When Science is Silenced

Last week was science week at the Cornell Alliance for Science Global Leadership Fellowship Program.  I had a chance to get some great education on entomology, crop science, animal science, and plant breeding.  I’ll admit that I am very much uninformed about many of these areas of agriculture and it’s nice to have a good basic understanding of these topics to start good fact based discussions.  It’s amazing to me how the average social media person can state that they know more than scientists after sitting in on so many of these great lectures.

The other day, I had a chance to hear Dr. Kevin Folta speak about his topic and what’s happening with the Freedom of Information Act abuses by Gary Ruskin’s U.S. Right to Know group.  This group has used the FOIA law to obtain the emails of Dr. Folta in an attempt to connect him to the evil empire of the anti-GMO movement, Monsanto.  (You can read more on this attack on him and some 40 other scientists who have chosen to speak out for science.)

I’m very saddened by the kind of tactics that the organic industry has leveled against people who have chosen to speak out for science.  The leaders of this industry take advantage of people’s fears and bombard them with lots of misinformation.  Their entire marketing scheme relies of maintaining fear.  It’s a very precarious state to maintain when people start to question it.  This industry in threatened by education because once someone is provided some inkling of knowledge and facts are challenged, the truth comes out loud and clear.

Humans are curious brings from the time we are born.  My son reminds me of that everyday.  As soon as he gets up, he’s crawling around searching his environment and exploring his world.  Everything is new to him and interesting.  He has an innate ability to want to touch things, stand up on different objects, crawl or scoot, or just roll around.  Every single one of us is born with that fascination.

I find it very dangerous that the USRTK has taken the liberty to use a law to stifle that curiousity.  When people are no longer encouraged to explore their environments or ask questions, we literally become imprisoned in our own minds.  It’s the same tactic that the Hawaii anti-GMO activists do when they create catchy slogans like the “poisoning of paradise” and “destroying the sins” and so on.  Their slogans are very cleverly framed also so that if one does support GMOs, they back you into a corner that one must be pro-pesticide.

It is no different when people like the Food Babe pre-bans people on her page to avoid criticism.  It’s the same tactic the Babes Against Biotech did to me when I pointed out that some pesticides in organic agriculture are toxic to bees.  A movement based in fear and misinformation can’t tolerate any questioning and relies on repeated slogans and catchphrases.  True education and critical thinking is dangerous to their movement.

The heart of innovation comes from curiousity and always figuring out ways to do things better.  We don’t like doing things the same old way every time and look to be more efficient and improve upon ourselves.  Science is a process that helps us look at things differently to figure things out.  It gives us the base knowledge to ask questions and figure out a plan and process to solve a problem.  When farmers have problems with their crops, it is the scientists who work with them to help provide solutions to sustain their work.  I know because I’ve seen how papayas were saved by research and technology.

The world needs more curiousity and innovative thinkers.  It relies upon leaders like Dr. Folta to challenge, engage, educate, and inspire.  It’s what I do for my children to prepare them for the future.  My dream is for them to become leaders in their fields of choice guided by evidence based reasoning.  I hope that great scientists like Kevin Folta and others light that flame in the youth of the world.  Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know but go out and learn about it and figure out how to solve a problem.   We as a country need to restore respect for work of any scientist who actually do work to help people through educating others to do the same.  When their students leave their classes, they will go on to work some place and develop their skills to make things better for each of us.  That is what we all want for the world we live in.


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