What kinds of Fun ‘Facts’ Fester in yonder tent? Credit: Jeff Fountain
Early this September I attended the National Heirloom Expo in Santa Rosa. It’s an event that’s centered around the pure food movement, heirloom vegetables, and anti-GMO activism. The speakers included Joseph Mercola, Jeffrey Smith, Andrew Kimbrell, and my personal favorite pseudoscientist, Vani Hari, a.k.a. the Food Babe. For those unfamiliar with Food Babe, she is an anti-GMO, pro-organic public figure who attacks food and agricultural companies for what are essentially harmless practices. The reason I mention her is because she inspired me to start my own Facebook parody page called Food Hunk, which is what sort of drove my foray into ‘activism’. Food Hunk is to Food Babe, what Stephen Colbert is to Bill O’Reilly. I joined a community of other wonderful Food Babe critics such as Chow Babe and Science Babe, with my page being a bit of a broader commentary on fallacious ways of thinking, such as the all-too-common naturalistic fallacy.
I’ve been interested in science all of my life, but only in the last few years have I become more involved with skepticism and the idea that you don’t need to be a scientist to think like a scientist. As usually proliferated on social media, a constant barrage of anti-GMO fear mongering flooded my Facebook feed on a daily basis. I started trying to counter these claims with sound science. Because many of those spreading erroneous info were good friends, I felt compelled to actually know what I was talking about and inform them, instead of simply calling them out their ignorance. I became active in various online forums devoted to exploring the issue of genetic engineering, and found myself learning from some of the best science communicators on the topic. Upon realizing that I couldn’t learn enough, I decided to go back to school and learn about biotechnology. I’d recently left my fifteen-year career working in the wine industry and was exploring my passion for science. My wife found a certificate program at CCSF called Bridge to Biosciences where I am enrolled today. I am nowhere near as educated as many of the people I correspond with about science, but I’m always trying to learn and never pretend to wield knowledge I don’t have. In my opinion, this is one of the most important components of skepticism. If more people only stopped pretending to know what they do not know, we wouldn’t see the blatant misinformation that so predominantly surrounds the topic of GMOs.
Recently I was in a GMO enthusiast forum, when I noticed a post from Karl at Biology Fortified. He mentioned the Heirloom Expo and was asking if anyone from the Bay Area was going to attend. Santa Rosa is only about an hour from where I live, and so after realizing I didn’t really have anything planned for the day I thought, “How could I possibly pass up the opportunity to introduce Food Hunk to Food Babe?” I put on my ‘I love GMOs’ t-shirt, (carefully concealed under my sweatshirt) and hit the road to Santa Rosa. Read more ›