This clip was recently posted on my FaceBook page as a rebuttal to my pro GMO stance and it bears examining as a good example of how the anti GMO industry operates. And don’t be fooled. It is an Industry that involves millions of dollars and a number of evangelical types who operate under the “ends justify means” attitude. The very same attitude found in Fundamentalist religions where truth runs a distance second to pushing their favourite cause.
The clip runs for 20 minutes but the red flags pop up straight away and there are plenty of them. If you have the time and interest, watch the clip first and see how many problems you can spot as you go.
By the way, this is not a comprehensive list. Debunking is a time consuming process which is why these chaps get away with so much.
Okay. Thinking caps on. Let’s go.
The opening line “I’m not a scientist”. This is the traditional opening for the “scientists are in the pocket of <insert pet bad guy here>” approach. This is a disappointing start because I was expecting to see a science based challenge and as it turns out, it falls well short. No credentials and no links to his source material so it can be examined for credibility is a safe tactic to use when you are referring to material that may have since been discredited.
The expected attack on scientists comes hot on the heels of the opening line with “interviewing scientists not on the payroll of the Biotech industry.” Hmm. That sounds like folk operating outside their field of expertise and of course, no qualifications for these folk are revealed or any links to the source data. This is a classic trick of Climate Change denialists. When 98% of Climate Scientists agree about Climate Change, the only option left is to find a non expert then fake their credentials.
Not a very encouraging opening so time to check who Jeffrey M Smith is and what is the Responsible Technology organisation.
Ouch. More red flags here with his lack of qualifications and two appearances on the Dr Oz show in the guise of a scientist. That’s not the sort of entry you want on your resume.
I especially liked this criticism
Bruce Chassy, a molecular biologist and food scientist, wrote to the show arguing that Smith’s "only professional experience prior to taking up his crusade against biotechnology is as a ballroom-dance teacher, yogic flying instructor, and political candidate for the Maharishi cult’s natural-law party.
Looks like he has more confidence than qualifications. An essential requirement for his chosen industry.
Then follows a grab bag of claims without link references to what he is claiming. Is there any valid data in here? We simply can’t tell and when he reaches for the grab bag of all the conspiracy theorists favourite bad guys including Greenpeace’s version of Monsanto, it’s all down hill from there. Add in the causes of Autism, birth defects, Parkinson’s disease and any confidence in him having any real data to explain his claims has dwindled away to nothing. Just bunch it all up in “bad guy soup”.
Another area which is typical of this sort of approach is to widen the topics and include pet hates that are not GMO issues but easily snuck in to muddy the water.
- Don’t like broad scale farming? I’m not a huge fan myself, but this isn’t GMO.
- Don’t like insecticides? Don’t blame you for washing your food. But again this isn’t GMO.
- Don’t like power concentrated in the hands of big companies? Who does other than those pulling the big bucks? But is it GMO? Nope.
- Are you worried about the disappearing varieties in foods grown? You bloody well should be but again this important problem has been watered down by being snuck in to the GMO discussion where it does not belong. Even more frustrating the distraction from the anti GMO set is drawing the focus away from the real world problems.
- Don’t like copyright on grain varieties? This is definitely an area that should be dealt with but again this is not strictly a GMO issue. It certainly doesn’t affect the safety of the GMO product.
And one more point that should probably be the first consideration when you encounter this sort of material.
Who is the clip being addressed to?
If it’s on Social media like FaceBook or YouTube, then it is aimed towards the Public rather than the Scientists. That’s a big red flag that tells you the “science” may not stand up to scrutiny. For Science arguments, and there are plenty, you need to go to reputable Science journal sites, or if you want an easier read, go to The Conversation where folk with expertise duke it out
If you want to expose a danger then forget the gish gallop technique and produce focussed data. Better still, go and get some qualifications in the Biochemical Industry and bring along some hard data to make a testable claim.
If you are wondering why this irritates me so it is because of this. We have real problems that need addressing and deserve our full consideration and prompt action. Chasing unicorns is not only time wasting, it reduces the visibility of the real problems and their solutions. Furthermore, it lowers confidence in the credibility of the main organisations that should be working towards a better, cleaner, kinder world. The dwindling reputation of Greenpeace stands as a shining example of (excuse the Australian term here) crapping in your own nest.
Jeffrey Smith challenge https://goo.gl/NCaMTG YouTube clip.
Jeffrey M Smith wiki entry https://goo.gl/mnkBYI
Gish Gallop[ definition http://goo.gl/eyrvgC
The Skeptics’ Guide Monsanto background https://goo.gl/RO5OyX
The Conversation http://theconversation.com/au
Scientific American http://www.scientificamerican.com/
Science Based Medicine https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/