March Against Monsanto claims victory for creating world’s largest agribusiness company

Pesticide and pharmaceutical giant Bayer announced that it would be acquiring seed giant Monsanto. Now you would think this would make MAM howling mad. You would think that. Instead, they are cheering it and counting it as a victory.

Obviously, we should take a brief pause to celebrate our efforts. One has to assume Monsanto, one of the most powerful corporations in the world, probably wouldn’t have curled up and allowed themselves to be gobbled up by Bayer if it weren’t for the amazing efforts of millions of people all over the globe.

What part of consolidation don’t these dipshits understand? While still not commanding a monopoly of the market, they will control sales of 29 percent of the world’s seeds and 24 percent of its pesticides. It will create the largest agribusiness in the world. Let me repeat that…. Bayer’s acquisition of Monsanto will create the largest agribusiness in the world.  So yeah MAM! Pat yourselves on the back for your victory.

Monsanto held firm on an earlier offer, but Bayer kept upping the ante until Monsanto couldn’t say no. The $66 billion deal (I believe the actual number is $66.6 billion) is all cash. Since Bayer kept upping the ante and wound up paying about $22/share more than Monsanto’s current price, how toxic can they be?

The most surprising aspect of the merger is the fact that Bayer would be willing to take on the global disdain that many hold for Monsanto.

Sure, if it makes them money you idiots. Why would a company pay $66 billion for a company whose annual profits hover around $15 billion? The Wall Street Journal reports

Bayer plans to pay $128 a share for Monsanto in an all-cash transaction, up from its latest offer last week of $127.50 a share, the companies said. The price represents a roughly 5% increase over Bayer’s original offer in May of $122 a share. Including debt, the deal is valued at about $66 billion.

Oh, and check out this idiocy

We have exposed their corruption, we have made them lose millions, we have been the reason a 1/3 of their workforce has been laid off and we are the reason the word “Monsanto” is the equivalent to “toxic poison” for much of the world.

They’ve gone from totally nuts to totally delusional. These fuckers live in their own world. I don’t think they have any concept how the real world works.

The WSJ:

Tensions have escalated further because global crop prices have fallen for three straight years, squeezing profits and forcing the seed and agriculture industries to cut costs and trim their workforces. Monsanto said last year it would lay off 12 percent of its employees, or 2,600 jobs.*

They are also cheering 2,600 people losing their jobs? These people are vile.

Not all antis are as gleeful. Dave Murphy, the executive director of Food Democracy Now! was quoted on the site EcoWatch

Now the most evil company in Europe has absorbed the most evil company in America. Monsanto and Bayer’s new corporate motto should be ‘Killing bees and butterflies for fun and profit.’

And Murphy’s motto should be, “Being an idiot for a living.” 

Murphy’s take is more in line with most anti sentiment. Ronnie Cummins, the anti-vax head knucklehead over at the Organic Consumers Association also weighed in. He said something like, “BIG POISON! BIG POISON! Arrgghhh” as he scratched at his measles.

That said, the deal is not a done deal.  According to the WSJ, they still have a lot of regulatory hurdles to get through in the U.S. and the Europe.

The deal is likely to warrant intense scrutiny from American and German antitrust regulators, who will assess whether the merger would unfairly lead to higher prices for farmers worldwide. The new company would preside over roughly a quarter of the world’s seed and pesticide supplies.

Regulatory crackdowns have busted several high-profile mega-mergers this year, including a $150 billion deal between pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Allergan.

Justice Department investigators have in recent years launched probes into “possible anticompetitive practices” in America’s Monsanto-led seed industry, though a formal investigation was closed in 2012 without pursuing charges.

The EU opened an investigation into the merger of Dow and DuPont this year and the merger of Swiss seed maker Syngenta and China National Chemical Corp. is also on their radar. The Monsanto/Bayer merger makes it the 5th agricultural merger this year alone. Others have included John Deere/Precision Planting, and Potash Corp./Agrium. All these mergers are coming at a fast past are alarming regulators, not to mention, farmers.

Now, about that John Deere merger. Precision Planting is owned by Monsanto and the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the merger back in August. Renata Hesse, the head of the antitrust division said, “If this deal were allowed to proceed, Deere would dominate the market for high-speed precision planting systems and be able to raise prices and slow innovation at the expense of American farmers who rely on these systems,

If all these mergers go through, around 75 percent of the global agricultural/pesticide and agricultural services industry could end up in the hands of three companies.  Farmers fear lack of competition would raise prices and that concern is a valid one, especially in a time of flat crop prices cutting into their incomes. The concern is so great that Iowa Republican senator and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Charles Grassley has slated a hearing for Sept. 20 to question seed-industry executives and experts.

Grassley said the hearing will focus on the transactions currently being reviewed by antitrust regulators, and the current trend in consolidation of the seed and chemical industries.

The seed and chemical industries are critical to agriculture and the nation’s economy, and Iowans are concerned that this sudden consolidation in the industry could cause rising input costs in an already declining agriculture economy.

