Thursday, August 13, 2015

Musings: Spiral of Silence

Flew into Reno, shocked by the sprawl. Things sure had changed since last I was there: 1979, driving out to attend college in Denver, my 1964 VW bug crawling up the Truckee pass at 35 mph, me praying all the way it would make it.
From the Reno airport I drove west, stunned by the clear-cutting, the Truckee River a mere trickle. My destination was South Lake Tahoe, where UC Davis is hosting an international conference on transgenic animal research.
I've spent the last few days immersed in talk of chimeras, clones, genetic editing, gene therapy, pluripotent stem cells, CRISPARs and other stuff that was way over my head.

That I was there at all might surprise Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser, who has been proving he flat out makes stuff up by spreading the rumor that I'm being paid to promote the agrochemical companies. Actually, I'm not getting paid to promote anything, and I'm interested in learning more about all aspects of biotech. Like many antis, Gary seems to think biotech is only and all about the multinational seed companies, when there's a whole lot more to it.

Like cows genetically engineered to produce plasma with antibodies used to make vaccines. Goats engineered to produce lysozyme, an enzyme found in human breast milk, saliva and tears that shows promise in preventing and treating the intestinal illnesses that sicken and kill tens of thousands of children in developing nations. Transgenic sterile male mosquitoes that are proving effective in controlling dengue fever. Sheep and cattle resistant to trypanosomiasis, a disease that sickens and kills livestock around the world and is particularly devastating to African farmers.

I don't pretend to understand the science, but I'm fascinated by the social and environmental implications of the technology, and most especially, the irrationalism of the rabid anti-GMO movement.

As one researcher noted: “They'll think nothing of putting a genetically engineered product directly into their veins, but they won't eat it.”

Because genetic engineering in medicine is going great guns, with no complaints or outcry, but GE agriculture is under attack.

Sitting at dinner with a group of researchers, I relayed some of what's been going on in Hawaii with the anti-GMO movement the past few years — the threats, the intimidation, the harassment, the bullying, the fear-mongering and most of all, the intense disinformation campaign led by people like Gary Hooser and his pals at the Center for Food Safety.

I recounted that I'd been an avid environmentalist — and though that hasn't changed, I've lost all faith in the “green” movement — and opposed to GMOs until I witnessed the ugliness of the anti-GMO movement, and started doing more research into biotech.

They all laughed when I said that people — folks like Felicia Cowden and Shannon Rudolph — were spreading the rumor that I must've suffered a brain injury because they otherwise couldn't fathom how I'd so dramatically shifted my views.

“You mean, they didn't understand you'd educated yourself?” asked one scientist, incredulous.

Yeah, it's a difficult concept to grasp for those who are gripped by ignorance. 

Another researcher told of the poll that asked people whether food with DNA should be labeled, and 70 percent said yes. When asked if GMOs should be labeled, the figure went up to 73 percent. So only about 3% of the population is rabidly anti-GMO, but they're manipulating the ignorance of the masses because of course all food contains DNA.

It made me think of a quote I'd read in The Garden Island, in a story about the end of WWII. “It’s amazing that the Japanese — so small a little country — could occupy China,” [Marine J.Q.] Smith said. “But it was all out of fear, people would be scared to death. They controlled by fear.”

And that's what we're seeing here, with the anti-GMO activists viciously attacking scientists, journalists, farmers, policy makers and anyone else who speaks up with a different point of view. It's called intimidation, and it's fed by a concept known as the spiral of silence. People don't want to risk being socially isolated, so they often don't speak up when they believe their views are in the minority. This allows the loud-mouthed bullies, with their misinformation and nonsense, to dominate the debate.

Which is why GloFish — a fluorescent aquarium fish — is the only GE animal approved for commercial sale. Yet other applications with humanitarian, environmental and animal welfare benefits languish in the regulatory process, or wither from lack of funding because investors are put off by an arbitrary, highly politicized regulatory process fueled by misguided activism.

It's time to turn the tables. Folks need to educate themselves about this technology because it's not going away. New things are often scary — people fought artificial insemination and machine-produced ice, for example — and they can threaten the economic interests of groups. But that shouldn't stop us from talking about this technology honestly and intelligently, rather than allowing a small group to control policy through intimidation and fear.

