Holding a Beloved Figure Accountable for False Claims

By Keith Kloor | August 24, 2014 8:34 am

In 2002, the global GMO discourse chagrined anthropologist Glenn Davis Stone:

Western audiences have been bombarded with deceptive rhetoric, spin, and soundbite science portraying the wonders—or horrors—of the new technology.

He blamed both the biotech industry and anti-GMO activists for exploiting food security concerns to advance their own agendas. The article, published in the journal Current Anthropology, is a snapshot of a formative time, when dueling narratives pushed by industry and GMO opponents had taken shape. Stone’s objective was laudable:

My focus here is on the core problem of the feeding of the growing populations in the developing world. This decomposes into two issues: the potential for biotechnology to reduce hunger by boosting food output and the need to take a discriminating view of genetically modified crops (e.g., distinguishing those from the corporate and those from the public sector) rather than treating genetic modification as a monolithic project. I examine the dominant industry and green positions on these two issues, using case material from India.

At the time, as Stone noted:

The specter of the industralization of farming, privatization of germplasm, and eventual depeasantization in developing countries has proved a mighty stimulus to a range of green writers and activists.

Such concerns fueled the anti-GMO movement and, as Stone observed,

helped make an international star of Vandana Shiva, whose voluminous writings depict genetic modification as threatening an idyllic traditional agrarian culture that is ecologically stable, seed-saving, biodiverse, noncommercial, and female-oriented.

Shiva would go on to be an instrumental figure in the global anti-GMO movement over the next decade. She was (and remains) the forceful purveyor of one of the biggest GMO myths: That the “failure” of genetically modified cotton has driven more than a quarter million Indian farmers to suicide. As I wrote last year in my deconstruction of this myth, “no one has done more to promote the narrative of Monsanto’s ‘seeds of suicide’ than Vandana Shiva.” I extensively chronicled the role Shiva played in perpetuating the GMO-Indian farmer suicide narrative, which a mostly credulous media bought into.

In his 2002 journal article, Stone discusses Shiva’s worldview and GMO rhetoric as reflective of the “characteristic green position.” He writes:

The greens’ demonization of genetically modified crops has effects that are contradictory to their values. Promoting blanket disapproval of such crops helps drive public-sector genetic modification into the arms of industry. Genetic modification is expensive, and most public projects are in a constant struggle for funding. Industry provides some funds and access to genetic materials; greens provide no funding and obstruct philanthropic investment (ABC News Online 2001).

If you read the full article, you’ll see it’s clear that Stone holds the Shivas of the world responsible for inflaming the GMO discourse and for having a misguided approach to biotechnology. (As I mentioned, he also found industry just as culpable for justifying its interests with grand claims.)

After my piece on Shiva and the GMO suicide myth appeared in the staid Issues in Science and Technology magazine, I was surprised by Stone’s vehement response to it.

In his letter to the magazine, Stone didn’t take issue with my debunking of the Indian farmer-GMO suicide myth, but rather my supposed intentions:

Kloor’s goal was not to understand the problem of farmer suicide, but rather to use it to whip up hatred toward Vandana Shiva and “liberal and environmentalist circles,” where GMOs are unpopular.

In fact, my primary goal was to show how a popular and damaging myth spread, virtually unchecked in the media. (And to show the machinations of an influential anti-GMO leader.) Equally important, I aimed to explore the complicated socio-political reasons for the Indian farmer suicides.

If this perturbed Stone, I can hardly wait to see his reaction to Michael Specter’s revealing New Yorker profile of Shiva. Perhaps it will be along the lines of this:

It’s remarkable that Bittman considers this unhinged rant against Specter “interesting” enough to share with his 437,000 followers. It’s mind-blowing that he finds it “flattering” (the writer gushes over Bittman).

Look, I get it that Shiva is perceived as a saintly champion for the downtrodden. I know she is beloved in environmental circles, “someone who understands the big-picture concerns of green-inclined young people with great clarity,” as Nathanael Johnson wrote this week in Grist. But does that give her a free pass to vilify her opponents and demonize a technology that may actually help address some of those big-picture concerns?

  • First Officer

    I’m not sure Stone’s arguments are so correct in of themselves. He talks about the spread of cotton hybrids needing pesticides (as if earlier strains had comparable yields without them) as a partial reason for farmer suicides. Yet, first, we don’t see much of a spike in a remarkably low suicide rate to begin with.

    http://www.ifpri.org/sites/default/files/publications/ifpridp00808.pdf

    Second, if the argument was true, we’d see a rise in suicide rates as time went on and these farmers become ever more, “individualized”. Instead we actually see a small but downward trend in the last few years.

    Third, while economic reasons could very well be a motivator to cash your chips in, if this was such a major contributor to suicides, we’d see rich countries having the low suicide rates. I don’t think that is the case.

    • Tom

      I found this snippet from Specter’s piece particularly interesting: “Although many Indian farmers kill themselves, their suicide rate has not risen in a decade, according to a study by Ian Plewis, of the University of Manchester. In fact, the suicide rate among Indian farmers is lower than for other Indians and is comparable to that among French farmers.” [my emphasis]

      (The open access study by Ian Plewis can be found here:
      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/store/10.1111/j.1740-9713.2014.00719.x/asset/sign719.pdf?v=1&t=hz8gra2z&s=2f063a3647b19c8f4ee0a7abe0d4924e0270928d )

      So maybe the question should be how Bt cotton in India causes French farmers to kill themselves?

      • Tyler Hurson

        First GE crops have time travelling powers, now they can affect people on entirely different continents? Boy, I can sure see why Shivites are against this stuff.

        • Tom

          I’m sure Monsanto had a plan to send RoundUp Ready corn back in time to kill Hitler but environmentalist blocked the use of Terminator seeds…

          • Brian Freeman

            That’s a really helpful comment, Tom. I can’t deny that you care about science — but that appears to be ALL you care about. The world just ain’t made like that.

            Now, back to work for me. Maybe you should, too, Tom. That really helps job security.

          • Tom

            Um, I hope you realize that post was a joke.

          • Brian Freeman

            Yes, but the people you aimed it at won’t think so.

          • Tom

            Disclaimer: For readers that (1) believe Monsanto capable of engineering time-travelling GE crops and (2) did not get the Terminator reference:

            (a) It was a joke.

            (b) It was not intended for you.

      • Tom

        Which by the way might explain French scientist Seralini’s crusade. Did a farmer close to him commit suicide because of Bt cotton in India? Think about it. All the pieces coming together.

        • JH

          Damned fine investigative work Tom! Phones are ringing down at The Onion.

      • alykatma

        http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-04-evidence-suicide-epidemic-india-marginalized.html Instead of saving seeds for next year they have to borrow to buy GMO seeds and then the chemicals. Cotton used to be an easy crop to grow, but when crops fail, the farmers still owe that money. It is sad when people joke about suicides.

