by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: films

Jun 26 2017

A win for GMO trolls: this blog no longer accepts comments

With regret, I asked my site managers at Cre8d to block all future comments to this site.

The GMO trolls—people who post deliberately hostile comments—have defeated me.

Would you believe 870 comments?  These were filed in response to my post of last week  about the GMO propaganda film.

I realize that this sort of thing is a deliberate, if shameful, strategy of the agbiotech industry: “Let Nothing Go.”

As described in a document filed in a lawsuit by US Right to Know:  [Correction: see below at **]

Monsanto even started the aptly-named “Let Nothing Go” program to leave nothing, not even facebook comments, unanswered; through a series of third parties, it employs individuals who appear to have no connection to the industry, who in turn post positive comments on news articles and Facebook posts, defending Monsanto, its chemicals, and GMOs.

This is not about thoughtful discussion of the scientific, social, and political issues raised by GMOs.  This about personal attacks to discredit anyone who raises questions about those issues, as i did.

Trolling is not appropriate on this site.  Hence: no more comments.

I will continue to write about GMOs as new developments occur.

In the meantime, I commend the first chapter of Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety to your attention.  It does much to explain why opinions of GMOs are so polarized and why the science of GMOs has become so politicized.

**Correction: The document discussing “Let Nothing Go” was not filed by US Right to Know.  Instead, it was filed by attorneys for plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Monsanto alleging that glyphosate is responsible for cases of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.    US Right to Know is only posting the documents and analyzing them.

Jun 21 2017

GMO propaganda film: Food Evolution

I have asked repeatedly to have my short interview clip removed from this film.  The director refuses.  He believes his film is fair and balanced.  I do not.

I am often interviewed (see Media) and hardly ever quoted incorrectly or out of context.  This film is one of those rare exceptions.

In my 10-second clip, I say that I am unaware of convincing evidence that eating GM foods is unsafe—this is what I said, but it is hugely out of context.

Safety is the industry’s talking point.  In the view of the GMO industry and this film, if GMOs are safe, they ought to be fully acceptable and nothing else is relevant.

I disagree.  I think there are plenty of issues about GMOs in addition to safety that deserve thoughtful consideration:  monoculture; the effects of industrial agriculture on the environment and climate change; the possible carcinogenicity of glyphosate (Roundup); this herbicide’s well documented induction of weed resistance; and the how aggressively this industry protects its self-interest and attacks critics, as this film demonstrates.

Food Evolution focuses exclusively on the safety of GMOs; it dismisses environmental issues out of hand.  It extols the benefits of the virus-resistant Hawaiian papaya and African banana but says next to nothing about corn and soybean monoculture and the resulting weed resistance, and it denies the increase in use of toxic herbicides now needed to deal with resistant weeds.  It says nothing about how this industry spends fortunes on lobbying and in fighting labeling transparency.

Instead, this film hammers hard on three out-of-context points:

  1. GMOs are safe.
  2. Anyone who thinks otherwise is anti-science, ignorant, and stupid.
  3. Organic foods are bad and proponents of organic foods are deceitful.

Its biases are apparent throughout but the bias against organics is particularly striking.

For example, in arguing that proponents of organic agriculture are paid by the organic industry, the film refers to an article on the front page of  the New York Times.  But most of that article was about how the GMO industry recruits and pays academic researchers to front for it.  The film fails to mention that.

The obvious question: Who paid for this film?

The official answer: The Institute for Food Technologists (IFT).

IFT is a professional association for food scientists and technologists involved in the processed food industry.  I have been a member of it for years; its journal, Food Technology is useful for keeping up with what the food industry is doing.

I had no idea that IFT sponsored films, let alone one that must have been very expensive to produce (on location in Hawaii and Uganda, among other places.)

I can’t help but think Monsanto or the Biotechnology Innovation Organization must have given IFT a grant for this purpose, but IFT takes complete responsibility for commissioning the film (if you have any information about this, please let me know).

Food Evolution is opening in New York on Friday this week.  I view it as a slick piece of GMO industry propaganda.

If you want a thoughtful discussion of the real issues raised by food biotechnology, you will need to look elsewhere.

Full disclosure: half of my book Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety deals with GMO issues.  These have not changed much since the book appeared in 2003 and in a revised edition in 2010.  The GMO industry’s defenses and attacks are much the same, just louder and more expensively produced.

Oct 10 2016

Save the date: Food Film Fest, New York, October 20-24

New York City’s Food Film Fest opens October 20.

The organizers are offering a 20% discount off of all tickets and VIP passes to readers of this blog.

Use the code FOODPOLITICS20 to take advantage of it.

The festival runs from October 20-23 at the AMC 25 in Times Square and is a benefit for the Billion Oyster Project.

All showings feature Taste What You See on the Screen service.  Each night has a different theme:

  • THRS – Best of 10 Years
  • FRI – Louisiana + More
  • SAT – Food Porn
  • SUN – Japan

For details, tickets, etc, click here.

Mar 11 2015

Study documents sugar industry influence on dental research in the 1960s and 1970s

A new study in PLoS Medicine provides documentary evidence of sugar industry manipulation of research on dental caries in the 1960s and 1970s.

The paper is a formal presentation of an article in Mother Jones (which I wrote about in a previous post).

The researchers are at UCSF, which sent out a press release:

A newly discovered cache of industry documents reveals that the sugar industry worked closely with the National Institutes of Health in the 1960s and ‘70s to develop a federal research program focused on approaches other than sugar reduction to prevent tooth decay in American children.

The archive of 319 industry documents, which were uncovered in a public collection at the University of Illinois, revealed that a sugar industry trade organization representing 30 international members had accepted the fact that sugar caused tooth decay as early as 1950, and adopted a strategy aimed at identifying alternative approaches to reducing tooth decay.

These approaches, as the article explains, involved encouraging the NIH to do research on mitigating or preventing tooth decay, which is fine in theory, but in practice distracted the dental research community from trying to discourage sugar consumption.

The analysis showed that in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the sugar industry funded research in collaboration with allied food industries on enzymes to break up dental plaque and a vaccine against tooth decay. It also shows they cultivated relationships with the NIDR and that a sugar industry expert panel overlapped by all but one member with the NIDR panel that influenced the priorities for the NIH tooth decay program. The majority of the research priorities and initial projects largely failed to produce results on a large scale, the authors found.

Understandably, the Sugar Association is not pleased.  Here is what the Sugar Association told Time Magazine:

It is challenging for the current Sugar Association staff to comment directly on documents and events that allegedly occurred before and during Richard Nixon’s presidency, given the staff has changed entirely since the 1970s. However, we are confused as to the relevance of attempts to dredge up history when decades of modern science has provided answers regarding the role of diet in the pathogenesis of dental caries… A combined approach of reducing the amount of time sugars and starches are in the mouth, drinking fluoridated water, and brushing and flossing teeth, is the most effective way to reduce dental caries.

As Stan Glantz pointed out in his blog post, “This sounds similar to the statement from Brown and Williamson Tobacco put out in 1995 in response to our first papers based on tobacco industry documents.”

Distracting researchers from focusing on underlying causes is a strategy perfected by the tobacco industry and copied widely by other industries making potentially harmful products, as shown clearly in the just released film, Merchants of Doubt (a must-see).

Apr 2 2008

Contest: Make a film!

Those clever King Corn guys are running a contest: who can make the best statement about food politics using clips from King Corn and whatever. The winner gets $1,000 and fame. The deadline is May 30, and here’s how it works.