Liberals Turn a Blind Eye to Crazy Talk on GMOs

By Keith Kloor | October 19, 2012 2:20 pm

When it comes to media coverage of climate change, we still see occasional charges of “false balance,” despite the problem having been pretty much eradicated, as AP reporter Seth Borenstein pointed out during a panel discussion in 2011. That said, a legitimate example did occur last month when PBS inexplicably turned to Anthony Watts as a critic of climate science.  Bad as that choice was, the lame, softball interview with Watts was even more galling.

But again, this sort of egregious thing is pretty rare nowadays. Complaints of “false balance” have mostly given way to complaints of less journalistic coverage of climate change. I don’t think that will be as true for this past year, since a connection between severe weather and global warming has been the subject of many media stories–both in newspapers and on television.

Still, when dicey coverage of climate science occurs somewhere in mainstream media, we can pretty much bank on liberal watchdogs such as Media Matters, to be all over it. Plug “climate change” into the site’s main search engine, and you’ll get 1171 results. And while Media Matters pays special attention to conservative media, the organization is not shy about spanking CNN or PBS on any given day for real or perceived flaws in their climate reporting.

This got me thinking. As regular readers know, I’ve been writing more frequently about issues related to genetically modified crops, my Slate piece being a recent example. The theme I hit on there was the double standard liberals had for the science on global warming and the science on GMOs.

I’m waiting to be proven wrong on this, but nobody from any liberal outlet has met the challenge. (This supposed rebuttal by Tom Philpott at Mother Jones is pretty weak tea.) Meanwhile, there are plenty of instances in the media and popular talk shows where the science on GM crops is, at best, misrepresented, or at worst, freakishly distorted.

Knowing this, I was curious to see if Media Matters ever called out any of these examples. I plugged in “GMOs” and “genetically modified crops” separately into all their search boxes. Nothing. It appears that no media coverage of the GM food issue has ever caught the attention of Media Matters. Pretty amazing, when you consider how controversial the topic is, especially this year with the labeling initiative in California.

But if Media Matters was ever interested in seeing how “false balance” played out with respect to GMOs, it could watch episodes of the Dr. Oz show, including the one this past week called, “GM Foods: Are they dangerous to your health?” One of the featured guests on the show making this case (he’s been on before) is Jeffrey Smith, whose book, Seeds of Deception, links GMOs

to toxins, allergies, infertility, infant mortality, immune dysfunction, stunted growth, and death.

Smith, who identifies himself as a “leading consumer advocate,” has previously been given a platform at Huffington Post to spout all manner of anti-GMO crockery. Still, no matter how crazy and detached from reality his claims are, Dr. Oz finds him credible enough, it seems. (For more background on Smith, see this post and the comment thread.) That leads me to something Philpott wrote in his recent critique of my Slate piece:

Sure, there are wackos who campaign against GMOs, but not all GMO critique is wacko.

If Smith doesn’t qualify as a wacko, I don’t know what would. Yet he is one of the stars of the anti-GMO movement. Smith is no fringe outlier; he’s a busy speaker on the anti-GMO circuit–when he’s not appearing on popular, nationally televised talk shows. Try to find anyone in the liberal media who is calling out Smith for his irresponsible, baseless assertions, or Dr. Oz for anointing Smith as the representative voice of the anti-GMO movement.

Like I said, liberals are attentive watchdogs when it comes to flawed coverage of climate change. But with crazy talk on GMOs, they are MIA.

 

CATEGORIZED UNDER: climate change, GMOs
  • Tom Gray

    And you have a post, asking what Roger Pielke Jr. meant about misinformation?

  • MarkB

    It’s a good thing that Anthony Watts can no longer say that the Holocaust never happened on NPR ever again. No sir – NPR has been cleansed of any threat to its donor base. No doubt they’ll be getting this year’s Profiles in Courage award for standing on a principle, at any cost. Keith – your ticket to the awards ceremony is in the mail. It’s the least we can do for your efforts to protect us all from the wrong kinds of ideas.

  • huxley

    Like I said, Liberals are attentive watchdogs when it comes to flawed coverage of climate change. But with crazy talk on GMOs, they are MIA.

    Keith: Is this mysterious to you? You seem to be late catching the bus here. Liberals are not particularly rational or even-handed people, though they congratulate themselves otherwise.