        • Tom

          Indian cotton farmers are allowed to save their seeds and replant them. But they choose not to. From Specter’s article: “Shiva also says that Monsanto’s patents prevent poor people from saving seeds. That is not the case in India. The Farmers’ Rights Act of 2001 guarantees every person the right to “save, use, sow, resow, exchange, share, or sell” his seeds. Most farmers, though, even those with tiny fields, choose to buy newly bred seeds each year, whether genetically engineered or not, because they insure better yields and bigger profits. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/08/25/seeds-of-doubt

          And what chemicals? It’s Bt cotton! That means little or no insecticide spraying.

          The first thing that the cotton farmers I visited wanted to discuss, though, was their improved health and that of their families. Before Bt genes were inserted into cotton, they would typically spray their crops with powerful chemicals dozens of times each season. Now they spray once a month. Bt is not toxic to humans or to other mammals. Organic farmers, who have strict rules against using synthetic fertilizers or chemicals, have used a spray version of the toxin on their crops for years.

          Everyone had a story to tell about insecticide poisoning. “Before Bt cotton came in, we used the other seeds,” Rameshwar Mamdev told me when I stopped by his six-acre farm, not far from the main dirt road that leads to the village. He plants corn in addition to cotton. “My wife would spray,” he said. “She would get sick. We would all get sick.” According to a recent study by the Flemish Institute for Biotechnology, there has been a sevenfold reduction in the use of pesticide since the introduction of Bt cotton; the number of cases of pesticide poisoning has fallen by nearly ninety per cent. Similar reductions have occurred in China. The growers, particularly women, by reducing their exposure to insecticide, not only have lowered their risk of serious illness but also are able to spend more time with their children.

        • Tom

          From http://agricoop.nic.in/PPV&FR%20Act,%202001.pdf :

          “…a farmer shall be deemed to be entitled to save, use, sow, resow, exchange, share or sell his farm produce including seed of a variety protected under this Act in the same manner as he was entitled before the coming into force of this Act.”

        • Randall H.

          I apologize for making another reply to your comments……I’m not stalking you, but I find your comments are uninformed when you talk of how you think agriculture works. I’d like to help you understand better.

          As farmers, we rarely save our seeds anymore, and this was far before GMO’s existed. We use new varieties or new hybrids. Other farmers specialize in raising seeds in climates that produce the best seeds. Those are the seeds that produce the most vigorous plants, and the best crops.

          It has nothing to do with GMO.

        • Benjamin Edge

          The saving of cotton seed by farmers is not a good proposition under the best of conditions. Definitely not under the storage conditions available in India. Cotton seed is notorious for low germination percentage. It has a high oil content, which does not store well, and the seed need to be delinted, either chemically or mechanically, both of which can damage the seed.

          While GM cotton seed is not cheap, it provides a better chance of getting a good stand under most conditions than farmer saved seed, unless the farmer is buying from a counterfeit seed dealer.

          I don’t know where you get the idea that cotton has ever been easy to grow. How many accidental poisonings have been eliminated by GM cotton? Have you grown any?

      • Brian Freeman

        Don’t have time to read every link presented here, but thanks. Quick question: Does this mean that the French don’t buy any seed from Monsanto? i.e. French farmer suicides hypothetically caused by the same Monsanto-related stresses as Indian farmer suicides…?

        Not taking sides. I admit I don’t know a lot about this particular subject. Just asking what should be a very obvious logical question….

        • Tom

          It means that farmer suicides in India is not the GMO genocide Shiva claims it is.

          • Brian Freeman

            You did not answer my question, Tom — you drew conclusion without explaining how you derived it. That isn’t science.

            I’ll ask it again: Do French farmers not use Monsanto seeds? If they don’t, that proves that the suicide rates are unrelated. If they do, the question is still open to examination.

          • Brian Freeman

            Tom, this is a chance for you to demonstrate your love of science — as opposed to blindly promoting a political position.

          • Tom

            I wouldn’t be working grant-to-grant with zero job security and lousy pay if I didn’t love science…

          • Brian Freeman

            Ouch! I have to give you 2 points for that one!

          • Tom

            No, the French government has banned the growing of GM crops against the recommendations of their own scientists. Happy?

          • Jason

            French farmers likely use Monsanto seeds, but not the same Monsanto seeds being vilified for suicide deaths in India. France has chosen to ban domestic cultivation of GMO crops where as India has not (obviously). Plus, I don’t think France has much cotton production what so ever. regardless, what ever Monsanto seeds are being sold in France are non-GMO.

          • Brian Freeman

            Thank you, Jason! THAT is an answer!

            Tom: Make note. This is how to carry on a “scientific” discussion.

          • Tom

            I’m honored to receive your infinite wisdom on all things scientific. I’ll put you down for a keynote lecture at my next conference.

    • JH

      I wonder if there is any merit to the Indian Farmer Suicide Rate argument at all, either way. India is famous for corrupt and inept bureaucracy. Should we put any faith in their suicide rate data, much less for a class of people that most Indian bureaucrats probably view as subhuman anyway?

      • RobertWager

        The Indian government stats say no. in 2006 the rural rate was 13% vs 87% in urban. Jump ahead five years during the massive expansion of Bt cotton in India and we see 10% rural rates vs 90% urban rates of suicide. This data completely debunks any link between suicides and Bt cotton in India.

        • JH

          If the data has any meaning. That’s my question. Is the data reliable?

          • RobertWager

            I must admit I took it from a source I had no reason to doubt and in the three years I have used in in public events and in my writings not a single anti has ever demonstrated it to be inaccurate. This leads me to believe it is in fact exactly what the Indian government stats say. Though I can’t be 100% sure…

          • JH

            Yeah, OK. Well, I don’t have any particular reason to question it. But you know, if you have gov data from the US, you generally trust it; if you have it from the DPRK, you generally don’t trust it; if you have it from the Indian government, I’d guess you’re somewhere in between.

          • RobertWager
        • alykatma

          Your source? can’t debunk what we do not know.

    • alykatma

      They should grow Hemp instead, grows like a weed, no pesticides or heribicides needed and can be used for anything trees are used for, and does not destroy the environment. GMO’s are chemically intensive crops. Scientists should be concerned about all aspects not just the money making parts.

      • Tom

        No-one is stopping farmers from getting off herbicide-resistant crops. They can go back to tilling their fields again and eroding away the top soil any time they like. But farmers choose not to.

      • Michael Phillips

        That is a myth. Hemp is highly susceptible to white fly and red spider mite infestations. It requires pesticides just like most cultivated crops. And hemp will never replace cotton for clothing. The fibers are too short and make for coarse fabrics consumers don’t want, compared to the much longer fiber lengths of cotton. Of course, we could always make Bt hemp, which would still have many uses and require little to no pesticide application.

      • Jason

        Hemp is no different from any other crop. Farmers will seek to maximize their production per acre, whether with hemp or some other crop. Maximizing your production means you fertilize and control pests (weeds, bugs diseases) that would otherwise reduce those yields.

