• Kavin Senapathy posted a new activity comment 3 years, 8 months ago

    MAMAM isn’t a pro-Monsanto March. It’s an anti-misinformation, pro-GMO movement. Nevertheless, let me dispel some of the more common myths about Monsanto:

    -Monsanto has never sued a farmer for drift.
    -GM seeds from Monsanto are comparable in price to other seeds.
    -Yes, Monsanto patents proprietary seeds, as do other companies. A variety does…[Read more]

  • ThumbnailI’ll get right to it. I’ve grown weary of the antics of March Against Monsanto. Along with two of my friends, I’ve started a movement to oppose the misinformation this organization propagates. Known as MAMAM, our […]

    • Would someone with a scientific background be able to explain why I shouldn’t be worried about Monsanto replacing heirloom crops with ones that depend on a particular pesticide to thrive, thus forcing all farmers to keep paying for commercial and environmentally hazardous pesticides?
      I’m not against GMOs, and I like the idea of GMO crops being created that reduce pesticide use, except for the fact that pests always manage to become immune to the pesticide even when it’s embedded in the plant’s DNA.
      I think those who think Monsanto will solve world hunger are forgetting that Monsanto has no interest in allowing farmers to stop paying a lot of money to Monsanto for their seeds or pesticides.
      I’m very annoyed by the spurious claims that GMO foods are unhealthy to humans directly (though I’m sure pesticides aren’t healthy). But isn’t the capitalist way that GMO foods are actually being used unhealthy to us as a species, not to mention unhealthy to other species?

      • I don’t have a scientific background but I can see right away that you have a misconception about Roundup ready plants.

        They are not dependent upon a certain pesticide, they are resistant to that pesticide allowing the farmer to use that pesticide without worrying that it will kill the crop, which it normally would do, (that can lead to over use of the pesticide but it doesn’t have to and farmers aren’t given to throwing money at their field if they can help it). That crop can be grown without the pesticide, you would just be giving up a benefit provided by the modification of that organism.

        GMOs are a tool that can be used to help alleviate world hunger, they are not a panacea and I agree that too many people look at it as the solution instead of a part of the solution.

        There are many problems with the way GMOs are being used but they stem from over-reliance on corporations and deregulation of those corporations, in other words symptoms of capitalism, not from the organisms themselves. Genetic modifications have been around since before Gregor Mendel, only back then it was cross-breading, artificial selection, and grafting that produced the results. It is what agriculture and animal husbandry are all about, the fact that the modifications are more targeted now changes the chances of getting an unintended consequence not one iota unless those doing the modification are trying to create the problem at which point it is no longer unintended. In the old day they feared Dr. Moreau, today they fear Monsanto, neither fear is justified.

        If you want to fear Monsanto fear their business practices and fight to dismantle the corporatist state, it does far more harm then GMOs ever will.

        • Actually, from what I hear, the weeds are becoming increasingly resistant to Roundup due to the use of Monsanto Round-Up Ready crops, and these “superweeds” require farmers to spray ever higher quantities of weedkiller to kill them. This gets on the crops and into the environment. I hear it is such a problem that they are trying to breed crops that are resistant to an even more poisonous weedkiller, because they anticipate that Roundup won’t work at all in the near future.

          As for claims that GMO method of breeding crops is similar to other plant husbandry practiced throughout the years, I believe that is false. What I do know is that in Europe, they do not use GMO crops, yet their yields are every bit as good as the GMOs claim to be. So it is not as if Monsanto is really feeding the world in a way no one else can. They just want to corner the market and force people to buy their seeds (In Columbia, they actually passes a law banning the sale or trade of native seeds and requiring farmers to buy and certify that they bought these GMO seeds. Farmers were going out of business with the costs and protested, whereupon police shot and killed them. Who says GMOs aren’t hazardous to your health!).

          An please don’t say Monsanto’s practices are indicative of capitalism. They are not. Killing the competition unfairly (without out-competing them in the marketplace) is not indicative of capitalism, but rather oligarchy.

          • Yes weeds evolve, that is how it works and how it would work without GMOs. In fact, according to the International Survey of Herbicide Resistance Weeds all areas surveyed have multiple weeds resistant to herbicides, even areas where GMOs are banned and even before the wide spread use of GMOs. Overuse of herbicides is an issue but that is not solely the purview of GMOs.

            As to GMO vs. selective breeding, I’ve heard geneticists say that they are essentially the same so I believe it is not false, but feel free to believe as you like.

            The goal of GMOs are better yields with less inputs, the yields are similar but the inputs are not therefore profit is higher.

            And why should I not say that Monsanto’s practices are indicative of capitalism? They are the product of unrestrained capitalism so it seem they are the result of said capitalism, after all oligarchy is also the result of unrestrained capitalism so it is a difference without a distinction.

        • There are many problems with the way GMOs are being used but they stem from over-reliance on corporations and deregulation of those corporations, in other words symptoms of capitalism, not from the organisms themselves.

          I was going to say this but you said it better than I could. Cheers.

      • I realize that you may have been talking about Bt corn which produces a pesticide that allows farmers to use less pesticide. Again, the possible unintended consequences are no bigger then in conventional breeding, and I say actually lower because they are testing the hell out of this particular product.

