Thursday, February 26, 2015

USRTK: Sneak Peek At How GMO Labels Will Be Used.

Hey everyone.  It's been a while, because I haven't really had much new to write about. if you are finding this blog for the 1st time, please go back and check out past posts where I discuss all the major food and ag issues.

A lot has already been written about the USRTK's Freedom Of Information Act requests aimed at 14 publicly employed academic researchers, and I'm not the news. For those not in the know, here are some links to read up on the story:

Discover Magazine - Keith Kloor
American Association for the Advancement of Science - Keith Kloor
Wired - Alan Levinovitz
Biofortified - Karl Haro von Mogel

In making these requests, the US Right To Know campaign has tipped their hand at how they would behave if #GMO labeling went into effect.  Allow me to explain...

The FOIA is widely acknowledged to be somewhat disingenuous in this case.  Despite what the USRTK claims, that researchers are doing the bidding of some corporate master, they know better.  If they had evidence strong enough to prove a direct pay off of(or veiled threat to) academic researchers by ag/food corps, then they would have blown the lid off that story long ago.

This isn't about that.

This is about guilt by association.  Food and ag scientists are employed all over the world in their area of expertise: food companies, ag companies, and public universities.  These researchers often communicate with each other about research, perhaps asking for guidance when something stretches beyond their very specific area of expertise, or to get help with experimental design, or to ask other scientists to elaborate further on recently published research findings.  If we had these methods of communication even 20 years earlier, we would be light years ahead in our understanding of food and ag science. 

Communication between scientists is a very good thing.  

Also, people doing this type of work tend to already cross pollinate the public/private divide through switching jobs.  Two scientists may have already been co-workers, students, or old advisers when the other was doing post grad work and are still keeping lines of communication open.

What USRTK will do with the information retrieved on the tax payer's dime is run a simple keyword search, then publish those emails, regardless of how innocent they are, and try to say that big food/ag is in cahoots with university researchers.  Do not expect anything to be published in context. The USRTK will exploit the highly conspiratorial mindset of the Food Hysterics that follow them. 

Let's say they find an email where Kevin Folta contacts a former student of his who now works for Monsanto about going biking, perhaps their vacation times line up or they both are participating in the same biking event.  In reality, this is nothing... just two people riding bikes, but to a suspicious and cynical food activist, this could be some sort of smoking gun they will show to everyone they are trying to turn against food and ag science.

That brings me to the issue of labeling #GMO.

Labels will be used in the same way the emails obtained through the FOIA will be abused. Watch how USRTK handles the benign, routine communications between scientists and see whether they try to make mountains out of mole hills.  My guess is that they will and this is the same type of strategy that would be employed if #GMO labeling becomes law.  It doesn't matter what the label is, it only matters that it's a label, Just like it doesn't matter what the emails say... only that there are emails.

Please keep in mind that labeling isn't the end of USRTK's strategy, only the very beginning; after which, you will see a massive and very product specific campaign aimed at strong arming companies into dropping ingredients developed using a genetic modification.  Ultimately, they want to end #GMO


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