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The cult of anti-GMO: A lot like the cult of antivaccine

Over the years I’ve been studying science versus pseudoscience, medicine vs. quackery, reason versus crankery, I’ve noticed one thing. The cranks, pseudoscientists, and quacks of the world have a hard time dealing with legitimate criticism. Now, I know I sometimes get a bit—shall we say?—frisky with my criticisms. OK, obnoxious. I have, however, mellowed considerably since the dawn of this blog, as any reading of posts from the early days (or even not-so-early days) will confirm. Sure, I do occasionally still reach back into that reservoir of the “Insolence” that got me started, but I’d never have lasted so long as a blogger if snark and sarcasm were all I had. Over time, the snark and sarcasm remain, but at a much lower level than before. I don’t need them as much any more, but I do still find them to be useful tools.

Oddly enough, though—although it could be a bit of confirmation bias—it’s my less “colorful” posts, my more sober, straightforward analyses of quackery that tend to provoke the nastiest reactions. I could be wrong, but I think it’s because they can’t handle sober, science-based criticism. Indeed, although, sadly, it’s not a trait that’s limited to cranks, if there’s one characteristic that nearly all cranks share it’s an intolerance of criticism and a tendency to want to shut it out. I just saw a story the other day that illustrates this principle:

The event began innocently enough. A small group of Centre For Inquiry members and UBC Okanagan professors were in the Okanagan College theatre lobby handing out information sheets on the science of genetically modified organisms.

The speaker for the evening was Jeffrey Smith, a well-known anti-GMO activist who has zero scientific credentials, though you might recognize him as a practitioner of yogic flying and member of the Natural Law Party.

We talked to people as they came in and were energetic but polite. After a few minutes, the organizers approached and accused us of being disruptive, disrespectful and of having removed one of their posters.

Their rather scary leader raised her voice, told us we were trespassing and threatened to call security, causing quite a commotion. Since we were there to attend the event and it was a public space, she was unable to remove us and the poster in question was found on the floor, where it had fallen before our arrival.

As the showdown became a standoff, a fellow who had already been seated came out, complaining the organizers had forced him to leave. He said they had asked everyone in the theatre to stand if they believed in the anti-GMO movement. Those left sitting were told to leave, and he had to fight to get his money back.

No dissenters allowed.

Exactly. Where have we seen this before? Oh, yes, I remember. Antivaccinationists do the same thing. Remember the antivaccine conference Autism One a few years ago? For those of you not familiar with Autism One, it’s a yearly antivaccine autism quackfest where the quackiest of autism quack treatments are featured, treatments like homeopathy and bleach enemas. Ken Reibel and Jamie Bernstein tried to attend the quackfest back in 2011. They weren’t doing anything illegal. They weren’t disrupting things. Certainly, they weren’t going as far as this CFI group and handing out leaflets.

So what happened? Of course, someone recognized Ken, and Jamie and Ken were kicked out. It was the second time Ken had been expelled from this particular quackfest. Both times, he was escorted out, the first time by hotel security, the second time by police.

Now, at an anti-GMO rally, we see an anti-GMO activist trying to do the same sort of thing and doing his best to make sure that no one asked any “inconvenient” questions that he couldn’t answer. In case you doubt the level of Smith’s crankery, it’s worth taking a look at this post about the wild theories of Jeffrey Smith. It turns out that not only is Smith into wild anti-GMO conspiracy theories, but he is into transcendental meditation. That in and of itself isn’t necessarily cranky; lots of people are into TM. However, he’s into more than just TM. He’s into yogic flying technique, all in order to reduce crime and increase “purity and harmony” in the “collective consciousness.” In addition, he went on a major rant over Michael Taylor’s being appointed as a senior advisor to the commissioner of the FDA because he had been Monsanto’s attorney before becoming policy chief at the FDA in the 1990s.

Meanwhile, apparently his talk was full of the usual tropes. One particularly amusing one was his warning to the audience not to confuse correlation with causation. So far, so good. Then, according to Blythe Nilson, he proceeded to do exactly that by showing many graphs correlating the increase in use of GMOs with increases in all sorts of diseases, and apparently he did it rather sloppily at that. Even more amusingly:

As soon as the talk was over, before Smith even asked for questions, a woman in the front row leapt up and launched into a passionate discourse on chemtrails, another topic of one of my previous columns. She rightly pointed out the graphs Smith used were merely correlational and declared it could just as easily have been chemtrails rather than GMOs on the X axis.

A few in the audience applauded, and I clapped with them. Me – applauding a woman who is convinced jet contrails are a secret government plot! Strange bedfellows, indeed.