  • Mary

    Ah, interesting observation on the watchdogs, I hadn’t been considering them.

    I was reading up on Dan Kahan’s thoughts on this issue earlier (specifically this one of his recent series: http://www.culturalcognition.net/blog/2012/10/14/resisting-watching-pollution-of-the-science-communication-en.html ). He seems to think that the self-policing of sci journos, and professional norms, are working on this topic. It doesn’t really feel that way to me–partly because the misinformation is coming from people who are not science writers, but often food writers or chefs. Or in this case celebrity docs. They don’t seem to be affected by the peers and the norms.

  • http://planet3.org Dan Moutal

    A key difference between climate denial and and anti-GMO stupidity is prominence. Sure Smith might be a big deal in the anti-GMO world but has he testified before congress?

  • Keith Kloor

    Dan (5)

    That is not a key difference. There are different variations of influence. I’m pretty sure Jenny McCarthy has never testified before Congress. But that has not stopped liberal science bloggers from calling her out.

    And while they are not crazy like Smith, you seem to underestimate the tremendous influence of the Michael Pollans, Marc Bittmans and Marion Nestles, among others, who, by their silence (and sometimes indirectly), give their tacit endorsement to the crazy.

  • http://planet3.org Dan Moutal

    Testifying before congress is just one example of prominence. There are others, and it would be difficult to argue that Jenny McCarthy doesn’t have much prominence.It quickly becomes problematic when someone tries to infer motive by what is not said. There are many reasons why things are not said. It could be because they wish to give ‘ tacit endorsement to the crazy’, or it could just as easily be because they lack the time (or don’t see the amount of time it would take as justifiable) to tackle the issue.How does one differentiate between the two?

  • http://planet3.org Dan Moutal

    Before anyone accuses me of thinking that liberals are always rational, I’ll explicitly state that this is not the case and I do think that liberal biases play a role in the lack of coverage, I just think that the lack of prominence of the anti-GMO campaign (at least in North America, this are different in Europe) play a very large role in the lack of coverage. It is why I have not spent a lot of time discussing it.

  • Charles M. Rader

    The distinction between liberals and conservatives reflects liberals’ distrust of corporate power and conservatives’ distrust of regulation.I count myself as liberal but, of course, rational. But I can easily point to very well known liberals who have spoken out in favor of use of GMO crops. George McGovern is a good example, as is Jimmy Carter. President Clinton’s  Secretary of HEW, Donna Shalala told a
    group of scientists, speaking about genetic engineering, “My
    concern is if we don’t have a broadly educated public … that
    charlatans out there will be able to play on public fears.”

  • Joshua

    Keith -

    “That is not a key difference. There are different variations of
    influence. I’m pretty sure Jenny McCarthy has never testified before Congress. But that has not stopped liberal science bloggers from calling
    her out.”

    You are dismissing the notion that scale is relevant – but your example is not very good for supporting that point. Assuming for the sake of argument that the people you mention are as far outside of the mainstream scientific viewpoint on GMOs  as Watts is on climate change, there is still a continuum of scale.

    The question of GMOs doesn’t register that much on the scale, and hence there is little focus from watchdogs.

    The question of vaccines registers higher on the scale, hence there is more attention from watchdogs.

    The question of climate change registers strongly, hence there is much attention from watchdogs.

    That is not to say that I don’t think you’re on to something. I think that you are. It is no surprise that “liberals” would be selective in their “outrage.” It should be expected. (Leaving aside the hilarious argument made by some in our midst that it is disproportionately true of liberals). The question for me becomes, then, as it is freuquently in response to your posts, whether it is productive to focus on a specific relationship between motivated reasoning as opposed to focusing on the general phenomenon in the full context.

    Finally, I think there is a fundamental question as to whether the “consensus” on GMOs is as uniform as is the “consensus” on cliamte change. I would think that for your comparison to really hold up, that would have to be the case. Do you have some objective, validated data to lend perspective on that question?  

  • Joshua

    Dan #8 and Charle #9 make good points.

    Keith – have you really researched the background of your argument? Searching at Media Matters may be one thing – but do you really  have evidence to say that the political breakdown in alignment on GMOs (or the costs/benefits of organics) is as clearly uniform as the political breakdown in alignment on climate change?