  • JH

    Even in the small article clips you offer, you see a hint of Stone’s anti-industry views:

    “Promoting blanket disapproval of such crops helps drive public-sector
    genetic modification into the arms of industry. ”

    I’m sure he shares these anti-industry views with Shiva and all of the Green community; his only difference with them seems to be that he supports GMOs. So I guess that drives his deeper sympathies for Shiva.

    I don’t get how anyone can see Shiva as “saintly champion for the downtrodden.” From my knowledge of science, economics, your reporting on this issue, and what I’ve read elsewhere about her and by her, it’s clear that she’s working hard to deny the downtrodden something that benefits them greatly. She’s advancing an irrational, destructive and belief-driven agenda, using false claims and lies.

    Shiva is a huckster. It’s unfortunate that so many people have misplaced their belief in her. Time to wake up.

    • mem_somerville

      But…but….I just read that she’s Galileo to the evil Monsanto Catholic Church.

      Galileo gambit

      The Galileo gambit, or Galileo fallacy, is the notion that if your ideas provoke the establishment to vilify or threaten you, you must be right….It is freakishly common among creationists and global warming denialists alike against the evil scientific consensus.

      • JH

        The Great Fearless Wun Who Spaketh Truth to the Priests! Bow thine shamefull heads in Her Presence!

        • mem_somerville

          Right–when the ultimate irony is that one of them had data, and one had compelling but fictional stories about the “natural” world and was threatened by displacement of “god”.

          For me, GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) stand for God moves over.

          • JH

            IOW, Monsanto = Galileo.

          • Benjamin Edge

            And Shiva = the Church = the Pope. Isn’t that ironic!

          • JH

            Sadly, Shiva isn’t alone. There are many self-appointed Popes these days.

          • Robert Anton Wilson

            Every man, woman, and child on this Earth is a genuine and authorized Pope. Don’t knock it! http://discordia.wikia.com/wiki/Pope_cards

      • First Officer

        Oh god, yeah. They completely ignore the 1000 cranks for the every 1 true outlier but correct person.

  • RobertWager

    It is interesting sociological reality that anti groups can lie, be caught lying and suffer no loss in credibility. Contrast this with people with genuine knowledge in a given field having to be 100% honest or risk complete loss of credibility if they are caught lying even once.

    • Tom

      Add to that the scientist mantra that “we can never be 100 % certain”. Doesn’t impress the masses I find.

      • RobertWager

        Not sure you can always say that…;)

        • Tom

          Aaarrrgh! Damn you science!

          • alykatma

            What science? I only see opinion.

          • Tom

            Are you qualified to judge? Do you have a PhD within the natural sciences? Have you published peer-reviewed research articles?

      • Brian Freeman

        So Science’s job is to impress the masses?

        • Tom

          The purpose of science is to advance our understanding of the natural world based on experimental data and observations. But the masses often settle for a blog about “the poison in your food they don’t want you to know about”.

          • Brian Freeman

            I disagree. Ultimately, the purpose of Science is to improve the human condition. Advancing our understanding is merely the tool science uses to that end.

            When science appears to be doing the opposite of that purpose, it will (naturally) be called into question. It should be prepared to answer without political bias. That is the best way to communicate to the masses…

          • Jason

            The purpose of science isn’t to improve anything other than our understanding of the world around us. That knowledge can be used to help or harm us. It’s not up to Science to discover things that only have the potential for good.

          • Brian Freeman

            “Zen Science”…? I wish i were so.

          • Paul Shipley

            When is science supposed to be moral or immoral? Science is research and making observations on that research to come to an understanding from there we have seen many advances to our way of life.

          • Brian Freeman

            You’re late in the game, Paul. Science isn’t. Scientists can be. I know — you can’t see the difference, either.

          • Paul Shipley

            So the point you are making is that scientists are human….. So you have made the assumption that this would cloud their judgement. Depends on your point of view but I wouldn’t go around assuming that all scientists are the same. Some use a Mac and some use a PC. Seems about as relevant to me.

    • JH

      Shiva’s audience isn’t interested in truth. They want something to calm their fears and make them feel like they’re doing something worthwhile – the underdogs fighting the Evil Overlord. They also seek the security of being part of a larger movement.

      IMO, Shiva’s followers and, by extension, much of the green community, are followers of a religion. Truth is only modestly relevant. The only way to beat the religion is to chip away at it until its critical mass is lost and it’s adherents become social outcasts.

      • RobertWager

        “isn’t interested in truth” may not be of much interest to those people of certain ideologies but I find the average person wants good information and is very thankful when they receive it from credibly sources. At least that is my experience talking about GE crops in Lotusland.

        • JH

          “I find the average person wants good information”

          I totally agree with that. But I don’t think the “average person” is driving Shiva’s popularity. There is a cult around her that believes fervently in her POV and support her. As long as that cult is of significant size (and I think it is right now), she’ll probably be around making her nutty claims.

      • Tom Scharf

        I would agree.

        I can accept an argument that this is an immoral way to create life. I disagree with this argument, but I do understand the appeal to nature argument.

        What I don’t accept is trying to distort this argument into a scientific argument where it is not supportable. At this point the argument loses credibility.

        What happened I think is that the moral argument wasn’t enough to produce the results that activists wanted, so they resorted to an ends justify the means methodology. This is a common tactic nowadays and ironically many activists apparently consider it moral to distort the facts to achieve their moral objective.

        • JH

          “they resorted to an ends justify the means methodology.”

          Oh, yes! Very popular methodology these days.

      • alykatma

        What are your thoughts on Monsanto suing farmers whose fields they contaminated? Shouldn’t farming GMO’s as well as consuming them be a person’s choice and not forced upon them? I am more concerned with my health then biotech profits.

        • JH

          “What are your thoughts on Monsanto suing farmers whose fields they contaminated?”

          My thoughts are that it’s a bogus claim. Health fears about GMO are also bogus.

        • Michael Phillips

          I think this is a myth that been roundly debunked.

        • Randall H.

          You are following myths.

          I use many patented products, and I expect to be stopped if I unlawfully copy any of them.

          I chose to farm 30% GMO’s. I have used a few of Monsanto products in 2011, then again in 2014. There is no requirement, I have never felt “forced.”

          Monsanto’s products are clearly labeled, and priced at a premium for the traits. I choose whether to buy itor not.

          My customers are fully informed as to what I grow and how I grow it.

          We are open and transparent, and we do the best we can in the safest manner possible.

        • Michael Phillips

          Alykatma, many readers here have taken issue with your assertion. Would you be willing to demonstrate your movement has integrity by admitting this particular claim is untrue?

      • Brian Freeman

        So I guess one would have to say that Keith is just “preaching to the choir” . Why would he do that, I wonder?

        Even more curious, why would the choir want to listen to him preach? Oh! That’s right! Because they sing his songs!

      • Viva La Evolucion

        I think it is great that Keith Kloor has debunked the indian suicide issue and I like to see debunking of false claims from both sides of the GMO debate. I would like to see Keith Kloor debunk some of the false claims coming from the pro-GMO movement, like for instance that price of processed junk foods will go up considerably if GMOs are labeled. There are some legitimate reasons against GMO labeling, but price increase is not one of them.

