Stop Legitimizing the Loony Anti-GMO Voices

By Keith Kloor | January 30, 2014 4:56 pm

A hypothetical:

You are a journalist who has written a great deal about the anti-vaccine movement and you have been asked to participate in a panel on the safety of childhood vaccines. This panel was organized by professional medical and health journalists.

Also on this hypothetical panel would be a prominent scientist, such as Paul Offit, who has authored numerous books rebutting myths and misinformation about vaccines (and more recently, alternative medicine practices). The third panelist would be a persistent anti-vaccine activist, perhaps someone from the group Age of Autism.

I’m guessing that Paul Offit and the science journalist (say, Seth Mnookin) would not want this panel to be derailed or hijacked by an anti-vaccine activist spouting loads of misinformation.

For this reason, maybe they would decline to participate in such a forum. I’m only speculating.

I raise this hypothetical because I just turned down an opportunity to participate in an upcoming panel on GMOs. The organizer initially asked if I would moderate a panel that included scientists and advocates “pro- and con-GMO.” I expressed interest after hearing that the objective was “to foster a lively and factual discussion on GMO’s with a well-rounded panel.”

And then I learned that Jeffrey Smith was one of the invited panelists.

Just to be clear: I am in favor of a robust discussion on any topic, especially one with a diversity of perspectives. (For the anti-GMO side, I suggested the organizer invite representatives from the Union of Concerned Scientists.) But I don’t think that someone with fringe views and assertions wholly unsupported by science can help “foster a lively and factual discussion on GMOs.” And make no mistake, Smith is as fringe as they come. As I have previously discussed here, he has asserted that autism and Alzheimer’s disease, among many other medical problems, can be attributed to GMOs. Did I mention that he has no expertise?

That Smith has become a go-to person for the anti-GMO movement speaks as much to his marketing skills as it does to the kind of forums he is regularly invited to and the lack of vetting by those (who should know better) who invite him to participate in otherwise well-meaning events. It’s unfortunate (but not surprising) that Dr Oz has irresponsibly given Smith a huge forum (twice!). Science-minded organizers who confer legitimacy on Smith with speaking invitations should ask themselves if they would similarly invite anti-vaccine cranks to expound on the health and safety of vaccines.

  • Njp Thompson

    Part of democracy is that we must allow people to voice their opinions. Sometimes a plumber says smarter things than a President. There are many many instances where science and experts have told us something that turned out NOT TO BE TRUE and sometimes completely the opposite. Groups of people who are like minded have a tendency to groupthink.. Lots of people have been called cranks. Some are.Some are not. Just consider the source and ask the questions.

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Keith Kloor

      1) I’m not advocating suppression of free speech. 2) I’m not suggesting that anti-GMO views not be represented on the panel. 3) I’m suggesting that a deceptive, absurdist science-free perspective not be given equal time on this particular stage.

      • JH

        Well, Keith, I wonder if you’re not passing up an excellent chance to do some damage.

        In grad school, one of my geology profs made a sideline of debating creationists. He welcomed any and every chance to go after them. Some debates went well, others not so much. But there’s something to be said for squaring it up.

        One thing that bums me out is that people that align themselves with science seem to have difficulty understanding how to attack these anti-science arguments. They only want to debate on “the science”. But that’s not going to win the public argument, right? It obviously isn’t working at the moment.

        There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

        • mem_somerville

          I think it depends a lot on the structure. Most of the “debate” and panels I’ve seen of late are nothing more than opportunities for rehashing the same issues. The scientist just does whack-a-mole with the misinformation that’s already out there, and the cranks get plenty of time to spout nonsense again.

          I’m not convinced there’s value in that, and I know a lot of people have stopped bothering to debate creationists, anti-vaxxers, and such. There’s big controversy among the science chatterati if Bill Nye should do one (I think it’s coming up soon).

          There’s a structure I want to see–it’s a “Venn” instead. Lets find the points of agreement, put the disagreements in the outside, and just work on those to see what’s legit and what’s not. But I can’t imagine who would do that, or if it’s even possible to moderate something like that.

          • JH

            You have to realize from the getgo that these are not science debates. They’re political debates, but you’re not going to win by policy wonking. You have to go out there and show people the other person is a moron. That’s the way to win.

            Remember this? “You’re no Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy and you’re no Jack Kennedy.”

            Who remembers anything else from that debate? No one. That line won the debate for Benson. All the rest of it was just a dance where each waits for the other to stick his neck out so they can cut it off with a devastating one-liner. Benson nailed it.

          • Buddy199

            Who won the election? So much for that strategy.

          • JH

            Benson was the VP candidate, no? Perhaps you can attribute the loss to MD’s inability to zing Bush.

          • mem_somerville

            There’s several things wrong with that. First, scientists are not people skilled in rhetorical jousting like a politician is. Nor a crank who spends all day crafting smooth-sounding BS. Most things we need to say are not best summed up that way because: data. Clever one-liners are not in most of our armaments.

            The other thing is that it’s not that effective when you have some mom who is claiming her hid has autism from the GMOs. There’s no way to come out of that looking like anything but a heel.

          • Tom Scharf

            You just can be all uptight and outspoken about disinformation on an issue, and then refuse to talk about it when given the opportunity. This gives the outward impression you are the one peddling disinformation, and you are afraid to allow it to see the light of day.

            Climate, nuclear safety, fracking, GMO’s, etc. You simply can’t say that whatever the environmentalist movement’s consensus is must be right. I think the scientific authority is pretty strained in this area and people are hesitant to give a blanket trust to “science” in this area.

            The naturalistic fallacy is strong with many people. These arguments work on that.

          • JH

            I agree that most scientists don’t have the street saavy to win such a debate, nor do they have the necessary breadth of knowledge. But are all scientists so single-minded that there isn’t a single one with the necessary hutzpah?

            I think you can win against a mother who claims vaccines gave her son autism.

          • mem_somerville

            You can’t rely on 1 person (although Kevin Folta tries) to battle this disinformation network with snappy comebacks. It’s going on everywhere, all the time. Scientists are also not paid to do this (unlike activists). It is also not supported by departments and grant agencies to spend time on this. And hutzpah is not necessarily appreciated among others in this discussion because it can be perceived as arrogant–which is then used to dismiss the scientists anyway.

            A couple of weeks ago they were showing Smith’s documentary at a “natural science center” in MA. I would have gone to offer sanity (and hutzpah), but I was actually lecturing at a medical school in NY that day. What’s more important? Me teaching 100 researchers genomics, or me snappily dissecting Smith in front of 15 true believers?

          • Njp Thompson

            Political motives create perverse incentives for finance at the local level and those do not support science. They support greed.