    I feel like I’ve seen a fair amount of balanced articles that look in some detail at the costs/benefits of GMOs and organic farming from “liberal” sources. Further, much of the opposition to GMOs is, I believe, legitimately focused on questions related to GMOs along the lines of items #2 and #3 discussed in that Michael Eisen article you recently linked.

  • Keith Kloor

    Joshua (10)

     ”Finally, I think there is a fundamental question as to whether the “consensus” on GMOs is as uniform as is the “consensus” on cliamte change. I would think that for your comparison to really hold up, that would have to be the case. Do you have some objective, validated data to lend perspective on that question?”

    This is fascinating to me. Are you saying what I think you’re saying? I guess it depends on what “consensus” your referring to, but I’ll pick one for you: public health. What do you think? 

    As to the crazy-ass stuff that’s featured on Dr. Oz (remember, Joshua, this is the subject of my post) via Jeffrey Smith, that  is without any scientific merit whatsoever. 

    #11;

    “I feel like I’ve seen a fair amount of balanced articles that look in some detail at the costs/benefits of GMOs and organic farming from “liberal” sources.”

    Again, this is not the subject of my post, but I’m all ears. If you feel you’ve seen them, they should be pretty easy to find. I’d like to read a few of them.

  • Tom Scharf

    Joshua, you are delusional.  If you can’t see anti-GMO as a left issue, then you really need to get out of your Mom’s basement more often.  The constant attacks on a blog author’s motives and endless requests for “more evidence, please” is tiring.   You probably think gravity is affected by motivated reasoning.

  • Joshua

    Keith -

    “This is fascinating to me. Are you saying what I think you’re saying? I guess it depends on what “consensus” your referring to, but I’ll pick one for you: public health. What do you think? “

     What I think is that I don’t know. I wasn’t asking a rhetorical question. So yes, I guess I’m saying what you think I’m saying. I haven’t examined the issue in any depth.

    I’m asking if the “consensus” is as uniform as it is with climate change (and I think that the “97%” figure for climate scientists is probably an exaggeration).  My impression is that it isn’t. I guess from your incredulity that I’d ask you’re saying that the answer is clearly yes? Do you have any kind of validated data?

    As for giving you examples of articles, again, I’m giving a general impression. I can’t of anything specific off the top of my head, but without a particular focus on the issue, I have read some articles that question just how much is gained w/r/t carbon footprint from organic or local farming, or how much reduction in impact there really is on the environment, or whether “organic” really is organic, or whether corporate “organic” is really that different from conventional large-scale farming. I am aware that these are complicated issues – and I don’t see any reason to think that my impressions are an outlier.

    I’ve discussed these questions with people who are heavily involved in the urban farming movement – and although they support much in the way of sustainable farming,  they don’t seem to me to be zealots or ideologues. They must be getting their information from somewhere.

  • Pingback: French Science Academies Slam Study Finding GMO Cancer Threat - NYTimes.com

  • Cees de Valk

    Keith, this idea of you journalists and bloggers about “false balance” in reporting by the media really gets me up the roof. You seem to believe that whatever media feed the public, they will swallow whole. Such a patronizing attitude that you think that you have to “filter” opinions in order to make sure that what the people hear or say is “balanced”, so their opinions will form according to your perceived “balance”. The more I think about it, the more I dislike the whole idea. Well, most people are smarter than you think, especially when it comes to understanding the big picture even though they can’t grasp all the technical detail.  They see right though a lot of propaganda, for example by picking up subtle hints in tone or style. Instead of censoring and filtering, journalists can add their own comments if they want to. 

  • Nullius in Verba

    #11,

    “Keith ““ have you really researched the background of your argument? Searching at Media Matters may be one thing ““ but do you really have evidence to say that the political breakdown in alignment on GMOs (or the costs/benefits of organics) is as clearly uniform as the political breakdown in alignment on climate change?”

    Dan Kahan recently showed some data on that over at his blog. In the US at least, GMO is a non-partisan issue amongst the general public. I don’t know whether that extends to the pundits and opinion-formers.

    http://www.culturalcognition.net/blog/2012/10/17/wanna-see-more-data-just-ask-episode-1-another-helping-of-gm.html

    I imagine it’s a bit of a conflict for them. The image on the right is that the ‘science’ bloggers of the left primarily like to co-opt science as a weapon in their war against the right, and would suspect that where mainstream science goes against their lefty prejudices, they’d prefer to not talk about it. A few do, out of principle, a few hunt out scraps to support their prejudices, but most are not interested. I honestly don’t know about science bloggers on the right – my recollection is that when the better class of climate sceptics have mentioned it they’ve generally come down in support of GM, but that’s not a uniform sample.

