This new internet meme is based on a peer-reviewed article published in a real journal. But as I have written time and again, just because an article seems like it has sterling credentials, it doesn’t mean the article is above criticism. We’ll get to this article below.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs or GMs) are one of the most well-studied areas of biological and agricultural research. However, one of the tactics of the GMO refusers is that “there’s no proof that GMOs are safe.” It’s time to look at the GMO science facts – examining myth from science.
Typically, in a debate, the side making the assertion (those that say GMOs are unsafe) are responsible for the evidence that supports their contention. But, the anti-GMO gang relies upon the argument from ignorance, trying to force the argument to “if you can’t prove that they’re safe, they must be unsafe.”
The anti-GMO forces also like to invoke the precautionary principle, which attempts to shift the burden of proof to those who are advocating GMOs (or any new technology) until the advocates “prove” that there are absolutely no negative consequences of using GMOs.
The principle is often cited by anti-science and/or environmental activists when there is a perceived lack of evidence showing that this technology is absolutely safe.
I’ve written numerous articles about GMOs, focusing on scientific evidence supported by high-quality research. And more than a few articles debunked myths and bad research from the anti-GMO crowd. To assist those who are doing research on the topic, this article was created to be a one-stop shop for GMO science facts – and fiction.
Although this blog focuses on vaccines, there are really so many myths and tropes on the internet that are based on the misunderstanding of science, on pseudoscience, or just plain ignorance. One of those myths is that human meddling in plant genetics, which led to modern wheat, is the root cause of all gluten sensitivity, including celiac disease.
Of course, the quack medicine world has vastly overrated the “dangers” of gluten – those with real gluten issues, with properly diagnosed celiac disease and wheat allergies, represent less than 1% of the population. The internet quacks also have no understanding of real gluten sensitivity – it’s an on/off switch. With some relatively rare exceptions, gluten causes significant symptoms in those with gluten sensitivity, not vague feelings. And there’s no dose-response curve – a tiny amount has almost the same effect as a large amount of gluten.
Although I doubt it will have any effect on these anti-gluten food fads, a new peer-reviewed paper in a respected journal clear shows that that modern wheat is not responsible for celiac disease. Gluten from 2018 probably is the same as the gluten in wheat when it was first domesticated 12,000 years ago.
Dr. Folta is considered to be an expert in plant genetics including genetic modification of plants. He has been studying this field for nearly three decades, published extensively in real peer-reviewed journals, and has trained legions of graduate students. He should be considered a real authority figure in GMO research.
This will be a repeating theme of this article – the science deniers who are harassing Kevin Folta are almost exactly the same as the science deniers who attack climate change scientists. They must be proud of this.
As I have written previously, a PLoS blog was posted that served as an attack piece on GMO scientist Kevin Folta – a respected University of Florida plant genetics researcher. The PLoS post, written by Paul D. Thacker and Charles Seife, attacked Dr. Folta for a whole host of sins, including a claim that he was more or less directing Monsanto’s strategies for dealing with GMO labeling laws.
[infobox icon=”quote-left”]The University of Florida will re-allocate a donation intended to improve the public’s understanding of science after public threats to the researcher. The Monsanto Company donated $25,000 to support the Talking Biotech program, a science communication effort that provided on-campus workshops to train scientists about how to engage the public on agricultural biotechnology. The university will reallocate the funds to the campus food pantry.[/infobox]
In other words, because of attacks and threats, an unrestricted donation from Monsanto, used to teach scientists to communicate ideas better has been transferred to a food pantry (which is a pretty good second choice).
Science communication is important. I think sometimes we scientists can get incredibly obtuse and complicated in communicating ideas. Well, science is obtuse and complex, but if there are better ways to say it, maybe we can help the public grasp that evolution is a fact, or anthropogenic climate change is a fact, or that, yes, the safety of GMOs is a fact.
There isn’t one stitch of evidence (unless you think that the bad journalism from PLoS constitutes evidence) that Dr. Folta was influenced by Monsanto. These personal attacks assume that Dr. Folta can be bought for $25,000. So, the attackers must have such a limited view of themselves, that they would sell out for $25,000, then applying their own ethics to others.
It’s ridiculous to believe that scientists could be bought (especially at that price, which wouldn’t even get you a good used car these days). But more than that, Dr. Folta has evidence backing his science. And it’s not Monsanto money.
Remember, the scientific consensus, based on evidence from thousands of researchers, is that GMOs are safe for humans, animals and the environment. So, were these thousands all bought off for $25,000? And if they were, in today’s world, wouldn’t someone already become a whistleblower on Twitter by now?
Notice how stupid conspiracies fall apart with nary an effort from an amateur writer like me?
You know what’s ironic? That we have accused the right wing political groups (especially in the USA) of wanting to suppress science, and showing no respect for it. The left wing, generally the political groups that hate GMOs, has shown the same disregard of good science. I don’t like any science denier, whatever side of the political spectrum on which they exist.
And now they’re practicing an anti-science terrorism, hardly different than what the right wing has been doing with climate change scientists. As a progressive, I am so embarrassed by the anti-science attitudes of many progressives, who make up junk science to criticize vaccines and GMOs. It’s sad.
Nevertheless, I hope these things will pass with regards to Dr. Folta. And he can get back to doing real science, something his haters wouldn’t understand, given their sniping from the pseudoscience sidelines.
I have oft stated that those who lack scientific evidence resort to ad hominem personal attacks as their last resort. That’s all they’ve got, so the science deniers have to go double down on their personal attacks, often in the form of putrid hate speech.
The hate speech of the antivaccine lunacy is legendary, and apparently the anti-GMO version of the anti-science world has been taught well, confirming my suspicion that all anti-science cults get together at their annual meeting in the Bermuda Triangle to share strategies. I’m kidding, of course. Mostly I’m kidding.