  • Buddy199

    If Shiva were a short fat, sweaty guy with a New Jersey accent her message would resonate far less with the audience she’s trying to impress. She skillfully milks her persona – 3rd world, female, martyr, anti-capitalist, colorful indigenous costumes – for all its worth, her acolytes lap it up and feel so righteous about themselves. The classic huckster.

    • Brian Freeman

      Not necessarily true! An ugly guy wearing a baseball cap, spouting politics in the name of science has a very big following here!

      • Sienna Rosachi

        Why anyone would “follow” keith is beyond me. He has no understanding of science

        • Tom

          Oh? Let’s hear your qualifications then.

          • Brian Freeman

            She doesn’t have to. She doesn’t write for Discovery.

          • Tom

            If she sees herself as qualified to judge that Keith doesn’t understand the science, then I want to know her science credentials.

          • Brian Freeman

            This is a forum for opinions. If you want credentials, post your comments in peer reviews.

          • Tom

            No, this is a forum for discussing science as it relates to society and how it is misrepresented by charlatans that make money from scaring the public – which causes real harm such as children not being vaccinated or valuable, possibly life-saving agricultural technology being withheld from subsistence farmers in poor nations.

          • Brian Freeman

            Right! As I said. A forum for discussing opinions [about science]. The last time I looked, being credentialed was not a prerequisite for posting here.

          • Tom

            Not a prerequisite for posting, never said that. If someone makes an erroneous claim about science (or other people’s knowledge of it), I will challenge them. Speaking as a scientist within the life sciences (a mix of biochemistry, genomics, genetics, molecular biology and microbiology) I can confirm that Keith knows his biology. Otherwise I would correct him on it.

          • Brian Freeman

            I can confirm that Keith hates liberals, and blames much of the social and scientific problems of our culture on them. His knowledge may be excellent, but his very open political bias makes his ability to use that knowledge without bias highly suspect. At the very best, he does not help unify public opinion about science — he increases the divisions. “IMO”, (so you don’t demand my creds) this is probably deliberate.

            Disclaimer: I am not a liberal. I am a “moderate”. i.e. I hate both political parties equally. ;-)

          • kkloor

            “I can confirm that Keith hates liberals, and blames much of the social and scientific problems of our culture on them.”

            This is news to me.

            I can confirm that you definitely didn’t arrive at this conclusion from my voting record.

          • Brian Freeman

            Nope.. Just your “Collide-a-Scape” column. Would you like some quotes?

          • Brian Freeman

            “What puzzles me is why liberal outlets recognize “bad information” about vaccines but not GMOs. ”

            “For let’s be clear: the science on GMOs is as solid and authoritative as it is on vaccines. So why are liberal outlets like the Huffington Post accepting of the scientific consensus on vaccines, but not GMOs?”

            Inaccurate media is just that… What does “liberal” have to do with anything? A huge number of conservatives are anti-science and anti-evolution — trying to put their religion into education, and worse. Yet you seem to single out “liberal” anti-science figures a lot more often that conservative ones.

          • Benjamin Edge

            Keith only calls out liberals on the subject of GMOs to show how hypocritical it is for them to accuse conservatives of ideological bias in dismissing the evidence for evolution or global warming, while they do the same thing with the evidence for safety of GMOs.

            That is not to say that only liberals oppose GM technology, but there is a definite bias in that direction. I am decidedly liberal, but don’t see Keith as opposed to liberals in general, only those who, for example, dismiss the evidence for the safety of vaccines and GMOs.

          • Brian Freeman

            Then why does he “dis” liberals for no reason as he did above? Politics is completely irrelevant to scientific research. Why should it be relevant in an allegedly science blog? …Unless the author wants it to be…?

            If he’s trying to make a point that liberals are no better than conservatives when it comes to being anti-science, he is certainly doing a very poor job of it. So are you.

          • Benjamin Edge

            Sounds to me like you are the one missing the point. It would be nice if politics were irrelevant to scientific research, but unfortunately, it plays a pivotal role in what types of scientific activities get funded, and more and more, how the results of scientific research is received and perceived by the public.

            So while liberals have tended to be more accepting of science, recently many liberals have been willing to disregard science when it differs with their ideology on subjects like nuclear power, vaccines, and GM products (unless they offer a direct benefit to them, like GM insulin or cancer treatments).

          • Brian Freeman

            You’re going to have to make up your mind on this one. First you say science is “pure” now you say it’s inextricably political. Which is it?

            (Uh, maybe it isn’t you saying that. I have too many threads going here. But if you really believe that, you are in direct contradiction to Tom and First Officer, who believe that their science is not tainted by politics or other *human influences*.)

            If liberals are more accepting of science, but aren’t in some cases, you write them off as just as bad as conservatives? You think the effective solution is to accuse them of hypocrisy?

            Not very scientific. Nor practical. Tends to make people angry and more suspicious of science. Like Creationists.

            Are you a ‘turfer?

          • Brian Freeman

            I have only been reading Discovery on Google+ for a short time. If Keith’s “liberal media” comments were intended as a “flip side” of conservative anti-science agendas, I have no way to know that. He should issue disclaimers every time he references “liberals” OR “conservatives” in a a way that is completely irrelevant to the scientific subject at hand.

            I’m not going back to read earlier posts because regardless of his political comments and/or leanings, he simply isn’t that interesting a writer.

            Really, Benjamin — you seem pretty intelligent… Why do you think Keith calls his blog “Collide-a-Scape”….? Because he wants to promote understanding and correct misunderstanding through intelligent discussion, or because he wants to create a “collision” — Jerry Springer style..?

            His boss is probably slapping him on the back right now — congratulating him for creating a highly profitable uproar that has NOTHING to do with science.

          • Benjamin Edge

            Thanks for the compliment. You would have to ask Keith why his column is titled as it is. From my experience reading his column, his primary focus is to hold other journalists’ feet to the fire when they report on scientific issues uncritically or without balance. Therefore, he tends to ‘collide’ with others in his own industry on a regular basis.

            Vandana Shiva blaming GMO cotton for the plight of farmers in India takes away from finding and fixing the real causes of those problems. Journalists to seem to listen to everything she says as Gospel aren’t helping the situation.

            Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan writing about a mythical long lost agrarian utopia with catchy platitudes like “If You Can’t Say It, Don’t Eat It”
            do nothing to solve the problems facing agriculture today.

            I take issue with that type of journalism, and I’m glad Keith is here to point it out when so few in the press are willing to.

          • Brian Freeman

            Tom & Keith: “Science from the Bully Pulpit”

          • Tom

            She writes ad hominems (“The only one that is unhinged is you, Keith.”; He has no understanding of science.”) and Keith is the bully?

        • Buddy199

          As he says, he is a journalist who reports on science, drawing on scientific experts for his reporting.

  • Kevin Folta

    Is it helpful or hurtful to remind others of her endorsement of Mike Adams’ justification of harm to journalists and scientists? We have screen caps before she took it down. I think it really helps illuminate her false lofty icon of peace persona.