And here’s a question. What about the name Monsanto? Good question. Glad you asked. Here we have a bit of confusion. Monsanto says the deal is a merger. Bayer says it’s an acquisition. What’s the difference you ask?

Well a merger is where two companies form a new company. An acquisition is when one firm buys out another and the bought company ceases to exist.

Which will it be? Hmmm. Given Monsanto’s negatives in the PR department, I will go out on a limb, with my limited knowledge, and say this will be an acquisition. Monsanto will be folded into Bayer and Monsanto will cease to exist.


* Here’s what I never got about corporation finances. Look at the above quote. Monsanto didn’t say they were losing money. They said their profits were squeezed. What exactly does that mean? They’re still making money, just not as much as they’d like so, so laying off people seems like a real dick move. In the first quarter of this year their net income was $1.06 billion compared to last year when it was $1.42 billion.  Did they really have to lay off 2,000+ people? Yeah, I know shareholders,  blah, blah blah. But still. This just goes to show that as benign as Monsanto is in relation to other corporations, they’re still a corporation and they act like one when it comes to money. I don’t know this is a fact, but I’m assuming that the execs didn’t take a pay cut during this downturn.

The suits may be nice people, but when it comes to profits, their loyalties lie with the company and not the people who work for it. That’s why I never hopped on the Monsanto bandwagon and bought a shirt or hat etc. as a poke in the eye to the anti-gmo crowd.

Biotech industry files for bankruptcy

Note: This is re-write and update from a 2013 post.

Bankruptcy_monopoly

Days after a group of 107 Nobel Laureates published a letter telling Greenpeace to knock it off with their anti-GMO nonsense, the biotechnology industry filed for bankruptcy, citing their misguided buying everybody off, scheme .

At a hastily called press conference, industry representative and Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant, told assembled reporters

I mean, do you know how many people are in the Nation Academy of Sciences alone? Something like 2,000. So, a few million to a scientific body here and a few million to every independent scientist in the world there, and it begins to add up.” That’s not even including  having to pay those thousands of keyboard jockeys who defend us on internet comment boards. The straw that broke the financial camel’s back were the Nobel laureates. Those bastards didn’t come cheap.”

Anti-gmo activists were left slack-jawed. “We just lost our boogeyman,” one activist lamented. “It’s not fair.”

Asked what was next for the bankrupt industry, Executive VP and CTO, Rob Fraley said it was too early to tell, but excitedly suggested they were thinking of getting into the organic farming business.  “Man, do you know what a cash cow that racket is? I was in Whole Foods the other day and they get like 4 bucks for a freakin’ tomato. Sweet. We’ve gotta get in on that action.”

Hours after the announcement, Organic Consumer’s Association honcho Ronnie Cummins and GM Watch honchette, Claire Robinson had to be talked down off a Maharishi University rooftop after Jeffrey Smith pleaded with them saying, “Cmon guys. We can still make stuff up about beneficial technology.”

In a related story, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said she planned to retire from the Court and buy the Bronx.

Neil Young picks wrong poster child for corporate villainy

Last night I spent a little over an hour experiencing severe cognitive dissonance. I attended a screening of Neil Young’s The Monsanto Years: A Work in Progress. It was a documentary of the making of his new album which is due to be released in June.

I was filled with dread as I waited in line to go in the IFC Center theater. What could I expect? Well, I got what I expected, nonsense filled songs. It also validated my other fear, that I would like the music. I suppose one saving grace is that Crazy Horse wasn’t his backup band.  His new band included Willie Nelson’s two sons.

Young was introduced and walked on stage and I thought to myself. Wow. Neil fuckin’ Young. He gave a little intro about the film and said that he saw Monsanto as the poster child for the corporate evil usurping of our democracy, but added that he harbored no ill will for the people who worked for them. Huh?

Monsanto as the poster child for corporate villainy? Banks and oil companies I can see, but Monsanto, a mere $15 billion dollar a year company whose profits are similar to Whole Foods?

Forbes Top 100 US companies in 2014 have Walmart coming in at #1, with Exxon/Mobil and Chevron placing and showing. Hell, Apple comes in at #5. Monsanto comes in at 197. True villain, Bank of America ranked 21st.

Young’s stance and his idea that Monsanto is ultimate evil shows how the anti-GMO movement has skewed the debate about the issue among well-meaning lefties.

The movie started off well enough with a song called Too Big to Fail, which was more an overall indictment of corporations like banks et al,  getting away with criminal activity. Okay, so far so good, but I knew what was coming and it came next. It was a song about Starbucks and Monsanto picking on poor little Vermont. It was standard anti-GMO stuff, straight from the anti-GMO playbook.

There were a couple of songs about farmers which led me to think, despite the 30 years he’s been involved in Farm Aid, did he ever once speak to any actual farmers? The songs sure didn’t seem like it.

