Who Can You Trust in the GMO Issue?
by Joni Kamiya, Hawaii Farmers Daughter
I have to thank Dr. Kevin Folta for commenting on my blog the other day. What he said really got me thinking more about the anti-GMO club and why we have such a problem. It’s not just that they don’t understand the rationale of science and the process, but they also have problems with trust. Who are you to trust in all of this mass information on the internet? There’s so much conflicting information all over the place and how are you to navigate through all of this?
I decided to put together a simple guide for how to figure out who is trustworthy and who isn’t. Read on!
Red Flag Number 1: Celebrity Status
A huge red flag for me is that if someone is a celebrity and are touting being anti-GMO, I wouldn’t trust them for anything. For one, most of them have no training or education at all to make the claims they do and tend to jump into these hot topics for attention and fans. Here’s a great example of celebrities and their anti-GMO activities.
Who can’t forget Roseanne Barr?! We haven’t heard from her much on the issue since she has refused to pay up her donation to the Babes Against Biotech.
Bette Midler, a part time Kauai resident who jumped on the anti-GMO bandwagon.
Vani Hari aka “The Food Babe”
Rachel Parent, a then 14 year old activist with the Right to Know Kids
Darryl Hannah with the Babes Against Biotech leader Naomi Carmona at the Mana March.
Kelly Slater, a professional surfer touts organic food.
What do all of these celebrities have in common? First of all, none have any higher level education in any kind of science at all. I highly doubt they know much about DNA let alone farming and what it takes. Secondly, they all repeat the same Monsanto mantra word for word. Thirdly, they all use fear in their messaging from you’ll get cancer and autism if you consume GMOs. None are independent thinkers and repeat the same messaging over and over again. And really, do you trust a surfer to tell you what to eat???
And think about it for a minute. Would you trust a plumber to build your house? Would you listen to a teenager for your nutritional advice? Would you use a electrician to treat your illnesses? If you answer no to those questions, then why are you using a celebrity for what you eat? Do they actually have the right education and training to make the claims they do? Uh, no. They are there to sell things, act the part, but they aren’t for teaching anyone anything. TV is a lot of made up stuff so why go to the tube for “good” advice???
In this sense, common sense should rule. Common sense tells you that these are not the people you should trust for your information on agriculture, nutrition, and last but not least, biotech issues. It’s just as bad and making stuff up. That’s exactly what Hollywood and TV are good for though!
Red Flag Number 2: “Scientists” that Have Single Studies
Meme by Jeff Cotter posted in the Facebook group, Skepic
Hopefully, you got to read the page I published on “The Most Misunderstood Concepts of Science and Thinking by the Anti-GMO Club,” to give you some basic tenets of this process. Key point is that science is not pick and choose what kind you like. It’s an evidence based meaning that you continually build data to bolster or reject your claims. We’ve had the pleasure of meeting quite a few “scientists” here in Hawaii courtesy of the tax exempt Hawaii SEED and other richly funded anti-GMO clubs.
From a post in the GMO Skepti-Forum by Richard Green, this summarizes these “scientists.”
This meme was a means to gather the rogues, now lets take a closer look at this motley crew:
Gilles-Éric Séralini: He is active in research and is the author of the infamous rat study that was retracted and recently republished without critical review. His work is often shown to have poor methodology and analysis.
Charles Benbrook: Benbrook is an agricultural economist at Washington State University and science advisor for The Organic Center. He is the author of a widely panned study on pesticide use in GM crops.
Judy Carman: Another active researcher and the author of a study on pigs which were fed GM corn. The study was found to be lacking in many areas.
Stephanie Seneff and Anthony Samsel: These two are computer specialists that do not conduct research per se, but use algorithms to look for correlations. They typically engage in what I call reverse snake oil. Instead of a magic elixir curing unrelated conditions, they lay the blame for unrelated conditions on a single cause, usually glyphosate. They have the distinction of having a paper being used as a model for detecting a bogus scientific journal.
Vandana Shiva: Shiva is a philosopher who would like you to believe she is a physicist. A frequent claim is her rallying cry against “terminator genes/seeds”. These seeds are more of an idea than reality, as they never made it out of preliminary development. She is also fond of making outrageous claims with no supporting evidence.
David Suzuki: Suzuki was a zoologist/geneticist and retired in 2001. Now he is an environmentalist who accepts the global consensus on global warming but falls short on accepting the global consensus on GMOs. His vague cautions against unknown risks apply equally to creating new crops from any form of plant breeding. The few times he has been confronted with hard questions have left him flummoxed.