Ultimately, a lone skeptic asking a question was shouted down, so much so that one of the skeptics was frightened about returning to the cars. As was the case with Autism One, the behavior of the organizers of Jeffery Smith’s talk was, above all else, indicative of fear, fear of criticism, fear of science that he can’t answer. Scientific meetings are not like this. Skeptical meetings are not like this either; indeed, at The Amazing Meeting (TAM) in 2010, a moon hoax believer managed to get to the front of the line to challenge Adam Savage about the Mythbusters episode on moon hoaxers. He was not expelled; in fact, Savage respectfully answered him and he was later seen at various other events at TAM. At the Lorne Trottier Symposium later that year, a believer in Royal Rife quackery asked about it. The panel (and I) only started to ask him to leave after the man had worn out his welcome by dominating and monopolizing the question and answer session to the point where people waiting in line behind him were denied an opportunity to ask their questions due to time constraints. In other words, he got his say and was not asked to leave until he had reached the point of showing an extreme lack of consideration for his fellow audience members waiting to ask questions of the panel. Nothing I see in this account suggests that this is what was going on here.

Blythe Nilson compares the anti-GMO movement to a “cult,” but the same could be said about just about any crank movement. Such a description is especially appropriate for the antivaccine movement, as I’ve described many times. Another example that comes to mind are defenders of Stanislaw Burzynski, who go out of their way to shut out disconfirming information and arguments, while attacking enemies of the Great Man. Perusing the comments of Nilson’s post is an exercise that reminds me very much of when Anne Dachel sends her flying monkeys to a post about vaccines to dive bomb the comments with the poo of their arguments, except in this case it’s mainly one person doing it with anti-GMO rhetoric.

The more I see events like this, the more obvious the traits shared by antivaccine activists and anti-GMO activists become.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

149 replies on “The cult of anti-GMO: A lot like the cult of antivaccine”

I’ve actually “debated” (online) an anti-GMO crank who also believes in chemtrails (in addition to other crankery).

It takes a cultish state of mind to applaud (or excuse) the destruction of GM crop test fields, while simultaneously complaining that GM crops aren’t tested sufficiently.

I’m glad to see Orac addressing the issues surrounding anti-GMO activism. The consequences potentially could be even more severe than what will happen if antivaxers get their way.

I have noticed similar tendencies from the quackery proponents. They lash out, in an incredibly irrational manner, to even the most basic of criticisms. They remind me in many respects of “foam at the mouth” political hacks, who similairly lash out in furious retort to criticisms of their demagogue of choice.

I did want to point out one variation however. By and large, the woo pushers lack scientific credentials, so argument from ignorance is the expected bill of fare. However, some cranks out there have shockingly managed to complete a rigorous course of study from an accredited institution. These are the individuals that are far more dangerous, since the lay public may grant them undue credibility.

In my dealing with credentialed cranks (the one’s who do not have degrees from diploma mills anyway), I find that, while they typically understand how scientific consensus and the peer review system works, they simply ignore or manipulate it. They hail an obscure PubMed reference from 1982 as testimony to their brilliance, yet ignore the 25,000 others which contradict their BS.

I have some curiosity about GMOs. They aren’t about science, or safety. The ones that come to the market are reasonably safe.
My curiosity is about the Macroeconomic effect of GMOs and the relative wisdom of putting a country food source in the hands of multinational corporations. But I suppose we will learn about them in due time, and since it is unlikely to be something that concern me (or my country) I’ll wait and see.

The Genetic Literacy Project website echoed a few articles last week about the bizarre worldview of some vocal anti-GMOs.
And yeah, we can make a drinking game with the similarities with the antivax people.

A little study on 6 japanese people who developed diabetes type 1 after taking insulin to control their diabetes type 2 was suddenly touted as proof that GMO insulin causes diabetes, through some strange hypothetical immune reaction.
Never mind that the study didn’t do any comparison between bacteria-produced insulin and pork-harvested insulin.

Another article was on vitamin A enriched banana. The Bill & Melinda Gates foundation is paying for a feeding trial on human in US. Big outcry.
As the reporter wrote it, anti-GMO people complain that GMO have not been tested as part of the human diet, and then complain when such a trial is organized. You just cannot please some people.

I made it short and didn’t mention a few other biological facts about diabetis or vitamin A supplementation which slightly contradict the anti-GMO nice stories.

I could understand the concerns around pesticide overuse or intensive monoculture, but life-saving hormonal treatments, or nutrient-enriched fruits and veggies? And Monsatan isn’t even in it? Now they are just being d!cks.
Anti-GMO people are deep into the naturalistic fallacy and keep swimming deeper.

@T.
I don’t see those concerns as unique to GMO. I have those concerns with pre-GMO industrialized farming. Does it matter if the patented seed which must be bought each and every year is conventionally bred or modified in a lab?

I do think many people are much more aware of the industrialization of farming since the GMO controversy, but lack of genetic diversity, having to buy all your seeds from one of a few companies and not being able to sustain crops without the industry have been issues for quite some time.

