Natural News is the worst of the internet.
By Sharon A. Hill via Doubtful
Would you get your medical advice from a non-medical doctor with inadequate training? How about one investigated by the FBI for supporting killing of scientists? Would you get your news from a site that denies the basic tenets of science and how the universe works? How about a site that promotes policies that can result in death (AIDS denialism, anti-vaccine, homeopathic remedies for deadly diseases such as Ebola)? Is a site led by a alt med salesman that pushes baseless conspiracy theories and calls respected doctors and scientists names (or worse) a reputable source of information?
No. And this is really serious. NO.
Learn the name NATURALNEWS.COM and avoid it entirely. They call themselves “The world’s top news source on natural health”. They are the top source for health misinformation and pseudoscience. This is not in doubt:
NN also publishes this disclaimer:
The information on this site is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice of any kind. Truth Publishing assumes no responsibility for the use or misuse of this material.
In other words, treat this site as a joke because it’s not a science, news, or medical site. And, if you do follow the terrible advice or take our word for it and then hurt yourself, we absolve ourselves of everything.
How noble, eh? Sadly, some people really do believe this stuff.
If you read NN, which is possible because the damn thing is very popular, you are indulging in the wrongness; please go prepared for massive doses of nonsense and delusional commentary. If you share any of these stories as useful or true, you need an immediate intervention. Every time you share one of their links, even to make fun of it, you add to their Google search ranking. So don’t do that. Just don’t ever click on that site for anything.
Skeptoid twice named NN the #1 Worst Anti-Science website:
All of those nasty pesticides that are used by commercial farms to kill insects sure are — to use the scientific term— icky. So, it’s a good thing that shoppers have the option of getting all that ickiness out of their lives by buying organic produce instead, right?
This is what the Whole Foods-type operations want you to believe. And, it works! In the never ending quest to lead a fairy tale “natural life,” people will wait on line to pay extra for a cucumber that will make your live another 50 years.
Too bad the whole thing is one big, fat lie.
The dirty little secret that the huge organic food industry doesn’t want you to know is that “certified organic” produce is not grown with no pesticides, just different ones. One of them is called rotenone, which owes its place on the magic list of approved chemicals for organic farming because it just happens to be a naturally occurring chemical rather than a man-made one. As if that matters. Rotenone is also a pretty decent poison. Whole Foods does not want you to know that either, but I do.
So, let’s take a look at some toxicological data on rotenone. Then perhaps you will decide that the $10 cucumber isn’t such a great deal after all. The following table will probably surprise you:
By Myles Power
Sucralose is an artificial sweetener that goes by many brand names, but the one most will be familiar with is Splenda. The sweetener is synthesised by the selective protection, chlorination, and then deportation of table sugar, resulting in a compound which is approximately 650 times sweeter. It is found in many lower-calorie foods including chewing gum, cereals, and diet pop, and is considered to be safe for human consumption. However, there are some online who disagree and believe that the artificial sweetener poses a real health risk. Why do these people believe this? and is there any validity to their claims? As I did with aspartame, I believe the best way to answer these questions is to give Natural News a visit.
Charlie Sheen is HIV positive. As was revealed on the Dr. Oz show, when diagnosed his viral load was 4.4 million. After six months of the a standard anti-HIV cocktail his viral loads were undetectable.
This does not mean he is HIV negative or free of this virus. As part of the viral life-cycle it goes into hiding inside of cells. It is undetectable while hiding, and also cannot be eradicated by medications. This is a major challenge to curing HIV, or even pushing the efficacy of our current treatments further. Researchers are looking into ways to force the virus out of hiding so that anti-retroviral medications can go to work.
With current anti-HIV treatment someone who is HIV positive can expect to live an almost normal life expectancy free of any major complications of the disease and will not go on to develop AIDS from the virus. The big challenge now is to get this modern medicine to those who are HIV positive in the third world, or to those who cannot afford it.
Interestingly, Charlie Sheen, who has all of the advantages of wealth in a Western industrialized country, opted for third-world treatment of his HIV. He recently went off of his anti-HIV medications and instead decided to rely on the ministrations of an unknown doctor in Mexico making bold claims.
This prompted an on-air intervention by Dr. Oz and Sheen’s own doctor (which was ethically dubious but good television, I guess), after which Sheen reported he would go back on his medications.
Of course, most HIV patients who are lured to Mexico with the promise of a miracle cure will not benefit from a personal intervention by Dr. Oz. Hopefully they will benefit from watching that episode, but if history is any guide (unfortunately) the exposure is likely to lead more people to the Mexico charlatan than warn them away.
Why People Seek Charlatans
The Sheen episode raises a fascinating and important question – what is the allure of the lone maverick making bold claims? Often the answer provided is desperation, but what makes the Sheen example so interesting is that desperation was not a factor. He was effectively in remission from his HIV with undetectable loads. He still has to take medications for the rest of his life, but that seems a small price to pay for taking a horrible deadly disease and transforming it into a benign chronic condition with a normal life-expectancy and quality of life. The situation did not call for desperation.
By Myles Power via YouTube
The food babe has basically made a very comfortable living for herself from searching for a chemical used in food manufacture that also has another use in industry, and telling people to not eat it because……reasons. In this video I talk about her 2013 campaign to stop Subway using a compound known as azodicarbonamide in the production of bread.
Don’t go on a juice cleanse. And please don’t do a colon cleanse.
It seems everyone’s on a detox for the new year, and don’t we all need one? Our bodies are full of toxic chemicals. It would be great if we could just purify ourselves with a few smoothies, right?
Tough luck. Detoxes are bullshit.
It’s easy to get drawn into the marketing of detoxes or cleanses (the two are basically interchangeable these days, both terms are used by those who shill them); they’re everywhere, doesn’t that make them scientific? Some of them claim to help you lose weight, some say they treat diseases, and some just … make you less toxic? Align your chi with your wallpaper? Organize your closet and tell your BFF that yes, her passive-aggressive Facebook status messages about her ex have been lame since about two minutes past the age of 15?
But they don’t work. Why? The answers lie in science, and according to the way our bodies work, detoxes could actually cause you harm. Here’s why you should suppress the urge to try out that next miracle cleanse.
Green Juice Will Not Purify You
Who doesn’t want to think that a delightful mixture of kale, twigs, tree sap, unicorn tears, and whatever Gwyneth Paltrow is raving about this week can make you pretty? It’s glitter in a bottle. Right? Wrong. For one, most green juices are just sugar water. Suja Juice’s Green Supreme has 42 grams of sugar, no iron or B vitamins, and minimal protein. At $6.99 to $8.99 per bottle, you’re getting …. juice. Similarly, BlueprintCleanse, Juice From The Raw, and JUS by Julie are not magic keys to weight loss and well-being. All are cold-pressed, organic, and sell at astronomically high prices with vague promises of making you less gross.
