University of Hawaii professor assisted in the harassment of a pro-GMO professor

hector-valenzuela600x350pxDr. Hector Valenzuela has long been critical of biotechnology. A proponent of organic agriculture, Valenzuela has been performing research on it at the University of Hawaii since the early 90s. His criticism has certainly made him some rivals at his university, but academic feuds are definitely nothing new.

Valenzuela, unfortunately, appears to want to take his disagreements outside the confines of his university. Last year, in an interview for PR Web, he claimed that funding from the biotechnology industry was causing his university to silence him and he called out several fellow professors critical of his own viewpoints.

Professor Valenzuela told the authors of the piece, Paul Koberstein and Eliza Murphy, “I am not an anti-GMO person, and I have never served as a spokesman for any anti-GMO group”. Yet he took part in a protest against GMOs organized by Occupy Monsanto, and even spoke to the crowd. Valenzuela also appears to be actively engaged with Babes Against Biotech,  plastering their posters on his office door.


I am not an anti-GMO person. – Hector Valenzuela

Dr. Andrew G. Hashimoto, the dean at the College of Tropical Agriculture told PR Web, “His claims of retaliation are also unfounded as the actions he cited were the result of non-performance. He spends most of his time making presentations about the problems with biotechnology, which he has the academic freedom to do, but not at the expense of his assigned responsibilities.”

If these allegations of harassment were accurate, Valenzuela appears not to have done much about it. I asked Dr. Robert Paull, one of the professors Valenzuela claims is harassing him about it. This was what he had to say, “Dr. Valenzuela has repeatedly raised allegations against myself and others at my college claiming harassment. He has been told to file a grievance on numerous occasions with our Union (UHPA) but has never done so in more than 12 years.”  This was important information that the PR Watch authors failed to mention. Dr. Paull later clarified that he was aware of one discussion with the union, but no grievance was actually signed.

PR Watch’s Paul Koberstein is sticking with his claim that Valenzuela is not involved with any anti-GMO group.

I don’t know where you get your information about Prof. Valenzuela’s “very clear involvement” with GMOs. As he told me, and I reported, he is raising questions about biotechnology. That is what he is required to do to perform his job as a professor at the University of Hawaii. As far as I know, he is not involved with any group other than as a source of factual information.

Contrary to the title of the piece, which claims Valenzuela is being silenced, the last paragraph admits “They both continue to speak out.”

A pattern that may be continuing according to emails released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The University of Hawaii released the second in a series of emails from Valenzuela’s university account, around 1,000 pages worth. The majority of emails were extremely easy to read, except for approximately ten pages that had text shrunken down. Caitlin Russel who scanned the emails for (a non-profit dedicated to government transparency) took note of it having something to do with Professor Kevin Folta of the University of Florida.

“ As best as we could figure, the emails had something to do with Kevin Folta, the director of the biotechnology communication program at the University of Florida, and the fallout from the public records reveal that he had received a $25,000 grant from Monsanto.”


Professor Folta has long been an outspoken proponent of genetically engineered crops, and critics of the technology used his receiving of the grant to insinuate that his opinion was shaped because of it. When the story broke, Diana Reeves of GMO Free USA sent an email through the listserv GMOList (which Valenzuela is a part of) requesting that people make anonymous complaints to Folta’s university and also requested for ammunition people could use in their complaints. 


When the university released a legible copy of the shrunken email, it turned out to be a 32 page dossier on Folta created by Valenzuela. Much of the information was cherry picked from comments made by Folta on social media and blog posts going back several years. GMO Free USA appears to have used a lot of Valenzuela’s information to create memes encouraging their followers to harass Folta. Quite often it is obvious notes appear to have been taken verbatim from Valenzuela’s dossier and posted to GMO Free USA without disclosure. I emailed Professor Valenzuela and asked if he could confirm or deny his direct involvement in the creation of these memes, calls to action for Folta’s firing, or an explanation of why the original email released was shrunk down. So far he has failed to respond.



They even went so far as to call on Folta’s university to fire him, because a page unrelated to Folta made a joke about water.