      • Tom Scharf

        Who do you believe should be given equal time to speak for the anti-GMO side? Who passes your test? Nobody? An echo chamber is not a debate. Even if the debate is weak on its merits, doesn’t mean there isn’t one worth talking about.

        • kkloor

          You must have read right past the part where I suggested the anti-GMO organization.

        • Jim Ryan

          So, every possible topic has at least two, equally valid positions? OK then, let’s hold a debate on whether cyanide is really poisonous or not. And let’s be sure we invite the opposing side to the table!
          When a position has overwhelming scientific evidence for it, it takes equally overwhelming scientific evidence to overturn it. Simply running around yelling “Monsanto is evil” is not scientific evidence. Those people don’t add to the debate and shouldn’t be invited.

          • Tom Scharf

            It depends on the topic. I’m sure cyanide is actually not poisonous in extremely small doses, right? Water is fatal if given in a high enough dose.

            The fact remains that anti-GMO is being publicly debated whether science likes it or not. Look no further then Japan refusing imports of corn from Oregon recently that “might have been exposed” to a nearby GMO crop.

            I’m not an anti-GMO nutball, but I recognize there is a debate, even if there shouldn’t be. If “science” cares about the policy result, then it needs to engage.

          • Cairenn Day

            It wasn’t corn it was wheat

    • Karl Haro von Mogel

      The instances in which scientists have said something is true when it is not are vastly fewer in number than the instances in which the non-scientist non-expert fringe have done the same.
      Funny you should mention plumbers versus presidents… as we experienced a plumber challenging a presidential candidate some years ago, and it turns out the plumber wasn’t a plumber but was a crank himself, and the presidential candidate became president – twice.

      • JH

        “The instances in which scientists have said something is true when it is
        not are vastly fewer in number than the instances in which the
        non-scientist non-expert fringe have done the same.”

        The difference being that “science” is a single institution and the opposition is many individuals focusing on different topics at different times.

        Beyond that, whether your statement is true or false depends on the discipline. For physics, it’s probably true. Nutritional science, on the other hand, seems to have bumbled along making various proclamations about what we should or shouldn’t eat and what supplements we should or shouldn’t take for decades without proving up much of anything in the end.

        • Karl Haro von Mogel

          There is a significant number of people who question physics, and they’re called Creationists. Not all of them make arguments based on physics, but the age of the Universe and of the Earth and of rock formations all depends on physics, and the conclusions of scientists on the matter are denied.
          For nutrition, there is an incredible diversity of bizarre claims made by non-experts (and some who claim they are experts), which I would argue are still fewer than the number of errors made by the nutrition science establishment.

    • Jim Ryan

      @njp_thompson:disqus You are correct, many times science and experts have told us things that turned out to be wrong. And it is always OTHER SCIENTISTS who are the ones who prove them wrong.
      Einstein was wrong about quantum theory but it wasn’t a plumber who proved him wrong it was a Nobel laureate. @discovermag-78c133e70e980b67c9782dd85061190a:disqus’s point was not that we shouldn’t consider opposing opinions but that they should come from someone qualified to give them.

      • First Officer

        And, Einstein presented well thought out testable arguments that actually pushed the science further when proven wrong. He didn’t make stuff up and accepted the evidence as it came. He was, perhaps, the most brilliant quantum physicist to actually not believe in quantum physics!

    • Kevin Folta

      Freedumb of speech makes a democrazy.

      • Peoples Scientist

        And they will simply call you…..numerous name.

  • http://wildernessvagabonds.com/ Mike Lewinski

    I just realized today that Smith is apparently a chemtrail conspiracy theorist, and was a guest speaker at the 2012 Consciousness Beyond Chemtrails Conference…

    http://action.responsibletechnology.org/o/6236/t/0/blastContent.jsp?email_blast_KEY=1215635

    • Karl Haro von Mogel

      I watched that talk, and he actually dodged the question at the end about chemtrails. I think even he recognizes that the chemtrail nonsense is downright crazy.

      • http://wildernessvagabonds.com/ Mike Lewinski

        Recently the Institute for Responsible Technology has been posting about chemtrails on Facebook. Maybe it isn’t Smith posting on that page, but it is his organization so I feel it is fair to hold him accountable for their posts.

        • Karl Haro von Mogel

          I didn’t notice that, thanks for letting me know. I also happen to know that chemtrails came up in Howard Vlieger’s recent talk in Petaluma, CA. I sometimes wonder why they latch on to really fringe ideas like that, I mean, do they realize that the rest of the population might regard that as a little nuts? Or is it part of the strategy of building a political base?

    • First Officer

      Well, Jeff Smith oughta know. Just think of all that chemtrail gas blowing in his face as he’s tailgaiting jets, yogic flying from one anti-gmo convention to another !

  • trueptbo

    I just don’t understand how the anti-GMO viewpoint has become as pervasive as it has. It’s like it is the “allowable” prejudice these days. Just say “Monsanto” and watch everyone on your facebook feed lose their minds.

    • J M

      Anti-GMO and anti-vaxxer ideas are actually incorporated in many popular philosophies. All these movements that emphasize humanism, spiritual world and personal development, e.g.:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waldorf_education

      Europe has close to 1000 Steiner schools and USA 200. The background of this movement is… well, judge yourself:

      “Anthroposophy, a philosophy founded by Rudolf Steiner, postulates the existence of an objective, intellectually comprehensible spiritual world accessible to direct experience through inner development.

      Anthroposophical ideas have been applied practically in many areas including Steiner/Waldorf education, special education (most prominently through the Camphill Movement), agriculture, medicine, ethical banking, organizational development, and the arts.[1][3][4][5][6] The Anthroposophical Society has its international center at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland”

      Why am I posting this stuff. Well, a week ago there was a case of measles in a Steiner school in Finland and it was discovered that many parents there do not vaccinate their children.

      • First Officer

        Steiner schools may be effective but humanism, etc is no excuse to deny a reality, such as measles. The plane won’t crash or fly on the fact that it’s designer was a Humanist.

      • NameNotGiven

        Don’t forget the gun control movement. Pew fond over 65% of gun control supporters thought gun murder was up when it has crashed to half the levels of 20 years ago..