Two songs were all about how horrible farmers have it due to the villainous nature of Monsanto and how poor farmers are sued into oblivion by the company who forces them to keep buying their seeds. (I never thought I’d ever hear Young sing about seed patents.)

Monsanto, let our farmers grow what they want to grow…

Seeds are not what they once were.  God and Mother Nature don’t own them anymore

He bemoans the plight of the sad farmer who wistfully remembers the days when the family farm was pure and not tainted by the greedy hands of Monsanto.

He really has this nostalgic idea for a time that never existed. I don’t know what farming was like in his hometown of Canadia, but I’m sure it couldn’t have been that different from here in the U.S.

The rest of the songs were about the environment and stupid hippie earth loving stuff like how we’re killing the planet etc. Although I did hear the word autism at one point but I couldn’t quite make out the rest of the lyrics.

Oh, and in between songs they had the names being put up on a movie marquee by two guys dressed in hazmat suits.

Left Brain: Oh man, this is nonsense

Right Brain: Neil fuckin’ Young!

Left Brain: He’s singing, bullshit, Mooney

Right Brain: But it’s Neil fuckin’ Young

Left Brain: Stop tapping your foot, idiot.

As much as I wanted to be angry at Young, whose work I have admired since I was a teen, I just couldn’t muster it up. He’s wrong about what he’s singing about, but I think it’s that he’s more of a dumbass than a newly minted anti-GMO activist. He did say the record, is  “just what I think.”  That’s something, I guess. Next record he’ll be on to something else. It’s what he does.

Still, the antis will seize on this and they already have. Alex Jones and Natural Society have weighed in.

After the movie ended and I was leaving the theater, I was all of a sudden jostled by some guys and then right next to me, as in inches from me, was Young being hustled out to an SUV to make a quick getaway. Man, he’s old.

Guest Post: GMO labels. The purpose is…?

Today’s guest “post” comes from friend of the Contrarian, mem-somerville. She’s created a great Storify. As the campaign for labeling heats up,  the true goal of the Right-to-Know labeling crowd is becoming more readily transparent. Through the use of screenshots, she shows the antis in their own words, how their goal is elimination of GMOS and not just a simple label. It’s a beautiful piece of work.

 

What if a corporation isn’t evil incarnate? A progressive’s dilemma.

confusedguyIt all used to be so easy. There were the good guys, us, and there were the bad guys, them. Then I meandered into the issue of GMOs. That’s when everything became complicated. I support the use of transgenics for our food supply, simply because I trust the science behind it and because all my research has led me in that direction. What bothers me is the idea that at least tacitly, I find myself in agreement with and sometimes defending corporations.

I hate corporations. They’re greedy, treat their workers like shit and have too much influence in our political system. All in all, aren’t very good citizens. Yet I find myself at times sort of defending corporations like Monsanto. I hate that.

And it gets worse. I agree with opinion pieces written by conservatives and folks from conservative and libertarian think tanks and op-eds by industry trade group representatives. It pains me to agree with a guy like Henry Miller who was a pimp for the tobacco companies, but on this issue he is right.

It all makes me uneasy and I can’t very well forward these articles to friends. They would immediately dismiss them as industry propaganda.

But here’s the thing. The fact that they may be conservative, libertarian and running dog lackeys of the oppressive bourgeoisie, they are actually correct on the issue of GMOs. And I can understand why many people don’t trust them.  If I didn’t know what I know, I wouldn’t trust them either.

These guys may have motives that are less than altruistic, but they are, in a rare instance, using facts and evidence to bolster their case. What are the odds?

I think it’s because the science is the science. It’s solid, it’s known. They don’t have to buy off scientists. They don’t have to spin it. It’s a gift to industry pimps since they don’t have to lie. Of course they don’t lie, but overstate. They overplay their hand as corporations and their apologists do.  New and Improved! This will save the world! It’s called advertising.

But, it still makes me feel queasy.

Yeah, Monsanto has a checkered past. They have since reinvented themselves. As far as evil corporations go, there are worse and more successful with more clout. I mean hell, how bad can they be if they were voted the number one place for LGBT people to work by the Human Rights Campaign? Apparently, it’s a great place to work.

In a blog post over the Real Food blog, Marc Brazeau correctly points out the absurdity of the anti claims about the power of Monsanto.

Let’s put aside the fact that this line of thinking would mean that while fossil fuel behemoths Exxon Mobil (market cap:$394.83B), Chevron (market cap:$215.45B) and BP (market cap:$150.07B) (total: $760.35B) have been completely stymied in their efforts to buy the scientific consensus they desire on climate change, but a medium large company like Monsanto (market cap: $57.43B) has been able to manipulate tens of thousands of scientists performing thousands of studies for three decades with no whistleblowers resulting in a scientific consensus that has been bent completely to their will. 

And that was written by a guy who lives in Portland.

