Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs) are not the problem

80% of the food you ate today was genetically modified.

This scares people who don’t understand what that means — they go screaming about “Frankenfoods,” much like Ogg the caveman in his widely-shared blog piece “Fire bad.” A70-10667

This doesn’t mean that all genetically modified products are good, though. When people talk about the dangers of Monsanto’s “Round-Up”, they’re correct. But what makes Round-Up bad isn’t the fact that it uses GMO technology — it’s the fact that the stuff is dangerous and possibly cancerous. The process by which it is made isn’t the bad thing.

So when people want to ban GMOs, I ask if they similarly want to ban chemical laboratories. After all, chemistry produces deadly poisons, too.

GMOs have produced great benefits to our society. Millions of lives have been saved by the development of plants that can grow better and feed more people. Norman Bourlag won a Nobel Peace Prize for his research into this, and said that GMO technology is merely a new way of doing what he had done traditionally — that if the technology was available when he did his research, he would have reached the same result quicker and cheaper. And his comments have come true — more discoveries are being made every day that help feed people.

The fact is that GMOs are safe. The vast majority of scientists say so. I’m not talking “four out of five dentist” numbers, I mean in the 90% range. Like the kind of numbers we see for scientists who say climate change is real.

And that’s what bugs me — many of the strongest advocates for banning GMOs are my fellow liberals. You know, the ones who complain when conservatives deny science and won’t accept evolution or global warming despite the overwhelming consensus of scientists. Then these same liberals ignore the scientists when they overwhelmingly say something that challenges their own biases. (Ironically, some of these same liberals also ignore science concerning vaccines, too.)

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t have a different standard for yourself than the one you demand on others.

“OK, wise guy,” people say to me, usually accompanied by a sneer, “So why would you object to labeling GMO foods to let people make up their own minds about what is in it?”  The answer is because people don’t know. Seriously, I blogged a while ago about a study wherein 80% of the population wanted to label food containing DNA.  DNA!  DNA, that is in every damned thing we eat every day (except salt)!

Labeling GMOs says to people “This is dangerous. Clearly, or we wouldn’t be labeling it as such.” That is the exact wrong message to send. It’s not true.

And whether something has GMO technology is completely irrelevant to the product. We don’t label food that has been modified in other ways, because it doesn’t matter how it was modified. The process isn’t the problem.

Stopping dangerous foods and chemicals that can harm us is definitely something we should be doing. Labeling the process by which those things are made shows a great misunderstanding of science.

Demand that the FDA require labeling of food containing DNA!

Once more, Frankenfoods win again. The government is refusing to label food which contains DNA.

This is serious. The Surgeon General has determined that DNA is linked to a variety of diseases in both animals and humans. In some configurations, it is a risk factor for cancer and heart disease. Even more alarming, pregnant women are at very high risk of passing on DNA to their children. DNA_stock

Although there have been many calls for more regulation, so far the FDA has refused to do anything about DNA in our foods. In fact, whenever presented with a call for at least labeling of such food, the FDA has replied by literally laughing in the face of those making the request.

This is an issue which concerns many Americans.  One recent study found that 80% of those surveyed believed that food which contains DNA should be labeled.*  Clearly, action is required.

Do not say, “Well, this doesn’t concern me.” You may be surprised at where you will find DNA when you go to your local supermarket. I swear, it’s in everything!

So be sure to take action. Write your congressman. Tell everyone you know. Do it now. Don’t waste time researching it; you read about it on the internet — isn’t that enough?

* I am not making this up. 

“GMOs are evil” is the left’s version of “There is no climate change”

Liberals whining about GMOs are the left’s version of conservatives whining about climate change.

Every scientific group that has examined this have said that GMO foods are safe. We eat lots of GMO foods every day and have been doing so for many many years.  veggang

Just ask Neil DeGrasse Tyson.  “Practically every food you buy in a store for consumption by humans is genetically modified food. There are no wild, seedless watermelons …You list all the fruit, and all the vegetables, and ask yourself, is there a wild counterpart to this? If there is, it’s not as large, it’s not as sweet, it’s not as juicy, and it has way more seeds in it. We have systematically genetically modified all the foods, the vegetables and animals that we have eaten ever since we cultivated them. It’s called artificial selection.”