@ T

My curiosity is about the Macroeconomic effect of GMOs and the relative wisdom of putting a country food source in the hands of multinational corporations.

That’s a different kettle of fish and I would also admit concerns.
Although Syngenta has been talking about making their genetic change open-sourced. If we could encourage this, that could mitigate the big corporation issue.

Also, I love to point out that Monsanto getting a hold on the GMO market is in part because of anti-GMO activists. In my country, scientists are not exactly encouraged by the public to develop our own brands of GMOs. Everytime you try, you can expect a mob to come and tear out the plants in your test field. Sometimes, it’s not even GMOs, but who cares about facts?

Charles Mann’s book 1493 explores the ramifications of the Columbian Exchange, and in doing so spins out lengthy tales of the history of agriculture over the last half-millenium or so. It’d be difficult to read that and maintain the impression that modern agriculture is anything except an almost entirely artificial construct, even without GMOs. It’s a remarkable book, though not for the impatient.

My curiosity is about the Macroeconomic effect of GMOs and the relative wisdom of putting a country food source in the hands of multinational corporations.

At least in the US, this has already happened. Family farms still exist, but most of the agricultural land is in the hand of big-time corporations, and they produce most of the food you see in the supermarket. The small time people are priced out; I can buy produce at my local farmers’ market, but I pay a premium for it, and I can only buy stuff in season.

I believe I have mentioned before that my grandfather owned a cattle ranch in South Dakota. One of my cousins runs the ranch now, but he can’t make a living at it–he has kept his day job in Sioux Falls, and he commutes to the ranch on weekends. Similar things happened to many family farms throughout the US: they couldn’t make a living at it, so they sold out either to Big Ag or (for those close enough to major cities) real estate developers.

There’s an even more virulent wing forming–they have stated they will publicly harass folks:

The biotech industry has successfully managed to make its voice heard at events in cities worldwide through speakers such as Mark Lynas and Kevin Folta. The GGFC will aim to create a top quality opposition to these speakers by allowing, until now poorly funded experts, to both inform and educate.

http://www.gmofreeglobal.org/en/advocacy

And you know who’s “steering” this clown car? Sayer Ji (I know you know) and the woman who does all the PR for the Seralini BS–Claire Robinson.

@ Eric Lund:

Oddly enough, the folks I survey are telling their thralls to do EXACTLY the opposite, i.e. to buy up land and start organic farming instead of living in cities and suburbs and working for corporations.

Medical technology? IT? Experience in education or finance? Toss it and go back to the land!

For anyone with 80 minutes to kill- (waiting for a plane or an appointment or just bored) google up “Seeds of Death”- it’s a free film by Gary Null which features Smith and boils down anti-GMO to its essential snake oil. Complete with music that hints at threat, malfeasance and destruction.

@ Orac:

In your descriptions above of sceptics’ reactions to scoffers, you leave out one perfect example::
Jake and you, which you have on tape yet.

Medical technology? IT? Experience in education or finance? Toss it and go back to the land!

It’s a tempting idea, but of those who actually attempt it, how many stick with it for more than a few years? And of those who do stick with it, how many do so because they have financially foreclosed their other options?

The US and the UK have a tradition of gentleman farmers, but in most of the world–and most places in the US that aren’t close enough to big cities–rural means poor. People like Gary Null and Mike Adams who are advocating back-to-the-land either don’t understand this, or pretend for the benefit of the rubes not to understand this.

@ Eric:

There’s another US/UK tradiition that hearkens back to the 1960s/1970s (although there much earler earlier precursors) of a countercultural return to rural life by people with money ( rockstars, early retired execs etc) which I think they’re also trying to manipulate.

One of the woos even says that if you don’t have enough resources form a community (commune).
I’m sure that will work out SO WELL. Right, When half of marriages fail, a group of 6 or 10 individuals will manage to get on together fabulously.

“Toss it and go back to the land!” This is pretty big problem, at least here in Indiana. I don’t know if true elsewhere, but a lot of children of farmers don’t want to farm, so they sell of the land to urbanites who want to start an organic farm. These folks who want a small farm and know absolutely nothing about farming sell off large portions of land to housing developments. The problem is that they don’t know the difference between good farmable land and not so good land. This drastically decreases the amount of land that can be used to cultivate food. If by chance they manage to hold on to the good land they tend to ruin it. If some wants to do this, they really should take some agriculture classes, some biology, probably some chemistry and physics too.

Most of the farms and farmland is still owned by family farms. I thought the majority of farm gate sales still go to family farms as well.

One of the bad aspects about the gmo quackery is that it is enshrined by the federal government. The USDA enforces organic standards which prohibit all “excluded methods” which catches GMO. It is so bad that they want to keep all vaccines which have bioengineered from being given to livestock.