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

Japan took China because the Japanese had guns. Lots of them. Guns, pain and terror.

But as much as people complain about growth on Kauai. You have made an outstanding, tho' maybe unintended comparison.
Reno has exploded and is unrecognizable in 40 years. Reno a veritable armpit of physical beauty. While Kauai, one of the most beautiful places on God's Green Earth has changed little in 40 years. We have experienced change, but negligible when compared to other areas. IE Mauai, Kona, Oahu. Remember change is not good or bad....only your perception makes it so.
Kauai has been effectively forcing the younger folks off island because of housing. And forcing multi generations into one residence for the same reason.
Both add up to fewer homes.
The biggest change on Kauai are the development of the Kilauea Sugar lands, some resort areas and smaller Ag lands thruout Lawai, Kalaheo, Wailu/Kapaa. And the biggest change PUHI.
There are a few areas that are ideal for local housing. Let's do it. The demographics are changing. More wealthy newcomers, more and more older local residents (no smaller homes to move into), homeless.
We need areas for churches, Rehab, schools and small studio style units and homes.

Joan. Thank you for clarifying that you do NOT receive money for your GMO writings.
I feel you should get as much money as you can. Your Blog (with good support from the 2 NS gals) stopped BnBs and has been a main venue for many to find out what is happening on the island.
As The GI gets comical, KE gets serious. Please keep busting the Horse Baloney that goes down on the island. THANK YOU.

Anonymous said...

Scotland bans GMO crops
http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/08/12/scotland-bans-growing-gm-crops/

Luke Evslin said...

"...but that shouldn't stop us from talking about this technology honestly and intelligently"

Yes.

I think that the most important reason for engaging in the topic is that there are moral end points to how far we should take genetic modification. And it's going to take a robust and honest community discussion (on a global scale) with the best science available to figure out where those end points are at. And, those who for cultural, religious, or other dogmatic reasons draw the line at "genetic modification is bad" are taking themselves out of the dialogue.

Joan Conrow said...

7:13. This ban is agriculturally insignificant and politically motivated. Scotland only cultivates one crop, maize/corn, that is approved for GE, and very little of that. You notice it has not banned research.

Anonymous said...

Joan, thank you for sharing. a lot of times we forget that each individual has a brain. the situation is to use it or not. people seem to be okay not using it for getting the right information. they seem okay to let their associates do the brain thing. and this is how it starts, the lack of information getting back to them to know what is right. they become the sheep "silence of the lambs".

Anonymous said...

good to educate ourselves on all ge science! we in Hawaii our concerned about ge crops and the use of pesticides----we are not lamenting about the things being done in medicine and other venues! I think you made us look bad in the eyes of researchers. You sometimes assume things that are damaging and because you don't agree (or dislike) certain individuals, you put pakai on their beliefs and try to burn them bad! I agree with Luke------how far will we go with this science---

Anonymous said...

Great work keeping educated and sharing with us what you learn Joan. I noticed both your blog and Jan Tennbrugengates blog are being featured by the Hawaii Crop Improvment Associatiin too! Nice work!

Anonymous said...

Joan, I am confused. You said earlier that you were getting paid by the industry to go to India and to write for the Science Alliance. Now you say you are not and Hooser is spreading lies? What am I missing? Did I misunderstand your earlier statements?

Anonymous said...

Thank you ms. joan!

Anonymous said...

The worst character trait that Gary Hooser exhibits is not being able to accept new information and admit that he was wrong. His ego is so large, so overinflated, that it incapacitates his ability to evolve even in the face of overwhelming evidence. Hooser is a dinosaur on his way to extinction.

Anonymous said...

The big fist is going down!

Anonymous said...

I worry about the cruelty to some of the animals involved. Corporate America and researchers have a history of objectifying the poor animals.

Joan Conrow said...

8-- I didn't make you look bad Your own actions did that. I was just reporting what went down.

8:16. Yes, you are confused. I never said industry paid for my trip to India. I was hired to do reporting by the Alliance, which is funded by a grant from the Gates Foundation and receives no industry funding. So yes, Gary was lying when he said industry pays me to write this blog -- no one pays me to write KE -- and industry paid for my "international junkets." Of course, he has yet to disclose any funding for HAPA, as is required by law, nor who paid for what was truly a junket to Switzerland.