        Even the anti fluoride movement today, which we all laughed at since stranglove, is now a left movement.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Longmire

    Dissenting opinions shouldn’t be censored unless the agreed upon “facts” are too weak to stand against them, in which case members of a group should boycott all discussions which distract from the over simplified “for it” or “against it” argument, lest individuals think. Science appears to me to be following the same model as warfare, sure were at a point where we no longer have to fight with sticks and stones(superstition) or swords and arrows (religion) but where we are now is merely fighting as the noble Europeans did by standing opposite one another and firing muskets into a formation (modern science). Perhaps with Smith we are witnessing guerilla warfare(unfamiliar philosophy) and because his authority, as it were, isn’t based upon the accepted rule of “believe only the experts” and “these are the “facts” choose a side” model he can be discredited. But I do think I can see where his shots are coming from, our “collective consciousness” which epigenetics correlate to need overarching trends to be. Everything we consume form the air we breath, the water we drink, to the food we eat effects our overall energy or our spirit. Our spirit is effected by food and how our body absorbs it. All plants have phytotoxins which I believe stress the body and ultimately strengthen it but not as strong as a designer substance could. If we could genetically modify our internal “gut flora” to only absorb certain substances and bind others then the variables that stand in the way of understanding how to achieve “good health” are overcome. Smith is justified by our “collective consciousness” (which seems more of a parasite in the present to me) so he stands in the way of GMOs which will ultimately lead to a more acceptable lot if we realize our potential to harness our spirit (by eliminating variables) as he appears to have. So the reason he brings autism and alzheimer’s into the mix is because they are symptoms of alternate conscious states, where individuals disassociate from the “collective consciousness” weakening it perhaps. But I do think he should have every opportunity to voice his opinions after all he had to come up with them own his own so they are well thought out even if the “facts” don’t point in the same direction. Besides anyone who can levitate knows something we don’t.

    • Cairenn Day

      The trouble is, is that he is ignoring science for nonsense.

      Someone mentioned political debates. There is a reason we don’t have all the small parties involved in a National debate. It is wrong to give equal weight to someone with a stand that lacks evidence and one that has a huge amount on their side.

      Jeffery Smith is not an expert in anything but dance. Would you invite a scientist to critique a modern dance performance? It would be laughable. Wrong person.

      To put Smith on an equal basis with a scientist is like putting asking your plumber for advice on your upcoming heart surgery and giving it equal weight with that of half a dozen teaching Cardiologists.

      • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Longmire

        I believe it is fundamentally wrong to assign expert status to any one who has formal education in the field while denying that same privilege to one who studies it independently. Since plumbers seem to be a theme I will say I know how to plumb, I thought myself with books and experience only, no trade school or piece of paper to prove my knowledge. When I plumb I do it the way I know it should be done, not the fastest way or cheapest way which is by far the method most used. And as far as dance goes I can look out my own eyes and see the beauty of it or the complete meaningless of it without having a single word to convey my perception of it to another. The experts critique of it denies the individual the impetus to analyze it for themselves.

        • Cairenn Day

          Plumbing is more of an art/skill than science is.

          Science depends on a method and proper analysis of the methods used and the criteria.

          You may be a great plumber, but no matter how much you ‘study’ cardiac surgery on the web, or in a library, you are NOT going to be an expert on it, no more that that cardiac surgeon would be if he read up on plumbing. He might could fix a faucet, or even replace his toilet, but plumbing is more than that. Could he design a properly working waste water system, for example?

          I guess that you allow your neighbor that read a book to rebuild the transmission in your truck.

          Folks spend many years getting a degree and to put them on the same level as a self trained ‘expert’ (that doesn’t have the foundation to even understand the studies. Is just WRONG.

          • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Longmire

            Most people spend years “getting a degree” not passionately seeking knowledge of their desired profession which they chose because their unique skill sets would allow them to excel in that field. I couldn’t imagine going to school for years to be a plumber, the underling concept of it is basic, deliver pressurized water to fixtures and direct water out using gravity, all else is technique. And no I wouldn’t let my neighbor fix my transmission I would read that book and do it myself. Most everything can be reduced to a basic procedure which involves understanding the problem, formulating a solution, then executing it, but if one never tries to grasp the concept all the specifics get in the way. It should be noted that genetically modifying an organism is not difficult at all with the right tools, all the “scientists” are doing in some cases is SHOTING genes into living cells then growing out those surviving cells to see if they posses the desired trait which is PRIMITIVE and leaves the door open for unintended traits being transferred which may or may not be tested for especially when its all about the money.

          • Cairenn Day

            Maybe you should take the time to TALK to professionals, instead of dismissing them.

            It seems that knowledge of how a GMO is created is not up to par. At one time, a gene gun was used, but that is old technology now. They CAREFULLY select the gene they want and use it. Then the result is tested and it is DNA sequenced to make sure there are no allergens involved.

            Meanwhile others are exposing seeds to high doses of radiation or of chemicals and then they look at the results. No one sequences those crops. Guess what you have been eating crops developed that way for most likely your entire life. I am in my 60s and they were doing that before I was born.

            Look at the development of the Arctic apple. They CAREFULLY turned off the gene that causes quick browning. That is ALL they did to that apple. Nothing added at all.

          • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Longmire

            The only difference between a dedicated hobbyist and a professional is a salary. I am not opposed to genetically modifying organisms, heck I cant help but see that’s a path for a better future. But there should be skepticism on the part of the public because we aren’t dealing with benevolent scientists trying to end hunger, were dealing with big business which has the power to sway “scientific studies” and ensure their agenda (profit) is realized. And as far as CAREFULLY turning off genes I seriously doubt that, more likely after 100′s of attempts the trait was discovered so they recreated the procedure and patented it. Your example does highlight the prevailing trend though because the “browning” is nothing but cosmetic and the only reason it was modified was to make it more appealing to consumers, which seems to me to be beneath Science.

          • First Officer

            So what if it were 100′s of attempts? In the end, the trait desired and only the trait desired was produced. What’s your alternative? At first you don’t succeed, don’t ever try again ?

          • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Longmire

            My alternative would be to have genetic engineering carried out by universities which would address specific problem posing our food crops not business that would patent them for a profit. Anyone with $7500 can buy a gene gun to just to play around with then if some unique trait was found they could capitalize but more likely they would just discard their unsuccessful experiments anywhere which could pose serious problems to other organism. True they could do the same with certain chemicals and radiation but those are for the most part are regulated for obvious reasons. I believe all GMO’s should be labeled and stringent measures should be followed before they reach the market, after all who thinks that person with a gene gun should be able to sell their produce at market whether it is “safe” or not.

          • First Officer

            I believe that even with the gun method, only the results that matched the required outcome were kept. So the end result was as if a magic hand had place the sequence in the exact spot needed.