Moving on…

Then there are industry claims labeling will increase costs of food. I’ll admit, I was wary of their claims, my natural reaction to industry claims. Anti-gmo activists claim it’s a minimal cost since it’s just a label. But I have read some non-industry explanations that detail all that is involved for what antis call a simple label. One of the best explanations was this one, a blog written by Jennie Schmidt, a farmer and registered dietician who laid it out in detail on her blog, The Foodie Farmer. It bears out the food industry claims.

Again, it doesn’t seem they are lying.

Can you say cognitive dissidence?

Now, none of this means I’ve fallen in love with corporations. Most are still exploitive and greedy. But sometimes corporations aren’t the epitome of evil. Monsanto seems to be one of those. I’m sure they’ve used what clout they have that isn’t affordable to the average citizen. Do they have lobbyists? Sure, but so does the Organic Industry. But that doesn’t make them completely evil.

A few years back Monsanto was implicated in a bribery scandal in Indonesia. According to the company, take it for what it’s worth, it was the company that brought the bribery to the attention of the feds. The bribery was uncovered in an internal audit. The people involved were fired and Monsanto willingly paid the fine from the SEC.

That doesn’t mean Monsanto is all unicorns and puppies shitting rainbows. But most companies would fight the allegations and try and cover it up.

And this nonsense about wanting to control the seed market. Maybe they do. But what is the organic industry doing by denigrating the conventional and farmers who use gmo crops? They’re trying to gain market share. They want to be the dominant food system. When have you seen companies like Monsanto, et al., denigrate organic farming?

The burning question for us all then becomes how – and how quickly – can we move healthy, organic products from a 4.2% market niche, to the dominant force in American food and farming? The first step is to change our labeling laws. —Ronnie Cummins, Organic Consumers Association

In an age when we are trying to get corporations to become better corporate citizens it seems attacking one that is at least making an attempt to not be completely evil is counterproductive.

Bad behavior is not exclusive to faceless corporations. I wrote about a survey done a few years back by Urban Habitat that found

 in a 2011 survey of 500 organic growers in California found, “only 7.5 percent were in favor of labor standards. Forty-seven percent felt strongly that organic standards should not include labor standards and over 50 percent felt that organic certification should not require growers to provide workers with health insurance, paid sick leave, paid vacation, or the right to unionize.”

Where is the outrage from the anti crowd? Oh, groups like the Organic Consumers Association, one of the leading Monsanto demonizers, pay lip service to improving farm workers’ lives, but where does most of their money go? Certainly not to this issue.

Treatment of farm workers is a real world issue with real victims. The anti-gmo fight is an imaginary one based on imaginary fears built around an imaginary boogeyman. Back in 1951, writer and social commentator Eric Hoffer wrote in True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movement

Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil. Usually the strength of a mass movement is proportionate to the vividness and tangibility of its devil. Like an ideal deity, an ideal devil is omnipotent and omnipresent.

So, maybe I’m getting soft in my old age, or maybe not. I still have an innate distrust of corporations but less knee jerk. The left rightly made fun of Reagan when he made the Freudian slip, “Facts are stupid things,” and correctly recoiled when Karl Rove was quoted as saying  “We create our own reality.” I see the anti-gmo crowd as embracing those very ideas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

March against Monsanto: NYC version

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First off, if you’re going to have a protest about how we’re all being poisoned, you need to have it led by healthy, well-fed, good-looking people.

Second, you need music and what better music to have than the Occupy Wall Street All-No-Star Band with special guest, Zuccotti Park Sax Guy.

Saturday’s March against Monsanto was everything I expected it to be. The one thing I didn’t expect was how the protest stayed on point. In almost every protest I’ve participated in since the 1970s, there were always groups pimping their own causes(s) which took away from the actual issue of the protest. This one didn’t.

One of the reasons may be this isn’t really an issue that resonates with the wider progressive movement. Or maybe it was just a problem of outreach.

I missed the rally, but I did arrive in time to catch the march to Washington Square where there would be a teach-in where people could discuss the issue in groups. What that meant was let’s stand around looking serious and nod our heads knowingly in agreement. Washington Square was a sea of signs plastered with all the bad science and misinformation and surprisingly, I had very few Woody Allen-Marshall McLuhan moments.

My first encounter was with a guy who had a button that read, Stop Monsanto. Ask me why. I did and he wouldn’t tell me. Seriously. I said, “You have a button that says ask me, so I am.” He sheepishly smiled and responded, “That’s just what the button says.” Then he scurried away.

My next little chat was with a woman manning(?) a table. She was actually very nice and claimed to be a nurse. She echoed the talking points about weed resistance, mono cropping etc. I explained that weed resistance was an age-old problem and farmers have always had to stay one step ahead of the weeds. It wasn’t just a gmo problem. That’s where I got my first dog head tilt.

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I asked her if gmos were so dangerous, why were they so popular among farmers? “Well, they want to make a profit, right? Next!

