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.
Within a couple of days, after withering criticism across the science community, PLoS removed the attack piece with a whimpering non-apology apology. Dr. Folta didn’t accept it as a real apology, and his points are valid – a real retraction with honest and open responses from PLoS are necessary.
Then this lead to some nasty ad hominem personal attacks on Dr. Folta. This is just ridiculous.
But the fallout continues. According to a news article posted online by the university,
[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.