Podcast: COVID-19 a global communist plot? Glyphosate didn’t cause the pandemic. Time to embrace agricultural biotechnology.

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While public health officials and policymakers struggle to contain the novel SARS-COV-2 coronavirus, anti-vaccine activists claim the pandemic was orchestrated by these same forces to push an immunization agenda and institute global government. A growing body of research suggests that our susceptibility to COVID-19 is influenced by our genetics, helping fine tune our treatment and vaccine development efforts. Experts say the pandemic is a warning to embrace technologies that could prevent food shortages during future crises, while some anti-GMO activists blame the symptoms of COVID-19 on exposure to Bayer’s weed killer glyphosate.

Join geneticist Kevin Folta and GLP editor Cameron English on this episode of Science Facts and Fallacies as they break down these latest stories from the GLP:

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Children’s Health Defense, the prominent anti-vaccine group led by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. alleges that the ‘elite’ were preparing for a coronavirus pandemic as recently as October 2019. Their plan? To unleash “viral terror” on the world, thereby scaring parents the world over into vaccinating their children and instituting an international communist regime. What evidence is there to support such a dramatic version of events?

It appears so. Evidence is mounting that our sex, blood type and hormones, all influenced by various genetic factors, either increase or decrease our risk of contracting COVID-19. As is often the case with emerging hypotheses, more research is needed to validate these findings, but it looks like drug developers will be able to refine their efforts to design more effective treatments and vaccines based on this genetic research.

Related article:  Washing your food with soap won't kill coronavirus—but it could make you very sick

The coronavirus pandemic has strained global food supplies, particularly in the developing world, though even wealthy nations like the US have experienced meat shortages. Virologist and biotech expert Maria Roca says that, serious as present conditions are, they are but a warning to throw our full support behind technologies that can increase and streamline food production so we’re prepared for the next pandemic, which is inevitable.

Bayer’s weedkiller glyphosate has been wrongly blamed for a wide variety of severe diseases, most notably cancer and autism. But the herbicide has also exacerbated the deadly impact of COVID-19, says MIT computer scientist Stephanie Seneff. Working far outside her field, Seneff has devised a convoluted story to justify her claim. Corn used to produce ethanol is treated with glyphosate. After this crop is converted to biofuel and added to gasoline, trace amounts of glyphosate escape into the air during combustion, causing lung damage and worsening the respiratory symptoms of COVID-19.

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Little evidence supports Seneff’s hypothesis, but her claims illustrate what goes wrong when researchers refuse to follow the data and instead commit themselves to an ideologically motivated conclusion.

Kevin M. Folta is a professor in the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida. Follow Professor Folta on Twitter @kevinfolta

Cameron J. English is the GLP’s senior agricultural genetics and special projects editor. BIO. Follow him on Twitter @camjenglish

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