      • My background is in molecular genetics. (I worked on the genetics of insect-transmitted parasites.)
        It is recommended that farmers planting Bt GMOs plant a buffer of non-Bt strains of the same crop around the Bt crop in order to slow the spread of resistance in insects.
        Bt crops are also more selective. When you use insecticides in agriculture, you use a lot, it’s found throughout the environment, so you end up selecting for insecticide resistance in many insect species. If Bt is exprssed in say the leaves of a particular crop, you’re only selecting for resistance in species that eat that crop’s leaves. Bt is used for mosquito control, so Bt crops can extend the viability of Bt for mosquito control, which is really important for malaria control.
        As for Monsanto and capitalism, well, they’re going to make what they can sell. Most of the GMO soy feeds animals. Oscar Meyer and whoever it is who makes pop tarts is at least as much to blame as Monsanto.

      • What heirloom crops are you worried about? Heirloom is a marketing term which are just old seeds that have little market demand. Outside of a hobbyist or a farmer going for a niche market they are not used because they grow 25 bushels per acre compared to 200 bushels per acre of the new seeds but the market is nowhere close to supporting 8 times the price.

        Yes pest evolve its a 12,000 year fight now that man is finally starting to win. Where modern farming is used it takes less people on less land to grow more food. This is because for the first time in history man has started to get ahead of the fight against weeds and pests. We no longer lose half the crop to insects. The “super weed” problem is blown way out of proportion and there are products coming out over the next 2 to 3 years that will mitigate much of the problem and in the worst case if they don’t there are still plenty of other easy fixes.

        Monsanto is not the largest seed company in either the States or the world. They are also not the largest well anything. Round Up is off patent and has been for 15 years. China has been dumping off label for years. The reason to go with brand name Round Up is for the warranty.

        Also, this is just another version of farmers are dumb which seems to be most of the anti GMO/Monsanto arguments. Farmers purchase GMO products because they end up cheaper despite the higher up front costs. Farmers have to weed. Its either going to be a herbicide or its going to be mechanical both cost money. Round up works better and better for the land because it allows for conservation tilling.

    • Chemtrails? Damn, I thought even the woomeisters didn’t take that seriously.

    • Bwahahahahahah!!!! I thought this was an onion article!! Seriously folks, GE is a very repuatable field, and I’m well-aware the good it has and will continue to do for the world. But Monsanto? Really? They give the industry a bad name and if you really believe in GE don’t get behind this. It makes you look comically shilly.

      • Yes, because comically wrong science is OK if you are fighting Teh Ebil

        Name another company that is doing GE that these hucksters wouldn’t see as evil? I can’t come up with any. Monsanto may be the boogie man but there are other firms that are arguably worse (ADM comes to mind) and while that doesn’t excuse Monsanto is does point out the indiscriminate targeting used buy anti-GMO folks.

        Fight Monsanto for the reasons Monsanto is bad, not the scary, scary reasons that pseudo-scientists say you should fear them.

        • It’s a variation of the anti-vax argument: “The corporation involved with this is evil, ergo the science must be bad.” It’s like a modern twist on a classic fallacy; we can call it ad corporatum.

          Monsanto could be holding Satanic black masses complete with human sacrifices at their weekly board meetings, and it STILL wouldn’t mean anything about whether or not GMOs in general are safe.

      • “But Monsanto? Really? They give the industry a bad name and if you really believe in GE donโ€™t get behind this. It makes you look comically shilly.”

        Perhaps you could specify your concerns with the company…

    • MAMAM isn’t a pro-Monsanto March. It’s an anti-misinformation, pro-GMO movement. Nevertheless, let me dispel some of the more common myths about Monsanto:

      -Monsanto has never sued a farmer for drift.
      -GM seeds from Monsanto are comparable in price to other seeds.
      -Yes, Monsanto patents proprietary seeds, as do other companies. A variety does not have to be a recombinant GMO variety to be patented.
      -Patents expire. Companies like Monsanto get to hold a patent to get a ROI for the extensive time and R&D that goes into this work. Now, GMO soybeans are off-patent. They are essentially “open-source GMOs.” http://www.biofortified.org/2014/12/off-patent-gmo-soybeans-what-happens-now/
      -There is actually no causal link between farmer suicides and adoption of GMOs/Monsanto

    • Bottom line: If you believe in GMOs, then stop fighting labeling. This makes you look corrupt. The market can correct itself. Stop second guessing the consumer. You don’t own science.
      I happen to think many GMO foods are fine. I don’t however think it makes sense to class all of these comampanies together. Monsanto is far less ethical. Once again, I’m ok with many GMOs. I’m NOT ok with Monsanto.
      BTW I’m thinking of forming a group called the march against the march against the march against monsanto lol.

      • Have fun with that, while you’re at it maybe you can figure out how only the people who are shitting themselves about GMOs could be made to pay for that labeling that you want. Like maybe the voluntary labeling that has already begun and not my tax dollars, K?

      • “If you believe in GMOs, then stop fighting labeling. This makes you look corrupt. ”

        So if you support evolution you shouldn’t fight creationist attempts to shoehorn their unsupported views into the science classroom in the form of “warning labels” on textbooks???

        http://skepticalvegan.com/2011/10/29/food-labeling/

      • Whose bottom line is that? Kavin did not mention labeling at all.

        I don’t think labeling GMOs is useful, unless vastly more information is included. It’s not like nuts or phenylalanine or lactose or gluten, where a tiny quantity will cause problems for susceptible people. I think compulsory labeling caters to ignorant people who believe in nonsense, but so does 99% of TV advertising and most of modern capitalist culture. I doubt you could convince me to support labeling, but perhaps there is some argument for it, or for not strenuously opposing it that I haven’t thought of.

        To be useful, the label would need to tell you what genes in what ingredients were modified, what the quantity of the resulting proteins is, what other nutritional or pharmacological effects those proteins have on the organism making those proteins (e.g. causes the plant to produce more beta carotene) and what the effect of eating those proteins and their products is.
        This is an enormous amount of obscure technical information to put on a food label, and you would have to go shopping with a biochemist and a doctor to understand most of it.