Anonymous said...

The discussion does need to happen but personally, I find it exhausting and pointless to have a conversation with someone whose mind is already made up, who's not open to another point of view or new information. -I have friends who also feel the same way (not just on this issue but on others, like TMT.)
On another note, thanks for all of your efforts. I know it has helped to open eyes, including mine.

Anonymous said...

Joan, loved how in the comments to Gary's CivilBeat article he threw out the shill accusation about you when another commenter asked him about one of your blog posts, you responded, then the original commenter said he checked for himself and found out that you were telling the truth, and not Gary, and now Gary is evading a question from that person....

This is how hypocrites and liars are exposed and continue to lose credibility and influence. Keep up the great work!

Anonymous said...

Not fast enough.
Hooser has done more damage to community and personal well-being than any single person in the history of Kauai. And it's not misguided altruism.

Anonymous said...

Joan, ditto.

Anonymous said...

This is a classic!

http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2007/May/05/ln/FP705050336.html

Anonymous said...

You must be new around here....many people and famalies have done much worst things than Gary. Like the Wilson family...Malapits....Palama family....Ham Youngs.....etc

Anonymous said...

Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Hun Sen, Kim Jung Il, Robert Mugabe, Benito Mussolini, Ferdinand Marcos, and Gary Hooser. All wonderful leaders that put their personal self-interests aside to truly serve the people. November 2016 is red circled on my calendar. Can't wait to flush away da Hoos and start a new regime. I just hope Mel and Ross can continue to get the votes to suppress anymore damage Gary attempts to muster during his lame duck term.

Anonymous said...

8:55 Please this is a family oriented blog.
The mental embrace of the Big Fistee "going down" is enough to gag a herd of Council members.

Anonymous said...

11:18 Criminals come and go....but, Gary has done more to further the Local/Haole divide than anyone.
JoAnn has been the worst influence on Kauai.
Her complete mishandling of the hurricane clean up.
Her stopping Wallmart from providing fruits and vegetables. This would have saved local folk, thousands per year.
Her continuous time consumption at every meeting, cost untold thousands in dollars and unfathomable patience by her fellows.
Her stopping via complicity with Water Dept and Planning on all development for locals.
Her push to stuff locals into crowded apartments instead of single family residences.
Her millions of bad dollars on an expensive and polluting, ineffective Kauai Bus System. It would be cheaper to hire individual taxis to move the folks.
And the list goes on.
Da Hoos is an embarrassment. He has some power here and there, but he blew his wad when he was untrustworthy in the Senate and incapable at the Environmental Abercrombie post. Trust is everything and he ain't got none.
And none of Gary's hiring of Mason or the Anti-Ag law would have gone into effect without the loving arms of Jay Furfaro. So actually Jay was the power behind the Big Fistees thrust.

Anonymous said...

Yukimura is becoming disabled and should be retired before she totally obliterates the memories of her positive accomplishments. Thank you, Joan. Live long and happy in your retirement.

Dawson said...

Joan wrote:
"Yeah, it's a difficult concept to grasp for those who are gripped by ignorance."

That's exactly the name of the lever that demagogues like Hooser exploit for their own aggrandizement: ignorance.

Ignorance, and the fear that follows from it.


Anonymous said...

POPE JOINS BATTLE AGAINST TRANSGENIC CROPS
http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/pope-francis-joins-battle-against-transgenic-crops/

Joan Conrow said...

First, the Pope is -- gasp, surprise -- misinformed. The companies have "opened their. data bases to prove transgenic crops are innocuous." That's how they got deregulated. Second, if the concern is land monopolies, deal with it in a political and/or legal way. It's not a reflection of the crops per se. Small holders can use these crops as easily as large. Third, why didn't he rebuke the antis for spreading the fear thst has hindered the robust social discussion? Fourth, does this mean we should we also follow the Pope's directives on birth control, etc?

Anonymous said...

Aloha Joan. The truth will set you free... On the other hand the truth will lock some peoples mind up because they are liars and cannot deal with the truth. Was told long ago to stand up for what you believe in. For some people they stand up for their beliefs because they cannot differentiate the lie from the truth. We try to trust some people who are supposed to be good leaders and later on we find out not. How many of us are in this delimma?

Anonymous said...