Meandering around and listening in on the discussion groups it dawned on me, every discussion was one talking point after the other. It was like listening to the gmo rerun channel.

I came across a how to detoxify from gmos discussion. It was more a pitch for Isogenics than a real discussion. But even though the audio in this short video is bad at times due to the wind, what I want you to see is the guy at the beginning.  He is rambling on about the new proposed strain of gmo wheat that will eat your liver and kill your kids. He makes another appearance later.

I saw a trio holding signs, one of with the usual gamut of the dangers of gmos. Where did she get her information? “Have you ever heard of the Institute for Responsibility Technology?  I’m not sure if I actually physically cringed, but I had to explain to her the history of Jeffrey Smith.  Second dog head tilt of the day or maybe it was blank stare.

They were thinking of taking their protest show on the road and join some others in Times Square. I warned them that might not be such a good idea because the cops don’t “take kindly to protesters going off the Rez.”  They could wind up in the jail for the holiday weekend.

One guy said, “I’ll ask that cop over there. Here hold this.”  And he handed me his sign. Not wanting to seem like a party pooper, I took it. The result was this damning photo taken at my request.

monsantomonopoly

Finally, I came across Vegan Guy.  He had a nice little crowd.  As I walked up I heard him saying, “Don’t take my word for it. Look it up yourself. Look at the ingredients in vaccines…” I immediately spoke up and asked if he was anti-vax.  He stopped mid-sentence and looked at me, eyes wide and smiled a toothy, Vegan grin,

“I”m not taking about vaccines right now but that is a conversation we can have privately.”

“But are you anti-vax?”

He ignored it and continued talking as I said, “Oh, so you are,” getting a slight giggle from the crowd.

That’s when I noticed Liver Guy standing next to me. I had to talk to this guy. He said he was pro-vaccine which I said was a good thing. I asked him why he called gmos contamination. He told me that just because it’s created in a lab doesn’t mean it’s not contamination.

The conversation turned to pesticides and I asked why Bt was okay when sprayed by organic farmers and not okay when one of the genes was engineered in the plant. I explained Bt was weak and degraded quickly in the environment due to rain and sunshine which necessitates more spraying… Well, you can listen to part of it here.

Now, this was that guy from the earlier video who was talking about the gmo liver, kid killing wheat and he tells me that I should have brought my sources with me? The last line of that audio cracked me up. I told him yes, and his last words to me were, “I’m moving over there,”  and then skedaddled. The audio at that point is weak. I really wanted to post that.

I  didn’t get a chance to ask him if he had his sources with him about the child-killing gmo wheat, but he was gone in a flash. I should have led with that.

So, what did we learn? We learned that although many people had signs about tumerous rats etc, very few them knew who Seralini is and weren’t familiar with his study. Around the same number didn’t know who Jeffrey Smith is.

Among those who did know, there were many head tilts when I mentioned Seralini and Smith were frauds who refuse to publicly debate scientists who want to challenge them.

Probably the biggest eye-opener was that for the first time, the real agenda was out in the wide open. It’s not just about labeling. The end goal is to eliminate gmos. There were no Just Label It signs. It was all about ridding the world of the poison of gmos and sending Monsanto packing. It’s about the misguided notion that if you bring down Monsanto, you eliminate the technology of gmos.

It’s about time the activists running the shows in various states come clean. They’ve been allowed to dance around the issue for too long. Labeling is a red herring. If they feel gmos are so dangerous, then why stop at labeling?

The final takeaway was that, given my non-confrontational conversations, save Liver Guy, I’ve come to believe the fanatical, fire-breathing,  anti-gmo crackpots on the interwebs are just that, crazy keyboard jockeys who have no relation to  their real world counterparts. And that’s the depressing thing. (Although, I have a sneaking suspicion Liver Guy is one of those people and he escaped from the basement. Earlier in our conversation he said he wasn’t there to debate, but to “impart information. Not to discuss or debate, but impart” )

I want the anti-gmo crowd to be this one-dimensional cartoon. It would make it much easier to dismiss them.  Instead, they’re nice, friendly, smart, well-meaning dumbasses. Just the kind of people I could hang around with and well, pretty much do.

Oh, I almost forgot Illuminati Guy. I had no clue what the hell he was talking about, except the fact we were the only ones who are hearing this information. I’m not quite sure what that information is, but I am one of the lucky few outside the Illuminati that knows it.

After SCOTUS victory, Monsanto calls it quits

Hours after their victory in the Supreme Court, seed and chemical giant Monsanto filed for bankruptcy citing the enormous cost of “buying everybody off.”

At a hastily called press conference, Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant told assembled reporters the company never really thought through their “buying everybody off, scheme .”

“I mean, do you know how many people are in the Nation Academy of Sciences? Something like 2,000. So, a few million to a scientific body here and a few million to every independent scientist in the world there, and it begins to add up.” That’s not even including  having to pay those thousands of keyboard jockeys who defend us on internet comment boards. 