        • Loren Eaton

          OK let’s back up a minute…you say, “I believe it is fundamentally wrong to assign expert status to any one who has formal education in the field while denying that same privilege to one who studies it independently.”
          First, to be a real expert requires both formal education and experience in the field. Jeffrey Smith has neither. I’ve done a lot of different things in biotech, but it doesn’t give me expert status on all aspects of it. And I still know more than Jeffrey Smith ever will. Furthermore, while I might have risen to the level of expert in some areas when I was younger, those fields continued to evolve after I moved on. Interestingly, two of the ‘experts’ Stacy Malkan invited to her love fest, Drs. Vrain and Martineau are still considered so, even though Vrain retired 10 years ago and according to her CV, Martineau has done no work in the lab since 1995-96.
          Stacy could have asked Mary Dell-Chilton, Marc van Montagu, Roger Beachy or Kevin Folta as a counter-balance…but she didn’t (her agenda is showing).
          Bottom line…a lot of us are has beens, Jeffrey Smith is a never was.

          • JH

            “to be a real expert requires both formal education and experience in the field.”

            I most vehemently disagree. The requirement is knowledge, not formal education. Direct lab/field experience is useful, but it’s not a requirement if a person can read about and understand the issues that arise in the lab/field.

          • JH

            i might add that if your definition of “expert” were accepted, Mr. Kloor would be excluded from the debate, along with almost all science journalists. Many do have a formal education in science, but almost none have significant experience practicing science – much less education and/or experience specific to each individual field that they report on.

          • First Officer

            I don’t think Mr. Kloor ever stated he was an expert on par with the likes of Kevin Folta and other scientists doing work in the field. What he does is base his opinion on that actual work. Strickly speaking, you do not need formal training to be a scientist but you do need to show how and why any hypothesis you assert should be taken seriously. That said, formal training makes it far more likely you will be an effective scientist and field work helps you become that effective scientist.

          • JH

            “I don’t think Mr. Kloor ever stated he was an expert”

            I agree. But that’s not the point. The point is that Loren Eaton was ruling out all non-expert opinions. I value Keith’s opinions and views. I reject the narrow definition of “expert” that LE suggests. That’s exactly my point.

          • Loren Eaton

            And without at least some experience how can one truly understand those issues? Reading provides some knowledge but figuring out the validity of a study requires a deeper understanding that Jeffrey Smith will never have, unless he goes back to class or gets into a lab.

          • JH

            “figuring out the validity of a study requires a deeper understanding that Jeffrey Smith will never have”

            I can understand the issues in the Syrian War without going there and getting killed. Right?

            Most of the time, from the information published in a paper, it’s not possible to “figure out the validity” of a study. The method usually isn’t described in enough detail, but even if it is, there’s no assurance that the authors followed it. And of course many methods are controversial – accepted by some, not by others. So, experience or no, even you can’t “figure out the validity” of most studies in your own area of expertise.

      • JH

        ” It is wrong to give equal weight to someone with a stand that lacks evidence and one that has a huge amount on their side.”

        Mr. Smith most certainly has earned that right. He’s sold his side of the story (apparently) quite successfully. Science has failed to sell it’s side of the story. So if you’re going to sit there and make excuses to not debate your most successful opponent, then you’re not going to get anywhere. If you’re going to keep changing the terms of the debate so that you don’t have to face up to the reality that he’s winning, then you’ll fail time and time again.

        • Cairenn Day

          So being a SALESMAN is more important than providing correct information?

          Explain why you think that is, please.

          He has hooked up with AIDS deniers, the chemtrail movement and snake oil salesmen and shady characters.

          Of course, when you are willing to LIE and to make up things and you are an entertainer, you have an edge on those that have dry FACTS and the truth on their side,

          It is past time that we allowed entertainers to decide SCIENCE.

          • JH

            “So being a SALESMAN is more important than providing correct information?”

            Absolutely correct. It’s more important in the sense that he’s reaching the general public. His message – right or wrong – is convincing enough people to oppose your message that he’s getting the action that he wants.

          • Tom Scharf

            “So being a SALESMAN is more important than providing correct information?”

            It depends on what your goals are. If you are satisfied with simply being right, then it doesn’t matter.

            If your goals are to prevent misinformation from taking hold in the public with bad policy results, then it matters a lot.

            The phrase “perception is reality” is very true in the policy world. All our esteemed politicians knowingly practice the art of misinformation because it is effective.

            Engineers and scientists typically make for very bad (or ineffective) politicians.

        • Loren Eaton

          Uhhh, no. Being a good salesman does not mean you have the slightest notion about what you are selling. Yes, policy is about politics and salesmanship, GOOD policy requires that those making the policy know what they are talking about. Jeffrey Smith panders to his base, and that puts him on an equal basis with others who pander, not the scientists.

          • JH

            “Being a good salesman does not mean you have the slightest notion about what you are selling.”

            Absolutely correct.

            “GOOD policy requires that those making the policy know what they are talking about. ”

            Absolutely correct.

            “Jeffrey Smith panders to his base, and that puts him on an equal basis with others who pander, not the scientists.”

            Wrong. Scientist: 1 vote. Jeff Smith: 1 vote. Conclusion: a scientist and Jeff Smith are equal.

            His base votes. Voters elect politicians. Politicians make policy. If you want good policy, you’re going to have to – in your view – lower yourself enough to win the debate.

  • Buddy199

    But having loud mouthed, know nothing blowhards makes for great TV, and ratings are what it’s all about. Even PBS wants eyeballs – look at some of the questionable people Bill Moyers interviews. Watching two eggheads thoughtfully and respectfully discuss a complex issue is not as entertaining as two kangaroos wailing each other with boxing gloves.

  • Kevin Folta

    I have an op-ed coming out on this topic in a few weeks. The problem is that it gives the illusion that there are two sides to a point and that both sides have merit. We need to just change the discussion. The debate is not if the foods are safe and if the products work. The debate is if we should let a tiny clan of crackpots, eco-terrorists and authors control this discussion.

    • Buddy199

      What do you mean by we letting it happen? The media decides who gets exposure, and whether that is good or bad exposure. If a fringe falls within the ideological spectrum of the mainstream media they are given sympathetic treatment and eventually become seen as mainstream. Why do you think the more liberal anti-GMO clan is handled kindly and gently by the liberal mainstream media, as opposed to the treatment they give conservative climate skeptics?

    • Tom Scharf

      If the debate is so easy to win on its merits, go out and win it. Repeatedly. That is the right way to silence them. You come off as an elitist with the “this debate is beneath my dignity” attitude. If you ignore it, don’t be surprised if it continues to gain momentum. Europe and Japan are heavily anti-GMO, and these are not exactly the centers of anti-science. Ignoring it will not make it go away.

      I can’t square the circle of people complaining in their blogs about the issue, but not be willing to address their critics head on when given the opportunity.

      You might actually lose parts of the debate, but this should tell you exactly where your weaknesses are, and what needs improvement.