Don Huber: Huber is a retired agricultural researcher from Purdue University who was well respected in his day. These days he claims the existence of mysterious pathogen somehow associated with Roundup that only he can see…
Thierry Vrain: Vrain was a soil biologist and genetic scientist for the Agriculture department in Canada. As with others in the gallery, he makes poorly sourced claims to elicit fear. Unlike some of the others, he really doesn’t specialize, his is more of an all-purpose type of misinformation.
Jeffery Smith: Such a gallery would not be complete without Mr. Smith. He has no academic credentials. Not that credentials are needed to understand the science behind GMOs, but Mr. Smith has not made that effort. Like a lot of the rogues, he tours the paid lecture circuit making unfounded claims about the dangers of GMOs. His seminal work is the novel Genetic Roulette, which has been thoroughly debunked.
To sum up:
The active scientists in this group all seem to start with the end point they want to reach and then try to manipulate enough variables to achieve their goals. That is the exact opposite of how to conduct a good experiment.
The non-scientists and retired scientists seem to be pushing an ideology instead of examining the current research.
“View anything these folks have to say on agricultural topics with extreme caution.”
Believing without Questioning=Religious Ideology
If you’re still “believing” in these folks, here’s some additional reading that you might add to see why the your links using them aren’t viewed as evidence.
Press Digs into Anti-GMO Study–Journalists were the first group of people to wonder about Seralini’s lumpy rats when he asked them to sign a non-disclosure agreement with a hefty fine of a million euros if it was violated.
Don Huber and the Mystery Pathogen–Video by Dr. Kevin Folta questioning this mysterious claims of Don Huber.
A Generous Offer Turned to Dr. Huber Turned Down–Dr. Folta offers to study this so called pathogen for Dr. Huber with not a response.
Wealthy Activist Vandana Shiva is a Poor Advocate Poor Advocate for the Poor–Shiva has made her rounds here in Hawaii and is said to make some $40K per lecture as well as asks for $10K for travel expenses. She also has an organic farm where you pay to work for free!
Study of Organic Crops Finds Very Little–The recent headlines of organic food having more anti-oxidants questions the methodology used and the person quoted in it, Dr. Charles Benbrook, a well known organic proponent.
Suzuki is Clueless–Video documenting Suzuki’s anti-science flip flopping on Sun News.
Genetic Roulette & the GMOs-The League of Nerds–Myles Powers takes down Jeffrey Smith’s beloved anti-GMO movie, Genetic Roulette. (This video is pretty long as a FYI but a great take down of each of his claims.)
Once More Bad Science in the Service of Anti-GMO Activism–Another take down of Dr. Judy Carman’s bad pig study.
What do the Creationists and Anti-GMO have in Common?–Blog post by Fourat Janabi on why we should keep calm and carry on.
GMO Skepti-Forum Thread on Dr. Thierry Vrain –A compilation of discussions on his claims and sources.
Condemning Monsanto with Bad Science is Dumb–A breakdown as to Seneff and Samsel’s claims and why it doesn’t help their cause.
Tumor Incidence in Normal Sprague Dawley Rats–Scientist have known since 1956 that the rats used by Seralini has a high incidence of tumors. Is it a surprise that he got such results in his study?
The Index of BAD Links
The cardinal sin that so many anti-GMO believers make is posting the same links as their evidence. When they post these links, it just shows that these people’s ability to cross check their information is very limited. The typical links that they post are Natural News, Institute for Responsible Technology, GMO Education, AltNet, Natural Cures not Medicine, Green Med Info, World Truth, Truth Deniers, GMO Seralini, Nation of Change, Dr. Oz, Dr. Mercola, Collective Evolution, Raw for Beauty, and anything GMO Free. What do all of these links have in common? They all sell fear and use partial bits of information to convey their side of “studies” and health claims. There is never any link to the actual study that they are talking about and it’s hard to figure out the actual source of information, but the antis will still use it as “proof” because they don’t know how to research and vet their information.
Before you get scared of what you’re reading, stop and ask questions first. “Is that for real or what?” By simply starting there instead of adding that link to your “GMOs are dangerous” link file, you just might just save yourself lots of anxiety and emotional stress. If you choose to believe, you just might find yourself in a utterly hysterical state and might leave a nasty message for a state senator. Save yourself an apology and ASK questions first before you get yourself into a tizzy fit! It just might save your reputation if you care about it.
Remember, if you read it on the internet and it tells you connect the dots, science isn’t about putting together and dot to dot puzzle. It doesn’t work like that.