The final straws were the members of the Supreme Court. “Those bastards didn’t come cheap,” Grant sighed.

Anti-gmo activists were left slack jawed. “We just lost our boogeyman,” one activist lamented. “It’s not fair.”

Asked what was next for the bankrupt Monsanto, Grant explained that it was too early to tell, but excitedly suggested they were thinking of getting into the organic farming business.  “Man, do you know what a cash cow that racket is? I was in Whole Foods the other day and they get like 4 bucks for a freakin’ tomato. Sweet. We’ve gotta get in on that action.”

Hours after the announcement, Organic Consumer’s Association honcho Ronnie Cummins and alt-health freak Mike Adams had to be talked down off a Maharishi University rooftop after Jeffrey Smith pleaded with them saying, “Cmon guys. We can still make stuff up about gmos.”

In a related story, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said she planned to retire from the Court and buy the Bronx.

The crazy neighbors discover the internet

confused Back in the 1960s when I was a kid in a small town in Pennsylvania,  there were always a few people known as the  crazy neighbor.  They weren’t dangerous, but everyone in the town knew them. They showed up at town meetings and in local stores ranting about some imaginary threat or conspiracy.

People would listen politely, let them speak their piece and as they would wander off, those in the vicinity would roll their eyes and shake their heads.

Usually they would wander home to write bizarre letters to the editor. Some had mimeograph machines in their basements where they would churn out their screeds to be mailed to hundreds of similar folk.

Today, the modern-day version of the crazy neighbor doesn’t visit local stores or churn out mimeographed tracts. They use the internet.  Their new milieu is the comment boards. Back in the day you wouldn’t engage them because trying to have any sane discussion was impossible and you knew it.

One of the new versions is the anti-GMO crazy neighbor and for some peculiar reason, we give them the time of day, much to the detriment of our own sanity. By engaging them, we give them legitimacy, at least in their own minds. They show up whenever any article is written that might even hint that GMOs might not be the scourge they believe. It’s all one big conspiracy by Monsanto, who, by the way apparently controls the federal government and all their agencies.

While there exists a controversy in this country as to whether psychiatrists too easily dole out anti-psychotic drugs, reading the comments of the anti-GMO crowd makes you wonder whether they are over-prescribing or just prescribing them to the wrong people.  I’ve read a lot of crazy talk on this issue, but a recent flood of comments on the CNN blog Eatocracy seems to have brought out the even crazier neighbors.

The Blog is an occasional one by an Indiana family farmer named  Brian Scott. In addition to his CNN contributions he maintains his own blog, The Farmer’s Life. In his most recent CNN column, My family farm isn’t under “corporate control,” he tries to dispel the misconceptions surrounding farmers’ dealings with the Devil Monsanto.

In the piece he quite nicely explains what it’s like being a farmer who uses Monsanto GM seeds and in the process dispels the myths of the draconian rules Monsanto supposedly inflicts on farmers. He writes,

We get a lot of our seed from big corporations like the so-called “evil” Monsanto, Pioneer and others, meaning I have first-hand experience raising a crop under such an agreement. In hopes of clarifying the matter and fostering honest dialogue, I posted a copy of an actual technology agreement I signed, so others may see how we are able to operate our farm in the manner Dad, Grandpa and I choose.

Brian posted the agreement so people could see exactly what is required of farmers and he doesn’t see it as oppressive.  You would think people reading his explanation would see that what they think they know simply might not be correct.  But you would be wrong.

What followed was some of the looniest stuff I’ve ever read on the issue. A few choice examples follow. Please note, all comments are [sic].

Amy: You have GOT to be kidding me. What a bunch of BS multi-national corporation, new world order, mind control propaganda. Does Monsanto et al think this country is THAT dumb. Ha! Let’s write a story and have a fake farmer tell his story… pro Monsanto. GMO’s are AWFUL. Stay far away!!!!!!!!

Amy: This so-called farmer doesn’t exist. This story is a bunch of bull. Monsanto wrote it, paid big bucks for CNN to put it on their website in hopes that stupid people will go along with it. Not me. I smell a rat.

farmmyass: as big ag’s business is killing the honey bees who we ALL depend on for life. 

Easy E: Agreed. The man is self-deluded, and lacks integrity becauses he’s succeeded in lying to himself for so long he cannot acknowledge reality. It’s a classic case of Stockholm Syndrome as applied to agronomy.

federalreserve: Luther never tried to get a poisonous toad to have sex with a tomato, which is exactly what Monsanto the criminal did.

U.N. Owen: E. Coli is in my body’s environment but to imply that location was not important is absurd. B.T is in the soil putting it where bees fly above the ground is what concerns me. Every time some one writes that B.T. Is in the environment I get a little suspect that maybe that reply is in some play book but it could only be some thing being regurgitated maybe both but not neither.

