Kevin Folta deconstructs Food Babe’s response to students in scathing fashion

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Last week, a group of food science students from the IFT Student Association (IFTSA) wrote a letter to the “Food Babe”, Vani Hari, challenging what they say are her unscientific views on food, farming and health issues, and on chemicals and genetically modified foods in particular. It was a thoughtful, reasoned and appropriate letter.

Hari responded–aggressively. She rejected their critique and presented what she claims is her view of the science and the appropriate precautions that we should take towards food and farming. We have a full transcript of her reply on the GLP here. A few key excerpts:

Thank you so much for your letter, which I greatly appreciated receiving. … [S]ynthetic ingredients in our food should be proven safe before they are put into our bodies. … I do take issue with your assertion that there is no evidence that organic products are better for health. … Likewise I respectfully disagree with your statement that GMO crops are “proven to be substantially equivalent to native crops.”

Food and agricultural scientist Kevin Folta of the University of Florida was taken aback by Hari’s attempt at a rebuttal. In his blog post, Vani Hari’s Kooky Response to Critical Students, he deconstructs her response, point by point.

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  • a_dad66

    Unfortunately, I think this is one of those situations covered by the adage “Never wrestle with a pig; you’ll both get dirty and the pig likes it.”

  • Roxanne Porozinski

    The Food Babe is great at fear mongering and marketing. You need to call yourself the Science Stud.

  • JoeFarmer

    “Kevin Folta deconstructs Food Babe’s response to students in scathing fashion…”

    So, Dr. Folta, what did you do with the other 14 hours, 57 minutes and 30 seconds that workday?

  • Sidney Barker

    Quite a childish response.

    • Burgardus

      Being a scientist IS childish. Asking questions over and over again. What?Why?Howdoesitwork?Howcome? And Show me!

      • nathan

        As opposed to what exactly ?
        Being an ignorant douche bag like yourself who is too lazy to bother with anything because it’s too hard for you to work out so you sit on your fat ass all day on the computer instead ?

    • Agreed. But Food Babe is frequently childish.

    • Jamini

      This is for the two that replied to your comment.

  • UniTeacher

    If she was my student at Univeristy, she would fail on lack of citations of actual evidence alone, aside from the fact that she’s talking complete shit.

    • Albert J. Brown

      I agree – but you also need to exercise some objectivity because Folta is guilty of all the same things, based on this example.

      • Eskil Jonsson

        It depends on the claim. There may be trivial claims, all of which Folta makes in this response surrounding the evidence as everyone can easily look up e.g. meta-analyses on organic food and health, or the scientific consensus and reviews regarding GMO foods.

        These generally do not need citation (although it might help) just as much as you would not need to cite references for the evidence of evolution in a paper on – say – cell biology.

        ‘Food Babe’s assertions on the other hand goes against the already well established science and has no citations to justify those claims.

      • Brett N

        I’d go by Christopher Hitchens’ old adage on this one: “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

  • jeskill

    Food babe is completely ridiculous and anti-science, no question about it. However, I disagree with your overarching statement that GE crops have decreased the amount of pesticides used. I cite this study: http://www.enveurope.com/content/24/1/24, which shows pesticide use and herbicide use has increased. Moreover, most GE crops require pesticides or herbicides to work properly; using one pesticide or one herbicide over a large area increases the chance of resistant weeds and pests evolving, as you well know. This forces the farmer to use more, stronger biocides, thus further increasing pesticide/herbicide use. Final example: USDA data shows that before GE alfalfa was introduced, 93% of alfalfa was grown without using herbicides. Glyphosate-resistant alfalfa requires the use of a herbicide. If it becomes the dominant alfalfa crop grown, then it will absolutely increase the amount of pesticides used on alfalfa.

    • Clive Stacey

      I doubt there was a herbicide that could effectively be used on alfalfa. previously weed grass control would have involved ripping it up and starting again. Probably using a herbicide for burn off. It is somewhat facetious to point out that glyphosate can now be used on a smaller acreage of a more productive crop and ignoring the fact that GMO has negated the need for atrazine in corn, a really nasty herbicide that stayed in soil profile for ever. not to mention the whole spectrum of herbicides used in canola. On ballance over all crops herbicide use can be reduced and the toxicity of those used reduced considerably.

      • jeskill

        Has the need for atrazine really been negated? I cite: http://www.wssajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1614/WT-D-11-00093.1: “Atrazine continues to be the dominant broadleaf herbicide in corn, especially with increasing selection for evolved resistance to glyphosate and acetolactate synthase–inhibiting herbicides. Growers indicated that atrazine was applied for residual weed control up to 39% of the time.”
        While I understand that there are now management plans available for farmers to reduce the probability of resistant weeds and pests evolving, how many farmers actually follow the management plans?

  • Jade

    As a food science student: Thank-You! :)

  • Voidhelix

    If your main sales pitch`s aesthetic value, is it really that surprising that your method of reasoning is flawed?

    Also, I thought the pig was more attractive.

  • Nick

    Not understanding the debate or political landscape in the USA puts an interesting spin on this. It just makes it look like a letter from someone lobbying the FDA (I might have missed the “agression”), who sites no evidence, commented on in red pen by someone else who sites no evidence. Nil all draw.

    • Albert J. Brown

      I think you are 100% correct, Nick. Also, very astute of you to point out that there is very little aggression in Hari’s reply. You don’t need to be American to see that there is very little aggression there – but you do need to pretend like there is if you’re a news source trying to stir up interest by playing on the easily manipulated emotions of the ignorant masses!

    • Eskil Jonsson

      There are several ways to interpret “aggressive” such as “3. Assertive, bold, and energetic” [1] As for citations, I’ll repeat what I stated above:
      There may be trivial claims, all of which Folta makes in this
      response surrounding the evidence as everyone can easily look up e.g. meta-analyses on organic food and health, or the scientific consensus and reviews regarding GMO foods.

      These generally do not need citation (although it might help for a non expert audience) just as much as you would not need to cite references for the evidence of evolutionary- or germ theory in a paper on – say – cell biology. It’s a waste of paper generally if it’s already well accepted within the scientific community

      ‘Food Babe’s assertions on the other hand goes against
      the already well established science and has no citations to justify those claims other than dubious and questionable sources.