And call the university, they did. According to, “the university was so inundated with requests to fire Folta that it changed his office number and asked the FBI’s Domestic Terrorism Task Force to remain on alert.”

The harassment did not stop at just complaints to his university. The blog Skeptical Raptor described how ruthless some of these people were. One email described the location of where the Professor’s wife liked to bike, terrorizing her enough to become afraid of staying home alone. They even went to Craigslist:

One of the most vile personal attacks was from some cowardly and anonymous Craigslist poster who invoked Dr. Folta’s deceased mother to attack Folta’s reputation. And used childish and ridiculous language like calling him a “Monsanto whore.”

Professor Folta wasn’t surprised to learn of Valenzuela’s involvement. “He can’t take on science in the spirit of acceptable scholarship, so he gets in line with vile activists to defame legitimate scientists. I heard him on the radio on Kauai. I could not believe I was hearing someone claiming to represent a Land Grant University and a science-based perspective. He was pushing claims we know are not supported by evidence.”

Unfortunately free speech often protects cyberbullying, but that does not necessarily extend to public university professors using university resources. This 32 page dossier created by Valenzuela was sent to his work email from his Evernote account. The technology policy set out by the University of Hawaii prohibits use of email to harass others.

“The same legal and policy standards that define intimidation, harassment or invasion of privacy apply to the electronic environment. For example, persistence in sending unwanted email constitutes harassment and is unacceptable if not illegal.”

“University resources are intended to be used for institutional purposes and may not be used for private gain.

The University provides information technology resources at great expense for the purpose of supporting its mission (learning, teaching, research, and public service). It is expected that usage will be primarily educational in nature in support of this mission.”

The first amendment gives rights to public university employees to speak out on matters of public concern. Those rights do not extend to using university resources to do so, nor does it apply to becoming involved in the harassment of people they might disagree with. Professor Folta was harassed and intimidated to the point of fearing for his family and nearly quitting his job. No one should have to suffer that over a disagreement about biotechnology. Especially when federal and state tax dollars are being used to support it.

173 New York residents show support for Cornell’s Alliance For Science

25-logo-page-1On September 22 67 organic farmers, with a financial interest in the continued demonization of biotechnology, delivered a letter to the Dean and Trustees of Cornell University. They oppose the Alliance For Science, an evidence and fact based program that “seeks to promote access to scientific innovation as a means of enhancing food security, improving environmental sustainability and raising the quality of life globally.” 

Participants from around the globe are gathered there with a common goal of using technology to improve their lives.

Too often a loud minority is able to dictate policy because the silent majority does nothing. Today 173 residents from around the state of New York show their support in their own letter to Cornell University:

September 26, 2016

Dean Kathryn J. Boor
Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Ithaca, New York 14850

Trustees of Cornell University, Robert S. Harrison, Chair
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York 14850

Dear Dean Boor and Trustees of the University:

As New York State residents, we applaud you for hosting the “Alliance for Science” on the Cornell campus ( A Land Grant university is the perfect place to bring together diverse international stakeholders through the generosity of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Cornell’s mission is to conduct objective research and education and the “Alliance for Science” has as its stated purpose to “help foster more constructive policies about biotechnology as a useful tool in the toolbox of food security and sustainability” and to spread it around the world. This presence should serve to fulfill Cornell’s mission.

Cornell is making valuable contributions to the long-term sustainability of agriculture.

Respectfully yours,

Michelle Sadler, Lansing, NY

Kris Benson Brock Schaghticoke, NY

Aaron Fried Aaron Fried, Assistant Professor of Anatomy and Physiology at Mohawk Valley Community College, Utica, NY

Levi Tooker Saranac Lake, NY

Stephanie Teeling Sodus, NY

Albert Gawer Hopewell Junction, NY

Tiffany Carson, Rochester, NY

Satadru Pramanik New York, NY, Cornell Biomedical Engineering MSE Class of 2012.

Vikki Morris Rochester, NY.

