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.

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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.

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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.

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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.” 

The dark side of the anti-GMO movement


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Each year in Third World countries, millions of children go blind or die from the lack of Vitamin A. Wouldn’t it be great if scientists could come up with an easy solution to this human disaster? Well, they did.

Professor Ingo Potrykus of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and Peter Beyer of the University of Freiburg in Germany found a solution. They created something called Golden Rice. It is rice genetically modified to produce higher amounts of vitamin A.

Given that rice is a staple in Asia and elsewhere, this was an easy way to help poor children get the nutrients they need. This beneficial creation didn’t go unnoticed by the anti-GMO/Organic activists and they wasted no time in attacking it. They have spread all kinds of unfounded rumors and lies about Golden Rice.

When MIT researchers conducted a trial with children in China, not to determine if they rice was safe, (it is) but to see if the rice did indeed deliver adequate amounts of Vitamin A, Greenpeace launched a propaganda campaign, accusing the researchers all kinds of ethical violations and using the kids, unwittingly as guinea pigs. They made such a racket that the Chinese Government freaked out and fired the Chinese researchers involved and paid compensation to families.

Greenpeace and others have continued their assault, holding up approval of this modern life saving measure. In the meantime, millions of kids are going blind and dying.  It is unconscionable and cruel, but that’s what the anti-GMO movement has become.

Greenpeace, a $300 million a year enterprise, full of well-fed, healthy, sighted westerners is advocating denying a life saving measure to poor children because their worldview disagrees with GMOs. It’s grotesque. There should be some way to haul them into the European Court of Human Rights.  That may sound like hyperbole, but considering they are campaigning to thwart life saving measures for millions of children, they should be held accountable.

But they aren’t the only ones waging a murderous campaign. Other groups and activists like Vandana Shiva also oppose saving children and starving people because the food may be GMO. As I wrote back in January,

Needless to say she hates GMOs.  This is where her rhetoric becomes dangerous. She hates them so much that she attacked OXFAM on their GMO stance when they were engaged in cyclone relief efforts in Orissa, a state on the southeast coast of India. She tried to persuade them to not supply GMO foods writing in an open letter that “We hope your food aid will be G.E. free.”  Shiva’s groupWomen for Diversity demanded the Indian government “immediately withdraw the corn-soya blend from Orissa.” Apparently it was better for people to starve rather than eat GMO food.

She hates “golden rice,” a non-commercially developed GMO rice with higher levels of Vitamin A which can prevent blindness in children. Millions of Third World children go blind each year due to lack of Vitamin A, yet Shiva would deny these children because GM is evil bad and golden rice is a“myth” and negates, “nature’s diverse gifts and women’s knowledge of how to use diversity to feed their children and families.” 

This descent into  cruelty can be traced back to 2002 in Zambia. At the time, the country faced food shortages and people were starving. The U.S sent food to help alleviate the disaster. Then, in waltzed foreign activist groups who convinced the Zambian Government that the food was “poison.” Zambia then warehoused all the food aid and refused to distribute it to their starving people.

The president of Zambia said today that his country, which is inching toward famine, would continue to refuse relief food that may be genetically modified, calling such food ”poison” and saying it is ”intrinsically dangerous.” ”I’m not prepared to accept that we should use our people as guinea pigs,” Mr. Mwanawasa said.

“Poison.”  “Dangerous.” “Guinea pigs.” Sound familiar?

The anti-GMO movement has decided the ends justify the means. They blatantly and without remorse, peddle dangerous nonsense.  When they aren’t peddling the imagined dangers of GMOs, they are vociferously defending and trying to rehabilitate the reputation of  the anti-GMO Gilles-Eric Seralini,  whose widely discredited RoundUp studies on rats was widely condemned by the scientific community.

In his quest to prove harm, he chose rats prone to tumors and allowed them to live longer than ethically acceptable in order to be able to show hideous pictures of rats with gigantic tumors. Science ethics experts, having seen the disturbing images could tell that Seralini had crossed ethical parameters in the use of animals in experiments.

A recent report by experts in medicine, pathology, food regulation and plant science found that Seralini’s study showed a “regrettable example of failures at multiple levels during the execution and communication of research.

The study appeared to sweep aside all known benchmarks of scientific good practice and, more importantly, to ignore the minimal standards of scientific and ethical conduct in particular concerning the humane treatment of experimental animals.

The report also says that there was an “abject failure” to “treat the experimental animals in a humane manner within standards of regulatory authorities, with the aim of “propagandising”.

The ends justify the means.

UPDATE:  At a recent Academia Europaea conference at Cambridge University, the co-inventor of Golden Rice said,

“If our society will not be able to “de-demonise” transgenic technology soon, history will hold it responsible for death and suffering of millions: people in the poor world, not in overfed and privileged Europe, the home of the anti-GMO hysteria.”

How’s the safety of organic food working out for ya?


ecoliThe anti-GMO crowd constantly points to the lack of long-term safety studies of foods containing GMOs. They continue with this meme even though there have been hundreds of studies over the last 16 years attesting to their safety and major scientific and health organizations have signed off on them. The Big Ignore is the fact that in that time there hasn’t been one negative health effect on humans. Not one.