        As for voluntary labeling, food producers already do it, so what’s the problem? I’ve never heard of any pro-GMO person claim that voluntary labeling should be banned, just that it shouldn’t be compulsory.

      • Its important to fight against labels because labels are too important to become political. When a product is required to have something labeled its telling the consumer its important. Sure most people ignore it but there will be enough people that will pay attention that it can have important effects though out the market. In the US we only label when their is a legit safety concern or for nutritional value. You label something where their no harm and nothing to gain from a nutritional standpoint you might as well start putting the immigration status of the pickers or the phase of the moon when it was planted.

    • There is also a pernicious tendency among corrupt governments (I live in Mexico, and we have a doozie) to grant Monsanto and similar multinationals multi-year rights to exploit their resources. A great many Mexican peasants in the agricultural sector DONOT HAVE THE CHOICE to plant other seeds, it being quasi-illegal if they are participating in any sort of agricultural assistance. And then that puts them on the hook for a while, patent expirations notwithstanding; they cannot plant seeds from Monsanto-grown plants the next growing season without paying vig to Monsanto. The government forced this deal upon them, with Monsanto’s “Economic Hit Men” steering the deal.

      So I have no sympathy for some rich white vegan post-docs in Cambridge or Berkeley who are worried about eating a Frankenberry. And yes, of course, GMOs have great potential to increase yields (although at present most of the claims are over-stated, or at the very least, other variables have not been regressed out of the analysis). But rest assured, the collaboration between Monsanto and the NAFTA enforcers has been toxic to the Mexican agricultural sector. Period.

      • “A great many Mexican peasants in the agricultural sector DONOT HAVE THE CHOICE to plant other seeds, it being quasi-illegal if they are participating in any sort of agricultural assistance.”

        Are you saying the Mexican govt has limited the seed market and forced farmers to ONLY buy Monsanto seed? I’m gonna need something to back that up…

        “So I have no sympathy for some rich white vegan post-docs in Cambridge or Berkeley who are worried about eating a Frankenberry.”

        Actually I know of a few white vegans in Berkeley who are directly involved in creating the next frankenberry, or milk producing microbes, and most are working or middle class though, not rich. You will also find a good number of similar folks supporting MAMAM. Might wanna rethink your stereotypes.

    • Thanks for all the responses, even the snarky ones ๐Ÿ™‚
      While I am aware that the issues are very complex, it really looks to me like the irrationality of the anti-GMO crowd tends to make some people err on the other side. Implying that Monsanto does no harm, just because GMOs are generally safe, is not, in my opinion, an effective way of expressing support for GMOs. And the fact that the makers of Poptarts are just as bad isn’t a particularly telling argument.
      Also, I still think world hunger can only be solved by political change, though I’d love to be proven wrong about that.

      • I didn’t see anyone state or even imply that Monsanto does no harm, just that they are not the evil that their opponents insist they are. They are a huge multinational corporation so of course they are far from goodness and light, some of their business practices are downright deplorable, but that doesn’t change the truth about GMO safety.

    • I interpret a march against a march against Monsanto as implying that Mosanto does no harm.
      Monsanto being mildly evil as opposed to severely evil (ร  la Dawkins and his “mild pedophilia”) still makes Mondanto evil.

      • Sorry, that was supposed to be an anti-Dawkins joke, but “mildly evil” does sound like I think Monsanto’s practices are tolerable, which I don’t.

      • That’s not the way being against something works. The enemy of my enemy is not my friend.

      • Then you really need to read the post again, the MAMAM is about correcting their science, which is horrible, not about excusing Monsanto.

        If you are that staunch about “evil is evil” then I’m not sure how you live in the world because literally everything harms someone.

  • Kavin Senapathy posted a new activity comment 3 years, 8 months ago

    So true about saving seeds, JimisAwesome. I’m no farmer, but I’ve heard from a lot of them that no experienced farmer that makes his living in ag would save seeds.

  • Kavin Senapathy posted a new activity comment 3 years, 8 months ago

    Thank you, bibliotequetress. I’m all for wise, environmentally responsible farming techniques as well, but to echo your comment, I don’t think organic is the path to sustainability. In fact, some organic farms actually have to discard some of their crop due to pest damage. This is just one example of how organic isn’t as efficient as conventional…[Read more]

  • Kavin Senapathy posted a new activity comment 3 years, 8 months ago

    In addition to Adela’s point, patents on GM seed varieties run out. The patents are compensation for the R&D investment that goes into developing GMOs. Like anything else that can be patented, the patent expires. The first such expiration is the Roundup Ready Soybean…[Read more]

  • ThumbnailMy recent piece, โ€œWhy this Mom Boycotts Organic and Will Never Shop at Whole Foodsโ€ garnered quite a bit of social media feedback ranging from reverence to hatred. Critical thinkers and parents appreciated the […]

    • Yep. Nothing will get you richer then creating a problem and then providing a “solution” to that problem. After all, halitosis wasn’t something anyone worried about until Listerine offered a cure.

      So much pseudoscience is based on this idea (chronic Lyme disease or chronic candidiasis for instance) that it is almost a textbook ploy (I’ve got all these magnets, what should I do with them? Bracelets!) that I could exploit if I weren’t not-evil.

      Oh yeah, and the ultimate example; “Looks like you get you some sin there, boy have I got a solution.”