It is one thing for people to be quacks, it is much worse when the federal government not only endorses the quackery but also enforces it.

Purchasing seeds every year:
Hybrids are the result of crossing two very distinct lines, whether in animals or plants. This results in hybrid vigor where the traits of the offspring are greater than the average of the traits of the parent lines. This technique results in a dramatically improved production of the crop. But this technique also requires that the farmer purchase new seeds each year. In a functioning society with a large market, this practice is fine.

In addition, I think the biggest use of hybrids is in field corn. If suddenly no hybrid seeds were available, farmers would likely switch to soybeans which are less likely to be hybrids. Animal based food product prices would soar due to this, but other food prices would not change much.

@Denice Walter #11: can you link to the Orac/Mr. Crosby interaction (or give pointers)? I’m curious.

I’m sure that will work out SO WELL.

We’ve run that experiment at least a few thousand times in this country already–they’re called homeowners’ associations. I’ve been fortunate not to have to deal with one, but my mother lives in a condo and therefore must. Groups like that tend to be outlets for petty tyrants.

And you know who’s “steering” this clown car? Sayer Ji (I know you know) and the woman who does all the PR for the Seralini BS–Claire Robinson.

There’s an unpromising flavor combination if ever there was one.

I think chemtrails is about the only conspiracy Ms. Atkinsson hasn’t bought into..yet.

Home at last, out of the humidity…

@ Dorit:

Orac posted that video- and a few choice comments- soon thereafter @ RI :see “Funny how you never see Orac and this person…”
Jake has persued several other SBM supporters. Dr Godlee was also quite tolerant of his nonsense.

@ Kyle:

Despite figures about opposing trends, they DO go on and on about ditching the city life.
Also- studying in colleges/ universities is straight OUT because these dudes can do ALL of the instruction themselves and it’s part of their business plan ( videos, seminars, products)

@ Eric:

Oh, I don’t think that he means a *home-owners’ *association – I think it’s more like a home-sharing set-up.
Think 3 couples in an old farmhouse.

-btw-

the most recent news to is that Null is setting up a woo-village in Mineola Texas which will include:

-an anti-aging/ lifestyle change spa/resort/ medical service
-a vegan cooking school
-instruction in homesteading (organic farming, hydroponics)
-a charity that gives pseudo-medical care to veterans
-a charity that teaches ‘nutrition’
-a place for artists/ craftspeople to work and sell
-more woo in one place than you can possibly imagine

He tried this out through one week “retreats” the patrons of which he acquired via his radio shows; he plans to enlist enabling metro area doctors to prescribe life style change/ dietary change through his facilities.
He already has assembled a team of yoga instructors, fitness coaches, meditation teachers, skin care workers and artist “therapists” ( not accredited kind) and his own esoteric healing/ educational/ prophetic services as well as those of his woo-nurse and vegan chef daughter.

Interestingly enough, there are at least a few speculators in old farm land and homes about 100 miles north of NYC ( including Geral Celente).

@ Mary M– Weren’t both Seralini and Smith supposed to “engage” Kevin Folta and others in a debate last year? And didn’t they beg off instead of taking that opportunity to “inform and educate”. Tsk, tsk!! A good minister preaches to the unsaved, not just his own choir.

I think it’s more like a home-sharing set-up.

That’s likely to speed up the timescales on which the political dynamics of groups of families moving into some shared space (neighborhood, building, etc.) play out, compared to when the families have separate dwelling units. And while it’s harder for outsiders to move into this situation, it’s also harder for people to move out if it isn’t working out for them.

The human race invented a social structure, the village, which did (and still does, in most countries) a reasonable job of dealing with the pressures of a farming lifestyle. But it usually takes decades, if not centuries, for a village to become stable. It also has significant costs–distrust of outsiders, enforced conformity for residents. Nonetheless, I’m not aware of a better solution to the problem. Are the sort of people who follow woo-meisters like Gary Null et al. willing to put up with the demands that village life will put on them? If you are talking about people who regard their children as special snowflakes, color me skeptical.

FWIW, I agree with their conclusion (but not their reasoning) that American suburbia is not a lifestyle to emulate. You get all of the enforced conformity of village life, without the mutual support networks that you find in a village. And I find the dependence on driving to accomplish almost everything to be particularly soul-crushing; the so-called freedom of the automobile is an illusion. Not to mention that many if not most of us will reach a point in our lives where we cannot or should not drive. But “going back to the land” is not a viable option for everyone.

But Eric, these people are ENLIGHTENED.

Right. And I’m Queen of the frickin’ Elves.

There’s another US/UK tradiition that hearkens back to the 1960s/1970s (although there much earler earlier precursors) of a countercultural return to rural life by people with money

I endorse this tradition as long as they all look like Felicity Kendal.