      • Kevin Folta

        Tom, I engage this all the time. There is a point where it is not a good idea, and that’s where it provides false equivalence. I’m supposed to speak at something locally and they invited someone as a counterpoint. They only will do it if they get to go last and get more time. Give me a break.

        • Peoples Scientist

          Instead of debating and making jabs at anti gmo the focus should be on the GMO’s worth. Benefits vs. risks.

          • Kevin Folta

            Peoples, I always talk benefits vs risks. Those are the ‘two sides’. Even think of them as strengths and limitations to soften it up. The problem is that I can present these honestly as described by evidence in the peer-reviewed literature. To give a forum to an fear peddler like Smith allows him to present absolute garbage and manufactured risk.

            So I’m with you. Honest discussion of benefits and risks is spot on, but it has to be an honest discussion based on real evidence.

          • Peoples Scientist

            Agree…Smith, Huber (maybe others) But it’s the people that we need to make contact with…somehow.

          • Tom Scharf

            I understand your point. Repeating the same answers to the same misinformation can get a bit tiring I suppose. I certainly don’t want to be a GMO warrior myself.

            The debate may be repetitive, but the audience changes. Each “debate” is viewed by many of the public as their first exposure to the issues. We all experienced our first pro and con on evolution/creationism at some point. And usually we were swayed by someone who had probably given the same speech 100 times. Many are hearing this for their first time.

            I have never bought into this death by false equivalence theory. I can’t think of any examples of where refusing to debate has helped sway public opinion.

    • Shadeburst

      You can’t win a war for hearts and minds with the bullets of facts. You have to create a compelling narrative that appeals to the emotions. In other words use the enemy’s tactics.

      • Cairenn Day

        So you prefer emotions instead of facts?

  • Rod Herman

    Mr. Kloor – An alternative view on whether to debate or not.

    http://reappropriate.co/?p=4050

  • harrywr2

    I dunno Keith…I think you are off base here.

    Letting crazy people ‘speak their piece’ then calmly dissecting how their ‘piece’ is misguided is the only way in a functioning democracy IMHO.

    If you want to create a coverup and conspiracy…which people will believe more then any official statement then try to ‘silence it’.

    Just look at wiki-leaks….almost everyone believes that there was no ‘misinformation’ embedded in the leaks.

    Anyone who has even an inkling of understanding how counter intelligence works is that when you find a ‘leak’ you shove as much information down that channel as humanly possible because it will be ‘believed’.

    Trying to silence the wkachko’s give them legitamacy.

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Keith Kloor

      I am not trying to silence the whackos. If I were, I would moderate this blog more strictly. :)

      I just don’t think that every perspective should be treated equally in a science debate. Smith is at the far end of the anti-GMO spectrum. He makes wildly unsupported claims. He doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously.

      • harrywr2

        If I just change the subject from GMO to antinuke…cause I know the anti-nuke field better.

        IMHO Arnie ‘anti-nuke’ Gunderson doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously in the nuclear debate either.

        IMHO He has a tendency towards what appears to be ‘deliberate’ ignorance as to steps have been taken to address various risk concerns.

        IMHO Most of his Fukushima tripe was based on not knowing that the Japanese had borated. (Yes Fukushima is a big mess…but it didn’t pose a risk to LA). IMHO He also didn’t quite get that the japanese have ‘interim fuel’ pools unlike US reactors.

        He doesn’t get taken seriously by the nuclear industry or nuclear advocates, but most of the anti-nukes I have come across are quoting Arnie Gunderson word for word.

        The only way to deal with the Arnie Gunderson is to give him an opportunity to publicly make his claims(he is going to get the opportunity anyway) and then point by point show why his claims are flawed.

      • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Longmire

        My guess would be you did the math and realized you couldn’t steer the discussion in the way you thought it should be with him on the stage. I know very little about Smith or what he says for that matter, but I can deduce the man can thrive in the moment and fluidly adapt to the situation(he was a professional dance instructor) which makes it difficult to frame the discussion especially when he has such a convincing personality(guy levitated in public). He isn’t a Johnny-come-lately to the subject either he’s been at it for 20 years and if he doesn’t understand it by now doesn’t that at the very least point to the complete dearth of knowledge on such an important subject.

        • First Officer

          20 years or not, he’s come to the discussion with a predetermined conclusion. To wit, GMO’s must be bad because they are man-made. He then goes out to find only the evidence that supports that conclusion and dismisses the mountains of evidence against it. And, when he can’t find it, he uses wild assertions, the, “coulda, woulda, shoulda’s”, with hardly a single, actual. He has chosen the path of the creationist.

  • Martin Dagoberto

    Hi. I received a B.S. from Worcester Polytech Institute, Biotechnology Program in 2006 (where I graduated with a 4.0) and I am convinced that GMO foods present a serious health risk. I’m about to start a family and my wife and I are making every attempt to have kids that aren’t subject to these inadequately tested biotech products. Would you consider me a worthy adversary to debate the issue? I’d be happy to chat.

    • Tom Scharf

      That’s all fine. You cross a line when you start thinking you need to make that decision for others though. Buy organic, be happy, Leave others to decide for themselves.

      How happy would you be if people started campaigning that organic food should be banned for reasons you deemed to be not entirely science based?

      • Joseph

        You both have reasonable positions. Thank you.

        I think this is one place where the Libertarians have it right: label everything, ban nothing. Since General Mills wants to make Cheerios, but not Honey Nut Cheerios, GMO free, great. Put big labels on the boxes and let customers make their own choices with their own money.

        But calling Jeffrey Smith “looney?” That’s not changing anybody’s mind.

        • Cairenn Day

          It needs to be VOLUNTARY labeling only.

          I can think of a lot of things that folks might want on labels, such as were the crops picked by legal immigrants, or what pesticide was sprayed on it and when and what was the rate of application and what surfactant was used.

        • First Officer

          But, the guy really is a loon. And if he’s not, then he’s much, much worse, a person trying to deny the world critical technology just to satisfy his world view needs and/or to sell more of his books and make more lecture money.

        • First Officer

          Yeah, Big Labels. Like Yellow Stars. Many, many anti-gmo leaders have stated that labeling will be used as a defacto banning tool. So don’t pee on our legs and then tell us it’s raining.

    • Cairenn Day
      • Hedi Hegyi
        • Cairenn Day

          Well it helps if one READS the study and what it SAYS, instead of just the name.

          Be aware that ALL soybeans can have some estrogen like effect, from pure organic grown with mountain spring water and fertilized with ‘unicorn’ poop to commercial GMO soybeans. That doesn’t change.