Is Monsanto evil and doing things it shouldn’t? Absolutely. But that’s because they’re evil and bribing politicians (oops, sorry, I meant “donating to campaigns”) to get away with putting out dangerous things. There are dangerous substances they are releasing — but they’re not dangerous because they are GMOs. The fact that these dangerous things are GMOs does not mean all GMOs are dangerous.

“The science is quite clear: crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe … The World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the British Royal Society, and every other respected organization that has examined the evidence has come to the same conclusion: consuming foods containing ingredients derived from GM crops is no riskier than consuming the same foods containing ingredients from crop plants modified by conventional plant improvement techniques.”

When people say, “Climate change isn’t happening” I say, “Well, what do the experts say?” When they say, “Vaccinations cause autism” I go “Do the scientists who deal with this stuff agree?” So when people say “GMOs are bad!” I reply, “What do the people who know this stuff best have to say about it?”

I don’t want to fall into the trap of doing the exact same thing I criticize conservatives for doing — ignoring science when it contradicts your political leanings.

Are there hats? (A poll)

One in four Americans are skeptical on climate change. “Who gives a shit?” John Oliver says. “That doesn’t matter. You don’t need people’s opinion on a fact. You might as well have a poll asking, ‘Which number is bigger, 15 or 5?’ Or, ‘Do owls exist?’ Or, ‘Are there hats?’”

So take our poll and give us your opinion.


Australian heat wave counters American snow

Australia is now suffering one of the worst heat waves in history.

Yes, it’s summer there. And it’s tremendously hot.Australia But you’d never know that from climate changes deniers here in the northern part of the globe, who apparently think that the entire planet is experiencing the record cold and snow we’re getting. “Can’t be global warming with all this snow!” say people who have no background whatsoever in climatology.

This is exactly what climate change scientists predicted years ago, though. An increase in temperature on the planet leads to extreme weather of all kinds. Among those who study climate, this is no surprise whatsoever.

Most of the people who object to climate change are doing so for political reasons anyway. They don’t like Al Gore so therefore they have to object to science. I mean, you never hear of these people objecting to the theory of gravity or arguing that math isn’t real. They’re like creationists who object to evolution because it violates their pre-conceived notions.

I’m still waiting for someone to explain to me why the vast majority of scientists from around the world would become part of a grand conspiracy, working together in secret, to promote a scientific theory which would give them absolutely no benefit whatsoever. It’s certainly much more believable that the small percentage of scientists who get grants from major oil companies to “prove” that climate change is not real are part of a conspiracy, isn’t it? After all, they profit from such a conclusion.

It’s like the deniers are expecting all the climatologists to suddenly say, with an evil laugh, “Now that you agree there is climate change, you are under our control! Muahahahaha!” and then demand nothing because it’s not like they can solve it.

Christie dumbs himself down in order to win Stupid Party nomination

I may disagree with Chris Christie over politics, but he always seemed like a fairly smart guy.  I’ve even complimented him in the past.

Then he decided he wanted to be President.   

In order to be a Republican President, you have to win the Republican primaries.  chris-christieAnd in order to do that, you have to be a member of the Stupid Party.  Primary voters are always at the extreme end of the political spectrum (Democrats, too) — so in the Republican primaries, that means you need to appeal to the anti-science, anti-immigrant, anti-women’s rights, anti-gay rights Tea Party types.

Christie began by ignoring the fact that a majority of the people who elected him in New Jersey favor gay marriage, by coming out against it and even vetoing the bill to allow it in his state.

Now he’s siding with the anti-science crowd over vaccinations.  Vaccinations!  I still can’t believe this is even an issue.  “Medicine is the work of evil scientists who want to cure everyone!”  WTF is wrong with these people?