      [1] http://www.thefreedictionary.com/aggressive

      • Albert J. Brown

        Erik, your bias is noted and need not be repeated.

        • Eskil Jonsson

          How is it bias to highlight the obvious? Look at any meta analysis or review on the topic. Then come back to me and show me that Dr. Folta made false statements.

          Scientific consensus and evidence on GMOs:

          American Association for the Advancement of Science: ”The science is quite clear: crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe.”

          http://bit.ly/11cR4sB

          American Medical Association: ”There is no scientific justification for special labeling of genetically modified foods. Bioengineered foods have been consumed for close to 20 years, and during that time, no overt consequences on human health have been reported and/or substantiated in the peer-reviewed literature.”

          http://bit.ly/166OUdM

          World Health Organization: ”No effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of GM foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.”

          http://bit.ly/18yzzVI

          National Academy of Sciences: ”To date more than 98 million acres of genetically modified crops have been grown worldwide. No evidence of human health problems associated with the ingestion of these crops or resulting food products have been identified.”

          http://bit.ly/13Cib0Y

          The Royal Society of Medicine: ”Foods derived from GM crops have been consumed by hundreds of millions of people across the world for more than 15 years, with no reported ill effects (or legal cases related to human health), despite many of the consumers coming from that most litigious of countries, the USA.”

          http://1.usa.gov/12huL7Z

          The European Commission: ”The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are no more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies.”

          http://bit.ly/133BoZW

          American Council on Science and Health: ”[W]ith the continuing accumulation of evidence of safety and efficiency, and the complete absence of any evidence of harm to the public or the environment, more and more consumers are becoming as comfortable with agricultural biotechnology as they are with medical biotechnology.”

          http://bit.ly/12hvoyg

          American Dietetic Association: ”It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that agricultural and food biotechnology techniques can enhance the quality, safety, nutritional value, and variety of food available for human consumption and increase the efficiency of food production, food processing, food distribution, and environmental and waste management.”

          http://1.usa.gov/12hvWnE

          American Phytopathological Society: ”The American Phytopathological Society (APS), which represents approximately 5,000 scientists who work with plant pathogens, the diseases they cause, and ways of controlling them, supports biotechnology as a means for improving plant health, food safety, and sustainable growth in plant productivity.”

          http://bit.ly/14Ft4RL

          American Society for Cell Biology: ”Far from presenting a threat to the public health, GM crops in many cases improve it. The ASCB vigorously supports research and development in the area of genetically engineered organisms, including the development of genetically modified (GM) crop plants.”

          http://bit.ly/163sWdL

          American Society for Microbiology: ”The ASM is not aware of any acceptable evidence that food produced with biotechnology and subject to FDA oversight constitutes high risk or is unsafe. We are sufficiently convinced to assure the public that plant varieties and products created with biotechnology have the potential of improved nutrition, better taste and longer shelf-life.”

          http://bit.ly/13Cl2ak

          American Society of Plant Biologists: ”The risks of unintended consequences of this type of gene transfer are comparable to the random mixing of genes that occurs during classical breeding… The ASPB believes strongly that, with continued responsible regulation and oversight, GE will bring many significant health and environmental benefits to the world and its people.”

          http://bit.ly/13bLJiR

          International Seed Federation: ”The development of GM crops has benefited farmers, consumers and the environment… Today, data shows that GM crops and foods are as safe as their conventional counterparts: millions of hectares worldwide have been cultivated with GM crops and billions of people have eaten GM foods without any documented harmful effect on human health or the environment.”

          http://bit.ly/138rZLW

          Council for Agricultural Science and Technology: ”Over the last decade, 8.5 million farmers have grown transgenic varieties of crops on more than 1 billion acres of farmland in 17 countries. These crops have been consumed by humans and animals in most countries. Transgenic crops on the market today are as safe to eat as their conventional counterparts, and likely more so given the greater regulatory scrutiny to which they are exposed.”

          http://bit.ly/11cTKq9

          Crop Science Society of America: ”The Crop Science Society of America supports education and research in all aspects of crop production, including the judicious application of biotechnology.”

          http://bit.ly/138sQMB

          International Society of African Scientists: ”Africa and the Caribbean cannot afford to be left further behind in acquiring the uses and benefits of this new agricultural revolution.”

          http://bit.ly/14Fp1oK

          Federation of Animal Science Societies: ”Meat, milk and eggs from livestock and poultry consuming biotech feeds are safe for human consumption.”

          http://bit.ly/133F79K

          Society for In Vitro Biology: ”The SIVB supports the current science-based approach for the evaluation and regulation of genetically engineered crops. The SIVB supports the need for easy public access to available information on the safety of genetically modified crop products. In addition, the SIVB feels that foods from genetically modified crops, which are determined to be substantially equivalent to those made from crops, do not require mandatory labeling.”

          http://bit.ly/18yFDxo

          Consensus document on GMOs Safety (14 Italian scientific societies): ”GMOs on the market today, having successfully passed all the tests and procedures necessary to authorization, are to be considered, on the basis of current knowledge, safe to use for human and animal consumption.”

          http://bit.ly/166WHYZ

          Society of Toxicology: ”Scientific analysis indicates that the process of GM food production is unlikely to lead to hazards of a different nature than those already familiar to toxicologists. The level of safety of current GM foods to consumers appears to be equivalent to that of traditional foods.”

          http://bit.ly/13bOaSt

          “Transgenic Plants and World Agriculture” – Prepared by the Royal Society of London, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Indian National Science Academy, the Mexican Academy of Sciences, and the Third World Academy of Sciences:“Foods can be produced through the use of GM technology that are more nutritious, stable in storage, and in principle health promoting – bringing benefits to consumers in both industrialized and developing nations.”

          http://bit.ly/17Cliq5

          French Academy of Science: ”All criticisms against GMOs can be largely rejected on strictly scientific criteria.” http://bit.ly/15Hm3wO

          Union of German Academies of Sciences and Humanities: ”Food derived from GM plants approved in the EU and the US poses no risks greater than those from the corresponding conventional food. On the contrary, in some cases food from GM plants appears to be superior with respect to health.”

          http://bit.ly/17ClMMF

          International Council for Science: ”Currently available genetically modified crops – and foods derived from them – have been judged safe to eat, and the methods used to test them have been deemed appropriate.”

          http://bit.ly/15Hn487

          etc.

