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Kevin M. Folta RSS Feed of this column.

I'm proud to be a public scientist at a land-grant university with great interests in public education. I completed a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and have been a professor at the University of Florida... Read More »


Hijacking a Conference's Credibility

If you'd like to lose a few pounds, poke around the Internet and read about food and farming.

Within ten minutes you will likely find that all of your favorite fare is poised to kill you, contributing to dozens of maladies from allergies, to autism, to Morgellons's disease, to impotence, to cancer. Is it true? Probably not. Why would people put such things on the web?
Things have been a little intense lately and the little voice in my head keeps begging, "How did I get here?"  

In other times of quiet introspection the little voice in my head says, "What would you have done differently?"

What the heck happened? 
I’ve been a critic of the Food Babe for a long time. Actually, I’ve been the critic of anyone that attempts to manipulate the public perception of science, while presenting zero scientific evidence. Especially deplorable are those that use fear to force a message, and scare people about safe food while profiting in the process.
It’s an old story now, but when ‘Food Babe’ Vani Hari visited my university to sell her science-blind worldview I was not exactly thrilled. We professors are tasked to teach from evidence, with foundation in a scholarly literature. Why would we subject our students to the daft rants of a dim food activist that lines her pockets by frightening people away from safe food?

    How could you destroy someone with their own words, if their words present no evidence of wrongdoing?  It actually is amazingly simple, and illustrates the danger of limitless access to personal emails through public records requests.  In this post I will show how two writers for a PLoS One Blog* blatantly misrepresent content obtained through such a request. This is how scandals are manufactured from nothing.

In the shadow of Proposition 37's defeat maybe we can have a real conversation.  Angry, uninformed discussion based on fear mongering from both sides detracted from a real issue-- how do we provide complete information about food in a manner consistent with science?

Throughout the discussion scientists and some corporate officials stated repeatedly that labeling is not the problem-- Proposition 37 was the problem.  A potentially complex and expensive bureaucratic web would be created to police foodstuffs that have no inherent dangers.  That's just nuts.

At this time I think everyone in interested in this issue should coalesce around balancing two concepts in complete fairness-- information and science.