Admittedly, the anti-vaccination people also include many stupid liberals who believe in crystals and magic and other nonsense, but Christie is using this issue to side with the anti-government crowd.  He says he vaccinates his kids but he doesn’t like the fact that the government forces him to do so.  You know, the stupid position.

Some politicians like Bobby Jindal are frustrated by this, literally telling his fellow Republicans “We have to stop being the ‘Stupid Party.'”   But then even Jindal is toning up the stupidity in order to appeal to the base, by allowing creationism to be taught in the schools and otherwise appealing to the stupids.

And it really doesn’t help that Christie’s campaign committee is “Leadership Matters For America.Org” — or LMFAO.

Psychic Predictions for 2014: How many were right?

It’s the end of the year and time for our annual review of professional psychic’s predictions for 2014 to see how many came true.

Well, admittedly, some did — but you don’t have to have super powers to predict things like this:psychic1

Trouble in Lebanon.  (Seriously, that’s the entire prediction.  You could make that prediction every year for the past thousand years and be correct.)

The stock market will hit a new high.  (I mean, most economists predicted that as well, and I’m pretty sure they don’t have supernatural powers.)

A comedian legend will die.  (Since there are hundreds of these, this one is sure to come true.  Why not just say which one?  I’m sure the psychic who did this one will point to Robin Williams to prove he was right, but if Williams hadn’t died, he’d point to Joan Rivers.  Or Sid Caeser.  Or David Brenner.  There’s always a famous comedy legend who will die every year.)

Garlic will be in the news.  (Wow, what a shocker.  Here in my little hometown, we have an annual Garlic Festival and sure enough, garlic was in the news!  How could he have known that?!!)

Lots of the predictions seem to be about celebrities and the Oscars.  The celebrity ones are almost always wrong, and the Oscar ones are almost always right — because by now, just about everyone knows what will probably win.  There are dozens of web pages devoted to looking at expert predictions and minor awards, so that even I can make an accurate prediction on what might win an Oscar this year.  (“Boyhood” for Best Picture; Michael Keaton for Best Actor; Julianne Moore for Best Actress; Richard Linklater for Best Director.  There.  Remember, if I am right, it means I have supernatural powers.)

But here are some of the predictions that were just absolutely wrong to the point of absurdity.

A nuclear attack will hit New York.

Civil war will break out in the United States.

Mt. St. Helens will erupt again.

Vladimir Putin wins the Nobel Peace Prize.

Pope Francis will appoint the first woman cardinal.

Raul Castro will die and communism in Cuba will end.

A strange luminous plankton will be seen under the sea that cannot be explained by scientists. This may be linked to a strange cosmic event – such as a Stella explosion and light in the sky – that changes animal behavior patterns.

Sometimes they hedge their bets by using words like “could” or “might.”  Seriously?  What kind of lame-ass prediction is that?

The ghost of Nelson Mandela could appear during a national holiday or major public event in South Africa.

A possible landing of a spaceship.

Erratic weather patterns and recorded earth shifts, together with unusual paranormal events could be the result of us having been watched by other species in different dimensions.

I could find not one surprising one, where someone actually predicted something exactly right that was more than just a general guess.  There was one prediction that Chelsea Clinton would be pregnant and have a baby boy.  In April, she announced she was pregnant so that wasn’t bad.  Then she had a baby girl.

Just for kicks, let’s look at the top stories of 2014 and see if any were predicted by these people:

The Top Ten Yahoo News Searches of 2014

  1. Ebola
  2. Robin Williams
  3. Republicans take the Senate and win big
  4. Leaked photos of celebrities
  5. Malaysia Airlines
  6. Ferguson
  7. Jodi Arias
  8. ISIS and Syria
  9. Ray Rice
  10. Obamacare

Nope.  You’d think they’d at least predict the celebrity one.  In fact, there are predictions that are completely the opposite of what actually happened. (“Texas will turn blue in the next election!”)

Every once in a while, one out of every hundred predictions made by these people will come true due to the vagueness of the prediction and the law of probabilities, and that’s the one they remind everyone about so people keep giving them money.

If a con artist scams someone out of their money, they can be prosecuted. That’s a crime.  How these people get away with the same sort of thing is beyond me.