          Organic food health effects: 50 years of research and no benefits.

          http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2009/07/29/ajcn.2009.28041.abstract
          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20463045
          http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1355685
          etc.

          I would keep going but demonstrating my previous point, it’s already well accepted and a waste of paper when only an ignorant number of people are denying the conclusions in the scientific community.

          • Albert J. Brown

            Eskil,I never made any claim that Folta made false statements, that GMO production was inherently unsafe, or that there is a lack of trustworthy testing being conducted. The fact that you think I did only further highlights your bias.

          • Eskil Jonsson

            I explained why citations weren’t needed on such a scientifically non-controversial subject. Your attitude suggested that you didn’t agree and instead out of nowhere asserted I was biased with no argument – a baseless assertion. That’s a bias in and of itself on your part.

            Given that; I assumed you weren’t already convinced by the scientific literature, my bad. So what’s the problem here? How am I being biased? And what is wrong with Dr. Folta’s reply? (Which obviously was more considered a meme rather than a full blown essay or report)

    • RobWatkin

      It’s “cite”, as in citation, not “site”. You would be more convincing if you could spell correctly.

      • Albert J. Brown

        Extremely petty reply, Rob.

        • RobWatkin

          No! Being pedantic is such fun.

    • Kevin Folta

      Nick, no aggression, not lobbying for the FDA, but I am standing up for science, reason and education of students and the population at large. This article was from my blog and re-published here. My blog tends to keep it light, tongue-in-cheek, and maybe that comes off as aggressive. I’m going to be more sensitive about that going forward.

      Hari should be criticized for that letter and lack of scientific reality. I can provide citation for anything I present, I figured that it is such widely accepted science that I would not need to add citations on a thought-provoking blog post.

      However, I’m glad to do that. I’ll re-publish the blog again and add citation. It has been very well received so far, it continues to expose her for what she is, and hopefully makes folks a little wiser about why they need to weigh her claims carefully. Another version with citation will be even more credible in refuting her nonsensical claims.

      • Albert J. Brown

        It is unfortunate that you seem to be missing some very relevant points, Kevin. It’s not a matter of lacking citations in your refutation it’s that you chose a poor way to argue. You argued using the same method you’re arguing against.

        Also, what’s your motivation here? As the article reports it, the students initiated this thing and Hari has the right to respond however she damn well pleases. You seem to be acting under the notion that Hari has some sweeping influence over the general population that you are responsible for counteracting. All you’ve succeeded in doing is giving her more notoriety.

        The issue here isn’t a matter of science, but education. People need to be taught to evaluate the information that is being passed along rather than blindly accepting it. Both you and Hari just seem to be saying, “I’m right and anyone who disagrees with me is a fool,” which only exacerbates the overall situation.

        I can’t express how disheartening it is to me to read the comments on here that are supportive of your viewpoints. Believe me, I am pre-judiciously in support of you over Hari based on what little info I have on both of you, but just because I’m in support of the importance of scientific research (and am also a humanist) I’m not going to blindly accept what you say. The posters on this board who are championing science seem to be the biggest enemies of the scientific method. It’s like they just want to come to the swiftest conclusion so they can shut their brains off ASAP. It’s one thing to deal with a person like Hari when they do something like that, but it’s particularly disheartening coming from people claiming to be scientific.

      • Albert J. Brown

        Also, I’m not claiming that either you or Hari are lobbying for the FDA, but the tone of both her letter and your reply suggest some lack of integrity, some motivation beyond scientific veracity, on both of your parts.

        Again, I’m not saying that is the case for either of you, just saying what the appearance is based on nothing but this one example.

  • Albert J. Brown

    I don’t know who Vani Hari is and don’t care, but I can definitely say that Folta’s reply is equally, if not more so, immature, aggressive, and lacking in citation and he should be ashamed by it.

    1. Whether or not something can or cannot be “proven safe” why is he implying that testing inorganic methods of producing food is a bad and foolish thing?

    2. I agree that she should cite specific evidence that is relevant to this topic; however, there is OVERWHELMING evidence that the American government will approve use of chemicals in products that are unsafe for humans to consume or be around and that the average American has reason to mistrust what is or isn’t government/FDA approved – or maybe Folta has just never heard of things like Agent Orange, thalidomide, asbestos, nicotine, lead, chrome 6, etc.

    3. Instead of immaturely stating that the claim about a lack of trustworthy testing is happening is a “bold statement” why doesn’t he just offer a few examples of such testing?

    4. She didn’t necessarily claim that conventional agriculture provided those things, she just claimed that they are unsafe for humans and the environment, which they are.

    5. The quip about terminology is strictly childish and unnecessary.

    6. Just like Hari lacks citation in claiming benefits of organic production, Folta lacks citation in disputing her claim. This lack of citation, in particular, makes him look as bad, actually worse, than her. Is he simply a shill for the GMO industry who has decided that organic production is simply bad without any actual evidence?

    7. and 8. Both the source and the rebuttal are conducted by 2 people who are citing zero evidence for either opposing point.

    9. So what, Folta, is the extensive testing being done? As evidenced by American history the government has declared certain chemicals and products safe for public use and consumption that were later PROVED to be terribly unsafe. Folta should at least give everyone some clue about how to research this testing – or are we just to take his word for it?

    10. There are no animal genes in human crops? Citation? Again, two children arguing based on bias rather than objectivity.

    11. I have to agree with Hari on this one: it IS a biotech PR line, regardless of science. Folta is implying that just because something is scientifically deemed “safe” that no salesmanship is involved, which is utter nonsense. Not to mention, neither of them are clearly referencing anything. Hari just seems to be saying that GMO is unhealthy – based on science – while Folta is saying that GMO is healthy – based on science. Neither seem to have any real evidence at all and are simply relying heavily on immature bias (or, at least they APPEAR to be based on this example).

