Saturday, July 7, 2018

Social Scientists Find Russian Anti-GMO Link

It sounds like crazy conspiracy, but it actually is true. Upon analysis of messaging in social media and news outlets a team of researchers from Iowa State has identified that a massive amount of information critical of biotechnology comes from sources in the Russian Federation. 

This week's podcast. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

The Damage of "Both Sides"- When Academics Push Agenda

I was very fortunate to be able to speak at the Manna Center for Global Food Security conference in Tel Aviv, July 4, 2018.  The Manna Center at Tel Aviv University (TAU) understands that the concept of global food security requires a comprehensive analysis of this complicated problem, and integrates input from social scientists, biologists, economists and other experts.  It was clear that solutions would require careful nuance and sophisticated approaches. The conference was well attended, mostly by students and faculty from TAU, but also with a significant attendance of international delegates.

I absolutely loved the conference and associated events, and that is why this blog post is hard to write. I must be critical of one facet of the otherwise stellar event.

This blog post is necessary because the room was full of students.  While most of the talks were outstanding, students were actively deceived by a professor that blatantly presented a skewed information and presented incomplete story rife with logical fallacy.  She is admittedly not an expert in the area, yet presented a highly motivated misinformation campaign that was simply reprehensible scholarship.  It was shameful.  In fact, she single-handedly may have undone the hours of critical scientific analysis and presentation that was provided to the students in associated classes prior to the event.

In the days leading up to the conference I had a great time with the TAU and international students. We spoke primarily of plant genetic improvement, the ways we do it, and the strengths and weaknesses, risks and benefits of all techniques.  We spoke of the Green Revolution—the things it did amazingly well as well as the environmental impacts of intensified agriculture and inequities that came with new breakthroughs.  We spoke of genetic engineering (GMO) and discussed the risks and benefits as described in the peer-reviewed literature, including environmental impacts.  We also spoke of science communication, the methods to build trust, integrating what we have learned by listening carefully to social scientists and psychologists, and understanding how scientists get it wrong when we communicate with the public.  I delivered six presentations over two days, for a total of about seven hours of speaking and Q&A.

And in one 20 minute talk Prof. Tamar Dayan, a zoologist from TAU, torpedoed those efforts as a Merchant of Doubt- introducing a non-scientific unraveling of the previous scientific discourse.  Using cherry-picked data, unsubstantiated claims and information long debunked, she was able to pollute the minds of these young scholars, undo my progress, and erode the trust that I had earned as a credible conduit of consensus scientific information.

This is the danger of the modern communications environment in science.  There is a sense that we need to provide “all sides” of a topic.  For every scientist saying vaccination is a public health benefit, we need to have someone that thinks it causes autism.  For every scientist that says we live on a warming planet, we need to have someone that claims it is just a Chinese conspiracy.  For every scientist that shares the current synthesis of modern biotechnology as told by the literature and the world’s most astute scientific bodies, there has to be someone that says it is a bad idea.

And that is exactly what the audience of about 150 was treated to. 

Prof Dayan started out by stating that she was not an expert in the area but she reviewed the literature and prepared the presentation.  I didn’t take comprehensive notes because I was busy picking my jaw up off the floor.  To her credit, she didn’t show the Seralini rats, but instead shared long debunked claims, and criticisms that were applicable to agricutlure in general, not specifically genetically engineered crops. 

She made a very strong argument from ignorance, stating that “we just don’t  know” early in the lecture.

She made claims about monarch butterflies.  The actual data are pretty good on this, and there is no direct link between genetically engineered crop traits and monarch decline. The closest thing I’ve read is the expanded acres of GE crops that remove milkweed populations (this link as well).  However, that happens with conventional agriculture as well, so it is not a GE specific issue.  In fact, higher yields from GE crops mean fewer acres have to be cultivated, which could be a net positive for native plants and their pollinators. 

These findings fit well with the general consensus that declines are due to, at least in part, conversion of native pasture and habitat to farmland, which make sense, as monarchs don’t feed or lay eggs on the dominant agronomic crops grown. That is not a GE crop problem, it is a habitat destruction issue.

She talked about glyphosate.  This academic scientist actually used the term “superweeds”.  In my presentations leading up to the event I spoke of herbicide resistance, the evolution of the nine mechanisms of resistance to glyphosate and the substantial problems presented around use of a single strategy to combat weeds.

In her presentation she also showed the USGS graph of glyphosate use, which has increased substantially since the introduction of GE crops since 1996.  There is no question that it increased. There were no glyphosate resistant crops before that. The number of flat screen TVs and iPhones has increased since then too.  Good technology has a funny way of doing that. 