I own and operate a small farm and sell meat, eggs, produce, and flowers at farmers’ markets. I make some money and eat really well. I am retired and could not live on the income from the farm without my husband being employed. It is also rather hard work, often in brutal heat and humidity. It’s definitely not for everyone.

@Denise

I had quite a bit of fun last fall watching seeds of death, then transcribing all the claims and refuting them one by one. You can see it at http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Seeds_of_Death. Some of the claims in the movie were amazingly stupid. Like the “Monsanto is sterilizing everyone with GMO crops” claim.

I endorse this tradition as long as they all look like Felicity Kendal.

That wasn’t exactly “rural life,” unless something happens in the episodes I haven’t gotten to yet. And they were kinda broke.

Thanks so much for the video link Heidi! Relevant bits start at 6:45 for others interested in watching (you really should). These people scare me.

Herr Doktor: I would adopt the back to the land lifestyle if it made ME look like Felicity Kendall.

(Felicity Kendall then. Not Felicity Kendall now).

@ J:

That”s terrific work.

I feel that it’s important to illustrate how these people lie, mis-represent and distort information.

Here’s another thing:
alt media creatures like to portray SBM supporters/ doctors as being wealthy thus getting their thralls angry through perception of their own relative deprivation as they realise that doctors “get rich” off of patients.
HOWEVER the woo-meisters themselves live in luxury on estates, own corporations and are un-troubed by the unstable vicissitudes of everyday middle ( or below) class life.

I think that we should publicise those estates, net worths, annual earnings and multiple companies. Most of this is public information and already on the net.

Exactly how did they get enough money to afford those estates?
Hard work? Studying medicine for 12 years? Or having the right business plan.

You know, I find myself ambivalent about the phrase, “special snowflakes”.

It’s a put-down, of course, for people who think their children can do no wrong, or who think their kids are superior to other children. In this context it’s entirely appropriate.

But at some level, it’s more than a bit dismissive of the amazing richness of the human personality, and the degree to which we are all, actually, individuals. (“I’m not!”) A friend of mine is a pediatrician, and he’s dealt with thousands of mothers — he reports that pretty much every mother he’s ever dealt with (with more than one child) says that each of their children had a distinct personality from the moment they were born.

When my daughter was small, my older sister, with much older children, told me that her children never ceased to surprise, and — mostly — delight her as they grew. And indeed, so has my daughter, who went off in a completely unexpected, and quite wonderful, direction, and I am the proudest papa in the known universe.

Each child really is a “special snowflake”. That doesn’t mean that your kid is any better than anyone else, or that their transgressions don’t matter — it means that they are multi-faceted human beings in nascent form. The trick of being a good parent, I think, is to see your children with clear eyes, and hold them to the high standards they deserve and (perhaps secretly) crave, while leaving them no doubt that they are unconditionally loved.

@Denice

Thanks. Mercola is probably one of the best examples of hypocrisy among altmed quacks — he bashes pharma companies, then offers to sell you his latest miracle supplement (or cooking pot, or tanning bed, or exercise machine)… He bashes the FDA in Seeds of Death (and on his site) for regulating altmed too much (probably due to the three or so warnings he’s received, and in spite of the hilariously lax laws on dietary supplements), then bashes the FDA on his site for approving vaccines, pharmaceuticals, and GMOs without “enough research”. He says there hasn’t been enough research into GMOs and that it’s all biased industry studies (which it’s not), then makes huge claims about altmed snake oil based on anecdotes and the rare study funded by a company selling the snake oil.

And you can see the same thing happening with Jeffrey Smith and his cultist buddies (not to mention his ties to Genetic ID), or Mike Adams (who is almost as bad as Mercola – just slightly more insane).

Unfortunately, far too many people refuse to think critically and to be skeptical of wild claims. It’s sad that people prefer to believe swing dance teachers (Jeffrey Smith) and snake oil salesmen over scientists and doctors.

But thats just it palindrom. The term snowflake already defines each child as being individual.

It turns out that not only is Smith into wild anti-GMO conspiracy theories, but he is into transcendental meditation. That in and of itself isn’t necessarily cranky; lots of people are into TM.

I think of being into TM — as opposed simply to being into some form of vaguely mantra-ish meditation for the purposes of transcending stress, etc. — as signifying followership of the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. (Sexy Sadie, doncha know.)

There are degrees of involvement, no doubt. But that’s pretty cranky, by my lights.

Denice Walter,

Jeffrey Smith has had a career as a swing dance teacher, but that should not be held against him. His cherry-picking of data, manufacturing of conspiracies and outright inaccuracies should be what he is known for.

@ Chris P:

I’m not holding swing dance teaching against him- actually I find it amazing, it just doesn’t seem to ‘fit” the rest of what he does – it’s too normal.