Lumosity to Pay $2 Million to Settle FTC Deceptive Advertising Charges for Its “Brain Training” Program
The creators and marketers of the Lumosity “brain training” program have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges alleging that they deceived consumers with unfounded claims that Lumosity games can help users perform better at work and in school, and reduce or delay cognitive impairment associated with age and other serious health conditions.
As part of the settlement, Lumos Labs, the company behind Lumosity, will pay $2 million in redress and will notify subscribers of the FTC action and provide them with an easy way to cancel their auto-renewal to avoid future billing.
“Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.”
According to the FTC’s complaint, the Lumosity program consists of 40 games purportedly designed to target and train specific areas of the brain. The company advertised that training on these games for 10 to 15 minutes three or four times a week could help users achieve their “full potential in every aspect of life.” The company sold both online and mobile app subscriptions, with options ranging from monthly ($14.95) to lifetime ($299.95) memberships.
A new study out of Australia looked at 26 different Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) products purchased from stores. They performed three types of analysis: heavy metal screening, toxicological analysis, and DNA sequencing. They found that 92% of the products tested had at least one type of contaminant.
This adds to a growing list of studies and revelations about how poorly the supplement industry is regulated, and raises further concerns about the overall quality of herbal and supplement products.
A 2008 study found that about 20% of ayurvedic herbal products contained heavy metal contamination, often at levels high enough to be toxic.
“Although we were able to authenticate almost half (48%) of the products, one-third of these also contained contaminants and or fillers not listed on the label. Product substitution occurred in 30/44 of the products tested and only 2/12 companies had products without any substitution, contamination or fillers.”
A 2014 study published in JAMA found that half of the product recalled by the FDA for being adulterated with banned drugs were dietary supplements, including up to one third of products purchased online. Further, when the FDA followed up they found that 6 months after they had issued a recall for adulterated supplements, two-thirds were still on the market and still contained the banned drugs.
After years of riling up the most vulnerable, desperate, and at times tin foil hat wearing and paranoid contingents in the world, Mike Adams finally comes clean.
“I’ve been making this shit up as I go. How the fuck didn’t anybody catch it?”
Adams’ wild claims about everything from vaccines being a holocaust, vaccines being a government scam, chemicals making your kids gay, or claiming that honey and water makes a great mouthwash? He’s finally admitted that he was just yanking yer’ goat.
“I started the website out as a joke, you know? Nobody could have believed all of that. I mean just look at the atrocious grammar, the videos comparing a chicken nugget to an alien landscape, my insane self-written profile, the goddamn articles themselves. It reads like satire. I mean, nobody could possibly have the cognitive dissonance to run a business like this, not publicly cite any sources, and think they have a shred of credibility, right? I’ve been pulling this whole thing off brilliantly for years.”
Adams smiles when he thinks back over his long and storied career as an organic, alternative health crusader.
A friend of mine shared an eyebrow-raising article on Facebook. The linked story was along the lines of “private planes stolen by terrorists in the Middle East, and an attack is imminent”. The sensible people among his friends good-naturedly mocked him. They ribbed him about how ridiculous the prediction was. And all you had to do was consider the source.
My friend had shared the story from a notoriously crackpot Facebook page. The post lacked any merit, save a few tenuous and unrelated pieces of actual news. This behavior was typical of this particular page. Often, these types of pages hook you with a kernel of truth, and then wrap it in layers of idiocy.
When confronted, this friend said, “well, we’ll see who’s right in time.” The prediction by Natural News has failed to become reality almost a year later.
The Facebook fan pages below have a habit of spitting scientific inquiry and reason in the eye. They also have an unreasonably high number of fans who share their inanity. Shares from the following pages deserve a serious eye roll and shaking of one’s head.
#10 Alex Jones
Facebook fans: 856K
What He Says About Himself
“Documentary Filmmaker, Nationally Syndicated Radio Talkshow & Prisonplanet.tv Host – Free video/audio stream”
What He Really Does
Mr. Jones uses a ton of hyperbole, conspiracy theories, and a loose connection to reality, to whip up fear and loathing in his audience.
Whatever your feelings are on using legislation to increase vaccination rates, you won’t find any legitimate support for implications that vaccines contain toxic doses of chemical. Nor that there are aborted fetal cells in any of the shots we get.
Sample Fan Comment
#9 Food Babe
Facebook fans: 938K
What She Says About Herself
“Vani Hari started FoodBabe.com in April 2011 to spread information about what is really in the American food supply. She teaches people how to make the right purchasing decisions at the grocery store, how to live an organic lifestyle, and how to travel healthfully around the world. The success in her writing and investigative work can be seen in the way food companies react to her uncanny ability to find and expose the truth.”
What She Really Does
Ms. Hari, the “Food Babe”, parrots Dr. Mercola and cobbles together cherry-picked blurbs from questionable studies and Wikipedia. She uses the term “investigation” to excuse the fact that she often gives medical advice without having any education in the life sciences. She picks the weirdest ingredients to go after.
Sample Fan Comment
On Facebook, it’s only a matter of time before someone pulls out the EO sales kit.
Whole Foods is like Vegas. You go there to feel good but you leave broke, disoriented, and with the newfound knowledge that you have a vaginal disease.
Unlike Vegas, Whole Foods’ clientele are all about mindfulness and compassion… until they get to the parking lot. Then it’s war. As I pull up this morning, I see a pregnant lady on the crosswalk holding a baby and groceries. This driver swerves around her and honks. As he speeds off I catch his bumper sticker, which says ‘NAMASTE’. Poor lady didn’t even hear him approaching because he was driving a Prius. He crept up on her like a panther.
As the great, sliding glass doors part I am immediately smacked in the face by a wall of cool, moist air that smells of strawberries and orchids. I leave behind the concrete jungle and enter a cornucopia of organic bliss; the land of hemp milk and honey. Seriously, think about Heaven and then think about Whole Foods; they’re basically the same.
The first thing I see is the great wall of kombucha — 42 different kinds of rotten tea. Fun fact: the word kombucha is Japanese for ‘I gizzed in your tea.’ Anyone who’s ever swallowed the glob of mucus at the end of the bottle knows exactly what I’m talking about. I believe this thing is called “The Mother,” which makes it that much creepier.