Of course, she neglected to show that this increase was directly negatively correlated with the use of other herbicides (as shown in Duke et al, 2012; below) that have significantly more environmental impact, human toxicity and environmental persistence. She again failed to note that this is not a glyphosate-specific problem, but a problem with all herbicides—evolution happens and plants develop resistance.

It's not so scary when you get the whole story. Glyphosate replaces higher-impact herbicides.  Image from Duke et al, 2012 
Strategic omission of evidence can damage all of our ability to communicate science.

She then said, “And they told us glyphosate was so safe, and now many places are banning it.”

Agenda shows. Some places are banning it or re-evaluating its use.  However, that is not because of data indicating a human health issue.  It is not a science-based decision. It is because of activist groups and a handful of politically motivated scientists that scare politicians with barely significant, irreproducible data points, and omitting the higher power studies that do not support their conclusions. The European Food Safety Administration recently assessed effects in animals and found no significant results of glyphosate residues on health. 

She then spoke of the contamination of Mexican corn land races, citing the work from Quist and Chapella (2001), where the authors claim that they found evidence of GE maize "contamination" in native land races, based on weak PCR amplification in 5 of 7 accessions tested, using a PCR method prone to false positives.  A number of clear rebuttals were promptly published (this one too, and this one).  Maize researchers in CYMMIT checked their resources and did not find evidence of GE traits. Later, a much more rigorous analysis based on over 153,436 samples shows that these claims were likely based on PCR errors, because sophisticated sampling could not reproduce their results.   But contrary criticisms and rigorous follow up reports were also omitted from the presentation, as they didn’t reinforce Dr. Dyan’s thesis that the technologies are ecologically problematic.

She spoke about canola volunteers, the agricultural crop plants that escaped containment in Canada and the Northern USA States. This is true, as you can find GE canola along roadsides and other places where it was not directly planted, and populations are persistent.  But again, this is not a GE-specific issue. Crops escape the farm all the time, and ‘volunteers’ grow readily in most agricultural areas. The fact that the transgene breaks containment is irrelevant, as there is no selection.  In some cases where GE escapees intermix with non-GE canola off site, there is evidence of selection when there is off-target drift of glyphosate, but this is a rare exception and not a rule.  However, these “superweeds” remain highly susceptible to mowing, which is the way roadside weeds are managed.

She mentioned a report about the negative ecological effects of Bt crops.  Certainly negative off-target effects have been identified, but they are generally minor.  But at the same time many reports that show the implementation of Bt crops causes no effect or even leads to more insect diversity (reviewed here), in both GE fields and adjacent non-GE fields. The use of Bt crop up to 2009 led to a reduction in broad spectrum insecticide use over 136 million kg which is a ecological step in the right direction.  Bt should be part of an integrated pest management plan, because the realistic downside is evolution of resistance to the technology, which we do observe. It can be a great tool for sustainable farming, just like Bt that is applied externally. 

She talked about “GMO wheat” and how Monsanto (which is part of any good anti-biotech lecture) is “pushing it” on farmers and policy makers. Many farmers want herbicide tolerant wheat, as it would allow them to save fuel and labor costs.  Of course, we all know that no GE wheat has ever been commercialized, and there's no such company as Monsanto anymore. 

I am excited about technology, but I also am concerned about health and environmental impacts. I believe most scientists are. 
While there are clearly examples of environmental issues associated with GE crops (like weed and pest resistance) they are no different than problems in conventional agriculture.

Dr. Dayan’s presentation was a textbook example of creating FUD—Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.  It is a classic strategy of those with motivated reasoning, selective use of the literature, and dated sources that died as one-off studies after more comprehensive analysis. Sadly, this was a scientist pushing an agenda rather than presenting even-handed evidence.

In the Q&A session that followed I pointed out some of these discrepancies.  I was able to at least illuminate the fallacies a bit, perhaps neutralizing some of the damage. 

One quite bright student asked how GE crop plants are any different in breaking containment from conventional crops.  He was right.  She made some rather demeaning comment to the student and failed to realize the validity of his point.

But of course, she then went after me personally, saying that “This is why nobody trusts you” and “I’ve never heard a plant biotechnologist say that there was something they didn’t know.”

Pure arrogance.  Anyone that knows me can tell you that I always approach a topic with an open but critical mind.  Her assertion was quite unfair.

