“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke.
Recently an article from the New York Times smearing Dr. Kevin Folta became the highlight of the organiphiles’ day. However, the statements within the article, with short examination, debunked themselves.
I love it when they make my job easy.
Dr. Folta and thirty-nine other scientists have been under vicious attacks from activists organization with the goal of silencing the researchers stepping into the public eye with their valuable work. The results from these attacks, for just Folta alone, have included doxxing, his family being threatened, and his graduate students’ names being published for harassment.
This is the result of the same ‘claim anything’ internet culture that propagates every atrocious myth under the sun. From the debunked yet still wildly popular autism-vaccine link, to the myth that bread is made of yoga mats, to the lethal green juice and coffee enemas cancer “treatment” that’s led to more than a few premature deaths, why would suspicion about GMOs be any different? When curiosity leads one to google Folta’s research, ‘GMOs,’ over half of the links from respectable appearing sources on the first page say that GMOs are dangerous. So why wouldn’t a mother who’s just trying to make the right decisions for her family, on an instinctive level, choose to think this sufficiently advanced technology is harmful magic to her children being touted by this evil magician Folta?
I mean look at him, he looks evil:
However, peeling back the alarmism, the words in the New York Times piece debunk itself.
Eric Lipton’s smear piece readily admits that “there is no evidence that (Folta’s) academic work was compromised.”
Lipton, tattoo that backwards on your ass and stare into a mirror until the ink is tickling your prostate.
This would have been the end of a piece with integrity, but instead Lipton artfully cherry picks about a dozen passages out of context from nearly five-thousands emails sequestered in the FOIA request from the group USRTK. If you’re going to only use about a dozen quotes, at least don’t admit the source material is five-thousand pages long. Working with that much material, a thousand monkeys with a thousand piles of poo to fling could eventually compose the Mona Lisa, and Lipton opted to fling this non-existent nefarious relationship between Folta and executives at Monsanto.
In terms of funding, Dr. Folta’s outreach program received a relatively small grant, $25k, specifically to fund the cost of travel to speak about genetically modified crops, Folta’s area of expertise.
I’ve met Dr. Folta at one of these events at UC Davis and, as a fellow science speaker, been impressed by both his research and his ability to speak and answer questions for scientists and non-scientists alike. He is also deeply passionate about helping the lives of those less fortunate through biotechnology. He’s traveled many times over to the developing world and seen the ravages of malnutrition that occur when biotechnology is blocked. He returned with the quote regarding our battle between organic and conventional crops from a colleague in Africa, confused that “in America, your fight is between good food and good food.”
Folta labors to bring that good food to those who need it, even while his livelihood is being threatened. Since the FOIA request, the entire grant has been divested towards other programs at the university. So now this professor who’s already swimming in work just has to scramble, once again, to find funds for his outreach program. All this is because activists abusing FOIA found his source of funding objectionable without finding a single point of contention in his research other than “GMOs make me scared because science.”
In a landscape of misinformation about GMOs, having a world class researcher speaking about his results to the public is incredibly valuable, and universities are always scraping for funding for research, never mind an outreach program. Though that $25k would be a small impact in terms of research, it would have been surprising if a university science department could pull it out of their very tight budget; they can pay a PhD student for a year for that much, why would they give it to a professor to go speak elsewhere? It’s also comparatively a drop in the bucket compared to the total size of a research budget, upwards of tens of millions per year, depending on the university. But if anybody is still of the impression that this minor $25k grant “paid off” Folta’s research results, they’re either the sort whose career integrity is personally for sale for a fraction of a year’s salary, or they do not understand how much scientific research costs.
Furthermore, Dr. Charles Benbrook, cited as an industry expert and comparing Folta to a “skunk”, was funded at Washington State University entirely by the organic industry with a $250k grant. Given that all this fuss is over a $25k grant as an alleged conflict of interest, it’s telling of Lipton’s position that he chose to omit the amount of Benbrook’s outside funding for his while kicking up dust over a grant worth a tenth the amount.
The motive is simple; disparage biotechnology at any cost, scientific accuracy and consumer be damned. Because when you make lifesaving technology indistinguishable from magic, lives are maimed, and good scientists pay the price.
Everybody’s encouraged to ask questions, but when they don’t like the answers and resort to constructing false narratives about the scientists in order to discredit the science? They need to be stopped. Dr. Folta and the thirty-nine other scientists who are going to continue to receive these attacks deserve the full scientific community’s support right now. It’s not enough for these people that they don’t want to eat GMOs, they want to stop scientists from working or speaking on GMOs. These are the type of activists who first say that a genetically modified crop needs more testing and when they get near the facilities? They burn the test fields. Because fire is the appropriate treatment for something you only understand as dangerous magic.
There’s a small village in north east Massachusetts with a penchant for witch trials with some proud traditions being upheld here. As for Lipton, Hari, and the members of USRTK? The village is missing a few idiots.