Next I see the gluten-free section filled with crackers and bread made from various wheat-substitutes such as cardboard and sawdust. I skip this aisle because I’m not rich enough to have dietary restrictions. Ever notice that you don’t meet poor people with special diet needs? A gluten intolerant house cleaner? A cab driver with Candida? Candida is what I call a rich, white person problem. You know you’ve really made it in this world when you get Candida. My personal theory is that Candida is something you get from too much hot yoga. All I’m saying is if I were a yeast, I would want to live in your yoga pants.
Next I approach the beauty aisle. There is a scary looking machine there that you put your face inside of and it tells you exactly how ugly you are.
Houston doctor Stanislaw Burzynski – a rock star in the alternative medicine world – has spent decades fighting state and federal regulators, who often have taken a dim view of his claims to be able to cure the terminally ill patients no one else can help, using unapproved medicines available only from him.
The Texas Medical Board has repeatedly tried and failed to shut Burzynski down, arguing that the pugnacious Polish immigrant puts patients in danger by marketing unapproved and potentially risky cancer drugs of his own invention.
Burzynski’s latest battle begins Thursday, at a disciplinary hearing in the state capital.
Yet that disdain hasn’t deterred patients from around the world from seeking care at his Houston clinic.
Now, Texas medical officials are trying a different tactic.
Questioning whether this new spa treatment provides all the medical benefits it claims.
One of our most abundant renewable resources is bogus medical therapies. About every day, someone thinks up a new one: sometimes invented from whole cloth, sometimes extrapolated from a real therapy, sometimes tweaked from an old tradition. Today we’re going to look closely at one such spin-the-wheel-and-create-an-alternate-therapy: cryotherapy.
Don’t confuse this with medical cryotherapy, the freezing off of tissue, usually called cryoablation. Alternative cryotherapy is a hijack of an actual medical term repurposed to refer to the use of what they call a cryosauna, the opposite of a regular sauna. Rather than applying ice to a specific body part, a cryosauna is used for what they call Whole Body Cryotherapy. It’s a small room for one or more people, cooled by liquid nitrogen to extreme temperatures, usually about -125°C/-200°F but sometimes advertised as low as -170°C/-275°F. You have to wear special slippers to protect your feet since you can’t touch anything in there, and you have to wear a mask to avoid frostbite to your pulmonary system. You stay in for no more than three minutes.
What is the medical claim? Unfortunately, as it is with so many alternative therapies, cryosaunas are claimed to cure just about anything the proprietor says, and they all have different spiels. Most all of them say it treats inflammation, skin conditions, and aids in workout recovery. There are several spas, plus chiropractors and other alternative practitioners near me who offer cryotherapy, according to Yelp.
Almost all of the customer reviews are raving. Here are some samples:
“My inflammation almost immediately decreased and I felt a huge wave of euphoria similar to a runner’s high.”
“Felt great afterwards. Will try again to see if I have any lasting effects.”
“I feel euphorically energized after each session and I have noticed that my tendinitis has gotten better after 2 sessions.”
“I feel so good afterwards. I can tell this cryotherapy is helping to heal my body!”
Why do these people feel so good unless there’s something to cryosauna therapy? Is it possible their reaction comes from something other than genuine treatment of some medical condition? The evidence shows that it probably is.
Here is the latest fad to make you smarter with one easy trick – Superbrain Yoga. The technique is simple (and worthless, but we’ll get to that).
All you have to do is touch your left hand to your right earlobe, your right hand to your left earlobe, take a deep breath, and do a squat. Who knew it could be so easy to improve your brain function. There are a few more details, helpfully shared by Parenting Special Needs magazine:
– Connect your tongue to your palate.
– Face East
– The left arm must be inside and the right arm must be outside (over the left arm).
– Inhale while squatting down and exhale while standing up.
– You thumbs should be touching the front part of your earlobes, index fingers behind the earlobes.
– Perform the exercise 14-21 times, once or twice a day.
Facing East is very important, because magic.
When I first heard of Superbrain Yoga I thought it was going to be a neuroscience-based pseudoscience, with some hand-waving explanations about blood flow or something. This one is actually blatantly spiritual magical nonsense.
This practice is based on the principles of subtle energy and ear acupuncture. Basically, SuperBrain Yoga allows energy from your lower chakras–or energy centers–to move up to the forehead and crown chakras. When this happens, this energy is transformed into subtle energy, which is utilized by the brain to enhance its proper functioning.
It’s Eastern mysticism, however, which is a far-off exotic culture, so that makes it OK.
From the video description:
What was once known as Miracle Mineral Supplement, but for legal reasons had to change its name to Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS), is a 28% sodium chlorite solution in distilled water currently being sold online as a cure-all tonic. Jim Humble, the man who coined the name and who is also the self-styled Archbishop of his own church (Genesis II), believes that once “activated” by an acidic solution, MMS can be used to cure people of our most feared illnesses including HIV, cancer, and malaria.
In reality MMS is a harmful mixture of toxic compounds that is being aggressively marketed online as a panacea to very sick and unconsenting children. Put simply, it’s the worst kind of woo and should be avoided at all costs.
MISTAKE! i mixed up chloride and chlorite at the start.
Update: 11/02/2015: Related Link: Man Who Sold Industrial Chemical As “Miracle Mineral Solution” Sentenced To 51 Months In Jail (consumerist.com)
By Carrie Poppy via The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry – CSI
By Henry I. Miller and Drew L. Kershen via Forbes
Organic certification is process-based. That is, certifying agents attest to the ability of organic operations to follow a set of production standards and practices which meet the requirements of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 and the [National Organic Program] regulations . . . If all aspects of the organic production or handling process were followed correctly, then the presence of detectable residue from a genetically modified organism alone does not constitute a violation of this regulation. [emphasis added]
The galvanic skin response
I was recently asked to look into a product called Zyto technology. This is an electronic device that you place your palm on top of so that it can read your “galvanic skin response” (GSR) to specific stimuli. It then uses your responses to prescribe a specific treatment.
By MOISES VELASQUEZ-MANOFF via The New York Times
Wheat was first domesticated in southeastern Anatolia perhaps 11,000 years ago. (An archaeological site in Israel, called Ohalo II, indicates that people have eaten wild grains, like barley and wheat, for much longer — about 23,000 years.)
Is this enough time to adapt? To answer that question, consider how some populations have adapted to milk consumption. We can digest lactose, a sugar in milk, as infants, but many stop producing the enzyme that breaks it down — called lactase — in adulthood. For these “lactose intolerant” people, drinking milk can cause bloating and diarrhea. To cope, milk-drinking populations have evolved a trait called “lactase persistence”: the lactase gene stays active into adulthood, allowing them to digest milk.