Tiffany Bemis & family Rochester, NY

Giana Jinx Giana Guarascio, Buffalo, NY

Stefan Weisserfuchs. Watertown, NY

James Nunciato Brooklyn, NY

Kathryn Evans Georgetown, NY Cornell Alumnus Class of 71

Rebecca Smith, New Paltz, NY

Ben Reed Suffern, NY

Adam Macintyre-Ross York, NY

Mike Durnin Farmingville, New York

Jordan Hahn New York, NY

Criseyda Martinez New York, NY Biological Sciences PhD candidate.

Joe Bonica Port Jefferson, NY, Class of 2012

Emily Jensen Emily Jensen Baldwinsville, NY

Gary Almeter Tonawanda, NY

Kyle Vater Buffalo, NY.

Ian Keane Modena NY

Beth Franklin Beth Franklin Collins, NY

Carrie Endriss Hortonville, NY

Kate MacIntyre-Ross York, NY

Florencia Natalia Florencia González Ithaca, NY

Charles B. Hall, PhD Professor Department of Epidemiology and Population Health
Kirk Pistner Rochester, NY

Mark Hannon Cheektowaga, NY

Alicia Meek, Syracuse, NY (And a biotechnology major!)

Alex Serbanescu Queens, New York

Matt Pappalardo Whilestone, NY

Joe Siler Sivue Farms North Java, NY

John Lavelle Cambria, NY

Mariko Dow Cheektowaga, NY

Julian Diamond Poughkeepsie, NY

Maria Lant-Amey Horseheads, NY

Alicia Ann Alicia Green, Dunkirk, NY 14048

Andrés Abea, Ithaca, NY

Tim Stolinski Dunkirk, NY.

Stephanie Schieferstine Vernon, NY

Marjorie Lant Horseheads NY

Destiny Rivera Glen Cove, NY.

Susan Turner Norwich, NY

Michael Smola Norwich, NY

Nicole Negron Wappingers Falls, NY

Jacqueline Walters Jacquie Walters. Lockport, NY

George Meindl Sayville, NY

Michael Hobson Ithaca, NY –

Elodie Massaro, Monroe, NY

Alita Vaughan, Brooklyn, NY

Julianne Slayden Slaterville Springs, NY

Blane Lightfoote, Stanley NY

Jonathan Howard, NY, NY

Corinne Converse, Syracuse, NY

James Van De Weert Geneseo, NY

Chauncey Thorn New York, NY

Donna Walker ’93 Piffard, NY

Evan Jennings Buffalo, New York

Kiley Staats, Rochester, NY

Isabel Potter Isabel Potter, New York, NY 10025

Maryann Borsick Herman Maryann Herman, Ph.D. Walworth, NY

Randy Barbarash, ALS 1973, Chester, NY

Christopher Chura Cohoes, NY

Micah J. Fleck New York, NY

Preston Baez New York City, NY

Christine Okun, Liverpool, New York

Chey Miller Palmyra, NY.

Joe Fodor Brooklyn, NY

Jim Longo

Christopher Rutland White Plains, NY

Marlene OB Marlene OB, Ithaca NY

Holly Creavy Stony Point, NY

Jason Ridgeway Ontario, NY

Haley Braunegg Geneseo, NY

Brian Bliss Bliss, N.Y.

Scott Wyman Neagle Brooklyn, NY

Philip Bender Albany, NY

Michael Berbari New York, NY

Andy Newhouse Marietta, NY

Bernie Mooney, Brooklyn

Stephanie Hinshaw Albion, NY

Nicholas Tobi Gilbert Binghamton NY

Jerry Gallup New Hartford, NY

Robert Ronan NY, NY

Jim Sittnick Rochester, NY.
Jennifer Thorpe-Moscon Brooklyn, New York

Sandia Crest Andrea Beyer Glendale, NY

Anthony Kosmowski- Rochester, NY

Drew Ballard, NY NY

Jo Ellen Saumier,, Chateaugay,, NY

Gregory Liu Tivoli, NY.

