Anti-GMO group USRTK attacks UC Davis scientists while refusing to answer questions about own anti-vaccination links

The anti-GMO group ‘US Right to Know’ has intensified its attacks on public sector scientists at the University of California-Davis, launching a new legal assault on the university with a lawsuit filed on 18 August.

For more than a year, USRTK has been hitting numerous public sector scientists with harrassment-style ‘Freedom of Information Act’ requests for thousands of their emails going back several years.

UC Davis faculty targeted include Julian Alston, distinguished professor of agricultural and resource economics; Roger Beachy, founding director of the World Food Center; Kent Bradford, director of the Seed Biotechnology Center; Colin Carter, distinguished professor of agricultural and resource economics; Martina Newell-McGloughlin, former director of international biotechnology at Davis; Pamela Ronald, professor of plant pathology; Daniel Sumner, Frank H. Buck distinguished professor of agricultural and resource economics; and Alison Van Eenennaam, animal genomics and biotechnology cooperative extension specialist.

The focus of USRTK’s effort is clear: the anti-GMO group hopes to find correspondence with Monsanto or other private sector demons which can be hyped or quoted out of context to smear the scientists’ reputations and undermine public confidence in their work.

As three former presidents of the AAAS have written in the Guardian, USRTK’s attack closely resembles the efforts of those behind ‘Climategate’ in running an anti-science campaign by attacking the reputations of individual scientists.

Alison Van Eenennaam, one of those consistently targeted by USRTK because of her outspoken advocacy of biotech science, said to me in an email:

“What is it that constitutes a conflict of interest or an “attack” [as alleged by USRTK]? To me it is when you are being paid or make monetary gain from spreading misinformation or as an expert you are being paid to say something that disagrees with the scientific consensus.

Academics putting up scientifically correct information on websites – whether it is Academics Review, GMO Answers, or blogs is not wrong and should threaten no one except those who seek to deny science or who are making money out of denying science.

By attacking these (lets face it relatively feeble) efforts by the academic community to try to get science-based information out to counter the likes of Natural News, GM Watch and OCA reveals the true intent of USRTK – to silence the scientists using whatever it takes.”

Seed Biotechnology Center at UC Davis director Kent Bradford concurs. He recently wrote:

“These broad FOIA requests are an attack on science and on the trust that the public properly has in its academic institutions… I am not concerned about the content of our communications, although I cannot prevent selective editing or release by USRTK in their attempts to justify their false conspiracy theories.”

The Center for Science and Democracy of the Union of Concerned Scientists stated in its report ‘Freedom to Bully: How Laws Intended to Free Information Are Used to Harass Researchers‘:

“Individuals and well-heeled special interests across the political spectrum are increasingly using broad open records requests to attack and harass scientists and other researchers and shut down conversation at public universities. …This strategy can curb the ability of researchers to pursue their work, chill their speech, and discourage them from tackling contentious topics.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists further states in its report:

“The tobacco industry was a pioneer in the abusive use of open records requests, targeting Georgia Medical College professor Paul Fischer in the 1990s for his research on the impact of Camel marketing campaigns on children.”

As Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway demonstrated in ‘Merchants of Doubt‘ both tobacco and fossil fuels industry front groups ran sophisticated PR campaigns to spread doubt about the well-established scientific consensus that smoking causes cancer and that climate change is man-made. Now the strategy is being used most aggressively by the anti-GMO lobby.

Every relevant academic and scientific institution in the world has issued statements confirming the scientific consensus that laboratory genetic modification of crops does not make food any more risky than conventional crop breeding. It is this attempt to undermine public understanding of the scientific consensus on genetic modification, as well as the bullying use of FoIA laws, that puts USRTK in the same ideological category as climate change deniers and the tobacco lobby.

So whose interests are really being served by USRTK’s attacks? The group’s lawsuit identifies it as “a non-profit organization that advocates for transparency in our nation’s food system”. Rather suspicously however, this transparency does not seem to apply to USRTK itself, at least where funding interests might be concerned.

USRTK’s funding is substantial: after all, launching lawsuits against entire universities is an expensive business. USRTK also recently recruited Carey Gillam, an ex-Reuters reporter whose notoriously biased wire pieces obviously indicated an alliance of anti-GMO ideological interests.

To its credit, USRTK does declare where grants over $5,000 come from. To date, it has received $314,500 from the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), $30,000 from Dr Bronner’s Family Foundation and $5,000 from Westreich Foundation.

But here the problems begin. OCA has published numerous articles on its website promoting anti-vaccine and other anti-science campaigns. For example, one article claims that the deadly ebola virus “can be prevented and treated naturally”, for example by using “intravenous Vitamin C”. OCA also promotes homeopathy, and publishes numerous pieces claiming child vaccines cause autism.

On its swine and bird flu pages, the Organic Consumers Association makes the following absurd and dangerous statement: “It is important to know how to protect your children and yourself with homeopathic and natural alternatives to vaccines to build your natural immunity to the swine flu.” OCA also publishes 9/11 Truther conspiracy theory material.

The Westreich Foundation, USRTK’s third-largest donor, clearly shares this anti-vaccine agenda. Its website front page states: “Vaccine safety for all, including independent testing and research of vaccines and the ingredients they contain, as well as the synchronicity effect of using multiple toxic chemicals together when injected into the human body.”