          The study was performed using what are called immortal T47D breast cancer cells, meaning the authors
          used already pre-existing cancer cells in vitro, or in a dish. The
          implications of the study are contradicted by a significant number of
          cell-based, or in vitro, studies as well as extensive animal (or in
          vivo) data reflecting real-world conditions.

          Second,
          numerous peer-reviewed studies clearly demonstrate that glyphosate does
          not have the potential to be an estrogen active compound, nor does it
          bind to estrogen receptors. An analysis of the available literature by
          Williams et. al. published in 2012 in the Journal of Toxicology and
          Environmental Health states “the literature shows no solid evidence
          linking glyphosate exposure to adverse developmental or reproductive
          effects at environmentally realistic exposure concentrations.” This
          analysis includes several studies showing that “glyphosate did not
          demonstrate estrogenic activity.”

          Finally,
          a review of the scientific literature published in 2012 in Regulatory
          Toxicology and Pharmacology by Mink et. al. concludes that there is “no
          consistent pattern of positive associations indicating a causal
          relationship between total cancer (in adults or children) or any
          site-specific cancer and exposure to glyphosate.” The U.S. EPA
          classifies glyphosate as a compound that shows no evidence of
          carcinogenicity for humans

          • Hedi Hegyi

            I made a shortcut to the actual paper the aljazeera website cites a reference to. I don’t have to read a paper necessarily that I am linking here, there are other people to do it like yourself. I was actually writing and submitting a paper just last night to a journal, therefore had no time to waste on this glyphosate paper, sorry :-) But thanks for commenting on it.

        • Cairenn Day

          I will offer you this study also to look at.

          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23983455

    • Loren Eaton

      On what do you base your assertion that the testing is inadequate? Did you do any of it yourself?

    • Viriato77

      All this guy does is pop up, attempt an argument from authority by waving his B.S. and GPA around, offer to debate and then vanish. Hollow, pretty hollow.

  • Tom Scharf

    Why is it that so many people believe it is necessary to silence dissent to win? Can you not see how this power could be abused so easily?

    It is quite rare that disinformation campaigns are actually successful, they may be good at delaying things and obfuscating things for a while, but winning the day? I don’t think so.

    Denying people the opportunity to state their case reflects badly on the ones denying access. This strategy backfires 9 times out of 10 is my guess.

    The obvious question is “What are you afraid of?”. The implied message is you are worried lowly “normal people” won’t be able to see through disinformation and be swayed by the charlatans. Have more respect for your audience. If your message isn’t good enough to overcome obvious disinformation, then your message needs a lot of work.

    You win by exposing the fraud. That’s the whole point of the debate.

    In fact you are better off by inviting the biggest clowns of all for the opposing side, which is actually a clever and insidious form of shutting down debate.

    Win and lose on your arguments.

    • Thomas Fuller

      I agree with my fellow Tom. I think you missed an opportunity, Keith. Did the panel fail to proceed because you declined? If it went ahead, the audience just missed the chance to hear your views. And your views are right.

      • JH

        My sentiments exactly.

      • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Keith Kloor

        The panel will be held in the spring. And I disagree with Tom Scharf, though I think he makes valid points.

        But let me say again that I am not trying to stifle anyone’s opinion. If green/organic/anti-GMO groups want to bring in Smith as a speaker, that is their right. I would never try to stop that. But the forum I was invited to participate in being put together by science journalists who are truly want to have a science-oriented debate on GMOs.

        What’s more, I am not opposed to the anti-GMO perspective being represented at this forum. In fact, as I say in my post, I even recommended several groups/individuals (such as the Union of Concerned Scientists) who campaign against agricultural biotechnology.

        What I am saying is that a science-oriented debate will not be fostered by the presence of someone who represents fringe, outlandish claims about GMOs.

        • Thomas Fuller

          Well, you’re a smart guy and certainly have a better feel for the nuance of political communication than I do, as these pages can testify to. I just think your position doesn’t really have enough quality defenders for you to absent yourself.

        • JH

          But Keith, is there a science debate to be had? :)

          If the debate is just about the safety of GMOs for humans, I can’t imagine that there’s a serious science debate to be had. It’s like debating gravity.

          That’s why I say by focusing on the “science debate” (which doesn’t exist), you’re effectively excluding your political opposition.

          BTW, there are few similarities between the GMO debate and the climate debate, except what you view as a rejection of consensus. You really need to stop viewing science through the consensus lens. Consensus is irrelevant. What people think is irrelevant. It’s testing and verification that matter. It’s what people know that matters. The science of GMOs, especiallly WRT human health, has been repeatedly tested and verified by hundreds of independent studies. The science of predicting future climate outcomes has never been tested or verified, and there are ample reasons to believe it doesn’t work.

          • http://ultimateglutenfree.com/ Peter Olins

            @JH—I disagree. There is plenty of scope for a science-based debate/discussion. Science depends on a weight of evidence, rather than a single piece of data—consensus is not the same as unanimity. There is scope for a legitimate debate about what is “enough” evidence to draw a conclusion.

            There is a short list of “smoking gun” research papers that are routinely trotted out by the anti-GMO community (can you say ‘Seralini’?). A skilled scientific communicator could help educate the audience about the strengths and limitations of the inflammatory claims in these papers, and even give some insight into how the process of science actually works. Having heard Smith distort research findings in the past, I think there could be plenty scope for setting the record straight.

    • First Officer

      Disinformation campaigns rarely successful? Tell that to all the Holocaust victims.

    • Cairenn Day

      Let’s say that I decide that that Knife should be spelled nif instead. I use that spelling in an essay and then get upset with my professor, because he marked me down on my spelling.

      I point out that it makes more sense to spell it nif, and I get friends to back me. Does that mean that the spelling should change? and that we should be allowed to spell it the way we want to?

  • coolduderino

    Yeah, I think someone from Monsanto planted the frankenfood mythology in the anti-gmo movement to help derail it and frame the argument is absurd terms. The fact is that the modifications in GMO foods are mostly to make them more resistant to damage from pesticides and other chemicals used in agriculture and this means that many more and many more varieties are being sprayed on our foods, and these complex chemical cocktails are what is wrong with the food. Sure, it’s nutritionally equivalent or better but organic food hasn’t been drenched with this stuff, and even organic milk has been shown to contain more essential fats and nutrients and less antibiotics and hormones, etc etc.

    • First Officer

      Glyphosate is applied to crops at the maximum rate of 0.001 ounces per square foot. That 0.001 ounces goes on everything in that square foot, with precious little on the actual edible parts. So, how is that drenching ?

