Sunday, September 21, 2014

Evil and Ignorant Comments to a Scientist Trying to Teach

On Thursday I was asked to be a guest on Russia Today's Breaking the Set with Abby Martin.  It was the usual scientist and anti-Monsanto activist, one talking from reality and evidence and the other frothing forward silly and discredited talking points. False equivalence 101.

It started to feel a bit like an ambush when the feed died.  They knew I was on until 6:25 (there was limited satellite time purchased by them) and when I dropped at 6:25 the anti-GMO activist had free run to talk about "Bt in the blood", etc.  They later apologized, said it was a mistake and read my closing statement live.

However, right after the disconnection I felt like I had been swindled. I did check in on the message boards on the corresponding YouTube site, as I could at least get the word out there.

It was a wretched hive of tweaked-out nonsense. Still is.  I tried to add to the conversation.  Here are a few choice tid-bits of comments on the corresponding You-Tube site.

I'm not sure if I've ever seen the "shill" accusation by so many people at one time!  It is a great display of how beliefs are stated as facts with a complete absence of evidence!  It frames the entire movement in a nutshell.   And ckdoll spelled "douche" wrong, while boeingdriver29 wants me "6 feet under". 

I received two nice emails about the RT appearance. Another guy put up a huge post about my dog and a video I have posted online.  I did get a rather evil email from a certainly deranged nutcase, and maybe I'll share that another time.  It was from someone making a latent threat about someone in my family, obviously figured out from checking out Facebook or something else.  Pretty gross. 

Once again, it is why scientists don't engage a sector of the public that wants a right to know, but refuses to learn.  When we do, we are not met with the deserved gratitude.  We are met with false accusations, heinous insinuations, bogus corporate associations, and even hints of violence.  

I guess I'm grateful to participate and install this level of dialog permanently in the public domain. My hope is that those seeking information will be motivated by what they read on these sites, as a public scientist reaching out to educate is attacked and criticized by internet sock puppets hiding behind usernames, pumping out baseless accusations.  

I hope someone finds that compelling enough to reach out to us, as we try to correct a deficit in science understanding.   

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Russia Today Follow Up

The other night I felt duped.  The put me on a television show to talk about transgenic technology, only to be placed counter to a rabid activist that spewed the typical lies and deception, only to find myself cut off by a satellite feed that RT knew would drop during the discussion.

It certainly could have been human error, could have been deliberate.  However, my phone rang the next day and it was the show's producer.  She was always very kind from the beginning, and was clearly concerned about the perception of the event.  She wanted to correct the problem by having me on again, and at least providing a statement to be read on-air.

She was top-notch and I'm glad she reached out.

Abby Martin did read the statement, at least most of it.  Here's what it looked like:

Of course, the would pick the picture where I look like Jeff Dahmer's ugly brother. 
Oh well.  Glad they fixed the problem.  

I did actually submit a longer statement.  This is beginning of what I did submit.  It was admitted long, but it was the complete thought:

As a scientist specializing in plant molecular biology, it is as difficult to have a sober discussion about GMO technology with an ardent anti-Monsanto activist. It is like a trained climatologist dialoging with a climate denier, or an evolutionary biologist discussing science with a creationist.  The science and evidence are clear.  Almost twenty years of use, thirty years of data, rigorous testing, two-thousand peer-reviewed papers, and endorsements from the world’s leading scientific organizations remind us that these products have a stellar record of safety and efficacy.  

So closes the chapter on RT.  The YouTube channel running this show is filled with some of the most angry and hate-filled comments, including someone wanting to "... see Folta 6-feet under".  When I try to give some ideas about science, they fall on deaf ears.

However, these are the folks we need to engage the most.  I think that this event made some good relationships in the long run.  The producer at RT understands, and I hope we can work again under the right circumstances.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Guest on RT; Ambush or Error?

When the phone call came in my Administrative Assistant accepted-- my time was open at 6 pm EST to talk to Russia Today (RT).   I know Abby Martin, I've seen her shows and understand her politics, so I didn't cancel.  I did speak to the producer.  It was sold to me that I'd be a guest on the show about GMO technology. There would be another guest, but it would be a conversation.

I was scheduled for 6 pm, and RT bought 25 minutes of 'fiber time'.  This is the time on the satellite feed that they purchase to ensure a decent connection with where I was in Gainesville, FL.  I raced back from my talk at Valencia College to make it on time.  I cleaned up, fixed my tie by 5:45, and sat ready to begin at 6 pm.

No idea this was a "debate". I guess if I knew this was they GMO Bill Nye vs Ken Hamm I would not have agreed. 