James Mallinson, Richmond Hill, Queens, NY

Sharon Vonderchek Addison, NY

Roy Olcott Berkshire NY

Kevin Smith North Massapequa NY

Michael Szymanski Hamburg, NY

Nicholas DiGaudio, Flanders, NY

Kayla L Peate South Dayton, NY

Ioana Popa Gaskins Brooklyn NYC

Tawnya Radice Amherst, Ny

Alyssa Warawka New Woodstock NY

Charles Peter Castleton, New York

Lily Bartels Guilderland NY

Mark Murray Copenhagen NY

Jennifer Brady Orchard park, Ny

Steven Crevier Schenectady, NY

Christopher Frank Buffalo, New York 14207

Kait Maciejewski Batavia, NY

Flora Dogadkin Brooklyn, NY

Kimberly Blaszak, Corfu, NY 2009 alumni

Tyler Couch Rochester, NY

James Brooks, Merrick ny

Amy Verel Queens NYC

Kelly Evers Nassau, NY

Eric Harrington, Glendale, NY 11385

Aldrin Javier Bronx, New York

Glorie Anderson, Brooklyn, NY

Thomas DeWert Jr Corning, NY

Jillian Rose, Staten Island, NY

George Maxwell Mastic 11950

Hillary Meyer Middletown NY

Michael Trine. Sodus, NY.

Diana Peña, Brooklyn, NY

Julie Brocklehurst-Woods Geneseo, NY. I AM A Cornell-trained Master Gardener. My husband is an alum, we donate every year to Cornell.

Michael Bannigan, New York, NY

Nadia Nikulin (formerly Nadia Shevchuk), Class of 2014, Ithaca NY

Alison Steele of Castleton-on-Hudson, NY

Stefania Zimmerman Stony Brook, NY

Virginia Martelli, Brooklyn, NY

John Robby Hinshaw Buffalo, NY

Cari O’Brien Rochester NY

Lorelle Gifford Lorelle Dutcher, Franklin, New York.

Monica Ramstetter Ithaca, NY

Janice Smith Janice Smith,Franklin N.,Y.13775

Jamie Banister, Fort Drum / Evans Mills, NY

Adam Blood New York, NY

Lauren Kennedy from NYC, NY

Anastasia Schneider Mount Kisco, NY

Robert Harmer Coram, NY

Owen Smith Rochester, Ny

Crystal Richard Elmira, NY

Chris Murphy Carmel

Matthew Sterling Boonville, NY

Jason Gregory White Plains NY

Heather Warner Franklin, NY

Martin A. Winer, Rochester, NY

Keri Girvin, Ontario, NY

Brandyn Mark Lucca, Moriches, NY

Kirby Selkirk, Chateaugay N.Y.

Amanda Bentley Buffalo, NY

Tiffany Roach, East Syracuse, NY

Tara Anne McCloskey Staten Island, NY

Stephen Graham, Rochester, NY

Paul Contento Delmar NY

Elizabeth Wickham Selkirk, NY

Pamela Wright Watertown, NY

Stefani Pritchard Clinton, NY

Heather Geiger Brooklyn, NY

Bill Adcock William Adcock, Rochester, NY

Miranda Rice Trumansburg, NY

Danielle Basore Troy, NY!

Sara Lawler Owego, NY.

JoJo Pierce Albany, NY

Vicky Wolcott Depew, NY

Theresa Davis Rochester, NY

Raymond Popowich Rochester, NY
Jasmine Weed Rochester, NY

Jenna Weed Rocherster, NY

Janet A Lee New York, NY

Friends of the Earth asks for help in creating an anti-GMO echo chamber


Last year Friends of the Earth (FOE) published a report called Spinning Food. Rather than discussing the science behind genetic engineering, the authors (Kari Hamerschlag, Anna Lappe, and Stacy Malkan) focused solely on accusing any person or group who is pro-GMO of being industry shills.

They even went so far as to insinuate that bloggers Nurse Loves Farmer and The Farmer’s Daughter have industry ties simply because they use a word that the AgChat Foundation also uses.