The idea that ingredients of vaccines can be toxic is a notorious meme spread by anti-vaccine activists. Westreich’s website abounds with pseudo-scientific gobbledegook, for example: “Health creation, prevention and management of chronic disease through Functional Medicine tenants and matrices, Integrative Medicine’s approach to whole-person healing, Natural Medicine’s clearing the way for the body to heal itself when possible (salutogenesis and homeostasis), and the role that the science of nutrition plays in creating health and managing disease.”

It is now well-established that anti-vaccine denialism and conspiracy theories such as those promoted by the Organic Consumers Association and Westreich Foundation have contributed to a resurgence of infectious diseases such as measles and a number of preventable deaths of young children. So is USRTK complicit in this agenda?

I wanted to give USRTK’s director Gary Ruskin a chance to respond to concerns that its funding from anti-vaccine activist groups might lead people to suspect that USRTK shared an anti-vaccine ideological agenda as well as an anti-GMO one – there are many overlaps in these two campaigns, as I have written before.

I sent Ruskin the following email on 2 April (links in the original):

Dear Gary,

I hope you are well. I would like to ask you a couple of on-the-record questions, if you wouldn’t mind. You may have seen my recent blogpost on the interesting links between the anti-GMO and anti-vaccination movements. I would like to hear your perspective on that.

Specifically:

– USRTK is overwhelmingly funded by the Organic Consumers Association. OCA has numerous pages outlining its opposition to vaccines support of homeopathy and so on. Can I specifically ask you for your personal view on the vaccines controversy? Do you support their mandatory use as is current policy?

– Does USRTK itself have a policy on vaccinations and homeopathy? What is it?

– Do you also feel that Ebola can be treated naturally with large doses of vitamins, as is indicated on this OCA page?

– Your Proposition 37 effort was also sponsored by Mercola.com. Mercola also opposes mandatory vaccinations. Do you not feel that this association was a liability? Or do you agree with Dr Mercola on this issue?

– Do you not feel that yours and USRTK’s funding associations with anti-vaccine groups like OCA and Mercola.com is a liability in terms of your campaign for GMO labelling, which presumably seeks mainstream appeal?

I would be grateful for any responses you are able to give, and thanks again for your time.

Best wishes

Mark

I am still waiting for a response. I tried following up via Twitter, but… crickets.

Clearly transparency is a virtue that Gary Ruskin feels applies to everyone but himself.

43 Comments

  1. Kirk Gothier

    We either make decisions based on the scientific method, or some other metric that insures other species evolve to replace humans…

    Reply
  2. Eric Bjerregaard

    Nice job Mark, Please keep folks informed.

    Reply
  3. Mary Mangan

    Organic Consumers Assn is actively lobbying to get vaccines removed from organic status: https://www.organicconsumers.org/news/nosb-testimony-gmo-vaccines-organic This could have serious consequences for animal welfare. Also, is just purely stupid.

    And the doubt campaigns are a big part of the anti-GMO gang’s efforts. Jeffrey Smiths “Seeds of Doubt” conferences: http://www.seedsofdoubtconference.com/. Greenpeace’s “Growing Doubt” campaign: https://youtu.be/CNxhw2jiDtA. They don’t even pretend.

    But the funny thing is: USRTK will never believe that there’s no smoking gun emails. Lack of emails will only be evidence of more conspiracy. And the doubt is seeded. Boom.

    It is despicable. But they need to find ways to keep busy now that they lost on the labeling they wanted. Why would they try to get respectable work in something constructive when they can do this for income?

    Reply
    1. Scott

      If there is anything that needs removed from Organic certification regulations, it is homeopathy and maybe even biodynamic. What should be allowed is GE technology, but on a case by case basis.

      There was a time when organic producers did lobby hard to have GMOs allowed, but comsumer groups won that battle. Would be a pity is the woo consumer groups like anti-vaxxers won this battle too, corrupting the meaning of organic even further that it sadly already is.

  4. Ashok Chowgule

    Science and scientists can be brow-beaten by the anti-science groups in ways other than grossly misusing the Freedom of Information Act. The tragedy is that the university authorities instead of standing up to the bullying, they succumb to it, and take the easy way out. It would be interesting to know how much money the various universities have to waste in providing the information request which is so broad that it is a fishing exercise.

    I understand that the universities have to employ lawyers and other such services to whet the information that is given. Would it not be nice if this money was used to provide scholarships to some deserving students at the university? Some students finish their courses with serious amount of debt, which would be a very big burden for the payment at least in the first few years of the career.

    Then there is the 2013 case of Prof Guangwen Tang and Tufts University. The latter also succumbed to the bullying by Greenpeace, which pronounced that the work done by Prof Tang was a ‘scandal of international proportions’. Please read the following article:
    http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2013/09/golden-rice-not-so-golden-tufts

    I do not know the status of the case, but by reading the article I get an impression that the career of Prof Tang has been ruined by the bullying.

    I would like to suggest that the very fact that the anti-GMO activists have to resort to such tactics is a clear sign that they have no scientific and/or logical case to make.

    Namaste.
    Ashok Chowgule
    Goa, India.

    Reply
  5. Arthur Thomas

    For email requests, release them as secured and uneditable pdfs. Any misquotes with be their fabrications and can be identified as such.