    • Good article! I guess the problem is more the control of the seed thus the food we eat. The GMO seed it appears to me is produced to yield high returns on products/plants that we don’t that much in our daily life. The rules and regulations favor patenting of the GMO and make those who chose to grow non-GMO vulnerable. Do we really need more yellow corn? or the enriched rice i.e. Golden Rice? It will not be on the table of the people in the third world country it will be on our table! Why would I need more vitamin A than what I already get in my diet? Actually it might be too poisonous for me if I exceed the limit of vitamin A. Do not patent the seeds, make them at the price of non-GMO, get the revenue from selling the crops not the seeds. Clean the mess after the GMO experimentation. Then I might consider supporting the GMOs!

      • I’m going to point out that seeds(and rootstock) have been patented since the initial Plant Parent Act of 1930 with many updates in legislation over the generations and the issues of corporate control and ownership over commercial crops predate GMO tech. Farming is a business not a hobby or charity. Organic/Green Cult has made a very romantic mythology about farming not being an industry that hasn’t been true since the 19thC.

        • Your last 2 lines are key though much of what organic cult view is the mythology of a farm on the label of their butter that never existed in the real world.

          Farming is a business not a hobby. Farming is not natural farming is the very first time humans said beep you nature and took control of the environment on a large scale. Farming is not a garden but bigger.

          If you are worried about the environment you should want humans as far away from that land as possible. That means higher yields on the land we need to farm on so we can set aside grasslands and forest for real biodiversity. 3 different varieties of Kale and a winter squash is not biodiversity.

      • In addition to Adela’s point, patents on GM seed varieties run out. The patents are compensation for the R&D investment that goes into developing GMOs. Like anything else that can be patented, the patent expires. The first such expiration is the Roundup Ready Soybean http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/pages/roundup-ready-patent-expiration.aspx

        And Golden Rice, in short, yes we need it. Golden Rice has increased levels of beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, an essential micronutrient. It will not reach poisonous levels in the body. Only as much vitamin A as needed will be converted.

      • The Saving seed argument comes from those that do not understand how modern farms work. Except for a tiny handful or those that are doing it as a hobby no one saves seeds. Not because of patent or the tech agreement but because it does not make financial sense to do so. Saving seeds mean putting aside acres of land that are going to require water, N2, weeding, insect control. Those are all costs. Then when you harvest them you have to wash your equipment. Then clean and sort your seeds. You don’t have the seed treatments. At best you might save a few cents but you will not have as good of a product as just planting a crop for market on that land and ordering from Pioneer. And its important to remember that corn or any other hybrid has to be bought from seed other wise it will not grow true.

        Yes we need Golden Rice. Its the best chance to put a dent into Vit A Deficiency. I am not sure why you don’t think it will be on the table of Asians and Africans where its intended to be used. All patents used to develop it are under a humanitarian license. This means all small farmers will not have to pay any additional money for the product. They are free to do with this as they wish.

        Sorry but patents are necessary. It now takes nearly a decade and over 100 million dollars on average to pass the regulatory hurdles to bring a GM on market. That is just the testing cost not the cost of R&D or marketing. Without patent protection no one would spend a dime on this research.

        • So true about saving seeds, JimisAwesome. I’m no farmer, but I’ve heard from a lot of them that no experienced farmer that makes his living in ag would save seeds.

      • You may not need more beta-carotene (Strictly speaking, it doesn’t make vitamin A, but rather beta-carotene, which your body transforms into vitamin A as needed.), but there are people starving in Africa and Southeast Asia who might.

        The only thing I might shop at Whole Paycheck for, the only thing, is Tanka bars. I know the owner’s family (His father was a lawyer who worked for AIM back in the 70s.), and I can’t always get to other venues where they’re sold. But I would not pay Whole Foods’ markup.

    • Just read your other piece as well. Excellent points in both.

      “Organic” has become conflated with “good and ecologically wise farming techniques,” even beyond GMO gibberish. Thirty years ago, this was not farfetched. It is now.

      I hate the word “sustainable” used this way, but it’s easy shorthand. So, I am all for developing sustainable farming techniques that do not cause great topsoil loss or damage, don’t create poisonous runoff that endangers the wildlife and people exposed, and does not result in farm and food workers being injured by machinery, toxins, abusive labor practices, or any other avoidable harm. I also am in favor of humane livestock husbandry practices.

      None of which are guaranteed by “organic food.”

      On a very local level, we have watched Whole Foods shove out more affordable options as gentrification spreads through Boston. In my own neighborhood, Whole Foods closed a low priced Latino grocery that was a local institution, in a sub-radar deal with the out-of-town landlord. After the deal was signed and they were about to open, Whole Foods farcically had a “community hearing” in order to give the impression that they cared about the neighborhood beyond figuring out ways of taking our money. Since then, a small food co-op, selling products similar to WF but usually cheaper, has had to fold. That part of our neighborhood now has no local grocery store, making it hard for people who live there and don’t have a car to shop– over 60% of the residents. But, hey, now Whole Foods has a delivery service to that area– for $5 a delivery.

      In short, I don’t buy into any of that “stewards of the earth” crap from Whole Foods et al, either in their intended sense of being healthy and ecologically sound, or in the greater sense of stewardship that would include treating people well.

      • Thank you, bibliotequetress. I’m all for wise, environmentally responsible farming techniques as well, but to echo your comment, I don’t think organic is the path to sustainability. In fact, some organic farms actually have to discard some of their crop due to pest damage. This is just one example of how organic isn’t as efficient as conventional and GM farming. Take the newly approved Simplot Innate potato. Not only does it reduce acrylamide to reduce carcinogenic properties of fried potatoes, its reduced bruising means less potatoes have to be discarded. This is a bit OT for this thread, but in addition, there is a misconception that vegan-friendly is organic. For anyone interested, check out vegangmo.com

    • Aloha. Not sure how I stumbled across this article, but was intrigued by your commentary. I read two of your linked articles “Why This Mom Boycotts Organic and Will Never Shop at Whole Foods” and “Choosy Moms Choose GMOs” and appreciate your candor, though naturally I don’t agree with everything stated. But hey, that’s the nature of journalism. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I do agree that Whole Foods and similar venues are not necessarily better “stewards” of the Earth or its resources. They’re businesses and use marketing (the “organic” label or otherwise) to create, keep, and sell to their target markets.