Milk-producing animals were first domesticated about the same time as wheat in the Middle East. As the custom of dairying spread, so did lactase persistence. What surprises scientists today, though, is just how recently, and how completely, that trait has spread in some populations. Few Scandinavian hunter-gatherers living 5,400 years ago had lactase persistence genes, for example. Today, most Scandinavians do.
Here’s the lesson: Adaptation to a new food stuff can occur quickly — in a few millenniums in this case. So if it happened with milk, why not with wheat?
“Do you accept that you’re a pathological liar?”
Who is Belle Gibson? Via Wikipedia:
Annabelle Natalie “Belle” Gibson (born October 1991) is an Australian … alternative health advocate whose marketing platform was founded on her fraudulent claims of having … foregone conventional cancer treatments to positively self-manage multiple cancers through diet and controversial alternative therapies.
In early March 2015, after media reporting identified Gibson’s apparently fraudulent claims of charity fundraising and donation-making, further media investigation soon revealed that Gibson had also apparently fabricated her stories of cancer, and lied about her age as well as other details of her personal life and history.
via news.com.au (Australia)
BELLE Gibson’s interview with Tara Brown took a tense turn last night, as the hard-hitting reporter confronted the disgraced wellness blogger with fresh evidence suggesting she knew all along that she didn’t have a brain tumour.
Brown hammered shamed health guru, asking, “Do you accept that you’re a pathological liar?”
Gibson replied: “No.”
Gibson, who, in April, was forced to admit that she lied about having brain cancer and cured it through natural means, was offered no reprieve from Brown who was clearly fed up with her storytelling.
“You don’t have a good record on telling the truth, do you?” Brown put to her.
Sitting face-to-face with Brown, Gibson teared up as she told how she “lost everything” after her cancer confession came to light.
But Gibson maintained that she didn’t deceive her followers or the public. She argued that she had been deceived. Gibson said she was told by an immunologist and neurologist, ‘Mark Johns’, that she had terminal brain cancer after he diagnosed her using a ‘frequency’ machine in her home several years ago.
“He went to my home and did a series of tests. There was a machine with lights on the front. There are two metal pads, one below the chair and one behind your back, measuring frequencies and then he said to me that I had a stage four brain tumour and that I had four months to live.
“At the time, I believed I was having radio therapy. When he gave me medication, I was told it was oral chemotherapy and I believed it.”
As the hour-long interview continued, Gibson insisted she was telling the truth about “my reality”.
“I’ve not been intentionally untruthful. I’ve been completely open when speaking about what was my reality and what is my reality now,” she told Brown.
“It doesn’t match your normal or your reality.”
Gibson said she believed “Mark” for years that she was living with the burden of a terminal illness, however her evidence didn’t stack up with the evidence at all and 60 Minutes has not been able to find any record of a ‘Mark Johns’.
After the interview, Gibson handed over her medical records to 60 Minutes which showed that she had a brain scan at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne in 2011, two years before she started to market her sob story to the public for profit and adulation.
Gibson said that she had that brain scan because she started to doubt the diagnosis ‘Johns’ had given her but that the scans had been directly sent to ‘Johns’ from the hospital. Johns then showed her a scan with brain cancer.
However, her medical records from the Alfred stated that she had a 40-minute consultation with a neurologist there who told her that her brain scans were clear. But the reason she went to the Alfred for scans was . . .
“California Gov says yes to poisoning more children with mercury and aluminum in manditory [sic] vaccines,” Carrey wrote. “This corporate fascist must be stopped.”
Carrey didn’t stop there. Continuing:
They say mercury in fish is dangerous but forcing all of our children to be injected with mercury in thimerosol is no risk. Make sense? I am not anti-vaccine. I am anti-thimerosal, anti-mercury. They have taken some of the mercury laden thimerosal out of vaccines. NOT ALL! The CDC can’t solve a problem they helped start. It’s too risky to admit they have been wrong about mercury/thimerasol. They are corrupt. Go to traceamounts.com watch the documentary and judge for yourselves. If you really care about the kids you will. It’s shocking!
Carrey linked to the Web site for “Trace Amounts: Autism, Mercury, and the Hidden Truth,” a 2014 documentary that examines “the role of mercury poisoning in the Autism epidemic.” (Low doses of the preservative thimerasol, which contains mercury, are not harmful, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; however, it is not used in most childhood vaccines “as a precautionary measure.”)
“It was a rare moment in the spotlight for a group that has been increasingly shunned and chastised,” the Los Angeles Times wrote of the film’s premiere in February. “Though anti-vaccine proponents say they are doing what they believe is best for their children, pro-vaccine parents argue that choosing not to vaccinate puts the overall health of a community at risk.”
Those who insist vaccines are dangerous or may cause autism drew ire in California earlier this year after a measles outbreak at Disneyland in Anaheim.
Also See: Jim Carrey bent on ruining his career with dumb Twitter rant about vaccines (Doubtful News)
Just created this meme, please share far and wide
Up until the visit with Monsanto scientists, Nye disapproved of the use and creation of GMOs. According to the Washington Post, Nye stated in his 2014 book, “Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation” that the foods containing GMO crops are fundamentally problematic. The Post explained that Nye also said that GMOs could possibly have “environmental risks” that cannot be ruled out with any kind of certainty (1).
Yet, somehow one visit to Monsanto some 10+ years after aligning himself against GMOs, and Nye appears to be singing GMO praises. So what exactly happened during that visit? Was it the science as pro-GMO advocates claim that changed Nye’s opinion?
Bill Maher’s Interview with Nye
Backstage after his appearance on Bill Maher’s “Real Time,” Nye revealed that he’s revising the entire chapter on GMOs in his 2014 book.
I went to Monsanto,” Nye said during the backstage interview, “and I spent a lot of time with the scientists there, and I have revised my outlook, and I’m very excited about telling the world. When you’re in love, you want to tell the world.”
It’s not surprising that anti-GMO supporters are astounded by Nye’s change in his stance on GMOs. It begs the questions: Why did Nye decide to visit Monsanto after all these years? What was he shown or told that changed his long-held opinion?
To add more fuel to the conspiracy theories, Nye is being tight-lipped, citing his revised chapter will reveal all. However, Monsanto’s tweets reveal their immense pleasure in winning Nye over to their side.
by Laurie L. Dove via HowStuffWorks
For 10 years, Nancy drank diet soda — sometimes as many as four or five a day. Otherwise, she ate and drank in moderation, exercised regularly and got plenty of sleep. Then one day, as Nancy picked up her glass of diet soda, it slipped from her fingers and crashed to the floor. Shocked, Nancy tried again, only to discover her hand wouldn’t properly respond. The problems subsisted for weeks, then her legs began to buckle and her vision to blur. Eventually, Nancy’s doctor diagnosed her with multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease that affects the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves.