The Pope got snookered! You go Joan!

Joan Conrow said...

Well if you're so entrenched in Catholicism that you become Pope you've already got a propensity for being snookered!

Anonymous said...

Uban VIII subjected Galileo to the tender mercies of the Holy Inquisition and, ironically, former Cardinal Bergoglio’s (now Pope Francis) religious order was also subjected to the Inquisition. So, despite doctrinal holding, Pope Francis is not infallible nor is he broadly educated in science. But he is a trained Jesuit. To say “Pope Joins Battle Against Transgenic Crops” and to provide that particular link is to belittle what the Pope wrote in 246 parqgraphs. Here is a link to the Vatican’s English translation of P. Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si” where paragraphs 131-135 deal with the GMO issue as a small part of the larger picture: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html The subtitle of the encyclical is “On Care For Our Common Home”. I haven’t read a lot of it nor am I Catholic, but I will when I have the time. Peter Adler might assign it to the JFFG since it ise dense with nuanced argument on “our common home” and will undoubtedly keep them even busier and out of mischief. Lux et Veritas- what we should all strive for for in this blog

Anonymous said...

So glad we have you Joan. You are so much better informed than the Hoos, the pope, most of Europe and the 10,000 marchers who have all been snookered! You go girl!

Joan Conrow said...

some lead and others follow. You obviously do the latter 12:34

Anonymous said...

POPE APOLOGISES FOR CATHOLIC CRIMES AGAINST INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DURING THE COLONISATION OF THE AMERICAS

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/pope-francis-apologises-for-catholic-crimes-against-indigenous-peoples-during-the-colonisation-of-the-americas-10380319.html

Anonymous said...

Joan, What is your take on this study?- PEER-REVIEWED PAPER SUGGESTS GENETICALLY ENGINEERED SOY (GMO) PRODUCES
EXCESS FORMALDEHYDE AND DISRUPTS NATURAL PLANT METABOLISM
A new study published in the peer-reviewed journal AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES applies modern computational systems biology methods to reveal genetically engineered soy (the GMO) creates significant disruption to the levels of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, and glutathione, an important anti-oxidant necessary for cellular detoxification. Read @ http://www.integrativesystems.org/systems-biology-of-gmos/

Anonymous said...

What 12:2pm? The Pope Joins the fight against transgender cops?

Anonymous said...

3:49, it's old news. "Kevin Folta debunks pay for play paper finding formaldehyde in GMOs" http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2015/07/21/kevin-folta-debunks-pay-for-play-paper-supposedly-finding-formaldehyde-in-gmos/

Anonymous said...

Hard to say, 4:36, but it probably doesn't pay to second guess a dude who wears white robes and dresses his personal guard in multi-colored bloomers.

Misha said...

The moment a discussion degenerates from facts into personal attacks, whatever facts it has provided become suspect of political machinations... it is easy to win the hearts and minds of the alresdy converted by riling them up against the character and motivation of a person and miss enthrely the point of that person's argument. But if u do nit want to just be preaching to the choir, i'd say stick to facts, links to reputable scientific data and to respect for ur oponent-- if u study history dispassionately, u would see that there is no argument in history that has not had some core validity to it, no matter how despicable on the surface. Our best choices have been when we have been able to bridge intellectual divides to hear one another with respect, truly hear them, and find win-win solutions that honor the bigger truth, which noone sees from their limited but oassionateky held perspective. The bible can be quited ti cintradict utsekf, science can be auited to contradict itself. It is a fact that life and each selarate issue jn life has at least two contradictiry sides to it. Living with nd making the best choices while honoring the cintradiction is the way if evolution. Anything else perpetuates fightng, war, denigration, de-humanization and power over a certain segment of the population. From interoersonal rlationship to international politics, it is the same, and HWaii politics is not different. Welcome to the 21 st century! We have a chance to evolve from war to peace. How would You contribute to bring it about?

Anonymous said...

Simple minded people are easily "persuaded". It's too hard to think for themselves or question their master and when they actually have an analytical thought, they're unable to stand up and express it out of fear of being ostracized.

Anonymous said...

Its a hit piece. Peer reviewed is a stretch.
http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2015/07/29/ayyadurais-formaldehyde-in-gmos-claim-challenged-engineer-refuses-verification-offer/