      • coolduderino

        Yes, that’s Monsanto’s big selling modification, but that’s not the only substance in use agriculturally. In fact, while the amounts of any particular substance are regulated to be below a “safety threshold” so it seems like it would be negligible as you say, but there are dozens of these, from pesticides, fungicides, and other agricultural chemicals all going on the food in tiny quantities, and these multi-chemical cocktails are getting to you, in some things more than others. I always go with organic apples, for instance, because apples hang upright from the branch and have the little dimple the stem comes out of…spray them with chemicals and it pools in that spot, eventually sinking into the apple itself…other plants have these types of structural vulnerabilities making this a problem you can’t always just rinse off …like I said, I’m not worried about GMO’s, I buy organic because they use fertilizers and and pest control techniques I feel better about. If I could get bigger, more nutritious GMO foods that were farmed organically I’d be all over it.

        • First Officer

          Many people have made the observation that GMO tech would be a boon to Organic growers, taking traits from plants that are naturally resistant to certain pests and transfering them to our crops. Bt resistance was observed in organic farms before the advent of Bt GMO’s. Unfortunately, organic philosophy is dictates that if a solution doesn’t already exist, as is, in nature, that’s the end of that.

          • coolduderino

            I imagine that’s how the person who down-voted my above post must feel…frankly, I do believe genetic engineering will be a part of everything in the future. I think hunger and even peace on earth and elimination of disease and suffering and poverty will have a genetic engineering component it we’re to pull it off…our natural evolution has left us incompatible with peaceful coexistence of 10 billion people on this little planet of ours…

          • First Officer

            Yes, that’s the problem with natural evolution. It has absolutely no foresight.

    • Matt B

      Of course the claim could be made that organic food is drenched with fecal contamination…..I guess you just need to pick your poison….

      http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2004/05/study-yields-mixed-findings-about-microbes-organic-produce

  • J M

    “Smith is as fringe as they come. As I have previously discussed here, he has asserted that autism and Alzheimer’s disease, among many other medical problems, can be attributed to GMOs. Did I mention that he has no expertise?!”

    Keith, I read your piece again and I don’t quite understand your point.

    Are you under the impression that by declining to confront Smith you rob him the opportunity to spread his disinformation? I can tell you, hel’ll keep on doing it.

    Or, by refusing to participate in a panel with Smith you deprive him of legitimacy? I don’t think the guy really cares about it.

    One would assume that a guy with your knowledge of science would (with some preparation concerning Smith’s bullshit ) make him look pretty bad. Unless the discussion is refereed by Geraldo or Jerry Springer

    Seralini of the Tumorous Rats fame was quite happy to talk to anti-GMO crowds or give lectures but declined to confront real scientists in a public debate. Has Smith ever been in a debate with a scientist?

    • J M

      Update: It was Seralini and Smith who declined to debate Kevin Folta and Jon Entine at Cato Institute on GMOs. Just checked.

      So, Keith, have you got it wrong? It looks like Smith is afraid to debate guys like Folta (and yourself) publicly…

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonentine/2013/05/29/anti-gmo-scientist-gilles-eric-seralini-activist-jeffrey-smith-withdraw-from-food-biotech-debate/

      • http://wildernessvagabonds.com/ Mike Lewinski

        I was going to mention that fiasco too. I think Smith is afraid to debate a scientist in the field, but may believe that he can hold his ground against a journalist.

        By the way, the reason given by Smith for withdrawing from the Cato debate was that he had another engagement. That turned out to be an interview on Art Bell’s Coast to Coast AM radio show.

        It shows where his priorities are. He declined to participate in a serious debate hosted by a political advocacy organization featuring actual scientists in the field to instead appear unchallenged on a show devoted to conspiracy theories.

        I guess if I was Keith, knowing that, I’d make a big deal out of publicly double and triple checking that Smith didn’t have any other pending interviews scheduled with Art Bell, Alex Jones or Jesse Ventura before making a decision.

        • J M

          Jeffrey Smith has debated GMOs on TV with Ramez Naam, a computer engineer and science fiction writer on health and business aspects of GMOs:
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFh50Qozu-w

          Smith has appeared as “expert witness” via Skype in Hawaii:

          http://westhawaiitoday.com/sections/news/local-news/still-no-resolution-council%E2%80%99s-gmo-debate.html

          He speaks to anti-GMO crowds and goes to talk shows but has never debated a biotech scientist publicly.

          Who’s afraid of whom??

          • J M

            If you watch that video, you will notice that Smith does not debate, he preaches. He ignores what the other guy says. Monsanto this and that, FDA this and that…

            If there was a science-based, live debate with a moderator who would demand answers and keep debate on the subject, this guy would be in trouble.

          • Cairenn Day

            When did a science fiction writer and computer person become an expert on GMOs and biotechnology?

          • JH

            Smith isn’t an expert. Why would Naam need to be an expert?

            JHC, what you need is an expert in debate with some knowledge of GMOs, not an expert in GMOs with some knowledge of debate!

          • http://wildernessvagabonds.com/ Mike Lewinski

            Debating a computer engineer and debating a plant geneticist are two entirely different things.

            The debate began to unravel just two weeks before the scheduled event. Smith objected to the unexpected substitution of Folta, who is an active online presence, engaging and debating campaigners and carefully laying out counter, science-based arguments. Smith immediately balked at the substitution. According to Smith, Folta had “crossed the line” in some criticisms of him, although he didn’t provide any examples. His nerves clearly jangled, Smith ultimately decided he was not comfortable with Folta, and said he would not debate.

            http://www.biofortified.org/2013/05/anti-gmo-leaders-withdraw-from-great-biotech-debate/

  • Stu

    Some years ago director James Cameron was going to debate Marc Morano about climate change. At the last moment Cameron pulled out and sceptics assumed victory by default. Probably the whole thing would have been a disaster and not worth the expense of organising or attending. But it was a case where failing to engage in debate would be seen as a weakness (as in, weak arguments) in the eyes of some. For others, not engaging with ‘crackpots’ was automatic victory because you’re opponent was not worth talking to for starters. Eye of the beholder.

    I respect Keith’s decision but can’t help but agree with Tom Scharf. “If the debate is so easy to win on its merits, go out and win it. “. If you don’t say anything, it’s not winning. Neither is it weakness. But maybe it’s a missed opportunity.

    ?

    • Buddy199

      I’d like to see Al Gore debate Richard Lindzen. But Gore never debates anyone. Too bad, it would be worth watching.

      • Stu

        Of course, Lindzen would beat the pants off Gore. The problem is when people such as Gore use non-debate as a tactic. Mike Mann has been successful in persuading his audience that anyone who challenges him scientifically is a fossil fuel shill. This is when the ‘I don’t debate cranks’ becomes problematic. To Micheal Mann, anyone who disagrees with him is a crank and a bad person.