    Reply
  6. Carolyn Parsons

    In general, the questions you asked USRTK are really good and would make a great basis for an article about the movement. I would not have worded this question as you did Mark. The question seems a bit too “gotcha” to me.

    – Do you also feel that Ebola can be treated naturally with large doses of vitamins, as is indicated on this OCA page?

    I would have asked about how USRTK feels about positions that the OCA takes in regard to the use of homeopathy to treat serious infectious diseases like Ebola with massive doses of vitamins as it presents grave public safety implications.

    Reply
    1. William Hughes-Games

      Shame to conflate the two subjects. Just because someone is mis-informed about vaccination doesn’t make them wrong about GM food plants. Even if GM food was the answer to a maidens prayer, I would oppose it on the basis of the rapacious attitude of monsanto et al.

    2. Ashok Chowgule

      There are so many GMO technologies that are developed by public sector laboratories. In fact, due to the ideological objection to the technology, the approval process is so long and expensive, that small companies can only work in association with the large companies. To get the approval process through, it is not only the scientists that have to fill in the forms, etc., but also a team of lawyers have to be employed to ensure that the forms have been properly filled, and that the objections, if any, are properly dealt with.

      Namaste.
      Ashok Chowgule
      Goa, India

    3. Eric Bjerregaard

      “rapacious?”
      post the evidence or go away.

  7. William Hughes-Games

    http://mtkass.blogspot.co.uk/2009/02/malthus-pyramid-schemes-starvation.html#uds-search-resultsi Mark
    Slightly off topic but worth saying anyway.
    Even if GM food was the answer to a maidens prayer and the best thing since sliced bread, technically speaking, it would be worth opposing with every measure at our disposal.

    Reply
    1. Eric Bjerregaard

      William, Why do you continue to post this nonsense. First it is wrong as food secure folks in developed nations often have falling birth rates. Second, it would be inhumane to not to attempt to feed hungry people. and Third, farming is not a pyramid scheme. Get a grip.

    2. Clyde Davies

      William,
      Sorry, but you’re spouting unsubstantiated nonsense. Firstly, there is a human rights issue here. Wanting children is one of the most natural desire there is. Every couple has a right to replace themselves. Secondly, one significant reason population is peaking is not because people are having more kids in the first place but because more of them are surviving into adulthood.
      If you want to limit population growth, then start off by making sure that women get a decent education, self-determination and careers they can follow. Not by the reality or threat of starvation. That’s the population equivalent of foot-binding.

      Oh: and you quote “Note: It has been reported that a number of genetically changed plants caused organ failure when fed to rats.” No doubt an uncritical reference to Seralini’s garbage. Then various mitherings about the ‘dark side’ of the Green Revolution.

      I’m an optimist. I like to find solutions to problems. Not problems with very damned solution.

    3. Ashok Chowgule

      Mr William Hughes-Games says: “Even if GM food was the answer to a maidens prayer and the best thing since sliced bread, technically speaking, it would be worth opposing with every measure at our disposal.” The central issue is whether GM foods IS an answer to a maiden’s prayer. So far, the anti-GM foods activists have been saying that it is a disaster for the world, and that the technology will destroy the planet as we know it. Okay, I may be exaggerating, but this is the sense that many people who have not experienced hunger for more than one generation are made to think. so, to use an ‘even if’ argument is essentially shifting the goal post.

      Furthermore, does not arguing in the way Mr Hughes-Games has, impliy to me that one is cutting one’s nose to spite the face? What he has to do is to list the reasons why a solution to a maiden’s prayer has to be rejected. He has given one reason – Monsanto. Let his list out other reasons, if he has any. Then we can sit down and discuss the validity or otherwise of each of these reasons. This will lead to an informed solution based on science and logic, and not on emotion.

      I am a businessman in an area that has nothing to do directly or indirectly to agriculture. I studied economic development, and I have kept my interest in the subject alive – partly as a hobby, and partly due to a belief that agriculture development will enhance my business’ potential. I would also like to see that my family, the people who work in my business, and myself, get sufficient quantity of food, with good nutritional value, and at the right price.

      As an economist, i will say that the best economic solution is not necessarily the best society solution. However, as an economist, I will recommend what I consider to be the best economic solution. Then I will seek responses from specialists in other fields – sociologists, anthropologists, political scientists, etc. And based on these inputs, I will modify my suggestion.

      For example, a solution for clothing for the whole world is to have a uniform – as Mao decreed in China when he was alive. The fabric can be made with sturdy materials, the cutting and stitching can be made in a mass way in large factories, and there is no need to spend money on design and advertising. The retail store can keep a limited stocks, and can have a basic structure with minimum decoration. Overall, the uniform can be delivered to a customer in the lowest cost possible.

      A uniform also means that one needs to have a few sets of clothes, depending upon how many days it takes to clean and iron the uniform. This eliminates the need for having large closets, and the phrase ‘I have nothing to wear’ will be history.

      However, a clothing is not just to cover one’s body and protect it from the elements. It also gives one a satisfaction if one is wearing a colour combination that one likes from an aesthetic sense. Using different colours and different styles on different days and/or occasion is a source of pleasure. Going out to shop when one feels a little bit down, is an effective remedy.

      So, the best economic solution to solve the clothing problem is not the best society solution.