    • Sienna Rosachi

      You should worry about your own persona, Kevin

      • Kevin Folta

        I do worry about that, every day. That’s why I would never purposely lie about science like Shiva does. The amazing part to me is that people circle the wagons around her and go after the (legitimate) scientists that criticize her.

        It is just like those that will defend Rush Limbaugh to the extreme about his statements about climate or Obama’s birth certificate. There’s no room for the truth in the world of fantasy.

        • Brian Freeman

          Unfortunately, that analogy works in both directions. That’s why Science is in so much trouble now. There is as much “astroturfing” as science going on here, and speaking as someone who would like to understand more about the subject, Keith doesn’t add credibility to his points by mixing them with so much politics.

          It’s getting to the point where it takes at least a Masters to find reasonably accurate answers to controversial Science.

          • Tom

            Science is not controversial, only the interpretation of scientific data is. And science is not in trouble and never will be. Science is self-correcting.

          • Brian Freeman

            Wow! What planet do YOU live on?

          • Tom

            Ok, explain to me slowly how science is in trouble?

          • Brian Freeman

            Re-quoting from another post I madet:

            Scientific standards are lofty — but they are only as good as the humans applying them. …And humans are very — well — *human*. We lie, cheat, steal, and most of all, make honest mistakes. In the current standards of American Culture, all of the above are totally unacceptable, and the more they occur within a given academic discipline, the more distrust there is for that discipline. (i.e. “Guilt by association.”)

            Transparency is the only reasonable answer [for creating trust], but often the most difficult to implement for “the masses” who don’t understand how and why statistical studies are done as they are. And frankly, I think that most of “the masses” don’t want to understand — they simply want to believe what makes them feel better about themselves. Statistical studies usually lack transparency so much that they can support any belief desired.

            But the author did miss one critical and frequent cause for scientists lying about their research: Emotional investment. I think that sometimes, they don’t consciously realize they are lying — but have become so invested in believing their results that they cannot allow themselves to believe otherwise. The consequences of admitting that they may have been wrong about some conclusions is simply too horrible to contemplate. This is when they can start unintentionally skewing their results and having more “faith and trust” in their own research than they should have.

            Every scientist *should* be their own worst critic — simply to help keep themselves objective about their work. Few are — particularly in the medical sciences — because so much of that research deeply affects the lives of others.

          • Tom

            Ok, you are mixing up science with scientists. Sure, there are scientists who falsify results or purposefully misrepresent their findings (look up Giles-Eric Seralini for instance). But the beauty of science is that any scientific finding must be reproducible and each experiment must contain controls. That is what I meant by self-correcting. If a dishonest – or more commonly emotionally biased scientist publishes a result or an interpretation that is false or incorrect, any follow-up work based on those findings will quickly reveal that. Happens every single day in the lab.

            But you’re absolutely correct that a good scientist should be his or her own worst critic. You can judge a good scientific publication by the number of experiments it contains trying to prove itself wrong.

          • Brian Freeman

            How can we have science without scientists? The two are deeply and inextricably embedded within each other…!?

            And if the science/scientist dilemma is so deep, imagine how much deeper and more complex is the problem of “science for the masses”…?

            It’s been fun — but I really need to get back to the grindstone. I’ve already spent too much time here.

          • First Officer

            Depends on what you call a scientist (yes even computers can perform science). A three year old is usually a very good scientist. Trying different things in his world, often repeating things and ruthlessly throwing out what doesn’t work.

          • Brian Freeman

            Computers cannot perform science. Programmers who create scientific applications are performing the science. The computer is just following their orders.

            Kids are great scientists — but that’s not my point. Show me how science can be performed without a human being performing it.

            My point is that the scientists who create these problems sincerely and *humanly* believe that they can perform science without introducing their own bias. They *can* minimize it — but only by ruthlessly questioning their own assumptions. …And the instant that they *assume* they are being “purely scientific”, they no longer are…

          • First Officer

            I”m trying to find that scientific american article about it. I’m not talking about detailed experiment designing but forming relatively simple hypotheses and performing the simulated experiments to prove or disprove it.

          • Brian Freeman

            Sorry “First” — I’m not getting through to you.

            Human beings create and conduct science. Period. Your above points are irrelevant to my point.

            (…From my perspective. I am running out of ways to attempt to bridge this gap, but I appreciate your patience.)

          • Tom

            If a mathematician knowingly or unknowingly publishes a flawed mathematical proof, does that mean that the principles of mathematics suddenly stop working?

          • First Officer

            The property of intransigency? The data is what it is, regardless of the particular views the observers may have.

          • Brian Freeman

            Show me data that can be meaningful without any human being interpreting it.

          • First Officer

            It’s still is what it is. The tree falls and makes sounds, regardless if any intelligent beings are around to interpret it.

          • Brian Freeman

            Hmmm… Scientific Method = Tree falling in the forest with nobody around.

            …Sorry. “Does not compute.”

          • First Officer

            The data exists whether or not we (or beings from the planet Mongo) come to collect it. Sometimes a hundred million years after the fact (take a look at a piece of coal and you’ll see many fossilized twigs and branches in it)

          • Brian Freeman

            (sigh)

    • Brian Freeman

      I agree that is bad, but I also think that if we are to avoid (or lessen) a new Dark Age, we must objectively look at WHY this is happening instead of just reacting to it.

      If you keep “shooting down” someone’s beliefs by completely disregarding them, (as Keith and others do) the odds are good that those people will eventually “up the ante” on you. Assaulting and attempting to kill someone’s ideas may not be “bad” as physical assault, but it is just as destructive — and usually leads to violence.

      Is it really so hard to disagree respectfully?

      • Benjamin Edge

        When someone is going around spouting lies and misinformation about science, regardless of their intent, it is appropriate for scientists to call them to task for it.

        When has Keith been disrespectful? How is calling out those claims of GMOs being linked to farmer suicides disregarding someone’s beliefs? Anyone has a right to believe anything they want; that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be called out on it.

        • Brian Freeman

          The job of scientists is to perform science — not try to promote their theories and conclusions to the non-scientist public. Scientists are not qualified to do that, and usually do a miserable job of it — as you and Keith both demonstrate.

          The problem is that most scientists also suffer from the “Engineer Syndrome” — they assume that everyone should think scientifically (like they do) and if they don’t, they must be idiots. It never occurs to them that 95% of the people on this planet do NOT think scientifically, and do not want to. Antagonizing them by expecting them to do otherwise and insulting them when they don’t is not only counterproductive — it is very “unscientific”.

          • First Officer

            The science of psychology?

          • Brian Freeman

            …Is not the science of publicity. Which isn’t a science, anyway — it’s a skill. ….More like an art, actually.

          • First Officer

            How is it decided on what and what doesn’t work with this skill?

          • Brian Freeman

            Results.

          • RobertWager

            Determined by who? if the stated goal is the elimination of all GE crops globally, then should we bother discussing the science with those who hold such views?