    Kahan is concerned that injecting political meanings into the GMO debate may polarise it. If you tell people it’s a ‘liberal issue’ it may become one. Have a read of his last few blog posts.

  • Keith Kloor

    Joshua  (14)

    I like how you argue from “impressions” but ask me for data. Your anecdotal experiences aside (talking with urban farmers), perhaps its time you looked into the issue for yourself. Maybe did a little reading. Since you follow my twitter feed, you know that Biofortified is a site that I’ve recommended. That would be a good place to start. They’re like the Skeptical Science equivalent for all things related to genetically modified foods (sans the political dimension).

    Meanwhile, Andy Revkin has a related post up.

  • Joshua

    # 18 – NiV

    Dan Kahan recently showed some data on that over at his blog. In the US
    at least, GMO is a non-partisan issue amongst the general public. I don’t know whether that extends to the pundits and opinion-formers.

    Thanks. That speaks to my questions about the broad parallels that Keith is drawing.

    I read often in the “skept-o-sphere” that one of the ways that we can tell that the whole AGW thang is a “hoax” is because all those librul, statist academics in control of research, and who steal my tax dollars to line their pockets to conduct their phoney studies, are focused on an overall goal of establishing a one world government. According to the anti-AGW theory, of course the “consensus” feels the way that they do about AGW; it follows from their uniform ideological goals, just like their uniformity in being limp-wristed, in drinking lattes, and in driving Volvos.

    So then, how could the “consensus” of research be uniformly supportive of GMOs when it would logically work in opposition to the political orientation of the librulism (libruls hate GMOs) that is uniform among academics? Are scientists driven by their politics when studying climate science but somehow different when studying GMOs? Or perhaps actually modifying crops fits with a one-world agenda? Seems that Kahan’s discussion is certainly relevant to my questions. I’ll check it out – thanks again.

  • Greg Schiller

    On matters of climate and GMO crops, the media focuses on the wrong questions.  There is no doubt that the earth is warming but the question of climate sensitivity to carbon dioxide is far from settled and what to do about it is even more in doubt.On the GMO issue, of course there is no scientific link between genetically modified crops and cancer, birth defects, or blah, blah, blah.  But there are major concerns about the impacts of GMO crops on farming and the nation’s food supply.Do we really want the patents to almost everything we eat held by one or two companies?  Should we have a say in whether the corn belt is pushed into the dry western plains? What is the long term impact of 220 bushel an acre corn on soils?These are questions we should be talking about.I say bring on the critics and skeptics but ask them relevant questions.  By the way, I have no problem with Watts appearing on PBS.  As much as he is hated by climate advocates, the man actually does science.  His Surface Station Project was a classic example of what we need more of, people getting out there in the field and checking sources of basic data, something that “climate scientists” were too lazy, incompetent and arrogant to do themselves.Watts spoke directly to his expertise, Mueller’s BEST project. He also spoke to the theme of his website, that the consensus exaggerates the risks.Just as Watts speaks to the overstated risks of AGW, I’d like to see GMO critics speak to the understated risks of GMO/industrial farming.  This is not an attack on these methods, merely a call to remind the public of the long term risks.

  • Joshua

    Keith -

    I like how you argue from “impressions” but ask me for data.

    I’m not promoting an argument – I’m asking about your argument’s validity. My background knowledge is irrelevant to the validity of your arguments. It is only relevant to my understanding, and asking you for more information is one way for me to enhance my understanding.

    My impression is that you have strung together anecdotes enough to warrant speculation – but that at the point that speculation becomes part of the larger-scale “outrage machine,” IMO it requires a systematic approach to validating data. You pick some notable celebs and famous figures in food-related journalism and from that seem to be characterizing “liberals” more generally. And from that, you get responses from folks like huxley and Tom S., who explain that obviously liberalism and anti-GMOism are connected at the hip and that the connection should be expected because liberals are dumb.

  • Mary

    Across the broad population in the US it may appear distributed as a “concern”, but the activists on this topic who are pushing legislation and are very vocal are heavily on the left. I know, I’m on the left, I get pummeled every time I try to talk to them about the science. I have for years.