      I would request Mr Hughes-Games to list out his reasons why the answer to a maiden’s prayer should be rejected in case of GMO technology. I have personally not come across a logical reason why the technology should be rejected. But that does not mean a reason does not exist. So let us have an informed discussion on the subject.

      Namaste.
      Ashok Chowgule

    4. Scott

      @Eric Bjerregaard 23 August 2016,
      re William Hughes-Game:
      You said, “Second, it would be inhumane to not to attempt to feed hungry people. and Third, farming is not a pyramid scheme. Get a grip.”

      William may have used the wrong terminology, but in principle he is correct. Commodity Ag has nothing to do with feeding people efficiently. It is all about over producing far more grain than we could possibly ever eat but using it in a buffer stock scheme. To the layman a buffer stock scheme might appear to be similar to a pyramid scheme. You are right, farming is not a pyramid scheme, but it matters little. The buffer stock scheme serves the commodities markets and giant agribiz corporations in the same fashion. They destabilize the financial stability of the family farm, reduce the % of food dollars all farmers large and small receive, and provide huge almost guaranteed profits to big agribiz corps like Monsanto, Bayer et al.

      All that would be fine if it actually did what they advertise, the old “feed the world” mantra. But actually the production models are incredibly destructive both economically and ecologically and because of the economic instability they cause, causing at least as much or more hunger as they pretend to solve.

      This from wiki: “Most buffer stock schemes work along the same rough lines: first, two prices are determined, a floor and a ceiling (minimum and maximum price). When the price drops close to the floor price (after a new rich vein of silver is found, for example), the scheme operator (usually government) will start buying up the stock, ensuring that the price does not fall further. Likewise, when the price rises close to the ceiling, the operator depresses the price by selling off its holding. In the meantime, it must either store the commodity or otherwise keep it out of the market (for example, by destroying it).”

      And this also from wiki: “Earl Lauer Butz (July 3, 1909 – February 2, 2008) was a United States government official who served as Secretary of Agriculture under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. His policies favored large-scale corporate farming and an end to New Deal programs, but he is best remembered for a series of verbal gaffes that eventually cost him his job.” … “For example, he abolished a program that paid corn farmers to not plant all their land. (See Henry Wallace’s “Ever-Normal Granary”.) This program had attempted to prevent a national oversupply of corn and low corn prices. His mantra to farmers was “get big or get out,”[6][7] and he urged farmers to plant commodity crops like corn “from fencerow to fencerow.” These policy shifts coincided with the rise of major agribusiness corporations, and the declining financial stability of the small family farm.[8]”

      Now you might wonder how exactly this happened? He abolished one form of buffer stock scheme designed to prevent oversupply of corn and low corn prices then subsidized huge surplus production. In order to prevent prices getting too low he then had to establish methods to “destroy” that surplus as inefficiently as possible and that has brought us CAFOs biofuels etc and all the ecological damages those insanely destructive production models bring with them.

      Any country that resists playing ball will soon find “US Aid” grain dumping on their country in order to destabilize their local family farmers. There is no country that can resist it, not Russia, not China, and certainly not any developing country. This is why the mega-corporations in USA have spread internationally even though it would be hard to conceive a more inefficient system with over 1/2 the food wasted on purpose to maintain a stable price for the commodities markets and 100 tons of topsoil destroyed for every ton of food produced.

    5. Eric Bjerregaard

      Nonsense, 97% of all farms in the U.S. are family owned. Where are the results of this so-called destabilization of the family farm. Just another conspiracy theory.

    6. Scott

      @ Eric Bjerregaard 10 September 2016,

      In 1945 27% of farmers in US were forced to work off farm to earn a decent living. By 2002
      93% of farmers had off-farm income to make ends meet.

      Source: Compiled by Economic
      Research Service, USDA, using
      data from Census of Agriculture
      and Census of the United States

      In 2012 the average age of farmers was 58.3 with over 20 times more farmers over age 75 as under 25. This has been growing steadily every year, as income:cost of living ratio has dropped. 52.2% of those farmers principle income off farm and only 46.1% of farmers with net positive income from farming.

      Source: USDA-NASS, Census of Agriculture

      In 1950 farmers received 41% of the food dollar spent by consumers. Now it is 17.4% on average. Certain things like commodity grains even as low as 3%.

      Source: USDA-ERS

      I could go on and on, but you just keep up you sloganeering without evidence. Maybe it will hold off the pitchforks a little longer.

    7. Eric Bjerregaard

      Those statistics prove nothing. “forced” Nonsense, What about those who are getting into farming and still work off farm? What about those who choose to do so to minimize the risk of farming or stabilize income? How do your statistics differentiate between so-called buffer stock schemes and farmers storing crops in order to avoid downward price pressures exerted by buyers trying to take advantage of the abundance of crops all coming in at about the same time? Farmers grow crops in order to make a profit. How buyers use the crops after their sale is not of much concern. The sloganeering is in folks like you trying to misuse slogans like “feed the world” in the first place. then trying to use gov’t stats to mislead people into thinking their is a grad conspiracy out there. Stick your self with your pitchfork if you wish. but the birth rates go down when folks are better fed and educated. It is still inhumane to not try to feed existing people.

    8. Scott

      Grand conspiracy? What planet are you on? When the Secretary of Agriculture says, “Get big or get out” and then sets up Ag policies that sure enough destabilize the financial stability of the small to medium family farm forcing 1/2 of the farmers in the whole country out of business and the remaining farms double in size, it is far from a conspiracy. It was well publicized and on purpose. Last I knew conspiracies are secret plans behind closed doors. These policy changes and their intended result were about as public as can be. Anyone who can’t understand that is living in denial.

