The Hypocrisy and Lies in Kevin Folta’s Case

Posted by @TakeThatGMOs:

Note: The contents of this post were written originally by the kind folks at Fit Strategy on Facebook. They post solid science-based advice on fitness as well as a healthy dose of skepticism. Their post is hosted here with permission.

  

By now everybody has heard about Kevin Folta and the recent news about him. A lot are frustrated at the anti-GMOs community due to their exaggerations and lies and many people are very confused and/or unaware of the degree of hypocrisy and lies presented by USRTK and the anti-GMOs activist community. They are nothing but a bunch of unscientific, fear and woo mongering, liars. The amount of hypocrisy and fraud involved in this case is unbelievable, and to demonstrate that, Fit Strategy made an excellent post by the full meaning of the word. Here is their post: 
The Truth About Kevin Folta. Definitely read to the end where we expose USRTK.

After the frivolous waste of taxpayer money that was the FOIA request of Kevin Folta’s and other scientists’ email accounts, the big buzz was a $25,000 donation from Monsanto. There’s been a lot of spin, so let’s get things straight.

The initial narrative was that Kevin Folta was a paid shill. This didn’t last long seeing as how the money wasn’t actually given to Folta and he didn’t pocket any of it. Folta organizes a communication seminar that teaches scientists and teachers how to better communicate about hot-topic science issues like biotech. Some topics he presents include presentation structure, overcoming anxiety, non-verbal communication, and understanding your audience. Controversial stuff, I know. Of course he presents the current scientific consensus too, but so do thousands and thousands of other scientists. The money was used to pay for travel, food, and other expenses on 12 different talks [and a student conference, as mentioned by Folta]. That’s a measly $2,083.33 per talk, covering things like roundtrip airfare, hotels, taxis, etc.

All of the accounting is transparent and available upon request. How can we trust it? It comes from the University of Florida fiscal office. This takes care of the 2nd narrative that followed the shill accusation: that Kevin Folta lied about never receiving money from Monsanto. Folta has repeatedly said that he has never been paid by Monsanto nor has his research been funded by them. And all of that’s true. Monsanto donated $25k to the University of Florida, which was earmarked to cover expenses for these 12 talks. Folta was never personally given that money and never took any kind of compensation. So no, he didn’t lie. And it’s worth noting that the communication program has had numerous donors, not just Monsanto.

If you’re still inclined to believe that Kevin Folta is some kind Monsanto hack, let’s examine the people who wasted your tax dollars raiding public scientists’ email accounts. The US Right to Know organization filed the request, but first let’s look at their biggest donor…the Organic Consumer’s Association. OCA doesn’t reveal their donors (how transparent of them), but some public disclosures find major funding from Eden Organic, Nutiva, and Dr. Bronner’s. All of these are major organic businesses with a financial interest in convincing the public that biotech is evil. And for spreading that message, Ronald Cummins the CEO of OCA got paid $99,590 in 2013. That’s just a little more than the $0 Folta got paid to give his talks.

Onto USRTK. In 2014 they raised $46,525. Their director, Gary Ruskin, was kind enough to pay himself about half of that in salary, $22,479.09. Again, a bit more than the $0 Folta was paid. Their listed accomplishments for 2014 were building their website, and a report on GMOs. The GMO “report” is a laughable 60 pages with plenty of big pictures, large headings, some charts, and foot notes. Yet somehow they claimed to the IRS it cost them $22,000. The report is standard propaganda claiming the usual non-sense, like GMOs aren’t actually regulated (they’re heavily regulated). This year, OCA has already given USRTK $114,500.

So the people behind the shill accusations are actually getting paid salaries by large organic businesses to spread a message that benefits *drum roll* large organic businesses. AND they wasted YOUR tax dollars doing it. Now they have the audacity to call a respected scientist a shill? Hey Gary and Ronald…how about you release all your funding information and emails? Come on, live up to your namesake–I thought we had a right to know? Nothing but a couple of cowards who are too stupid and morally bankrupt to contribute anything of real value to the world.

Kevin Folta: everyone who is capable of critical thought, and isn’t already drinking their kool-aide, is on your side. The hypocrisy is blindingly obvious. Please don’t lose any sleep.

None of the contents of the original post were edited in any way except for one inaccuracy pointed out by Kevin Folta which was highlited.

Follow me on Twitter @TakeThatGMOs to continue the discussion and follow Fit Strategy on Facebook. Many thanks to them! 

Advertisements

What’s the Next Battle Against Pseudoscience on GMOs? 

By @TakeThatGMOs

  The ‘War on Science’ as it is called, is an endless ‘war’ that will last with us humans however ling we live. The main objectives, should they exist, can never be fully fulfilled. As Steven Novella puts it – and as some wars go – when it comes to the War on Science, the only focus should be on the next battle, and not the whole war, as this is one of the most unpredictable and unstable wars. When it comes to GMOs, what should that next battle be?