    It was hilarious to me to watch NPR do a piece on this earlier this week, and see the hippies come in and punch NPR. http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/10/18/163034053/top-five-myths-of-genetically-modified-seeds-busted

    I will say, though, that much like the anti-vax sentiment that’s got some alt-med aspects, there’s a parallel feature on the right with the “health freedom” types. There’s a similar “food freedom” type that supports a wide range of quackery that they view as under attack from federal and state regulators (see “raw milk” there as an example.) But I don’t think they have much voice on the right.

  • Joshua

    So Mary – I assume that in your view NPR does not qualify either as not “liberal” or as not a “watchdog?” But no matter your personal taxonomy or opinion – in order for Keith’s argument to hold up, it would have to be excluded from one of those categories – so what would the criterion be for making that exclusion?

  • Mary

    Actually, Joshua, I called this out because it was unusual for them. And recent. Further, it was apparently a response to their prior piece on this topic that started with the sentence: “Why do so many people hate Monsanto?” which linked to an activist site full of hair-on-fire claims.

    But you’ll also note that piece is not going after the wilder claims and most polarized topics as stated right at the top. It’s just trying to establish a floor for the discussion.

    I say small things. I’m not talking about today’s big hot issues:….

    But no, I don’t consider them watchdogs. And I know they are considered liberal, but usually as a smear.

  • Joshua

    And Mary -

    It was hilarious to me to watch NPR do a piece on this earlier this week, and see the hippies come in and punch NPR.

    I see your characterization of the comments at the NPR blog (thanks for the link, btw) to be pretty inaccurate. I see comments ranging all over the map – including, as just one example, an organic farmer (zebbart)  who disagrees with the overall gist of the article but acknowledged the “debunking” of 4 of the 5 “myths” the author discusses. 

    Given that you’ve read what Kahan has to say about politicizing the debate – what is your view on whether hippie-bashing affects the debate, and if so, in what manner it might do so?

  • Mary

    Yes, it appears you do see things differently, Joshua. I saw hippies punch NPR. Not sure how you missed that. I’m still trying to figure out Kahan’s analysis and how it fits with what I see on the ground. I am glad he thinks that science writers are holding the fort–but that hasn’t been my experience.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #19,

    “I read often in the “skept-o-sphere” that one of the ways that we can tell that the whole AGW thang is a “hoax” is because all those librul, statist academics in control of research, and who steal my tax dollars to line their pockets to conduct their phoney studies, are focused on an overall goal of establishing a one world government.”

    Well, you may have visited parts of the “skept-o-sphere” that I haven’t, but it doesn’t sound a likely argument, even in the more ignorant parts. They tend to believe it’s a hoax on the grounds of stuff like “hide the decline”, the hockeystick, deleting emails, breaching FOI, concealing data, changing their mind like the weather about what sort of weather ‘proves’ global warming, “adjusting” history, faking photos of polar bears, stealing documents off thinktanks, flying everywhere in private jets to climate conferences, and talking ridiculously over-the-top alarmist tosh that even climate scientists feel embarassed by.

    All the “Kopenhagen ist ein erster Schritt hin zu einer neuen Weltklimaordnung” stuff tends to be ascribed to politicians and government agencies (like the UN IPCC bureaucrats); a lot of that nonsense supposedly goes on at climate talks. In my experience, the scientists are thought to be more what some might call “useful idiots” for the politicians – a case of noble cause corruption, people who got out of their depth, fooled themselves, and then found themselves feted by world leaders out to ‘save the planet’, with easy funding. There is some thought that they might have been less careful checking things, and a bit selective about what they highlight, because being liberal the recommended policies are things they think ought to be done anyway, but they’re also likely to be the ones to take the blame while the politicians walk off smelling of roses.

    Personally, I have no doubt there are some very strange people who do think in terms of a future authoritarian “supreme office of the biosphere” that will consult the scientific elite (i.e. them) when running the world – I’ve read some of their books – whether they have anything to do with the ones actually in power is another matter entirely.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #22,

    “There’s a similar “food freedom” type that supports a wide range of quackery that they view as under attack from federal and state regulators (see “raw milk” there as an example.) But I don’t think they have much voice on the right.”

    I don’t know about the right, but it might have more play with the libertarians, whose attitude would be that it might well be a lot of rubbish scientifically, but if people want to eat it they should be allowed to.

