Norman Borlaug and Vandana Shiva were walking along a beach…


Norman Borlaug* and Vandana Shiva were walking along a beach when they came upon a bottle. Borlaug reached down, picked it up and opened it.

A genie appeared and thanked them for releasing him. He was so grateful that he offered to grant the two any wish they wanted.

He turned to Borlaug and asked him what he wanted. Borlaug didn’t miss a beat and said, “I wish there was  a new solution to help agriculture advance and help feed the poor of the world and increase nutrition in areas that lack it.”

The genie winced and said, “Well, I don’t have the power to create the solution,  but I can give you a scientific tool that will help.  It’s called genetically modified organisms.” Borlaug was thrilled, thanked the genie and walked away smiling.

He then turned to Shiva and asked what she wanted. Shiva  furrowed her brow and then perked up and said excitedly,  “My  neighbors get better yields with gmos than my organic farm. I want you to destroy my neighbor’s  farm.”

Connecticut legislature makes anti-science history


Today’s post is a version of an op-ed that was quickly and roundly rejected by the Hartford Courant with a curt,  No Thanks, response.

courant

The Connecticut legislature made history recently when it overwhelmingly approved a gmo labeling bill. They made history by giving credibility to the anti-science views of crackpots, frauds, and charlatans.

In 2012, the Assembly’s GM labeling task force had one Jeffrey Smith testify.  Readers of this blog are well acquainted with him. He is the go-to-guy and is considered an “expert” on gmos. Unfortunately he is not a scientist and has no agricultural experience. He is considered a joke among the scientific community.

His bio and resume are vague. What is known is he was a member of the Maharishi Natural Law Party in Iowa, whose solution to the national crime problem was “yogic flying.”

In 1996, the Daily Illinni wrote, “Smith presented charts with evidence of a correlation between the presence of yogic flyers and an increase in the quality of life and a decrease in crime. Smith cited limited yogic flying programs in Washington D.C. and near the Middle East that resulted in less crime and more harmony.” 

He has two self-published books on genetic engineering.  One of them, Genetic Roulette has been discredited by real scientists. The organization, Academics Review, looked at the book to see how his claims stacked up against current peer-reviewed science and submitted a chapter by chapter take down of the book.

Smith recently backed out of a debate on the safety of gmos at the Cato Institute where he would have had to defend his nonsense against actual scientists. Those scientists are Karl Von Mogel and Kevin Folta. Von Mogel is a Ph.D. candidate in plant breeding and plant genetics at the University of Wisconsin who co-founded the science site Biofortified.  Folta is Interim Chairman and Associate Professor Horticultural Sciences Department at the  University of Florida and writes the blog Illumination. 

Last year, I wrote the Connecticut legislature’s GMO Labeling Task Force suggesting they have an actual scientist testify as a counterbalance to Smith’s nonsense. From my email:

I just read that Jeffrey Smith, of the Institute of Responsible Technology will be speaking before your GMO Labeling Task Force on August 8th. I would recommend you rescind this offer as Mr. Smith is a self-styled expert on GMOs. He has no experience in science or agriculture. For some reason he is considered an expert by the media and others.

If this is not possible, I suggest you at least have actual scientists testify on this issue to counterbalance his nonsense.

I received a polite reply from Elaine O’Brien who wrote

 “my intention is to gather as much information as possible. I understand that this is not a simple subject and I do not believe we should be rushing to label before we understand the issue”.

It seems they didn’t take my advice and consult any real scientists and listened only to a minority of vocal activists who peddled discredited studies and lies.

Every major health and scientific organization have weighed in on the safety of genetically modified foods. The safety is not in question.

Humans have been genetically modifying foods for thousands of years. Activist claim GM is different. Yes, it is. It is more precise.

With conventional breeding it is a hit and miss method. With conventional breeding they transfer thousands of genes, hoping they will get what they want. With GM, scientists only transfer the gene(s) that they need.

Activists point to the 64 countries that have laws requiring labeling as a talking point. Well, 74 countries have laws against homosexuality. Should we follow their lead?

The legislature should be ashamed of themselves.

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?

uke

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.” 

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.

The violent side of anti-GMO


 

Who was our fearless anti-GMO leader talking about? She was talking about Marie Mason, an eco-activist  who was convicted  in 2009 of  13 counts of arson and property damage.  She set fire to a building at Michigan State University that was doing research on GMOs.  Liberal anti-science darling Vandana Shiva thought what Mason did was a good thing. Shiva is not only an anti-progress, anti-science menace, she’s an asshole.

Mason is an extreme example, but more and more we are seeing green groups,  like Greenpeace, physically attacking and destroying GMO test fields. On one hand they scream about how GMOs aren’t tested, then proceed to destroy test fields.

Over the past decade, green groups have engaged in destruction of trial fields across Europe and beyond.  The problem has become so bad that scientists fear for their lives and their fate of their research.