Desperate to know more about MS, Nancy scoured the Internet for answers. She learned MS usually strikes between ages 20 and 40, that it affects women more often than men and that scientists don’t yet understand its root cause (source: WebMD). Then she came across an obscure message board and realized she might have a clue after all. There might be a link between aspartame and MS. Wasn’t that the ingredient in all the diet sodas she’d had over the years?
While the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation stops short of saying aspartame — or any additive, for that matter — is 100 percent safe, it doesn’t subscribe to the notion that aspartame causes MS. Aspartame was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in carbonated beverages, and other beverages and foods in the 1980s. After a volley of complaints from consumers experiencing everything from insomnia to diarrhea after ingesting carbonated beverages containing aspartame, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigated aspartame’s use and concluded there wasn’t any evidence that it caused these symptoms. More to the point, the CDC failed to find a link between aspartame and the onset of MS (source: Guthrie).
The idea that aspartame causes MS most likely stems from a supposed first-hand account of an aspartame expert that has persisted on the Internet and in chain e-mails since the 1990s. Although this article is frequently attributed to the author “Nancy Merkle,” nobody has ever come forward to take credit and the article contains no citations (source: Guthrie).
The FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research refuted the claims made in the account, which linked aspartame to a number of diseases and maladies, including MS. According to the FDA, aspartame is one of the most frequently tested food additives and there’s no evidence to support a link between aspartame and MS (source: Hattan). That’s good news for Nancy and others who drink diet beverages and opt for “low-cal” foods containing aspartame.
Several years ago, during a lecture on Science-Based Medicine, I noted that if there were one medical pseudoscience that was vulnerable to extinction it was homeopathy. Homeopathy is perhaps the most obviously absurd medical pseudoscience. It is also widely studied, and has been clearly shown to not work. Further, there is a huge gap in the public understanding of what homeopathy is; it therefore seems plausible that the popularity of homeopathy can take a huge hit just by telling the public what it actually is.
Further, homeopathy is in a precarious regulatory position. Homeopathic products are presented and regulated as drugs, but clearly they are not, and they are also not supplements, herbal drugs, nutrition-based, or natural products. They are simply fraudulent drugs riding a wave of ignorance.
In the last few years homeopathy has had a rough time. While the industry is still growing, there are signs of clear trouble on the horizon. Let’s review:
Homeopathy is a 200 year old pre-scientific system of medicine based upon magical thinking. It is mostly based on two notions, the first of which is that like cures like. In other words, a substance that causes a symptom can cure that symptom in extremely low doses. There is no scientific basis for this, despite the desperate attempts by homeopaths to invoke vaccine-like analogies, or their new favorite, hormesis.
The second notion is that you make a remedy more powerful by diluting it to extreme degrees. People have fun making comparisons, such as the need to drink a solar-system’s worth of water to have a 50% chance of getting a single molecule of active ingredient. No problem, say the homeopaths, homeopathic potions contain the magical “essence” of what was previously diluted in them. It’s turtles all the way down.
Medical students and residents frustrated with bogus advice from doctors on TV have, for more than a year, been asking the American Medical Association to clamp down and “defend the integrity of the profession.”
Now the AMA is finally taking a stand on quack MDs who spread pseudoscience in the media.
“This is a turning point where the AMA is willing to go out in public and actively defend the profession,” Benjamin Mazer, a medical student at the University of Rochester who was involved in crafting the resolution, said. “This is one of the most proactive steps that the AMA has taken [on mass media issues].”
The AMA will look at creating ethical guidelines for physicians in the media, write a report on how doctors may be disciplined for violating medical ethics through their press involvement, and release a public statement denouncing the dissemination of dubious medical information through the radio, TV, newspapers, or websites.
The move came out of the AMA’s annual meeting in Chicago this week, where representatives from across the country vote on policies brought forward by members of the medical community.
Mazer and fellow medical students and residents were prompted to push the AMA after noticing that the organization was mostly silent during the recent public debates about the ethics of Dr. Oz sharing unfounded medical advice on his exceptionally popular TV show.
“Dr. Oz has something like 4 million viewers a day,” Mazer previously told Vox in an interview. “The average physician doesn’t see a million patients in their lifetime. That’s why organized medicine should be taking action.”
I’ve frequently written about the “arrogance of ignorance,” a phenomenon that anyone who’s paid attention to what quacks, cranks, or antivaccine activists (but I repeat myself) write and say beyond a certain period of time will have encountered. Basically, it’s the belief found in such people—and amplified in groups—that somehow they can master a subject as well or better than experts who have spent their entire professional lives studying the subject on their own, often just through the use of Google University and the echo chamber discussion forums that they frequent with their fellow cranks. Thus we have, for example, the rambling clown car of antivaccine bloggers over at the crank blog Age of Autism declaring that, contrary to the mountains of evidence otherwise, vaccines cause autism, “brain damage,” autoimmune diseases and all sorts of mean and nasty other conditions. Skeptics quite properly point out that (1) there is no convincing evidence from well-designed and well-executed studies to support these links; (2) there is a lot of evidence from well-designed and well-executed studies that there is no link between vaccines and these conditions given that such studies invariably are unable to detect differences in the prevalence of these conditions associated with vaccines (or, in the case of the mercury militia, thimerosal-containing vaccines); meaning (3) the most parsimonious explanation for these results is that there almost certainly no link. What is the response? Antivaccine cranks will invoke the pharma shill gambit and all sorts of dire conspiracies on the part of the CDC, big pharma, the FDA, and the World Health Organization (WHO) to “suppress” smoking gun evidence that vaccines cause autism.
This is a well-known phenomenon known as the Dunning-Kruger effect, a phenomenon whereby people who are unknowledgeable or incompetent about a topic hold an unjustifiably elevated estimate of their own knowledge base on the topic. In the antivaccine movement, the Dunning-Kruger effect tends to take the form of parents who think that their University of Google knowledge trumps the knowledge of physicians and scientists . . .
A Los Angeles middle school has turned WiFi off in a classroom to accommodate a teacher, Anura Lawson, who believes she has electromagnetic sensitivity. Now Lawson is petitioning to have WiFi turned off in every classroom in California. That’s what you get for catering to pseudoscience – more pseudoscience.
