Gary Null, Cultivator of Dangerous Woo, Plants Seeds of Death

By Keith Kloor | May 31, 2013 11:53 am

There was a time when Gary Null, a popular alternative health speaker and author, was the Deepak Chopra of nutrition. He’s written best-selling books (one of them about reversing the aging process) and like Chopra, has been featured by PBS during fundraising drives. Nearing 70, Null was in the news several years ago when he sued the manufacturer of his own dietary supplement, claiming it nearly killed him.

The self-help guru has had a long and interesting career. One reporter notes:

His first tome, “The Complete Guide to Health and Nutrition,” [published in 1986] led to a decades long column in Penthouse magazine, where Null railed on topics like the ineffectiveness of mainstream cancer treatment and the deadly health risks of vaccinations.

In the last decade, Null’s brand of quackery has given some fans pause with his trafficking in outright denialism. From Wikipedia:

In addition to his promotion of alternative cancer treatments, Null has argued that HIV is harmless and does not cause AIDS. In his  [2002] book AIDS: A Second Opinion, Null questioned the role of antiretroviral medication and instead advocated a range of dietary supplements for HIV-positive individuals.

Null, as you might expect, is fiercely opposed to genetically modified foods. Indeed, “natural health” proponents are among the most fanatical opponents of GMOs. As David Gorski at the Science-based Medicine blog has observed:

There’s a lot in common between anti-GMO activists and antivaccine activists. Perhaps the most prominent similarity is philosophical. Both groups fetishize the naturalistic fallacy, otherwise known as the belief that if it’s “natural” it must be good (or at least better than anything man-made or “artificial”).

If you want a taste of this fetish, I suggest you tune in at noon on weekdays, to WBAI, where Null is the long-time host of a radio show on the virtues of alternative health practices and the dangers of conventional medicine. (Here is an archive of his hour-long shows.) Naturally, he uses this forum to explain why vaccines and GMOs are unsafe. His soothing voice belies the misleading pseudoscience of his claims. He may talk like Mr. Rogers but what he says could kill you, if you are someone who has cancer or AIDS and you take his advice.

Null also fancies himself to be a crusading documentary filmmaker. His latest self-produced work is called Seeds of Death, released this year.

Set to haunting music, it features a roster of charlatans, like Joseph Mercola and Jeffrey Smith, explaining all the ways that genetically modified foods are poisoning humanity and the planet. The 90-minute film is a classic collection of all the untruths, myths, and tropes commonly used by the anti-GMO movement. The scope of its dishonesty is brazen, as when at the outset alternative medicine purveyor Rima Laibow intones:

Every single independent study conducted on the impact of genetically modified food shows that it damages organs,  it causes infertility, it causes immune system failure, it causes holes in the GI [gastrointestinal] tract, it causes multiple organ system failure.

Midway through the film Laibow also says:

We have increasing numbers of retarded and autistic and genetically damaged people among us. We have increasing numbers of lethal allergies and potentially lethal allergies that coincide with the introduction of genetically modiifed food. We have increasing amounts autoimmune problems. We have increasing amounts of pretty much everything.

This is crazy train stuff said with a straight face. The worldview that allows someone to believe such things cannot be penetrated with legitimate scientific information.

It is the same worldview that leads Mike Adams, the publisher of a website called Natural News and one of the foremost cranks on the internet, to say in Null’s film that the FDA “treats the American people as slaves,” and that “if people knew the truth, they would demand access to healing herbal therapies and healing herbal supplements.” I had no idea that Americans didn’t have access to a broad suite of quack pills and treatments.

Another aspect of the worldview that animates Seeds of Death is exemplified by Bruce Lipton, a scientifically trained biologist who says in the film:

When we have a company like Monsanto that says ‘I don’t care what nature says, I’ll create the crops that I want,’ we look at what happens, we see another step, another process in our demise. The whole concept of genetically modified organisisms is throwing a monkey wrench in the life on this this planet, and until we change that, we are heading downhill at a rapid rate of speed toward our own extinction.

You can’t counter this attitude with better information. Lipton, whose background tells us he is no dummy, also says this near the end:

We have to recognize there’s a new science. And that new science completely pulls the foundation out under the conventional science of genetics and GMOs. That science is false and destructive.  The wakeup call is knowledge. Knowledge is power. Lack of knowledge is lack of power. What this world is suffering from right now is lack of knowledge.

There is no knowledge that can free Lipton, Gary Null and their fellow soul travelers from the fantasy world they inhabit.

[One of Gary Null’s dietary products.]

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Collide-a-Scape

Collide-a-Scape is an archived Discover blog. Keep up with Keith's current work at http://www.keithkloor.com/

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an 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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