Alan McHughen, author of “DNA Demystified” – chatting about GMOs, vaccines, science

alan mchughen

This is the second of my interview articles, this time with Professor Alan McHughen, who has recently published a fascinating book, “DNA Demystified.” As the title suggests, the book delves into what is DNA and how it became a part of the technology of our modern world.

I have had a chance to meet Alan McHughen at a Taco Tuesday science gathering, just before COVID-19 stopped all social interactions. Because of his new book and because he has a fascinating background, I asked Dr. McHughen to do a quick interview with your not-so-humble, ancient, anti-quack raptor. Continue reading “Alan McHughen, author of “DNA Demystified” – chatting about GMOs, vaccines, science”

GMO labeling law – Senate thinks they’re smarter than scientists

GMO labeling law

I actually thought that the GMO denier arguments were petering out. I also actually thought I could focus on the vaccine deniers, since they’re like cockroaches, hiding in the dark. But I was wrong. The United States Senate, in a rare bipartisan action, wrote a compromise GMO labeling law.

I, and many others, consider the anti-GMO movement to be made up of “climate change deniers of the left.” They both ignore high quality science and the scientific consensus, just to invent their own conclusions. It is frustrating, especially since I expect more out of progressives.

The GMO labeling law is frustrating and confusing. We need to examine it with scientific skepticism.

Continue reading “GMO labeling law – Senate thinks they’re smarter than scientists”

Science of organic food – are they healthier?

Organic foods have been increasingly popular these days moving from local co-ops and farmer’s markets to large retail chains that specialize in organic foods (such as Whole Foods) to general large retail chains who dedicate portions of their produce sections to organic produce. Even dairy and meat sections of most supermarket chains have sections that contain organic products.

But what is the underlying science of organic food whatever the source? Is it healthier? Is it worth the additional cost? Is there some indication that farm productivity is higher in organic farms?

It’s time for a skeptical look at the cost and benefits of organic foods.

Continue reading “Science of organic food – are they healthier?”

Cancer rates are increasing in the USA–another myth debunked

One of the enduring zombie tropes of the junk science world is that cancer rates are increasing in the USA (and across the world), and that deaths from cancers are higher today than it was in the past. Depending on the one screaming this myth, this rate of cancer increase is a result of A) vaccines, B) GMO crops, C) pasteurized milk, D) non-organic foods, or E) everything.

To be certain, there are a few things that do cause cancer, like smoking, UV radiation, human papillomavirus, and obesity. There are no 100% guaranteed environmental risks that cause cancer (lots of smokers do not get lung cancer, and there are very rare cases of non smokers getting the same cancer).

But are cancer rates increasing?

Here and there, you might run across a study that mentions one thing or another may or may not increase or reduce the risk of cancer. But most of those studies are one-off primary research, usually using small groups, providing little clinical evidence that you may or may not be able to increase or decrease the risk of cancer. Wait until we can find these studies in large systematic reviews, before deciding that this or that may or may not increase or decrease the risk of cancer.

In the meantime, Joe Mercola certainly can make boatloads of money making such nonsense cancer claims. If he were the only one, we could ignore him, but a quick search of the internet produces millions (I kid you not) of websites pushing miracle cancer cures or prevention. Continue reading “Cancer rates are increasing in the USA–another myth debunked”

Neil deGrasse Tyson tells GMO haters to chill out–liberals get angry

Credit to Wikimedia.
Credit to Wikimedia.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, probably the most popular astrophysicist, if not scientist, of this generation, replaced Carl Sagan as the spokesman of all things science for the country. While not ignoring Bill Nye‘s impact on making science education fun and approachable (and who took classes from Carl Sagan at Cornell University), Sagan literally passed the baton of being the country’s science teacher to Tyson.

For those of us on the left side of the political spectrum, Tyson is like the hero of the pro-science crowd. This past spring, Tyson hosted a program, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, which described and supported some of the great science ideas of our time–evolution, age of the universe, human caused climate change, and other major scientific principles. Ironically, the show was broadcast in the USA on the Fox TV network, whose news division can be charitably described as ultraconservative. Right wing Christian fundamentalist groups, one of the main key demographic groups who watch Fox News, loathed Cosmos for trumpeting scientific knowledge over religious interpretations in just about every one of the the 13 episodes.

Of course, for every reason that Fox News hated Cosmos (even though it was a huge ratings success for Fox, and has garnered a significant number of TV awards and nominations), those of us on the pro-science side loved it. Now, I’m a rarity in the science community in that I did not enjoy the show (the animations offended me on so many levels, but apparently kids loved it), I did watch every episode and would have to rank the episodes on evolution and global warming as some of the best science TV I’d ever seen–despite the lame graphics. Continue reading “Neil deGrasse Tyson tells GMO haters to chill out–liberals get angry”

Organic foods–are they healthier? Are they worth the extra money?

Note: this article has been updated and re-published. Please view and comment there.

Organic foods have been increasingly popular these days moving from local co-ops and farmer’s markets to large retail chains that specialize in organic foods (such as Whole Foods) to general large retail chains who dedicate portions of their produce sections to organic produce. Even dairy and meat sections of most supermarket chains have sections that contain organic products.

So what are organic foods? They are usually crops, meat or other animal products (milk, cheese, honey) which have been produced without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, as well as genetic modification and certain preservation techniques such as food irradiation. Also the meats and animal products are produced without the use of antibiotics and growth hormones. Organic farming was pioneered in the early part of the 20th century based on the unproven idea that chemical pesticides and fertilizers supposedly had a negative effect on flavors and nutritional values of foods. Over the years, organic farming has grown into a huge business based on the supposed health and flavor benefits, but also on the the potential benefits that organic agriculture may have on the environmental impact of agricultural chemicals. In addition, there is a lot of concern about the persistence of pesticides on our food sources. Continue reading “Organic foods–are they healthier? Are they worth the extra money?”