      Moreover, with thousands of vendors clamoring to place their wares on shelves and only ~6,000 linear sq. ft. per Whole Foods store, there’s simply not enough space to sell everything. Therefore, what primary factor determines what to display? Profit.

      What goes on the shelves at Whole Foods is not necessarily the best products, the proverbial “cream of the crop” but, rather, what will generate the biggest profit margin, health or other considerations notwithstanding. Basic capitalism.

      I am curious, though, do you feel your reasoning applies when it’s the farmer or manufacturer that sells direct to the consumer, does your “organic-scam” rhetoric continue to apply? And even that may be too broad.

      I ask because I’ve long felt as you’ve described, incredulous about the “organic” label. I’ve patiently humored my wife and dutifully bought the vastly more expensive products, but secretly harbored disbelief that it was any healthier, better, tastier, etc.

      Since October, though, I’ve had reason to re-evaluate my previous notions and beliefs. I took the “10-day celebrity transformation” challenge which originates with a company that is the manufacturer, and sells their products direct to the consumer.

      I coupled the 10 days with precise scientific measurements of my body for months before and after the 10 days and less scientifically my own perceptions. I expected to take advantage of the 60-day money back guarantee because I anticipated proving yet again that the perceived “organic” value is baseless.

      But I was wrong.

      Surprisingly, I *was* different. Scientifically, measurably different. And I *felt* different, too. My own personal null hypothesis was necessarily rejected, at least as pertained to that trial, or that company.

      I’m not done exploring and delving into this. In fact, I’ve partnered with a University colleague and we’re conducting formal research with anticipated academic publication in the ensuring months/years.

      But it has forced me to reconsider my previous ideas, that perhaps some organic claims are not as baseless as I’d believed. I’m curious whether my experience is unique, or if it’s normal.

      Are you willing to take the “10-day Celebrity Transformation” challenge, to test it for yourself? I’d love to see your results.

      • Thing is.. Organic, because it doesn’t produce nice clean crops, so to speak, has to be more picky about what is put on the shelf. Its plausible that just simply picking out the fruit, vegetables, etc. that are less bruised, because its easier to see which ones are in organic crops **may** mean that certain negative characteristics that do effect health, are avoided? Another problem is quite simply the whole double blind issue. Its possible to health, and even weight, to fluctuate, and to do so due to **perception**. There was a study done a bit back which actually showed that just sticking a chart on the wall, reminding people how many calories they burned doing just simple things, had the insane effect of causing weight loss. Maybe they inadvertently did some of those things a tiny bit more, or the reminder that they where trying to lose also caused a slight decline in intake.. its really hard to pin down, because your mental perception can, and does, cause physiological changes. This why the whole, “If we run some electricity through our body if will cleanse you of allergies!”, nonsense I recently heard someone was using works. It is, ironically, possible to trigger allergic responses, with nothing but visual, or other stimulus. By the same token, the right mental monkeying can reduce, and possibly even eliminate *some* allergies, depending on how severe they are. Literally believing you are cured can, in such cases, cure someone (at least until/unless they stop believing). This is what makes claims about GMO versus Organic such a pain. Scientifically there is **no** chemical difference between them in most cases, in the majority of cases, and even the claimed contaminants people insists are in the non-organic products may, in many cases, be introduced during the packaging process, not at the fields, so.. can’t be attributed to being a cause. What does differ is “perception”, and… sadly, the truly problematic thing is that it is actually possible for someone who doesn’t believe, at all, in something, to be unknowingly influenced, to predispose them to have a positive reaction. This happens with acupuncture, where whether or not it works, or how well has vastly more to do with the perceived reliability/believability, and trustworthiness, of the practitioner, than it does with even whether or not the patient thinks its totally nonsense. It just doesn’t seem to matter, at all whether its real, just.. whether your reaction to the “doctor” is positive enough to trigger your own nervous system to trick itself, regardless of what you conscious mind says about it, into reducing pain, or improving the effect of a medication, or… even possibly having organic foods seem to be healthier than ones that are not.

        Its a real tricky mess, and bloody hard to detect, from what I understand, which is why, frankly, most of the stuff out there is unconscionably premature and unethical, even if any of it is true in the long run. It may take 10,000 patients, over dozens of studies, to be “certain” of the effect, or to disprove it, but.. almost all of this stuff is predicated, at best, on a tiny handful of studies, often with only a few hundred people in them. Pure statistical anomaly could produce positive results in such small samples, and numbers of studies.

        • Absolutely, my personal discovery does not justify the organic movement and although I used scientific devices and procedures as part of my experience, it’s clearly not without possible error, bias, etc. Hence I’m collaborating with a colleague to conduct some formalized research.

          But, given that the challenge *is* backed by a 60-day guarantee, I *did* observe significant results (p < .01), and subjectively I *do* feel better, I think I'll do another one or two 10-day challenges and see if my findings remain consistent.

          Kagehi, et al — care to try the challenge?