Afterwards, during the break, I had a conversation with her, or at least tried.  She lectured me, going from topic to topic, from terminator seeds to Monsanto suing farmers for a “few seeds blown in to a field.”  She was defensive and dug in her heels. I listened, wanted to interject, but patiently took in every claim.

The most offensive assertions came when she told me what I was guilty of selective analysis of the literature and experts.  Hubris.  
She has no idea what I read.

I asked her for a reference for the lawsuits against farmers for a few seeds blown into a field.  She didn’t have it, but said, “I read it somewhere in the peer-reviewed literature.” 

When I told her that I’ve examined the court records and that what she was saying had no basis in evidence, she disagreed, and reiterated that it was from the peer-reviewed literature that she could not cite.

Facts don’t matter anymore.

The good news is that about a half dozen students gathered around afterwards and they witnessed the interaction.  They saw me kindly ask for evidence and in return got a lecture about how I was a biased idiot.  This was perhaps the biggest disappointment.  She was not interested in discussing evidence.  As a self proclaimed “non-expert” she was not ready to hear cited evidence presented by someone that has studied the associated literature since he was ten years old. 

The good news is that the session was recorded.  My hope is that it will be released and I will be able to do a comprehensive line-by-line debunking.  It will be a useful teaching tool of how university professors, published scholars, fail to critically evaluate their own claims, letting political motivations and biases drive their synthesis. 

This incident frames the battle we face in food security.  Innovations fail to reach application, not because of bad science, but because of a smoke screen of uncertainty and doubt presented by NGOs, bogus documentaries, endless junk websites, and even university professors. 

And it pains me to be harshly critical of another academic scientist.  However, it is appropriate in this case because she has abandoned good scholarship and collegiality—two central tenets of academic scientific discourse.

Technology can help address specific problems in food insecurity, and my point is that all tools need to be available for safe use.

It is sad that some in the academic community leverage their credibility to ensure that technology never reaches those it was intended to serve.

In respect of civil dialog I have provided a URL to this post to Dr. Dayan.  I welcome her response and will publish and promote her rebuttal if it is provided.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Golden Rice, Misplaced Activism, and Who Do You Trust?

This blog raises an important question about who you choose to trust, and how easily they sway your opinions. When you read scientific information on the web, do you believe only what confirms your biases, or do you think critically about the information?  Are people manipulating you?

First, I love the idea of Golden Rice.  In many parts of the world food staples contain little Vitamin A, so those consuming rice, potato, wheat, maize, cassava, and banana are not receiving adequate nutrition.  It is essential for vision and optimal health. The result is a scourge of Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) causes blindness and disease throughout the Developing World. 

Golden Rice has been genetically engineered with two genes to produce beta-carotene, the nutrient in carrots and leafy green vegetables that is converted to vitamin A in the body. 

Golden Rice is not without its issues. The levels were low in the first generation products and not necessarily in culturally-acceptable forms of rice.  Not everyone enjoys Uncle Ben's Boil-In-Bag Delight.

Plus, the Golden Rice people were outright dismissive (putting it mildly) when I asked them to be guests on the Talking Biotech Podcast and reach thousands of people with their messaging.  That was a huge turn off, and I blame them too for the lack of implementation of the product. With a strategy of "eff-off" to friendly media, it is no wonder why their product has no traction. 

FDA Evaluation

On May 24, 2018 the FDA approved Golden Rice for consumption in the USA, a curious move, because we will never consume it.  Folks here get plenty of vitamin A. 

However, when providing a product to the Developing World, many people are rightfully suspicious, and the endorsement of safety from the US-FDA is a good thing. It is symbolic. Period.

However, however, the FDA also stated that the levels of beta-carotene were not high enough to make a health claim.

Activists Pounce

Based on that last determination, a website called Independent Science News and others reported that the high beta-carotene rice has "no nutritional benefits".   This claim comes from Jonathan Latham, a guy that has fought science and scientists for years.  His website is a cornucopia of drivel. 

"No Nutritional Benefit" is what the activists claim, but is that what the FDA said?  Why are these groups bending the truth to stop a potentially helpful technology for the poor? 

The FDA's words were based on the USA-based intake of rice. At the levels present, and the frequency consumed, there is no likely benefit from Golden Rice as a dietary supplement.  It still has beta-carotene, it still has nutrition, there just can be no health claim in the USA on the label. 

Even influential food writer Michael Pollan cites the ISN misinterpretation without critical evaluation.