-btw- I go to a ‘latina’ dance slass myself.

My thinking on the subject of GMO’s has long been on the lines raised by “T”: The potential economic impact of genetically engineered crops in the hands of agribusiness mega-companies is reason enough at least to be concerned. I think there is also significant danger that genetic engineering specifically for fast-growing crops will simply accelerate the already serious ecological problem of soil depletion. Unfortunately, there seems to be little chance of anyone addressing these issues seriously as long as the opposition is falling back on paranoia about what’s safe to eat.

Dangerous Bacon @ 1: Interesting comparison, but on balance I think antivaxxism is more dangerous. GMOs can improve agricultural efficiency and the nutritional content of food, but there are other ways to achieve those ends. There is not another way, aside from vaccines, to prevent epidemics of deadly diseases.

Antibiotic resistance is a comparable danger, and there the cause isn’t the usual bucket of quacks, but otherwise-rational agribusiness. That situation can presumably be remedied by simply passing the needed regulations, at which point agribusiness will of necessity adapt.

T @ 3 and Hellanthus @ 8: Agreed, good points. Oligopoly control of core resources such as water and food, is a bad thing regardless of all else. The cure for it would be wider research and more companies in the game, something that the anti-GMO nuts make more difficult by their very own actions.

This might be a useful strategy to adopt: reach out to those whose primary issue is Monsanto and monopolisation, and get them to speak up more vociferously in favor of more companies getting into the field. Whenever a new company pops up, they could stand up and support them by saying ‘so-and-so isn’t Monsatan..’ and framing the debate accordingly.

Re. the generic cranks who complain no matter what: The root cause of this is purely psychological, in that some people are hard-wired as complainers. I suspect it has something to do with a deficit of endogenous pleasure-neurochemicals, and it might even be treatable with marijuana. But in any case, what we ought to do about these types is expose their emotional narrative and emotional agenda, to immunise the public against it.

The key to this is getting the public to learn to separate out the ‘lyrics’ (verbal content of the arguement) from the ‘music’ (emotional tone and emotional narrative). When people learn to do that, they can spot all manner of demagoguery and BS, refuse to be seduced by it.

Thank you, Lilady and Denice Walter. That was quite the exchange. Superbly handled, I thought.

I think of being into TM — as opposed simply to being into some form of vaguely mantra-ish meditation for the purposes of transcending stress, etc….

I willing to go with mantras as being as intrinsically screwball as mudras. You haven’t “transcended” anything if you’re dependent on a semisecret magic spell. If you have to “meditate,” it seems as though some immanental flavor might be more helpful for what ails you.

Oh, and screw off, Laruelle.

@ quetzalmom #30

I make some money and eat really well. I am retired and could not live on the income from the farm without my husband being employed. It is also rather hard work, often in brutal heat and humidity. It’s definitely not for everyone.

That would confirm my family’s experience.
My parents are retired and have a not-that-small garden and orchard. Big enough to provide them with almost all their veggies and fruits year long (let’s say 9/10th of it), and while they spend a lot of time tending it, they still have time for other hobbies.

But generating enough revenue from it to live by (eh, beef doesn’t grow in a garden), or doing it on top of a job? Forget it.
Our neighbor was having a few chickens and a pig in the garden next to us. Because of his job, he barely had time to tend to them correctly, even after press-ganging his family and his drinking pals into helping him . After 2 years, his attempt at animal husbandry has been terminated.

Well, anti-GMO & anti-vax are merely gateway delusions to even grander wacko conspiracies……just see how AoA is now advertising for anti-Chemtrail treatments.

It was only a matter of time before they completely lost touch with reality…..

It was only a matter of time before they completely lost touch with reality

Assumes facts not in evidence.

@ Lawrence:

Similarly, TMR is sponsoring an energy healing web event ( Heather Fraser, one of its stars today explains her speciality).

Fortunately ( heh!) Mikey is entirely down to earth, ranting and railing about immigrants since a Latino youngster fell asleep at the wheel and hit his truck. He squawks loudly about how these people harm “hard working” Americans like him.

So he’s only anti-science, he’s also a bigoted [email protected]
But you knew that.

So [Mike is not] only anti-science, he’s also a bigoted [email protected]

A privileged white guy promoting his idea of healthy lifestyle, and cashing on it, both in money and power; promotes re-founding society around his ideas of core social values, sees rich people conspiring to corrupt said values everywhere, and blames foreign poor people for everyday ills.

Mike is really a non-conformist, isn’t he? We hardly have seen this type of false prophet before.

@ Helianthus:

Not only that but he has also promoted healing herbs and superfoods from ancient, tribal cultures which come from uh… Central and South America.
Right, those *Indios* have nothing at all to do with immigrant working folk.