    12. Again, Folta is making a claim based on, apparently, no concrete evidence and is, once again, guilty of a total lack of citation just as Hari is. The sad thing is, whether or not GMO is increasing or decreasing pesticide use is one of the more easily researchable items in this ridiculous back-and-forth and neither of them seem interested in doing that research.

    13. and 14. Yes, Hari lacks citation, but so does Folta. Funny how he uses that childish retort (lack of citation, which yes, is a childish way of arguing) when it becomes convenient for him. Of course, he’s obviously above such citing of evidence based on some vague criteria like his resume or some other such absurd piece of data.

    15. Hari made no claim that the public has a lack of choice she claimed they had a lack of information, which may or may not be true. Either way, Folta should be ashamed for using a straw man argument here.

    16. Wow, I can’t believe Folta even wrote that. Pure immaturity, bias, and reason to doubt Folta’s veracity in almost everything he says. Someone have some latent issues about Europe? Also, another straw man argument. No where in Hari’s statement did I read that the Europeans are infallible.

    17. “There is no evidence of harm.” 1. Citation? 2. I reference, for the third time, my abbreviated list of Agent Orange, thalidomide, asbestos, lead, chrome 6, cigarettes, etc – all products that are extremely harmful to humans and there environment that the US government once told their public were safe for use and consumption.

    I have no dog in this race. I WANT GMO products to be safe just like I WANT organic products to be safe. All I’m trying to do is merely point out the immaturity and absurdity that is leading people to say that supporters of GMO are automatically science lovers but supporters of organic are simply ignorant enemies of science and logic who are having the wool pulled over their eyes by Whole Foods, etc.

    • Lee Grandmaison

      …You aren’t really this retarded, are you?

    • Kevin Folta

      Albert! First, this was a blog I wrote last week that was picked up by GLP. I didn’t use citations because the goal was simply to illuminate where Hari makes claims inconsistent with the scholarly literature.

      I’m running out to do science all day, and don’t have time to address each point, but I’ll do it later to some extent.

      Keep in mind, this was never intended to be a rigorous, scholarly and precise refutation of Hari’s letter. It does not deserve that level of scrutiny.

      It was simply an effort to illustrate that a woman claiming to be an expert has absolutely no clue. She arrogantly goes after students that do have a clue. I think that shows a certain hubris that should be pointed out, and that’s what I did.

      There is no evidence of harm from GM crops, not a single health claim or environmental issue. As to your “agent orange” list… anything from the last 40 years? Plus, science always new those things were potentially dangerous. More later.

      • Albert J. Brown

        Hi Kevin, thanks for the reply, I certainly didn’t think we’d have the opportunity to directly communicate.
        First off, I’d like to be clear that I was in no way commenting on the greater issue of GM vs. organic and was simply viewing Hari’s letter and your response in a vacuum. I am incredibly ignorant on the issue and would never be so bold to make definitive claims about either method. The reason why I even came to this story is because the way it was advertised to me was that Hari was a kook writing made-up nonsense and that your response took her to task for it. I was disappointed in your response as it is simply employing the same hubris that Hari did in her letter. There are ways to respond to her, but yours was not the way.
        I was further motivated by comments on this board that were tantamount to calling Hari an enemy of science. Like I said, I am not privy to either of your overall work and points-of-view but there is a difference between someone who dismisses scientific evidence (usually because of some religious affiliation) and someone who fully believes in the benefit of scientific info and just simply picks and chooses tidbits of info to support some (usually misguided) viewpoint. Based solely on this example, Hari is CLEARLY guilty of the latter, and not necessarily of the former. Point being, I read nothing in her letter that suggested she was dismissing scientific data, whether or not she may actually be doing that. So…help educate her! Your response simply antagonizes her while asserting your own hubris.
        Please do not waste time giving me a point-by-point measured response, though feel free if you are so inclined to.
        You do sincerely have to do some self-evaluation over how you debate a topic, though. After all, I was making a relevant point about my “agent orange” list that is not negated by the amount of time that has passed nor what incongruities may have existed between the scientific community and the information disseminated by the US government. Also, not all of those things fall under your blanket exaggeration of 40-year old news. More importantly, your implication that since the ABBREVIATED list I made only contained things from a relatively distant past means that, in the present, scientists are infallible and the US government is trustworthy is immature and absurd.

        • Kevin Folta

          Albert, I can assure you that I’m pretty good at dialing in an appropriate level of debate, and that changes with every audience. Here I’m preaching to the choir, so it will stoke her critics more than change hearts and minds of her supporters. I agree. Certainly I’m getting better at the latter, and do it every day. You would not believe the number of emails I deal with and the number of people I can flip on this issue.

          It is about kindly reaching out, and that’s how I roll most of the time. However, sometimes you can’t pound a nail with a cucumber.

          The agent orange, thalidomide, lead argument holds no weight with me. Mostly because it is easy to find a handful of times when it didn’t work as promised, and most scientists did predict downsides very accurately.

          Compare that to the millions of other products, compounds, drugs, chemicals that worked exactly as promised. Everything from the rubber in your tires to the surfactants in your shampoo… we live in wonderful times where science helps us tremendously. Let’s celebrate that, not fight it with crazy talk like Hari’s. Those vulnerable to her message are the least likely to be able to afford it, and it is unfair for them to be harmed with fear. Thanks.

      • Mister_A

        I’m with Albert on this one. I understand that it’s just a blog, but your rebuttal to the food babe does strike me as emblematic of the stances and viewpoints of many within food science and the food industry.

        I have a PhD in Food Science myself, and I feel it is a scientific discipline that has lost its way. Defensiveness emerged at one point, and it has since morphed into arrogance. And now all “debates” have devolved into basically asserting credentials and “expertise”, as though that adequately clears up the issues at hand. Frequently, personal mockery enters into it as well.