Electromagnetic (EM) sensitivity is a controversial disorder; well, controversial in that the scientific community has investigated it and concluded that it does not exist, but some individuals still believe they have it. Like many spurious disorders, the symptoms are mostly non-specific. Lawson claims she experienced, “dizziness, migraines, and heart palpitations,” while her daughter claims that her “brain was running slower.”
Such non-specific symptoms can be the result of anything stressing out the system: poor sleep, lack of physical activity, an unrecognized chronic illness, anxiety or depression. They may also be purely psychological. There are no specific symptoms or objective signs to indicate that there is any pathology present. Once treatable pathology has been ruled out, it’s best to focus on treating symptoms and improving quality of life.However, there are many fake or dubious diagnoses out there to place a label on patients with such non-specific symptoms. These labels have changed over the generations, but apparently have always existed. Today there are several popular fad diagnoses for non-specific symptoms, including candida hypersensitivity, multiple chemical sensitivity, chronic Lyme disease, adrenal fatigue and EM sensitivity.
Giving someone a dubious diagnosis can be harmful. It may lead to unnecessary treatment, may delay or prevent making a correct diagnosis of an underlying disease, may delay or prevent optimal treatment, is often expensive, perpetuates false ideas about health and disease, and fosters mistrust of medical professionals, often to the point of conspiracy theories.
There have been a number of provocative studies of what is now called idiopathic environmental intolerance with attribution to electromagnetic fields (IEI-EMF).
Were Conspiracy Theorists Right?
The federal government has lowered the recommended level of fluoride in drinking water for the first time in five decades.
The Department of Health and Human Services is now advising water supply managers to reduce levels of the mineral to 0.7 milligrams per liter (mg/l). The previous recommendation, developed in 1962, advised communities to permit fluoride concentrations between 0.7 and 1.2 mg/l.
The reduction in recommended fluoride levels was driven in part because Americans now have access to fluoride in various forms, including toothpaste and mouthwashes, which were not in widespread use half a century ago. Because of this, more people are exposed to too much fluoride and can experience fluorosis, white stains in the enamel of their teeth, from too much fluoride. Mild fluorosis appears as scattered white flecks, frosty edges or chalk-like lines on teeth, while the white spots get larger with severe fluorosis.
“Fluoride is voluntarily added to some drinking water systems as a public health measure for reducing the incidence of cavities among the treated population. The decision to fluoridate a water supply … is not mandated by EPA or any other federal entity,” the United States Environmental Protection Agency wrote.
By Debra Kelly via Listverse
The main goal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is to, theoretically, keep us safe from all those nasty diseases that they have locked away in their labs, their clean rooms, and their biohazard vaults. But, people are people, and people are naturally suspicious of anyone with that many nasty tools at their disposal. This has led a some pretty wild theories about just what’s going on behind the closed doors of the CDC.
10 • The Coffin Stockpile
The CDC is located in Atlanta, Georgia, and that didn’t go unnoticed by people who had also seen what looked like a huge stockpile of coffins sitting in a field along Interstate 20, outside Madison, Georgia. Throw in proximity to the airport, and the rumor mill started turning.
According to the conspiracy theorists, the field was the site of coffins that the CDC was stockpiling in preparation for what they were calling a “high-casualty event.” Most recently, that was the massive Ebola outbreak, when conspiracy theorists realized that not only were the coffins still there, but there was also a page on the CDC website dedicated to the handling and disposal of the bodies of people who had died from Ebola. The site absolutely does specify that special caskets were required for burial. (Originally, they were called “hermetically sealed caskets,” a term that was replaced with “metal” caskets in a January 2015 update.)
There are a couple of huge problems with the whole theory. For one, the caskets are not actually caskets; they’re burial vault liners, which are placed inside the grave in areas that are prone to ground conditions like flooding. The heavy liners keep soil from shifting and collapsing into a wooden casket. Also, the burial vaults don’t belong to the CDC, FEMA, or any other government agency; they belong to the company that manufactures them, Vantage Products. The field in Georgia is just where they store them, and there’s nothing fishy about it, as their manufacturing facilities are located nearby.
9 • The Man-Made AIDS Virus
The idea that AIDS was a man-made virus unleashed on an unsuspecting population really got its start in an East German publication, allegedly sponsored by the KGB, called AIDS: USA Home-Made Evil. The 1986 work of two scientists, the pamphlet argued that the American government had used their Fort Detrick, Maryland, laboratory to combine a sheep virus with a human one to create AIDS.
The whole idea was taken a step further by Dr. William C. Douglass, who wrote AIDS: The End of Civilization and claimed that the German scientists were right, and the World Health Organization (WHO) and the CDC were responsible for the introduction of the virus into the human population. He claimed it wasn’t hard because it was spread through pretty much any kind of casual contact that you could think of, including mosquitoes.
Strecker Group head Dr. Robert Strecker also jumped on the conspiracy bandwagon with some even more impressive theories. According to him, the CDC is actively spreading the AIDS virus, which is actually a hybrid between a cow virus and a human one, and there are six different types of AIDS viruses all engineered in what he vaguely suggested might be a partnership with the Communists. His theories, works, and poorly made amateur videos went on to inspire Dr. Alan Cantwell, who pointed the finger at the CDC for what he believed were clear political motivations for their active spread of AIDS.
According to Cantwell, the CDC is the instrument of a genocide targeting America’s gay population. One of his fellow theorists goes, amazingly, a step further and suggests that this incredible attempt at genocide calls for nothing less than martial law and a revocation of civil liberties while the whole problem is sorted out.
8 • The CDC, Mercury-Tainted Vaccines, And Autism
The battle over whether parents should or shouldn’t vaccinate their children is an ongoing one, and there’s a pretty fascinating story on the conspiracy theorists’ side. In 2005, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. published an article in Rolling Stone linking the big pharmaceutical chains with the government’s tendency to hide potentially dangerous effects.
According to Kennedy, the CDC held a meeting at the Simpsonwood Conference Center, that he described using words and phrases like “isolated” and “complete secrecy.” It was invitation-only, and only top officials from various parts of the government were invited—from the FDA, the WHO, and everyone from a who’s-who list of drug companies. They were under strict orders not to discuss anything.
The whole meeting allegedly had to do with findings released by a CDC epidemiologist that linked mercury-based vaccines with a high rate of autism and other developmental problems like delays in speech and hyperactivity. According to the data, vaccines were responsible for raising the instances of autism to one in 166 cases—up from the normal one in 2,500.
The rest of the conference, Kennedy says, was spent discussing how to cover everything up. He says that the transcripts of the super-top-secret meeting (which he acquired through the Freedom of Information Act) detail the damage control mode that all the representatives went into. Data was reworked, and the CDC was more than happy to lend a helping hand in getting rid of the mercury-based vaccinations, not by destroying them but by selling them and exporting them to other countries.
