Is Himalayan “non-gmo” pink salt radioactive?


Now this is rich. If there was any doubt as to why we think the anti-gmo crowd is head shakingly stupid, here is a classic example. A company called Himalania is selling Himalayan Pink Salt as a non-gmo certified product. That’s right, non-gmo salt.  Kudos to Shea Gunther for his mnn.com column, Facepalm of the week: Non-GMO salt!?  for bringing it to our attention.

non-gmo-rock-salt_sm

The twittersphere was all giggly at this nonsense and mad scientist Kevin Folta weighed in on his Illumination blog,

Here’s how we know that science is dead in the anti-GMO movement.  The Non-GMO Project and their crack scientific team has verified, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that salt is not a transgenic plant.

It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so sad and so true. On their website, Himalania touts the salt as being mineral rich, containing such helpful minerals as magnesium, potassium, copper and iron. They go on to say the salt is pure and hasn’t been “exposed to any modern chemicals, toxins or radiation sources.”

Sounds great? Well, what else does it contain? A visit to the site saltnews.com has a chemical breakdown of all  the natural elements in this purest of pure salts. Among those are fluoride, arsenic, lead, plutonium, uranium, and polonium.

Huh. Some of those things sound kind of radioactive, especially that polonium one. Wasn’t that what assassins used to kill this guy, Viktor Yushchenko?

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Or maybe he wasn’t assassinated but was eating Himalayan Pink Salt?

And it has fluoride? Isn’t there some hippie movement to tale fluoride out of our water supplies?

I noticed the list included lead, which has been shown to affect IQ. Maybe all these natural folks consuming pink salt may have had their IQ compromised by the lead in the salt?

No, of course not. These trace amounts aren’t harmful to humans. As they say, the dose makes the poison. Imagine if any of the elements were in gmo foods?  The frightened anti-gmo villagers would be jumping and hollering and pointing… “Look! Look! Poisons!”

Oh and this is choice. The company wrote in the comment section on Gunther’s piece,

… we are demonstrating our support for this meaningful cause, and advocating that we do care about our consumer’s health concerns. Not all consumers are as educated on this topic, and for some it is primordial and comforting to have the NON GMO Verified seal on the products they intend to purchase.

Allow me to translate. “Our customers are idiots.” How in God’s name is placing a non-gmo label on a product that can’t be gmo be educating people?

“…we do care about our consumer’s health concerns.”

Really? Then how about a label that warns people who are 51 years of age or older, are African American, have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease to limit their salt intake? (source CDC.)

Ah, here it is, “We are committed to clean labeling and standing behind the Himalania brand, as being a part of the NON-GMO Verified eco-system is more than just adding a 1” x 1.5” logo on our products – It is a state of mind…”

A state of mind? There you have it. Their stance is not based on science, but a state of mind. 

But maybe we should err on the side of caution. After all, the FDA has been bought off by big business, so those safe levels may be all wrong and could very well be harmful. That’s why Himalayan Pink Salt should be not only labeled non-gmo, it should have another label, prominently displayed on the  front of the package saying. “This product may be radioactive.” 

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Send in the anti-GMO clowns


Every once in a while you read something that fires on all cylinders. That most recent something is an analysis on a Canadian website Troy Media. The junk science clowns behind the GMO scare is the last  installment of a four-part series  Quacks and Conspiracies.

The author, Alan McHughen systematically demolishes all the nonsense peddled by the anti-GMO crowd.

GMO technologies have been around since the early 1970s and have given us many useful products, from human insulin to safer crops grown with fewer pesticides. Moreover, in over 30 years of experience, according to authoritative sources such as the U.S. National Academies and the American Medical Association, there is not one documented case of harm to humans, animals or the environment from GM products.

That is an impressive track record, considering the extent of GM products in pharmaceuticals, agriculture, food and industrial applications. So why are so many still fearful of this technology? One simple answer is junk science and its carefully crafted use as a weapon of mass fear.

That’s it in a nutshell. McHughen goes on to take apart the nonsense peddlers like  Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the U.K.’s Soil Association, accusing them of  “fear-mongering,” and deploying “their considerable media-manipulating machinery to spread more scare stories.”

I wish he would have included the Organic Consumers Association, headed by anti-vaccine and professional activist. Ronnie Cummins, but hey, you can’t have everything. But all in all it’s a great piece and he even includes a video from Penn and Teller who castigate the activist groups and publicize Norman Borlaug who most people have probably never heard of.

In the video, P&T relate how in the early 2,000s, Greenpeace and other activists went to Zambia and urged the government to refuse the GM corn that was donated to help with a famine by saying it was “poison.”

According to the article,

As reported by the BBC, Mwanawasa duly locked up the food in the warehouses – the same GM corn eaten without incident by millions of Americans – and then watched his subjects die, insisting such a fate was preferable to eating “poison.” That is, until the starving Zambians broke into the warehouses and gorged themselves healthy on the allegedly poisonous corn.