  • Edward

    dont you think we have a right to know and make up our own minds?  i like the precautionary principle as a way to live.  just let me know..GNO, herbicides etc etc

  • http://www.r343l.com RachaelLudwick

    Adam Merberg pointed out on twitter that even the main official campaign “CA Right to Know” is endorsing the odious and misinformative Genetic Roulette movie. Doing a google search, suggests that they are pushing that movie hard.

    The problem with using the Genetic Roulette movie to drum up support is that it is actively misinforming voters about the risks of GMOs in order to get them to vote for the label. However, if the claims in that movie were true, the only justifiable action would be to attempt to get GMOs banned, not just labeled. Meanwhile, as Keith notes, the responsible voices of the food movement — Pollan and Nestle and Bittman — are silent.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #29,

    Sure. What we’re not so keen on is imposing the right selectively, to say you can be told stuff that somebody finds convenient and quietly kept in the dark about all the rest.

    What, for example, would your thoughts be on food containing 1-methoxy-3-indolylmethyl glucosinolate or allyl cyanide? Would you want to be told? Because there is so-called ‘organic’ produce containing both of those, and they don’t have to say a word about it on the label.

    If you’re interested in knowing, see here. It’s something that I think everyone ought to know, to have the responsibility for learning, so you have the knowledge and relevant context with which you can make up your own minds. Not just choice, but an informed choice.

  • Barry Woods

    Judith Curry:”I suspect that the bigger significance of Watts statements on PBS is that people will start to realize that sceptics are asking legitimate questions about climate science and their methods.”are you sure you are not on a side Keith?http://judithcurry.com/2012/09/22/cool-first-warm-later/

  • Jarmo

    How will media and liberals react to this?

    Six French academies dismiss study linking GM corn to cancer 

    http://phys.org/news/2012-10-linking-gm-corn-cancer-non-event.html

  • Nullius in Verba

    #33,

    The actual statement is worth reading, rather than the media paraphrase. (Revkin links to it.) It’s got some good bits in it. They start off by saying what the problems with the study were. They criticise ‘press release science’ where conclusions are announced before the evidence is available, and while they say it shouldn’t have been published they note that publication by itself doesn’t establish scientific fact, but only after independent confirmation.

    However, they propose a science and technology committe within the broadcast regulatory authority to act as media fact checker, calling items questioning the scientific consensus to to the regulator’s attention. That doesn’t seem like a very practical arrangement in the fast moving age of digital media, besides looking a lot like a state censor. It will be interesting to see how the media react to the idea.

  • Michael Larkin

    PBS inexplicably turned to Anthony Watts as a critic of climate science. Bad as that choice was

    Just out of interest, Keith, whom do you think PBS should have turned to as a critic of climate science?

  • Keith Kloor

     Michael (35)

    PBS Going to Watts in that case is the same as going to Monckton or Morano. They are the carnival barkers of the climate skeptic sphere. You don’t think they could have found somebody with a bit more credibility?

  • Greg Schiller

    It is a stretch to criticize the appearance of Watts on PBS when the segment was about Mueller’s false conversion and silly attribution claims.  Don’t forget that Watts with involved in BEST in the beginning, before Mueller burned him.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it was not Mueller himself, who recommended Watts to appear as a critic of BEST.

  • Louise

    Keith, in the UK the same sources that like to claim AGW is a hoax also talk about GMO as ‘Frankenfoods’ (see Daily Mail as an example)

  • Mary

    The more I think about the NPR story, the more I’m certain of the media #FAIL that it demonstrates. At this point in the discussion, we shouldn’t be confused about: “Myth 1: Seeds from GMOs are sterile.

    This is like saying “a degree is a unit of measurement of the temperature scale”. It is a foundational fact. That anyone is unaware of this, or disputes it, or perpetuates it, shows only that for over a decade nobody has taken on the falsehoods that permeate this discussion. It’s only come to the fore lately with the California ballot initiative.

    Including public broadcasting, which has permitted the likes of Vandana Shiva to make this claim widely. Some time ago a book came out (which I shredded) but nonetheless spewed that claim on DemocracyNow, (and even Forbes):

    AMY GOODMAN: It’s what is known as a Terminator seed?HARRIET WASHINGTON: Right, exactly, Terminator seed technology.