Last year, some dumbass group called Take back the Flour was planning to destroy a publicly funded wheat field trial. The scientists involved took to the internets to appeal to them not to be dumbassses.

I think that video is brilliant. I wish I knew their names because the dark haired woman gets it right when she says that if you destroy the experiment we will never know the answer of whether what they are doing will work. The main blonde woman is also correct when she says that scientists don’t know everything, “that’s why we need to conduct experiments.”

Those scientists aren’t Monsanto shills. they are independent scientists trying to help make the world a better place.

In Italy, a Green group destroyed an olive tree field taking with it  20 years of research.

In 2011, Greenpeace nitwits attacked a  GM trial wheat field in Canberra, Australia.

The increasing violence of the anti-GMO crowd has become so serious that actual security measures have been taken. An  article in Science Daily, Fighting GM Crop Vandalism With a Government-Protected Research Site explains why this is become such a serious problem.

As of 2010, opponents of genetic modification had destroyed more than 100 field trials in Europe. At the Reckenholz site, a group of more than 30 masked activists threatened researchers and destroyed about 30 percent of the experimental plants in a 2008 field trial.

But wait, there’s more.

In an unrelated attack in Gross Lüsewitz, Northern Germany on July 9, six activists overpowered a security guard and ransacked test plots of fungus-resistant wheat. They also destroyed potatoes engineered to produce a chemical that may one day be used to make plastics. The fields, owned by the company Biovativ, were part of a government-funded trial.

Two days later, another group of vandals trampled a demonstration garden of GM potatoes, wheat, and maize in Üplingen, ScienceInsider reports. No one has been identified in those assaults.

What is interesting is that anti-GMO activists point to Europe and elsewhere about how they label foods containing GMOs. Europe, specifically, has become very anti-science.

In 2008, vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin drew criticism for her absurd beliefs – from Creationism to climate denialism – but few seem to realise how far that same anti-science sentiment has crept into our own politics. Link

Thankfully, Mason’s extreme action hasn’t become the norm in the U.S. We can also be thankful that the destructive behavior in Europe and OZ hasn’t made a big trouble here.

The UC Davis Police Department has increased patrols around some campus research fields after anti-genetic engineering activists claimed responsibility last week for destroying three research plantings of sugar beets and corn.

That was 1999. How long before we see more of that numb nut behavior here?

The anti-GMO gang that couldn’t label straight


Throughout the Prop 37 campaign we heard the refrain from the GMO labeling crowd, “Just label it.” They wanted to know what Big Ag was hiding. It was, after all, just a simple label, May Contain Genetically Modified Ingredients. 

After a long battle the initiative went down to defeat. But supporters vowed to carry on in their quest. And they made good on their threat. From all accounts, around 30 states are considering labeling foods made with GMOs. This didn’t  escape the notice of Big Ag.  They needed a plan.

So, the 20 Big Ag and food families called for a sitdown in Washington, D.C with the FDA and two representatives from the opposing anti-GMO families. They decided it wasn’t worth it to go to the financial mattresses and keep fighting this war.

It made perfect sense. They knew this would be a never ending battle costing millions. They needed to hammer out an arrangement with the opposing families.

You would think the anti-GMO soldiers would have welcomed this meeting. You would have thought wrong.

The minute notice of the meeting was leaked by “Crazy Ron” Cummins, head of the OCA family, he cried conspiracy as did the others. He smelled a rat. Michelle Simon, consigliere of the anti-GMO families was equally suspicious. In a column on the site  Nation of Change, Simon wrote, “any effort to label GE foods at the federal level could bring the current grassroots movement to a grinding halt by preventing any stronger local laws from ever being enacted.”

We have been told non-stop for over two years that it was just a simple idea of a label; the right-to-know that food products were made with GMOs. Then in the middle of that, it morphed into how GMOs cause  every malady known to mankind. Still, they kept saying it was simply, the right-to-know. Now the anti-GMO families are making noise about stronger local laws?

The anti-GMO families have been holding meetings across the country where a yogic flying dance teacher with no scientific credentials whatsoever gives his expert opinion on the dangers of GMOs. If he isn’t available, they screen his quackumentary*, Genetic Roulette. 

So, what is it? They can’t keep their motives straight. Do they want a simple label or do they want GMOs banned? Its obvious it’s the latter, but they still can’t keep chanting the it’s just a label mantra.

The anti-GMO crowd has to get real. They have to stick to one message and not be so weasly in their intentions. The bottom line is they want GMO foods banned because they think they are poison.  They should come clean that they are organic advocates that hate any kind of modern progress in regards to farming. They have to come clean that what they perceive as the dangers of GMOs have never been proven, despite the bogus science they believe.

As much as I hate corporations, they were smart to call this confab, where a strict code of omerta was observed, even by the opposing family representatives. I think the reaction to this meeting(s) show(s) the true motives of the anti-GMO crowd.

*Oh, man. I thought I invented that word, but a friend sent me some links where it was used, usually by crazy conspiracy theorists.