First up: politics

The current political battleground hangs mostly on labelling GMOs in the USA and the current delays in the EU. Things in either side are going very slowly. The anti-GMO movement certainly  hasn’t persuaded everyone to join in and label, and it appears that quite the opposite is happening, with celebrities like Jimmy Kimmel and many others using their fame, in a way, to help push for the pro-GMO side. The public is getting to hear more of the pro-GMO side and the pro-GMO side is louder than ever, as it showed during the March Against Myths (counter protesters against the March Against Monsanto) campaign. 

Another side here is the Republicans, who tend to be more pro-corporate and so may support GMOs more. This however may be shaken up with Bernie Sanders, who gets the case about labelling wrong. As I’ve discussed in a previous article, labelling GMOs is the wrong side to take here, and won’t be the most helpful choice. It is also important to remember that labelling is only the first step, and making labelling a federal mandate will only open up the doors for more action against GMOs. If GMOs do get down that very unlikely path, the end for biotech would be near. 

Which gets me to my point. Many, many scientific organisations, biotech companies (including drug manufacturers) and millions of people would stand against such a law. Monsanto would probably take it to the SCOTUS and scientific organisations would stand against such a thing in either way. Since GMOs are under no real threat right now, considering Obama’s very scientific agenda, we can try avoiding all of this by furthering science to the public. 

Most common myths

GMOs are practically enshrined in myths. So much information and, therefore, misinformation exists about GMOs. It is arguably the biggest pseudoscience topic, as I’ve argued before.

The existence of so many fronts to battle on and the lack of a public consensus as well as the education system being littered with such misinformation and the general image of ‘natural is better’ makes this a very tough battle. To summarise previous statements from this article, the consensus on vaccines and evolution is far, far bigger in the scientific community, and those denying evolution are the minority of the US population. Likewise, a big scientific consensus exists on vaccines and most of the population is vaccinated or is pro-vaccines. It is true that GMOs have a big scientific consensus, beating climate change and standing at 88%, however this is no good as the public has the worst scientific record on GMOs, with the pro-science side only being a major minority. 

  I always use this picture to demonstrate my points. I’m tired of doing that. 

To obviously win the battle on the public front (a very strategic front as it affects legislation as well) we need to go in one bit by another. We don’t have the huge majority of scientists that quickly come through and debunk creationism. We have a lot of scientists worrying about the GMOs, yet it’s just as much of a pseudoscience as creationism. To be fair the most concerns aren’t about safety but wrong information is wrong information. This is bad (obviously). To make problems worse, the GMOs campaign also (similarly to the vaccines and climate change campaigns) opens up to economics and ethics. Those things don’t make the issue here any easier. Evolution v creationism only focuses on science. That’s it. But the extent of the aspects affecting GMOs here is one of the reasons the pseudoscience on GMOs hasn’t been stopped. The above things mentioned makes this THE worst issue to deal with. 

To slowly and gradually win over public support, what’s the next battle that should be fought over GMOs? The scientific bit. That may, unhelpfully, sound a bit vague. Currently the debated health impacts and environmental impacts are what inspire people to join. These are the false ideas that make people passionate and want to spread their messege. Thankfully as well, more and more of the public knows not to fall for this and instead picks on Monsanto, ethics and economics (upcoming article). Getting people in the ‘pro-GMO; anti-Monsanto’ area is a great success on our part and can get us to be able to drive home the labelling question and solve the larger problem on the small, meaningless details. 

Here’s the thing, the issue over safety is not only the backbone of the anti-GMO movement but also it’s heart. Taking out that heart will kill the rest of the body. 

It is also the most useful battle as we’re already winning it. I see many people, for example in SciShow’s recent video about GMOs, accepting the facts over safety but jumping on the patents and contamination issues. In this way, the issue starts to move over from public VS GMOs and labelling to the public VS Monsanto, which has less to do with legislation and laws and science and GMOs and more to do with corporations and ethics. GMOs that are helpful would be widely accepted.

Maybe the end is in sight for the anti-GMO movement. 

Wait, what’s that ringing sound. Oh, Dr Mercola just published his latest article and people are already retweeting. Crap. 

Labelling GMOs, Yay or Nay?

By @TakeThatGMOs

  

It’s our right to know, right? For years, the anti-GMOs crowd has always stated that it’s their right (let alone what a right ACTUALLY means) to know what’s IN their food and have requested mandatory federal labelling on GM products. It has become mainstream and has reached many people, even some people who are pro-GMOs may support labelling.

The labeling question is a wide and diverse topic, with many opinions involved. It is therefore a very difficult question to tackle objectively.

Before we start, we must remember what things are put in a label. The first thing that pops to mind here is allergens. Allergens can and do present a serious threat to allergic people, and they must know what’s in their food to avoid any potential fatal reactions.