Denice @52 — If Adams is such a hard-working guy, perhaps he’d like to sort watermelons in Georgia. All you have to do it pick up a watermelon, grade it according to quality, and rifle it underhand to the appropriate stacker, all in a couple of seconds, without bruising or dropping any of the fruit.

Most “hard-working” Americans would last about 2 minutes.

@ palindrom:

I couldn’t find it but I do recall reading that a television host ( a chef perhaps?) went to California and tried to pick grapes with the migrant workers…
he wasn’t very successful.

The bot posted some Spam about vaccination rates on a local newspaper’s blog and she got a royal drubbing for her efforts

Oddly, this is her version of events:

“There is no mention in this story about the fact that neither the doctor nor the vaccine makers has any responsibility if a child is injured by a vaccine. My comment was removed.”

With all this talk of “back to the land”, I’m thinking it’s time for re-runs of “Good Neighbors” (a British sitcom which was called “The Good Life” over there; it was retitled in the US to avoid confusion with a book of the same name and a similar topic). It’s very funny, but it tells the story of a couple, the Goods, in London surburbia who decided to quite corporate life and become subsistence farmers. They’re always operating on the thinnest of shoestrings, while their conventionally-funded neighbors have fancy dinner parties and so forth, providing obvious situational comedy opportunities. It’s got an excellent cast (the best thing about British television, IMHO, is that it tends to feed from the same talent pool as their extraordinary theater scene), and in the end, their grand experiment fails and he ends up going back to the company where he used to work to ask for his job back. The Goods are played by Richard Briers and Felicity Kendal; if you’re at all interested in 1970s BBC shows, this is a must, and I’m sure a certain blinky box would enjoy it if he hasn’t seen it already. 😉

Eric:

At least in the US, this has already happened. Family farms still exist, but most of the agricultural land is in the hand of big-time corporations, and they produce most of the food you see in the supermarket.

Are you sure? That’s not the impression I get driving around rural Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, or the Dakotas. The farms are usually family farms. They may work in conjunction with corporations or cooperatives to sell the results, but most of the farms are still owned and operated by individuals or families out here.

Re: Adams. I can’t help observing that the sleeping kamikaze immigrant in question was probably working 3 jobs at minimum wage in an attempt to feed his family. A moving vehicle seems an unlikely choice for a lazy good-for-nothing bum to take a nap.

I don’t know about Mikey’s area but if you’ve ever travelled in California**, you’ll notice that Mexican/ Central American immigrants tend farms, orchards and gardens, clean homes, hotels and public places, cook, care for children, work in construction, do repairs on homes and automobiles, maintain luxuriant landscapes etc etc etc keeping costs low for middle class and above people who then complain about their presence.

This is the same Mike Adams who bragged about how cheaply the native people worked on his hacienda in Ecuador which he later sold for mucho dinero.

** I made sure I know how to interact a little in Spanish when I visit these places.

-btw- I’m NOTsaying that all Anglos compalin about them..
oh, you know what I mean.

Denice @62: AFAICT that’s true of most major urban areas in the US (there are some where these workers may come from a different part of the world–e.g., in Minneapolis they might be Somali–but they’re still immigrants from places that aren’t Europe). If Mike is in Texas, as I understand from previous posts to be the case, he would definitely have access to immigrant (legal or otherwise) labor for these things, and even if he doesn’t hire immigrant labor, his neighbors (some of whom may well share his opinions about immigration) almost certainly do. Some cities, including Washington, even have informal marketplaces for day labor.

@Calli Arcale

Yes, often part of the farming is still handled by family farmers, but that “in conjunction with” is often not as voluntary or equally beneficial as one might tend to think. At least here in NC with the animal side of the ag business things are “vertically integrated” which means the corporation really runs the whole process from birth to death even if a good percentage of the individual farmland the animals spend time on is owned by family farms rather than directly owned by the corporations (and the family farmer of course own the pigs that die too soon and owns the hog waste and the expense of dealing with that so the corporation doesn’t waste any corporate profits on those things)

It is very difficult for independent farmers to do big scale farming around here. Probably why farmers here are either part of big agriculture, or doing the small organic farm with a CSA, farmers market stints, a few goat’s milk products sold at the co-op groceries and supply the restaurants that advertise they serve only locally produced food.

Now different parts of the farming system may be more or less vertically integrated and more or less industrialized, so your mileage may vary.

@ Eric Lund:

Mike is in Austin. He talks about how he raises free range chickens and has an organic garden. He had a “food forest” in Ecuador. Similarly, the other woo-meister raises organic vegetables on his estate in Naples, Florida and at his new place in Mineola, Texas ( which he feeds to his marks at health retreats: see photos at his eponymous website). I wonder who does the farm work?