The FDA Responds

After activists and their mouthpieces willfully misinterpret the report, the FDA responded.  Marriana Naum wrote the following statement.  (bold is mine)

It is unfortunate that the statement you reference in our letter responding to BNF 158 has been misconstrued to suggest that there would be no value of the pro-vitamin A in golden rice for its use in the countries where it is intended for distribution.
Our statement applies only to labeling considerations in the United States, in that golden rice contains insufficient pro-vitamin A to warrant differential labeling for nutrient content based on the low levels of rice consumption in the U.S. Requirements for nutrient content claims on labels in the United States take two factors into account, the amount of the nutrient needed as well as it’s concentration in the food and the typical or average level of that food consumed in the U.S. For the rice to be labeled in the United States with a claim containing provitamin A, our regulations stipulate that the food must contain 10-19 percent of the RDI or DRV for the substance per reference amount customarily consumed (essentially a measure of consumption).
Additionally, U.S. consumers eat rice at very low levels compared to consumers in the specific Asian countries with vitamin A deficiency for which golden rice was developed. IRRI reports that consumption of rice by children in Bangladesh is 12.5 g/kg body weight/day, compared to about 0.5 g/kg bw/d for U.S. consumers). Rice is the major staple in those countries and levels of rice consumption are many-fold higher than they are in the U.S. While a U.S Consumer would be unlikely to eat enough of the rice to achieve that value (10-19 % of the NDI or RDA), that does not mean that the level of consumption of golden rice in the targeted countries would be insufficient to accomplish the intended effect of supplementing their very low consumption of vitamin A-containing foods. Consuming rice containing the levels of pro-vitamin A in GR2E rice as a staple of the diet could have a significant public health impact in populations that suffer from vitamin A deficiency.

You've Been Lied To.

Latham and others willfully misinterpreted the FDA report to buoy their sinking ship.  Activists have fought Golden Rice for decades because it represents a positive and almost free way to resolve a world health crisis, but it uses genetic engineering.  They must stop that technology from helping anyone at any cost, even if that means lying to their followers. 

Even trusted academics get it wrong.  Marion Nestle's blog repeats the same errant interpretation.  She also shows that it is ideology over evidence as she usually does. 

So if you are against big companies that make seeds for U.S. farmers, that's great.  But realize that when that contempt bleeds into altruistic applications of technology the blood is on your hands. 

This is just another stellar example of how groups manipulate their followers and confirm biases to drive ideological viewpoints that are inconsistent with the science.

Why Do You Trust Them?

This "debate" is about a product that is given away for free and could have a profound effect on the health and welfare of children all over the world.  The science is sound.  Why does Latham and others want this product to fail?  What's in it for them for children to continue to suffer from preventable blindness and disease? 

Please think about this carefully.  Are you being willingly deceived and defending corrupt opinions at the expense of the most vulnerable? 

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Talking Biotech #139 -- Recognizing Dr. Rosalind Franklin

This is an extremely important story. Dr. Rosalind Franklin was a brilliant x-ray crystalographer that was the first to figure out the structure of DNA. Her data were shared with Watson and Crick without her knowledge. They won a Nobel Prize, she is barely a footnote. Can we please fix that? Listen to this week's podcast and share her story.

Subscribe on iTunes.

Friday, June 22, 2018

FOIAs from Flying Yoga Dude

Were you ever the last to arrive at a friendly get together just to find the quacamole gone and all of those good little toast bits picked out of the Chex Mix? 

That must be how Jeffery Smith and the Broom Closet for Responsible Technology must feel now.  All of the cranks and charlatans had the opportunity to parse my private emails at taxpayer expense, and dammit, he was busy doing something else. Maybe getting the taste of his foot out of his mouth after Food Evolution.  

Long after tens of thousands of emails have gone out to Food Babes, activists, and dozens of others (at probably a half-million dollars in taxpayer expense-- and zero evidence of impropriety or ethical lapses), I FINALLY got the request from Jeffrey Smith's goons over at the Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT).  

Ironically, this institute for responsible technology has irresponsibly pushed false information about technology for ages, profiting all the way. When you review Smith's statements and predictions, none of it has been backed by actual experimental evidence. He makes a lot of claims, using the internet, the Dr. Oz Show, and personal appearances to spread misinformation about food and farming. 

For a long time I thought Jeffrey Smith and Dr. Zachary Smith from Lost in Space were the same guy.  Both are annoying and ensure good things can't happen. However, one is a  bumbling fake scientist and the other is a television character.*

What does he hope to find?   Beats me.  Probably evidence of deep collusion between me and the "agrichemical industry" I'll bet.  On the other hand, it is quite personal.  