          • Brian Freeman

            The objective is to eliminate the confusion and building a consensus… To establish mutual respect and move towards resolution without judgement and insults.

            Anything short of that is failure.

          • RobertWager

            So please show where the scientists here have insulted you.

            How would you approach a subject that has so many pseudo-science scare stories to eliminate the confusion?

            The global science community already has a consensus on the safety of GE crops and food.

          • Brian Freeman

            I have already shown examples from Keith here.

            Re: your second question: The answer is WAY too complex to give you an effective answer here.

          • RobertWager

            Funny I read the comments (all of them) and did not see any insults. Please show me them.

          • Brian Freeman

            If you agree with Keith, of course you will see no insults. Obviously, you prefer “Collision” to resolution, too.

            Or maybe you just can’t read objectively. Etierh way, not my problem.

          • RobertWager

            Perhaps you can be more specific? How exactly do you propose we get to resolution?

          • Brian Freeman

            I can, but I won’t be for you. I have more important things to spend my time on now…

          • First Officer

            And how do you know if said result was just a random occurrence or really an outcome of your action?

          • Brian Freeman

            See below….

          • Paul Shipley

            Yes quite funny. :)

          • First Officer

            Are you saying people like Carl Sagan, Bill Nye and Neil DeGrasse Tyson should never have concerned themselves with presenting and explaining scientific theories to the public?

          • Brian Freeman

            Not at all — they are/(were) highly skilled at communicating science to the public. While they may be capable of conducting “hard science”, they are among the few who also have the necessary skills to communicate it to the public effectively. And they chose that path rather than research… (wisely — and fortunately for us.)

            Surely you aren’t claiming that *all* scientists have the ability to communicate with the public like they do, right?

          • First Officer

            Of course not. But you stated it’s not the scientists job to convey theories and conclusions to the public. Clearly, some scientists have made it their job and, as you agree, are good at it.

          • Brian Freeman

            Some. Yes. Not everyone here, and IMO they are making matters worse, not better.

          • RobertWager

            So scientists talking about science to the public is a bad idea to you?

          • Brian Freeman

            No, scientists insulting non-scientists who are afraid and disagree with them in forums like his one — while promoting political agendas — is a bad idea. …IMO, you obviously can’t see that, and it doesn’t matter to me if you do or not.

          • RobertWager

            Once again please show where the scientists insulted anyone.

          • RobertWager

            The fear is real, the reasons for it are not. That is exactly where the scientists come in explaining why the reasons for the fear are not real.

          • Brian Freeman

            Then you need to convince people why they should believe them. Treating them like idiots and mixing politics with your conclusions is counterproductive. IMO.

          • RobertWager

            once again, where do scientists “treat people like idiots”?

          • Brian Freeman

            Like, right now… you to me. I know you can’t see that. Social impairment. You should really do something about it.

            But you won’t.

          • Spamihazit

            …you just insulted someone by saying he has a social impairment, and accused him of insulting people when all he did was initially ask you to show examples of people being arrogant. You say he’s treating you like an idiot, which I haven’t seen, but I do see you calling scientists “socially impaired” and that the majority have no skills to communicate with people, and that we have no business promoting theories and conclusions….when as, scientists, that is exactly what we should be doing. because if you do not promote your research… what was the point?
            I am not going to say no scientist ever had treated anyone poorly, but RobertWagner did not do it to you here. If anything, you were the one insulting people.

          • Spamihazit

            Seems to me Brian Freeman is the one hurling insults around here.

          • Benjamin Edge

            I’m glad you set me straight. That point also must have been missed by the creators of the Land Grant University system, which has 3 purposes: teaching, research, and extension. Extension is the transfer of scientific information to the public. Scientists have been employed all around the US for the last 100 years for a role that YOU have deemed not appropriate. How could so many people be so wrong?

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smith-Lever_Act_of_1914

          • Brian Freeman

            I’m not talking about those people — I’m talking about YOU and Keith. Here. Now. Reinforcing to me and others how totally arrogant scientists can be in a public forum like this.

          • RobertWager

            Can you please be specific and tell us examples of arrogance by the scientists?

          • Brian Freeman

            I could, but I’m not going to here. It would take more time than I am willing to donate at this point.

          • RobertWager

            Your lack of credibility is showing. Making claims about others without any proof of said activities does not support your position, it weakens it.

          • Brian Freeman

            No, it weakens it with you — and you obviously have no intention of respecting my opinion no matter what I say. If you think others who read these comments will have and respect your demands for elaborates “proofs” in a forum like this — well — ok.

          • RobertWager

            I am having difficulty understanding exactly what is your opinion.

          • Brian Freeman

            Yes, I see that.

          • Paul Shipley

            So why are you reading this blog? I am reading it to advance my understanding. I sincerely think your 95% figure is based on the fact that 95% of all statistics are made up. Seriously though, you are saying that 95% of the world wants to remain ignorant. So why do we get educated? I am not so precious that I feel insulted when somebody disagrees with me. I like a well rounded healthy debate. But then again I like to think of myself as an intellectual.

          • Brian Freeman

            I *was* reading this blog simply because it shows up on my Google+ Discover feed. I have learned now to ignore it. This is the last of Keith’s posts I will read.

            It isn’t because he doesn’t provide knowledge — it’s the way he presents it. …And I can find the same knowledge elsewhere with less politics. That is less annoying, and I’m am less likely to miss some useful knowledge because of someone’s poor writing skills.

            Are you willing to stop learning because “95%” of people don’t are about learning? I learn because I enjoy it. I don’t care about what everyone else does. But I *have* learned that if I *need* someone to learn something, being arrogant and manipulative is not an effective or “scientific” tactic.

          • JH

            “The job of scientists is to perform science — not try to promote their theories….”

            What? :) How is calling out someone else’s lie “promoting” anything? How is it “disrespectful” to identify a lie, a misrepresentation or an error? Isn’t a lie the fault of the person who’s lying? Are you promoting some new liberal ideology? :)

            So now it’s Keith’s and Kevin’s fault that people listen to Shiva because they’ve been “disrespectful” in pointing out that Shiva lies? :) That’s just absolutely comical Brian.

          • Brian Freeman

            Science is results oriented, is it not? Look at the results of what K & K do. Is it improving communications and calming people down so that they will listen to reason? No. Is Keith making money from the Colliding he creates– directly or indirectly? I can’t say for sure. What do you think?

            Scientist can be “True Believers”, too, because they are human and imperfect. Thankfully, most aren’t. I know — of course — that you aren’t one of them…

          • JH

            “Is it improving communications and calming people down so that they will listen to reason?”
            :) Ah, that’s what Shiva is doing! Being the voice of reason! And anyone who points out that the Voice of Reason is a lyin’ huckster, well, that person is a troublemaker!
            :)

            Yep, scientists can be true believers. In another discussion I might be with you. But in the case of GMO, there isn’t any question. There’s no theoretical and no observational basis for the claim that GMO is harmful to human health. Just ain’t there, man. Sorry. Someday we may discover otherwise, can’t ever rule that out, but as of now, nope. None. Nothing.