      Unfortunately while they have achieved what they were intended to do, there are many problems we inherited. Ag’s % GDP has fallen from 6.8% to .7% GDP. Available arable land has fallen from 189,244,000 hectares in 1969 to a minimum value of 151,669,300 in 2011 due to extensive land degradation. We are producing about 1 ton of food for every 100 tons of top soil lost. It simply can’t go on like this forever.

      So whether you like it or not, and no matter how you try and spin what is obvious to everyone else, fundamental changes to agriculture must be made to agricultural production models or we will face complete collapse somewhere around 60 years +/-.

      You can be part of the change or fight the change, as you wish. But don’t be surprised if you end up being the “Last best buggy whip maker” while the farmers who make the change are finally starting to make real profits again.

      “When farmers view soil health not as an abstract virtue, but as a real asset, it revolutionizes the way they farm and radically reduces their dependence on inputs to produce food and fiber.” -USDA

    9. Eric Bjerregaard

      Another load of statistics twisting nonsense. Very funny how you blame Butz and ignore the many other conditions that effected farming. “real profits?” Profits have been real all along. And BTW. one of the reasons I back g.e. use is the positive effects it can have on soil. My soil is doing just fine and my tiny farm is expanding in spite of Butz and the conspiracy.

    10. Scott

      Who said anything about supporting GE Tech? That’s just a tool. Like any tool you can put it to good use or bad. It’s the production model the tool was designed for that is the problem, not GE Tech per se.

      That’s why I said, “the best damn buggy whip maker” as an analogy. Sure it is a great buggy whip, still useless once the horseless carriage came around. Likewise Roundup Ready GMOs are equally useless in a regenerative production model. What use is a herbicide resistant GMO in a production model that doesn’t use herbicides?

      I am sure you are the one farmer on the planet making $5,000 an acre on field corn, meanwhile everyone else is making in the range of $200 – 300 dollars per acre. Maybe you could share your secret with the 63.9% of all farmers in the USA operating at a net loss every year?

    11. Eric Bjerregaard

      Production model? Here we go with the nonsense. Industrial Ag. is improving. No till is an improvement. G.E. seeds can be used in any production system. The fact that OMRI and NOP won’t allow certification is stupid. Regenerative? A phony classification. Any farmer who desires can use any technique that fits his circumstances. If a “regenerative production system forbids RR crops. Then it loses efficiency potential. How will the weeds be killed on millions of acres? I am tired of the hippy crap. Industrial techniques are efficient. They aren’t buggy whips. Your agenda is now clear and clearly foolish.

    12. Scott

      Eric,
      Yes Eric, regenerative. It is well known that for the last 10,000 years or so most agriculture is destructive to the environment, degrading the ecosystem services required to support agriculture to begin with. You can call it whatever you want, from farmed out, to desertified, to deforested, to whatever and however the local symptoms are manifest.

      The earliest attempts to mitigate this problem involved a fallow period of 1-3 years for every 3-7 years of agricultural production (longer for forests) and many rotational schemes were devised going back to biblical times. The reason for those fallow periods was to allow the land to regenerate fertility soil carbon etc…. As long as you didn’t farm it too intensely, those fallow periods would regenerate the land fairly rapidly. But go too long without an adequate fallow period and most agricultural land becomes degraded so bad that it can’t be used for agriculture for a very long time indeed. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but not many.

      So agriculture and degradation of the land is nothing new, and in fact the rule in most cases. The industrial intensive agricultural models simply accelerating this land degradation.

      Rotational schemes including fallow periods can reduce the land degradation to a sustainable level, but at a loss of productivity because a certain % is taken out of production for those fallow periods. That’s your next best production model, ie sustainable Ag. Most organic Ag falls into this category and some conventional Ag too. Much better for the land and potentially sustainable, but at a somewhat lower yield.

      The third category of Ag systems now being adopted are termed regenerative because the more intensely they are practiced, the more the land fertility and soil health improves. In essence like a fallow but with a crop at the same time. Other people have termed it “Beyond Organic” because it takes the latest in biological systems science and technology and applies it to agriculture to improve it beyond what even traditional organic can do. (AND WHAT INDUSTRIALIZED AG CAN DO TOO)

      These models inevitably will overtake what you advocate not by regulations and subsidies, but instead because they make the type of farming you do obsolete. The proverbial “last best buggy whip maker”. No matter how good the buggy whip was and no matter how efficiently made, doomed to obsolescence.

    13. Eric Bjerregaard

      Scott, I know the history of agriculture and am aware of the Biblical fallow period. Which was once every 7 years. I am also aware that even with a fallow period minerals must be replaced. Fallow periods can not replace potassium, Manganese, etc. Once you sell those molecules to the folks in Jerusalem. They are gone. Thus regenerative is limited. Industrial used to have the effects you describe. However it is now not only efficient. But is using no till, cover crops, manures, and less diesel due to less equipment passes. Thus, it is apparent that you do not understand the current developments and thus your whip and buggy are already becoming obsolete.

    14. Ashok Chowgule

      RE: “These models inevitably will overtake what you advocate not by regulations and subsidies, but instead because they make the type of farming you do obsolete.”