        As someone with many years experience in Food Science, I would say I have seen this side spend approximately 1000 times more energy mocking and ridiculing the stances of people such as the Food Babe than ever actually scientifically evaluating whether any of these sorts of concerns are valid. And that’s not science. That’s just hubris. The reality is that the entire discipline of Food Science is overwhelmingly funded and controlled by corporations with possible economic motives. That doesn’t mean any of those corporations are doing anything wrong, but it does mean both our repeated company lines and the fancy initials we earn after our names may indeed merit some skepticism.

        Another reality is that assurances of safety from corporate-funded science does have a somewhat checkered past. A good track record, perhaps, but not perfect. And in that sense, is it not at least partly understandable that doubt and mistrust could emerge among the public? I think we would do better to acknowledge and understand the origins of such concerns, rather than pat ourselves on the back as we disregard them.

        And to that point, I do ask you, personally, are you truly, as a scientist, entirely certain that companies such as Monsanto could not possibly be gambling with the well-being of consumers or ecosystems in search of greater profits? Does that premise, with knowing what you know, actually seem to you not a feasible possibility?

        This is often rebutted with the “we’re doing our best to fulfill our enormous responsibility to feed the world affordably” line. The IFTSA makes this claim in their original letter, and you again reference the concept in your eventual rebuttal. This is exactly the kind of disingenuous line that broadens the chasm rather than bringing us closer to mutual understanding, and make the food science community just as guilty of drivel as Hari is. There are people starving around the world for complex socioeconomic reasons, and I guarantee you that their well-being does NOT factor into ingredient selection or R&D agendas at places like Coca-Cola, Frito-Lay, or any other food industry member I have ever interacted with. If Hari is to be mocked for trying to win arguments with things that are blatantly untrue, then why should the food science community get a free pass?

        I think both sides need to cut out the drivel, defensiveness, mockery, arrogance and BS so that we can have more meaningful conversations. We really should all be on the same side here.

        • Kevin Folta

          Hello Mister A. Points well taken. I’m going to have to really cool it in the future. I do like to keep things edgy to be interesting, but I see how that is off-putting to others, so thanks for the input.

          I don’t think that mocking her for irrefutably wrong statements is hubris, it is just pointing out how someone is so off base that they should not even be recognized in the discussion.

          Plus, she’s lied outright about me, calling me an “professor linked to Monsanto” which is just her way to trying to link me to a company that raises a lot of ire.

          I have no support from the food industry, and my research is supported by public funding from state, federal sources. If I make a statement that is consistent with the food industry’s position, then it is because we both are following peer-reviewed science.

          I absolutely understand the public’s concerns and spend tons of time addressing them with science. This is why you should not be getting down on me, and maybe hammer Hari for a bit. She’s the one perpetrating undue fear.

          Are companies gambling? No way. They are scared to death that one single person will have a problem, or something will have an environmental impact. This stuff never gets off of the ground if it does not fit models and all possible predictions. Every plant is tested for rogue proteins or other unintended events. This is millions of times more predictable than traditional breeding. While some problems are feasible, they certainly are not likely.

          I also reject the “feed the world” rhetoric and teach people not to use it. You can’t feed the world, but you can feed **A** world, and if that world is a family in need then it is a good thing. If it helps a farmer, or helps the environment (which we have demonstrated as true) then it is a good thing.

          So sure, I’ll tone it down and that’s great advice. But once in a while someone will tinkle in my corn flakes and I’ll get a little pointy. Cop me some slack. Sometimes it is just about keeping it interesting and rhetorically engaging.

        • Albert J. Brown

          Really nice reply, Mister A. This is the type of objectivity I hope to see in all forms of debate – especially topics that matter, like food production.

          I am admittedly ignorant of the details involved with this debate and simply was trying to point out the poor way of arguing rather than taking one side or the other.

  • David Embleton

    No point in arguing with an idiot as the best result you can hope for is to win an argument with an idiot.

  • Mister_A

    I don’t understand the purpose of this comment.

    • Albert J. Brown

      I can only assume Lee disagrees with me on some fundamental detail(s) and had no more creative way to express himself.

    • Guest

      it’s a rhetorical question because the guy wrote a giant meaningless wall of text, I can only assume he is white knighting

      • Albert J. Brown

        This reply is like advertising that you have made up your mind about a topic and are unwilling to consider it objectively. You should be proud, guest!

  • Megh Vaughan

    Right now, I don’t trust Kevin Folta anymore than I do the FoodBabe. Would Kevin Folta like to explain why Dr. Stephen Kresovich from the University of Cornell said in a New York Times article way back in 2000 that transgenic strawberries with a cold resistance gene from a flounder was introduced into strawberries in the 1990’s, while Kevin Folta is claiming that it never happened?

    There is the textbook “Biotechnology of Fruit and Nut Crops” (google it) which clearly explains the cold resistance gene modification, calling the new breed “Honeoyes”, which are readily available on the market and advertised for their excellent resistance to cold. The patent for Brunswick strawberries says it was created by crossing “‘Cavendish’ (U.S. Plant Pat. No. 11,110) and ‘Honeoye’ (unpatented). ‘Cavendish’ was developed by the Atlantic Food and Horticulture Research Centre (a facility of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada) in Kentville and ‘Honeoye’ was developed by the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva.” Which is also backed up in the currently in-use text book.

    Sooooo…. transgenic strawberries. Who’s right? Dr. Folta or Dr. Kresovich?

    • Guest

      your poast lacks proper citations and examples

      you’re also doing a standard attack on a man, rather than the argument (choosing to obsess over something in his past; a la benghazi )

      • Albert J. Brown

        Immaturity, bias, and pettiness.
        Almost everyone on here in support of Folta expresses themselves exactly how Hari did.

        • Hezaa

          This is real science. Scientists accusing other scientists of the same practices they are not themselves immune to, using the same level of civility they accuse the other scientist of using, all while trying to gain the higher moral ground in pursuit of the mantle of Credibility. That’s all it’s ever been: the same sad human drama every other field and study and profession and pursuit can’t help but devolve into.