          • Nope. Not at all interested. I don’t take challenges where my own flawed perceptions can derail the outcomes. Doctors are not allowed to use placebo, save in dire cases, like wars, where there is literally no option but either give someone hope, or see them die, because the same mental manipulation that can make someone better can make them worse. Its an ethics violation to even try, despite the fact that, if done right, it could improve outcomes. I would be a total bloody fool to fool myself, instead of waiting for the facts.

            And, that is not the only reason. I work in a grocery store. The same people that, day in, and day out, claim they feel better eating organics, sometimes in the same conversation, will describe problems that are no different than anyone else that is supposedly eating more poorly. Worse, they fall pray to real scams, like mega-vitamins, or Airborne. I, one day, say one fool buying 3-4 different “natural products”, which claimed to keep him safe from the colds. The primary ingredient for them was, in all cases, Vitamin C. He also had juices, which contained the same. Added up.. he was probably taking something like 5,000-7,000mg a day of the stuff.. We, literally, have no idea what a safe dose of it is, but we **do** know that there is an unsafe one, over which the risk of certain cancers become much higher (both the key advocate of mega-dosing on it, and his wife, died from cancers, for which no other factor could be found, which would explain them), and.. I can’t remember if it was 10,000mg, or 100,000mg a day they had been taking. What we have vast evidence for, from studies is that vitamin C has **no effect at all** on colds, or flu. We do however have about 50 times as much purely anecdotal gibberish, and endorsements, from people that think it did help, but don’t have one scrap of actual evidence, like.. something showing it cleared up in 2 days, instead of 3, or anything similar, to justify the claims.

            This is even more compounded by the “bad science reporting” disease. This has several attributes, that should terrify anyone that understands them:

            1. Journals don’t get readers by simply stating the basic facts of research. Things that sound, or can be made to sound, like miracles, and vast and grand strides, will be published, to the exclusion of other.

            2. News papers, TV news, pop-science magazines, etc. look for only the most interesting of the things from #1, to publish. And, then, all too often they screw up the explanations even worse than the journals do.

            3. Retractions, if printed, are never read by the people that keep quoting the original study.

            4. Studies that contradict, deny, or even disprove, something are less interesting than ones that claim great advances, so, even when they contradict, deny, or disprove, prior studies, journals do not always print them, and, if they do, the public, rarely, if ever, sees them.

            5. Most studies that get published, then recounted, than blown out of proportion to the facts, and “preliminary”, and require dozens of additional experiments, and thousands more tests, to confirm. Yet, they are often reported as breakthroughs, because reporting them as such draws attention, and, in part, sadly, make it more likely that the funds will exist for the original researcher, and others, to keep testing, and either confirm, or deny, the original results.

            A good example of this is “anti-oxidants.” People make “all” of the same claims on these as they do with eating organic. Heck, a bloody “huge” claim being made by organics is that there is, in contradiction to fact, more of those in organics, especially if its also termed a “super food” than in normal produce. Only… Here is the facts of anti-oxidants:

            1. It was proposed, clear back when the vitamin C nut was killing himself with mega-dosing, that oxidation may be a major cause of malfunction in human cells, and part of the aging process.

            2. Initial tests indicated this did happen, it did cause some errors, and that **maybe** anti-oxidants would have an impact. Some initial studies suggested this may be correct.

            3. Later studies, which, as per the first list I posted above, never made it into most journals, was never then taken up by news, or popular science magazines, and never made it to the public, suggested that… oddly, more testing didn’t seem to produce quite the promise implied.

            4. Meanwhile, every product maker on the planet, practically, was cramming “anti-oxidants” into things, especially the makeup and “health” industries, who would sell you fake moon rocks, if they thought they could get by with it, and there was the tiniest chance that hitting your head with the rock every morning might “reduce wrinkles”.

            5. At some point, even bloody water bottling people decided to push the stuff.

            6. Meanwhile, the original guy that proposed the idea had been doing detailed research on just what the heck was actually going on. These where his conclusions, as of like.. 6-8 months ago? Guess why just about no one, at all, knows about them…:

            a. Oxidation actually plays a role in some cellular processes, even with respect to DNA. Its not possible to stop it, and definitely not a good idea to curtail it so much that it messes with those processes.

            b. Our cells have several systems, which are interdependent, and change how they work, based on certain conditions. One of those conditions is the level of oxidation going on.

            c. We produce our own, natural anti-oxidants.

            d. One of the processes fowled up by removing oxidation, or drastically reducing it is “error correction and repair”. Basically, if our cells recognize there is less change of defects arising from errors, it stops wasting as much resources on repairing the errors that do happen. This can actually “cause” more errors, since they will not be detected, or repaired, because the sloppy system tracking them has shut down, on the assumption that there will now be less of them. Whoops!

            e. Just to see what would happen, he disabled “natural” production of anti-oxidants in some test animals, and saw a 25% gain in life span. Yep.. they lived longer by **not** having any protection from oxidants. Double whoops!!

            So… A bloody lot of people insist they feel better drinking, eating, and taking these things, but… we don’t know how much it too much (will cause more errors, and cause cancers, or other problems), many of them seem to have secondary effects that can boost, in the short term, energy levels, even as they do damage (sort of like if you where taking uppers all the time, and ignoring the mess that causes with neurotransmitters in the brain, which can become permanent, and incurable), we have no real clue how much actually helps (or even if taking them at all might be bad), nor, at this point, do we even know what other problems may exist, if we, say, deleted “our” ability to create them in our own bodies, and stopped eating foods with them at all. The latter might make someone who, now, could live healthy to 100, instead survive to 125, or.. it might increase the risk of cancers, and other diseases. We just don’t know.