One part of the report especially seems like an exercise in psychological projection. The entire pro-GMO movement is accused of existing in an echo chamber. This is a situation where a group simply repeats the same information and beliefs over and over again, while censoring all contradictory outside information.


Anyone who actually spends time studying the pro-GMO movement would know that this couldn’t be any further from the truth. We criticize each other all the time, and we do so publicly. Mark Lynas and Patrick Moore, who were previously with anti-GMO non-profits and are now pro-GMO, can be found on Twitter arguing about climate change. Kevin Folta criticized my FOIA requests on his blog. I criticized a member of March Against Myths who I believed to be undertaking some questionable actions. Steve Novella of Skeptics Guide to the Galaxy recently criticized the American Council For Science and Health for having few too many industry ties.

We are skeptics, we question information presented to us.

In a new level of hypocrisy, Spinning Food author Kari Hamerschlag, was discovered, in an email sent to NGOs, academics and industry executives, to be doing the very same things she criticizes the pro-GMO movement of doing.


Hamerschlag calls for the actual creation of an echo chamber to “spread the word”.

She then proceeds to give recipients of her email carefully crafted social media messages that can be used when sharing her report. The exact tactic that her co-author Stacy Malkan accused pro-GMO professors Kevin Folta and Calestous Juma of doing.


And use them they did.




Friends of the Earth relies on membership dues and a steady supply of donations. Are they really all that different from the corporations they claim to want to expose? Their product is fear, and they sell it well to their members.

Ultimately their Spinning Food report wasn’t about those corporations, it was about scaring people who wish to speak out in favor of biotechnology. Friends of the Earth is saying, “speak up and we will smear you next.”


How organic food makes us fatter


While correlation is not causation, seeing how organic food sales has increased steadily along with the adult obesity rate in the United States begs the question -Is organic food contributing to obesity?

“Count chemicals, not calories!” is one of the most often screamed battle cries of the organic food movement. The phrase serves to demonstrate a lack of basic chemistry and biology knowledge. Everything is made up of chemicals, even that piece of organic fruit. Many of those naturally occurring chemicals are even carcinogenic.


Calories are units of energy. According to the National Institute of Health, “A lack of energy balance most often causes overweight and obesity. Energy balance means that your energy IN should equal your energy OUT.” Consume more calories than you burn and you gain weight, burn more than you consume and you lose weight.

Sedentary lifestyles cause those in the developed world to consume more than they burn. We spend too much time sitting down, and not enough exercising. Millions of years of evolution gave us an instinct to overconsume calories because we spent most of that time running after food, or running away from becoming food.

Now that doesn’t mean you can just eat junk food if you do a lot of jogging. Doritos and pizza every day are still going to pose a problem by increased sodium and saturated fat intake, which can cause its own own issues.  You also need a balanced diet to make sure your body is getting nutrition so you can avoid wasting money on vitamin supplements.

Unfortunately, at some point in recent decades corporations discovered that they can get people to voluntarily pay more for food by scaring them. The organic label was born, followed more recently by “non-GMO” labels. One large global survey showed that “87% of consumers globally think non-GMO is ‘healthier’“. This is a problem.

Researchers at Cornell University showed that “consumers chose beverages, side dishes and desserts containing up to 131% more calories when the main dish was positioned as ‘healthy,’ even though the main dish contained more calories than the ‘unhealthy option'”.


Further research demonstrated, the “organic” label greatly influenced people’s perceptions. The cookies and yogurt were estimated to have significantly fewer calories when labeled “organic” and people were willing to pay up to 23.4% more for them. The nutritional aspects of these foods were also greatly biased by the health halo effect. The “organic” cookies and yogurt were said to taste ‘lower in fat’ than the “regular” variety, and the “organic” cookies and chips were thought to be more nutritious! The label even tricked people’s taste buds: when perceived as “organic”, chips seemed more appetizing and yogurt was judged to be more flavorful. “Regular” cookies were reported to taste better–possibly because people often believe healthy foods are not tasty. All of these foods were exactly the same, but a simple organic label made all the difference!”