      This is the essence of what is called free market forces to determine what the producer and the consumer likes best. Most often such decisions are made by the producer and the consumer based on his long-term interests.

      Thus, what I would like to suggest is that let the choices, including GMO technology, be offered to the farmer, and let him decide what is best for him.

      Namaste.
      Ashok Chowgule

    15. Eric Bjerregaard

      Yes, each person must make his own decisions and accept the consequences. I am building my soils quite well. but must do so within the limitations of current sales and available labor etc. Regenerative is not possible on my land yet. The soils can’t be regenerated until after they have been generated. On the other hand I am small, so sell retail and to restaurants. I will become more industrial as I can afford the equipment. This will not slow my soil’s improvements. That must receive a high priority. Each farmer has different circumstances. I have been offered BT/RR corn seed for spring. I must decide whether to grow or not. It might not be accepted at my markets as many are prejudiced against the crop. As you are aware without logical reason. But sooner or later some one will be needed to “break the ice” and use these beneficial seeds. It would minimize the effect if I could get several of us at the market to make the benefits known all at once. What will be the long term self interest?

    16. Scott

      Eric,
      You said, “Fallow periods can not replace potassium, Manganese, etc. Once you sell those molecules to the folks in Jerusalem. They are gone. Thus regenerative is limited.”

      Wrong again. You really need to keep up with the new science. In the type of Ag you are locked into with your methods, those cycles are much slower than than the replacement rate. But change the system to regenerative Ag and the problem vanishes due to a process called weathering and mineralization conducted by symbiotic microorganisms in the soil. Microorganism you are killing with your pesticides like roundup and various fungicides, fertilizers, etc.; and inhibit their function by even eliminating all those “weeds” in the first place. Weeds I might add whose primary function is to repair deficiencies like you mentioned and build habitat/feed those beneficial soil organisms. The trick of course is to discover how to manage the agricultural biome in such a way as to optimize the beneficial symbiosis while minimizing the “pest” aspects of uncontrolled “weed/pest” species. It is something you can not even hope to do with a mindset you have shown in your posts. The outdated, obsolete and unscientific view of “It’s a weed, kill it” simply won’t ever even get you past the starting gate in regenerative models of production.

    17. Eric Bjerregaard

      Scott, Mineralization can’t make minerals appear where there are none. I am aware of mineralization and weathering. You need to quit reading the sales literature of Advancing Eco Agriculture. natural processes can’t magically make manganese or boron appear where there is none. Keep your weeds. I will do better without thousands of weeds competing with my crops.

    18. Scott

      Eric,
      You really do need to keep up with the science and case studies before you make claims like that! The field is advancing far more rapidly than you even know.
      “Potassium (K+) is one of the most abundant elements of soil composition but it’s very low availability limits plant growth and productivity of ecosystems. Because this cation participates in many biological processes, its constitutive uptake from soil solution is crucial for the plant cell machinery. Thus, the understanding of strategies responsible of K+ nutrition is a major issue in plant science. Mycorrhizal associations occurring between roots and hyphae of underground fungi improve hydro-mineral nutrition of the majority of terrestrial plants. …”
      Source: The role of mycorrhizal associations in plant potassium nutrition
      Kevin Garcia, Sabine D. Zimmermann
      Front Plant Sci. 2014; 5: 337. Published online 2014 Jul 17. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2014.00337
      PMCID: PMC4101882

      More info can be found at: The Potential Role of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi in the Restoration of Degraded Lands
      Fisseha Asmelash, Tamrat Bekele, Emiru Birhane
      Front Microbiol. 2016; 7: 1095. Published online 2016 Jul 26. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2016.01095
      PMCID: PMC4960231

      Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi as Natural Biofertilizers: Let’s Benefit from Past Successes
      Andrea Berruti, Erica Lumini, Raffaella Balestrini, Valeria Bianciotto
      Front Microbiol. 2015; 6: 1559. Published online 2016 Jan 19. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2015.01559
      PMCID: PMC4717633

      Of course without a living root in the soil at all times, those symbiotic AMF wouldn’t have their obligatory host plant to keep them alive, dramatically limiting your crop from being adequately coloniZed by AMF. And of course without AFM and various other symbiotic micro-organisms working at extracting non-bioavailable K from the soil mineral substrate and converting it to a soluble form that is bioavailable to plants, even the much reduced colonization you have wouldn’t be enough. But again, you are not even close to understanding how regenerative agriculture works, and are using a production model incapable of building soil and/or restoring fertility to the soil by it’s very nature. You are still looking at insects and plants as pests and weeds! They are only pests and weeds because of the system you are using! In fact about 97%-99% of all microorganisms and insects are beneficial, and even a majority of your so called “weeds”. Your “kill ’em all” attitude towards the subject is what is causing your difficulties.

      “When farmers view soil health not as an abstract virtue, but as a real asset, it revolutionizes the way they farm and radically reduces their dependence on inputs to produce food and fiber.” -USDA

      Remember, herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, fertilizers, lime, even manure spreaders, compost and irrigation are all “inputs”. And “radically reduced” means exactly that: RADICALLY. Most cases zero although there are a few exceptions where the limited input might be needed (like irrigation during a drought).