At 6 pm I was ready to go.  However, there was a 10 min story on Scottish independence.  At 6:10 there was a discussion of libertarian candidate presence in the debates.

Which led to the last 10 minutes for me to discuss transgenic technology, which turns out to be a "debate" with someone from Organic Consumer's Association.

Fine with me, I have facts and evidence, I'm down for a discussion, but there's no debate.  What is there to debate?

I provide a scientific synthesis of transgenic technologies, and the woman from OCA comes out blazing with the usual nonsense.  She claims there is no FDA oversight, that Monsanto controls all seeds and tells farmers what to do, blah, blah, blah.  The discussion turns to labeling.

Right when I get my chance to refute the nonsense-- the feed dies, precisely at 6:25, right when we knew it would die.  This left five minutes for the guest to go on and on about "insecticides in blood" (the tired junk study by Aris and Leblanc refuted here), no regulation, health concerns, and every other bogus claim.

It was really disappointing.

I'm going to reach out to her and see if she's being deceptive or just does not know better.  I'll report back...

I'm not a big conspiracy guy.  However, they KNEW that they had 25 minutes, we told them that time was short, yet they moved this discussion to the back end of the report.

I"ll never go on Abby Martin again unless they do some major damage control.  It sort of seems like an ideological ambush, a planned illusion of false equivalence.  A perfect anti-GMO scam.

So far no reports to Twitter, so this thing likely died in place.  Let's hope so.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Admirable Strength, No Fear, Just Courage

Thirteen years ago two giant buildings collapsed on brave men and women running in- when they could have been running away.

While the visions of that morning were haunting as they unraveled in real time, the vision that etched me forever was the buildings coming down, one at a time.

For the sixty to ninety minutes before that moment we saw footage of people in business suits and ties, dresses and heels, randomly scattering in terror. Bike messengers and delivery men sprinted at full speed away from the fiery towers, the raining debris and ash. There was chaos and confusion, a situation that never was practiced or anticipated.

While most ran away from the incident, brave men and women, police, fire and medical personnel, ran toward those buildings. With helmets and radios, heavy coats and breathing gear, they worked against the flow of humanity in an attempt to liberate humanity from an inhuman consequence.

That was a brilliant exhibition of character and strength, of courage and duty. It was awesome to behold. Fueled by a drive to save trapped humans from impossible dangers, they loaded into those two burning buildings, a migration of tools and equipment, into the buildings and up into the stairwells.

And then the first tower came down. As it fell in slow deliberate motion we could still feel the fire in the bellies of the rescuers, pushing each other up ten, twenty, thirty, forty flights of stairs. We could almost hear them screaming "GO! GO! GO!". Only to stop.

But others kept swarming toward that second tower. With fresh visions of absolute calamity and knowledge of brothers and sisters gone, they pushed into that other cement and steel flaming monstrosity. To a similar end.

If there's something we needed to learn from that day, especially those circumstances, it is that sometimes the grandest challenges must be met head on with courage. Running toward that second tower in a 100 lbs of gear, with dust and heat surrounding them, bodies falling from the sky, the first tower down on the ground, the air thick with choking dust-- that is one of the most amazing instances of human fortitude I've ever seen.

Our daily hurdles are nothing by comparison. We should all remember the actions and sacrifices of those first responders. More importantly, we should learn from them and emulate them every day.

Put your daily annoyances in perspective. Never fail to accept a challenge that may help someone else, and never make a decision based on fear.

Friday, September 5, 2014

A Conference to Misinform

Colorado is trying to pass a GMO labeling law, so they'll need to bring in the slate of discredited pseudoscientists to scare the credulous.  The Seeds of Doubt Conference is being held on October 11, and features an array of proven scare mongers that sell bad science.

Renowned experts!  Wow!  I can't wait to see who those might be...

The usual suspects.  Of course, nobody invited that actually presents a viewpoint based on the peer-reviewed literature.

This is no surprise.  When a ballot initiative needs to steep a population in fear and push them to vote against science, this group will be most effective.  Huber will talk about his mystery "entity" that he's cultured since 2002 and has no idea what it is (even though anyone could figure it out in a few days).  There's author and documentarian Jeffery Smith, a guy who's empire depends on scaring audiences. Seralini is well known for data that never pan out anywhere else in the world, especially in the billions of cattle that consume 100% GMO diets. 



One of the operative words here is EDUCATION.  This group will misinform a public about a perfectly safe technology.  The participants are not being educated, they are being lied to by expert manipulators that push an activist agenda.  