            What do we know? That taking/eating/drinking anti-oxidants in every bloody thing we take into our bodies, at best, does nothing at all, and at worst, might actually contribute to aging, instead of slowing it. In short – our current obsession with this stuff might be making us, over the long run, **less** healthy, not more. But.. its likely to be, like vitamins in general, as case where W amount isn’t enough, X amount is more or less right, Y amount is maybe a little more than needed, but your body isn’t going to use more than it needs, and Z amount.. will shorten your life span, and/or send you to chemo. But, we just don’t know. And… the public is getting ***all*** of its information from people who never read, and never will, the later research, suggesting that it may be the worst bloody thing they could possibly do to themselves, or.. it just doesn’t work, neither one of which justifies selling the stuff, and either of which rips to shreds the “self reported” claims of millions of people, who are convinced, from the exact same sort of studies/challenges, you are talking about, that its making them healthier, happier, and better.

            • Wow. My claim is that I observed empirically significant evidence (p < .01) that there was a difference between organic products used vs. non-organic. Of only anecdotal note do I subjectively state that I also feel better. I openly recognize my single experience may not be representative and may be flawed due to personal contamination, hence my interest in formalized research.

              Given that you're not involved in formal research (or, if so, haven't stated as much) and thus have no opportunity to jeopardize legitimate research, abstaining on the grounds that it's unethical because it may influence results is… well, absurd, IMO. If you don't want to try something, just say no thanks. ๐Ÿ™‚

              I am curious, what alternative do you propose? Just purchase and eat whatever happens to be on the local grocer's shelves, whether that's Whole Foods (ah, back to the original article) or something else, and hope that the manufacturer, farmer, et al, has spent a billion dollars on research to ensure it's top-notch, has no long-term ill effects, etc?

              No thanks. I'll continue formalized research and privately do my own "experimentation" (the results of which MAY suggest opportunities for legitimate, formal and controlled research), even if my results are subject to error because of personal involvement. After all, as the consumer I get to choose where and how to spend my dollars, and in this case, the organic food is LESS than what I was already spending, so it's a win-win. ๐Ÿ™‚

            • Just saying.. Beware your personal research isn’t just biased, but dead wrong. Me.. I will go with the recommendations made by health experts, when I can actually get at that information. So, so, soooo much of what is out there is **not** from actual nutritionists. Even the food pyramid, and its replacement, are **both** political, as much as factual, and thus distort the real information. When you tack on “naturopaths”, which have no credentials, of knowledge at all, but sound a bloody like like nutritionists, and all the other junk out there.. its bloody surprising some times that we are not eating cardboard and drinking mud, because some clown some place either found an economic/political gain from making it sound like a fact, or there where a dozen micro-studies, which “suggest” it is a good idea.

              We are all easily fooled by what we want to be real, and the easiest person for us to fool is ourselves, or.. someone said something to that effect, way back when. I have yet to see anyone disprove the axiom.

          • Please elaborate on what differences were measured, how they were measured, and what statistical process was used to arrive at a p <0.01 significance level.

          • My claim is that I observed empirically significant evidence (p < .01)

            Second person asking: how was this measured?

          • 3rd person asking… How do you derive statistically significant data from a study of 1 person?

            • but-but-but! he observed some anecdotal evidence! no confirmation bias here, no sir.

            • “I coupled the 10 days with precise scientific measurements of my body for months before and after the 10 days and less scientifically my own perceptions.”

              And measuring what, exactly? And with what instruments?

            • 4th person asking: Wouldn’t p for an n=1 study be around .5? In other words, a crapshoot?

            • 5th person asking, and please also verify whether the “10-day Celebrity Transformation” you speak of is the multi level marketing scheme produced by Purium Health that is marketed as a cleanse and really has nothing to do with organics?

              Skepticism is a pain in the ass when you’re trying to sell stuff isn’t it?

            • “Formalized research” — that’s what Joshua Smith called his “challenge”. LOL

            • Do we have a meme now? ๐Ÿ˜‰

        • There’s also the opposite, the ‘nocebo’ effect, which has actually been responsible for the deaths of otherwise healthy people:

          http://io9.com/how-the-nocebo-effect-can-trick-us-into-actually-dyin-1681746203

          How our perceptions influence our biology is fascinating and strange as fiction.

    • USDA Organic certainly is marketing gimmick and fears of GMO are definitely unfounded. However, GMOs and “conventional” farming are hardly any savior for the environment or hungry humans.

      Hunger is generally a localized issue which requires countering many base issues which drive the hunger. GMOs can occassionally be helpful tools, but thinking of them as some kind of actual solution is more harmful than helpful.

      For instance, 1 and 5 children in the US is on food stamps… saying GMO IS TEH WUNDERCURE and being done with the issue would ensure a lot of US children stay hungry. Of course that’s not what anyone is doing, but I have seen the GMO wundercure approach thrown at other international hunger problems.

      GMO can be like organic to many skeptics and scientists in that it’s billed as magic solution to big problems without proper critical thought. GMO is a TOOL, not a solution.

    • I read kagehi’s spiel about antioxidants above (great job there) and here’s my 2c worth in support.

      In the early 70’s I read Linus Pauling’s book about vitamin C and decided to give it a try. I went and bought a kilo of ascorbic acid and took 5 grams a day for 200 days.

      Like many people, in the winter season I usually get 1 or 2 respiratory tract infections a year, severe enough to take a few days off work.

      In short the vitamin made no perceptible difference to frequency, length or severity of my URTI’s.

      This experience taught me a lot about argument from authority and that even Nobel prize winning biochemists can be totally full of shit on subjects where they ought to know better.

      It also helped immunise me against taking too seriously claims about free radicals and antioxidants when about a bazillion papers on the subject appeared in the 80’s and 90’s.