And this loon was very special:

DLG: Whom are you actually kidding? Lol.. You as a farmer are poisoning the world!!! I live I. A small farm town… And I must say this farm community is the crookedest town!!!, the government CONTROLS you!! The control the price… Stop trying to be the poster boy for Monsanto. You have either drank to much of their kook-aid or gone on one of their fancy trips…Folks on the coasT Wake up!!! Your tax dollars are paying farmers to kill you with chemicals!!!! You are just a statistic in the eyes of Monsanto. TOTAL RUBBISH!

DLG: As an FYI lots of commercial flour is “blended” and enriched there causing it I becoming contaminated with a GMO source I.e. soy flour. Hybridization interesting conversation. You start modifying plants in an matter omething is bound to happen.

Now here’s the thing. For a while now we have been hearing the mantra of Monsanto shill or some variation. There seems to be a new entry into the field, drinking the Kool Aid. This a new one but it seems to be popping up all over the comment boards recently. I guess Monsanto has run out of money to buy shills, so now the tack is farmers like Brian are delusional.

So, where do the crazy neighbors get their information? Some of it comes from their addled minds, much like the small town forbearers. Other ideas come from the activists who are the ideological descendants of those who were cranking those mimeograph machines in their basements.

Today those basement dwellers have a much more sophisticated technology which allows them reach a wider audience thanks to the internet. They have fancy websites which allow them to project an aura of credibility. But, the bottom line is these guys are nothing more than anti-GMO Orly Taitzes. They are names you have read here before, freaks and frauds like Mike Adams and Dr. Mercola who peddle nonsense.

So, the question is, why do we engage these people? It’s an exercise in frustration, enough to drive you to drink before 5pm. You can’t win or even make a dent. Do we have some form of intellectual masochism?

We can’t help ourselves, but I do have a suggestion that might ease the frustration. Go after the sources of their so-called information.  Don’t engage,  per se, but simply put the real facts and evidence out there. It won’t change the mind of the crazy neighbor, but we forget there are people who read the comment sections who aren’t loopy. They are people who may or may not have strong opinions on the issue who are open to actual facts. When they read your responses, they will  see that the person/article you are commenting on is wrong and it will give your information more credibility.

This may be pie-in-the-sky thinking, but it’s all we got.

2012: The year crazy and stupid went mainstream

I’ve always been of the mind that stupid should hurt, so 2012 was a hard one for the Contrarian. It was the year that crazy and stupid went mainstream, or at least when I first noticed it did. It was the year a manufactured issue, the safety of GMOs, came to the popular progressive imagination. Progressives embraced every crackpot and their theories.  And none of them felt any pain due to their stupidity.

Now, the fact they were being stupid had nothing to do with a lack of intelligence, although there were some people who seemed downright unhinged. These were people with whom I was in agreement with on most issues. It was very distressing.

After spending countless hours on this blog and comment boards trying to correct the errors, and set straight all the bogus information that was being peddled by the anti-GMO crowd, I discovered an alarming trend. The more I countered the nonsense with scientific peer-reviewed facts and evidence, the harder the anti-GMO crowd dug in their heels.  It was like confirmation bias, cognitive dissonance and identity politics joined forces to create a gigantic mental disturbance field.

I didn’t understand it, then I came across a book called,  Experiments With People: Revelations from Social Psychology, by psychologists Robert P. Abelson, Aiden Gregg,and Kurt P. Frey. It was a study on doomsday cults. There was this Eureka moment:

“..continuing to proselytize on behalf of a doomsday cult whose prophecies have been disconfirmed, although it makes little logical sense, makes plenty of psychological sense if people have already spent months proselytizing on the cult’s behalf. Persevering allows them to avoid the embarrassment of how wrong they were in the first place.”

That’s it. The anti-GMO crowd are like a doomsday cult.  Hyberole? Probably, but both cults have their similarities. Both are so heavily invested in their belief, they have no choice but to carry on in spite of evidence to the contrary. The  anti-GMO crowd does share a sort of doomsday mentality in the sense they believe GMOs will kill us all.

Another mental tool the anti-GMO crowd embraces is a version of Godwin’s Law or Reductio ad Hitlerum or Aargumentum ad Hitlerum (Reduce/argument to Hitler.) Just replace Hitler with Monsanto and there it is.  This is a common response. If you explain to someone why they are wrong using facts and evidence, you will eventually be accused of being a shill for Monsanto.

No one knows this better than Kevin Folta, a plant scientist at the University of Florida. In Six Degrees of Monsanto, a recent post at his blog, Illumination, he chronicles an online discussion he had with an anti-GMO person.

Rather than look for real evidence to support his point, he scoured the web for the words “Monsanto” and “Folta”.

They search for any connection, real or imagined; direct or tenuous to Monsanto because they don’t have the facts on their side.

And here comes the real bummer. Whereas progressives used to have a healthy mistrust of government and corporations, (for good reason) that mistrust has now become one ginormous conspiracy fueled by the insanity of people like Jeffrey Smith, Dr. Mercola, Mike Adams and Ronnie Cummins.

