long career dedicated to finding stuff at the edge of nothing, and then using those claims to instill fear about food. He was the founder of Genetic ID (a GE crop identification project) and was an early board member of the Non-GMO Project. 

 No controls, no published methods, from an activist lab -- This would never be accepted by peer-reviewed literature, which is why it is only on an activist website with a history of lying to the public.

Accompanying Video

I have to ask myself, is she completely obvious or knowingly lying?  The video is a clueless rant that ignores everything known about glyphosate and even fundamental science. 

She claims that glyphosate gets into oranges because it is taken up by the roots, when we know that it is not taken up well at all.  She says they didn't test organic orange juice because they wanted to test only the top brands. My guess is that they "found" it in organic too (there's likely a product at the same place as glyphosate that they willingly misinterpret, again, without that control, who knows?). 

She also continues the same bogus claims, like glyphosate is found in rain.  A claim long debunked by me! 


Motivation 

 The bottom line is that Zen Honeycutt wants to harm American Farming. She lives in a delusional bubble of happy farms where immigrants toil in the hot sun to remove the weeds to ensure she gets her high-priced food that has other residues that can't hurt you either. 

 This is more anti-glyphosate tripe. The tip off-- they keep calling it Monsanto's roundup. Few citrus growers use Roundup. They use glyphosate. The generic is much cheaper, so they use that. It is not made by Monsanto, it is made by one of dozens of other companies.

 Honeycutt must Monsantoize this to invoke fear of technology, fear of safe, good fruit products-- or more importantly, connect the bogus data to Monsanto. 



 835 shares. About what? False data manufactured by people known to fake data. Why would anyone trust them with their family's health? 


 And to the Orange Juice Industry... 

 This is exactly why I hate that all of the major brands capitulated to labeling orange juice "Non-GMO". There are no genetically engineered oranges, at least none other than those in greenhouses and behind barbed wire that look perfectly fine in the presence of disease pressure. The food activists are horrible people that lie to the public with the intention of harming industries. Now they have targeted orange juice. Sorry about that. 

 The best move would be to make strong statements about the safe use of herbicides in the industry, the likely bogus data here, and the fact that if it was true, the levels are below inconsequential. 

 Silver Lining

 As time goes on Honeycutt is recognized more and more as a crackpot activist that has a clearly rotten agenda. She is generally recognized as someone that will falsify data for her cause and ignore science that does not agree with her interpretations. 

She also is glad to attack scientists like Shelley McGuire, and silence them (like she did me by blocking and erasing my soft, scientific comments) when they engage questions on her website. 

Conclusion 

 More alarmist bullshit from known data fabricators and questionable laboratories, this time sadly targeting a crippled industry to continue their crusade against a company that sells corn and soybean seeds. 

 I'm glad this story hit with a whimper and didn't get much interest.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Zombie Cancer Rats Spread Fear

It is the zombie of the food activist world.  It is really sad that images from a poorly constructed, massively criticized, non-reproduced claim connecting rats with tumors to GE crops continues to serve as their best argument against technology.

This image was taken by Dr. Prakash at the World Food Prize yesterday.  



Don't forget to show the control!  He get's tumors too. 

Just like the activists that frighten parents from vaccines, these well-fed protesters seek to disable tools that help the American farmer and provide needed technology to the Developing World. 

And the retracted paper that nobody repeated or believes, continues to influence the social acceptance of good technology.

I wrote about this in depth in a recent Medium piece



Monday, October 16, 2017

TB 104 Post Harvest Solutions in Food Security


Eighty percent of African farmers are small holder subsistence farmers. In numbers this means that each one farms a couple of acres to feed themselves. 

Grain or beans are harvested and dried, and then a race begins, as stored grains are prone to infestation with insects and fungi. Some fungal invasions produce aflatoxins, potent carcinogens. 

Small farmers also sell grain, but when they are selling, so are their neighbors.  Prices are low, and they frequently buy back their grain at a higher price.  

The solution is effective storage, and hermetically sealed (airtight) storage retards the growth of any organism that could damage the seeds.  

Today's podcast is about that storage. It is an interview with Brett Rierson and how different solutions are distributed by the World Food Programme. 

It also reminds us that sometimes the best solution is the most low-tech solution. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Rethinking Communication- Ranchers, Beef Industry

I'm in Denver, CO, my flight is delayed, and I'm feeling exhausted.  I really want to go home and I'm absolutely sick of traveling. But it is so worth it.  Every week I look at the calendar with dread, but after every trip I'm grateful for the opportunity, and glad to meet so many wonderful people. 

I was able to attend the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef Communicators Conference and it was an amazing morning.  It was a small meeting of industry reps, producers and retailers.  The central theme was the idea of sustainability-- a fuzzy term in many respects.  We sometimes have a hard time defining it, but we know it when we see it.  

I don't think this kind of thing would have happened even five years ago.  The need for precise, honest and consistent messaging around the things ag does well has never been more important. Now farmers, ranchers, and associated industries are stepping into it, impressively. 





Really sweet to meet such wonderful professionals and see their efforts in helping us all be better communicators.  The tweets were quite nice. 


There is a need for honest discussion about antibiotics, hormones, daily practices, environmental impacts and all of the good things ranchers do to facilitate animal care.  The public has questions and is wondering who to trust.  

The most wonderful thing about this conference was the consistency of the messaging, and the admission that years of not communicating and communicating incorrectly got us nowhere.  It actually made things worse. 

Over the last twelve years I've learned how to talk to a concerned public about agriculture. I made a lot of mistakes. The lessons learned along the way were really important. I've learned a lot, and listened to experts. 

This was a meeting were I was brought in to inform, but I actually went home being the informed. 

Today it is evident that we have all starting communicating out of a passion for spreading the truth about agriculture and science in general. We all took different paths, different journeys, but are arriving at the same place. It makes me happy to hear the concepts I've learned the hard way spoken by others in beautiful eloquence. 

Are we getting somewhere?  I think so.  

After all I've been through in the last two years personally and professionally, getting to attend such events and see people taking leadership in agricultural communication brings me great joy.  It is wonderful to see people stepping up to teach others about what we do, and more importantly why we do it.