And since my interest is full transparency without burdening the taxpayer and university attorneys, I extended my usual offer, but there was no reply. 

I actually do have a discussion recorded between Smith and George Noori on Coast-to-Coast AM where Smith gives me a shout out and a hand-in-rectum association with Monsanto. 

I talked to him on the phone once and it was just fine and cordial, but that was in 2013.  I don't think he likes me now. 

What will he find?   

When we turn over the emails he'll find that I'm not a fan. He'll find that I have particular disdain for those that lie to the public for profit, and that his documentaries and books are loaded with false information.  He'll find that I denounce his fear-based techniques and that I'm amazed by the fact that he's clueless about the science, yet is trusted by so many.  

He's a snake and snake oil salesman, all rolled into one.

I hope Jeff has a good time digging through my stuff, and look forward to the sentences plucked from context and reassembled in malicious ways.  

Or maybe not.  Maybe he'll just realize what Vani Hari did-- That I'm a public scientist working hard to teach and do research, as well as provide evidence-based outreach to the public. 

Out of the jillion pages of emails she received she never found anything worth crowing about. 

I suspect he'll be in that same club. 

*It has not gone unnoticed that Lost in Space is just an extraterrestrial Gilligan's Island, and that Dr. Zachary Smith was Space Gilligan. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Your Ancient Past, Weaponized

Back before there was Drunk History, back before The Man Show, there was media circulating that targeted the shaky hand that held the urine-soaked wallet.  

My friend from high school, Herb Rosen, took his experience of bartending in Chicago's dives and opened his own place-- Liars Club over on Fullerton Ave in Chicago.  It was (is) a crusty place in a (then) no-name neighborhood that had a KISS pinball machine and $1.00 drafts of PBR.  It is still there, still a dump, but the best place in Chicago for a cheap beer and Misfits or Decendents on the jukebox. It was where an entrepreneurial effort of catering reading material for late-night misfits would gain some traction...   

Self Publishing Roots

During high school in the 80's my friends and I were basement publishers.  We printed media called "fanzines" -- photocopied reviews of bands, music and other sundries.  It was a place for creative energy and clever writing before the internet gave us an instant, worldwide venue. 

We also played music, recorded video, did a lot with costuming and always had an entrepreneurial slant. 

During that time I took a lot of notes and did lots of artwork.  I had hilarious friends, and documented our delinquency furiously on my HP 286Mhz processor with 40 MB of hard drive space.  I compiled hundreds of stories.  We'd sell our writing and music reviews for fifty cents or a few bucks, mostly at punk rock shows or indy record stores. 

But soon it was time to take fanzines to the next level -- self-publishing small books. 

It was 1994 or so, maybe 1995. Probably both.  I was in grad school, living in Chicago and being paid $12,000 a year to TA courses.  To avoid student loans I shoveled snow overnight to supplement income. Start at midnight, done at 5 AM and exhausted on any night when 1" of snow or more was predicted. Eight bucks an hour and driving around three other losers in my 1981 Mercury Monarch to bank parking lots and residential driveways to hoist heavy, wet snow. It was awful. There had to be a better way.

I went back to those old stories and then compiled and illustrated several works, usually also featuring writing from my friends.  Greybait! An Insiders Guide to UFO PseudoscienceCarp Angler (alternative fishing), Alcoholics Unanimous - United We Stagger, and the EAT THIS! cookbook. All were printed at bargain basement photocopy joints and bound in duct tape and/or big staples. 

Others were constructed but never printed.  It cost about $100 to do the printing and I just didn't have that kind of cash laying around. I still have an AT hard drive with a few good pieces that never saw the light of day. 

Self Publishing, and Pre-Amazon Book Sales

As I'd meander Chicago's nightlife with a messenger bag of self-published texts it became obvious that this was an audience excited to spend a few bucks on a traveling salesman's wares. Whether it was tamales or flowers, stolen jackets or CD's, Chicago's early 90's dive bars were a flea market wrapped in a fog of cheap booze and clove cigarette stink. 

Liars Club, Tuman's Alcohol Abuse Center, Exit, Rainbow Club, and a dozen other places were frequent stops to sell self-published books.  Five bucks each. 

Quimby's Queer Book Store also was happy to sell the titles.  

There were mail orders and stockpiles for sale in indy record stores (yes, that long ago). 

I was happy to make a few bucks. On an average weekend I could sell a few dozen.  Lab work all day, book selling at night. 