In order to bolster their belief system, they have bought into the crazy talk and lies promoted by these four horsemen of the Aquackalypse. These clowns have managed to tap into the corporate mistrust of progressives  and use it to advance their own crackpot agendas.

Now, I’m not a scientist.  I’m just a progressive who has managed, over the decades to overcome my confirmation biases and notice red flags.  I’ve becomes a real skeptic when someone is pushing an agenda, even when it comes from my side and people are screaming doom and gloom.  It’s one of the reasons I came late to the climate change party.  I’ll admit that.  But what I did was check out the actual science and my thinking changed. (Actually I did believe it, but I was wary of how much humans contributed to it.)

When the GMO issue hit my radar about a year and a half ago another one of those red flags went up. It was all doom and gloom.  So, I did what I did with climate change. I did some research. What I found was that every single piece of evidence citing safety and health issues regarding GMOs weren’t true or had been discredited.

What was worse is that it was actually difficult to find independent science.  I had to wade through all the activist sites which turned out to be a real echo chamber. The same information and the same articles kept popping up. Then I started seeing the same bylines and sources for the information. Off I went to find out who those guys were.  That’s when I found the crackpots, fraud and charlatans.

I became embarrassed as a progressive. These were my peeps.  At first it was easy to chalk it up to a bunch of cranks and then I noticed that friends were parroting this misinformation. People I knew weren’t dumb. That’s when I realized the nonsense had hit the progressive mainstream. And even more horrific is when I would explain why they were wrong on some science point… they said it… Monsanto. It was coming from inside the house!

That started a whole new conversation about separating the technology from the corporations that use it. Look, I’m an old, out shape smoker. My lungs don’t have the capacity they used to.

Side Note: I actually had one of my best friends accuse me of defending BigAgra simply because I didn’t believe community gardens could feed the world and that in many ways organic is a scam. She refused my challenge of bringing over a conventional apple and and organic one and she had to pick which was which by taste.

As a way to end this up, since I don’t have a closing, I think this is the year when the progressive/liberal/left went off the rails regarding science. They went with their identity politics and gave credibility to the cranks. They not only gave credibility to the cranks, they joined forces with them.

End note: I would like to thank the  people who  helped this non-scientist guy along his way.  The first are Pamela Ronald and Raoul Adamchak who took time out of their vacation to answer my questions when I was writing my first posts on the issue. They didn’t know me from Adam. The second is Anastasia Bodnar who allowed to me to use her succinct description of how transgenics work even though she probably thinks I’m a weirdo.  ( I am) Another is Monsanto shill, Kevin Folta. He has given me some positive reinforcement to make me think I’m not that way off base. And I want to thank the agricultural folks who I asked for assistance to understand things and who were more than happy to answer my questions.

Happy New Year.

Church of the Organic demand Dr. Oz’s head on a pike as an example to the others

An angry, manure smelling mob from the Church of the Organic, citronella torches ablaze and artisanal pitchforks held aloft, stormed the production studios of TV’s Dr Oz after it was revealed he wrote an article in the current issue of  Time Magazine saying  conventional foods, like frozen peas and carrots, were A-OK by him.

Frightened production employees cowered under desks as the horde rampaged through the studios in search of Oz. Witnesses said the throng overturned desks and chairs demanding the surrender of the heretical Oz.  Oz wasn’t on the premises and was said to be in hiding in a secure safe house provided by Birdseye.

Update:

I don’t have a subscription to Time, so I wasn’t able to access the actual article on their site, but I did manage did get what I think is his article from another site. In it he utters the heretical notion that foodies are “snobs”  and “you don’t need to eat like the 1% to eat healthily.” He says that regular food is as healthy as organic.  But his most egregious crime was basically saying,  organic food isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Organic church member and writer for Nation of Change and Natural Society, Anthony Gucciardi  takes the Oz to task.  He and others somehow manage to come to the conclusion that due to his advocacy of conventional food, that makes him a shill for GMO food even though Oz never once mentions GMOs in his article.  He also quotes the anti-vax and all around health lunatic, Mike “GMOs are the new Zyklon B” Adams as a source.

(Side note: I have my problems with Gucciardi which I will deal with in an upcoming post. I have never seen any so-called journalist write such consistently misleading and dishonest articles.)

The faithful weighed in on the comment board and savaged him, their former Pope of Nonsense.  Here are some examples of what they’re saying :

Sounds too much like he has downed the Kool-Aid and is now puking it back at his credulous audience. Does he have no reservations about GMO at ALL?

Dr. Oz needs to go hide behind the curtain. He’s drinking the kool-aid of Monsanto and their ilk…

He completely lost his credibility. I wonder how much Monsanto paid him for that? He is supposed to check the research before making blind claims like that. What a hypocrite! He sold his soul.

He has sold out. They probably threatened to take him off of the air.

Well, let me be the first one to welcome Dr. Oz to our family of Monsanto shills.