When Post decided to get Non-GMO verified for their Grape Nuts, vitamins disappeared from their cereal because of genetic engineering used to create them. Capri Sun’s organic version of juice contains more calories and more sugar at a higher price than its conventional counterpart. A Pepsi executive even stated this about consumers “They are willing to go to organic non-GMO products even if they have high salt, high sugar, high fat.”


The media and public are quick to jump all over the sugar industry and soda companies for downplaying the importance of reduced sugar consumption. Yet because the organic industry has developed such a “health halo” around its products, it remains free of criticism. But is telling people Oreos would be healthy if they just went “GMO free” really any better than Coca Cola telling people to consume as much junk food as they want as long as they exercise?


Six emails reveal an anti-GMO propaganda campaign against Cornell University

25-logo-pageRecently a very unusual piece showed up on the blog GMWatch, funded by the British organic industry through the Sheepdrove Trust. A young man by the name of Robert Schooler who attended Cornell University describes it as “complicit in a shocking amount of ecologically destructive, academically unethical, and scientifically deceitful behaviour.” Schooler appears to look down his nose at academics in general. He describes himself as  “uninspired to continue traditional study”. He “never felt quite at ease, jumping through hoops, taking classes and tests that didn’t inspire me, in exchange for a piece of paper (degree) that somehow magically granted me a superior life.”

Cornell’s crime according to Schooler is simply being pro-biotechnology. He, of course fails to mention the massive organic farming program at Cornell University. Most offensive of all is referring to the visiting fellows from Africa as “indoctrinated into the industrial and GMO agriculture framework”. Did he bother to reach out to them? If he had he probably would have been told that Africa can speak for itself, as Cornell Fellow Patricita Nantenza does when criticizing both pro-GMO and anti-GMO writers.

I truly believe Schooler’s heart is in the right place. Unfortunately this young man is being used by a group of individuals who have dedicated their lives to opposing biotechnology.

This most recent attempt to paint the Cornell Alliance For Science as some kind of evil force is just the latest in a string of attacks on the institution, including using local organic farmers to protest science as well. All part of a coordinated effort by a group led by Claire Robinson (GM Watch) and Jonthan Latham.

In 2015 Cornell University, with funding primarily from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, began a fellowship program called the Alliance For Science. Diverse stakeholders are brought to Ithaca, NY from around the world with a goal of “reclaiming the conversation around agricultural biotechnology so that science- and evidence-based perspectives drive decision-making.” Environmentalist Mark Lynas, who once campaigned against agricultural biotechnology, is now part of the core staff.

Documents obtained from Washington State University via a freedom of information request now reveal a chain of emails describing a coordinated effort on the part of anti-biotechnology leaders to smear and neutralize Lynas and Cornell University.

Jonathan Latham, who runs several anti-GMO web pages and resides near Cornell, attended one of the first talks hosted by the Alliance. He appears to take a special interest in Atu Darko, the associate director of communications. Latham oddly makes special note about Darko being gay. Latham struck at Cornell early on, writing a post that appeared on several blogs and encouraged many people to harass a coop where Cornell was hosting a talk in order to cancel the event.

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Phillip Bereano, professor emeritus at the University of Washington, is a member of Agra Watch. An organization that claims to seek to strengthen local economies, Agra Watch recently protested the testing of a biofortified banana that has the potential to prevent blindness in thousands of people in Uganda. Writing to a network of anti-biotechnology groups on a Google Group called “gmolist”, Boreano describes how Agra Watch has a researcher assigned to investigate Cornell University and the “activities” there.

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Why do they care? Why can’t they just continue on with business as usual and just hold their rallies and scream about corporations? Anthony Jackson with GeneWatch UK explains the position they feel Cornell and the Gates Foundation has placed them in. For decades the organic industry, NGOs like Greenpeace, and anti-biotechnology extremists have worked to shape a narrative that genetically engineered crops are solely about corporate greed and pesticides. Now with the success of bt eggplant in Bangladesh (free from corporate ties), and the story of nonprofit crop trials being destroyed catching the attention of the media, these groups are losing control of that narrative.