The transcripts convinced Kennedy that the dangers of vaccinations were real, pointing out that other countries, including Russia, had banned the mercury-based additive from vaccinations decades ago. He goes on to say that the clear conflict of interest and the connections between the CDC and the financial interests of the drug companies make it clear that something needs to be done.
The story hasn’t had an easy run of it. Originally, it first appeared in both Salon and Rolling Stone. Salon retracted the story, while it remained up on the Rolling Stone site in a pay-only section, until disappearing in what they called a “redesign error.” The article then reappeared, and Rolling Stone denied that they had purposely removed it, even though there were no links to the article anywhere, and search terms turned up nothing.
According to Kennedy, there are two doctors that have had access to the information he did: Mark and David Geiers. The Geiers themselves are controversial at best, promoting what they call a cure for autism that involves chemical castration. Mark Geier’s medical license was suspended for promoting this “cure,” and David Geier, who wasn’t even a doctor, was charged with practicing medicine without a license.
By Yvette d’Entremont via gawker
Vani Hari, AKA the Food Babe, has amassed a loyal following in her Food Babe Army. The recent subject of profiles and interviews in the New York Times, the New York Post and New York Magazine, Hari implores her soldiers to petition food companies to change their formulas. She’s also written a bestselling book telling you that you can change your life in 21 days by “breaking free of the hidden toxins in your life.” She and her army are out to change the world.
She’s also utterly full of shit.
I am an analytical chemist with a background in forensics and toxicology. Before working full-time as a science writer and public speaker, I worked as a chemistry professor, a toxicology chemist, and in research analyzing pesticides for safety. I now run my own blog, Science Babe, dedicated to debunking pseudoscience that tends to proliferate in the blogosphere. Reading Hari’s site, it’s rare to come across a single scientific fact. Between her egregious abuse of the word “toxin” anytime there’s a chemical she can’t pronounce and asserting that everyone who disagrees with her is a paid shill, it’s hard to pinpoint her biggest sin.
Hari’s superhero origin story is that she came down with appendicitis and didn’t accept the explanation that appendicitis just happens sometimes. So she quit her job as a consultant, attended Google University and transformed herself into an uncredentialed expert in everything she admittedly can’t pronounce. Slap the catchy moniker “Food Babe” on top, throw in a couple of trend stories and some appearances on the Dr. Oz show, and we have the new organic media darling.
But reader beware. Here are some reasons why she’s the worst assault on science on the internet.
Natural, Organic, GMO-Free Fear
Hari’s campaign last year against the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte drove me to launch my site (don’t fuck with a Bostonian’s Pumpkin-Spice Anything). She alleged that the PSL has a “toxic” dose of sugar and two (TWO!!) doses of caramel color level IV in carcinogen class 2b.
The word “toxic” has a meaning, and that is “having the effect of a poison.” Anything can be poisonous depending on the dose. Enough water can even be poisonous in the right quantity (and can cause a condition called hyponatremia).
But then, the Food Babe has gone on record to say, ” There is just no acceptable level of any chemical to ingest, ever.” I wonder if anybody’s warned her about good old dihydrogen monoxide?
It’s a goddamn stretch to say that sugar has deleterious effects, other than making your Lululemons stretch a little farther if you don’t “namaste” your cheeks off. However, I implore you to look at the Safety Data Sheet for sugar. The average adult would need to ingest about fifty PSLs in one sitting to get a lethal dose of sugar. By that point, you would already have hyponatremia from an overdose of water in the lattes.
And almost enough caffeine for me.
Joni Mitchell was hospitalized this week, but the songwriter has been sick for years. She has described her debilitating illness as “a slow, unpredictable killer–a terrorist disease. It will blow up one of your organs, leaving you in bed for a year.” Yet doctors have described this same illness as an internet meme, a delusion spread online.
Mitchell is talking about Morgellons disease, a condition where people report their skin crawling with parasitic, foreign fibers, often sprouting out of sores and lesions, in addition to fatigue and other health problems associated with itching skin. Morgellons is emphatically not accepted by the medical community. In fact, many doctors and researchers credit the internet with creating the conditions to spread Morgellons self-diagnoses as a kind of digital folie a deux. “It seems to be a socially transmitted disease over the Internet,” mass delusional specialist (yup, that’s a thing) Robert E. Bartholomew told the Los Angeles Times in 2006.
In 2008, a panel of doctors answered questions about Morgellons for the Washington Post. Dr. Jeffrey Meffert explicitly pinpointed the internet and digital communities as the reason why the idea of the disease caught on, saying the disease “has only existed as long as high speed internet.” Skeptics don’t see Morgellons as a virus, but see it as a misbelief gone viral.
In 2012, the U.S. Center for Disease Control investigated Morgellons and concluded that it is psychosomatic. A CDC spokesperson told me the center is no longer tracking reports of Morgellons since it published the study.
Many doctors believe that people who self-diagnose with Morgellons have delusions of parasitosis and infestation, and are inflicting their abrasions on themselves. In other words: It’s all in their heads.
People who identify as Morgellons patients—or “Morgies”—are upset by this assessment. So where do people go when they feel like the medical community rejects them? Online.
Also See: Morgellons (Wikipedia)
Glyphosate (Monsanto’s Roundup) is a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide used to kill weeds, especially annual broadleaf weeds and grasses that are known to compete with commercial crops grown around the world. It has several advantages over many herbicides in that it breaks down in the soil into non-toxic organic molecules, reducing or eliminating contamination of groundwater and lower soils.
Monsanto has developed genetically modified (GMO) grains that are resistant to glyphosate, so that agriculture can apply the herbicide to kill the competitive weeds while not harming the crop. This allows farmers to suppress the weeds while allowing better production out of the grain crop.
Whatever the benefits of glyphosate, GMOs and the herbicide are tied together in many minds. And there has been an ongoing effort by many people to claim that glyphosate causes cancer. But let’s look at the science, because maybe we’ll get some information.
What’s this about cancer?
The famous (or is that infamous?) study from Séralini, which claimed that glyphosate and GMO corn caused cancer in rats, is quite popular with the anti-GMO forces. For many reasons, including bad statistics, improper experimental design, and bad conclusions, the article was retracted by the journal.
Because that article was retracted, it doesn’t actually count because it really doesn’t exist (but to be fair, it was eventually, re-published in a very low ranked journal). This story is frighteningly similar to the story of that cunning fraud, Mr. Andy Wakefield, who wrote a fraudulent, and ultimately retracted, article about vaccines and autism. I guess Séralini is the Wakefield of the GMO world.