Readers of this blog know that I can be harsh on anti-GMO activists and actions like they took in Zambia is why I do take a hardline. I think it’s criminal that well-fed westerners would deny starving people food because they have a problem with it.

I feel the same way about the Golden Rice issue. Here we have a solution to the problem that would prevent the deaths and blindness of millions of Third World children due to lack of Vitamin A. Activists, led by Greenpeace promote all kinds of bogus information about the rice and lobby governments to reject it. I’m sorry, I think that is advocating mass murder, pure and simple.

In a private email, a reader of this blog suggested I should tone it down so I don’t alienate the people I am trying to reach.  But I am not against the well-meaning people who are taken in by these groups. They think they are doing the right thing.

What I try to do is alert them to the fact they are being used by extremists and charlatans.  The downside of that is no one wants to think they’re a rube. I know whereof I speak. I used to fall for every bit of nonsense that came down the pike because it fit in with my worldview. Then I found out I was being a rube. Psychic Ouch.  So, I dusted off my ego and became the progressive contrarian. 

Since I started this blog, I’ve come to realize that maybe I’m not so much a contrarian in the strictest sense of the word. I think I defined myself by the rules of my tribe which makes me a contrarian. I look for the facts and evidence and if the facts and evidence  take me to different place, I have to go with it.

I hope that my posts are well-reasoned and evidence based, despite the sometimes strident tone.

Oh, of course I digressed once again from my original point. So let’s finish this one off with another quote from the article. It has to do with my bete noire, Jeffrey Smith.

 Meanwhile, the New World spawned another popular junk scientist in the person of Jeffrey Smith, who has penned several books decrying his perceived hazards of modern agriculture, saving the most potent venom for genetically modified crops and foods. Smith’s self-published, non-peer-reviewed Genetic Roulette, for example, expounds upon already questionable reports – almost all from non-peer-reviewed sources – in a confident, technical voice that suggests that he actually has some scientific or medical credentials. However, closer inspection of Smith’s CV reveals that the closest he has come to scientific credentials is working as a ballroom dance instructor and a flying carpet yogi. Genetic Roulette is so packed with scientific misunderstanding and misinformation that a group of actual scientific experts established a Web site to counter and explain, point by point, some 65 false claims.

2012: The year crazy and stupid went mainstream


I’ve always been of the mind that stupid should hurt, so 2012 was a hard one for the Contrarian. It was the year that crazy and stupid went mainstream, or at least when I first noticed it did. It was the year a manufactured issue, the safety of GMOs, came to the popular progressive imagination. Progressives embraced every crackpot and their theories.  And none of them felt any pain due to their stupidity.

Now, the fact they were being stupid had nothing to do with a lack of intelligence, although there were some people who seemed downright unhinged. These were people with whom I was in agreement with on most issues. It was very distressing.

After spending countless hours on this blog and comment boards trying to correct the errors, and set straight all the bogus information that was being peddled by the anti-GMO crowd, I discovered an alarming trend. The more I countered the nonsense with scientific peer-reviewed facts and evidence, the harder the anti-GMO crowd dug in their heels.  It was like confirmation bias, cognitive dissonance and identity politics joined forces to create a gigantic mental disturbance field.

I didn’t understand it, then I came across a book called,  Experiments With People: Revelations from Social Psychology, by psychologists Robert P. Abelson, Aiden Gregg,and Kurt P. Frey. It was a study on doomsday cults. There was this Eureka moment:

“..continuing to proselytize on behalf of a doomsday cult whose prophecies have been disconfirmed, although it makes little logical sense, makes plenty of psychological sense if people have already spent months proselytizing on the cult’s behalf. Persevering allows them to avoid the embarrassment of how wrong they were in the first place.”

That’s it. The anti-GMO crowd are like a doomsday cult.  Hyberole? Probably, but both cults have their similarities. Both are so heavily invested in their belief, they have no choice but to carry on in spite of evidence to the contrary. The  anti-GMO crowd does share a sort of doomsday mentality in the sense they believe GMOs will kill us all.

Another mental tool the anti-GMO crowd embraces is a version of Godwin’s Law or Reductio ad Hitlerum or Aargumentum ad Hitlerum (Reduce/argument to Hitler.) Just replace Hitler with Monsanto and there it is.  This is a common response. If you explain to someone why they are wrong using facts and evidence, you will eventually be accused of being a shill for Monsanto.

No one knows this better than Kevin Folta, a plant scientist at the University of Florida. In Six Degrees of Monsanto, a recent post at his blog, Illumination, he chronicles an online discussion he had with an anti-GMO person.

Rather than look for real evidence to support his point, he scoured the web for the words “Monsanto” and “Folta”.