Next:  Maybe we should look at Republican predictions for the year, which were just about as accurate.  (The economy will fail!  Obamacare will be a disaster!  Gas prices will rise!  Ebola will kill thousands in America!)

The opposite of science

No one complains about science when it doesn’t affect them.   There’s no movement arguing against the theory of gravity.

But if it challenges something they believe strongly, then clearly science must be denied;  then, scientific laws are just “theories.”tyson

If your religion tells you God created us in a specific way, then evolution has to be challenged.  If your politics tells you that climate change will require us to change our way of life, then climatologists must be denied.  And if you want to find someone to blame for autism, then vaccines are a good scapegoat.

Sure, science can be wrong.  Science acknowledges that, and there are plenty of scientists out there who would love to make a name for themselves by proving that the past theories were wrong and should be replaced with their new ones.  But there’s a process for that, and it includes peer-reviewed analysis and experimentation to confirm.

Somehow, we all love to believe that we’re smarter than the people who have the education and do this for a living.  It makes us feel special. And where certainly we should always challenge authority, you should have proof just as strong on your side.  Saying “Well you can’t prove what causes autism so therefore my idea that vaccines do it” is not intellectually honest — you might as well say “so therefore tiny elves cause it.”

People who come up with their explanations in the absence of facts are not scientists;  they are the opposite of scientists.

And there’s nothing wrong with saying “I don’t know” to something, so long as it’s followed with, “but I hope to one day find out.”


I was at the Apollo 11 Liftoff

45 years ago, Apollo 11 lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida.  I remember it well.  I was there. liftoff

My father was an artist.  He worked at Channel 12 in Richmond, designing their sets and painting their logos and “Be right back” slides in the days before computer graphics.  He quit in 1969 when I was nine years old. We moved to Florida and he got a job with NASA’s art department.

This was an exciting time to be in Florida, because less than an hour away from us, they were building Walt Disney World. We rented a house in Titusville and Dad worked for NASA. He hated it — it was run like a military operation, even for the artists, and he quit soon thereafter and we moved back to Richmond, Virginia, where I had been born and had grown up.

But I did get to be on the beach watching Apollo 11 lift off. For a nine year old who wanted (among many other things) to be an astronomer, that was pretty cool. I had read so many books on the planets and could name all nine of them and their moons. (Yes, back then we had nine planets and only about 12 moons among them.)

The only other real memory I have of that day was when an older kid I knew told me that he worked for the local newspaper. He put a dime in the newspaper box and took out all of the papers, and then we rode our bikes down the street, selling papers to the cars that were stranded because of all the people trying to get to see the lift-off. It wasn’t until years later that I thought about it and realized he had stolen all those papers, but at the time I was so happy that I came home with three dollars or so. Hey, at least the people stuck in their cars had something to read.

It’s very sad that we now don’t think science is worth spending money on.

And I feel fine!

Bet you didn’t know that the end of the world is coming soon.

According to Pastor John Hagee, the “blood moon” phenomena is surely a sign from God that the end is nigh.  It’s just like how Halley’s Comet foretold the end of the world in 1666, and we all remember how the world ended then. Or every other time over the history of mankind we had a blood moon.

Every generation over the past two thousand years have concluded that the world is ending soon and in their own lifetimes.

Pastor Hagee believes that God is sending us a message, by use of a perfectly explainable and completely predictable celestial occurrence with natural bodies obeying the known laws of science.

I mean, how can He be any clearer?  I mean, apart from appearing before each of us, speaking in our own language, or doing a thousand other things which would make it absolutely clear He was telling us He existed and the end was near.

Ha ha, we laugh.  Pastor Hagee!  He’s the guy who also said that Hurricane Katrina was God punishing gay people.  What a maroon.

But the fact is that people believe this guy.  And this guy, like many prophets, profit greatly from those who believe.

Yeah, sure, they have the right to believe whatever stupid thing they want to.  But knowing these people exist and apparently make up a large percentage of the population goes a long way in explaining how certain people get elected, doesn’t it?