AU- A Book for the Inebriated

Throughout high school and college I complied many stories related to excess imbibition. I observed others go overboard, I did myself quite a few times, and there were many stories that went along with that unraveling. 

Many people have similar stories, most didn't bother to write them down, and certainly most didn't own them.  But the experiences I had with friends were priceless, and our successes and mistakes, victories and foibles happened.  They did.  They happened, and I wrote about them. I absolutely stretched the edges a bit too to make stupid college stories remotely interesting. 

The stories resonated with late-night drunks.  When compiled into the self-published book they found favor with many that could relate to the content, or just were too stewed to not notice they paid five bucks for a stupid self-published book. 

Either way, I was happy to make a few bucks, sell a few books, and disseminate a few smiles from silly stories and exaggerated claims. 

The End.  1996 or so. 

Revisited, Today. 

 A copy of Alcoholics Unanimous sat on a shelf in my home for over 20 years.  I never looked at it.  It was just there, the stories growing old with time and becoming more irrelevant as the world became more sensitive to the dangers of alcohol abuse, the hazards of drunk driving and long-term effects of drinking.  

But to someone wishing me harm--- this secret volume was gold.  Pure gold.  

And the smear machine ratchets forward.  He's a corporate shill, drunk driver, blah, blah, blah.

These ancient texts were long dead, lost in a Chicago gutter, used as toilet paper in a bush, or traded for smokes.  Until now. 

A malicious release of this stale document to the anti-GMO movement would be perfect.  Here's something with Folta's name on it making light of a current issue, and we can punish him for it- 23 years later!  

Last week the work was taken from its dusty resting place and released to GM Watch where they promptly posted a page about it-- happy to add it to the years of smear they publish about me. 

But to folks like Paul Thacker, Kavin Senapathy, GMO Watch and my malicious ex spouse (who is featured in the work and used to help me sell it) -- they could now parade this work around as evidence of my questionable character, and use it to soil social media with quotes from the text that were simply exaggerated stories, many fictitious, that were funny to some people at the time. 

When it was written it was the early and mid 90's.  We had very different feelings about social edges of substance abuse.  Look at how we've revised our social tolerances toward pot, opioids and alcohol since that time.  

Personally, we all evolve.  What's funny then isn't funny now. What was acceptable then, is not acceptable now.  I did a beer bong in 1982.  Not since. 


But one thing that hasn't changed is the length that people will go to hurt others. 

Over the years I have accumulated a following of haters, folks that will do whatever it takes to harm me, my reputation, or my ability to serve others, at every turn. 

Senapathy, Thacker, GM Watch, and a cast of a thousand bots have now raised this ancient text as concrete proof that my 31 years in public science is somehow devoid of merit. 

This silly, outdated work, gone except for a copy fed to them purposefully in the name of malice, is their proof positive that my time in classrooms, my time in retirement homes, my 80+ peer-reviewed papers and hundreds of graduated students-- are meaningless.

The goal-- to have me further maligned within my institution, discredited in the science communication community, and removed from public service.  That's a swell idea.  

The good news is that the world has mostly yawned, probably because they did dumb stuff once, then grew up too.


To those of you that see this re-animation in the name of smear for what it is-- I thank you.   

I have a lot of fun doing what I do.  I have a lot of fun now piloting a wonderful research enterprise, mentoring students and participating and teaching science communication. 

Back then, it was fun too. We did mountains of stupid things involving clown suits, explosives, and the early internet. 

I'm guessing that all of these things will now emerge and be misrepresented as much as possible, in an attempt to cause me career harm and stir public distrust.  That's fine. 

Ultimately I think folks are smarter than that.  

So to critics, go ahead, cast that first stone.  But keep in mind that the person you harm with it might be someone that is working hard for the same goals you find important.  By taking out your target do you really help your cause, or do you harm the greater good and come off as petty in the process?  

That is an important question to answer. 

(And I'm sure that hostile interests are working hard to find those other titles....  send me a copy if you do.  Thanks)

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Talking Biotech 136 - Food Labels

This week's podcast--  Are food labels adding clarity or confusion?  Focus groups show that consumer sentiment toward food labels is changing.  Colleen Parr-Dekker is the Director of Communications at Elanco.  They have performed extensive focus group analysis and consumer surveys to understand how consumers feel about labels and food.  The excess of abstract information and claims has left most consumers unsure what labels even mean.  Consumers are clueless about terms like “antibiotic free” or “free range”, while companies use these tactics as marketing angles to differentiate their products.  Surveys show that terms like “natural” or “organic” are losing influence.  The results are surprising!