I prefer not to eat GMO. I am not a fanatic, but I think that we should have the right to know what we are eating and what we are eating is eating. No reason not to label. The long term data is not available, yet. My opinion, the food industry is the next big tabacco.

When I was a kid the neighbors behind us decided that they would have a “model farm”, for field trips and the like. But farming doens’t pay well (and there were plenty of bigger frams still in the area for field trips). So then they started a resturant supply business, and a resturant (and three children under the age of 5). In the end it meant that they never really had enough time to farm throughtly, and so on one occasion I looked into the backyard to see three cows eating our grape vines. (My parents wanted to run a vineyard. That didn’t work, but it was less of a mess when it didn’t.) The neightbors just never had time to do all the little things like fence repairs, and we had to lure those dumb cows home more than once.

So, homesteading and living off the land in 2014? Yeah, probably not going to work out the way some folks think.

I[‘m] willing to go with mantras as being as intrinsically screwball as mudras. You haven’t “transcended” anything if you’re dependent on a semisecret magic spell. If you have to “meditate,” it seems as though some immanental flavor might be more helpful for what ails you.

It does to me, too.

I’m not so sure I’m willing to toss all mantra-users onto a common screwball heap, though. It might not be understood as a magic spell by everyone in every circumstance, for example. Plus de gustibus and what-have-you. So I just don’t know.

Oh, and screw off, Laruelle.

I’ve never read his work. But still, the mere thought of him makes me want to accidentally knock a glass of red wine into his lap.

With all this talk of “back to the land”, I’m thinking it’s time for re-runs of “Good Neighbors” (a British sitcom which was called “The Good Life” over there

I thought that’s what we’d (TINW) been referring to all along.

If anti-GMO is a religion, then Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Petco (They rely on naturalistic fallacies to sell overpriced pet food), and all the co-ops, health food stores, and farmers’ markets in America are churches. The professional/political anti-GMO’ers such as Vandana Shiva, Crazy Joe Mercola, Mike “NaturalNoise” Adams, Vani Hari, Mehmet Oz, Jeffrey Smith, and other cranks are the gastronomic equivalent of Pat Robertson, Joyce Meyer, Ray “Bananaman” Comfort, Kirk “Crocoduck” Cameron, Kent Hovind, and other evangelical Christian leaders. The only difference is that these people worship food instead of a 3,500-year-old book of jumbled and inconsistent fables, parables, and song lyrics–a book written by people who believed snakes and donkeys could talk and in parlor tricks (e.g., rods turning into snakes, water turning into wine), incantations, talismans, astrology, and the five elements of witchcraft. People who believed that if you used a magic wand to sprinkle blood on someone, it would cure them of leprosy; that a pregnant cow would bear striped calves if you showed it striped patterns; that the world was flat and covered by a giant crystal dome with windows to let in rain; and in racism, sexism (Gen. 3:16, 1 Timothy 2:11-12), homophobia, spousal abuse, slavery (Exodus 21-23 and 27:3-7, Leviticus 25:44-46, Ephesians 6:5, Colossians 3:22, 1 Peter 2:18), abuse of slaves (Luke 12:46-47), pedophilia (Numbers 31:18), rape (Deut. 22:28-29, Judges 19), genocide (Num. 31:17), incest (Gen. 4:17 and 19:30-38, Ex. 6:20), adultery (2 Samuel 11), polygamy (1 Kings 11:1-3), and treating one’s parents like crap (Luke 14:26).

I prefer not to eat GMO. I am not a fanatic, but I think that we should have the right to know what we are eating and what we are eating is eating. No reason not to label. The long term data is not available, yet. My opinion, the food industry is the next big tabacco.

If humans were more rational, then labelling would have no downside.

But humans are instead humans.

Have you seen the recent TV commercials for the candy bar Twix? The bar is actually packaged as two small conjoined bars; the running gag of the commercials is the notion that they are produced by two separate factories, each of which is zealously convinced that their product, “left Twix” or “right Twix”, is far superior to the competition.

If you didn’t know that was the gag, and people talked very seriously about “oh, yes, I enjoy left Twix, but I won’t touch right Twix. Where’s the safety data for right Twix? We need labelling so everyone can be assured they won’t get right Twix by mistake!” then you’d probably think “oh gosh, there must BE a big huge difference, otherwise they wouldn’t take such pains to separate it!”

Except that when it comes to GMO-vs.-non-GMO, the basis of separation makes little sense. The designation is far too broad to be meaningful; it’s like classifying everyone who isn’t a native-born citizen as a “foreigner”, setting policies on “foreigners”, and expecting that to result in intelligible policy.

Fortunately, just like “praxeology,” it’s theorem-based system! (PDF)
The PDF of Laruelle’s unphilosophical neologasm closes with the words

Translated by Alexander R. Galloway

. Alas, he did not translate it into English.

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