They search for any connection, real or imagined; direct or tenuous to Monsanto because they don’t have the facts on their side.

And here comes the real bummer. Whereas progressives used to have a healthy mistrust of government and corporations, (for good reason) that mistrust has now become one ginormous conspiracy fueled by the insanity of people like Jeffrey Smith, Dr. Mercola, Mike Adams and Ronnie Cummins.

In order to bolster their belief system, they have bought into the crazy talk and lies promoted by these four horsemen of the Aquackalypse. These clowns have managed to tap into the corporate mistrust of progressives  and use it to advance their own crackpot agendas.

Now, I’m not a scientist.  I’m just a progressive who has managed, over the decades to overcome my confirmation biases and notice red flags.  I’ve becomes a real skeptic when someone is pushing an agenda, even when it comes from my side and people are screaming doom and gloom.  It’s one of the reasons I came late to the climate change party.  I’ll admit that.  But what I did was check out the actual science and my thinking changed. (Actually I did believe it, but I was wary of how much humans contributed to it.)

When the GMO issue hit my radar about a year and a half ago another one of those red flags went up. It was all doom and gloom.  So, I did what I did with climate change. I did some research. What I found was that every single piece of evidence citing safety and health issues regarding GMOs weren’t true or had been discredited.

What was worse is that it was actually difficult to find independent science.  I had to wade through all the activist sites which turned out to be a real echo chamber. The same information and the same articles kept popping up. Then I started seeing the same bylines and sources for the information. Off I went to find out who those guys were.  That’s when I found the crackpots, fraud and charlatans.

I became embarrassed as a progressive. These were my peeps.  At first it was easy to chalk it up to a bunch of cranks and then I noticed that friends were parroting this misinformation. People I knew weren’t dumb. That’s when I realized the nonsense had hit the progressive mainstream. And even more horrific is when I would explain why they were wrong on some science point… they said it… Monsanto. It was coming from inside the house!

That started a whole new conversation about separating the technology from the corporations that use it. Look, I’m an old, out shape smoker. My lungs don’t have the capacity they used to.

Side Note: I actually had one of my best friends accuse me of defending BigAgra simply because I didn’t believe community gardens could feed the world and that in many ways organic is a scam. She refused my challenge of bringing over a conventional apple and and organic one and she had to pick which was which by taste.

As a way to end this up, since I don’t have a closing, I think this is the year when the progressive/liberal/left went off the rails regarding science. They went with their identity politics and gave credibility to the cranks. They not only gave credibility to the cranks, they joined forces with them.

End note: I would like to thank the  people who  helped this non-scientist guy along his way.  The first are Pamela Ronald and Raoul Adamchak who took time out of their vacation to answer my questions when I was writing my first posts on the issue. They didn’t know me from Adam. The second is Anastasia Bodnar who allowed to me to use her succinct description of how transgenics work even though she probably thinks I’m a weirdo.  ( I am) Another is Monsanto shill, Kevin Folta. He has given me some positive reinforcement to make me think I’m not that way off base. And I want to thank the agricultural folks who I asked for assistance to understand things and who were more than happy to answer my questions.

Happy New Year.

Church of the Organic demand Dr. Oz’s head on a pike as an example to the others


An angry, manure smelling mob from the Church of the Organic, citronella torches ablaze and artisanal pitchforks held aloft, stormed the production studios of TV’s Dr Oz after it was revealed he wrote an article in the current issue of  Time Magazine saying  conventional foods, like frozen peas and carrots, were A-OK by him.

Frightened production employees cowered under desks as the horde rampaged through the studios in search of Oz. Witnesses said the throng overturned desks and chairs demanding the surrender of the heretical Oz.  Oz wasn’t on the premises and was said to be in hiding in a secure safe house provided by Birdseye.

Update:

I don’t have a subscription to Time, so I wasn’t able to access the actual article on their site, but I did manage did get what I think is his article from another site. In it he utters the heretical notion that foodies are “snobs”  and “you don’t need to eat like the 1% to eat healthily.” He says that regular food is as healthy as organic.  But his most egregious crime was basically saying,  organic food isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Organic church member and writer for Nation of Change and Natural Society, Anthony Gucciardi  takes the Oz to task.  He and others somehow manage to come to the conclusion that due to his advocacy of conventional food, that makes him a shill for GMO food even though Oz never once mentions GMOs in his article.  He also quotes the anti-vax and all around health lunatic, Mike “GMOs are the new Zyklon B” Adams as a source.

(Side note: I have my problems with Gucciardi which I will deal with in an upcoming post. I have never seen any so-called journalist write such consistently misleading and dishonest articles.)

The faithful weighed in on the comment board and savaged him, their former Pope of Nonsense.  Here are some examples of what they’re saying :

Sounds too much like he has downed the Kool-Aid and is now puking it back at his credulous audience. Does he have no reservations about GMO at ALL?