Ingredients and nutritional information are also available on every food label. Nutritional information is there to provide a more guided approach to healthy eating and make sure everything is eaten in moderation. Ingredients are there so as not to cloud the food in a ‘mystery’ and make the operation more controlled.

Other things that are sometimes included in the label are country of origin and of course, expiration and production. Different things might be there, but that depends on the food and the producer as well as the country.

Yay Labelling?

Let’s start with the pro-labelling side. The most common claim here is that it is ‘our right to know’ what’s in our foods. After all, if we’re trying to avoid GMOs, shouldn’t we have a clear label? Another argument that fits in here is, “If GMOs are so good, why don’t we label them, like we do with natural and organic?’

The arguments pro-labelling practically follow similar paths and are relatively similar to the ones presented above.

Nay Labelling?

The anti-labelling side has more arguments in this regard. The first argument here is that labelling GMOs is useless and futile, as GMOs have been ‘proven safe’. This argument extends to arguments about safety so it’s a bit of a complex one. Another argument is that labelling GMOs would demonize them. This is something of a counter-argument to the ‘if they’re so good, why not label them?’ argument. This argument points out that only harmful things would be clearly and mandatorily labelled, like allergens. And there’s the argument about the cost and time it would take to label things considered GE and not. This also raises the question on what to even carry such label – do animals fed with GMOs require their meat or milk to be labeled too? What about different types of GM?  

Finally, many people have raised the fact that things that don’t have GMOs are almost always labelled. Either as “organic” or through the Non-GMO Project or other 3rd party labelling groups. This gives those avoiding GMOs a wide range of labelled food that doesn’t contain GMOs.

Dissecting The Arguments 

The first argument, regarding ‘our right to know’, is one that is echoed a lot. But claiming that it is our right know raises some questions. Is it, for example, my right to know the religion of the farmer? Such information would be useless, as GMOs have been proven safe. Avoiding GMOs for any other reason is just silly and naïve. GMOs are found in practically everything, should we label every food? What about the quantity? Should we label animals who have eaten GMOs? The questions raised due to the ambiguity are far too many and overwhelming to address here, but you get the point.

One must also remember that USDA organic allows 5% of the product to be GM, and that certainly affects the labelling question. 

The second argument here is one that is directly against, “If GMOs are good, why label them?”. The argument goes, that if GMOs are so good, why not voluntarily label them, like the sought-after organic or “natural” labels (however shady they may be). In this case, @guidoV4 (go follow him, he tweets about GMOs and biotech too. He also has a ton of hashtags in his bio) points out that “natural” or organic labels are voluntary, and any company can practically put the label “natural” on their food. Mandatory labelling, like the one that activists seek, is put there to warn of danger, as in allergens or nutritional content. It wouldn’t be mandatory otherwise. 

@TkThtEtymology suggests labelling them in a way presents them as good. Good idea, but does it stand?

The public also heavily misunderstands GMOs. In a Pew survey, the gap between scientists and the public was the highest when it came to GMOs.  

This clearly shows that labelling, wether intended to promote or to warn of GMOs, will have the same effect. It will demonize GMOs and scare the public. And that may kill a technology so youthful with so much potential.

The Cost of Labelling. 

The cost of labelling is a big chunk of the debate. The cost doesn’t just rest on printing and gluing, but also on segregating the foods, testing, certifying and many, many other things.

Jane Palmer has a good article on this. The well-researched article concludes that mandatory labelling can cost 100s of millions of dollars, severely increasing prices both on the customer, the company, the farmer, the State and the food producer. 

First of all, higher prices would decrease customer demand. Foods containing GMOs are found everywhere. About 60% of the market contains some form of GMOs. The price of labelling would also turn companies away from GE, further increasing the oligopoly. Food making companies would also turn away from GMOs due to increased costs, therefore labelling would signal the end for GMOs.

Why Just GMOs?                                                    

If labelling is about our ‘right’, why stop at GMOs, one of the safest and most controlled biotechnologies. Why not the arguably more dangerous mutagensis?  Or the tons of other breeding methods? How does knowing the breeding methods help you lead a healthy life, since all are very safe and very effective?

  
 Conclusion 

Labelling is, and will remain, one of the biggest issues when it comes to GMOs. Both sides are extremely passionate about their opinion and go long distances to support their point. 

This article here provided an analysis of and gave an extra voice to the labelling debate. 

At the end of the day, labelling GMOs in the US is a far fetched goal, one that may never happen. Research into labelling (some going to the government) has shown that it’s expensive and does nothing but put a huge burden on GMOs, where the burdens are already too heavy. Keep in mind also resolution HR1599, or hilariously dubbed the ‘DARK’ Act may just prevent that. 

Labelling might be far-fetched, but always remains a possibility. This time, however, the extra weight may just cut off the life monitor. Is labelling worth it?