    19. Eric Bjerregaard

      Scott, the science says the molecules are not there. symbiotic fungi and exudates can’t produce nonexistent minerals. Case closed. No inputs other than water in Florida sand? That’s a bad joke.

    20. Scott

      Sorry Eric,
      I sincerely mean this. I do feel for you. I was born in Florida and know all too well the challenges in doing any kind of agriculture in that sand. However, you are wrong again. Most Florida sand contains a nominal 2 percent +/-potassium. Nearly all of which is not available to plants however. To make matters even worse, as it becomes available due to weathering it generally leaches out rapidly for various reasons. Accumulating potassium in those soils in a bio-available form truly is a huge challenge. However, it is not impossible. Probably one could say it is impossible using the methods you are using, but not impossible at all. It’s there. You are just going about it in a manner that will never let you tap into it.

    21. Eric Bjerregaard

      )K Scott You have criticized my methods without even knowing what they are. Do I use no till? plastic mulch? g.e. seeds? overhead or drip irrigation? What fertilizers or other inputs do I use? You tell me. Also explain precisely how your way is going to prevent deficiencies after a series of summer rains. Remember, I don’t give a flip about cutting edge science compared to what is cost effective. Also, try not to insult me by explaining what inputs are. I just might already be aware.

    22. Scott

      Eric,
      I don’t need to know the exact methods you are using to know you are not using any type of regenerative model of production. That’s pretty clear. How do I know that? You talk about herbicides and weeds and a lack of potassium and made statements like “Regenerative is not possible on my land yet. The soils can’t be regenerated until after they have been generated. ”

      So if you believe it isn’t possible, of course that means you are not even aware how to do it. You haven’t even considered the possibility because you already “know” it is impossible. The grand irony being you would increase your profit margin considerably if you were able to successfully learn how to. And you know that yourself. The more natural fertility in any soil, the more profit potential. The less costly inputs, the more profit potential. The greater yields, the more profit potential. It’s farming, so no guarantees for profits. No guarantees you’ll even be able to learn what it is you seem to be so hostile about. But most assuredly should you successfully adopt a regenerative model, your profits would significantly increase.

    23. Eric Bjerregaard

      Gawd, you leap to conclusions. You can’t regenerate something until it is generated the first time. Simple grammar. Weeds must be killed quickly or they set seeds. Then the problem gets worse. Herbicides do not automatically kill beneficial soil life. I am aware that you are selling so-called beneficial fungi. Until I build up my soils there is nothing for them to feed on. They will die. And you will have my money. After I build up my soils the naturally occurring ones will be able to increase and I still don’t need your stuff. I asked a wide variety of folks about this years ago. In fact, I have been able to decrease my inputs recently. though I must be careful not to over do it. Remember, cost effective, not cutting edge. I have seen zippo from you folks to indicate cost effective. Further I have received PMs from some who have tried your methods and said it did not work.

    24. Scott

      Actually Eric, I sell tomatoes peppers sweet corn okra squash cukes and a few common herbs like Basil and tarragon. I bought some inoculate a while back just to jump start my soils, but I have no need for those anymore. I certainly don’t sell it. I will be opening up a new field though. Will probably need some then for a year or two just to be on the safe side since the soil is so poor it isn’t even fit for crops. But inoculate is so cheap it is no biggie. i can inoculate several thousand seedlings for 6 dollars and AMF grows and reproduces on its own as long as I provide proper habitat. As for your claim from “people” who tried “my methods”, either you are telling lies or they were. I am a researcher and no one has tried my methods except me since they are still in development stages. Maybe you are confusing my own personal research with the many other farmers out there using related regenerative methods that are already well vetted? However, I am getting the feeling since you continue to say insulting things like “you people” and “I am tired of the hippy crap”. Pretty obvious you are a close minded bigot. Ironic because I am about as far away from a hippy as humanly possible. So your idea of who I am and why I am promoting regenerative agriculture is pretty mistaken. And your hostility towards actually learning anything that could help you equally obvious. So for now you just go on your merry way. I refuse to continue to throw pearls before swine. You’ll come around one day.

    25. Eric Bjerregaard

      Scott, I am not a bigot. I am skeptical of those who claim “no inputs” I grew up during the hippy days and used to read “organic Gardening, Tried Jeavons nonsense, Mother Earth News ETC. Almost none of what they taught was cost effective. I mentioned Advancing Eco Agriculture as the make claims similar to yours. that is why I thought you were selling either their stuff or something similar. When their sales guy showed up in a discussion group several years ago. I quizzed him and that is when other members messaged me that the products were expensive and didn’t work well. Also, 2 agronomists in the group commented that if I improved the soil that the beneficials would multiply. I went to a place that sells mycorrhizae once to pick up the label to get it approved for use on a FDOT landscape job and it was shrink wrapped, on a palate, on an asphalt parking lot in S.W. Florida in May. Unless that stuff is real heat tolerant. It was dead. Most off what I grow is in greenhouses and planted through about 4 inches of horse stall muck out for mulch. Pineapples are rotated with brassicas or other veggies. I mentioned K because I also have bananas. They require a lot of K. My soil is deficient in literally everything except P when first cleared. I doubt that my use of ferts or glyphosate kills soil life because of the mulch. Plus, The rapid growth rates make that issue a minor one any ways. I use a fertilizer injector as the pineapples absorb nutrients in the center cup. I also run minor minerals, BT, and humic/fulvic acid through the injector about 3 to 4 times a year. My soils have gone from about 1.5% organic when cleared to not being always able to tell where the mulch ends and the soils starts. The organic particles have now leached down to where the soil looks fairly good as far as 15 inches. It used to look like beach sand at that depth. Because of the nature of my growing system in the houses. weeds can’t be tolerated. Hand weeding pineapples planted at 1500 plants per 30 by 96 foot greenhouses can be painful.

