Early this September I attended the National Heirloom Expo in Santa Rosa. It’s an event that’s centered around the pure food movement, heirloom vegetables, and anti-GMO activism. The speakers included Joseph Mercola, Jeffrey Smith, Andrew Kimbrell, and my personal favorite pseudoscientist, Vani Hari, a.k.a. the Food Babe.
For those unfamiliar with Food Babe, she is an anti-GMO, pro-organic public figure who attacks food and agricultural companies for what are essentially harmless practices. The reason I mention her is because she inspired me to start my own Facebook parody page called Food Hunk, which is what sort of drove my foray into ‘activism’.
Food Hunk is to Food Babe, what Stephen Colbert is to Bill O’Reilly. I joined a community of other wonderful Food Babe critics such as Chow Babe and Science Babe, with my page being a bit of a broader commentary on fallacious ways of thinking, such as the all-too-common naturalistic fallacy.
I put on my ‘I love GMOs’ t-shirt, (carefully concealed under my sweatshirt) and hit the road to Santa Rosa. My modest intention was to snap a few pictures and possibly end up with a nice photo of the Hunk and the Babe for my Facebook page.
I sat down near the front of the stage so I could easily pose a question if given the chance. I had my question planned out. The Food Babe’s most recent scare-campaign was directed at Starbucks Coffee for their Pumpkin Spice Latte. In her ‘investigation’ she cites the International Agency for Research on Cancer as having grouped one of the chemicals found in caramel color (used in the beverage) as a ‘possible carcinogen’.
What she fails to mention is that the IARC also groups coffee itself as a possible carcinogen (group 2B), along with pickled vegetables and the cell phone in your pocket. In fact the highest level they categorize (group 1, two levels above 2B) includes outdoor air pollution and alcoholic beverages. If we are to use Food Babe’s judgment of what is ‘harmful’, we would be at a much higher risk by enjoying a nice glass of wine in the outdoor seating of a quaint little bistro in LA. My question would be simple: “According to the IARC, what poses a higher risk of carcinogenic exposure, caramel color or the coffee itself?” I never got a chance to ask her that question.
What I’m going to recount next may resemble conspiracy, but I’m almost certain that Food Babe knew exactly who I was when she entered the auditorium. Before going on stage, she stared right at me (I was only about 15 feet away), and summoned her handlers and event coordinator. They all whispered covertly for half a minute while occasionally glancing over at me. For a moment I thought I might be asked to leave. Keep in mind that I am still wearing my sweatshirt over my GMO shirt, and at this point I hadn’t spoken to anyone at the event about my intentions of being there. But I had been all over Facebook posting about it in public groups.
I also know that she, or more likely someone that works for her, ironically pre-banned members of a Facebook group called Banned by the Food Babe. You see, she has a reputation for immediately silencing anyone who dares ask actual science questions on her page, and so a group was created for people to discuss their bannings. Many members were surprised to find out that they had been preemptively silenced just by joining this public group. Thus, it makes logical sense to conclude that she must also know about the various Food Babe parody pages, and my face is plastered all over mine. In fact, after hearing her speak and noticing just how concerned she was about herself and her image, I’ve concluded that there is no way that she could NOT know about a semi-popular Facebook page that is making fun of her.
My suspicions were further confirmed when I later saw her walking alone through another area of the expo. She spotted me and quickly looked away. She then met up with her handlers and they pulled the ‘don’t look now, but that’s the guy’ routine, which of course means all four of them simultaneously turned around and checked me out as they scampered away. At the risk of sounding like a stalker, I only wanted to ask her a question.
Read full original article: The day I unwittingly became a pro-science activist