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Keith Kloor

      It’s not about winning–it’s about being part of an event that gives Smith legitimacy if he is a panelist. Dr. Oz did a great disservice by having Smith on his popular show (twice). If Oz wanted to have a GMO skeptic on the show, he could have found someone respectable who wouldn’t blatantly misinform and spread unwarranted fears.

      It’s the same situation in this case. It’s about the venue. It’s about legitimizing someone that doesn’t deserve to have even the veneer of legitimacy (which, unfortunately is what Smith gained with his appearances on the Oz show).

      • J M

        Is there a science-based GMO opposition? That does not blatantly disinform and spread unwarranted fears? That does not say that researchers have been bribed by Monsanto? Who disown Smith?

      • http://ultimateglutenfree.com/ Peter Olins

        @Keith—Doesn’t Smith already have “legitimacy”, in that he has acted as an advisor for legislative initiatives around the country? The issue is that this legitimacy is going unchallenged.

    • Peoples Scientist

      I’d just like to see from the pro side less jabbing and more discussion related to education, that will decrease fears especially from the moderates. (IE “non looney tunes”) For example they are very concerned about drift….explain how this will/will not happen in scientific terms. Too many people just say “so what”! I can give many more examples but..as it does seem to be about “winning” or who’s right most of the time.

  • Sister Rosetta

    Corroborating the NIH, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) found that “GM foods pose a serious health risk.”

    http://www.occupycorporatism.com/monsanto-profits-biotech-wheat-moves-closer-market/

    • mem_somerville

      You have no idea what the word “corroborate” means, do you? And you don’t seem to know that the AAEM is not a legitimate medical organization. No matter how many times you say it.

    • Jim Ryan

      “Environmental Medicine” is not a certified medical specialty. The Association of American Medical Colleges does not list it as a recognized specialty on their website.

  • Sister Rosetta

    Corroborating the NIH, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) found that “GM foods pose a serious health risk.”

    http://www.occupycorporatism.com/monsanto-profits-biotech-wheat-moves-closer-market/

    ***

  • Sister Rosetta

    Corroborating the NIH, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) found that “GM foods pose a serious health risk.”

  • Howard Gilbraith

    Regardless of the merits of the GMO foods, the fact of the matter is that the industrial food production system is incredibly destructive and based on fossil fuels which it seems likely we will not be able to use in the next 30 years…It is not sustainable, and arguing for the benefits of technology, that when implemented, creates more problems than it solves is kind of a pointless exercise.

    • Jim Ryan

      OK, so I guess we stop producing food because it uses fossil fuels?
      GMOs that are engineered to use less water and less fertilizer are part of the SOLUTION to lowering the impact of agriculture.
      If you can point me to another way to feed 7 billion people I’d be happy to consider it. If we switched global agricultural production to all organic farming we’d either have to watch 3 billion people starve to death or cut down all the rainforests to plant crops because organic farming has such low yield.

      • Kitty Davenport

        There are farming techniques that are not organic and do not rely on GMo’s or its necessary chemicals. There are more than two ways to farm. And honestly the facts show GMO farms do not have the highest yields. Just look at India who has doubled their yields of lentils and other crops by getting rid of the chemicals and gmo’s. I am sorry but there is a lot more to farming than the extremes oh high pesticide and petrochemical Monsanto style farming and Certified Organic farming. People are not hungry because of issues with farming technology by the way. People are starving because of greed and corruption. We have plenty of food for everybody. But because we do not distribute it fairly tragic amounts go to waste every day.

        • http://ultimateglutenfree.com/ Peter Olins

          Fascinating, Kitty. Could you share some more details about how getting rid of chemicals and GMO’s have doubled lentil yields? Lentils are such an important and nutritious crop, and anything that could double yields would be major news. THX.

          • Kitty Davenport

            Here is a good example, but this one is about yet another crop that produces fantastically without the chemicals and genetic modification. Just attended a great lecture at my local Hindu Temple on this subject and spoke with some of the farmers and people involved. Lovely people.

            http://www.realfarmacy.com/indian-farmers-growing-record-yields-with-no-gmo-crops-or-pesticides/

          • NameNotGiven

            No numbers whatsoever. Just a press release with utterly no corroboration..

          • Kitty Davenport

            They had the numbers and video as well as food grown at the lecture. I trust the farmers and the food i ate above propaganda online love. But when I have a moment i will search. However your lack of a name doesnt inspire me to want to spend time for you. Having been in many of these threads I find the no name people tend to be hostile and not open to actual discussion. I hope thats not the case with you. Why no name?

          • http://ultimateglutenfree.com/ Peter Olins

            Kitty, Any progress on finding the information you mentioned? I think we would all like to hear about this breakthrough.

            (BTW you will note that I have no problem saying who I am. I agree with you, using a real name helps to build trust. However, I also sympathize with the desire to remain anonymous, since I have received abusive comments in the past).

          • Kitty Davenport

            Sorry. Have been busy working. It is festival season coming up and I am behind from being sick this winter. I will get to catching up on discussions soon. Thank you.

          • NameNotGiven

            You made a completely bogus claim and of course you are too busy to back it up.

  • Jelena Poliakoff

    for, example, this story needs more comments…and more scietific-based moments, not loosy lefty lines http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/peopleandpower/2013/03/201331313434142322.html

  • Franken Stein

    Keith Kloor is a big jerk.

  • http://ultimateglutenfree.com/ Peter Olins

    Like it or not, a terrorist with a bomb has more power than thousands of peaceful Muslims. A terrorist is not interested in having an honest discussion, or getting closer to the truth—which is what science is all about—he just wants to win. Logic and data are weak tools when trying to oppose a terrorist, which is why so there are so few scientists equipped to debate the anti-GMO radical fringe. Keith, keep up the good work.

  • prasad

    Just a heads up for those who haven’t seen it, Leigh Philips has a really nice article on GM and politics. Links here:
    http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2014/02/frankenpolitics-a-left-defence-of-gmos-and-a-response.html

  • Peoples Scientist

    However it appears that there are problems on “both sides” of the fence that inhibits the true meaning of Science http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2014/02/10/140210fa_fact_aviv?currentPage=all

  • http://www.davidsukola.com/ David Sukola

    2 years ago I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. It is considered a secondary disease for me since it is a direct result of my primary disease – Parkinson’s Disease. I just turned 54. My family and I are desperately fighting for my life and need funding for research that addresses a cure for this horrific disease and not watching that valuable resource (money) going to irresponsible and false marketing campaigns by Jeffery Smith and Dr. Oz.

    • coolduderino

      Start smoking. Nicotine fights both parkinsons and alzheimers.

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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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