        • AKing

          It’s funny how you admit you know nothing of Hari, then go on to make text walls of incorrect assumptions, then belittle everyone’s comments while showboating your own bias. Good show.

          • Albert J. Brown

            AKing, what is the correlation between my claim that I know nothing about Hari (I, in fact, had never heard of her or Folta before reading this article) and:

            1. Typing a lot of words?

            2. How I choose to express myself on this forum?

            Also, what assumptions have I made, regardless of whether or not they’re correct or not? I have repeated often on this chat board that I have simply been responding based on the immediate evidence in this particular blog and not based on Folta’s or Hari’s histories.

            For example, I’m going to do that right now. Based on your nonsensical and emotional reply to me I can only ASSUME that you are immature and weak-willed. I’m not saying you are, but based on this one piece of evidence, you represent yourself that way.

          • Albert J. Brown

            One more thing, AKing.

            I THINK (though cannot be sure because of how poorly written your reply to me is) that what you are trying to do is accuse me of being a Hari supporter and that I’m just lying about knowing nothing about her in order to boost some sort of credibility.

            First off, that’s just a weird, convoluted way of thinking.

            Secondly, if you think that then I can only ASSUME you either didn’t read all of my comments or you failed to comprehend my comments (or both).

            Point out to me where I said anything remotely complimentary of Hari and her viewpoints, or that I promoted her in any way.

    • Michael Malmberg

      He might simply be ignorant. Or then he hasn’t had a chance to correct himself, seeing as that is a rather small detail. Seriously, you discredit the entire career of a highly distinguished scientist because he’s been wrong about something? Megh, I cannot help but to think that you have a bias against scientists (or Kevin Folta).

      • Albert J. Brown

        The bias seems to be squarely on your part, Michael, and that you need to re-read Megh’s reply with a little more objectivity.

    • Kevin Folta

      Hello Megh, glad to help with this. First, a few points. My training is in science, I’ve published in science for 25 years, so I might carry a little more weight than the Food Babe for trustworthiness on the subject. That said, if I’m wrong, that’s fine. I am all the time. That’s how we grow. Vani can’t do that, won’t do that. To admit she’s wrong kills her brand.

      Let’s talk Honeoye. My main research is in strawberries, namely the development of molecular markers (DNA sequences located near important genes) so we can speed traditional breeding for important traits. I was the contributing author on the strawberry genome sequence in 2011. I knows me some strawberries!

      I note this not as an argument from authority, but rather to provide some background. I am commenting from familiar space.

      That said, there are no transgenic (GMO) strawberries on the market. Never were.

      Some lab in Thailand put an antifreeze protein from flounder into strawberries sometime back in the early 2000s. It was an application of GM technology to do a test, but it didn’t do anything exciting, and that was the end of it. I can dig up the source if you’d like, but it was in an obscure journal and not a great paper.

      The Honeoye cultivar is not transgenic. No flounder gene. It was developed at Cornell University from a cross made in 1970. It was identified and selected in 1972 as NY1409 by Don Ourecky and was released by the university in 1979 as Honeoye, named after a town in NY state somewhere.

      This pre-dates the first gene insertions in plants by 11 years.

      I’m not sure where Dr. Kresovich got his information wrong, but I’m guessing he just got the wires crossed somewhere. The textbook is wrong if it mentions a flounder gene, so if it really does, please let me know asap and I’ll be glad to contact them so they correct it.

      I think the mixup is that Honeoye and Cavendish do have excellent cold tolerance, as do most cultivars bred for that climate. Early-season production brings higher returns for farmers, so cultivars that survive a few hours of hard chilling are of great interest in the region.

      Unlike Hari, I’m always glad to answer your questions and help clear up confusion about science and agriculture. You can always send an email and I’ll respond. Happy to do that. kevinfolta at gmail. Thanks, I hope this helps.

      • Megh Vaughan

        So your assertion is that, in the year 2000 the New York Times published a fraudulent and unresearched article (Gene Altered Food: A Case Against Panic) with information provided by University of Cornell professor Dr. Stephen Kresovich (now working in breeding and genetics for over 30 years), and that he, knowingly and with intent, falsely told the public that a cold resistance gene from a flounder was inserted into strawberries, which is absolutely untrue. Furthermore, all the many, many science textbooks that published this information are wrong, and the thousands of patents and peer-reviewed studies that contain the same information are false. So everything surrounding transgenic strawberries is basically one giant, conspiracy that only you have figured out. I don’t think so. Call me crazy, but when someone makes huge claims that can easily be proven away with a science textbook used at your own school, I tend not to believe them no matter who they are. BTW, the guy who approved it works with you. His name is Richard E. Litz. He edited the textbook. Go talk to HIM.

        • Megh, I understand your passion but you don’t understand how GM research proceeds. There is a lot of experimentation in laboratories that precedes trials, which precede government evaluations, which then precede approvals. There are not examples of GE strawberries that have even been submitted for approval. None. You also seem to be agitated by the idea that so_called “flounder” genes could be inserted into a strawberry, as if that is something either unusual or worth being concerned about. As any geneticist would tell you, or you would learn in a first year genetics course, the concept of so-called ‘foreign’ genes is a misnomer from a genetic (though not a popular) one. All humans and plants share a common ancestry. There are plenty of genes in YOU, for example, that could be called “flounder” genes or marigold genes (we share about 30% of our genome with marigolds). You have tons of “bacteria” genes. You have dinosaur genes. Why? Because genes, from one species to another, are identical; it’s how they are expressed that makes the differences in animals and plants. So no, you are not “crazy,” just misinformed on the fundamental basics of genetics.

          • Albert J. Brown

            Terrible reply, Jon.

          • Please explain with science Mr. Brown.

          • Albert J. Brown

            Based on your reply I can only conclude that no matter what Folta says you will find some way to defend it, whether or not you have the information/ability to. Megh’s posting was not particularly aggressive, first off, and Folta seems perfectly capable of handling himself. The only message I got from your reply was, “I have already decided that anything Folta says is correct and I get angry at anybody who questions his claims.” That type of mentality is the direct enemy of the scientific method.