There are better studies out there–maybe.
By Thom Scott-Phillips via Gizmodo
Anti-vaccination beliefs can cause real, substantive harm, as shown by the recent outbreak of measles in the US. These developments are as shocking and distressing as their consequences are predictable. But if the consequences are so predictable, why do the beliefs persist?
It is not simply that anti-vaxxers don’t understand how vaccines work (some of them may not, but not all of them). Neither are anti-vaxxers simply resistant to all of modern medicine (I’m sure that many of them still take pain killers when they need to). So the matter is not as simple as plain stupidity. Some anti-vaxxers are not that stupid, and some stupid people are not anti-vaxxers. There is something more subtle going on.
We all have what psychologists call “folk” theories, or “naïve” theories, of how the world works. You do not need to learn Newton’s laws to believe that an object will fall to the floor if there is nothing to support it. This is just something you “know” by virtue of being human. It is part of our naïve physics, and it gives us good predictions of what will happen to medium-sized objects on planet earth.
Naïve physics is not such a good guide outside of this environment. Academic physics, which deals with very large and very small objects, and with the universe beyond our own planet, often produces findings that are an affront to common sense.
As well as physics, we also have naïve theories about the natural world (naïve biology) and the social world (naïve psychology). An example of naïve biology is “vitalistic causality” – the intuitive belief that a vital power or life force, acquired from food and water, is what makes humans active, prevents them from being taken ill, and enables them to grow. Children have this belief from a very young age.
Naïve theories of all kinds tend to persist even in the face of contradictory arguments and evidence. Interestingly, they persist even in the minds of those who, at a more reflexive level of understanding, know them to be false.
It seems that the regulation of supplements, homeopathy, and “natural” products in Canada is as bad as the US. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC, the equivalent of NPR and PBS in the US) recently conducted a demonstration of just how worthless and deceptive the regulations are.
They created a fake treatment called “Nighton” which they claimed treated fever, pain, and inflammation in children and infants. They then applied to the government for a Natural Product License. On the application they checked all the appropriate boxes and submitted as evidence copied pages from a 1902 homeopathic reference book. That was it. Five months later their fictitious product was approved as “safe and effective.”
What this means is that when the Canadian government approves a natural product as safe and effective, it is completely meaningless. It is essentially a license to lie to the public about a health product.
It is reasonable to assume that many if not most of the public, if they see a product on the pharmacy shelf with the label, “licensed as safe and effective for fever, pain, and inflammation,” with an official government issued product number, that some sort of testing and quality assurance was involved.
The situation is identical in the US. Companies can market homeopathy products or supplements without providing any evidence that the product is safe, and can even make health claims (as long as they don’t mention a specific disease by name) again without the need to provide any evidence. In essence, in the US or Canada a company can put anything in a pill or bottle (as long as it doesn’t contain an actual drug), then without any testing market their random assortment of vitamins, herbs, or just water (in the case of homeopathy) with specific health claims. Pharmacies are happy to sell these fake products side-by-side with real medicines.
This is nothing short of a scandal.
See if you know how many of these GMO “facts” are right.
by Brian Dunning via skeptoid
No matter how many articles are published detailing how and why genetically engineered crops are safe, misinformation always seems to reign. Anti-biotech activists persist in charging GMO crops (Genetically Modified Organisms) with just about every crime against humanity, ethics, and science. Although Monsanto is the company drawing nearly 100% of the flak from anti-biotech activists and is probably the only genetic engineering company known to most people, it’s actually only one of the six biggest companies that develop GMO crops. The others are DuPont-Pioneer, Syngenta, Dow Agrosciences, BASF, and Bayer Cropscience. Beyond the big six, about 20 other smaller companies located all around the world are also in the business. But don’t expect to go down to the local nursery and find seeds branded with these names: like most manufacturers, they all sell under a variety of more customer-friendly brands. Monsanto, the market leader among the big six, sells 15 different brands, each tailored to specific products or regions. What happens to all these brands of seeds that get bought, sown, and reaped? See if you can guess all of these “fact or fiction” choices right, starting with:
Supermarkets are full of GMO foods.
True, but mostly as ingredients in prepared food. About 85% of three major food crops grown in the US — corn, soy, and cotton — are GMO. Most of the produce you buy (corn and soybeans being the only real notable exceptions) are currently not GMO. Another exception is the papaya. Most of the papayas available in the United States come from Hawaii, where the ringspot virus decimated the species in the mid 1990s. But in 1998, a crop scientist found a way to insert a single ringspot gene into the papaya, thus conferring natural immunization; and now the Hawaiian papaya flourish.
But beyond those three examples from the produce aisle, it’s pretty hard to find a prepared food product that contains no corn, soy, or cottonseed products, so the answer is yes. If you live in the Americas, you’ve been eating a lot of GMO food from the supermarket for the past several decades.
GMO leads to monoculture.
False. Supply and demand is what leads to monoculture, and that’s got nothing to do with GMOs. Monoculture is when you plant the same crop over and over again in the same field, without rotating. Rotating crops naturally prevents the most common pathogen and pest antagonists to gain a foothold on any particular crop, and keeps the soil as healthy as practical. Farmers have understood the benefits of crop rotation since at least 6000 BCE. If there was an equal demand for corn, soy, and cotton, farmers would be able to rotate perfectly and everything would be hunky dory.
Sadly that’s not the case. In 2011, the United States had 84 million acres of corn; 74 million acres of soybeans, 56 million acres of hay, 46 million acres of wheat, but only 10 million acres of cotton. So many products, both food and industrial, come from these, but the acreage needed from each is so disparate that crop rotation is often problematic. Further complicating it is that each crop grows best in a specific climate zone and soil. It’s really, really hard to find two or more crops that are both in equal demand and that will grow well on any given farm’s ecology.
Three of these top five crops are mostly genetically engineered varieties. But as we can see, this has nothing to do with the problems of monoculture or the farmer’s ability to rotate.
GMO crops contain genes from jellyfish and other animals.
False. There have never been any GMO crops brought to market that contained any animal genes. But it’s not necessarily for lack of trying. In many parts of the world, crops can freeze and get destroyed. So one thing researchers have tried is to give them some genes that confer antifreeze abilities in the winter flounder, a fish that can survive sub-freezing temperature. These genes express a protein (found in many plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria) that binds to small ice crystals, preventing them from becoming larger ice crystals that can damage cells. Although it would be great if we could give fruit and vegetable orchards this same ability, so far it hasn’t worked. This is why genetic engineers are always going to be busy: for every one project that succeeds, a hundred fail.