Dr. Oz needs to go hide behind the curtain. He’s drinking the kool-aid of Monsanto and their ilk…

He completely lost his credibility. I wonder how much Monsanto paid him for that? He is supposed to check the research before making blind claims like that. What a hypocrite! He sold his soul.

He has sold out. They probably threatened to take him off of the air.

Well, let me be the first one to welcome Dr. Oz to our family of Monsanto shills.

Dr. Oz/Jeffrey Smith Smackdown by Bruce Chassy


I’ve been a big detractor of fraud Jeffrey Smith on this blog for quite a while. He is a fraud and a charlatan with no scientific credentials who has been given credibility by State legislatures and the media as an expert on GMOs. He spouts nonsense. So, it was heartening to see this. It is a link via Pamela Ronald via ScienceBlogs

When an alert came across my digital transom letting me know that Dr. Oz would be doing another show on GMOs, I refused to watch.  It turns out I made the correct decision. Bruce Chassy, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Department of Food Science & Nutrition at the University of Illinois was invited to appear on the show but due to conflicts he couldn’t make it. It was probably a good thing, since Oz stacked the deck. Chassy, along with a real Oz guy, Australian David Tribe have a website dedicated to debunking the yogic flying Mr. Smith called Academics Review. On that site, using peer-reviewed science, they demolish Smith’s self-published book Genetic Roulette, what is really an anti-GMO comic book and  full of  pseudo-scientific nonsense.

He wrote a scathing letter to the show and its producers laying out his objections to the program and what he saw as  “potential violation by Dr. Oz of medical ethics and high risk of misrepresentation of human health information by Dr. Oz, Zoco Productions and Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios on this issue.”

Chassy doesn’t mince words:

Simply put, Mr. Smith’s health, environmental and safety claims about biotechnology have no basis whatsoever in medicine or science. Thousands of published and peer reviewed studies conducted over the past thirty-plus years contradict his claims and bizarre hypotheses associating health dangers linked to foods derived using biotechnology production methods. This is corroborated by such respected scientific and medical authorities as the American Medical Association, World Health Organization with the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Institute for Food Technologists and the American Dietetic Association. Regulatory bodies including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and Food Safety Commission of Japan (FSCJ) all confirm this safety.

He castigates Oz throughout the letter basically accusing him of dishonesty.  Later in the letter he says:

All of this would lead any reasonable person to believe your representations were disingenuous and that this show was orchestrated theater on behalf of Mr. Smith and the Proposition 37 campaign. Since Mr. Smith and his collaborator, Dr. Oz show co-producer Lisa Oz, are active proponents behind the Proposition 37 California Ballot Initiative, the program you intend to air on the Fox network prior to the November 6, 2012 election appears by all manners to be an orchestrated and essentially in-kind donation of a free campaign commercial for this initiative. Worse, Dr. Oz will be amplifying thoroughly debunked and potentially dangerous nutrition and health-related advice to his viewing audience.

Your assurances and the tactics of the Dr. Oz show fall short of even the lowest standards of media and medical ethics.

I want to thank Dr. Chassy for making this effort since his credentials way outweigh mine when it comes to science. I’m just a civilian, a  fact and evidence based cranky blogger, Chassy has the CV.

Read it here: Letter to Dr. Oz Show Producers

Another flawed GMO study, again


Gilles-Eric Seralini is back in the news again. He’s released yet another study that shows Monsanto’s Bt corn causes tumors and multiple organ damage. Seralini has done this study twice before and both times they were discredited as majorly flawed. The reactions to this one has met with the same reactions.

The big question many are asking about this study is this: If after 16 years GM corn being on the market, why haven’t we seen people “dropping like flies,”  from eating the corn?

Reuters has a good article which seeks out other expert opinion on the study.

Mark Tester, a research professor at the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics at the University of Adelaide, said the study’s findings raised the question of why no previous studies have flagged up similar concerns.

“If the effects are as big as purported, and if the work really is relevant to humans, why aren’t the North Americans dropping like flies? GM has been in the food chain for over a decade over there – and longevity continues to increase inexorably,” he said in an emailed comment.

David Spiegelhalter of the University of Cambridge said the methods, statistics and reporting of results were all below standard. He added that the study’s untreated control arm comprised only 10 rats of each sex, most of which also got tumours.

This new study will be sure to be added to the bad and anti-scientific arsenal of the anti-GM crowd. Will the anti-GMO crowd notice the skepticism of other experts? Yes, but they will ignore it and ask, “How much is Monsanto paying them?”

Update: The Huffington Post re-posted the Reuters article but left out the criticisms from the above scientists.

Update:  8:16PM EDT: The HuffPost has responded to me and said they would update the article to include the criticisms.

Also, here are more quotes about the study (thanks to Hank Campbell at Science2.0) Link