Having CE Credit for healthcare providers also provides a credibility to the event it does not deserve. 

I'm thinking about hosting an event across the street, a Science Kegger.  Free!  Talk about what participants just heard and how it meshes with actual science.  I just might do it.. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Pardon My Logic

Every stinkin' day I read about how Bt is dangerous and a pesticide that humans should not eat, because it kills insects.  After all, it is a regulated insecticide by the EPA!!   It kills caterpillar corn pests, so it MUST kill you too...  Right?  Don't we have a right to know it is in our food?

Anti-GMO folks use this relationship to demand labels for Bt corn.  File that under Exhibit A.

Exhibit A.

Now... you can read all over the internets that you can avoid roundup (glyphosate) by using vinegar as an active ingredient with epsom salts and dish soap to kill weeds.  It is a potent HERBICIDE, and is endorsed and distributed ad nauseum by those claiming that glyphosate is dangerous.  Call that Exhibit B.

Exhibit B. 
"It will kill anything you spray it on"...  Hasta la vista Bees!

So if I'm understanding this right, Bt kills a specific kind of insect and should therefore be labeled because it is an insecticide.  Don't we have a right to know?

Vinegar is the main component of a potent herbicide.  Therefore, shouldn't it also be labeled as an herbicide?  Clearly it can kill plants, so it is toxic to eukaryotic cells, just like human cells- don't we have a right to know?

And while I can't find data on it, my guess is that if you incubate testicular, placental or breast cells with it they will die at concentrations 1000x lower than glyphosate in Seralini's tissue culture experiments.

We need to be labeling all vinegar-containing products as herbicides.  Salad dressing, coleslaw, hot sauce, you name it!!!  Pickles are soaking in a deadly herbicide!!!   Do you want your kids to eat herbicides? 

A vaccinated and therefore immunocompromised  baby additionally poisoned by a plant product doused in a deadly herbicide. 


Let's look at the MSDS for acetic acid (concentrated vinegar)

Toxicity to Animals:
Acute oral toxicity (LD50): 3310 mg/kg [Rat]. 
Acute dermal toxicity (LD50): 1060 mg/kg [Rabbit]. 
Acute toxicity of the vapor (LC50): 5620 1 hours [Mouse].
Chronic Effects on Humans:
MUTAGENIC EFFECTS: Mutagenic for mammalian somatic cells. Mutagenic for bacteria and/or yeast. May cause damage to the following organs: kidneys, mucous membranes, skin, teeth.
Other Toxic Effects on Humans:
Extremely hazardous in case of inhalation (lung corrosive). Very hazardous in case of skin contact (irritant), of ingestion, .
Hazardous in case of skin contact (corrosive, permeator), of eye contact (corrosive).
Special Remarks on Toxicity to Animals: Not available.
Special Remarks on Chronic Effects on Humans: May cause reproductive effects based on
animal data.  No human data found. (UNTESTED!!!)

Compare to Glyphosate:

ACUTE ORAL TOXICITY  Oral LD50 (rat): > 5,000 mg/kg  (less toxic than acetic acid)
ACUTE DERMAL TOXICITY  Dermal LD50 (rat, male): > 5,000 mg/kg  (less toxic than acetic acid) 
ACUTE INHALATION TOXICITY  Inhalation LC50 (rat): > 7.03 mg/L 
EYE IRRITANT   None to Slight 
SKIN IRRITATION  None to Slight 
SENSITIZATION   Guinea pig – Non-Sensitizer 
ACGIH: Not listed 
IARC: Not listed 
NTP: Not listed 
OSHA: Not listed 
MUTAGENIC DATA: No evidence of mutagenic effects during in vivo and in vitro assays. 

What? Organic pickles soaking in an herbicide?  I thought they didn't use herbicides? 

Wow.  That just nails it.  Anti-GMO has been whining about natural insecticides that can't harm humans for a decade, and at the same time pitch a chemical that is by their definition more deadly to plants than roundup.   

Time to label anything containing vinegar as a containing a potentially deadly herbicide.

And ditch those old Massengill products.  No herbicides in the hootenanny.

We have a right to know

Sunday, August 31, 2014

"But it's NATURAL...."

Good old generalizations, the stuff of crummy memes and skim thinking. 

I put a little illumination on Michael Pollan's astute comment, "If it comes from a plant, eat it, if it was made in a plant, don't." 

It sure sounds nice until we remember that for millennia plants have been one of Mother Nature's key weapons in her War on Humanity.  

Glad On Demand Dietitian took that as intended!