As I wrote previously, a PLoS blog was posted that served as an attack piece on GMO scientist Kevin Folta – a respected University of Florida plant genetics researcher. The PLoS post, written by Paul D. Thacker and Charles Seife, attacked Dr. Folta for a whole host of sins, including a claim that he was more or less directing Monsanto’s strategies for dealing with GMO labeling laws.
In the meantime, character assassinations against Dr. Folta started. Here’s one posted in craigslist, which is truly a vile personal attack.
This cowardly post refers to Dr. Folta’s mother. According to him, the attack was personally offensive:
[infobox icon=”quote-left”]Tomorrow would be my mother’s birthday, she’d be 69 years old, if she was still alive. She died a few years ago, way too young, and we all still miss her tremendously. [/infobox]
I don’t understand the hate of this coward who, because he really has no science, no knowledge, but plenty of ignorance, decides to attack someone on craigslist, the bastion of scams and rip-offs. And that hatred is based on a retracted, gonzo journalism piece that had all of the research quality of an elementary school newspaper. Oh, sorry, I think I’m insulting all those fine kids who do their best job on elementary school newspapers.
I don’t know Dr. Folta personally, but I do know other scientists who get attacked frequently. David Gorski, using snark and mockery, laughs at the anti-science crowd, entertaining skeptics everywhere. Dorit Rubinstein Reiss tries to ignore it, and sticks to facts. Others know that they win on the science, and write popular books to describe how their science ignorance can harm people.
Of course, I personally just throw back the ad hominem attacks right in their face, because if one has all the evidence, like I do, I have no patience with those nut jobs.
If I could give one tiny piece of advice to Dr. Folta–ignore the ignorant jerks. Or mock them with all the humor you can muster. You are their targets because they think they have something on you, but they don’t. I put up with personal attacks all across the internet. I just laugh, because they are just viruses, and I’m immune.
Replace “complementary and alternative medicine” with anti-GMO, and we have the Folta Corollary to Ernst’s Law:
[infobox icon=”quote-left”] If you are researching genetically modified organisms (GMO) and you are not hated by the anti-GMO world, you’re not doing it right.[/infobox]
It’s sad that hatred from the anti-science side has to be a badge of honor instead of the evidence and facts, but that’s where we are. We have become a world where science is hated, unless it fits some predetermined conclusion. Sigh.
Note. I identify Dr. Kevin Folta as a “GMO scientist,” a “label” that some people don’t like. My goals in this blog are twofold–first, to frame the discussion between those who use science and those who deny it. And second, to optimize search parameters to make certain people who do internet searches of complex topics find my articles. People aren’t going to search “University of Florida plant geneticist Kevin Folta emails FOIA request.” They’re going to search “GMO scientist emails.”
Recently, I wrote an extensive article about the hatchet job written by some hack anti-GMO activists against renowned plant geneticist, and pro GMO scientist Kevin Folta that used misquoted and out-of-context emails in an attempt to discredit him. Obviously, shades of the loathsome “Climategate” email hack which was trying to do the same to top climate scientists.
In an entry atPLoS* Biology Blogs, written by Paul D. Thacker and Charles Seife, attacked Dr. Folta for a whole host of sins, including a claim that he was more or less directing Monsanto’s strategies for dealing with GMO labeling laws.
These gonzo “journalists” (and I use that term very loosely with these at PLoSONE) lacked the college freshmen level of investigative journalism to spend 30 seconds clicking on a couple of Google hits to determine that GMO scientist Kevin Folta has been a strong advocate of GMO labeling laws (something that I personally oppose).
Doesn’t journalism 101 demand that investigative writers confirm their sources at least twice? An episode of The Newsroomhas several teachable moments in basic journalism ethics.
Well, I guess that PLoSONE decided that their marginal image was taking a beating, and decided to delete the article (although, to their credit, they kept the comments up, which appeared to be about half pingbacks from critical blogs). PLoSONE left this statement on the deleted page:
[infobox icon=”quote-left”]PLOS Blogs is, and will continue to be, a forum that allows scientists to debate controversial topics. However, given additional information for further inquiry and analysis, PLOS has determined that the Biologue post that had occupied this page, “The Fight over Transparency: Round Two,” was not consistent with at least the spirit and intent of our community guidelines. PLOS has therefore decided to remove the post, while leaving the comments on it intact. We believe that this topic is important and that it should continue to be discussed and debated, including on PLOS blogs and in PLOS research articles.
We sincerely apologize for any distress that the content of this post caused any individual.[/infobox]
Dr. Folta had demanded an apology from PLoSONE. I guess this is the best PLoSONE is going to give–a non-apology apology. They weren’t even willing to mention his name. I’ll call that somewhat cowardly. And they didn’t take any responsibility for their actions.
I haven’t been a fan of PLoS for many years. I’m even less so today.
Follow up–it doesn’t appear that Dr. Folta believes that there has been a real apology from PLoS, according to a Tweet from him:
@skepticalraptor@PLOS They didn’t take responsibility for publishing harmful information about me. The record should have been corrected.
Admittedly, some of the denialism is based on political expediency. Climate change denialism is a fundamental aspect of many politically conservative voters across the world, but especially in the United States, where Republican legislatures in the United States have passed anti-anthropogenic global warming legislation.
They both tend to reject science. They both use the same character attacks on supporters. And they both are awfully good at cherry-picking data that buttresses their a priori conclusions. In other words, they look for the data to support their beliefs, rather than the scientific method which is to find what conclusions can be supported by the evidence.
Let’s look at something that just happened which should remove any doubt that anti-science believers use the same tactics, probably because they lack any evidence. It’s apparent that they all meet at some anti-science convention to receive training on how to do this best.