In order to protect themselves from the scourge of GMO foods, many have extolled the virtues of organic food, touting its safety and the imaginary idea that a $30 billion/year business is all mom and pop.  But as  I noted last year in Should organic foods be labeled, “May contain E.coli or Salmonellathat trust may be misplaced.

The E.coli outbreak in Germany that killed 50 people and hospitalized thousands in 2011 was caused by organic sprouts. Also, last year, sprouts from an Illinois organic farm sickened people in 26 states. These outbreaks didn’t come from conventional or GMO foods.

This year, an organic farm was responsible for at least 10 people being diagnosed with Campylobacter infections.

Well, we have an update. The latest news about the safest foods in the history of the planet comes from Taylor Farms which  just had to recall its organic spinach in 39 states due to an e.coli scare.

Let’s see what else has been going on. Multistate Outbreak of Shiga Toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157:H7 Infections Linked to Organic Spinach and Spring Mix Blend 

A total of 33 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coliO157:H7 (STEC O157:H7) were reported from five states.

46% of ill persons were hospitalized. Two ill persons developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure, and no deaths were reported.

When they’re not poisoning us they’re trying to kill us with foreign objects in there foods.

Annie’s Recalling Homegrown Frozen Pizza for Foreign Objects.

Rudi’s Organic Bakery Breads Recalled for Foreign Objects

Back in 2011, Lundberg Farms, who helped finance the Prop. 37 labeling campaign had to recall its Sea Salt Rice Chips in Canada due to undeclared soy.

I’ve made this suggestion before and I will make it again. There needs to be labels on organic foods. Consumers have a right-to- know whether we might be at risk of  e.coli poisoning or have our stomachs sliced open from the inside by foreign objects. And the children. Think of the children. 

Considering that in 2011-2012 there were almost two dozen recalls of organic products due to illness, hospitalization and death, we should impose a moratorium on organic foods until the industry can prove they are 100% safe. There have been no long-term studies of organic foods and the effect of foreign objects in it.

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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.

Spicolli sponsors Washington State labeling law


The next stop on the GMO labeling train is Washington State. This time the person behind the measure is ad agency owner and vegan, Chris McManus who hails from Tacoma. He uses the word “dude.”

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This dude was also a member of the Pierce County Ron Paul 2012 group.  Paul voted against GMO labeling.  McManus seems to consider himself a libertarian. Now that we got that out-of-the-way, on to the business at hand.

California’s Prop. 37’s definition of GMOs was pretty bad and this one is just as nonsensical. First the campaign’s definition of  GMOs:

GMO foods, also known as genetically engineered foods are created by taking DNA from one species and forcing it into other unrelated species – mixing plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes in combinations that cannot occur in nature and are experimental.

In an article in the Seattle Weekly (SW) he is quoted as saying, “To put it in brass tacks, GMOs are something that you don’t see in nature: blue jays mating with mocking birds, dogs mating with cats.”

SW consulted experts in the field who basically said McManus got it wrong.

Gülhan Ünlü, a professor at the School of Food Science operated jointly by Washington State University and the University of Idaho, explains that genetic modification could involve combining desirable traits from different varieties of the same species.

When told about what the experts said, he responded by saying,

“Well, you know, I’m not a scientist. I work in media. Those kinds of questions I’ll have to defer to later in the campaign.”

Oh great. He’s sponsoring a proposed law about a subject he knows nothing about.  But that hasn’t stopped the campaign making claims about the negative effects of GMOs without even having a basic understanding of the basics of GMOs. This is from the proposed law:

The genetic engineering of plants and animals is an imprecise process and often causes unintended consequences. Mixing plant, animal, bacterial, and viral genes in combinations that cannot occur in nature produces results that are not always predictable or controllable, and can lead to adverse health or environmental consequences.

The Spokesman-Review quotes McManus as saying the law was not meant to be a warning. “They’re not being warned, they’re being informed.

If the initiative wasn’t about scaring people, asked Heather Hansen of Washington Friends of Farms and Forests, why did supporters deliver their petitions in an old ambulance?

The law seems to borrow from Prop 37 in that activist echo chamber kind of way; very many of the same talking points. But, unlike California’s Prop. 37 , the process in Washington is little different.  There are two ways to get an initiative accepted.  One is to submit a petition to put the initiative on the ballot and have people directly vote on it. The other is to submit it to the state legislature and they vote on whether to adopt it into law without a popular vote. If they give it a thumbs down, it goes on the ballot of the next general election. OR, they can come up with their own measure and then both versions get placed on the ballot. The only restriction is it can’t be used to amend the state constitution.

The signatures also have to be verified by the secretary of state and only registered Washington voters may sign.

For whatever reason, McManus has chosen to go the legislative route rather than simply submit the law to a popular vote. The deadline for submitting the signatures was January 3rd and supporters delivered them on time.

On a related note, back in November, San Juan County, in Washington voted in a ban on GMOs. In a washingtonstatewire.com blog on 522, McManus was positive about their chances and pointed to the San Juan vote.

End Note: After the San Juan initiative passed, Marta Nielsen, a local organic farmer was quoted in the San Juan Journal saying “I’m proud to live in a county that could see the immense benefit of passing this forward-thinking initiative.”

Forward thinking? This coming from a woman who specializes in 1800s feces-based agriculture?