That is the wickedly clever title of a post by Kevin Folta, a plant geneticist at the University of Florida, in Gainsville. To make his point, Folta, as he says on twitter, uses logic “borrowed from the anti-GMO crowd.”
That would be logic like this:
Is it a coincidence that autism has risen since GMOs have been introduced in the US diet?
When it comes to climate change, Grist (like many green advocacy outlets), is quick to pounce on media stories it deems substandard. A recent example is this slapdown from Grist’s executive editor, titled:
How Huffington Post aided a demolition job on climate science
Well, it turns out that Grist has a wrecking ball of its own, in the form of an article headlined:
New Study links autism to high-fructose corn syrup
Yes, you read that right.
The Grist writer, Tom Laskawy, gives this overview:
The study’s argument is complicated but deeply disturbing. It pieces together what’s known about the genetic and metabolic factors involved with autism, including the growing evidence of a link between autism and mercury and organophosphate pesticide exposure.
Essentially, HFCS [high fructose corn syrup] can interfere with the body’s uptake of certain dietary minerals “” namely zinc. And that, when combined with other mineral deficiencies common among Americans, can cause susceptible individuals to develop autism.
It gets better. A little further down, the author admits:
Now, this is just one paper. And a full understanding of it requires far more expertise in biology and genetics than I possess.
Next breath comes this:
But I certainly think it shifts the HFCS debate in an unexpected and troubling way.
If you really want to know how troubled the whacky debate over corn syrup is, here’s the backstory.
As for the current Grist post, some readers pushed back on Laskawy’s obvious bias. Here’s one blistering retort:
This is EXTREMELY irresponsible! First of all, even if the authors of this study made a good case for a correlation between HFCS exposure and autism (which they don’t), they would still have a lot of explaining and research to do before claiming that HFCS consumption played any role in autism.
The entire study was unnecessary in the first place as the previous study the authors mention linking expression of their gene of interest to OP exposure is very robust. They basically come right out and admit that they just have strong personal feelings (and no supporting data) that autism is caused by diet. In addition, their hypothesis relies on their previously developed mercury toxicity model which has already been thoroughly discredited. The whole article absolutely reeks of the foregone conclusion that diet plays a critical role in autism and the author declares that he has a competing interest in that he’s worked with lawsuits related to autism.
By writing an article about this terrible study and giving it such a misleading title you are revealing yourself as either a) too stupid to be trusted with the responsibility of writing about science or b) willing to knowingly mislead the public in the service of your irrational personal hatred of HFCS.
Another reader picked up on something mentioned in the study that Laskawy apparently missed or willfully ignored:
And this is something I’m sure Grist would point out if a paper was funded by Big Corn: “Funding for this research project was provided primarily by donations to the Food Ingredient and Health Research Institute” which is the lead author’s organization.
It’s good that Grist is on the lookout for inferior climate science coverage at other publications. Perhaps it should be more alert to the shoddy and irresponsible science journalism practiced in its own house.
UPDATES: Since putting up my brief post, I’ve become aware of other critiques on Twitter and elsewhere. For example, here is John Timmer of Ars Technica, tweeting here and here. Also, ace science writer Deborah Blum weighed in at the Knight Science Journalism Tracker.
How the Senate and White House missed their best chance to deal with climate change
Today, David Roberts provides the highlights of the chat, in which he notes at the end of his post:
These are grim days for climate watchers, to be sure, but I appreciate him [Lizza] dropping by and telling it straight.
Well, no argument there. But if they’re looking for someone else to chat with about a bigger set of uncomfortable truths, they should consider asking this guy to drop by the office on Monday, after his Town Hall Seattle talk, which is advertised as thus:
Why can’t the world successfully address global warming? Science-policy expert Roger Pielke says it’s not the fault of those who reject the Kyoto Protocol, but those who support it and the magical thinking it represents.
Pielke, author of The Climate Fix, says that to repair climate policy, we need to shift the debate from meaningless targets toward a revolution in how the world’s economy is powered, neutralizing the venomous politics surrounding the crisis.