  8. Kevin Folta

    Thanks for putting this out there Mark. I can tell you exactly what USRTK is going to do with the emails. Statements will be used out of context to create false, damaging narratives in an attempt to erode trust in public scientists. They have done that already, and show clearly that they are not just innocently searching for inappropriate influence as they claim. They are using public records law as a weapon.

    Until there are repercussions for abuse and misuse of this important transparency mechanism, I support UC-Davis’ position to resist release of the documents. It is not about transparency, it is about libeling scientists to hurt their careers. That has been demonstrated, and until that is put in bold type in the letter requesting the emails, then UC Davis should stand strong.

    BTW, I’ve released over 22,000 pages of my personal email to USRTK, Food Babe Vani Hari and many others since they began their slimy campaign. Every page had to be read and redacted by an attorney at huge public expense.

    Reply
  9. Ashok Chowgule

    Please read the article:
    http://www.alternet.org/investigations/13-academics-who-have-become-shills-corporate-giants-food-agrochemical-and-fossil

    Reminds me of the following quote:
    Nikolay Valentinov recounts Lenin telling him, “Plekhanov once said to me about a critic of Marxism (I’ve forgotten his name), ‘First let us stick the convict’s badge on him, and then after that we will examine his case.’ And I think that we must ‘stick the convict’s badge’ on anyone and everyone who tries to undermine Marxism, even if we do not go on to examine his case. That’s how every sound revolutionary should react.”
    Nikolay Valentino, Encounters with Lenin, London, 1968. Quoted in Arun Shourie, Eminent Historians, Delhi, 1998, p 209.

    In the GMO technology, all that the anti people do is to stick the Monsanto’s badge on anyone whom they disagree with. There was a poster of a protest against GM mustard in India, where it said that Monsanto is happy that the technology will be given permission soon. Monsanto is nowhere in the picture in this technology development, which is a public sector project in India.

    I think it is the right of every company to promote its product and services. Yes, there are some who can make unsubstantiated claims. But this can be disputed on the basis of science, and not on the basis that it is promoted by a company. It is known that many organic companies and organisations that are against the GMO technology. But the activists do not tell about their own funding, even as they say that their opponents are funded by the GMO technology companies.

    The very fact that the use of the word shill has become so popular amongst the anti-science activists, shows that they have no logical case to make.

    Namaste.
    Ashok Chowgule

    Reply
    1. Sage

      Not so, Ashok. What a polemic screed by a known entity. You’re one of the pushers of the biotech / agrochemical agenda. I often forget about you but there you are time after time.

      This has become a propaganda war perpetrated by the industry to protect the large market. Sort of ike climate change denialism.

    2. Eric Bjerregaard

      Sage , still trying to deceive folks with your semantic blather. When the FOIA is misused like this it is a form of assault. Kinda like the verbal assaults often mentioned regarding politics. Or your written assaults in truth posted in many forums.

  10. Sage

    Whoa, Mark, you’re going off the deep end.

    Calling an FOIA request an “attack” and an “assault” — do you know what an actual attack or assault even are? They involve violence, the use of force, etc…. not the use of a law for public transparency to gain more transparency .

    I call this propaganda. Same old agenda of yours.

    Reply
  11. Eric Bjerregaard

    Sage less. The propaganda war has been initiated by dishonest folks like you. The technology has been used safely. The farmers, research, laureates, scientific bodies, and safety record all agree on this. The only ones doing any “pushing” are denialists like you.

    Reply
    1. Sage

      1. Start out with a pun-based name-calling and you kind of lose just for that, dude.

      2. No, the propaganda war is paid for by the industry who has much to lose based on different perceptions by public an governance. That’s the industry. That’s not me, a carpenter doing this while drinking my morning coffee before word. That’s firms like Ketchum who specialize in “public relations” which is a euphemism for the kind of propaganda pioneered by Edward Bernays an carried on by people like Richard Berman and Jon Entine and many more behind-the-scenes who are smarter and less egoic and thus keep their own names out of it.

      3. Not all Nobel Laureates agree, and by the way James D Watson — one of the most notable laureates — is a raging racist sort of white supremacist ideologist, so that shows you just how much being a Nobel laureate means about wisdom. Fields are narrow. Wisdom is broad. Barbara McClintock — if she were alive today — would be opposed to the ideological crap presented by Sir Richard Roberts. By the way, i met that dude and i was not impressed. Yes, up at New England Biolabs. He’s a geeky ideologically susceptible brainiac. I know the type.

      4. … 2+2=4 not 5…. saying this truth does not make me “denialist”

      5. The term “denialist” brings up some great points:

      5a. It’s used for climate change deniers, who are towing the fossil fuels industry agenda.
      5b. In the case of the agrochemical and biotech industry, those who deny risk or minimize risk of chemicals and GMOs are the actual industry-aligned deniers.
      5c. Logic and evidence… try them sometime. They suit anyone.

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