      Anecdote I know but a valuable personal experience and I’m not trying to convince anybody of anything.

      • I don’t know about megadoses of vitamin C causing cancer though. That’s a new one on me. It’s certainly not mentioned in the MSDS sheets.

        Fun fact about vitamin C: it can often reduce your cholesterol measurements!

        However, as this is due to a negative interference with the test itself, this is not recommended. (A bit like Hitchhiker’s Guide where Zaphod Beeblebrox’s glasses turned black in the presence of danger).

        • Fun fact: TBHQ (tert-butylhydroquinone) is also an antioxidant. Unsurprisingly, because it’s not ‘natural’, alties aren’t so excited about it. Quite the opposite, really.

          • Ha! You could have some fun with that for sure!
            I guess lithium aluminium hydride is also a great antioxidant, but I don’t want to go anywhere near it without PPE.

  • Kavin Senapathy posted a new activity comment 3 years, 9 months ago

    Thanks, Amy. I appreciate it!

  • Hi readers! I’ve just joined the ranks of some of the most brilliant feminist critical-thinkers on Earth, so I’d like to introduce myself.

    Some of you won’t have heard of me, while others will know me from my […]

  • Kavin Senapathy posted a new activity comment 3 years, 9 months ago

    I think it’s listed as homeopathic because it’s supposed to be diluted with water. The whole thing started when my friend Yvette, AKA Science Babe posted a video of herself getting tipsy on the stuff. It was funny but made the necessary point ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Kavin Senapathy posted a new activity comment 3 years, 10 months ago

    Jamie – thank you so much for this. Now I have somewhere to send people with the infrequent but regular comment like “but she calls herself ‘babe,’ what did she expect?”

    • The thing that really gets me about the whole “What did she expect?” argument is that I don’t understand how that somehow makes it ok. I mean, I know that whenever I write about feminism I’m opening myself up to harassment, but that doesn’t suddenly make that harassment ok. Women who state their opinions publicly are targeted for harassment, so…[Read more]

      • I’ve had limited success using the analogy that if it was a black person, who somehow either worked being black into their public identity and/or used a nickname like ChocloateBabe, would it be an open invite to use racial epithets against them? Even if they themselves, used them would it make it ethical and rational for you to use them against…[Read more]

      • They also never apply the โ€œWhat did she expect?โ€ to their side.

        Did any of them say โ€œWhat did he expect?โ€ about the Rosetta scientist that caused #shirtstorm?

        Just as it is easy to predict the kind of sexualised and violent response a woman will get on the internet, it is equally easy to predict that someone doing something sexist in a ve…[Read more]

  • Kavin Senapathy posted a new activity comment 4 years ago

    His feminism commentary was great. I also loved his take as his parents immigrating to South Carolina, the perfect Venn diagram of racism and bad public schools. Ha! My parents were also immigrants from India, but the Venn diagram into which I was born was somewhat more desirable. He’d spend his $20 on fresh pressed juice!! Ha. I’mma go thank my…[Read more]

  • Kavin Senapathy posted a new activity comment 4 years, 2 months ago

    Are you trying to convince people to come to next year’s Skepchickcon? Because it’s working.

  • Kavin Senapathy posted a new activity comment 4 years, 2 months ago

    OMG, I love that GIF

  • Kavin Senapathy posted a new activity comment 4 years, 2 months ago

    Heina – I enjoy your writing immensely, and will continue to follow you. So many people speak highly of you with good reason. Best wishes with wherever the future takes you!

  • Kavin Senapathy posted a new activity comment 4 years, 2 months ago

    And I agree it wasn’t the author’s intention to imply that only white people are into this type of pretentious stuff like food trucks, drum circles, etc. On the other hand, at least having the perspective of visiting or having family in places like India highlights, to me, the silliness in some of the pretentious stuff we like. I shop in…[Read more]

  • Kavin Senapathy posted a new activity comment 4 years, 2 months ago

    I guess this could go a couple ways. I myself am non-white and have lots of family living in India. I would highly recommend this piece “Interview with an Indian GMO Farmer.” http://theoddpantry.com/2014/07/27/interview-with-an-indian-gmo-farmer/

    I see the lightish-haired children on the streets of India. That is just one of the benign…[Read more]

    • //There are much more pressing issues than whether the chicken is โ€œcage free,โ€ or whether the produce is organic.//

      Ech, but that’s the straw-man I’m raging against here, because that DOES frame the argument as liking organic == foo-foo privileged liberal who doesn’t care about workers, and boy, is that an easy image to attack.

      It doe…[Read more]

    • And I agree it wasn’t the author’s intention to imply that only white people are into this type of pretentious stuff like food trucks, drum circles, etc. On the other hand, at least having the perspective of visiting or having family in places like India highlights, to me, the silliness in some of the pretentious stuff we like. I shop in…[Read more]

  • Kavin Senapathy posted a new activity comment 4 years, 2 months ago

    Jon, I didn’t think of it that way! Yep, Monsanto Fluffer. I wasn’t aware of what it meant until one of my friends told me. Even if that person wasn’t aware of the meaning, at least some of the readers that rec’d the comment must have. (which is apparently Kos’ version of liking.)

    • Yeah, the difficulty is, as you know, some people really will shill for anyone. But we know those people by name; they got their start with the tobacco industry and have since moved on to energy. (‘Clean’ [sic] coal, “oh, there’s plenty of oil”, “the farmland to grow biofuels will in no way take land away from food”.)

      The titles were a bit of…[Read more]

  • Kavin Senapathy posted a new activity comment 4 years, 2 months ago

    Thank you so much for the local chicken link. I had never seen that before. You just made my day.