          • Justin Curtright

            “The job of scientists is to perform science — not try to promote their theories and conclusions to the non-scientist public.” That is EXACTLY the entire purpose of “performing science”, as you call it. Seriously, are people just supposed to discover new things and then keep it a secret? “Oh crap, we found alien life on this new planet we just discovered. Better keep it a secret to not upset the status quo maintained by all the religious and skeptical types out there.” Please, spare me.

            The purpose of science is to discover and spread the truth. And it is not anyone’s fault that “95% of the population doesn’t think scientifically” but their own. If you can’t be bothered to objectively examine evidence and facts, if you can’t be bothered to form rational and coherent conclusions based upon the empirical and reproducible results found right in front of you, then you in fact SHOULD be treated like an idiot, because by definition, you are. That is NOT my problem, or anyone else’s, so how dare you try to silence the ones bringing forth new knowledge into our world.

          • Brian Freeman

            That’s right. Scientists are superior to 95% of the population and it’s their own darn fault if they can’t see that.

            Thanks for proving my point again. You guys just can’t stop, can you?

            BTW, I’m not trying to silence anyone. If you read all my comments — like a true scientist would have — you would see that I’m only trying to demonstrate “scientific” attitudes like yours (and others, here) are counterproductive. You create the very opposition you complain about.

            Another way of saying it might be “stick to what you’re good at” — which in your case is NOT pubic relations!

          • Spamihazit

            Again, you’re the one insulting people. YOU said 95% of people cannot think scientifically, no one else said that, except when quoting you. I think you are the one not giving people enough credit. One in twenty people thinks scientifically? I doubt the stats are anywhere near that low. Scientific thinking is largely logical. I would say most people can follow logic.

          • http://theprogessivecontrarian.wordpress.com/ Bernie Mooney

            Scientists do science and then some group comes along and refuses to believe that science because it conflicts with their worldview. “…everyone should think scientifically…” YES. When it comes to science. You are not entitled to your own facts. And it’s not so much thinking “scientifically” but thinking with reason, logic and looking at the evidence and facts. You can believe anything you want, but you can’t dispute facts.

          • Brian Freeman

            You must live on the same planet as Tom — but not the one I live on.

            People dispute “facts” *millions* of times every day, Bernie. Why? If science is so clear and unquestionable, why are their so many questions? Why is this conversation even happening?

            I swear, sometime you guys sound more like Preachers than Preachers do. Maybe that’s why I trust you so little.

          • http://theprogessivecontrarian.wordpress.com/ Bernie Mooney

            You can dispute a “fact” all your want, but it will remain a “fact.” You can dispute 2+2=4 all you want to, but it remains a fact that 2+2=4. Too many people questions facts when they conflict with their worldview.

      • First Officer

        I have to agree with Dr Folta on this. Those two have crossed the line and have genuinely struck fear into the loved ones they have named. These cannot be taken as idle threats as many acts of vandalism and even arson have been committed against genetic research facilities.

        • Brian Freeman

          I don’t disagree with you, either. So you tell *me* — What is the effective, scientific solution to this problem?

          • First Officer

            First concern is the lives and safety of those threatened. Regardless of anyone’s stance in the argument, those threatening violence should no longer be given the podium from which to threaten.

          • Brian Freeman

            I don’t disagree with that, either. However, the *method* by which that podium is taken away must be appropriate to effective resolution of the problem. You can nuke the podium, or gently lead the audience elsewhere and leave the terrorist with no audience. (Or a thousand variations in between.)

            It all depends on the circumstances. No single method will work in all situations. That is because humans are involved — and why scientists are so ill-equipped to deal with these kind of problems. Human behavior does not fit into a convenient mathematical equation that always produces the same result.

          • First Officer

            That is true. But in these particular cases, Mike Adams has broken the law and Vandana Shiva skirts it purposely. Not to mention she really is factually wrong and knows it.

          • Brian Freeman

            Then they should be dealt with legally — not scientifically.

          • First Officer

            Well that’s the rub. As you said 95% of people don’t think scientifically and, therefore, are ill equipped to see through their statements. Mike Adams is indeed having legal trouble right now but Shiva hasn’t quite broken the law or barely so, hence there’s little legal ground to bring to bear. That leaves the scientists in the unenviable position of being the front line defense against their rather destructive falsehoods. They are the only ones who can effectively identify, declare and explain to the larger populace those falsehoods. They must do so to the larger populace as that is whom the Shivas of the world are addressing.

          • Brian Freeman

            This is not a new problem. There are terrorists and “disinformationists” of all kinds. Shiva is not alone by any means.

            If you think all scientists spouting their anger at people who don’t believe them — in hopes of somehow making them suddenly see the error of their ways — is an effective solution, then fine. Knock yourself out. This conversation is becoming boring.

          • RobertWager

            First imagined insults now imagined anger. We are trying to have a fruitful discussion but it is difficult.

          • Brian Freeman

            All in my imagination. Of course you’d say that. Whatever.

          • RobertWager

            Here is the thing Brian. I repeatedly asked for evidence of your claims. None was presented.

            People are entitled to believe anything, they are not entitled to their own facts. facts are by definition proven.

          • Brian Freeman

            Wrong.

            You believe people must be entitled in order to believe their own facts. No, they are not. They will believe whatever they think are “facts” whether you think they are entitled to or not — whether *you* believe they qualify as “proven” or not. You believe you are entitled to dictate what people should believe because of your superior scientific attitude — which is just as bad as any of the people you are so critical of. And just as delusional.

            It may not be fair — or scientific — but that is the reality on this planet.

            Thank you VERY much, Robert, for proving my point. I never expected such a gift from you. I know you won’t “get it”, but the people I care about most definitely will. And remarkably, without your approval!

            Good night.

          • Paul Shipley

            Wow! The Anti GMO people really do seem to more and more like the Anti Vaccine ones all of the time. Just a nonsensical commentary that does not rely on facts and when you ask for the facts they only accuse you as being supercilious. Seems to me it only proves somebody was being super-silly.

          • Brian Freeman

            I’m not anti-GMO.

  • Jefft90

    WRT Bittman’s interest the answer is simple revenge on Ronald for a perceived insult and perhaps a show of support for Jonathan Latham.
    Latham has attributed Ronald as calling Bittman”A scourge on science”And “he couches his nutty views in reasonable-sounding verbiage that disguises the reality that his opinions are almost fact- and science-free.” The second one might be attributable to you not sure, the first surely belongs to Jon Entine.
    It all started with an article by Entine. http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2013/04/15/on-gmos-new-york-times-foodie-mark-bittman-is-a-dark-cloud-in-the-brightening-sky-of-reason/
    But portrayed by Latham inaccurately herehttp://www.independentsciencenews.org/#article/1845
    Now Bittman and Latham have several connections also Latham alerted the author of the un hinged rant on Specter of Ronnalds research problems .
    Seems like everything goes back to Xa21 research and how it must be stopped.