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Brian John of GM-Free Cymru goes on to explain how what he calls the “feed the world” narrative is “there all the time”. The anti-GMO movement has complained for thirty years how biotechnology has not been a benefit to mankind. Brian John appears to think there is something wrong now with corporations donating technology to non profits, and seeds being given away to farmers for free in developing nations.

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They especially see Mark Lynas as one of their biggest threats. Having worked previously against biotech crops, he seems to have now devoted his life to their promotion. Someone who was once on their side and apologizing for it, is  now defined by Brian John in one word – “yuck”.

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Claire Robinson of GM Watch, Earth Open Source, and GMO Free USA describes a plan in which they talk about needing to find a counter to Lynas, namely involving a scientist that was once in favor of genetic engineering. They would find such a person in Belinda Martineau at UC Davis, who claims to have worked on the FlavrSavr tomato. Robinson appears to remain very pessimistic, and feels “at the mercy of the pro-GMO narrative”

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Kevin Folta of the University of Florida’s Horiticultural Sciences department recently felt some of the anger over this narrative when he did a podcast on the bt brinjal (eggplant) success in Bangladesh. Explaining how the anti-GMO movement had mostly been leaving him alone recently, a large attack on him via Twitter was launched:

“It appears that science has hit a nerve.  Some of the poorest people are growing food and eating, sustainably.  You’d think that critics would be celebrating.  But to an emotional and science-free movement, when the technology they oppose serves others, they are caught between acknowledging that it is doing good and abandoning their sacred belief that this technology can do no good– ever.”

Ultimately this campaign against Cornell University and the Gates Foundation shows that their ideological hatred of genetic engineering goes far beyond corporations and pesticides. They want all products of genetic engineering treated the same, regardless of trait. While Monsanto can stand up for itself, these public biotechnology researchers without corporate backing cannot.

This is why Greenpeace destroys publicly funded crop trials in Australia after demanding that more trials be completed. This is why anti-GMO groups in developing countries tell farmers that these seeds will make them sterile or turn them gay. This is why American college students felt the need to protest GM banana trials in the US, after labeling any attempt to do so in the developing world as akin to treating people in those countries as guinea pigs.

Consumers Union collaborates with anti-vaxxers and the organic industry

Untitled drawing (58)On their web page Consumers Union claims to be impartial and unbiased. So why are they actively collaborating with anti-biotechnology groups and the organic industry behind the scenes?

Recently obtained emails from Washington State University via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request show Senior Staff Scientist Michael Hansen using his Consumers Union email to actively participate in the gmolist. ‘Independent’ anti-biotech scientists and activists use the Google Group for secret coordination and planned attacks.

In one email he describes environmentalist Mark Lynas and ex-Greenpeace turned Golden Rice promoter Patrick Moore as “puppets for industry”. He recommends using Belinda Martineau as a counter to them, being a qualified scientist critical of the technology.

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If Hansen had used a private email address, one could allow for him as a private individual to communicate with people sharing his views as he chooses. But here he is seen acting in official capacity for Consumers Union.

Members of the gmolist with industry connections include:

Sarah Compson of the Soil Association in the UK
Janet Cotter of Logos Environmental, whose business offers “advice” to NGOs about biotechnology.
John Fagan, the original founder of Genetic ID used by the NON-GMO Project to test food.
Jim Diamond of the Sierra Club
Ken Roseboro of the industry funded trade magazine, The Organic and NON-GMO Report
Charles Benbrook, organic industry consultant

This last name on the list, Charles Benbrook, is perhaps the most controversial of them all. Consumers Union has used him in many reports to promote the organic food industry and instill fear into families about eating fruits and vegetables. Most recently in 2015 he consulted with their staff scientists scientists on an article with many false and misleading claims. The report mentions that “natural” pesticides used in organic farming are generally safer than “synthetic” pesticides used in conventional farming practices, an untrue statement.