I make this suggestion to Grist because several days ago a “white paper” outlining this paradigm shift was released to much fanfare and criticism. Roberts, in particular, laid out his opposition to this proposed shift in climate policy. Roger Pielke Jr. argues just as forcefully that such an alternative framework represents the only chance to meaningfully address carbon dioxide emissions on a global level.
I’d like to see Roberts and Pielke, two very smart guys, go head to head on this. So Grist, either send someone over to the Town Hall to challenge Pielke on his argument, or have him over for a chat. Given that “these are grim days for climate watchers,” I would think that having a debate on alternative solutions to global warming would be a healthy thing to do at one of the premier environmental journalism outlets.
How pissed is Joe Romm at Grist? Plenty.
Their decision to act more like a journalistic outlet than a one-note activist clearinghouse (in this instance) now makes it harder for him to make statements like this (in bold, of course):
I can’t imagine why any serious journalist would cite the work of The Breakthrough Institute (TBI) “” except to debunk it.
I’m willing to wager that Romm also put in a few angry, hectoring emails and calls to Grist over this. I hope they told him to stuff it.
Kudos to Grist for posting this rebuttal. I actually suggested such a thing yesterday on their site. Probably a coincidence. More likely they acted after seeing the dueling Huffington posts between Romm and TBI.
Anyway, maybe this augurs a new chapter in Grist’s reincarnation as…a more diverse group blog. I wish they never went in this direction in the first place–the blog format. They had carved out a nice niche by pioneering a new, compulsively readable brand of environmental journalism–something that was so desperately needed. What’s happening over there now with the complete overhaul of the site strikes me as an identity crisis.
Personally, I think they’ve squandered their hard-earned credibility by becoming just another outlet for environmental activists. Yes, they have bona fide journalists on staff (and talented ones), but in the new design there’s no real differentiation between them and the Joe Romms and Lester Browns.
I’m all for change, really. Every magazine and website has to reinvent itself to stay current. But in this case, Grist changed from a magazine to a friggin group blog. I mean, jeez, you all were doing essential work, running great packages on environmental justice, the “death of environmentalism” controversy, etc. Nobody else gave such issues an immediacy and fresh take. If you had to become something else, why not morph into an environmental version of Slate? You were already halfway there!
Now what are you? Climate change central, 24/7. Is that the best you can think up?
Anyone notice the Rommathon at Grist these past few days, including this incoherent slime fest? Must be vacation time there in Seattle, because I’ve noticed in the last six months that they’ve generally refrained from cross-posting Romm’s really nasty stuff.
Staffers at print and web mags typically head for the hills about now. Then again, Pielke Jr. does make some of the Gristies excitable.
Grist seems to have a bad case of buyer’s remorse these days.
There was plenty of fiery debate on the Waxman-Markey climate bill in the weeks leading up to its passage out of committee. But if you’re a regular reader of Grist you only heard one side of that debate, mainly a vigorous defense/rationalization of the bill led by David Roberts and Joe Romm (whose posts from Climate Progress are often cross-posted at Grist).
Roberts’ posts became more tortured but he left no doubt that he thought a badly compromised bill was better than no bill at all. All. About. Them. Small. Steps.
Romm, on the other hand, has given no quarter. Yeah, he’s tried walking back his cheerless cheerleading, but if you raised any objections back then, you know Romm considers you a filthy rotten delayer. Civilization destroyer. Whatever.
So what to make of this anti-Waxman-Markey missive from Ken Ward in Grist today? It’s the latest of WM critiques that have begun appearing at Grist almost routinely in the past few weeks. But Ward’s attack is by far the baldest, in-your-face rejoinder yet. Here’s his lede:
Watching the remains of a movement strain our every organizational fiber to advance a climate bill we know is a travesty reminds me of G.K. Chesterton’s observation about sex: the pleasure is momentary, the position ridiculous, and the expense damnable.
You get the picture. What I don’t get is what took Grist so long to start publishing counter perspectives on the most important environmental legislation proposed in decades.