          • Kevin Folta

            Actually Albert, I appreciate Jon’s thoughts because he is one of my most stringent critics. I like the way he edits my work and gives me perspective on how science connects with the public. He tells me I’m wrong all the time.

            Megh, I’m not saying that they are lying, but certainly they were misinformed or you are reading to much into it. The flounder gene was added to strawberry by a Russian group in 1996. http://www.actahort.org/books/484/484_99.htm
            A Thai group did it in 2005. http://rdo.psu.ac.th/sjstweb/journal/27-4/02-strawberry-gene.pdf

            These were never even tested further that I can find, and certainly never commercialized. You can go to the ISAAA website, where all transgenic commercialized events are curated, and check. There is not even an entry selection for strawberry. http://www.isaaa.org/gmapprovaldatabase/default.asp

            If you can send me a copy of what it says in the textbook, I think we’ll find the misinterpretation.

            And absolutely, if there is a mistake in the textbook we’ll let Dr. Litz know about it asap.

            Honeoye is not transgenic, and there are absolutely, 100%, no transgenic strawberries in commercial production, there never have been, and won’t be any time soon.

            I’m not interested in going around and around about this, but I’m always happy to consider evidence. If you know something that all of science and the strawberry industry does not, I’d love to hear it. Thanks.

          • Albert J. Brown

            “Actually Albert, I appreciate Jon’s thoughts because he is one of my most stringent critics. I like the way he edits my work and gives me perspective on how science connects with the public. He tells me I’m wrong all the time.”
            None of this has anything to do with what I actually said about Jon’s comment.

          • Mlema

            This is the closest I’ve ever seen Folta come to being civil and almost not condescending. I’m starting to understand him: he genuinely believes in the the goals of the industry, and in the perfection of applied science. He says he’s corrected all of the time, and he’s wrong a lot – but he obviously doesn’t believe that. But he’s frustrated at all the unscientific babble on the internet, and he’s grown so weary of explaining himself that he just shorthands it and says things that come off as angry and haughty. He’s tired.

            But in this comment, where he’s confident in his facts and isn’t trying to defend something that’s not really 100% defensible, he sounds like a decent guy and only a little bit insulting.

            I think I’ve started to understand this phenomenon because I’ve allowed myself to get too involved here, and find myself repeating the same things over and over until I just want to say “you’re wrong! you’re wrong! you’re wrong!” I’m starting to take a few steps back. I’m starting to look at this debate as a sociological/economic one – because people don’t change their minds about these things too often. Only those that have no concern or knowledge come in looking for info. Those people will most likely be impressed by the industry-backed sites. They’re more convincing based on non-science elements.

          • Lee

            Albert, Jon has a BA in Philosophy and half a degree in journalism if you want to count that. Jon’s background and expertise is whatever the flavor (or remunerator) of the moment is (currently GLP). If GLP went away and Jon got paid to say GMOs and Dr. Folta would cause the next world war I’m sure he would pen an article just for that and pimp it to Forbes (what else would a self promoting narcissist do?).

  • Earl Calapatia

    Is this deconstruction as described by Derrida or is it used as a word to articulate what Mr. Folta did? Really, I just want to know if this is an example of deconstruction and my purpose of reading this is to see how deconstruction is applied.

    • Albert J. Brown

      It’s a poor example of deconstruction.

  • Kurt Helf

    As the one making the positive claims it is incumbent upon Hari, not Dr. Folta, to give citations to back up her assertions This is *not*a “both sideds do it” issue.

    • Albert J. Brown

      More biased nonsense.

    • Hezaa

      Think about that for a minute. If you want to debunk someone, all you need to say is “No, that’s not true, the studies you cite are garbage and your words are garbage and it’s all lies” and that’s all you need to do? They’re totally discredited then?

      Hari backs up her assertions. Dr. Folta backs up his assertions. Everyone sees proof of their own beliefs in science as they understand it. They believe it supports them. This isn’t about not backing up assertions, it’s about two people with different interpretations believing the other person’s backup is not credible and only their own is, which is impossible to ever prove because it’s entirely subjective and there is no actual Truth with a capital T.

      This is real science: politics, human pettiness, pride, and spite. Always has been.

  • Albert J. Brown

    To all the people on here who seem to be in support of Folta and championing science over hubris (two things I am in support of) – almost none of you have used logical or scientific reasoning in your arguments (Folta included) and instead have opted for immaturity, bias, pettiness, and hubris.

  • Albert J. Brown

    To Folta,
    Keep up the good work. I mean that. Regardless of what has been bandied about in this blog, I believe in the work you are doing and think it needs to continue.

  • RJB

    To Megh Vaughan,
    Dr. Folta’s response was that there are no animal genes in commercial crops, which is a true statement and is not discredited at all by your citations.
    Thank you for entering the discussion.

    • Albert J. Brown

      How do you know that is a true statement?

      Also, Megh was simply asking questions and not trying to discredit anything.

      This is yet another example of someone biasedly deciding to accept opinions blindly as authoritative facts because they support the side of the issue you’ve already decided you’re on.

      • RJB

        I knew it was true because I was already aware of the sources Dr. Folta cited above. So no, it is not an example of biasedly deciding to accept opinions blindly as facts… because it is, indeed, fact.
        Megh Vaughans’ citations did not contradict anything Dr. Folta had written, which again he explained above. And again, I genuinely appreciate Megh Vaughans’ participation.

        • Albert J. Brown

          1. Folta didn’t cite any sources.
          2. Nice argument, “I know it’s true because of the sources cited that aren’t actually cited.”
          What, exactly, is the fact you are even referring to?

          • RJB

            I was referring to the links that Dr. Folta posted.

          • Albert J. Brown

            What FACT are you referring to? You seem to think that there is a debate happening that is not actually happening.

  • RJB

    Nathan, this sort of response only gives Vani Hari ammo. Responding in a reasoned and logical manner is more effective.

  • thewildeman2

    I loved reading that. Wonderful laughs and smiles all around. “It’s this thing called science” BEAUTIFUL!!

    • Albert J. Brown

      Folta’s reply to Hari was in no way scientific and in every way employing the exact same tactics Hari was employing. Anyone who can’t see that is an enemy to objectivity.