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Consumers Union failed to disclose the funding Benbrook has received from industry for his consulting services as well as his research during his time at Washington State University. This is information that Consumers Union should have been aware of with Michael Hansen and Benbrook collaborating together in the gmolist.

Former United States Surgeon General Koop once described Michael Hansen’s fearmongering campaign as “baseless, manipulative and completely irresponsible.” Considering that Consumers Union has always taken a pro-vaccination stance, Hansen is also a danger to public health. Steven Druker, Claire Robinson, and John Fagan on the gmolist are all part of the Maharishi Transcendental Meditation cult which was responsible for a measles outbreak in Iowa (Claire Robinson is the manager of the gmolist).

Consumers Union claims to empower “consumers with the knowledge they need to make better and more informed choices” and claim to be free of “commercial influences”. This may be true on matters such as interest rates and warning about the dangers of cigarettes. When it comes to our food supply their senior staff scientist appears to be deeply influenced by corporations with the goal to spread fear rather than knowledge.

Whether pro-life or pro-choice, you should be pro-GMO

Untitled drawing (53)I tend to stay out of abortion discussions, I value not having my neck slit too much. It is one of those issues where both sides really do argue from too much emotion. But there is one Facebook page on the topic I occasionally check in on, Pro-Life Discussions. I may disagree with them in practice (my own thoughts are in that grey area in-between), but they do get one thing right that many on the pro-life side don’t; prevention of unwanted pregnancies to begin with can only be a good thing. They (or at least one of their administrators) are pro-GMO and pro-vaccine.

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Contrary to the misconception that opposition to GMOs and vaccines is the liberal version of the conservative opposition to climate science, there is a movement of conservatives opposed to both. As an example Barbara Loe Fisher, who runs the terribly named National Vaccine Information Center, called the HPV shot the “slut shot” saying it would encourage young women to be promiscuous.

A myth has also been going around the anti-science branch of the conservative community about vaccines using cells from recently aborted fetuses. In reality they are produced using the same line of cells from one abortion decades ago, that would have occurred regardless of what was done with those cells. Even for people that see a fetus as being a child, it shouldn’t be any different than organ donations.

In 2011 US teen pregnancies, birth rates, and abortion rates reached an historic low. This is a trend that appears to be occurring in countries that have educated women, access to contraceptives, and access to health care. This is essentially the Bill Gates plan to solve over population. Instead of trying to control birth rates by force, he is trying to raise the standard of living (something vaccines and GMOs contribute to).

Contrary to the belief held by many that the world was so much better in “their day”, the world of the 1960s and 1970s was pretty grim. Whether you agree with the Supreme Court’s decision on Roe v. Wade or not, the timing of the landmark case taking place in this era was no coincidence.

Pessimists of those decades saw the world’s population as a ticking time bomb. China instituted a one child policy and India created policies to encourage sterilization (encouraged by loans from the West). Bestselling books like Famine 1975! and The Population Bomb written in the 1960s would even go so far as to call for an end to food aid, thinking it wasn’t worth the cost to save a doomed developing world.

So at a time when the population pessimists had control of public dialog, it almost makes sense that abortion rights would be granted to women.

The pessimists were proven wrong, but the damage they did to the developing world should not be forgotten. China’s one child policy would lead to the deaths of many baby girls in an attempt to ensure the one child is a son, and there were reports in India of men in villages being dragged away for forced sterilization.

The fact is that countries with educated women, economic development, urbanization, and high life expectancy have falling birth rates. And isn’t that what we all want? Falling birth rates means falling abortion rates.

That means getting women off of subsistence farms and into schools. Findings from the World Resources Institute indicate that improving agricultural technology is key to reach that goal. Increasing yields with better seed along with using natural solutions to avoid soil degradation with native plants can help us “farm smarter”.

This is contrary to what the organic movement is all about. They want women working in the fields all day picking weeds and bugs instead of going to school. (Pesticide free farming!) Yet such reversal of human development would only bring back the era of forced sterilizations and one child policies.

If the pro-life movement is stressed out today, do they really want to return to a time when governments imposed mandatory abortions?