    So you can’t even begin to discuss the real issues in this arena without whacking the most basic points. These lies are immediate followed by “shill” claims. And where can you go from there. Nowhere.

  • Keith Kloor

    Mary,

    Good point.
    Louise,
    I guess you haven’t been reading John Vidal’s work in the Guardian.
  • Keith Kloor

    Louise,

    I’m referring to Vidal’s GMO pieces.
  • http://neven1.typepad.com/blog Neven

    Keith, you seemed to have missed this comment by Joshua:Keith -

    I like how you argue from “impressions” but ask me for data.

    I’m not promoting an argument ““ I’m asking about your argument’s
    validity. My background knowledge is irrelevant to the validity of your
    arguments. It is only relevant to my understanding, and asking you for
    more information is one way for me to enhance my understanding.

    My impression is that you have strung together anecdotes enough to
    warrant speculation ““ but that at the point that speculation becomes
    part of the larger-scale “outrage machine,” IMO it requires a systematic
    approach to validating data. You pick some notable celebs and famous
    figures in food-related journalism and from that seem to be
    characterizing “liberals” more generally. And from that, you get
    responses from folks like huxley and Tom S., who explain that obviously
    liberalism and anti-GMOism are connected at the hip and that the
    connection should be expected because liberals are dumb.

  • Stu

    Keith says: “we can pretty much bank on liberal watchdogs such asMedia Matters, to be all over it. ” …Yeah, just point out that Watts is “funded” by Heartland, invoke the secondhand smoke and 97% of climate scientists memes, and the job is done. Narrative matters… 

  • MarkB

    Defining Watts as a carnival barker is the typical cowards way out. No need to answer his questions – and challenges – if he’s ‘outside the pale.’ Watts needs to be silenced exactly because he’s not outside the pale. His statements were measured and reasonable. And he represents a major fraction of the American public. Shuttign out his voice in plain sight just makes more skeptics.

  • Keith Kloor

    Neven (42),

    Like Joshua, you seem to think that what commenters say reflects something about the post. It doesn’t. What commenters say mostly reflects their filter.

    As such, I don’t get exercised (like Joshua) about what a few commenters say. I know who my audience is and who the readers are. Only a tiny minority bother to comment, and of those, most feel pretty passionate about a given issue that’s covered in a post.

    That said, If I feel someone is engaging in good faith (and I have time), I’ll try and be responsive. But if I feel people are just bitching or trolling or venting, or whatever, I’m not going to bother.

    MarkB (44)

    You and a few others in this thread are upset by how I characterize Watts. Too bad. My take on Watts is well known, as I’ve repeatedly called out his dog and pony show at WUWT. More power to you if you actually get something out of his site.

  • Stu

    Watts is a central actor in the story on the validity of the surface temperature record. I can’t imagine the BEST project ever happening without him- he was a catalyst for sure. In that sense, it is bizarre thing to say that his views on it are of no value, interest, or that he is an illegitimate or inexperienced critic. 

  • Michael Larkin

    Input your comments here…”PBS Going to Watts in that case is the same as going to Monckton or Morano. They are the carnival barkers of the climate skeptic sphere. You don’t think they could have found somebody with a bit more credibility?”

    Well, Keith, I asked *you* the question. Who do *you* think would have been a better spokesman? I’d still like to hear your answer.

  • Kenneth Sandale

    Keith, anyone who has mastered sophomore physics should know that man is causing global warming.  Someone mastering sophomore physics would understand that objects with temperatures emit blackbody radiation, and what the main frequencies for an object at the Earth’s temperature would be; and would be able to understand what resonance frequencies of CO2 are.  But there is not a simple way of knowing one way or the other whether genetically modified foods are harmful.Also, your blabber about “liberals” is not “fair and balanced”, it is childish.  And BTW, I’m not a liberal.

  • Bernie Mooney

    Smith is also seen as an expert and taken seriously by state legislatures who invite him to testify on the GMO issue.

  • Timmy Utley

    Yes it IS fair. There is a global consensus here concerning GMO’s. If they are dangerous, where is the proof? Liberals are absolutely guilty of science denialism on this issue.

  • Timmy Utley
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Collide-a-Scape

Collide-a-Scape is a wide-ranging blog forum that explores issues at the nexus of science, culture and society.

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, a senior editor at Cosmos magazine, and adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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