      • thewildeman2

        Wait a sec, which one did you think the teacher was?? Who has the credentials in the argument? Did you expect him to write her a book of essays? He is already a credible source. Do tell, how many research papers has Hari done? When was her dissertation? What are her credentials exactly to tell this man’s students how things are supposed to be?

        • Albert J. Brown

          You should take the time to comprehend what you read before you reply, thewild.

          I am in no way referencing anything that has anything to do with either of their credentials. I’m simply pointing out that neither f them have much ability to debate objectively.

          Again, the vast majority of the comments on this board are just like yours – no interest in anything but trying to prove to your own self that your OPINIONS are objectively correct.

          • thewildeman2

            Actually I was pointing out that there is more to it than what you called out at face value.

          • Albert J. Brown

            Then your reading comprehensions skills are terrible and you think I claimed something I never claimed.

          • thewildeman2

            No. Let me rephrase. Exactly how was he supposed to be scientific? You’re calling out that he did no better than her? Right? Don’t worry, I understood that. My point is that he was under no obligation to do so. But if you can point of some cosmic rule that states how he is supposed to respond to someone who clearly has the scientific background of a broken brick, do tell. As far as I’m concerned he went to her level for a possibility that she may comprehend what he’s saying. But do tell what “scientific method” he was supposed to use so that YOU would feel better about his response.

          • Albert J. Brown

            1. This is a circular argument that shows you have very little ability for objectivity.

            2. By volunteering to reply to her he obligated himself.

            3. I wrote a deconstruction of his “deconstruction” on this very blog, which answers most of the questions you’re posing to me in this thread.

            4. What I have NOT done was give examples of what would have been a more effective way to reply to her, which you seem to be asking me for now. I am not going to go to the trouble of deconstructing her reply, but I will offer a few examples of how Folta would have been better off in his reply:

            1. The first point he made was about proving things safe. He should have simply asked, “How do you propose scientists go about this and is there any research you are aware of that has attempted this?” His reply basically amounted to the same thing, but his wording is belittling, immature, vitriolic, and lacks professionalism while also subtly implying that testing is a bad thing.

            2. Hari makes a claim about a lack of independent testing. Folta fails in his reply in two ways: he cites the FDA as independent testing, when it is most certainly not; and, he fails to mention any sort of independent testing or cite where research results can be accessed. Instead, he replies defensively and condescendingly.

            3. Hari makes a list of things that are unhealthy for human consumption – that’s all she did and very few people would disagree with her list. Folta replies with a straw man argument choosing to PRETEND she made a claim she didn’t make.

            4. Hari claims organic produce shows evidence of being higher in vitamins and minerals to which Folta replies “not so much.” Seriously? That’s his reply? Again, he should either cite where the research the supports his opposing view can be found and/or simply mention that she needs to cite the same thing. “Not so much” is a terrible reply.

            5. She makes a claim that GMO testing is inadequate and he just replies that it is. Of course, he mocked her in his very first statement when he implied that “proving” something safe is nigh impossible, but then he reversed his stance when it became convenient for him to do so.

            As I said before Folta should be ashamed of his reply to Hari, just as Hari should be ashamed for making unfounded claims, and just like anyone who is supporting Folta’s method of reply.

            But whatever, this is all wasted time on my part. You have already decided that anything Folta says is worthy of praise based on nothing but your bias.

            Based on this one example alone, Folta seems to be just as much of an enemy of scientific objectivity as Hari is.

          • thewildeman2

            Okay. So what this comes down to is that you are the objectivity police. Good enough. So why don’t you write to him and tell him how run his responses, k? Bye.

          • Albert J. Brown

            Way to be proud of your immaturity!

          • thewildeman2

            Wow. You made a huge leap there. Welcome to the same boat you put me in. Right back at ya. Way to be proud of your one track mind, lack of comprehension, holier than thou attitude, and pure ignorance.

  • Brian Donovan

    Yet Folta will not publish the list of who funded his research.

    GMO does not help feed the world. GMO helps sell seeds and pesticides/herbicides. So far that’s breeding super weed and pests.

    Organics farming has about the same yield in the long run.

    Big money cuts corners till things break and people die.

    Anybody want to deny that?

    So now we want to let them mess with live itself?

    What could possibly go wrong?

  • Albert J. Brown

    I honestly have no idea what the point of your reply is, Lee, but Jon’s credentials have zero to do with what I said about him.

  • teasley

    Kevin should deconstruct HealthRanger next. His NaturalNews site is a menace and his bio is craycray.

  • Hezaa

    Aggressive? Putting aside the factual content of both letters, for which neither provides any citations, the students’ letter is full of emotional language, and Hari’s response is very civil and simply restates her position without making any of the attacks the former letter accuses her of.

    From the students’ letter:
    “ignore and vilify”
    “preach”
    “attacks”
    “our scientific prowess”
    “fear monger”

    Very defensive, very immature. No backup for anything they say, just “this isn’t credible” or “you need to choose better sources” or basically “peer review is nice, but you can only use certain peer reviewed articles that we also determined (through criteria we fail to mention) to be “credible.””

    I think this falls somewhere between “it takes two to tango” and “the pot calls the kettle black.” All it does is make the students sound as snotty as they believe Hari to be.

  • Derek Bickerton

    Kevin Folta’s “scathing denunciation” of the Food Babe was a grave disappointment to me. All I saw were the same tired old arguments. So I’ve answered this critique, point by point, at smokinggmogun.blogspot.com. Check it out, I’d be interested to see some reactions.

    • Kevin Folta

      Here’s my reaction! http://kfolta.blogspot.com/2015/02/everyones-critic.html

      I guess I’d find it disappointing too if I had your level of understanding. That’s not being mean, it is just the statement that in your criticism, you cite junk science (Swanson? for real? ) and overstep limits of legitimate reports. If there’s one tired old set of arguments, it is those made against a technology that has proven valuable to farmers with no evidence of harm, outside of killing cells in a dish at high levels, which you cite quite nicely. Enjoy!

  • Brian