  • Tosin Otitoju

    Interesting. Very interesting. Indeed, passion is a four-letter word.

  • alykatma

    Since the majority of GMO’s are modified to resist herbicides like Roundup, I wonder who this is benefitting most? The people who are still hungry or manufacturer of these poisons. I have many reasons for distrusting GMO’s, loss of biodiversity, soil depletion due to monocrop farming, glyphosate resistant weeds increased uses of chemical fertilizers that end up in our waterways, pollinators dying etc. http://www.biosafety-info.net/article.php?aid=621 Roundup is an endocrine disruptor, It does not magically disappear once the weeds die.

    • Tom

      “Since the majority of GMO’s are modified to resist herbicides like Roundup…” Well, that’s true for the number of individual GM crop plants in the fields today but completely wrong with regards to the different kinds of GM crops. Most GM crops developed are from academic institutions with no profit motive and are usually engineered for disease resistance. But because of the tight regulations on GMOs, only Monsanto et al. can afford to get their GM crops approved.

    • hyperzombie

      I have many reasons for distrusting GMO’s,

      loss of biodiversity

      I really don’t understand this complaint, would adding GMOs to the existing crops add to biodiversity? After all 1+1 still equals 2, does it not?

      soil depletion due to monocrop farming

      Monocropping has nothing to do with GMOs and if fact the opposite is true, Gmos allow farmers to rotate crops easier and allows farmers to use no/min till methods, greatly reducing soil loss.

      glyphosate resistant weeds

      Once again nothing to do with GMOs, an over reliance of glyphosate maybe, but not GMOs.

      increased uses of chemical fertilizers

      Once again nothing to do with GMOs, they don’t need any more fertilizers than the conventional crop.

      pollinators dying

      Again, nothing to do with GMOs, CCD is caused by a virus spread by the Varroa mite.

      endocrine disruptor

      No its not, other herbicides are but not Glyphosate. Any study done by Seralini can be ignored.

      It does not magically disappear once the weeds die.

      Yes it does, it take a few days to weeks, but it does disappear. It is not magic, just natural chemical degradation.

      • Viva La Evolucion

        Let’s say there are a million acres of available farmland in a particular region. If Roundup Ready Corn and soy are grown on 99% of that available farmland, then that would be considered loss of biodiversity in that region. “Monocropping has nothing to do with GMOs”. It is true that, GMO farmers rotate crops. For instance a GMO farmer may rotate between monocrop roundup ready corn and monocrop roundup ready soy. But, it is monocrop nonetheless. glyphosate resistant weeds, are not directly caused by GMOs, but GMOs result in big increase of Roundup usage, which in turn results in glyphosate resistant weeds. glyphosate does naturally degrade in soil, but the surfactants and other ingredients in Roundup do not degrade in soil. Also, Roundup causes a change in soil microorganisms, which is not necessarily good or bad, but should not be ignored.

        • hyperzombie

          If Roundup Ready Corn and soy are grown on 99% of that available farmland, then that would be considered loss of biodiversity in that region.

          RR is just a trait, not a crop variety. The Seed Co breeds the trait into existing varieties So you end up with even more biodiversity, the GMOs plus the conventionals.

          For instance a GMO farmer may rotate between monocrop roundup ready corn and monocrop roundup ready soy.

          Monocropping is growing the same crop year after year on in the same soil.

          For instance a GMO farmer may rotate between monocrop roundup ready corn and monocrop roundup ready soy.

          Yeah they may do that, but most do NOT. It leads to RR resistant weeds.

          But, it is monocrop nonetheless. glyphosate resistant weeds, are not directly caused by GMOs, but GMOs result in big increase of Roundup usage,

          Nope, the only real difference between RR crops and conventional crops is WHEN you spray, not how much. RR crops are not impervious to Glyphosate, just tolerant. Spay too much and the crop dies along with the weeds.

          glyphosate does naturally degrade in soil, but the surfactants and other ingredients in Roundup do not degrade in soil.

          Glyphosate and the surfactants do degrade in the soil. 42 day half life on average. Even in the High arctic it is only 170 days. POEA the surfactant in Glyphosate is just refined beef tallow, it breaks down quickly in the soil as well.

          o, Roundup causes a change in soil microorganisms, which is not necessarily good or bad, but should not be ignored.

          Just changing crops causes far more changes in the microorganisms, just driving in the field also impacts them as well.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            Yes, I totally agree that by creating GMO corn one is increasing the biodiversity of life on earth. But, when farmers opt to grow 99% of their available farmland with a few different varieties of Roundup ready corn or soy, instead of diversifying their farmland with some of the other multitude of food crops available on earth, then I consider that to be a loss in biodiversity in those regions. True, it is not technically monoculture since many farmers are alternating between roundup ready corn and roundup ready soy, but they are still spraying the same land with roundup year after year, which doesn’t seem like the best idea to me. Actually, there are several different surfactants that may be being used with glyphosate, depending on which of of the dozens of formulations, and there may be additional ingredients as well. I think that the regular spraying of Roundup and other herbicides on millions of acres of farmland throughout the world has the potential to impact microorganisms, pathogen evolution, etc. a little more than driving over those fields :-)

    • Randall H.

      Actually, it is me–the farmer–who benefits the most. I can use a safer chemical (glyphosate) for weed control, and get a more effective weed control. Better weed control increases yields.

      As far as chemical herbicides go, Roundup is quite safe, even less toxic than table salt.

      In fact, this study is used by the anti-GMO/anti-Roundup crowd to show harm caused by RR.

      http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/weed-whacking-herbicide-p/

      What is so ironic about this, is that POEA is an organic compound used by organic farmers……

      Resistance is nothing new, it has been around for decades with all chemicals, including organic chemicals. There is less resistance to glyphosate than most other modes of action, and having another mode of action to use helps control the resistance problem (aka: superweeds) as a whole.

  • Sienna Rosachi

    The only one that is unhinged is you, Keith.

    • Loren Eaton

      When Shiva compares growing GMOs to rape, that is unhinged. The fact that Keith calls her on it…not so much.

    • Loren Eaton

      It gets better. In response to Specter’s article, she has the chutzpah to say, “I’m not predisposed to hyperbole.” She’s a disgrace.

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  • Viva La Evolucion

    I agree that it is pretty lame to use Indian cotton-farmer suicide to score points on either side of the GMO safety debate., and I am happy that Keith Kloor debunked this issue. Now, I would like to see Keith Kloor draw attention to some of the GMO-supporters false claims that need debunking… like the one that GMO-labeling will cause drastic increase in price of food. Why does Keith Kloor not feel compelled to debunk this popular and damaging myth?

    • Tom

      As long as the label says “May contain ingredients derived from genetically modified organisms” it won’t cost a thing.

  • Tom Scharf

    More Shiva bashing to enlighten your day…

    New Yorker editor David Remnick responds to Vandana Shiva criticism of Michael Specter’s profile

    http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2014/09/02/new-yorker-editor-david-remnick-responds-to-vandana-shiva-criticism-of-michael-specters-profile/

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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, 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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